DOLPHIN INTEGRATION INCORPORATES TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPED BY THE UNIVERSITÉ JOSEPH FOURIER INTO ITS PRODUCT OFFERING

Dolphin Integration has integrated technology from the Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble 1 into its product offering

The Grenoble-based company has signed a licence agreement with the Université Joseph Fourier (UJF) and Grenoble INP (Institute of Technology), via the UJF’s technology transfer subsidiary , Floralis. This technology originated from the TIMA laboratory (Techniques for Computing and Microelectronics for Architecture of Integrated Systems), recognised world-wide for its expertise for over 25 years.

Dolphin Integration develops CAD software (computer-aided design) dedicated to the design of electronic, microelectronic, and multi-domain circuits, such as its SLED and SMASH software. These products form the main solution for diagram input and simulation that is being commercialised by DOLPHIN. As part of the general process of designing circuits, simulation is one of the first stages for validation, and is responsible for detecting problems before moving on to the prototyping stage, when discovering errors is more expensive to fix.

The newly acquired TIMA technology has been integrated into the SLED and SMASH products, and will enable automatic verification of the properties and functionalities of circuits that clients wish to develop. At each stage of the design of a system until its hardware prototyping, these verifications can carried out to reduce the number of errors, as well as saving valuable time and money in the development of an electronic or microelectronic circuit.

The transfer of this technology is a reward for five years of research carried out at the TIMA laboratory and a year of collaborative activity with Dolphin Integration. Laurence Pierre, a UJF professor and Head of the TIMA Team was delighted with this agreement, “Floralis offers us the support we need to help us commercialise our research results. They have advised us and offered real help in writing up the license agreement. We are very pleased with the result”.

“We bought the licence with the aim of expanding our product offering in order to meet market requirements and sell our products more effectively. This in-licensing activity enables us to capitalise on a highly innovative technology that is completely compatible with our product; this is a real win-win scenario, one that will help us increase speed-to-market significantly" explained Gilles Depeyrot, Head of Development Activity for Microelectronic CAD Software Packages at Dolphin Integration.


To find out more about this technology transfer agreement, we went to meet the people behind it all – Laurence Pierre, a UJF professor and Head of the TIMA Team, and Gilles Depeyrot, the Head of Development Activity for Microelectronic CAD Software Packages at Dolphin Integration.


Interview with Laurence Pierre, a UJF professor and Head of the TIMA Team

Can you tell us about the technology you have developed?
It is an original technology for building surveillance monitors using specifications expressed in the standard IEEE programming language "PSL", i.e. assertion functions that can be integrated into descriptions of circuits in VHDL or Verilog.
The monitors produced by these logico-temporal assertions are themselves components expressed in VHDL or Verilog. They can therefore be used, associated with a circuit to be verified, in simulation or hardware emulation, and can even be embedded with the circuit for on line surveillance. In fact, they are are not intrusive and their surface has been specifically designed to fit the circuit.. The construction method also has the unique special feature of having been categorically proven correct (i.e. consistent with PSL semantics), which provides undeniable security.

Had your team worked with Dolphin Integration before?
We hadn’t previously had the opportunity. Naturally, we approached Dolphin Integration when we wanted to set up an ANR (National Agency for Research) project integrating technology transfer for our verification solution. Their tools, SMASH in particular, presented an ideal framework for our technology.

Did you ever think that it would lead to the signing of a licence agreement?
At that time, we hadn’t decided exactly how to really make this collaboration with Dolphin Integration. It was the progress of the ANR project that reinforced the idea that this type of technology transfer project would be possible. So, we sought advice from Floralis (UJF technology transfert subsidiary). 
 
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
This solution for verification using surveillance monitors is progressing in two main directions:
via collaboration with another TIMA team, the construction of monitors following the same principle, but as an asynchronous technology (Quasi-Delay-Insensitive) to make them resistant to variations in their environment; the adaptation of these same basic principles in the context of verification of systems on chip outlined in SystemC TLM. A prototype tool already exists, which enables the production, and association of a transactional SystemC description, of software "monitors" combined with specifications in PSL.

We have also directed our methods towards the synthesis of controllers using PSL specifications and synthesised components that can be used as golden models in a verification process.
Finally, in amongst all of the work being carried out by our team, there is also a very different project, one concerning the use of strict methods for the analysis of resistance when faced with transitory errors, in collaboration with another TIMA team and partners of LIP6.


Interview with Gilles Depeyrot, Head of Development Activity for Microelectronic CAD Software Packages at Dolphin Integration


Was the in-licensing agreement part of Dolphin Integration’s R&D strategy?
Indeed, we bought the licence with the aim of expanding our service offering to meet market requirements and sell our products more effectively. As long as certain conditions are respected, this in-licensing activity enables us to capitalise on a highly innovative technology that is completely compatible with our product; this is a real win-win scenario, one that will help us increase speed-to-market significantly.

What are the challenges linked to the integration of the acquired technology?
Whatever the technology, the solution to two challenges of a very different nature crucially involves the industrialisation and commercialisation process and innovations originating from partners such as the research laboratories:

  • Firstly, there is a technical challenge with regards to integrating the existing products. This involves first understanding how the technology works, understanding its potential and its limitations, and determining its areas of application. Then comes the industrialisation of the technology, either by developing all or part of the functionality using its detailed technical specifications, or by generalising its use and validating it to improve the code’s reliability. It’s about securely integrating the technology within products, in close interaction with the research laboratory.
  • Secondly, parallel to technical integration, there is the challenge of marketing the integration in the existing product offering. This involves understanding areas of application, determining the segments that exist in target markets, positioning the product’s sales points with regards to the competition, and developing all necessary sales collateral, from the rate card to datasheets to promote the offering to potential prospects.
    The most important thing to remember in any commercialisation strategy is that the technology can be the best and/or the most efficient there is, but its value on the market is measured in comparison with the commercial value of competing solutions. The solution cannot be sold without a substantial marketing and commercial effort.

 

How will this technology be integrated into your existing products?
During the industrialisation  stages, we developed the necessary modules to integrate the initial technology into our products, in the form of two options. One enhances the SMASH simulator with the support of PSL properties, and the other enables automatic generation of synthesisable monitors using these same properties in the SLED diagram editor. Both contribute to reinforcing our solution for design and de-bugging of mixed circuits by integrating verification functions based on assertions (ABV - Assertion Based Verification). From a users point of view, these options are activated (or not) depending on whether they are necessary for their own applications. Moreover, this approach makes discussions much easier during the evaluation  stages of the technology, which lead to the signing of a licence.