Lattice Blog


Not Your Father’s FPGA

Not Your Father’s FPGA
Posted 11/21/2017 by Doug Hunter

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I keep running into engineers who say “we can’t use FPGAs because they are too big, power hungry, and expensive!” While that’s true for many FPGAs, there are some FPGAs which defy the size, power, and cost stereotype. Thanks to these pioneers, FPGAs are no longer limited to network centers and are now becoming pervasive in edge devices you interact with daily. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story about where they are, or will be in the near future…

It’s 6 a.m. and my alarm goes off. It’s my cell phone because I got rid of that old clock radio several years ago. I pick up my phone from the white dock on the nightstand, it recognizes me, unlocks, turns off the alarm, and starts my smart coffee maker in the kitchen – double shot espresso coming up to kick off the day!

Backing the car out of my garage has become much easier now that the side mirrors have been replaced with cameras and a heads-up display. Nothing hanging off of the side of my car to run into the garage door (again), and it increases my gas mileage too.

In the middle of a meeting my cell phone, lying face-down on the table, rings and I decide to take the call because I see my wife’s photo on the phone’s back screen. Turns out our smart home assistant glitched and ordered 5 pounds of cheese instead of 5 oz. Well, not all technology is perfect.

I love to take a walk at lunch. It helps shift my frame of mind and gets me set to finish my day strong. Today, I’m going to walk a bit faster because my new smart watch said I didn’t get my heart rate high enough yesterday.

This afternoon, my boss and I are going to meet in the conference room with the new smart whiteboard. We can go up to the board and block out our next design, with both of us touching the board simultaneously and no lag between the movement of our fingers and the lines appearing on the board. We’ve come a long way from those smelly pens!

Coming home I am more careful when approaching the traffic light at 5th Street and Alder Lane because the new smart traffic cameras not only watch for criminal activity, but also read your license plate and send you a ticket when you run the red light (just saying… no personal experience…)!

By the end of the work day I’ve given it my all and I’m usually worn out, but nothing energizes me like playing games with the kids. My kids, though, have gotten to the stage where board games like chess and checkers are no longer fun; they’d rather play an interactive game in a virtual world where we seamlessly move through our actual house. Now VR isn’t just for games. Later on, after the kids are in bed, my wife and I go on a stroll through Paris together without leaving the four walls of our home via our VR headsets.

FPGAs are all throughout this story. Face detection, smart devices, low latency touch, local data processing, multiple screens, mobile VR and more – these are all things enabled by low power, small sized, low cost FPGAs. They deliver control, connectivity, and computing at the edge of the network. Shipping now. Check out the webcast where Lattice’s leadership team talks more about it. As you can tell, these are not your father’s FPGAs.