The Changing Customizability Continuum

ASIC, ASSP, CSSP, FPGA, SoC, MPSoC, GPU, MPU, CPU

by Kevin Morris

We spend a lot of time in the semiconductor business trying to put chips into bins. We in the press and those in the analyst community are constantly struggling to label particular semiconductor devices, and financial types are always trying to figure out what “market” a particular chip belongs in. As Moore’s Law has pushed us into higher and higher levels of integration, most of the interesting devices out there have a little bit of everything in them.

Consider, for example, the upcoming Zynq UltraScale+ devices recently announced by Xilinx. Even though Xilinx is an FPGA company, and even though a substantial amount of Zynq chip area is taken up by FPGA fabric, Xilinx does not call Zynq devices “FPGAs.” The company has bounced around various monikers over the years. (Do you remember “Extensible Processing Platforms”?) We refer to this category of devices as “Heterogeneous Integrated Processing Platforms (HIPPs).” Xilinx has recently fallen into calling them “MPSoCs” for “Multicore and Multiprocessor Systems on Chip”.

 

A Giant Sensor Standard

Cutting Through IEEE 1451 Confusion

by Bryon Moyer

What if I were to tell you that there was a standard in place – in fact, a relatively old one – that establishes plug-and-play sensor capabilities, low-level sensor module subsystem interconnect formats, communication protocols, and even a sensor web services component? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Maybe even crazy good?

Well, if you’re in the mil/aero world, or maybe automotive, using conventional (not so much MEMS*) sensors, you might say, “Yeah, well, what of it?” If not, your response might more likely be, “Wait, whaaaat?”

Today we talk about IEEE 1451 – probably the biggest standard you’ve never heard of. It’s an aggressive and expansive attempt to capture a large number of aspects of how sensors interoperate and interact with the world. Work started in 1993; much of it was complete in the early 2000s. And yet work continues, with updates underway on some components and new capabilities being defined or planned.

 

Paint It DAC

2015 Design Automation Conference Preview

by Amelia Dalton

It's that time of year again. Ring the bells, sound the alarm, and roll out the red carpet - it's DAC time! In this week's Fish Fry, Anne Cirkel (General Chair - DAC 2015) gives us a special sneak peek into the biggest EDA conference of the year - The Design Automation Conference. Anne dishes the details of the conference: the super cool keynotes, the "I Love DAC" program, and the inside info on the best parties at this year's show. Also this week, we examine a unique Kickstarter campaign that marries nanotechnology with fashion to create this season's must have: The Unstainable™ White Shirt.

 

Intel and Altera – Eleven-Figure Chicken

Stakes are Raised and Tensions Build

by Kevin Morris

We’ve written a few times now about the rabidly rumored Intel bid to buy Altera. In fact, we actually predicted the whole thing almost a year ago: 

When Intel Buys Altera -- Will FPGAs Take Over the Data Center? 

Were we right? It’s still too early to tell. And all we really have to go on are: reports of leaked information, the rules of the game, technology trends, and our own speculation about the motivations and positions of the players involved. 

But one thing is for sure - this is one high-stakes game of chicken.

New information has emerged this week - in the form of a new Reuters report - which says that, according to “sources,” Intel signed a “standstill” agreement with Altera back in February. This means that Intel would be free to launch a hostile takeover bid for Altera as early as June 1.

 

Insights from the 3D Printing Conference and Expo

Technology and Art Attempt to Walk Hand-in-Hand Toward the Future

by Larra Morris

The exhibit floor at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo in New York City is packed. While other tech conferences (like DAC and whatever they’re calling the Embedded Systems Conference this year) have faced dwindling attendance each year, this one is so well attended that it can be difficult to make your way from booth to booth. The panelists and attendees are excited and enthusiastic. And they have every reason to be -- this is a technology that is exploding. Even since World Maker Faire in New York less than a year ago, the 3D printing capabilities on display appear to have improved by leaps and bounds: textures are less rough, sculptures are more intricate and detailed, colors are more varied and vivid, and projects are more interesting and ambitious.

At World Maker Faire, you could step into a scanning booth and get a 3D-printed action figure/figurine of yourself. Now, you can get that action figure in color (not just A color, but IN COLOR), and, at another booth, you can play around with a face-scanning tool that will put your action figure in a Star Trek uniform holding a tricorder - or make it a ghostbuster. The shelves of tchotchkes have been replaced by more inspired art pieces -- no one is displaying a Yoda head, even for kitsch or nostalgia purposes, and I managed to find only one example of the usually ubiquitous twisty vase design.

 

Choices On Top of Choices

Tensilica Fusion DSP Core Geared for Low-Power Devices

by Jim Turley

“Embedded” has a new spelling, and it’s written IoT.

Tensilica is a company that made its name as an early pioneer of tweak-it-yourself microprocessors. Actually, the name itself is a play on the words “tensile” (as in, stretchable) and “silicon,” which pretty well encapsulates the company’s unique selling proposition. Its microprocessor IP is just like any you’d get from ARM or MIPS or anyone else – except that it’s not. Instead of delivering you a prepackaged CPU core, Tensilica instead hands you a configuration tool. Pick your instruction set, pick your bus width, pick your execution resources, and the Tensilica tool will generate a custom CPU for you on the fly. It’s the whiteboard of processor product roadmaps.


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