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Silicon Labs MCUs boast advanced hardware cryptography

16 Dec 2015

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Silicon Labs has uncloaked a couple of EFM32 Gecko MCU families that claim to deliver advancements in security and energy management technologies geared for the Internet of Things (IoT). The Jade Gecko and Pearl Gecko MCUs combine modern hardware cryptography engine, flexible low-energy modes, an on-chip DC-DC converter and scalable memory options backed by Silicon Labs' Simplicity Studio tools, detailed the company.

EFM32 Jade and Pearl Gecko MCUs

EFM32 Jade and Pearl Gecko MCUs target an array of energy-sensitive and battery-powered devices such as wearable health and fitness trackers, smart door locks, point-of-sale devices, security sensors and other IoT node applications.

Jade and Pearl Gecko MCUs address the growing need to equip IoT-connected devices with the latest security technologies to thwart hackers. The MCUs feature a hardware cryptography engine providing fast, energy-efficient, autonomous encryption and decryption for Internet security protocols such as TLS/SSL with minimal CPU intervention, and without sacrificing battery life. The on-chip crypto-accelerator supports advanced algorithms such as AES with 128 or 256bit keys, elliptical curve cryptography (ECC), SHA-1 and SHA-224/256. Hardware cryptography enables developers to meet evolving IoT security requirements more efficiently than with conventional software-only techniques often required by competing MCUs, the company indicated.

Pearl Gecko block diagram

Pearl Gecko block diagram

Based respectively on ARM Cortex-M3 and M4 cores, Jade and Pearl Gecko MCUs provide ample performance for connected devices while enabling developers to optimise battery life or use smaller batteries for space-constrained designs. The MCUs feature an enhanced peripheral reflex system (PRS) that lets low-power peripherals operate autonomously while the MCU core sleeps, allowing connected devices to sleep longer, thus extending battery life. Energy-saving low active-mode current (63µA/MHz) enables computationally intensive tasks to execute faster. Low sleep-mode current (1.4µA down to 30nA) and ultra-fast wake-up/sleep transitions further cut energy consumption.

The MCUs also integrate a high-efficiency DC-DC buck converter. Offering a total current capacity of 200mA, the on-chip converter can provide a power rail for other system components in addition to powering the MCU. This power management innovation reduces BOM cost and board area by eliminating the need for an external DC-DC converter.

EFM32 Jade and Pearl Gecko system design is powered by Silicon Labs' comprehensive Simplicity Studio development platform. Simplicity Studio streamlines the process of creating IoT applications by providing developers with one-click access to everything they need to complete their projects, from initial concept to final product, in a unified software environment. Simplicity Studio includes an Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE), graphical configuration tools, energy profiling tools, wireless network analysis tools, demos, software examples, documentation, technical support and community forums.

EFM32 Pearl Gecko Starter Kit

EFM32 Pearl Gecko Starter Kit

Engineering samples of EFM32JG Jade Gecko and EFM32PG Pearl Gecko MCUs are available in 5mm x 5mm QFN32 and 7mm x 7mm QFN48 packages; production quantities are planned for 2Q16. Jade Gecko pricing begins at $1.24 in 10,000-unit quantities, and Pearl Gecko 10K pricing begins at $1.65. The SLSTK3401A EFM32PG Pearl Gecko Starter Kit, priced at $29.99, enables developers to jumpstart evaluation and development of Gecko-based applications.

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