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Posts Tagged ‘wearables’

More space for satellites and a roadmap for data protection

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Blog Review – Monday, February 12, 2018
This week’s selection includes 100G Ethernet for data centers; Satellites will vie for space; A roadmap for data protection, and more from the blogsphere

The rise of data centers and increase in cloud-based computing has prompted Lance Looper, Silicon Labs, to examine how wireless networks are changing to meet the demands for performance and low latency and implementing 100G Ethernet.

Marveling at how connectivity has ‘shrunk’ the world, Paolo Colombo, ANSYS, looks skywards to consider the growth of connected devices. He looks at the role of space satellites and how small satellites will have their day for critical applications and introduces ‘pseudo sats’ which are vying for space in space.

An article about medical device design and manufacturing challenges has prompted Roger Mazzella, QT, to address each and provide a response to reassure developers. Naturally, QT’s products play a role in allaying many fears, but it is an interesting insight into the medical design arena.

An interesting case study is recorded by Hellen Norman, Arm, featuring Scratchy the robot. She asks German embedded systems developer, Sebastian Förster how he used a Cortex-M4, some motors, Lego bricks and cable ties to create a four-legged robot, programmed to walk using artificial intelligence (AI).

It’s not unusual to feel bewildered at a technology conference, so we can sympathise with Thomas Hackett, Cadence, who has a twist on the usual philosophical question of “What am I here for?” A walk through DesignCon caused a lightbulb moment, illuminating the real world interplay of IP, SoC and packaging.

With the IoT there are no secrets, and Robert Vamosi, Synopsys examines how data sharing may not be as innocuous as companies would have us believe, if it is not configured flawlessly. The Strava heatmap which reveals secret military locations has thrown up some serious issues which, we are assured, are being addressed, and which Vamosi sees as a model for other IoT and wearable device manufacturers.

Tackling software-defined networking (SDN) head-on, Jean-Marie Brunet, Mentor Graphics, presents a clear and strong case for accelerating verification using virtual emulation. Of course he advocates Veloce VirtuaLAB PCIe for the task, but backs up his recommendation with some sound reasoning and guidance.

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, Nov. 17 2014

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Harking back to analog; What to wear in wearables week; Multicore catch-up; Trusting biometrics
By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor.

Adding a touch of nostalgia, Richard Goering, Cadence, reviews a mixed signal keynote at Mixed-Signal Summit that Boris Murmann made at Cadence HQ. His ideas for reinvigorating the role of analog make interesting reading.

As if there wasn’t enough stress about what to wear, ARM adds to it with its Wearables Week. Although David Blaza finds that Shane Walker, IHS is pretty relaxed, offering a positive view of the wearables and medical market.

Practise makes perfect, believes Colin Walls, Mentor, who uses his blog to highlight common misconceptions of C++, multicore and MCAPI for communication and synchronisation between cores.

Biometrics are popular and ubiquitous but Thomas Suwald, NXP looks at what needs to be done for secure integration and the future of authentication.

Blog Review – Monday Oct 13, 2014

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Cambridge Wireless discusses wearables; Cadence unmask Incisive ‘hidden treasures’; ON Semi advocates ESD measures; Synopsys presents at DVCON Europe; 3DIC reveals game-changer move at IEEE S3S

At this month’s Cambridge Wireless SIG (Special Interest Group) David Maidment, ARM, listened to an exchange of ideas for wearable and new business opportunities but with considerations for size, cost and consumer ease of use.

Revealing rampant prejudice for all physical media, Axel Scherer, Cadence, learns a lesson in features that are taken for granted and offers a list of 10 features in Incisive that may not be evident to many users.

Silicon ESD protection need to consider automotive designers, encourages Deres Eshete, explaining the reasons why ON Semiconductor has introduced the ESD7002, ESD7361, and ESD7461 ESD protection devices.

This week, DVCON Europe will include a tutorial from Synopsys about VCS AMS to extend digital verification for mixed-signal SoCs. Hélène Thibiéroz and colleagues from Synopsys, STMicroelectronics and Micronas will present October 14, but some hits of what to expect are on her blog.

Following on from the 2014 IEEE S3S conference, Zvi Or-Bach, discusses how monolithic 3D IC will be a game changer as he considers how existing fab transistor processes can be used and looks ahead to EDA efforts for the technology, covered at the conference.

Caroline Hayes – Monday October 13, 2014

Blog Review – Monday Sept. 08 2014

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Semiconductor sales – good news; Namibia’s Internet project; Rambus fellow considers IoT security; Intel fashions a year of wearables.
by Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

If you are wondering what Intel’s New Devices Group has been doing since its formation 12 months ago, Michael A. Bell reveals all in this blog. All the obvious wearable candidates are there, but with a twist – biometric earbuds, a bracelet computer…And there is also an insight into business news, an indication of where this business unit is headed.

