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April 23, 2009

Freescale's New i.MX353/357 Multimedia Applications Processors, Supported by Loquendo

By Richard Grigonis, Executive Editor, IP Communications Group

One of the toughest businesses these days is semiconductors. We in the IP Communications field have long relied on Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) and Field-Gate Programmable Arrays (FGPAs) made by such luminaries as Texas Instruments (News - Alert), Analog Devices, Freescale, and LSI (which merged with Agere). The ability to “turn on a dime” has always been necessary in this rapidly changing market, particularly in recent years with the sudden rise of IPTV (News - Alert) set-top boxes and new forms of home and mobile digital-based applications.
One the most nimble of these silicon hardware companies is Freescale Semiconductor (News - Alert), which has been covering other people’s bets for years. (For example, how many other companies were announcing the shipment of Ultra-Wideband chipsets in 2004?) Today, the privately-held, Austin, Texas-based Freescale is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets. It has design, research and development, manufacturing or sales operations around the world.
And now, Freescale Semiconductor has come up with a powerful combination of high performance, connectivity and graphics processing on the industrial and consumer markets with the introduction of two highly integrated i.MX35 multimedia applications processors.
Freescale’s pin-compatible i.MX353 and i.MX357 applications processors, optimized for computationally intensive industrial and consumer applications, combine the ARM1136JF-S core with an OpenVG graphics engine, inexpensive DDR2 memory support and various connectivity interfaces. The i.MX353 processor targets cost-sensitive display-based systems, while the i.MX357 integrates an OpenVG 1.1-compliant graphics processing unit to address applications requiring an advanced user interface with higher levels of graphics, such as font rendering.
The chips are “coming out of the gate” with support by a whole ecosystem of companies, among them none other than Loquendo (News - Alert), a company that for over 30 years has researched and led innovation in speech recognition and speech synthesis, and which today provides all the solutions required for creating the ultimate in speech-enabled applications. Their Loquendo TTS (Text To Speech), Loquendo ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition), Loquendo Speaker Verification and the VoxNauta VoiceXML (News - Alert) Platform, enable integrators to rapidly and easily create advanced solutions in all the most widely-spoken languages.
As it happens, Loquendo has announced its optimized speech recognition and text-to-speech engines for Freescale’s i.MX353 and i.MX357 processors.
Loquendo’s Silvio Nasi, sales director for embedded technologies, says, “We believe that the innovative and powerful i.MX353 and i.MX357 processors will bring enormous benefits to the market by providing high-performance capabilities to computationally intensive industrial and consumer multimedia automotive applications, where advanced, high-quality, human-machine interfaces really make the difference. We also believe that this architecture will get the very best out of Loquendo’s high-quality embedded speech technologies.”
Freescale’s i.MX353 and i.MX357 processors will find a home in a wide range of industrial applications, such as factory automation, building control and HVAC systems that incorporate sophisticated Human Machine Interfaces (HMI). The devices also provide the optimal multimedia capabilities needed for personal navigation devices (PNDs), e-books and other portable consumer electronics applications requiring graphical user displays.
As the graphics content of industrial and consumer applications grows increasingly complex and compute-intensive, embedded developers will continue to gravitate toward cost-effective processing solutions that are capable of delivering powerful multimedia capabilities. That’s why Freescale’s latest i.MX35 processors have been designed to offer the graphics acceleration and connectivity options developers need to boost their system designs to higher and higher performance levels, within ever tighter price and power budgets.
Running at up to 532 MHz, the i.MX35 processors’ advanced ARM1136 core implementation features a vector floating point co-processor, a multi-level cache system and a RISC-based DMA controller to provide a high level of performance without sacrificing power consumption.
Freescale’s i.MX353 and i.MX357 multimedia applications processors also support a variety of external memories, such as SDRAM, Mobile DDR and DDR2, SLC and MLC NAND flash, NOR flash and SRAM. Support for cost-effective memory options such as DDR2 and multi-level cell NAND helps reduce system costs and give developers greater design flexibility.
These two additions to the i.MX35 processor family come with an impressive list of industry-standard connectivity options, such as Controller Area Network (CAN) and Fast Ethernet interfaces, which support high-bandwidth data transfers for industrial applications. The processors also feature two USB ports with integrated PHYs, two MMC/SD/SDIO ports and a CE-ATA/SDIO port for external wireless modules.
The i.MX353 and i.MX357 processors also contain an integrated Image Processing Unit (IPU) with a dedicated camera interface and an LCD controller optimized to support 24-bit WVGA displays. The IPU handles advanced image processing and display management tasks, such as deblocking, deringing, color space conversion, independent horizontal and vertical resizing, and blending of graphics and video planes. The IPU is equipped with powerful control and synchronization capabilities to perform tasks with minimal to no involvement of the ARM11 CPU.
An available OpenVG 1.1 hardware accelerator is designed to deliver smooth textural visuals increasingly required in today’s industrial and consumer interfaces that are vector and raster graphics-intensive. The OpenVG core is capable of native acceleration of Adobe Flash, contributing to an enhanced web browsing experience via Adobe Flash animation. A related capability is the automatic conversion of Adobe animations to C-code running on the i.MX35 processor, without requiring hand-coding, resulting in fast time-to market.
The i.MX35 multimedia applications processors are backed by comprehensive development boards and software solutions from numerous global ecosystem partners. This ecosystem provides embedded developers with many options for selecting the right kits for their development needs. Board support packages for Linux and Windows Embedded CE operating systems, as well as RTOS options, are available for the i.MX35 processors.
Samples of Freescale’s i.MX353 and i.MX357 processors are available today through authorized distributors, with full production planned to begin in Q2 2009. Suggested resale pricing in 10,000-unit quantities begins at $11.98 (USD).
An i.MX35 product development kit (PDK) designed by Freescale is planned to be available in May 2009 as an additional development option. The PDK will be available at a suggested resale price of $1,500 (USD).

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC�s IP Communications Group. To read more of Richard’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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