Tag Archive IoT

ByAdele Hars

SOI Consortium at Key China Events in May: World Semiconductor Congress (Nanjing) and SOI Academy/FD-SOI Training (Shanghai)

Join us! In partnership with our members, the SOI Consortium is co-organizing and participating in two key SOI events coming up in China over the next few weeks. On May 18th, we’ve put together an SOI Forum at the World Semiconductor Congress (WCS) in Nanjing. And on May 23rd & 24th, we’ve teamed up with our members SIMIT, Sitri and Leti for another in our series of SOI Academies, including an FD-SOI Training Day. (The last one this past winter was a terrific success – read about that here if you missed our coverage at the time.)

QR code for WCS, Nanjing ’19

At WCS, the SOI Forum (sub-forum #8) is part of the afternoon Innovation Summit. We’ll cover the broader SOI ecosystem, including both RF-SOI and FD-SOI – from wafers to design through manufacturing. Presentations will be given by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by leaders from our membership, including Simgui, NXP, Incize, ST, IBM, Cadence and Xpeedic. Click here or scan the QR code for the full program and registration information.

Also at WCS, SOI Consortium member VeriSilicon will be participating in a morning session on AI and IoT Wireless Communications (sub-forum #4). They’ll be giving a presentation on their low-power Bluetooth design platform for GlobalFoundries 22FDX, and their CEO Wayne Dai will be moderating a round-table discussion. You can get more information on that (in Chinese only, tho) here, or follow VeriSilicon on WeChat.

QR code for SOI Academy and FD-SOI Training, Shanghaid 2019

The SOI Academy in Shanghai is an opportunity for experienced designers to gain solid expertise in FD-SOI. The event begins in the afternoon of May 23rd with a series of informative plenary talks by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by experts from our members Leti, Soitec, VeriSilicon, GlobalFoundries and NXP. The FD-SOI Training starts the next morning, on May 24th.. This is a hands-on event lead by top experts from Leti. The morning is devoted to digital design in FD-SOI, and the afternoon to RF design (including for 5G) in FD-SOI. Attendees will get a comprehensive understanding of design techniques for low-power chips leveraging the multiple benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI technology. Get more information here, or from the WeChat QR code.

We’ve got a busy schedule! To keep up to date with where we and our members will be promoting the SOI ecosystem, be sure to check our Events page regularly.

ByAdele Hars

SOI Consortium & Members at Samsung Foundry Forum (14 May, Santa Clara, CA)

For the second consecutive year the SOI Consortium will have a stand at the Networking Reception during the Samsung Foundry Forum (SFF). This important Silicon Valley event will be held on May 14, 2019 at the Santa Clara Marriott. We hope you’ll stop by to learn more about the SOI Consortium and the FD-SOI ecosystem.

There’s been a steady stream of news about Samsung’s FD-SOI offerings and support, including their highly successful 28FDS and coming very soon: 18FDS. (If you need to catch up, click here to read more.) As in the previous 3 years, Samsung will be making major announcements on their technology roadmap and application solutions. SFF is a unique opportunity to network with Korean and US based executives from Samsung Foundry as well as customers and ecosystem partners.

SOI Consortium members ARM, Synopsys, Cadence, Analog Bits, VeriSilicon and Xpeedic will also have stands, and NXP will be on the customer panel.

Seats are limited, so go to http://www.samsungfoundryforum.com/2019/ to register now.

ByAdele Hars

Part 2: Silicon Valley SOI Symposium Takeaways. FD-SOI, Smarter Edge, Goldilocks & More.

Key takeaway #2: If you need a Goldilocks process node – where you’ll get just the right balance between active power, unit cost and investment – look to FD-SOI. And, btw, the IP landscape has improved dramatically. Those were just some of the great points made by Huibert Verhoeven (shown above), GM/SVP of Synaptics’ IoT Division in his talk at the recent SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley.

BTW, if you missed part 1 of our coverage —Silicon Valley SOI Symposium a Huge Success. Key Takeaways (Part 1) Here. – you’ll want to be sure to read it, too. Almost all of the presentations are now posted on our website – click here to access them.

In this post here, we’ll cover presentations by Synaptics, GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Anokiwave and Dolphin Integration. It was a really full, day, so be sure to stay turned for Part 3 of our coverage to follow shortly: it will highlight the remaining presentations and panel discussions.

