NEW YORK -- STMicroelectronics is rolling out technology based on 64-bit ARM cores for future SoCs in the digital home space. The company, which makes high-definition and ultra-high-definition set-top-box ICs, has introduced its STi8K architecture, building on the deployment of ARM-based solutions including its Cannes, Monaco, and Alicante product lines.
STI8k is based on ARM’s v8-A cores and is intended for these three product families as well as a transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing. The STi8K architecture is optimized for ST's 28nm silicon-on-insulator and smaller geometry manufacturing process. It makes use of the ARM Cortex A33 and Cortex A57 64-bit processor’s increased data throughput, extended memory addressing, and reduced power consumption.
“The consumer industry has initiated the transition from 32- to 64-bit computing in the mobile market,” Gian Luca Bertino, executive vice president and general manager digital convergence group, ST Microelectronics, said in a statement. “New upcoming, highly demanding technologies, such as DOCSIS 3.1 or full-featured 10-bit High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) in Ultra High Definition at 60 frames per second, will drive this same transition in the Digital Home market.”
He went on to say that the company has already invested in a solid, fast time-to-market in its the three aforementioned product families. Its new architecture is therefore the next step for these families in addition to being the way to 64-bit computing in the digital home space. “Our recently launched Cannes, Monaco, and Alicante product families are enjoying strong momentum and have positioned ST as a leader in Ultra HD and HEVC technologies,” added Bertino. “By adopting these families our customers are securing time-to-market advantages in their introduction of tomorrow’s digital home.”
This also represents a major launch for ARM and not just ST. In the same release, Tom Cronk, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, at ARM, said, “We share ST’s vision for the future of the digital home market. Full-color Ultra HD applications together with ultra-high bandwidth home-network-access systems made possible with DOCSIS 3.1 technologies will transform the home-entertainment experience. Our long-term collaboration with ST, including its recent integration of our latest 64-bit processors, together with our mutual investment in software-ecosystem development, for example through Linaro, are key building blocks that will help make more advanced and immersive media experiences a reality.”
In addition to being ARM-based, ST’S STi9k architecture includes Faroudja transcoding, which allows for the management of advanced hardware–assisted networking and multiple high-definition streams. It also supports Ultra High Definition of up to 60 frames per second with wide gamut and 10-bit color, as part of the ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020, alongside full-frame-rate graphics via OpenGLES 2.0 and Open GL3S 3.0. This, in turn, enables operator branding at native 4K resolution.
To offer high-speed connectivity and full color and frame-rate Ultra HD screens, the STi8k includes HDMI 2.0 along with the new 2.2 version of High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection security as well as DisplayPort v1.2.
Reacting to the news of ST’s announcement, Rob Lineback, Senior Market Research Analyst at IC Insights, said, “Obviously they are not aiming their 64-bit offering at smartphones they are going after embedded. There is a big effort in the whole ARM community to move from 32-bit to 64-bit in ARM and it spans the range of devices from the microserver area to smartphones.”
Lineback recalled that Apple introduced a 64-bit ARM-based application processor in its iPhone 5s in September and it caused a “big rush in smartphone application suppliers.” Lineback said this is part of the same movement. “There are a lot of competing products out there of course. Intel is going after the same areas with its x86 processors. It maybe a bit of a surprise move to go after 64-bit bit ARM in embedded but it makes sense because it’s the trend.”
Lineback said that ARM disclosed a couple of years ago that it was going to come out with a 64-bit architecture to increase its ability to compete against the Intel processor, but ARM is coming from smartphones and tablets where 32 bits is more than enough power. This is the next step to make the architecture to a more powerful platform, Lineback said. “You get greater precision with 64-bit. You have the ability to address larger memory space that may not be the main focus of embedded and phones at this point. You can do some extra processing and Apple has seen some benefits for some applications already. There’s been some questions among other ARM suppliers about the need for going to 64-bit, but it’s a little bit like you have to have something like this or you’re perceived to be behind.”