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Are we about to reach end of Moore’s Law?


Here is the concluding part of my discussion with Sam Fuller, CTO, Analog Devices. We discussed the technology aspects of Moore’s Law and

Sam Fuller

Sam Fuller

‘More than Moore’, among other things.

Are we at the end of Moore’s Law?
First, I asked Fuller that as Gordon Moore suggested – are we about to reach the end of Moore’s Law? What will it mean for personal computing?

Fuller replied: “There is definitely still life left in Moore’s law, but we’re leaving the golden age after the wonderful ride that we have had for the last 40 years. We will continue to make chips denser, but it is becoming difficult to continue to improve the performance as well as lower the power and cost.

“Therefore, as Moore’s law goes forward, more innovation is required with each new generation. As we move from Planer CMOS to FinFET (a new technology for multi-gate architecture of transistors); from silicon to more advanced materials Moore’s law will still have life for the next decade, but we are definitely moving into its final stages.

“For personal computing, there is still a lot of innovation left before we begin to run out of ideas. There will continue to be great advances in smart phones, mobile computing and tablets because software applications are really just beginning to take advantage of the phenomenal power and capacity of today’s semiconductors. The whole concept of ‘Internet of things’ will also throw up plenty of new opportunities.

“As we put more and more sensors in our personal gadgets, in factories, in industries, in infrastructures, in hospitals, and in homes and in vehicles, it will open up a completely new set of applications. The huge amount of data generated out of these sensors and wirelessly connected to the Internet will feed into the big data and analytics. This would create a plethora of application innovations.”

What’s happening in the plane?
The plane opportunity – 90nm – 65nm – 45nm – 22nm – 20nm – 14/18nm – is starting to get difficult and probably won’t work at 12nm, for purely physics reasons. What is Analog Devices’ take on this?

Fuller said: “You are right! We have been going from 45 nm down to lower nodes, it’ll probably go down to 10 nm, but we are beginning to run into some fundamental physics issues here. After all, it’s a relatively finite number of atoms that make up the channels in these transistors. So, you’re going to have to look at innovations beyond simply going down to finer dimensions.

“There are FinFETS and other ways that can help move you into the third dimension. We’re getting to a point where we can put a lot of complexity and a number of functions on a single die. We have moved beyond purely digital design to having more analog and mixed signal components in the same chip. There are also options such as stacked dies and multiple dies.

“Beyond integration on a single chip, Analog Devices leads in advanced packaging technologies for System in a Package (SiP) where sensors, digital and analog/mixed signal components are all in a single package as the individual components would typically use different technology nodes and it might not be practical to do such integration on a single die.

“So, the challenge often gets described as “More than Moore”, which is going beyond Moore’s law, bringing those capabilities to do analog processing as well as digital and then integrating sensors for temperature sensing, pressure sensing, motion sensing and a whole range of sensors integrated for enabling the ‘Internet of Things’.

“At Analog Devices, we have the capability in analog as well as digital, and having worked for over 20 years on MEMS devices, we are particularly well positioned as we get into ‘More than Moore’.”
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Global semicon industry trends in 2014: Analog Devices


Sam Fuller

Sam Fuller

I recently met Sam Fuller, CTO, Analog Devices, and had an interesting conversation. First, I asked him about the state of the global semicon industry in 2013.

Industry in 2013
He said: “Due to the uncertainties in the global economy in the last couple of years, the state of the global semiconductor industry has been quite modest growth. Because of the modest growth, there has been a buildup in demand. As the global economies begin to be more robust going forward, we expect to see more growth.”

Industry in 2014?
How does Analog Devices see the industry going forward in 2014? What are the five key trends?

He added: “I would talk about the trends more from an eco-system and applications perspective. Increased capability on a single chip: Given all the advances to Moore’s law, the capability of a chip has increased considerably in all dimensions and not just performance, be it the horsepower we see in today’s smartphones or the miniaturization and power consumption of wearable gadgets that were on show this year at CES.

“In Analog Devices’ case, as we are focused on high performance signal processing, we can put more of the entire signal chain on a single die. For our customers, the challenge is to provide their customers a more capable product which means a more complex product, but with a simpler interface.

