Mobile FPGAs shrink power requirements to micro-watts

Longer battery life is a critical need for many of today’s most powerful mobile devices. Device manufacturers also struggle to differentiate their devices, with the same few application processors now showing up in everything from smartphones to tablets to notebook PCs. Lattice Semiconductor has found a sweet spot by addressing both concerns with its family of mobile derived from the company’s acquisition of SiliconBlue Technologies in late 2011. Prior to the acquisition, SiliconBlue had said they expected full production of the iCE40 (40 nm) “Los Angeles” series of mobile FPGAs in Q4 2011. The iCE40 family includes a low-power (LP) series designed for smartphone applications, and a high-speed (HX) series that Lattice is now targeting at tablet applications.

The technology is based on programming a non-volatile configuration memory (NVCM), which is essentially a One-Time programmable Memory (OTM) that is integrated into the SRAM FPGAs. Typical applications for the mobile FPGAs are as companion devices to application processors, to add support for functions such as sensor management, high-speed custom connectivity, and HD video and imaging. Lattice offers the LP and HX series in capacities from 640 to 16K logic cells, and an idle core current as low as 35 microA in the LP640.

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