According to market research firm Markets&Markets, the opportunity for Internet of Things (IoT) devices is expected to reach $11B by 2022. That’s a short five years away. Already we are beginning to see IoT showing up in our everyday lives for such applications as home automation, security, and personal fitness – and the vast majority of the applications out there are invisible to most of us. These include activities such as industrial process control, climate management for large buildings, commercial lighting control, and medical monitoring. We’ll see in a minute how such a broad range of applications can be both a blessing and a curse for device manufacturers.
But first let’s stop to consider the challenges facing the companies who are designing and manufacturing silicon devices targeted for IoT applications. In terms of traditional parameters, cost, power, and time to market are the most critical. Cost is important because many applications require dozens or hundreds of inexpensive monitoring and reporting points. Reducing power is important as most system installers and their clients want wireless networks which nearly always means batteries as the immediate power source. And time-to-market is always critical for large markets attracting a number of highly competitive product development companies.
Now let’s get back to the fact that the IoT market is characterized by a broad range of applications and the additional challenges this fact creates for silicon manufacturers. Low cost and low power demand highly integrated devices and quick time-to-market demands design flexibility. So how is it possible to build highly integrated yet extremely design-flexible silicon devices when these two demands seem so at odds with each other?
The short answer is to embed FPGA technology into SoCs. The SoC provides the high level of integration and the embedded FPGA provides design flexibility. And that’s exactly the solution that QuickLogic is enabling with its new “embedded FPGA” (ArcticPro™ eFPGA) initiative, recently announced together with GLOBALFOUNDRIES. This new ArcticPro eFPGA initiative makes QuickLogic’s low-power, high-performance, high efficiency FPGA technology available to SoC developers using any of several different GLOBALFOUNDRIES manufacturing process nodes. It also provides the Aurora™ software development tools for evaluating and designing with the eFPGA block and Borealis™ eFPGA compiler to generate the necessary files for SoC integration.
Suddenly the significant device design challenges posed by the large but highly fragmented IoT market seem surmountable. Designers of end-user IoT systems will get everything they need to be successful in a single device from SoC providers: low cost, low power, fast time to market, and high design flexibility. So we think it’s more than fair to say that the future of IoT is SoC with eFPGA.