Synaptics: Smart Home at the Edge

Synaptics’ Verhoeven’s presentation Revolutionizing User Experience Through Secure Neural Network Acceleration at the Edge was about Smart Home and using SOI. Synaptics is a human interface (HMI) company that’s been doing neural networks since 1986. They’ve always been on the leading edge, from their first shipment of PC touchpads to becoming a dominant force in all things HMI today: they now ship over a billion units annually.

Synaptics slides 15 & 16 from the SOI Symposium, Silicon Valley 2019.

They currently have SOI products shipping with dedicated neural networks for voice, he said. European [privacy] regulations have played a part in driving their use of SOI, as have challenges regarding power and heat. Things are getting smarter at the edge. For example, not only do users want their coffee machine to offer the usual morning espresso, Synaptics says that the next step is for your coffee machine to recognize you’re looking extra tired and ask if you might want a double?!

For them Smart Home and multi-modal applications are the primary area of interest, as well as some automotive. Although their biggest customers have resources, others need guidance. Voice is a critical component, but now you also need video and display.

Why SOI? Their HMI vision requires low power, significant computation and dedicated neural network hardware, explained Verhoeven, so FD-SOI with RF meets their needs. “22nm SOI is a Goldilocks IoT Process Node,” he proclaimed. It gets the combination of active power, unit cost and investment just right. What’s more, he said, “The IP landscape has improved dramatically. Our choice of SOI was not an accident.” Be on the lookout for more products leveraging FD-SOI over the next six months, he concluded.

At this point on SOI, they’ve got 1 TOPS products with dedicated NPU for speakers, soundbars, Wi-Fi mesh, appliances, STBs and smart displays. These products have voice and sensor real-time (RT) AI. Next up is >4 TOPS on SOI with dedicated NPU, targeting STBs and smart displays with voice, video, imaging and RT AI.

GF: World-Changing Opps

GlobalFoundries slides 6 & 7 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

“Our clients are at the forefront of changing the world,” declared Mark Granger, VP of the Automotive Product Line at GlobalFoundries. His presentation, Capturing High Growth Market Opportunities with SOI, detailed how mobility, automotive and IoT are the growth markets for SOI. So not unsurprisingly, GF’s 22nm FD-SOI technology, 22FDX, is seeing particular traction in mobile, edge, wearables and automotive.

They’ve got twice as many tape-outs this year as they did a year ago, he noted. GF’s SOI portfolio includes 22FDX®, 45RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for 5G/mobility; 22FDX for automotive (fully qualified for automotive Grade 2, with Grade 1 on the way); and 22FDX, 130RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for IoT.

GF has announced a stream of good news recently:

  • with Dolphin Integration they’re delivering differentiated FD-SOI Adaptive Body Bias Solutions for 5G, IoT and automotive applications;
  • they’ve crossed the billion-dollar design win threshold with 8SW RF SOI technology;
  • they’ve collaborated with Synopsys to develop the industry’s first Automotive Grade 1 IP for their 22FDX process;
  • and they worked with Rambus on the delivery of High-Speed SerDes on 22FDX® for communications and 5G applications.

You might have heard about the Dolphin Integration news, as we covered it recently here at ASN (if not, be sure to read it here). Dolphin’s IP and methodology solutions address energy efficiency challenges. Automated transistor body biasing adjustment can achieve up to 7x energy efficiency with power supply as low as 0.4V on 22FDX designs. At the Silicon Valley event, Dolphin Integration CEO Philippe Berger provided additional information in his talk, FD-SOI IP Platform for Energy-Efficient IoT SoC.

Dolphin Integration slides 5 & 6 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

In another GF-related talk, Nitin Jain, the CTO of longtime GF RF-SOI customer Anokiwave presented Unleashing the mmWave Phase Array Using SOI for 5G & Satcom. Anokiwave is a fabless semi IC company (you’ll find a good technical discussion of mmWave phase array written by their Chief Architect here). They do active antennas (aka phased array), something the military’s done for a long time, but now Anokiwave is bringing it to new markets and applications including radar, satcom and 5G. What they’ve been able to do is planarize the active antennas. They use GF’s 45RFSOI process technology for phased array systems because of the cost, performance, scalability and system enhancements it enables. 45RFSOI, he explained, is ideal for beam-forming FEMs (including the switches, LNAs and PAs). The move to 5G/mmWave is going to require a lot of antennas, so these Anokiwave ICs are headed to high volumes, concluded Jain.

