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MBus: An Ultra-Low Power Interconnect Bus for Next Generation Nanopower Systems.


As we show in this paper, I/O has become the limiting factor in scaling down size and power toward the goal of invisible computing. Achieving this goal will require composing optimized and specialized-yet reusable-components with an interconnect that permits tiny, ultra-low power systems. In contrast to today's interconnects which are limited by power-hungry pull-ups or high-overhead chip-select lines, our approach provides a superset of common bus features but at lower power, with fixed area and pin count, using fully synthesizable logic, and with surprisingly low protocol overhead. We present MBus, a new 4-pin, 22.6 pJ/bit/chip chip-to-chip interconnect made of two "shoot-through" rings. MBus facilitates ultra-low power system operation by implementing automatic power-gating of each chip in the system, easing the integration of active, inactive, and activating circuits on a single die. In addition, we introduce a new bus primitive: power oblivious communication, which guarantees message reception regardless of the recipient's power state when a message is sent. This disentangles power management from communication, greatly simplifying the creation of viable, modular, and heterogeneous systems that operate on the order of nanowatts. To evaluate the viability, power, performance, overhead, and scalability of our design, we build both hardware and software implementations of MBus and show its seamless operation across two FPGAs and twelve custom chips from three different semiconductor processes. A three-chip, 2.2 mm3 MBus system draws 8 nW of total system standby power and uses only 22.6 pJ/bit/chip for communication. This is the lowest power for any system bus with MBus's feature set.

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