While designing, it is critical to pick the appropriate codec or formats that can be handled by a video IP to support any given application. It is also very important to select the correct video IP with proper and standard interfaces so that it can be as close as possible to ‘plug-and-play’ in terms of System on a Chip (SoC) integration.
Ravishankar Ganesan, VP, SoC IP Business Unit, Ittiam Systems, commenting on the selection of the video IP for SoC designs, said that SoCs use the divide and conquer strategy very well.
The SoC is today truly defining and integrating multiple specialized blocks or subsystems keeping the target application of the SoC in mind. Each one of these specialized subsystems needs to be the best in terms of its performance, area and power so that the SoC can be the best, competitive and well suited for the target market.
The video intellectual property (IP) is one of these specialized subsystems, and hence, critically important for SoCs, which are targeted for video based applications. Needless to mention, there is no one video IP that ‘fits all’ video SoCs.
So what should any SoC designer look for in terms of supporting video profiles and codecs? This really depends on the application(s) for which the SoC is likely to address. If you are targeting video IP for mobile TV application in a cellular phone, the profiles and codecs will get determined by the appropriate broadcasting system.
Similarly, if the SoC is targeting the high-definition ((HD) DVD player segment, the video codecs and their profiles/levels needs to be determined based on the video encoder configuration that was used to create the content on the DVD disc.
There has to be a way on going about selecting/understanding video codecs. In this context, it is very critical to pick the appropriate codec or formats that can be handled by the video IP to support the given application.
It is also very important to pick the video IP with the proper and standard interfaces so that it can be as close as to “plug-and-play” in terms of the SoC integration. The area and power dissipation are important as well, so that the SoC can be sold at a competitive price in the market.
At high pixel rates, what would be the situation with the video subsystem? Simply put, the higher resolutions result in the explosion of data. The video subsystem needs to be highly efficient in order to handle the high data movement. It also needs to have very efficient video processing engines to meet the real-time requirements.
As for the amount of off-chip video bandwidth that is actually needed by an IP block, Ganesan said that it depends a lot on the resolution that the video IP is likely to handle. The video resolution, profiles and levels will get determined by the application. Trade-offs between silicon real-estate and off-chip video bandwidth plays very critical role.
Improving video performance
Video performance is said to deteriorate as the off-chip memory latency increases. What can be done to improve this? Internal buffering will definitely help to reduce this impact. However, that can affect the silicon size of the device. Hence, care needs to be taken and trade-off needs to be done depending upon the Video system requirements.
Finally, let’s examine how best can a designer integrate the video IP core into an SOC design. Depending upon the interfaces, the video IP can slide easily into the SoC. The IP could be just an engine, or processor core based soft IP or a combination of both.
So, the SoC designer needs to evaluate the application requirements, and determine the right interfaces and the appropriate processor core, along with the memory sub-system. There could be peripheral interface IPs [that are either part of the Video IP or separate], which also needs to be inserted as part of the SoC and the data flow on the device needs good management.
Agnisys Inc. was established in 2007 in Massachusetts, USA, with a mission to deliver innovative automation to the semiconductor industry. The company offers affordable VLSI design and verification tools for SoCs, FPGAs and IPs that makes the design verification process extremely efficient.
Agnisys’ IDesignSpec is an award winning engineering tool that allows an IP, chip or system designer to create the register map specification once and automatically generate all possible views from it. Various outputs are possible, such as UVM, OVM, RALF, SystemRDL, IP-XACT etc. User defined outputs can be created using Tcl or XSLT scripts. IDesignSpec’s patented technology improves engineer’s productivity and design quality.
The IDesignSpec automates the creation of registers and sequences guaranteeing higher quality and consistent results across hardware and software teams. As your ASIC or FPGA design specification changes, IDesignSpec automatically adjusts your design and verification code, keeping the critical integration milestones of your design engineering projects synchronized.
Register verification and sequences consume up to 40 percent of project time or more when errors are the source of re-spins of SoC silicon or an increase in the number of FPGA builds. IDesignSpec family of products is available in various flavors such as IDSWord, IDSExcel, IDSOO and IDSBatch.
IDesignSpec more than a tool for creating register models!
Anupam Bakshi, founder, CEO and chairman, Agnisys, said: “IDesignSpec is more than a tool for creating register models. It is now a complete Executable Design Specification tool. The underlying theme is always to capture the specification in an executable form and generate as much code in the output as possible.”
