The Microcontroller Design Dilemma #Forecast @semiEngineering

Semiconductor Engineering looks at the state of microcontroller development, some of the current challenges and how designers may be looking to design future products. Major focuses have been onboard flash memory holding back speeds (and size/cost) and the emergence of the RISC-V architecture.

The humble microcontroller is getting squeezed on all sides. While most of the semiconductor industry has been able to take advantage of Moore’s Law, the MCU market has faltered because flash memory does not scale beyond 40nm.

At the same time, new capabilities such as voice activation and richer sensor networks are requiring inference engines to be integrated for some markets. In others, reliability, safety and/or security are adding to the levels of complexity demanded in these devices. As a result, MCU vendors are rethinking what these devices look like, dispelling many long-held assumptions.

They go on to look at usage:

“Several years ago the IoT was the hottest topic, and so connectivity was put on everything,” says Lowman. “But it really didn’t provide enough value to the end user… Devices need to do more things on their own, (and) doing something with the data.

The ability to provide some custom acceleration in hardware allows them to ensure that the power consumption, the value that the processor can provide is good or competitive enough compared to the things that others are providing. So we do see a lot of AI accelerators out there, which the MCUs will continue to have to keep up with.”

See the full article here for all of the insights.


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