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Programmable SoC flaunts wide-ranging configurability

Posted: 05 Feb 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cypress Semiconductor? SoC? ARM M0? UDB?

Cypress Semiconductor has introduced the PSoC 4 L-series, the latest in a family of programmable SoC, which features a number of capabilities. Based on the widely-supported ARM M0 architecture, the latest line-up promises to deliver remarkable configurability.

Fixed resources on the L-series PSoC-4 chip, for example, include 98 general purpose IOs, a USB device controller, DMA, LCD drive and a CAN interface. There is also a dual-mutual capacitive touch controller with 94 channel capacity. But it's the 33 programmable blocks that allow customisation to fit a range of needs. Both digital and analogue resources can be counted in this mix.

The 20 digital blocks come in three varieties: counter/timer/PWMs, serial communications and what Cypress calls universal digital blocks (UDBs). The counter/timer/PWMs, as you might expect, can be configured as whichever of the three you need, with 16bit resolution in each block. The serial communications blocks can be set up as I2C, SPI or UART interfaces as well as an EZI2C interface that emulates an EEPROM interface.

The UDBs are a bit more complicated. Essentially they contain two PLDs with programmable data path, status, and control registers. They can be combined in numerous ways to form 16bit to 32bit wide logic resources, allowing creation of state machines, implementation of glue logic, or be used to provide such things as coprocessors and custom peripherals.

On the analogue side there are op amps, current-output DACs, comparators and a 12bit SAR ADC. You can connect these together as needed, configure the gains and generally use them to create a custom front-end for all your sensor needs. Oh, and the pinouts for everything is also configurable, simplifying layout.

It all sounds like it would be a bear to use, but Cypress offers a PSoC Creator development tool that reduces most of the configuration to a drag-and-drop operation. Commonly-used configurations are available in libraries as "virtual chips," and custom configurations are developed using schematic capture or Verilog. The tool also allows software development concurrent with the hardware.

While the L-series PSoC 4 is recent, the family itself has been growing for the last few years. Prior members include families based on the Cortex-M3, Cypress M8 and 8051 cores as well as one with an integrated BLE radio.

The immense flexibility of these devices is stunning, but what I want to know is whether or not these devices are practical in production. The L-series chip is available in a low-cost (- Richard Quinnell

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