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Dialog Charges Into Bluetooth 5 Fray

July 11, 2017

Author: Loyd Case

Dialog’s DA14586 has modest processing performance but is aiming for IoT ubiquity. The company’s new Bluetooth 5 MCU has an ARM Cortex-M0 running at just 16MHz and includes 96KB of on-chip memory, making it the industry’s first low-cost MCU to support Bluetooth 5. It also ships with 256KB of flash memory and 128KB of ROM. Dialog additionally offers the DA14585, which implements Bluetooth 5 but lacks flash memory. Both chips began shipping in 2Q16 and sell for less than $2.

The DA14586 integrates a digital-audio block and ample storage. Other recent Bluetooth 5 MCUs, such as the Nordic NRF52-series, employ ARM’s Cortex-M4 CPU, which delivers greater performance at the cost of shorter battery life. Some of these competing MCUs enable additional protocols, however. Dialog instead offers a tiny Cortex-M0 CPU running at just 16MHz.

Dialog uses the 128KB ROM to store the Bluetooth stack and boot-ROM code, maximizing the SRAM available for applications. The 64KB one-time-programmable (OTP) memory houses customer-generated code. The ample flash storage can buffer data for upload later, and it can also hold additional application code to be swapped into SRAM when needed.

The analog front end handles basic sensor-data collection, but the 10-bit ADC prevents the MCU from serving in medical devices that require greater resolution. The integrated digital-audio block includes a pulse-density-modulation (PDM) unit for always-on monitoring of MEMS microphones, a pulse-code-modulation (PCM) block for digital audio output, and a sample-rate converter for generating the proper output from digital data streams.

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