DAVID FINCH: This is your EETimes Weekly Briefing. Today is Friday, April 12th, and among the top stories this week - Qualcomm’s new data-center AI inference accelerator chip, the latest deep learning developments unveiled at a Stanford University gathering, and a new development that throws a monkey wrench into the debate about V2X – vehicle to everything -- in Europe.



DAVID FINCH:又到了EE|Times全球联播时间。今天是4月12日,星期五,本周头条新闻有:高通新的数据中心AI推理加速芯片、斯坦福大学会议揭开最新深度学习进展,还有欧盟的一项最新决议终止了V2X(车辆到一切)的争论。


Later in the show, Echo Zhao, China Chief Analyst of EE Times China, talks about an industry discussion that her team recently organized in Shenzhen under the topic, "Countdown: How Far is China from 40% IC Self-Sufficiency?"




And Steve Taranovich tells us about AspenCore Media’s latest Special Project on “reusable rockets.”


然后Steve Taranovich给我们介绍AspenCore媒体集团最新的专题项目 --可重复利用的火箭。


All of that to come, but first, Dylan McGrath, executive editor of EE Times, this week attended Qualcomm’s event in San Francisco. We asked him to relay what Qualcomm said at its announcement and, perhaps more important, the details Qualcomm didn’t mention in its announcement. Here's Dylan with more.


这一切都会逐一为你诚献,但让我们首先听听来自EE Times执行主编Dylan McGrath的消息,他本周参加了高通在旧金山举办的活动。我们问他高通公司在新闻发布中说了什么,或许更为重要的是,高通未提及的细节。请听Dylan的报道。


DYLAN MCGRATH: The title of Qualcomm's event was "Qualcomm AI Day 2019," and the headliner was the introduction of Qualcomm's first AI inference accelerator, and it's specifically for the data center.


So a lot of interesting things there. There were not a large number of details given. About the only hard number specifics that Qualcomm shared was that this is a 7-nanometer chip, it has a very impressive, more than 350 trillion operations per second peak AI performance, and it also promises more than 10x the performance per watt of anything that's deployed today.


All of those things sound very enticing, but the chip's not going to be sampling until the second half of next year. It's likely not going to be in production until late next year. And it's really hard to say how the market's going to evolve between now and then.


We are aware that there are more than 30 companies that are currently working on purpose-built AI inference accelerators. And Qualcomm, really no surprise, threw its hat in the ring. And the company does have its heritage as a mobile chip vendor, and it really tried to emphasize at its event that this will be a power-efficient alternative to the Nvidia chips and some of the other things that are out there and coming out.


But again, without more hard numbers it's really hard for analysts to say how successful this chip will be. I think, at the end of the day, if Qualcomm can deliver on the type of power efficiency that it's promising, there will be a market for this chip. Probably a pretty substantial market. If it's unable to deliver on that type of power efficiency, it's hard to see that they'll be much market for this chip at all.


This is going to be a huge market. Projections for AI inferencing silicon in data centers go as high as $17 billion by 2025. Qualcomm, of course, wants a piece of that, as does everyone else, which is why they're such intense competition.


DAVID FINCH: That was Dylan McGrath reporting from San Francisco.


Rick Merritt, EE Times’ Silicon Valley bureau chief, recently attended a gathering called SysML held at Stanford University in Palo Alto. Here’s what he filed from the field.


RICK MERRITT: I recently attended the second annual SysML at Stanford. It’s a really good conference at the nexus of deep learning and running deep learning jobs on really large scale data centers.


So this was started a couple years ago by a group of the big data centers like Google and Facebook and Microsoft and Amazon, along with a lot of top drawer academic researchers and a sprinkling of semiconductor companies involved in this area like Intel and Nvidia. So it's really interesting in part because the big data center folks are doing a good job of getting in there and very frankly sharing their learnings, trying to make deep learning work on these really big networks of computers. So there's a lot to sort out there, a lot to learn, and a lot that people are sharing.


My favorite paper from the event this year was from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. And typical of what I'm hearing and other papers there, they not only shared some techniques that are kind of at the application level-- in this case what they called mini-batch serialization, a way of packaging operations together for efficiency-- but they also talked about a new architecture for doing it, which they happen to call WaveCore, still an academic microprocessor architecture, still a simulation-only chip, but one they have some thoughts about possibly trying to commercialize. The cool thing about that combination was that they were able to handle training performance levels at or in excess of today’s top-end Nvidia V100 chips can do, but needed less memory to do them. They actually could operate them on mobile DRAM.


So good work that's being shown, and I highly recommend a trip to SysML.


This is Rick Merritt in Silicon Valley for EETimes.


DAVID FINCH: AspenCore’s co-global editor in chief Junko Yoshida wrote about V2X, particularly a recent vote by European Parliament’s transport committee. She explains what’s at stake and why it matters.


JUNKO YOSHIDA: Communication between vehicles to vehicles, or vehicles to infrastructure, generally known as V2X, has long been viewed as an important safety layer, alerting cars to upcoming obstacles even before they are visible.


The industry has developed communication protocols and wireless technology based on IEEE 802.11P, known as Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or simply DSRC. Specifically designed for vehicular communication, DSRC is sort of like WiFi. It’s royalty free and it’s gone through rigorous testing for ten years. In my opinion, what's not to like?


All that groundwork, however, hasn’t stopped the cellular industry from trying to hijack the V2X agenda, claiming ownership and hiring an army of lobbyists. The goal is to sway automakers, politicians and regulators into believing they’re much better off with cellular-based V2X. The future, they say, is not DSRC, but 5G.


Well, never mind that 5G is not ready yet.


A big surprise this week was that a transport committee of EU lawmakers Monday rejected a pro-DSRC draft proposed by the European Commission.


