Week In Review: Design, Low Power

MCU on steroids; open-source SW testing; Cadence grows; Huawei indicted.


Arm rolled out a micro neural processing unit that, when combined with its newest microcontroller, can increase machine learning performance by up to 480 times. The company is aiming the MCU and co-processor across a wide swath of applications. Worth noting is that Arm calls its Cortex-M55 an AI-capable processor, rather than a microcontroller, as the lines between the various processing cores continue to blur and more intelligence is added into the edge and even endpoint devices.

Synopsys uncorked a new communications subsystem for its ARC processor IP targeted for wireless Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) designs. Integrated into the IP are a processor, hardware accelerators, deidicated peripherals and an RF interface. The company is targeting ultra-low bandwidth applications, such as machine-to-machine communication. The company also introduced an application security testing solution for analyzing both open-source and proprietary code. The solution includes static application security testing, software composition analysis, both of which can be done using a developer’s interactive development environment.

Cadence acquired Integrand Software, which makes solver technology for analysis and extraction in 5G RF, allowing designers to simulate large ICs and advanced packages, characterize passives and analyze the interconnect parasitics in 3D-ICs.

Cadence also reported its numbers for the full year and last quarter of 2019. For the year, revenue grew 9.2% to $2.336 billion, up from $2.138 billion in 2018, while net income was $989 million versus $346 million in 2018. For Q4, revenue was $600 million, compared with $570 million in the same period in 2018, and net income was $660 million versus $98 million, respectively. In a statement, CEO Lip-Bu Tan attributed the increase to 5G, AI and hyperscale computing, all of which are driving design activity. Cadence estimates revenue in Q1 will be in the $610 to $620 million range.

Moortec will open a third office in Bristol, U.K., the third office for the Plymouth-based company. The company’s other office is in Poland.

Mythic, which makes AI processors, has standardized on Mentor‘s platform for verifying analog circuits and analyzing device noise. Mythic also chose Mentor’s platform for verifying mixed signal functionality in Intelligence Processing Units (IPUs).

Mobile troubles
The U.S. Dept. of Justice indicted Huawei and four subsidiaries — Huawei Device, Huawei Device USA, Futurewei Technologies and Skycom — as well as the company’s CFO with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This is the same 1970 law used to prosecute organized crime. It allows prosecution and civil penalties against ongoing criminal enterprises. Prior to the passage of this law, prosecutors could only try mob-related crimes individually.

The DOJ claims Huawei stole IP by recruiting employees from other companies and directing them to provide confidential information, and used professors as proxies to obtain information. The DOJ also said Huawei had a policy of financially rewarding employees who obtained confidential information from competitors. Moreover, it claims that Huawei officials lied to the FBI, to Congress, and obstructed justice.

How this plays out for the semiconductor industry remains to be seen. Huawei is a major customer for many technology vendors outside of China, and it is a major competitor across a number of markets such as smart phones.

Meanwhile, off in another corner of the mobile phone market, Essential, a heavily funded company developing a new “mobile computing paradigm,” has decided to shutter its doors. The company, started by former Google veteran Andy Rubin, had developed a titanium-body phone with a 360° camera that sold unlocked for about half the price of competitors’ phones, but it failed to gain traction in the market.

To make matters worse for this market segment, Mobile World Congress canceled its upcoming show due to the coronavirus.

And finally, on a more upbeat note, Broadcom rolled out a WiFi 6E chip, which is aimed at the 6GHz band. The company claims more than 2Gbps speeds and up to 5 times better battery utilization.

Check out upcoming industry events and conferences, including FPGA 2020, DVCon, DATE 2020, and the AI Hardware Summit in Europe.  Also find upcoming webinars here covering the latest technologies in the chip industry.

Videos out this week include Changes in AI SoCs discussing the tradeoffs in AI SoCs and Software In Inference Accelerators which explains why hardware-software co-design is so critical for AI inferencing.

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