New 32bit architecture takes on ARM in home automation

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

The FT32 core was developed for the FT900 family of controllers and at 2.93 MIPS/MHz FTDI claims this provides higher performance and ARM’s A8 and A9 cores (see chart below).
The RISC architecture provides true zero wait state operation up to 100MHz and supports 256k Flash with 256k Shadow RAM and 64k Data RAM. The FT900 chip also includes 10/100 Ethernet, two CAN 2.0 controllers, USB2.0 Hi-Speed support, SD host controller, parallel camera interface, I²S master / slave interface, 10 bit DAC (2) and 10 bit ADC, integrated hardware debugger and USB DFU boot-loader.
“We saw an opportunity to do not just a microcontroller for performance but one that had the right connectivity for the markets that we see developing,” said Dave Sroka, global product director at FTDI. The company has a range of USB interfaces based around an 8051 core and last year launched its FT800 EVE video processor.
The FT900 is intended to support the EVE chip to provide an easy interface to cameras and displays. “We need high performance for the video we want to do with the 800 but if we are going to put in that effort what could we do in the general market,” said Sroka. “If we can give some one 15-20% higher performance with the connectivity that’s a good solution especially with the CAN and hi speed USB rather than full speed. We think the payback is there and the differentiation is there."

There is also a cut down version, the FT901, without the parallel camera interface.
“There’s a lot of things going on in home networking where there’s the need for video with the high processing capability, that was one of the big factors,” said Sroka. “The other thing is we are really good at doing bridges, so you can think of this as a bridge from one connectivity technology to another, and you need speed to processes the protocols and the payload, so this requires performance as well.
Sroka would not comment on the architecture and process technology. “We don’t comment on the process technology but we do use one of the top foundries,” he said. “This was designed in Singapore [at the comapny’s R &D center] and the software plugins were designed in Glasgow."
Development tools can be an issue with custom architectures, and the chip is supported by a GNU compiler and plugins for the Eclipse development environment. “We will be focussing on plugins for Eclipse at first and then expand that as we go,” said Sroka. “We went down the custom toolpath previously and that’s a difficult environment so with Eclipse that gives you an immediate installed base.”

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