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Cadence ConnX Sensors and Radios

March 12, 2019

Author: Mike Demler

Sensors in autonomous vehicles and 5G radios produce very different signals, but Cadence designed its new ConnX DSPs to handle both. It developed two models: the B20 has a 512-bit vector engine and the B10 has a 256-bit vector engine. These intellectual-property (IP) cores take over the top spot in the ConnX lineup, offering higher performance and precision than the ConnX BBE-series baseband engines Tensilica introduced in 2009. Because the new designs are software compatible with their predecessors, customers can reuse code written for the older cores. Cadence is accepting requests for early access now, but it plans to release both DSPs for general availability in 2Q19.

To handle these complex signal-processing requirements, the new designs provide a complex set of configuration options. The company offers a high-precision option for both new DSPs, adding 32-bit fixed-point compute units to the 16-bit units in the base models. This option also doubles throughput for 16-bit operations. A vector FPU (VFPU) is optional, but it comes in three flavors: single-precision (FP32), single-precision extended (SPX) with twice as many FPUs, and half-precision extended (HPX or FP16). The communications-acceleration option includes specialized hardware for 4G and 5G modems. Designers can further customize the DSPs using the Tensilica Instruction Extension (TIE) language.

Before introducing these new DSPs, Cadence hadn’t upgraded the ConnX lineup since its 2013 acquisition of Tensilica. Numerous IP vendors have produced deep-learning accelerators for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADASs), but the B20 and B10 fill a need for front-end processing of lidar and radar data. Designers will need to sort through the extensive options to optimize the DSPs for their applications, but the comprehensive Eclipse-based Xtensa Xplorer integrated-development environment (IDE) eases that task. The new B20 and B10 put the company back in the high-performance-DSP race.

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