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Date: 24-09-14

DSP capable MCU chips powered by new ARM Cortex M7

In the global microcontroller market, ARM Cortex M processor core based microcontrollers takes top spot both by market share as well as growth. It can roughly estimated a 3.2 billion+ ARM Cortex M based microcontroller units shipped in last 12 months, and is expected to be growing in the range of 20%. The good thing about M series is they are offered in four versions which includes M0, M0+, M3, M4. Now the new one added to the series is M7. M7 is codenamed as 'Pelican'.

arm cortex m7

There are multiple factors driving the increasing speed in growth of ARM Cortex M series.

The driving factor is 32-bit Cortex M series consume less power. However this is not so special, there are a lot of proprietary cores which also consume less power than ARM Cortex M series. But the real advantage to the embedded system designer is, they can choose the microcontroller from multiple vendors and uses same code which is written for other ARM Cortex M based microcontroller. ARM Cortex based microcontrollers across different vendors are code compatible, that is another big factor pushing the sales of ARM Cortex M series microcontrollers. The third important factor is broad availability of compilers, IDE, debuggers and other software development tools from third-party vendors.
The fourth factor is basically market, IOT growth is going crazy from past 18 months. The size and growth of IOT attracts investment and focus from companies in application areas such as consumer electronics, wireless, industrial, medical and in fact nearly every application area. Robotics is another interesting area for ARM Cortex M7.

The sensor data, audio, video requires now increased level of computing which is more of a digital signal processing type. In some applications engineers can explore using microcontroller to do some level of DSP computing on-board instead of depending on the host processor or a cloud. Though ARM Cortex M4 is equipped with DSP capability, but it lacks the expected performance. ARM Cortex M7 fills the gap where engineers are looking for increased DSP processing capability in a microcontroller.

Basically ARM Cortex M7 offers high-performance computing compared to ARM Cortex M4. It is very well designed for wearable consumer devices. It can also replace the ARM Cortex M4 chip which is now used in smart phones for sensor data processing.

So if you are the embedded systems designer explored the idea of using ARM Cortex M4 for some kind of signal processing and find you need DSP computation capability in ARM Cortex M4 series doesn't have enough DSP power. ARM has answered to your requirements by offering you ARM Cortex M7.

If you are VLSI designer, you can explore ARM Cortex M7 for your new design using 28 nm or 20 nm nodes.

The new ARM Cortex M7 is said to offer double the compute and digital signal processing (DSP) capability compared to ARM Cortex M4. The embedded systems applications targeted by this device includes automotives, connected devices, and smart homes and factories. MCU makers Atmel, Freescale and STMicroelectronics are the early licensees of ARM Cortex M7.

STMicroelectronics has added STM32 F7 microcontroller (MCU) series based on ARM Cortex-M7 to its STM32 family of more than 500 pin- and software-compatible microcontrollers. ST said its STM32 F7 series leapfrogs the industry’s previous high-performance 32-bit Cortex-M champ ST’s own STM32 F4 in delivering up to twice as much processing and DSP performance that is accessible via a seamless upgrade path.

Atmel developed new family of Atmel SMART ARM Cortex-M7-based MCUs that are sampling to select customers now.

On the develoment platform availability, IAR Systems launches version 7.30 of IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM with full support for the new ARM Cortex-M7 processor core. Green Hills Software's complete development tool suite and µ-velOSity real-time operating system (RTOS) now supports new ARM Cortex-M7 processor.

Cortex-M7 is said to be more versatile and offers new memory features with memory interfaces such as AXI, AHB, caches and tightly coupled memories. Cortex-M7 deliver 5 CoreMark/MHz. For safety critical applications ARM Cortex M7 offer error recovery through memory error correction code ( ECC) and full data trace. This ARMv7-M based core features six stage, superscalar pipeline architecture.

Expected uses of Cortex-M7 include smart control systems employed in a range of applications such as motor control, industrial automation, advanced audio, image processing, a variety of connected vehicle applications and other Internet of Things (IoT) uses.

Cortex-M7 processor provides the same C-friendly programmer's model and is binary compatible with existing Cortex-M processors allowing code reuse.

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