Friday, December 31, 2010

Round-up 2010: Best of semiconductors

Right then, folks! This is my last post for 2010, on my favorite topic - semiconductors. If 2009 was one of the worst, if not, the worst year ever for semiconductors, 2010 seems to be the best year for this industry, what with the analyst community forecasting that the global semicon industry will surpass the $300 billion mark for the first time in its history!

Well, here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly, if available for otherwise what has been an excellent year, which is in its last hours, for semiconductors. Presenting a list of posts on semiconductors that mattered in 2010.

Top semiconductor and EDA trends to watch out for in 2010!

Delivering 10X design improvements: Dr. Walden C. Rhines, Mentor Graphics @ VLSID 2010

Future research directions in EDA: Dr. Prith Banerjee @ VLSID 2010 -- This was quite an entertaining presentation!

Global semicon industry on rapid recovery curve: Dr. Wally Rhines

Indian semicon industry: Time for paradigm shift! -- When will that shift actually happen?

Qualcomm, AMD head top 25 fabless IC suppliers for 2009; Taiwan firms finish strong!

TSMC leads 2009 foundry rankings; GlobalFoundries top challenger!

ISA Vision Summit 2010: Saankhya Labs, Cosmic Circuits are Indian start-ups to watch at Technovation 2010!

ISA Vision Summit 2010: Karnataka Semicon Policy 2010 unveiled; great opportunity for India to show we mean business! -- So far, the Karnataka semicon policy has flattered to deceive! I'm not surprised, though!

Dongbu HiTek comes India calling! Raises hopes for foundry services!!

Indian electronics and semiconductor industries: Time to answer tough questions and find solutions -- Reminds me of the popular song from U2 titled -- "I still haven't found what I'm looking for"!

What should the Indian semicon/electronics industry do now? -- Seriously, easy to say, difficult to manage (ESDM)! ;)

Flash will be bigger than you ever imagined in the coming decade: Dr. Eli Harari, SanDisk CEO.

Currently profitable global semicon industry needs to remember lessons of downturn!

FPGA and MPU trends: Intelligent mixed-signal FPGA to be part of Xilinx’s TDP strategy

Semicon rankings 2009: Global revenue dips, but did anyone tell that to Apac suppliers?

Did you know that the Indian semicon policy had expired and now requires an extension? -- As they say, 'It happens only in India!'

What’s happening with the global semiconductor industry?

Semiconductor-IP directory for FPGAs indexes over 17,000 IP blocks and FPGA devices!

EDA360 to help integrators close profitability gap!

EDA360 unplugged with Cadence’s Jaswinder Ahuja.

Thrive or survive…going for gold in post-recession recovery: Malcolm Penn @ IEF2010, Dresden.

GlobalFoundries enabling the next wave of ‘foundry’ innovation.

What’s new with Mentor’s PADS 9.2?

TSMC enables business growth through effective and collaborative innovation.

Indian Microelectronics Academy (IMA) formed to build, nurture and grow start-ups!

Ten commandments of effective standards!

Indian industry proposes to extend deadline of India’s semicon policy up to March 2015!

What needs to be done to build an Indian electronics ecosystem!

Indian semicon market grows 15.6 percent in 2009, but don’t rejoice yet!

Synopsys’ Dr. Aart de Geus at SNUG 2010 India!

Analog and MCUs stand out: Dr. Bobby Mitra, TI.

Compound semiconductors substrates market to reach $1bn by 2010.

iSuppli raises 2010 foundry forecast; interesting lessons to learn for India from China’s story!

VDAT 2010: Real, but ‘different’ opportunity in emerging markets — Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence.

VDAT 2010: Encourage Indian students to come up with product ideas and specs.

Global semicon market set for slowdown due to deteriorating business climate!

Intel’s McAfee buy: Too few answers to too many questions, for now! -- A surprising, but interesting acquisition!

ON Semiconductor aims to lead in energy efficiency solutions.

Where are the MEMS markets going?

NXP driving automotive electronics toward energy efficiency.

What’s the way forward for Indian semicon/ESDM industry?

Actel’s ‘smart fusion’ with Microsemi a top draw!

Why has the semicon equipment bubble really burst? – I -- Insightful, indeed!

Why has the semicon equipment bubble really burst? – II

Is global semicon inventory level headed for oversupply in Q3?

Semicon industry witnessing inventory corrections vs. industry decline!

Intel opens manufacturing doors to Achronix! Becomes mini foundry? -- Another very interesting move by Intel!

India’s teaching community contemplates SoC design.

15 queries on how semicon/VLSI firms associate with social media!

Is social media really helping semicon/VLSI firms? -- Is it, really?

Semicon industry must be prepared to face challenges in new era: Lip-Bu Tan

Design-Lite — new model for semiconductor development: Taher Madraswala

Creating commercial IP in academic community.

Is enough being done for Indian industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education? -- Is it, really?

Is the Indian semicon industry losing the plot? -- Looks like it is, for the moment!

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

EDA and emerging system design challenges: Dr. Wally Rhines

UCLA researchers to develop non-volatile logic technology.

Local know-how, innovation (Jugaad) key to realizing semicon/electronics growth in India.

