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#55DAC #5: Must-see New Deep Learning Processors, Embedded FPGA Technologies, and SoC Design Solutions in the DAC 2018 IP Track

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Some of the most valuable events at DAC are the IP Track sessions, which give small- and medium-sized companies a chance to share innovations that might not get much attention elsewhere.


The use of IP in SoCs has exploded in recent years. In a panel at DAC 2017, an industry expert noted that the IP market was clearly growing even faster than EDA itself, due to the fact that more and more chip makers are externalizing IP development functions.  This is similar to what happened with EDA tools in the 1990s.  The externalization trend is ongoing, and there is still more IP to be go. With continued advances in semiconductor processing, new systems-on-chip (SoCs) are always increasing in complexity.  Research firms estimate that some SoCs include up to 200 blocks of IP, licensed from multiple companies, ranging from an I/O cell all the way up to an Arm CPU. Identifying and acquiring or designing all of the IP blocks is just the beginning.  The big challenge is when you have to bring all of that IP into one design database and manage the versioning and design flow requirements of each unique block.


So, if you’re working to optimize your designs with IP, come check out the DAC IP track this year.  Most of our sessions consist of invited presentations and panels. We have nine 90-minute sessions total, from Monday through Wednesday of DAC week. Five of the sessions are for invited presentations—three 30-minute presentations each—and two for panels. The final two sessions will showcase submitted and reviewed presentations from industry and academia.  This year, the submissions seem to reflect the increased interest in IP-based design, as we received 25 percent more than we did last year.


One area that is hot across DAC this year is machine learning, perhaps no surprise given how much artificial intelligence and machine learning technology is proliferating in systems and in the media.  We have an IP for Machine Learning session that will be fascinating. Cambricon, an up-and-coming Chinese company, has created the first AI deep learning IP in the world. On Monday morning, they will present the details of their deep learning processor. In the same session, you’ll hear from Cadence, which has developed a neural processor based on its Tensilica architecture, and Dr. Vivienne Sze from MIT, who will discuss the types of hardware that are required for deep learning.


The IP track also includes two panels—one of which focuses on the perennially “hot” topic of low power. Industry editor John Blyler will moderate a panel that includes representatives from companies including TSMC, Microsoft and Minima, for  a wide-ranging discussion of the latest problems in achieving low power for new applications such as virtual reality wearables, IoT devices and even automotive systems.


The IP Track sessions are also a good opportunity for engineers to learn about some types of IP that most have not gotten a lot of exposure to yet. We have an excellent session on embedded FPGA that includes presentations from some of the leaders in this new market: Achronix, Flex Logix and Menta. They will talk about three very different ways of implementing FPGA as an IP which can be instantiated into an SoC, as opposed to the other way around (like Xilinx’s Zynq or Intel/Altera’s SoC FPGA line). Embedded FPGAs used to be a tough sell because FPGAs traditionally required a great deal of area, but eFPGA vendors are getting traction now with these new offerings which are purpose-built products for embedding in SoCs, rather than being derived from existing full chip FPGAs. I’m interested to find out what has made it possible for these vendors to go from “it’ll never work” to “yes, we have customers.” In fact, Flex Logix will have Sandia Labs, a customer, co-present and describe the end application which takes advantage of the reprogrammability of the eFPGA.


Another session I’m personally interested in deals with IP to support CMOS image sensors (CIS). The CIS market is exploding, and image sensors are being integrated in SoCs for multiple applications, including automotive. These new image sensor IPs require new architectures and also innovative mixed-signal design. Chronocam, Austria Micro Systems and Forza Silicon will each present their solutions in this space on Tuesday morning.


At the conference this year, we have an excellent mix of EDA, IP, SoC, and foundry process engineers who will talk about how our industry is changing. This is going to be a great year for DAC. The event is back in San Francisco again this year, so it’s an easy hop from Silicon Valley, just grab the bus and come on up!  I look forward to seeing you in June in San Francisco (June 24-28)!   Register today for the Designer and IP track badge. 

