Linley Newsletter: August 2, 2018

 weSRCH's Best of the Internet Award

Issue #611

August 2, 2018

Independent Analysis of Microprocessors and the Semiconductor Industry

Editor: Tom R. Halfhill

Contributors: Linley Gwennap, Mike Demler, Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- Microchip L10/L11 Bolster Security

- General Processor Commands IP Unity

- Wear 2500 Targets Kid Watches

Coming Soon: Communications Semiconductor Market Forecast 2017-2022

The Linley Group is pleased to announce the upcoming release of the 12th edition of our "Communications Semiconductor Market Forecast."

This report provides the detailed information needed to understand the complexities of the communications semiconductor market. Chip vendors, investors, and OEMs can readily see how large are the mature product markets and how fast the emerging categories are growing. New in this edition is a forecast for 400G Ethernet switch and PHY chips.

A detailed description of the report, including the table of contents, is available on our web site:

Special offer: Get a pre-publication discount of $500 off the corporate license or $300 off a single license until August 13, 2018. For more information or to order the report, please email us at

Microchip L10/L11 Bolster Security

By Tom R. Halfhill

Once the simplest of all processors, microcontrollers are now sprouting security features that even some big processors lack. In a way, it makes sense. Built into all manner of smart devices, MCUs are more vulnerable to physical tampering as well as remote attacks. They typically operate in embedded systems outside data centers protected by IT managers. Microchip is the latest vendor to meet these challenges by strengthening the security of its products.

The new 32-bit SAM L10 and SAM L11 families are the first shipping products to use the Arm Cortex-M23 CPU. They have similar internal memories, integrated peripherals, and I/O interfaces. They employ several defenses to foil attackers, yet they still boast low power consumption, low prices, and small packages. Both families have secure memory, unique chip identifiers, true-random-number generators (TRNGs), the ability to detect tampering and erase secure data, and side-channel-attack resistance on their data flash memory and secure SRAM. The L11 family has additional defenses, including secure boot, cryptography acceleration, a second memory-protection unit to support Arm's TrustZone, data scrambling for some internal memories, and more tamper resistance.

Both families target line- or battery-powered embedded systems that need 32-bit performance and stronger security than most MCUs provide. Although they're candidates for IoT devices, they lack integrated radios, so they require an external baseband chip. They integrate a capacitive-touchscreen controller to enable a graphical user interface, but because they lack an LCD controller, they need another external chip to complete a typical system design.

All models are available now except those in wafer-level chip-scale packages (WLCSPs), which are scheduled for production by the end of the year. List prices for 1,000-unit quantities range from $1.20 to $1.88.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

General Processor Commands IP Unity

By Mike Demler

General Processor Technologies (GPT), a unique group of affiliated companies based in China and the U.S., has developed a platform of heterogeneous-processor intellectual property (IP) it calls Unity. The platform includes a 64-bit CPU, a configurable deep-learning accelerator (DLA), and a vector DSP. The constituent companies are also developing a general-purpose GPU. GPT plans to begin licensing the CPU, DLA, and DSP as hard and soft cores beginning in 4Q18, after it validates the designs in TSMC's 28nm process.

The Unity platform's goal is to supply a family of processor cores that can rival offerings from Arm, Ceva, and other IP vendors. GPT has disclosed few details, but its CPU appears to be a Cortex-A72-class design, sans Arm Neon-like SIMD extensions. Filling that gap is the VLVm1 DSP, a dynamically configurable core that supports up to 64KB vectors. The Unity DLA is a 288-MAC core, but it scales to an eight-core configuration that comprises 2,304 half-precision floating-point MACs.

GPT designed the Unity platform as a complete heterogeneous processing architecture. It plans to support it with a GCC-based compiler, Caffe and TensorFlow tools, computer-vision APIs, and a CNN-model library. Developing a complete software stack for such a new heterogeneous architecture can take several years, but the company expects to minimize the effort by supporting an HSAIL run-time API and the HSA Finalizer, which converts HSAIL executables to the Unity 1.0 ISA. In 2015, Optimum's CEO became the HSA Foundation president, and to promote HSA adoption in China, the foundation last year set up a group comprising 20 Chinese universities, led by a Hua Xia researcher. We expect the former Sandbridge team has developed the Unity software tools, applying the heterogeneous-processing experience it gained from its DSPs.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

Wear 2500 Targets Kid Watches

By Linley Gwennap

What does a company do when it already owns a market? In Qualcomm's case, it continues to improve its processors so smartwatch vendors can attract more buyers to their Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) products. To better support the growing market for children's watches, the company announced the Snapdragon Wear 2500 platform, an upgrade to the Snapdragon Wear 2100. Qualcomm plans to release a second new smartwatch chipset later this year that targets traditional (adult) watches.

The Wear 2500 is in production and should appear in watches later this year. It features the same MSM8909 processor as in the Wear 2100 platform; the innovations are in the support components. The new PMW3100 replaces the old PM8916 power-management chip while integrating three additional components. For cellular models, Qualcomm offers new GaAs power amplifiers (PAs) that reduce power. These changes extend battery life by 14% over the Wear 2100, according to the company.

About 32 million smartwatches shipped in 2017, up 50% from the previous year. Despite this rapid growth, these shipments correspond to just 2% of smartphone shipments. Qualcomm supplies the processor chipsets for nearly all Wear OS smartwatches, but this OS served in only five million units last year. (The company also supplies the baseband chip for the Apple Watch 3 cellular models, adding two million units.) Kid watches are another small segment, but their shipments are rising rapidly, particularly in China. In addition to tracking location, they can provide children with basic voice communication, games, and learning apps, often using integrated LTE connectivity.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

About Linley Newsletter

Linley Newsletter is a free electronic newsletter that reports and analyzes advances in microprocessors, networking chips, and mobile-communications chips. It is published by The Linley Group. To subscribe, please visit:

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors

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