The latest additions in the IDesignSpec are Constraints, Coverage, Interrupts, Sequences, Assertions, Multiple Bus Domains, Special Registers and Parameterization of outputs.
“IDesignSpec offers a simple and intuitive way to specify constraints. These constraints, specified by the user, are used to capture the design intent. This design intent is transformed into code for design, verification and software. Functional Coverage models can be automatically generated from the spec so that once again the intent is captured and converted into appropriate coverage models,” added Bakshi.
Using an add-on function of capturing Sequences, the user is now able to capture various programming sequences in the spec, which are translated into C++ and UVM sequences, respectively. Further, the interrupt registers can now be identified by the user and appropriate RTL can be generated from the spec. Both edge sensitive and level interrupts can be handled and interrupts from various blocks can be stacked.
Assertions can be automatically generated from the high level constraint specification. These assertions can be created with the RTL or in the external files such that they can be optionally bound to the RTL. Unit level assertions are good for SoC level verification and debug, and help the user in identifying issues deep down in the simulation hierarchy.
The user can now identify one or more bus domains associated with Registers and Blocks, and generate appropriate code from it. Special Registers such as shadow registers and register aliasing is also automatically generated.
Finally all of the outputs such as RTL, UVM, etc., can be parameterized now, so that a single master specification can be used to create outputs that can be parameterized at the elaboration time.
How is IDesignSpec working as chip-level assertion-based verification?
Bakshi said: “It really isn’t an assertion tool! The only assertion that we automatically generate is from the constraints that the user specifies. The user does not need to specify the assertions. We transform the constraints into assertions.”
The number of MEMS and sensors going into mobile, consumer and gaming applications is expected to continue to skyrocket. As a result, OSAT and Wafer foundry players are getting more and more interest in MEMS module packaging, as volume and complexity of MEMS SiP modules is increasing dramatically, said Dr. Eric Mourier, Yole Developpement.
It implies that IDMs needs to find second source partnersand qualify some OSATs in order to secure their supply chain. Also, standardization(coming from both foundries, OSAT, WLP houses or substrate suppliers) is critical and necessary to implement in order to keep the packaging, assembly, and test cost of MEMS modules under control. There are many different players with different designs, and it’s not likely we’ll see one solution adopted by all the players.
As for wafer-level packaging (WLP) for LEDs, WLP has not been strongly deployed in the LED industry due to associated technical challenges. In the short-term, there is ESD integration in Si substrate. In the long-term, LED drivers could be integrated at the package level for Intelligent lighting. Ultimately, there are wafer-to-wafer manufacturing schemes for certain packaget types.
Real production of HB-LEDs with a mixed approach of WLP+through silicon vias (TSV) is just starting. There are some Taiwanese players such as TSMC, Xintec, Visera, Touch MicroTech and Sibdi, and South Korea-based LG Innotek. Additional players in the semiconductor and MEMS industry are seeking to enter the field.
Selection of the right on-chip network is critical to meeting the requirements of today’s advanced SoCs. There is easy IP integration with IP cores from many sources with different protocols, and an UVM verification environment.
John Bainbridge, staff technologist, CTO Office, Sonics Inc., said that it optimizes the system performance. Virtual channels offer efficient resource usage – saves gates and wires. The non-blocking network leads to an improved system performance. There are flexible topology choices with optimal network to match requirements.
Power management is key with advanced system partitioning, and an improved design flow and timing closure. Finally, the development environment allows easy design capture and has performance analysis tools.
For the record, there are several SoC integration challenges that need to be addressed, such as IP integration, frequency, throughput, physical design, power management, security, time-to-market and development costs.
SGN exceeds requirements
SGN met the tablet performance requirement with fabric frequency of 1066MHz. It has an efficient gate count of 508K gates. There are features such as an advanced system partitioning, security and I/O coherency. There is support for system concurrency as well as advanced power management.
Sonics offers system IP solutions such as SGN, a router based NoC solution, with flexible partitioning and VC (Virtual Channel) support. The frequency is optimized with credit based flow control.
SSX/SLX is message based crossbar/ShareLink solutions based on interleaved multi-channel technology. It has target based QoS with three arbitration levels. The SonicsExpress is for power centric clock domain crossing. There is sub-system re-use and decoupling. The MemMax manages and optimizes the DRAM efficiency while maintaining system QoS. There is run-time programmability for all traffic types. The SonicsConnect is a non-blocking peripheral interconnect.
