Analysis Tool Measures Energy Efficiency of Microcontrollers and RF Modules in IoT End Points

EEMBC, the industry-consortium setting the real-world standards for valuable and practical application-specific benchmarks, has announced the availability of IoTMark-BLE, a benchmark and analysis tool that measures the energy efficiency of microcontrollers and Bluetooth radios used in IoT edge-node devices (end points).

Battery life is often a critical factor in the development of these end-node devices, especially when they are difficult or inconvenient to access. While many microcontrollers are already designed for ultra-low power, a big portion of the energy budget in an IoT application must be allocated for transmitting and receiving data. As a result, whether the radio function is integrated into the microcontroller or added as a separate module, its energy consumption is often the dominant factor and can vary considerably between competing devices.   

The IoTMark-BLE provides IoT system developers with the means to select optimal microcontroller and wireless solutions for their application by going beyond the limited datasheet specifications that tell only part of the story. IoTMark-BLE measures the energy used by the full subsystem including the MCU, the radio, and the protocol stack, while they perform relevant real-world tasks. Each part of the system impacts energy efficiency, so evaluating the whole radio system provides the most realistic evaluation of its battery life.

The IoTMark-BLE is the first of a suite of benchmarks that the EEMBC IoT-Connect Working Group will deliver. Although the IoTMark-BLE targets IoT devices utilizing Bluetooth for communication, the benchmark runs on a flexible, IoT-Connect benchmark framework that EEMBC developed to accommodate additional benchmarks targeting other communication protocols, including Wi-Fi, 6LoWPAN, and LPWAN. The Consortium is working to produce a suite of benchmarks that allow comparisons between microcontrollers, radios, and modules as well as between competing communication protocols.

The key components of this flexible IoT-Connect framework include:

1) An EnergyMonitor to measure energy

2) A radio manager, to coordinate the communication with the device under test (DUT); and

3) An IO Manager to synchronize activities and to simulate a sensor input on the DUT’s I2C or serial peripheral interface (SPI).

This working group is welcoming all interested parties to join and help define future profiles of this IoT benchmark to ensure the maximum coverage and relevance for IoT communication protocols and end-user scenarios. Current working group members include Ambiq Micro, Analog Devices, ARM, Cypress Semiconductor, Dialog Semiconductor, Flex, Imagination Technologies, Intel, Microchip, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Renesas, Silicon Labs, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys, and Texas Instruments.