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Ph.D candidates in VLSI industry! Is enough being done?


“Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.” – John Ruskin.

“Great men’s honor ought always to be measured by the methods they made use of in attaining it.” – François Duc De La Rochefoucauld.

The 26th International Conference on VLSI Design 2013 is starting tomorrow at Hyatt Regency, Pune. Over the years, it has served as a forum for VLSI folks to discuss topics related to VLSI design, EDA, embedded systems, etc. The theme for the VLSI and embedded systems conference is green technology.

That brings me to a point raised by one reader of this blog- what’s the future of  Ph.D candidates in the VLSI industry! First, do not believe when you are told that you can only join academics in case you are a Ph.D. You can certainly switch over to R&D at the various VLSI companies! Or, you can start on your own, by developing something noteworthy!!

As for the current scenario, especially in India, students, or well, Ph.D holders should seriously consider developing useful projects for  use in India, and globally. It seems all too very easy for folks to join some large MNC in India or overseas, as according to such people: their jobs are done!

For some strange reason, semiconductor/VLSI development seems to have remained in the backburner in India! I was surprised on visiting a center in Bangalore to find students – actually, some Ph.D. holders – working on projects that may never even see the light of the day! That leads to the question: are the tutors guiding them enough? Do we even have systems in place that backs development?

Having spent a long time in the Far East, I have seen young Chinese and Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese men and women take to VLSI earnestly. How did they manage to do that? Mainly, by starting their own companies and developing some product!

Now, this is something not yet evident in India! Has anyone else asked this question? And, can the Indian VLSI community make this happen? It should not be very difficult, if the head, hand and heart are there in the deed!

As John Ruskin says, “Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”

François Duc De La Rochefoucauld. says, “Great men’s honor ought always to be measured by the methods they made use of in attaining it.”

Hope these words make sense! Developing and designing solutions is a fine art where the hand, the head and the heart must be in sync. And, if you have really developed a solution or a product, what were the methods you used to attain that! Answering these two questions are tough, but the answers really lie within us!

My question remains: do students (in India) really spend time for developing projects, or do they simply copy or buy projects?

Coming back to the VLSI conference, this year’s program will play host to the 4th IEEE International Workshop on Reliability Aware System Design and Test (RASDAT) as well. There will be discussions around topics such as design-for-test, fault-tolerant micro architecture, low power test, reliability of CMOS circuits, design for reliability, dependability and verifiability, etc.

A semiconductor company will likely be introducing a portable and affordable analog design kit. Students will no longer be required to go to expensive labs for developing projects. There should be lot of simulation tools, online course materials, community support, lab materials, etc. to use using the analog design kit. There should be a string of announcements too, so let’s wait for the event to start!

SanDisk’s iNAND Extreme family of embedded eMMC storage devices for high-end mobile and tablets

July 3, 2011 Comments off

SanDisk Corp.’s embedded storage is in most of all top computing device brands. It recently launched the iNAND Extreme family of embedded eMMC storage devices for high-end mobile and tablets.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager, SanDisk.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager, SanDisk.

Gadi Ben-Gad, product marketing manager for SanDisk, said: “This very high performance line of iNAND products joins the existing iNAND and iNAND Ultra lines, which are very successful in the mobile, tablet and consumer electronics markets. The first generation of these products (iNAND Extreme) will be sampling in a few weeks.

“iNAND Extreme products offer up to 50MB/s write and 80MB/s read sequential performance and very high random performance designed for the next generation of high-end mobile and tablet devices. SanDisk continues to monitor market trends and requirements and diversifying the embedded offering in the market, to answer to the different requirements of the different mobile, tablet and consumer electronics segments.”

So, how will SanDisk play a strong role in these areas? According to Ben-Gad, SanDisk works closely with a broad and diverse set of mobile and tablet OEMs. The company also works very closely with the majority of the leading mobile chipset vendors and standardization bodies in the mobile/tablet ecosystem to ensure optimal integration and technological support.

