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Freescale Technology Forum: More Useful & Relevant Than CES

These days the semiconductor industry seems to have a conference every week, but two that stand out in the consumer arena are the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in San Antonio.

I go to CES almost every year, and it was very frustrating this last time around. This year I decided to partake in the panels that went on throughout the week, and was sorely disappointed in how lacking in foresight many of the speakers were. I've written about my disappointment with CES here on EBN. (See: Battle of the Digital Ecosystems and The Agony of Digital Rights Management.)

Legacy Fab Issues At The ConFab 2012

The ConFab 2012 highlighted sessions on the semiconductor industry’s blockbuster topics impacting advance technology manufacturing such as the transition to 450mm wafers and the increasing importance of 3D integration and advanced packaging. But this year the conference also allocated time to a discussion revolving around legacy manufacturing. Unlike finFETs and 450mm wafers, the challenges faced by mature production facilities are seldom in the headlines. However, as Sanjay Rajguru, Director at SEMATECH/ISMI, pointed out, over half of the current fab capacity comes from facilities that are more than 10 years old.

The challenges faced by older production facilities include equipment obsolescence, skills obsolescence, availability of parts, software and support and equipment capability extension and tool re-use. Maintaining “More than Moore” fabs is a major concern to semiconductor manufacturers as these operations reach 20 or even 30 years old.

At the ConFab 2012 Executive Roundtable representatives from Sematech/ISMI, IDMs, OEMs, equipment dealers, and industry consultants gathered to have an open discussion on concerns, roadblocks and possible solutions.

ADI Raises the Bar on Low Power Consumption for MEMS Accelerometers

Analog Devices has announced a MEMS accelerometer with the lowest power consumption, the ADXL362. The company cites the following levels as the lowest in the industry:

  • Measurement current: 2 µA
  • Wakeup mode: 300 µA
  • Sleep current: 10 nA

The innovation that ADI has achieved is the design of the control circuit for the accelerometer. More intelligence and interrupt processing has been designed into the control logic. The MEMS sensor itself is also low power, but it was designed to fit the control circuit.

ADI has focused on the usage model for the accelerometer. This is not intended for portable consumer and smartphone applications which already have a cost effective solution. In these products consumers are accustomed to plugging in a device to recharge on a daily basis. ADI is targeting the ADXL362 at markets that require long battery life, on the order of years. These are applications that it is either costly and/or very difficult to change the battery. This includes monitoring remote or dangerous locations such as pipelines, bridges, tall buildings, etc. Other applications include sealed environments (military and medical monitoring), cattle tracking and gas meters.

The Tablet PC Usage Model Continues to Evolve For the Next Generation

About a week ago I had the pleasure of attending Phoenix ComicCon.  It is not as big a convention as ComicCon International in San Diego, but it keeps growing.  Frequent readers of the Semico Spin may remember I report on the consumer electronic trends I see at that show.

One of the big draws at Phoenix ComicCon was the 25th Anniversary of the TV show “Star Trek: the Next Generation.”  One of the panels was focused on actor Levar Burton.  I met Levar Burton at the Intel Developer’s Forum in 2010.  The video in this article was in the original article for IDF 2010.  Levar Burton appeared at IDF 2010 to promote Intel’s efforts in SmartTV.

In addition to his work as a performer, Mr. Burton also has a production company that is developing content for new media.  At IDF 2010 he did not go into details on these projects.  Besides Star Trek, Levar Burton is also well known as the producer and host of “Reading Rainbow”, (1983 to 2006) a TV show  that encouraged children to read.

OCP-IP

We wanted to thank another one of our IMPACT sponsors - OCP-IP.

"OCP-IP is dedicated to proliferating a common standard for intellectual property (IP) core interfaces, or sockets, that facilitate "plug and play" System-on-Chip (SoC) design."  Check out their website by clicking on their logo.

Sonics and the Semico IP Ecosystem Conference

Grant Pierce, Chief Executive Officer, Sonics, Inc., gave a keynote presentation at the Semico Impact Conference: Focus on the IP Ecosystem on May 16, 2012.  His presentation that looked at the rise of cloud computing and its impact on the SoC market. Today, consumers expect connectivity ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ and can mostly get what they want over the various networks in the market today. However, as more of that connectivity functionality that resides in the ‘cloud’, increases in device performance are necessary to keep pace with the rich features that reside in the cloud. This puts pressure on SoC design and SoC architectures. Cloud-scale devices are driving SoC complexity due to the following market demands.

Synopsys and the Semico IP Ecosystem Conference

John Koeter, the Vice President of Marketing, for the Solutions Group at Synopsys, Inc., gave a presentation at the Semico Impact Conference:  Focus on the IP Ecosystem on May 16, 2012 that looked at the changes occurring in the market today caused by the rise in mobile devices. First, he started of by giving some metrics on the mobile market captured by Cisco.

Cadence Design Systems and the Semico IP Ecosystem Conference

Semico held its Impact conference: Focus on the IP Ecosystem at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, CA on May 16th,2012.  The day before, on May 15th, Cadence Design Systems announced its first IP Subsystem product, a Storage IP Subsystem based around the new NVMe (Non Volatile Memory express) interface standard for flash-based storage applications completed in March, 2011.  This IP Subsystem provides a complete HW / SW verified solution and maximizes the command throughput for interaction between system software and the storage system.

It is intended for those applications that want to replace rotating media in a system with flash-based Solid State Drives (SSD). Vishal Kapoor, Vice President, Marketing Design IP and Services at Cadence gave a presentation at the Semico conference the very next day. He provided some fascinating insights into the forces at work behind the creation of their Storage IP Subsystem.

Grant Pierce, CEO of Sonics is Back to the Cloud

SoCs are taking to the Cloud.  Just as microprocessors drove the PC boom 20 years ago and the internet drove the communications boom 10 years ago, SoCs are revolutionizing consumer electronics today.  Each boom brought us new applications, rapid decline in product cost, and many more users.  While microprocessors drove computer volumes in the millions, complex SoCs are driving consumer products in the billions.

What is driving SoC complexity?  This was the focus of Grant Pierce’s talk at the Semico Impact Conference on May 16th, 2012.  As we all know, today’s consumers are looking for higher quality at lower prices.   They want video, voice, data, and audio in everything.  All this convergence pushes the need for multi-GHz performance.

Apps run on everything and apps need “Giga’s” whether it be a 1-3 GHz multi-core CPU, 100+ GFLOPS multi-core GPU, or a 15-50 GB/sec DRAM chip.  And as we use more apps, we will continue to need even more “Giga’s” in the future.  But all these “Giga’s” burn more and more power which is why our devices die so quickly.  These SoCs have gotten so powerful, that today’s batteries can’t afford to power them all at once.

Enabling IP Evolution and Growth

On Wed May 16, 2012 Warren East, CEO of ARM, gave the opening keynote address at Semico Research Impact Conference: The IP Ecosystem.  Mr. East addressed the issue of IP (Intellectual Property) evolution and growth.  Looking forward there has to be more collaboration in the IP world, both horizontally and vertically.

IP companies need to work closely with chip vendors.  Semiconductor companies want to hold onto what they see as differentiators.  But this may work against lowering development costs.

In the last 20 years ARM has enabled wireless mobility.  The fabless model has lowered costs and spawned the growth of many companies.

IP has value.  Mr. East cited Semico’s projection of $3 Billion in projected IP revenue in 2012, a 25% growth rate.  There are over 100 blocks per chip.

There are increasing demands on chip design.  Today the chip is the system.  The board complexity has moved onto the chip.  Designers have to balance power with performance.  There are optimized processing units designed for specific tasks.

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