“Transistors are free” was the rallying cry of the semiconductor industry during the 1990s and early 2000s. That is no longer true. The end of Dennard scaling made the simultaneous use of all the transistors troublesome, but transistors remained effectively unlimited. This led to an era where large amounts of flexibility could be built into a chip. It didn’t matter if all of it was being used; greater flexibility made the total market opportunity larger.
How accurate does a system need to be, and what are you willing to pay for that accuracy? There are many sources of inaccuracy throughout the development flow of electronic systems, most of which involve complex tradeoffs. Inaccuracy leaves an impact on your design in ways you are not even aware of, hidden by best practices or guard-banding. EDA tools also inject some inaccuracy.
By Ann Steffora-Mutschler, Semiconductor Engineering
Tools that are commonly used in semiconductor design are starting to be applied at the system level for assisted and autonomous vehicles, setting the stage for more complex simulated scenarios and electronic system design. Simulation is well understood for designing automotive ICs, but now it also is being used to design vehicle architectures and sensors, as well as for sensor miniaturization and for integration within a vehicle. So instead of just simulating chips, these tools are being used for modeling dynamic behavior and possible interactions of vehicles, which is much faster and more efficient than driving billions of miles to find the corner cases.
By Ann Steffora Mutschler, Semiconductor Engineering
Verification is all about mitigating risk, and one of the growing issues alongside of increasing complexity and new architectures is coverage. The whole notion of coverage is making sure a chip will work as designed. That requires determining the effectiveness of the simulation tests that stimulate it, and its effectiveness in terms of activating structures of functional behavior and design.
Why the addition of multiple processing elements and memories is causing so much consternation. An explosion of various types of processors and localized memories on a chip or in a package is making it much more difficult to verify and test these devices, and to sign off with confidence.
As the need for safety and security grows across application areas such as automotive, industrial, and in the cloud, the semiconductor industry is searching for the best ways to protect these systems. The big question is whether it is better to build security and safety into hardware, into software, or both.