NXP enhances embedded security and signal processing with new Arm Cortex-M33 based chip families

There is no doubt that the next generation of The Internet of Things devices market has exploded, and with that comes the need for the next generation of microcontrollers to support enhanced security, as well as more processing power, while further decreasing power consumption.

NXP announced the LPC556x family and the i.MX RT600 crossover processors, both based on the Arm Cortex-M33 processor. This is one of the first Cortex-M processors with Arm TrustZone security technology, bringing a new level of trust to embedded systems. These new NXP microcontroller families represent the next generation of Cortex-M based design, familiar to thousands of developers and used in millions of designs.

What was released by NXP?

NXP unveiled two device families:

  • LPC5500 single and dual-core 100MHz Cortex®-M33 microcontrollers (MCUs) in 40nm flash technology for a broad range of industrial and IoT edge applications
  • i.MX RT600 crossover processors with up to 300/600MHz Cortex-M33/Digital Signal Processor (DSP) cores in 28nm FD-SOI technology for high-performance voice and audio in ultra-low power edge processing applications

Since this blog will focus on the new LPC556x families, please visit the NXP website to learn more about the new i.MX RT600 processors.

The NXP LPC556x family contains five devices with features not previously available in the market. These devices fully utilize the Armv8-M architecture to boost performance and increase security, and provide:

  • Up to 640KB of Flash, up to 320KB of RAM
  • A rich suite of timers and interfaces including USB, SDIO, SPI, I2C, I2S and UARTs
  • Advanced security module supporting AES, SHA-2, RNG and unique PUF (Physical Unclonable Function)

View the LPC556X part numbers here:

Block diagram NXP

Also, to get started, NXP offers a full-featured development board that includes the LPC55S69 with a dual-core Cortex-M33 processor, user LEDs and input buttons, Arduino ports, micro SD card slot, accelerometer, stereo audio (in and out) and full-speed USB.

NXP Development Board

LPCXpresso55S69 Development board

Target applications

The NXP LCP556x and LCP55S6x chip families are widely applicable across many markets including, automotive, industrial, smart home, medical and consumer applications.

 NXP LCP556x applications

Smart homes and home automation are becoming more popular, but have also been exposed to some of the most published hacks. Designers of internet connected door locks, garage door openers, home security systems and cameras have to pay attention to design security from the ground-up by using TrustZone and Crypto Engine on the LPC55S6x.

One of the most exciting technologies on the horizon is 5G cellular. The expected explosion of IoT devices will connect to 5G networks through NB-IoT CAT-M1 modems. The cellular network operators mandate very stringent security to allow connection to their networks. The LPC556x family provides all the architectural and peripheral security requirements to design compliant systems.

Machine learning is moving to edge and the LPC556x is one of the first new microcontrollers of its generation that has been designed to meet this challenge. The NXP DSP accelerator and the second Cortex-M33 processor can off-load demanding needs from the main control Cortex-M33, to achieve the best balance between power and performance. The Arm CMSIS-NN libraries provide an ML implementation optimized for Cortex-M processors. The LPC556x provides sufficient RAM to implement sophisticated models.

A deeper dive into the LCP556x and LCP55S6x MCUs

Here’s a quick run-down of the unique features of the new NXP families:

  • TrustZone - Provides hardware isolation between the Secure and Non-secure worlds. Systems can now be secured by design through placing only the most critical security routines such as boot code, secure configuration, security keys, encryption libraries and firmware updates in the secure TrustZone.
  • Co-processor - The Cortex-M33 provides a high-speed co-processor interface with 32 or 64-bit width. The LPC55S6x utilizes the co-processor interface to implement a high-speed DSP accelerator and Crypto Engine. These accelerators can execute in parallel with the main CPU, further boosting performance.
  • Dual-core implementation - The LP55S69 features an innovative dual-core Cortex-M33 implementation that nearly doubles performance. The second Cortex-M33 can be powered down when low power is required.

To top it all off, the new NXP families feature the Arm Cortex-M33 processor. What does that bring?

The Cortex-M33 processor: Security, efficiency and ease of use

The Cortex-M33 is built for feature-rich IoT and embedded products. It extends the capability of the Cortex-M3 and M4, providing more security, enhanced efficiency, performance and scalability for deployment even in the most demanding contexts.

Arm Cortex-M33 Processor benefits

The key benefits of the Cortex-M33 include:

1. A security foundation in the heart of your SoC

TrustZone technology is already deployed in billions of devices and is now accessible for Cortex-M in our Armv8-M architecture - with the same, proven, system-wide security concept, but optimized for embedded, deterministic devices.

The Cortex-M33 processor brings TrustZone security to demanding and low-powered devices, enabling programmers to use a familiar programming model to make software isolation more achievable. The processor supports the main recommendations from the Platform Security Architecture (PSA), which is a framework providing a common approach to security for both hardware and software. PSA offers a consistent foundation for designers and developers working on IoT and embedded devices.

The PSA documentation and open source code (Trusted Firmware-M) is perfectly positioned for developers using CPUs like the Arm Cortex-M33 processor.

Visit our PSA page to learn more and access PSA resources.

Arm Platform Security Architecture capabilities

System designers can differentiate their products by adding valuable software and algorithms for further functionality, with the knowledge that they are protected with TrustZone software isolation. Trusted execution is now achievable, even in the most constrained embedded devices. Explore Arm resources for TrustZone for Armv8-M

Arm TrustZone security isolation

2. Longer battery life with an efficient Cortex-M processor

The Cortex-M33 processor allows developers to optimize power usage for specific applications with built-in, low-power features. With its three highly optimized low-power modes, the processor conserves energy to match processing demands. The Cortex-M33 provides 13% more performance than the Cortex-M4 and runs on less energy for even longer. The combination of the Cortex-M33 ultra-low-power core, the ability of it to operate down to 1.71V, deliver industry-leading low power consumption in active and sleep modes.

3. Easier software development

Software developers can use their existing know-how of the Cortex-M programmer's model when working with the Cortex-M33. Familiar development tools, such as the popular Arm Keil MDK tool suite and Arm Compiler, support the new processor too. When using Keil MDK developers can achieve greater productivity and faster time to market with MDK's software components and versatile debug features. And when using the ULINKplus debug adapter alongside Keil MDK, developers can analyze their application's power consumption easily and make improvements so that their device is energy-efficient, both in terms of hardware and software.

By accessing the broad Arm ecosystem, developers can choose from a wide selection of ecosystem partners offering software, tools, compiler, RTOS and security solutions. There are also a wealth of resources and documentation, along with Q&A support, at the TrustZone Community for Armv8-M.

So, why wait? Start developing your embedded device

With the advance of the IoT, security is no longer an option; embedded developers and device manufacturers must take it seriously. Now, it no longer needs to be reserved for security specialists, but is accessible for all, without compromising performance and efficiency. These new Cortex-M33 based NXP devices provide developers the technology needed to build a secure foundation in the heart of their device.

In addition to that, developers can boost performance efficiently with the DSP accelerator in the NXP LPC556x that processes complex signals and reduce their system cost - made possible by the Cortex-M33's powerful co-processor interface.

More secure, efficient processing done on an edge device - now that's just the recipe we need to accelerate the next wave of smart, connected embedded devices.

Learn more about the NXP LPC5500 series