Continuing with my 10-day countdown to top reasons to consider the i.MX RT1010, today we look at reason #9 -the unlimited memory capabilities of the i.MX RT1010.
Looking at the i.MX RT1010 crossover MCU, one might notice that there is no on-chip Flash memory. Where do you boot from? Where do you store your code? And is it safe? What about latency issues? The i.MX RT1010 MCU was designed to ensure maximum memory flexibility, while not sacrificing performance or security.
The truth is that an MCU with integrated flash memory is limited with regards to scalability. If the system needs more memory than what is provided internal to the controller, then external memory must then be added at that point or an entirely new MCU must be selected. And often, external memory (such as EEPROM) is added anyway to store data for other uses in the system. While a flash-based MCU might have been chosen with the best intentions in mind, it can quickly end up pretty limiting and technically challenging.
But is using external flash secure? First let’s look at the memory controller on the i.MX RT1010 MCU - the FlexSPI module. The FlexSPI works with Serial NOR or Serial NAND devices. The capabilities of the i.MX RT FlexSPI memory controller enhance eXucute in Place (XiP) operation.
The eXecute in Place, or XiP, is a capability that allows a processor to execute code directly from external flash memory. Many embedded applications require connectivity stacks, audio processing, and vision; and the amount of executable code for these functions has grown to substantial sizes. When considering these application requirements together for one embedded system, the capability of XiP with external flash is an essential enabler as it allows nearly limitless data space for the embedded system. Designers do not have to face issues with over buying for a larger memory size to protect against software growth. The choice of external memory can be made for what is needed for the embedded design. This ensures that every penny spent on the processor components in the system goes towards relevant features for the end product. This architecture reduces both risk and design cycle times as the XiP system architecture can be scaled with only a change to the serial NOR flash in the bill of materials for the circuit boards. In addition, XiP brings an advantage in terms of power and fast wakeup from sleep mode.
And having code placed externally is not risky in the case of the i.MX RT1010 MCUs because it has hardware protected keys that can be used to encrypt the code from external memory before it moves into the MCU. Furthermore, the MCUXpresso SDK has examples pre-built to make it even easier to get started.