A fair bit of name-dropping kicks off this Rambus blog, celebrating Rich Page’s IoT projects. This interview with the company’s fellow is an interesting take on IoT, as Page predicts a shift of emphasis to security and the ensuing design challenges.

Citizen Connect is a worthy project, supported by MyDigitalBridge Foundation, Microsoft, and Adaptrum. Steve Leibso, Xilinx, reports on the latest project for broadband access in the continent, wirelessly connecting 28 schools in Namibia with Ethernet over a 62x152km area using TVWS (TV White Space) spectrum.

It’s been a while since a journalist could write this, but it looks like good news for the semiconductor market. Falan Yinug, explains some of the statistics behind the SIA report of Q2 sales that set some records, for a feelgood read.

Cybernetic Human Via Wearable IOT

Friday, January 20th, 2017

UC Berkeley’s Dr. Rabaey sees humans becoming an extension of the wearable IoT via neuron connectivity at recent IEEE IMS event.

by Hamilton Carter and John Blyler, Editors, JB Systems

During the third week in May, more than 3000 microwave engineers from across the globe descended upon San Francisco for the International Microwave Symposium 2016. To close the week, it seemed only fitting then that the final plenary talk by Jan Rabaey was titled “The Human Intranet- Where Swarms and Humans Meet.”


Dr. Rabaey, Professor and EE Division Chair at UC Berkeley, took the stage wearing a black T-shirt, a pair of slacks, and a sports coat that shimmered under the bright stage lights. He briefly summarized the topic of his talk, as well as his research goal: turning humans themselves into the next extension of the IoT. Ultimately he hopes to be able to create human-machine interfaces that could ideally not only read individual neurons, but write them as well.

What Makes a Wearable Wearable?

The talk opened with a brief discourse on the inability thus far of wearables to capture the public’s imagination. Dr. Rabaey cited several key problems facing the technology: battery life; how wearable a device actually is; limited functionality; inability to hold user interest; and perhaps most importantly something he termed stove-piping. Wearable technologies today are built to communicate only with other devices manufactured by the same company. Dr. Rabaey called for an open wearables platform to enable the industry to expand at an increasing rate.

Departing from wearables to discuss an internet technology that almost everyone does use, Dr. Rabaey focused for a few moments on the smart phone. He emphasized that while the devices are useful, the bandwidth of the communications channel between the device, and its human owner is debilitatingly narrow. His proposal for remedying this issue is not to further enhance the smart phone, but instead to enhance the human user!

One way to enhance the bandwidth between device and user is simply to provide more input channels. Rabaey discussed one project, already in the works, that utilizes Braille-like technology to turn skin into a tactile interface, and another project for the visually-impaired that aims to transmit visual images to the brain over aural channels via sonification.

Human limbs as prosthetics

As another powerful example of what has already been achieved in human extensibility, Dr. Rabaey, showed a video produced by the scientific journal “Nature” portraying research that has enabled quadriplegic Ian Burkhart to regain control of the muscles in his arms and hands. The video showed Mr. Burkhart playing Guitar Hero, and gripping other objects with his own hands; hands that he lost the use of five years ago. The system that enables his motor control utilizes a sensor to scan the neurons firing in his brain as researchers show him images of a hand closing around various objects. After a period of training and offline data analysis, a bank of computers learns to associate his neural patterns with his desire to close his hand. Finally, sensing the motions he would like to make, the computers fire electro-constricting arm bands that cause the correct muscles in his arm to flex and close his hand around an object. (See video: “The nerve bypass: how to move a paralysed hand“)

Human Enhancements Inside and Out

Rabaey divides human-enhancing tech into two categories, extrospective, applications, like those described above, that interface the enhanced human to the outside world, and introspective applications that look inwards to provide more information about enhanced humans themselves. Turning his focus to introspective applications, Rabaey presented several examples of existing bio-sensor technology including printed blood oximetry sensors, wound healing bandages, and thin-film EEGs. He then described the technology that will enable his vision of the human intranet: neural dust.

