Renesas ships its ARM Cortex-M85 microcontroller to leapfrog M7

Renesas ships its ARM Cortex-M85 microcontroller to leapfrog M7

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By Nick Flaherty

Renesas Electronics is shipping its highest performance microcontroller, the first in the industry to use the ARM Cortex-M85 core.

The RA8M1 Group is the first in a series that adds the Helium vector instructions, secure boot and the TrustZone 8.1 used in the M33 and M55 devices. It is intended to be a higher performance alternative to the Cortex-M7 device, particularly for AI applications.

“It’s a big deal as we have the first integration of the M85 and we see that filling a gap in our product offer the top of the RA against the bottom of the RZ MPU family, the missing link, so the RA8 will grow to that level,” Bernd Westhoff global director of Microcontroller Product Marketing tells eeNews Europe.

The first M85 silicon was shown at Embedded World in 2022 and is now in volume shipment. This has just the Helium vector extensions in the core but other groups are likely to use other AI accelerator engines.

“It’s not only a product but a new series with a group and there are more groups to come,” he said. “The M1 group is M for mainstream has no dedicated accelerator integrator, its only using the Helium extensions, with probably another one this. If [an accelerator] is what we do, that will be a different group.”

The RA8 Series also targets PSA Certified Level 2 + Secure Element (SE), NIST CAVP and FIPS 140-3 certifications.

“We do see this as replacing M7 that doesn’t offer TrustZone,” says Westhoff. “In overall Renesas there is no Cortex M7 use yet and we have customers building advanced security and AI around the M7 and these customers will benefit from the advanced security and the additional performance. This is 4x the performance of an M7 device, that’s an enormous uplift. The performance uplift from M33 to M55 is not sufficient to make a disruption in the core selection and so we have leapfrogged the M7 core.”

The RA8M1 M85 microcontroller is built on a 40nm process and runs up to 480MHz, twice the frequency of previous families, and also operates down to 1.68V where the previous minimum was 2.7V. It also adds CAN FD which is is becoming more popular even in home appliances, an octal SPI with execute in place (XIP) and decryption on the fly for larger applications that use external memory.

There is also a CEU interface for a camera as Westhoff expects the device to be used in the smart home for robot vacuum cleaners and AR vision systems where there are Renesas reference designs as well as medical applications. He points to a fingerprint scanner as an early application by a customer where only the encrypted fingerprint extracted details are sent to the server as the AI capability makes the capture and processing easier.

Compiler support for the chip includes GNU, Keil V6 compiler, IAR and ARM LLVM while development environments supporting the RA8M1 include the Renesas E2studio, Keil MDK and IAR Embedded Studio. There is also the EK-RA8M1 evaluation kit with headers for MikroBus, Arduino, SparkFun and CMSIS board support package (BSP).

There are also AI and TinyML tools based on the Renesas Reality AI Tools, as well as an extensive portfolio of embedded processing and IoT offerings.

 The RA8M1 Group MCUs are available now, along with the supporting software. Renesas says it welcomes other partners who would like to port software to the Cortex-M85 core and Helium.

Samples and kits can be ordered either on the Renesas website or through distributors.


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