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.
Future Horizons hosted the 22nd Annual International Electronics Forum, in association with IDA Ireland, on Oct. 2-4, 2013, at Dublin, Blanchardstown, Ireland. The forum was titled ‘New Markets and Opportunities in the Sub-20nm Era: Business as Usual OR It’s Different This Time.” Here are excerpts from some of the sessions. Those desirous of finding out much more should contact Malcolm Penn, CEO, Future Horizons.
The global interest in graphene research has facilitated our understanding of this rather unique material. However, the transition from the laboratory to factory has hit some challenging obstacles. In this talk I will review the current state of graphene research, focusing on the techniques which allow large scale production.
I will then discuss various aspects of our research which is based on more complex structures beyond graphene. Firstly, hexagonal boron nitride can be used as a thin dielectric material where electrons can tunnel through. Secondly, graphene-boron nitride stacks can be used as tunnelling transistor devices with promising characteristics. The same devices show interesting physics, for example, negative differential conductivity can be found at higher biases. Finally, graphene stacked with thin semiconducting layers which show promising results in photodetection.
I will conclude by speculating the fields where graphene may realistically find applications and discuss the role of the National Graphene Institute in commercializing graphene.
The key challenge for future high-end computing chips is energy efficiency in addition to traditional challenges such as yield/cost, static power, data transfer. In 2020, in order to maintain at an acceptable level the overall power consumption of all the computing systems, a gain in term of power efficiency of 1000 will be required.
To reach this objective, we need to work not only at process and technology level, but to propose disruptive multi-processor SoC architecture and to make some major evolutions on software and on the development of
applications. Some key semiconductor technologies will definitely play a key role such as: low power CMOS technologies, 3D stacking, silicon photonics and embedded non-volatile memory.
To reach this goal, the involvement of semiconductor industries will be necessary and a new ecosystem has to be put in place for establishing stronger partnerships between the semiconductor industry (IDM, foundry), IP provider, EDA provider, design house, systems and software industries.
This presentation looks at the development of the semiconductor and electronics industries from an African perspective, both globally and in Africa. Understanding the challenges that are associated with the wide scale adoption of new electronics in the African continent.
Electronics have taken over the world, and it is unthinkable in today’s modern life to operate without utilising some form of electronics on a daily basis. Similarly, in Africa the development and adoption of electronics and utilisation of semiconductors have grown exponentially. This growth on the African continent was due to the rapid uptake of mobile communications. However, this has placed in stark relief the challenges facing increased adoption of electronics in Africa, namely power consumption.
This background is central to the thesis that the industry needs to look at addressing the twin challenges of low powered and low cost devices. In Africa there are limits to the ability to frequently and consistently charge or keep electronics connected to a reliable electricity grid. Therefore, the current advances in electronics has resulted in the power industry being the biggest beneficiary of the growth in the adoption of electronics.
What needs to be done is for the industry to support and foster research on this subject in Africa, working as a global community. The challenge is creating electronics that meet these cost and power challenges. Importantly, the solution needs to be driven by the semiconductor industry not the power industry. Focus is to be placed on operating in an off-grid environment and building sustainable solutions to the continued challenge of the absence of reliable and available power.
It is my contention that Africa, as it has done with the mobile communications industry and adoption of LED lighting, will leapfrog in terms of developing and adopting low powered and cost effective electronics.
Personalized, preventive, predictive and participatory healthcare is on the horizon. Many nano-electronics research groups have entered the quest for more efficient health care in their mission statement. Electronic systems are proposed to assist in ambulatory monitoring of socalled ‘markers’ for wellness and health.
New life science tools deliver the prospect of personal diagnostics and therapy in e.g., the cardiac, neurological and oncology field. Early diagnose, detailed and fast screening technology and companioning devices to deliver the evidence of therapy effectiveness could indeed stir a – desperately needed – healthcare revolution. This talk addresses the exciting trends in ‘PPPP’ health care and relates them to an innovation roadmap in process technology, electronic circuits and system concepts.