Stellar by ST

As Roger Forchhammer, Director of Business Development at STMicroelectronics pointed out in his presentation, Automotive FD-SOI Microcontrollers with Embedded PCM, ST pioneered FD-SOI (and that was almost a decade ago, btw). Then in February 2019, they announced a world first: they’d begun sampling 28nm FD-SOI microcontrollers (MCUs) with embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) based on embedded Phase-Change Memory (ePCM) to 10 alpha customers. These MCUs target powertrain systems, advanced and secure gateways, safety/ADAS applications, and vehicle electrification.

STMicroelectronics slides 9 & 10 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

(In case you want technical details, the breakthrough ePCM eNVM was first presented at IEDM in December 2018 – you can get the presentation that accompanied the paper, Truly Innovative 28nm FDSOI Technology for Automotive Microcontroller Applications embedding 16MB Phase Change Memory, from the ST website.)

In his Silicon Valley presentation, Forchhammer said they’re now doing Stellar, a whole family of automotive products on FD-SOI. To do it, they’d taken an existing device and moved it to 28nm FD-SOI with ePCM, which they manufacture at their fab in Crolles, France. A major advantage for automotive he cites is that in software updates it’s bit-level programmable. “ST is fully behind FD-SOI,” he concluded, adding that we’re see more automotive as well as IoT products coming soon.

Well folks, that’s all for this post. We’ll finish up our coverage of the SOI Consortium’s 2019 Silicon Valley Symposium in the next ASN post (there was so much to cover!). So please stay tuned.

ByAdele Hars

PCM/MRAM Workshop by Leti and Applied Materials During 2019 IEEE Intl. Memory Workshop

Two of the big, recent breakthroughs in memory technology – eMRAM and ePCM – have gotten their start in volume manufacturing on 28nm FD-SOI. In conjunction with the 2019 IEEE International Memory Workshop, SOI Consortium members Leti and Applied Materials have teamed up to give a technical program to explore short-term and long-term memory solutions. While the workshop is not specific to SOI, given the recent foundry announcements about ePCM and eMRAM for FD-SOI, the organizers predict it will be of particular interest to those following the greater SOI ecosystem. The event takes place at the end of the Sunday IMW tutorial day, starting at 5:30pm at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, CA. Please see this page for the program and registration information.

Here is the program:

  • Emerging Non-Volatile Memory Promises Toward New Energy-Efficient Design and Applications – Michael Tchagaspanian, VP Business Development, CEA-Leti
  • Technologies That Enable MRAM and PCRAM in Volume Manufacturing – Kevin Moraes, Vice President, Metal Deposition Products, Applied Materials
  • Technology Improvements Directions of Emerging Non-Volatile Memory for New Applications Solutions – Etienne Nowak, Head of Memory Laboratory, CEA-Leti
  • Integration Schemes and Challenges for New Memories in a New Artificial Intelligence Era –Michel Frei, Director, Advanced Product & Technology Development, Applied Materials

Jean-Eric Michallet, Head of Leti’s Microelectronics Components Department, Silicon Component Division is one of the organizers. Here is his overview:

FD-SOI is expected to be a long-lived technology. It enables planar CMOS scaling and accommodates a great deal of More-than-Moore developments where its ability for low power and great analog performance can make a difference for IoT, Automotive, Machine Learning or 5G applications. But to do this it requires a high-performance and cost-effective non-volatile embedded memory option. The incumbent Flash cell is reaching the end of its roadmap due to the difficulty of shrinking the bitcell and manufacturing, as well as the finished wafer cost increase. Back-end integrated Random Access Memory in advanced CMOS process has been explored for many years now as a competitive solution for fast-write and low-voltage non-volatile embedded memories. Foundry availability of embedded Magnetic RAM and Phase Change RAM for FDSOI 28nm platforms has been announced recently, showing that these technologies have now reached industrial maturity. CEA-Leti and Applied Materials invite you to attend a technical program to explore short-term and long-term memory solutions, from early research to industrialization.

