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Can 2014 be a major year for global semicon industry?


The year 2014 is expected to be a major year for the global semiconductor industry. The industry will and continue to innovate!

Apparently, there are huge expectations from certain segments such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics. There will likely be focus on the connected car. Executives have been stating there could be third parties writing apps that can help cars. Intel expects that technology will be inspiring optimism for healthcare in future. As per a survey, 57 percent of people believe traditional hospitals will be obsolete in the future.

Some other entries from 2013 include Qualcomm, who introduced the Snapdragon 410 chipset with integrated 4G LTE world mode for high-volume smartphones. STMicroelectronics joined ARM mbed project that will enable developers to create smart products with ARM-based industry-leading STM32 microcontrollers and accelerate the Internet of Things.

A look at the industry itself is interesting! The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics Inc. (WSTS) is forecasting the global semiconductor market to be $304 billion in 2013, up 4.4 percent from 2012. The market is expected to recover throughout 2013, driven mainly by double digit growth of Memory product category. By region, all regions except Japan will grow from 2012. Japan market is forecasted to decline from 2012 in US dollar basis due to steep Japanese Yen depreciation compared to 2012.

WSTS estimates that the worldwide semiconductor market is predicted to grow further in 2014 and 2015. According to WSTS, the global semiconductor market is forecasted to be up 4.1 percent to $317 billion in 2014, surpassing historical high of $300 billion registered in 2011. For 2015, it is forecasted to be $328 billion, up 3.4 percent.

All product categories and regions are forecasted to grow positively in each year, with the assumption of macro economy recovery throughout the forecast period. By end market, wireless and automotive are expected to grow faster than total market, while consumer and computer are assumed to remain stagnant.

Now, all of this remains to be seen!

Earlier, while speaking with Dr. Wally Rhines of Mentor, and Jaswinder Ahuja of Cadence, both emphasized the industry’s move to 14/16nm. Xilinx estimates that 28nm will have a very long life. It also shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013.

In a 2013 survey, carried out by KPMG, applications markets identified as most important by at least 55 percent of the respondents were: Mobile technology – 69 percent; Consumer – 66 percent; Computing – 63 percent; Alternative/Renewal Energy – 63 percent; Industrial – 62 percent; Automotive – 60 percent; Medical – 55 percent; Wireline Communications – 55 percent.

Do understand that there is always a line between hope and forecasts, and what the end result actually turns out to be! In the meantime, all of us continue to live with the hope that the global semiconductor will carry on flourishing in the years to come. As Brian Fuller, Cadence, says, ‘the future’s in our hands; let’s not blow it!’

Round-up 2013: Best of semiconductors, electronics and solar


Virtex UltraScale device.

Virtex UltraScale device.

Friends, here’s a review of 2013! There have been the usual hits and misses, globally, while in India, the electronics and semiconductor industries really need to do a lot more! Enjoy, and here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous 2014! Be safe and stay safe!!

DEC. 2013
What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

How’s global semicon industry performing in sub-20nm era?

Xilinx announces 20nm All Programmable UltraSCALE portfolio

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!

Outlook 2014: Xilinx bets big on 28nm

NOV. 2013
Indian electronics scenario still dull: Leaptech

Connecting intelligence today for connected world: ARM

India poses huge opportunity for DLP: TI

SEMICON Europa 2013: Where does Europe stand in 450mm path?

OCT. 2013
Apple’s done it again, wth iPad Air!

IEF 2013: New markets and opportunities in sub-20nm era!

SEPT. 2013
ST intros STM32F4 series high-performance Cortex-M4 MCUs

Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

G450C

G450C

Now, India to have two semicon fabs!

Higher levels of abstraction growth area for EDA

AUG. 2013
Moore’s Law could come to an end within next decade: POET

What’s happening with 450mm: G450C update and status

300mm is the new 200mm!

JULY 2013
Xilinx tapes-out first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture

JUNE 2013
EC’s goal: Reach 20 percent share in chip manufacturing by 2020!
Read more…

What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

December 29, 2013 1 comment

I was pointed out to a piece of news on TV, where a ruling chief minister of an Indian state apparently announced that he could make a particular state of India another Silicon Valley! Interesting!!

First, what’s the secret behind Silicon Valley? Well, I am not even qualified enough to state that! However, all I can say is: it is probably a desire to do something very different, and to make the world a better place – that’s possibly the biggest driver in all the entrepreneurs that have come to and out of Silicon Valley in the USA.

If you looked up Wikipedia, it says that the term Silicon Valley originally referred to the region’s large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but eventually, came to refer to all high-tech businesses in the area, and is now generally used as a metonym for the American high-technology sector.

