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May 23, 2016 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


On-Chip Communications using a packet Switching Network Technology (NoC) for smartphone Systems on Chip and Automotive Applications



K. Charles Janac

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer


Arteris, Inc.


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – May 23, 2016


CEOCFO: Mr. Janac, would you tell us about Arteris?

Mr. Janac: Arteris has maintained its focus, throughout its existence, on pioneering the use of networking techniques for On-Chip communications. Basically, we make networks that allow blocks of a chip to communicate using a packet switching network technology. This has been adopted broadly. There are many hundreds of millions of chips made with the Arteris network On-Chip. There is a significant percentage of the smartphone SoCs that use this kind of a packet switching interconnect. We have started to look at providing secure, safe inter-connect for automotive applications so our recent focus, is to provide interconnect for automotive SoC projects.


CEOCFO: Why is this the right time?

Mr. Janac: It is the right time because the mobility market has slowed down. It is a great market and there are probably two billion SoCs sold a year for smartphone applications. However, pretty much everybody who wanted one has one. The growth rate is going to be either through some major innovations driving mass replacements or through the growth of population. Mobility is likely to grow going forward 5% or 6% a year. Tesla makes an electric car but they have revolutionized the electronic system of the car because they basically turned a car into an IoT device where it is fully connected to the internet, full-time connected to a data center and can be updated over the air. It can be serviced proactively where they can identify subsystem problems inside the car. This is something that the rest of the automotive industry is going to have to follow. They may not have to follow the electric drive train but they will have to follow the electronic implementation. This will increase the electronics content of a car from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars over the next few years so that market is going to grow with between 20% to 30% per year for the next five to ten years.


CEOCFO: What is involved in taking what you have created and applying it to an automobile?

Mr. Janac: The easy part is we have a scalable and flexible interconnect IP architecture that can be adopted to automotive SoCs without major restructuring of the product. However, the automotive business represents a different ecosystem with different standards, players and a different way of approaching a supply chain. The technology is also different. In a car, there are two considerations. One is how to make the car safe and reliable as well as eliminate glitches, bugs and failures. The other thing is that it is a reasonably harsh environment so the designs have to be robust and resilient to the environmental issues such as cold, heat and vibration. There are special considerations involved, this market used to be slow and sleepy and it is only recently that Tesla has introduced a major set of innovations to the market, which is making the other players respond aggressively in order to preserve their positions.


CEOCFO: You mentioned that it is a different market. Does your history translate and help you get a foot in the door working in this arena?

Mr. Janac: I think it helps a great deal because it turns out that some chips in a car are actually very close to smartphone application processors. If you look at a dashboard control for example, that is a modified application processor similar to a smartphone design. If you look at infotainment, that is also the entertainment part of the car. It is not safety critical and that is also related to application process technology. We already have customers in the space. What we are adding now is the ability for our customers to meet the ISO 26262 standard, which is an automotive standard for functional safety. We are moving into applications such as the automatic driving assist system (ADAS), deep learning, engine control, body control and other mission-critical parts of the car electronics.


CEOCFO: How does your product enhance safety?

Mr. Janac: One of the issues is that there are environmental problems that can cause chips to have glitches and these are related to x-rays, alpha particles or flaws in the manufacturing system of the chip. What we have done is delivered in 2014, something called FlexNoC Resilience. The Resilience package, which is an add-on to our existing network On-Chip, introduces IP duplication, so any IP that transforms a packet. Is duplicated TWhat we do in the Resilience package is we have two IPs interfacing with all IP Block instead of just one.. We add a functional  NoC Interface Units IP and another one that is a reference NIU IP. There are two now and there is a checker that compares their output signals. The typical reference IP runs one to two signals behind the functional one. If both output signals from the one that runs on time and the one that runs one or two signals of clock cycles behind are the same, then everything is propagated into the interior of the NoC interconnect. If the signals do not agree, then the comparator reports a fault to the safety controller, which then reports the fault to upper-level software. Inside the network On-Chip we introduced error correction, ECC, Parity Bitand Packet Integrity Checking, so that we can ensure the integrity of the data despite things like alpha particles, inside the network On-Chip. The network On-Chip becomes much more resilient and much more functionally safe. It helps our customers meet the different levels of the ISO 26262 standard for Automotive Functional Safety


CEOCFO: Automobiles tend to have many recalls. Are you concerned that something the auto company might do or not do will affect the performance of what you are providing? Perhaps liability?

