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Actel Corporation unveil intelligent mixed signal FPGA, SmartFusion

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article image Actel Corporation's SmartFusion

Actel Corporation unveiled SmartFusion, the world's first intelligent mixed signal FPGA at the 2010 Embedded World conference. Available from Caelera in Australia, the SmartFusion devices feature Actel's proven FPGA fabric, a complete microcontroller subsystem built around a hard ARM Cortex-M3 processor and programmable analog blocks on a flash process. Embedded designers now have the ability to design and build the system they want on a single chip.  

"SmartFusion gave us the resources to build a highly-agile smartgrid sensor with greater flexibility in a smaller package," said David Brain, CTO Smartgrid Technologies. "The integration of a state-of-the-art embedded ARM processor with on-chip analog to digital conversion and the ability to build custom features in the uncommitted gate array is an unbeatable combination."  

"The launch of Actel's SmartFusion represents a step forward in intelligent FPGA design and also demonstrates the rapidly growing momentum behind the ARM Cortex-M3 processor in a wide range of applications," said Eric Schorn, vice president, marketing, processor division, ARM. "In addition to exploiting the Cortex-M3 processor's industry leading high-performance and low-power features, SmartFusion licensees are also able to access ARM's vast ecosystem of more than 600 Partners, providing tools, software and middleware optimized for the ARM architecture."  

The combination of three programmable elements (logic, a microcontroller subsystem and analog) makes the SmartFusion family a customisable system design platform. The data transferred from the processor to the FPGA or from the analog to the processor or between the FPGA and the analog is stored on-chip and additionally, Actel's FlashLock technology offers a high level of intellectual property (IP) security.  

When faced with options for co-processing or interface customization, SmartFusion devices offers the solution for co-processing or interface customisation in a wide variety of applications, including motor control, system and power management and industrial automation. These applications span the industrial, military, medical, telecommunications, computing and storage markets.  

"SmartFusion is the innovative, intelligent integration of the key components of a system," said John East, Actel's president and CEO. "Due to Actel's flash technology, we now offer the industry's first and only no-compromise, fully programmable platform for embedded design."  

Key components and features of the device are:  

Full-Featured FPGA:
SmartFusion devices feature Actel's proven, flash-based ProASIC3 FPGA architecture. Built on a 130-nm CMOS process, Actel offers densities ranging from 60K to 500K system gates, with 350 MHz performance and up to 204 I/Os. This combination allows the incorporation of existing functions from other devices; effectively reducing board space and power consumption.  

Microcontroller Subsystem:
The subsystem features a hard ARM Cortex-M3 processor running at 100 MHz. The standard peripherals and features include the multi-layer AHB communications matrix with up to 16 Gbps throughput, 10/100 Ethernet MAC with RMII interface, up to 512 KB flash memory and 64 KB of SRAM, external memory controller (EMC) and an 8-channel DMA controller.  

Programmable Analog:
The innovative and proprietary Analog Compute Engine (ACE) performs sample sequencing and computation, which offloads the ARM Cortex-M3 processor from analog initialization and processing.

The SmartFusion family is supported by Libero Integrated Design Environment (IDE) v9.0, Actel's software toolset for designing with all Actel FPGAs. The Libero IDE includes synthesis, simulation and debug tools from Synopsys and Mentor Graphics as well as innovative timing and power optimization and analysis. For embedded designers, Actel offers free SoftConsole Eclipse-based IDE with GNU, as well as, evaluation versions of software from Keil and IAR Systems. Micrium supports SmartFusion devices with their latest real-time operating system (RTOS) µC/OS-III, TCP/IP stack and µC/Probe products.

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