Here is a view from Mike Bryant of Future Horizons, taken from the Enable450 newsletter, for which, I must thank Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO.
This is a question often asked by journalists and others not directly involved in 450mm technology, and indeed was one of the questions that formed the basis of the SMART 2010/062 report Future Horizons produced for the European Commission.
It is also a question every new 450mm project has to answer in its funding request to the European Commission, and whilst working on the Bridge450 submission we realised the arguments have become rather unclear over time. The following gives some insight and clarity into the question.
In 1970, Gordon Moore re-formulated predictions on computer storage by Turing and others into a simple statement that the number of transistors per unit area of an IC will double every two years for at least the next ten years. This became known as “Moore’s Law” and apart from the occasional hiccup has in fact been followed for the past forty years. Note that Moore never suggested a doubling in density every 18 months, this time period coming from a different statement concerning transistor performance.
Of course, doubling the number of transistors would not be that helpful if the price per unit area also doubled. The semiconductor industry has thus strived to maintain the cost of manufacturing per unit area at a constant price, and analysed over time has done a remarkable job in maintaining this number such that the ASP of logic devices has sat at around $9 per square centimetre for this whole period during which the cost of everything else including the equipment, materials and labour used to make the IC have increased, labour costs in particular increasing by a factor of around five times.
The actual cost of processing a wafer appreciates by around 6 percent per annum due to technology cycle upgrades and insertions, for example in the past the replacement of aluminium interconnects with copper or more recently the move to double patterning for lithography of critical layers. Several approaches have been used to maintain a constant area cost, these being:
Improvements in yield – this obviously reduces wastage and vast improvements have been made in this field though yields are now so good that the problem is more maintaining these levels with each new process node rather than improving them further.
Increasing levels of automation – this is still an area undergoing improvement but again we have entered an area of diminishing returns on the investment required.
Introducing larger wafer sizes – this has been performed on an irregular basis over the history of the semiconductor industry. The increase in surface area reduces many but not all of the processing costs whilst material costs tend to stay fairly constant per unit area. Thus at the 300mm transition the increase in area by 2.25 times gave a cost per unit area reduction of 30 percent, approximately compensating for the increased processing costs acquired over the 90nm and 65nm nodes.
Tensilica DPU solutions are meant for broad applications. It is focusing on three key verticals — Hi-Fi audio voice, IVP imaging and Diamond controllers, as well as the Xtensa. Tensilica will expand the Cadence IP footprint in SoCs. This compliments Cadence and Cosmic Circuits interface and analog IPs.
How does all of this fit into Cadence’s vision of an IP factory? According to Chris Rowan, founder and CTO, Tensilica, there will likely be an IP bazaar, architected for efficiency, quality and strong focus on integration. He was speaking on the concluding day of the 13th Global Electronics Summit at Santa Cruz, USA.
Complex imaging functions are now everywhere. There are some challenges here such as computational demands. The off-load opportunity means more operations, and lower power per operation.
The Tensilica IVP – image/video processing family consists of the IVP, a high-performance DSP subsystem. It is built for low energy handheld devices. It also has licensable, synthesizable core with rich software tools and libraries. The IVP core has 32 element engines. The IVP has many parallel ‘element engines’ + Xtensa control programmed as SMID uniprocessor. Application examples include feature detection, 3D noise reduction filter, and video stabiilizer.
IVP is meeting tomorrow’s imaging requirements. It is built for very high imaging efficiency. It is easy to program and is scalable — and can use multiple cores.There is a huge market in many applications. An example of how Tensilica will fit into Cadence’s IP factory is the DTV application.
Together, Cadence and Tensilica will increase customer value. They will accelerate the time-to-market with solution proven customizable design IP. There will be fully integrated data plane solutions for optimized solutions, power and area for various applications. High quality IP subsystems are tested to work optimally together. It is highly complementary to partner CPUs. It is also highly complementary to Cadence’s broad connectivity/AMS design IP, verification IP offerings, and foundry-qualified SoC design tools.
The partnership will also bolster Cadence as a next-generation IP provider. There will be an enhanced portfolio of advanced IP in advanced nodes spanning a wide range of applications. It will address seamless designs from architecture definition to silicon
tape-out. It will also strengthen solutions to address key market segments.
