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Collaboration was, of course, the presiding theme at the TSMC Open Innovation Platform® Ecosystem Forum on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the San Jose Convention Center. This year, the keynote talks focused on four key application pillars: mobile, high-performance computing, automotive, and the internet of things (IoT).
TSMC offers application-specific platforms for each of these four areas, and most are ready for 7nm designs. These platforms are based on multiple, integrated components and layers, including process and optimized EDA solutions, design flows, design guidelines, process development kits (PDKs), technology files, intellectual property (IP), processor cores, and reference sub-systems. As for the pillars, the foundry has specific goals for each platform to meet:
TSMC 12-inch wafer fab (Photo courtesy of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.)
While TSMC emphasized that collaboration with its ecosystem partners is critical to enabling the foundry to meet its goals, another theme during the keynote talks was connectivity. Dr. Dipesh Patel, GM and executive vice president of the IoT Business Unit and Incubation Businesses at ARM, spoke on the topic. Referring to the four pillars highlighted by TSMC, Patel noted, “When I look at the next big things, it reminds me of a world of connected opportunity” because, essentially, nothing can be done in a vacuum. At ARM, he said, technologists assess the next big things—and how to fuel their growth and innovation—through the lens of the intelligent, flexible cloud.
Mobile will continue to drive innovation in the industry, encouraging new immersive user experiences and, thus, requiring SoCs with sustainable performance, increased graphics processing capabilities, and high-speed connectivity. 5G, Patel said, represents a big opportunity. “5G promises a lot, it could drive the next 20 years of innovation around us. It’s going to carry on the always on, always connected world,” he said, adding that the 1ms latency and 10GB throughput will drive new use cases. At the same time, supporting 5G applications calls for better compute density, memory bandwidth, and interconnect performance.
High-performance computing will continue to require more performance per watt and greater compute density. In automotive, reliable real-time computing, functional safety, power efficiency, and sustainable performance are among the challenges—or opportunities—for engineers to address. As for IoT, Patel envisions the emergence of many more connected devices, about 80% to 90% of which will be invisible to us. Therefore, low power consumption and long battery life are essential. “We’re going to have to think outside the silicon for the challenges we’ll face in IoT,” he noted.
ARM® partners are shipping 4 to 64 cores on a single die to deliver extra compute performance and up to 7X improvement in performance/watt compared to legacy systems. The company is continuing to work on alternative memory technology to deliver the bandwidth needed. I/O technology will need to scale for both on and off chip functions.
Indeed, there are many challenges to solve but, if you’re like Patel, this climate also makes it an exciting time to be an engineer.