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Wearables the Big Hit at CES

Wearables the Big Hit at CES
by Paul McLellan on 01-22-2014 at 3:00 pm

 There were a number of trends discernible at CES this year, one of the big ones being wearables, especially in the medical and fitness areas. I wear a FitBit Flex and I have, but rarely wear, a Pebble Watch that links to my iPhone. I would say that at this point they are promising but are more gimmicks than truly useful. My Fitbit measures how much I walk but it gets confused by cycling and I have to tell it when I go to sleep and wake up, which I usually forget to do. It contains an ARM Cortex-M3, a bluetooth interface, accelerometer and a power control IC. The Pebble is getting better as they upgrade the software and it works with more Apps. It contains a 120MHz ARM chip, 3-axis accelerometer, and a Bluetooth 2.1 and low-energy 4.0 chip. So despite the very different applications both the Fitbit Flex and the Pebble watch have the same IC functionality and could almost certainly use a single chip SoC incorporating everything. The displays are obviously different.

 One thing that all these devices have is lots of IP that wasn’t particularly designed to work together, or even work at the same speed. One of the challenges is getting everything so that fast devices can communicate with slow devices without overloading them. Often different blocks are running at different voltages and in different clock domains, adding to the complexity of the interfaces. Level shifters are needed when voltages are different, and there is always plenty of opportunity for introducing subtle and not-so-subtle bugs at clock domain crossing boundaries.


Sonics has a solution that solves all these problems, SonicsExpress. SonicsExpress provides a high bandwidth bridge between two clock domains, with optional voltage domain isolation. SonicsExpress supports AXI or OCP protocols and is capable of crossing clock boundaries, power boundaries, and large spans of physical distance. In addition, SonicsExpress is optimized for high-bandwidth, low-latency communication. It supports both single threaded and multi-threaded configurations and can operate in either blocking or non-blocking modes.

Because clock domain boundaries also often occur at power domain crossings, tactical cells are instantiated on the signals that cross the asynchronous boundary addressing voltage level shifting and clock domain safety. Combined with the features of Sonics NoC, this allows IP blocks from different suppliers, operating with different data rates, different supply voltages, different clock fequencies and different protocols to operate seamlessly together and build a working SoC.

More information on SonicsExpress is here.


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