We are announcing today the commercial availability of the first STM32WB microcontrollers, the STM32WB55 family of MCUs in four different packages: QFN48, QFN68, WLCSP100, and BGA129. We introduced the STM32WB a year ago when it was sampling, and it remains the first and only dual-core Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M0+ MCU on the market certified Bluetooth Low Energy v5.0, and 802.15.4. To accompany the arrival of these components, we are also launching STM32CubeMonRF, a software tool to help developers test and setup their radio more efficiently. We are also launching the P-NUCLEO-WB55 a development pack containing a classical Nucleo 64 board and a USB dongle. They both ship with demo application on the MCU to offer a truly unique experience right out-of-the-box.
What Is an STM32 Wireless? An STM32L4 and a 2.4GHz radio IP with dedicated Cortex-M0+
The STM32WB is essentially an STM32L4 MCU and a 2.4GHz radio on separated Cortex_M0+ SoC on a single die. Engineers can enjoy lots of I/Os, up to 1 MB of Flash, a Floating Point Unit, and the power saving modes that made our MCU so successful. Additionally, they get a Cortex-M0+ that handles all the wireless operations, meaning that it’s possible to run an application in real-time on the Cortex-M4 while the other core takes care of the 2.4 GHz radio. The fact that the new MCU integrates all these cores, the wireless IP, and the balun, dramatically simplifies the overall PCB design and reduces the bill of materials (BOM). Moreover, we are the first to offer all these features on a package compatible with a two-layer PCB, which will enable cost-effective products and be a considerable advantage in industrial applications.
The new hardware architecture also offers crucial security features. For instance, we ship encrypted radios to prevent hackers from cloning our component, which could lead to a spoofing attack that would trick a system into thinking that an intruding device has a right to connect to a network. We also offer a Customer Key Storage software unit embedded in the Cortex-M0+, that securely stores customer keys for its application usage, and hides them from the Cortex-M4. When developers want to initiate a secure software update, they can use a public key that only the private key present in the CKS can decrypt, thus preventing thieves from inserting malicious code or taking control of the system. Finally, we also offer Secure Firmware Updates, and AES 256-bit hardware acceleration for encryption/decryption operations.
Why Is It so Special? The STM32Cube Ecosystem and Its Certifications
The strength of the new STM32WB55 family of microcontrollers also resides in the STM32Cube ecosystem that surrounds the component. We published an update to STM32CubeMX so developers can easily configure the pin-outs and clock trees of the new MCUs. Existing STM32Cube Expansion Packages, like X-CUBE-SBSFU that helps engineers implement a secure boot and secure update system, will also become compatible with the STM32WB overtime. We are offering, at launch, a complete software solution for Bluetooth 5.0 and Open Thread in the STM32CubeWB MCU Package, while users can expect the Zigbee stack to be available in the second quarter of this year. Finally, STM32CubeMonRF enables fast prototyping thanks to the ability to measure various output powers, PER (Peak-Error-Rate), which is the maximum value at the error rate counter, the overall signal quality, or to setup custom scripts to handle specific use-cases.
Companies that plan to manufacture low volumes will also appreciate the fact that we hold Bluetooth and Thread certifications for both our stack and our radio. As long as they use our design and middleware, they can benefit from our QDID (Qualified Design ID) to hasten significantly the time it takes to bring their product to market. Traditionally, obtaining the right approvals demands a lot of tests by special labs to guarantee the compliance of the controller, profiles, and physical layer, among others. It is a costly and time-consuming undertaking. However, we already have a certification for our stack and will launch a certified radio module in H2, 2019, which means that by using our solutions, teams can save a lot of time, money, and frustration. Indeed, our QDID can help them bypass a lot of these complexities.
Where to Begin? The P-NUCLEO-WB55
The best way to start experimenting with the new STM32WB family of MCUs is to get the P-NUCLEO-WB55, a development pack that offers two STM32WB55: one on a Nucleo64 board, which uses a QFN68 packaging and one on a USB dongle, which uses a QFN48 housing. The MCU on these two products serves as a superset, meaning that developers can start writing their application, then use STM32CubeMX to see if they can lower the pin count, use a component with less memory, or reduce the clock speeds to simulate a device with different specifications and see what configuration works best for them.
We decided to ship a USB dongle to enable a working demo out-of-the-box. Users connect the USB key to a PC, and it will automatically play the role of a Bluetooth LE slave device as it communicates with its master, or the Nucleo board, which can draw power from its USB port or a small battery that we also ship in the pack. However, using this power source will require users to take out their soldering iron to move a few resistances. Demos include a basic beacon application or an over-the-air update simulation. The source code of the demos is present in the STM32CubeWB MCU package.