Field-programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA)

What is FPGA?

Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are integrated circuits that can be programmed to run required applications by the user or have their functionality requirements altered after manufacturing. They are based on a matrix of interlinked configurable logic blocks (CLBs). The programmable nature of FPGAs makes them distinct from application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which are designed for a specific task. Thanks to their relatively low cost, and programmable nature, FPGAs are used by many different markets, ranging from medical, aerospace and automotive to video and image processing.

FPGAs are very popular with developers for various applications thanks to their many advantages that set them apart from alternatives.

One of the biggest factors that attract developers to FPGAs is their optimal performance per watt. Compared to a CPU or GPU, you are likely to get higher performance per watt with an FPGA. The lower power consumption makes FPGAs far more desirable when available to the user. FPGAs are also highly configurable when compared to alternatives, such as ASICs. The ability to reconfigure an FPGA (and reconfigure it again!) after installation makes it unique.

FPGAs have many advantages when compared to other circuits and comparable hardware. To add to these, FPGAs can be designed to include multiple blocks of data in parallel, offering greater scalability than other processors. With all these advantages using an FPGA typically enables you to finish the development of your product quicker, meaning a shorter time to market. They also don’t require a long learning curve should you be unfamiliar with them.

Common uses of FPGA

FPGAs can be used across many, many areas. Here is a selected list of where and how they can be used:

  • Video and image processing
  • Medical imaging
  • Voice recognition
  • Device control
  • Aerospace and defence
  • High-performance computing
  • Wired and wireless communication
  • Software-defined radio
  • Scientific and industrial instruments
  • Automotive
  • Military applications