QuickLogic is a Silicon Valley-based fabless semiconductor company. It is an innovator of CSSPs or customer-specific standard products. It is focused on high-growth mobile markets such as consumer, enterprise and mobile enterprise.
Speaking at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA, Andy Pease president and CEO, QuickLogic, said it does all the drivers that actually need to be inside all the application processors. It is trying to solve the OEM dilemma for mobile market. There are the Android + ARM camp and the Windows + x86 camp, respectively. One way to solve the problem is to do software overlay to Android/Windows.
CSSPs enables the OEM hardware differentiation. It allows fastest time-to-market for custom silicon. It also extends the battery life. The reference designs showcases proven system blocks and capabilities. It is a known good starting point for CSSP development.
The application development dilemma includes optimizing for the specific vertical vs. horizontal markets. When does the integration happen for new standards? Also, how long does a company need to keep mature standards?
QuickLogic has inrtroduced catalog CSSPs. These are ready-to-integrate solutions. They are architectured, developed and verified with application processor vendors.
Platform diversity enables solutions 100 percent programmable for ultimate flexibility. Hybrid programmable/ASIC is provided for common applications requiring some customization. The go-to-market strategy includes complete solutions. It includes software drivers, firmware and application reference codes. It is a collaborative customer model.
A partner challenge could be to re-position its existing AP in new, adjacent markets and applications. QuickLogic’s solution is to provide custom design and software drivers to bridge the AP with camera interface to different types of image capture devices.
Another example is in SD memory. The premier challenge is to adapt the existing baseband processor to emerging market requirements. QuickLogic’s solution is to develop multiple custom designs and software drivers to bridge the baseband with SD memory.
Catalog CSSPs emable the OEM engineers expanded functionality beyond the application processor’s native capability. They expand the served available market of application/embedded processor companies. It scales QuickLogic’s resources across multiple end markets, applications and customers.
Today, the challenge is all about abstraction and putting automation around it. Productivity is automation and abstraction. Tom Feist, senior marketing director, Design Methodology Marketing, Xilinx said that the company’s strategy has been about All Programmable abstractions. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit being held in Santa Cruz, USA.
Today’s hardware design abstractions include accelerated time to integration, abstracting hardware. For IP abstractions, Xilinx has introduced the IP integrator. It enables IP re-use and time to integration. The Vivado uses multiple plug-and-play IP. Vivado IP integrator is co-optimized for platforms and for silicon, respectively.
Vivado IP integrator has features such as correct-by-construction and automated IP systems. Vivado high-level synthesis allows C/C++ abstractions. Xilinx introduced the OpenCV library, accelerating smarter vision. It supports frame-level processing library for PS. It also supports pixel processing interfaces and basic functions for analytics.
Mathworks has model based abstraction. The automatic C and HDL code generation is supported from the same algorithmic level.
Hardware/software partitioning is supported for Zynq-7000 AP SoCs. There are comprehensive video, motor control and signal processing IP libraries. There are automated workflows targeting Xilinx platforms.
Xilinx is also working with National Instruments. The automated C and HDL code generation is from the same graphical syntax in the LabVIEW IDE. It automatically generates a hardware implementation to meet requirements, abstracting Xilinx tool flow. There is a comprehensive software, hardware and I/O platform for creating control and monitoring systems.
Abstraction evolution has evolved to system level abstraction. It is abstracting all hardware through an increasing layer of automation.
All Programmable realization empowers software and systems engineers. There is a common compilation environment for heterogenous systems. It consumes C, C++ or OpenCL and libraries with user directives. There is automated flow — the user determines the program modules that run on various components.
The Vivado Design Suite 2013 abstractions with IP based design, C, C++, SystemC and OpenCV is new. Mathworks and National Instruments system level design abstractions with new levels of automation is emerging. Xilinx’s vision has been to empower the software and systems engineers by extending abstractions and automation.
As per James Stansberry, VP & GM Broadcast Products, Silicon Labs, there was the emergence of CMOS RF design in late 1990s. He was speaking at the Globalpress Electronics Summit 2013, being held in Santa Cruz, the US.
CMOS strengths can be maximised in low-cost/high-volume wafer processing, low-power and high density logic that scales with lithography, and switched device architectures enable high-performance ADCs and DACs. Large RAM arrays and NVM are also available.
CMOS weaknesses can be minimized if the noise level at given current (1/f noise), there are low Q integrated inductors, Ft still lags SiGe and GaAs at same power level, and there is lower dynamic range with shriking supply voltages.
