Formal In The Spotlight

Automated apps have driven widespread adoption of formal, so now more engineers seek to become experts.


Who doesn’t like a great family picture during the festive season? Of course, those occasions call for reasonably elegant attire. When in the spotlight, most people like to get somewhat more formal.

It seems that in the semiconductor world, it’s the reverse. As formal verification transitioned from a niche technology to mainstream over the past few years, formal verification engineers and their work have enjoyed increased attention at conferences and trade shows. Panels, paper presentations, and even entire events dedicated to the latest applications of formal verification are more prevalent than ever.

This trend is set to continue. With complex electronics extending its reach well beyond computers, smartphones, and networks to become a key differentiator in cars, wearables, and even thermostats, the need for solutions enabling secure, safe, and right-first-time hardware can only increase.

Prime yourself for more formal in the spotlight.

Safety-critical designs, particularly for automotive, were a big trend in 2016. That continued in 2017 and shows no sign of slowing down. Big companies looking to get a slice of the market or increase their share are laying out the next generation of standard-compliant development flows. They are searching for the best solutions in each piece of the puzzle, and pre-silicon validation and verification is a crucial piece indeed. Engineering teams need the fastest fault simulator, the best methodology to insert and verify safety mechanisms, the most reliable and knowledgeable partners to make sure solutions are future-proof and meet the requirements of safety standards like ISO 26262.

Formal technology is synonymous with high-quality verification. EDA companies like OneSpin leveraged their long-standing relationships with key automotive hardware suppliers to develop know‑how, documentation, and additional technology—including under-the-hood proof engines and intuitive user interfaces—that addresses specific challenges of safety-critical hardware.

A trickle-down effect of the safety-critical trend is that even small and mid-size companies with no knowledge in formal, and not in the traditional formal sweet spot (e.g., analog and mixed-signal), are starting to follow critical mass. They are investing in formal technology and looking for vendors that can give them the same level of attention that bigger players enjoy.

With the use of formal having reached widespread adoption thanks to automated apps, there is also a reverse trend going on, with more attention given to engineers who want to become formal experts. We’re seeing more presentations at conferences and public events focused on advanced formal topics. Much is going on behind the scenes, including dedicated trainings and support to advance design verification groups’ capabilities to reap the benefits that less automated, expert-led applications of formal can deliver. This includes complete functional sign-off of critical modules and IP.

Formal verification has reached recognition and widespread adoption in the industry. The great news is that with an ever-increasing need for high-quality hardware, and tight budget and time constraints, companies are integrating formal in their new flows from the ground‑up, no longer treating this powerful technology as an after-the-fact add-on.

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