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Imagination talks product differentiation at China roadshow

Posted: 18 Feb 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Imagination Summit? IoT? EDA? IP? ULP?

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series that takes an in-depth look at Imagination Technologies, its technology and products, its markets as well as its partners. The company afforded ring-side seats at the Imagination Summit to editors at EE Times China. The series is the result of editors' conversations with Imagination executives.

The Imagination Summit 2015 held Shanghai and Beijing mid-November saw senior executives and technology experts from Imagination Technologies and its heavyweight partners, including Mentor Graphics, Rightware, CSIA, Synopsys, Dolby, SMIC and Ingenic, share their technological achievements with China's engineers. EE Times China, EDN China and ESM China covered the events and interviewed the then Imagination CEO to bring you the latest developments from the British company.

Sir Hossein Yassaie, CEO of Imagination Technologies at the time of the event, was the first to address the audience with a thought-provoking question: "What does the future society need in the face of next wave of innovation?," There have been tremendous changes compared with 20 years ago and engineers need to pay attention to these changes, he said.


Figure 1: Sir Hossein Yassaie giving the keynote speech titled, New Thinking for the Next Wave of Innovation, at the Imagination Summit 2015.

"Our society is undergoing major changes, including the acceleration of global integration, global flattening, energy shortage, the rise of the middle class, longer human life span and demographic changes. All these issues need to be the common concern of today's technical professionals. Technological innovations in semiconductor, medical, life sciences and other areas are accelerating, which will bring great changes in the next 5 to 10 years. We must be part of this."

James Liu

Figure 2: James Liu, General Manager, China, Imagination Technologies, addressing China's engineers at the summit.

James Liu, General Manager, China, Imagination Technologies, said in his address, "As a newcomer to Imagination, I am very excited to see that Imagination's IP is provides a viable solution for the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) and all 'intelligence technologies,' such as smart car and smart city. Our efforts will make an important contribution to the development of the next-generation semiconductor industry. And I'm very happy to welcome our partners today who will present their advanced technologies and solutions."

In the past few years, great changes have taken place in China's semiconductor market. In this regard, Sir Hossein Yassaie said, "The importance of the Chinese market is self-evident for Imagination. President Xi Jinping recently concluded his official good-will visit to the UK, so I believe that the enhancing of ties between the two governments will further advance the cooperation between enterprises in the two countries. I also appreciate the strategy proposed by Premier Li Keqiang to encourage the general public to start their own businesses and to further innovation, which means that the entire country must make an effort to create a healthy ecosystem instead of relying solely on one or two companies. Imagination is involved in such an ecosystem that includes EDA companies, wafer foundries, IC designers, system vendors, Internet content and service providersthey are all important partners for us. Our partners have a stake in our success and vice versa."

As an IP vendor, Imagination has an extensive offering that scales from entry-level to high-performance solutions to support various products from different application areas, said Hossein. "In the case of IoT, it is a huge but extremely fragmented market with fast product upgrades and short times to market. So it's obviously impossible to start all the work from scratch. We hope to work with our customers by building cooperative partnerships and then to help them innovate. Therefore, Imagination will take bold steps in markets such as wearable devices, information security, intelligent automotive, medical, networking, robotics and other emerging markets. Our most important mission is to build an ecosystem so that our customers can develop differentiated innovative products based on our IP platforms, and achieving a win-win situation," Hossein said emphatically.

Differentiation beats price wars

With respect to the price war that is a favourite tactic with Chinese companies, Hossein Yassaie believes that achieving "differentiation" will be the wiser and increasingly more important strategy. "The biggest problem with Chinese manufacturers is that they are still involved in a brutal price war, resulting in squeezed profit margins and lack of motivation. This is a short-sighted approach. Whether you are in a mature market with high returns or in an emerging market with long term gains, what consumers really need is an optimised combination of flexible pricing and differentiated innovative products. In terms of building IP platforms, Imagination is committed to providing a range of proven and easy to use platforms that integrate core hardware IP technologies (PowerVR + MIPS + Ensigma) as well as customisable third party IPs so that the IC design companies can add their own technologies to quickly and inexpensively establish a differentiated SoC. "I always believe that the mechanism of differentiation is very important for Chinese semiconductor enterprises. China's semiconductor industry should compete based on differentiation instead of price and make successful differentiated products," he said.

Hossein Yassaie added that successful companies usually have their own ecosystem to promote IoT by creating an enabling environment with surrounding enterprises. From consumer IoT to industrial IoT, there are six markets: energy, health, safety, industry, agriculture and retail. And there are three main technology challenges to be solved: the first is sensor integration, including processing and connectivity; the second is adding voice-based HMIs to sensors; the third is adding vision technology. All the three challenges are the directions for Imagination to provide integrated solutions."

Wei Shaojun

Figure 3: Professor Wei Shaojun, Institute of Microelectronics, Tsinghua University, advocates technological change.

Technology, innovation to drive IoT momentum

During the keynote session of the Imagination Summit 2015, business leaders from the IC industry shared their perspective on the next wave of technological innovation.

Professor Wei Shaojun from Tsinghua University's Institute of Microelectronics said, "In the semiconductor industry, mergers and acquisitions have increased. The market is maturing and jumps in process node technologies are slowing down, but the pace of innovation is not slowing down. Chinese solutions are expected to remain 'two generations' behind foreign products. Given the decreasing sales of electronic end-products, it is expected that the global semiconductor market will experience a period of 'zero' growth. At the same time, as equipment companies have gradually strengthened chip development, IP vendors, EDA companies and foundries will continue to grow and impact chip companies.

"The development of bulk silicon planar structure has ended; 3D technology is the next step. CMOS transistor with sub-nanometre size is a new direction that will completely change things. Software-defined chips with hardware and software programming also deserve attention."

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