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Embedded systems trends and developer opportunities


Herb Hinstorff.

Herb Hinstorff.

Today, the world is transitioning from independent devices to  connected systems. Intel has been inside the embedded systems market for over 35 years, having developed 270+ CPUs and SoCs as well as 100+ chipsets.

Herb Hinstorff, director of Marketing, Developer Products Division, Intel Software, said that Intel has been engaged at all levels of the solution stack. He was speaking at the 13th Global Electronics Summit at Santa Cruz, USA.

There are tools to deliver on developer needs, such as debuggers, analyzers, compilers and libraries. There are tools to provide the deep system-level insights into power, reliability and performance.

On the debuggers side, they increase system and device stability and reliability. There is an efficient system, SoC-wide defect analysis and ultra-fast system-wide tracing for software debug. There is an integrated application level debugger. Overall, it speeds system bring-up and development. Analyzers focus on boosting reliability, power efficiency and performance, enabling differentiated designs, system-wide analysis and deep insights.

Compilers go on to optimize performance and efficiency. There is the industry-leading C/C++ compiler. It boosts system and application performance on Intel Atom, Core and Xeon processors. Compilers also take advantage of the multicore to boost performance.

There are libraries for performance and efficiency. Software building blocks increase the developer productivity and boost performance. There are specialized testing functions that handle signal processing, data processing, complex math operations and multimedia processing. Besides, there is future-proof software investments. The libraries provide an easy way to take advantage of the multicore capabilities to boost performance.

The Intel System Studio is an integrated software tool suite that provides deep, system-wide insights to help accelerate time-to-market, strengthen system reliability, and boost power effiency and performance. The JTAG interface has system and application code running Linux.

There is a continued broadening of the OS support, and a broader range of tools to match the expanding SoC capabilities. There is more extensive software based training and simulation, as well as market-specific libraries and APIs.

Given that the market is transitioning from independent devices to connected systems, more capable SoC platforms and complex software stacks require deeper and broader system-level insights and optimizations. Embedded developers can take advantage of the Intel System Studio to accelerate the time-to-market, strengthen system reliability, and boost power efficiency and performance of the Intel architecture-based embedded and mobile systems.

Embedded software: Next revolution in EDA


Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

There is a key lesson that Mentor Graphics made while trying to deliver solutions that were right for software and hardware developers. The lesson was: tailor the software to the discipline! Make it as similar to their environment as possible!!

Delivering his speech at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA, Dr. Wally Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics, said that 15 years of acquisitions taught Mentor how to think and behave as an embedded software company.

Open systems requires active engagement in software committees. Each open source project has some form of governance to manage contributions, release plans, etc. There is a community peer selection process for each open source project. About 50 Mentor Embedded Sourcerers are actively involved in the open source and Android communities.

There is a need to take the advantage of knowing both worlds. Mentor’s Sourcery CodeBench is an embedded C/C++ development tool based on open-source standards. Sourcery CodeBench is a complete development environment for embedded C/C++ development on ARM, Coldfire, MIPS, Power, X86, and other architectures. You can install, flash and debug in minutes!

Sourcery CodeBench
Sourcery CodeBench is now the semiconductor industry’s leading embedded toolchain. There is an integrated development environment. It has the GNU compiler (GCC) and optimization tools. It allows debugging and analysis, libraries and QEMU simulator.

There are about ~15,000 downloads per month. There have been ~150,000 downloads and 300 releases per year.

Trends in embedded — smart and green energy: ST


Vivek Sharma, STMicroelectronics.

Vivek Sharma, STMicroelectronics.

It is a such a pleasure interacting with Vivek Sharma, VP, Greater China & South Asia-India Operations, and director, India Design Centers, STMicroelectronics. While presenting the latest trends in embedded technologies, he hoped that there could eventually be a fab in India, by 2015. Speaking about ‘More Moore’ and ‘More than Moore’, he talked about 3D heterogeneous integration and smart sensors – that provide new, high-growth opportunities. Sharma largely touched upon smart and green energy.

