Doing hardware/software design on ARM processors -

Doing hardware/software design on ARM processors

The cornucopia of technology and product news that emerged from the 2012 ARM Techcon last week is testament to the powerful attraction of the architecture to both embedded hardware and software developers. Some of the late-breaking news and product stories that caught my eye included: IS2T’s 1.5 KB RAM JVM for Cortex M MCUs, Cadence’s 14 nm FinFET ARM test chip, and the ARM emulation of the X86 from Elbrus.

The ARM architecture is the focus of so much attention for two reasons. First, ARM Ltd. and its licensees continue push the limits of where it can be used. Second, they continue to develop the necessary techniques and tools to use them with exactly the right mix of power versus performance and flexibility versus usability. Four new Editor’s Top Picks that illustrate these trends are:

Building small footprint GUIs for ARM Cortex-M using Java,” which details how to use new small footprint Java implementations to build GUIs for ARM designs more compact than using either C or C++.

ARM-based Android hardware-software design using virtual prototypes,” a three part series describing how to use of high level virtual prototyping for integrating hardware and software development.

Improve Cortex M4 interrupts with an intelligent peripheral event system,” on how Atmel’s 32-bit Cortex M4 MCU interrupt response times were improved by means of an intelligent peripheral event system (PES) previously used on its 8- and 16-bit MCUs.

Benchmarking an ARM-based SoC using Dhrystone,” which describes a self-checking, result-signaling test pattern version of the popular Dhrystone benchmark that provides performance numbers from an ARM-based SoC that can be compared to that predicted by architectural analysis and RTL simulations.

I have also found a number of recent conference papers and journal articles that reflect the ubiquitiy of the architecture, including:

Building a Cortex-M3 based wireless sensor mote platform
Building a multicore Cortex M1-based PMDC motor controller
Embedded palmprint recognition system using OMAP 3530
Cortex A8 vs. Intel Atom: Architecture/Benchmark comparisons

In addition to the many recent ARM-related design articles, technical papers, webinars, conference papers and journal articles on,  there are a number of commentary and analysis blogs on the impact of the ARM architecture. Of the latter, I recommend re-reading “Is 8-bits dead?” Jack Ganssle’s recent “pre-mortem” analysis of the future of 8-bit MCUs in the world of 32-bit ARM MCUs. Do his arguments in favor of a continued future for non-ARM MCUs still hold true? Or are Michael Barr’s arguments in “Trends in embedded software design,” favoring the 32-bit ARM more realistic? Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to , or call 928-525-9087.

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