It’s not just about the MIPS!

Posted: 27 October 2015

Designing electronic products today is a highly complicated challenge that goes well beyond the old question of "How many MIPS does the microprocessor have?" Designers must solve the fundamental requirements of their products, while meeting strict international standards, and integrating innovative features to support IoT (Internet of Things) technologies. And consumer products also need to be fashionable as well.

The traditional approach is to use combinations of heterogeneous microprocessors to handle the each task, and ‘glue’ all the devices together. But this approach gets more difficult each time you have to add a new feature, with more complexity and opportunities for unexpected events to happen within the system. Combinations of silicon chips also increase the product BOM and development cost, power consumption, product size, when management want to reduce each cost while getting products to market quicker.

Let’s consider a new type of product that’s starting to appear in our homes – the Home Hub. The Amazon Echo is a simple example of a home hub or Virtual Digital Assistant (VDA); it has to wait in sleep mode, recognize keywords that wake itup, decode voice instructions into a PCM audio stream, optimize audio levels, manage physical input signals from buttons, communicate with a web server, receive an audio signal back and output it as an analog stream - quite a lot of tasks all-in-all. Analyzing these requirements, however, it’s not as bad as it initially appears. Most of the requirements come down to high quality analog and digital audio input/output coupled to some digital signal processing (DSP) for managing the microphone arrays, audio compression/decompression, and noise reduction. And finally it needs a robust connection to the Cloud services over your WiFi hub.

VUI components

xCORE microcontrollers provide a uniquely optimized solution to these requirements. The multi-processor architecture and flexible I/O allow developers to configure the xCORE I/O ports to handle the audio, IoT and HMI requirements in software (XMOS provides libraries for Ethernet, USB, I2C, I2S, PDM etc). The I/O can be integrated with separate processing cores that run DSP algorithms and application code written in C/C++. xCORE devices are built around a 32-bit fixed point architecture, which includes a 64-bit accumulator for enhanced DSP code, an architecture that delivers the best available trade-off between performance / power consumption / cost.

Next time you design a product that needs to integrate high quality audio with DSP and IoT capabilities, try xCORE. It’s a great choice for conference microphones, voice-enabled gaming headsets, acoustic sensors for industry and security applications, home hubs and VDAs, as well as headphone amplifiers/DACs and DJ mixing decks. All the key technology requirements are integrated into a single deterministic device that removes most issues related to multichip systems while saving you development and BOM costs.

For products of today and tomorrow, integration is more important than the MIPS.


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