UPDATED 16:56 EDT / APRIL 26 2022

IOT

Arm debuts new Cortex-M85 chip for connected devices

Arm Ltd. today introduced a new processor, the Cortex-M85, that can carry out certain computations four times faster than previous-generation silicon.

Cambridge, U.K.-based Arm makes semiconductor blueprints that companies use to design chips such as central processing units. Chips based on the firm’s blueprints power billions of devices ranging from smartphones to servers and industrial robots.

Arm’s newly debuted Cortex-M85 processor joins its popular Cortex-M series of chip designs. The Cortex-M series is optimized for “internet of things” devices that prioritize power efficiency and require a limited amount of processing capacity. Processors from the series can also be integrated into another chip, such as a field-programmable gate array, to carry out supporting tasks such as distributing electricity to a device’s subcomponents.

Arm says that the new Cortex-M85 is the fastest processor to have been added to the Cortex-M chip design portfolio. It can manage more than 3 DMIPS/MHz, a measure of processor speed equivalent to 3 million operations per clock cycle. When running machine learning and digital signal processing software, the Cortex-M85 can provide several times more performance than the previous fastest processor in the Cortex-M series.

The speed improvements are the result of several factors. One is that the chip features improved branch prediction, a mechanism that allows a processor to anticipate certain computations and carry them out in advance to save time. Arm also enhanced the Cortex-M85’s memory subsystem to optimize how the chip manages the data that it processes.

Another contributor to the increased performance of the Cortex-M85 is a technology called Helium. It’s an extension to the chip’s instruction set, the machine language in which computations are expressed, that is optimized for artificial intelligence and digital signal processing tasks.

“By integrating Arm Helium technology, Cortex-M85 delivers multiple folds (x4) of DSP and ML processing uplift compared to its predecessor, the Cortex-M7,” Tim Menasveta, director of product management at Arm, detailed in a blog post. “It also brings approximately 20% vector processing performance uplift compared to the other Helium-enabled processor.”

Alongside the Cortex-M85, Arm today debuted two new additions to its Arm Total Solutions product portfolio. The portfolio includes reference designs for building systems-on-chip, a type of chip that integrates multiple types of processors in a single package. Arm also provides complementary development tools to ease chip designers’ work.

Companies can use the new Arm Total Solutions for Voice Recognition to build chips for smart speakers, thermostats and  other smart home appliances, as well as industrial equipment. The design is joined by Arm Total Solutions for Cloud-native Edge Platform, which focuses on devices such as wearables. The latter offering features compatibility with the Linux operating system.

On the occasion, Arm also updated its Arm Virtual Hardware tool, which makes it possible to create chip simulations that software engineers can use to test new software. The tool now enables developers to simulate seven additional Cortex-M processors, as well as certain third-party chips from a number of Arm partners. 

Image: Arm

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