Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE: IMG), the leading provider of human computer interface intellectual property (IP), today announced that it has significantly extended its IP offerings to cover Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technologies with the launch of its new Metagence Technologies division.
Metagence Technologies designs, licences and promotes patented multi-threaded DSP cores that will enable low cost multi-purpose communications and entertainment appliances. The first Metagence DSP processor architecture - the META-1 core - is available for licensing now.
The next generation of digital applications will be focused on converged, multi-function devices that will demand real-time capabilities for complex DSP and mathematical calculations, whilst also needing to be low-power and low-cost for integration into consumer electronics devices like Mobile Digital Music Players (MP3, DAB, AAC), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), Digital Radios and Digital Music Servers, Wireless Appliances, In-car Entertainment and Information Systems, Set-Top-Boxes and Mobile Phones.
The critical advantage of the Metagence architecture is that it makes it possible to run several real-time tasks on a single processor, rather than resorting to inefficient multi-DSP solutions. This enables devices that can integrate DAB, Consumer Audio, Digital Hi-Fi, Speech, Advanced User Interfaces, Mobile Communication and Networking on a single chip. Metagence technology is already being used by the partnership between Digital One and Imagination Technologies in the development of a low power, low cost, Digital Base-band (DBB) chip and digital receiver module, which will constitute the heart of inexpensive portable digital radio receivers that will be available within the year.
Hossein Yassaie, President and CEO, Imagination Technologies, says: ";The trend for future consumer appliances is clearly towards real-time multi-functionality. Traditionally DSP-based systems can perform only one time-critical function without resorting to inefficient multi-DSP solutions. Using true hardware multi-threading and an efficient DSP architecture we can deliver the complex DSP and mathematical capabilities and real-time response that will revolutionise the possibilities for the next-generation of electronic appliances.";
Andy Trott, CEO Networks & Connected Devices division at Pace says: ";Convergence is an inevitability for the consumer electronics industry and often it is exciting, multifunctional devices that win the hearts of consumers looking for convenience, entertainment and value from electronic appliances. I am pleased to see that Metagence shares this thinking and will make innovative technology available to manufacturers wishing to develop real-time, multifunction consumer devices.";
Dave Hawkins, Product Manager, Roke Manor, says: ";Multi-threading is the strongest contender in the race to enable next generation DSP devices and Metagence Technologies is a pioneer in this technology. We look forward to continuing to work with both Metagence and Ensigma Technologies to develop strong consumer applications for these impressive DSP technologies.";
Quentin Howard, Chief Executive of Digital One, the national digital radio network operator, says: ";The baseband processor to drive DAB digital radio with the functions and power needed for portable products points to one device - the META core from Metagence Technologies. This is the device at the heart of our recently announced DAB chip and it allows cost effective and flexible consumer digital radio products to be made. With the current analogue radio market at 12 million units per year in the UK, the digital radio replacement potential is massive and that's good news for OEM's, good news for the broadcasters and good news for consumers.";
According to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) during the year 2000 over $6 billion worth of DSP based devices shipped and this annual figure will exceed $25 billion by year 2005.
Metagence Technologies joins Imagination Technologies' existing divisions PowerVR Technologies, Ensigma Technologies and VideoLogic Systems. The newly established Metagence Technologies division will operate from Imagination Technologies HQ in Hertfordshire, England.
The META DSP Technology
The META DSP processor architecture provides multiple real-time programming contexts (threads) that can operate independently and concurrently. This allows systems that are conventionally partitioned into multiple real-time DSP and general purpose functions to be implemented on one device. The memory system and caches of the DSP core are fully multi-threaded to allow operation at maximum efficiency. The execution of instructions from threads is scheduled on a clock-by-clock basis, resulting in zero overhead for the switch from one thread to another and instant response to external stimuli.
A control system is provided to monitor and adjust the instruction issue rate of each thread to allow overall system real-time constraints to be met.
The multi-threading scheme used in the META processor family enables the best possible utilisation of the resources of the processor to be achieved. Different threads can use different resources at the same time or one thread can command all the resources of the processor at the same time. This enables key algorithms to be performed extremely quickly and mundane actions such as data movement to be performed with maximum efficiency.
Multi-threading optimises processor utilization, preventing long delays to access memory or devices by enabling other threads to be run while results are being processed. This is especially important in highly integrated System-on-Chip (SoC) devices where it is common to share a single memory between many on-chip functions.
Different programmers can develop programs for different threads in isolation and still achieve real-time performance when the components are combined. This is possible due to the META Automatic MIPS Allocation (AMA™) technology that controls thread execution rates to ensure that real-time goals are achieved. This is particularly useful when legacy software components must be integrated with new functions.
Comprehensive library and tool support enables embedded system designers to produce highly-integrated Metagence-based products quickly and easily, helping to streamline time-to-market for new products.