India’s opportunities to leapfrog are immense, especially with a median age of 25.9 years. As for the Indian consumption context, India’s share is ~3 percent worldwide consumption levels 2009/2010. It is said to be $45 billion or ~3 percent in electronics and $6.7 billion or ~2.5 percent in semiconductor consumption.

Taking a look at leveraging of electronics by nations, (as per 2005 data) Taiwan leads with 15.5 percent of GDP, followed by South Korea at 15.1 percent, China at 12.7 percent, Thailand at 12.4 percent, Germany at 8.3 percent, USA at 5.4 percent, Japan at 4.5 percent, and India at 1.7 percent, respectively.

“More than Moore” diversification has been taking place, especially, by combining SoC and SIP to produce higher value systems.

3D heterogeneous integration has been taking place by integrating multiple functions via 3D/TSV. This involves the vertical stacking and connection of various materials, technologies and functional components together:
* Bio, MEMS and other sensors.
* Digital processing (MCUs, MPUs).
* RF transceivers for data transmission.
* Micro-battery (i.e., thin film).
* Other analog ICs and mixed technologies.

Advantages include integrated multi-functionality, more interconnections, reduced power consumption, smaller packaging, increased yield and reliability, and reduced overall costs.

Smart system integration is another trend, which enables combining “More than Moore” and “More Moore” technologies in a single smart system — from multi-package on board to multi-chip on package.

SanDisk’s iNAND Extreme family of embedded eMMC storage devices for high-end mobile and tablets


SanDisk Corp.’s embedded storage is in most of all top computing device brands. It recently launched the iNAND Extreme family of embedded eMMC storage devices for high-end mobile and tablets.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager, SanDisk.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager, SanDisk.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager for SanDisk, said: “This very high performance line of iNAND products joins the existing iNAND and iNAND Ultra lines, which are very successful in the mobile, tablet and consumer electronics markets. The first generation of these products (iNAND Extreme) will be sampling in a few weeks.

“iNAND Extreme products offer up to 50MB/s write and 80MB/s read sequential performance and very high random performance designed for the next generation of high-end mobile and tablet devices. SanDisk continues to monitor market trends and requirements and diversifying the embedded offering in the market, to answer to the different requirements of the different mobile, tablet and consumer electronics segments.”

So, how will SanDisk play a strong role in these areas? According to Ben-Gad, SanDisk works closely with a broad and diverse set of mobile and tablet OEMs. The company also works very closely with the majority of the leading mobile chipset vendors and standardization bodies in the mobile/tablet ecosystem to ensure optimal integration and technological support.

He added: “SanDisk is a fully vertically integrated company with substantial expertise in NAND flash technology, system technology and product design with years of experience in designing embedded and removable mobile storage devices. SanDisk is very well-positioned to understand, develop and support the future storage requirements in mobile, tablet and consumer electronics devices.”

Finally, I must thank Ms. Jody Privette Young, LymanPR, for making this happen.

Embedded Vision Alliance (EVA) is born!


The Embedded Vision Alliance is born! Over 15 leading technology companies, including some really big names in semiconductors, have come together in Oakland, USA, to ‘ speed the adoption of computer vision capabilities in electronic products’.

BDTI, Xilinx, and IMS Research initiated the Embedded Vision Alliance (EVA) and are being joined by Analog Devices, Apical, Avnet Electronics Marketing, CEVA, CogniVue, Freescale, National Instruments, NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, Tokyo Electron Device, MathWorks, Ximea, and XMOS as founding members.

According to a release, the ability of machines to see and understand their environments—what we call “embedded vision”—promises to transform the electronics industry with products that are more intelligent and aware of their environments, and to create significant new markets for electronic equipment and components.

This new consortium, called the Embedded Vision Alliance, will enable the proliferation of embedded vision technology by providing design engineers with information, practical know-how, and industry standards.