Registration is open, free, and available to all IMW attendees, and others. However, as seating is limited and as we have already several participants pre-registered, registration is by invitation only and early registration is recommended. If you are interested, please email Jean-Eric Michallet.

The event is presented in conjunction with the 2019 IEEE International Memory Workshop, to be held on Sunday, May 12th, 2019, Hyatt Regency, Monterey CA, starting at 5:30 pm.

ByAdele Hars

Arm-Samsung Announce IP Platform including eMRAM for 18nm FD-SOI. Will Highlight at Silicon Valley Symposium

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Samsung Foundry and Arm FDSOI collaboration announced

ByAdele Hars

GF-Dolphin 22FDX Turnkey Adaptive Body Bias Solutions Offer Big Energy Savings, Faster TTM. Design Kits Q2/19.

GlobalFoundries and Dolphin Integration are collaborating on the development of a series of adaptive body bias (ABB) solutions to improve the energy efficiency and reliability of SoCs on GF’s 22nm FD-SOI (22FDX®) process technology for a wide range of high-growth applications such as 5G, IoT and automotive. The goal of the IP is to accelerate energy-efficient SoC designs and push the boundaries of single-chip integration. The design kits with turnkey ABB solutions will be available starting in Q2 2019.

As part of the collaboration, Dolphin and GF are working together to develop a series of off-the-shelf ABB solutions for accelerating and easing body bias* implementation on SoC designs. ABB is a unique feature of FD-SOI that enables designers to leverage forward and reverse body bias techniques to dynamically compensate for process, supply voltage, temperature (PVT) variations and aging effects to achieve additional performance, power, area and cost improvements beyond those from scaling alone.

The ABB solutions in development by GF and Dolphin consist of self-contained IPs embedding the body bias voltage regulation, PVT and aging monitors and control loop as well as complete design methodologies to fully leverage the benefits of corner tightening. GF says its 22FDX technology offers the industry’s lowest static and dynamic power consumption. With automated transistor body biasing adjustment, Dolphin Integration can achieve up to 7x energy efficiency with power supply as low as 0.4V on 22FDX designs.

“We have been working with GF for more than two years on advanced and configurable power management IPs for low power and energy efficient applications,” said Philippe Berger, CEO of Dolphin Integration. “Through our ongoing collaboration with GF, we are focused on creating turnkey IP solutions that allow designers to realize the full benefit of FD-SOI for any SoC design in 22FDX.”

“In order to simplify our client designs and shorten their time-to-market, GF and our ecosystem partners are helping to pave the way to future performance standards in 5G, IoT and automotive,” said Mark Ireland, vice president of ecosystem partnerships at GF. “With the support of silicon IP providers like Dolphin Integration, new power, performance and reliability design infrastructures will be available to customers to fully leverage the benefits of GF’s 22FDX technology.”

As STMicroelectronics Fellow and Professor Andreia Cathelin has beautifully noted, “Body biasing is not an obligation. It’s an opportunity.” And GF/Dolphin clearly aim to make that opportunity a much easier and more powerful one to take advantage of.

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*A note on terminology: the terms back bias and body bias are used interchangeably. Likewise the terms adaptive and dynamic when used in the FD-SOI context. Here is a quick explanation of how it works, from an ST paper from several years ago:

Back-biasing consists of applying a voltage just under the BOX of target transistors. Doing so changes the electrostatic control of the transistors and shifts their threshold voltage VT, to either get more drive current (hence higher performance) at the expense of increased leakage current (forward back-bias, FBB) or cut leakage current at the expense of reduced performance. While back-bias in planar FD is somewhat similar to body-bias that can be implemented in bulk CMOS technology, it offers a number of key advantages in terms of level and efficiency of the bias that can be applied. Back-biasing can be utilized in a dynamic way, on a block-by-block basis. It can be used to boost performance during the limited periods of time when maximum peak performance is required from that block. It can also be used to cut leakage during the periods of time when limited performance is not an issue. In other words, back-bias offers a new and efficient knob on the speed/power trade-off.

For another good discussion of body biasing in FD-SOI, you might want to check out The Return Of Body Biasing by Semiconductor Engineering’s Ann Steffora Mutschler from a couple years ago.

