It has been a year since Globalfoundries made the strategic decision to focus on its FDX platform, FinFET, RF and low power technologies over the bleeding edge. I have never seen the company more energized and focused than it is now, and I believe the industry is genuinely relieved the “pivot” is working out as competition in the overall independent fab market is dwindling, and chip customers need optimized technologies for 5G RF, IoT and automotive markets.
Globalfoundries’ 22FDX is core to the company’s shift to a more focused fab approach, and the company describes 22FDX as offering “best in class performance, power consumption, integration capability and optimized cost profile for 5G mmWave, Edge AI, IoT and automotive applications.” I believe 22FDX is Globalfoundries biggest differentiator right now as its design is based lower cost CMOS while delivering low power and high performance. Foundry competitors were quick to emulate 22FDX, too, giving credence to the approach.
The last time we publicly heard about the business status of FDX, the companytouted $2B in design revenue with 52 companies in its ecosystem. This was over a year ago, so where is 22FDX today? Well, it’s in shipping end products like the Google Nest Mini.
Teardowns are a great thing, especially when you have the hardware in front of you, heat sinks aren’t glued on, and chips are labeled well. It’s even better when you find a part you’ve written about before. As I tore into Google’s 2nd Gen Nest Mini, what’s standing front and center is a Synaptics AS-370, part of its Smart Edge AudioSmart SoCs, which I wrote about here.
The Synaptics AS3XX Series was designed specifically towards the next generation of voice-enabled smart devices. This new family of chips features integrated neural network acceleration (one of the first, if not the first to do so), a wake-word engine (that supports custom wake-words), and advanced far-field voice processing.
These capabilities are becoming even more important with the desire for more ML inference at the edge to improve device responsiveness and protect customer privacy. Google hammered on this during its Google IO developer event. If you look at Google’s 2nd Gen Nest Mini product page, you will see these characteristics described in consumer terms of:
- “improved voice recognition”
- “just say ‘Hey, Google”
- “get help around your home with your Google Assistant”
- “being part of your home means respecting your privacy”
- “control your home with just your voice.”
The way I make the connection between the Synaptics AS-370 and Globalfoundries 22DFX is simple- Synaptics announced its AS3XX Series was based on 22nm in its press release here and former Synaptics CEO Rick Bergman said it was using 22FDX in it’s IoT enabled chips while keynoting at Globalfoundries GTC 2018 here. Moor Insights & strategy analyst Anshel Sag attended GTC 2018 and Bergman said, “22FDX has the right mix of performance, power, and the ability to aggregate functions such as RF and non-volatile memory” and “we went through an extensive review, and GF was the solution that we are going to use going forward for our IoT AI-enabled solutions.”
It’s so nice to see such a straight line between the end consumer’s needs of responsiveness and privacy, the Google Nest Mini, Synaptics Smart Edge Audio Smart SoCs, and Globalfoundries 22FDX. With Google the #2 smart speaker vendor to Amazon, it must be a pretty good business, too.
Synaptics isn’t the only vendor taking advantage of Globalfoundries 22FDX for ML inference at the edge.
GreenWaves Technologies announced its 2nd generation GAP9 IoT applications processor based on 22FDX on December 11th. GreenWaves says the GAP9 cranks out up to 50 GigaOPS at 50mW and is ideal for wearable audio and camera products and supports MobileNet V1, Google TensorFlow, Open Source Face Identification and AES 128/256.
22FDX is key to Globalfoundries’ pivot to more differentiated, low power technologies for 5G, IoT and automotive markets. While companies are very hush-hush on what silicon is used in end products, a simple teardown reveals not only the chip but by connecting the dots, which technology and process. 22FDX is in-market and in end products, which is nice to see.
I am looking forward to other teardowns showing more products with 22FDX.