SiFive claims that its Freedom Everywhere 310 SoC and the accompanying Arduino board will help developers to customize chips for their IoT applications

BY MAJEED AHMAD

The first
system-on-chip (SoC) based on RISC-V — the
open and free instruction set architecture (ISA) spearheaded by the RISC-V
Foundation — is finally here and it’s
accompanied with a $59 Arduino board that allows designers to play with and
modify the microcontroller chip according to their specific project needs.

The Freedom Everywhere
310 SoC, or FE310, is the first commercial realization of SiFive’s Freedom Everywhere family of customizable chips.
It’s a 32-bit RISC-V microcontroller that is aimed at enabling embedded,
Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable applications. The chip has been built on TSMC’s 180-nm process.

SiFive_FE310-Chip_Shot

 

FE310 runs at 320-MHz speed
and offers 1.61 DMIPS/MHz of raw performance as compared to 1.3 DMIPS/MHz for
Intel Curie and 0.93 DMIPS/MHz for Atmel AVR chips. Likewise, regarding energy
efficiency, the chip claims to accomplish 10 DMIPS/mW with 180ULL process and
75 DMIPS/mW using 65LP process.

The microcontroller chip
comes with 16 Kbytes of data SRAM scratchpad and
16 Kbytes of L1 instruction cache. It also features flexible clock
generation with on-chip oscillators and PLLs and comes with a wide array of
peripherals such as UARTs, QSPI, PWMs, and timers.

SiFive has also made
available the RTL code of the FE310 chip; it will allow system architects and embedded designers to see what’s inside the chip. Consequently,
they can customize their own chips on top of the basic FE310 design.
However, for smaller firms without chip design capability, SiFive has the chip-as-a-service
offerings that encompass design, software tools, production, and testing of a
chip.

The FE310 chip comes
along with an Arduino-compatible HiFive1 development board, so designers can
figure out what they need in their version of the FE310 chip and develop
software for it accordingly. The board boasts 19 digital IO pins, nine PWM
pins, one SPI controller, and a 128-Mbyte external flash.

SiFive_HiFive1_Board_Angle

 

The $59 HiFive1
Arduino board will be available on Crowd Supply in February 2017. It’s worth
noting that the FE310 chip isn’t offered separately; currently, it’s only
available on the HiFive1 board.

The HiFive1 supports
Arduino IDE and is mainly targeted at makers and hackers seeking to acquire
custom silicon solutions. SiFive claims that its development board is
significantly faster than Intel’s Curie-based Arduino 101 and ARM Cortex M0+
powered Arduino Zero.