Freescale updates its ARM processor for the Internet of Things

Tiny chip will go into all kinds of devices not normally used to having compute technology.

To create the Internet of Things/Internet of Everything, or to gather up all that Big Data people seem to lust after these days, a lot more computing is needed, and that doesn't necessarily mean a big old Xeon processor.

Many of these new Internet-connected devices are small and need a chip that's also very small and extremely stingy in its power draw. The Internet of Things won't just be refrigerators and TVs and cars, it will be consumer devices, medical monitors, remote sensors and wearable devices.

So, Freescale Semiconductor, best known for making embedded chips, has officially introduced the Kinetis KL03 MCU, what it calls "the world's smallest" 32-bit microcontroller unit (MCU) based on ARM technology. The Kinetis KL03 is just 1.6 mm x 2.0 mm, which the company notes is smaller than a dimple on a golf ball. And that's a 15 percent reduction from the KL02, launched last year.

In an era of low-power processors, this one sounds like it's from 1984, not 2014. The KL03 is a 48Mhz ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, which is the smallest, lowest power ARM core available. It draws as little as 1.71 volts of power, uses 32KB flash memory, 2KB RAM, and has an 8K ROM on-chip boot loader.

There’s also a 12-bit ADC with internal voltage reference for accuracy, and the chip has low power wake up, a secure time clock, timers for applications including motor control, and it can operate in scenarios ranging from -40C degrees 85C degrees.

“When size is no longer a barrier to incorporating microcontrollers into edge node devices, we can start to redefine what’s possible for the Internet of Things,” said Rajeev Kumar, director of worldwide marketing and business development for Freescale’s Microcontrollers business, in a statement announcing the new controller.

Proponents of The Internet of Things have made a lot of grandiose promises. They include being able to track cattle, monitoring trash cans to determine when they are full, and smart refrigerators that place an order when supplies get low.

IDC estimates there will be more than 212 billion devices Internet devices by 2020, with about 30 billion devices smart enough to operate without human control. But in light of all the reports of insecure home systems and NSA spying, I wonder if people will be keen on letting so many intrusive devices into their lives. We'll see.

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