Electronic Design

Adaptive Computing Targets Mobile Wireless

A new class of IC known as an adaptive-computing machine (ACM) is primed to make major improvements in a variety of mobile wireless products. Pioneered by startup QuickSilver Technologies Inc. of San Jose, Calif., the patented ACM concept could be just the breakthrough that will bring about not only increased performance and more features, but also the lower power consumption so critical for next-generation mobile devices.

The ACM is a new concept in ICs. It's not a microprocessor, DSP, ASIC, or FPGA, although it can replace all of them. The ACM is a set of logic circuits that can be rapidly readapted on-the-fly to perform a specific function. This same set of logic circuits is then sequentially rearranged to execute different algorithms.

By time-sharing the same small set of logic among a set of algorithms as defined by the application, amazing benefits result. Performance can be 10 to 100 times that of a DSP chip. Smaller chip size means the silicon cost is lower. And, fewer circuits mean significantly lower power consumption, roughly one-twentieth the power of a typical DSP chip.

Development software converts a variety of coded algorithms into binary modules called SilverWare that are stored in a cache memory (see the figure). These may be filter routines, a modulator or a demodulator, a vo-coder, or a protocol suite. As these functions are called for, they're loaded into the ACM matrix or fabric and executed one after the other. Depending on the application, two or more algorithms may also be executed in parallel.

An ACM chip seems ideal for wireless vendors seeking to build 2.5G and 3G cell phones or devices with pagers, digital cameras, or GPS receivers. Handset manufacturers are facing critical technical, production, and implementation challenges associated with providing customers with the added features, higher performance, and lower power consumption. All of these goals, plus unique product differentiation, can be achieved with an ACM.

According to the company, the ACM's adaptability also will let mobile phones overcome the difficulties of multiple standards, in any band and in any mode, with higher clarity. In fact, ACM-equipped mobile communicators will be able to adapt on-the-fly by downloading software applications from the Internet, providing access to numerous media-rich applications in a single device.

QuickSilver has partnered with several major mobile wireless suppliers—including Kyocera Corp. and BellSouth Cellular Corp.—to embed ACM technology in forthcoming cell phones, PDAs, and other devices. The company also recently opened an office in Shin-Yokohama, Japan, perhaps giving some clue as to the identity of one of its unannounced partners. Standard ACM IC products and system development software are expected to be available mid-2002 or beyond.

In the meantime, you can get more details on the new technology by contacting QuickSilver at (408) 574-3300 or www.quicksilvertech.com.

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