Josh Lee is President and CEO of Uniquify in San Jose, California. With two cofounders, he bootstrapped Uniquify into what is now a thriving IP and chip design and manufacturing services business collectively referred to as “ideas2silicon.” The team has deep expertise in the specification, design, implementation, and manufacturing of complex SoCs. Lee and the team also built a comprehensive design management system, Perseus, used to manage all SoC projects at Uniquify. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley.
As you look ahead to the next few years, which embedded technologies and applications present the most interesting opportunities?
LEE: Adaptive or variation-aware IP is the wave of the future for embedded systems and will give IP suppliers and applications providers a clear path for growth.
As the industry moves to 28 nanometer, process variation effects and dynamic variations due to fluctuating operating conditions degrade system performance or cause system instability or render the system inoperative, which is why adaptive IP will become so critically important.
Development teams are looking for ways to manage static and dynamic variations in an SoC design that’s full of third-party IP. Because adaptive IP automatically compensates for the effects of static and dynamic variations, a system can achieve its best performance, while maintaining a high degree of reliability.
Adaptive IP measures relevant parameters critical to performance and reliability, and automatically makes adjustments to ensure they are optimized. Such precise measurements and corrections are made during system initialization and at regular times during system operation.
Adaptive routines run quickly with little impact on system operation and throughput, and have enough latitude to correct for a range of variations. Because adaptive IP is in the chip, each system is optimized for static variations in each component and dynamic variations caused by the system environment. As a result, the system optimizes its operation to deliver the best performance with robustness and reliability.
What are the largest obstacles to innovation in the embedded realm, and how should those challenges be solved?
LEE: A study conducted last year found that the IP market is growing faster than the semiconductor market – twice as fast, in fact. While the opportunities are many in the IP market, the challenges might be even greater. For example, concerns about IP reliability and complexity remain, which is where adaptive or variation-aware IP can come to the rescue. DDR memory controller subsystem IP, found in almost all modern electronic products, illustrates the point. Uniquify sought a way to solve the fundamental problems of variations in the DDR memory subsystem that directly impact system yield and reliability. Our solution is circuitry embedded within the DDR PHY that precisely measures the DDR interface timing windows and automatically adjusts them. We refer to this patented circuitry as “Self-Calibrating Logic” [SCL] and “Dynamic Self-Calibrating Logic” [DSCL].
SCL and DSCL enhance device and system yield and reliability, reducing the effects of variation and maintaining DDR memory system performance as operating conditions fluctuate during system operation. The DDR memory subsystem timing calibration can be applied at system power-up (SCL) and during system operation (DSCL).
In which market segment and geographic area do you foresee the fastest growth for embedded products?
LEE: The fastest growing market segments range from network- ing and consumer electronics to image and media processing and digital TV. We see several geographic regions with explo- sive growth including Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Israel. In the U.S., southern California and Texas are growing rapidly as well.
How does a company stay on the cusp of innovation, rather than just following the embedded crowd?
LEE: Listening carefully to the concerns and challenges of design teams helps identify various trends as well as opportunities. Building close partnerships with design teams helps develop the trust to get a firsthand perspective on what it will take for the next wave of innovation.
An expert team of technologists is a critical component to stay- ing innovative. Also, reading publications such as Embedded Computing Design can give insights into new application areas, as can participating in industry events.