Undoubtedly, many have heard about the system on a chip (SoC). It wasn’t much of a thing some two decades ago, but today, SoC comes in as an approach to make electronic devices smaller, more powerful, and more energy efficient than ever before. So, what is Soc or System on a Chip? Why is it of special importance to mobile devices such as smartphones and others? Well, an SoC is an electronic integrated circuit which comprises all the required components of a computer and other electronic systems, including a memory unit, a GPU (graphics processor), timing units, CPU (central processing unit), power management circuits, analog-to-digital converter (ADC), a USB controller, wireless radios (WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM radio, 2G/3G/4G LTE), and more.
SoCs find application in numerous industries such as consumer electronics, telecommunication, and automotive for a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets, wearables, digital cameras, wireless routers, etc.
The system on chip market has been gaining traction in recent years owing to the growing demand for smart and power-efficient electronic devices, increase in adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the compactness of SoCs. As per the report by Allied Market Research, the SoC market is expected to accrue a sum of $205.4 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 8.1% during the forecast period, 2017 – 2023. The market is dominated by several big players who are aiming to develop or support the development of SoCs.
They are increasingly investing in their development to effectively cater to the needs of the consumers and make their presence known in the market. For instance, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., an American semiconductor company and a subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed Qualcomm, recently announced the integration of Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform with 5G into a System-on-Chip (SoC). Last year, the company announced the launch of a 5G-ready 7nm Snapdragon 855 SoC chipset to fuel high-end smartphones. CEVA Inc., a semiconductor company and Nurlink Technology, an IC design company, launched Nurlink’s NK6010 3GPP Rel.14 eNB-IoT system-on-chip (SoC).
STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor manufacturing company, unveiled a Linux-driven STM32MP1 SoC, its first Cortex-A chip. Octasic, a Montreal-based company offering low power wireless and media processing solutions, launched a high-performance system on chip (SoC) which are optimized for small cells, portable base stations, and specialized handsets. Huawei, a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices, unveiled the Kirin 980 SoC in his IFA 2018 keynote named, “The Ultimate Power of Mobile AI”.
Qualcomm Announces 5G-Integrated Mobile Platform
Qualcomm Technologies recently introduced a Snapdragon Mobile Platform with 5G integrated into a system-on-chip (SoC). The company said that their R&D and leading mobile platforms allow the phone manufacturers to come up with new innovations and scale groundbreaking products across the world. It also said that the addition of the 5G multimode modem and application processing technologies into a single system on chip is a significant step in making 5G more widely available across regions and tiers. The 5G integrated mobile platform benefits from their recently launched second-generation 5G mmWave antenna module and sub-6 GHz RFFE components and modules. The 5G modem-to-antenna solution is aimed at enabling manufacturers to quickly and cost-effectively create 5G smartphones for any 5G network or region.
Qualcomm launched its 7nm chipset – Snapdragon 855. The new product features greater performance and efficiency than the Snapdragon 845. It also comes with a multi-core AI engine which offers up to 3x better AI performance compared to the previous mobile platform. Besides these, the Snapdragon 855 features Computer Vision (CV) ISP for enhanced computational photography. According to the company, the FinFET chipset is the world’s first commercial mobile platform that supports multi-gigabit 5G networks. The Snapdragon 855 also offers an embedded 5G modem, thus making more space in the smartphone and allowing manufacturers to add other components to it.
CEVA and Nurlink launch GNSS and NB-IoT SoC
CEVA and Nurlink unveiled Nurlink’s NK6010 3GPP Rel.14 eNB-IoT system-on-chip. Run by the CEVA-Dragonfly NB2 IP solution, NK6010 is a cost-effective and power-efficient SoC that can enable narrowband connectivity in the internet of things (IoT) devices such as smart meters, wearables, asset trackers, and industrial sensors.
The SoC comes with an RF front-end, RF transceiver, cellular baseband, application processor, power management unit, a low-power multi-GNSS subsystem, and more. According to Xiaohua Kong, CEO at Nurlink, the NK6010 was developed to cater to the escalating demand for NB-IoT chipsets to run the multitude of new use cases and applications that narrowband cellular connectivity serves. The CEVA-Dragonfly NB2 allows them to speed up their time-to-market by offering several important building blocks for their SoC design.
STMicroelectronics Rolls Out Linux-Driven Cortex-A SoC
The new STM32MP1 SoC launched by STMicroelectronics is designed with the aim of easing the transition for developers shifting from its STM32 microprocessor unit (MCU) family to more complex embedded systems. The SoC comes with dual, 650MHz Cortex-A7 cores and is built for industrial, consumer, smart home, health, and wellness applications. Supporting a 2-lane MIPI-DSI interface, the chip also features 32KB instruction and data caches, and a 256KB L2 cache.
High-performance SoC Unveiled by Octasic
The latest high-performance OCT3032 System-on-Chip (SoC) by Octasic includes Opus3, the company’s third-generation digital signal processor (DSP) core architecture.
Featuring 32 programmable DSP cores along with on-chip hardware accelerators and an embedded quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 processor, the SoC provides the highest processing capacity per watt for 2G to 5G small cells, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) networks, network-in-a-box (NiB) applications, defense tactical communications, and more. David Sanchez, Chief Technology Officer at Octasic said, “In terms of performance, our new OCT3032 System-on-Chip can handle over 25 times more throughput capacity for wireless base stations than our previous devices.
We have designed the OCT3032 to address the lower power and higher density requirements of LTE and 5G network rollouts. It is not only smaller with more processing power than our previous devices, a single OCT3032 device can support up to four independent simultaneous SDR air interfaces, making it possible to develop 2G to 5G capabilities on this one device.”
Huawei Spins Out New SoC
The Kirin 980 SoC launched by Huawei features TMSC 7 nm technology and enables the integration of 6.9 billion transistors within a small die size. The CPU integrated to the chip leverages an intelligent flex-scheduling feature that develops a 3-level energy efficiency architecture consisting of two super-big cores based on Cortex-A76, another two big cores based on Cortex-A76, and four little cores Cortex-A55.
Operating faster than the prior generation, Kirin 980 allows for faster app launch times, better multi-tasking, and smoother user experience. The Mali-G76 GPU has also been integrated into the Kirin 980 to deliver unmatched gaming experiences. Featuring a new clock boosting technology, the Mali-G76 makes use of artificial intelligence to smartly recognize gaming workloads and adjust resource allocation for optimal performance.