Monthly Archives: February 2015

custome-design 200px

Industry Trend: Evolution of Semiconductor Chip Companies to Complex Product and Service Organizations

As technologies advance, the semiconductor industry and its traditional business model face a myriad of ongoing complexities demanding an ever accelerating state of operational agility. The electronics and healthcare markets are experiencing unprecedented change through mass market consumerization and global adoption. For most chip companies, gone are the days of long run product cycles and the timeline to secure a design win may exceed the lifetime ramp up (and ramp down) of an end device such as a smartphone model. And IC companies, whose end customer optics can be hampered by degrees of separation through channels of distribution, are increasingly adopting creative strategies to diversify volatile revenue cyclicality1.

 

A notable trend Tensoft is witnessing firsthand is the evolving business and monetization model from pure play integrated circuit sales to various complex products and services. Growth categories such as Internet of the Things (IoT) have morphed the functionality of an individual chip to a multi-chip module or system-on-chip (SoC) to support multi-sensing functions2. As a result, early stage, single product line offerings are frequently traded up to highly targeted end products analogous to the concept of starting with one wafer and ending with multiple finished goods and outcomes.

 

Design In vs. Design Win – Early stage chip companies may offer technologically superior solutions to competitive incumbents yet may lack an established track record or the financial size OEM’s require in supplier relationships. In business the proverbial pivot is often determined by default and not by design. A chief example was a start-up client targeting the wireless IC market who experienced difficulty achieving qualification with industry stalwarts. Without attaining design wins, the conventional sales model was deemed at risk.  This customer with the support of their investors recalibrated to a design in strategy transitioning to a wireless OEM to effectively create a market for their chips. They found winning shelf space with big box retailers and subsequent consumer acceptance easier than socket adoption – and were eventually rewarded via acquisition by one of the largest market leaders.

 

Vertically Integrated Provider – Semiconductor companies of all sizes are blurring the lines of discrete finished goods merging in traditional software and SaaS companies while many software and hardware companies are acquiring semiconductor lines to expand differentiation. One of Tensoft’s clients was a biometric IC manufacturer who rapidly gained market share through undertaking a systems based approach.  Onboarding a tech complementary software company coupled with a solution sales approach resonated within the market and boosted margins, created a recurring revenue stream and led to a successful exit to Apple, who alone has purchased multiple semiconductor companies over the past three years.

 

Firmware / Software Monetization – Hardware engineering is associated with integrated circuit development. However, for every hardware engineer on staff typically two software engineers is the new normal. IP and coding provide essential functionality and relevance only increases in lockstep with the advance of Moore’s law. Yet historical pricing models and competitive commoditization have subdued the opportunity for direct monetization of the software value add (excluding direct IP licensing) much to the chagrin of top industry executives3. Newer entrants have begun to challenge the status quo seeking subscription fees for ongoing code updates to their core technology as the attractiveness of creating repeatable revenue streams garners greater business predictability and increased market valuations.

 

 

As a SaaS ERP provider at the intersection of semiconductor business processes and software automation, the article highlighted three scenarios embraced to compete and succeed in an environment known by the mantra “Disrupt or be disrupted.” Evolving go-to market operations and revenue models and instituting unique business plans including a moat offering has paid off for multiple Tensoft clients willing to embrace the challenge.

 

 

References:

1. EBN interview with Steve Sanghi, Microchip Technology CEO

2. AnySilicon blog, “If Your Chip is Not an SOC, It Soon Will Be”

3. 2014 Global Semiconductor Alliance Executive Forum, CEO Panel discussion –

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This is a guest post by Mike Chadwick, Director of Sales, Tensoft. The article was first published on Tensoft blog.

 

Failure analysis

Lead Generation in the Semiconductor and IP Industry

Over the last 5 years lead generation has fundamentally changed. Companies used to participate in expensive events and focus mostly on branding activities. But today potential customers have direct access to all the products information they need, things are different.

