By Ron Stieger, BSQUARE Corp.Dec 18 2006 (9:00 AM), Embedded.com
If you were to take the case off a newer smartphone or PDA you would undoubtedly find a SoC processor inside. That's because SoC processors often provide the fastest route from design to the marketplace, offer tremendous flexibility in adding features in future designs, and can offer cost, form factor, and other advantages that would be impractical or impossible to realize with a system involving many discrete components.
But the advantages of SoC processors are not limited to mainstream consumer applications. These processors can pay sizable dividends in embedded applications of all sorts. The key is understanding which SoC processor is appropriate for your embedded device and giving thought early on to the best way to integrate it.
SoC applications processors are designed to integrate a large number of peripherals with the processor core. These processors, which are typically built around a RISC core " commonly ARM, though MIPS and other cores are also used " provide memory management units and other features required by Windows CE, Linux, and other embedded operating systems.
Supported peripherals typically include a display controller, static and dynamic memory controllers, various serial interfaces (e.g., UART, SPI, USB), and add-on slot controllers (e.g. PCMCIA, CompactFlash, SDIO). Some SoC processors may also include keypad controllers, multimedia accelerators, and other features.
With all these peripherals, there is a great deal of complexity in building a platform around a SoC processor. There are usually multiple ways to map the functional blocks to the I/O pins. The operating system needs to understand what is being used and how, which means drivers need to be customized to match the schematic design. There are also low-power modes that you will want to take advantage of.
Here are five things to consider when selecting SoC processors for your embedded systems:
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