A California-based start-up claims to offer a service which translates C code algorithms into system-on-chip hardware in as little as eight weeks.
The service offered by Algotochip, as reported by EE Times
, promises to take algorithms as expressed in C code and transfer them to production-ready system-on-chip designs in just eight to 16 weeks - several times faster than its rivals like Cadence can offer customers, and a significant improvement on the investment of time and expertise usually required for hardware design.
In short: programmers can write a neat algorithm - for high-speed communications, for example - as a standard C program, then Algotochip will turn around and give them a foundry-ready hardware design that turns the software into a physical chip.
The service, in which Algotochip works as a consultant using a proprietary toolchain to translate the software-defined algorithm into a system-on-chip design, promises to open the realm of hardware to an far greater quantity of companies than has previously been possible. With the company's toolchain working for system-on-chip, digital signal processors, application-specific integrated circuits and field-programmable gate arrays - among others - it potentially provides an entirely new means to market for smaller companies looking to improve hardware with an all-new widget.
The company claims to have at least six customers signed up to use the technology, although has so far only released details of one: MimoOn, a German company producing long-term evolution (LTE) communications hardware developed using Algotochip's service. According to Algotochip, MimoOn's mi! chip was produced in just 12 weeks from its original C-code implementation, with fabrication already successfully completed from Algotochip's Graphic Data System II (GDSII) files.
Many in the industry are suspicious of Algotochip's claims - in particular the news that customers retain all intellectual property rights pertaining to the finished design, and that chips created using the service are as power-efficient as those created in more traditional ways. The company has form, however: its chief technical officer and founder Satish Padmanabhan was responsible for the creation of the world's first superscalar digital signal processor while working at ZSP.
Should Algotochip's claims prove true, expect to see some interesting new chips appearing on the market in the not-too-distant future - something which will see industry incumbents fighting to innovate their way out of the increased competition.