By Viren Ranjan, Cypress Semiconductor Embedded.com (09/09/08, 11:29:00 AM EDT)
The market has recently experienced an explosion in the number of embedded devices pervading everyday life, from iPods and PDAs that people carry to wireless presentation tools and digital organizers that help one organize oneself better to wireless sensor networks deployed for environment monitoring.
As the world continues to go embedded, devices continue to grow smaller in size with an increasing number of battery-powered embedded devices also entering the market. Manufacturers are constantly driven to find new ways of decreasing the component count on an embedded device in order to reduce its size, reduce power budget to increase battery life and to reduce cost of manufacturer to be competitive in a crowded market.
These requirements of embedded systems have forced semiconductor manufacturers to develop new technologies and tools to achieve these objectives. Following Moore's law, the density of transistors in an integrated circuit has been increasing exponentially, reducing the form factor of ICs and thereby driving costs lower. Semiconductors are also exhibiting new operational modes with reduced power requirements thereby reducing average power consumption and increased battery life.Technology and tool advancements have enabled increased number of PCB layers possible in products, again reducing form factor. Technology continues to mature resulting in the increased abundance of embedded devices around us. Dynamic Reconfiguration
A more recent technological development that further aids in the achievement of these objectives of embedded devices is "Dynamic Reconfiguration". In the software domain, Dynamic Reconfiguration is commonly used to refer to software mechanisms that logically attach and detach system resources from an operating environment without incurring downtime.
In Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs), Dynamic Reconfiguration is the ability of deployed nodes to organize and reorganize themselves when some nodes are lost, to achieve two objectives: retrieve information from the environment and transmit this information to a base station.
In the embedded world, dynamic reconfiguration refers to the ability of a programmable System-On-Chip (SOC) to change its functionality at run-time, performing seemingly different functions at different instances in time. This ability to reconfigure hardware in real-time allows available resources to be shared between multiple functions and configurations. Reconfigurable hardware morphs to become new hardware in different applications. Since hardware can be re-allocatable, its usage can be greater than 100 percent.
To understand this concept better, let us revisit some basics of a Systems-On-Chip
based design approach.
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