So, where exactly is India’s high-tech sector? How many Indian state governments have even tried to foster such a sector? Ok, even if the state governments tried to foster, where are the entrepreneurs? Ok, an even easier one: how many school dropouts from India or even smal-time entrepreneurs have even made a foray into high-tech?

Right, so where are the silicon chip innovators from India? Sorry, I dd not even hear a word that you said? Can you speak out a little louder? It seems there are none! Rather, there has been very little to no development in India, barring the work that is done by the MNCs. Correct?
hsinchuOne friend told me that Bangalore is a place that can be Silicon Valley. Really? How?? With the presence of MNCs, he said! Well, Silicon Valley in the US does not have MNCs from other countries, are there? Let’s see! Some companies with bases in Silicon Valley, listed on Wikipedia, include Adobe, AMD, Apple, Applied Materials, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Juniper, KLA-Tencor, LSI, Marvell, Maxim, Nvidia, SanDisk, Xilinx, etc.

Now, most of these firms have setups in Bangalore, but isn’t that part of the companies’ expansion plans? Also, I have emails and requests from a whole lot of youngsters asking me: ‘Sir, please advice me which company should I join?’ Very, very few have asked me: ‘Sir, I have this idea. Is it worth exploring?’

Let’s face the truth. We, as a nation, so far, have not been one to take up challenges and do something new. The ones who do, or are inclined to do so, are working in one of the many MNCs – either in India or overseas.

So, how many budding entrepreneurs are there in India, who are willing to take the risk and plunge into serious R&D?

It really takes a lot to even conceive a Silicon Valley. It takes people of great vision to build something of a Silicon Valley, and not the presence of MNCs.

Just look at Hsinchu, in Taiwan, or even Shenzhen, in China. Specifically, look up Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park and the Hsinchu Science Park to get some ideas.

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!


Dr. Wally RhinesIt is always a pleasure speaking with Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. The last time I met him was at Santa Cruz, USA, during a global electronics forum in April this year. First, I asked him regarding the outlook for the global semiconductor industry in 2014, as well as the EDA industry.

Outlook for global semicon industry in 2014
Dr. Rhines said: “The outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014 is modestly positive. Most analysts will see single digiit growth. In memory, we have short supply vs. demand. While we had consolidation of the wireless industry, we still have volumes of handsets, tablets, etc. In the US, tablets are said to be the biggest growth area during Xmas.

“When you look at any product, you look at what more can it do. You look at more and more features that can be added. We have speciallization in ARM-based chips. There are enough change dynamics that show demand. The iPad bridged the gap between the portable PC and phone. The infrastructure of apps has now made a huge infrastructure. If you are dependant on apps, there can be a differentiator.

“Wearable electronics is another great opportunity. However, it is still a small market. The electronic watch is interesting. We are in an era where there are some things that are key, and some require figuring out. There will be more and more need for specific devices, rather than only applications in future. The same thing was with the PC, which went from custom to specific needs.”

In that case, how is the global semiconductor industry performing having entering the sub 20nm era?

He said that 2014 is going to be a big year. There will be releases of 14/16nm technologies. This will be the year when customers will be doing tests. There are companies in all regions of the world that will be doing such stuff.

Have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

Dr. Rhines said: “The big advantage is leakage. FinFET dramatically impacts current leakage. Now, attention will shift to dynamic power. It will once again be predominantly the consumer of power in large chips.

Outlook for EDA industry
Now, let’s see what’s the outlook for the global EDA industry in 2014.

Dr. Rhines said: “Whenever you create new technologies, you will need EDA. So, EDA will grow. New designs will also need EDA. There will be new EDA tools. EDA is now addressing thermal and stress issues in verification and design. Caliber PERC is our main product here. The upgrades are good for EDA. There are new things they have to adopt, in these tools.”

Let’s talk a bit about embedded. Mentor released the new version of Sourcery CodeBench. What does it stand to gain?

Raghu Panicker, sales director, Mentor Graphics India said the Sourcery CodeBench is a real-time operating system (RTOS). That product is gaining momentum. Large MNC customers like Qualcomm are adopting this. Among small firms, there are medical, energy meter companies that are handling it as well.

Dr. Rhines added that Sorcery CodeBench is indicative of a trend – it is very open source based. It is now 20,000 downloads a month, so that is a big community.

Next is there any scope for the growth of biomems and optical telecom industry?

He said that both areas are interesting. Biomems are still a fairly small market. It is going to be evolutionary. As for optical telecom, over the last year or two, all participants have gone into a silent mode. Mentor is working with a number of customers.