On the growth drivers for GP MCUs, the market growth is driven by faster migration to 32 bit platform. ST has been the first to bring the ARM Cortex based solution, and now targets leadership position on 32bit MCUs. An overview of the STM32 portfolio indicates high-performance MCUs with DSP and FPU up to 608 CoreMark and up to180 MHz/225 DMIPS.
Features of the STM32F4 product lines, specifically, the STM32F429/439, include 180 MHz, 1 to 2-MB Flash and 256-KB SRAM. The low end STM32F401 has features such as 84 MHz, 128-KB to 256-KB Flash and 64-KB SRAM.
The STM32F401 provides thebest balance in performance, power consumption, integration and cost. The STM32F429/439 is providing more resources, more performance and more features. There is close pin-to-pin and software compatibility within the STM32F4
series and STM32 platform.
The STM32 F429-F439 high-performance MCUs with DSP and FPU are:
• World’s highest performance Cortex-M MCU executing from Embedded Flash, Cortex-M4 core with FPU up to 180 MHz/225 DMIPS.
• High integration thanks to ST 90nm process (same platform as F2 serie): up to 2MB Flash/256kB SRAM.
• Advanced connectivity USB OTG, Ethernet, CAN, SDRAM interface, LCD TFT controller.
• Power efficiency, thanks to ST90nm process and voltage scaling.
In terms of providing more performance, the STM32F4 provides up to 180 MHz/225 DMIPS with ART Accelerator, up to 608 CoreMark result, and ARM Cortex-M4 with floating-point unit (FPU).
The STM32F427/429 highlights include:
• 180 MHz/225 DMIPS.
• Dual bank Flash (in both 1-MB and 2-MB), 256kB SRAM.
• SDRAM Interface (up to 32-bit).
• LCD-TFT controller supporting up to SVGA (800×600).
• Better graphic with ST Chrom-ART Accelerator:
– x2 more performance vs. CPU alone
– Offloads the CPU for graphical data generation
* Raw data copy
* Pixel format conversion
* Image blending (image mixing with some transparency).
• 100 μA typ. in Stop mode.
Some real-life examples of the STM32F4 include the smart watch, where it is the main application controller or sensor hub, the smartphone, tablets and monitors, where it is the sensor hub for MEMS and optical touch, and the industrial/home automation panel, where it is the main application controller. These can also be used in Wi-Fi modules for the Internet of Things (IoT), such as appliances, door cameras, home thermostats, etc.
These offer outstanding dynamic power consumption thanks to ST 90nm process, as well as low leakage current made possible by advanced design technics and architecture (voltage scaling). ST is making a large offering of evaluation boards and Discovery kits. The STM32F4 is also offering new firmware libraries. SEGGER and ST signed an agreement around the emWin graphical stack. The solution is called STemWin.
POET Technologies Inc., based in Storrs Mansfield, Connecticut, USA, and formerly, OPEL Technologies Inc., is the developer of an integrated circuit platform that will power the next wave of innovation in integrated circuits, by combining electronics and optics onto a single chip for massive improvements in size, power, speed and cost.
POET’s current IP portfolio includes more than 34 patents and seven pending. POET’s core principles have been in development by director and chief scientist, Dr. Geoff Taylor, and his team at the University of Connecticut for the past 18 years, and are now nearing readiness for commercialization opportunities. It recently managed to successfully integrate optics and electronics onto one monolithic chip.
Elaborating, Dr. Geoff Taylor, said: “POET stands for Planar Opto Electronic Technology. The POET platform is a patented semiconductor fabrication process, which provides integrated circuit devices containing both electronic and optical elements on a single chip. This has significant advantages over today’s solutions in terms of density, reliability and power, at a lower cost.
“POET removes the need for retooling, while providing lower costs, power savings and increased reliability. For example, an optoelectronic device using POET technology can achieve estimated cost savings back to the manufacturer of 80 percent compared to the hybrid silicon devices that are widely used today.
