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Imagine this scenario. You're driving home from work and passing by a supermarket, and your refrigerator calls you to tell you you're out of milk. This is an example of the "Internet of Things," a new generation of "smart systems" described by John Heinlein, vice president of marketing for ARM's Physical IP division, in a keynote speech at the IP Talks! presentations hosted by ChipEstimate.com at the recent Design Automation Conference (DAC).
Heinlein's talk was titled "Enabling Smarter Systems to Accelerate Innovation." IP Talks! featured over 40 presentations from ChipEstimate.com IP partners and Cadence. A video of the Heinlein keynote, along with other talks, is available on line.
In his presentation, Heinlein talked about the "Internet of Things" as the next wave of computing. Here, devices that were not connected in the past (such as refrigerators) will be connected. ARM intends to fully support this movement, and is planning to leverage its strength in mobile devices to enter new markets, such as automobiles, servers, and TVs, Heinlein said.
ARM's John Heinlein presents at IP Talks! 2011
Power and Energy
Heinlein started his talk by looking at several eras of computing, including mainframes, minicomputers, PCs, and the mobile Internet (including tablets and smartphones). While the initial driving force for mainframes was performance, mobile Internet devices come with requirements for functionality, cost, and energy. "It's not just power, it's energy, it's how to do the job with the least energy possible," Heinlein said. "That's what is going to drive the next wave of innovation. People are going to have to be very energy-conscious in their designs."
Heinlein said that low-power design will be necessary in "every application from microcontrollers to servers," and has to be a fundamental part of the design process, not an afterthought. At ARM, he said, low power "is baked in as a key part of the product."
One area of focus for ARM is microcontrollers. These venerable devices are starting to show up in some interesting new places, Heinlein said. One example is motor control - you can get more energy efficiency if you align power bursts with the rotation of a motor. Microcontrollers are also used in smart meters. Heinlein said that ARM is providing 32-bit microcontrollers at a price point that previously would only have supported 8-bit microcontrollers.
What is ARM doing to drive innovation? Heinlein mentioned several families of ARM processors - the high-end Cortex-A series, the Cortex-R series for real-time applications, and the Cortex-M series in the microcontroller area. He also noted that ARM is developing "Processor Optimization Packs" that include physical IP for a given processor, along with benchmarking results, a reference flow, and implementation guidelines. Support includes TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and Samsung.
With these packs, Heinlein said, customers can achieve up to 25% higher performance at the same power level, or reduce leakage by up to 80% at the same performance level. Customers have also been able to achieve over 1GHz performance at 40nm.
Heinlein also discussed the new ARM AMBA Coherency Extensions (ACE), which support hardware cache coherency for AMBA-based systems on chip. (I wrote about ACE, and some newly available Cadence verification IP for this protocol, in a recent blog post). Finally, Heinlein mentioned a new SoC Design Community on the ARM web site.
After his talk, I did a short video interview with John Heinlein. We talked about "smart" systems, the "Internet of Things," microcontrollers, power versus energy, Processor Optimization Packs, ACE, and more. To see the video, click here or launch the video below.