Tim Erjavec, senior director, FPGA Platform Product Marketing, Xilinx, said: “It was clear to both BDTI and us that the adoption of an array of technologies in  intelligent video, video analytics, computer vision and other complementary technologies are making their way into many more application than ever before. In looking at integrating the right solution to a given problem in various applications, the lack of readily available information to get started or evaluate is apparent.

“Further, what is available is very diverse, in many cases very complex and not aggregated at any one place. So, in order to help system designers in designing-in “vision” into their applications, we saw the opportunity to aggregate many of the contributing technologies, products, companies and expertise into one place. Thus, the alliance and new website was formed and launched last week.”

While the participants in this Alliance need to be congratulated for their foresight, one wonders what took them so long!

Also, I do not see any Indian company in the list, although, the embedded systems and software industry here is quite large. Names, such as Ittiam, Tata Elxsi, etc., should be part of this Alliance, but they are absent, as of now!

Now, the EVA’s commitment is to vision technology and enabling customers to develop the industry’s most innovative hardware, development tools and software to make vision application development easier. One of the founders has commented that embedded vision will be used on automobiles to prevent accidents and to security cameras to prevent crimes. Should this happen, embedded vision will surely proliferate across a multitude of markets! We are all waiting really patiently for such days!

Study on semiconductor design, embedded software and services industry in India


The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) has released a study on semiconductor design, embedded software and services industry, along with Ernst & Young.

According to the report, the key challenges constraining the growth of the semiconductor design industry are summarized under five major issues:
i) Quality, availability and maturity of talent.
ii) Absence of a startup and SME ecosystem.
iii) Lack of a semiconductor ecosystem.
iv) Lack of adequate infrastructure, policies and implementable incentives.
v) External issues such as competition from Asian countries and protectionist policies by some countries.

The report then goes on to tackle each one of these issues in detail under elaborate recommendations.

These recommendations require the concerted and co-ordinated efforts by the government, industry and academia to aid India reach the next level of growth and achieve the specific goals envisaged for the industry. The goals are:

Goal 1:
Maintain leadership in semiconductor design by incubating 50 fabless semiconductor companies, each with the potential to grow to $200 million in annual revenues by 2020.

Goal 2: Build on India’s favorable intellectual property protection image and make it among the top 5 destinations for intellectual property creation in the semiconductor design industry.

Goal 3: Capitalize on indigenous demand in strategic sectors to provide impetus to the Indian fabless semiconductor industry.

Goal 4: Sustain and nurture high-class semiconductor design manpower at a growth rate of 20 percent year-on-year to double its current output levels to reach a workforce size of 400,000 in the next five years.

The very first goal itself is a bit far fetched, but not that it can’t be achieved. To reach anywhere close to this goal, a concerted all round effort would be required from all in the industry. The fourth goal would have been better as the first goal, but never mind.

The second goal looks fine, but it is the third goal that seems a bit far off. This is April 2011, and still, there are talks about capitalizing on the indigenous demand in strategic sectors in order to provide impetus to the Indian fabless semiconductor industry?

I recall a discussion in mid-2005 where an industry expert mentioned that fabless was the way forward for the Indian industry! Between then and now, fabs were supposed to come up, but they failed. Nevertheless, one must not give up hope! Read more…

Top 10 Indian embedded companies!

February 7, 2011 8 comments

It has been over two years since I wrote the piece — Top 10 embedded companies in India! It has been the most read, and by far, the most commented.  Now, it is time to do a review, or, more suitably, a recap!

First, who are the top 10 (Indian) embedded systems and software companies in India? My list, in no particular order, would read something like this:

1. Ittiam
2. Sasken
3. CMC
4. C-DAC
5. L&T EmSyS
6. ProcSys
7. eInfochips
8. Mistral
9. iWave Systems/Global Edge
10. Vayavya Labs

There are several firms in Pune and Hyderabad, who probably deserve a name.  There may be some folks may not agree with this list, but I would go with these, for now. The next change could be two years down the road!

Some may even question the presence of CMC and C-DAC in this list. However, CMC has well over 30+ years of extensive experience in providing consulting, design and development services and testing services in real-time systems.

