The Design Automation Conference is 56 years old and is recognized as the premier conference for design and automation of electronic systems. Attendees include system designers, architects, logic and circuit designers, validation
engineers, CAD managers, as well as managers, executives, and researchers and academicians from over 1,000 organizations.
So who puts this kind of event together? Unsurprisingly, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is involved. The other key party is the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), specifically ACM's Special Interest Group on Design Automation (SIGDA).
The show has six fundamental centers of interest:
- Integrated circuit design
- Electronic design automation (EDA)
- Embedded systems and software (ESS) and systems
- Intellectual property (IP)
- Machine learning and AI
So, although DAC is being held in Las Vegas, it definitely isn't about fun and games.
Let's take a look at some of they key events at this conference so you can decide if it's up your alley for next year—and try to suss out what this year's theme ("From Chips to Systems—Learn Today, Create Tomorrow") means for electrical engineers.
If you're currently at DAC 2019, tell us about what you're up to today in the comments below!
There are over 200 exhibitors reportedly in attendance at this year's DAC. There are many small and more niche companies present, many with very specific interests in the implementation of automation in testing, information management, and design. In reality, it's possible that these smaller companies are the ones that engineers may be most likely to interact with when it comes to utilizing automation services.
Several big names are also on the list, however, belonging to those companies that have global fingers in boundary-pushing research pies. Oftentimes working with academic leaders, these megacorporations oftentimes represent the bleeding edge of large-scale automation advancements.
A few very notable exhibitors and their booth assignments are listed below:
- Google (Booth 1216)
- IBM (Booth 1220)
- Intel (Booth 553)
- Microsoft (Booth 1215)
- Samsung (Booth 546)
Aside from having booth space (many with active demos), these companies also take part in active sessions to encourage discussion among peers and share actionable knowledge.
Keynotes and Presentations
DAC presentations include several of-the-moment topics, from quantum computing to gaming. Over 300 sessions in all are planned, from blockbuster keynotes to more intimate how-to walkthroughs.
Here's a brief look at just a few of the subjects explored by presenters this year:
- "Game Changers: How Automation Has Changed the Gaming Industry" from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas's Dr. Mark Yoseloff, PhD
Dr. Yoseloff's presentation promises to share which two automation-based innovations have accounted for multi-billion dollar increases in gaming revenue (across the span of three-millennia!).
- "Securing the Billions of Devices Around Us" from Microsoft's Galen C. Hunt
What is required to secure these billions of devices? And, how can it be done economically enough to apply to every device?
The crowd for Hunt's Keynote this morning, June 3rd. Image from the 56th DAC's Twitter account. #56DAC
- "What can EDA do for Quantum Computing and what can QC do for EDA?" from IBM's Leon Stok
Ok, so we've been hearing a lot about quantum computing for years now. According to this presentation's description, however, quantum computing may finally be something engineers can put their digital hands on through "on real hardware" via the cloud. IBM Q has been around for years, back even before IBM offered cloud-based use of their 17-qubit quantum computer back in 2017, including the advent of IBM Q Network, a milestone in the quantum race.
In Stok's presentation, he takes a closer look at how (and why) we can pursue "Quantum Advantage"—the point at which quantum computing "earns its keep" (so to speak) in practical terms compared to classical computing.
- "Hors D’Oeuvres from Chaos" from Thomas Dolby (Yes, THAT Thomas Dolby. The musician, Thomas Dolby.)
What's a musician doing at a design automation event, anyway? In a more arts-focused session, Thomas Dolby looks at the intersection of music and AI.
Tutorials and Continuing Education
It won’t be all passive viewing and listening, because DAC offers many tutorials. Led by some of the most successful companies on earth (leaders from Nvidia, Amazon, Facebook, e.g.) and some of the brightest minds in related academia (experts from Cornell, Stanford, e.g.) these sessions are designed to bring more practical skills to attendees.
DAC's broad theme leaves room for learning skills across IC design, security, algorithm design, T&M, and even chip fabrication—all of which are approached with an automation (and/or machine-learning/AI/quantum computing) bent.
Below is a just a sampling of topics that I found particularly interesting for EEs:
- Machine Learning in Digital IC Design and EDA: Latest Results and Outlook
- How to Run ML Algorithms on the Edge
- Modern Recipes for Brewing the Inevitable Methodology for Today’s ICs: Low Power Mixed-Signal Design Verification
- Pre-silicon Verification & Post-Silicon Validation: An End-to-End Approach with Industrial Applications
- Designing Application-Specific AI Processors
- QUEST: Quantum Computing- EDA, Security and Test
- EDA Challenges of 3D Integration: Physical Layer to Manycore Chip Design
Speakers from Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook will discuss the recent advancement of the machine learning algorithms, especially the neural network algorithms that have revolutionized computer vision, natural language processing.
How to Take It All In
You can’t! There is just so much going on that you’ll simply have to prioritize.
Here is a day-by-day matrix listing of all the events, starting with Sunday, June 2 and ending on Thursday. Color-coding of the various areas of interest will make it easier for attendees to make their choices.
A chronological list of the events is available here. If you want to restrict you view to specifics, such as networking, training or tutorials, once again a sidebar provided on the left side of the web page will do it. For clarity’s sake, a reminder: the sidebar topics:
- Topic Area
- Event Types
On the DAC website, these are actually drop-down lists that can be expanded to help you pinpoint the specifics you choose to explore.
A final word: This show is VAST. If you plan on going next year, you’ll definitely need to spend some time perusing DAC’s extensive website to get the most out of the event.
Do you work in design automation? What catches your eye about DAC? Alternatively, what else would you look for in a conference? Share your experience in the comments below.