The lonely MCU looking for Wi-Fi

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on digg
Share on email

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an MCU without connectivity, must be in want of a Wi-Fi.”

A picture paints a thousand words and for ambitious companies with microcontroller unit (MCU) technology, the picture below is very clear – market growth in IoT-oriented connected devices offers great opportunities. In a slow-growing market, each new design win requires the removal of an incumbent. However, the rapidly growing connected IoT market offers ideal conditions for dynamic companies to quickly gain market share.

ABI connected Iot device shipments
ABI Research, Mobile Accessories and Wearables Market Share and Forecasts, QTR 4 2019

According to David McQueen, manager of ABI’s connected consumer devices research, the forecast data used in the chart shows that connectivity is set to increase across IoT and wearable device types, opening up a whole new level of user experiences and use cases, further boosting the addressable market for MCUs.

As such, MCU companies without connectivity cannot play in this rapidly growing sector. To compound the challenges, MCU gross margins have been under pressure for over a decade and are typically in the range 25 – 40%, unless highly specialised functions are included.  To achieve gross margins over 50%, one must add a rich feature set, speciality functions such as a high-performance ADC or suitable connectivity.

The good news is that adding such IPs can be straightforward. High-performance ADCs and DACs, for example, are readily available for licensing from multiple sources. While the thought of adding Wi-Fi may conjure up images of dealing with multiple IP vendors – one for Baseband, another for RF and a third for PMU (power management unit with DC-DC conversion) – Imagination Technologies offers all three from a single source. This will dramatically reduce the complexity and time needed to convert your MCU to a connected MCU targeted at this rapidly growing IoT sector.

Adding Wi-Fi, such as our iEW220, or Wi-Fi + Bluetooth Low Energy – iEB110 –increases both the IC selling price and gross margins. It also reduces the number of competitors in your sector.  If your existing technology is primarily digital or low-medium performance analogue, adding Wi-Fi need not be complicated.  A careful layout, supported by our experienced team, will get you to production silicon quicker than you might expect.

By adding a proven connectivity solution – pre-certified for Wi-Fi Alliance or the Bluetooth SIG – and an integrated power management unit, you will improve profitability, while reducing your customer’s costs at the system level.  For example, a space-constrained application, which needs a competitive bill of material cost, such as a residential HVAC controller, is a great practical opportunity. Current solutions typically need three ICs – MCU, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Low Energy and an external DC-DC converter.

By working with Imagination, you can address the system needs for such applications with a single connected SoC, resulting in increased sales prices and increased profitability. It’s what we like to call a win-win for both you and your customer.

Gerry Conlon

Gerry Conlon

Gerry is responsible for the strategic direction and execution of Ensigma’s connectivity business. He joined Imagination in April 2018 as senior director of business development, Ensigma. He has a deep understanding of the forward value chain for semiconductor IP, with over 25 years of experience spanning technology consultancy, the semiconductor industry and component distribution. Gerry’s early career was developing video and precision-motion control systems, followed by a successful leadership role growing a start-up into a viable player in the machine-vision industry – it was acquired in 2000, now called Prophotonix. At iWatt Inc (now Dialog), he was instrumental in developing original business models and strategic partnerships to help convert brand names such as IKEA, OSRAM and Sylvania into global accounts, with iWatt achieving number one position globally in dimmable LED driver ICs in 2013. He holds a Bachelor of Science, Engineering, a degree in marketing and an Honours MBA.

Please leave a comment below

Comment policy: We love comments and appreciate the time that readers spend to share ideas and give feedback. However, all comments are manually moderated and those deemed to be spam or solely promotional will be deleted. We respect your privacy and will not publish your personal details.

Blog Contact

If you have any enquiries regarding any of our blog posts, please contact:

United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1923 260 511

Search by Tag

Search by Author

Related blog articles

shutterstock 492864346 1

How Wi-Fi 6 unlocks the potential of low-power IoT

Whatever the application, many IoT devices need to be battery operated, so power efficiency is paramount. IMG iEW400, our latest IP for low-power connectivity, is based on the new IEEE 802.11ax standard, now widely referred to as Wi-Fi 6, making it the ultimate solution for low-power IoT.

Read More »
dancing people listening to music

Why you should care about Bluetooth Low Energy Audio

Earlier this week, we announced our new iEB110 IP, a complete Bluetooth Low Energy IP solution based on the recently announced Bluetooth SIG version 5.2 specification. We’re particularly excited about this IP as the BLE 5.2 specification introduces LE audio, which is a significant step forward for Bluetooth audio, both in terms of sounds quality and functionality.

Read More »


Sign up to receive the latest news and product updates from Imagination straight to your inbox.