15 November 2011
Multimedia and connectivity technologies transforming much wider markets than just smartphones, says Imagination
Smart technologies powering smart devices is key
Tokyo, Japan: Imagination Technologies, a leading multimedia and communications technologies company, says that it believes three key trends will transform the consumer electronics industry and also drive many new vital emerging markets in the next few years. These trends are:
1. Parallel software revolution: high performance, ultra-low power GPUs (graphics processing units) that are best known for powering the user interfaces and games in smartphones today will become the ‘heavy lifting’ processors of tomorrows SoCs. GPUs will become vastly more powerful thanks to their scalable parallel processing capabilities, triggering a mass market parallel software revolution.
2. Connected products have just begun: connectivity to the internet will become a ’must-have’ feature for not only every consumer product, but an emerging array of broader products from healthcare equipment to home automation systems, resulting in billions of new connected products.
3. On-chip RPUs: highly programmable communications capabilities, built using RPUs (radio processing unit) that support a broad range of major global connectivity and broadcast receiver standards, will be essential for the next wave of integration. RPUs will become fully integrated on-chip, just as Imagination predicted would happen for GPUs more than ten years ago, to achieve the high performance, low cost, low power consumption characteristics that consumer and emerging markets will expect as standard.
Say Tony King-Smith, VP marketing, Imagination: “Imagination’s business has always been focused on enabling new markets as well as taking full advantage of discontinuities in the evolution of more established and familiar product categories. Our PowerVR GPU and VPU (video processor) technologies continue to enable profound transformations in user experiences in an ever broader array of consumer and mobile products, resulting in consumers now expecting these same user experiences on every device they use.
“Given our experience in these markets, and our strategic relationships with many of the world’s leading semiconductor, end product, content, applications and internet technology companies, we are increasingly confident that our Ensigma RPU communications IP cores, complemented by our Meta connected processors and Flow connectivity technologies, are destined to power many of the next wave of ubiquitous cloud-connected smart devices and systems throughout the home, car, office and factory, as well as enabling innovative new mobile and embedded products that touch everyone’s lives.”
GPUs are transforming the future of processing as well as graphics
Imagination made its name as a leader in development of underlying multimedia and communications technologies now found in many of today’s most innovative products. More than ten years ago key engineers in Imagination saw the emerging trend to integrate high performance graphics and video on-chip alongside CPU, memory and other key functions to enable SoCs (systems on chip). As a result of that vision, its PowerVR GPU technology for OpenGL, OpenGL ES, OpenCL, DirectX and other APIs is the de facto standard in embedded and mobile with over 500m devices shipped and 70% market share, while its video decoders and encoders are at the heart of more than 200m devices.
Having seen the revolution in user experiences in mobile thanks to the processing power of GPUs, consumers now expect that same experience everywhere – from TVs and hi-fi equipment to any device they interact with.
However, the GPU revolution has barely started. Over the next few years, the rise in available GPU processing power will transform much more than the user interfaces and gaming experiences of hundreds of millions of phones and tablets. The emergence of general-purpose GPU computing (GPGPU) will result in sophisticated algorithms, previously considered to be the sole domain of high end computers, starting to find their way into consumer products – running on the same GPUs already used for these rich GPU-based user experiences. Since a GPU is a truly parallel processor, performance scales efficiently with advances in silicon processes, and becomes significantly more powerful the more execution units are added. This means that at last the parallel software revolution can begin, thanks to the enormous installed base of suitable GPUs that are now starting to proliferate in the market, combined with the emergence of industry standards such as Khronos Group’s OpenCL and Google’s Renderscript Compute to program them.
Imagination’s next generation PowerVR Series6 graphics architecture, codenamed ‘Rogue’, has already been adopted by many of the world’s leading players, and will spearhead this transformation across many markets by delivering exceptional performance per mm2 and per mW. These next generation PowerVR GPUs will bring supercomputer class parallel processing to the mobile and consumer world, as well as stunning next generation graphics. PowerVR Series6 GPUs have already been selected by eight partners, with more engagements in the pipeline.
Connecting Processors and Products to the Cloud drives ‘The Internet of Everything’
The rise of Cloud technologies is creating exciting new markets and discontinuities in existing ones as all devices evolve to take advantage of connectivity. New applications in healthcare, home automation, security, smart energy and elsewhere will all increasingly follow the trend of computing and smart phones, and begin taking advantage of significantly enhanced functionality enabled by Cloud connectivity. And as consumers continue to embrace their world in the Cloud, so everything from cars to toasters will need to become connected.
However, deploying Cloud connectivity is far more complex than simply having a Wi-Fi port on a device. The services and infrastructure needed to ensure any connected products deliver everything expected by today’s smartphone-equipped consumer are complex and broad. Bringing together everything needed to make these products ‘just work’ is a challenge for all but the biggest engineering teams.
