DAC 2015 Day 2: Keynotes, Tutorials and More

Hardware design gets put in its place, Google discusses its Smart Lens, tutorials get rolling, exhibition floor opens and the schedule gets crazy.

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Walking to DAC, you had to pass the Apple Developers Conference. The line to get in wrapped all the way around the block and there were many peaceful protests directed towards them. Large TV trucks, trucks from CNN, MSNBC and many others lined the streets to hear about new capabilities coming to the group of people who create the Apps for Apple devices. None of them were probably even aware that across the street was a conference related to how all of the chips within those devices are designed and built. While Apple may care who can help them make their technology faster, using less power and cheaper, nobody else cares. Hardware is becoming invisible, unless it has round corners.

Inside the Design Automation Conference, the keynote speaker was humorously upset that it was an Apple Watch that was being given away as a prize for filling in an EDAC survey rather than a Google device. The keynote provided by Brian Otis was standing room only. They were here to hear about a Google development called the Smart Lens. It is basically a soft contact lens with circuitry built into it to perform glucose testing for people with diabetes. The talk concentrated on the medical side of the technology and the challenges they had to overcome in things like the thickness of the circuitry, that it had to operate on scavenged power, as well as its size.

Brian Otis

Following the keynote, he was made available to the press for additional questions. Those questions asked about fairly high level issues, such as the technology they were using and the node size. He declined to answer such questions saying that they had to protect the confidentiality of their partners. The only partner mentioned was Novartis who was the fabricator of the contact lens optics and may have been involved in the manufacture of the final device. He also declined to discuss security and privacy issues related to the data being produced.

Following the keynote, Monday is Tutorial day – each session lasting 90 minutes. One such session discussed lithography possibilities beyond multi-patterning. The speakers talked about technologies such as EUV and Directed Self Assembly and tool challenges beyond the ones associated with bringing the technologies into production. Much of this concentrated on mask defects and ways to overcome them, including the fact that many of them will continue to require multiple patterning to get down below 10nm. Speakers included Puneet Gupta, a faculty member of the Electrical Engineering Department at UCLA, Arindam Malik, senior researcher in the Logic Technology department at IMEC and Andres Torres, Advanced RET Flow Architect in the Design to Silicon Division at Mentor Graphics. These are a great way for someone to get a quick immersion (pun not intended) into a technology and to find out the directions that the industry is taking to solve specific problems.

Going out onto the exhibition floor, it continues to shrink. Large areas that were filled last year are now seas of plain carpet. In the outskirts is the Pavilion Theater that is being used to hold the Sky talks as well this year. Over lunch, people got to hear from Telle Whitney from the Anita Borg Institute. She talked about women in technology companies, the problems they face and some of the things that can be done to make women feel more welcome, more involved and to provide the leadership that would draw more of them into the industry. Whitney showed charts showing the huge gap that exists between the number of computer science positions and the number of graduates. She asked, why are we not attracting more from this huge pool of educated women?

Whitney graphic

Another Sky talked focused on security and the types of attacks we are seeing today. Charles Hudson, Jr. of Comcast talked about current best practices in the context of the IoT.

Along with the public events that staff members of SemiEngineering attended, we also conducted several roundtables that you will get to enjoy in the coming weeks. Conferences such as DAC still provide the best opportunities to get a large number of experts together and to take the pulse of the industry.

For members of the press and industry analysts, Mentor put on an event that contained wonderful food, drink and entertainment. Wally Rhines started the event with a quick analysis of the 15 acquisitions that have happened in our industry so far this year. His conclusion was that companies starting with the letter A are twice as likely to be acquired by a company starting with M than it is with a company starting with C.

On a slightly more serious note Anna Cirkle, the DAC chair this year had set her sights high for increased attendance, compared to last year. She is waiting on tender hooks to see how well she did. The growth, she said, would be in the designer and IP tracks, and those have been packed to the gills. We will soon know how successful she has been but whatever the number, the whole industry thanks her for the efforts she has made during the year and we will miss the DAC blog that she has written every week over the past year.