“A classic example is our AD9361 chip, which is a single chip wideband radio transceiver for Software Defined Radio (SDR). It is a very capable ASSP (Application Specific Standard Products) as well as RF front end with a wide operating frequency of 70 MHz to 6 GHz.

“This chip, coupled with an all-purpose FPGA, can build a very flexible SDR operating across different radio protocols, wide frequency range and bandwidth requirements all controlled via software configuration. It finds a number of applications in wireless communication infrastructure, small cell Base stations as well as a whole range of custom radios in the industrial and aerospace businesses.”

Now, let’s see the trends for 2014!

More collaboration with customers: There is a greater emphasis on understanding customers’ end applications to provide a complete signal chain, all in a System on a Chip (SoC) or a System in a package (SiP). The relationship with our customers is changing as we move more towards ASSPs focused with few lead customers for target markets and target applications. While this has already been ongoing in the consumer industry with PCs and laptops, customers in other vertical markets like healthcare, automotive and industrial are and will collaborate more with semiconductor companies like Analog Devices to innovate at a solutions level.

More complete products: We have evolved from delivering just the silicon at a component level to delivering more complete products with more advanced packaging for various 3D chips or multi-die within a package. Our solutions now have typically much more software that makes it easier to configure or program the chips. It is a solution that is a combination of more advanced silicon, advanced packaging and more appropriate software.

With providing the complete solution, the products are more application specific and hence, the need for more collaboration with customers. For example, there may be one focused on Software Defined Radio, one for motor control, and one for vital signs monitoring for consumer health that we have launched recently.

We need it to be generic enough that multiple customers can use it, but it needs to be as tailored as possible to the customers’ needs for specific market segments. While because of the volume and standardization, availability of complete reference designs in the consumer world has been the norm, other market segments are demanding more complete products not-withstanding the huge variation in protocols and applications.

Truly global industry: The semiconductor and electronics industry has become truly global, so multiple design sites around the globe collaborate to create products. For example for Analog Devices, one of our premier design sites is our Bangalore product design center where we quite literally developed our most complex and capable chips. At the same time our customers are also global.

We see large multinational companies like GE, Honeywell, Cisco, Juniper, ABB, Schneider and many of our top strategic customers globally doing substantial system design work in Bangalore along with a multitude of India design houses. Our fastest growing region is in Asia, but we have substantial engagement with customers in North America and Europe. And our competition is also global, which means that the industry is ever moving faster as the competition is global.

Smarter design tools: The final trend worth talking about is the need for smarter design tools.  As our products and our customers’ products become more complex and capable, there have to be rapidly developing design tools, for us to design them.

This cannot be done by brute force but by designing smarter and better tools. There is a lot of innovation that goes on in developing better tool suites. There is also ever more capable software that caters to a market moving from 100s of transistors to literally billions of transistors for an application.

Analog Devices launches portable lab for electronic circuit design


Analog Devices, as part of its University Program, has launched a personal, affordable and portable lab for electronic circuit design in India at the 26th international conference on VLSI, currently ongoing in Pune, India.

Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, MD, Analog Devices India Pvt Ltd said that miniaturization and portability are the key trends today. Desktops have given way to laptops, and then to smartphones and tablets. The expensive vital signs monitoring equipment in hospitals is giving way to more wearable miniaturized power sipping (and not guzzling) medical gadgets. It is natural that education and training for engineering students start taking a similar route.

What is this personal lab?
What it means that the lab will fit in the palm of your hand and would enable students to learn analog and mixed signal design, anywhere and everywhere not limited by their expensive university/college lab setup where access is fairly limited and the amount of time is limited as well to a few hours every week.

Analog Devices' portable lab.

Analog Devices’ portable lab.

What does it mean for students?
With the lab, now, the students can carry on their experiments in their hostels/dorms and in their classrooms, using this portable lab, run experiments quickly during the class to see how real time real-life how a certain change in circuit impacts the results.

It has all the elements of a complete and expensive Lab setup on this portable kit connected with the student’s laptop. Students would not need equipment like oscilloscopes, waveform generators, logic analyzers and power supplies, expensive equipment that only top universities can afford.

