SiLabs SiM3L1 ARM Cortex M3 Embedded Processor For Low Power Embedded Systems

SiLabs SiM3L1 MCU
SiLabs SiM3L1 MCU

Silicon Labs recently introduced their SiLabs SiM3L1 ARM Cortex M3 Embedded Processor For Low Power Embedded Systems. This is an ultra-low power family of processors / MCU and an associated suite of “power-aware” development tools.

SiLabs created these devices to be just one of the key building blocks of IP-enabled devices being connected to the Internet Of Things (IoT). This will encompass many different applications, the majority of which take some form of an embedded system. Examples of the IoT where the SiM3L1 family will be used are

  • Smart water, gas and heat meters
  • Security and energy monitoring
  • Home and building automation

Related Article – Low Power Design For Embedded Systems

In their release for the SiM3L1, SiLabs said:

Experts believe the IoT will comprise an estimated 50 billion intelligent devices by 2020, autonomously sensing, monitoring, processing, controlling and communicating over wireless networks. Because many of these intelligent end nodes will be powered by batteries or harvested energy sources, they require exceptionally energy-efficient MCUs such as the SiM3L1xx devices that enable developers to optimize system-level power consumption.

Related Article – Energy Harvesting In Wireless Sensor Networks

Low power features of the SiM3L1 include:

  • <250 nA in sleep with RTC, full memory retention and 3.8 μs wake
  • 175 μA/MHz in active from flash at 3.6V 580 nA
  • LCD controller for 4 x 40 active segments with contrast
  • “Power-aware” software tools to minimize system power
  • Rich set of autonomous peripherals
  • 32 – 256 kB flash memory sizes

To further reduce power consumption, SiLabs implemented active mode runt time optimizations

  • Integrated dc-dc converter reduces power consumption
  • Data Transfer Manager (DTM) offloads CPU
  • Static and dynamic voltage scaling to adjust power consumption proportional to clock speed
  • LCD controller reduces physical display power consumption

As many embedded systems will spend a large majority of the time in a sleep, or non-active, mode while waiting for an event or trigger, it is critical to a low power design that the sleep mode be optimized. SiLabs address this with features such as:

  • RAM and register retention with fast wake-up
  • Peripherals operate autonomously while in sleep mode
  • Nine peripheral wake sources
  • Up to 14 pin wake sources

One benefit not typically found in other MCUs is the ability to power additional components from the processor. The high efficiency dc-dc convertor internal to the MCU provides enough pass through current to drive most external  peripheral found in an IoT devices.  This saves both cost and board space by eliminating the need for additional discrete LDOs (low drop out regulators).

In addition to the hardware features incorporated into the SiM3L1 family, SiLabs also provides a free software development suite, called Precision32. This includes the Eclipse based IDE, compiler and debugger. For low power embedded system design, this tool suite also has a GUI for configuration of all registers, clocks and peripherals  with guidance tips for firmware configuration. There is also a visual power estimator which clearly shows how much and where power will be consumed in the realized system.

To get designers started and quickly developing their applications, SiLabs offers a number of development kits for the SiM3L1 family, starting at $99:

  • LCD and non-LCD development kits
  • Includes target board, cables, debug adapter
  • SiM3L1XXLCD-B-DK: SiM3L1xx LCD development kit
  • SiM3L1XX-B-DK: SiM3L1xx non-LCD development kit

There is also a full set of code examples and software applications that can be used royalty free. These include examples that achieve critical data sheet specifications.

The SiLabs SiM3L1 ARM Cortex M3 Embedded Processor is available now in the sub $5 price for large volumes.

For more information, data sheets and software downloads, please visit the SiLabs MCU home page.

(Photo Credit – SiLabs )

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