As the consumer, industrial and automotive infotainment markets evolve rapidly to meet the demands of increasingly discerning end-users, systems designers need processors with the performance to run rich user interfaces without sacrificing real-time responsiveness or power efficiency. To achieve this, systems designers often must choose between multi-chip solutions, which increase cost, board space, and system complexity; or adopting virtualization on a multicore processor, which can negatively impact real-time performance and system power.
To address this challenge, Freescale Semiconductor introduced the industry’s first applications processor to integrate an ARM Cortex-A9 processor and an ARM Cortex-M4 processor in a single chip design. This design enables enhanced flexibility, performance and low-power functionality for the company’s flagship i.MX 6 applications processor family.
“Freescale has leveraged its experience and deep understanding of microcontrollers, microprocessors and heterogeneous SoC design to deliver yet another industry first,” said Rajeev Kumar, worldwide director of marketing and business development for Freescale’s MCU business. “For our customers, this innovative device provides the most comprehensive solution available in a single chip for applications requiring rich user interfaces, real-time responsiveness and optimized low power operation.”
Freescale’s i.MX 6 series of applications processors is growing quickly, particularly in the automotive space, where shipments grew more than 50 percent from 2012 to 2013. According to analyst firm Strategy Analytics, Freescale ranks #2 in automotive market share for applications processors.
Integrating a Cortex-M4 processor alongside a Cortex-A class system provides customers with a cost-effective single-chip solution that can run a sophisticated operating system and provide real-time responsiveness to help build the next generation of connected, highly graphical and system-aware devices. Freescale’s innovative heterogeneous applications processor design provides additional low power modes to significantly reduce standby power consumption, allows for smaller form factor design, and executes fast, real-time responsiveness to system inputs.
To support applications which simultaneously require real-time task processing and compute-intensive capabilities, the SoC incorporates four independently controlled resource domains for optimal flexibility when partitioning system resources such as memory and peripherals. As a result, peripheral and memory access requests are hardware-verified to provide secure isolation and prevent tainting of system resources.
Additional features include:
· Dual-port gigabit Ethernet audio video bridging (AVB) for quality-of-service in automotive and other applications with enhanced traffic shaping and packet prioritization.
· Cost-effective 2D and 3D graphics processing unit (GPU) for enhanced HMI development.
· Flexible boot options, including support for quad SPI and raw NAND, and a memory controller that interfaces to both DDR3 and low power DDR2.
· Smart integration of standard system interfaces, including multiple interface options for UI and wireless connectivity to provide system design flexibility and low overall BOM.
Alpha samples of this expanded i.MX 6 processor are available now, with full production expected in Q4 2014. The design is available with a comprehensive set of development tools and software support including Android and Linux operating systems for the Cortex-A9 processor, the MQX™ OS for the Cortex-M4 processor and the broad ARM community of support. Also planned for availability in Q4 is the expanded i.MX 6 series SABRE board. The newest i.MX device joins an already-broad portfolio of i.MX 6 series products shipping today, offering multiple processing and integration options for maximum flexibility and scalability.