Posted by steve tateosian on February 15, 2012
I few months ago, I posted a blog (“Bringing Order to Chaos”) about the inherent power of our hyper-connectivity to bring order to potentially chaotic situations. This hyper-connectivity is the result of the dramatic increase in processing power that we are realizing with microprocessor technology and is giving us the tools we need (we know where you are, how many are in an area, and can get you information at the push of a button) to instantly modify behavior through the proliferation of information.
On a recent trip to visit Synopsys customers in Israel, I saw this all come to life in real-time, maybe not completely bringing order to chaos, but certainly reducing chaos. What is more chaotic than your daily commute? It’s likely many of you reading this already know about and are using this crowd sourcing tool, Waze? “When you download Waze, you not only get free navigation, but also become part of the local driving community in your area, joining forces with other drivers nearby to outsmart traffic, save time and improve everyone’s daily commute.”
Waze leverages the powerful (and expensive) computing, navigation, connectivity, display, and battery power of your smart phone. But what about other opportunities for data collection and information sharing where a phone won’t fit or can’t be plugged in daily to recharge batteries? This is where tiny, power efficient microprocessors, like the ARC EM family come in. Wireless sensor products based on the ARC EM processor cores could go without the need to ever change (or charge via plug-in) batteries, or without batteries all together. Maybe this is in asset tracking, under a tag, or simply, built into a product. Maybe this is in clothing, measuring and reporting body temperatures and heart rates. They could be embedded in the rubber in your car’s tires, monitoring pressure and temperature. The applications, and the benefits, are endless.
The ARC EM 32-bit processor core was introduced to the market last year, and at less than 10,000 gates this processor consumes 0.01mm2 of silicon area in 28nm and draws just 2uW/MHz of current. Oh, and although it is 8-bit in size, the performance is flat out 32-bit. The ARC EM delivers a whopping 1.52 DMIPS/MHz and 2.29 CoreMark/MHz. That’s best in class performance for low gate count 32-bit processors.
The low gate count and efficient sleep modes means your leakage current is kept to a minimum. The real-time performance efficiency means you can wake up, process fast, and get back to sleep, to minimize power on time. With microprocessor like this you can create a long lasting, low-maintenance sensing node that can go just about anywhere.
In a few years sensor nodes will be everywhere and will be possible everywhere because of the advances that are being realized in 32-bit microprocessor architectures. The extreme performance efficiency of processors like the ARC EM cores is changing our world and bringing to life capabilities that up until now only seemed possible in science fiction. The increased access to data and connection to the cloud that results will bring us all closer together and with the data available analyzed, shared, and distributed in intelligent ways, like Waze has done with the smart phone, will change the world we live in.
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 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.