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FPGA Applications

15/02/2020, hardwarebee

FPGA chips play a big role in the development of various technological advancement and are some of the most important products that are centered around FPGAs. In this paper we will describe the most common FPGA applications and provide examples of FPGA usage in different applications. There are various types of FPGA chips and some are preferred over others in particular applications and scenarios

 

What is FPGA?

 

FPGA stands for Field-Programmable Gate Array and can be defined as a hardware chip that is used to carry out logical operations. They are composed of an integrated network or sets of logic blocks placed across a chip; where the circuits are the programmable logic gates. FPGAs consist of individual configurable logic blocks, or CLBs, which are connected through programmable interconnects. As suggested by the name of the semiconductor technology, advantages of FPGA are known for their ability to be programmed when implemented in the field as opposed to other kinds of semiconductor chips (e.g ASICs) which are largely rigid in their design and execution.

 

Advantages of FPGA

 

An ASIC, or Application Specific Integrated Circuit for example, is designed to accomplish a particular task. As such, it will only perform that one function and cannot be modified to anything else, neither can it be erased and rewritten so as to reuse the chip. A new one must be created for a new purpose. An FPGA, on the other hand, can be reprogrammed and reused, and is much more flexible when it comes to customization and personalization, especially when deployed out in the field. This makes FPGA much more suitable and preferable over an ASIC in certain applications, which will be discussed ahead.

 

 With the help of an FPGA , you can write a program which is loaded onto a silicon chip, and then execute the functions. If you want to optimize a chip, to fit a certain workload, then you can use an FPGA chip. Like mentioned before, FPGAs are field programmable and offer much more scalability and flexibility. They are able to keep up with modern requirements of high complexity and high performing devices. They also offer greater logic density, embedded processors, DSP blocks, and clocking among other prominent features.

 

FPGA are ideal for systems where consistent updates are a requirement. If a processor needs some changing, then FPGA chips can be used for making those changes if they are installed, eliminating the need to purchase new hardware. If FPGA chips are used in cars, then they can be updated with the help of these chips, even after they have been sold. These chips are also used frequently by enterprise businesses, because they can be reprogrammed using a data path that matches data analytics, image inference, and even compression.

 

The main purpose of an FPGA chip, at least originally, was for the prototyping of ASICs. The benefit of using an FPGA for this purpose is that it can be reprogrammed again and again, until a design is finalized and there are no bugs found in the design. Intel, a huge name in the IT industry, uses FPGAs to prototype new permanent chips so as to ensure their quality, function, and integrity

 

FPGAs Applications

 

Taking the various beneficial features of FPGA chips into consideration, one can deduce the kind of applications that FPGAs would be most suited in. they are usually used for low volume and high complexity projects as they offer customization.

 

Main FPGA applications are: Medical, video & image processing, telecom & datacom, server & cloud and defense and space.

 

FPGA Applications

 

 

FPGA chips are used in both wired and wireless communications. In wired communications it is used in serial backplanes, and wireless communications, it is used for networking solutions and addressing standards of WiMAX and, 5G/6G and HSDPA. FPGA are used in the infrastructure side helping with crunching data in high speed.

 

In the field of medical applications, FPGA chips are used for diagnostic and monitoring purposes. They are used in medical equipment to process data.

 

In the field of aerospace and defense applications, FPGA  chips are used for image processing, partial reconfigurations for SDRs, as well as for waveform generation.

 

FPGA technology offers ASIC companies the opportunity of rapid prototyping, where ideas and concepts can be tested, without going through a long process. FPGA are used to improve the time to market of various technological products and lower the overall engineering costs incurred in a number of processes including industrial automation and surveillance.

 

As FPGA is used for reconfigurations and keeping up with modifications, it reduces the cost of any long term maintenance necessary for a system. Even Microsoft developers have access to FPGA chips, and they work with open source tools called Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit. Microsoft is using Intel FPGA, so that they can increase the use of Al within their operations.

 

In fact, FPGAs are being used prominently to develop deep neural networks or DNNs which will ultimately lead to the production and maintenance of artificially intelligent systems. High performance FPGAs can be of even greater help an application as when compared with GPUs, and are thus preferred for the purposes of developing machine learning technology.

 

Recent acquisition by Intel (bought Altera) and AMD (bought Xilinx) shows how important FPGAs are in the server and computing market, which is probably a market segment that will show growth for FPGA market.

 

FPGAs in Telecommunication

 

FPGA chips are used in both wired and wireless communications. In wired communications, they are used in backplanes and in wireless communications they are used in cellular base-stations. Today FPGA are used for networking solutions and addressing WiMAX, 5G/6G and HSDPA standards. FPGA in wired and wireless communications are also used for Signal Processing, and noise removal purposes are well. FPGAs can be used in small cells to macro cells sub – 6 GHz to mmWave. We will find FPGAs in High performance 5G base stations. Figure 1 shows the First in First out (FIFO) application in the communication systems. Consider a data stream application that needs to filter out to remove the noise and get the desired data pattern needs to go through the resource mapping block so that the FPGA can allocate the proper bandwidth to the data, then pass the data to the FIR filter to remove the noise as data transmitted either on wired channel or wireless channel in both cases it is subject to the noise the FIR filter is the best to remove the noise and select the signal of the interest. Further, we can use the IFFT serial to parallel and parallel to serial block to select the correct frequency bandwidth. This application is helpful for noise removal from the signals and selects the frequencies.