Mentor's Wally Rhines on global EDA industry challenges - I

Mentor's Wally Rhines on global EDA industry challenges - II

Top 20 global semicon suppliers of 2010.

Need to develop robust Indian semicon industry, led by local companies!

More ‘fabless IC billionaires’ in 2010, says IC Insights! Is India listening?

Phew! What a list!! The Indian semiconductor industry definitely needs a better year than this one, along with a clear goal/roadmap ahead.

That's it from me, for the year, my dear friends! Hope to see you around next year!

Here's wishing everyone a very happy, joyous and prosperous 2011! :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 trends in electronics and telecom industry in 2011!

Here are the top 10 trends in electronics and telecom for the year 2011.

Each one of the trends have been taken from the existing posts, and they seem to be going full blast ahead in 2011. First, the top trends in electronics.

1. More tablets and portable electronics devices should make an appearance.
2. 3D TV without glasses should be talk of the town. 3D TV should enter the family in 2011.
3. Penetration rate of LED TV to accelerate.
4. Further improvements in digital TV connectivity — Silicon Image’s ViaPort technology needs to be watched.
5. Fully IP-connected digital TV platform — Inview and Trident Microsystems announced Neelix.
6. Plethora of new DisplayLink certified devices hit the market.
7. E-readers will grow, but at the risk of getting commoditized.
8. There will be more of SSDs.

Now, to the top trends in telecom for 2011. Again, these are likely to make the top news in the coming year. Presenting the top telecom industry trends for 20111.

1. There will be much more of the connected devices.
2. Naturally, there will be more mobile phone applications!
3. Bluetooth will emerge as a wireless standard for smart energy.
4. There will be much more traction for TD-LTE! So, where does it leave WiMAX?
5. Femtocells — well, see more of it in the coming year.
6. Now, look out for in-car Wi-Fi.

Happy new year to my friends and well wishers. ;)

Round-up 2010: Best of solar photovoltaics

Solar photovoltaics constantly reminds me of the early days of the telecom industry. Perhaps, the similarity lies in practically anyone and everyone wants to enter the solar/PV industry as well, just like it happened in telecom -- before the industry consolidation started to happen.

In India, a lot more talk has happened since the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) was unveiled.

With 2010 now drawing to an end, here's presenting the top posts for solar PV from the year that is about to leave all of us!

Want to enter solar off-grid business? Build your own solar LED lanterns and emergency lights! -- This was a smashing superhit! So many folks have accessed this post and quite a few commented! Definitely, my no. 1 post for the year and among my top 10 posts for 2010!

Union budget 2010: Solar, UIDs all the way!

NI DAQ workshop: Sun tracker suitable for Indian (and global) solar/PV industry

India to miss NSM target? No, it’s likely a mistake (in reporting)! -- The faux pas of the year! ;)

SEMI India benchmarks India’s NSM on global FIT best practices -- Goes on to show why SEMI continues to be a top notch industry association!

RoseStreet Labs develops breakthrough multiband solar cell technology! -- I enjoyed writing this post a lot!

Solar PV heats up in India — NVVN signs MoU with 16 developers; new guidelines for solar projects -- First clear signs that India is indeed hot, as a solar market.

Unique solution required for grid-tie inverters in India!

Solarcon India 2010: Timely implementation of phase 1 critical to success of JN-NSM

Need to develop indigenous manufacturing capacity in solar: Deepak Gupta

Is there a case for polysilicon manufacturing in India?

India has bright future in solar PV, other RE: Stan Meyers, SEMI

Pressing need to address solar project financing in India: D. Majumdar, IREDA

TÜV Rheinland opens South Asia’s largest PV testing lab in Bangalore

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam

Bluetooth set as short range wireless standard for smart energy! -- This should be interesting, as and when it happens!

Top 15 producers of c-Si and thin film solar PV modules, and outlook 2011.

That's it!

There's more to come in the new year, now that NVVN has released a list of projects under the JN-NSM. I am more keen to see how JN-NSM takes off in the new year, and am sure, so are you!

I am actually more keen to see how JN-NSM takes off in the new year.

Here's wishing everyone a very happy, joyous and prosperous 2011! :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Round-up 2010: Best of electronics, telecom and technology

Year 2010 has been a good year for the global electronics industry, rather, the technology industry, coming right after a couple of years of recession. Well, it is time to look back on 2010 and see the good, bad and ugly sides, if any, of electronics, telecom and technology.

Presenting my list of top posts for 2010 from these three segments.


Electronics for energy efficient powertrain

Photonics rocks in India @ APW 2010, Cochin!

Plastic Logic’s QUE proReader looks to mean business!

Growing Indian power electronics market provides host of opportunities

Philips focuses on how interoperability, content sharing drive CE devices!

Apple never ceases to amaze!

Is this a war of tablets, or Apple OS vs. Google Android?

India needs to become major hardware player!

Roundup of day 2 @ Electronica India 2010

Strategic roadmap for electronics enabling energy efficient usage: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam

NI stresses on innovation, launches LabVIEW 2010!

What’s Farnell (element14) up to? And, semicon equipment bubble burst? Whoa!!

Bluetooth set as short range wireless standard for smart energy!

View 3D TV, without glasses, today!

