Benefits of Flash Microcomputers Come to the Fore as Software Development Becomes Larger and More Complex
Microcomputers with internal flash memory (flash microcomputers) memory have valuable capabilities. They can store a large software program, update the code and data, read it at high speed, and maintain the stored contents when the power is turned off. And the chips achieve all of these features at low levels of power consumption.
In the past, the use of flash microcomputers has been limited by the fact that their cost premium compared to one-time programmable (OTP) and mask ROM devices may have outweighed their superiorities. That generally is no longer the case. Industry needs now have evolved to mesh with the advantages of flash microcomputers, while the cost differential has shrunk somewhat. As a result, applications for these versatile devices are expanding. More significantly, they are being used increasingly in the high-volume production of diverse types of embedded systems. Sales of the devices — mainstays of the Renesas microcomputer product line — are accelerating.
Today flash microcomputers are a key technology enabler for the rapid development, smaller sizes, model proliferations, and fast evolution of products such as digital consumer electronics devices, automotive systems, and mobile phones, to name just a few. One of the main reasons for their success is their ability to be programmed and reprogrammed. In many fast changing growth markets, the software that implements compelling features and differentiates products is becoming larger and more complex, making the software development process more difficult and time consuming. Flash microcomputers allow the program to be loaded just before the product enters the manufacturing process, so there is more time for finalizing the software. Further, the devices enable easy code updates during the manufacturing process or even after the product is delivered to the end user. At any point in the life cycle, necessary or desirable improvements can readily be incorporated into the embedded system to make it more attractive to buy and use.
Renesas solutions: F-ZTAT devices based on "Flash & Flexible" concept
The previously mentioned benefits of flash microcomputers are some of the powerful incentives that are encouraging more electronics companies to design these devices into embedded systems. Renesas was quick to recognize these benefits. Long ago we established our own technology for embedded flash memory, confronting technical issues that included making data storage more robust and providing fast read speeds with low power consumption. Our range of flash microcomputers, the most extensive on the market, provides a wide span of design choices with optimized mixes of high performance, on-chip peripherals, package types and cost.
To emphasize the advantages customers can gain from using our flash microcomputers, we have rebranded them under the name "F-ZTAT" and are marketing an expanding array of embedded system solutions based on the concept of "Flash & Flexible."
Feature articles provide real-world perspective and updated insights
Various recent developments in flash microcomputers provided the inspriation for the four articles in the special feature section of the magazine that follows. To provide some real-world perspective on trends in the use of flash microcomputers in key electronics markets, we are privileged to start this special feature section with articles that provide insight from two outstanding companies. For the first one, we interviewed Mr. Kan Ohtsuka of Toyota Motor Corporation; for the other, we talked with Mr. Riichi Higaki and Mr. Koichiro Kawamura of Nikon Corporation. These experts offer valuable information on why and how they are using flash devices in their products and provide interesting insights into how they view the solutions Renesas provides.
We continue this special feature section with an updated overview of the flash microcomputer strategy Renesas is pursuing. Two members of our Flash MCU Development Section, Mr. Masahiro Hatanaka and Mr. Tatsuro Toya, discuss market trends and application issues, as well as important points about our product line and roadmap. They also highlight some of the latest developments in flash microcomputer technology.
The last article in this section covers support tools and services. It describes the range of hardware and software development tools that are available for Renesas flash microcomputers and lists partner companies that can quickly program large volumes of devices. Two short stories describe specific support capabilities and services offered by Hitachi ULSI Systems Co. Ltd. And Tsuro Technica Corp.