Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NVIDIA acquires Icera, so what's this got to do with military embedded computing?

Posted by John Keller

At first glance, the acquisition this week of cellular communications expert Icera by graphics processing unit (GPU) specialist NVIDIA might seem to have little, if any, influence on the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry. After all, NVIDIA's stated purpose in acquiring Icera is to become a major player in cell phones and mobile computing. What's that got to do with military embedded systems?

Think a second about network-centric warfare and the digital battlefield. It's all about communications-on-the-move, and mobile computing. What the casual user calls getting Mapquest directions and finding the nearest Starbucks, the military calls situational awareness. NVIDIA acquires Icera; see a connection here?

Cell phone and mobile tablet users want to find the movie theater, and know what's playing there, and maybe get dessert afterwards. The military, on the other hand, wants to find the enemy, and know if there is air support nearby. After that, well ... maybe there's time for Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

But you get the idea; the needs of cell phone and mobile tablet computer users are not that much different from what the military needs. Civilians use commercial cell phone networks and smart phones. The military uses secure defense networks and different versions of the software-defined radio (SDR).

NVIDIA is already making a name for itself in military embedded computing with its NVIDIA CUDA graphics processing unit (GPU), which in additional to processing graphics and imagery turns out to be an effective high-performance parallel processor for floating-point-based digital signal processing.

Those who think NVIDIA isn't thinking about the military in this acquisition might not be looking deeply enough.

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