Internet of Things & EDA

This guest blog is courtesy of Ranjit Adhikary, director of marketing at ClioSoft.

The Internet of Things was a term initially coined in the dot com era for a wireless network between self-configurable objects such as household appliances. People envisaged intelligent appliances that could track things like the amount of milk or vegetables in a refrigerator, automatically re-ordering from the shop when stock fell below a certain threshold. Over time, the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) has morphed to now describe a number of technologies that enable the Internet to communicate with the world of physical objects.

While the concept for the IoT evolved over a decade ago, it has only now started to make waves again. A number of factors such as the cost of the device, form factor, durability, process technologies, etc., helped in creating the sudden resurgence. Although the smartphone greatly revolutionized the usage of the Internet, one can argue that the resurgence of the IoT actually started with the automotive industry. Electric cars like those from Tesla started the trend by bringing in an array of objects that communicated with the Internet.

Recently, Tesla revealed that it can fix its cars “over the air,” while they sit in owners' garages or driveways or in the parking lot at work, in largely the same manner as smartphones receive software upgrades. Devices in an automotive also had to be durable and had to be capable of facing extreme weather conditions. While the average life span of a consumer device, such as a smartphone, is about 21 months, the devices in the automotive industry had an average life span of 10 to 15 years.

To make the Internet of Things a reality, companies have now started looking at embedding short-range mobile transceivers into a wide array of additional gadgets and everyday items, enabling new forms of communication between people and things, and between things themselves. Equally important is the ability to detect changes in the physical status of things and record the changes in the environment. Wireless sensor technology has started to play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds, and enabling things to respond to changes in their physical environment.

From a SoC designer's perspective, Internet of Things means an increase in configurable mixed-signal designs. Since devices now must have a larger life span, they will need to have a software component associated with them that could be upgraded as the need arises over their life spans. Designs created will have a blend of analog, digital, and RF components and designers will use tools from different EDA companies to develop different components of the design. The design flow will increasingly become more complex and the handshake between the digital and analog designers in the course of creating mixed-signal designs has to become better. The emphasis on mixed-signal verification will only increase to ensure all corner cases are caught early on in the design cycle.

But with design teams spread across geographical boundaries, design collaboration is going to become an increasing challenge. The usage of hardware configuration systems such as the SOS design configuration platform from ClioSoft will continue to increase in order to improve design productivity. Release and derivative management will gain more importance since design companies will now have to keep better track of design versions, since customers may have different requirements. Given that lack of proper revision control is one of the major causes of chip failure, the emphasis on revision control will continue to increase.

As companies vie with each other in the global marketplace to introduce different types of Internet-ready objects, they will seek to differentiate themselves with functionality and reliability.

Semiconductor companies will be more challenged to keep track of the designs that go to the different customers and to ensure appropriate bug fixes are provided as needed. EDA companies on the other hand will seek to integrate their tools better with revision control software so as to ease the pain for designers and improve design productivity. From a data management standpoint, data from different tools will co-exist in a single design database. SOS from ClioSoft for example, is already integrated with the analog/mixed-signal tools from Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, and Agilent.

The Internet has made it possible for companies to seek suppliers across the world. As a result, semiconductor companies continue to lay more stress on the design cost and will strive to keep it as low as possible. In order to keep the cost of designs low, there will be more emphasis on design reuse across companies. Stress will also be laid on creating a design hub where designers can browse through IPs, track issues, collaborate across remote centers on creating and maintaining IPs, and manage projects.

A designer's life was simpler in the absence of mobile devices and Internet, about 15 to 20 years back. Design flows were relatively simple and most design groups used to tape out one SoC a year. With the growing popularity of mobile devices, the marriages between those devices, the Internet and the software industry, to create the smartphone was a natural outcome aimed at increasing the size of the marketplace.

While the smartphone was intended to help people be more efficient, it has added increased complexity into the lives of designers. Design flows became more complex and so did collaboration with designers/design groups located in remote sites. And with IoT gaining momentum, one can only imagine how complex the designer's life is going to be.

22 comments on “Internet of Things & EDA

  1. etnapowers
    April 16, 2014

    “one can argue that the resurgence of the IoT actually started with the automotive industry”


    Automotive is for sure one of the most important areas of interest of the Internet of Things. The automated safety systems have a huge potential to guarantee an high level of safety to the car drivers, moreover the car can be connected with a smart net of interconnected cars.

  2. etnapowers
    April 16, 2014

    The interconnection between the cars throught the smart net might increase the safety, because a car in distress can send alarm messages to the net and call the rescuers automatically for example.

  3. samicksha
    April 16, 2014

    I read a press release by Intel wherein they highlight the emergence of its new Quark products for Internet of Things (IoT) equipment and wearables.,2817,2456634,00.asp

  4. etnapowers
    April 16, 2014

    “Intel said it remained on track to ship its 14-nanometer Broadwell chips in the second half of the year, while also highlighting the emergence of its new Quark products for Internet of Things (IoT) equipment and wearables.”

    @samicksha: nice link, a really big company like Intel invests on IOT technology, this means that this technology holds tremendous promises of diffusion.  


  5. Netcrawl
    April 17, 2014

    @etnapowers, you're right it might increase safety but it can also spell serious trouble- it could make the car a potential target for cyberhackers, its like opening a new avenu ewhere hackers could introduce malicious code. 

  6. Netcrawl
    April 17, 2014

    Intel is trying to get into IoT business, Quark could be the company's steeping stone, but the market is too small for Intel and it still early stages. PCs are not growing and Intel need to find a new market to milk, and its IoT. I wonder if the company has plan to spin off its shrinking PC chip business and use the proceeds to invest in new market like IoT. 

