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Christian Plessl 1 Rolf Enzler 2 Herbert Walder 1 Jan Beutel 1 Marco Platzner 1 Lothar Thiele 1 1 Computer Engineering Lab 2 Electronics Lab ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Reconfigurable Hardware in Wearable Computing Nodes. Outline. Characteristics of Wearable Computers

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reconfigurable hardware in wearable computing nodes

Christian Plessl1

Rolf Enzler2

Herbert Walder1

Jan Beutel1

Marco Platzner1

Lothar Thiele1

1Computer Engineering Lab

2Electronics Lab

ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Reconfigurable Hardware in Wearable Computing Nodes

  • Characteristics of Wearable Computers
  • Hardware architectures
  • Reconfigurable Devices
  • Use of Reconfigurable HW in Wearable Computing
  • Wearable Unit with Reconfigurable Modules (WURM)
  • Case studies, Prototypes
  • Conclusions
wearable computing systems as we see it
Wearable Computing Systems…… as we see it
  • Distinctive Features:
    • embedded
    • distributed
    • heterogeneous
    • connected via body area network
  • Design characteristics:
    • multi-mode performance
    • energy awareness
    • high flexibility / adaptability
the quest for an optimal architecture for wearable computers
The Quest for an Optimal Architecture for Wearable Computers
  • Conflicting goals:
    • high-performance
    • low-power
    • flexibility






Performance1/Power consumption

reconfigurable rc devices hardware
Reconfigurable (RC) Devices - Hardware
  • Predominant device: FPGA
  • CLBs(Configurable Logic Blocks)
  • Routing Ressources
  • IOBs (Input / Output Blocks)
rc devices application domains
RC Devices – Application Domains
  • RC most efficient for:
    • regular and parallelizable operations
    • bit-level operations
    • custom bitwidths
  • Examples:
    • Mencer et al [ICASSP’98]: IDEA encryption:
    • Stitt et al [FCCM’02]: Energy savings of 71% on a set of embedded benchmarks (measured on Triscend E5)
    • Mobile multimedia (IMEC Gecko plattform)


use for rc in wearable computers
Use for RC in Wearable Computers
  • ASIC on demand
    • application specific coprocessors
    • available locally, or sent via wireless network
    • new circuits provided when new applications arise
  • Adaptive interfaces
    • device provides generic I/O pins and transceivers
    • protocol for communication is not fixed, but software defined in FPGA
    • Interface might be simple or complex
      • SPI, I2C, Ethernet, RS232 (simple)
      • IP, UDP, TCP (complex)
    • Offload Parts of communication protocol handling
use for rc in wearable computers 2
Use for RC in Wearable Computers (2)

Gyro sensors

706 kbit/s



Feature Extract-tion & Analysis

Arm motionsensing

170 kbit/s

3 bit/s

120 bit/s

Main Module

Main Module

Main Module

Context Engine

Context Engine


research issues what s needed
Research Issues – What’s needed
  • HW Plattforms:
    • RC partially reconfigurable
    • RC fast reconfigurable
    • CPU – RC interface fast and versatile
  • SW Tools:
    • Synthesis / compilation
      • abstraction for hw tasks
      • creation of partially reconfigurable tasks
    • RC Operating System
      • multitasking of RC
      • interfaces hw/sw
wurm wearable unit with rc modules
WURM - Wearable Unit with RC Modules
  • WURM Hardware Architecture
    • CPU for:
      • legacy C-code, binary only code
      • low-intensity, background tasks
    • RC unit for:
      • high-performance tasks
      • low-power tasks
wurm hardware prototype
WURM - Hardware Prototype
  • XESS board, multitude of I/O interfaces
  • Soft CPU (LEON, 32bit SPARC)
  • BTnode (custom Bluetooth Module)
wurm sw architecture
WURM - SW Architecture
  • WURM OS layer:
    • loading, placing and scheduling of hw/sw tasks
    • inter-task communication, task I/O
    • sw tasks handled by realtime os




case study 1 asic on demand
Audio stream player

Complete WURM on FPGA

LEON 32bit SPARC soft-CPU core

RTEMS (real-time OS)

ADPCM decoder (Intel DVI compliant)

dynamic reconfiguration


PCM / ADPCMaudio data


(LEON core,






Case Study 1: ASIC on Demand
case study 2 adaptive interface
Case Study 2: Adaptive Interface
  • Bluetooth/Ethernet-Bridge
    • IP access point for WURM modules via Bluetooth
    • Minimal TCP/IP stack
    • Ethernet MAC

((( )))

Hard-ware IP stack

IP Network




conclusions next steps
Conclusions & Next Steps
  • Concept for reconfigurable hardware in wearable computing
  • Experimental status:
    • first implementation of partially reconfigurable WURM prototype including BTnode
    • tool for creation of partially reconfigurable tasks
    • multi-tasking on RC demonstrated
  • Next Steps:
    • autonomous reconfiguration, receive tasks over network
    • task and resource management in WURM OS