New high-performance MCU family can save designers from migrating to a microprocessor architecture

The extraordinarily rapid advance in the capability of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology is having a dramatic effect on the design of typical microcontroller applications. Suddenly, design engineers can implement valuable new functions that were never before possible – they can make products that monitor their own health and alert the user when a malfunction is imminent, or they can learn to recognise objects or people by their image or sound. And they can perform these sophisticated functions locally at the edge, to reduce latency and data-transfer costs, and to save power.

This new use of AI and machine learning at the edge is driving up the requirement for specialised processing capabilities, and exposing the limits of today’s generation of high-speed MCUs. Many design engineers will have feared that they will have to abandon their MCU and migrate to a microprocessor architecture: this hardware is more complex, and forces them to jettison legacy software code written for the Arm® Cortex®-M architecture.

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Now Renesas has stepped in to provide a new solution that enables OEMs to stay in the MCU domain. With the launch of the RA8M1 family of MCUs, Renesas has raised a bridge between today’s MCUs and MPUs. Based on the new 480 MHz Arm Cortex-M85 core – the fastest Cortex-M core yet – the RA8M1 MCUs also include the Arm Helium technology for compute-intensive DSP and AI/machine learning tasks. In the RA8M1, the Cortex-M85 core is backed by up to 2 Mbytes of Flash memory and up to 1 Mbyte of SRAM.

This powerful hardware platform produces truly impressive performance: Renesas tests show that machine learning tasks are completed four times faster than on a Cortex-M7 core, and DSP instructions are executed three times faster. The RA8M1 MCUs do not only excel at AI tasks: they also feature a rich set of security capabilities including a TrustZone execution environment, and offer broad integration of analogue and communications peripherals.

The RA8M1 MCUs are supported by Renesas’ provision of a Flexible Software Package, and software for applications such as cloud connectivity, motor control, and graphics. Start working with the RA8M1 now with a feature-rich Renesas development kit.

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