Company: Technology Trends

PMIC's - Integration that Saves $ and Space (for Low and High Volume)

Every embedded design requires power and that power needs to be managed. Whether it comes from a battery, the wall, the sun or even from RF signals; the energy needs to be managed before it can be utilized by an application. The complexity of the power management depends upon the complexity of the system but it can require anywhere from a handful to dozens of components to do this power management. The great news is IC suppliers have PMICs (Power Management Integrated Circuits) that integrate many of the requirements into a single IC.

PMICs are basically the SOC (System On a Chip) for the power portion of a design. They can include some or all of these functions:

  • DC/DC conversion
  • LDO (Low Dropout Regulator)
  • Voltage regulation
  • Voltage supervisor
  • Voltage reference
  • Battery management
  • Battery charging
  • LED control
  • USB transceivers
  • Clocks
  • Etc...

For years, PMICs were really only available for clients and applications that were running millions of units per month. The good news is that PMIC's are available and being developed for applications and customers that are both high and low volume. Many processors and controllers today are multipurpose and is really the best place to start as it is typically the core of a design. These core requirements along with the overall system requirements are a great place to start in finding a PMIC. Keep in mind that a PMIC may cover all or some of your needs. Don't limit yourself to finding a PMIC that does everything. The best solution might be a PMIC along with some external regulation or clocking - every application is different.

Knowing that every application is different, a PMIC may or may not be the right choice. While PMICs are more readily available, some suppliers and versions of PMIC still require a premium. This is why the power portion of a design still requires attention from an experienced H/W engineer - he/she might be able to do the design now with fewer chips and less cost, thanks to PMICs.

PMIC resources: