Friday, March 1, 2024

Industry’s First Ultra-High Performance MCUs Based On Arm Cortex-M85 Processor

By Akanksha Sondhi Gaur

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  • These MCUs offer security, Helium technology for AI excellence, and features that empower system designers to excel. 
  • They exhibit low-power capabilities, seamless integration with the Flexible Software Package (FSP), and extensive Winning Combinations that streamline the product development journey.

Renesas Electronics Corporation has recently unveiled a line of microcontrollers (MCUs), setting a new benchmark in performance with a score exceeding 3000 CoreMark points. These MCUs offer fully deterministic, low-latency, real-time operation, catering to the most demanding application requirements of their customers. The RA8 Series MCUs are the first in the industry to incorporate the Arm Cortex-M85 processor, resulting in an unprecedented performance metric of 6.39 CoreMark/MHz[1]. This level of performance empowers system designers to consider them for applications that traditionally necessitate microprocessors (MPUs). The Series aligns seamlessly with Renesas’ famous RA Family of MCUs, which are based on Arm Cortex processors, ensuring effortless portability of existing designs from other RA devices to these new and powerful RA8 MCUs.

Key Features include: 

  • Processor Core: Equipped with a 480 MHz Arm Cortex-M85 featuring Helium technology and TrustZone support
  • Memory: An integrated 2MB/1MB Flash memory and 1MB SRAM, which includes TCM and 512KB of ECC-protected memory
  • Peripheral Interfaces: Offers a versatile array of peripherals, including an xSPI-compliant Octal SPI with Execute-in-Place (XIP) and on-the-fly decryption (DOTF), CAN-FD, Ethernet, USBFS/HS, a 16-bit camera interface, I3C, and more
  • Advanced Security Features: Incorporates cryptographic algorithms, TrustZone technology, immutable storage, tamper resistance with protection against Differential Power Analysis (DPA) and Simple Power Analysis (SPA) attacks, secure debugging, secure factory programming, and support for lifecycle management
  • Package Options: Available in 100/144/176 LQFP and 224 BGA packages

Elevating AI Performance with Helium Technology

They harness the power of Arm Helium technology, which is Arm’s M-Profile Vector Extension. This technology delivers a  performance boost of up to 4 times compared to MCUs based on the Arm Cortex-M7 processor, specifically in digital signal processing (DSP) and machine learning (ML) implementations. This enhanced performance has the potential to allow customers to streamline their systems by eliminating the need for an additional DSP in specific applications. The series, equipped with Helium technology, empowers edge and endpoint devices to incorporate natural language processing into voice AI and predictive maintenance applications, facilitating accelerated neural network processing.

Security Enhancements

The series MCUs offer advanced security features. The core incorporates Arm TrustZone technology, enabling the secure isolation and partitioning of memory, peripherals, and code into secure and non-secure domains. The RA8 Series MCUs enhance security by integrating the company’s Security IP (RSIP-E51A), featuring cryptographic accelerators and robust support for secure boot processes. These advanced security enhancements also encompass immutable storage for establishing robust hardware Root-of-Trust, Octal SPI with Decryption-on-the-fly (DOTF), secure authenticated debugging, secure factory programming, and tamper protection. Combined with Arm TrustZone technology, this comprehensive approach delivers fully integrated secure element functionality. The Armv8.1-M architecture introduces the Pointer Authentication and Branch Target Identification (PACBTI) security extension, providing critical safeguards against software attacks targeting memory safety violations and corruptions.

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Energy-Efficient Capabilities

It has low-power capabilities and introduces several modes to enhance energy efficiency while delivering top-tier performance. This synergy of low-power modes, independent power domains, reduced voltage range, swift wakeup times, and minimal active and standby currents collectively contribute to reduced system power consumption. These features empower customers to comply with regulatory power requirements easily. 

They are fully supported by the company’s Flexible Software Package (FSP). This comprehensive package accelerates application development by offering a complete infrastructure software solution. It includes multiple real-time operating systems (RTOS), board support packages (BSP), peripheral drivers, middleware, connectivity and networking components, and security stacks. Additionally, it provides reference software to facilitate the creation of intricate solutions for tasks like AI, motor control, and cloud integration. Customers can seamlessly integrate their existing legacy code and choose their preferred RTOS while utilising the FSP, granting them full control over the application development process. Leveraging the FSP simplifies the migration of existing designs to the innovative RA8 Series devices.

Optimised Collaborations

The company has integrated the MCUs with a diverse selection of compatible devices from its product lineup, resulting in an extensive assortment of Winning Combinations. These Winning Combinations represent rigorously tested system architectures, where mutually compatible components collaborate harmoniously to provide optimised designs with reduced risk, expediting time to market. The company offers over 400 such Winning Combinations, encompassing a broad spectrum of products from the Renesas portfolio. These combinations facilitate and accelerate the product development process, allowing customers to bring their innovations to market swiftly.  

They are currently available, accompanied by the FSP software package. The company is also shipping the RA8M1 Group Evaluation Kit (RTK7EKA8M1S00001BE). For further information, click here.

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