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NXP Refits i.MX and Kinetis for IoT

March 27, 2018

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

To expand its reach into the growing IoT market, NXP will stack radio modules on some i.MX application processors and is sampling more-powerful Kinetis microcontrollers with fully integrated radios and new security features. These different approaches to wireless integration will give customers more choices while easing NXP’s design challenges.

Instead of building analog and digital functions on a monolithic i.MX die or copackaging two die, NXP chose a third solution: package-on-package (PoP) integration. Some i.MX packages will expose ball contacts on top as well as on the bottom, so the radio module can ride piggyback.

The company is starting with the i.MX 6ULL, an ultra-low-power application processor that has a Cortex-A7 CPU. It operates at up to 900MHz. A third-party partner (Murata) makes the first wireless module, which has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. This combo is scheduled to begin production in 4Q18.

For smaller IoT devices, NXP unveiled the K32W0x MCUs—the next-generation wireless chips in the Kinetis family. They integrate CPUs, memory, and radios on a monolithic die but are less powerful than the i.MX 6ULL and support slower wireless standards. These chips have a 72MHz Cortex-M4F plus a 72MHz Cortex-M0+ for sensor processing and running the wireless stacks. They include up to 1.25MB of flash memory and up to 384KB of SRAM—the industry’s largest configuration for a wireless MCU. The radios support Bluetooth 5, Zigbee 3.0, Thread (802.15.4), and Apple’s HomeKit. These chips are sampling now and are scheduled for production in late 3Q18.

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