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Signalling a change

Multicore architectures and fpga coprocessors mean new algorithmic development approaches are needed. By Graham Pitcher.

The world of signal processing has advanced almost beyond recognition since the first dsps were introduced some 25 years ago. From their early days, largely in military applications, dsps now find use in a wide range of markets.
DSP developers have not, in general, felt the need to push their designs down the Moore’s Law curve – unlike microprocessor manufacturers. So clock speeds are slower and the devices may not be made on the smallest process technologies available.
Yet the Laws of Physics are having an effect. Power consumption and heat generation requirements, for example, have prompted a move to multicore devices. Another development is the use of an fpga as a coprocessor for the dsp. In the microcontroller world, companies are adding ‘dsp like’ instructions to create the hybrid digital signal controller. And ARM is adding dsp capability to its cores.
So where does this leave signal processing software? Ken Karnofsky, director of signal processing and communications marketing for The MathWorks, said a number of trends have become apparent recently. “One is to do with applications, another is to do with the type of device being used and a third trend is to do with the development process itself; how engineers are developing signal processing algorithms.”

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Graham Pitcher

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