San Diego, USA based Ethertronics Inc., enabling innovative antenna and RF solutions to deliver the best connected experience, has launched Ether 1.3.1, a phone adaptive antenna solution. Ready for integration with smartphones or other classes of phones, the Ether 1.3.1 can realize design benefits such as 50 percent reduction in antenna volume, yet maintain compliant performance.
According to Laurent Desclos, president and CEO, Ether 1.3.1 allows an antenna system to dynamically tune itself for optimum performance. Phone form factors are constantly changing throughout the design cycle.
“Current solutions, using passive antennas, require the antenna to be re-tuned with each change to the phone form factor, lengthening the time to market. Ether 1.3.1′s advanced active circuitry is able to adapt to changes in the form factor, reducing the need for lengthy antenna redesigns.”
In addition, Ether 1.3.1 can be designed to take up less volume than other antennas (up to a 50-percent reduction), providing more space for other components, and yet, still remain specification compliant.
Is this solution only suitable for smartphones then? Desclos said that Ether 1.3.1 is not limited to just smartphones. It can be integrated into all tiers of devices such as feature phones and tablets supporting 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile device designs. Ether 1.3.1 is said to be ready for commercial deployment. Several design references have been accomplished to date. Products from OEMs will be announced in the future.
It is said that Ether 1.3.1 allows more freedom in antenna structure design. Elaborating, Desclos said: “Ether 1.3.1 allows more freedom in antenna structure design in a few core areas: size, placement and ability to meet performance specifications. Through the use of active impedance matching techniques, smaller volume antennas can be achieved.”
This is especially important as phone form factors shrink, while more components are added to phones for increased functionality (cameras, GPS, etc.). Ether 1.3.1 can additionally be used to achieve compliance as the antenna system can be dynamically tuned for known challenge areas in specification compliance.
Finally, how can the Ether 1.3.1 solution be tuned for tougher challenges by toning down the antenna size?
Typically, when the antenna’s size is decreased, performance suffers since there is less volume area to cover the required bandwidth. The beauty of active impedance matching is that the technique allows for the antenna volume to be reduced by as much as 50 percent and still maintain compliant performance. As a result, active impedance matching allows for a wide range of designs, since the technique is applicable to a broad range of form factors.
However, post the meeting, to my horror, I misplaced my notes and only managed to locate them last week. My apologies to Infineon for being late with this blog post.
I was able to discuss Infineon’s wireless strategy with Dr Ludwig and also managed a peek at Infineon’s range of microcontrollers during my discussion with Peter Schaefer. First, let’s have a look at the company’s wireless strategy.
Dr Matthias Ludwig said: “We are good in RF and baseband. There are about 1.5 billion RF transceivers out there globally, from Infineon.” He added that one third of the market falls in the low cost mobile phone segment.
Infineon’s wireless strategy is two fold — low cost solutions and the smartphone platform — where the company is focusing on the modem and the RF side, respectively. Infineon’s Android based smartphone platform uses an ARM 11 baseband. “Customers can come up with their own application processor,” Dr Ludwig said. “Our strategy gives us a lot of flexibility.”
He mentioned that Infineon receives a lot of requests from customers for smartphones at $100 solutions. “We believe that we can manage our single core Android platform in the $100 segment.”
Thanks to Dr Ludwig, I had a first hand experience of some of the smartphones that Infineon is currently working on. Actually, think about it! A $100 dollar (and even sub $100) smartphone may be just the thing Indians would love to have.
As for Infineon’s India strategy — part of the focus is on low cost. “We know that there is tough competition out there,” noted Dr. Ludwig. One other aspect that Infineon is focusing on is: how to develop and build an ecosystem in the country.
Of course, Infineon is also looking beyond the Indian market when it is developing solutions. In that respect, Dr Ludwig added that one of Infineon’s focus is to find the sweet spots that are not only of interest to India. “There is a certain drive to have low end products. Safety and reliability of the products are also important,” he concluded.
I will add a separate post on the conversation with Peter Schaefer, VP & GM, Head Microcontrollers, Infineon.
Cadence Design Systems Inc. has announced the Tempus timing signoff solution. It facilitates ground-breaking signoff timing analysis and closure. The new technology accelerates timing analysis and closure by weeks. It is said to be up to 10X faster than competing solutions. Tempus has also been endorsed by Texas Instruments (TI).
Complexity is growing exponentially and signoff is the bottleneck. There is an increasing design complexity. Low power is important across markets — from smartphones to datacenters. Time to market remains critical as well. Feature-rich devices are growing the design size.
