Seven Things You Need To Know About Chips In 2016

Date:   Wednesday , February 10, 2016

Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, ARM Holdings is the global leader in semiconductor intellectual property (IP) and development of digital electronic products. Employing over 2000 people, ARM has offices around the world, including design centers in France, India, Sweden, and the U.S.

You Don\'t Need Mixed-Signal/RF Knowledge to Add A Radio onto A Chip

Due to the recent availabilty of pre-qualified, EDA agnostic, complete design kits (or hard macros), you don\'t need a team of RF engineers undertaking tedious physical integration to get radio onto a chip. These IoT sub-systems offer the quickest way forward for creating SoCs.

It\'s Possible to Get an IoT Endpoint Ready from Scratch in Just Three Months

With the help of pre-qualified IoT subsystems and open software platforms like mbed, it is possible to undertake rapid prototyping. An IoT endpoint can now be put together by three engineers in just three months! mbed has over 55 partners in its ecosystem, so it inherently ensures a high level of inter-operability for the design.

Free-Of-Charge Chip IP Downloads Are Now Available

A few chip IP companies provide free-of-charge downloads for some of their popular cores. ARM, for example, provides a free-of-charge downloadable package based around the Cortex-M0 processor to enable chip designers to create proof-of-concept systems. These packages comprise of items like a fully functional synthesizable processor, system development kit reference design, interfaces, example software and everything else needed to get started.

Processor Optimization Packs Provide Faster TTM

Though a SoC can be put together from the ground up by just licensing a processor IP, it is possible to speed up design and reduce risks by licensing processor optimization packs instead. These can help achieve a faster time to market, while offering the most reliable path for chip design.

Custom System on Chips Are Now Directly Competing With Discrete IC Boards on Break-Even and ROI

Custom System-on-Chips are gaining traction over discrete IC boards. New data shows that the break-even, return on investment (RoI) point continues to fall as custom SoCs compete directly with traditional discrete IC board designs. Custom SoC semiconductors have now reached a cost point to compete directly with traditional discrete IC board products. Many original electronic manufacturing (OEM) companies of printed circuit boards are reconsidering a SoC implementation as a way to reduce the bill-of-material (BoM) costs, shrink the product size and power consumption, and add new features such as wireless connectivity and sensor processing. Moving to a custom SoC has other inherent advantages such as design IP protection, supply chain end-of-life (EoL) security and mitigating the slowing of Moore\'s law. India has several PCB design companies and moving towards custom SoCs would be a great way to leapfrog while protecting design.

Networks Will Compute & Cloud Will Come to Data

The way we consume data is changing and that will force a re-think on the way cloud is deployed and how networks are built. This applies for India also as mobile penetration increases and 4G starts to roll out on a larger, more affordable scale. Most traditional networks are designed to allow for computation, storage and acceleration to occur at the data center; far away from the other end of the pipe where the data is actually consumed. This is the traditional cloud approach. But an intelligent, flexible cloud is the need of the hour. The principal idea being that, rather than being simple pipes, the network will become a platform. In addition to implementing traditional network functions, people will develop applications for it. And to do this, the nodes across the network will incorporate computing, storage and hardware accelerators, moving these functions closer to where they are needed. This means, there will be a requirement for a wide range of SoCs worldwide.

Striking a Balance between Always-Aware and Low-Power While Focusing On Security

For any IoT deployment, what is needed besides best-in-class low-power technology is a node that operates in a smart way to maximally reduce power consumption. Each node must have the minimum viable level of intelligence based on the targeted segment in order to address these two orthogonal needs of always-aware and low-power consumption. But IoT will not scale without trust & security. Enabling trust and security in IoT Devices is an oppurtunity to create value. And with its talent pool of chip designers, Indian companies could build SoCs from the ground up, keeping security as a key offering.

Based on what\'s discussed so far, it\'s clear to see that the barrier for creating chips (SoCs) has reduced considerably in the recent years. And if you are caught in a build versus buy decision, the scale has tipped strongly in favor of build. The advantages of custom chips, coupled with the ease of getting the right IP together also means that the time is ripe for India to re-energize its chip design efforts.