Microcontrollers: What They Are and How They Drive the Digital World

Introduction of microcontroller

Microcontroller is a type of single-chip integrated circuit that contains one or more    microprocessor cores, instruction sets, flash memory, RAM, EEPROM, external bus interfaces, and various digital/analog input/output ports. Its main function is to interact, control, monitor, and transfer data with peripheral devices based on programmed code, collect data from external signal sources and respond according to predefined tasks. Common types of microcontrollers include AVR, PIC, ARM, and other series.

Microcontrollers are usually low-power devices. The power of a desktop computer is typically about 50 watts, which is almost always plugged into a wall socket. The power of a microcontroller powered by a battery is approximately 0.05 watts.

Microcontrollers: What They Are and How They Drive the Digital World

A microcontroller has a dedicated input device and usually (but not always) has a light-emitting diode or LCD screen for output. The microcontroller also receives input signals from the device it controls and controls the device by sending signals to different parts of the device.

Application of microcontroller

Microcontrollers, as a type of miniaturized computer system integrating core functions such as processor, memory, and input/output interfaces, possess both programmability and specialization. They are widely used in various fields, including:

Automotive Electronics: MCUs are widely used in automotive electronics to control the engine, transmission, steering system, braking system, airbags, and more. Automotive MCUs require high reliability, low power consumption, multiple communication protocols and interfaces, high temperature, high humidity, and high EMI resistance.

Industrial Automation: MCUs are used in industrial automation, including PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), DCS (Distributed Control System), and industrial computers. MCUs can control production lines, robots, sensors, and actuators, requiring high precision, high reliability, multiple communication protocols and interfaces, dustproof, waterproof, and corrosion-resistant characteristics.

Home Appliances: MCUs are used in home appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, and televisions. MCUs can control the power, temperature, humidity, and operating status of home appliances, requiring low power consumption, multiple communication protocols and interfaces, small size, and low cost.

Smart Home: MCUs are used in smart home devices such as smart locks, smart sockets, and smart lighting. MCUs can control the device’s switch, brightness, color, and more, requiring low power consumption, multiple communication protocols and interfaces, and security encryption.

Internet of Things: MCUs are used in the Internet of Things, including smart homes, smart cities, smart transportation, smart agriculture, and more. MCUs can control and manage various IoT devices, requiring low power consumption, multiple communication protocols and interfaces, and security encryption.

Other Fields: In addition to the above fields, MCUs are also used in consumer electronics, aerospace, military equipment, energy management, and other areas. Specific applications depend on product requirements and technological levels.

Classification of microcontrollers

Based on the number of bits: Microcontrollers can be classified based on the number of bits they process, which include 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit microcontrollers. In practical applications, 32-bit microcontrollers have a 55% market share, 8-bit microcontrollers have a 43% market share, 4-bit microcontrollers have a 2% market share, and 16-bit microcontrollers have a 1% market share. It should be noted that the number of bits does not necessarily represent the quality of the microprocessor. Higher bit numbers do not necessarily mean better processors, and lower bit numbers do not necessarily mean worse processors.

Based on the architecture: Microcontrollers can be classified based on their architecture as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computers) and CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computers). RISC processors execute fewer types of computer instructions and are characterized by a relatively small number of instructions that can be executed at high speed. RISC processors originated from the MIPS architecture in the 1980s.

CISC processors, on the other hand, have a rich microinstruction set, which simplifies the creation of programs that run on the processor. The instructions are composed of assembly language, which simplifies the programming process. By processing low-level operations or calculations simultaneously during each instruction period, the system can improve the execution speed of the computer. This type of system is called a Complex Instruction Set Computer.

Development trend of microcontroller

According to industry scale data, the global microcontroller market reached $166.904 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $303.043 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.2%. From a segmented market perspective, the rapidly growing demand in areas such as smart homes, industrial automation, new energy vehicles, and the Internet of Things are the main driving forces of the microcontroller market.

Overall, the microcontroller market has broad prospects, but the competition is also fierce. Companies need to continuously improve product performance and technical level to meet the constantly changing market demand.

More specific microcontroller information can be found here.

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