Five trends to rule in 2014
Now, it was quiz time. First, the top five trends in the EDA industry during 2014. Dr. Rhines said:
* Growth of emulation for verification. The market is growing at over CAGR of 25 percent. Emulation is really big. It will be a big game changer for EDA.
* 16/14nm.
* Continued pressure on power as we go to FinFETs.
* Power reduction.
* Yield analysis for 14/16nm. A near range can be security.

Now, the top five trends for semiconductors in 2014! Dr. Rhines mentioned these as:
* Move to 14/16nm and cost.
* Growth in hybrid functions is another trend.
* Basic IoT.
* Security – how you verify designs.
* Continued commoditization of wireless apps.
Read more…

Spark’s back on Indian electronics!!


Well, well, well! Post the announcements by the Government of India last week of two 300mm fabs in India, there have been a spate of announcements again, this week! Here’s what they are!

Yesterday evening, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved setting up of Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) near Hyderabad.

The Phase I of this project will be from 2013 to 2018 and Phase II will be from 2018 to 2038. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has delineated an area of 202 sq. kms. for the proposed ITIR in three clusters/ agglomerations viz.:

(i) Cyberabad Development Area and its surroundings,
(ii) Hyderabad Airport Development area and Maheshwaram in the south of Hyderabad, and
(iii) Uppal and Pocharam areas in eastern Hyderabad. The ITIR will be implemented in two phases.

Next, the Government of India finalized the setting up of a ‘Ultra-Mega Green Solar Power Project’ in Rajasthan in the SSL (Sambhar Salts Ltd, a subsidiary of Hindustan Salts Ltd – a Central Public Sector Enterprise under the Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises) area close to Sambhar Lake, about 75 kms from Jaipur.

Further, India was recognized as ‘Authorizing Nation’ under the international Common Criteria Recognition Arrangement (CCRA) to test and certify electronics and IT products with respect to cyber security. India has become the 17th nation to earn this recognition.

Then again, the ‘HTML 5.0 Tour in India’ has now reached Hyderabad.

Also, India has offered to help Cuba develop its renewable energy resources. This has been conveyed to Marino Murillo, vice president of the Republic of Cuba at Havana, by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, during his trip to Cuba.

All of this is really brilliant stuff!

At least, I have never seen or heard about so much activity happening, especially in the electronics and solar PV sectors. One sincerely hopes that all of these initiatives will allow India to come to the forefront of the global electronics industry.

The spark seems to be coming back to the India electronics industry, after a very, very long wait! It is hoped that this stays on!!

Moore’s Law good for 14nm, and probably, 10nm: Dr. Wally Rhines


Its a pleasure to talk to Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. On his way to DAC 2013, where he will be giving a ten-minute “Visionary Talk”, he found time to speak with me. First, I asked him given that the global semiconductor industry is entering the sub-20nm era, will it continue to be ‘business as usual’ or ‘it’s going to be different this time’?

Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Rhines said: “Every generation has some differences, even though it usually seems like we’ve seen all this before. The primary change that comes with “sub-20nm” is the change in transistor structure to FinFET. This will give designers a boost toward achieving lower power. However, compared to 28nm, there will be a wafer cost penalty to pay for the additional process complexity that also includes two additional levels of resolution enhancement.”

Impact of new transistor structures
How will the new transistor structures impact on design and manufacturing?

According to him, the relatively easy impact on design is related to the simulation of a new device structure; models have already been developed and characterized but will be continuously updated until the processes are stable. More complex are the requirements for place and route and verification; support for “fin grids” and new routing and placement rules has already been implemented by the leading place and route suppliers.

He added: “Most complex is test; FinFET will require transistor-level (or “cell-aware”) design for test to detect failures, rather than just the traditional gate-level stuck-at fault models. Initial results suggest that failure to move to cell-aware ATPG will result in 500 to 1000 DPM parts being shipped to customers.

“Fortunately, “cell-aware” ATPG design tools have been available for about a year and are easily implemented with no additional EDA cost. Finally, there will be manufacturing challenges but, like all manufacturing challenges, they will be attacked, analyzed and resolved as we ramp up more volume.”

Introducing 450mm wafer handling and new lithography
Is it possible to introduce 450mm wafer handling and new lithography successfully at this point in time?

“Yes, of course,” Dr. Rhines said. “However, there are a limited number of companies that have the volume of demand to justify the investment. The wafer diameter transition decision is always a difficult one for the semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies because it is so costly and it requires a minimum volume of machines for a payback. In this case, it will happen. The base of semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies is becoming very concentrated and most of the large ones need the 450mm capability.”

What will be the impact of transistor variability and other physics issues?

