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Most new electronic products consist of multi-function system devices made up of subsystems and connected into even larger systems. A system design enablement approach addresses the challenges of this trend by providing a holistic, solutions-focused framework for developing systems of systems. Dr. Qi Wang, VP and chief of staff to the CEO at Cadence, recently discussed system design enablement before a primarily academic audience at the 21st Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC) in Macau. He's on the right in the photo, with Associate Professor Pui-In Mak of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Macau.
In his talk, “Systems of Systems: the Next Frontier of Semiconductor,” Qi explained how a system design enablement approach can address the challenges of designing for social, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), and security applications. In Cadence’s view, system design enablement takes the EDA industry beyond a focus on hardware IC design, encompassing a mission to provide tools, IP, and services that help engineers develop whole systems or end products.
“With recent market developments, there’s some headwinds for the overall semiconductor industry, but because of system design trends, there are lots of opportunities for us,” said Qi during a chat in his office at Cadence’s San Jose headquarters.
Solutions, Not Just Chips, Needed
During his ASP-DAC keynote, Qi talked about market trends that create technical challenges that a system design enablement approach can address. For example, it’s no longer enough to only address traditional semiconductor issues such as timing, power, and performance. There are significant challenges now around time to market, functional partitioning, communications protocols, IP selection, hardware-software verification, reliability, safety, and more.
The “Internet of smart things” is considered a system of systems. Being smart extends beyond the device itself. Consider the smart thermostat—this device must be able to track weather patterns, detect occupancy, learn patterns and, based on the intelligence derived by all of this data, adjust energy use. So, the smart thermostat is no longer simply the knob that you adjust on your wall. As Qi told his audience, smart anything relies on a system of systems, and design for systems of systems call for solutions, not just chips.
Inspiring Future Collaboration with Cadence
For the ASP-DAC audience, hearing about system design enablement was a new experience, said Qi. “Semiconductors in Asia, specially for China, is a rising business, which means demand is high. Compensation is very competitive and new graduates still consider a career in the IC industry cool,” he noted. Asian governments invest heavily in the semiconductor industry, and there’s also a lot of government-funded research at the university level. Even so, encouraging this audience to look at the industry more holistically could inspire future research and collaboration with Cadence.
Indeed, not everyone in the audience was familiar with all of the R&D work that Cadence does in Asia. Patrick Haspel, who runs the Cadence Academic Network, noted that Qi’s talk also helped educate professors and students in attendance about Cadence as a collaborator and a career opportunity.
Who knows? Maybe the next big advancement in system design enablement technologies will trace back to the relationships formed at ASP-DAC.