Along with the portable kit, online and downloadable software and teaching materials, circuit simulation tools, online support and community, online textbook, reference designs and lab projects to design to enhance learning as a supplement to their core engineering curriculum are also provided free of charge.

This launch is likely to revolutionize electronic circuit design education and learning among the engineering academic community.

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Analog Devices

November 12, 2012 4 comments

What does 2013 have in store for the global (and Indian) seniconductor industries? Will it do better than 2012 or will it be even? I had a chat with Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, managing director, Analog Devices India Pvt. Ltd recently on this subject. First, I asked about the trends in the global semiconductor industry.

Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, MD, Analog Devices India Pvt. Ltd.

Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, MD, Analog Devices India Pvt. Ltd.

Industry trends
Choudhury said: “Consumer and telecom have driven the growth incessantly for the past decade for the semiconductor industry and will continue to do so. Over the next three years, industry analysts estimate the global industry will grow approximately 6 percent 2013-2016 CAGR.

“Portability and wireless connectivity will continue to drive a significant portion of the industry growth. Increasingly, automotive market is becoming very lucrative as the quantity of electronics going inside automobiles is increasing phenomenally in safety, power train, smart vision and fuel efficiency applications, not to mention the use of wireless connectivity.

“Medical electronics is getting smaller, smarter with better diagnostic technologies while the demand is increasing with aging population, increased longevity and lifestyle oriented diseases. Applications such as in-home patient monitoring will use wireless connectivity to stay in contact with physicians and emergency services.

“Industrial automation, energy and defense sectors are growing with more factory automation, solar energy focus worldwide, electronic warfare and so on. Intelligent, connected, and energy-efficient systems are leading to higher electronics content, with sensors and motors distributed throughout the industrial complex being connected wirelessly.

“Finally, the wireless and wired networks that transmit and receive all these channels of data will be a major driver of growth over the next few years with proliferation of 4G and increasing amount of fiber.”

Outlook for 2013
How is the outlook for 2013 going to shape up? What are the technologies likely to make an appearance and why?

According to Chowdhury, the 4G LTE deployment should be a major applications area driving 2013. To that end RF, high-speed signal processing, and power management will be important technologies to advance the price/performance of 4G networks. MEMS technology continues to find new applications in medical, defense and industrial applications over and beyond the tablets, handsets, gaming consoles and airbag sensors in cars.

Will there be further consolidations within the industry? He added that M&A will continue to play a role in the industry. The companies in the industry are not hampered by their financial abilities to acquire businesses, but identifying complementary opportunities and successfully integrating them is not without risk.

And how does the global EDA industry look like doing in 2013? As per Choudhury, the EDA industry continues to innovate and that pace will continue in 2013. These innovations are not only driven by the challenges of moving to the next node, but also for mixed signal designs, in analog-digital co-simulation and verification domain.
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Embedded Vision Alliance (EVA) is born!

May 31, 2011 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analog Devices opens new development center in Bangalore


Jerald G. Fishman, president and CEO, Analog Devices, along with Dr. S. Karhik, engineering director, IPDC.

Jerald G. Fishman, president & CEO, Analog Devices, and Dr. S. Karhik, engineering director, IPDC.

Jerald G. Fishman, president and CEO was recently on a trip to India, apparently, his first ever, to celebrate 15 years of Analog Devices’ presence in India, and to inaugurate its new development center in Bangalore.

He said: “We have opened a new development center in Bangalore, India. We are focusing on signal processing. We are a leader in high performance signal processing solutions. We sell our products into virtually every application.”

Commenting on some trends prevailing today, he added: “Everything has to be greener and consume lower power. We also have products for security, video surveillance, etc. Another trend is healthcare. Our technology enables images that doctors need. For example, we have a solution that enables you to see medical imaging of the heart in four dimensions.”

Speaking on the company’s Bangalore center, he said: “For many years, the Bangalore center has been at the forefront of several designs. We have got the capabilities here as good as anywhere. The people here will become more important for us over the years.”

Dr. S. Karthik, engineering director, precision signal processing (ASC), India Product Development Center (IPDC), Analog Devices India Pvt Ltd, said that the India center opened in 1995 to focus on SHARC processors. The SHARC processor family dominates the floating-point DSP market with exceptional core and memory performance and outstanding I/O throughput. He added that the India PDC is home of the SHARC processor.