There are design LNAs, mixers, VCOs, PLLs and ADCs to compensate for CMOS constraints. It is recommended to use digital logic to detect and correct RF and baseband performance deficiencies. Optimizing a CMOS receiver means to design for cost without power or performance compromise and leverage digital signal processing to optimize RF.
Silicon Labs’ multiband radio receiver solution allows the power of integration. It leads to over 80 percent BoM savings. No manual alignment is required. There is minimal rework and superior RF performance. The BoM cost = -$0.10. Silicon Labs will be introducing the Si468x FM digital radio next week.
Advancing digital radio market
The software-defined radio (SDR) is to support multiple digital radio standards. It also supports worldwide analog FM and RDS/RBDS. It is compatible with iBiquity and NRSC-5 standards for FM digital radio and also compatible with Eureka 147 DAB/DAB+.
It is flexible and cost effective, as the radio-on-a-chip solution is available in WLCSP and QFN packages. It supports module or on-board designs. Silicon Labs is looking to broadening digital radio penetration. It can be seen in handheld clock and tabletop radios and clocks, mobile phones, tablets, PMPs and PNDs, and boom boxes and mini/micro systems.
The insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is a three-terminal power semiconductor device. The main trends impacting IGBT include the power stack trend, revolution of Chinese IGBT, growth of IGBT use in consumer applications, and competition from SiC and GaN based devices, respectively.
According to Alexander Avron, Yole Developpement, current density of the IGBT has been multiplied by 3.5 in 20 years. IGBT technology is now very mature, using trenches and thin wafer. Wafer size for IGBT production is still growing and Infineon is currently the leader.
Infineon expects a cost advantage of 20-30 percent by increasing the wafer size from 8- to 12-inches. For Infineon, the 12-inch production line is for MOSFETSs, and they will probably produce IGBT 600V on thin wafer. Fairchild and IR prefer to remain at 8-inch.
A new generation release is always a low voltage product (600-900V). Main improvements have been in losses reduction. In the IGBT supply chain, vertically integrated companies are Japanese only, besides a few, like ABB. Only a few companies, like Danfoss, take advantage of doing module and inverter for motor drives. In a cost-driven market, there is not much competitive advantage in developing own module.
Trends impacting IGBT
Power stack trend - The need for more modularity and higher performance made components makers (active and passive) to join and create consortiums or JVs. It is trending toward more integration.
Revolution of the Chinese IGBT - First Chinese companies are starting to manufacture IGBTs using standard technology and low cost, perfect for a local market. Asian players are becoming a greater part of the IGBT market. While they do not make a lot of devices as yet, it is expected that they will quickly gain market shares in low cost local businesses.
Some new entrants include CSMC, Hua-Hong NEC, PSMC, BYD, Grace Semiconductor, Alpha & Omega Semiconductor, etc. Many Chinese companies are very close to or already able to manufacture their own IGBTs. This will grow and create a Chinese IGBT.
Growth of IGBT use in consumer applications - IGBTs are becoming more part of the consumer lifestyle. Renewable energies and EV/HEV are good examples. Pioneers of HV IGBT have the best market shares. Margin for HV IGBT modules is high. It is first in the EV/HEV and renewables markets. New markets are targeted by all players.
The ASP evolution of consumer markets has dropped down very fast as compared to the industrial markets. Also, DLB or direct lead bonding is a specific technology from Mitsubishi Electric to produce epoxy molded power modules for hybrid and electric cars. Mass production is targeted for 2013.
Competition from SiC and GaN - Next generation devices are becoming available. They will displace IGBT, but not at all the levels and in all the applications. Characteristics of GaN-based inverters are: they primarily target medium voltage apps (200-600V range). SiC diodes are already in production, mainly coupled with IGBT. Penetration of SiCs in wind turbines will happen later than expected.
As for the 2006-2020 power devices market forecast, Yole expects a more stable growth by 2020. There was an unanticipated slowdown in 2012. The market share in 2011 was Mitsubishi 27 percent, Infineon 23 percent, Fuji Electric 11 percent, etc. The IGBT market share was Infineon 35 percent, Mitsubishi 32 percent, Hitachi 12 percent, ABB 9 percent, respectively.
Yole estimates that at least 15 companies – foundries, fab lights and fabs — are working on IGBT development in China.