Ramtron Takes Control of Time With Low Energy Nonvolatile Memory

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO and SAN JOSE, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- Mar 27, 2012 -- Ramtron International Corporation (NASDAQ: RMTR), a leading developer and supplier of nonvolatile ferroelectric random access memory (F-RAM) and integrated semiconductor products, revealed today at the Silicon Valley Design West/Embedded Systems Conference, a new low energy F-RAM memory that expands the company's capability to improve energy efficiency, access speed, and security in its customers' products. Ramtron also featured its FM72016 wireless memory and FM31T378 processor companion products at the conference that extol similar system benefits. All of the featured F-RAM products benefit metering, point-of-sale (POS), and other data-intensive logging applications with their ability to lower energy consumption, increase data integrity, and decrease product deployment and associated maintenance costs.

Ultra Low Energy - taking control of time

Ramtron F-RAM memory technology inherently provides high endurance, fast single-cycle and symmetrical read/write speeds, low power consumption, as well as gamma radiation tolerance and electromagnetic immunity. Now, with the introduction of the Ultra Low Energy FM25e64, Ramtron achieves levels of power consumption that are not possible with older and power hungry nonvolatile memory technologies, such as electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM).

"Energy consumption cannot be measured in volts and amperes alone," said Scott Emley, Ramtron's vice president of worldwide marketing. "The speed and frequency that a system accesses nonvolatile memory significantly impacts total energy consumption. In addition to offering native low power operation and low active current, the FM25e64 allows engineers to control the element time in the energy consumption equation with fast access speed and high frequency write capabilities to improve system performance with negligible energy consumption."

The FM25e64 natively operates on energy efficient 1.5- or 1.8-volt power rails, offers low 20-microamps active current operation, and only requires about 20-microseconds to start up, write data, and shut down the memory.

In utility metering applications, the FM25e64 allows the meter to write energy consumption and diagnostic information faster and 100-to 1000-times more frequently than systems designed with standard EEPROM. In addition, since the access time to memory is drastically reduced, the amount of time that a system's power-hungry processor can remain in sleep mode is significantly increased, thus lowering the meter's total power consumption profile. Further, F-RAM's fast access speed also allows the state of the meter to be saved instantly on power failure, ensuring that the meter does not lose consumption data when power is restored.

System security

Performing a simple web search on "how to hack a point-of-sale terminal" reveals the vulnerability of POS terminal data. A POS terminal becomes more consumer-friendly and safe if the system can completely erase data upon tampering or when a terminal is stolen. Despite losing data on power-down, POS terminals that use volatile static random access memory (SRAM) save backup data that can be read by determined hackers bent on retrieving POS transaction information. Ensuring data is securely erased during a breach or power cycle, the ultra-fast write FM25e64 wipes out confidential transaction data -- in as little as 10 microseconds.

"Since energy meters are also vulnerable to hacking, smart meter developers are emboldened to protect meter data and ensure that a meter reliably and continuously measures energy consumption data over its life," Emley continued. "The electromagnetic immunity of the FM25e64 and all other Ramtron F-RAM products offers native protection from magnetic attack. And, products like the Ramtron FM31T378 processor companion offer even greater security with built in tamper protection circuitry to count tamper events or interrupt the host processor in the event of a malicious attack. The tamper input can also be used to alert the power company and trigger a system shutdown that cuts off electricity," Emley added.

Cost of production and maintenance

When developing F-RAM enabled products, Ramtron not only considers component cost but the total solution cost for the customer. These costs include the cost of production and lifetime maintenance of the end product. For instance, the time to program an end product during manufacturing or the cost to update firmware in the field can significantly impact production costs and total cost of ownership for the customer.

The fast write capability of the ultra low energy FM25e64 along with other standard Ramtron F-RAM memory devices offer significant advantages when programming end products during production. Ramtron FM72016 wireless memory product enhances productivity even further by allowing programming to be done wirelessly. For example, an energy meter equipped with a Ramtron WM72016 wireless memory can be programmed without ever having to touch copper leads since its embedded F-RAM memory can be written to wirelessly using industry-standard RF communication protocols. If a firmware update is required farther down the production line or in the field, the firmware can be programmed passively, without power to the unit, and can be loaded the next time the meter is powered up.

The Ramtron FM31T378 processor companion offers a temperature compensated real-time clock and other common peripherals in a single package, which saves board space, cost, and production time. The accuracy of the real-time clock in the FM31T378 can be programmed to a high degree of accuracy during meter production.

Pulling it all together

Ramtron aims to solve design challenges and provide valuable benefits to its customers in every product it develops. With new products like the FM25e64 along with the company's existing FM31T378 and WM72016 devices, Ramtron's product roadmap provides designers with a host of benefits to promote energy efficiency, access speed, and security in products for the metering, POS terminal, automotive, consumer, medical, test and measurement, building control, and factory automation markets.

Pricing and availability

Samples of the FM25e64 are available today from Digi-Key, Mouser, and through other authorized Ramtron distribution partners (use sample part number: FM25LX25-G). Mass production of the FM25e64 is expected later this year with a suggested 10K unit resale price of $0.95USD. For pricing on the Ramtron processor companions and wireless products, please contact a Ramtron authorized distributor. Low Energy Memory whitepaper and datasheets are available at www.ramtron.com/go/LowEnergyMemory.

About Ramtron

Ramtron International Corporation, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a fabless semiconductor company that designs, develops and markets specialized semiconductor memory and integrated semiconductor solutions used in a wide range of product applications and markets worldwide. For more information, visit www.ramtron.com.
For a 300-dpi product photos, visit www.ramtron.com/press-center/image-bank.aspx (see F-RAM Low Energy Memory, Processor Companion, and MaxArias wireless memory).

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Christopher Wray
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