The Integration of Global Integrated Circuit Industry and the Development of Embedded System

— Embedded Systems Beijing Forum 17th Seminar Held in Beijing

This is a revisit of the topic of IC since five years ago. In the forum, participants and speakers discussed integrated circuit industry and embedded system development, analyzed objectively on the current status quo and future trend of the industry. The forum invited experts and academics to share their insights of IC and embedded system technology and examine future innovation opportunity of IC in China.

Xing Zhang, Chairman of School of Software and Microelectronics at Peking University
– Nano-electronics in Post-Moore Era

What are the key characteristics of the post-Moore era? Expanding chip size, reducing component size, and the need of introducing new component structures and materials to cope with the growing need of microprocessor. The contradiction of speed and efficiency is the crucial bottleneck of microelectronic. Low power driver might be the key as said by Processor Zhang.

Professor Zhang predicts the trends of microelectronic technology in post-Moore era: first, the size of semiconductor components will continue to shrink in accordance to Moore’s law; second, semiconductor component will be more diverse; third, components base on new principles, such as sodium electron, carbon-based material, and quantum physics; fourth, microelectronic may grow larger into macro electronic, such as organic semiconductor.

Professor Zhang believes that application processor will have much to do in post-Moore era. Huawei’s embedded CPU tests out to be very competitive comparing with big names like Intel. Application drivers could be a great opportunity for China if the companies target application-oriented CPU, storage and sensor circuit.

Zhimin Zhang, researcher at Laboratory of Computer Architecture, Chinese Academy of Sciences
– High-performance Embedded Processor: Development and Strategy

In recent years, mobile phones become quicker and quicker, which is closely related to the integration of processor chips, i.e. SoC. SoC is now everywhere, pushing the advancement of technology. People are becoming increasingly aware that microprocessor has become a major branch of the computer industry. Development of SoC cannot be separated with applications. Currently, SoC relies heavily on bus technology, including crosspoint switches-based and network-based. SoC will become more sophisticated, e.g. increase the integrity of SoC.

Mr. Zhang mentioned that the development of embedded processor does inject new motion in embedded industry. In fact, embedded processor is developing in coordination with embedded software; without proper software, the application will be problematic. Currently, mobile phone and industry control are two key areas that advance the development of SoC. For customers, wearable technology is another factor.

Dr. Haili Wang, Capital Microelectronics
– FPGA: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

In 2013, the number of ASIC design company declined. Dr. Wang thinks that the key reason is the high cost of ASIC research. FPGA is a relatively small market, but it does have high usefulness and an irreplaceable nature.

Currently, 14 nm FPGA is already is production. Companies like Xilinx and Altera are producing products at both 14 nm and 16 nm level, with smaller ones still producing on 65 nm and 90 nm. In FPGA industry, Capital Microelectronics is closely following the leaders like Xilinx, catching up step by step.

FPGA is also in the future of IoT. Capital Microelectronics is working together with Chinese companies to put forth wider application of FPGA. In the next 20 years, FPGA possesses great potential, it will very likely to be embedded in SoCs.

Lin Wang, Vice President of Walden International
– New Landscape of Semiconductor in China, and Opportunity for Embedded Software

Integration of software and hardware is the major trend of embedded system, said Mr. Wang. Chip and software are great platforms for new technical innovation. In recent years, the global semiconductor industry has experienced set downs. In the 70s and 80s, the golden age of semiconductor gave birth to the Silicon Valley. But today, only a handful of companies are still making chips there. Instead, Internet companies like Facebook, Amazon and Uber are everywhere, yet another proof that semiconductor technology is not progressing so fast.

However, total sales of Chinese semiconductor has increased to five times of what it was ten years ago. Walden International concludes that China is a semiconductor market of high potential. Investment of Walden has been adjusted, for the below two reasons: there is enough space for growth in China, and new technologies are booming in fields like IoT and healthcare.

As more and more companies are making products that integrate software and hardware to suit consumers’ need, investment in chip design is increasing. From the standpoint of embedded system, they know what type of chip they truly need, and how to make full use of a chip by integrating embedded system and the chip. Mr. Wang thinks that a good combination of hardware and software is the key to advance in the market. The plan of action in embedded software, overall system planning, and chip architecture are all important question to linger on.

Xin Shi, Senior Manager of Software Collaboration and Solution, AMD Greater China Region
– Recent Trends of IC – Decision and Preparation of AMD

The golden age of semiconductor is past-time, as we can quote Mr. Lei of Xiaomi: “The storm has left. The center of it is neither in the semiconductor industry, or system vendors.” Dr. Shi thinks that the next big thing lies in software and Internet. For companies and vendors, important questions need to be asked before producing chips: What requirements are present? What market am I in? What applications are needed?

AMD is paying close attention and preparing for two rising fields: machine learning and virtual reality (VR). For machine learning, setup of servers is critical. AMD is very good at making semi-customized chips for servers, and it is already providing most chips for gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation. For virtual reality, GPU image processing is the key, which has been a strength of AMD. In 2006, the acquisition of ATI further advanced AMD’s GPU technology.

Also, AMD is aiming for another market with great opportunity – medical devices. A device like X-ray, CT or MRI pose high demand in image resolution and processing speed. One advantage of AMD is the integration of CPU and GPU. With universal addressing, the time delay is shortened, and power efficiency is improved, all are good news for high precision medical devices.

Discussion Phase

Dr. Yang, Director of Digital Network Software Solution Department, NXP China, delivered an introduction speech on new development of SoC and Linux. He mentioned the current mix trend of multi-core, centralized architecture and asymmetrical architecture. CPU could be very powerful, but it may not fit a specialized market well. Many software algorithms used for CPU may bring much larger workload than using DSP or FPGA. In Software Defined Network, there are many components to be virtualized, such as Virtual Network Function (VNF). VNF is one of the methods for Linux to support SDN, which is one of the most recent trends of Linux.

In the afternoon, Zhongjun Shen, President of LHWT Microelectronics and President Assistant at Tsinghua Tongfang, Xiaolong Zheng, former Marketing Manager of TI, Professor Xiaoming Chang of Taiyuan Institute of Technology, Professor Hairong Yan of Beijing University of Technology spoke in the forum. Hosted by Allan He, Chief Secretary of the forum, discussions are held on many issues, such as “Will Internet+IC change Chinese semiconductor market?”, “Will the new microelectronic institute be the solution to the rising demands of professionals?”, “Will high integration inside chips lead to use of fiber?”, and “Will embedded software industry encounter difficulties when chip manufacturers pack algorithms inside their chips?”.

List of Speeches and Keynotes Download

Xing Zhang, Chairman of School of Software and Microelectronics at Peking UniversityNano-electronics in Post-Moore Era
Zhimin Zhang, researcher at Laboratory of Computer Architecture, Chinese Academy of SciencesHigh-performance Embedded Processor: Development and Strategy
Dr. Haili Wang, Capital MicroelectronicsFPGA: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lin Wang, Vice President of Walden InternationalNew Landscape of Semiconductor in China, and Opportunity for Embedded Software
Xin Shi, Senior Manager of Software Collaboration and Solution, AMD Greater China RegionRecent Trends of IC – Decision and Preparation of AMD
Dr. Xinxin Yang, Director of Digital Network Solution Department, NXP ChinaSilicon, Software and Linux for Embedded Systems