Mobile super upgrade

Processor technology developed in the UK is set to bring some of the benefits of third-generation mobile phones to existing networks.

The promised 3G revolution has been bogged down by technical and financial problems. Proposals to make handsets into broadband-enabled mobile terminals capable of tasks including video streaming and fast Internet access have yet to become reality.

But a low-power, video-optimised multifunction processor developed by Alphamosaic, a spin-off from Cambridge Consultants, will allow the mobile phone industry to produce affordable handsets capable of numerous functions, the company claimed.

At present several chips are required to provide real-time audio and video, compressed video storage and playback, playing and editing of music, ring tones, high-quality games and the manipulating and morphing of images.

However, Alphamosaic said its VC01 chip provides designers with a single chip solution, allowing manufacturers to design smaller, thinner phones. The processor also requires significantly less battery power than existing chips, as it dissipates just 54mW.

The chip uses a unique architecture that consists of a 32 bit RISC scalar processor used for control functions that is tightly coupled to 16 vector processors that have been optimised to support video processing and analysis algorithms, proprietary and industry standard codecs such as MPEG4, JPEG2000 and H.26L.

The vector processor device is a VLIW (very long instruction word) device, so a number of simple, noninterdependent operations can be packed into the same instruction word. When fetched from memory into the processor, these operations are then broken up and the operations dispatched to the independent execution units.

Two-dimensional images are currently processed using processors capable of dealing with one-dimensional data. However, the programmable VideoCore architecture allows a 2D image array which is stored on chip memory to be processed by the vector units.

The chip also sports several interfaces that allow it to be connected to peripherals such as a camera or an LCD display.

Using the device, designers can build systems in which video clips such as film trailers can be downloaded, stored and sent at camcorder quality, so the recipient can play them on devices such as computers without the image becoming pixilated.

‘The only function that now requires a 3G infrastructure is the ability to carry out a two-way video conference,’said Jalal Bagherli, Chief Executive of Alphamosaic.

The company is in talks with handset manufacturers from Korea and Japan and hopes that its first models will be released to the public in the Far East by summer, with a European release by next year.

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