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ARM looks to rev up cars, fridges with new embedded-chip design

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With everything from refrigerators to thermostats to cars becoming more connected and complex, ARM unveils a chip with twice the processing power of its current champ.

Your washing machine is getting brainier.

Appliances and cars are gaining more intricate touchscreen displays, adding detailed controls and connecting to the Internet. Those features need more computing brainpower, which chip designer ARM hopes to provide with a new processor architecture it unveiled Tuesday called the Cortex-M7.

ARM — a Cambridge, UK-based company that designs the chips found in most smartphones — also sells blueprints for processors that embed in devices including watches, smart meters, refrigerators and thermostats. Under this Cortex-M line, the smallest design is the M0, which when built out can fit within a dimple of a golfball.



On the other end of the spectrum, the M7 will become the new heavy-lifter of the Cortex-M series, providing twice the processing power of the M4, which currently offers the most punch in the line.

Though ARM has already provided Cortex-M designs for 8 billion microcontrollers and embedded chips in the past 10 years, the M7 could help it continue to grow the line as more appliances and devices around the home increase in complexity and need to communicate with each other and the outside world.

“Whereas a tiny, 8-bit microcontroller may have been sufficient in the old world, a much more powerful device is needed in the world where these devices are far more connected,” said Ian Johnson, an ARM senior product manager. Johnson said the the M7 could also be used in cars, such as with smart headlight clusters that can react to weather and road conditions, or for automotive audio systems.

The first licensees of the new processor design include Atmel, Freescale and STMicroelectronics. Early production of chips using M7 are expected by the end of this year to early 2015, with products housing those chips coming out after that.

Read more at CNET

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