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New IoT, Wearable Chips Leverage Open RISC-V Platform

Elena Neira
July31/ 2016

Could IoT and Wearable semiconductors be made more cost-effective, and with faster turn around times to fit the requirements of a fast-pace highly innovative ecosystem like 5G? This month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted a RISC-V(*) workshop to explore these goals based on the RISC-V open hardware platform. At the same time, startup SiFive is launching the firsts products based on this platform. “The semiconductor industry is at an important crossroads. Moore’s Law has ended, and the traditional economic model of chip building no longer works,…” says SiFive co-founder Yunsup Lee.


Open Hardware for Embedded Microcontrollers:   To realize the promise of billions of IoT devices in the 5G ecosystem, both scholars and industry are working to optimize current solutions and/or propose new ones addressing challenges that go from long development cycles, to high power consumption, to expensive manufacturing processes. In the IoT semiconductor industry, embedded microprocessors are being looked at with ongoing focus to define open microcontroller cores. These open cores are worth noting because they redefine the traditional SoC technologies and business models, and reverse the industry’s increasingly high licensing, design and implementation costs and impact commercialization plans. The RISC-V Foundation (*) is coming together together to coordinate academia-industry efforts. MIT hosted its latest workshop this month.


Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 3.45.38 PM
A New Approach to Designing and Producing Custom Chips (Source: SiFive)


SiFive Freedom Platforms Benefiting from the Open Source RISC-V Software Ecosystem:   At the same time, products based on RISC-V are seeing the light. SiFive launched two products part of their Freedom FOSS SoC platform  a few days ago targeting the embedded micro controller for IoT and wearable devices in the 5G ecosystem. Their press release highlights that their platform leverages the free and open RISC-V(*) architecture and ecosystem to democratize access to custom, state-of-the-art semiconductors. This has the potential to be a game-changer challenging ARM as well as other existing approaches to IP cores.

One IoT Solution Does Not Fit All:   The markets are coming to the realization that no single IoT chipset solution will meet the requirements of industries as diverse as wearables, enterprise fleet logistics, smart power grids, connected cars and such. Industry efforts such as RISC-V and companies such as SiFive, are responding with new solutions to make product design and development easier and customizable to the requirements of disparate verticals.

(*) RISC-V is a non-profit foundation whose members include AMD, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Oracle, Qualcomm, Rambus, and smaller processor IP companies Andes Technology, Codasip, and Cortus.



References: SiFive Introduces First Open Source Chip Platforms, MIT hosts RISC-V Workshop

Elena Neira