Up to now, such applications haven't been easy to design, largely because rich user interfaces typically required microprocessors while real-time applications used microcontrollers. Moreover, such systems often employed different operating systems -- a Linux-based OS for an HMI and a real-time OS for the microcontrollers.
"You have two very different paradigms -- the rich domain and the real-time domain," Subramanian said. "Developers solved it with two different types of devices, and then they would have to marry the two domains, which wasn't easy."
The Vybrid architecture addresses the issue by integrating two 32-bit ARM cores onboard a single chip. An ARM Cortex-A5 core handles the HMI functions, while an ARM Cortex-M4 core manages real-time applications. The Vybrid controllers also use a software environment that's tightly coupled with the hardware, facilitating communications between the two operating systems.
To be sure, it's not the first time that such architectures have been employed. ARM previously introduced "big.LITTLE processing," which combined an ARM Cortex-A15 core with an ARM Cortex-A7. The Vybrid is different, however, in that it employs a core for a consumer application with another that's largely used in industrial.
"This is not like the multi-tasking you might do on a PC, where you run Word and Excel," Halfhill told us. "These are very different tasks, and in the past they would have required very different kinds of chips."
Freescale said, however, that recent business trends have made it necessary to combine the different types of cores. "We're seeing a consumer-ization of the industrial space," Subramanian said. "People want iPhone types of interfaces."
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