Timing closure schedule and complexity have been increasing. In fact, up until now, timing closure solutions are said to have not kept pace with design complexity. The number of timing views are increasing with each new process node. The increased margins make timing closure very difficult. Exponential growth in design size and complexity are stretching the analysis capacity. Time in signoff closure has been increasing up to 40 percent of the design flow at 20nm.
The Tempus timing signoff solution is big on performance, accuracy and closure. For performance, it facilitates massively parallelized computation, is scalable to 100s of CPUs and there are optimized data structures. It allows up to 10X faster path-based analysis (PBA) and advanced process modeling for accuracy. Finally, for closure, it provides up to 10X reduction in closure time, is placement and routing aware and offers unlimited MMMC capacity.
Tempus offers an unprecedented performance, and handles 100s of millions of cells flat! It has an innovative hierarchical/incremental analysis. For design closure, the multi-mode, multi-corner (MMMC) is distributed or concurrent. There is physically aware optimization, such as graph- or path-based. The PBA is a detailed view of timing based on slew propagation.
With Tempus, Cadence is solving the design complexity challenge by eliminating the signoff bottleneck and enabling customers to meet power, performance and time-to-market goals.
What exactly is smart energy profile (SEP 2) IP-based energy management for the home? Introducing the SEP 2, Tobin Richardson, chairman and CEO, ZigBee Alliance said ZigBee smart energy is the standard of choice for home area networks (HANs).
About 40+ million ZigBee electric meters are being deployed. ZigBee smart energy is being enhanced by network/communications options, support for forward-looking developments, etc. SEP 2 is a joint effort with the HomePlug Alliance. There is a vision of MAC/PHY agnostic SmartEnergy profile.
Robby Simpson, SEP 2 Technical Working Group Chair, system architect, GE Digital Energy, provided the features and benefits of Smart Energy. Features include price communication, demand response and load control, energy usage information/metering data, prepayment metering, text messaging, plug-in electric vehicles, distributed energy resources, billing communication, etc.
Example applications are many, such as smartphones, ESI in the sky, tablets, TVs, plug-in electric vehicles, PCs, solar inverters, thermostats, energy management systems, smart meters, building management systems, smart appliances, etc. There is support for a variety of architectures. The use of IP eases convergence and architecture changes. A consortium for SEP 2 interoperability (CSEP) has been established.
Skip Ashton, ZigBee Arch. review committee chair, senior apps director, Silicon Labs said implementations of SEP 2 are available from a number of companies and across several MAC/PHYs. All standard documents are available for review.
Jeff Gooding, Southern California Edison (SCE), spoke about creating SEP 2 energy ecosysyems. SEP 2 can bridge multi-platform customer technologies to create a rich ecosystem. SEP 2 customer focused solutions can allow the utilities and energy service providers to use any customer communication channel. SEP 2 pilots at SCE include a gateway pilot and a smart charging pilot. Both are separate pilots.
It is always a pleasure speaking with Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. I met him on the sidelines of the 13th Global Electronics Summit, held at the Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, USA.
Status of global EDA industry
First, I asked Dr. Rhines how the EDA industry was doing. Dr. Rhines said: “The global EDA industry has been doing pretty well. The results have been pretty good for 2012. In general, the EDA industry tends to follow the semiconductor R&D by at least 18 months.”
For the record, the electronic design automation (EDA) industry revenue increased 4.6 percent for Q4 2012 to $1,779.1 million, compared to $1,700.1 million in Q4 2011.
Every region, barring Japan, grew in 2012. The Asia Pacific rim grew the fastest – about 12.5 percent. The Americas was the second fastest region in terms of growth at 7.4 percent, and Europe grew at 6.8 percent. However, Japan decreased by 3 percent in 2012.
In 2012, the segments that have grown the fastest within the EDA industry include PCB design and IP, respectively. The front-end CAE (computer aided engineering) group grew faster than the backend CAE. By product category, CAE grew 9.8 percent. The overall growth for license and maintenance was 7 percent. Among the CAE areas, design entry grew 36 percent and emulation 24 percent, respectively.
DFM also grew 28 percent last year. Overall, PCB grew 7.6 percent, while PCB analysis was 25 percent. IP grew 12.6 percent, while the verification IP grew 60 percent. Formal verification and power analysis grew 16 percent each, respectively. “That’s actually a little faster than how semiconductor R&D is growing,” added Dr. Rhines.
Status of global semicon industry
On the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. Dr. Rhines said: “The global semiconductor industry grew very slowly in 2012. Year 2013 should be better. Revenue was actually consolidated by a lot of consolidations in the wireless industry.”
