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.

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.

Flexibility for the future

Operating a data centre requires a range of conflicting requirements to be balanced. At the top of the list is the ability to deliver extreme computational performance, but other factors include flexibility, the efficient use of power and keeping costs as low as possible.

The Desyre for change in SoC design

SoCs for critical applications could use 28% less energy and 48% less chip area while offering hardware failure rate nine times lower, if they were designed using the Desyre architecture, according to the European project. The result, the project adds, would reduce hospital costs and replacement rate of medical devices drastically.

Programmable digital resources can be used to overcome the shortcomings of SoC devices

One of the most frustrating elements of embedded system development occurs when, having passed many design milestones, you discover that the embedded device selected doesn't meet current design requirements. Configurability offers designers the flexibility to determine how peripherals such as comparators and operational amplifiers are routed out to pins. These components will not have the same static pin locations as a traditional fixed function microcontroller; using a series of registers on the device, engineers can configure a device to their particular application needs. Additionally, mixed signal SoC devices may contain digital resources that are programmable at different levels – from basic configurable logic to larger PLD resources – and which can be configured using a hardware description language such as Verilog. Using these programmable digital resources, developers can create state machines and other complex circuits, such as the ability to perform an FFT on a digital signal in hardware.

Data is everywhere, but how can it be useful?

Whilst the other Catapults are vertical, the first notable thing about the Connected Digital Economy Catapult is that it is inherently horizontal. CEO Neil Crockett commented: "We have our own sector focus, which is everything from digital creative right the way through to silicon chips. But we also underline all the other Catapults; they are all becoming digital in what they are doing, so I guess we are probably the widest Catapult of them all."

FPGA family may be a companion for ASICs and ASSPs

Lattice Semiconductor has unveiled the ECP5 family of FPGAs, designed for use alongside ASICs and merchant chips. At first glance, the motivation for the family appears counterintuitive – why add a programmable IC if you are undertaking a custom ASIC design? Equally, an FPGA alone will do the job if the standards being used are still in flux.

FPGAs open up new system design possibilities

System architecture has evolved from being an instinctive dark art – the balance between implementing functions on hardware and software often being swayed by the amount of legacy software or, perhaps, the limited hardware resource.

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