Chip Designers Collaborate on DSP Spec

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of microprocessor design firms Tuesday say they are teaming up to help standardize how digital signal processors work together.

Cambridge, England-based ARM said it is collaborating with Silicon Valley-based LSI Logic and ParthusCeva to develop an integration specification. This specification is aimed at addressing the technical aspects surrounding the integration of DSP cores with ARM and other microprocessor cores in system-on-chip (SoC) designs.

A digital signal processing manipulates analog information, such as sound or photographs that has been converted into a digital form. The coprocessors that power the devices are designed for performing the mathematics involved. Most DSPs are programmable, which means that they can be used for manipulating different types of information, including sound, images, and video. The problem has historically been that different designers have different specifications especially since more and more functions are being embedded into the chips themselves.

The group says standardizing the specification will also help get multi-core and DSP designs out in the market faster.

“As devices get smarter and offer new levels of functionality, the ability to integrate microprocessor and DSP cores becomes increasingly important,” ARM program manager Matthew Byatt said in a statement.

The specification will be announced in the second half of 2003.

The collaboration follows last week’s announcement that LSI Logic and ParthusCeva have joined the ARM PrimeXsys Community Program. The generic base hardware platform defines the CPU’s application focus, the standard operating system peripheral blocks, and the interconnection fabric that enables the integration of additional functionality to fully characterize the desired final product.

Currently, the DSP market is rambling along with the rest of the semiconductor sector.
in February, analysts with Forward Concepts predicted the market for digital signal processors would not be an “above normal” year, but should achieve 20 percent growth. Most of the spending will be related to wireless, the group said.

In addition to the collaboration, ARM says it is working independently on system-wide, on-chip multi-core debug and trace software that will address and unify other SoC technology aspects such as bus architecture, debug and real-time trace.

The platform is solution will define how each of the elements within an SoC interact more efficiently and will enable each element to be monitored and optimized through one single source. This advanced debug and trace capability will be key to the final DSP specification.

“Integration of these two major elements is now a serious design consideration and this collaboration will enable us and our partners, to develop a standard DSP integration specification that will significantly advance the capabilities of the next generation of digital electronic-based devices,” Byatt said.

ARM executive chairman Sir Robin Saxby is expected to address the issue during his keynote Wednesday at the Embedded Systems Conference here.

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