feature article
Subscribe Now

Microcontrollers Hit the Airwaves

Want to make your 8-bit microcontroller talk over Wi-Fi like the big kids? Renesas and Redpine may have just the deal for you. The two companies have been collaborating behind the scenes to offer a combination deal of microcontroller-plus-Wi-Fi module designed to get you on the airwaves pronto.

Renesas provides the microcontrollers and Redpine provides the Wi-Fi know-how. Between them, they offer a goodie bag filled with everything you need to make 802.11n Wi-Fi work on an assortment of inexpensive microcontrollers.

Renesas – which was itself formed from the merger of Hitachi’s and Mitsubishi’s semiconductor divisions – now includes NEC as well. The red Renesas logo has turned blue to indicate the change. Redpine (which hasn’t merged with anyone) provides the Wi-Fi expertise.

The combo package comes in three levels of goodness: 8-bit, 32-bit, and 32-bit again. At the 8-bit level, Renesas pairs its R8C microcontrollers with Redpine’s Wi-Fi module, including the requisite firmware. The midrange RX processors offer 32-bit performance at about 100 MHz, again with Redpine modules. At the high end, Renesas offers its SuperH 32-bit RISC processors with – you guessed it – Redpine Wi-Fi modules. Naturally, there are the usual demo/evaluation boards available for cheap so you can experiment before you commit.

Why N?

Paradoxically, 802.11n can be more power-efficient than 802.11b or –g, according to Renesas. How is that possible? After all, 802.11n has faster data rates than 802.11b/g (that’s the whole point), and faster data rates generally equate to more RF energy. Laughing in the face of implacable physics, Renesas think it’s found the answer.

It’s precisely because 802.11n is faster than older Wi-Fi standards that it uses less power. You don’t need to turn the radio on as long, so you can shut off the most power-hungry portion of your Wi-Fi interface between data bursts. Squirting n bits from Point A to Point B takes less time with 802.11n, so you wind up using less energy. The greater speed is just a bonus.

The shorter, faster bursts also pay dividends in a crowded network with lots of chattering clients. Fewer collisions and negotiations mean less airtime wasted in overhead; more airtime spent squirting data.

It’s not a bad deal, and Wi-Fi is certainly an attractive feature for a lot of embedded designers. It’s a difficult interface to design yourself, and even more difficult to get certified. Buying a pre-made and pre-certified module makes good sense. As long as you’re comfortable using Renesas microcontrollers, it’s a quick and easy package. 

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Feb 3, 2023
I wrote the first post, The Chiplet Summit , from the recent Chiplet Summit in San Jose, If you have not seen that, you should probably read it first. A leitmotiv of the conference was: Moore's Law is dead. All we have left is packaging. As I said in the final summary pa...
Feb 2, 2023
We share our predictions for high performance computing (HPC) in 2023, including the growth of edge computing solutions and the rise of AI and machine learning. The post Top 5 HPC Trends to Come in 2023 appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
Jan 30, 2023
By Hossam Sarhan Work smarter, not harder. Isn't that what everyone is always telling you? Of course, it's excellent advice,… ...
Jan 19, 2023
Are you having problems adjusting your watch strap or swapping out your watch battery? If so, I am the bearer of glad tidings....

featured video

Synopsys 224G & 112G Ethernet PHY IP OIF Interop at ECOC 2022

Sponsored by Synopsys

This Featured Video shows four demonstrations of the Synopsys 224G and 112G Ethernet PHY IP long and medium reach performance, interoperating with third-party channels and SerDes.

Learn More

featured chalk talk

HARTING's HAN® 1A Connector Series

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and HARTING

There is a big push in the electronics industry today to make our designs smaller and more modular. One way we can help solve these design challenges is with the choice of connector we select for our designs. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Goda Inokaityte from HARTING and Amelia Dalton examine the role that miniaturized connectivity plays in the future of electronic design. They also how HARTING's Han 1A connectors can help reduce errors in installation, improve serviceability and increase modularity in your next design.

Click here for more information about HARTING Han® 1A Heavy Duty Power Connectors