Indian medical electronics equipment industry to grow at 17 percent CAGR over next five years: ISA

Top 10 electronics industry trends for 2011


LTE will see larger deployments, higher volumes than WiMAX!

LTE should benefit from WiMAX beachhead!

Context-aware traffic mediation software could help telcos manage data tsunami: Openwave

Mobile WiMAX deployment and migration/upgrade strategies

Upgrade to WiMAX 2 uncertain as TD-LTE gains in momentum!

Tejas celebrates 10 years with new products for 3G/BWA backhaul

Focus on gyroscopes for mobile phone apps: Yole

Bluetooth low energy should contribute to WSN via remote monitoring

INSIDE Contactless unveils SecuRead NFC solution for mobile handset market

How are femtocells enhancing CDMA networks?

Top 10 telecom industry trends for 2011


Symantec’s Internet threat security report on India has few surprises!

Epic — first ever web browser for India, from India!

Norton cybercrime report: Time to take back your Internet from cybercriminals!

NComputing bets big on desktop virtualization

Brocade launches VDX switches for virtualized, cloud-optimized data centers

Yes, I agree that there aren't that many posts for electronics and telecom, and even technology! Will try to rectify this in 2011, although it isn't an easy job tracking so many different segments! :)

Best wishes for a very, very happy and prosperous 2011! :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More 'fabless IC billionaires' in 2010, says IC Insights! Is India listening?

Brilliant! There's no other word to describe the first part of this headline!

As per IC Insights' forecast of 2010 billion-dollar fabless IC suppliers, excerpted from a ranking of top 50 fabless IC suppliers in its ' 2011 edition of The McClean Report, as many as 13 fabless IC suppliers are tipped to cross the $1-billion mark in sales in 2010!

As per IC Insights, this is a significant step up from 10 companies in 2009 and eight in 2008.Source: IC Insight, USA.

Just sit back and admire this table. There are nine firms from the US -- Qualcomm, Broadcom, AMD, Marvell, Nvidia, Xilinx, Altera, LSI and Avago, three from Taiwan -- MediaTek, Novatek and MStar, while ST-Ericsson is Europe's lone representation in this stellar list.

In this august club of IC billionaires, no surprises, but Qualcomm retains the top place for the third consecutive year. Broadcom moves up a place. AMD should become the world's third largest player.

Broadcom at 53 percent, Marvell at 34 percent, Xilinx at 39 percent, Altera at 63 percent, Avago and Novatek at 40 percent each are top performers. However, MStar of Taiwan steals the show with an estimated 75 percent growth in 2010.

Qualcomm, Nvidia and LSI have performed well, especially the last two - coming pff a difficult 2009. Taiwan's MediaTek has seen the biggest slip -- down to 3 percent in 2010 from 22 percent in 2009.

There is no representation from Japan in the fabless IC billionaires club. IC Insights has indicated that the fabless/foundry hasn't caught on in Japan and is unlikely to do so in the near future. However, Taiwan and China based firms should sooner or later find their way into this club.

I will now come to India!

Where is India in all of this?
I am among those many 'few' who say India's semiconductor industry is doing great. Yes, indeed, it is doing great -- courtesy, the presence of the Indian arms of these fabless IC billionaires.

However, there is no Indian representation in this list of fabless IC billionaires! Will there ever be one? Only if the fabless model is seriously pursued in our country! That is, if the powers that be think this to be of any importance at all!!

Some years ago, there was this debate of fabs vs. fabless in India! While discussions about 'fabs' are dead and buried, there are hardly any discussions regarding fabless. However, there are several talks about re-igniting the Indian electronics industry and adopting a "Made-in-India, Made-for-India" mantra.

Now, all of this makes great reading! Please ask these questions of yourself: who are the chip providers going to be for all of these great electronics products that will be built in India? Who all will provide the necessary IP and other building blocks? From where are the necessary components going to be sourced?

If most or all of these still continue to be provided by the MNCs, then who is benefitting in the end? Definitely not India and the Indian semiconductor industry! MNCs will continue to grow their markets in India, which is why they enter markets in the first place! So, where are the Indian companies? Where exactly is India in all of this?

All this talk about ESDM simply won't help in the long run if it is not even helping develop, nurture and grow a robust local semiconductor industry.

The mantra of the Indian semicon industry should be 'Made in India and Made for India by Indian companies'! Unless this happens, one wonders how will the local industry ever grow!

So, will these issues ever be addressed? Or, will others continue to point out -- 'Keep dreaming! There won't ever be an Indian company in the global fabless iC suppliers list!'

The forthcoming ISA Vision Summit 2011 is a great opportunity to address these issues. Are you listening, ISA and the Indian semiconductor industry?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 15 producers of c-Si and thin film solar PV modules, and outlook 2011

I am extremely grateful to Stefan de Haan, senior analyst, Photovoltaics, iSuppli Corp., for sharing with me the top 15 global producers of c-Si and thin film solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, respectively during Q3 2010.

First, the top 15 global crystalline module producers (see Fig. 1) — who are the standout performers and why?Source: iSuppli, USA.

He said: “It is still the Chinese integrated suppliers, above all Trina and Yingli. They benefit from a highly competitive cost structure. However, this need not be the most successful business model in future. With increasing cell and module efficiencies, and an increasing need for full automization, European and Japanese companies may gain ground again.”

