Ultra-low power FPGAs enable always-on sensor solutions for context-aware mobile apps

October 22, 2013 // By Julien Happich
With its ultra-low-density iCE40 FPGAs, Lattice Semiconductor claims to be delivering the world’s most flexible, single-chip sensor solutions for making a new generation of context-aware, ultra-low power mobile devices possible.

Delivered in a 16-ball 1.48x1.40mm wafer level chip scale package (WLCSP), the iCE40LP integrates an RGB LED driver and is flexibly programmable to implement advanced functions such as IrDA, barcode emulation (requiring a dedicated LED driver), service LED, and more in a single chip with available logic for additional customer defined functions.

With hard IP for strobe generators, I 2C and SPI interfaces, the iCE40LM FPGAs deliver near-zero latency to the mobile market, enabling context-aware systems with the real-time capturing of user and environmental inputs with minimal delay or error, all from a WLCSP measuring 1.71x1.71x0.45mm (0.35mm pitch) .

Because the iCE40LM draws just under 1 mW in active mode, it can be used to constantly monitor sensors, buffering data for up to a dozen of seconds before it wakes up the application processor for context-specific responses. This hardware combination can reduce power consumption by a factor of 100x over traditional application processor-only implementations, says the manufacturer, hence extending overall battery life of the mobile application.

Equipped with two I 2C interfaces, the chip can check different sensors at different data rates, which gives device system architects the ability to add or customize sensor management functions and capabilities using one chip, for implementation across different designs.

The new additions include the iCE40LM 4K, iCE40LM 2K, iCE40LM 1K FPGAs with 4000, 2000 and 1000 look-up tables respectively. The iCE40LP 640 FPGA and iCE40LP 1K FPGA will further drive down the footprint of the iCE40 family.

When combined together, the iCE40LM and iCE40LP would only require a quarter of the footprint traditionally associated with the discrete chips necessary to implement a sensor manager, IR remote control, LED driver and barcode scanner functionalities, claims the manufacturer.

Director of Platform Solutions Marketing, Business Development, Partner Solutions & IP for Lattice Semiconductor, Ted Marena commented that the company also had in store IP for a 32-bit microcontroller that would only take 2000 of