Qamcom boosts RISC-V beyond the edge with QERV

– The world’s smallest RISC-V CPU, now three times faster

November 1, 2023

An increasingly digitalized world requires exploring new ways to add intelligence into everything around us. As RISC-V is redefining computing through a collaborative and inclusive ecosystem that provides value for all industries, this becomes one of the keys to Qamcom’s mission of evolving thinking from e-mobility to the edge and beyond. With QERV, we are now pushing the boundraries of RISC-V further by unlocking performance that was previously not available for the most far end of embedded computations.

The award-winning SERV (https://github.com/olofk/serv) is the world’s smallest RISC-V CPU and has already proven that you can get a real RISC-V CPU capable of running the Zephyr RTOS for just over 2kGE, which is less than most 8-bit CPUs. Today we are happy to present QERV, the quadrupled SERV. With a four times wider internal data bus, QERV is much faster than SERV while being only marginally larger.

Most of SERV’s target applications today are not performance-critical, but there are applications when speed becomes a factor. QERV opens up RISC-V to a new market within deeply embedded operations which still have strict size constraints, but need higher performance than SERV can offer. “QERV is pushing the limits of RISC-V in the deeply embedded side of the spectrum and is a great example of RISC-V Everywhere” says RISC-V International CEO Calista Redmond.

Preliminary results from Professor Magnus Själander at the Computer Architecture Lab at NTNU indicate that QERV is more than three times faster, and twice as power efficient per instruction at an additional area cost of only 13% compared to SERV. This means that it’s still the world’s smallest RISC-V CPU, only faster.

A 4-bit version has been a most requested SERV feature for a long time. SERV architect and lead designer Olof Kindgren says: “Earlier this year I asked a Qamcom colleague to look into this. Just a few days later he presented me with a mostly working implementation and we were happily surprised to see that the results looked better than we had expected. This gave us the confidence that we were on the right track and started work to finish the implementation.”

QERV is still in a testing phase and expects to see further size reduction and performance improvements in the coming months, but is ready for integration testing and already sees interest from the users. “As a leading edge design house, we always make sure to have the best tools for every task, and QERV fills a gap when it comes to PPA trade-offs. This work is also in line with our commitment to be RISC-V experts” says Qamcom CEO Johan Lassing.

Due to its low complexity, SERV is a popular choice for novel process technologies and QERV intends to fill this role as well. “The low gate-count of SERV is a great match for anyone developing a RISC-V-based processor in our low-cost FlexIC technology. QERV, the 4-bit version of SERV, will boost the performance considerably for many wearable computing applications whilst minimising the area overhead.” says Emre Ozer, Senior Director, Processor Development at Pragmatic Semiconductor.

About Qamcom

Qamcom is a leading Swedish research and technology company with deep competence within hardware, software and system development. Qamcom offers value-driven technology solutions, products and services in the fields of advanced Signal Processing, Industrial AI and IoT, Wireless Communication and System Engineering. Qamcom’s mission is quite simply to turn technology into value for society, industry and people. Based on insights and the needs of end users, Qamcom bridges the gap between technology and application to enable high ambitions for most industries and contexts. Find out more at qamcom.com and qamcom.group

For more information please contact:
Olof Kindgren
Sr. Digital Design Engineer Qamcom

Phone: +46 73 661 90 24
Email: olof.kindgren@qamcom.com