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Posts Tagged ‘sensors’

Identifying the Prime Challenge of IoT Design

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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By Jeff Miller, Product Marketing Manager, Mentor Graphics Corporation

Introduction

In his blog post for Semiconductor Manufacturing & Design, Pete Singer shared how the acquisition of Tanner EDA by Mentor Graphics provides a solution to meeting the design challenge of Internet of Things (IoT). Low-cost IoT designs, which interface the edge of the real world to the Internet, mesh together several design domains. Individually, these design domains are challenging for today’s engineers. Bringing them all together to create an IoT product can place extreme pressure on design teams. For example, let’s look at the elements of a typical IoT device (Figure 1).

Figure 1: A typical IoT device.

This IoT device contains a sensor and an actuator that interface to the Internet. The sensor signal is sent to an analog signal processing device in the form of an amplifier or a low-pass filter. The output connects to an A/D converter to digitize the signal. That signal is sent to a digital logic block that contains a microcontroller or a microprocessor. Conversely, the actuator is controlled by an analog driver through a D/A converter. The sensor telemetry is sent and control signals are received by a radio module that uses a standard protocol such as WiFi, Bluetooth, or ZigBee, or a custom protocol. The radio transmits data to the Cloud or through a smartphone or PC.

This device points out the prime challenge to IoT design: analog, digital, RF, and MEMS design domains all live together in one device. IoT design requires that all four design domains are designed and work together, especially if they are going on the same die. Even if the components are targeting separate dies that will be bonded together, designers still need to work together during the integration and verification process. In this design, there are several components in multiple domains, such as the A/D converter, digital logic, a RF radio, a MEMS sensor, and an analog driver that connects to an external mechanical actuator. The design team needs to capture a mixed analog and digital, RF, and MEMS design, perform both component and top-level simulation, layout the chip, and verify the components within the complete system.

The Tanner Solution

The Tanner solution delivers a top-down design flow for IoT design, unifying the four design domains (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Tanner IoT design flow.

Whether you are designing a single die or multiple die IoT device, you can use this design flow for creating and simulating this device:

  • Capturing and simulating the design. S-Edit captures the design at multiple levels of abstraction for any given cell. Each cell can have multiple views such as a schematic, RTL, or SPICE and then you choose which view to use for simulation. T-Spice simulates SPICE and Verilog-A representations of the design while ModelSim simulates the digital, Verilog-D/RTL portions of your design.
  • Simulating the mixed-signal design. S-Edit creates the complete Verilog-AMS netlist and passes it to T-Spice. T-Spice automatically adds Analog/Digital connection modules and then partitions the design for simulation. T-Spice simulates the analog (SPICE and Verilog-A) and sends the RTL to ModelSim for digital simulation. Both simulators are invoked automatically and during simulation the signal values are passed back and forth between the simulators whenever there is a signal change at the analog/digital boundary. This means, that regardless of the design implementation language, you drive the simulation from S-Edit and the design is automatically partitioned across the simulators. Then, you can interact with the results using the ModelSim and T-Spice waveform viewers. Behavioral models of MEMS devices can be created in Verilog-A or as equivalent lumped SPICE elements that are simulated along with the digital models for system-level verification.
  • Laying out the design. The physical design is completed using L-Edit which allows you to create the layout of the analog and MEMS components for the IoT design. The parameterized layout library of common MEMS elements and true curve support simplify the MEMS layout.
  • Completing the flow. Of course, there are other steps in the flow, such as digital synthesis, digital place and route, chip assembly, physical verification, static timing analysis, and full system verification. However, these steps are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Implementing the MEMS Device

One of the most challenging aspects of IoT design is implementing the MEMS device. So, in this article we focus on the physical design flow for this device. Let’s say that the MEMS device in our design is a magnetic actuator. A magnetic actuator is comprised of a coil and a moving paddle. The paddle is suspended by a spring. When current is sent through the coil, a magnetic field is created which moves the paddle in and out of the coil field (Figure 3).

Figure 3: MEMS magnetic actuator.

You could create a 3D model of the magnetic actuator using a 3D analysis tool and then analyze its dynamic response to different currents. To fabricate the actuator you need a 2D layout mask and deriving a 2D mask from a 3D model is error-prone and difficult to validate. A better approach is to follow the mask-forward flow that Figure 4 shows, that results in more confidence that the actuator will not only work correctly but that it can be successfully fabricated.

Figure 4: The mask-forward MEMS design flow.

The mask-forward MEMS design flow starts by creating the 2D mask layout in L-Edit. Then, use the SoftMEMS 3D Solid Modeler (integrated within L-Edit) to automatically generate the 3D model from those masks and a set of specified fabrication steps. Perform 3D analysis using your favorite finite element tool and then iterate if you find any issues. Make the appropriate changes to the 2D mask layout and then repeat the flow. Using this mask-forward design flow, you can converge on a MEMS device that you are confident can be fabricated correctly because you creating the 3D model directly from the masks that will eventually be used for fabrication, rather than trying to work backwards from the 3D model.

Conclusion

The prime challenge of IoT design is working in four design domains: analog, digital, RF, and MEMS. The Tanner design flow is architected to seamlessly work across all of these design domains by employing an integrated design flow for design, simulation, layout, and verification.
For more information about the IoT design flow, see: www.mentor.com/tannereda/mems-design?cmpid=10167

InvenSense CEO touts the Internet of Sensors

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

InvenSense president and chief executive officer Behrooz Abdi sees the Internet of Things as an Internet of Sensors, a theme he explored Tuesday afternoon (November 17) at the opening of the fourth annual InvenSense Developers Conference.

