This year's program is as diverse as it's ever been. There should be something for everyone.
Hot Chips has been the definitive high-performance chip conference since the demise of Microprocessor Forum (which I helped run for a number of years). The conference has been changing over the last few years, much like the chip industry itself, and the program is moving far beyond fast processors for server and PCs and now includes more presentations on graphics, interconnects, ultra-low power, and sensing chips. That is not to say the traditional big CPU companies are not represented—they are. There will be presentations from AMD (new core), IBM (POWER 9), Intel (Skylake), and Oracle (SPARC M7) touting their latest big core developments. AMD, in particular, will likely be revealing some of the first details on its much anticipated x86 Zen CPU core.
Last year’s show focused on machine learning and recent years have had tutorials on security and 2.5D/3D packaging. This year’s conference has a tutorial on next generation memories and the applications for new interfaces such as high-bandwidth memories (HBM). While Micron is scheduled to speak at the tutorial, there’s no indication they will talk about Crosspoint memory.
In addition, there’s a tutorial on advanced sensors for sensing a 3D world. This session will also dovetail well with the Microsoft keynote and a presentation by Sentons on a "Zero-displacement" Active Ultrasonic Force Sensor for Mobile Applications. One of the presenting companies is Movidius which recently announced a partnership with Lenovo for AR and VR developments.
There’s also number of new reveals in the program. One of the more exciting reveal will be the custom processors Microsoft developed for its HoloLens augmented reality headset. In part the chips are based on work done for the Xbox Kinect peripheral, but now optimized for a battery-powered AR headset. As mentioned earlier, one of the most important presentations will the last presentation of the conference—AMD’s talk about a new CPU core which is, no doubt, is the Zen core that was recently demonstrated at Computex. AMD’s future as a CPU supplier is heavily dependent on the new core and this session will be under a microscope.
Google has a keynote to talk about silicon developments that are essential to self-driving cars. While other deep learning and vision sessions include talks from Cadence, Ceva, Deephi and Tsinghua University, Movidius, and NVIDIA (Pascal GPU). Specialized processors and FPGAs are being now deployed for big data analytics and there’s a session by Baidu that will present its “software-defined accelerator” for distribute big data analytics.
NVIDIA will also be presenting a new Tegra processor which has been the company’s silicon solution for automotive. Other mobile SoCs presented includes a 10-core Helio X20 from Mediatek and a Samsung's Exynos-M1 CPU.
The symposium is the week after the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), but there are still deep dives into Intel Skylake processor and an ultra-low power x86 CPU for MCUs (probably Quark). And of special note is the session on Intel’s Omni-Path 4.8 Tbps Switch ASIC and platform where we may get more technical details.
The diversity of the program ranges from an integrated wireless SoC that uses energy harvesting to operate without a battery (Psikick), an image sensor using quantum dot technology for high-dynamic range images (Invisage), and a “Super Active” automotive suspension system (Levant). There’s presentations from ARM on a new GPU architecture and new CPU extensions for high performance computing.
The IEEE sponsored conference is organized or operated by volunteers, which keeps the costs down and makes it affordable to student and professors, yet there’s still a large industry contingent. It gives the show a nice opportunity for people from academic and industry backgrounds to mix. The show’s program committee come from leading semiconductor, systems, software, and academic institutions. This year’s program is as diverse as it’s ever been. There should be something for everyone.
--Kevin Krewell is a senior analyst at Tirias Research.
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