While I was an engineering student in college—back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth—I didn’t have a lot of free elective slots. Because most of you Circuit Cellar readers are engineers, you can probably relate. But I did manage to fit in an elective course about the philosophy of technology. Whether it was the engineer in me or the nerd in me, I’ve always had an interest in “looking under the hood” or “behind the scenes” at the underlying meaning of things, and of words in particular. One thing that stuck with me from that course was the notion that the word technology when you break it down means “the science of technique.” For me that phrase has a nice ring to it.
Particularly in the past decade or so—as technology has become a part of everyday consumer life—the shortcut term “tech” has emerged as a cool replacement for “technology.” I’ve always bristled at that, especially as it became clear that the word “tech” tends to be used more frequently by those that don’t have any clue about how electronic circuits and computing systems work. And by leaving off the “-ology” they are leaving off the “science of” part, which, to me, is the important bit.
The result of all this is that I’ve tended to be stubborn about not using the shortcut term “tech” in either writing or in conversation. That’s easier said than done when trying to keep headlines short, and I’ve softened my stance about it in recent years. In an era when boosting website SEO requires a certain amount of conciseness, one must adapt.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll turn a technology (wink) that is definitely well positioned to be a key “under the hood” winner: RISC-V. As a free and open instruction set architecture, RISC-V has shaken things up in the processor realm by offering an ISA that everyone can use without paying a license fee. The RISC-V specification enables custom instruction extensions to facilitate the design of Domain-Specific Architecture/Acceleration (DSA). These are important for applications such as Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, AR/VR, ADAS and next generation storage and networking.
The timing of this magazine’s production is such that I’m not able to report on the 2019 RISC-V Summit that took place in early December. Judging by progress made in the RISC-V ecosystem throughout 2019, I’m sure there were many interesting developments. Instead, I’ll talk about the market trends in RISC-V. In November, Semico Research released a new report “RISC-V Market Analysis: The New Kid on the Block” that estimates that the market will consume a total of 62.4 billion RISC-V CPU cores by 2025, with the industrial sector forecasted to be the largest segment with 16.7 billion cores. Forecasting the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for RISC-V CPU cores, Semico estimates that segments including the computer, consumer, communication, transportation and industrial markets will see a 146.2% percent CAGR on average between 2018 and 2025.
In its forecast of the CAGR for RISC-V CPU cores between 2018 and 2025, Semico estimates that the communication sector will see the largest CAGR due to the deployment of 5G and the multitude of products and applications that will be enabled with the adoption of 5G technology. Transportation is estimated to have the second-fastest CAGR due to the automotive industry’s growing focus on electrification and the increased adoption of CPU-based systems for safety, in-cabin experiences, driver assistance and wireless communications. Semico not only found that organizations are designing RISC-V solutions across a variety of performance and volume applications, but also that they’re designing anywhere from one or two to more than 1,000 cores in SoCs .
RISC-V is compelling technology for engineers to design into products—products that end customers are free to call “tech” if they so choose.
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE• JANUARY 2020 #354- Get a PDF of the issue