November 23

Are FPGA Engineers In Demand? – Exploring 10 Common Applications of FPGAs


In this video, we're diving into the world of FPGAs and exploring their exciting future.

We'll also address a common question: are FPGA engineers in demand?

Stick around until the end to get a good grasp of the broad spectrum of FPGAs and how they're used in various applications.


Why FPGAs Have So Many Applications?

Now, you might be wondering, why FPGAs have so many specific applications.

Well, the answer lies in the fundamental differences between FPGAs and processors.

As you may recall from my previous videos, there are two key distinctions between FPGAs and processors.

First, FPGAs excel at performing algorithms at high speeds thanks to their ability to parallelize and customize designs for specific tasks.

Second, FPGAs have a greater number of I/Os compared to processors.

When you combine these two critical differences, you get a range of specialized applications for FPGAs.

Key Domains Where FPGA Is Used

But before we dive deeper into these applications, let's take a look at the domains where people working with FPGAs usually focus their efforts.

In general, those involved in designing digital systems with FPGAs specialize in one of the two main areas.

Some are experts in implementing interface and control systems, while others specialize in digital signal processing systems.

Those who handle interface and control systems often work on implementing various communication protocols like LAN, USB, RS232, or SATA using FPGAs.

They also interface peripherals such as ADCs, sensors, RAMs, and more with FPGAs.

Additionally, they create control units for different parts of digital systems, as nearly all digital systems require these control sections to be designed and implemented by digital designers.

Now, let's shift our focus to the second group of FPGA experts—those who implement signal processing algorithms.

These algorithms play a crucial role in many of the FPGA applications we'll explore later on.

Take fields like telecommunications, radar technology, and image processing, for instance.

In these domains, you'll find experts who specialize in implementing these algorithms using FPGAs.

Major Applications of FPGAs

Now, let's dive deeper into some of the key applications of FPGAs.

It's worth noting that each of these applications can be categorized into one of the two groups I mentioned earlier:

some are related to digital signal processing, while others are about interface and control units.


One highly significant application is in the realm of telecommunications, specifically transceiver systems like satellite links.

These systems connect with satellites and handle high-speed data transmission.

Often, using FPGAs is the most practical solution in such scenarios.

Defense Systems

Another critical application area is in defense systems, such as radar technology.

Radar systems are essential for locating targets accurately.

Medical Engineering

In the field of medical engineering, FPGAs also play a key role.

Globally speaking, this sector is one of the most common areas where FPGAs are used.

Software Defined Radio (SDR)

When it comes to creating Software Defined Radio (SDR) systems, FPGAs are a preferred choice.

They offer the flexibility and performance needed for SDR applications.

Image and Video Processing Systems

In the development of image and video processing systems, especially when real-time transfer of high-quality images or videos is required, FPGAs shine as the go-to solution.

Control and Monitoring Systems

For control and monitoring systems, frequently used in settings like power plants, FPGAs provide versatile options.

In many cases today, FPGAs are replacing older systems that once relied on Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

Motor Drives

People with expertise in power systems or experience in motor drives understand that we can utilize FPGAs to implement motor control algorithms effectively.

Data Encryption

In the realm of data encryption, which plays a crucial role in many data transfer systems, FPGAs find their application.

Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs)

When it comes to simulating Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), FPGAs are incredibly handy.

As mentioned earlier, FPGAs can be reprogrammed and configured multiple times, making them an excellent choice for modeling ICs.

So, before a design becomes a permanent ASIC, it can be prototyped and tested using an FPGA.

Once all issues are resolved and the design reaches its final form, it can be implemented as an ASIC.

Hardware Accelerator

Another significant use of FPGAs is in building hardware accelerators, which work alongside processors.

For example, consider a scenario where you're implementing a signal processing algorithm using a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip.

However, you find that a specific part of the algorithm can't achieve the required processing speed with the DSP alone.

In such cases, you can dedicate that particular task to an FPGA, working in tandem with the processor to ensure the algorithm runs within the desired timeframe.

