Europe Targets Leadership in Next-Generation “Smart Systems”

The partners in a new European research project today announced details of the multinational/multidisciplinary ‘SMArt systems Co-design’ (SMAC) program. This important three-year project, partially funded by the EU’s FP7 (FP7-ICT-2011-7), aims to develop a leading-edge design and integration environment (the ‘SMAC Platform’) for the design of smart systems. These are intelligent, miniaturized devices that incorporate multiple functions such as sensing, actuation, computation, wireless connectivity and energy harvesting in a single tiny package and will be key components of next-generation applications in areas as diverse as energy saving, healthcare, automotive, factory automation and consumer devices. The aim of the SMAC program is to put European companies in pole position to lead in these key markets by reducing design costs and time-to-market for next-generation smart systems.

The bottleneck in developing smart systems is not due to the technologies but the design methodology. Advanced packaging technologies such as System-in-Package (SiP) and chip stacking (3D IC) with through-silicon vias already allow manufacturers to package all these capabilities more densely to meet increasingly demanding cost, size, performance and reliability targets. However, design methodologies have not kept pace with technology advances.

“The major obstacle to the rapid expansion of smart systems applications is not the technologies involved but the lack of a structured design methodology that explicitly accounts for final integration,” said Salvatore Rinaudo, SMAC project co-ordinator and Industrial and Multisegment Sector CAD R&D Director at STMicroelectronics.  “Ideally, the total combination must be designed as a single system and the tools and methodology are currently lacking. By filling this gap with a holistic, integration-aware, design platform, the SMAC project will give European industry an advantage in exploiting the potential of smart systems, reducing design costs and time-to-market and minimizing the risk of encountering problems in the final integration.”

Today, smart systems are designed using separate design tools for different parts of the system.  For example, completely different tools are used to model, simulate, and design components such as MEMS sensors, analogue and RF components, and digital ICs and none of these tools take the ultimate system integration into account(1).

The SMAC Platform will be co-developed by academic and industry partners, including several EDA (Electronic Design Automation) and semiconductor vendors to ensure its usability in realistic, industry-strength design flows and environments. The result will allow the industrial partners and their customers to increase their competitiveness in the world-wide market for smart system products and applications.

The scientific and technical results expected at the conclusion of the project include:

  1. New modeling and simulation capabilities to support accurate multi-physics, multi-layer, multi-scale and multi-domain co-simulation.
  2. Innovative integration-aware design techniques for components and subsystems from different technology domains and with different functions.
  3. Combination and augmentation of existing modeling and simulation tools into a seamless design flow (i.e., the SMAC Platform), enabling integration-aware co-design of smart systems.
  4. Demonstration of the effectiveness of some of the new design solutions through implementation of test-cases featuring leading-edge technology.
  5. Demonstration of the accuracy and ease of integration of new and existing EDA tools within the SMAC Platform by comparison with state-of-the-art reference methodologies.
  6. Demonstration of the usability of the SMAC Platform through its application to an industry-strength design case.

The project partners are:

  • STMicroelectronics s.r.l. (Italy), the Project Coordinator;
  • Philips Medical Systems Nederland BV (The Netherlands);
  • ON Semiconductor Belgium BVBA (Belgium);
  • Agilent Technologies Belgium NV (Belgium);
  • Coventor Sarl (France);
  • MunEDA GmbH (Germany);
  • EDALab s.r.l. (Italy);
  • Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy);
  • Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork (Ireland);
  • Instytut Technologii Elektronowej (Poland);
  • Politecnico di Torino (Italy);
  • Universita degli Studi di Catania (Italy);
  • University of Nottingham (United Kingdom);
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium);
  • Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (The Netherlands);
  • Slovak University of Technology Bratislava (Slovakia);
  • ST-POLITO s.c.a.r.l. (Italy).

The SMAC project will involve a total effort of over 1,300 person/months and an investment of approximately 13M Euros, of which the industrial partners will contribute around 5M Euros.