Highlights of GSA Silicon Summit- April 18th @CHM, Mt View, CA

The Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), whom many consider to be the voice of the global semiconductor industry, held its annual Silicon Summit on April 18, 2013 at the Computer History Museum in Mt View, CA.  We report on the first two sessions (see below).  They were related to new silicon solutions that address the exponential growth of mobile data and the myriad issues/challenges involved in massive scaling for the Internet of Things (IoT).

GSA Silicon Mission Statement:
“Moore’s Law has transcended computing expectations; however, its promise will eventually reach scalability limitations due to extraordinary consumer demands. Future technology encompasses breakthroughs capable of interaction with the outside world, which the “More than Moore” movement achieves. Through integrating functionalities that do not scale to deliver cost-optimized and value-added system solutions, this trend holds significant potential for the industry. This event will explore the business and technical factors defining the More than Moore movement, and address how it will yield revolutionary electronic devices.”

“The ‘More-than-Moore’ approach typically allows for the non-digital functionalities (e.g., RF communication, power control, passive components, sensors, actuators) to migrate from the system board level into a particular package-level (SiP) or chip-level (SoC) implementation. … The objective of ‘More-than-Moore’ is to extend the use of the silicon-based technology developed in the microelectronics industry to provide new, non-digital functionalities. It often leverages the scaling capabilities derived from the ‘More Moore’ developments to incorporate digital and non-digital functionality into compact systems.” And what might the viable commercial prospects be for deploying ‘More than Moore’ technology? If you’re someone who likes to follow the money (and not just the technology), then, according to the ITRS paper, the MtM money flows from here: “Underlying the evolution of markets and applications, and therefore their economic potential, is their potential in addressing societal trends and challenges for the next decades. Societal trends can be grouped as health and wellness, transport and mobility, security and safety, energy and environment, communication and e-society (this latter term including infotainment).”

Session One:     Disruptive Innovation  – Enabling Technology for the Connected World of Tomorrow
With the industry’s long-term focus on scaling now joined by functional diversification, this session explored how “More than Moore’s Law” is enabling the connected landscape of today and shaping the (mobile data) future of tomorrow.
Moderator: Dan Rabinovitsj, Senior  VP & General Manager, Wired/Wireless Infrastructure Networking Business Unit, Qualcomm Atheros
■Jaga Jagannathan, Director, Semiconductor Technology Marketing & Strategy, IBM Systems & Technology Group
■Kaivan Karimi, Executive Director, Global Strategy & Business Development, Microcontroller Group, Freescale
■Mark Miscione, VP, RF Technology Solutions, Peregrine
■Dr. Naveed Sherwani, Co-Founder, President & CEO, Open-Silicon
■Dr. Ely Tsern, VP & Chief Technologist, Memory and Interfaces Division, Rambus

Session Two: How More than Moore Impacts the Internet of Things
Furthering the advancement of  More than Moore involves unifying silicon technologies with novel integration  concepts; application software convergence; and new supply chain business  models. This session will open with an overview identifying the key industry  trends, challenges and opportunities to realize higher density, greater  functional performance and boosted power for ICs.
Moderator: Edward Sperling, Editor in Chief, System-Level Design and Editorial Director, Low-Power Engineering
■Jack Guedj, President & CEO, Tensilica
■Dr. John Heinlein, VP, Marketing, Physical IP Division, ARM
■Kamran Izadi, Director, Advanced Semiconductor Sourcing, Cisco
■Oleg Logvinov, Director of Market Development, Industrial and Power Conversion Division, STMicroelectronics

Key Takeaways for future silicon designs related to mobile devices and IoTs:
  • Many of the functions that have to be integrated into devices are analog/RF where Moore’s Law does NOT apply! 
  • Mixed signal technologies (combining analog and digital circuits in a single chip/module) need to continue to advance to include those functions along with typical baseband and DSP on the same chip/module. 
  •  Packaging technology will be critically important- both at the component/module and systems level. Innovation and “out of the box thinking” here are very much needed.
  •  Testing at the package and system level will also be important.
  •  For the IoTs, the following I/O improvements are needed for devices/networked sensors: short reach, very low power, variable bit rate (low to high), support of multiple wireless standards (e.g. Blue Tooth, Zigbee, Low Power WiFi, etc)
  •  A new way of designing analog ICs needs to be considered for the IoT to be a mass market. 
  • A key question here is “how much further can the industry convert (inherently) analog functions to digital and then use DSPs to implement them?”
  •  Many of the mobile computing functions will be implemented by servers in a cloud resident Data Center. For those servers, interconnects on the circuit board could be the limiting factor in reducing cost and power.

Participant Quotes from Paul Werbaneth:

“It’s natural for MEMS and mixed-signal devices, or MEMS and logic devices, to live in a side-by-side (2.5D) world.”

“Organic substrates for 2.5D interposers show great promise for reducing 2.5D interposer costs – look particularly to the work being done by Georgia Tech.”

“If you don’t follow scientific change then what you practice reverts to witchcraft.” (The Rabinovitsi Paradigm.)

“Innovation in packaging may be more relevant than Moore’s Law moving forward.”

“3D packaging is becoming a very exciting technology, with as much relevance as a process node shift.”

“The IoT needs packaging innovations – not Moore’s Law technology progression.”

“FinFET or packaging – where’s the smart money playing? The problem is one of die / device performance versus system performance – and packaging drives system performance.”

“That being said, 3D packaging is not a panacea – basic economics still rule.”

“Seven years from now it will be IoT applications driving the industry – and Moore’s Law progress doesn’t apply to the analog world, hence the need to work on heterogeneous integration / 2.5D / 3D IC.”

“New generations of network-side IC products are only 15% innovation – the other 85% is composed of standard I/O and memory IP. Moving some of that 85% from the board to the interposer or to a 3D stack will be a huge performance improvement – 3D memory integration, for example, is positively disruptive.”

“But doesn’t CMOS integration always win? Monolithic integration, or heterogeneous integration using 2.5D / 3D IC; either way it comes together, no one size fits all.”

“The 28nm process node has a lot to like about it: speed, cost, High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) capability, and IP portability all look good compared to 14nm FinFET.”

“Challenges that need addressing in 2.5D / 3D IC are supply chain related. The current cost structure for 2.5D / 3D is leveraged by materials and processing equipment.”

“Do we currently even have a functioning 3D IC ecosystem?” 

“Thermal challenges have kept 3D IC from coming to the mainstream. 2.5D is much better than 3D from a thermal perspective.”

Experts At The Table: The Internet Of Everything, by Ed Sperling (Session 2 Moderator)

Addendum:  Recovery in 2013 Semiconductor Capex:
Semiconductor manufacturing equipment has been on an upswing for the last few months. Combined data from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) and Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ) shows three-month-average bookings have increased for five consecutive months through March 2013. Billings have increased for the last two months.