In other industries, marketing & sales teams understand that their role and are taking a dramatically different approach to start benefiting from online platforms to successfully create awareness and generate leads.

 

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of motivating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of creating a potential customer.

Lead generation has been undergoing substantial changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social techniques. In particular, the abundance of information readily available online has led to the rise of the “self-directed buyer” and the emergence of new techniques to develop and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales.

We found them vs. They found us

As a salesman, do you want to knock on every door? Or do you want the customer to knock on your door? The modern lead generation process begins much earlier in the buying cycle than it used to. By providing valuable online content over time, the customers are able to remain up to speed and educate themselves on the key benefits of values for the purchase decision.

Clearly, there has been a huge change in the traditional buying process.  In fact, according to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. The reason this is happening more and more is because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves.

What steps can your company take today?

AnySilicon is the leading lead generation platform for IP  vendors, ASIC design companies, foundries, test and packaging houses.

 

Our platform is open to users and doesn’t require any registration. We don’t send our vendors a list of “people who visited your profile page” because most of those visits are not leading to any business. We encourage the qualified leads to contact you directly when they are ready and thereby – not wasting your time.

AnySilicon is an affordable lead generation platform for both ASIC services and IP cores. You can find more info here.

 

 

Sources:

Marketo – http://www.marketo.com/lead-generation/

Orcale – http://www.eloqua.com/resources/best-practices/lead-generation.html

 

connected_0

The IP Core Distribution Challenge

hat comes to mind when you hear the term IP Distribution? How do people like ARM and MIPS get their cores into people’s hands? Pricing, contracts and legal issues? Maybe third-party Web sites like Chip Estimate and Design & Reuse? Yes, they are all factors in how independently developed IP gets distributed to users. But as the commercial IP industry matures, these things are getting much more efficient and well-oiled.

For me, when I talk to people about IP distribution, the conversation generally focuses on how IP—mainly internally developed design elements, including things like PDKs, libraries, test files, constraint information are shared among designers and across companies. In the ‘old days’ this might not have been that big of a deal, as internal networks could handle the relatively small amounts of data being shared. Plus, more centralized design teams made the challenges a bit easier, as they had more direct and efficient communication.

 

Two things have changed dramatically that are making internal IP distribution a major issue, and neither of them should come as a big surprise.

 

  1. The volume, complexity and sources of design data required for a modern SoC have exploded, bringing even well-designed networks to their knees in terms of the speed at which they can deliver data to clients. This can result in very frustrating delays and unpredictable design schedules—neither of which a manger wants to hear about.
  2. design teams are much more dispersed than in years past, with engineers of different backgrounds, disciplines and knowledge levels spread across the globe. This scenario can add layers of inefficiency as designers work with unfamiliar IP, the wrong versions of IP, and suffer from a general lack of coordination project-wide. This highly connected network of activities (as shown in the image on the right) drastically increases the complexity of IP distribution.

 

Let’s look at what I would call the infrastructure issue first, the bandwidth of existing networks. Networks aren’t keeping up with the huge amount being moved around, and the Band-Aid solution—remote data centers—complicates matters more. For example, complex PDKs often can take a full working day to propagate to remote design centers using traditional methods like Scp and RSync. This first problem has become one of the main bottlenecks for keeping distributed teams connected and able to collaborate successfully (see problem #2).

One of the issues is the serial nature of how IP is distributed, i.e., one IP block at a time along a serial pipe without leveraging the existing versions and generating deltas between the before and after versions. Also, managing and scheduling the transfers can become a bottleneck.

img_543243060cf7d

 

We don’t actually need faster networks, although like never being too rich or too thin, you can never have too much bandwidth. A more sophisticated way to manage design data would go a long way to improving the performance of data distribution. We are seeing more companies moving to centrally managed systems that allow IP use and revisions to be tracked across the enterprise, but also use project IP workspaces at the client level.

