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The design industry has always had trouble touting its technology. The time has come for change.


One of the common complaints from around the semiconductor industry is that design teams don’t get recognized. Appreciation comes readily to brands such as Apple or Samsung, but it is several levels of abstraction removed from the companies that develop the processors, let alone the tools, materials, methodologies or processes that make those processors possible.

Worse, energy efficiency has long been at the bottom of the list of attributes that consumers of technology recognize as critical. Historically it has been a nice-to-have feature, but the real battle was between cost, features, and those annoying delays that are equated with performance. In fact, until recently, many of the power-saving features that were painstakingly developed by design teams were completely ignored by device manufacturers.

That’s changing, of course. More features, particularly streaming video and gaming, mean even more energy-efficient designs are required. And being able to eke more battery life out of a design has now become a competitive advantage. Being able to carry around a charger with a device is not. And even in data centers, being able to keep performance consistent while chopping energy bills for both powering machines and then cooling them is being closely watched.

Blame flows downhill rather quickly. Recognition does not. In fact, sometimes it never reaches the bottom. But that recognition is necessary because it often is directly tied to higher profits, providing the market isn’t grossly overcrowded. With the focus on efficiency, there is plenty of room for companies to stretch out and find a sparsely populated niche—providing they can get recognized for it.

Many engineering-driven companies assume they will win if they create the best products. That’s increasingly true with low-power designs. But reaping the full rewards of their efforts requires them to be able to think up several levels of abstraction in the supply chain and to market the end-customer benefits and options. This is marketing at its finest, and it’s something engineering-driven companies don’t do very well even in the best of times, let alone when markets become overcrowded and mature.

Energy is a new wrinkle in all of this. It’s resonating with the end customer, the device manufacturer and all the way throughout the supply chain. In business timing is everything, and when it comes to energy the time is now. So what’s your company saying about it? And even more important, what’s it doing?


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