Endless opportunities for the electronic system design ecosystem, including embedded

August 10, 2017 Bob Smith, Electronic System Design Alliance

Opportunities for the electronic system design ecosystem are endless, as the recent Design Automation Conference proved so well. Attendees and exhibitors heard from all corners of the industry that we’re on the cusp of the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and so much more.

Every single one of these mega-technology trends is powered by complex chips, while the design automation segment of the semiconductor market provides the means to correctly design and verify them.

Joe Costello, CEO of Enlighted, captivated DAC attendees as the conference got under way with his vision of the future. He believes the Internet of Things is a bigger opportunity than anything the design automation industry has tackled yet. Simon Segars of ARM and Lucio Lanza of Lanza techVentures agreed as they followed the same IoT theme, offering a look at how the digital world will be connected with the physical world. Each of them challenged the system design ecosystem to reinvent itself to support the IoT infrastructure.

Jim Hogan of Vista Ventures took attendees on a fanciful exploration of artificial intelligence and convolution neural networks with James Gambale of Lomasoft, Chris Rowen from Cognite Ventures and OneSpin’s Raik Brinkmann. They discussed data gathering and processing and where this is headed.

Vendors were in on the act as well promoting new tools, technologies, methodologies, and various forms of IP. Many pre-conference announcements promoted safety-critical software to meet the stringent ISO 26262 standard, design tools based on machine-learning techniques that got smarter the more they were used, and the promise of next-generation software to reduce power consumption

Laurie Balch, chief analyst at Gary Smith EDA, furthered the concept of vertical solutions, something she and other analysts are seeing as a trend throughout the industry. It’s not a new idea, but one that obviously is taking hold. Companies are launching products tailored to specific markets, such as networking and storage, a market heavily reliant upon the system design ecosystem.

Another fascinating development is cloud-based computing. The semiconductor industry, the foundation of technological advances, never embraced the cloud until now. That’s changing for a number of practical reasons, including availability of extra hardware resources to manage new SoC design and verification for faster results and reduced capital expenditure.

Of course, it didn’t take a conference like DAC to point out all the other great new opportunities, such as analog/digital mixed-signal and multicore design, 3D ICs that are the new reality and embedded software. More and more, software and hardware are implemented into one giant complex system as the majority of new designs will be multiple devices, not huge single SoCs, though they aren’t going away either. Each and every individual engineering these devices needs sophisticated design and verification tools.

The Design Automation Conference provided the system design ecosystem with numerous and varied examples of how to expand outside of a small niche into supplying the tools, technologies and methodologies to fuel the technology future. It’s now up to us to take up the challenge.

Robert (Bob) Smith is Executive Director of the Electronic System Design Alliance (ESD Alliance), formerly the EDA Consortium. He is responsible for the management and operations of the ESD Alliance, an international association of companies providing goods and services throughout the semiconductor design ecosystem. 

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