ARM announced the launch of the innovative Cortex™-M4 processor to provide a highly efficient solution for digital signal control (DSC) applications, while maintaining the industry leading capabilities of the ARM® Cortex-M family of processors for advanced microcontroller (MCU) applications.
The outstanding combination of high-efficiency signal processing functionality with the unmatched low-power, low cost and ease-of-use benefits of the Cortex-M family processors is designed to satisfy the emerging category of flexible solutions specifically targeting the motor control, automotive, power management, embedded audio and industrial automation markets.
The Cortex-M4 processor features a single-cycle multiply-accumulate (MAC) unit, optimized single instruction multiple data (SIMD) instructions, saturating arithmetic instructions and an optional single precision Floating-Point Unit (FPU). These digital signal control features build upon the innovative technology that characterizes the ARM Cortex-M family of processors. These features include a 32-bit core capable of 1.25DMIPS/MHz for high performance, Thumb®-2 instructions for optimum code density and a Nested Vector Interrupt Controller for outstanding interrupt handling. In addition, the processor features an optional Memory Protection Unit (MPU), low cost debug/trace and integrated sleep states for increased flexibility. Embedded developers will be able to rapidly design and deliver compelling end-products with maximum functionality and the absolute minimum power and area footprint.
“The signal processing requirements of the embedded market are moving from dedicated processors toward hybrid microcontrollers. These products are capable of delivering outstanding digital signal control while providing the flexibility to efficiently perform other processing operations,” said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, the premier market research firm tracking markets based on digital signal processing (DSP) technology. “The ARM partnership will capitalize on this shift with the introduction of the Cortex-M4 processor which has all of the capabilities for optimum digital signal control operations combined with the proven low power performance of the Cortex-M family processors.”
The Cortex-M4 processor is supported by the ARM physical IP portfolio offering the widest foundry and technology support for physical implementations. This includes the Cortex-M Low Power Optimization Package for the TSMC CE018FG (180nm ULL) process for Partners targeting ultra low-power implementations.
For Partners targeting high-performance MCU class devices, ARM also provides physical IP solutions on leading foundry processes. For a target frequency of 150MHz for next generation MCU devices, ARM physical IP for the 65nm GLOBALFOUNDRIES 65LPe process enables a standard implementation of the Cortex-M4 processor within just 65K gates and a dynamic power consumption of less than 40µW/MHz. The FPU, if included, adds only 25K gates and enables an extremely powerful implementation within an industry leading area footprint.
Sophisticated development tool support for the Cortex-M4 processor is provided by the Keil™ MDK-ARM (Microcontroller Development Kit) which includes the industry-standard ARM compiler extended for SIMD and FPU. MDK-ARM also contains µVision®4 with complete Cortex-M4 processor instruction simulation as well as target debugging with advanced trace capabilities.
In addition, the processor is supported with development tools, debuggers and RTOS from members of the ARM Connected Community™, the industry’s largest ecosystem of companies aligned to provide a complete solution, from design to manufacture, for products based on the ARM architecture (see below for details).
Cortex Microcontroller Software Interface Standard (CMSIS)
The Cortex-M4 processor is fully supported by the Cortex Microcontroller Software Interface Standard (CMSIS) the vendor-independent hardware abstraction layer for the Cortex-M processor series that enables consistent and simple software interfaces to the processor for peripherals and real-time operating systems.
ARM is currently expanding the CMSIS to include C Compiler support for Cortex-M4 processor extended instructions and is developing an optimized library designed to make signal processing programs easier to develop for MCU users. This library will include digital filter algorithms and general functions such as maths, trigonometric, and control functions. The digital filter algorithms are also intended for use with filter design utilities and design toolkits such as MATLAB and LabVIEW.
In addition, ARM has developed a series of Cortex-M4 hardware and software training courses to ensure licensees can efficiently integrate the Cortex-M4 processor into their design and realize maximum system performance with lowest risk and fastest time-to-market.
The Cortex-M4 processor has been licensed by five leading MCU semiconductor companies including NXP, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.
“The addition of the ARM Cortex-M4 processor to our ARM Cortex portfolio complements our Cortex-M3 and Cortex-M0 processor-based devices and enables us to provide an end to end solution to the MCU community,” said Geoff Lees, General Manager, Microcontroller Product Line, NXP Semiconductors. “The Cortex-M4 processor now enables a new class of microcontrollers to meet the high-performance, low-cost needs of the signal processing markets.”
“The Cortex-M4 processor extends the use of Cortex-M cores to applications requiring intensive mathematical computation,” said Semir Haddad, 32-bit MCU Marketing Manager of ST Microcontroller division. “A product line based on the Cortex-M4 processor will complement our line of STM32 microcontrollers, giving our customers the ability to combine the scalability of STM32 with enhanced signal processing capability.”
“The Cortex-M4 processor makes PID loops and upper level motion control work better and more reliably, enhancing a developer's ability to achieve high levels of energy conservation through efficient motor control,” said Jean Anne Booth, director of worldwide Stellaris® MCU marketing, Texas Instruments Incorporated. “It also opens up ARM MCU usage to the broad world of non-programmers using meta-language tools such as LabVIEW, and Matlab/Simulink. In addition, it allows natural and native C and C++ applications to be used, saving time and risk by using the same algorithm on both the deeply embedded system and the workstation, phone and general embedded processor.”
“ARM has included DSP functionality in our processors for some time and they have been extremely successful in the applications market, but this is the first time we have designed a processor with digital signal control capabilities for deeply embedded devices,” said Eric Schorn, Vice President of Marketing, Processor Division, ARM. “The Cortex-M4 processor has been designed to address the increasing demand for signal processing in an ever-increasing range of embedded applications including motor control, automotive, industrial automation, power management and audio applications.”