Technology predictions for 2013

-January 10, 2013

When you ask people to make predictions, it is usually inspired by the problems that are on their mind at the time. It provides an indication of where they will be spending their time, attention and ultimately money in the development of tools or services. A few weeks ago, I asked many companies in the EDA and semiconductor fields for their views on what changes they expect to see in 2013. Needless to say, some themes came up in many people’s response. The full list can be found over on the EDA Designline, but this posting provides a summary of that content.

It is obvious what is driving the markets these days. As Lip Bu Tan – CEO, Cadence stated “The mantra of ‘smaller, faster, cheaper, NOW’ will get louder, as consumers increasingly demand instant access to information anytime, anywhere.” Smart phones, tablets, automobiles and many other devices are now in the realm of always connected and things such as the Cloud mean that many consumers trust other people to securely hold their data for them, but without access to the Internet, that data is locked away. Shawn McCloud of Calypto believes that “70% of all new hardware design will occur for mobile devices”.

These devices continue to integrate more processing power, better graphics capabilities, and lengthening battery life – three things that are creating demands for smaller geometries which at the same time create new difficulties. 3D ICs, 3D transistors and power were the dominant themes in the survey, followed by other design, verification and manufacturing issues.

The first major theme was 3D ICs. Xilinx proved the viability of 2.5D chips in 2012 and memory cubes have been in production for some time.  Mike Santarini of Xilinx says “3D SoC type devices will serve a number of growing markets, most notably in embedded vision for automobiles, factories, security as well as smarter networks with amazing bandwidth capabilities to support a plethora of new connected devices”.

The life of the planar transistor may be coming to an end. Trent McConaghy - CTO Solido states “2013 is the year that FinFET-based design on 16nm becomes widespread, followed by 16nm production in 2014.” While that may be aggressive, a lot of people are spending time on FinFETs at 28m, 20nm and other emerging nodes. Zhihong Liu of ProPlus Design says “2013 will be the year the electronics industry is forced to grapple with 20nm”. Why is this so important? Best stated by Prasad Paranjpe of Synopsys “The single biggest technology driver for MIPs/mWh will be FinFET technology. The power/performance benefits of FinFETs will be the principle way to deliver more performance at the same power or the same performance for less power.”

And speaking of power. Prasad also said “Voltages will go down in order to save power. Lower voltages will make it more critical to manage on chip variation, reliability and signal integrity. Shawn McCloud claims that “Designers will need to optimize at the architecture level where 80% of power decisions are made.”

Finally, several companies such as One Spin and Tektronix talked about the problems associated with verification of these chips and the need to have models available for system development and debug.

More of their predictions in the EDA/IP and business space will be coming over the next week or so.

Brian Bailey – keeping you covered

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