Friday, December 12, 2008

Cadence releases Accelerated Parallel Simulator for Analog/MS IC Designs

Much of the news concerning Cadence Design these days has not been good, but today’s announcement bucks that run of bad corporate-related news. Today the company announced the availability of an Accelerated Parallel Simulator (APS) for its Virtuoso product. The majority of RFIC designers use the Virtuoso suite for IC circuit design/simulation and in particular its Virtuoso Spectre® Circuit Simulator, which specifically solves large, complex analog and mixed-signal designs across all process nodes. The new simulator adds a breakthrough parallel circuit solver, along with a newly architected engine to give users access to multiprocessing computing platforms.

The result is an accurate circuit simulator that uses models which are identical to the Virtuoso Spectre Circuit Simulator, delivering significantly improved single-thread performance and scalable multi-thread performance. The Virtuoso Accelerated Parallel Simulator improves convergence and capacity for designs with hundreds of thousands of transistors, reducing design and verification time in most cases from weeks to hours. Company spokesmen boosted 20.6 times performance boost over traditional SPICE simulators, which enabled users to verify and detect multiple design issues.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

4G update 12/10/2009

The path to 4G is a tricky one as Sprint Nextel must figure out how to move its CDMA-based wireless business and customers to the 4G network envisioned by Clear, Sprint’s 51%-owned WiMAX joint venture with Clearwire and partners. The challenge is to strike the right balance between Sprint's immediate opportunities which remain with CDMA and the key growth areas for US wireless services that are mobile broadband (or 4G). WiMAX appears to have strong medium term potential and is worthy of Sprint's continued support but the network will need full commitment and time (a few years at least) to establish its brand with consumers. The issue for Sprint (and users) is the lack of a 4G migration path for users of the CDMA-based wireless. The solution is to enter into an MVNO deal with its own joint venture, offering dual-mode CDMA/WiMAX devices under the logo 'Sprint 4G'.

The first dual-mode modems could appear with the new year, enabling Sprint to begin marketing its mobile broadband services to its CDMA base early, before widespread WiMAX coverage and lack of migration path burns their customers. This will let Sprint establish its advanced credentials ahead of any LTE activities from competitors AT&T and Verizon. While a Sprint 4G brand, based on dual-mode will likely delay the new Clear offering, the company will benefit from serving the long term needs of its customers better. And for us folks who make a living off developing and manufacturing components for dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA radios, the concept also makes a lot of sense.

Monday, December 8, 2008

This news arrived today, Monday December 8th. Zensys ( and Nokia today announced the availability of the Z-Wave-enabled Nokia Home Control Center. Powered by Z-Wave technology, the device is compatible with the entire Z-Wave ecosystem of more than 300 home control products. Nokia is making a major step into the home automation and control market, which is expected to grow to $10 billion in the next two years.

Z-wave background
Z-Wave is a low-power wireless technology designed specifically for remote control applications. Z-Wave transforms any stand-alone device into an intelligent network node that can be controlled and monitored wirelessly. Unlike high-bandwidth standards such as IEEE 802.11-based systems that are designed for high-speed data, the Z-Wave RF system is optimized for low-overhead commands such as on-off and raise-lower (as in volume control). Applications for Z-Wave intelligence include home entertainment systems, lighting and appliance control, HVAC systems, security and access control, meter reading and digital home health care.
Z-Wave is a mesh networking technology where each node or device on the network is capable of sending and receiving control commands through walls or floors and around household obstacles or radio dead spots that might occur in the home. Z-Wave devices can work singly or in groups, and can be programmed into scenes or events that trigger multiple devices, either automatically or via remote control.

Because Z-Wave operates apart from the 2.4 GHz frequency of 802.11 based wireless systems, it is largely impervious to interference from common household wireless electronics, such as Wi-Fi routers, cordless telephones and Bluetooth devices that work in the same frequency range. This freedom from household interference allows for a standardized low-bandwidth control medium that can be reliable alongside common wireless devices.
As a result of its low power consumption and low cost of manufacture, Z-Wave is easily embedded in consumer electronics products, including battery operated devices such as remote controls, smoke alarms and security sensors. Z-Wave is currently supported by over 200 manufacturers worldwide and appears in a broad range of consumer products in the U.S. and Europe.

Zensys offers the Z-Wave® protocol , a wireless RF-based communications technology designed for control and status reading applications in residential and light commercial environments. Z-Wave delivers reliable wireless networking at a fraction of the cost of other similar technologies, by focusing on narrow bandwidth applications and substituting costly hardware with innovative software solutions.
One clear benefit of electronic consumer devices that can be made to network together cheaply is that they can avoid the cost of building device to device networking into the house or business infrastructure itself. Given the housing slump, it is advantageous to offer a technology that is not to tied into that economy.

Defected Ground Structures

We receive several technical articles each month about circuits that utilize Defected Ground Structures (DGS) to improve performance. A DGS is where the ground plane metal is purposely modified with a certain geometry (and positioning of that geometry) to enhance performance. They can be used in various circuits with antennas, filters, delay lines, phase shifters, etc. to improve performance such as modifying the band pass/reject characteristics for filters or modifying the slow wave effect for delay lines or phase shifters.

While DGS may improve performance, these circuits are highly susceptible to the effects of the packaging since they radiate. Any physical structure near the DGS (within the EM field) will probably affect their performance. Therefore publishing results which show improved performance but do not include the adverse (and real-world) effects introduced by packaging would mislead our readers, so we have made it a policy not to publish papers on DGS without measured results which include these effects.

Because we stress the importance of practical applications, we want to make sure the circuit performance presented in an article reflects how it would perform if packaged and used in an application. I believe this is now the policy of the IEEE also for technical publications and we have adopted it too. So I wanted to state this policy here and get any feedback we can from design engineers and others. Let us know what you think by posting a comment.