MCUs Accelerate Prototyping & Development of Compact Sensor Hub Applications

SANTA CLARA, CA --- Renesas Electronics America Inc. announces the RL78/G11 Group of microcontrollers (MCUs), a group of small-package, low-power MCUs that will enable users to easily and more quickly prototype and develop systems that support low-power sensor hubs and sensor application systems. Designed to connect to multiple sensors and convert the sensor output signals to digital data, the compact sensor hubs are viable for a wide range of applications, like computer operating environment monitoring for data center thermocouples in the industrial area, wearable health management devices in the healthcare field, and environmental sensing in greenhouses and factory farms in the agricultural industry.

The influx of information generated by big data combined with improvements in automation and sensor functions are opening new opportunities to improve business operations and ultimately contribute to improved quality of life. This has been true in many areas, notably in the industrial, healthcare, and agricultural areas.

In the industrial area, there are hopes for improving the efficiency of cooling and air conditioning by monitoring operation environments of computers and key communication equipment in data centers, and predicting failures by collecting and analyzing operating data. In the healthcare area, the data recording and analysis of blood pressure, pulse rate, and other data by wearable equipment could support day-to-day health maintenance and lead to the early discovery of diseases. In the agricultural area, monitoring the growth environment and conditions for crops with environmental sensors could lead to both cost savings, i.e., in fertilizers and heating and lighting costs, and improved crop quality overall. Increasingly higher-level sensing and even more sensors are required for these sorts of technology deployments, and the associated increased power consumption has become an issue, especially in battery-operated equipment.

There is also a trend toward rapid prototyping and shortening development time by using for example 3D printing and other technologies, and further efforts are necessary in MCU development environments to support rapid prototyping and development.

Key features of the RL78/G11:

(1) Support for up to 13 sensors in a 24-pin package

The RL78/G11 Group of MCUs supports the industry's largest number of sensors1 in an MCU with 24 pins. The 24- and 25-pin versions of these new MCUs support 11 analog input channels and six serial communications channels. Even with the 24-pin compact package, the RL78/G11 MCUs can support signal inputs from a maximum of 13 sensors. Processing of the signal inputs from the sensors by the built-in analog functions and serial communications (reception) functions that operate even in standby mode allows low-power control, even in systems with multiple sensors.

The RL78/G11 Group provides extended features, such as high-speed wakeup, which transitions the CPU transitions from standby mode to CPU operation in 4 μsec (four-millionths of a second) and flash operating mode transitions that optimize the CPU operating performance and that contribute to energy savings. These MCUs also support battery voltage measurement and sensing referenced to an internal fixed voltage that operates from a 1.8 V power supply. Taking advantage of these functions reduces intermittent operation power consumption and contributes to further energy savings and longer battery life in sensor hubs and sensor application systems.

The RL78/G11 Group concept is based on small packages from 20 to 25 pins, with small 16 KB flash memory and rich analog peripherals such as A/D converters, D/A converters, comparators, and PGA. These are configurable, such as PGA+ADC+VBGR, PGA+CMP, CMP+DAC/VBGR, or PGA+CMP+DAC/VBGR. It also supports very low power operation (100 uA @ 1 MHz) and a high-speed 4 µs wake up. Available in small 3 x 3 mm2 WFLGA , 4 x 4 mm2 HWQFN and standard 20-pin LSSOP, this MCU Group is suitable for sensor applications, lighting/power sources and various small appliances.

(2) Easy-to-use development environment enables shorter prototyping and evaluation periods

In addition to the standard development environment for the Renesas RL78 Family of 16-bit MCUs, Renesas is developing ultra-compact promotion boards and easy-to-use programming tools for these new devices. These tools will support program debugging and downloading, and can also support prototyping using breadboards and conductive ink pens. The easy-to-use programming tools allow MCU programs to be developed using only GUI operations. Periodical operation using the standby functions is supported. Renesas is moving forward in providing a new easy-to-use development environment that will allow prototyping and evaluation operations to be completed in a single day, where previously it would have taken an entire week.

These new devices also provide a wide range of features and functions useful in a variety of applications. These include timer functions that support complementary PWM output and forced cutoff2, safety functions that can detect and diagnose incorrect hardware operation, multichannel serial communications functions, timer functions that support flyback control3, and an INTFO4 function that can directly output interrupt signals from external pins. Using the smart features like DTC and ELC5 a lot of peripherals can be connected internally to reduce CPU workload and can save overall power consumption.

Availability

Samples of the RL78/G11 will be available from October 2016 onwards. Mass production starts in December 2016 and is expected to reach a volume of 50,000 units per month by 2018. Renesas plans to provide evaluation boards, development tools, and software for these products.

For more information, visit http://www.renesas.com
 

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