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Definition: SoC


(1) See security operations center and service organization control.

(2) (System-On-Chip) Pronounced "S-O-C." A group of processing units on a single chip, which previously were independent chips that had to be connected together. The microcontroller chip is miracle enough, but an SoC is why complex computers can be held in our hands (see images below). Also, the more miniaturization, the more reduction in power.

General Purpose and Special Purpose
SoCs have a mix of general-purpose and special-purpose circuits. There are several general-purpose CPU cores that simultaneously execute software instructions. There are also specialized circuits such as graphics processing that render the screen pixels, an image processor for fast camera operation and increasingly an AI processor that handles the huge number of simultaneous calculations required to execute AI solutions. See GPU, image processing and AI chip.

Two Ways to Make Large SoCs
A common method is to design all the circuits in one large chip. However, the larger the chips, the more chance for an imperfection and the more they fail in the production line. An alternate method is to make smaller chips and connect the bare die together in a multichip package (see MCM).

The Microcontroller Was the First SoC
With billions used every day in just about everything, the microcontroller (MCU) contains the CPU, RAM, storage and I/O. See microcontroller, PSoC, Apple A series, Apple M1, Versal, mobile platform, system in package and package on package.




Android System-on-Chip
Today's SoCs are amazing. Debuting in 2019, this Snapdragon 855 chip contains all the processing components in a modern smartphone. See ISP, GPU and neural processing unit.






The Rest of It
Each block is a separate chip. The radios (Wi-Fi, cellular, etc.) are increasingly built into the SoC. See GPU.






The Versal from Xilinx
With more than 35 billion transistors, this is one spectacular system-on-chip. It includes CPUs, RAM, I/O, parallel processing DSP engines and "adaptive hardware" (wiring the internal logic each time the chip is turned on). See FPGA and Versal. (Image courtesy of Xilinx, www.xilinx.com)








The Heart of a Smartphone
The Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC in this Galaxy Note 4 is the brains of the smartphone. As with all smartphones, the SoC occupies a very small amount of the internal space.