May 07, 2007
DATE 2007 Part 2 – Special Days, Frustrating Hours
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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The 2007 European Conference on Design Automation and Test in Nice (April 16-20) featured two Special Day topics -
Ubiquitous Communication on Wednesday and
Aeronautics and Space on Thursday.

On Wednesday, delegates heard how the world of Ubiquitous Communication is moving forward quickly. On Thursday, delegates heard how the world of Aeronautics and Space is also moving forward quickly, just not quite so quickly. On both days, delegates heard that although the two worlds may march to different drummers, they both are banging their drums loudly calling out for better product security and improved standards.

Luckily for some, they weren’t banging the drums too loudly – at least on Wednesday morning – because Tuesday evening was the now-annual, now-legendary, DATE “International Informal Press Dinner” assembled by the impresario of élan,
Freddy Santamaria. This year’s hosts were ACE‘s
Martijn de Lange, AWR’s
Heikki Rekonen, CST‘s
Martin Timm, Fenix Design’
Hein van der Wildt, and Vast Systems‘
Alain Labat. It was a grand evening of good food at a great restaurant in the heart of Nice with well over 60 people in attendance and delightfully short welcoming speeches from the host companies. Everyone involved should be credited for a marvelous evening.

Meanwhile, for those cynics among you who think this kind of event is just a marketing ploy on the part of the sponsoring companies – not to worry. I’m pretty sure no customer ever bought a piece of design software or hardware just because the executives of a vendor company hosted an event for the press. Customers are too smart for that. Aren’t they?

For instance, clearly Mentor hosted several events to introduce their Veloce emulation product, but EVE was also showcasing a new emulation product at DATE, ZeBu-AX, based on the company‘s recent acquisition of Tharas Systems. Although the EVE demonstration did not include a champagne reception (that I‘m aware of), surely emulation customers will be benchmarking the product against other offerings in the market from companies such as Cadence and Mentor Graphics before buying, champagne or no champagne.

Meanwhile, speaking of champagne, apparently it was flowing at the OpenCoSy Community booth on the DATE Show Floor where researchers from RWTH Aachen, TU Delft, University of Edinburgh, Leiden University, and the University of Amsterdam were demonstrating their research on open compiler technology associated with CoSy from ACE. I’m sorry to have missed visiting that booth, not because of the champagne as much as having missed a chance to talk with the folks from the various universities.


Ubiquitous Communication was well covered on Wednesday at DATE. Numerous technical sessions throughout the day, and the lunchtime keynote, touched on topics such as design, verification, and test, security and trust, power consumption, and various business issues related to everywhere, all-the-time connectivity and data sharing.

The discussions covered a plethora of different systems – everything from consumer electronic devices that support entertainment and social networks, to data and video sharing, RFID (radio-frequency ID) devices, and a host of financial connectivity devices such as SmartCards and remote banking schemes.

The keynote address came from Innovision’s CTO, Dr.
Heikki Huomo, and was very well attended. He argued that some models for the structure to support ubiquitous communication borrow heavily from a classic AI approach (artificial intelligence), where the system uses the context of the application to narrow down choices being offered to the user. He also said that “touch has become the new click,” where many devices are geared towards a screen user-interface rather than a mouse user-interface.

Dr. Huomo noted the
Near Field Communication Forum (NFC Forum), supported by over 100 financial institutions, telecomm and semiconductor companies, is working to develop standardization and implementation of short-range wireless interaction in consumer electronics, mobile devices, and PCs. He also noted that there are huge privacy concerns around all of this technology, whether it be the protection of personal financial records in using short-range banking devices or the protection of personal conversations on handheld communication devices.

Privacy protection schemes, embedded security keys, and cunning algorithms were the topic of a morning session I attended that included papers from KU Leuven’s Dr.
Ingrid Verbauwhede and Virginia Tech’s Dr.
Patrick Schaumont. Their work centers around efficient implementation of security algorithms that are trustworthy and resistant to attack.

The presentation distinguished between several classifications of attack: active, which includes power glitches or large pulse attacks; passive, which includes EM radiation bombardment of hardware; invasive, which includes bus probing of systems; and non-invasive, which includes power measurements of systems over time to decode privacy keys, etc. The laundry list of categories of attack was staggering.

The researchers also presented a particularly intriguing study from the University of Washington. Nike apparently has partnered with Apple to include a device in their running shoe that’s got a wireless link to a runner’s iPod. Researches at UW were able to easily break into these Nike-iPod networks for dozens of runners and track their movements around campus, the tracking completely undetected by the runners themselves.

The overall intent of the presentation was to impress upon both hardware designers and the software designers the extreme need for extraordinary precaution in designing systems which are vulnerable as far as tracking and privacy are concerned. The presentation also emphasized that security strategies are
never “free.” There has to be a systematic approach to resolving the growing body of security concerns related to the explosion of wireless devices that are becoming a ubiquitous part of the fabric of life.


In and around the sessions on Ubiquitous Communication on Wednesday, I had a chance to meet with a variety of different companies in the Press Room and on the Show Floor. The list included AWR, Carbon Design, CoFluent, CST, Coupling Wave Solutions, Esterel, EVE, IMEC, OCP, Synopsys, and Yogitech. Conversations such as these are often useful to journalists, albeit difficult to shoehorn into a conference schedule when time might be better spent attending sessions. It’s a perpetual conundrum: Where is the greater learning to be had? In sessions (that often detail technical accomplishments from the companies) or in company meetings (that often also detail technical
accomplishments from companies, with just a bit more spit and polish). The answer is never quite clear.

Anyway, early Wednesday morning I met with OCP Chairman & President
Ian Mackintosh. Ian’s quite committed to the mission of the organization: “We are trying hard to start an industry-wide discussion about benchmarking networks-on chip.

“We discovered many years ago the need to benchmark embedded processors. Now we have heterogeneous, multi-core SoCs and are not so interested in any one particular processor. [In fact], the network now is the system and, as a consequence, we need to have a standard way to look at the NoC. With OCP-IP, you have a way to look at a diverse set of IP, at different configuration techniques, and [new developments] in the NoC space. I feel that OCP is the only game in town looking out into the future of these types of multi-heterogeneous systems.”

At the other end of day, late Wednesday afternoon, I met with
Rudy Lauwereins, DATE General Chair, and on the staff at IMEC and KU Leuven. He told me the DATE committee was very pleased with the way the conference was going. He noted that the vendors in booths on the downstairs Show Floor (there were two floors) felt they had had more traffic than those upstairs, while the vendors in the booths upstairs felt they had had more traffic. Sounded like a win-win situation to me.

Rudy and I also talked about various research initiatives underway at IMEC, including software-defined radio and compilers that would support multi-core parallelism. My conversation with Rudy emphasized an impression I had all week in Nice – that DATE is a more systems and software-centric conference than DAC. I could be wrong, but that was my impression.


So, Thursday was a Special Day on Aeronautics and Space. I was able to attend the morning sessions, a few minutes of the keynote, and ended the day by moderating a disastrous panel from 4:00 to 5:30 regarding Open Source in Aerospace.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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