Renesas Electronics Corp. has launched a new family of microcontrollers (MCUs) targeting secure, scalable Internet of things (IoT) applications with an open software platform enabling customers to develop IoT endpoints with a wide range of partners or leveraging existing legacy software platforms.

The Renesas Advanced (RA) family of 32-bit Arm Cortex-M MCUs deliver a combination of optimized performance, security, connectivity, peripheral IP, and flexible software package (FSP).

Renesas has assembled an ecosystem of 34 partners to deliver an array of software and hardware building blocks that will work out of the box with its MCUs. These will help engineers develop IoT endpoint and edge devices for a range of industrial and building automation, metering, healthcare, and home appliance applications.

In an interview with EE Times, Kaushal Vora, director, strategic partnerships & global ecosystem at Renesas, said that the RA MCUs address customer demands for greater flexibility and security. While its legacy cores in the RX family are still going strong, and its Cortex-M based Synergy features a somewhat closed software platform, the RA family will be bundled with a more open flexible software package platform. Scalability and compatibility across the RA family lets designers build a range of products, and they can quickly begin development with its FSP using Amazon FreeRTOS, ThreadX, or other RTOS and middleware solutions.

He emphasized strong security as a key feature of the RA family. He commented, “A lot of people still don’t think about security. We are trying to change the customer’s mindset by integrating a strong root of trust (RoT) in hardware.” He said that though attitudes towards integrating security are very slowly changing, by making it an integral part of the MCU, the fact that the customer has it without even realizing it makes it easier to get them to start using the security features.

RA crypto engine

The secure crypto engines in the RA family MCUs (Source: Renesas)

The RA family of MCUs combine Renesas’ secure crypto engine IP with NIST CAVP certifications on top of Arm TrustZone for Armv8-M, while also providing tamper detection and reinforcing resistance to side-channel attacks. The RA Family is PSA Certified Level 1 and includes the RA2 Series (up to 60 MHz), RA4 Series (up to 100 MHz), RA6 Series (up to 200 MHz), and the dual-core RA8 Series, to be released later.

Arm’s senior vice president and general manager for automotive and IoT, Dipti Vachani, added, “With today’s fast pace of innovation, developers need to accelerate their time-to-market without compromising on crucial features such as security and connectivity. The new RA family of MCUs is PSA Certified, demonstrating that it is built on sound security principles, enabling developers to improve security and safety in high-performing endpoint devices.”

Renesas RA family

Renesas RA family MCUs (Source: Renesas)

The first five RA MCU Groups available today are comprised of 32 scalable MCUs with Arm Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M23 processor cores. They feature pin counts of 32-pins to 176-pins, along with 256 KB to 2 MB of code flash memory, 32 KB to 640 KB SRAM, and connectivity such as USB, CAN and Ethernet. It is easy to transition within the RA family due to feature and pin compatibility. Each RA MCU group provides superior active and standby power, and enhanced features such as Renesas’ popular HMI capacitive touch technology.

Ability to use legacy code and in combination with ecosystem partners
The RA family FSP provides an open architecture that allows customers to re-use their legacy code and combine it with software examples from Renesas and ecosystem partners to speed implementation of complex functions like connectivity and security. The FSP features Amazon FreeRTOS and will also add out-of-box support for ThreadX RTOS and middleware on Cortex-M23 and Cortex-M33 MCUs by early 2020, offering a premium device-to-cloud option for developers. These options can be replaced and expanded with any other RTOS or middleware.

The RA Family roadmap will roll out additional MCUs in 2020 with more advanced technologies, unique features, and more partners in the ecosystem. The roadmap offers PSA Certified and Trusted Firmware-M (TF-M) API compliant devices, including Cortex-M33 MCUs, low-power Cortex-M23 MCUs, and BLE / IEEE 802.15.4 wireless IoT products. MCUs with TF-M / PSA certification will give customers the confidence and assurance to quickly deploy secure IoT endpoint and edge devices, and smart factory equipment for Industry 4.0.

The RA family strengthens Renesas’ established 32-bit MCU range, including the RX family and Renesas Synergy Platform. Renesas Synergy is based on the Arm Cortex-M core and features MCUs combined with commercial-grade, warranted software and development tools. The Renesas eXtreme (RX) Family features a proprietary RX core with industry-leading 32-bit CoreMark®/MHz performance and the largest code flash memory and SRAM.

The first wave of RA devices incorporates hardware-based security features from simple AES acceleration to fully-integrated crypto subsystems isolated within the MCU. The secure crypto engine provides symmetric and asymmetric encryption and decryption, hash functions, true random number generation (TRNG), and advanced key handling, including key generation and MCU-unique key wrapping. An access management circuit shuts down the crypto engine if the correct access protocol is not followed, and dedicated RAM ensures that plaintext keys are never exposed to any CPU or peripheral bus. The RA family development environment offers on-chip debug, IDEs, compiler, support tools, board evaluation kits, design files, schematics, PCB layouts and BOM.

The first five RA MCU Groups are available now from Renesas Electronics’ worldwide distributors with prices ranging from $2.50 USD to $7.00 USD in 10,000-unit quantities.