FGPA/ASIC/DSP

Despite the availability of a range of commodity products, designers often need to turn to custom devices to meet particular needs. But which technology best suits the application? Should you base your design around an FPGA or is it better to use an ASIC? Can you meet your design requirements using a DSP?

In this section, New Electronics brings you the latest developments from the advanced platforms market, looking at how to develop and apply FPGA, ASIC and DSP technology.

Using FPGAs in embedded systems

While there’s nothing new about the use of FPGAs in electronics products, many engineers are only just beginning to explore how the devices could help to improve their designs.

Technology to integrate FPGA functionality into SoCs

FPGAs are rarely out of the news, but the acquisition of Altera by Intel in 2015 pushed the technology firmly into the headlines. Intel’s main reason for buying Altera was to provide a way to accelerate the performance of its Xeon processors, used widely in data centres. But Intel hasn’t been the only company turning its attention to the use of FPGAs in such applications; earlier in 2015, Microsoft said that Project Catapult used Altera’s Arria 10 FPGAs to boost data centre power/performance.

Optimising wearable designs by integrating support circuitry

Systems on a Chip for wearable devices offer an astounding level of integration. Advanced manufacturing processes give SoC and MCU developers plenty of transistors to work with and these devices can integrate multicore processors, wireless connectivity, memory and graphics controllers.

Intel’s Programmable Systems Group takes its first step towards an FPGA based system in package portfolio

Speaking in 2012, Danny Biran – then Altera’s senior VP for corporate strategy – said he saw a time when the company would be offering ‘standard products’ – devices featuring an FPGA, with different dice integrated in the package. “It’s also possible these devices may integrate customer specific circuits if the business case is good enough,” he noted.

There's still growing demand for DSP, say experts

Eight years ago, a New Electronics article about digital signal processors started: ‘Jump back a decade or more and there was little difficulty identifying just what digital signal processing was. Neither was there any problem in identifying a DSP. But times change. Today, DSP as a technique is beginning to disappear from view, hidden within applications. Whilst DSPs are still being produced, they are beginning to evolve into different types of device’. You could argue that statement still has validity. So what is the ‘state of the DSP nation’?

High throughput, low power requirement

For cloud and IoT applications, there is a rising need for flexible GbE firewalls in corporate network infrastructures. With integrated Open Source and x86-based AMD Embedded G-Series SoCs, Deciso’s OPNsense firewall appliance offers double the flexibility. It enables high throughput with low power consumption making it suitable for both enterprise and IoT appliances.

Do engineers know what they like and like what they know?

Engineers can select from a range of technologies which might be appropriate for their next design. Options include ASICs, FPGAs and embedded CPUs. But there is a suspicion that, rather than selecting the platform which will be best for the job, engineers fall back on something with which they’re familiar.

Programmable matter could make evolutionary hardware a reality

First realised 20 years ago, evolutionary hardware design continues to fascinate a small group of researchers. The attraction is not difficult to understand; instead of trying to design behaviour or structure into a system manually, you let the system determine for itself how it should work. Just like biology – only you need it to happen in less than a few million years.

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