Espressif Unveils the ESP32-C2, an Optimized IoT Part to Help Relieve the Great Component Shortage

Increased yield per silicon wafer should help Espressif pack its latest chip into the gaps left by ongoing global component shortages.

Gareth Halfacree
7 months ago β€’ HW101 / Internet of Things

Espressif has offered a first look at the ESP32-C2, a combination Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chip designed to help address the ongoing semiconductor shortage by packing more chips into each individual silicon wafer.

"ESP32-C2 is a combo Wi-Fi-BLE chip that was conceived [in the] middle of last year, at the start of the Great Semiconductor Supply Shortage, which to a certain extent persists till today," explains Espressif chief executive Teo Swee Ann of the part's origins. "Hence, one of the most important goals of the chip is to reduce its silicon area and the flash size requirement."

While forming an entry in the broader ESP32 microcontroller range, the C2 isn't designed to be a powerhouse: The company says it is ideally positioned for "high volume, low data rate IoT applications such as smart plugs and light bulbs." Key to its attraction: A reduced silicon footprint, meaning that greater numbers of chips can be built from each individual wafer β€” meaning Espressif should be able to churn the parts out quickly enough to meet backlogged demand.

The final design of the chip measures 4Γ—4mm (around 0.16Γ—0.16") packaged and includes an unspecified processor core, though likely based on the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture as with the company's earlier and larger-footprint ESP32-C3, 272kB of memory, Wi-Fi 4, and Bluetooth 5.0 Low Energy connectivity.

On the software side, the part will launch with support for the ESP-IDF real-time operating system as well as ESP-Jumpstart and ESP-RainMaker. "The ROM code is optimized," Teo claims, "to reduce the need for flash."

In addition to standard Wi-Fi and BLE connectivity, the former reaching peak throughputs of 72.2Mbps for 802.11n MC7 packets at 18dBm output power or 20dBm for lower data rates, the ESP32-C2 will also include support for the soon-to-be-ratified Matter standard.

"Since Wi-Fi is widely available in most places," Teo explains, "the migration of existing Wi-Fi-based devices to the Matter Wi-Fi standard will most likely drive a large part of the early adoption of the Matter standard. For this reason, ESP32-C2, which is a low-cost Wi-Fi chip supporting the Matter standard, matters."

Espressif has yet to announce pricing and commercial availability, but has promised ESP32-C2 samples to selected customers applying via email. Swee Ann has also commented on the upcoming ESP32-C6, a similarly-optimized part with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 Low Energy support, promising commercial availability of that part "in late Q3/early Q4" 2022.

More information is available on the Espressif blog.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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