#55DAC: Must-see DAC technical sessions this June in San Francisco

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

By Valeria Bertacco, 55th DAC Conference Program Chair


This June at DAC, we will have the opportunity to discuss and learn about key topics that are emerging in the system design and automation community.


To start, we have the challenge of designing at the end of silicon scaling and beyond: devices, design complexity and verification. On Monday, there will be a tutorial on designing at advanced technology nodes, followed by an invited session on the same topic on Tuesday in the Designer Track.


We will also begin to discuss modern challenges in verification in the face of today’s design complexities. This hot topic will pick up throughout the week with panels, special sessions and reviewed paper presentations, ranging from automating away the complexity of the design process (“the road to no human in the loop” on Tuesday), design productivity (“design productivity in SoC,”  “mind the gap”), verification challenges (“black art of verification”) and new emerging devices (“the zoo of emerging devices”) to design tomorrow’s computing systems.


For those of you  interested in emerging storage and storage technologies, there is also abundant coverage:  From solid-state storage devices (“how solid is your storage,” “solid ideas”), to the storage-centric system solutions (“memory-centric architectures,” “emerging storage,” “memory that never forgets”), complemented by a thorough discussion of the leeway of approximation techniques, in particular in relation to their impact on storage, system reliability and application accuracy (“watch your bits,” “good enough is enough”).


For the researchers, both from industry and academia, we will have a two-hours panel on research funding. Wednesday after lunch we can discuss trends and directions in funding with a slate of panelists from around the globe. This topic is becoming a strong DAC tradition, in light of the interest it has attracted in the recent past.


Moreover, this year at DAC we will begin the conversation about diversity in our industry: what is its value, how do we attain a diverse work environment and what changes do we need to pursue for it to be effective. This discussion will start with an all-day Monday tutorial and will continue with a panel on Wednesday afternoon (“making your team high performing,” “diverse engineering teams are better”).


And then, we have of course the two topics that have been gaining the strongest momentum in the past few DAC events: security and deep learning. On the security front, the program offers two tutorials on “IoT security” and “verification for security.” Once we have built the background knowledge, the program offers multiple sessions each day, discussing software and hardware security, ranging from “best practices” in the designer track, to innovative solutions, both at the architectural and logic levels, in the context of general and embedded systems, particularly the highly exposed IoT world.


As you probably guessed, deep learning is pervasive throughout the program, and I cannot even begin to list all the sessions that tackle this topic. Just know that we will offer several research presentations, invited sessions and panels, both in the research and designer/IP tracks, presenting how to design for deep learning application systems, and how to leverage deep learning in our design processes; deep learning for security and security in deep learning applications. If you are not a deep learning expert, I strongly recommend the broad offering of tutorials (“ML for EDA,” “ML in IoT,” “data science for verification”) to get you up to speed by Monday night.


As you can see, it’s a packed conference program! I hope you will enjoy it, and find some time for the always important networking, too — at the sessions or at the research lounge. I will be there, walking the hallways and attending the talks, and I am very much looking forward to reconnect with old friends and meet the new faces of DAC!


#DAC55 3: Last Call for Designer and IP Track presentations for 2018 event in San Francisco

Friday, January 19th, 2018

One of the most popular part of Design Automation Conference needs you! The Designer and IP tracks are open for submissions and you have until Jan. 23 to send in your abstracts.

These sessions are where industry experts discuss different tools, flows, and methodologies that will help you and your design team. In addition, they provide excellent opportunities for education and networking between end users and tool developers.

I’ve been to many of these sessions in recent years, and if attendance is any indication, they’ve become valuable parts of the DAC program. Mac McNamara, my predecessor as General Chair last year, compared design to putting socks on a chicken, but I can say from sitting in on several sessions that it can be done!

The Designer and IP track presentations are intended to be free of marketing and sales pitches and tuned to the needs of today’s designers. That’s a key reason they’ve become so popular. Not only will your work receive a lot of attention from fellow designers and tool users but the submission process is extremely easy.

All you need to do to is to submit a 100-word description of your presentation with six slides. Yes, you did read correctly – six slides and 100 words.  If it’s accepted you can begin to educate the 2018 attendees how to put socks on those chickens!

