We’re back with more Embedded World 2022 coverage with a wireless microcontroller announcement from Texas Instruments (TI).
Yesterday at the show, TI unveiled its new family of wireless microcontrollers (MCUs), the SimpleLink Bluetooth LE CC2340. With a price starting at $0.79, the company seeks to enable engineers to add BLE connectivity to a wider universe of embedded consumer devices.
The SimpleLink Bluetooth LE CC2340 wireless MCU is aimed at a variety of cost-sensitive embedded device designs. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
In this article, we discuss the details of the CC2340, examine an application example using the chip, and share insights from the group press briefing we attended with Marian Kost, Vice President and General Manager, Connectivity at Texas Instruments.
BLE-enabled Devices in High Demand
According to data from market research firm ABI Research reported by Bluetooth SIG, 5 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices are expected to ship in 2022. By 2026 those shipments are forecast to grow to 7 billion.
In this landscape, Kost says TI developed the CC2340, the company’s 4th generation BLE SoC, to target a sweet spot that blends high-quality RF, low-power performance, and an aggressive starting price. The product was a result of more than a decade of feedback from engineers, says Kost.
Engineers are also able to expand RF performance and connection range with an output power up to +8 dBm, which TI claims is the industry’s highest compared to competing BLE MCUs. The CC2340 devices embed an integrated RF balun. This simplifies designs by allowing fewer external components, which in turn leads to cost savings.
Key features of the CC2340 include less than 830 nA standby current, +8 dBm output power, and up to 512 KB of flash memory. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
The standby current of the device is under 830 nA, which is 40% less than competing devices, according to TI. The low standby current is a big factor in enabling longer battery life. TI says a battery life of up to 10 years on a coin cell battery is possible for applications such as electronic shelf labels and tire pressure monitoring systems, for example.
The chip is available in two memory configurations—the CC2340R2 with 256 KB of flash, and the CC2340R5 with 512 KB of flash. To support the RAM memory capacity needed to easily update software remotely, the CC2340 offers 36 KB of RAM with over-the-air download support.
Making the CC2340 suitable for outdoor applications, the chip offers an operating temperature range of –40ºC to 125ºC. That’s critical for ensuring a stable wireless connection is systems such as industrial sensors, electric vehicle chargers, or smart meters.
Application Examples for the CC2340
As part of TI’s press briefing for the CC2349, Kost examined three different application examples that exemplify the kinds of designs well suited for the device. The areas discussed by Kost were medical devices, building automation, and personal care products. The common theme among the examples was embedded systems that need increased memory, longer battery life, and wider temperature range, but at an affordable cost in line with adding connectivity to everyday products.
Kost examined each of the previously mentioned application areas in his briefing, but here we’ll get into detail on the first one: medical devices. The price, low power, and RF performance of the CC2340 make it attractive to designs such as CGMs (continuous glucose monitors), insulin pumps, and medical sensor patches, says Kost.
The small size, low power, and high RF performance make the CC2340 well suited for continuous glucose monitors. The tiny devices send data to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
A CGM is a tiny sensor that measures a person’s glucose levels. A Bluetooth-enabled device, a CGM will connect to your smartphone, capture data and monitor your heath. It can also connect to the smartphone of your loved ones, so you can do remote monitoring through that functionality, says Kost.
“For such applications, the standby power is very important,” he says. Kost says that CC2340’s standby current of less than 830 nA enables an end-product shelf life of 18 to 24 months. That low power also means devices can perform two weeks of active Bluetooth LE operation on just a coin cell battery.
Importantly, the CC2340 devices offer a tiny footprint, a key feature for CGMs, which are inserted under the skin. The CC2340R5 version is provided in a 5 mm x 5 mm QFN package, while the CC2340R2 is even smaller at 4 mm x 4 mm. Both versions are available with 11 GPIOs, but the R5 also has a variant with 26 GPIOs.
Dev Kit and Engineering Support
Engineers can get started with the CC2340 MCU by using TI’s LP-EM-CC2340R5 development kit. The kit is priced at $39, but TI provided few details about the kit at the briefing. TI offers an engineering support resource called the TI E2E Bluetooth support forum. Engineers can also leverage TI’s royalty-free Bluetooth LE software stack. The company has supported and kept the stack updated since 2010.
Development board (LP-EM-CC2340R5) for the CC2340 MCUs. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
Samples of the CC2340 MCUs are available now, while they are expected to hit volume production in the first half of 2023. As mentioned, pricing for the CC2340 family will start at $0.79 for 1,000-unit quantities.
This week at Embedded World, TI is providing demos of the CC2340 wireless MCUs in booth 3A-215. TI says visitors to the booth can use the SimpleLink CC2340 LaunchPad development kit to create a BLE connection in two minutes or less.