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30 July, 2019 - 21:35 By Tony Quested

New Arm tech lets semiconductor players exploit 5th wave of computing

Cambridge technology giant Arm  has launched a new protocol – Flexible Access – that gives chip designers the freedom to experiment and test before they invest. It empowers SoC design teams to experiment, evaluate and undertake full projects with a wide range of Arm IP and not only expands silicon design opportunities for established Arm partners but also for new market entrants such as system providers, OEMs and startups.

Several partners, including AlphaICs, Invecas and Nordic Semiconductor, have signed on to this new Arm engagement model and already have access to a wide range of IP products, support tools and training.

Dipti Vachani, senior vice-president and general manager of Arm’s automotive and IoT business, says the technology is critical to semiconductor players if they are to fully exploit the Fifth Wave of Computing.

She says: “The digital transformation of the world is changing economies everywhere and doing it at lightning pace. Sectors able to capitalise on the power of the Fifth Wave of Computing in the form of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT) and 5G mobile networks are benefitting most, so surely it must be boom time for the technology sector?

“In many respects it is, and you won’t hear many complaints about Fifth Wave opportunities in Silicon Valley, in Shenzhen or a host of other technology super-hubs. Yet along with the upside, the vast majority of tech companies are also experiencing some of the most challenging periods in their histories.

“The truth is our sector is under constant pressure to do more. As a result, all semiconductor players must plan more carefully yet simultaneously react even faster to technical and business changes.

“Companies developing products from constrained single-core chips to full scale hybrid computing solutions must experiment at hyper-speed to find their magic recipe and get to market quickly – while still keeping a tight rein on costs. 

“This heady mix of commercial pressures adds up to developers facing a classic innovator’s dilemma: how to move ‘thoughtfully fast’ while maintaining a grip on quality, security and sanity.

“So, we have made a bold move with Arm Flexible Access – an entirely new way of accessing our industry-leading chip technologies in a far quicker, easier and ultimately flexible way.

“The changes we are introducing in our IP licensing business are significant and a direct result of what is happening in the backyards of our 500+ licensing partners. That is particularly true when it comes to IoT, AI and 5G applications. 

“But our experience has shown us that long-time and new customers can reap great rewards equally from being able to experiment more easily before committing to a particular technology path, and Arm Flexible Access enables that.

“One ambitious AI start-up, AlphaICs, is already a fan. AlphaICs is aiming to create the next-generation of AI compute for autonomous edge and data centre applications, as well as low-power embedded applications. 

“These broad-ranging ambitions mean AlphaICs needs access to a range of Arm CPUs and security IP, but our traditional upfront licensing model made it tough for their balance sheet to accommodate. Arm Flexible Access changes that.

“AlphaICs has now paid a modest upfront fee to access all of the chip technologies it needs, including state-of-the-art security. Only when the company completes its final product design and moves into manufacturing will it pay a production licence, with royalties following as its product ships. As I look back at our first 30 years and look forward to the next 30, I know there are near-infinite possibilities to what our partners can create using Arm technology. Only now they can do it faster and be even more creative than before. I can’t wait to see the results.”

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