The Human Intranet

In 1997, Kris Pister outlined his vision for something called smart dust, one cubic millimeter devices that contained sensors, a processor, and networked communications. Pister’s vision was recently realized by the Michigan Micro Mote research team. Rabaey’s, proposed neural dust would take this technology a step further providing smart dust systems that measure a mere 10 to 100 microns on a side. At these dimensions, the devices could travel within the human blood stream. Dr. Rabaey described his proposed human intranet as consisting of a network fabric of neural dust particles that communicate with one or more wearable network hubs. The headband/bracelet/necklace-borne hub devices would handle the more heavy-duty communication, and processing tasks of the system, while the neural dust would provide real-time data measured on-site from within the body. The key challenge to enabling neural dust at this point lies in determining a communications channel that can deliver the data from inside the human body at real-time speeds while consuming very little power, (think picowatts).

Caution for the future

In closing, Dr. Jan implored the audience, that in all human/computer interface devices, security must be considered at the onset, and throughout the development cycle. He pointed out that internal defibrillators with wireless controls can be hacked, and therefore, could be used to kill a human who uses one. While this fortunately has never occurred, he emphasized that since the possibility exists it is key to encrypt every packet of information related to the human body. While encryption might be power-hungry in software, he stated that encryption algorithms build into ASICs could be performed at a fraction of the power cost. As for passwords, there are any number of unique biometric indicators that can be used. Among these are voice, and heart-rate. The danger for these bio-metrics, however, is that once they can be cloned, or imitated, the hacker has access to a treasure-trove of information, and possibly control. Perhaps the most promising biometric at present is a scan of neurons via EEG or other technology so that as the user thinks of a new password, the machine interface can pick it up instantly, and incorporates it into new transmissions.

Wrapping up his exciting vision of a bright cybernetic future, Rabaey grounded the audience with a quote made by Joanna Zylinska, an Australian performance artist, in a 2002 interview:

“The body has always been a prosthetic body. Ever since we developed as humanoids and developed bipedal locomotion, two limbs became manipulators. We have become creatures that construct tools, artifacts, and machines. We’ve always been augmented by our instruments, our technologies. Technology is what constructs our humanity. …, so to consider technology as a kind of alien other that happens upon us at the end of the millennium is rather simplistic.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The EDA Industry Macro Projections for 2016

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

How the EDA industry will fare in 2016 will be influenced by the worldwide financial climate. Instability in oil prices, the Middle East wars and the unpredictability of the Chinese market will indirectly influence the EDA industry.  EDA has seen significant growth since 1996, but the growth is indirectly influenced by the overall health of the financial community (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. EDA Quarterly Revenue Report from EDA Consortium

China has been a growing market for EDA tools and Chinese consumers have purchased a significant number of semiconductors based products in the recent past.  Consumer products demand is slowing, and China’s financial health is being questioned.  The result is that demand for EDA tools may be less than in 2015.   I have received so many forecasts for 2016 that I have decided to brake the subject into two articles.  The first article will cover the macro aspects, while the second will focus more on specific tools and market segments.

Economy and Technology

EDA itself is changing.  Here is what Bob Smith, executive director of the EDA consortium has to say:

“Cooperation and competition will be the watchwords for 2016 in our industry. The ecosystem and all the players are responsible for driving designs into the semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem. Success is highly dependent on traditional EDA, but we are realizing that there are many other critical components, including semiconductor IP, embedded software and advanced packaging such as 3D-IC. In other words, our industry is a “design ecosystem” feeding the manufacturing sector. The various players in our ecosystem are realizing that we can and should work together to increase the collective growth of our industry. Expect to see industry organizations serving as the intermediaries to bring these various constituents together.”

Bob Smith’s words acknowledge that the term “system” has taken a new meaning in EDA.  We are no longer talking about developing a hardware system, or even a hardware/software system.  A system today includes digital and analog hardware, software both at the system and application level, MEMS, third party IP, and connectivity and co-execution with other systems.  EDA vendors are morphing in order to accommodate these new requirements.  Change is difficult because it implies error as well as successes, and 2016 will be a year of changes.

Lucio Lanza, managing director of Lanza techVentures and a recipient of the Phil Kaufman award, describes it this way:

“We’ve gone from computers talking to each other to an era of PCs connecting people using PCs. Today, the connections of people and devices seem irrelevant. As we move to the Internet of Things, things will get connected to other things and won’t go through people. In fact, I call it the World of Things not IoT and the implications are vast for EDA, the semiconductor industry and society. The EDA community has been the enabler for this connected phenomenon. We now have a rare opportunity to be more creative in our thinking about where the technology is going and how we can assist in getting there in a positive and meaningful way.”