This year’s Designer Track and IP Track will include presentations, poster sessions and a rich set of invited talks/panels for information exchange and interactions.

The DAC Designer Track brings together IC designers, embedded software and system developers, automotive electronics engineers, security experts, engineering managers, and verification engineers from across the globe. Past presenters have included AMD, ARM, Bosch, BMW, Cadence, Delphi, GM, and more.

Leading the Designer track committee is Chair Zhuo Li from Cadence. Zhuo has been a member of the DAC Executive Committee for several years and has experience in leading the Designer Track program.  Zhuo is joined by designer track Vice Chairs Robert Oshana from Qualcomm/NXP and Renu Mehra from Synopsys. Rounding out the excellent team are subcommittee chairs that come from companies such as Global Foundries, AMD, Intel, NXP and Analog Devices. A complete list can be found here.

The IP track this year is chaired by Ty Garbere, here in the Silicon Valley. Ty is new to the Executive Committee but not new to IP.  Ty and his team stretches from the Austin, Texas, to the Bay Area to Marseille, France (see all the names and affiliations here).


As part of our outreach to attendees for these tracks, we like to say there is no better way to improve your “Design and IP IQ” in such a short amount of time. To help improve that IQ, submit your proposed presentations today! And remember to visit the for updates as we head into the final months of planning for 2018.


#55DAC 2: Teams tackle deep learning in DAC design contest

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017


When it comes to tackling leading-edge design challenges in fun ways, there’s no better place than DAC. For DAC 2018, we’ve created a System Design Contest targeting machine learning on embedded hardware.

If you think this is too leading edge for a design contest, you’d be mistaken: More than 100 teams registered for the contest. You can find a full list of the teams here:

So how does the contest work:

Teams had the choice of using a Xilinx PynQ-Z1 FPGA-based development system or an NVIDIA Jetson TX2 development system, as well as software and deep-learning tools kits. Xilinx and NVIDIA donated boards to support the efforts.

Drone maker DJI donated a data-set that included more than 100 video clips with full annotation of the bounding box for the tracking object (a person or car).

The teams built either FPGA- or GPU-based systems to track people and vehicles from consumer drones using deep learning methods running on advanced embedded systems platforms. A hidden dataset is used to evaluate the performance of the designs in terms of accuracy and power consumption.


Introducing the 55th DAC General Chair – Dr. Sharon Hu

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

My first time attending DAC was in 1991, and I am so excited to be serving as the General Chair for the 55th annual conference this June. Coming from academia and meeting new people in the industry sector who have been involved with DAC for years, I thought this to be good opportunity to introduce myself to the entire community.

I got my start in engineering as an undergraduate student. Both of my parents were engineers and encouraged me to pursue engineering as well. I studied electrical engineering and came to like it very much. Before making the jump into academia, I worked at the General Motors Research Labs for four years right after receiving my Ph.D. At that time, I was exposed to the emerging area of hardware-software co-design and really enjoyed it. Over time I began to realize that many factors in industry could constraint the choices of research projects that one can work on. When an opportunity came up, I decided to make the switch to academia. Currently, I am a computer engineering professor at the University of Norte Dame and love being able to work with students who are as interested in this field as much as I am. There is a drive for learning in these students, and I see the same passion when I attend DAC.


Now onto DAC 2018 and the task of being General Chair. We are a part of an industry that is changing and evolving, and DAC is a major part of the industry ecosystem and a large task for one person to manage as I have learned. Thankfully, I have been able to head a committee of people who are as passionate as I am. I’m proud to be working with such a talented and diverse group of volunteers from academia and industry that span many sectors including electronic design automation (EDA), design, embedded systems, intellectual property (IP) and semiconductors. You may be hearing from some of these folks over the next 10 months as we plan the overall program, so please take a look and welcome the 2018 Executive Committee (EC):


The EC has a team building ritual during the first onsite planning meeting that is held each September. This year’s event was hosted by Cozy Meals in San Francisco.  It was a wonderful night of getting to know each other by cooking together and sharing our culinary experiences. As I hoped we would, this group enjoyed the evening and shared many stories and laughter.




