LONDON – Qualcomm Inc.has agreed to acquire all the assets of Rapid Bridge LLC (San Diego, Calif.) inventor of a novel way of putting down IP cores that provides for configurability in just a few metal layers. The purchase price has not been disclosed.
Rapid Bridge’s LiquidCell is a library consisting of a metal-programmable sea-of-transistors that can be configured into millions of usable elements supporting more than 160 functions from the 750 standard cells. The metal programmability allows designers to iterate designs, produce derivatives and meet industry-standard specifications through respins that only involve a few metal layers.
Rapid Bridge has claimed that LiquidCell can be used to lower both static and dynamic power consumption by 20 to 40 percent and reduces cell count and corresponding die area by 25 to 35 percent. The company has said that while other companies offer libraries with similar easy-change propositions they come with penalties – rather than benefits – in terms of power consumption and performance.
Qualcomm clearly believes the Rapid Bridge promise is good agreeing that the technology reduces complexity in IC development at advanced technology nodes to enable greater design flexibility and optimized die size and power consumption.
Rapid Bridge's San Diego design team and San Diego/Bangalore engineering services operations will be integrated into Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. The asset acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval and fulfillment of certain terms and conditions, is expected to close by the end of fiscal year 2011.
Programming at the transistor connectivity level rather than at the logic connectivity, seems to me like a serious piece of technology. However unless I see good CAD tools for this stuff, I am a skeptic. Power is one major player, at transistor level maybe they are able to optimize power better than at the gate level. But one question, how does they control the width of the NMOS and PMOS transistors ? for meeting the necessary drive strengths. It seems it is not completely erasable and programmable makes it hard to compete with FPGAs. But for a quick turn around, this can be a go to replacement for ASIC.