Ranjit Adhikary, director of Marketing at Cliosoft acknowledges the growing need for tools integration in his remarks:

“The world is currently undergoing a quiet revolution akin to the dot com boom in the late 1990s. There has been a growing effort to slowly but surely provide connectivity between various physical objects and enable them to share and exchange data and manage the devices using smartphones. The labors of these efforts have started to bear fruit and we can see that in the automotive and consumables industries. What this implies from a semiconductor standpoint is that the number of shipments of analog and RF ICs will grow at a remarkable pace and there will be increased efforts from design companies to have digital, analog and RF components in the same SoC. From an EDA standpoint, different players will also collaborate to share the same databases. An example of this would be Keysight Technologies and Cadence Designs Systems on OpenAccess libraries. Design companies will seek to improve the design methodologies and increase the use of IPs to ensure a faster turnaround time for SoCs. From an infrastructure standpoint a growing number of design companies will invest more in the design data and IP management to ensure better design collaboration between design teams located at geographically dispersed locations as well as to maximize their resources.”

Michiel Ligthart, president and chief operating officer at Verific Design Automation points to the need to integrate tools from various sources to achieve the most effective design flow:

“One of the more interesting trends Verific has observed over the last five years is the differentiation strategy adopted by a variety of large and small CAD departments. Single-vendor tool flows do not meet all requirements. Instead, IDMs outline their needs and devise their own design and verification flow to improve over their competition. That trend will only become more pronounced in 2016.”

New and Expanding Markets

The focus toward IoT applications has opened up new markets as well as expanded existing ones.  For example the automotive market is looking to new functionalities both in car and car-to-car applications.

Raik Brinkmann, president and chief executive officer at OneSpin Solutions wrote:

“OneSpin Solutions has witnessed the push toward automotive safety for more than two years. Demand will further increase as designers learn how to apply the ISO26262 standard. I’m not sure that security will come to the forefront in 2016 because there no standards as yet and ad hoc approaches will dominate. However, the pressure for security standards will be high, just as ISO26262 was for automotive.”

Michael Buehler-Garcia, Mentor Graphics Calibre Design Solutions, Senior Director of Marketing notes that many of the established and thought of as obsolete process nodes will instead see increased volume due to the technologies required to implement IoT architectures.

“As cutting-edge process nodes entail ever higher non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs, ‘More than Moore’ technologies are moving from the “press release” stage to broader adoption. One consequence of this adoption has been a renewed interest in more established processes. Historical older process node users, such as analog design, RFCMOS, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), are now being joined by silicon photonics, standalone radios, and standalone memory controllers as part of a 3D-IC implementation. In addition, the Internet of Things (IoT) functionality we crave is being driven by a “milli-cents for nano-acres of silicon,” which aligns with the increase in designs targeted for established nodes (130 nm and older). New physical verification techniques developed for advanced nodes can simplify life for design companies working at established nodes by reducing the dependency on human intervention. In 2016, we expect to see more adoption of advanced software solutions such as reliability checking, pattern matching, “smart” fill, advanced extraction solutions, “chip out” package assembly verification, and waiver processing to help IC designers implement more complex designs on established nodes. We also foresee this renewed interest in established nodes driving tighter capacity access, which in turn will drive increased use of design optimization techniques, such as DFM scoring, filling analysis, and critical area analysis, to help maximize the robustness of designs in established nodes.”

Warren Kurisu, Director of Product Management, Mentor Graphics Embedded Systems Division points to wearables, another sector within the IoT market, as an opportunity for expansion.

“We are seeing multiple trends. Wearables are increasing in functionality and complexity enabled by the availability of advanced low-power heterogeneous multicore architectures and the availability of power management tools. The IoT continues to gain momentum as we are now seeing a heavier demand for intelligent, customizable IoT gateways. Further, the emergence of IoT 2.0 has placed a new emphasis on end-to-end security from the cloud and gateway right down to the edge device.”

Power management is one of the areas that has seen significant concentration on the part of EDA vendors.  But not much has been said about battery technology.  Shreefal Mehta, president and CEO of Paper Battery Company offered the following observations.

“The year 2016 will be the year we see tremendous advances in energy storage and management.   The gap between the rate of growth of our electronic devices and the battery energy that fuels them will increase to a tipping point.   On average, battery energy density has only grown 12% while electronic capabilities have more than doubled annually.  The need for increased energy and power density will be a major trend in 2016.  More energy-efficient processors and sensors will be deployed into the market, requiring smaller, safer, longer-lasting and higher-performing energy sources. Today’s batteries won’t cut it.

Wireless devices and sensors that need pulses of peak power to transmit compute and/or perform analog functions will continue to create a tension between the need for peak power pulses and long energy cycles. For example, cell phone transmission and Bluetooth peripherals are, as a whole, low power but the peak power requirements are several orders of magnitude greater than the average power consumption.  Hence, new, hybrid power solutions will begin to emerge especially where energy-efficient delivery is needed with peak power and as the ratio of average to peak grows significantly. 