He added: “SanDisk is a fully vertically integrated company with substantial expertise in NAND flash technology, system technology and product design with years of experience in designing embedded and removable mobile storage devices. SanDisk is very well-positioned to understand, develop and support the future storage requirements in mobile, tablet and consumer electronics devices.”

Finally, I must thank Ms. Jody Privette Young, LymanPR, for making this happen.

Vision technology can add valuable capabilities to electronic products: Jeff Bier, EVA

June 8, 2011 Comments off

Jeff Bier,  co-founder and president, Berkeley Design Technology Inc.

Jeff Bier, co-founder and president, Berkeley Design Technology Inc.

Following my post on the formation of the Embedded Vision Alliance (EVA), I managed to speak with Jeff Bier, president, Berkeley Design Technology (BDTI), who went on to speak more about the Alliance’s capabilities.

First, the mission and vision of the Alliance.  Bier said: “The mission of the Embedded Vision Alliance is to transform the electronics industry with products that–through vision technology–are more intelligent and aware of their environments, and create significant new markets for electronic equipment and components. The goal of the Alliance is to speed the adoption of computer vision capabilities in electronic products.

“The strategy of the Alliance is to inspire and empower engineers to incorporate vision capabilities into their products by providing practical information, insights, skills, and standards.”

I asked Jeff Bier whether the Alliance had restricted itself to markets such as automotive driver assistance, home surveillance, and gaming systems? “No,” he said! “We believe that vision technology can add valuable capabilities to electronic products in many markets – as well as enabling the creation of entirely new kinds of products. Automotive driver assistance, surveillance, and gaming systems are examples of vision applications where products already exist at consumer price points – and in some cases these products are already shipping in high volume.

“While we certainly believe that there will be more such products in these markets in the future, we also believe that there will be compelling vision-based products in other markets, ranging from smartphones to consumer electronics to medical devices to digital advertising.”

In that case,  what kind of applications can one expect getting covered in retail and entertainment, medical applications, especially. Bier replied, “The Embedded Vision Alliance doesn’t intend to try to pick winners among embedded vision applications – but rather, to enable as many players as possible.”  Here are some examples (including some existing products and some that are just ideas):

Retail: Digital signs that measure the success of an advertisement in attracting and retaining a viewer’s attention – and that select among a number of ads depending on the gender and age of the viewer. Vending machines that exclude minors from purchasing prohibited items, such as alcoholic beverages.

Entertainment: There are some awesome possibilities here, such as toys that recognize which child is playing with them and respond based on that child’s preferences. Video games that put the person inside the game, or inside the television program, for example.

Medical: Systems that watch hospital rooms and warn caregivers when they’ve forgotten to wash their hands, to cut down on infections. Machines that recognize medications and help elderly people take the right medication at the right time. Exercise equipment that detect a person’s heart rate and respiration rate without requiring electrodes.

Now, implementing embedded vision is going to pose a challenge! I asked Bier how the Alliance will overcome this. He replied: “We don’t expect to overcome it all by ourselves, but we hope to help, by providing design engineers get the kinds of practical information, insights, and skills required to implement embedded vision—and by providing a centralized place for such resources. This kind of information is difficult to come by today – by far the majority of computer vision information available today is theoretical, academic work.

“The first project of the Alliance is the web site, http://www.embedded-vision.com.  The web site will deliver a variety of information including technical articles, product information, discussion forums, and demonstrations. In the near future, we will begin to deliver additional resources, such as newsletter and online seminars.”

Finally, the Alliance needs to create opportunities for technology providers to reach out to embedded vision system designers in the coming months. “Definitely”, said Bier.  “The web site is already beginning to provide such opportunities, and we will continue to do so there as well as with other initiatives, such as educational seminars and on-line conferences.”

No real fun being at DAC or ESC! Seriously!!

May 1, 2011 Comments off

The 48th Design Automation Conference (DAC) kicks off in about a month’s time in San Diego, California, USA. I have been flooded with invites. There’s also an Embedded Systems Conference starting tomorrow, in San Jose. However, I will give both of the events a miss! Why? Simply because of one fact! The EDA industry has stopped surprising me! And, so has the embedded systems industry!!

