Leveraging Processor Extensibility To Build An Ultra Low-Power Embedded Subsystem

Extending embedded processor cores with tightly coupled hardware extensions can yield significant efficiencies in power consumption and performance.

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There is increasing demand for electronic devices to execute more functions while consuming less power and silicon area. To achieve this, systems instantiating multiple, heterogeneous processor cores optimized for low power and high performance are gaining popularity among design teams. In these systems, one or more deeply embedded processors execute a limited set of dedicated applications. The ability to extend these embedded processor cores with tightly-coupled hardware extensions (e.g., custom instructions, auxiliary registers, optimized interfaces) can yield significant efficiencies in power consumption and performance. The extended processor core runs the same applications in fewer cycles, enabling energy reduction by lowering the clock frequency or the execution of more functions with the same energy. This white paper describes how processor extensions can optimize power and performance of a processor when targeting sensor applications, demonstrated using Synopsys’ DesignWare ARC Processors and ARC Processor EXtensions (APEX) technology.

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