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Hogan’s Internet of Things Panel

Hogan’s Internet of Things Panel
by Paul McLellan on 06-06-2014 at 10:50 am

 Jim Hogan organized a panel on the Internet of Things (IoT) on Wednesday afternoon. The panellists were Randy Smith of Sonics, Bernard Murphy of Atrenta, Gary Smith (himself) and Frank Shirrmeister of Cadence.

Gary reckons that IoT is a Wall Street buzzword being used to get stock prices up. If you go to a series of presentations of IoT you will realize that they are all talking about something different. So IoT is not a market, medical is a market, mil-aero is a market, automotive is a market and so on.

Frank is skeptical that it will fill fabs since typically these are not large expensive chips. He sees it as hierarchical, with the sensor devices with some compute power linked to a hub (cellphone, computer or living room) and then uplink from there to the cloud. Cloud services are an important part of IoT.

Bernard beat the drum for security. IoT represents a new challenge for security since if you believe the numbers there will be something like a trillion edge nodes. So it looks more like a biological system and perhaps we need to start to think of security the same way as a body with localized defenses, signalling mechanisms, and not the brittle way that anti-virus is done with simple signatures today. Security is better with diversity so cannot have a single means of attack.

Randy sees changes in the market with system companies building chip teams (e.g. Apple, Google, Amazon). It is system companies that know their markets and a lot will be high-volume consumer with very short time to market. IoT will need the equivalent of agile software development but for hardware.

Everyone agreed that verticalization has been a trend for years, especially in the area of design above RTL which can be very market specific. Clearly need cosimulation with sensors, analog etc to be able to do the architectural design.

Power is clearly going to be a big issue. Gary pointed out that servers are not a major driver of the ITRS roadmap. Many will be heterogeneous, designed for specific functions.

The design cycles will be short so this is a real opportunity for FPGAs (although, of course, power is the weakness of FPGAs which inevitably are somewhat wasteful compared to custom gates).

Gary pointed out we are starting to have cross industry competition. The car guys want you to buy a car that has all the electronics and you pay a subscription (think onStar). The phone people want all the smarts in apps on your phones and a receptacle in the car to plug it in.

Software is going to be a big part of the market. Not clear what operating systems will be used or how money will be made. Is Mentor making real money in embedded? The embedded market put all the money into the RTOS and gave away tools and so when open source OS’s like Linux came along that business fell apart. The real business is the tools. Although architects write code in C++ they are actually doing hardware design.

The challenge for the tools are to bring software and analog/sensor closer together. This are probably teams that are not going to buy an emulator.

Economics of designing “smart dust” may need one company, not layers of integration. Build sensor, processor, radio, OS all in one place.

More articles by Paul McLellan…

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