 

Figure 1: FIFO Application in Telecommunication

 

 

FPGAs in Defense Applications

 

FPGA cutting edge solutions enable today’s RADARs used in defense and Electronic Intelligence system to achieve mission success. Since CPUs or GPUs couldn’t achieve what FPGA can do due to its programmability nature. The reprogramming not only to change waveforms but algorithms as well utilizing the programmable logic.

 

Figure 2: Beamforming and Filtering

 

Adaptive beamforming is typical for any RADAR system that requires accurate-precision tracking and guidance in an allocated spectrum. Figure 2 based solutions allow the RADAR designers to built the hardware through programming that meet the best performance. This application can be used for the Radio Frequency data acquisition and perform the analogue to digital conversion as the data is in the analogue format, but the FPGA understands only the data’s digital format, so the ADC is required. Once the data converted into the digital format, FPGA filtering algorithms are developed in RTL languages to convert the raw data into the respective beamforming or respective filtering to achieve the desire results. FPGA can use any DSP data type, i.e., fixed, float, double. Modern FPGAs are also equipped with the Ethernet, PCIe, Interlaken, SRIO, or any custom interface that help faster data processing with minimum latency.

 

FPGAs in Space Applications

 

FPGAs has applications in space for data transmission from ground to space unit like satellite and satellite to ground station. FPGA can be used for high-resolution optical data processing and radar imaging. It can be used in space for trajectory control to interface with the sensors. It can also be used for video processing to compress and decompress the data according to the data bandwidth requirement. Figure 3 shows a simple satellite configuration bitstream of the FPGA array in space applications that often encounters single event upset problems due to radiation-hardened environment in the space, which may lead towards the integrity of data in memory and lead to random failures. For commercial memories used in high Earth orbit (HEO), single-bit errors and double-byte errors interpretation for a large quantity. So, error detection and correction (EDAC) schemes, for example, triple modular redundancy, linear block codes, memory scrubbing, are used in which configuration stored inside the radiation prone memory and configuration in SRAM based FPGA so whenever there is a memory glitch, a golden configuration has been loaded to the SRAM from the memory array.

 

Figure 3: Satellite error detection and correction system

 

FPGAs in Automotive Applications

 

Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) wants a particular need for the ability to sense and precision. The LiDAR system is based on the sensing method that can sense the position of the surroundings; The FPGAs can process all kind of data because LiDAR provides the forward-thinking sensing abilities required for perception, control, and path planning. Image processing within a forward camera, whether based on computer vision (CV) or neural networks (NN), can all be processed by the FPGA. Figure 4 shows the LiDAR position for the redefinition of the distance. Data for different variable from the LiDAR sensor are processed inside the FPGA, the data support the initial position, change in position concerning the speed of the moving object so that the FPGA can determine the new position of the object based on its light information.

 

Figure 4: LiDAR Position Application

 

 

FPGAs in Server Applications

 

FPGAs can be used for servers/data centre as the demand for data processing speed increases day by day. It is vital to accomplish real-time data processing within limited time and space constraints. New functionalities are required for better results, such as data analytics and metadata and data processing.

FPGA devices have the highest density in the form of BRAM and can provide the connectivity to the external data storage elements that help to accelerate the data processing on chip. FPGA can add additional features like lossless or lossy encoding capabilities for lossless data transmission between FPGAs in offering significant space, cost and power savings. Figure 5 shows the role of FPGA in the Data Server where several CPU is connected to the central FPGA and the FPGA is doing the packet processing into it, so the packet arrival in the event regardless of its associated CPU the FPGA can process the data accordingly one of the applications of the FPGA role in the data centre/servers. FPGA provide the framework for the highest data packet processing and manage the data traffic between the servers and also to the in-line data communication.

 

Figure 5: FPGA in Data Servers

 

The recent acquisition by Intel (bought Altera) and AMD (bought Xilinx) shows how vital FPGAs are in the server and computing market, which is probably a market segment that will show growth for the FPGA market.

 

 

FPGAs in Medical Applications

 

In the field of medical applications, FPGA chips are used for diagnostic and monitoring purposes. They are used in medical equipment to process data. FPGAs are used in MRI, CT scan, Ultrasound, patient monitoring systems ECG. FPGAs are equipped with High-speed serial transceivers to make them an excellent choice for power-efficient and fast interfaces to handle a considerable amount of data, significantly reducing the need for parallel IO and reducing power them an ideal situation for medical applications. Figure 6 is one of the examples of the medical imaging on the FPGA in which image has been processed on the FPGA after taking the image from the camera, and it processes the DC correction, interpolation IFFT to determine the frequency and DMA is being used for the memory access all these functions can be used onto the FPGA. It also shows how FPGAs are comfortable processing the data. A single computation unit can do the all what is needed.

 

Figure 6: Medical Image Processing on FPGA

 

FPGAs in AI Applications

 

As FPGA is used for reconfigurations and keeping up with modifications, it reduces the cost of any long term maintenance necessary for a system. Even Microsoft developers have access to FPGA chips, and they work with open source tools called Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit. Microsoft is using Intel FPGA so that they can increase the use of Al within their operations.

 

 

FPGAs are being used prominently to develop deep neural networks or DNNs, ultimately leading to the production and maintenance of artificially intelligent systems. High-performance FPGAs can be of even more tremendous help to an application when compared with GPUs and are thus preferred to develop machine learning technology.

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