And That’s a Wrap: ISSCC 2022 Teases Out a Lot of New Tech

March 03, 2022 by Ikimi .O

As this year's International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) wraps up this week, let's take a look at some of this years interesting announcements.

This week concluded 2022's ISSCC. This annual event allows participants to introduce cutting-edge IC designs that adequately address top integrated system challenges and networking opportunities with leading experts. 

At this year's conference several exhibitions, announcements, and presentations from industry players and academia, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Intel took place. 


Example of a transmitter chip from imec that was announced at this year's ISSCC.

Example of a transmitter chip from imec that was announced at this year's ISSCC. Image used courtesy of imec


This article explores announcements from some companies and universities during the conference, highlighting their benefits to the industry.


2022's ISSCC: An Overview 

The ISSCC, an avenue for exhibiting the latest advances in systems-on-chip (SoC) and solid-state circuits, is typically held annually in February in the US.

This year, the event was held between the 20th and 28th of February, making it the second industry event after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The ISSCC is the foremost global forum that provides a platform for industry leaders to showcase their latest advances in cutting-edge IC design and applications, as well as network with other leaders to foster technological development.

By focusing on the latest SoC and solid-state circuit advances, this event allows engineers to discover new technologies to incorporate into their designs for higher efficiencies and performance.


Noteworthy Innovations at ISSCC 2022

Various industry leaders and universities, including Intel, Renesas, and MIT, were featured at ISSCC 2022.

A significant portion of their announcements bordered around the latest technology releases that promise higher speed and efficiency, lower device footprints and costs, and greater data security for a wide range of industry applications.

With so many different announcements taking place, let's dive into a few to highlight their unique contributions to tackle top integrated system challenges.


Intel Announces Blockchain Accelerator 

The first announcement we'll touch on is from Intel.

This year, Intel presented several papers, demonstrations, forum presentations, and gave a tutorial on some design methodologies for energy harvesting wireless sensor nodes.

One interesting technology Intel unveiled is a blockchain accelerator to meet the growing demand for high-efficiency digital asset acquisition, storage, processing, and transaction tracking.


Rendering of Intel's blockchain accelerator.

Rendering of Intel's blockchain accelerator. Image used courtesy of Intel


This accelerator leverages years of research into hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuits to deliver solutions with better performance and higher mining speeds than conventional GPUs.

Although this solution promises significant improvements over existing solutions, Intel hopes to minimize its impact on the supply of existing Intel products by implementing the architecture of the accelerator on a tiny piece of silicon.

Moreover, Intel’s participation at the conference allowed it to exhibit its ventures across various other industry interests, including system-level process co-optimization, power delivery, thermals, memory, and device packaging.


Renesas Targets IoT With RF Transceiver

The next interesting release comes from Renesas with its latest Bluetooth LE RF transceiver technologies to demonstrate impedance tuning and reference signal self-correction technologies in facilitating the implementation of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) in IoT devices. 


Prototype of the Bluetooth LE RF transceiver circuit.

Prototype of the Bluetooth LE RF transceiver circuit. Image used courtesy of Renesas


Moreover, the company also noted that these smaller, higher power efficiency technologies meet two key requirements for wireless communication implementation in IoT devices, including the presence of matching circuit technology and the availability of a reference signal self-correction circuit technology.

These requirements ensure a wide impedance range and eliminate the need for calibration circuitry, respectively.

Consequently, Renesas currently offers technologies that claim to adequately handle power consumption, costs, signal loss, and range challenges in wireless communication implementation in IoT by meeting these requirements.

All in all, the reduced circuit area down to 0.84 mm2 and reception and transmission power consumption of 3.6 mW and 4.1 mW, respectively, make these recent Renesas solutions the smallest Bluetooth LE RF circuits, which offer reduced board cost and power consumption through a simplified board design process.


"Industry's Fastest" UWB Transmitter Chip and High-speed Microprocessors

Another company that leveraged ISSCC's stage to make some recent announcements is imec. 

Recently, imec presented its latest advances in low-power application microprocessors and wideband transmitter chips with its recently released solutions. In collaboration with PragmatIC Semiconductor, an industry-leading flexible electronics manufacturer, and KU Leuven, imec developed an 0.8 µm metal-oxide flexible 8-bit microprocessor, which promises high speed real-time complex assembly code processing.


Imec's 8-bit flexible microprocessor.

Imec's 8-bit flexible microprocessor. Image used courtesy of imec


Utilizing the robust thin-film technology offered by PragmatIC Semiconductor to deliver a solution that aims to adequately address unipolar system design-related challenges. 

Moreover, collaboration with other industry leaders enabled imec to manufacture this cutting-edge microprocessor that performs complex computations for IoT applications at high speeds up to 71.4 kHz, low power consumptions down to 11.6 mW, high transistor integration densities.

Aside from this microprocessor, imec also teased an industry-first ultra-wideband (UWB) transmitter chip with high bitrates (up to 1.66 Gb/s) and low power consumption for a wide range of applications, including augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences and wireless telemetry modules for intracortical sensing.

With these improvements in UWB technology from imec, the industry has a higher chance of achieving unprecedented feats than conventional indoor localization, secure keyless entry for automotive and hospitality, and asset tracking applications.


MIT's Solution for Eliminating Side-channel Attacks

The final announcement we'll touch on in this article comes from MIT.

Hoping to target security risks, researchers identified the need to minimize the activities of malicious agents who try to breach data security by exploiting device weakness through side-channel attacks.

With this attack, hackers gather secret information by exploiting a system or hardware indirectly. This exploitation is most effective when device power consumption fluctuations align with neural network operations, which lead to a “leak” out of protected information from the device. 

The MIT researchers proposed a solution to handle side-channel attacks and improve data security in lower-power computation devices (e.g., IoT devices such as smartwatches) since conventional side-channel attack prevention methods are highly power-intensive.

The researchers developed a chip based on a unique computation type (threshold computing), which splits data into random components at the beginning of operations and reintegrates them at the end.


MIT's side-channel attack prevention chip

MIT's side-channel attack prevention chip. Image used courtesy of MIT


This method offers several benefits, including top-notch security, lower energy consumption, and a smaller footprint when compared to other secure implementations. However, the device exhibits higher power consumption and silicon areas when compared to insecure implementation.

All in all, the MIT chip claims to provide record-breaking protection against side-channel attacks for low power-intensive devices even after collecting 2 million waveforms.


ISSCC Shoots for the Future 

Though much information hasn't been released outside of ISSCC, at the moment, a review of these announcements and presentations from industry players and academia indicates a trend aimed at improving the capabilities of existing solutions.

Each of these innovations shows promising technology that we could see more of in 2022. It will be interesting to see where these devices impact the industry outside of this conference.