ByAdele Hars

New Bluetooth 5 RF IP from VeriSilicon Targets Wearables, IoT on GF’s 22FDX

Since about a third of all IoT devices are expected to be connected by Bluetooth, chip designers need IP solutions that will help reduce system cost and greatly improve battery life. And that’s just what VeriSilicon has announced for GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX® (FD-SOI) process.

“By taking advantage of integrated RF capabilities of FD-SOI, in particular GF’s 22FDX, our BLE 5.0 RF IP will significantly reduce the system cost and greatly boost the growth momentum of wearable products such as wireless earplugs,” said Dr. Wayne Dai, Founder, Chairman, President and CEO of VeriSilicon. 22FDX enables efficient single-chip integration of RF, transceiver, baseband, processor, and power management components. GF and VeriSilicon are working on an SoC using VeriSilicon’s BLE 5.0 RF IP in GF’s 22FDX process.

The latest iteration of Bluetooth is 5, which (like its predecessor 4) has a Low Energy (LE) RF option – but with big improvements. According to the Bluetooth website, “With 4x range, 2x speed and 8x broadcasting message capacity, the enhancements of Bluetooth 5 focus on increasing the functionality of Bluetooth for the IoT.” BLE 5.0 was designed for very low power operation and is optimized for the sorts of short burst data transmissions you’ll get with IoT.

On the strength of VeriSilicon’s innovative RF architecture and by leveraging GF’s 22FDX technology, VeriSilicon says the new IP product achieves significant improvements in power, area, and cost compared to current offerings, so it will better serve the emerging and increasing wearable devices and IoT applications space.

“VeriSilicon’s BLE IP complements GF’s 22FDX FD-SOI capabilities and is well positioned to support the explosive growth of low-power IoT and connected devices,” said Mark Ireland, vice president of ecosystem partnerships at GF. “Together, we broaden our IP and services to further enable our mutual clients to provide power and cost efficient solutions.”

VeriSilicon BLE 5.0 RF IP includes a transceiver that is compliant with the BLE 5.0 specification and supports GFSK modulation and demodulation. The silicon measurement shows that the sensitivity can be tested up to -98dBm with less than 7mW power dissipation in typical conditions. It largely improves battery life for low power IoT applications. In addition, the RF transceiver saves 40% area compared to a similar implementation on 55nm bulk CMOS. Besides the RF transceiver, this IP integrates on-chip balun, TX/RX switch and 32K RC OSC driver to save the BOM. Moreover, high efficiency DC/DC and LDOs are also available for power management.

You can read the full press release in Chinese here and in English here.

ByAdele Hars

1st Highlights from Shanghai FD-SOI/RF-SOI Events – Amazon/Blink, Intellifusion, Foundries, China Mobile, Nokia, Qorvo and More

Excellent news and exciting applications made headlines at the recent FD-SOI and RF-SOI events in Shanghai. During the FD-SOI day, Amazon/Blink and Intellifusion shared news about their new chips, and we got updates from GF and Samsung. The RF-SOI day featured a great talk with details about China Mobile’s 5G plans, and peeks at Nokia’s groundbreaking approach and Qorvo’s outlook.

(Photo courtesy: Verisilicon)

The hall was absolutely full – with over 300 people attending each day. The FD-SOI event was by invitation only, and there were far more people wanting to attend than there was room for, even given the big room in which the events were held.

The events got excellent coverage in the China tech press. For example, EEWorld started with an overview article and added five supporting pieces zooming in on key presentations and companies: one on GlobalFoundries, one on Samsung, one on Verisilicon, and two on Soitec (CEO and top exec interviews). These pieces are in Chinese, but just open the links through your favorite translation site. Many of the key slides are captured in these articles, so if you can’t wait for the ppts to be posted on the SOI Consortium website, you can get some quick previews now.

The Verisilicon PR folks also wrote up highlights of the FD-SOI event in real time with lots of great pictures – you can read that here. Many thanks to that team, too, for flagging the coverage in the China press and posting it on their WeChat account. On the RF-SOI side, the Simgui folks wrote that up – you can read it here. They also sponsored a gala dinner with awards given to Qorvo and SmarterMicro – you can read about that here.

