Microchip Launches 64-Bit MPU for Intelligent Edge and Autonomy

By Ken Briodagh

Senior Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

July 09, 2024


Microchip Launches 64-Bit MPU for Intelligent Edge and Autonomy

Embedded Computing is revolutionizing the power of Edge Intelligence and pushing AI and autonomy to new heights, opening the door to new applications in every vertical. One rapidly growing arena is as far toward the edge as it’s possible to be: computing in space.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum has predicted that the market around doing compute in space, and offing services in orbit, could grow at a CAGR of 7 percent to be a $755 billion dollar industry by 2035.

With those trends in mind, Microchip Technology has announced an expansion in the 64-bit computing space with its soon-to-be available PIC64 MPU family. The first two MCUs will be the PIC64GX for Edge Intelligence, and the PIC64 High Performance Spaceflight Computing (HPSC) MPU.

“The PIC64 HPSC MPU family is ready for everything on the terrestrial front that requires intelligence, all the way out to space,” said Shakeel Peera, VP, Marketing, Strategy and Business Operations at Microchip. “This is the first salvo.”

The GX has a quad-core RISC-V processor for edge computing and is targeted at high-intelligence, AI/ML Edge applications, and the company told us a Dev Kit is coming soon.

Microchip has designed the more powerful HPSC MPU to be radiation-resistant and fault tolerant, and according to the release, is already set to deliver to NASA and other defense and commercial aerospace players. It’s built with RISC-V IP CPU and comes pre-loaded for AI/ML applications thanks to the included vector-processing instruction extensions.

Both are equipped with what Microchip calls “Defense-grade” security, and can leverage a variety of Linux OS distributions and platforms.

“This is a giant leap forward in the advancement and modernization of the space avionics and payload technology ecosystem,” said Maher Fahmi, corporate VP, communications business unit at Microchip. “The PIC64-HPSC family is a testament to Microchip’s longstanding spaceflight heritage and our commitment to providing solutions built on industry-leading technologies and a total systems approach to accelerate our customers’ development process.”

The GX MPU reportedly offers asymmetric multiprocessing and deterministic latencies, and has configurable processor and memory subsystems. It’s available with several embedded peripherals, according to the announcement, and it’s fully pin compatible with PolarFire SoC FPGAs.

PIC64 HPSC is designed to give autonomous missions in space the local processing power to execute real-time tasks such as rover hazard avoidance on extraterrestrial surfaces, and also enables long-duration, deep-space missions requiring extremely low-power consumption while withstanding harsh space conditions, Microchip said. It can meet the needs of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations where system providers must prioritize low cost over longevity, and provide the high fault tolerance that is vital for round-the-clock service reliability and the cybersecurity of space assets. Representatives from NASA, Microchip and industry leaders like Northrop Grumman will share insights about the HPSC technology and ecosystem at the IEEE Space Compute Conference 2024, July 15–19 in Mountain View, California.

According to the announcement, with the launch of the PIC64 MPU family, Microchip has become the only embedded solutions provider actively developing the full spectrum of 8-, 16-, 32- and 64-bit solutions.

There are many more 64-bit MPUs coming, Peera told us, and the potential applications are wide and varied. They are particularly well suited to computer vision, factory automation, smart agriculture, and other sensor fusion use cases, and of course in the case of the HPSC, space cases.

PIC64-HPSC samples will be available to Microchip’s early access partners in 2025, but interested engineers can get an evaluation kit by reaching out to Microchip. For the Edge Computing engineers, you can get a PIC64GX Curiosity Kit right now.

As a throwback, take a look at the history of Microchip's innovations in processing with this story about the company's launch of 32-bit MCU by our own Rich Nass.  

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with two decades of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers, he would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars. In previous lives, he’s been a short order cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician, mover of the bodies at a funeral home, pirate, poet, partial alliterist, parent, partner and pretender to various thrones. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false.

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