Wednesday, April 09, 2014

ARM moves to LLVM open source for future compilers

ARM is moving its future compilers to open source under the LLVM license in a fundamental shift away from proprietary technology.

ARM Compiler 6 supports the coming 64bit ARMv8 architecture and will be integrated into future versions of the DS-5 development suite for high and system on chip development. This will also become the basis of the compiler for microcontroller projects.
"The benefit for our users is greater feature velocity from open source," said Daniel Owens, product manager for software development tools at ARM. "The ARM v8 backend is in open source today as it goes into open source first, then we pull it back in for integration and testing in DS-5. V8 will be supported out of the gate and then V7A and R and that will happen by the end of this year and then following on is V7M and that's probably 2015 so Keil will stay with V7 through that time, he said.

More on this story at ARM moves to LLVM open source for future compilers - Electronics Eetimes

By Nick Flaherty

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Bristol startup slashes memory power with standard logic process

Bristol startup slashes memory power with standard logic process:

 By Nick Flaherty

A Bristol startup has developed an entirely new way of building static memory on a standard logic process that cuts the power in half without paying a penalty in area or speed.
Rob Beat (L) and Mark de Souza
Rob Beat (L) and Mark de Souza
Silicon Basis is based at the EngineShed and is developing the tools to help chip designers add memory to their devices in a way that uses less power, reduces the number of extra chips they need and gives them flexibility to move to different process technologies.
“Fundamentally memory has some real problems everyone does it the same way,” said Mark de Souza, chief executive at Silicon Basis  and formerly at memory IP supplier Virage Logic. “They all take the TSMC arrays and put them together.” These arrays are specifically designed on a particular process.
Silicon Basis sees two key advantages for its technology it can save up to 50% of the power consumption and it can go below the bit cell voltage of the foundry memories. This lower voltage allows the memories to be powered by the same voltage source as the logic and so eliminates the need for a second DC-DC converter which adds cost and complexity to a design.
This also makes the technology foundry independent and scalable to new technologies such as FinFet, says de Souza. The company has produced all the models needed and is now working on 28nm silicon to prove the implementation.”We use our own bit cell so we are not restricted to the foundry’s Vmin which is a huge advantage,” said de Souza. “Dropping the voltage makes a huge difference.”
All of this comes from a new way of looking at the design of the cell which is currently being patented. “No one has seen this way of designing SRAM before,” he said. “We are talking to the experts in memory design and no one has seen this way of putting memory together. Its all using standard rules and standard CMOS. Its an architectural difference that means we don’t need to use sense amps and because we are using logic rules we can go down to the logic voltage floor and possibly below that.”
“Our cell size is about the same as the high speed cell from the foundry,” said Rob Beat, founder and chief technology officer of Silicon Basis and designer of the new cell. “There’s a compromise on area in the array but because the periphery is more efficient we are competitive in area especially on the smaller RAMs.”
The architecture brings advantages with the compiler that are not to be underestimated, he says. “Our single port compiler also outputs a one port register file,” he said. “Because of the way the bit cell is designed we can use the same bit cell for dual port so the dual port compiler will do the dual port register file and asynchronous dual port memory.” This avoids the problems of having up to five different compilers for each process technology with a significant support burden
The technology has been developed for the TSMC 40nm node and outperforms the high speed bit cell, says de Souza. “This took us a little bit by surprise as we didnt design for speed,” he said. “We did a lot of work at 40nm but what we are seeing from customers is that 28nm HPM is going to be a major node and we think there will be more new designs starting on 28nm than on 40nm.”
The technology is also fully compatible with FinFet vertical structures being used in TSMCs 16nm process node. “Our technology will work very nicely with FinFet right out of the box,” he said. 
The technology has previously been used by Beat to develop low power FPGA fabric but has attracted more interest for the SRAM compiler. “For me, Silicon Basis starts here,” said de Souza.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New 32bit architecture takes on ARM in home automation

New 32bit architecture takes on ARM in home automation

The FT32 core was developed for the FT900 family of controllers and at 2.93 MIPS/MHz FTDI claims this provides higher performance and ARM's A8 and A9 cores.
The RISC architecture provides true zero wait state operation up to 100MHz and supports 256k Flash with 256k Shadow RAM and 64k Data RAM. The FT900 chip also includes 10/100 Ethernet, two CAN 2.0 controllers, USB2.0 Hi-Speed support, SD host controller, parallel camera interface, IS master / slave interface, 10 bit DAC (2) and 10 bit ADC, integrated hardware debugger and USB DFU boot-loader.

