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07
Nov
2015
Design Methodology and Tools for Wireless System Design
Jan M. Rabaey
Berkeley Wireless Research Center, University of California, Berkeley
(510) 643 8206
jan@eecs.berkeley.edu
 
ABSTRACT
The remarkable breakthrough that wireless systems have experienced in the last decade seems to be only the first wave of a wireless revolution that will have a profound effect on industries such as commu- nications, computing, and consumer. The underlying premise is that wireless will be the preferred way of connecting various electronic devices and systems. Designing the optimized radio modules that sup- port the range of applications, services, and bandwidths while staying cost-effective proves to be a major challenge and requires an integrated design flow augmented with the appropriate tools. This pre- sentation will forward a vision on how such a flow could be constructed.
 
INTRODUCTION
The advent of the first and second generation wireless systems has firmly established wireless connectivity as a viable alternative to wired connections in the domain of voice communica- tions. Today, we are on the threshold of a far more penetrating introduction of wireless technol- ogy in our daily lives. The third-generation wireless systems will add high-bandwidth data transmission to the cellular environment, hence making ubiquitous internet access a definite possibility. On the other side of the spectrum, initiatives such as Bluetooth pave the way for another range of applications that can ultimately lead to effortless communication between a wide range of appliances, sensors, control and display devices (as would for instance be needed to construct a “ smart home” ). From this bewildering range of opportunities emerges an under- lying need for cheap and low-energy radio connectivity. Depending the applications at hand, the required radio’s present a wide spectrum of requirements in terms of service model, band- width, flexibility, energy and cost. Rather than building a single radio that fulfills all these needs, it is our projection that there will be a sustained need for “ application- or domain-spe- cific radio’s” , optimized for the application at hand.

FIGURE 1. Radio design combines data- and control flow, and addresses a wide range of data and time  granularities.
 
Unfortunately, designing integrated radio’s is non-trivial. Some of the reasons why this is so are summarized in Figure 1. A typical radio combines a profound mix of design paradigms and technologies: RF, analog, and low-energy digital (in other words true mixed-mode design), hardware- and software, and data- and control flow, operating over a wide range of data and time granularity. The design has furthermore to adhere to a series of stringent cost metrics. As such, radio’ s present one of the first and most challenging applications for true hybrid systems- on-a-chip. Observe that this discussion in this paper focuses only on the radio terminal, and ignores the additional complexity imbedded in the basestation and networking components of a wireless system.
To make the concept of the ubiquitous radio become true requires the development of a com- prehensive design methodology that enables correct design in a short design cycle, while trad- ing off between the various cost metrics (such as flexibility, area and energy). Given the complexity of the above task, such an ambitious flow can only be successful if it relies on the following three basic underpinnings:
·The design process should to a maximum extent rely on reusable modules. Reuse helps to raise the level of abstraction and simplifies the composition task, encapsulating the “ nitty-gritty” details within the con- fines of a module.
·The design process has to be raised to higher levels of abstractions, that match well with the functions to be implemented and that allow for early verification. Starting the design process with C and/or VHDL descriptions bounds the design exploration space, leading to suboptimal solutions. At the same time, it makes the design verification process substantially harder.
·Rather than supporting every possible implementation platform and combination of processing module, the design methodology must have build-in constraints and present a clearly defined model of computa- tion and architectural vision.
 
Based on these concepts, we have formulated a comprehensive design methodology, as pic- tured in Figure 2. While this picture seems to be overly complex (a reflection of the task at hand...), it adheres strictly to the concepts outlined above: it starts a very high level of abstrac- tion, provides a clear interface between behavior and structure (which is essential for effective reuse), and presents a limited number of implementation architectures (and their interfaces). In the rest of the presentation, we will highlight some of the aspects of this design flow. The focus will be on the higher abstraction levels as we believe that this is where the higher benefits will be reaped.
 
SYSTEM LEVEL SPECIFICATION AND VERIFICATION
Specification
System design usually starts with a high-level model of some kind (boxes on a napkin, for example) and proceeds through a process of refinement, simulation or emulation, verification, implementation, and test. Much of the process is ad-hoc: the boxes on the napkin become sche-
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