IOT: Texas Instruments FRAM Microcontroller or System on Chip
Sometimes you wonder if a company is just gone. Texas Instruments is one of those companies I don’t think about too often these days, but more and more you find that they are a foundational chip manufacturer. LighBlue Bean, Spark.IO, both owe their existence to the low-power but non-encrypted CC2541. What if you could get a device, that is small, easy to program, and has 256-bit encryption all on the same device?
I would say: WOW. And it’s NOW. Through the use of some weird use of quantum mechanics and material science inside the chip the non-volatile memory is stored, and the memory cannot be destroyed by a stray electric field, here is what TI says:
.: “If the device is placed in a 50 kV field at 1 cm, it is not possible to produce more than 1V across the ferroelectric film.”
What does this mean to you? This means that a Carrington Event, Electro-magnetic pulse, or whatever the latest scary internet thing is being discussed would affect this chip in it’s operational mode. This means that the power industry for example is going to be quite interested in this chip.
Other system designers are going to be using this device in a big way: Point of Sales (especially home improvement stores), Medical Devices, Home Automation and so forth. The reason, is that not only is it low power, it is also high encrypted with a 256-bit memory.
Note, the FRAM devices descriptions are often confused with magnetism and iron because of the use of the term Ferroelectric, this is not the case the Ferroelectric curve is what that term refers to the quantum mechanical capacitors and not to the material that is used to produce them. And I have no idea what it all means (well actually I do, but don’t think it is important, you can read the TI information here: https://www.ti.com/general/docs/lit/getliterature.tsp?baseLiteratureNumber=slat151&fileType=pdf.)
The image below is not a dental XRay of some comic book creature, rather is what the memory storage looks like when using the Ferromagnetic devices, note the Silicone Oxide substrate, and the usual semiconductor elements used for doping. So the FRAM uses a technology that produces memory that has a “Curve” that looks like a ferromagnetic device. It is not the failed bubble memory of the 1980s ok? (Although that was pretty cool in it’s time.)
The number of memory read/writes compared to similar flash memory is mind blowing, even without a visit to Colorado or Washington State (allusion to the legalization of Marijuana in those states). In the Flash Specifications, you can only do 10,000 read/writes to the flash memory (want to bet that will change shortly?). This compares to the FRAM System on chip of over 1,000,000,000,000 read/writes or 1 trillion read/writes. The video at the TI.com site discusses how long that is, but just think that it’s a lot.
Power utilization? Close to zero. Seriously. 100 microampere per megahertz or when being used in NFC mode, that would be 1300 microamperes, and or 1.3 milliamps, which can be supplied by the RF in an NFC device. Use a capacitor to hold the device in sleep mode and then use the NFC to wake it up, and the device real-time clock uses 450 nano-amperes, which is so little current, you have to use special devices and grounds to be able to do so.
Take a look at this device, with the 256-encryption and extreme low power, I now feel that the home automation will really come alive. I have always felt that the home automation lacked security, and now with the FRAM devices this is going to be the device that breaks through. Cash registers, credit card readers, medical devices and so forth are going to be using this device no doubt. Especially since the JTAG hack is blocked with this device, it is going to be a hot ticket.