Now, on to the top 15 global thin film module producers (see Fig. 2)– who are the standout performers here!Source: iSuppli, USA.

de Haan added: “Still, it is First Solar, the company with lowest production cost in the industry and the biggest module producer. CIGS is upcoming, in particular. Solar Frontier also has to be watched.”

Global PV installations to grow significantly in 2011
It is said that global PV installation will likely witness moderate growth in 2011, and that, concerns of oversupply remain. de Haan agrees only partly.

He said: “Global PV installations will again grow significantly in 2011 (2010: 16 GW and 2011: 22.2 GW). Oversupply will not be dramatic in 2011, but in 2012 and 2013.”

Further, if the pressure from decreasing solar cell price continues to increase, will solar cell makers be forced to reduce prices of wafers and poly-Si to reflect costs? According to Stefan de Haan, prices will drop across the entire solar value chain in 2011!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Need to develop robust Indian semicon industry, led by local companies!

I came across an article titled “Global Semiconductor Companies Turn to India for Growth” published on India Knowledge@Wharton. Isn’t this reason why global semiconductor companies enter a specific market in the first place — to grow their own markets and regions? So, why should it be different with India?

India is very well known globally for its talent, chip design capabilities (especially in the Indian arms of the global semicon firms) and as the world’s embedded bastion!

This particular article is brilliantly written, and kudos the author. The clinching paragraph is tucked away at the end, starting with: “None of the global players, however, is currently looking at setting up a semiconductor fabrication plant, or “fab,” in India.”

What’s happened up until now in the Indian semicon industry? If one were to look at the Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS), which was introduced back in Sept. 2007 by the government of India, it was geared toward encouraging investments for setting up semicon fabs, and other micro and nanotechnology manufacturing industries in India!

It also defined the “ecosystem units” as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all the above products.

A Karnataka Semicon Policy was announced in early Feb. 2010, during the India Semiconductor Association’s ( ISA) Vision Summit.

Next, the government of India’s thrust on solar/PV, via the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM), has at least ensured the country’s solar/PV future.

What has happened since all of these policies? Really, nothing much, at least from the perspective of the Indian semicon industry. If it has, at least, I am unaware, and my apologies for this ignorance.

Of course, solar/PV seems to be going from strength to strength! Recently, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd (NVVN) put out the list of selected solar projects under the JN-NSM Phase 1, Batch 1. But that’s another story!

On this very blog, there are several posts that speak of India’s ability or inability to build a fab. At first, folks said that semicon fabs were on their way in India, and that the story isn’t disappearing. However, somewhere along the line, that particular vision took a beating and fabs simply disappeared from the Indian semicon radar!

So, where is India?
Well, we all know that so far, India has not even managed to have a small foundry, forget about having a fab! We’ve have had semicon policies (eg. SIPS), but all it has led to is the so-called growth of the Indian solar/PV industry — and that too largely because of the Indian government’s focus on JN-NSM. The results are there for everyone to see.

The Indian semiconductor industry has not even managed to develop, nurture and build many (or any?) fabless companies of note. Very few semicon product start-ups of note have happened. Again, if there are many such entities, and they are also flourishing, please pardon me for my ignorance.

Can anyone tell us how many Indian fabless semicon companies have come up in the past five years? How many globally known Indian semicon product start-ups are there in our country for that matter? Where are the ATMP units? Even a mixture of 10 such companies does not constitute an industry, similar to one sunny day not making a summer!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 20 global semicon suppliers of 2010!

I've just received a report from iSuppli, which says that the global semiconductor revenue expands by record margin in 2010 -- to $304 billion in 2010, up from $229.5 billion in 2009. This represents growth of 32.5 percent for the year! Fantastic!!

This growth is said to be courtesy of a boom in DRAM and NAND sales benefiting memory suppliers.

One hopes the semicon industry turns in an equally better performance in 2011.

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you iSuppli's preliminary ranking of the Top 20 semiconductor suppliers in 2010.Source: iSuppli, USA.

As per iSuppli, Marvell Technology Group is likely to achieve organic revenue growth of more than 43 percent and jump five places to the No. 18 spot in 2010.

Qualcomm and AMD, and Sony have experienced revenue growth notably less than the overall market. Therefore, they will likely slip three to four positions in the rankings in 2010.

After a number of years of dramatically outperforming the market, Taiwan's MediaTek fell back to earth in 2010, as it will barely achieve revenue growth at 1.2 percent, the only company among the Top 20 to not achieve a double-digit increase. The company is likely to slip to No. 19 in the rankings, down from No. 16 place in 2009.

Only one company is at risk of dropping out of the list of 20. iSuppli projects that nVidia will retain its ranking at No. 20. However, ROHM Semiconductor is competing for the final slot among the Top 20 and the final outcome should be very close.

I hope to get into a conversation with iSuppli regarding the top 20 semicon suppliers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mentor’s Wally Rhines on global EDA industry challenges – II

This is the concluding part of my discussion with Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics.

EDA’s role in modeling and photomask correction
I asked Dr. Rhines about the future of EDA’s role in modeling and photomask correction. He said that in just a decade, resolution enhancement has grown from zero to over $200 million in annual revenue for the EDA industry.