FPGA Applications: The Radar System Example

Now, let's delve deeper into one of these applications.

A radar is a system that helps us identify the location of a target.

Radar system block diagram

Block diagram of a radar system.

This system typically consists of two major parts: hardware and software.

The hardware part can be further divided into two sections: RF (Radio Frequency) and digital.

In the RF section, the radar antenna receives signals from the target.

These signals are processed within RF circuits, where their frequency is down-converted to IF (Intermediate Frequency) or Baseband.

Following this, analog-to-digital converters transform these signals into sampled digital data.

This digitized signal is then directed to the digital signal processing hardware section.

Here, various algorithms for locating and tracking the target are applied to the signal.

Finally, the results are sent to the software section through a communication protocol.

Now, let's move on to the software section, where we continue to process these signals using specialized algorithms until we determine the target's exact location, which is then displayed on a monitor.

From the software side, we may send commands or parameters to the system, and these parameters are transmitted to the hardware through the same communication protocol.

In the block diagram here, the parts highlighted in blue represent the sections that are implemented in the digital domain.

These sections are typically built using FPGAs.

In the RF section, you'll usually find RF circuits and chips that require some settings.

These are typically managed through a digital control unit.

In many cases, simple FPGAs are used to handle this part of the system.

However, when we get to the digital signal processing section, which operates in the digital hardware realm, things become more complex.

We have complex algorithms that must be executed in real-time, and this demands a substantial processing capacity.

In this scenario, FPGAs are often the best choice for implementation.

Typically, when an FPGA is used for signal processing, we also use the same FPGA to implement the interface and control sections.

Communication between the hardware and software is established through communication protocols like LAN, USB, or RS232.

Companies operating in these fields may specialize in specific areas:

Some focus only on RF, so they might have one or two specialists who handle the RF control sections using FPGAs.

On the other hand, companies working in digital signal processing usually have a more extensive team of digital implementation specialists.

These experts can implement system-level algorithms developed by system designers using FPGAs or DSPs (Digital Signal Processors).

Are FPGA Engineers In Demand?

Now, let's dive into the world of FPGA job opportunities.

Before we get into the specifics, let's take a quick look at the global market for FPGAs.

As you can see in the graph, back in 1988, just a few years after the first FPGA was created, the global FPGA market was valued at around 13 million dollars. Fast forward to 2013, and it had soared to over 5 billion dollars.

FPGA market forecast

Global FPGA market forecast to 2027 - Source: Research and Markets.

By 2022, it reached around 8 billion dollars.

Experts predict that by 2027, the global FPGA market will surpass 15.5 billion dollars.

These numbers give you a sense of just how massive this market is and hint at its promising future.

Now, let's shift our focus to the FPGA job market.

Various industries, such as image processing, defense, medical engineering, and telecommunications, have a high demand for FPGA experts.

However, here's the challenge: companies operating in this field are often on the lookout for FPGA implementation specialists.

This is because there's a limited pool of professionals with the necessary skills in this domain.

In my experience, having conducted numerous job interviews over the past 15 years in three different companies, I can tell you that the number of individuals ready to work professionally in this field, whether right after graduation or even after several years of FPGA experience, is quite small.

All of this points to an exciting opportunity:

If you can achieve the requisite skills in this area, you'll find a vast job market waiting for you.

So, it's clear that if you can enhance your skills in this domain quickly, you could very well have a bright and promising career ahead within the next one or two years.

Did you find the tutorial "Are FPGA Engineers In Demand? – Exploring 10 Common Applications of FPGAs" helpful?

If you have any questions about this post, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. And if you enjoyed the content, don't forget to share it with your friends!

About the author 

Ahmad Saghafi

Hi, I’m Ahmad, founder of FPGATEK and creator of the FPGA Design Blueprint training. With over 15 years of hands-on experience and a wealth of knowledge from successfully implementing numerous industrial projects, I am thrilled to share my insights and expertise with you on this website.

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