Mr. Janac: We are removed at least three levels from the auto manufacturers. The auto manufacturer is supplied typically by an OEM integrator. Mercedes or BMW would be supplied by Bosch, which buys chips from SoC makers such as NXP, Mobileye and others. There are IP suppliers that supply components of the chips. If there is a problem on the network On-Chip, we might see some of that but we have a stringent quality program and verification program so we never have had a problem in ten years in business where a faulted chip was traced to a flaw in the network On-Chip. It is a mission-critical system that requires mission-critical electronics. It requires additional steps of verification equality on our part our customers part and their customer’s part.


CEOCFO: I have seen a stream of press releases the last few months on Arteris’ agreements with companies. Would you tell us who is coming onboard?

Mr. Janac: We typically add about eight to twelve customers per year. Last year we added nine new customers. Typically, they are customers that start with a network of chip and do not go back as they stick with a technology that gives so much more performance and cost effective. This is a full range of companies. We have some small companies and some of the largest semiconductor companies in the world as customers. The ones that are publically announced are people like Samsung, NXP and HiSilicon, as well as some start-ups. It is a whole gamut of the semiconductor supply chain.


CEOCFO: Do you have a standard range of inventory?

Mr. Janac: The product at this point is quite mature. There is some customization occasionally because the SoC technology evolves. We find that it is getting less and less.


CEOCFO: What is ahead? What are you doing in R&D right now and what might we expect a year from now?

Mr. Janac: We are about to announce a major product on May 24th, which we have been working on for the last two years. We have actually shipped it already but we wanted to wait until there is some customer adoption before we made the announcement. That is a big new product for us and while it is going to be used by automotive customers, it is a general-purpose product. Our goal is to deliver a major new product every year in the inter-connect space and to have three to four releases per year that address customer enhancement requirements.


CEOCFO: What surprised you with the technology?

Mr. Janac: I do not think I have been surprised by the technology. The thing that surprised me about the interconnect IP business how much effort and technology it takes to close design wins. Interconnect is the part of the chip that allows the chip to communicate so every chip communicates already or it would not be a chip. Interconnect IP is a very hard product to license because you have to convince the architect of the chip that you have the technical features and the quality of the product. You have to convince the project directors that you are going to be able to help them meet schedule and quality levels and help them address whatever issues they have with some other parts of the chip. You then have to convince the upper-level management that you offer strategic advantage to them for using this kind of a technology approach. That to me has been the surprise. It is probably the hardest product that I have seen in my thirty years in business.


CEOCFO: How do you make it work in the industry?

Mr. Janac: It has worked very well. I have been running Arteris for eleven years and it is a great market as long as you have the best solution technically backed by global support. Unfortunately, if you are number two or number three player, you will suffer essentially forever. SoC needs to communicate so there is fifteen billion SoC units sold a year. There is plenty of opportunity there in terms of the market but like other critical IP markets it is quite concentrated.  In terms of technology is becoming much more complicated. Back before 40-nanometer people just hooked up a bunch of wires between blocks and they were happy. Now you are dealing with issues like quality of service, security, power management, security and resilience. You are dealing with a new product of ours called Timing Closure, which is meant to address the chips that are difficult to close timing on, particularly in the 16/14nanometer FinFet generation. The technology is getting more difficult and stringent and that makes it a great business because each generation requires new interconnect products, which means that a technology savvy company can find opportunities pretty much every day. Not everybody can do it, it is deep technology. As long as you are the best at it, it beats working for a living.


CEOCFO: Final thoughts?

Mr. Janac: I think that the interconnect IP part of the chip is going to get more complicated, more valuable and more beneficial. The adoption of a toolkit for making interconnect such as ours, which does not restrict innovation, helps customers innovate and it is going to grow. Configurable, flexible and heterogeneous interconnect IP technology is the key to assembling world-class SoCs.


“There are many hundreds of millions of chips made with the Arteris network On-Chip. There is a significant percentage of the smartphone SoCs that use this kind of a packet switching interconnect. We have started to look at providing secure, safe inter-connect for automotive applications so our recent focus, is to provide interconnect for automotive SoC projects… Configurable, flexible and heterogeneous interconnect IP technology is the key to assembling world-class SoCs.”- K. Charles Janac


Arteris, Inc.



K. Charles Janac








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