The annual Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) was held in San Antonio recently, June 20 to 23, 2011. Freescale Semiconductor Inc. is a leading chip vendor focused on embedded control. Once again the event drew a large number of attendees, about 2,000. This is roughly the same as last year and is quite impressive considering the current economic conditions. The exhibit area was packed with a wide variety of companies offering products and services tied to Freescale products. This shows the diversity and scope of the third-party ecosystem that supports Freescale.
The theme of FTF 2011 presented by president and CEO, Rich Beyer, was connected intelligence and the "Internet of Things." He pointed out that connectivity emphasizes efficiency and integration. Also, data traffic continues to grow at a rapid rate. FTF presented solutions for various markets such as mobile communications and consumer products, networking and telecommunications, wireless infrastructure, automotive, smart grid, industrial control, and health applications. Embedded control is at the center of this, surrounded and supported by connectivity, sensors, power, and software solutions.
The following are some of the notable products presented at FTF 2011, including the processors branded as QorIQ and QorIvva based on the company's power architecture.
QorIQ Advanced Multi-Processor (AMP): The QorIQ AMP has a new advanced e6500 core (64-bit) with advanced multi-threading, advanced accelerators, upgraded communications circuits, and upgraded on-chip fabric. The family will be scalable across three different categories: high-end data plane, high-end control plane, and low-end data plane. It will be the first product from Freescale manufactured on 28nm. The company claims the QorIQ AMP will deliver thrice the performance of the current offerings and at half the power consumption. The first implementation is the T4240 with 12 dual-threaded cores, planned for availability in early 2012. More variants will be released later.
QorIQ Converge: This is the first multimode, wired basestation on a chip. It is a multicore communications processor (e500) integrated with a StarCore DSP, application accelerator, security acceleration, and antenna interface. QorIQ Converge was first announced in February when it was made available for evaluation and initial development. It is manufactured on 45nm with a roadmap for 28nm. The big news is that QorIQ Converge is the basis for Alcatel-Lucent's LightRadio. This is a femtocell the size of a Rubik's cube. The LightRadio covers a two-block area and can be deployed anywhere there is power and a broadband connection. The cubes can be scaled in arrays of different sizes to fit different customer needs. The first SoC samples of QorIQ Converge are planned for this quarter.
Qorivva: This is a power-architecture-based 32-bit MCU targeting automotive applications. It was announced about a week before FTF 2011. The initial application is for parking assistance. The Qorivva transmits high-resolution compressed video data over Fast Ethernet for a 360° view around the vehicle to help make parking simpler and safer. It is manufactured on 90nm. Freescale announced at FTF that future products with advanced 55nm Flash for higher density will be taping out.
i.MX6: This is the next generation of the Freescale ARM-based processor family. These are found in many portable applications such as eReaders and automobile information and entertainment systems. The i.MX6 features the ARM Coretex A-9 core, scalable for 1-, 2-, and 4-core versions. It also has three graphic engines, which can handle dual-stream HDMI 1080p, and an LVDS port. It is manufactured on a 40nm process, the first for an i.MX part. First silicon was on display at FTF. Customers are likely to be shipping products in 2012. Freescale had a demo of the first silicon of i.MX6 that was only one week old. The demo showed a quad core i.MX6 running two large screens (1080p HDMI) and the LVDS all separate videos. It was truly an impressive sight, especially since it was first silicon and a very small platform.
Sensors: There were developments on sensors. Freescale announced its first pressure sensor for mobile applications, the Xtrinsic MPL3115A2. This measures barometric pressure and is an essential component for location-based services for smartphones and other mobile devices. For example, inside a building one may lose a GPS signal, but the pressure sensor can determine the user's altitude. The MPL3115A2 has a 30cm resolution and a range that covers 656 meters below sea level to 13km above. (FYI: Mount Everest is just over 8.8km.)
The trend for smartphones is to incorporate several sensors working together for multiple degrees of freedom. Both a magnetometer and an accelerometer are needed for true eCompass function. There was a technical session on the MAG3110 magnetometer discussing the details of implementing it in a smartphone. Freescale does not have a gyro for smartphones, but at FTF several Freescale people did say one was coming soon.
Freescale let its position in embedded control start to slip several years ago, but the company has been aggressively rebuilding and reinventing itself. Over the last few years its financial position has been steadily improving while it continues to beef up its product portfolio. FTF 2011 showcased many exciting developments across a broad spectrum.