There are a number of things that I really like about DAC, but towards the top of that list is the format of the conference. There aren’t many places where research, learning sessions, and exhibitions co-exist. DAC’s wide range allows me to hear cutting-edge research results on a diverse set of topics while being able to interact with friends and colleagues from all over the world.


And speaking of topics, I’m very excited to have worked with the EC in expanding DAC’s topic areas for 2018.  DAC has a perception in the industry to be an EDA software and chip design conference when in reality over the years DAC has grown its focus from chips to systems.  This year’s topics, which will be incorporated in all aspects of the conference, will focus on

  • Traditional EDA
  • Design
  • Automotive software
  • Embedded systems and software
  • Machine learning/AI
  • IP
  • Security/privacy


I encourage everyone to look closer at DAC’s call for contributions to understand how the conference has evolved over the past 55 years and see where you can be part of this expanding and educational event.  The call for contributions is now open and we are looking forward to receiving submissions for regular research papers, special sessions, panels, tutorials and workshops. The deadline is November 21.  Along with the research focused submissions, the Designer and IP Track submissions are open with a submission deadline of February 3, 2018.


As you can see, each year there are more opportunities to learn and keep up with the industry as it changes, this is another part of DAC that is so special. With the help of the EC, exhibitors, and attendees this year has the potential to be the best DAC yet.


#54DAC #8: Awesome keynotes show how our community has grown

Friday, May 12th, 2017

In case you missed it, we’ve announced our 2017 keynoters, a group that (including the luminaries giving SKY talks) gives you six more very good reasons to be in Austin the fourth week in June. All the information you need on the lineup is here. I know you are perhaps too busy to dig through this, so LMGTFY and share with you some highlights:


#54DAC 7: IoT: Tales from the Frontline.

Friday, April 21st, 2017

We hear from media outlets that Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will be soon be surrounding us in our homes, our offices, our schools; in factories and farms; working to make our life better, or perhaps working to eliminate our species!  Well, 50+ years has taught us that any new technology happens first at DAC, and adding credence to the media’s predictions, you will see IoT technology information and insights everywhere the 54th Design Automation Conference.

There is not some new job title of “IoT engineer.” Instead our familiar, experienced analog, mixed-signal engineers, RF engineers, server architects and mobile developers and verification teams are applying our tools and their skills in this new application area. Since IoT design elements touch most EDA engineering disciplines, we’ve made it easier for DAC attendees to learn what they need to know about IoT trends and technology wherever they are at the Austin Convention Center.

Here’s a sampling of IoT-related presentations that can be found in keynotes, SKY Talks, fireside chats, DAC Pavilion sessions and tutorials:


#54 DAC 6: Program Finalized; Advanced Registration Now Open!

Monday, April 10th, 2017

A DAC winter meeting held in sunny Mexico isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. (Although we did enjoy the break from this winter storms!)

Everybody thinks the Executive Committee members are lounging on the beach enjoying drinks with little umbrellas in them. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

In fact I and 15 other EC members spent most of our February meetings in Puerto Vallarta in a windowless hotel conference room, refining the DAC program and finalizing the details of the big event in Austin, June 18-22.

The hard work of the technical program chairs comes together in rooms just like that one, during the winter of each year, as we knit together the fruits of months of labor by our sub committees to form a coherent program on the projection screen. This year’s program is benefitting big time from that hard work: It’s one of the most compelling I’ve seen in my 20+ years of either attending or being a part of DAC.

Each year it just gets better. Consider that this year the Designer Track has grown to 18 sessions, almost doubling in size in two years. This includes eight invited sessions, two panels, eight submitted sessions and more than 80 poster sessions. We had a record number of submissions for this year—149.

What else is in store for attendees? Plenty.

We put together 44 technical sessions, more than 130 research papers, 6 panels and 11 invited sessions spread throughout our seven main topic areas—Automotive, Design, EDA, Embedded Systems & Software, IoT, IP and Security. identified 16 sub-topic areas—from general business to circuit design to low power and reliability to test and verification—to help attendees better tune their experience based on their interests. Some broader areas, for example IoT, have papers spread throughout the program, whether it might be a poster session, an invited presentation, a keynote or a SKY Talk.

