A lot has been happening at Renesas recently, especially in the IoT and Industrial Business Unit. Elektronik Praxis talked to Dr. Sailesh Chittipeddi, Executive Vice President and General Manager of IoT and Infrastructure Business Unit of Renesas, to get an update.
What’s the business logic of Renesas’ acquisitions in recent years?
Sailesh: Any acquisition we make fits in with our vision as our CEO Shibata-san has outlined which is “Making Our Lives Easier by complementing human capabilities”. Within that framework for IIBU we acquire or partner with companies to fit in with the IIBU strategy which is “Enabling Intelligence from the Core to the End Point Sustainably”. From a market segment perspective our acquisitions fall into one of the 3 market segments we address which are: Industrial, IoT and infrastructure. Finally, from a domain expertise outside of our core competencies in embedded processing the major areas we focus on are power, sensing, connectivity or actuation. You will not see us step outside these domains and markets in our partnerships and acquisitions.
Let’s talk about the Dialog acquisition. It seems to be very helpful and profitable for Renesas, especially the Winning Combinations. How does the ex-Dialog products complement Renesas’ product portfolio, to make a good combination?
Sailesh: Dialog adds several good technology elements into the Renesas portfolio. #1 low power technologies which are differentiators in the marketplace. #2 from a connectivity perspective, low power connectivity with BT and Wi-Fi. Dialog is very uniquely differentiated in the connectivity marketplace, and that’s very helpful for wearable devices, medical devices as well as things such as door locks that use low power Wi-Fi. #3 they certainly bring capabilities with the technologies like certain ASICS especially around industrial connectivity solutions such as Ethercat, which support major industrial customers. #4 they also have AC-DC, configurable mixed-signal IC (CMIC’s) as well as display power capabilities which were for the consumer market and elements of these are being redirected towards the industrial market. Additionally in the automotive area, power management complements MPU & MCU products, and further, BLE connectivity complements tire pressure monitoring systems. So broadly it’s been very good from a revenue synergy perspective.
The other competency which is very useful is that Dialog brings a geographically distributed engineering community. Dialog has R&D centers located across Europe, and they have established centers of competency. In this era of continual challenges in the search for talent, their established presence globally helps us greatly.
How’s the integration progressing, the integration at the operating level, like how do you work together now, and what’s the difference of technical cooperation between now and before?
Sailesh: The teams from a product line perspective are completely integrated into the IIBU, ABU, Ops and SG&A teams. Dialog has a far more significant presence on the IIBU side of the business. We’ve integrated all power areas be it industrial, consumer notebook, mobile and data center under one umbrella, so the teams are completely one business unit relative to how we operate and how we face the customer. The sales teams are fully integrated within Renesas. Dialog relied typically on more sales reps. On the other hand, Renesas is much stronger from a distribution perspective, so we’ve integrated them into our distribution channel extremely well, and Dialog was concentrated with a few customers. Now with our mass market, we are able to extend their reach to a broader base of customers.
It’s fully integrated now. How could you complete that in such a short time?
Sailesh: We planned our potential organization structure concurrently with the diligence process. We had to think through what would make sense and how our customers would react best when we offered the full product portfolio. Obviously, we couldn’t involve the Dialog team too much because we had to operate as two independent companies prior to it, but we had put a good bit of thought as to how best we could serve the customers on Day 1. We knew from the prior acquisitions of Intersil and IDT, the key challenge would be lack of people knowing who they report to, if the roadmap would change, and what each of them were going to be doing. There will be some fine tuning that will do as we go along, but from a structural perspective and a roadmap perspective, we had a pretty clear view of what we wanted to do. That’s kind of what we were focused on.
Speaking of the Celeno acquisition, how does the Celeno wireless connectivity portfolio fit to Renesas?
Sailesh: Celeno is predominantly about Wi-Fi 6 and 6 Edge, these technologies are important for IoT and the industrial segment. In addition, Celeno also offers expertise on the access point side. Dialog, on the other hand, was largely focused on Wi-Fi 4, which is 2.4 GHz, and with Celeno we now also cover Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, plus a fully integrated solution with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth for the client side. With the acquisition of Celeno, we can now cover the entire spectrum and align with longer term connectivity needs for Renesas.
