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Configurable Thoughts
  • About

    This blog is about everything to do with microprocessors. While we discuss architecture, tools, best practices, new innovations, performance, and system implementation, we also look at software, applications, and the larger industry trends. The processor market is a fascinating place today, and even though it has been around for more than 30 years, it is in many ways just getting started. We would love to hear from you on our blog posts, and please don't hesitate to let us know if you think we are wrong — it does happen occasionally.
  • About the Authors

    Michael Thompson

    At the age of 10 Mike begged his father to get him a computer. Never mind that at the time computers were the size of a large office and cost millions of dollars. Yes, Mike is no spring chicken and he didn’t get the computer, although his father did give him an abacus telling him that it would enable him to use the computer that he already had between his ears, which was not appreciated. Whether it was due to the trauma that resulted from using an abacus or just Mike’s love of anything electronic he has spent the last 30 years or so designing, building, and programming computers, microprocessors, and microcontrollers and developing applications that run on them. And his fascination continues with the definition of new processors and architectures in his search for the holy grail of computing: infinite performance at zero power consumption. Statistically speaking he is convinced it is just a matter of time.

    Allen Watson

    Allen started in the ‘semiconductor IP industry’ before it was called the ‘semiconductor IP industry’. Back then, it was about ‘megafunctions’, ‘megablocks’ or MegaMacros™ (as trademarked by the pioneering UK IP company Allen was with… no, not that UK company). The biggest of these ‘mega’ things was an 8051! Today, of course, IP blocks are much larger and much more complex. And, it’s about the software, as well as the hardware. It’s also about working with a set of partners, sometimes called an ecosystem or community. Allen has been doing that for many years and is enjoying working with old and new friends on the ARC processor ecosystem.

I Seen Em’

Posted by Mike Thompson on July 30th, 2013

And, they will be everywhere! The world is going to sensors in a big way. You currently interact with 50-100 daily. By 2020 this will be something like 1000 or so. Impossible you say. No, actually this is happening. Semico Research is estimating that 30 billion will be shipped in 2017. Welcome to your Brave New World.

Sensors are not new of course, they have been around and used in various applications for years. What is new is the level of processing that is taking place in sensors. The sensors of old were controlled by state-machines or 8-bit CPUs. In the past couple of years this has been changing rapidly because of the increasing complexity and merging of sensors to extract more meaningful information from the environment. This increased level of information has to be processed and this is being done with 32-bit processors that offer several orders of magnitude more performance than the 8-bit controllers of old. At the same time this new generation of 32-bit processor is comparable in size to 8-bit machines, so they offer the very low power consumptions and small areas that are required in sensors.

But, just having a small 32-bit processor isn’t enough. Because of their extreme low power and size limitations sensors are becoming highly optimized systems. Busing is eliminated. Hardware is merged into the processor pipeline. Peripherals are mapped into the processor with single cycle access. Specialized software and hardware functions are required. Efficiency at the system level is paramount. All of this takes longer to develop and as sensor systems get more complex, designers need an “SoC-Ready” sensor IP solution that helps them reduce their design and integration effort, lower their design risk and speed time-to-market.

Synopsys is bringing to market the industry’s first integrated, pre-verified hardware and software IP subsystem solution for a range of sensor control applications including smart sensors, sensor fusion and sensor hubs. Optimized to process data from digital and analog sensors for standalone applications, or for offloading a host processor, the subsystem enables more power efficient processing of sensor data. This complete IP subsystem solution consists of an ARC EM4 32-bit processor, the digital interfaces, analog-to-digital data converter (ADC) interfaces, hardware accelerators, a comprehensive software library of DSP functions and software I/O drivers. With Synopsys Sensor Subsystem designers can achieve a 40-60% savings on area and power while minimizing system latency because of the highly efficient system-level implementation that it offers. Even better the Sensor Subsystem is a full solution that is easily configured, so sensor systems can be implemented in hours and days, rather than weeks or months.

Applications in automobiles, mobile devices and the “internet of things” increasingly rely on sensors that give the ability to read and interpret environmental conditions such as pressure, temperature, motion, and proximity. The use of sensors will continue to increase as our connections into the digital realm become more seamless enabling us to routinely do things that seemed like science fiction only a few years ago.

I seen em’ and they will be everywhere.