Development kit aimed at smart sensors

Paul Boughton

Just a week after its acquisition of 32bit microcontroller designer Energy Micro in July, Silicon Labs has launched a development kit aimed at smart sensors.

The kit is based around the Wonder Gecko MCU that uses the ARM Cortex-M4 processor core. This provides a full DSP instruction set and includes a hardware floating point unit (FPU) for faster computation performance.

The development kits and software examples are designed to help embedded engineers leverage 32-bit digital signal control with the high-performance CPU and extremely low standby power modes.

“With our focus on energy efficiency, the Wonder Gecko kits give embedded designers access to the most energy-friendly ARM Cortex-M4 based MCU and the lowest standby power modes,” said Geir Førre, senior vice president and general manager of Silicon Labs’ microcontroller business and founder of Energy Micro. “The Wonder Gecko development kits and software library provide easy access to advanced signal processing functions and floating point performance. More and more instances of smart sensor and wireless applications benefit from effective analysis locally at the sensor node rather than transmitting large volumes of data over the network for remote processing.”

To speed up the design time, the EFM32 development kits include a built-in J-Link debugger and come with software examples using each kit’s built-in features. These include an audio pre-amplifier equaliser that digitises the audio connector signal with the MCU’s on-chip analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) and subsequently generates the output via a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) as well as an audio frequency analyzer using the kit’s audio connector and performing a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to display a frequency plot on the development kit’s LCD. An application example uses the kit’s onboard light sensor for 10-500 Hz FFT analysis.

These software demonstrations also enable designers to evaluate the differences between hard and soft floating-point operations and compiler optimization, as well as the CPU cycle count.

The example projects are coded using algorithms that are part of the Cortex Microcontroller Software Interface Standard (CMSIS) DSP function library, which includes complex FFT, finite impulse response (FIR) filters, matrix and vector operations, and statistical analysis.

CMSIS provides a vendor-independent hardware abstraction layer for ARM Cortex-M processors.

Silicon Labs’ Simplicity Studio software suite includes all the necessary CMSIS, board support package (BSP) and documentation for the development kits including a Wonder Gecko white paper highlighting the 32-bit processing, DSP and FPU performance benefits of the EFM32 Wonder Gecko MCU family. The white paper also illustrates how the Wonder Gecko MCUs achieve high levels of 32-bit performance while delivering best-in-class energy efficiency.

The EFM32 hardware evaluation platforms for the Wonder Gecko MCU family are available now. The EFM32WG-STK3800 starter kit features an LCD segment display, light and touch sensors, and a USB interface to a host device. The full-featured EFM32WG-DK3850 development kit includes a QVGA resistive-touch colour display, audio connectors, a joystick, switches and a potentiometer for additional user controls. Both development kits provide advanced energy monitoring and real-time power profiling and are supported by the SEGGER J-Link debugger and the Simplicity Studio developer tools.

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