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Why Nordic is getting concerned in RISC-V

Why Nordic is getting concerned in RISC-V

2023-11-10 07:42:21

Nordic chip

Nordic not too long ago announced that it’s becoming a member of an trade consortium of semiconductor firms to drive the adoption of an open supply chip structure known as RISC-V. Why?

RISC-V versus Arm

At first look, Nordic asserting that it’s placing its full technological and industrial weight behind the event and adoption of an open-source chip structure would possibly elevate questions on how sturdy the corporate’s on-going relationship with Arm is.

In any case, Arm gives a industrial chip structure that’s something however open supply, and has been used on Nordic’s semiconductor wi-fi connectivity merchandise because the 2012 launch of Nordic’s nRF51 Collection Programs-on-Chip (SoCs).

The nRF51 Collection redefined the modern of the Bluetooth LE market as soon as and for all. And one of many greatest improvements was the inclusion of a robust on-board Arm processor for the very first time on a Bluetooth chip. Nothing prefer it had ever been seen earlier than within the Bluetooth LE market. The truth is, the nRF51 Collection actually despatched Nordic’s rivals scrambling again to the drafting board when it got here to easy methods to design a Bluetooth LE chip.

RISC-V will complement Arm

RISC-V was developed about 10 years in the past at UC Berkeley within the U.S. and at first look would appear to be aggressive with Arm.

However I feel that is means too slim a view. I see RISC-V in an analogous option to how I see the proliferation of wi-fi IoT connectivity requirements: nobody expertise could be all issues to (resolve) all utility issues. So does Bluetooth LE actually compete with Thread or mobile IoT ? After all not. Every is designed to do various things nicely, however not all the pieces.

What RISC-V is in actuality, subsequently, is a complimentary different to Arm, and never a risk. And that is significantly true in energy consumption-critical cellular and IoT functions the place Arm has historically been dominant.

Optimizing for lowest energy

At its coronary heart, RISC-V is all about selling innovation by giving customers the power to develop modern, custom-made {hardware} primarily based on an open-source chip structure.

What RISC-V will do for Nordic’s clients is give them the liberty and adaptability, in sure particular and extremely specialised functions, to strip down the instruction set to make sure excessive ranges of low energy consumption.

To me, that is no totally different to how one can strip down a 2.4GHz proprietary wi-fi protocol to optimize for the extremely lowest energy consumption in a means you merely couldn’t match at such extremes with a standards-based protocol comparable to Bluetooth low vitality.

Now RISC-V is not after all proprietary. However identical to a Nordic proprietary 2.4GHz protocol, if you’re the developer behind it, you get much more management over each line of code to customise for the particular wants of your particular utility.

Lowest energy counts on the edge

So the place would possibly the power to develop an extremely lowest energy instruction set actually come into its personal?

To me it is on the edge in, for instance, less complicated embedded chips for sensors that require a small little bit of processing energy as a way to ship localized machine studying.

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In such functions having an Arm core could be full overkill. However that sensor should still want to speak with and work alongside an Arm core-based Nordic machine.

Extra choices

What RISC-V will do is give our clients an additional choice when in search of to attenuate energy consumption in sure functions the place the (many) tradeoffs of not utilizing an Arm-based core are acceptable.

RISC-V may also decrease the barriers-to-entry and degree the enjoying area in relation to growing IoT functions. It will encourage even larger innovation within the IoT market.

What RISC-V won’t do is battle with Nordic’s long-established use of Arm cores in its wi-fi IoT connectivity gadgets.

RISC-V will merely additional improve the design choices for Nordic clients and significantly in less complicated, extremely lowest energy functions the place each Joule and Watt counts.

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