The modern world revolves around technology and its evolution. W largely depend on the growth and improvement of technology to produce convenience and satisfaction in our lives, whether it is from a routine or a business and industrial perspective. Semiconductor chips and devices play a big role in the development of various technological devices and are some of the most important components of any tech tool applied in any given field or department. There are various kinds of semiconductor chips and devices and some are preferred over others in particular conditions, applications, and scenarios. One of the most innovative semiconductor product is the FPGA.
FPGA – Field Programmable Gate Array
FPGA stands for Field-Programmable Gate Array and can be defined as a hardware circuit that is used to carry out logical operations. They are composed of an integrated network or sets of logic blocks placed on 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, FPGAs 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.
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 chips much more suitable and preferable over ASICs in certain applications, which will be discussed ahead.
With the help of an FPGA chip, 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.
Applications of FPGAs
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 power but can take a longer time to develop and program. They are, however, cheaper alternatives to ASICs.
FPGA are also 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
In the field of consumer electronics, these chips are used for cost effective solutions, which can enable consumer applications like digital flat panel displays and residential set top boxes. These chips can be used in home networking and converged handsets as well. In the field of medical sciences, FPGA chips are used for diagnostic and monitoring purposes. They are also used in therapy applications, and can process interface requirements. In the field of aerospace and defense, these chips are used for image processing, partial reconfigurations for SDRs, as well as for waveform generation.
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 HSDPA.
In competitive markets, FPGA technology can be a good solution for enterprises who want to stay ahead of their competition. FPGA technology offers them the opportunity of rapid prototyping, where ideas and concepts can be tested, without going through a long process. They 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.