Design Apple-compatible accessories with Silicon Labs’ ARM-based kit

April 10, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Silicon Labs has a 32-bit hardware and firmware development kit designed to accelerate the design of Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) accessories and help product manufacturers get to market quickly.

Based around the company’s ARM Cortex-M3-based SiM3U microcontroller (MCU), the MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK development kit supports the all-digital Lightning connector and protocol stack. The development kit targets a wide range of accessories for iOS devices including entertainment accessories, device-powered dongles, game controllers and docking stations.

Today’s iOS accessory manufacturers are quickly migrating their 30-pin connector-based products to the Lightning connector standard, which provides an advanced all-digital connector and re-designed protocol stack. Silicon Labs designed the MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK kit as a turnkey solution to help developers simplify their Lightning-based accessory development projects and speed time to market while meeting the MFi program requirements.

The kit provides a cost-effective and comprehensive solution for accessory developers and includes hardware development board, firmware libraries and an example iOS App, which supports Appcessory-style communication between the iOS device and development board.

The SiM3U MCU features fully-specified analogue peripherals, an integrated capacitive touch sense controller, an internal 5V regulator and crystal-less USB support, which eliminates the need for discrete crystal oscillators and reduces bill of materials (BOM) cost, component count and board space. Device-powered accessory applications benefit from the SiM3U MCU’s power efficiency. The SiM3U MCU offers ultra-low power consumption with full analogue operation down to 1.8V, claiming a 33% lower active current than competitors and a 5-100x lower sleep current, while a low-current USB idle mode ensures the viability of device-powered accessories.

The MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK development kit is available to MFi licensees for $149.

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