Manufacturers are in a constant race to produce the slickest and thinnest device on the market. A new chip from Freescale Semiconductor could help them get super-thin. The chip, measuring 0.34 millimeters thin – about the thickness of a blade of grass – is the company’s latest processor for low-powered devices, like payment cards, wearable tech, and medical sensors. It’s precisely the sort of chip needed for the Internet of Things, where devices need just little computational power, but are severely constrained by size.
The new chip, Kinetis K22, is an MCU (microcontroller unit). It is a low-power chip with built-in memory, designed to be programmed for specific tasks. The Kinetis is not only thinner, but significantly smaller than the current generation of MCUs. It measures 4.1 mm by 3.6mm, and at 0.34mm it is half as thick as its competitors.
The chip’s impressive thinness will allow it to be embedded in access and payment cards, that usually measure about three quarters of a millimeter in thickness. The processing capabilities of the chip will allow manufacturers to strengthen the cards’ security measures. For example, access cards could be loaded with encrypted information on the card holder, including their security privileges. This should allow for more secure policy-based access controls far more sophisticated than those based on current magnetic or RFID cards, said Steven Tateosian, manager of microcontroller systems at Freescale.
Another advantage of the card’s thinness is its flexibility. It bends far easier than thicker counterparts, allowing for greater durability, and can be fitted into products that bend or stretch. This could allow for advancements in wearable tech, such as improvements in medical sensors to be placed on the skin in an adhesive patch, and size-reductions in smart watches.
The Kinetis K22 costs roughly the same is thicker counterparts, and Freescale has plans to make the rest of the Kinetis line much thinner, too.