The selection of a hardware platform is based on the answer to the following question. How do we get the desired behavior at the lowest cost, while fulfilling some additional constraints? As a matter of fact, the concept of cost must be carefully defined in each particular case. It can cover several aspects: for example, the unit production cost, the nonrecurring engineering costs, and the implicit cost for a late introduction of the product to the market. Some examples of additional technical constraints are the size of the system, its power consumption, and its reliability and maintainability.

For systems requiring little data processing capability, microcontrollers and low-range microprocessors can be the best choice. If the computation needs are greater, more powerful microprocessors, or even digital signal processors (DSPs), should be considered. This type of solution (microprocessors and DSPs) is very flexible as the development work mainly consists in generating programs.

For getting higher performances, it may be necessary to develop specific circuits. A first option is to use a programmable device, for example, a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). It could be an interesting option for prototypes and small series. For greater series, an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) should be developed. ASIC vendors offer several types of products: for example, gate arrays, with relatively small prototyping costs, or standard cell libraries, integrating ...

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