 

Work gets done at the local level, and updates are easily checked in to the master system. Data distribution is parallelized, which is particularly useful in expediting delivery to remote sites. In our SoC Integrator system, for example, read operations (version history, locks, etc.) on the repository are always local operations for remote users, and write operations are sent automatically over TCP/IP to the master. As a result, communications between IP “owners” and “users,” regardless of where they are located, becomes much more streamlined. That allows for easy defect tracking and project management. These portal-like structures are great for monitoring IP validation regressions and tracking bugs, too, and generally keep people “on the same page” as designs evolve, without huge amounts of network traffic being generated.

 

 

Not that there aren’t things that can be done to improve overall network performance. A well-conceived IP distribution system as shown in the image to the right 1) offers scalability that takes advantage of an optimized relational database to ensure rapid response times; 2) supports an efficient streaming network protocol to minimize the effects of latency, and 3) uses an intelligent, server-centric data model that is network-friendly and keeps the database performing at top speed. Also critical is on-demand data replication across remote data centers, which reduces network traffic and storage requirements.

 

IP distribution is the lifeblood of any company developing advanced SoCs today. It shouldn’t be left to chance, or be a bottleneck, through the use of insecure and overly burdened corporate networks. Think strategically about how your design data is shared, updated and archived, and I am certain you will see significant improvement in designer efficiency.

 

 


This is a guest post by Methodics that delivers state-of-the-art semiconductor data management (DM)  for analog, digital and SoC  design  teams.

crush

The CMOS Image Sensors industry is about to change, with major investment in manufacturing & design

The CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) industry reaches US$10B for the first time. Indeed, driven by mobile and automotive applications, the CIS industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.6% from 2014 – 2020. Yole Développement (Yole) announces a US$16.2B market by 2020 (in value):
“Smartphone applications still take the lion’s share of the CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) market”, announces Yole, the “More Than Moore” market research, technology and strategy consulting company, in its new reportStatus of the CMOS Image Sensor Industry, 2015 Edition, released this week. “Many different applications are part of CIS’ growth story”, details Yole in its technology & market analysis. It includes automotive, medical, and surveillance are areas where great opportunities have surfaced and are driving the market and technology efforts of existing and new players.
Pierre Cambou, Activity Leader, Imaging & Sensors at Yole Développement and Jean-Luc Jaffard, formerly at STMicroelectronics and part of Red Belt Conseil both pursue their investigation and highlight in this new study the CIS market issues.

 

 

Under the report Status of the CMOS Image Sensor Industry, Yole’s team provides key technical insight and analysis about future technology trends and challenges including manufacturing & devices technologies and a technology focus on game-changing areas such as BSI and 3D stacked BSI. This analysis also presents CIS revenue forecast, volume shipments and wafer production by application, market shares and application focus on key CIS growth areas: mobile, DSLR, automotive, medical, security, machine vision…

 

 

Exciting new emerging market trends are relevant to the CIS industry. In mobile, the addition of the secondary front-facing camera is already old news, as all high-end handsets and smartphones now have two cameras. In fact, Chinese manufacturers are actually pushing for higher resolution secondary cameras. ”This significantly impacts the average selling price (ASP) of micro camera modules, and is causing low-end players to abandon their focus on submega pixel production and move toward 5Mp+ territories”, explains Pierre Cambou. Naturally, this has had a major impact on the capital expenditures and technology portfolio roadmaps of these CIS mobile players. This trend is even more crucial for main rear cameras, where compactness and performance are pushed to the extreme. Mobile has become a high-performance/high-volume domain in which one player has excelled so far: Sony Corp (Latest announcement in Nov. 2014)

 

Automotive is the big story this year, as car manufacturers like Tesla, Nissan and Ford are showing off their first camera-enabled features. Market traction is particularly impressive, with most CIS players enjoying growth rates of 30% – 50%. But this is only the beginning, with most CIS players looking at this market, total revenue should reach US$800M in 2020 – for CIS sensors only.

