Dynamic Margining Reduces SoC Energy Consumption 15-20XDecember 01, 2017 by Paul Shepard
Minima Processor has announced its ultra-low power technology for near-threshold voltage design that uses its patented dynamic margining to minimize energy consumption while maintaining yield in systems-on-chip (SoCs).
Intended for a range of markets, including microcontroller, internet of things (IoT), in- body medical and connectivity, the Minima dynamic-margining approach is a unique intellectual-property (IP)-based methodology for near-threshold voltage design. It combines hardware and software to enable circuits to function at their lowest possible power for any given task, data or ambient condition.
The Minima solution also includes ultra-wide dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS), a framework to change frequency and/or operating voltage of a processor based on active system function. The energy savings over all applications when both dynamic margining and ultra-wide DVFS are deployed is up to 15-20X lower energy as compared to nominal voltage design.
Minima Processor is engaging with mid-sized and large semiconductor companies now. In an early engagement of the technology, Minima and Arm are partnering to produce a low- power implementation of an Arm® Cortex®-M3 processor. A joint Arm/Minima whitepaper has been published.
"Achieving a 15-20X reduction in energy in an IoT SoC is an impressive feat, and one that will open up a whole new set of IoT applications," says Phil Burr, director of portfolio product management, Arm. "The Arm Cortex-M3 processor is already the processor of choice in billions of embedded devices, and Minima's solution for Cortex-M3, combined with no upfront license fees for the processor through the Arm DesignStart™ program, offers a compelling combination for developers looking to create very low-energy IoT devices."
The Minima Approach to Near-Threshold Voltage Design
"Energy is the driving design parameter especially for systems that are ‘always on' to process audio, visual or sensor data," affirms Lauri Koskinen, Minima Processor's chief technology officer and co-founder.
"With the semiconductor industry continually searching for solutions that reduce energy consumption for new market requirements and functionality, we are committed to delivering near-threshold voltage design solutions that work for whatever processors our partners choose. Minima's approach is the only way that minimizes energy across a broad range of processor solutions," claims Koskinen.
The Minima dynamic-margining technology works with a designer's CPU or DSP processor of choice, providing hardware and software IP to enable the device to modify power usage in real time during operation in response to performance needs, process variation or environmental conditions.
Conventional, static approaches to near-threshold voltage design focus on robust gate libraries for low-power operations, but still have to add margin to mitigate process variation and environmental conditions during operation.
Minima dynamic margining automatically adjusts power/performance in response to operating conditions in real time. The Minima OS-controlled middleware enables the lowest power operation with a best-case/nominal operation target, rather than the worst-case target used by static approaches.
Funding to Develop Technology, Expand Engineering, Build Channels
Minima Processor announced in June it raised approximately €5.6 million Euros ($6.5 million U.S.) in funding from Aalto University, CFT Nordic Investment Center, Lifeline Ventures, VTT Ventures and angel investors. Funding will be used to further develop its technology, expand its engineering staff and build the sales and support channel.
Lifeline Venture Partner Juha Lindfors remarks: "We consider Minima's technology as a very promising breakthrough that allows radically improved processor energy efficiency. Minimizing the energy consumption is the key factor in the vastly growing IoT markets and Minima's expertise on that field is first class."