In 2002, Analog Devices India added analog and mixed-signal design group to the IPDC. In the same year, Analog Devices and IIT-Madras announced India’s first DSP learning center — the ADI-IITM DSP Learning Centre.  The IIT-M faculty, in consultation with ADI engineers, designed the course material and the lab experiments. The centre is designed to train approximately 500 students every year, of which about 400 are from various engineering colleges in the region and about 100 are from industries in India, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

In 2006, Analog Devices opened the IC test development facility.  Karthik said that the company has also added the DSP application engineering capability. In the past 15 years, the IPDC has done products from concept to development in India.

Consumer MEMS shine amid gloom: iSuppli

January 28, 2009 Comments off

I was fortunate enough to attend a webinar on MEMS organized recently by iSuppli. The webinar looked at the growth potential of this segment, especially during the downturn, as well as some top MEMS suppliers.

According to Jeremie Bouchaud, director & principal analyst, both consumer and mobile MEMS supply has been exploding. The overall MEMS market is likely to grow from $1 billion in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2012! There will be strong acceleration due to growth of cell phones — a hotbed for MEMS, he said.

However, the share of MEMS for rear projection TV is vanishing. A market worth $300 million in 2006 is slowly disappearing, and will, in fact, disappear by 2012. Among other growth areas, personal navigation devices (PNDs) and remote controllers will also see growth.

Consumer and mobile market by MEMS device
The main segments include accelerometers, as well as gyroscopes, RF MEMS switches and capacitors, microphones, etc. The penetration of MEMS devices in CE products is said to increase quite fast.

MEMS growth in cell phones will be faster. It will grow from 3 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2008. All of the new, best selling smartphones, such as the iPhone, Nokia N95 and N96, Samsung Omnia, HTC Diamond, Google G1, Blackberry Storm, new Palm OS, etc., have accelerometers. A number of mid range phones also have accelerometers, eg. Sony Ericsson’s models.

MEMS usage is also growing in gaming. From 1998-2005, there was technology push with limited success. However, in 2006, Nintendo showed the way with its Wii, as did the Sony PS3. Microsoft did not enter this field back then!

Interestingly, 2006-08, motion sensing unveiled new, untapped target groups for gaming — the so called casual gamers. In Xmas 2008, Microsoft also embraced motion sensors with accessories. Hence, the penetration of motion sensors has really improved. The next third generation platform will include accelerometers and gyroscopes.

Top 15 MEMS suppliers
The key question: who all are shipping these products? According to iSuppli,The top 15 MEMS suppleirs for CE and mobile phones are: STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Avago Technologies, Knowles, Analog Devices, Murata, Kionix, Epson Toyocom, Invensense, Panasonic, Bosch Sensortec, Freescale, Hokoriku, VTI and Memsic.

Some other companies to watch are:
Accelerometers and gyroscopes: Qualtre, Oki, Wacon, Alps, Virtus, Ricoh.
Pressure sensors: Intersema (MEAS), Metrodyne.
Microphones: Infineon, Wolfson, Memstech, Yamaha, Omron, Panasonic, MEMSensing, AAC, Goertek.
Pico-projectors and other MEMS displays: Microvision, Nippon Signal, Samsung, Konica Minolta, Scanlight, Qualcomm, Pixtronix, Unipixel
RF MEMS switches and capacitors: Wispry, Epcos, RFMD, Baolab.
MEMS oscillators: SiTime, Discera, NXP, Seiko, Intel.
BAW filters: Triquint, Skyworks, MEMS Solutions.
MEMS actuators for autofocus and zoom: Simpel, Sony.
Micro-fuel cells: Angstrom, Tekion, Medis.

It is understood well that not all of these companies will be successful. However, they all need to be monitored carefully.

Commenting on cell phones as a hotbed for inertial and magnetic sensors, Dr. Richard Dixon, senior analyst MEMS, iSuppli, said that the market for accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers is in cell phones. This market will reach $730 million in 2012. Gyroscopes are not in the market yet, and are likely to enter by 2010. The total growth rate is very fast. In units, the annual growth rate is said to be 97 percent.

