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ARM acquires video processor company Apical, announces 10nm breakthrough

silicon chip wafer

UK mobile chip designer ARM has acquired Apical, another UK company that specialises in designing embedded video processors, to enhance its image processing capability.

The $350 million acquisition is being positioned by ARM as a boost to its ecosystem’s growth into new markets such as connected vehicles, robotics, smart cities, security systems, industrial/retail applications and IoT in general.

“Computer vision is in the early stages of development and the world of devices powered by this exciting technology can only grow from here,” said Simon Segars, ARM CEO. “Apical is at the forefront of embedded computer vision technology, building on its leadership in imaging products that already enable intelligent devices to deliver amazing new user experiences.

“The ARM partnership is solving the technical challenges of next generation products such as driverless cars and sophisticated security systems. These solutions rely on the creation of dedicated image computing solutions and Apical’s technologies will play a crucial role in their delivery.”

“Apical has led the way with new imaging technologies based on extensive research into human vision and visual processing,” said Michael Tusch, CEO and founder of Apical. “The products developed by Apical already enable cameras to understand their environment and to act on the most relevant information by employing intelligent processing.

“These technologies will advance as part of ARM, driving value for its partners as they push deeper into markets where visual computing will deliver a transformation in device capabilities and the way humans interact with machines.”

ARM has looked to play an increasingly major role in embedded graphics and image processing since the acquisition of Falanx and its Mali GPU range back in 2006. Prior to that it had partnered with UK company Imagination Technologies, which provides the GPUs for Apple chips among others, to offer complete SoCs to the market.

In other news ARM has also announced what it claims is the first multicore, 64-bit ARMv8-A processor test chip based on TSMC’s 10FinFET process technology. The name of the game with chip manufacture is to keep shrinking the size of the transistors and this process takes them down to 10 nanometers. Small transistors mean you can fit more of them into the same amount of silicon, thus increasing performance and/or power efficiency.

“Efficiency is a primary guiding principle in SoC design for premium mobile applications due to increasing demands on device performance,” said Pete Hutton, President of Product Groups at ARM. “TSMC’s 16FFLL+ process and ARM Cortex processors have already set new standards for efficiency. Our collaboration with TSMC on 10FinFET ensures SoC-wide efficiency that will allow our silicon partners even greater room to innovate while staying within strict power budgets.”

“Our partnership with ARM offers our ecosystem rapid advances in process and IP and accelerates customer product development cycles,” said Dr. Cliff Hou, VP of R&D at TSMC. “Together, we are defining processor technologies that continue to propel the mobile market. Our latest endeavor, enabling ARM processors on TSMC 10FinFET technology, is transformative for the end user experience across premium mobile and a diverse range of consumer electronic goods.”


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