Most of the presentations will be posted on the SOI Consortium website over the next few weeks, at which point we’ll cover them in-depth here at ASN. But for now, here’s a quick round-up of some of the highlights.

FD-SOI Highlights

(Courtesy: Blink, Verisilicon)

Boston-area based Blink, which makes very popular home security systems, was recently bought by Amazon (see their current product page here). They just taped out a new chip on Samsung’s 28FDS FD-SOI technology, and they’re really happy about it. “I believe for battery powered devices at home, FD-SOI is the way to go,” said Yantoa Jia, Head of ASIC & China Ops at Blink.

Their goal in the move from 55nm bulk to 28nm FD-SOI was to double battery life, add features and control costs: and they did it. Even adding two more CPU cores and lots more features, “The power drop is fantastic,” he said. Design was no problem, he continued, and there was plenty of IP. Once the new generation is officially announced, he promised to sit down with ASN and give us more details.

Attendees also heard about a new chipset from Intellifusion, which is putting its face recognition technology onto GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX FD-SOI with design house Verisilicon. CEO Nin Chen gave an impromptu talk about how their technology is used to find missing people and property. The new chip, which is especially designed for use in cities, is network-to-cloud leveraging AI.

For his part Thomas Morgenstern, GlobalFoundries SVP and GM of the Dresden Fab 1, said they’re seeing high yields and increasing capacity for 22FDX. The marketing and manufacturing ecosystem has been built around the fab in Europe. Now, he said, the key is to build an FD-SOI ecosystem in China. The market needs of China largely parallel those of Europe, he noted, for performance and efficiency at the right cost point. The ecosystem enables fast time-to-market and 1st-time-right.

(Photo courtesy: Cadence)

Samsung SVP Gitae Jeong sees their FD-SOI technology as the right solution for the 4th Revolution, which includes everything from energy harvesting to self-driving cars. They’ve just taped out their first 5G mmWave cellular chip on 28FDS, he revealed. eMRAM is looking very good, only requiring three additional masks and getting stable yields from -40o to 105oC. 18FDS is on schedule, with PDK 0.5 now being released, and 1.0 on track for release in March 2019. They expect a very fast ramp, and are looking at a 35% area reduction, power cut in half and performance up 22% compared to 28FDS.

 

RF-SOI Highlights

China Mobile, Project Manager Danni Song (Photo courtesy: Simgui)

When China Mobile talks, the world listens. Project Manager Danni Song presented again this year (she gave a great talk last year, too). China has a very ambitious 5G project underway, and under two years in which to roll it out. The biggest challenges are power consumption and cost (a problem made worse by the additional power amplifiers needed for MIMO). Can RF-SOI help solve these challenges, she asked? One thing she did clarify during the panel discussion was with respect to the mmWave part of the 5G puzzle. Their initial 2020 rollout will only focus on sub-6GHz, with mmWave following a year or two later.

Michael Reiha, Head of RFIC R&D at Nokia Mobile Networks clarified the worldwide 5G rollout during the panel discussion. Different locations on the planet have different histories and needs, so will rollout 5G in different ways. For historical reasons (and a lack of choice), the US will lead with mmWave, he said. Europe, meanwhile, will focus on 24GHz to meet the needs of automotive radar.

In his presentation, Reiha described Nokia’s approach to power amplifiers (PA), which is very different from what others are doing. With RF-SOI, he said, you can add sensors and logic for a level of preventative care, so you can gauge and protect your equipment using AI. He believes this disruptive approach will put them two years ahead of the industry, enabling massive MIMO to be deployed in dense urban areas with 60% lower power consumption and 50% savings in material costs. Go read about their Reefshark tech, he urged, which he says will beat GaAs. “The future is very bright with RF-SOI,” he concluded. “I can state that with confidence.”

Julio Costa, Director of Technology Development, Qorvo (Photo courtesy: Simgui)

Julio Costa, Director of Technology Development at Qorvo sees it differently. Traditionally a GaAs house, all their RF-SOI work is fabless. While RF front end modules (FEMs) are loaded with RF-SOI, he said, and are a big winner for antenna tuning, Qorvo still sees GaAs for high-efficiency amplifiers and envelope tracking. But, he said, it will be a battle. GaAs wins in terms of area and power consumption he contends, but adds that SOI wins in terms of cost. Power levels, he predicts, will be the determining factor.

