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Microcontrollers slash energy consumption with SPOT
The Apollo family of four 32bit ARM Cortex-M4F microcontrollers typically consumer five to 10 times lower power than that of microcontrollers of comparable performance, says the company, for longer battery life in wearable electronics and other battery-powered applications. The company’s patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT) enables wearable devices, which might otherwise run for days or weeks on a battery, to be designed, or redesigned, to function for months or even years. The microcontrollers optimise both active and sleep mode power and consume an industry-leading 30µA/MHz when executing instructions from flash and feature average sleep mode currents as low as 100nA.

The ARM Cortex-M4F core, with a precision floating point unit, provides up to 24MHz operation. The microcontrollers are available with up to 512kbyte of flash and 64kbyte of RAM to accommodate radio and sensor overhead in addition to application code. Communication with sensors, radios, other peripherals and an optional host processor is implemented via I2C/SPI ports and a UART. On-chip resources include a 10bit, 13-channel, 1MS/s ADC and a temperature sensor with ±2ºC accuracy. Two compact packaging options are available: a 64pin, 4.5 x 4.5mm BGA package with 50 GPIO and a 2.4 x 2.77mm, 42pin CSP with 27 GPIO. SPOT operates transistors at subthreshold voltages (less than 0.5V), rather than using transistors that are turned all the way on at 1.8V. It uses the leakage current of off transistors to compute in both digital and analogue domains.

The patented technology, is implemented in an industry-standard CMOS process, and overcomes the challenges of noise susceptibility, temperature sensitivity and process drift previously associated with subthreshold voltage switching. Apollo MCUs are sampling to selected customers now. Volume production will commence in the spring 2015.

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