Advances in process technology are making it possible to fabricate systems-on-chip (SoCs) containing hundreds of millions of transistors operating at gigahertz clock frequencies in a few tens of square millimeters. However, these same advances are making it increasingly difficult to develop such complex SoCs economically in an acceptable timescale, and making power consumption a critical issue. Yield and testability issues are becoming a major concern. SoCs incorporate programmable elements (microcontrollers (MCUs) and digital signal processors (DSPs)) making their software content as expensive and time-consuming to develop as their hardware. Using a Flash MCU based on the industrystandard ARM processor as a platform represents a practical approach to SoC development that addresses all these issues. Incorporating an FPGA (field programmable gate array) prototyping step into the design flow enables parallel hardware/software testing and increases the chances of right-first-time silicon.

Reprinted in its entirety from ARM IQ Vol. 4, No. 4, 2005