So that’s the quick overview – we’ll drill down into the presentations as they’re posted, so stay tuned!

ByAdele Hars

FD-SOI for Near-Threshold-Voltage Design? It’s a Good Knob, Say #55DAC Expert Panelists

That FD-SOI can be a key to achieving near-threshold voltage design was an important point made during a  #55 DAC expert panel. Entitled How Close to Threshold-Voltage Design Can We Go Without Getting our Fingers Burnt? the session was organized by Jan Willis of Calibre Consulting. Turnout was excellent. Btw, Jan (herself an EDA expert) was one of the original advisors in the formation of the SOI Consortium, and while this DAC panel was not meant to be about FD-SOI, it turned out be a focal point.

Near-threshold voltage design* is an especially hot topic for IoT and edge-computing designers, for whom balancing performance, reliability and extremely low power is generally challenge #1. For them, the ability to get chips working at very low voltages translates into battery life savings.

The original goal of the panel was “…to explore how far below nominal voltage we can design, in what applications it makes sense and in what ways it will cost us.” The description in the #55 DAC program noted that “Energy consumption is the driving design parameter for many systems that must meet ‘always-on’ market requirements and in IoT in general. For decades, the semiconductor industry has attempted to leverage the essential principle that lowering voltage is the quickest, biggest way to reduce energy for a SoC. Some today contend sub-threshold voltage design is viable while others argue for near-threshold voltage design as the minimum.”

(Update 2 August 2018:  a complete video of this panel is now available on YouTube — click here to view it.)

#55 DAC Expert Panel: How Close to Threshold-Voltage Design Can We Go Without Getting our Fingers Burnt? Left to right: Brian Fuller, Arm (moderator); Scott Hanson, Ambiq Micro; Lauri Koskinen, Minima Processor; Mahbub Rashed, GlobalFoundries; Paul Wells, sureCore. (Organized by Jan Willis of Calibre Consulting)

The panelists included:

  • Scott Hanson – Ambiq Micro
  • Mahbub Rashed – GLOBALFOUNDRIES
  • Lauri Koskinen – Minima Processor
  • Paul Wells – sureCore Ltd., Sheffield

Brian Fuller of Arm served as moderator.

Panel organizer Jan Willis, Calibre Consulting

Following the panel Jan published the following excellent recap on LinkedIn. She graciously agreed for it to be reprinted here in ASN, for which we thank her. So without further ado, read on!

#55DAC Expert Panel on Near-Threshold Voltage Sees Growing Opportunity Despite Challenges

First published on LinkedIn, June 27, 2018 by Jan Willis, Strategic Partnerships & Marketing Executive

Brian Fuller, Arm, skillfully guided a group of experts through the challenges of near-threshold design to conclude that the adoption is going to start gathering pace in a panel session at the 55th DAC in San Francisco on Monday, June 25.

Scott Hanson, CTO of Ambiq Micro, led off by saying the list of what’s not challenging is a much shorter list but that by taking an adaptive approach, they have been successful. It’s required innovating throughout the design process including test where Scott said they had create their own “secret sauce” to make it work. Later on in the panel, Scott described designers in near-threshold as “picojoule fanatics” to overcome the limitations in design tools which are geared towards achieving performance goals.

Lauri Koskinen, CTO of Minima Processor, agreed that adaptivity is key. Minima says it has to be done in situ in the design to make it robust for manufacturing while useful across more than one design. Later in the panel, Lauri indicated that FD-SOI is like having another knob available for optimizing energy in the Minima approach to near-threshold design.

Mahbub Rashed, head of Design and Technology Co-Optimization at GlobalFoundries, highlighted the need for more collaboration between EDA, IP, and foundries to support near-threshold design but noted a lot of progress has been made on FD-SOI processes. Mahbub cited models down to 0.4V for FD-SOI processes are available now and GlobalFoundries is able to guarantee yield.

Paul Wells, CEO of sureCore, validated that sureCore has bench marked their memories on GlobalFoundries FD-SOI with success. He reflected that FD-SOI has rapidly established itself as cost effective for a number of emerging markets. The panel all agreed that achieving quality on the memory at near-threshold voltage was much tougher than for digital IP. [Editor’s note: sureCore‘s CTO wrote an excellent summary of their SRAM IP for FD-SOI in ASN back in 2016 – you can still read it here.]