“To enable the Internet of Things, we need a community,” he told the developers in attendance. “How do we make this a much stronger community?”

InvenSense has a “very selfish” reason for supporting the 30,000 developers in that community, Abdi added. Many InvenSense developers of hardware and software applications spread out to many companies, he noted.

The company reported earlier this year that 78 percent of its fiscal 2015 revenue came from mobile sensors. Optical image stabilization accounted for 12 percent of the year’s revenue, while gaming and other applications represented 10 percent.

For its fiscal second quarter ended September 27, InvenSense’s IoT-related business accounted for 20 percent of revenue, “double what it was,” Abdi said.

In its history, InvenSense has seen many functions incorporated into smartphones, the CEO said. “The phone has become a mobile server,” he observed.

Abdi commented, “The road to the Internet of Sensors is fraught with many challenges. We’re really tackling a lot of things.”

InvenSense has reduced the typical time-to-market for new sensor products, especially with its new fingerprint sensor, Abdi asserted. The company has opened up its InvenSense Fabrication Platform to more parties in the interest of inspiring more designs incorporating InvenSense sensors, he said.

“We’re giving you a platform you can build from,” Abdi said.

Eitan Medina, InvenSense’s vice president of marketing and product development, revealed some of the company’s news on Tuesday, such as the new CoursaSports.com software-as-a-service, with a software development kit for sensor-assisted fitness tracking applications, and improvements in the graphical user interface of the company’s SensorStudio development tool and the InvenSense FireFly development kit, a sensor prototyping and development platform for IoT applications.

“Create your own custom sensors,” Medina urged. “Design your own sensor fusion.”

CoursaSports supports app development for the iOS, Android, and Android Wear operating systems, according to Medina.

InvenSense also announced it is partnering with Intrinsic-ID for the TrustedSensor offering, “enabling secure sensor-based systems,” Medina said.

The conference also heard from Amit Shah of Artiman Ventures. “What is IoT?” Shah asked rhetorically. “It sort of became a buzzword that means nothing.”

As a venture-capital firm, Artiman is interested in startups that can field a product or service within two years, Shah said.

“We’re focused on revenue models” when it comes to the Internet of Things and sensors, Shah said – specifically, health care and industrial uses. Artiman isn’t interested in areas that are “crowded” with startups, namely consumer wearables and robotics, he added.

Solid State Watch: April 24-30, 2015

Monday, May 4th, 2015
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Solid State Watch: April 10-16, 2015

Friday, April 17th, 2015
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Solid State Watch: October 31-November 6, 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014
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The Week in Review: October 17, 2014

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Driven by rising demand for fitness and health monitoring features as well as by improved user interfaces, shipments of sensors used in wearable electronic devices will rise by a factor of seven from 2013 through 2019, according to IHS Technology.

Intermolecular, Inc. announced this week that Dr. Bruce McWilliams has been appointed president and chief executive officer. David Lazovsky has resigned as president and chief executive officer and from the Board of Directors to pursue other interests.

Qualcomm announced that it has reached agreement with CSR regarding the terms of a recommended cash acquisition of CSR will be acquired by Qualcomm Global Trading Pte. Ltd.

Texas Instruments this week announced it has shipped more than 22 billion units of copper wire bonding technology from its internal assembly sites and is now in production for major high reliability applications including automotive and industrial.

Element Six this week announced the development of a new thermal grade of diamond grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD), DIAFILM TM130.

The Week In Review: May 2, 2014

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Sensor hubs that offload tasks from power-hungry application processors and let mobile devices like smartphones and tablets run longer on a single battery charge are reaping gargantuan gains thanks to the global MEMS market, with shipment growth this year alone in triple-digit territory, according to this recent analysis from IHS Technology.

Brooks Automation, Inc. announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Dynamic Micro Systems Semiconductor Equipment GmbH.

Entegris, Inc. announced that it has completed its acquisition of ATMI, Inc., creating a supplier of products and materials for semiconductor and other advanced manufacturing.

Abracon announced the relaunch of its MEMS oscillators series. Abracon’s miniature ASCSM series was originally launched in 2013 and is being relaunched in June 2014 with the incorporation of enhanced production processes.

Quantum Global Technologies LLC announced it joined SEMATECH in Albany NY, to advance process tool chamber parts cleanliness and analytical methods to meet sub-20nm wafer fabrication process requirements.

Samsung Electronics said that it has begun mass producing the industry’s first high-performance, three-bit-NAND-based SSD for servers and data centers.

Blog Review: December 2, 2013

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Phil Garrou completes his look at various packaging and 3D integration happenings from Semicon Taiwan, including news from Disco, Namics and Amkor. Choon Lee of Amkor, for example, predicted a silicon interposer cost of 2.7-4$/cm sq (100 sq mm) and expectations of organic interposer costs at 50% cost reduction.

Dynamic resource allocation can significantly improve turnaround time in post-tapeout flow. Mark Simmons of Mentor Graphics blogs about recent work that demonstrated 30% aggregate turnaround time improvement for a large set of jobs in conjunction with a greater than 90% average utilization across all hardware resources.

The MEMS Industry Group blog reflects on the trend toward sensor fusion and the role that hardware approaches such as FPGAs and microcontrollers will play in moving the technology forward.

44 years ago, the internet was born when two computers, one at UCLA and one at the Stanford Research Institute, connected over ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) to exchange the world’s first “host-to-host” message. Ricky Gradwohl of Applied Materials celebrates the “birthday” with thoughts on how far the internet has come.