This valuable content—created by engineers for engineers—will be found throughout the Austin Convention Center. We’ll have content on the exhibit floor in the DAC Pavilion, in the hallways, meeting rooms on all floors; in short, all over the location.

Take a tour of the program here and start to tick off what you’re not going to want to miss. Me? I want to see the Monday afternoon panel Growing IC Design and Ecosystem in China, moderated by EE Times editor Junko Yoshida; Joe Costello’s Monday morning keynote, IoT: Tales from the Front Line; Tuesday afternoon’s RISC-V Implementation Considerations presentation; the Sunday DAC workshop on autonomous vehicles. I could go on, but you have your own interests, so check it out.

It’s easy to register too, and I hope to see you there. Maybe then we can have an umbrella-festooned cocktail or two!

Register for DAC at:

#54 DAC 5: Why DAC’s a better place than ever to exhibit

Monday, March 6th, 2017

You’ll notice something different when you walk into the Exhibit Hall at the Austin Convention Center this coming June. We are very excited to be featuring new suites from Freeman, one of the most innovative event-marketing vendors around. (Seriously, they do great work; browse their site for five minutes and you’ll see what I mean.)

Here are just a few of the upgrades that are in the works:

  • Quieter booths. The Exhibit Hall can be a hive of activity with demos and in-booth presentations and giveaways. This of course generates noise, great when it comes to the general energy level and enthusiasm on the floor but occasionally challenging when it comes to having quiet 1:1 conversations. The new suite walls include hidden sound batting to help put a necessary damper on din and make it easier to talk.
  • Real doors with privacy shades. The bigger booths include improved suite rooms for private meetings. Most spaces at DAC are highly social and public so we’ve made an effort to ensure the upgraded suite rooms are as private as possible. New doors have regular door locks as you have on your office/home doors, pull the privacy shade (each door is equipped with a privacy shade) and get down to business finally landing the deal or partnership you’ve been working on for months.
  • More graphics, easier to hang monitors. Your booth first and foremost represents your brand. We all know that lots of casual conversations at DAC start with “Did you check out the booth of…?” This year it will be easier than ever to have your brand shine by adding graphics and logos to seamless tension fabric inside or outside the suites. And the wall is sturdy enough that you can quickly and easily hang monitors with some help from labor but minimum work required.

You’ll find most of the practical details on how to get started as an exhibitor here. (One pro-tip to know is that the new suites are measured in the metric system this year. I know you can handle it; we’ve been talking about nanometer-scale manufacturing process nodes forever, after. But keep that in mind when considering your floor plan, submitting materials and so on.) And you can always email Stacy Dilallo or Susie Horn, MP Associates for further information.


We’ve come a long way, baby! Above a DAC booth in the early 1980s.


#54 DAC 4: DAC’s Designer and IP Tracks and the limits of social media

Friday, February 17th, 2017

When it comes keeping the growth of design productivity exponential, a key barrier that fell in the past ten years is due to the increasing use of social media, which set free the exchange of focused, expert knowledge, from user to user.  On the web we have very helpful company-curated user forums; and often even better, the stack-exchanges which are user curated, where readers up-vote the most helpful content and as a result these are often the very best place to visit to get unstuck from a problem you recognize you have.

These forums and posts are all reactions against the underfunded, or poorly directed tech publishing team, tasked perhaps by marketing (or the simple desire to keep their employment) to only document what works; and never mention an alternative solution.

Of course a web search will also take you to the swampy places where all you find is others who are stuck with similar problems, and they just bemoan that the vendor doesn’t care, or take you through a litany of things they’ve tried that didn’t work.  One also finds the beginning of tutorials, part one of what was to be a twenty volume tutorial where the blogger planned to impart the wisdom of the ages for how to build the magical thing – and only part one got written – and even that is now out of date.

So, search works great — when you have an idea what the problem is, and you are following a large crowd who has been there before, and they’ve taken the time to create hints.


Going hands-on at last year’s Designer/IP track session, with no marketeers in sight!


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