AI to Spur Uptick in ASIC Design Starts

Article By : Rick Merritt, EE Times

With the surge in popularity of voice activated digital assistants like Amazon Echo and the general frenzy of activity around artificial intelligence, a growing number of ASICs will incorporate these some form of AI over the next few years, according to Semico Research.

SAN FRANCISCO — Design starts for artificial intelligence (AI) voice-activated device ASICs will be increasing at a compound annual rate approaching 20 percent by 2021, nearly twice the 10.1 percent CAGR of all ASIC design starts between 2016 and 2021, according to a new report by Semico Research.

With the surge in popularity of voice-activated digital assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, plus the general frenzy of work being done around AI, both startups and established companies are pushing hard to develop silicon to add voice activated capabilities and other AI features to products, especially in the consumer arena.

According to Rich Wawrzyniak, senior analyst for ASIC/SoC research at Semico, AI in the form of pattern recognition, voice recognition and language translation will find its way into almost every device and application that has a processor, DSP or FPGA and some level of computational resources in coming years.

Rich Wawrzyniak

Rich Wawrzyniak

“There is demand for these types of capabilities at every level and in every market segment to some degree,” Wawrzyniak said in a press statement. “We believe these capabilities will become ‘check-box’ items at the very least and could spark the next great surge in the semiconductor market.”

Semico’s report on ASIC design starts for 2017, authored by Wawrzyniak, projects that ASIC unit shipments will grow by 10.1 percent from 2016 to 2021, led by growth in the industrial and consumer market segments. Total ASIC shipments grew by 7.7 percent globally last year, according to the report.

While many of the traditional end-use applications are experiencing slower growth rates due to market saturation and reduced demand, while those associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) are taking off, according to the report.

In addition to IoT and AI, ASIC growth rates for products associated with the smart grid, wearable electronics, solid state drives, drones, industrial IoT, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and 5G infrastructure are also expected to grow faster than the broader market, Semico said.  

Basic SoC design starts in the consumer segment are expected to grow at a 19 percent CAGR and industrial IoT ASIC design starts are projected to grow by 25 percent through 2021, according to the Semico report.

The report also predicts that IoT ASIC unit shipments will eclipse 1.8 billion units next year.

— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.

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