Green in: MIPS32 on FPGA, dam data distributed, gains ground

October 1, 2009 OpenSystems Media

In our Deep Green Editor's Choice section, we look at technology helping design green into today's new products.

As we continue to search for technologies that create greener places, we’ve turned up three things that can make an impact on a bigger scale than just a single product. This month, we’re highlighting a silicon architecture, software platform, and strategy for efficiently connecting homes using the wires already in them.

FPGAs starring MIPS32 soon

This announcement isn’t about a specific product, but it is welcome news for designers: Altera has chosen to license the MIPS32 architecture, which is the first time MIPS architecture processor cores have been in the FPGA channel. This gives designers another choice for performance with optimized power when looking at cores for FPGAs, and is a big win for MIPS Technologies.

Figure 1

According to Joseph Byrne, senior analyst for The Linley Group and coauthor of A Guide to CPU Cores and Processor IP, “MIPS Technologies’ processor cores have long been known for their high performance for a wide range of consumer multimedia, networking, and communications applications. The company’s technology is already an industry standard for ASICs used in these applications. By joining forces with Altera, a leader in the FPGA market, there is great potential for much more widespread adoption.”

MIPS Technologies
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Data from all over Grand Coulee

Let’s say you have 40,000 monitoring and control points in a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system with 30 generators and 50-60 Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) among other things on the network. The incoming data picks up power metrics, temperatures, oil levels, vibration sensors, output waveforms, and more. It’d be nice if all that data were on one protocol in real time, available instantly without single points of failure.

Figure 2

This is the problem the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is facing right now at the Grand Coulee Dam, and provides the reason behind their choice of Real-Time Innovations’ (RTI’s) Data Distribution Service (DDS) as the solution. Dave Brown, project manager and system architect for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, remarked, “We selected RTI after a comprehensive evaluation of DDS solutions. We liked RTI’s architecture because it eliminates all single points of failure. If a shared daemon fails, it impacts many critical applications. With RTI’s purely in-process solution, there is no dependence on shared services. We will be able to implement N-way redundancy for all critical subsystems.” This makes RTI’s DDS software a pick for us, too.

Real-Time Innovations
RSC# 41758 More support, silicon on the way

Because almost every home is wired, strategies for home networking based on coax, phone, and power lines shouldn’t be overlooked.

Figure 3

The HomeGrid Forum’s standard has been gaining ground fast, with both National Institute of Standards and Technology approval for smart grid apps and United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) ratification coming within the last month. “ is a technology that gives new use to cabling that most people already have in their homes,” said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “The array of applications that it has the potential to enable, including energy-efficient smart appliances, home automation, and telemedicine devices, is remarkable. The sheer weight of industry support behind this innovation is testament to the extraordinary potential of this standard to transform home networking.”

Figure 4

In a related breaking story, two of the main supporters of the HomeGrid Forum and have agreed to merge, with Sigma Designs acquiring CopperGate Communications. Sigma provides media processors for the digital home, and adding CopperGate’s home networking technology should make their portfolio more interesting. silicon should appear in 2010.

HomeGrid Forum
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Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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