Technology Update: Low-power designs for automation

Microchip Technology provides microcontrollers with low-power capabilities, Powercast harvests energy to power wireless sensors, and STMicroelectronics demonstrates a chip for a smart power design to reduce electronic components’ energy consumption.


Microchip Technology provides microcontrollers with low-power capabilities, Powercast  harvests energy to power wireless sensors, and STMicroelectronics demonstrates a chip for a smart power design to reduce electronic components’ energy consumption.Three recent low-power designs for automation include microcontrollers with low-power capabilities, energy harvesting that powers wireless sensors, and a smart power demonstration chip to reduce electronics’ energy use. Technology providers are Microchip, Powercast, and STMicroelectronics.

8-bit low-power microcontrollers

Microchip Technology’s expanded 8-bit segmented LCD microcontroller (MCU) family has five new devices (read more; click here to see diagram) — the PIC16LF1902/3/4/6/7 (PIC16LF190X) MCUs. Using Microchip’s Enhanced Mid-range architecture, the PIC16LF190X family provides fundamental features and performance without burdening customers with the cost of unused peripherals. 

Low-power architecture helps wireless sensing

Powercast Lifetime Power Wireless Sensor System (read more) broadcasts RF energy to power wireless sensors without batteries or wires up to 80 ft away from the transmitters. In the wireless powering system, receivers embedded inside the sensor nodes receive RF energy up to 60-80 ft away from the transmitters. Receivers then convert the RF energy into dc current to power the sensors wirelessly. Broadcasted RF energy can reach and power sensors even through walls, above ceilings, and behind objects, and provides a reliable energy source as opposed to pure ambient energy-harvesting technologies such as indoor solar, thermal, or vibration.

Next-generation power demonstration

STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM) demonstrated a next-generation variation of its smart power technology (read more), which could enable significant power consumption decreases in electronic systems for manufacturing, hybrid-electric-vehicle chargers, power conversion, medical equipment, consumer devices, home appliances, and other applications. The ultra-low-power semiconductor technology was used as a demonstrator chip for ultrasound scanners that can handle more than one hundred channels, a step on the way to next-generation scanners with thousands of channels. Current chips typically handle eight channels, ST said. ST offers STM32L-Discovery kits based on the ultra-low-power STM32L microcontroller for ST EnergyLite applications, using ultra-low-power STM32L Cortex M3-based microcontrollers. Other kits available from ST include STM8S, STM8L, and the STM32F.

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