According to him, smartphones should see further growth. “There are big investments in capacities in the 28nm segment. Folks will likely redesign their products over the next few years,” he said. “A lot of firms are waiting for FinFET to go to 20nm. People who need it for power reduction should benefit.”
“A lot of people are concerned about Japan. We believe that Japan can recover due to the Yen,” he added.
Founded in 2002, Analogix Semiconductor Inc., a fabless semiconductor company, has introduced the SlimPort that turns your mobile phone into a game console. It also turns your phone into a PC. SlimPort also turns your phone into a media library and player.
SlimPort is a simple mobile accessory that unlocks the full power of your phone or tablet. Some examples are the LG optimus G Pro, PadFone Infinity, Google nexus and Arrows Tab, respectively.
Speaking at the 13th Global Electronics Summit at Santa Cruz, USA, Andre Bouwer, VP Marketing, Analogix, said SlimPort also connects to any TV, monitor and projector. It should not be confused with DisplayPort, an open standard and owned by VESA, MyDP is an extension of DisplayPort. SlimPort is a brand of products that provide access to all of your videos, games, and work, wherever you are. It complies with MyDP.
DisplayPort is everywhere. It drives internal and external notebook screens. TVs need notebook connectivity and 4K x 2K, as do phones and tablets. DisplayPort is architected for mobile. It is used in all PCs today. It offers the highest resolutions and battery charging during display. It supports fixed data frequency and spread spectrum, and has passed EMI tests. It reduces the system power consumption as well as noise, strengthening incoming and outgoing RF signal.
SlimPort connects VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. SlimPort performs 1920×1080 at 60Hz, making it ideal for gaming, and 1920×1200 at 60Hz, making it suitable for office. SlimPort charges and preserves the battery. It plays HD audio and video, and you can also plug in USB power to charge your phone.
SlimPort creates value. It is easy to integrate and provides seamless connectivity across the product line. It enables new mobile price points, and allows new bundling opportunities and more data usage. Analogix is not stopping here! It further intends to increase the resolution to 4K, support multi-screen, allow AV+USB data and enterprise security.
Cavendish Kinetics is well known for its combined experience in MEMS, RF system design and CMOS design. Since 2008, it has focused on developing digital variable capacitors to improve wireless connectivity and data rates for mobile phones.
According to Dennis Yost, president & CEO, Cavendish Kinetics, 4G/LTE mobile devices are not yet achieving their potential. Antenna frequency tuning is an essential technology. Only metal MEMS technology has the size and performance. He was speaking at the ongoing Globalpress Electronics Summit 2013 in Santa Cruz, USA.
Cavendish claims to have the team, proven technology and real demonstrated performance. There is IP and patent protection for customers. Cavendish also owns the process.
The future of cell phone radio is needed in order to meet the performance gap. In future, you will see adaptive power amplifiers.
Antenna frequency tuning used in traditional RF applications. How do you ensure there is no loss in the component? Only MEMS has the performance and size for cell phones. Metal MEMS has almost no series resistance. No switches are required.
Previous designs required switches and different loads. Mechanical capacitors change capacitance value by moving plates – changing the area or plate distance changes the capacitance. MEMS capacitors do the same at the micrometer level.
Users can control design and manufacturing process of devices. How a MEMS is built is just as important as what you build. Success requires MEMS design expertise, MEMS process expertise and MEMS volume production expertise.
Cavendish has MEMS experts in all areas. It developed and owned MEMS manufacturing process. It uses all standard CMOS foundry technology. Innovations have so far yielded over 100 patents in manufacturing process and MEMS design.
By using the NanoMech technology performance, Cavendish Kinectics has demonstrated excellent performance in a small chip.
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.
Seagate Technology has announced the Wireless Plus and Central. Futoshi Nizuma, executive director of sales, Japan, South Asia, ASEAN and NZ, said that 2013 is an evolutionary year in storage.
PC growth is flat in mature markets (US/EMEA) as consumer technology choices grow and dollars are competed for. The mobile revolution is in full swing with smartphones, tablets and eReaders becoming ubiquitous. Digital storage usage is more complex with multiple devices, multiple users and anywhere access.
PC/notebooks remain the consumer digital hub, but the replacement cycle is getting longer. The global trend has been slightly up due to China growth. Mobile adoption positively impacts the storage ecosystem. Mobile devices are used in the home and on the road. 2013 is an inflection point. Mobile devices will have a higher installed base than all PCs.
Tablet shipments will increase 54 percent from 2012 to 2013 and smartphones will be in 51 percent of the households. The forecast for mobile data growth is 78 percent CAGR through 2016, reaching 10.8 exabytes. Also, mobile-connected tablets will generate almost as much traffic in 2016 as the entire global mobile network in 2012.
