India has taken another small step towards silicon-self-sufficiency with the unveiling of a new domestically designed system-on-chip. But the microprocessor is a few generations behind best practice and won’t set the world on fire.
Progress has, however, been rapid: India announced a competition to encourage the use of export-replacement RISC-V microprocessor designs on August 19. On September 22, a team from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras delivered a working sample of a new RISC-V-based chip in its Shakti series of open-source designs.
Fabbed using a 180nm process and named Moushik, the component uses the 32-bit Shakti E-class core and can run at between 75Mhz and 100MHz. Its motherboard has Arduino-compatible headers, so can work with various daughter-cards, and also has must-haves like GPIO and UART support. Those specs make it suited to IoT and embedded applications.
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The chip's motherboard is also made in India.
None of the device’s specs are state-of-the-art. Intel, Arm, Qualcomm and Nvidia will not be quaking in their boots at the prospect of Moushik disrupting their businesses any time soon.
Indeed, the device does not even represent India’s best efforts, as the E-class Shakti core is the architecture’s least-powerful spec. But as the world is going to build IoT devices by the billion, Moushik could yet find an audience, even as a proof of concept.
Even if it only helps to grow India's capacity to build other silicon that's a win, because the device and its motherboard were designed and made in India, which is a step towards the nation’s plan to make electronics manufacturing its top industry and become a big electronics exporter. ®