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EETE OCT 2013

Apple’s A7 chip fabricated at Samsung’s foundry, M7 controller from NXP, says Chipworks By Rick Merritt NXP Semiconductors makes the M7 sensor controller used in the new Apple iPhone 5S and Samsung makes the phone’s A7 processor, according to a tear-down by Chipworks (Ottawa). The iPhone 5S hit the market on September 20. Chipworks was among many companies rushing to post teardowns and analyses of its internal workings. “The M7 has been a difficult chip to locate on the board and rumors have been going around about the lack of a discrete M7 chip inside the iPhone 5S,” Chipworks analysts said in their online report. “Luckily, we’ve been able to locate the M7 in the form of the NXP LPC18A1, part of the LPC1800 series of NXP’s ARM Cortex-M3 based microcontrollers,” they said – see figure 1. “This represents a big win for NXP,” they added, given the volume and visibility of iPhone sales. The M7 controls functions from a variety of discrete sensors including a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a compass. Chipworks noted that traditionally, Apple used STMicroelectronics’s accelerometer and gyroscope, and an electro-magnetic compass from Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). “We have since confirmed the compass to be AKM’s AK8963,” they said. If Chipworks analysts are correct, speculation to date that the M7 is a custom Apple design has been wrong, and the part is perhaps a custom derivative of an NXP design. The A7 is Apple’s first 64-bit mobile SoC. Eventually teardown experts aim to explore the guts of the chip to determine details, such as how many cores it uses. “We have confirmed through early analysis that the device is fabricated at Samsung’s foundry,” Chipworks reports. A look inside the A7 (APL0698) found a contacted gate pitch of 114 nm – see figure 2. That suggests it is made in the Samsung 28nm HKMG process, the same used for the Exynos 5410, application processor used in the Galaxy S IV, Chipworks said. Chipworks provided external die and packaging photos of the A7, including pictures of the top metal die and package markings. A full de-capping of the chip is still in process. Fig. 1: Locating the M7 in the form of the NXP LPC18A1, in the A7 die. Source ChipWorks. Fig. 2: A contacted gate pitch of 114nm inside the A7 hints at the Samsung 28nm HKMG process. Source ChipWorks. Startup cuts through lack of IoT standards By David Blaza The IEEE standards organization is finally having a meeting in the US to work on standards for the Internet of Things (IoT) in November at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. It’s amazing to me that despite years of attempts to make the machine-to-machine (M2M) market a reality there are still no interoperability standards on the books. Perhaps the biggest impediment to M2M is the lack of connectivity, but in today’s era of cloud computing the opportunity to finally sort this out is upon us. I have never been a fan of the term M2M - it always seemed so limiting and pedestrian - but now, with ubiquitous Internet connectivity, we can move past M2M to IoT, which really opens up the possibilities for real applications and value. If you are planning to deploy IoT devices in the field then you have to look at the cloud options available today. At the Neul whitespace meetup I wrote about recently, I met Parthesh Shastri of Seecontrol, which is building a cloud product for IoT that is worth a look. It uses a device-and app-store approach to get you the tools you need for a fast deployment. This makes so much sense because why wrestle all the protocols when somebody has already done it? You can concentrate on your data collection, control, and, most importantly, your return on investment. I think this is a smart approach to IoT and one that I’m surprised hasn’t been used by more microcontroller and embedded software suppliers. 8 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCT 2013
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