I an very well aware of the changing and ‘challenging’ trends in the global semiconductor industry. I should also add that I do have at least some knowledge of the global EDA industry in 2010 and its expectations for 2011.

I am aware of the fact that product lifecycle management involves reducing the time-to-market cycles for new product introduction. Industry folks have, time and again, apprised me of the fact that there is a need to bridge the gap between software and hardware – and growing the IT and VLSI industries.

Cadence, for instance, will share a new technology that addresses some of the toughest challenges detailed in the EDA360 vision at ESC 2011. For how long will the challenges be met? Synopsys seems to be raking in the dollars, year after year. Mentor, despite its ‘current issues’, has been doing fairly well. So, what’s new over here?

In embedded, it is very well known globally, that India is an emerging leader. Otherwise, there is hardly any electronics or semiconductor related manufacturing happening in India, despite the best efforts of the ISA.

So, why isn’t all of this being viewed as industry growth? Maybe, you have all the answers! I will only try to sound more optimistic, without creating additional pain!

Almost all of the new techniques and technologies to be announced at either conference, will or already have made their way to India. Or, the companies using them are not allowed to speak about them, at best!

Women power, RVCE rule at first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards

December 9, 2010 1 comment

RVCE, E&C, the winners!

RVCE, E&C, the winners!

It is always a pleasure to witness women power in technology! More especially, in India!! To my pleasant surprise, and am sure, of many others present, women power was aplenty at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and Embedded Systems Awards distribution ceremony held today at the RV-VLSI Design Center, Bangalore.

First, the winners! Congratulations to each one of them on their achievement!

VLSI category
Winner: Suraj H, Vinay R, Vinaya Ajjampura and Vasudev Pai M, RVCE, E&C.
Title: Design and verification of 16-bit pipelined microcontroller.

Runner-up: Deepika, Deepthi MN, Divya V Nayak, RVCE, Telecom — an all-women team!
Title: Design and verification of stand-alone DMA controller.

Embedded category
Winner: Praseed Chandriki, Prashant Bhat, Anup Reddy, Manoranjan S, RVCE, E&C.
Title: Implementtion of media transport in VoIP and performance analysis through measurement of QoS.

Runner-up: Ashwini HV, Sayak Bhowmick, Shruthi BR, Shruti S. Rao, Global Academy of Technology, E&C.
Title: DARAM driver for VoIP router.

It was announced that Mentor Graphics, along with STMicroelectronics, will be sponsoring next year’s awards.

Dignitaries at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards.

Dignitaries at the first annual Karnataka VLSI and embedded systems awards.

This year’s contest was initiated by RV-VLSI in close association with VTU, and sponsored by Mentor Graphics. Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO and chairman, Mentor Graphics, graced the occassion. Dr. V.S. Acharya, the Honorable minister for Higher Education, Planning and Statistics, Government of Karnataka, who could not make it to the event owing to pressing official work, had his message read out.

Other digitaries present on the occasion included Hanns Windele, VP Mentor Graphics (Europe & India), Ian Burgess, Higher Education Program, Mentor Graphics, CV Hayagriv, Trustee, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust, and chairman, governing council, RV-VLSI Design Center, AVS Murthy, honarary secretary, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust, and Dr. MK Panduranga Setty, president, Rashtreeya Sikshana Samiti Trust (RSST).

RV-VLSI can tape-out multi-billion transistor chip today!
Venkatesh Prasad, CEO, RV-VLSI Design Center, said it was his interaction with a visionary like Dr. MK Panduranga Setty, and the support of the board of trustees of RSST that made it easy for him to transition out of the industry and start RV-VLSI. The vision of RV-VLSI is to create a steady stream of well trained professionals with a low TTP (time to be productive). To achieve a low TTP, it had to do things different from a traditional academic institution.