C-DAC has capabilities in high-performance computing as well as grid computing. It also has unit focusing on professional electronics, including embedded and VLSI products.

Ittiam and Sasken remain in the top 5 category. ProcSys is a new entrant, besides iWave, Global Edge and Vayavya Labs.

Now, may I know if you have any doubts, as well as moves, additions and/or changes (MAC)? ;)

Women power, RVCE rule at first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards

December 9, 2010 1 comment

RVCE, E&C, the winners!

RVCE, E&C, the winners!

It is always a pleasure to witness women power in technology! More especially, in India!! To my pleasant surprise, and am sure, of many others present, women power was aplenty at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and Embedded Systems Awards distribution ceremony held today at the RV-VLSI Design Center, Bangalore.

First, the winners! Congratulations to each one of them on their achievement!

VLSI category
Winner: Suraj H, Vinay R, Vinaya Ajjampura and Vasudev Pai M, RVCE, E&C.
Title: Design and verification of 16-bit pipelined microcontroller.

Runner-up: Deepika, Deepthi MN, Divya V Nayak, RVCE, Telecom — an all-women team!
Title: Design and verification of stand-alone DMA controller.

Embedded category
Winner: Praseed Chandriki, Prashant Bhat, Anup Reddy, Manoranjan S, RVCE, E&C.
Title: Implementtion of media transport in VoIP and performance analysis through measurement of QoS.

Runner-up: Ashwini HV, Sayak Bhowmick, Shruthi BR, Shruti S. Rao, Global Academy of Technology, E&C.
Title: DARAM driver for VoIP router.

It was announced that Mentor Graphics, along with STMicroelectronics, will be sponsoring next year’s awards.

Dignitaries at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards.

Dignitaries at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards.

This year’s contest was initiated by RV-VLSI in close association with VTU, and sponsored by Mentor Graphics. Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO and chairman, Mentor Graphics, graced the occassion. Dr. V.S. Acharya, the Honorable minister for Higher Education, Planning and Statistics, Government of Karnataka, who could not make it to the event owing to pressing official work, had his message read out.

Other digitaries present on the occasion included Hanns Windele, VP Mentor Graphics (Europe & India), Ian Burgess, Higher Education Program, Mentor Graphics, CV Hayagriv, Trustee, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust, and chairman, governing council, RV-VLSI Design Center, AVS Murthy, honarary secretary, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust, and Dr. MK Panduranga Setty, president, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust (RSST).

RV-VLSI can tape-out multi-billion transistor chip today!
Venkatesh Prasad, CEO, RV-VLSI Design Center, said it was his interaction with a visionary like Dr. MK Panduranga Setty, and the support of the board of trustees of RSST that made it easy for him to transition out of the industry and start RV-VLSI. The vision of RV-VLSI is to create a steady stream of well trained professionals with a low TTP (time to be productive). To achieve a low TTP, it had to do things different from a traditional academic institution.

That differentiation started with the name, RV-VLSI Design Center itself, rather than RVDI. Next, the institute procured a Sun data center to meets its complex needs. Next, it gained access to foundry technology from Tower Semiconductor and EDA software from Mentor Graphics. Prasad added, ‘RV-VLSI has the infrastructure to design and tape-out a multi-billion transistor chip today.” Read more…

Reshaping the embedded world: Vivek Sharma, ST


Vivek Sharma, regional VP, Greater China & South Asia region -- India Operations and Director, India Design Center, STMicroelectronics.

Vivek Sharma, regional VP, Greater China & South Asia region -- India Operations and Director, India Design Center, STMicroelectronics.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Vivek Sharma, regional VP, Greater China & South Asia region — India Operations and Director, India Design Center, STMicroelectronics, on the sidelines of the 4th Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) 2010 in Bangalore. We had a wonderful discussion on the trends that are reshaping today’s embedded world.

