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Archive for February, 2021

Concerns over Nvidia-Arm deal; ISSCC innovations; DAC postponed to December

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

As Alphabet-owned Waymo expands testing of its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, automotive vision startup Recogni raises $48.9 million in a Series B financing round. The autonomous vehicle landscape seems to be evolving quickly – and it will be interesting to see if this will have an impact on Mobileye, under the new Intel CEO. Let’s now move to some weekly news updates.

Qualcomm, Google and Microsoft reportedly against Nvidia-Arm deal

According to a report from CNBC, Qualcomm has told regulators around the world that it is against Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm. Qualcomm reportedly complained to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the European Commission, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority and China’s State Administration for Market Regulation. The FTC’s investigation has reportedly moved to a “second phase” and the U.S. regulator has asked SoftBank (current Arm owner), Nvidia and Arm to provide it with more information. According to a report from Bloomberg, the list of companies complaining to U.S. antitrust regulators about Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm also includes Google and Microsoft. Both CNBC and Bloomberg reports are based on sources who asked not to be identified. Commenting these reports on EETimes, analyst Mike Feibus noted that “not a single Big Tech exec has spoken out publicly against [the Nvidia-Arm deal]”. Feibus also pointed out that the execs he has spoken with over the past few months “say the outcome they fear most is that they might set themselves up for retribution by Nvidia if they object to the acquisition, and the deal is consummated anyway.”

New Arm records

Meanwhile, the value and importance of Arm is reflected in its recently announced results: in the third quarter of 2020 alone, Arm silicon partners shipped 6.7 billion Arm-based chips. Most of them – 4.4 billion – are based on Cortex-M; another key contributor was the Mali graphics processor, which – according to Arm – remains the number one shipping GPU. In calendar year 2020, Arm signed 175 new licenses, bringing the total to 1,910 licenses and 530 licensees.

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SIA letter to Biden; TSMC expansion; processor updates; CEA-Leti quantum computing news

Monday, February 15th, 2021

As widely reported by the media, the Semiconductor Industry Association has sent a letter to President Biden urging him to include in his recovery and infrastructure plan “substantial funding for incentives for semiconductor manufacturing, in the form of grants and/or tax credits, and for basic and applied semiconductor research.” According to SIA, “bold action is needed to address the challenges we face. The costs of inaction are high.” Speaking of challenges,TSMC Board of Directors has recently approved the issuance of bonds for a total amount of nearly $9 billion to finance TSMC’s capacity expansion and/or pollution prevention related expenditures. The Board has also approved the establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary in Japan to expand TSMC’s 3DIC material research, investing $186 million.

Processor updates: Micro Magic, Alibaba, Baidu, NeuReality

Sunnyvale-based Micro Magic claims it has developed an ultra-low power 64-bit Risc-V core consuming only 10mW at 1Ghz, thus achieving a record breaking 250,000 Coremarks/Watt performance. According to the company, the processor – built in a 16nm FinFET process – reaches such an outstanding efficiency when running at a 350mV supply voltage.

Some architecture and performance details about the processors developed by Chinese Internet giants Alibaba and Baidu have recently been made available – along with tons of other interesting content – on the HotChips conference website (HC32 archive). Presentations from the 2020 edition of the event include slides from Alibaba Group describing the Xuantie 910 processor and the Hanguang 800 NPU, as well as slides from Baidu providing some details about the Kunlun processor.

NeuReality, an Israel-based AI hardware startup, has reportedly emerged from stealth mode announcing an $8 million seed round and the addition of Naveen Rao, the GM of Intel’s AI Products Group and former CEO of Nervana System, to the company’s board of directors. NeuReality is reportedly developing a high performance inference platform for datacenters.

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A quick look at DATE Conference 2021

Monday, February 8th, 2021

DATE Conference 2021 was held as a virtual event from February 1st to 5th. As usual, it offered a wide selection of papers – mostly from academic researchers – on a range of topics including design automation, neural networks, automotive applications, quantum computing, security, cyber-physical systems etc. In this article we will briefly summarize just a few papers presented at the DATE 2021 – in no particular order – only to give a taste of the event. For each paper, only the speaker’s affiliation is indicated here, even though the works usually involved multiple universities or research institutions.

University of Stuttgart (Germany) discussed Negative Capacitance Field-Effect Transistors (NCFETs) as a new beyond-CMOS technology with advantages for offering low power and/or higher accuracy for neural network inference; and Ferroelectric FET (FeFET) as a novel non-volatile, area-efficient and ultra-low power memory device.

TU Dresden (Germany) addressed emerging ‘reconfigurable nanotechnologies’ that allow the implementation of self-dual functions with a fewer number of transistors as compared to traditional CMOS technologies. The team developed methods to achieve better area results for Reconfigurable Field-Effect Transistors (RFET)-based circuits.
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Chip shortage; EDA updates; Qualcomm’s automotive offering; rumors of a Texas Samsung fab; AI updates

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Taiwan Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua is the subject of high hopes as the automotive chip shortage continues to be an urgent issue for carmakers around the world. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has reportedly asked Ms. Wang to address this problem in talks with TSMC, and – according to another press report – a similar initiative has been taken in the U.S. by Biden administration officials. Let’s now move to this week’s news summary.

EDA updates: Ansys, Si2

Ansys has recently launched its 2021 R1 release, offering advancements on many fronts such as large electromagnetic system simulations, analysis of signal integrity and power integrity, thermal and mechanical stress on 3D multi-die systems etc. Advancements includes specific solutions for autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle development, etc.

Artificial Intelligence was the common underlying theme of the online workshop hosted by Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) last January 29th. Keith Strier, Vice President of Worldwide AI Initiatives at Nvidia, pointed out the role currently played by Paris-based intergovernmental economic organization OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in helping policy makers around the world to measure AI compute needs and capabilities. Yiorgros Makris from the University of Texas at Dallas discussed the use of machine learning to reduce semiconductor testing costs, urging chipmakers to share their test data with the academy to enable the development of better AI-based test tools. The workshop included an update from the Si2 ‘AI/ML in EDA’ Special Interest Group. Joydip Das – SIG chair and senior engineer at Samsung Austin R&D Center – and Kerim Kalafala – SIG co-chair and senior technical staff member at IBM EDA – recalled the two white papers recently published by Si2 on this topic and preannounced future initiatives such as tutorials.
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