Memory Pill

Emerson Hsiao
Emerson Hsiao
VP of Marketing, Kilopass Technology

Expanding the Total Available Market for Antifuse NVM IP

 
March 28th, 2013 by Emerson Hsiao

The proliferation of cell phones and their voracious appetite for silicon is expanding the total available market for silicon intellectual property (IP) components. These include CPUs, graphics engines, baseband processors, as well as the memory IP these computing platforms depend upon for processing voice and multimedia data and for securing the encryption keys for digital rights management and protecting financial transactions.  As the preferred choice for containing encryption keys in digital set top boxes, anti-fuse non-volatile memory (NVM) IP is becoming an alternative for chips in portable device that access commercial multimedia content and protect financial transactions.

A few years ago, the total available market for NVM IP was on the order of $100M. Today, that number is growing to $500M thanks to the explosion of new portable devices—Google claims 750M units activated as of this month—and the hundreds of thousands of apps being created for them—the Apple App Store alone claims 775,000 this month.  Combine this rapid growth with the replacement cycle of smart devices of a mere 11.5 months, and this means that chip designs that used to be completed in 18 to 24 months have had to shrink to keep pace with this rapid obsolescence. This trend bodes well for all silicon intellectual property vendors.

Until recently, the hurdle IP vendors faced was overcoming a design team’s bias to make versus buy when it came to creating new chip designs. This was especially true with large integrated device manufacturers (IDM) with large captive design teams that could be pressed into service to design whatever circuit a new design needed. However, the shortened cycle for semiconductor replacement has made the make decision a challenging proposition. With the very short design cycle, it becomes unrealistic for the internal design team to keep up with all the IP development. The success of IP companies such as ARM Ltd. and Imagination Technologies broke this bias. IDM chose to concentrate on core competences and leverage the expertise of third party IP vendors who not only had a roadmap of next generation products but a growing hardware and software infrastructure to support those roadmaps.

Antifuse NVM IP vendors, such as Kilopass, are benefiting from these trends for several reasons.  First, security is becoming increasingly important in mobile device designs and antifuse NVM is the most secure method of storing data to prevent hacking.  Second, NVM IP is portable across all the major foundries, thus providing design teams flexibility to choose between more than one foundry, to add a second foundry, or move from one to another. Third, NVM IP scales to each new generation of CMOS process technology because it uses standard logic gates to form the storage bit cell.

The make-versus-buy decisions is shifting to NVM IP for another reason and that is the technology has demonstrated its viability as a reliable means of containing data for the long term. Invented over a decade ago, Kilopass antifuse NVM IP alone has been integrated by over 150 customers, with more than 2 billion units shipped in over 400 industrial, automotive, consumer electronics, mobile and analog and mixed signal chip designs.  Major corporations that may have dismissed third party NVM IP before have proven silicon to allay fears of a field failure betting on a new device technology.  In addition, many of these large corporations have purchased up-and-coming start-ups who were early adopters of antifuse NVM IP. After acquisition, these designs have continued to use the antifuse NVM IP storage in subsequent generations of chips.  These designs have also provided a Trojan horse bringing the IP into companies that chose not to spend the time and resources to evaluate the technology, previously.

Thus, the outlook for third party IP, in general, and antifuse NVM IP, in particular is on track to take an increase proportion of the expanded $500M NVM IP TAM.

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