“Almost all of this revenue is concentrated in two EDA companies. The value of this EDA software is clearly recognized by manufacturers. Mentor has many partnerships with manufacturers and a joint development program targeting 20nm resolution enhancement with IBM.”

Handling 22nm and sub-22nm levels
Next, with new process technology nodes becoming quite the talk of the desgin community, what does EDA now need to do at 22nm and sub 22nm levels.

Dr. Rhines said: “We have been working with our customers on this for quite some time now and are in fact well down this path. We think that most of the problems have been solved, or are solvable. Obviously, most of the issues here revolve around the lithography and manufacturability, but the EDA industry has been leading this since optical proximity correction became a key technology for the fabs quite some time ago.”

Density area savings
In an earlier discussion, the issue of how compelling would integration density area savings remain by going to new nodes had come up. I have to repeat this question, as it still seems to remain an issue.

So, how long will the integration density area savings you get by going to new nodes remain compelling?

“Hard to say!” noted Dr. Rhines. “We can see a path to 15nm with the traditional 193nm immersion lithography, and we usually surprise ourselves in our ability to go farther than we think we can. However, even if density slows down, this is but one way to achieve the continuous performance improvements that we’ve seen over the years in silicon.

“3D silicon, for instance, holds the promise of allowing us to continue to grow performance without necessarily doing it by just continuing the process shrink. Logic and memory have been on a predictable “learning curve” since the vacuum tube and I don’t expect that learning curve to deviate anytime in the foreseeable future.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mentor's Wally Rhines on global EDA industry challenges - I

It has always been such a pleasure meeting Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, CEO and chairman, Mentor Graphics Corp. During his recent visit to India, I managed to enter into a discussion with him regarding various issues facing the global EDA industry.

Part one of the discussion looks at the industry, as well as EDA related issues such as predictability, verification and IP integration, how can Mentor help start-ups address EDA challenges, and going about software-to-silicon verification. May I also take this opportunity to thank my good friend, Mentor’s Veeresh Shetty.

I began by asking Dr. Rhines about the fortunes of the global EDA industry and what’s it going to be like in 2011?

He said: “The EDA industry typically follows the recovery in semiconductor industry R&D spending by six to 12 months. Mentor’s strong results in Q3 (with 60 percent growth in bookings) suggest that the recovery has already started. In our third quarter conference call, we indicated to our investors that 2011 looks like a good year as well.”

Improving predictability of design process
Coming to the EDA industry challenges, how much has EDA helped improve the predictability of the design process? Dr. Rhines said: "Well, since few, if any, do design without EDA, quite a lot! More seriously, there have been a great number of advances in the last few years that have really improved predictability.

"From intelligent test benches and emulation,that dramatically improve the verification of design, to advanced design-for-manufacturing and yield analysis techniques that greatly improve predictability of results and manufacturability in the back end."

Verification focus and need for ESA
Have the EDA tools made verification process cost effective and focus on design as well as IP integration? According to him, the cost of design really hasn’t changed that much in the last decade, at least in terms of hardware design.

"So, I think that says that we have been pretty effective as an industry in delivering cost effective design tools. In fact, the EDA software cost per transistor has decreased as fast, or faster, than the other “input” cost of semiconductors like manufacturing equipment, materials, etc.

"Evolution of third-party IP also has decreased the cost of creating SoCs and the EDA tools to integrate and verify that IP have kept pace with the increase in IP block complexity. The increase in chip development cost that designers have experienced is largely the result of the growing cost and complexity of embedded software. We need more ESA (Embedded Software Automation) to complement the benefits of EDA."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

UCLA researchers to develop non-volatile logic technology

Early this month, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded an $8.4 million grant to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science for research on a technology known as non-volatile logic, which enables computers and electronic devices to keep their state even while powered off, then start up and run complex programs instantaneously.

The research has broad implications across a range of technologies, including portable electronics, remote sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and high-performance computing. UCLA Engineering researchers will conduct studies into the materials, design, fabrication and tools used to develop such technologies.

"To achieve the ambitious goals of this program, we are planning to introduce key innovations in terms of both material and device structures. This is an opportunity to study new nano-magnetic physics while developing an exciting technology," said research associate Pedram Khalili, who will be the project manager at UCLA, in a release.

Thanks to Ms Wileen Wong Kromhout, director of Media Relations & Marketing, UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, I was able to connect with Pedram Khalili, research associate, Department of Electrical Engineering, UCLA, and project manager, UCLA-DARPA STT-RAM and NV Logic Programs.

Logic technology could lead to instant-on computers
First, I asked Khalili what's this technology that is known as non-volatile logic all about? He said: "In a nutshell, it is a logic technology, which retains its state, while doing computation. That means, you can turn it off, and turn it on again, and it will resume the computation where it had left off. This is not the case with the current computers. Hence, it can lead to instant-on computers."

UCLA Engineering researchers will also conduct studies into the materials, design, fabrication and tools used to develop such technologies. So, what are these materials, design, tools, etc. going to be? Khalili added: "The materials will be ferromagnetic, i.e., we will be using dynamic phenomena -- known as spin waves -- in magnetic thin films to perform logic. The memory effect (i.e., non-volatility) will also be provided by a magnetic memory bit."

