In the evolving automotive market, the demand for more and smarter ICs is skyrocketing. Smarter ICs have an increased need for non-volatile memory, specifically reprogrammable NVM. Reprogrammable NVM IP’s use goes beyond code storage. Sensing, power management, and wireless connectivity devices use NVM for calibration, configuration, data logging, user settings, and storing security information. In addition, reprogrammable NVM helps to ensure quality. Before an IC goes into a car, multiple rounds of testing and tightening of specifications require information to be changed in the test cycle. As not all of these functions require or can afford embedded Flash, other technologies must be considered.
As an example automotive application, we can look at sensors. There are many sensors used in today’s cars, such as Hall sensors for anti-lock brake systems and pressure sensors in the intake manifold, and many of these sensors drive mission-critical functions. As the sensors must be calibrated to stay within a tight tolerance regardless of manufacturing variability, NVM is used to store this information with high reliability. Figure 1 shows the steps along the sensors’ life cycle in which calibration data must be changed and stored, including the silicon manufacturing process, the electronics assembly, and the manufacturing of the car itself. Even after the car rolls off the manufacturing line, calibration data may need to be rewritten to recalibrate a sensor that has demonstrated a drift in specification parameters. This drift is common in automotive spaces due to the long life of a car or truck.