The cellular industry and some European governments are reportedly opposed to the current EC plan, because it requires a V2X system that supports “backward compatibility” with DSRC.


But here’s the thing: Most chip companies and module vendors that I know of today either already offer or have plans to offer solutions that accept both DSRC and 4G/5G. There’s no good reason for anyone to insist on one connectivity technology over a dual-mode solution.


Tech companies and automakers these days love talking about “saving lives” by rolling out vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or self-driving capabilities. Yet, they seem happily engaged in long, phony debates over DSRC vs. 5G. This willful paralysis delays the creation of a V2X infrastructure.


I actually feel the pain of Violeta Bulc, Europe’s transport commissioner. In a letter to the transport committee, she stressed the need to vote in favor of DSRC, adding a melodramatic flourish: “Every day wasted, waiting for the new technology, will cost lives.”


This is Junko Yoshida, chief international correspondent of EE Times.


DAVID FINCH: And now, Brian Santo, editor in chief of EE Times, caught up this week with Echo Zhao.


EE Times China recently posted a story about different Chinese executives’ views on the status of China’s semiconductor industry in the global market. Echo and Brian collaborated to translate EE Times' China’s story into English. You can read it in full at eetimes.com.


Here’s Brian talking Chinese semiconductors with Echo.


BRIAN SANTO: Hi, Echo. We’re pleased to have you here on the show.


ECHO ZHAO: Hi, Brian.


BRIAN SANTO: China is beginning to build a semiconductor industry. Tell us a little bit about where the industry is now, and about the long-term goals set out by the Chinese government.


ECHO ZHAO: Well, China is not just begin to build a semiconductor industry. Most people believe that the semiconductor industry in China is not a toddler, but a teenager now.


There are 1,600 Fabless companies in china, and they are growing. In 2018 three companies had revenue that exceeded $1 billion.


In 2015, the State Council of China issued the "Made in China 2025" plan. It set very ambitious goals for the electronics industry in China to become self-reliant. The plan set a strategic goal to grow the country’s IC industry to achieve a self-sufficiency rate of 40% by 2020, increasing to 70% by 2025.


BRIAN SANTO: You recently helped organize a roundtable discussion with executives from several Chinese companies involved in the IC industry. You asked them about meeting the goals that the Chinese government set. Tell us about some of the responses. Do Chinese executives think the government’s goals are achievable?


ECHO ZHAO: Recently our team organized a very interesting discussion called "Countdown: How Far is China from 40% IC Self-Sufficiency?" held during the 2019 China IC Leader Summit.


You know, in 2018, China’s IC imports have exceeded $300 billion. That’s a huge number!


Chinese industry has an enormous internal market. Demand is high and supply is low. They call it a “happy problem.” Chinese IC design industry grew 20% last year, achieving $38 billion in sales.


But conservatives pointed out that, although the progress is rapid, the base is too small. The global market is $470 billion. $38 billion is only 7.9%. Sales may have grown, but the market share was still the same as it was in 2017. The whole world is growing rapidly, not only China.


And Professor Wei Shaojun said, “China’s products are still in middle and low end, there is no fundamental change at all.”


BRIAN SANTO: So how do you think the government of China will proceed after this? What do you think the companies will do moving forward?


ECHO ZHAO: Well, In addition to national government funding, local governments have introduced many favorable policies to help IC companies, and I believe that IC companies in China are facing the best ever development opportunities.


However, government’s power has its limits. Historically, Chinese government have participated in formal standards activities only in the communications industry. The IC industry is very, very dispersed and complex, and we all believe that there is no country in the world that can dominate the world. Right? Chinese companies should participate in global market competition and win.


BRIAN SANTO: Thank you so much for being here with us this week.


ECHO ZHAO: Thank you, Brian. It’s my pleasure.


BRIAN SANTO: I'm Brian Santo, editor in chief of EETimes.


DAVID FINCH: And finally, Steve Teranovich, Editor-in-chief at Planet Analog and Senior Technical Editor of EDN, reveals what inspired his team to launch a Special Project on “Reusable Rockets.” We asked him to explain, “Why Reusable?”


STEVE TARANOVICH: Commercial space efforts are out to make a profit. Being able to re-use the main booster stage, instead of letting it drop back to sink in the ocean and never able to be recovered, is a huge savings for the total cost of a launch. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has achieved that goal, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is close to achieving that goal as well. This will drastically reduce the cost of launching a payload into space. The rocket’s first-stage booster is typically the largest cost of the launch.


Another unseen benefit of re-usable rockets is faster turnaround time for the next launch. That adds to the bottom line in profit. Even European efforts are following suit. Ariane Group and the French Space Agency are fast approaching development of reusable launch vehicles with the newly formed company called ArianeWorks.


In this latest Special Project on Space Electronics, we look deeper into the commercial efforts underway, especially in the electronics arena. In August 2018, NASA selected 13 companies to look at the commercial future of human spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit, or LEO. LEO is where the International Space Station now resides.


NASA officials have told me that they are now a spaceport. Space-X is leasing property at Kennedy Space Center, and has built buildings there and are launching from Launch Pad 39A, a former Space Shuttle Launch Pad. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is leasing land at Kennedy Space Center as well, and is in the process of building up a facility there.


Space Electronics are crucial for the success of Commercial Space business. Make no mistake: This effort will be challenging and exciting, and it WILL immerse our electronics community into the effort and use our collective talents.


As engineers and technicians, we can look forward to huge design opportunities, using our creative talents for the safe commercialization of Space travel, that will likely equal and probably even dwarf the efforts we made in electronics to send astronauts to the moon 50 years ago.


DAVID FINCH: That was Steve Taranovich, and this has been your weekly briefing from EETimes and the AspenCore Global Service. You can read all of these stories and more at EETimes.com. Thanks for listening.





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