I think we all understand the benefits of things getting smaller. Remember when cell phones resembled a big heavy brick? Or when our desktop computers literally took over the whole desk (and sometimes the floor underneath, too)? We can certainly appreciate product miniaturization. Smart phones now fit in our pockets and a laptop can be tucked securely in a computer bag for easy travel. But just how small is technology getting?

 

A couple of articles really caught my attention this month, helping me better understand the evolution of ‘small’ technology and their applications. The first one, “Honey Bees Are Mapping Their Movements with Tiny Sensor Backpacks,” talks about researchers attaching tiny sensors to bees to help track their locations and movements in an effort to understand why bees are disappearing at an unsustainable rate. Yes, sensors on bees! “Wearable tech for bugs,” the article calls it. And Google made headlines again with its glucose monitoring contact lens in “Google's Contact Lens Glucose Monitor Unveiled,” which explains how a smart lens can monitor glucose levels in tears, potentially eliminating the need for diabetics to have to prick themselves for blood level readings. These types of stories really speak to where technology is and where it is headed.

 

So, how are silicon providers supporting the constant need for miniaturization?

Moore’s Law tells us that the number of transistors on integrated circuits will double approximately every two years. As this relates to Freescale’s Kinetis MCUs, I like to simply refer to this as The More Law: more features, more memory, more performance. However, we see that IC packaging innovation is becoming an important supplement to Moore’s Law. Sophisticated packages are needed to deliver high performance applications in a low-profile, low-cost, and low power design.

 

Freescale Kinetis mini MCUs are a category of Kinetis MCUs powered by ARM® Technology and available in a variety of tiny wafer-level chip-scale packages (WLCSPs). Kinetis mini MCUs are designed to meet the needs of today’s embedded designers by delivering feature-rich, high performance MCUs in miniature packages, and Freescale is providing industry-leading developments to enable these type of smaller packages with greater functionality than previously seen in the market.

 

Kinetis mini MCUs span multiple cores and several families, plus offer a broad range of performance and memory options, starting with the ultra-low-power Kinetis L series MCUs starting at just 32 KB Flash and scaling up to the high performance Kinetis K series MCUs with up to 1 MB Flash. The Kinetis mini MCU category include the ultra-thin world’s smallest ARM Powered® MCU, the Kinetis KL02 CSP, at just 1.9 mm x 2.0 mm. Below are pictures of some of the Kinetis mini MCUs shipping today.


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The applications for Kinetis mini MCUs extend to virtually anything and everything that is small and smart. With more than 10 million units already shipped, Kinetis mini MCUs are already designed into things like tablet accessories and other smaller devices, and these mini MCUs are also well-suited to support the next-generation IoT designs, including medical monitoring and other portable applications.

 

I’ll leave you with this final image that illustrates the size of our smallest device in the Kinetis mini portfolio, the Kinetis KL02 mini MCU, which measures 1.9 mm by 2 mm … good things do come in small packages!

 

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Kathleen Jachimiak is a Freescale product manager for Kinetis mini MCUs.