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Lattice Helps Keep Defense Systems Smart, Connected, and Protected

Lattice Helps Keep Defense Systems Smart, Connected, and Protected
Posted 10/23/2020 by Luke Miller

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October has been a big month for me. I joined Lattice as VP of Aerospace and Defense Solutions (A&D), and as luck would have it Lattice also hosted the Lattice Defense Initiative, an online customer event highlighting Lattice products and technologies for the global defense market. If you missed it, don’t worry. Futurum Research published an article covering the highlights (read it here).

As with any new job, I’m constantly learning new things about my new company and its innovative history. For example, did you know?

  • Lattice has been an FPGA vendor for over 35 years
  • Lattice is the world’s largest supplier of FPGAs by volume
  • Lattice’s latest FPGAs provide the lowest power consumption in their class

For over 35 years, Lattice has reliably delivered innovative, low power FPGAs to the defense market.

For over 35 years, Lattice has reliably delivered innovative, low power FPGAs to the defense market.

But Lattice is about more than just low power FPGAs. We also provide the leading-edge development tools (Lattice Propel™) and comprehensive, award-winning solutions stacks needed to quickly and easily implement leading-edge technologies like AI/ML (Lattice sensAI™) and embedded vision (Lattice mVision™).

How Lattice Enables Defense Applications

Now FPGAs have been a popular silicon platform in the defense market for some time. In fact, it’s estimated that more than a third of the Department of Defense’s semiconductor budget is spent on FPGAs. For defense applications where secure, reliable operation is an absolute must, this makes sense: FPGAs’ programmable logic and interfaces can be re-programmed repeatedly and at almost any time (even in the field) and their parallel processing architecture provides the low latency, highly deterministic performance defense solutions require.

And now that Lattice supports a 28 nm FD-SOI FPGA platform, Lattice Nexus™, the company is able to provide all of the benefits FPGAs (field reprogrammability, parallel processing) with class-leading low power consumption, reliability, and instant-on performance (for specifics, check out this blog about the latest competitive data for Lattice CrossLink™-NX, our award-winning embedded vision FPGA developed on the Nexus platform). The 28 nm process also helps keep overall device size and design footprint low, an important consideration for defense applications with strict SWAP-C (Size, Weight, and Power-Cost) requirements. Lattice Nexus FPGAs offer a compelling blend of low power performance in a small form factor (some Nexus devices use packaging as small as 6 mm x 6 mm) for use in space- and power-constrained defense applications like handheld radios, UAVs, and satellite platforms. Smaller devices are easier to transport and consume less power to maximize battery life, so personnel using defense systems based on Lattice FPGAs can stay on mission longer.

Keep Defense Applications Protected

No aerospace or defense system is complete without addressing hardware security. To protect system firmware, security solutions need “dynamic trust”: resiliency against firmware attacks based on a parallel, real-time, reactive solution that offers comprehensive firmware protection. Less flexible silicon platforms (like ASICs) simply cannot keep up with regular (sometimes daily) security updates, while others (like MCUs) can’t deliver the real-time processing performance required to protect, detect, and recover defense systems from today’s latest threats. Furthermore, components used in defense applications must remain secure throughout their system’s lifecycle, beginning with the time components spend moving through the supply chain, to initial product assembly, end-product shipping, integration, and the product’s entire operational life in the field.

To address these security concerns, Lattice launched a new firmware security solutions stack (Lattice Sentry™) and a security subscription service that protects Lattice FPGAs as they move through the supply chain (Lattice SupplyGuard™). There’s a lot to cover around firmware security, so to get started I recommend you download a copy of our dynamic trust whitepaper.

The Lattice Sentry Solutions stack provides the hardware, software, and IP needed to help secure firmware in defense applications.

The Lattice Sentry Solutions stack provides the hardware, software, and IP needed to help secure firmware in defense applications.

Reliable Operation

Defense applications must operate reliably in some of the harshest environments imaginable, including extreme temperatures and at high altitudes. In these types of environment, naturally occurring high energy radiation particles can strike semiconductor surfaces and impact their performance; it’s a phenomenon known as a “soft error” and even one can result in mission failure. However, Lattice Nexus FPGAs offer much more robust tolerance for soft errors than other SRAM-based FPGAs. The Lattice Nexus 28nm FD-SOI manufacturing process is up to 100 times more resistant to soft error than SRAM FPGAs built using a traditional bulk CMOS manufacturing process (see the image below for more information as to why, or read this excellent series on FPGAs and radiation resistance at EE Journal).

Radiation particles striking CMOS transistors can cause them to fall into an unknown state. Lattice Nexus FPGAs on 28 nm FD-SOI are 100 times more resistant to particles strikes as they are smaller in size.

Radiation particles striking CMOS transistors can cause them to fall into an unknown state. Lattice Nexus FPGAs on 28 nm FD-SOI are 100 times more resistant to particles strikes as they are smaller in size.

In closing, I’d like to say I am extremely excited to join Lattice. I look forward to accomplishing great things with our friends in the A&D community as we help them build the systems that keep us safe and protected!

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