We are also witnessing the emergence of the 3Ms — multi-screen, multi-user and multi-function. In the short term (1-3 years), PCs remain the digital hub in the home, with mobile and connected devices getting added to the ecosystem. In the mid-term (3-6 years) cloud and NAS will be the storage hub for the home while PCs become more of an edge device.
Here, the Seagate Wireless Plus assumes significance. Mobile storage can now be accessed without the web or wires. Also, the Seagate Central allows you to organize and access your digital life.
Now, you can simplify your life and organize all your content, files and documents in one location with automatic and continuous
backup every for computer in the home – wirelessly. You can enjoy your content where you want, when you want. Access your music, movies and docs from computers, game consoles, Smart TVs and other connected devices — all throughout the home. You can now enjoy your media on tablets and smartphones. Browse your universe of files from anywhere, with the free and intuitive Seagate Media App, available for Apple iOS and Android.
If you own a Samsung smart TV you can take advantage of the Seagate Media app (downloadable directly from the Samsung App store), to enjoy easy content browsing with your remote control. Central’s Remote Access service gives you the ability to upload or download content wherever you have Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connection, using a Web browser – it’s like your own personal and secure cloud.
Flip-Chip is a chip packaging technique in which the active area of the chip is ‘flipped over’ facing downward, instead of facing up and bonded to the package leads with wires from the outside edges of the chip.
Any surface area of the Flip-Chip can be used for interconnection, which is typically done through metal bumps. These bumps are soldered onto the package and underfilled with epoxy. The Flip-Chip allows for a large number of interconnects with shorter distances than wire, which greatly reduces inductance.
According to Lionel Cadix, market and technology analyst, Yole Developpement, France, metal bumps can be made of solder (tin, tin-lead or lead-free alloys), copper, gold and copper-tin or Au-tin alloys. The package substrates are epoxy-based (organic substrates), ceramic based, copper based (leadframe substrates), and silicon or glass based.
In the period 2010-2018, Flip-Chip will likely grow at a CAGR of 19 percent. In 2012, laptop and desktop PCs were the top end products using Flip-Chip. It represents 50 percent of the Flip-Chip market by end product with more than 6.2 million of wafer starts. PCs are followed by smart TV and LCD TVs (for LCD drivers), smartphones and high performance computers.
The Flip-Chip market in 2012 is around $20 billion, selling 20 billion units approximately in 12’’ equivalent wafers. Taiwan is so far the no. 1 producer. At least 50 percent of the Flip-Chips devices get into end products. By 2018, the Flip-Chip market should grow to a $35 billion market, selling 68 billion units.
Applications and market focus
Looking at the applications and market focus, Flip-Chip technology is already present in a wide range of application, from high volumes/consumer applications, to low volumes/high end applications. All these applications have their own requirements, specifications and challenges!
Some of these are military and aerospace, medical devices, automobiles, HPC, servers, networks, base stations, etc, in low volumes. It is present in set-top boxes, game stations, smart TVs/displays, desktops/laptops and smartphones/tablets in high volumes. Flip-chip applications are also in imaging, logic 2D SoCs, HB-LEDs, RF, power, analog and mixed-signal, stacked memories, and logic 3D-SiP/SoCs.
In computing applications, for instance, the Intel core i5 is the first MCM combining a 77mm2 CPU together with a 115mm2 GPU in a 37.5mm side package. Solder bumps with a pitch of 185μm are used for the slicon to substrate (1st) interconnect. This MCM configuration is suitable for office applications, with relatively low demanding processing powers. For mobile/wireless applications, there are opportunities for MEMS in smartphones/feature phones. Similarly, Flip-Chip is available for consumer applications.
For microbumping in interposers for FPGA there is a focus on Xilinx Virtex 7 HT. Last year, Xilinx announced a single-layer, multi-chip silicon interposer for its 28nm 7 series FPGAs. Key features include two million logic cells for a high level of computational performance, and high bandwidth, four slice processed in 28 nm, 25 x 31mm, 100 μm thick silicon interposer, 45 um pitch microbumps and 10 μm TSV, and 35 x 35 mm BGA with 180 μm pitch C4 bumps.
Even if the infrastructure had been ready for full 3D stacking, the 2.5D Interposer would still have been the right choice for FPGAs since the ’10,000 routing connections’ would have used up valuable chip area, making the chip slices larger and more costly than they are now. Virtex 7 HT will consist of three FPGA slices and two 28 gbps SerDes chips on an Interposer capable of operating at 2.8 Tb/sec.