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Q&A with RISC-V Ambassador Florian Wohlrab on the Growth and Future of RISC-V

By May 4, 2020September 30th, 2020No Comments

The inaugural group of RISC-V Ambassadors was announced in March 2020, consisting of an incredible group of engineers, developers and influencers that have actively contributed to the RISC-V community. The RISC-V Ambassadors are passionate about growing and engaging the RISC-V community by: promoting RISC-V projects and technology; educating people on the RISC-V mission and technical aspects; and helping to drive RISC-V member participation and community growth. To learn more about the program, we spoke with RISC-V Ambassador Florian Wohlrab who is a sales manager at Andes Technology.

 1. How did you first become involved with the RISC-V ecosystem?

I became involved with RISC-V at the end of 2015 when RISC-V was first introduced. I always kept an eye on the intellectual property (IP) sector to see what instruction set architectures (ISAs) were being launched and had a significant presence in the industry, which companies were doing great things, and what new implementations of an ISA were gaining traction. When RISC-V appeared in the sector it was an open source ISA that was already tested by universities, so I took notice of the many commercial companies that jumped on board, including Andes Technology. Since RISC-V had sparked my interest, I kept a close eye on how the ISA was developing and the rest is history.

2. Why are you excited about RISC-V?

The most exciting thing is that it is open! Finally, everyone can implement their own central processing unit (CPU) using an ISA that is well defined yet flexible. In the past engineers used to develop CPU implementations based on other companies’ ISAs, and so many lawsuits and copyrights were filed even before an upload was completed. Now with RISC-V, everyone has the freedom to use the architecture to make their own CPU. This allows for a lot of flexibility for universities, but also hobbyists and companies. The second cool thing is the flexibility of RISC-V. You can create a CPU as you need it, like a modular system. Need a floating-point unit (FPU)? Just add it. There is no longer a need for a vector? Alright, leave it out. In the end it still follows a standard and works. Last but not least, you have a defined space to add in your own custom instructions, while staying compatible and without violating the spec. That is just amazing! How many people have asked for this for years to no avail? And now it’s possible. All these innovations allow for the whole RISC-V ecosystem to flourish and bring so many more enhancements, making RISC-V one of the most innovative places in CPU IP today.

3. How do you think RISC-V is changing the industry?

I believe RISC-V is disrupting the CPU IP industry and many other silicon components as well. It provides companies with greater flexibility to make different, new and creative design choices that were not possible before, but can be easily implemented now. For example, at Andes Technology where I work, we see that companies can start with a new innovative idea and make it become reality thanks to the flexibility of the RISC-V ISA, in addition to the healthy RISC-V ecosystem surrounding it. I think we will see many new smart devices which will benefit users and also help to save power, essentially reducing our carbon footprint.

4. What are your goals as a RISC-V Ambassador?

Being one of the first RISC-V Ambassadors is an honor. My goals are to help spread the adoption and knowledge of RISC-V. One way to achieve this is to organize events or webinars, as well as helping fellow RISC-V enthusiasts to setup their own groups for their local community and help them spread the word. Another way is by speaking to people in the industry who are designing chips and share with them the potential benefits of the RISC-V ISA. Lastly, I plan to engage with RISC-V ecosystem partners. RISC-V is a big driver of the industry’s open source movement, and I think this program is a good way to help facilitate its growth. RISC-V is reaching critical mass and it can’t be stopped, so my goal is to help it continue to grow and bring all the benefits to others, whether it be individuals or companies.

5. How would you like to see the RISC-V ecosystem evolve over the next few years?

I would love to see the ecosystem continue to grow as we have seen over the last few years, with more projects and different business models with innovative new developments and creations fueled by the ecosystem. I hope to see even more product innovation; for example, specialized software for RISC-V in the area of machine learning. There are clearly already a lot of offerings in this space, but I can’t wait to see new businesses emerge that could bring new software and hardware to market. In a few years I hope we see more standard appliances like washing machines or coffee makers powered by RISC-V. Perhaps we may see the ISA evolve so that engineers can have their own integrated circuits (ICs) custom made in small quantities. Overall, I expect to see RISC-V everywhere in the coming years.

6. Are you working on any personal RISC-V projects?

Currently I am working on an air circulation system in my house. It’s quite simple. My balcony does not have good air circulation, so sometimes when I am doing laundry it will get humid. To help fix this, I took a RISC-V board with a display (Longan Nano from Seeed Studio with GigaDevice’s GD32V) and I added a humidity and temperature sensor which will switch on a fan if the humidity gets to be too high. I am aiming to automate the powering process to automatically turn on and off, while also using the display to see the temperature and humidity levels. That’s my current RISC-V project. I already have a second one lined up using the Kendryte K210 chip for facial recognition and I am hoping I can start that later this year.
Visit here to learn more about the RISC-V Ambassador Program and apply to become an Ambassador.

About the Author

Florian Wohlrab is one of the first RISC-V Ambassadors and Head of Sales for EMEA and Japan at Andes Technology. His mission is to help bring RISC-V towards mainstream and enable others to easily get started within the RISC-V ecosystem. He is fascinated by the open, modular, compact and innovative RISC-V CPU designs. Before joining Andes Technology he worked in industrial PC and IoT fields, holding various technical and business roles within Europe and Asia.