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Freescale re-enters the RF IC market for the Internet of Things

March 07, 2013 // Nick Flaherty

Freescale re-enters the RF IC market for the Internet of Things

Freescale Semiconductor is planning to re-enter the RF chip market later this year to support new ARM-based processors with wireless networking and cellular links.

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We were working with partners on 180nm integration and decided to go for a multimode IP developed in 86nm that can be integrated across the entire L and K microcontroller families and that will drive the flash memory and RAM requirements, said Geoff Lees, senior vice president and general manager of Microcontrollers.
A stand-alone 2.4GHz radio that supports Zigbee and Bluetooth protocols will be launched at the end of 2013 says Lees. This can be used in a stacked package with the microcontrollers for a single package device for embedded designs such as Machine to Machine (M2M). The IP will also be integrated with the controllers for a single chip.
In parallel we are developing broadband RF but still looking at the ideal node beyond 90nm and the sweet spot could be 65nm or even 40nm, he said. This will support emerging LTE cellular applications.
Although it has a wide range of high power RF transistors, Freescale sold its RF chip business in 2009, transferring 120 staff to Fujitsu America. But it kept key designers in-house who have continued to work on embedded RF technology.
Last week Freescale launched the worlds smallest ARM processor, aimed at the expanding Internet of Things (IoT). The KL02 (above) holds great potential for ultra-small-form-factor products in applications such as portable consumer devices, remote sensing nodes, wearable devices and ingestible healthcare sensing says Lees, which is where the RF capability is vital.
Measuring just 1.9 x 2.0 mm in chip scale packaging, the Kinetis KL02 MCU is 25 percent smaller than the industrys next-smallest ARM MCU. Within this miniscule device, Freescale has included a 48MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, 32KB of flash, low-power functionality and a range of analog and communication peripherals. This enables system designers to dramatically reduce the size of their boards and products while retaining the all-important performance, feature integration and power consumption characteristics of their end devices. In addition, space-constrained applications that previously couldnt incorporate an MCU now can be upgraded to become smart applications, adding a new tier of devices to the IoT ecosystem.
Freescale has been a pioneer in many aspects of the ARM Powered MCU market with our Kinetis portfolio, said Lees. We were the first to market with MCUs based on the ARM Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M0+ processors, we set new standards for entry-level MCU energy efficiency, and weve now created the worlds smallest ARM Powered MCU, helping advance the Internet of Things era.
The KL02 is the third CSP MCU in the Kinetis portfolio, joining the larger 120/143-pin Kinetis K series K60/K61 variants. Additional Kinetis CSP MCUs with increased performance, memory and feature options are planned throughout 2013.
It delivers 15.9 CM/mA and, like the other Kinetis MCUs, it includes autonomous, power-smart peripherals (in this case, an ADC, UART and timer), 10 flexible power modes and wide clock and power gating to minimize power loss. A low-power boot mode reduces power spikes during the boot sequence or deep sleep wake-up. This is useful for systems in which battery chemistry limits the allowable peak current, such as those employing lithium-ion batteries frequently used in portable devices.


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