Traditional batteries will continue to improve in offering higher energy at lower prices, but current lithium ion will reach a limit in the balance between energy and power in a single cell with new materials and nanostructure electrodes being needed to provide high power and energy.  This situation is aggravated by the push towards physically smaller form factors where energy and power densities diverge significantly. Current efforts in various companies and universities are promising but will take a few more years to bring to market.

The Supercapacitor market is poised for growth in 2016 with an expected CAGR of 19% through 2020.  Between the need for more efficient form factors, high energy density and peak power performance, a new form of supercapacitors will power the ever increasing demands of portable electronics. The Hybrid supercapacitor is the bridge between the high energy batteries and high power supercapacitors. Because these devices are higher energy than traditional supercapacitors and higher power than batteries they may either be used in conjunction with or completely replace battery systems. Due to the way we are using our smartphones, supercapacitors will find a good use model there as well as applications ranging from transportation to enterprise storage.

Memory in smartphones and tablets containing solid state drives (SSDs) will become more and more accustomed to architectures which manage non-volatile cache in a manner which preserves content in the event of power failure. These devices will use large swaths of video and the media data will be stored on RAM (backed with FLASH) which can allow frequent overwrites in these mobile devices without the wear-out degradation that would significantly reduce the life of the FLASH memory if used for all storage. To meet the data integrity concerns of this shadowed memory, supercapacitors will take a prominent role in supplying bridge power in the event of an energy-depleted battery, thereby adding significant value and performance to mobile entertainment and computing devices.

Finally, safety issues with lithium ion batteries have just become front and center and will continue to plague the industry and manufacturing environments.  Flaming hoverboards, shipment and air travel restrictions on lithium batteries render the future of personal battery power questionable. Improved testing and more regulations will come to pass, however because of the widespread use of battery-powered devices safety will become a key factor.   What we will see in 2016 is the emergence of the hybrid supercapacitor, which offers a high-capacity alternative to Lithium batteries in terms of power efficiency. This alternative can operate over a wide temperature range, have long cycle lives and – most importantly are safe. “

Greg Schmergel, CEO, Founder and President of memory-maker Nantero, Inc points out that just as new power storage devices will open new opportunities so will new memory devices.

“With the traditional memories, DRAM and flash, nearing the end of the scaling roadmap, new memories will emerge and change memory from a standard commodity to a potentially powerful competitive advantage.  As an example, NRAM products such as multi-GB high-speed DDR4-compatible nonvolatile standalone memories are already being designed, giving new options to designers who can take advantage of the combination of nonvolatility, high speed, high density and low power.  The emergence of next-generation nonvolatile memory which is faster than flash will enable new and creative systems architectures to be created which will provide substantial customer value.”

Jin Zhang, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Relations at Oski Technology is of the opinion that the formal methods sector is an excellent prospect to increase the EDA market.

“Formal verification adoption is growing rapidly worldwide and that will continue into 2016. Not surprisingly, the U.S. market leads the way, with China following a close second. Usage is especially apparent in China where a heavy investment has been made in the semiconductor industry, particularly in CPU designs. Many companies are starting to build internal formal groups. Chinese project teams are discovering the benefits of improving design qualities using Formal Sign-off Methodology.”

These market forces are fueling the growth of specific design areas that are supported by EDA tools.  In the companion article some of these areas will be discussed.

The Car as an IoT Node: What are the Design Implications?

Monday, May 11th, 2015

By Chris Rowen, CTO of Cadences IP Group

Its a pivotal moment in the history of automotive design. Not only is the percentage of electronics content of each automobile continuing to rise, but wireless technology has come to the car. This confluence of two technology forces changes in how we view automobiles and automotive electronics in fundamental ways. And it raises a seemingly simple question: Should the intelligent car be considered a node on the Internet of Things (IoT)?

I embrace what you might call a big-tent definition of IoT. That is, I see a wide variety of applications that are outside the traditional clusters of gateways and servers, applications between cloud and a local device. These are applications where there is content that is distributed and distributed not just in response to human interface.

Car first, Internet second

So I do believe that the intelligent car is a local device and, as such, constitutes a node on the Internet, but with some caveats. It shares many of the same design considerations as traditional IoT designs, but with a significant difference: The car, as a mode of transportation, has as its first priority, safety. Its second priority is safety. Its third priority is safety. Well address this design implication shortly.

In the past decade or so, as electronics have enhanced safety priorities, they have also added a new dimension to the driver and passenger experiences. That makes the automobile a very unique IoT node. These bifurcated features and applications require engineers to think about them in different ways.

