Embedded Software: Multimedia Firmware

Application: Multimedia graphics firmware development and support for sophisticated video protocol conversion ASICs.

These ASICs include an embedded MPU and perform high-speed video protocol conversion from the standard display port protocol 1.2a.

ASTC maintains the firmware for several products in the market already, then was contracted to develop firmware for the next generation display port protocol chip. Based on hardware block specifications, ASTC developed sophisticated ESL simulation models, and wrote firmware and unit tests which ran before RTL was even available, long before silicon.

Expected results for the hardware were generated. These unit tests were migrated to the system level for RTL verification, hardware/software co-simulation and test.

Results: In 2 months ASTC helped identify over a dozen errors in the RTL simulation, preventing functional problems, and parallelizing software and hardware development.


Embedded Software: Consumer Market

In the consumer market, for metal detectors incorporating embedded processors, ASTC developed embedded software with a graphical user interface which included mapping function with GPS.

ASTC champions pre-silicon verification of both hardware and embedded software, targeting working software within 1 week of getting silicon from the fab.

Writing embedded software before hardware is available accelerates the product schedule.


Embedded Software and ESL: Interface Chip Firmware

Application: Complex computing interface chip; software design, development, verification and bring-up support;

In a recent project, ASTC did firmware design, development and verification for a complex computing interface chip, along with bring-up support. Firmware was delivered well in advance of the hardware development due to the advanced ESL simulation technology deployed.

The high-level software simulator allowed us to fully develop and test firmware before the RTL for the hardware was even frozen. In addition to the actual code, test suites using the real software were included. Utilities to diagnose chip behavior throughout a long operational time frame were also delivered.

So, the team knew the software was correct when the hardware design was available to verify. This methodology helped rapidly identify a number of RTL issues through firmware co-simulation and hardware verification.

Advantages of the ESL approach in debug include finding root causes, changing firmware and verifying new firmware solutions. This case demonstrates the usefulness of having a simulation and debug ESL model, both before and after hardware is available.