The appeal and value of traditional microcontrollers (MCUs) wanes with progressively integrated and intelligent embedded processing systems. Several leading suppliers are differentiating their MCU-based devices and solutions with new and innovative technologies to get a leg up on competitors in key vertical industries such as automotive and industrial automation & control. Mitigation of vertical application requirements will be imperative of embedded MCU suppliers moving forward, particularly as OEMs look to consolidate functionality and take advantage of increasingly powerful CPU cores.
For example, Freescale Semiconductor yesterday announced two new additions to its Power System Basis Chip (SBC) product line. The company’s SBCs are MCU-driven modules integrated with several popular voltage regulation functions for the automotive and industrial markets (e.g. Safety Watchdog, Fail Safe Monitoring, CAN power management, etc.). Freescale’s strategy includes allowing OEMs to substitute the MCU of the SBC with another from the company’s extensive processor product lines – enabling much greater flexibility with evolving application requirements (low power, functionality, performance) and BOM. These SBCs take full advantage of Freescale’s expertise and rich history in both power management and MCU technology and will help the company further secure its roots in these domains as a whole.
STMicroelectronics is another MCU supplier growing its value proposition with expanded functionality tailored for a broad set of vertical market applications. The company has been building up its Secure MCU product line over the past few years to enable protected communication for a variety of devices spanning mobile phones, identification cards, point-of-sale terminals, and more. STMicroelectronics’ Secure MCUs span a diverse array of banking and security certifications and can include support for a variety of cryptographic standards.
Freescale’s attach-compatible SBCs and STMicroelectronics’ Secure MCUs are just a couple examples of how embedded processor suppliers are adapting to escalating application requirements using their principal expertise in adjacent technologies. The days of the general-purpose MCU are numbered, and suppliers need to generate more value in new ways beyond incremental advances to legacy components to remain competitive.