Inside the car, we see many of the same subsystems and elements that are analogous to popular IoT categories. There are various accelerometers and gyrometers and magnetometers that are sensing motion or monitoring the performance of your car. Those are either already connected to the web or are a baby step away. But its worth noting in this context that those elements are primarily of the car and secondarily of the Internet.

With that in mind, we can view the automotive IoT node as having two major categories of functionality: mission-critical and entertainment/infotainment. And engineers need to design to these two areas with different considerations. If you have a bug and your navigation goes out, thats one thing. If you have a bug and your brakes stop working, well thats a completely different situation.

Levels of security

The mission-critical components and subsystems in this automotive IoT node will require highly documented development processes like ISO 26262 for functional safety. Where there is critical information that could be corrupted and cause damage or death, then engineering teams have to have not only the functional safety qualification but also the ability to have the system remain robust in the face of accidental or malicious intervention by rogue software.

Those systems will evolve slowly and come with enormous verification and certification requirements. Theyll have their own design constraints and their own development pace.

On the other side, as part of the human infotainment experience, we will see the car trying to look more like an open platform-like, a smartphone.  There, you wont worry quite as much about security. There, youll have various wireless options, packaging and power considerations that likely will differ from the more mission-critical components. Design constraints will likely be more flexible and the development pace faster.

Another caveat has to do with data: Traditional IoT applications suggest a more or less continual flow of information from edge devices to and from the cloud or the fog. With respect to the automotive IoT node, this dynamic is a little different. Manufacturers want to gather lots of data on the performance of their fleet to help fine-tune their design and manufacturing process. But we wont see a lot of real time, on-the-fly updates coming from the cloud. In other words, the notion that your car will be constantly fine-tuned for performance may be wishful thinking right now.

Where automotive design meets IoT demands

Now when we think about designing for the IoT, we think mostly about small form factors and ultra-tight power budgets in the context of wearables, which are the poster child for todays IoT applications.

In automotive designs, power is somewhat less of an issue, but form factor and weight can still be important considerations. And because the success of early intelligent vehicles is fueling more customer demand, design cycles are being pressured.

This suggests the need for design flows that leverage much more integrationparticularly IP integrationand newer verification considerations as software takes its seat at the automotive design table.

We are seeing much more sensor fusion solutions in automotive designs today, the need (because of the interface to the analog world) for robust floating-point computing, integrated features like audio, voice and speech (AVS) for voice recognition and triggering.

And while cars are big-ticket items, that does not mean that cost considerations at the component level are not paramount.

All of these are considerations that engineering teams in the traditional IoT space wrestle with. So the intelligent car is absolutely part of the IoT. The potential for optimizing not only the car and the driving experience but also the world around the car (think about better automated traffic-flow modeling) is profound. But engineers need to approach the design of the cars subsystems thoughtfully, in ways that reflect the primacy of safety and the potential of cloud-enabled services.

Chris Rowen, who co-founded MIPS and Tensilica and is an expert on computing architectures, is CTO of Cadences IP Group.

IoT, Definition, Standards, and Security

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

Almost every day you can read something about Internet of Things (IoT).  This market segment is defined as the next big opportunity for the electronics industry and thus for EDA.   Yet many questions remain and some of them, if not answered correctly, will become stumbling blocks.  Not surprisingly I found that there are professionals that share my concerns.

There are a number of issues to be solved in IoT, and unfortunately they will be solved piecemeal, as problems arise since humans are better at solving problems than at avoiding them.  To address all of the possible issues and potential solutions the article would have turned into a book, so I decided to limit the topics discussed to just three for now.

IoT Still Needs a Full Definition

I asked  Drew Wingard, CTO of Sonics if IoT was sufficiently well defined.  His answer “Yes and no. If you think of IoT as an umbrella, it covers an incredibly wide variety of disparate applications. What is needed is some kind of characterization or taxonomy below the umbrella. For example, the I IoT is the Industrial Internet of things. IoT also includes wearables–medical wearables, other wearables…it’s multi-dimensional.”  This is a great answer.  it is great because it is honest, no marketing spin here.  What it says to me is that at the local node level IoT is well defined.  We can design and build devices that collect information, make decisions, and provide feedback in the form of controls at the local level.  What is missing is the experience and thus the strongly defined architecture that defines how and where the heterogeneous data is processed into actable information.  Also we need to define if and how diverse segments of IoT like wearables and automotive for example, should and how communicate and interact.