 

Smartphone applications still take the lion’s share of the CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) market … (Yole Développement)

Automotive’s emerging importance promises profound implications for the CIS ecosystem. As CIS moves from a “for display” application towards a “for sensing” application, new players such as processor and software providers will become key partners for sensor design and marketing.

 

On the other hand, some CIS segments have suffered sharp decline. With feature phone cameras and digital still-cameras being replaced by more widely-used smartphone cameras, players in these applications are suffering, which is leading to industry consolidation. Yole’s analysts have seen a high level of M&A activity in 2014, which should continue in 2015.

More information about this report and other Imaging technology & market analysis from Yole, go to www.i-micronews.com, Imaging section.

 

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This is a guest post by Yole Développement that provides marketing, technology and strategy consulting.

 

SystemOnChip

ASIC design for the IoT

As everybody is trying to figure out what the Internet of Things (IoT) will look like and how connected things will work, I’d like to address a question that many people have: why design your own Integrated Circuit (IC) rather than just use an off-the-shelf processor, write software and be done?

 

In a nutshell, because it gives you the best computational power over power consumption ratio, and the flexibility to favor one or the other, allowing you to create ultra low-power devices.

 

Low power to the peopl e(c) 2006 valley_free_radio - Flickr
Low power to the peopl e(c) 2006 valley_free_radio – Flickr

 

But first, consider this. Software is easier to produce than hardware (for so many reasons, like you don’t need an actual factory for instance), look at the number of apps available on smartphones and tablets as opposed to the number of device models as an indication. This is why you should favor software over hardware whenever you don’t have specific constraints (incidentally this is what makes the cloud so great, you don’t care about the underlying platform, your software just runs there somewhere).

 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The Internet of Things is made of actual, physical things that are probably not going to be plugged in a wall socket. And while it may be acceptable to charge your phone every day, life will become hell if you have to do this with every object you buy.

 

Thermometer (c) 2011 pedrik - Flickr
Thermometer (c) 2011 pedrik – Flickr

 

Let me give you an example of such a Thing (as a matter of fact this is the example I told my mother to show her why the IoT will be awesome). Imagine that you have tiny temperature sensors in every room of your apartment/house, maybe coupled with presence sensors, all reporting data back to your central heater. The heater then decides which room to heat for how long, based on past and current data (by the way this could even detect leaks, for example if a window starts to leak air). This way, you never waste energy, and you have an homogeneous temperature everywhere. The system would automatically detect when you go in a room otherwise unoccupied and starts to make it warm and cosy for your guests. Pretty neat, right?

 

Ideally you’d want such a system to last forever, but for now let’s say that ten years will do. Ten years means that an ultra low-power chip including a wireless transmitter is needed. Consider that each Thing uses a CR2032 battery of 230 mAh, and it wakes up for one minute per hour per day for ten years, it will be limited to a current of 157µA during that time = 230 mAh / (10 * 365 * 24 / 60) (this is illustrative, we assume that standby does not consume anything). If you’re interested in low-power wireless transmission, take a look at this article. It says that a single Bluetooth Smart packet (with 20 bytes payload) will consume just 49 µA so it fits within our power envelope.

 

 

Small processor next to a battery (c) 2014 IMEC
Small processor next to a battery (c) 2014 IMEC

 

Designing an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) does not necessarily mean that you have to design your own processor. First, you may not need a processor at all (a so-called NoCPU system), like in the temperature sensor I described. Second, if you do need a processor, you can always purchase a license for a microprocessor or microcontroller IP (Intellectual Property) core. Search for “processor IP” to get an idea, or buythis report (unless you have $5K to spare, I recommend the former solution). Or you can design a very simple basic processor if you like, this is your silicon, so you can do whatever you want!

 

So what’s stopping you from starting to learn circuit design/hardware design? Please leave a comment below!

 

This is a guest post by Matthieu Wipliez of Synflow an innovating EDA company based in Europe.