- Increasing convergence of previously disparate subsystems
- Increasing application requirements driven by algorithm complexity
- Increasing usage of higher level programming languages to leverage to productivity of abstraction and enable code reuse
- Inclusion of high-value functionality like communication, as opposed to being a simple black box
However, given the intense cost sensitivity of MCU market, there is a need to ensure that the system cost points remain at a bare minimum. ARM’s focus has been in
- Reducing the minimum configuration (and therefore silicon area) of the processor. CortexTM-M0 is 12k gates sets a new standard for this metric
- Ensuring a broad set of configuration options to enable the system designer to select the exact set of features needed for their specific application
- Minimizing memory footprint needed to house application code
Now, smart cards have been an area of focus for ARM for some time. The ARM architecture is already the market share leader of the (smaller but outperforming) part of the smart card market currently utilizing 32-bit technology, with the majority of this unit shipments being based on 16-bit technology. Like other markets, analysts are predicting the proportion of 32-bit technology to increase over time. In November, Infineon announced the adoption of CortexTM-M technology for their 32-bit offering. The SecurCore product family utilizes standard ARM MCU technology. The SC100 is based on the ARM7 processor. The SC300 SecurCoreTM product has the Cortex-M3 at its heart. With the similar (potentially even more severe) cost challenges existing in this segment of the embedded market, can we expect to see ARM follow the same tried and tested path to offer secure 32-bit performance competitive with legacy 8/16-bit solutions? In my opinion, this could seriously reshape the smart card industry.
Separately, any migration has implications to software developers and based on customer demand, ARM has started to rollout a number of webinars that highlight the areas that need to be considered in this migration. You can check out this webinar comparing and contrasting Cortex-M with Microchip’s PIC architecture. More webinars are planned for the second half of this year.
So do I think 8-bit technology will cease to exist? Absolutely not, but this is a market that provides a fantastic opportunity for the ARM Partnership to deliver more for less.
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