Electronic Design

Extending The Boundaries Of Digital Systems

In an increasingly "digital" world, analog technology still plays a vital role. But the nature of that role is changing. Digital cameras, digital phones, digital video, digital satellites, and more, all appear in our daily lives. Proliferation of electronic systems that take advantage of fast-moving digital design techniques set the "high bar" for competing suppliers. A competitive edge through "time-to-market" has never been so crucial and system designers continue to look for more software-centric solutions. System intellectual property (SIP) and design re-use is common language among the new breed of designers.

It's clear that digital technology and design methodology has undergone significant changes to meet the demand for flexible, versatile, reconfigurable, and reprogrammable systems. This is best exemplified by the meteoric rise in the complexities and use of FPGAs. "However," explains Michael Kay, the president and CEO of Anadyne Microelectronics Corp, "the system designer invariably still has to tackle the analog issues related to the system." Until recently, though, there were few choices other than building the circuits using off-the-shelf, dedicated-function building blocks—amplifiers, comparators, level shifters, and other analog and mixed-signal devices. Few improvements or options have been made available in the analog design world to address the same needs as discussed for the digital world.

Observing this unserved market area in the analog world, Anadyne has created a software-configurable analog array and a family of simple CAD tools with drag-and-drop ease of use. The analog library included in the tool suite packs a rich base of analog IP modules and lets the company set a new milestone in analog design. Flexibility, versatility, reconfigurability, and reprogrammability, which previously were virtually unheard of in the analog world, are all features of the Anadyne solution. Just one other company, Lattice Semiconductor Corp., Hillsdale, Ore., offers a configurable analog array, but doesn't have as comprehensive a tool suite or as flexible an analog array.

Mixed-signal technologies still afford integrated device manufacturers the opportunity to place major analog and digital functions on the same silicon (MCUs and codecs, for example). Any further inclusion of analog functions, though, would necessarily start to reduce the flexibility and versatility of the solution. Having a companion analog technology that "extends the boundaries of the digital system" is a natural evolution in the design flow. But according to Kay, it has taken a design revolution to achieve this. The Anadyne Field Programmable Analog Array (FPAA) technology/product provides a flexible solution with all of the benefits of a top-down design flow, while also providing a broad range of analog circuit solutions, without the need for analog design expertise.

By providing an open-architecture approach to its technology, Anadyne encourages the knowledgeable designer to develop their own analog IP modules. Furthermore, Anadyne products can be tightly coupled to the system MCU, both in the development environment and during operation—very powerful features for the system designer.

For more details on the array, check out Anadyne at www.anadyne-micro.com.

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