What technologies are required to enable connected device applications for the Internet of Things (IoT)? Energy-friendly microcontrollers (MCUs), low-power wireless connectivity and smart sensors are among the key silicon components. Silicon Labs provides all of these enabling semiconductor technologies as well as something else that developers need to simplify their embedded designs: a comprehensive, easy-to-use development environment.
The Simplicity Studio™ development platform is a complimentary software suite that gives designers one-click access to all tools, software examples, documents, and resources in one place for Silicon Labs’ 8-bit MCUs and 32-bit MCUs based on ARM Cortex-M cores.
Silicon Labs introduced a significantly enhanced version of Simplicity Studio in February 2014 and recently provided another software release with added functionality and expanded operating system support. We interviewed Greg Hodgson, Marketing Director for Silicon Labs’ MCU products, to learn more about Simplicity Studio’s new features and how this development platform plays a key role in simplifying IoT applications.
Q: Simplicity Studio was initially developed by Energy Micro and integrated into Silicon Labs’ development tool as a result of the acquisition. Was there any challenge in adopting the tool for Silicon Labs’ existing products?
We faced a couple of challenges. First, we already had an integrated development environment (IDE) for our 8051-based 8-bit products and a development system for our 32-bit products before we adopted Simplicity Studio. Then when we acquired Energy Micro, we felt the need to integrate all the functionality of our different development tools into one unified platform. Energy Micro’s Simplicity Studio integrated software suite was already quite popular with 32-bit developers so we decided to keep the Simplicity Studio brand and extend the platform to support our existing 8-bit products, as well as the recently acquired EFM32 Zero Gecko MCU family instead of developing a new development platform. Integrating our development environments was quite a technical challenge, and we are proud of our success in reengineering Simplicity Studio to address both 8- and 32-bit environments. Simplicity Studio now supports all of our 32-bit EFM32 MCUs as well as our 8-bit portfolio in a unified development environment. We also expanded Simplicity Studio to include a wealth of information resources such as a YouTube channel with training videos and a forum for sharing development ideas and best practices through our Silicon Labs community.
Q: How do embedded designers benefit from Simplicity Studio in different design phases?
In the discovery phase, embedded developers can easily demonstrate key features and specifications match those found in the datasheet. That leads to the evaluation phase where developers may perform an in-depth evaluation in the lab by changing variables such as voltage and temperature to verify performance and power consumption before writing any code. Simplicity Studio makes it easy to develop a system prototype using an integrated development environment with graphical configuration tools that allow developers to quickly configure MCU pin-outs and peripherals and automatically generate source code. Developers can also easily get access to supporting documentation such as reference manuals and datasheets in Simplicity Studio whenever they need further information.
Q: What are the main differentiators of the Simplicity Studio platform compared to other software tools in the embedded industry?
The biggest differentiator for Simplicity Studio is the integration of all the components for both 8- and 32-bit designs. With competing solutions, developers will be challenged to find a comprehensive solution in one location. They often need to find software examples somewhere else where installations or drivers are not readily available. Simplicity Studio tightly integrates all essential tools in one environment, which is very unique in the industry. It’s now possible to connect an EFM32 development kit to Simplicity Studio and run a demo under a minute. Developers can also use a suite of power management tools such as energyAware Designer, Configurator and energyAware Profiler and enjoy easy, instant access to extensive documentation including datasheets and product specifications.
Simplicity Studio greatly simplifies the development process by putting essential tools and information at the developer’s fingertips. It shortens the iteration cycle by providing a built-in debugger and IDE. Ultimately, developers enjoy a more productive development experience and faster time-to-market.
Q: Silicon Labs recently announced new updates to Simplicity Studio. Please explain the new features.
Yes, we recently added two significant features to Simplicity Studio – a new capacitive sensing profiling tool and support for Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. The new capacitive profiler feature in Simplicity Studio is designed to support the new C8051F97x capacitive touch sensing MCUs in addition to our previous C8051F990x products. Developers can run a demo or change the system behavior of an example easily by changing parameters. Developers can now use the F97x MCU demo out of the box with the capacitive sense profiler to understand how capacitive touch responds, how it interacts with the demo board or even with your own project, and how to build touch control applications such as sliders or touchpads. The profiling tool makes it easy to visualize everything you need for your touch control application.
Watch the video – Simplicity Studio for Windows, OS X and Linux from Silicon Labs:
Q: Silicon Labs provides a variety of silicon solutions for IoT applications such as MCUs, wireless ICs and sensors. How does Simplicity Studio software play a role in integrating these IoT solutions?
Software and stacks are needed to support various features in the microcontrollers, radios and sensors that are critical components to build an IoT solution. For example, the current Simplicity Studio platform supports the EFM32 Gecko MCU family and a sensor card connected to the EFM32 board to easily demonstrate temperature, humidity and proximity, UV and ambient light sensing. Simplicity Studio can be effectively used to combine these features while developing an IoT system. We also plan to enhance Simplicity Studio in the near future by bringing additional Silicon Labs device support to the development platform in addition to our MCUs.
Download the free Simplicity Studio software tool here: