Cambridge Consultants XAP5 Core Sets New Standard for 16-Bit Processors

Cambridge Consultants has launched its next generation XAP processor core – XAP5 – offering wireless and sensor chip designers an advanced level of 16-bit processing performance combined with low energy consumption and efficient use of low cost memory, making it ideally suited for cost-sensitive high-volume products. XAP5 combines the economy of a 16-bit data word with a 24-bit address space for large programs up to 16 Mbytes, which suits devices designed for data-centric communications applications in markets such as consumer, industrial and retail.

Typical applications for a XAP5 processor core include ZigBee and Bluetooth wireless networks, energy metering, sensor networks, tagging and transactions using RFID or NFC, location systems such as GPS and any other embedded ASIC application that requires a robust and capable software environment. XAP5′s design is particularly suited to applications such as these with programs stored in non-volatile memory, for example; Flash memory that is either embedded in the chip or in a SiP (System in Package).

XAP5 is the latest development in Cambridge Consultants’ popular family of XAP processor cores which are already operating in over one billion chips worldwide. XAP5 is a perfect fit for battery-powered wireless devices and is also flexible enough to be applied to many other applications including sensors, audio and image processing tasks. Elsewhere, applications for XAP5 include its use as a deeply embedded processor core tasked with managing an IP sub-system, such as an encryption block, within a larger SoC (System on Chip).

With its predecessors widely licensed in a variety of high-profile applications, the XAP5 processor core represents the most technically complete offering to date from Cambridge Consultants in terms of its overall specification together with its software development and debugging tools. The new core also benefits from a realistic and attractive approach to licensing in response to the needs of both current and potential licensees.

One company that already pre-selected XAP5 is Greenpeak Technologies, a wireless chip company headquartered in the Netherlands, where Cees Links, the CEO, remarked: “After a careful selection procedure we concluded that XAP5 was the best matching and most versatile processor solution for integration in our sensor network communication ASIC. On top of this, the tools, documentation, examples and design-in support are excellent and will help us to get up to speed quickly.”

The XAP5 processor core is delivered as a soft IP core in Verilog RTL (Register Transfer Level), thus putting the licensee’s ASIC engineers in full control of semiconductor process selection, synthesis and layout. Technical features of the processor include very high code density that minimises the size and cost of program memory, high performance (68 Dhrystone MIPS when clocking at 100 MHz on a 0.13 micron CMOS process) and a small footprint of 18k gates, or around one-tenth of a square millimetre of 0.13 micron silicon. The processor also features protected software operating modes that partition user and privileged code for secure, high-availability applications. The processor hardware is supplemented by software and development tools architecture, including a GNU C compiler and assembler, which support a sophisticated programming environment. For example, the XAP5 supports in-place execution of programs that can be located anywhere in memory without the need for linking or copying them to different locations. This means programs can be easily distributed and will start up faster. It also offers a robust update of programs stored in Flash without the risk of losing the system part-way through the update process.

Alistair Morfey, Technology Director and Chief Architect of the XAP family at Cambridge Consultants explained: “There is a growing range of applications that need a processor with good performance, but will not tolerate the energy consumption, size and cost of a 32-bit core. Many such applications would have used an 8-bit core, but now these are overwhelmed by growing code size and processing performance requirements. The XAP5′s design benefits from our own experience of the ASIC requirements for portable wireless, sensing and medical devices. We’ve focussed our architecture on the memory architectures typically found in such ASICs. Reducing unit cost and power consumption for sophisticated software applications have been the primary goals.”

About Cambridge Consultants
Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. For nearly 50 years, the company has enabled its clients to turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of over 270 engineers, designers, scientists and consultants, in offices in Cambridge (UK) and Boston (USA), Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, automotive, transport, energy and wireless communications. Cambridge Consultants is part of the Altran group of companies. Altran Technologie, which is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange (FR:003463), employs over 17,000 consultants in 20 countries around the world. In 2006 the group generated a turnover of €1,495.6 million. For more information visit: www.altran.com