"We saw an opportunity to do not just a microcontroller for performance but one that had the right connectivity for the markets that we see developing," said Dave Sroka, global product director at FTDI. The company has a range of USB interfaces based around an 8051 core and last year launched its FT800 EVE video processor.

By Nick Flaherty

Ada comes to ARM Linux

Ada comes to ARM Linux 

AdaCore has developed a cross-development environment for the latest 2012 version of the Ada language for ARM processors running Linux. 
GNAT Pro 7.2 provides a complete Ada development environment oriented towards embedded systems that require the flexibility and services provided by Linux. Developers of such systems can now exploit the software engineering benefits of the Ada language, including reliability, maintainability, and portability.

By Nick Flaherty

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Apple extends deal for Imagination video and graphics cores

Imagination Technology is relaxed about ARM as Apple extends its multi-year agreement to use its graphics and video cores.
The deal gives Apple access to Imagination's wide range of current and future PowerVR graphics and video IP cores that sit alongside the ARM processor cores. ARM this week also revealed it now owns nearly 500 patents covering the MIPS technology that Imagination acquired last year.
"This deal is very important," said John Metcalfe, chief operating officer of Imagination. "Clearly we have had tremendous success with Apple with multiple generations of their devices and we feel its very significant that they have extended the current agreement. This is a multi-year agreement across multiple IP, both existing and future IP."
Under the terms of the above licensing arrangement, Imagination will receive on-going license fees, and royalty revenues on shipment of SoCs (Systems on Chip) incorporating Imagination's IP.
With the acquisition of the MIPS processor cores last year Imagination is now a major competitor to ARM, whose cores are also used in Apple designs. "What we do as a matter of course is offer our customers a range of bus interfaces, whether that an internal bus, AXI or OCP," said Metcalfe. "Many people will look to AXI as the hardware interface and we support all our licensees with the interfaces to MIPS, Intel or ARM. ON the software side we deliver device drivers to our licensees that are targeting these three processor families."
This week it emerged that ARM has acquired 498 patents from the MIPS acquisition. "There was nothing too surprising in the ARM results this week except the write off on the patent pool," said Metcalfe. "We think its neutral. Obviously that was one of the key areas to assure ourselves of when we acquired MIPS that we had the freedom to develop the architecture without being bound by legacy patents."

Related stories:
ARM tops $1bn

Apple extends deal for Imagination IP  By Nick Flaherty

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

ARM tops $1bn - analysis

If you thought ARM had exhausted most of the potential licensees for its processor cores, think again - with revenues over $1bn, over $1bn cash to hand and a pool of 3,500 patents, the company is continuing to sign up new companies.
The company saw revenues of over $1bn for the first time, up 22% on last year, with 121 new licensees.
Over half the 22 companies that signed licenses with ARM in the last quarter were new customers, with 15 taking the Cortex-M embedded cores. ARM has now signed more than 200 Cortex‐M licences with over 150 companies, making it the largest product line in the company with 30% of unit shipments. Half of the 10bn devices shipped last year were outside of its traditional mobile market as microcontrollers and the Internet of Things starts to take off and its high end smartphone business slows. Embedded now makes up 32% of the business, compared to 46% for mobile.
The fallout from the splitting up of MIPS Technologies last year is also apparent.
AMR has bought the MIPS pool of 498 patents for $4m from the Bridge Crossing consortium, creating a library of 3,500 patents. ARM had originally paid $167m to form the consortium with Allied Security Trust to license the patents to third parties but the consortium decided not to go ahead with that licensing. ARM is now taking a £59.5m charge as a result. Imagination Technologies acquired the remaining 80 patents relating directly to the MIPS processors.

ARM tops $1bn By Nick Flaherty

Five lessons from Lenovo’s Motorola deal

Lenovo’s $2.9bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility from Google highlights some key lessons in the industry:
  1. Manufacturing still matters
  2. The consumer market is not enough for smartphones
  3. Watch out Nes
  4. Partners are as important as patents 
  5. Google is an information company
See the Five lessons from Lenovo’s Motorola deal 

By Nick Flaherty

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

TI claims industry's fastest 16bit DAC

Texas Instruments has unveiled the industry’s fastest 16-bit digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) running at 2.5Gsamples per second with a four channel version providing 2GHz of information bandwidth for basestation and signal processing applications.

The DAC38J84 and DAC38J82 provide the bandwidth, performance, small footprint and low power consumption needed for multi-mode 2G/3G/4G cellular base stations to migrate to more advanced technologies, such as LTE-Advanced and carrier aggregation on multiple antennas. The DACs support up to 2 GHz of information bandwidth for wideband power amplifier digital pre-distortion, millimeter wave backhaul infrastructure, signal jamming, radar and test equipment.

more at TI claims industry's fastest 16bit DAC  By Nick Flaherty

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Tool debugs deeply embedded multicore SoC devices

Debugging multicore devices in deeply embedded systems is a key problem for designers. PLS Programmierbare Logik & Systeme has launched the latest version of its Universal Debug Engine (UDE) 4.2 with enhanced control and test methods for a wide range of 32bit multicore System on Chip (SoC) targets and optimized visualisation options during system level testing.