    Can Intel come up with a much better chip that people will buy? Why not concentarte on mobile space and beat Qualcomm there, mobile is a much bigger market. 

  7. Netcrawl
    April 17, 2014

    @etnapowers, I think one of the reasons IoT is expected to grow so rapidly in automotive industry is the various applications it has for the vehicles, however there some serious problem here, the high cost of connected vehicle equipments and services could pose a serious challenge to the growth and adoption of this market. 

  8. samicksha
    April 17, 2014

    When we talk of space consideration, IoT would encode 50 to 100 trillion objects, and be able to follow the movement of those objects. Sounds pretty impress number but waiting to see how many of them are end users.

  9. Davidled
    April 17, 2014

    I wonder how a car in distress could be decoded on the protocol. I think that there are so many cases to let car be distressed in reality such as accident, tire flat and one's health problem among driver or passenger.

  10. Victor Lorenzo
    April 18, 2014

    @Netcrawl >> it could make the car a potential target for cyberhackers .

    In fact cars are already targets for hackers of many kinds. I've read a number of blogs and papers revealing a lot of security vulnerabilities in cars. Some of them even describe all required steps and tools for reproducing the attacks.

    Some attacks focus on revealing sensitive information from the car, some others break into volume security (opening, key cloning, key replacing, etc.) and some others, the most dangerous ones, focus in modifying operation parameters ranging from acceleration override to even brakes locking.

    Some attacks require physical connection into the car busses and some others exploit wireless network vulnerabilities in some high end models.

  11. geek
    April 26, 2014

    “As companies vie with each other in the global marketplace to introduce different types of Internet-ready objects, they will seek to differentiate themselves with functionality and reliability.”

    @Steve: Do you think companies would benefit more if they differentiate with each other, or would they be in a better situation if they manufacture products that are compatible with each other. The idea of IoT is to integrate devices together and enhance their usability. Differentiation would probably not be as useful as integration in this case.

  12. geek
    April 26, 2014

    “Some attacks require physical connection into the car busses and some others exploit wireless network vulnerabilities in some high end models.”

    @Victor: I think gaining access to a car's system physically is really difficult, but with interconnected cars over the Internet, the task will become a whole lot easier. I do agree that IoT will have a lot of security vulnerabilities which should be addressed before the mainstream launch.

  13. geek
    April 26, 2014

    @entapowers: I think the idea of connecting cars together is not new and IoT may not have an impact on it. Already there are projects related to this in the pipeline. What would be interesting is the interaction of cars with the objects around. For instance, the idea of going to a fuel station and being billed automatically through the interaction of the car and the fuel pump is possibly one application of IoT in the automotive area.

  14. Netcrawl
    April 26, 2014

    @Victor, the problem here is many odf today's manufacturers are not taking security-by-design approach, last year an authentication flaws of the Tesla Model S opened up the car to potential security breaches. This is could spell danger, it could allow hackers to drain the batteries of the Tesla car and many more. 

  15. Netcrawl
    April 26, 2014

    @tzubair, you're right we have some big development, a month, the US Department of Transportation's NHTA (National Highway Safety Administration) announced plans to enable vehicle-to-vehicle communications, they also working on a new  regulatory proposal that would require vehicle-to-vehicle devices in cars in the future.

  16. geek
    April 29, 2014

    @Netcrawl: I also read about this initiative a while back. It seemed interesting that the use of VTV devices are being regulated. Given the high security risks that are in the picture, I think this was a much-needed initative before the technology became commercial. I do hope it gets implemented on a national scale and is not restricted to a few states.

  17. Sachin
    April 29, 2014

    I think differentiation in the automotive industry is very essential when it comes to growth and motivation of the different companies. When a company comes up with it own unique automotive technology, it gains self esteem and poses this as a challenge to the rest to be innovative. Connecting car devices will reduce the diversity of the car technologies according to me, that is, the rate of innovation will become constant or grow at a very slow rate because not many automotive companies, especially the small ones will sweat with coming up with new inventions to promote their brand name. They will rely on inventions from bigger vehicle industries, most of which are passionate about technological advancements and have enough funds to dedicate to this.

  18. eafpres
    April 30, 2014

    @Netcrawl–there are more and more integrated IoT “nodes” made with microprocessors, some RF communication, one or more sensors or inputs (like voltage, currnet, digital I/O, etc.).  Intel could leverage the Atom processors into an IoT product line.  Many of the devices out there are using ARM core processors, so Intel could offer viable competition for low power, low cost nodes.  The total volumes are thought to be in the billions, so I think that will be large enough for Intel.

  19. etnapowers
    May 8, 2014
    @samicksha, from the link that you indicated: “Intel's mobile business probably isn't floundering to the extent the current business unit breakdown would indicate, but it does indicate the chip giant is struggling to peddle its new 4G LTE chips while having trouble clearing out its older 3G inventory, said analyst Jack Gold.”
    The 4G technology could accelerate the diffusion of the internet of things, by guaranteeing a high speed connection between the smart objects on the net, provided that security protocols are implemented to save the integrity of the data.
  20. etnapowers
    May 8, 2014

    @Netcrawl: That's the reason for why a dedicated net has to be created and the access points have to be totally under control.

  21. etnapowers
    June 10, 2014

    @tzubair:I think that the connected cars with the IOT technology is a new solution, comprising the idea you exposed. The idea of the smart interaction cloud comprises not only the smart connection between cars but also between cars and infrastructures.

  22. etnapowers
    June 10, 2014
    “the idea of going to a fuel station and being billed automatically through the interaction of the car and the fuel pump is possibly one application of IoT in the automotive area.”
    @tzubair: nice idea! The idea that you suggested is a good example of the huge potential of the Internet of Things technology.

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