“The POET platform is a flexible one that can be applied to virtually any market, including memory, digital/mobile, sensor/laser and electro-optical, among many others. The platform uses two compounds – gallium and arsenide – that will allow semiconductor manufacturers to make microchips that are faster and more energy efficient than current silicon devices, and less expensive to produce.
“The core POET research and development team has spent more than 20 years on components of the platform, including 32 patents (and six patents pending).”
Moore’s Law to end next decade?
Is silicon dead and how much more there is to Moore’s Law?
According to Dr. Taylor, POET Technologies’ view is that Moore’s Law could come to an end within the next decade, particularly as semiconductor companies have recently highlighted difficulties in transitioning to the next generation of chipsets, or can only see two to three generations ahead.
Transistor density and its impact on product cost has been the traditional guideline for advancing computer technology because density has been accomplished by device shrinkage translating to performance improvement. Moore’s Law begins to fail when performance improvement translates less and less to device shrinkage – and this is occurring now at an increasing rate.
He added: “For POET Technologies, however, the question to answer is not when Moore’s Law will end – but what next. Rather than focus on how many more years we can expect Moore’s Law to last – or pinpoint a specific stumbling block to achieving the next generation of chipsets, POET looks at the opportunities for new developments and solutions to continue advancements in computing.
“So, for POET Technologies, we’re focusing less on existing integrated circuit materials and processes and more towards a different track with significant future runway. Our platform is a patented semiconductor fabrication process, which concentrates on delivering increases in performance at lower cost – and meets ongoing consumer appetites for faster, smaller and more power efficient computing.”
Don’t want to miss deadlines? Feel challenged about resources to deliver on critical business issues/initiatives? Well, are you desirous of responding much, much faster to customer requirements? Welcome to the converged infrastructure (CI)!
Is the future of IT enterprises resting on a converged infrastructure? Perhaps, yes! The CI comes with pre-integrated storage, networking, and virtualization — all as a single platform. That would surely increase the efficiency, agility and resiliency of any organization.
So, what exactly does the CI involve? Well, it will integrate all your servers, networking and storage into a single solution. This would improve the utilization of these collective resources effectively and efficiently. There will be tremendous simplification and centralization of management of resources. Further, it can bring down your IT expenditure by at least 30-40 percent, if not more! Enterprises can even have their RoIs within one or two years of implementation.
Having a CI in an enterprise involves having a strategic approach that touches every part of IT, such as applications, infrastructure and management, leading to:
* Accelerated IT service deployment.
* Efficiency across the IT services lifecycle.
* Strengthened IT service quality.
Dell’s PowerEdge VRTX shared infrastructure platform aims to do exactly all of the above, thereby the redefine office IT! There are integrated servers, storage and networking in a compact chassis optimized for office environments.
Dell’s PowerEdge VRTX provides a shared infrastructure platform, scalable performance, flexible shared storage, simple and versatile systems management, integrated networking and flexible I/O, and seamless management integration. CIOs definitely do not need to worry about loud servers, cabling nightmares, etc.
Dell’s PowerEdge VRTX is meant not only for SMBs, but also for large companies in retail, banking, healthcare, education, financial, etc. For example, a large company may have a huge data center somewhere that manage various stores. However, at each individual store/location, there’s no central IT management or administration. Hence, this acts like an IT administrator-in-a-box by giving the IT administrator the ability to manage across any store/location across the world using just from one box.
The PowerEdge VRTX is really a shared infrastructure platform, offering extensive performance and capacity with office-level acoustics in a single, compact tower chassis. It is ideal for small and midsize businesses, as well as remote and branch offices of large enterprises.
There is no compromise on scalable performance. Dell VRTX can help businesses gain fast application response times, run multiple applications that need performance or low latency, power through peak processing periods and scale for future business growth. There is flexible shared storage. All four server nodes have access to the low-latency internal shared storage that is ideal for virtualization and clustering. Local storage is also available in the chassis, which is highly economical and easier to manage than traditional SAN.