Paul went on to summarize at the end of the panel that near-threshold voltage is the way of the future and that it’s gathering pace. Mahbub called upon the EDA community to step up to improve the tools for low energy design. Lauri and Scott both summarized that there were drivers emerging that will grow the addressable market for near-threshold voltage design. Lauri pointed to growth coming from the applications that require edge computing which he thinks will require near-threshold voltage design. Scott concluded the panel by pointing out that there’s been a tremendous increase in performance of near-threshold voltage designs which will increase the addressable available market in the future.

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This piece was first published by Jan Willis on LinkedIn, June 27, 2018. Here is the original.

* As explained by Rich Collins of Synopsys in the TechDesign Forum: “Operating at near-threshold or sub-threshold voltages reduces static and dynamic power consumption, at the cost of design complexity. […] A transistor’s threshold voltage (Vth) is the voltage at which the transistor turns on.  Most transistor circuits use a supply voltage substantially greater than the threshold voltage, so that the point at which the transistors turn on is not affected by supply variations or noise. […] In sub-threshold operation, the supply voltage is well below the Vth of the transistors. In this region, the transistors are partially On, but are never fully turned. Near-threshold operation happens between the sub-threshold region and the transistor threshold voltage Vth, or around 400 – 700mV for today’s processes.

ByAdele Hars

Dolphin Showcases New EDA Tool for FD-SOI – More THINGS2DO Results

Dolphin Integration, a partner in the ENIAC THINGS2DO European FD-SOI project, showcased its achievements with PowerStudio™ during the project final review. Power Studio is Dolphin’s cutting-edge EDA tool for safe Power Regulation Networks implementation.

THINGS2DO, which stands for THIN but Great Silicon to Design Objects, was a 4-year, >€120 million EU project (85% industry-funded) with over 40 partners that just finished up at the end of 2017. The goal was to build a design & development ecosystem for FD-SOI. The project funded and supported the development of major FD SOI-based IPs and ASICs as well as EDA tools. (Another recent THINGS2DO announcement was Dream Chips’ ADAS SoC fabbed in GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX technology — read about that here.)

“Being involved in the THINGS2DO project was an opportunity for Dolphin Integration to start introducing FD-SOI in its automatic design methodologies,” said Frederic Poullet, Dolphin Integration’s CTO (read the press release here). “Dolphin Integration plans to offer a full suite of tools allowing its customers to implement right-on-first-pass Power Regulation Networks.”

The company notes that THINGS2DO also proved that low power consumption makes FD-SOI a perfect fit for IoT and automotive applications. For instance, dynamic control of threshold voltage can be used to compensate for temperature variations, and to drive speed improvements by 200% in ultra-low voltage applications.

Dolphin Integration provides energy efficient IPs and ASIC services dedicated to the low-power application market and supports its internal teams with tailor-made software tools. To address the specific needs of its customers in low-power design, Dolphin developed PowerStudio™, a global solution for the optimization of Power Regulation Networks (PRNet) to be used at an early stage of the SoC design process. In particular, it addresses new design challenges in noise and power supply integrity.

The first module of PowerStudio™ will also embed architecture optimization features at the schematic level, in terms of FoM-based cost optimization, mode management, margin cuts and integrability rate-based risk optimization.

Btw, Dolphin Integration Director Frederic Renoux gave an excellent great presentation at an SOI Consortium event in Nanjing, China last year, entitled Embedding power regulation & activity control networks for best SoC PPA.

Dolphin Integration joined Global foundries’ FDXcelerator™ Program last year (read the press release here) to streamline design in 22FDX®. “Our comprehensive and robust library of voltage regulators, power gating cells and logic modules, enables to deal cost-effectively and securely with power distribution, power gating, power monitoring and power control of any SoC design in 22FDX,” Michel Depeyrot, Dolphin Integration’s Chairman, said at the time. “As connected devices sleep most of their time, users of 22FDX also benefit from our ultra-low power and accurate oscillators to design an always-on RTC which consumes as little as 60 nA.”

See the Dolphin Integration website for the full catalog of their IP, EDA and ASIC/SoC service offerings, including for GF’s 22FDX.