Developers of IP have of course turned their attention to the needs of IoT systems.  The Tensilica group of Cadence has just announced a new product, Fusion DSP, to deal with communication and computational requirements in local IoT nodes.  During the discussion they showed me how diverse IoT opportunities for IP are projected to be as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The various applications of IP devices in IoT systems

Lauro Rizzatti, a well known verification consultant told me that ” If you ask 10 people for a definition of the Internet of Things, you’ll get 10 different descriptions. One thing is certain: IoT chip designs will need sophisticated verification tools to fully test the functionality.”  This is, unfortunately, no surprise.  We are still at the point where verification is a key component of design.  It is human nature to fix problems, not avoid them.

Omri Lachman, co-founder & CEO of Israeli wireless charging startup Humavox, points out that “IoT is a term that is defined yet still far from resonating with end users. People may be using IoT associated devices or products but for most, the term IoT means nothing. History shows that in order to bring a revolution you need to have all relevant stakeholders in line with one overall objective in mind. IoT is probably one of the biggest life changers we’re going to see in the coming time. It is all about personalization and optimization of technologies/products/services for us as people. Connecting humans, homes, transportation with medical, industrial and enterprise environments is a huge objective to take on. In order for this revolution to succeed, all stakeholders should be involved in the education of the people. Visual aids should be created to help individuals of all life categories to easily connect the dots. Consumers need to be better educated about the endless opportunities that can fill their life by adopting IoT. Ultimately, the key here is better consumer education, better selling of the vision that IoT is expected to deliver and the creation of visual aids so anyone can easily grasp the concept.”

Vic Kulkarni, SVP & GM, RTL Power Business, ANSYS-Apache Business Unit described the IoT architecture by breaking the system in three functional parts: Sensing and Processing, Connectivity, and Storage and Analytics.  The first part must deal with MEMS and RFID issues, the second with Network, Gateway, and Supervisory Logic design and verification, and the third deals with processing at the cloud and data center level.  Vic thinks that revenue from IoT will divide almost equally between consumer and industrial segments, with a slight advantage of the industrial sector (52% to 48%).  In the consumer segment Vic places wearables, connected cars, and connected homes.  While connected cities, healthcare, oil and gas, transportation, and the industrial internet make up the bulk of the industrial segment.  Ansys is addressing the market in its electronics and semiconductor business units by providing design and analysis tools for IC, PCB, MEMS/Antenna, Thermal, and Physical Impact.

From what Dr. Kulkarni is saying it is clear that IoT is not just an electronics system, but an heterogeneous collection of diverse parts that must be assembled into a system in order to design, verify, and build the product.  EDA already provides tools for power and signal integrity, but has either not yet addressed or not completely addressed Structural Reliability, Thermal, and Regulatory Compliance.

IoT Needs Standards

One of the most creative portion of my engineering career was spent creating standards within consortia and the IEEE.  As the discussion about IoT heated up I became concerned with the absence of standards to interconnect the “things” to the conglomerating nodes and these to the cloud.  And then I heard about the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC).

International Data Corporation expects that the installed base of IoT will be approximately 212 billion “things” globally by the end of 2020. This is expected to include 30.1 billion installed “connected (autonomous)” things.  Today, these devices are connecting to each other using multiple, and often incompatible approaches. The members of the Open Interconnect Consortium believe that in order to achieve this scale, the industry will need both the collaboration of the open source community and industry standards to drive interoperability of these devices.

Guy Martin of Samsung describes the purpose of the consortium this way: “There’s a lot of great work going on in different areas of the IoT - you’ve got digital health, obviously smart home is huge, you’ve got in-vehicle – but there’s nothing that does a really good job of connecting all of those things together. We believe that while you may have a lot of good things going on in those individual communities, the next big thing in IoT is going to be the applications that span multiple verticals. What we’re really trying to develop is the framework for that.”

OIC is the sponsor of the IoTivity Project, an open source software framework enabling seamless device-to-device connectivity to address the emerging needs of the IoT.  The Consortium is recruiting other industry leaders to collaborate and join the efforts.   The goal is to define a comprehensive communications framework to enable emerging applications in all key vertical markets.  You can read more about the consortium at

Ron Lowman, strategic marketing manager for IoT at Synopsys believes that standardization of communication protocols especially at the thing to local conglomerator nodes is either already here or will happen in a short time.  He thinks that: ” Everyone has their own definition of the concept of IoT, and the market has a lot of great semiconductor products for IoT including many microcontrollers with mixed-signal IP, such as 12-bit 5Msps ADCs, Bosch Sensortec & PNI’s sensor hubs, and Intel’s Curie module, all of which will be used in everything from wearables, smart homes and cities, and building and factory automation.  Kickstarter is a great example of where to find a sample of the limitless opportunity that IoT creates.  What will actually define IoT, and what is currently missing, is the massive adoption of connected products and we’re just on the brink of this larger adoption in 2015.”

