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In addition to low cost, Ingenic designed the JZ4770 for low power as well. At 1.0GHz, the XBurst CPU uses 90mW. The entire processor consumes less than 300mW, according to the company. These figures should help mobile designers use smaller, lighter, and less expensive batteries. In the same 2012 article, Gwennap was hopeful for Ingenic, citing “millions of dollars savings Ingenic made, compared with the cost of an ARM architecture license.” Gwennap was optimistic about MIPS in the Android market, noting “most Android apps are architecture-neutral and run on any instruction set.” In the last couple of years, Ingenic has seemingly made the right moves to get MIPS accepted in the Android world. Ingenic snagged support for MIPS from Google on Android 4.1 in 2012. It also developed a binary translator for MIPS and opened it to Imagination Technologies. But in the end, Gwennap’s cautious 2012 analysis was prescient about MIPS’s demise in the tablet market. Gwennap wrote, “One drawback Fig. 3: Ingenic Newton Platform’s specification. of this processor for tablet use is its lack of compatibility with some Android apps. The MIPS architecture provides some technical advantages, but end users may not care about that if they can’t run their favorite apps.” When reached by EE Times for follow-up this week, Gwennap said, “The large number of apps available on ARM makes it difficult for any other architecture to succeed in smartphones or tablets... “Consider that Intel has made little headway in mobile despite spending years optimizing its binary translator and also investing heavily in getting the leading apps ported natively to x86. The MIPS camp is well behind Intel in this type of investment.” Onto wearable devices Since the company’s single-core JZ4770 launched in 2011, Ingenic has continued to develop its XBurst-based JZ747XX series SoCs. The Ingenic-designed XBurst CPU adopts a pipeline engine that can emit instructions with very little power, according to the company. Liu explained that the JZ747XX series has penetrated into e-dictionary, PMP, e-book, tablet, and wearable devices quickly. Since its inception of the Fig. 4: ToMoon recently swapped its smartwatch platform from Freescale to Ingenic whose design engineers can be seen in the background. series in 2007, Ingenic has shipped more than 30 million units. Although Ingenic still holds some market share in the educational tablet market, the company has switched gears since 2012, setting its sights on the emerging market of wearable devices with Newton, a platform for the Internet of Things. Industry analysts believe that despite Ingenic’s withdrawal from the tablet segment, there’s plenty of opportunity to pursue wearables. Analysts’ views The Linley Group’s Gwennap told us, “Smart watches are still very new, and it’s not clear how they will develop... One likely scenario is that most apps will run on the smartphone while driving content to the watch via Bluetooth.” Under such a scenario, “the watch needs to run only a small amount of software, so compatibility with ARM becomes much less important. “For this type of watch, the processor must be simple and inexpensive, so Ingenic’s technology should be applicable.” IHS’s Sideco agrees. “This relatively green field provides an opening for MIPSbased suppliers to break in,” he notes. “The smart watch market... doesn’t have the same entrenched designs as the tablet market does (given that the latter is based on a lot of smartphone designs).” The Ingenic Newton platform comes with flexible mobile connectivity including WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n at 2.4/5 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR (including Bluetooth LE support), with support for NFC and FM. It also features various MEMS and bio sensors; 3-axis gyroscope; accelerometer and magnetometer; and pressure, humidity, temperature, and bio-signal detection and processing. The small board, 3.2 mm thick, measures 21.6 by 38.4 mm. Imagination Technology’s Alexandru Voica recently blogged about Ingenic Newton: Ingenic Newton achieves very impressive power consumption figures under typical workloads: standby power is a measly 4mW, generic computing tasks (think MP3 playback) take up to 100mW on average while peak power consumption is around 260mW. This means that Ingenic-powered smartwatches can last for 30+ hours on a single charge. Switching from Freescale to Ingenic In China, where both system OEMs and consumers are eager for the emerging smartwatch market, the Ingenic Newton platform is gaining traction. Beyond Geak Watch and Z Watch, To- Moon Technology, a leading smartwatch vendor, has joined the Newton party. In fact, ToMoon recently switched its hardware platform from Freescale to Ingenic, after the company sold its first batch of smartwatches over the Internet. When this reporter visited Ingenic, a team of ToMoon engineers could be seen, closeted in a conference room with Ingenic’s engineering staff. Ingenic’s foray into the IoT market goes beyond Newton. A new SOC, designated JZ4785, is in the hopper and expected back from the foundry in May. Fig. 5: The Z Watch-designed smartwatch. Ingenic’s new IoT platform and its new SoC will be instrumental if Ingenic survives. But the future for Ingenic and MIPS technology will require a big idea and long-term thinking. In that regard, Liu is hopeful for a much tighter collaboration with Imagination. But even more imperative is a clear commitment by industry forces -- other than Ingenic itself -- to a computing platform other than ARM. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe May 2014 21


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