Sharma said: “Moore’s Law has governed many new things. In fact, it has ruled the roost. The industry has been able to push up complexity within a chip and also bring down costs.” As an example, during the last two decades, cost and complexity have combined to create the mobile device — which has turned out to be a disruptive application. The world recently added its 5 billionth mobile subscriber in July 2010. There is likely to be a whopping 50 billion connected devices by 2020!

SiP reshaping embedded world

Touching upon ‘more than Moore”, Sharma added that shrinking will keep on happening. System-in-package is a reality today and is reshaping the embedded world. It can allow more shrinking in size and push down costs.

Borrowing from wikipedia, for those interested, a system-in-a-package or system in package (SiP), also known as a chip stack MCM, is a number of ICs enclosed in a single package or module, and performs all or most of the functions of an electronic system.

3D heterogenous integration and  TSV

3D heterogenous integration and  through-silicon via (TSV) is another trend reshaping the industry. 3D packaging with 3D TSV interconnects provides another path toward “More than Moore”, with relatively smaller capital investments.
3D-ICs stack multiple chips together and interconnect them using through-silicon via (TSV) structures, thereby providing much more functions in a smaller footprint.

MEMS key segment
MEMS is yet another sector which is reshaping the industry. Sensors play a major role in our lives. “If we can develop good sensors, they can change our lives,” said Sharma.

“Accelerometers and gyroscopes are two key segments with substantial growth. MEMS takes advantage of the electrical and mechanical properties of the silicon.’ Sharma added that all MEMS gyroscopes take advantage of Coriolis effect. In 2009, ST introduced over 30 multi-axis gyroscopes.

For the statistically inclined, earlier this year, Dr. Robert Castellano of the Information Network said in their report 3-D TSV: Insight On Critical Issues And Market Analysis, that while the overall equipment market will grow at a CAGR of nearly 60 percent between 2008-2013, the metrology/inspection sector is expected to grow nearly 80 percent. On the device side, TSVs for MEMS is expected to grow nearly 100 percent in this time frame. Read more…

FPGAs sizzle, thanks to Actel, Altera and Xilinx at Embedded World 2010!


Three major announcements, simultaneously, from Actel, Altera and Xilinx in quick succession, indicates that ‘all is well’ in the FPGA market. And it seems, the Embedded World Conference is playing a major role in all of these developments. Great!

Altera announced an industrial safety data package for automation applications at the Embedded World Exhibition and Conference in Nuremberg, Germany.

Then, Xilinx introduced the Xilinx automotive (XA) family of Spartan-6 field FPGAs optimized for applications requiring high-speed connectivity and high-resolution video performance. At the same conference, Xilinx and Inova Semiconductors introduced an Automotive Pixel Link (APIX) IP solution for the Xilinx automotive (XA) family of FPGAs.

World’s first intelligent mixed signal FPGA
The best one, I believe, has come from Actel. Also at the Embedded World 2010, Actel unveiled SmartFusion, the world’s first intelligent mixed signal FPGA.

Now, isn’t that interesting? There has been a lot of focus on analog/mixed-signal (AMS), and Actel’s SmartFusion could not have been timed better.

I recall a story I had done some time ago with Cosmic Circuits for the India Semiconductor Association’s (ISA) website. The company said that the AMS market in India is set to expand rapidly in the next several years — driven by consumer, communications, automotive and industrial. The variety of analog chips required and the complexity are no different from those needed in other regions of the world!

Why? About 18 months ago, when speaking with Synopsys regarding the Galaxy Custom Designer, I distinctly remember the company telling me that it improves AMS productivity!

As per information, Actel’s SmartFusion devices feature Actel’s proven FPGA fabric, a complete MCU subsystem built around a hard ARM Cortex-M3 processor and programmable analog blocks on a flash process. This means, embedded designers can now easily build the system they want, with all the features they need, on a single chip.

Wonder what’s taken the FPGA suppliers so long to come out with an intelligent mixed signal FPGA. Am sure, the others have things lined up as well!

By the way, I couldn’t find anything from Achronix! Maybe, something is on the way from this company as well!

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