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ARM looks to refrigerators, medical devices with new chip

The company's new Cortex-M0+ is being called the "world's most energy-efficient microprocessor" by ARM.

A look at how the Cortex-M0+ works.
A look at how the Cortex-M0+ works. ARM

With the smartphone and tablet markets firmly in its grasps, ARM Holdings is looking elsewhere to capitalize on its growth.

The chip designer yesterday announced its new ARM Cortex-M0+ processor. The chip is designed for intelligent sensors and smart control systems in a host of markets, including home appliances, medical monitoring, and motor-control devices.

The secret to the Cortex-M0+'s market appeal is its energy-efficiency, ARM says. The company is calling the chip "the world's most energy-efficient microprocessor," consuming just one-third of the energy of any 8- or 16-bit processor. However, ARM claims the processor can deliver 32-bit performance, making it extremely powerful for its energy-efficiency.

In a statement announcing the new chip, ARM said that the technology helps further the so-called "Internet of Things," a concept that sees every product a person owns--from computers to bicycles--having the ability to connect to the Web.

"The Internet of Things will change the world as we know it, improving energy efficiency, safety, and convenience," Tom R. Halfhill, a senior analyst with The Linley Group and senior editor of Microprocessor Report said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "Ubiquitous network connectivity is useful for almost everything--from adaptive room lighting and online video gaming to smart sensors and motor control. But it requires extremely low-cost, low-power processors that still can deliver good performance."

Such low-cost options should help connectivity come to many more products in the coming years. At Mobile World Congress last month, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestbeg said that by 2016, there will be 5 billion users around the world collectively accessing the Web from 50 billion connected devices.

ARM has already been able to ink licensing deals on its new processor with Freescale and NXP Semiconductor. According to the companies, they'll be integrating the processor into their existing product lines.