That differentiation started with the name, RV-VLSI Design Center itself, rather than RVDI. Next, the institute procured a Sun data center to meets its complex needs. Next, it gained access to foundry technology from Tower Semiconductor and EDA software from Mentor Graphics. Prasad added, ‘RV-VLSI has the infrastructure to design and tape-out a multi-billion transistor chip today.” Read more…

7 principles for bridging hardware and firmware divide: Gary Stringham

July 23, 2010 Comments off

Gary Stringham, founder and president of Gary Stringham and Associates, LLC.

Gary Stringham, founder and president of Gary Stringham and Associates, LLC.

Embedded designers, are you having problems with the firwarre (embedded software) running on your hardware? For instance, do you wish to reduce chip respins? Or, would you like to improve on the hardware and firmware integration?

These and several related queries were answered by Gary Stringham, founder and president of Gary Stringham and Associates, LLC, USA, in an interactive session organized by the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), in co-operation with the US Commercial Service, Bangalore, and in association with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA).

Here are the seven principles that Stringham highlighted during his session. These principles should be of great interest to designers of embedded systems in India, and elsewhere. These are:

1. Collaborate on design.

2. Set and adhere to standards.
3. Balance the load.
4. Design for compatibility.
5. Anticipate the impacts.
6. Design for contingencies.
7. Plan ahead!

I will add some more stuff for each one of these points, time permitting.

Embedded electronics: Trends and opportunities in India!

November 4, 2009 2 comments

I know this particular topic and headline is going to get lots of page views. However, I’ve something better in mind to tell all of you, especially those having an interest in embedded systems and software in India.

The headline is actually the theme of the India Semiconductor Association’s (ISA) E3 conference, which will be held during the forthcoming BangaloreIT.biz event next week!

What’s in store? Probably lots!

In the opening session, industry thought leaders from Ittiam Systems and SemIndia will be setting the tone on design and manufacturing perspective. The second session is actually a panel discussion — to be moderated by S. Janakiraman, President and Group CEO, Product Engineering Services, MindTree. The panelists are from KPIT Cummins, National Semiconductor, Wipro and Delphi. It should be interesting!

I will add some more thoughts on the trends and opportunities in the Indian embedded systems and software industry, although, I’ve mentioned those quite a few times in the past!

India’s strength in embedded
India’s strength in embedded is two-fold — embedded design – in both hadware and software. Also India’s manufacturing demand for electronic products is growing at 13 percent CAGR as per ISA-F&S report 2008.

Design of embedded systems and software
India is emerging as the chip design center for most global companies. There are three types of embedded activities currently happening in India. These are:

* Embedded products designed, developed and manufactured by Indian companies for local markets or for exports — such as local product companies.
* Design projects executed by Indian design services companies for global companies — such as Wipro, KPIT, etc.
* Transnational R&D companies functional in India, who are doing captive design projects for parent companies from India. — Delphi, Cisco, Intel, etc.

Verticals of growth
Coming to manufacturing part, this growth is happening across five-six verticals:

* IT and office automation (OA) — where desktops and laptops are the growth drivers.
* The second area is telecom — wireless infrastructure for GSM and CDMA; also mobile phone manufacturing is emerging as a big segment.
* Next comes consumer electronics, which is driven by STBs, MP3 playerrs, TV and audio systems, etc.
* In industrial electroncis — it is being driven by UPS, energy meters, etc.
* In automotive — we have over 7 million two-wheelers being manufactured in India. The electronic content within them is growing.
* Another opportunity is in medical electronics, smart cards — now with the national ID project as well as metros coming in, and also e-passports.
* Even defence and aerospace are growing areas.

Trends and opportunities in India
The emerging trends are in security surveillance, solar energy, and LED lighting.

* Surveillance — video and security surveillance are gaining strongly.
* Solar — basically, along with solar panels, you will need MPPT charge controllers as well as solar inverters. These will fuel growth.
* LED lighting — meant to replace kerosene lamps with LED, as well as street LED lighting and auto LED lighting, along with lanterns.

On the software side, India has more of software than hardware engineers. The reason being, In India, more work based on developing applications, programming of MCUs, device driver development, etc. are majorly happening here.

 

Hence, embedded software is a bigger element of the Indian industry.

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