Imagination is unique in delivering many of the underlying technologies needed to make these connected smart systems happen. From its Ensigma communications RPU (radio processor) IP to enable ubiquitous connectivity, to its Meta connected processors, Flow technologies and FlowWorld portal, Imagination is creating a comprehensive technology infrastructure from the device to the Cloud for anyone contemplating creating a Cloud-connected product. By delivering this unique ‘shrink-wrapped’ connectivity technology portfolio, together with a growing ecosystem of Cloud services providers, Imagination will enable engineering teams to create a broad range of tomorrow’s connected solutions for a global market. The Ensigma RPU’s implementations of more than 20 standards, with more to come, including every major HD and SD TV as well as radio broadcast receiver standard, together with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v3.0 connectivity standard today, will enable truly global next generation connected smart devices.
Imagination's platform solutions also include the highly integrated MetaFlow family of connected processor reference platforms, being demonstrated for the first time publicly in Japan this week. Based on SoCs built from Imagination’s Meta processor IP and Ensigma RPU communications IP families, these complete systems, incorporating Flow technologies, enable systems designers to develop the next generation of connected products and solutions, with the backing of our growing portfolio of Cloud-based services from both Imagination and its partners.
SoC Integration of high performance GPUs and RPUs is Unstoppable
More than ten years ago, Imagination forecast that on-chip GPUs alongside CPUs would become the norm. Today, that forecast has become reality. However, the relentless demand for lower cost and power while increasing performance and functionality means that the next logical step is to integrate not only the graphics and video on-chip, but the communications too. SoCs must be sold in high volume to be commercially viable, which has historically meant that communications has remained off-chip due to the proliferation of regional standards.
However, thanks to multi-standard, multi-stream solutions such as Imagination’s Ensigma Series3 RPU, SoC designers can now integrate all the communications functionality they need, and configure it to any target market by software. In the same way that integrating GPUs and VPUs (video processors) on-chip is enabling multimedia everywhere, so the next wave of integration is now arriving thanks to the RPU.
Imagination has been designing SoC solutions for its partners for many years, enabling it to help its partners create total SoC solutions a growing set of target markets. The Toumaz TZ1090 ‘Xenif’ SoC used on the MetaFlow ‘Minimorph’ reference platform is a recent example of what is possible.
Other technologies disrupting markets from Imagination
Imagination will also be demonstrating technologies that will be driving other key industry trends including:
· Ray-tracing technologies for cinematic-quality interactive graphics. Thanks to its innovative new ray tracing technologies, Imagination and its professional graphics group Caustic Professional will be bringing a series of innovative new products to market throughout 2012, initially targeting professional CAD markets as well as advanced game asset development and the creative media industries. Imagination will ultimately bring these technologies to the mobile and embedded device market as part of future generations of its PowerVR GPU IP cores
· VoLTE (voice over LTE) and V.VoIP (video and voice over IP) technologies that will transform how voice and video calls are made as IP replaces circuit-switched call technologies. Imagination and its telecoms technology group HelloSoft V.VoIP continue to expand its unique portfolio of VoLTE and V.VoIP voice and video SDKs, delivering a consistent cross-platform carrier-grade experience across every major mobile and consumer platform
Imagination’s technology is shipped in devices from many of the world’s leading brands, with over half a billion products incorporating Imagination’s technologies shipped (as of May 2011). Imagination’s licensees include many of the world’s leading semiconductor and OEM companies.
Imagination will be demonstrating its latest IP technologies for mobile phone multimedia and communications, handheld multimedia, home consumer, mobile computing and in-car electronics at leading industry events world-wide in 2011 and 2012, including:
Embedded Technology 2011, Yokohama, Japan, November 16-18 2011
Autodesk University 2011, Los Angeles, USA, December 29-30 2011
CES 2012, Las Vegas, USA, January 10-13 2012
MWC 2012, Barcelona, Spain, February 27-March 1 2012
GDC 2012, San Francisco, USA, March 7-9 2012
ESC Silicon Valley 2012, San Jose, USA, March 27-29 2012
Future World Symposium 2012, London, UK, April 24-25 2012
Eurographics 2012, Sardinia, Italy, UK, May 13-18 2012
Siggraph 2012, Los Angeles, USA, August 7-9 2012
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About Imagination Technologies
Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE:IMG) – a global leader in multimedia and communication technologies – creates and licenses market-leading multimedia IP cores for graphics, video, and display processing, multi-threaded embedded processing/DSP cores and multi-standard communications and connectivity processors. These silicon intellectual property (IP) solutions for systems-on-chip (SoC) are complemented by platform level IP and services, a strong array of software tools and drivers and extensive developer and middleware ecosystems. Target markets include mobile phone, handheld multimedia, home consumer entertainment, mobile and low-power computing, and in-car electronics. Its licensees include many of the leading semiconductor and consumer electronics companies. Imagination has corporate headquarters in the United Kingdom and US headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, with sales and R&D offices worldwide. See: www.imgtec.com