Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

ARM and Silicon Labs collaborate to reduce energy consumption in IoT devices

Steve Rogerson
March 18, 2015
Texas-based Silicon Labs is partnering with UK firm ARM to accelerate the development of energy-friendly IoT applications. They are collaborating to define and deliver the first power management application programming interfaces (APIs) for ARM Mbed platforms.
Adding power management APIs to Mbed should bring energy efficiency to standards-based products optimised for low-power, battery-operated connected devices. The APIs could enable the Mbed community of more than 100,000 registered developers to optimise their Mbed-enabled ARM Cortex-M architecture-based designs for energy efficiency and longer battery life.
“The new power management APIs for ARM Mbed make it possible for developers to create applications that take advantage of the low-power features of ARM Cortex-M based microcontrollers,” said Zach Shelby, vice president of ARM’s IoT business marketing. “This is an important step towards enabling full energy-awareness in IoT devices, and it is one of the key building blocks for Mbed OS that is due for public release later this year.”
In addition to enabling developers to manage processor and peripheral states, the power management APIs are designed with real-world, low-energy applications in mind. A feature exposed by the APIs on Silicon Labs’ EFM32 Gecko microcontrollers (MCUs) automatically determines and enables the optimal sleep mode based on the MCU peripherals in use, which can reduce system-level energy consumption. Low-energy optimisation is achieved by enabling IO operations to be executed in the background and by allowing those operations to continue even while the MCU core is in sleep mode or during other processing tasks.
The automatic selection of the optimal sleep mode, combined with low-energy, autonomous MCU peripherals, enables developers to reduce the energy consumption of their IoT applications with little effort. For example, energy profiles of an application updating a clock display every second on a memory LCD – a common use case for IoT devices – have shown a current consumption reduction from 1.03mA to 0.1mA.
“As pioneers in low-energy processing for the IoT, Silicon Labs and ARM have made enormous progress in defining and delivering the new power management APIs for Mbed,” said Daniel Cooley, vice president and general manager of Silicon Labs’ MCU and wireless products. “We’re excited to help deliver the industry’s first low-power Mbed platform, which will play a key role in accelerating the deployment of countless battery-powered IoT applications.”
Silicon Labs plans to provide Mbed-enabled EFM32 Gecko starter kits in April 2015. The initial platforms supporting Mbed will include the Wonder Gecko, Leopard Gecko, Giant Gecko and Zero Gecko starter kits. Developers with existing EFM32 kits will be able to Mbed-enable their hardware through a software update.