So does S3 Semiconductor see much interest around machine learning and alternative processor architectures such as those based on the open-source hardware RISC-V?
With regard to machine learning O'Brien said: "That's not an area we are involved in. We are happy to design with standard microcontroller cores, such as ARM, and if we had a client that was eager to add machine learning we could use either conventional cores or license in a machine learning accelerator." O'Brien said that many of the customers for S3 Semiconductors' custom ASICs are interested in how to develop services around products that are able to capture and communicate more data.
With regard to open-source hardware O'Brien said: "S3 Semi's business is agnostic to CPU. We've used a wide range over the years. We seek the best CPU for our customers based not only on size and functionality, but also on things like their existing software base, the tools they use, and a number of other factors."
"We think RISC-V is great as it is creating more competition in the CPU space, especially for embedded. It's still relatively immature, but commercially viable tools and cores are starting to coming out from companies such as SiFive. However, it's really a choice for our customers, and their decision is as much about software as cost. And although the RISC-V ISA is licence-free and royalty-free, implementations of it will still attract license fees and royalties. Our customers need a reliable, production-quality MCU. So we're watching what's happening and we'll see what appears on the market as a result."
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