October 8, 1997

High Performance ASIC Technology for Digital Signal Processing

Digital signal processing (DSP) increasingly underlies such technologies as communications, multimedia computing, consumer electronics, biomedical instrumentation, and industrial and military electronic systems and has become a $3.4 billion industry. The demand for higher performance DSP devices in smaller packages and at lower costs exceeds the capabilities of current technology. The algorithms employed in the widely used DSP microprocessors rely heavily on multiply-accumulate operations. The Athena Group Inc. (Gainesville, FL) plans to use circuit designs based on novel mathematics to address the need for advanced DSP. Working with VLSI Technology Inc. (San Jose, CA), a manufacturer of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), the Athena Group will address the technical challenges to develop standardized components (cells) that take advantage of Athena's technology and that can be combined with other standardized components to produce application-specific DSP devices. A key challenge in this project is to create algorithms (which at present are complex and difficult to use) that are user friendly. Athena also plans to develop an appropriate computer-aided design environment for using the standard components. The company expects that the technology will offer an up to tenfold increase in speed over conventional DSP technology in one-third of the chip area and at approximately half the cost. Potential applications include ultrahigh-speed communications over bandwidth-limited phone lines and radio channels, and high-resolution, full-motion medical imaging devices.