Individual cores can be specifically selected and also synchronized for control by the debugger. This also includes the extensive use of existing on-chip trigger and synchronization options of various device manufacturers. With the UDE 4.2, the consistent user interface ensures the greatest possible flexibility when controlling a multicore target, without the need to know the underlying on-chip logic in detail.
The trace framework of the Universal Debug Engine 4.2 has also been equipped with numerous new features. For example, relocation of the data processing in a separate process not only increases the speed of the evaluation, but also allows persistent storage of trace sessions for analysis at a later time without direct access to the target. Furthermore, comprehensive filters and the possibility to individually color recorded events of various trace sources simplify a clear presentation of the results.
An enhancement of the proven Universal Emulation Configurator (UEC) of the Universal Debug Engine (UDE) ensures an even more efficient use of the emulation devices offered by Infineon, Freescale and STMicroelectronics for some SoCs. Programming of the additional trigger logic contained on the emulation devices is performed by a graphical configuration of trace tasks, by which signals and actions are linked via a state machine.

See more at Tool debugs deeply embedded multicore system-on-chip devices By Nick Flaherty

Ultrasonics slash cost of gas sensors

Ultrasonics slash cost of gas sensors:  A gas sensor using ultrasonic measurements is set to slash the cost of medical monitoring.

The new ultrasonic sensor uses patent-pending technology developed by TTP in Cambridge to precisely measure the speed of sound in a gas to determine its composition. While current infrared gas sensing devices for carbon dioxide can cost over £240 and paramagnetic systems for oxygen around £120, TTP believes that its new SonicSense devices will cost between £3 and £6 each in volume production. Potential medical applications include respiratory monitoring, anaesthesia and heart monitoring.

By Nick Flaherty
Related Ultrasonic stories:

Ultrasound array provides touch feedback in mid-air
Oxford spin-out raises £2.7m for ultrasound-based cancer treatment
3D ultrasonic camera for non-destructive testing of aircraft
Non-invasive ultrasonic sensors allow continuous liquid level monitoring
Wolfson to use bat-like sonar for gesture recognition

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Five technology trends for 2014

Five technology trends for 2014: National Instruments is highlighting five key trends for engineers in 2014, from control systems to RF and user interfaces:

By Nick Flaherty

Related stories:

Interesting wearable applications to watch or in the making
Global video surveillance booming in 2014 with more analytical solutions
Emerging technology in LED lighting to shape the outlook for 2014

Related articles
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

UK tech sector records best growth performance for almost a decade

UK tech sector records best growth performance for almost a decade: The UK tech sector has seen its best performance in almost a decade according to a new report from KPMG/Markit Tech Monitor.

By Nick Flaherty

Peer-to-peer database gives smart data discovery for embedded systems and devices

Peer-to-peer database gives smart data discovery for embedded systems and devices - Electronics Eetimes:

ITTIA has introduced version 6.0 of its flagship database software, ITTIA DB SQL, which brings new intelligence to data management on embedded systems and devices with true peer-to-peer replication.

By Nick Flaherty

Friday, October 11, 2013

Excessive security will kill the Internet of Things - Electronics Eetimes

Excessive security will kill the emerging Internet of Things warns the author of a new report.
“There’s a certain amount of panic around the Internet of Things, that you need maximum security or not do it at all,” said Prof. Jon Howes, Technology Director at Cambridge-based Beecham Research and author of a new report on machine to machine (M2M) security. “The problem with M2M is the business model is always tight so as we put tighter and tighter security in place it will kill the business model and make it uneconomic.”
The key is the end-to-end architecture, he says. This is even more important with the recent launch of low cost microcontrollers such as Silicon Labs’ 49¢ Zero Gecko that include an AES encryption engine to support security applications. "

More at Excessive security will kill the Internet of Things - Electronics Eetimes:

By Nick Flaherty

5MP camera bundles boost Raspberry Pi multimedia - Electronics Eetimes

5MP camera bundles boost Raspberry Pi multimedia - Electronics Eetimes: "RS Components has released two new product bundles featuring the Raspberry Pi Model A board and the Raspberry Pi camera module."

