Soon, ‘Rizal’ will run computers, electronics
In an incarnation that can fit on your thumb, “Rizal” will someday run your mobile phone, music player and laptop.
A team of Filipino design engineers has embarked on an ambitious project to create the first all-Filipino made microprocessor, honoring national hero Jose Rizal with an invention that they hope would put the Philippines on the technology map.
Filipino technology firm BiTMICRO Networks Inc. is in the design phase of the Rizal processor, a chip envisioned to become the first commercial all-Filipino made processor that would run a multitude of devices.
“What we’re hoping to do is, once we’re done, we can show a success story. More investors will come to the Philippines and invest. That’s the whole idea. Because then, they would believe that, hey, the Philippines can really do it and they’re capable,” said Rey Bruce, BiTMICRO chair and CEO.
“We want a hero behind our product. Hopefully, we could have a product that will be equally known worldwide,” said the CEO’s nephew, Bobbet Bruce, BiTMICRO vice president for corporate strategy.
Chips are the brains of your everyday electronic device—from computers and smart phones to digital cameras and air-conditioning control panels.
The Rizal processor is the first attempt at developing such a chip for BiTMICRO, a firm that designs and creates customized all-weather computer data storage devices like the solid-state drive (SSD).
More stable and sturdy
Considered more stable than mechanical disc drives found in your typical desktop or net book, the SSD is an industry-grade storage device used in the field by clients like foreign militaries, aircraft maker Boeing and Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to withstand different field conditions and varying temperatures.
The firm, established by five Batangas-born Bruce brothers in Silicon Valley in 1995, has made it a tradition to give its products Filipino names, among them, Luneta (Logical Unifier of Extensive Transfer Arrays), and Edsa (Enhanced Datamover and Storage Accelerator.
“The product itself we want to be competitive. We want something that’s a Filipino brand fully made in the Philippines. I think that equally as important as having a branded product is the opportunity that we’re giving our engineers in the Philippines to build this,” Bruce told the Inquirer at the firm’s office at The Fort in Taguig City.
The project is part of BiTMICRO’s initiative to establish a training center that would hone the skills of the country’s engineering students, graduates and professors by providing the actual tools used in the industry that simulate on-the-job experience.
The firm is working with the government, the private sector and top universities on a project envisioned to roll out its first prototype in one year at an estimated minimum cost of $2 million (roughly P90 million) for development and another $2.5 million (roughly P112 million) for fabrication.
Project ‘Team Philippines’
BiTMICRO’s partners include global IT firm Synopsis, US firm Texas Instruments, University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Don Bosco Technical College, Mapua Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University, University of San Carlos and First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities, among others.
Also taking part in the “Team Philippines” project are the Department of Science and Technology, Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering, and Department of Trade and Industry.
While the design and development of processors is well advanced around the world, the Philippines has yet to create and patent its own commercially viable chip.
With the continuing development of more powerful devices, the chip market is considered robust as use of the intellectual property costs millions of dollars. For instance, a laptop developer has to pay for licensing and royalties to use a particular processor in his device, said Rey Bruce.
“The processor is a very mature IP (intellectual property). It’s been around ever since the computer started. But there are still some areas where we can probably excel,” he said.
“It has to be better or at least equivalent to those already in existence. We can’t sell something that the others are already selling. We have to be better and affordable, not necessarily cheaper,” said Bruce, who moved the firm’s research and development operations to the Philippines in 2003.
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