The UCLA researchers are said to be aiming to develop a prototype non-volatile logic circuit, which could lead to development of new classes of ultra–low-power, high-performance electronics. Khalili noted, "The prototype that we refer to will be a logic circuit performing a logic operation in a non-volatile manner."

The researchers are also planning to introduce key innovations in terms of both material and device structures. This is said to an opportunity to study new nano-magnetic physics, while developing an exciting technology. Khalili clarified, "Generally, we will be looking for new ways to control magnetization on the nanoscale, in a fast and energy-efficient manner."

The project will be led by UCLA under principal investigators Kang Wang and Alex Khitun, an assistant research engineer, and will involve researchers from UCLA, UC Irvine, Yale University and the University of Massachusetts.

On a personal note, I am extremely delighted to touch base with such a renowned and globally acclaimed institution like the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and its researchers/faculty.

Am looking forward to many more interactions with UCLA and several other globally renowned institutes, and hopefully, with many such institutes from India who are doing cutting-edge technology research.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Local know-how, innovation (Jugaad) keys to realizing semicon/electronics growth in India

“We can’t just rely on making chips,” said Neeraj Paliwal, VP and NXP India country manager, while delivering his keynote: Semiconductor products for Indian market – leapfrog R&D workforce to product creation, at the recently held Mentor Graphics U2U conference. Local know-how and innovation hold the keys to realizing growth in the Indian context.

According to him, the semicon industry has evolved from initially being technology driven to customer driven, and lately, society driven. Paliwal listed four key macro growth drivers in electronics: energy efficiency, connected mobile devices, security and health.

Energy efficiency
* Efficient power conversion and low stand-by power.
* Energy-saving lighting and back-lighting.
* Energy conservation through demand side management.
* Electric/lighter vehicles, intelligent traffic management.

Connected mobile devices
* Proliferation of mobile data usage, wireless infra build-out.
* Smart mobile devices: always-on, multimedia, location-based.
* Connected car, many broadcast & connectivity standards.
* New user interfaces (e.g., touch, joystick).

* Secure mobile transactions and secure identity.
* Authentication, tagging and tracking.
* Car and home access, security and remote diagnostics.
* Radar and (body) scanning installations.

* Personal healthcare and portable emergency devices.
* Connected hearing aids and implantable devices.
* Car safety and comfort.
* Electronic diagnostics.

Jugaad — Indian flavor of innovation
In the Indian context, local know-how holds the key to realizing growth! Here, Paliwal introduced “Jugaad” an Indian word, which simply means an improvisational style of doing things or innovation, largely driven by or making use of scare resources available.

There is a need to develop an innovation mindset with the focus on revenue growth to reach new markets. Well, it should help when the innovations look at solving local problems first, and later, go on to address related or similar international problems.

Some examples of Indian innovations, include Tata’s water filter for rural poor for $20, which does not run on electricity; and Tata’s Nano car, which aims to reach the bottom of the pyramid. Also, John Deere’s weather recession with help from innovation. In fact, innovation could well be India’s next global export.

India has a National Innovation Council, with the aim to provide a broader plaform for innovation to redefine the understanding of innovation and move beyond the formal R&D paradigm. Another example of innovation — wireless kiosks for rural India.

Friday, December 10, 2010

EDA and emerging system design challenges: Dr. Wally Rhines

According to Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO and chairman, Mentor Graphics, the emerging system design challenges likely to shape the industry in the coming decade are:

* Design for low power.
* Optimizing for performance and power.
* Functional verification complexity explosion.
* Place and route timing and power closure.
* Physical verification complexity.
* Manufacturing yields.
* Increasing cost of design.
* Macro system integration.

He was delivering the keynote titled:EDA and emerging system design challenges at Mentor Graphics’ U2U India conference in Bangalore.

First, Dr. Rhines highlighted that the EDA market churn is often confused with industry consolidation. EDA requires specialization. The #1 supplier in each EDA product segment averages 66 percent+ market share. However, the traditional EDA market has not been growing.

EDA market snapshot
The synthesis market trend has seen a 2.7 percent CAGR, with a 10-year average of $293 million. The market size was $273 million in 2008, and slid to $243 million in 2009. In 2010, after the first two quarters, it is approximately $125-$130 million.

The RTL simulation market trend has seen a -0.3 percent CAGR, with a 10-year average of $365 million. The market size was $394 million in 2008, and slid to $345 million in 2009. In 2010, after the first two quarters, it is approximately $150 million.

The IC layout verification market trend has seen a 0 percent CAGR, with a 10-year average of $199 million. The market size was $199 million in 2008, and slid to $187 million in 2009. In 2010, after the first two quarters, it is approximately $80-$90 million.

The IC physical implementation market trend has seen a 2.4 percent CAGR, with a 10-year average of $559 million. The market size was $549 million in 2008, and slid to $448 million in 2009. In 2010, after the first two quarters, it is approximately $210 million.

The total PCB/MCM design market trend has had a 10-year average of $484 million. The market size was $535 million in 2008, and slid to $490 million in 2009. In 2010, after the first two quarters, it is approximately $220 million. PCB design has seen growth from analysis, design for manufacturing and new emerging markets.