By Nick Flaherty

First details on Intel’s Quark IoT processor

First details on Intel’s Quark IoT processor 

Quark, Intel's new Pentium-based architecture, is aimed head on at ARM in applications such as the Internet of the Things (IoT), and there's been a lot of interest in quite what it means.

The fact that it uses ARM's AMBA bus interconnect underscores the vital importance of the ecosystem. It runs alongside a legacy serial bus to blocks such as the GPIO and real-time clock, separate from PCI Express and other serial interfaces.

The first instantiation of the core is used in the X1000 SoC. The specification, which was released at the end of last week, raises more questions than it answers for the SoC business, especially when you bring the IoT into the equation.

The way Intel has addressed the software ecosystem, with ports of Linux and VxWorks from Intel-owned Wind River and security from Intel-owned McAfee, highlights part of the challenge. Some SoC designers will welcome a ready-made software ecosystem, but this is primarily for Intel's customers buying the chip, rather than the core. Intel has said it will be a good long while before the IP is available on TSMC's technology.
Even then, there are key questions: How does this work as a multi-core device, both in homogeneous and heterogeneous systems? Exactly how the interfaces to graphics and security co-processors that need to be tightly coupled will work is not clear.
Having a synthesizable core helps with this. But creating an effective, multi-core IP solution for third-party SoC designers could take a signiifcant amount of work, and both ARM and Imagination Technologies are well ahead. Of course, a multi-core-enabled device (perhaps the X2000), could be in the roadmap.
Another issue is where this new architecture will actually compete. SoCs based on ARM's M0+ Flycatcher core will not run Linux, although they do hit the sub-50-cent price point for the IoT, including security engines and targeted peripherals.
With cache, wait states, legacy bus, and a larger area, Quark is unlikely to compete on area, price, and power. And with such price pressure, coupled with the memory and power issues, these are not going to be on the leading-edge 20nm and 14nm processes.
Atom is firmly aimed at the IoT gateway devices, and if Quark cannot get down to the silicon dust price point, it's not going to make a significant dent in the IoT market.
It seems Intel has a few large customers, including itself, lined up for Quark for wearable devices. But as exciting as it is to have a new architecture in the embedded SoC market, the opportunities for the wider market appear to be quite limited.
A smartwatch running Linux (which should really mean WindRiver Android) is interesting, but are we likely to take the hit of Android for a sensor controller in the IoT? That's unlikely, since the space between the ultra-low-cost sensor/controller and gateway is not really clear, while a heterogeneous multicore version will play well in low-cost smartphones and smart devices, alongside Intel's wireless IP.
This first part is an exploratory device with lots of options. The dedicated, optimized SoCs will come when Intel actually gets to focus on its end applications.

By Nick Flaherty

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Implantable 'lab on a chip' monitors health via Bluetooth

Implantable 'lab on a chip' monitors health via Bluetooth

Researchers in Switzerland have developed a tiny personal blood testing laboratory on a chip that gives an immediate analysis of substances in the body and transmits the results over a mobile phone. 
The device integrates five sensors for different proteins, a radio transmitter and a power delivery system into a few cubic millimetres so the device can be implanted under the skin of the patient. Outside the body, a battery patch provides 1/10 watt of power, through the patient’s skin so that there’s no need to operate every time the battery needs changing. 

By Nick Flaherty

Lime wants a Raspberry Pi for RF - Electronics Eetimes

Lime wants a Raspberry Pi for RF - Electronics Eetimes:

RF chip developer Lime Microsystems wants to make its configurable RF hardware as ubiquitous as the Raspberry Pi low cost computer by making it open source.

The company, based in Fleet, has provided all the schematics and documentation for the board for an open source project called Myriad-RF, and is looking for partners to make more boards to bring the cost down. The board is currently made by Taiwanese distribution partner Azio but costs $300.

By Nick Flaherty

Monday, January 14, 2013

Search Engine Project Finds Internet-Facing Critical Infrastructure Devices

Two US researchers have identified over 7,000 critical control devices that are accessible via the Internet and so may be vulnerable to attack.
The researchers from Infracritical built a suite of scripts that includes 600 search terms for equipment built and managed by close to seven dozen manufacturers of SCADA equipment and support systems for SCADA. The pair found not only devices used for critical infrastructure such as energy, water and other utilities, but also SCADA devices for HVAC systems, building automation control systems, large mining trucks, traffic control systems, red-light cameras and even crematoriums. They initially approached the US Department of Homeland Security with a list of close to 500,000 devices; DHS helped pare the list down to search terms for 50 critical systems it believed were relevant. That eventually shrunk the list of devices to 7,200.
Shodan Search Engine Project Enumerates Internet-Facing Critical Infrastructure Devices 

'via Blog this'

By Nick Flaherty

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