Interestingly, Apple has contributed significantly to growth of MEMS. The iPhone had a great application. Other vendors followed suite with a ‘me too” strategy. Apple also had sustainable business model with downloads on the Apple Store. The chicken and egg issue of price was solved. Also, with the iPhone, there was a free field test of motion sensing based applications.

Major suppliers of accelerometers for cell phones today, include STMicroelectronics, Bosch Sensortec, Analog Devices, Hokuriku, Kionix, MEMSIC, Freescale, Oki. Of these, ST has really been very impressive, while Bosch saw impressive growth in 2008. MEMSIC dropped share in 2008.

Navigation in cell phones next big thing
According to Dixon, navigation in mobile phones is the next big thing. Leading navigation markets by platform are: mobile phone navigation, smartphone navigation, PNDs, car aftermarket and car OEM in-dash, respectively. By 2010, the mobile phone/smartphone navigation segment will account for over 60 percent of the market.

Similarly, magnetic sensors will take off in 2009 for e-Compass. There has been penetration of magnetometers in GPS phones. They have been around since 2003 in Japanese phones. These rather esoteric applications and also had technical issues.

There were successful implementations in 2008 for navigation. Eg., the G1 Street View, and the Nokia 6210. Also, 3D compass in combination with 3D accelerometers.

The leading suppliers in this space today, include AKM, Honeywell, Yamaha, Aichi Steel. In the R&D segment, the leading players are said to be Alps, Omron, Memsic, Oki, ST, Freescale, Demodulation. Growth will be steep from 2009 onward, and take off from 2010 up to 2012.

Another growth are is the multi-sensor packages and IMUs (Inertial Measurement Unit) for navigation. Today, we have six-axis e-compass combining magnetic sensors and accelerometers. In future, there will be IMU for LBS and indoor navigation also using gyroscopes.

The issue with gyroscopes is of: performance, price, size, power consumption and no availability of three-axis. Companies that need to be watched in this space are said to be Invensense, ST, Bosch Sensortec, Qualtre, Oki, Virtus.

Other opportunity areas
Later, Jeremie Bouchaud highlighted two other opportunity areas.

MEMS microphone market presents a major opportunity. It will reach close to $400 million by 2012. In 2008, already 325 million units were selling in cell phones and laptops. Leading players in this segment are said to be Knowles, Akustica, Infineon, Sonion, Memstech, AAC. Knowles has over 90 percent of the market share.

MEMS pico projectors is another growth area. Companies have made lot of progress in this segment. The pico projectors come in various varieties.

In the MEMS scanner based segment, the R&D is led by firms such as Microvison, Konica, Minolta, Scanlight, Nippon, Signal, Symbol. These solutions came first as stand alone projectors. Later, it will come on cell phones. The best opportunity is said to be at the module level.

Another sub-segnent is the DLP based projectors. First it will be in form of a pico-projector, later, followed by usage in cell phones.

Bouchaud advised watching out for non-MEMS alternatives, such as Light Blue Optics,
3M and Logic Wireless.

Coping with commoditization and price erosion
The ASP of MEMS devices for CE and mobile phones is dropping at -13 percent per year. So, what are the ways to get profitable?

To be profitable, there is a need to achieve economies of scale by combining consumer and automotive. Also, there is a need to move wafer size to 8-inch. Next, there is a need for externalizing to foundries. ADI and TSMC have already showed the way. Now, USMC, Tower, Dongbu, Magnachip, Omron, etc., are following.

Innovation, in terms of packaging and 3D integration, test, multi-sensor packages, is another way for making profits. There is an opportunity for the equipment suppliers as well.

Consumer MEMS is currently glowing as a light in today’s dark times! It is said to grow from $1 billiom in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2012, with 19 percent CAGR. This optimistic forecast has already started. Accelerometers are present in 10 percent of cell phones in 2008 as against 3 percent in 2007.

There exist a number of opportunities. Small companies can be successful, eg. Kionix and Invensense. There are still opportunities for newcomers. These can be large companies, fabless startups, foundries, software companies, equipment suppliers, etc. Consumer MEMS is an extremely dynamic market, having fast design cycles.

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