MPF - Arm unveils new cores

Mobile processor core designer Arm Ltd. announced two new series of processor cores for embedded and handset processors at the Microprocessor Forum Monday in San Jose, California.

The new ARM1176 cores incorporate built-in support for a trusted computing platform, which the Cambridge, England, company first dubbed TrustZone May.

Chip developers will also have new options for embedded industrial devices with the announcement of the ARM1156 cores Monday. These new cores blend 16-bit and 32-bit instruction sets to meet the demands of embedded devices for more performance in a smaller package, said Dave Steer, wireless segment manager for Arm.

The TrustZone extensions to the Arm architecture allow processors based on the ARM1176 core to distinguish between code that needs to be secure and regular code, and to switch between a secure operating state and a nonsecure one as needed, Steer said.

TrustZone will put users and application developers more at ease with the deployment of mobile commerce applications, Steer said. When a user is about to make a purchase using a cell phone or Smartphone, the TrustZone extensions allow the processor to access a secure portion of memory that holds a user's credit card number, or other identifying information, he said.

"There's no ultimate solution for people who really want to break security," said Max Baron, senior editor with the Microprocessor Report. "However, like a lock on a door discourages people, the lock that Arm is showing is pretty complex, in terms of breaking it."

Arm also added improved energy management technology and updated bus technology to the ARM1176 cores, Steer said. The Intelligent Energy Manager (IEM) detects the type of code about to be run through the processor, and raises or lowers the voltage needed by the processor to accomplish the task, he said.

Voltage scaling is more effective than the frequency scaling used by many mobile processor companies to reduce power consumption, Steer said. A small change in voltage has a more magnified effect on overall power consumption than an equivalent change in frequency, and the technique can be used across different process technologies, he said.

Arm is combining frequency management and voltage management techniques in this core, which is unique among processor designs, Baron said. This combination gives Arm better power savings than many other custom designs, he said.

Arm will release the new cores to its partners in the second quarter of 2004.

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