S3 Semi, part of S3 Group Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland), has called its approach SmartEdge and promises to reduce PCB area and power consumption by up to 75 percent and the bill of materials cost by 80 percent.
Seeing a need to put more computation at the edge of the network to reduce the power consumption, latency and expense while increasing security S3 Semi’s SmartEdge platform includes a number of IP blocks useful for single-chip nodes.
These include a sensor analog front-end (AFE) suitable for conditioning many different types of sensor for temperature, pressure, humidty, flwo and so on; a microcontroller core, typically a Cortex-M class core, wired and wireless communications modem cores and security provision. The AFE can also be used to control actuators. S3 recently became an approved ARM partner for design.
S3 already supports wired communications popular in industry such as Fieldbus, HART, Profibus with Ethernet to follow. For Bluetooth and 802.11agn wireless standards S3 would license in a core, said Darren Hobbs, director of marketing and strategy at S3 Semi.
SmartEdge is a platform because it can also include software. S3 Semi has a legacy of supporting embedded software development through its internal teams and partner eco-system, covering development tools, debug tools and middleware components.
And because S3 has experience in managing the supply chain with access to foundries and test and packaging companies the company can also produce systems-in-package or multi-die components that could include sensors, and CMOS platform in a single component.
Next: 180nm or 40nm?
A typical manufacturing node for SmartEdge to target would be 0.18-micron where the costs are low and multiple extension modules are available for mixed-signal, power, non-volatile memory, Hobbs said. But for more complex ASICs the platform could go down to 40nm. “It will depend on the economics,” Hobbs said.
S3 has a long-standing relationship with the foundry TSMC but Hobbs said the company has stepped outside that pairing from time to time. Hobbs said S3 has signed multiple customers to use SmartEdge and that one is in volume manufacturing with others set to start manufacturing during 2018.
SmartEdge is being mainly aimed at industrial applications. “We are not marketing directly into automotive but SmartEdge does overlap sometimes,” said Hobbs.
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