It is curious that the architecture uses the term “Internet” since it does not look like the internet protocol will be used locally, like in the intelligent home and certainly not in wearables.  The natural question for Ron was:  “Are local protocols already standardized?  If so what are they?”

Ron responded: “Wearables obviously have seen the adoption of Bluetooth Smart as a de facto standard for a couple reasons.  Companies such as EMMicro have benefited from that with their low power Bluetooth capabilities.  The cost of implementation including die size, stack size and power budget, is significantly better in Bluetooth Smart than WiFi and it’s available on our most personal devices (mobile phones and tablets).  Ethernet and WiFi protocols weren’t initially designed for “things” and the protocols defining “the field bus wars”, such as Modbus, were not designed to be streamed to websites, however there are a myriad of standards organizations that are tackling this problem very proactively.  The important thing to note is that these standards organization’s efforts will provide an open source platform and open source abstraction layer that will enable developers and designers to focus on their key value generation to the market.  Interoperability will be a reality.  It will not be a single solution but a small array of solutions to fit the different needs for each IoT subsegment.”

IoT Needs Security

No one disputes that security is of paramount importance in IoT applications.  When everything is connected the opportunities for mischievous and illegal activities are just too great.  During my discussion with Vic Kulkarni he recalled how in 2008 it was shown that pacemaker devices could be hacked at a range of a few centimeters, that is less than one foot, but recently MIT graduate students hacked a pacemaker device at a range of 1,524 centimeters, or approximately 50 feet.  Such capability enables electronic murder perpetrated by a totally anonymous killer.

Two of the most obvious reasons for hacking are: collection of information and illegal control of functionality.  Vic also provided information on automobile vulnerability both to the control of an individual vehicle and to car-to-car communication for collision avoidance function.

Jason Oberg, CEO at Tortuga Logic, observes that: “With the advent of IoT, we are going to see a drastic shift in the security landscape. Attacks have already been demonstrated on embedded devices such as pace makers, automobiles, baby monitors, and even refrigerators. Most companies are trying to solve this problem purely with software security, but this is a constant cat-and-mouse game we cannot win. As IoT grows, we are seeing more software being pushed down into hardware and our modern chipsets are growing in complexity. This is driving attackers to begin focusing on hardware and, without ensuring our chipsets are built in a secure manner, these attackers will continue to succeed.”

When thinking about security I generally think about software based hacking, but breaches that use physical techniques are just as damaging.   The Athena Group, Inc., a provider of security, cryptography, anti-tamper, and signal processing IP cores, has introduced a comprehensive portfolio of IP cores with side-channel attack (SCA) countermeasures, based on advanced differential power analysis (DPA) countermeasure approaches pioneered by the Cryptography Research Division of Rambus.

DPA is a type of SCA that involves monitoring variations in the electrical power consumption or electromagnetic emissions from a target device. DPA attacks are non-invasive, easily automated, and can be mounted without knowing the design of the target device. Unlike invasive tampering, electromagnetic attacks can even be performed at a distance. As an example, attacks on cell phones have been demonstrated at a range of 30 feet. DPA countermeasures are essential to protect devices that use cryptographic keys, especially sensitive defense applications that require strong anti-tamper protection of advanced electronics and commercial devices that perform high-value processing, including mobile devices and IoT endpoints.

Although I am not privy to any official information from government agencies I can develop an example of security treats from published articles, both in print and on the net.  The network of cell phones is a good example of a candidate IoT.  If one wants to gather information on the location and use of individual cell phones and the relationship between and among two or more such devices it can use the cell phone networks.  My cell phone, for example, gathers environmental information, location, and behavioral profile as I go about my daily activities.  It also records and submits to my service provider who I call, how long I talk, what data I download, what pictures I upload, and so on.  Without security such information is available to any one capable and willing to build and use a tracking system to collect and analyze all that data.  Can my cell phone be disabled remotely?  Can an app be installed on it without my knowledge?  The answer is yes for both questions.


In spite of what some editors and analysts have written, there is not a clear, generally shared definition of IoT that can be used as a base for architectural design at all hierarchical levels of IoT.  So in this article I chose to write about IoT definition as well as two issues that are not much talked about: standards, and security.  Obviously there is much more to say about IoT, and I am grateful to all those who have sent a large volume of input for this article.  What I have learned I will not keep for myself and I will share more information about IoT in the near future.

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