Freescale Technology Forum 2006: Growing, catering to users
Orlando, FL —“Design Freedom” was the theme that drew nearly 2,000 attendees to the 2nd annual Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) held here, July 24-27, 2006. With growing involvement of partners, associates, and sponsors—combined with Freescale’s expertise in six market sectors— FTF demonstrated there is a lot more freedom available for developers today to design computing, networking, and communication systems.
FTF catered to 1,300 users/customers and approximately 400 participants in categories of partners, sponsors, media, and industry-financial analysts. Some 350 hours of technical sessions and educational opportunities were on the forum program, complemented with interactive demonstrations in a 28,000-sq-ft Technology Lab, referred to as an “engineer’s playground.” More than 60 Tech Lab companies included Agilent Technologies, Atmel, Green Hills Software, MontaVista Software, National Instruments, QNX Software Systems, and Wind River.
Michel Mayer, chairman and chief executive officer of Freescale Semiconductor Inc., presented the event’s comprehensive first general session. He outlined three key messages and objectives: the company’s momentum to continually improve its design, manufacturing, and operations efficiencies; promoting an environment for “pervasive innovation;” and a vision of limitless potential for growth through collaboration.
Among innovation examples Mayer cited were:
A doubling of Freescale’s “already high” annual patent filings (and growth to 5,300 patent families);
Controller continuum—a microcontroller roadmap to provide pin-for-pin compatibility from 8-bit to 32-bit devices, said to be an industry first;
Introduction of reportedly the world’s highest-performance, fully programmable multi-core digital signal processor ( MSC8144) that delivers performance equivalent to a 4 GHz single-core processor; and
First volume production of a commercial magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) device (see more coverage below).
On a lighter note, Mayer remarked more than once about Freescale’s rather lengthy alphanumeric designations for its products, and solicited suggestions from the audience to simplify them.
Architectures, protocols, specs
FTF included numerous technology developments. Open collaborative organization Power.org —developer of Power Architecture technology—announced an improved, merged instruction set architecture (named Power ISA) and a new platform specification to promote future developments of the architecture. Power Architecture (PA) technology carries impressive credentials, such as being the leading platform for enterprise servers, automotive systems (powertrain, advanced safety, etc.), wireless and wireline infrastructure, and enterprise routing/switching, according to Power.org. It also is said to offer the most diverse market penetration of any microprocessor.
Improved Power ISA version 2.03 resulted from the work of the Power Architecture Advisory Council (PAAC), which includes IBM Corp. and Freescale. Power ISA intends to widen implementation capabilities for semiconductor vendors and offer a more consistent, compatible framework for software and system developers to create products/platforms based on PA technology for wider markets and applications. “Power ISA V. 2.03 rolls out in the August/September time frame,” Carlos Gutierrez, chief of staff for Freescale Networking and Computing System Group, told Control Engineering .
Also being released in 3Q06 to Power.org members is Power Architecture Platform Reference (PAPR) specification, the organization’s first collaboratively developed open platform architecture. It provides the basis for rapid development of standard PA platforms based on Linux operating system for select applications.
It’s noteworthy that some industrial standards used for time-critical applications such as motion control and sensor-to-actuator synchronization are being adopted for networking and computing. A case in point is integration of IEEE 1588 time-synchronization protocol into Freescale PowerQuicc communications processors—through collaboration between Freescale Semiconductor and Ixxat , a leading supplier of industrial and automotive communications solutions.
“Target applications for the IEEE 1588 protocol include time-sensitive telecommunication services, which require precision time synchronization between communicating nodes,” said Glenn Beck, industrial segment manager for Freescale’s Networking and Computing System Group. “Test and measurement devices, which must maintain accurate time synchronization with devices under test in many operating environments, are also a prime application for the IEEE 1588 protocol.”
IEEE 1588 protocol support for PowerQuicc II Pro processors is available now, explained Beck. It’s the first in a series of Ixxat protocol offerings planned for other processors in the PowerQUICC family. To obtain the highest possible timing accuracy, new PowerQuicc communication interfaces optimize IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol ( PTP) in hardware by immediately time-stamping Ethernet packets at the physical/datalink layer as they enter or leave the device.
An evaluation board, board support package, and development tools (free 30-day evaluation software package) are available from Freescale, at www.freescale.com/powerquicc , and IEEE 1588 PTP protocol software is available from Ixxat, at www.ixxat.com/ieee_1588_stack_en,18393,5873.html .
While magnetoresistive random-access memory chips have been under development by others, Freescale was the first to commercialize MRAM devices in July 2006 and make them available in volume production. First-to-market was in part due to ownership of key associated patents, said the company.
Freescale claims a unique combination of attributes for this technology: speed of static RAM, non-volatility of flash memory, and storage capacity and cost advantages of dynamic RAM on one semiconductor chip. MRAM has the potential to become the “universal memory.” The 4-Mbit, 3.3-V device was another highlight at the forum. Also see Control Engineering Aug. 8, 2006, Weekly News about this development.
Michel Mayer, Freescale Semiconductor chairman and CEO, predicted a more intelligently connected world. He envisioned the likes of terabit/sec rather than megabit/sec information transfer rates; autonomous control of cars on major highways; and unprecedented availability and access to automated devices and microprocessors that can potentially improve the quality of our life at home and on the job. Design freedom has a large role in making that possible.
—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos , P.E., consulting editor