DesignCon 2019 Begins, Highlights Signal Integrity and Test and Measurement Needed for 5G

January 29, 2019 by Gary Elinoff

DesignCon 2019 begins today in Santa Clara, California. Here's a brief overview of the show's goals and events.

DesignCon 2019 begins today in Santa Clara, California. Here's a brief overview of the show's goals and events, especially how the show aims to help engineers gear up for the rise of 5G.

Taking place January 29th through the 31st in Santa Monica, CA, DesignCon is a technical conference geared towards engineers working in the forefront of high-speed communications and semiconductor design.

For example, what would a modern electronics conference be without sections on AI and quantum computing? Two of DesignCon’s Keynote Presentations will delve into those realms.

But the story for 2019 is 5G and, even though the exact specifications for 5G are still up in the air, there is one thing that is certain—designers will have to deal with bit rates at previously unimaginable speeds.

Test and measurement methods must change, there must be new generations of connectors, cables and signal channels, and the list goes on. That will be the heart and soul of this conclave.


The DesignCon logo

Keynote Speakers: 5G, AI, and Quantum Computing

There will be three keynote presentations at DesignCon 2019. The first is presented by Dr. Irfan Siddiqi, a physics professor from UC Berkeley. It focuses on quantum computing, specifically on testing and commercial implementation. 

The second, on 5G for vehicle-to-X (V2X) communications, will be presented by University of Texas at Austin ECE professor Robert Heath. This keynote will focus on the high data rates associated with 5G and how its various benefits and challenges will affect the automotive industry's push for V2X connectivity.

The final keynote will be delivered by the Head of Hardware Engineering at Uber, Gloria Lau. Her presentation will discuss the implementation of AI in "hyperscale" applications at Uber, including "self-driving and flying cars". Unlike many AI panels, this presentation will focus on hardware engineering. 

Events and Workshops

Even by the standards of electronic conventions, DesignCon is unusually busy. One individual will not be remotely able to learn everything that’s on tap in this densely-packed show. Attendees will have to choose their schedule wisely.

There will be many events at DesignCon. For the sake of organization, they are divided into 15 logical “tracks":

  1. Signal & Power Intensity for Single–Multi Die, Imposer & Packaging is a wide-ranging panel
  2. Chip I/O & Functional Block Modeling centers on Power Integrity issues for high data-rate systems.
  3. Integrating Photonics & Wireless in Electronic Design. Photonic ICs for IoT and 5G.
  4. System Co-Design: Modeling, Simulation & Measurement Validation. Centers on high-speed memory.
  5. Advances in Materials & Processing for PCBs, Modules and Packages. Packages and PCBs for speeds in the 112 Gbps range
  6. Applying Chip-to-Chip and Advanced PCB Design & Simulation Techniques. Interconnect and crosstalk.
  7. Advanced I/O Interface Design for Memory & 2.5D/3D/SiP Integrations. Signal integrity and high-speed memory.
  8. Optimizing High-Speed Serial Design. Pam4 at 112 Gpbs.
  9. Measurement, Simulation & Optimization of Jitter, Noise & Timing to Minimize Errors. Various topics including design verification, and high-speed serial links.
  10. High-Speed Signal Processing, Equalization & Coding. Further issues with 112g PAM4 and ultra-short electrical interfaces.
  11. Power Integrity in Power Distribution Networks. Voltage regulation, power plane inductance and simulation/measurement.
  12. Electromagnetic Compatibility/Mitigating Interference. Reducing radiation, testing, statistical approaches.
  13. Applying Test and Measurement Methodology. Cable impedances, automotive Ethernet.
  14. Modeling & Analysis of Interconnects. PCBs, crosstalk, copper interconnects at 56/112 Gpbs
  15. Machine Learning for Microelectronics, Signaling & System Design. Wide-ranging, including hardware considerations when implementing AI.

For example, in the first track on signal and power integrity, sessions cover issues including optimization for IoT automotive packages and specific topics such as "Statistical Signal Integrity Analysis of High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) Interposer Channel Considering Non-linear Power/Ground Noise & SSO Noise".

As you can see from the list of tracks, DesignCon's focus is more on actionable skills for engineers than on consumer and application-end considerations. This trend is present across all almost events in the tracks, including the 12 technical panels presented, ranging in topic from signal integrity to data center systems to process design kits in photonics.

In addition, there are day-long boot camps associated with three of the logical tracks, including learning about machine learning and AI, measuring power integrity, and analyzing signal integrity.

But, it won’t be all work, as attendees are invited to a Booth Bar Crawl, and there will be ample opportunities for networking.

Exhibitors and Product Showcases

The list of exhibitors is extensive with almost 200 companies setting up booths on the show floor. Represented are a notable number of test and measurement equipment manufacturers, along with component and connector manufacturers. Also in attendance are a slew of Chinese companies looking to become more familiar with US engineers.


Image courtesy of DesignCon


A highlight will be the Product Showcase, featuring a series of 15-minute presentations from five major exhibitors, offering viewers up-close views of the latest design tools and advances. In one way or another, all of these showcases deal with the impact of the unprecedented challenges presented by 5G’s blindingly fast bit-rates. Note the emphasis on helping engineers deal with super-fast bit rates through test and measurement equipment.

  • Tectronix
    • BSX series BERTScope bit error rate tester
  • Rohde & Schwarz
    • RTP oscilloscope
    • ZNA vector network analyzers
  • Harwin
    • EMC shielding (e.g., SMT shield clips for board level shielding)
  • Siglent Technologies
    • SDS5000X series oscilloscopes

Siglent's SDS5000X oscilloscope. Image courtesy of Siglent


  • Samtec
    • 56 Gbps 7-meter ExaMAX backplane cable assembly
    • 112 Gbps PAM4 flyover cable solution
  • Introspect Technology
    • C Series SerDes testers for the 28 Gbps to 56 Gbps

Announcements at DesignCon

Conferences remain a favorite venue for companies to make announcements and showcase new products. 

Here’s a sampling of some of the announcements and demonstrations that we know of at press time:

Keep an eye out for more announcements as they come over the next few days.


Are you attending DesignCon 2019? Which events would you attend if you could? Share your thoughts in the comments below.