Does your next SoC design include a “constellation of coprocessors”?

Jeff Bier is one of the industry’s most insightful observers and his specialty is digital signal processing, which includes graphics, image, and video processing these days in addition to the original definition that sort of included audio, radar, and sonar processing. Bier has just published an analysis of the importance of multimedia applications in mobile devices that’s worth reading in his monthly online newsletter, Inside DSP. One line in it goes line this:

“…the “application processors” that power smartphones and tablets deliver the majority of their processing power not via the CPU, but through a constellation of coprocessors, typically including a graphics processing unit, video processing unit, digital signal processor and image signal processor.”

Here, Bier is acknowledging the industry trend toward developing heterogeneous processing systems that assembly task-specific processor cores to tackle the myriad related-but-dissimilar jobs modern multimedia systems must handle.

Bier then continues:

“In theory, it should be possible to create application programming interfaces (APIs) that abstract the details of the particular set of coprocessors included in a specific application processor.  This would enable the developer of, for example, a tablet video editing application to write the application once and have it run in many different tablet models based on many different application processors, harnessing whatever relevant coprocessors are available in each device.  In practice, however, such APIs have mostly been missing from the mobile space.  This absence has been a key impediment to large numbers of mobile application developers making full use of the chips powering mobile devices.”

Unfortunately, we need to wait another month for this interesting discussion to continue.

Meanwhile, you can read this month’s post here.


About sleibson2

EDA360 Evangelist and Marketing Director at Cadence Design Systems (blog at
This entry was posted in EDA360, Mobile, SoC, SoC Realization, System Realization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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