Dr. Rhines indicated that the global designer population growth is increasing. Asia is the only growing region in EDA. During 2000-2009, growth has been 11 percent in Pac Rim, 2 percent in Europe, 1 percent in Japan and -1 percent in America.

EDA TAM growth is driven primarily by emergence of new markets. Most EDA revenue growth comes from major new design methodologies. The areas that grew during 2000-2009 are DFM- 33 percent CAGR, ESL — 12 percent, Formal verification – 11 percent, IC/ASIC analysis – 9 percent, respectively. System level issues have also become a bigger part of chip and board design.

“System” level issues are now becoming a bigger part of chip and board design.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

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

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.

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.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cowan LRA model: Global semicon sales forecast based On Oct. 2010 actual sales

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

Cowan has provided the latest monthly sales forecast update. Note that the latest sales forecast results capture not only the last quarter of 2010, but also provide the model's "take" on 2011. On Sunday, 12-05-10, the WSTS posted the October 2010's global semiconductor sales report (Historical Billings Report, HBR) on its website.

Therefore, with the WSTS having released its actual Oct. 2010 global semiconductor sales number, Cowan is sharing the latest monthly update to the Cowan LRA Model's derived forecast numbers. The latest sales forecast estimates for 4Q and 2010 "decreased" from last month's forecast estimates as summarized and discussed below.

Additionally, Cowan has extended the model in order to provide a "first look" at sales and sales growth estimates for each of the four quarters (and full year) of 2011.

October semicon sales
The actual Oct. 2010 global semiconductor sales released by the WSTS came in at $24.550 billion which is:

* 10.7 percent higher than last year's (2009) actual October sales of $22.181 billion;
* Down 15.3 percent from last month's (September) actual sales of $28.981 billion (Note - revised downward by $0.391 billion from last month's WSTS published sales number of $29.372 billion for September);
* And lower (by $0.593 billion, or down 2.4 percent) compared to last month's (September's projection) sales forecast estimate for Oct., that is, $25.143 billion;
* Thus, the Cowan LRA Model's Momentum Indicator, MI, went less negative (rose to -2.4 percent) compared to last month's more negative posture (at -6.5 percent).

Note: November 2010’s Sales Forecast Estimate is projected to be $25.566 billion.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is the Indian semicon industry losing the plot?

Every time I see a new electronics or related segment being talked about in India — be it medical electronics/healthcare, RFID and smart cards, or for that matter, telecom, why do I get this feeling that the Indian semicon industry is slowly losing the plot? One hopes not!

The Indian technology industry is talking about practically everything, except semiconductors. Yes, I know we have a great pool of designers who work in the MNCs. Also, there are plenty of Indian design services companies doing excellent work (for others?). India’s strength in embedded is folk lore. Despite all of this, we are, where we were a few years ago!

Back in 2007, I’d done a story on how there were very remote chances of having a fab in India. Back then, some industry folks expressed optimism that the fab story was not dead! However, that story is well and truly dead and buried, as of now! Today, no one wants to talk about a fab — fine, then!

Let’s do a reality check on India’s semiconductor score-card!

So far, India has not even managed to have a small foundry, forget about having a fab! Nor has the Indian industry managed to develop, nurture and build many (or any) fabless companies of note. Can you tell me how many Indian fabless semicon companies have come up in the past five years? How many globally known Indian semicon product start-ups are there in our country for that matter? Okay, how many Indian semicon product start-ups are there in our country?

For that matter, how many ATMP units have come up in India? I do recall some industry folks mention in the past that there will be some ATMP units happening. Where are they? Okay, who, in India, is even trying to develop IP libraries?

Even if there is some success in building electronic product companes — that is and will be limited success! Neither is there any evidence of cutting-edge R&D being done in India. Please do not mix this up with the work being done by the Indian arms of the various MNCs.

Why, I don’t even think that the industry-academia partnership has developed substantially, leave alone mature!

If medical electronics, or some other related area, were to go on and succeed in the near future, it would be counted as a success for the Indian electronics industry, and not for the Indian semicon industry! Even if this did happen and it was counted as a ‘semicon success, can anyone make a guess as to how many of the chips going into such devices would be actually made in India – by Indian firms?

I had mentioned back in Feb. 2009 that “Can the Indian semicon industry dream big? (And even buy Qimonda?)! To refresh your memory, there was a large 300mm fab up for sale in Dresden, Germany. Well, even that never happened, or well, the Indian industry did not think it to be of much importance!

Back in August 2009, there was news about Texas Instruments (TI) placing a bid of $172.5 million for buying Qimonda’s 300mm production tools from its closed DRAM fab. While this highlighted TI’s focus on building the world’s first 300mm analog fab, I can’t stop wondering: what would have happened had an Indian investor actually bought Qimonda’s fab, instead of TI.

Perhaps, it would be better for the Indian semicon industry to stick to its globally known strengths of providing excellent semiconductor design services and embedded design services. At least, there will be clear direction in these areas.

Of course, there exist huge opportunities in all of the areas (or gaps) that I've touched upon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How are femtocells enhancing CDMA networks?

The CDMA Development Group (CDG) and Femto Forum recently hosted a discussion on ‘How Femtocells are Enhancing CDMA Networks.”

