For the electronic design automation (EDA) industry, the Internet of Things (IoT) could represent both a technology advance and a technology reversal.
In a recent interview regarding IoT platform power requirements, Mike Muller, CTO of ARM, said:
Normally, the best strategy is to do processing as fast as possible and then go to sleep for as long as possible -- get in and get out. But for energy scavenging, it can be different. In these cases, it may be best to power up and get the packet out at minimum energy as soon as enough energy has been harvested. And it turns out the design tradeoffs are different.
For these platforms, power strategies may not only be different, but could return to old schemes. For example, keeping the clock speed low on the microcontrollers and scheduling processing once enough power has become available. Reducing the memory footprint with as little software as possible and minimizing stored data also plays a role. Power analysis tools will require re-thinking for these designs, and verification of the correct operation of these power strategies -- including ensuring that the platform powers up correctly -- will become more important.
Mixed-signal and analog design will also change if the required analog units are to be incorporated on these platforms and within the power constraints noted. The analog part of a sensor A/D convertor and wireless RF tuner and amplifier would seem to be the most minimal requirement, and this is significant circuitry in terms of both power and dimension.
The unit will contain significant functionality in software and -- without the benefit of an Operating System or a streamlined O/S -- rigorous verification of the interconnected software and hardware components will be key. As the platform could be leveraged in many applications, a sense of the varied power strategies, use models, operating conditions, and data throughput will all have to be verified.
We are looking at advances in hardware/software verification, power solutions, and analog/mixed signal, at a minimum. Sound familiar? These are often the three most noted areas requiring greater attention. As fixed hardware platforms with functionality in software gain more ground in various applications, it is these areas that will continue to come up again and again.
Does the IoT represent a departure, driving new EDA advancements? Well, it is certainly extreme, but it could be suggested that what is really required is that we return to our three old favorites.
About the author
Dave Kelf heads the marketing efforts and services as vice president of marketing at OneSpin Solutions. Previously, he was president and CEO of Sigmatix, Inc. He worked in sales and marketing at Cadence Design Systems where he was responsible for the Verilog and VHDL verification product line. As vice president of marketing at Co-Design Automation and then Synopsys, David oversaw the successful introduction and growth of the SystemVerilog language, before running marketing for Novas Software, which became Springsoft (now Synopsys). He holds a Master of Science degree in Microelectronics and an MBA from Boston University.