The Cortex A series of CPUs from ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) are mainly used in smartphones and tablets, and while ARMv8 has heralded a set of features geared toward energy efficiency, the A series processors are too powerful for embedded devices. For this segment, ARM has the Cortex M series of low-power processors, which are used to power devices like sensor hubs, fitness trackers, smart thermostats and connected home hardware.
One of the main differences between the Cortex M line from full-fledged mobile processors in the Cortex A series is that they do not feature a memory management unit, which is a controller that parses memory references to translate virtual memory addresses to physical addresses. The lack of this controller makes the M series not suitable to run an operating system like Windows, but they are ideal for devices that feature a RTOS, like Samsung’s (KRX:005935) Gear Fit fitness tracker.
Key features of the Cortex M7 include a 64-bit interconnect, which has two levels of cache for different memory operations. ARM is stating that the Cortex M7 delivers twice as much performance as its successor, the Cortex M4. The Cortex M7 will be able to handle more displays and control devices like drones as it is more responsive. The chip can also handle voice controls and has better touch sensitivity.
With a wide variety of third-part tool availability, ARM mentions that vendors looking to offer embedded solutions with Cortex M7 will not have any difficulty in migrating from earlier Cortex M processors. What is very clear from the announcement is that more and more vendors are interested in the wearable segment. MediaTek (TPE:2454) has launched its Labs initiative to allow hobbyist builders to build wearable devices, and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has several processors and technologies that are targeted at the IoT segment. Manufacturers are also actively launching new form factors that include connected home devices, like the Philips Hue.