James Person, COO, CDG was the moderator, while the panelists were Andy Germano, vice chairman, Femto Forum, Josh Adelson, director, Product Marketing, Airvana, and Sameer Lalwani, staff manager, Technology Valuation, Qualcomm.

Femto market update
Presenting a market update on femtos for CDMA, Andy Germano, vice chairman, Femto Forum, said femtocells have arrived and are shaping up into a key tool for mobile broadband service delivery.

There are 58 operators covering over 1.5 billion mobile subscribers – 33 percent of the global total. There are also 77 providers of femtocell technology covering all aspects of the ecosystem.

He highlighted some critical industry data points. For instance, the O2 network has seen an 18-fold increase in data carried over the network last year. Next, wireless data traffic on the AT&T network has grown more than 5,000 percent over the past three years.

So, why are people deploying femtocells? What’s driving growth? Naturally, the explosion of Internet connected devices — iPads, iPhones, and the like, are driving growth. There has been an exponential growth of mobile data traffic as well. Further, more than 80 percent of the traffic is indoors, and very little percentage of the traffic is mobile.

A femtocell is a simple, low cost, easy-to-install cellular access point for homes (and offices and metro areas). It is able to deliver fast, reliable service to standard phones over licensed spectrum. Further, femtocell is supported in 3G and next-generation standards by 3GPP, 3GPP2, WiMAX Forum, Broadband Forum, etc.

The shape of mobile networks has changed as well. As a data point, the US earlier had 200,000 macrocell sites. The number of femtocells is now greater than the number of macrocells. Today, there are 350,000 femtocell sites as against 256,000 macrocell sites.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Indian medical electronics equipment industry to grow at 17 percent CAGR over next five years: ISA

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) released a sector report on the opportunities in the Indian medical electronics field, titlled: “Current status and potential for medical electronics in India”, 2010, at Narayana Hrudayalaya campus in Bangalore, India.

The Indian healthcare market (FY ’09) has been valued at Rs. 300,000 crores ($63 billion). Of this, healthcare delivery makes up 72 percent, pharmaceutical industry 20 percent, health insurance 5 percent, medical equipment 1.4 percent, medical consumables 1.1 percent, and medical IT 0.2 percent, respectively.

Medical electronics has been valued at Rs. 3,850 crores ($820 million) of the overall Indian healthcare market of Rs. 300,000 crores ($63 billion). The medical equipment growth market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 17 percent over the next five years in India, and reach Rs. 9,735 crores ($2.075 billion).

As per the ISA report, the Indian healthcare industry currently contributes to 5.6 percent of GDP, which is estimated to increase to 8–8.5 percent in FY 13.Source: ISA-Feedback 2010.

The domestic market for medical equipment currently stands at Rs. 3,850 crores ($820 million). Annually, medical equipments worth Rs. 2,450 crores ($520 million) is manufactured in India, out of which Rs. 350 crore ($75 million) is exported.

The growth of medical equipment market is directly proportionate to the growth of healthcare delivery, which stood at Rs. 2,16,000 crores ($45.36 billion) in 2009 Also, Siemens, Wipro GE and Philips are the leaders in the space with 18 percent, 17 percent and 10 percent market share respectively. However, 45 percent of the market is addressed by smaller, niche domestic players.

The report was released by Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, CMD, Narayana Hrudayalaya, in the presence of Dr. Bobby Mitra, ISA chairman, Poornima Shenoy, ISA president and Vivek Sharma, convener of the ISA Medical Electronics Segment.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

STMicroelectronics unveils STM32 F-2 series of MCUs

STMicroelectronics has unveiled its roadmap for ARM Cortex-M4 and -M0 with products sampling from mid 2011 onward and production by end of 2011. It has also unleashed the full performance of the Cortex-M3 with its latest STM32 F-2 series.

According to Vinay Thapliyal, technical marketing manager, MCU, STMicroelectronics, India, there are over 30 new part numbers, pin-to-pin and software compatible with existing STM32 devices.

He said: "Today, we already have 110 parts running for the F-1 series, which is currently existing and in full production. Now, we are extending the family. This time, we have launched the F-2 family -- the highest performance family to unleash the ultimate performance of Cortex-M3." Naturally, the F-2 series is benefiting the F-1 devices.

As mentioned, 30 new devices will be launched. They are already ramping now. "All of these belong to the high-performance, low-power family. We will also be revealing our roadmap for M4 and M0 -- to be in production by end of 2011, with sampling by middle of 2011."ST's F-2 series will further enhance real time preformance. Thapliyal added that ST has built in ART accelerator into these devices. This will deliver 150 DMIPS (Dhrystone MIPS) at 120MHz.

The adaptive real-time memory accelerator unleashes the Cortex-M3 core’s maximum processing performance equivalent to 0-wait state execution Flash up to 120 MHz.

The ART accelerator is a pre-fetch queue and branch cache mechanism that stores the first instructions and constants of the branches, interrupt and subroutine calls. The penalty occurs the first time those events occur like for any pipelining mechanism.

After that, the instructions stored in cache are pushed immediately in the pref-etch queue upon recognition of a stored branch address. In addition, the embedded Flash is organized in 128-bit rows, allowing up to 8 (16-bit) instructions to be read per access.