Universal SoC: Automatic Generation of High-Performance SoCs for the Internet of Things (IoT)
Ministry of Education (MOE) Singapore Funding 2015 – 2018


As devices become increasingly embedded within the physical infrastructure around us, they interconnect wirelessly to form what industry has dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT). Such IoTs imbue intelligence into our physical world and have the potential to transform the future of cities, realizing diverse applications in areas such automotive electronics, smart home devices, and intelligent transportation systems.


IoT sensor nodes and gateways are faced with intense power constraints, with some deployments relying on solar power or have casings that make fan cooling infeasible. As a result, many of these devices tend to just gather the sensor inputs and back-haul them through the Internet or dedicated cables to back-end servers for processing. This affects response time for real-time applications, as well as the sensing fidelity. Real-world IoT deployments face the need for higher performance sensor nodes and gateways that can compute on the sensory data in-situ.


This project pulls together expertise spanning real-world IoT application development, computer-aided design, computer architecture, to low-power circuits, with the aim of designing next-generation high-performance sensor gateway multi-core SoCs. Our approach is to customize and automate. We will aggressively customize each component of the SoC to substantially lower its power – each processors’ width, functional units, instruction set will be tailored to the specific applications; all the datapaths communicating between the various SoC blocks, such as its width, frequency, connections, will be tuned to fit the applications’ characteristics, and the entire chip will be run at near threshold voltage, matching the applications’ required sampling frequency. All this customization will be intractable without automation. Hence, we propose a design automation toolchain that will take as input our IoT driving application programs, search the design space of customization options, and automatically generate the resulting SoC chip design tailored for our IoT applications.