As per Dr. Rhines, the impact should be significant. FinFET, for example requires controlling physical characteristics of multiple fins within a narrow range of variability. As geometries shrink, small variations become big percentages. New design challenges are always interesting for engineers but the problems will be overcome relatively quickly.
Read more…

Focusing light on breast cancer diagnostics


A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), comprising principally of Dr. Ishan Barman, Dr. Narahara Chari Dingari and Dr. Jaqueline Soares, and their clinical collaborators at University Hospitals, Cleveland have developed the Raman scattering-based concomitant diagnosis of breast cancer lesions and related micro-calcifications.

Let’s find out more about this new breast cancer research done by the team at MIT.

Early detection necessary!
According to MIT, one in eight women in the US will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime and breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Worldwide, breast cancer accounts for 22.9 percent of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7 percent of cancer deaths in women).

Core needle biopsy.

Core needle biopsy.

Therefore, technological advancements for its early detection and subsequent treatment can make a significant impact by preventing patient morbidity and mortality and reducing healthcare costs, and are thus of utmost importance to society. Currently, mammography followed by stereotactic breast biopsy serves as the most promising route for screening and early detection of cancer lesions.

Nearly 1.6 million breast biopsies are performed and roughly 250,000 new breast cancers are diagnosed in the US each year. One of the most frequent reasons for breast biopsy is microcalcifications seen on screening mammography, the initial step in early detection of breast cancer. Microcalcifications are micron-scale deposits of calcium minerals in breast tissue that are considered one of the early mammographic signs of breast cancer and are, therefore, a target for stereotactic breast needle biopsy.

However, despite stereotactic guidance, needle biopsy fails to retrieve microcalcifications in one of five breast biopsy patients. In such cases, the resulting breast biopsies are either non-diagnostic or false-negative, thereby, placing the patient at risk and potentially necessitating a repeat biopsy, often as a surgical procedure.

There is an unmet clinical need for a tool to detect microcalcifications in real time and provide feedback to the radiologist during the stereotactic needle biopsy procedure as to whether the microcalcifications seen on mammography will be retrieved or the needle should be re-positioned, without the need to wait for a confirmatory specimen radiograph.

Such a tool could enable more efficient retrieval of microcalcifications, which would, in turn, minimize the number of x-rays and tissue cores required to achieve a diagnostic biopsy, shorten procedure time, reduce patient anxiety, distress and discomfort, prevent complications such as bleeding into the biopsy site seen after multiple biopsy passes and ultimately reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with non-diagnostic and false-negative biopsies and the need for follow up surgical biopsy.

If 200,000 repeat biopsies were avoided, at a cost of $5,000 per biopsy (a conservative estimate and would be much higher for surgical biopsies), a billion dollars per year can be saved by the US healthcare system. The MIT Laser Biomedical Research Center, has recently performed pioneering studies to address this need by proposing, developing and validating Raman and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy as powerful guidance tools, due to their ability to provide exquisite molecular information with minimal perturbation.

Specifics of the technique
Stating the specifics of the technique developed by MIT, the team said that their research focuses on the development of Raman spectroscopy as a clinical tool for the real time diagnosis of breast cancer at the patient bedside. “We report for the first time development of a novel Raman spectroscopy algorithm to simultaneously determine microcalcification status and diagnose the underlying breast lesion, in real time, during stereotactic breast core needle biopsy procedures.”

Microcalcification..

Microcalcification..

In this study, Raman spectra were obtained ex vivo from fresh stereotactic breast needle biopsies using a compact clinical Raman system, modeled and analyzed using support vector machines to develop a single-step, Raman spectroscopy based diagnostic algorithm to distinguish normal breast tissue, fibrocystic change, fibroadenoma and breast cancer, with and without microcalcifications.

The developed decision algorithm exhibits a positive and negative predictive value of 100 percent and 96 percent, respectively, for the diagnosis of breast cancer with or without microcalcifications in the clinical dataset of nearly 50 patients.

Significantly, the majority of breast cancers diagnosed using this Raman algorithm are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common lesion associated with microcalcifications, which has classically presented considerable diagnostic challenges.

This study demonstrates the potential of Raman spectroscopy to provide real-time feedback to radiologists during stereotactic breast needle biopsy procedures, reducing non-diagnostic and false negative biopsies. Indeed, the proposed approach lends itself to facile assembly of a side-viewing probe that could be inserted into the central channel of the biopsy needle for intermittent acquisition of the spectra, which would, in turn, reveal whether or not the tissue to be biopsied contains the targeted microcalcifications.
Read more…

Unlock your mobile with SlimPort


Andre Bouwer.

Andre Bouwer.

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.

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.

CSSPs — custom to catalog solutions from Quicklogic


Andy Pease.

Andy Pease.

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.

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