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Why SoC?

Socionext is a leading global supplier of System-on-Chip solutions with over 40 years of experience.  In fact, their name, SOCIONEXT, reflects their focus on Custom SoC solutions for today’s leading-edge dynamic applications within the Automotive, Industrial and Network environments.

Their focus is on providing innovative products and solutions for situations that need advanced process technologies with challenging complexity and have demanding performance requirements.

These challenging complex applications need Custom SoCs. Why? Well, many companies designing products do not have the luxury of in-house design for an ASIC approach.  But, when faced with the situation of no available off-the-shelf components a Custom SoC is the solution.


So, what’s the difference between ASIC and Custom SoCs?

The design specification or chip content as well as the interface and design responsibilities between customer and the chip supplier are a key consideration here. In a traditional ASIC, the chip design is the responsibility of the customer, based on technology libraries delivered by the chip supplier. The design is delivered to the supplier in the form of a technology specific gate-level description (‘netlist’) or as a higher-level software description (‘RTL’). The chip supplier then handles the conversion of the customer design into a physical chip, including packaging and test of the final product. Each party must take responsibility for its part in the overall design.

ASICs may (and often do) include multiple macro-IP blocks supplied by the chip vendor, but do not necessarily include any dedicated CPU functionality. A System-on-Chip solution (by its very definition) is based around a CPU or multiple CPU subsystems and acts as the central processing element in the final system. In addition to the CPU(s), the SoC will also contain any number of other processing units, such as ISP, DSP or GPU as well as other dedicated IP blocks for functions such as high-speed external interfaces.

In order to design an ASIC, customers have to have either a dedicated internal chip design team or at a minimum in-house experts to interface to an external design partner. This may be difficult to justify when the number of custom designs required is limited.  By comparison, a Custom SoC approach offers additional options, with the chip supplier taking more of the design responsibility. This may range from a ‘Platform-based’ approach (where the supplier offers pre-verified subsystems) to a ‘spec-in ‘design where the supplier takes full responsibility for the complete design process. Our focus applications are particularly relevant for Custom SoCs.

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Custom SoCs for Automotive Applications

Within the Automotive Sector there is a move towards autonomous vehicles and a huge change in the way they are designed. In-vehicle infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems are merging to enhance the driving experience whilst increasing safety. The car of the future will integrate a large number of different sensor technologies such as cameras, radar, LiDAR and ultrasound which require massive amounts of data to be generated. Achieving these high levels of performance and integration whilst at the same time minimizing chip size, cost and power consumption will open new opportunities for customization which may be the only option to achieve the required design objectives.

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Custom SoCs for IoT and Industry 4.0

Challenges from networking and data handling to machine vision are just some of the complex applications that need to be addressed within the Industrial environment, particularly in view of the large number of communication standards which have been adopted within the production process. The ability to handle large amounts of data at the Edge is becoming increasingly important as is the growing demand for networking and computing for vision and image recognition with no human intervention. Here Socionext has developed a number of solutions which simplify the development of Industry 4.0 equipment such as IP protection, functional safety and lifecycle management

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Custom SoCs for Networking

Socionext has a long-standing history of state-of-the art Custom SoC for optical transport network applications, by providing the world’s first 100G, 200G and 400G chipsets to the market and revolutionizing the telecom space. With the introduction of 5G the wide variety of existing know-how can be utilized for new developments enabling better solutions, overcoming existing boundaries and pushing forward the 5G frontiers for new, broader network eco systems.  5G’s requirement for high data rates but also low latency with new feature sets has meant that transmitting data using discrete devices and modules in conventional, non-Custom SoC solutions will inevitably lead to a dramatic rise in power consumption. However, using Socionext intelligence the integration into a Custom SoC offers major benefits to system solutions since it enables optimized, complex designs with higher performance but lower power consumption and smaller footprints.

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The Benefits of Custom SoCs

Dedicated Custom SoCs for 5G applications will play an important role in the successful deployment of future wireless networks and related business opportunities.  High-end, optimized ASIC/LSI solutions will be required to comply with the future needs, accommodate for the technology shifts and unleash the huge potential of 5G, and the IoT sector. In order to stay competitive and assure the roll-out of the various technologies in a timely manner, supporting the complete infrastructure and ecosystem, experienced IDMs are mandatory.

Socionext owns patented and optimized circuit, layout and chip (IC) solutions that, with the know-how acquired over many years, enable the customer to successfully market a wide range of new applications including areas that go far beyond 5G mobile network applications.

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