Meet DARWIN, a New Breed of Microcontrollers for the IoT

April 24, 2018

Christine Young By: Christine Young
Blogger, Maxim Integrated 


Our modern world hungers for greater intelligence, with new products launching at a fairly fast clip to unlock the value of data. From wearable health monitors to smart plant watering systems, the internet of things (IoT) is demanding more from its underlying technology—more power, more memory, and more security.

Many of today’s IoT designs are powered by small batteries, such as lithium-ion coin cells. Yet these designs, such as wearables and hearables, are expected to deliver big performance and functionality. So, power efficiency is important in order to extend battery life or enable more intelligent computation on an existing power budget. As for memory, having more of it essentially lets you build products that can run more complex applications, gather more sensor data, run multiple stacks, and much more. To make the best use of available network bandwidth, sensor nodes, which are collecting more data, are also doing more local processing and making decisions without always relying on the cloud to analyze the data and issue commands. Scalability in your memory architecture is important, too, because you may need to quickly scale your application to meet emerging market requirements. Lastly, we can’t neglect security. The IoT, particularly with devices deployed in the wild, can be quite vulnerable to attack—not a good situation when you consider the sensitive data involved, or the potential risk that access into one connected device can render the entire network vulnerable to a breach.

Existing microcontrollers (MCUs) fall short in these areas. For example, some are good in terms of power consumption but have limited processing and memory capabilities. Others deliver good processing capability but also consume more power and are limited in memory.

Fortunately, a new breed of low-power MCUs has come to town. Meet DARWIN,  power-efficient, memory-rich, and secure MCUs that are built to run an array of smart, connected applications. DARWIN MCUs offer:

  • Wearable-grade power technology, including the lowest active mode and SRAM retention power available, so you can get the most out of smaller batteries
  • The biggest embedded memories in their class, so you won’t have to worry about running out of code space, processing SRAM, or adding another MCU
  • A scalable memory architecture, allowing you to tap into external memory interfaces if needed to run code from external flash or access external SRAM
  • Advanced embedded security technology, including proven cryptographic engines and options for secure boot and IP protection

DARWIN IoT MCUs

DARWIN MCUs are smarter, leaner, and tougher MCUs designed to meet the requirements of IoT applications

The DARWIN family of MCUs includes Generation U ultra-low-power parts and Generation UP parts delivering ultra-low power plus performance. One of the newest Generation U MCUs is the MAX32660, which is based on the low-power Arm® Cortex®-M4 processor and provides a floating-point unit. The MAX32660 provides the memory needed (256KB flash and 96KB SRAM) to run some advanced algorithms and manage sensors, while also delivering excellent power performance (down to 50µW/MHz) in a 1.6mm x 1.6mm WLP. Among the newest Generation UP products are the MAX32650/MAX32651/MAX32652, all based on the Arm Cortex-M4 processor and including a floating-point unit. The MAX32650 provides 3MB of flash and 1MB of SRAM on chip, balancing the low power consumption of an embedded microcontroller with the capabilities of a higher powered applications processor. The device also integrates high-speed peripherals including USB 2.0, secure digital (SD) card controller, a thin-film transistor (TFT) display, and a complete security engine. Its memory architecture scales, as the MCU can also run from external memories over HyperBus or XcellaBus. Similar to the MAX32650, the MAX32651 is a secure version featuring a trust protection unit (TPU) with a modular arithmetic accelerator (MAA) for fast ECSDA, an AES engine, true random number generator (TRNG), SHA-256 hash, and secure bootloader.

More DARWIN products are on the way. Meantime, the MCUs available now are ready to tackle the power, memory, and security requirements of today’s and tomorrow’s IoT designs. A variety of DARWIN development boards is available to help you get stared with your next design.