LONDON STMicroelectronics has produced the first prototypes of the Morpheus chip, produced under the Morpheus collaborative research program which has been running for several years.
The Morpheus IC contains 97 million transistors and is expected to consume no more than one watt of power while including a reconfigurable instruction set architecture processor and programmable logic fabric provided by M2000 SA, the predecessor to Abound Logic Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.).
The EU-funded project includes big manufacturers of embedded systems such as Thales, Thomson, and Alcatel-Lucent.
Philippe Bonnot of Thales Research and Technology, project co-ordinator, points out that the silicon technology used in the chip is several years old. “We only used 90 nanometre technology,” he said. “So with more aggressive technology we could get some better results we could put more units on to the chip and we could have a higher clock frequency.”
Bonnot said he expects there will be several modifications to the prototype before it can be considered for commercialization. In the meantime, the SMEs in the project may be able to market one of the reconfigurable units and a compiler.
The Morpheus chip will be integrated into several application boards for testing by the larger industrial partners. Video and network applications will be a priority. "It will be interesting to see if this new approach can really attract the interest of our companies," Bonnot said.
"We tried to solve all these problems by merging a processor with reconfigurable units embedded in the same component," says Bonnot. Reconfigurable hardware can be programmed to connect itself in many different ways. When a new application is required, the hardware can be modified just as a piece of software can be altered to do a different job.
Applications examined in the project include professional video processing, broadband wireless access systems, network routing applications, and many defense and security systems such as ‘smart’ cameras. The chips could also have wide application in multimedia, communication, instrumentation and robotics. What these applications all have in common is a need for intensive data processing in real time and in a compact space.
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