Electronic Design

System Design Environment Goes "Soft"

Enabling system design in the “soft” domain, before a hardware platform has been settled upon, brings numerous advantages—not the least of which is maximizing flexibility as deeply as possible into the design process. An important byproduct of such an approach is the ability to create differentiation. To this end, Altium’s Innovation Station comprises a complete system-design environment that combines the company’s Altium Designer software with its extended Altium NanoBoard range of reconfigurable hardware platforms.

Designers can design in the soft domain without predetermining the hardware platform on which the product will be delivered. They can then test, analyze, and debug the design using the desktop NanoBoard reconfigurable hardware development platform, which is integrated with Altium Designer. The reconfigurable Innovation Station lets designers compare the performance benefits and tradeoffs of different FPGAs without changing their design.

Designers then deploy to one of a new range of deployment NanoBoards—off-the-shelf hardware options that let designers deploy their designs as physical hardware without the need to manufacture any custom hardware. This lets them consider any number of execution possibilities for their design, with or without design intelligence, with or without physical hardware.

A number of significant benefits flow from this approach. For one thing, the design IP is programmed into the system, rather than manufactured on the board. As a result, IP is much easier to protect because the source code is not shipped with the product, making it much harder to copy. Further, not only can “soft” design happen before the hardware platform is designed, but it also can continue after hardware is designed, manufactured, and even deployed to end users.

Altium’s NanoBoard range of reconfigurable hardware platforms allows for both the development and deployment of device intelligence based on programmable devices such as FPGAs. The NanoBoard architecture centers on a range of programmable devices housed on plug-in FPGA daughter boards and interchangeable peripheral boards. The development NanoBoard provides a versatile reconfigurable development platform independent of the choice of FPGAs.

Augmenting the development NanoBoard, new deployment NanoBoards feature the same motherboard and choice of daughter and peripheral boards as the desktop version. Designers can choose to use a deployment NanoBoard as a final product or integrate their deployment NanoBoards into larger systems such as mechanical devices.

The Altium Innovation Station, consisting of Altium Designer 6 and Altium’s Desktop Nano- Board, is available now. Altium’s range of deployment NanoBoards will be available later in 2008. Contact Altium directly for pricing information.

ALTIUM • www.altium.com

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