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IoT SoCs Demand Good Data Management and Design Collaboration

IoT SoCs Demand Good Data Management and Design Collaboration
by Mitch Heins on 09-20-2017 at 12:00 pm

 Design data management has always been important. Board designers have known this for decades as they had to have ways to keep all their discreet components organized and understood. Sourcing components is not easy as it means hours of reading and reviewing specifications, finding reliable sourcing partners and understanding the nuances of what the documentation isn’t telling you.

This was not a big problem for the custom / ASIC designers until the advent of 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] party intellectual property (IP) and system-on-chip (SoC) designs. Up until the early 2000’s most if not all of their design was built and controlled by the design team doing the IC. Since then however, there has been a literal explosion of 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] party IPs made available for IC design, and now with the advent of the Internet-of-Things (IoT), there seems to be a pull for even more.

 IoT design, by its very nature implies a combination of multiple disciplines onto a single IoT SoC. SoCs must be power efficient while at the same time able to fuse data from a variety of sensors and sources some of which themselves will be on the same SoC. The fact that so many domains are being combined implies IP coming from multiple different sources. There is no one company that specializes in analog, digital, microelectromechanical (MEMs), chemical, photonics, memory, processors, graphics, neural nets, big data, RF communications etc. etc. IoT truly puts the term “system” into SoC and that means bringing together the best IP for the job at hand. The value-add for SoC design is how the system brings together different IP into something that creates a unique value proposition to the market place.

So, history repeats itself again. We are back to working out all the sourcing issues that the board designers have had over the last 40+ years. Fortunately for the IoT SoC designers, we’ve had some tool suites come along to help them manage this task. ClioSoft’s designHUB comes to mind. ClioSoft is best known for their data management tool SOS7. While SOS7 is a great tool for data management, it is designHUB that is meant to bring context and organization to the designer’s desktop.

The thing that makes tools like designHUB so necessary is the complexity of what IoT and SoC designs really imply. Many IP suppliers and design houses try to reduce complexity and risk by promoting configurable pre-designed platforms complete with processors and software stacks, interface IP, bus and network-on-chip (NoC) communications fabrics, encryption hardware, radio transceivers, and the like. That’s just the design IP. Then there is all the verification IP that goes with each piece along with prototype test boards, compilers, FPGA emulators etc.

And…since this is all going into an IC you also must remember packaging, design-for-test, design-for-manufacturing, and any qualification steps needed once the IC is manufactured. Needless to say, each one of these items is continually going through revisions and changes. That means the platform you used 6 months ago, and now want to use again has had hundreds of changes applied, some of which you want and some which you may not.

Platforms are great and the way to go, but it all implies a tremendous amount of information that must be obtained, consumed, applied, remembered and revised each time you make a revision to your IoT SoC design. So, while it’s like what the board guys have been doing for years, it’s also made more complex given the systems and designs are now orders of magnitude more complex.

 ClioSoft’s designHUB is a design collaboration ecosystem where users can create, share and reuse design data and IP more easily. ClioSoft’s vision is that this is all encompassing and includes design IPs (internal and 3[SUP]rd[/SUP]party), verification IP, documents, user experiences, scripts, methodologies, libraries, ideas and even discussions. It’s ability to enable designers to collaborate, share and reuse all types of information is what makes it truly interesting for IoT SoC design. As already mentioned, IoT design is diverse and cuts across multiple engineering domains and it is designHUB’s crowd sourcing and dashboard social media capabilities that make it attractive for enabling engineers of disparate backgrounds to come together on design solutions.

As IoT moves into mission critical applications such as autonomous vehicles, electric grids, traffic control systems and the like, there will be a bigger and bigger demand for requirement traceability and IP tracking both to ensure quality before deployment but also to be able to service these systems once in the field. ClioSoft’s designHUB seems to be well positioned to address the IoT space and would look to be an important part of anyone’s IoT design environment.

About ClioSoft: ClioSoft was launched in 1997 as a self-funded company, with the SOS design collaboration platform as its first product. The objective was to help manage front end flows for SoC designs. The SOS platform was later extended to incorporate analog and mixed-signal design flows wherever Cadence Virtuoso[SUP]®[/SUP] was predominantly used. SOS is currently integrated with tools from Cadence[SUP]®[/SUP], Synopsys[SUP]®[/SUP], Mentor Graphics[SUP]®[/SUP] and Keysight Technologies[SUP]®[/SUP]. ClioSoft also provides an enterprise IP management platform for design companies to easily create, publish and reuse their design IPs.

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ClioSoft Products