The PowerEdge VRTX offers integrated networking and flexible I/O. It includes a GbE embedded switch that eliminates the need to purchase a separate networking device and PCIe resources that are shared across the compute nodes within the chassis.
It also allows simple, efficient and versatile systems management. Full-functioned unified system management with Chassis Management Controller (CMC) and GeoView helps take much of the time and effort out of system administration and control. Deploy, monitor, update and maintain through a unified console that covers servers, storage and networking. Dell’s VRTX systems management is also integrated with major third-party management tools, protecting the CIOs installed investments and allowing them to use what they know.
This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell.
Xilinx Inc. has taped-out the first 20nm All Programmable Device with first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture. It is said to be the semiconductor industry’s first 20nm device, and the PLD industry’s first 20nm All Programmable device. Xilinx implemented the industry’s first ASIC-class programmable architecture called UltraScale.
These milestones expand on Xilinx’s industry first 28nm tape-out, All Programmable SoCs, All Programmable 3D ICs, and SoC-strength design suite. Xilinx already has several firsts in the 28nm space, such as:
* First 28nm tape-out.
* First All Programmable SoC.
* First All Programmable 3D IC.
* First SoC-strength design suite.
Neeraj Varma, director-Sales, India, said that Xilinx’s global market share in the 28nm portfolio was 65 percent in March 2013. With the launch of the industry’s first 20nm All Programmable Device with first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture, there are improvements such as 1.5-2x performance and integration, and a year ahead of the competition. It handles massive I/O bandwidth, massive memory bandwidth, massive data flow and routing, and fastest DSP processing. The architecture will scale — from monolithic to 3D IC, planar to FinFET, and ASIC-class performance.
The UltraSCALE architecture points to high performance smarter systems. For example, 1Tps in OTN networking, 8K in digital video, LTE-A in wireless communications, and digital array in radar. There will be requirements for massive packet processing over 400 Gbps wire-speed, massive data flow over 5Tbps, as well as massive I/O and memory bandwidth over 5Tbps, and DSP performance over 7 TMACs.
The mandate for ASIC-class programmable architecture is to remove bottlenecks for massive data flow and smart processing, high throughput with low latency, and efficient design closure with greater than 90 percent utilization without performance degradation. These are the benefits of applying leading edge ASIC techniques in a fully programmable architecture.
ASIC-like clocking maximizes performance margin for highest throughput. UltraSCALE ASIC-like clocking enables clock placement virtually anywhere on the die, making the clock skew problem go away. Also, highly optimized critical paths remove bottlenecks in DSP and packet processing. There is greatly enhanced DSP processing, high-speed memory cascading, and hardened IP for I/O intensive functions.
Next generation power management features also enable a leap in performance. The process node is up to 35 percent static at 20nm. There are more buffers for granular or coarse clock gating. Block RAM is dynamic power gating, hardened cascading. For transceivers, there are architectural optimizations. There is efficient packing and utilization of the logic fabric. For DSP, there are wider multipliers and fewer blocks per function. As for memory, there is DDR4, which operates at 1.2v vs.1.5v, voltage scaling.
The Xilinx KINTEX UltraSCALE will power 4×4 mixed-mode radios, 100G traffic manager NICs, super high-vision processing, 256-channel ultrasound and 48-channel T/R radar processing. The Xilinx VIRTEX UltraSCALE will power 400G OTN switching, 400G transponder, 400G MAC-to-Interlaken bridge, 2x100G muxponder and ASIC prototyping.
Xilinx worked with TSMC to infuse high-end FPGA requirements into the TSMC 20SoC development process, just as it had done in the development of 28HPL. The Xilinx Vivado Design Suite early access supporting UltraScale architecture-based FPGAs is now available. Initial UltraScale devices will be available in Q4-2013.
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.