Unlocking energy savings with real‑time clocks

RTC components behind the Internet of Things and other connected devices

What is a real‑time clock?

Have you ever wondered why the alarm clock on a smartphone still rings at the right time, even when you have your phone in flight mode? How is the date updated automatically in a leap year? The reason is a built‑in component called a real-time clock (RTC).

These components work in the background to automatically put systems into standby mode, most of the time to save power. Later, they act as an “alarm” that turns the system on in response to programmable actions, such as a timer, defined time and date, or even external events like keyboard activation. For these reasons, RTCs are extremely useful for low‑power applications where energy is limited, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices and medical wearables.

Making RTCs smaller and more efficient

Micro Crystal AG, a company of the Swatch Group, collaborated with CSEM to develop a particularly small and power‑efficient RTC called RV-3032-C7. The driving force behind the RV‑3032‑C7 is a miniature crystal combined with smart electronics with extremely low power consumption.

The RV‑3032‑C7 offers several features for programmable and automatic timing, but its most important feature is its thermally compensated crystal frequency, meaning it can provide accurate and stable timings at temperatures from -40°C to 105°C. By comparison, RTCs that are not temperature compensated and operate at these temperatures can deviate by an hour per year.

The RTC even has an automatic battery backup switch function, in case of power failure or main battery replacement, so it does not lose track of time.

Combined with its accurate temperature‑triggered alarm feature, this RTC is ideal for use in industries, such as cold chain, where temperature control during transport is critical to keeping perishable products safe and in optimal conditions.

Reducing electronics physical footprint

This RTC’s ultra‑small size and integrated features will enable the development of smaller, more energy-efficient and power-saving designs for a variety of applications: from communications to smart meters to medical wearables.

Sustainable electronics for a brighter future

By fostering ideas and engineering practices for ultra-low-power technologies, CSEM is helping develop sustainable solutions for a variety of industries. “It is predicted that microelectronics and semiconductors will become a trilliondollar industry by the end of this decade, and with billions of devices in the world, it is no wonder their environmental footprint is enormous,” Ruffieux surmises.

At CSEM, we are discovering new ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the components we develop, which goes a long way toward making products or parts and devices ‘smarter’ in terms of their energy consumption. As an innovation leader in ultra-low-power technologies, CSEM is helping to make Switzerland a key player in developing next-generation, energy-efficient, and smart sustainable electronics.