There’re so many chances and potentials for Renesas in the industrial automation field. Could you detail those potentials, like potential applications to which Renesas’ products can be applied?
Sailesh: The major trends that are occurring in the industrial landscape today are the drive to improve sustainability and productivity. Labor costs are getting higher globally. From an AI perspective China is very focused on AI for the manufacturing environment. The US, on the other hand, is much stronger on enterprise AI. If we want to grow in the industrial ecosystem, the right companies or the right customers to pursue for Renesas outside of large customers in the US and EU are in the Greater China region who in general tend to move aggressively compared to the more traditional industrial giants.
When it comes to sustainability it is a global trend. As with other areas drive for efficiency improvement is very applicable in the industrial landscape. One percent improvement in efficiency and motors makes a huge difference in terms of power consumption. Those are global trends which will drive growth for us in the industrial landscape.
Very important advantage of Renesas’ products are the so called Winning Combinations. These should be more like a sales strategy. That’s of course very competitive. What about the technical advantages here?
Sailesh: Winning Combinations can be proof-of-concept boards, or schematics which integrate Renesas products. Winning combinations can be largely, although not entirely hardware-based. The other area we leverage with our complete portfolio in the industrial market is a complete system solution, meaning both HW and SW. The amount of effort involved by customers is very different when Renesas is supporting both HW and SW. That’s the advantage to the customer is they can pick a winning combination or system solution or a discrete solution based on their needs. The advantage to Renesas is more content, by gaining more of the overall BOM, we’re taking on more of the work traditionally done by the customer and at the same time allowing them to get to market faster.
The DRP/e-AI technology from Renesas will probably play an important role in the factory automation area, right? Some other market players are very competitive in this field. So, what’s the key benefit here? And what about the MCU, sensor, ASIC, etc.?
Sailesh: The AI market that we’re focusing on today is vision-based AI primarily. That’s where we’re differentiated, and we’ve optimized the DRP solution for vision-based AI applications. We’re not going very broad AI to address every domain that you can think of with our DRP solution. The DRP technology offers vision-based AI at very low power. We used feedforward neural networks or DRP purpose primarily for optimization for the application space and our focus right now is to enable the libraries and enable the IDHs, to gradually support a broader range of customers. There are other adjacent markets where this technology works well and we will in time expand to other areas like preventive maintenance as well as other markets for which feed forward neural networks are well suited.
What’s the position of RISC-V in Renesas? Do you think it will be the future of IoT?
Sailesh: RISC-V will play an increasingly important role in the ecosystem of MCU and MPU. On the embedded processing side, we are working on both 32-bit and 64-bit cores. For certain applications we truly believe there is a general push in the marketplace towards a less proprietary ecosystem that is more configurable for the customer and with less or no royalty. The RISC-V offers nonproprietary cores while providing the ability for the customer to do some level of programmability. So over time we think all three ecosystems will exist whether the truly proprietary, the ARM ecosystem or the RISC-V ecosystem each will have a role based on the end markets that one is trying to address and what you’re going after. For us with RISC-V was we wanted to demonstrate to the marketplace that we could be leaders again, and with the RISC-V products were one of the first in the marketplace on the MCU area as well as with MPU to be out there with viable products, not test chips.
Another big move recently was Renesas entering the FPGA market. Could you give some details about the ForgeFPGAs, like the application area, their technical advantage, and what does this mean to Renesas?
Sailesh: Before we talk about the ForgeFPGA I should mention we have a family of products called GreenPAK. (Dialog bought Silego a while ago and they brought the GreenPAK technology on board.) GreenPAK technology consists of mixed signal and analog components that can be configured with a state machine. It pulls the number of these parts together so the customer can very quickly figure out their needs, as opposed to optimizing individual components. They can take GreenPAK circuit and put it together and integrate and be up and running much faster than they could have their own. We sell hundreds of millions of these units on in any given year.
With ForgeFPGA we extend this concept for very low gate count gate arrays. We’re not competing with Xilinx, Altera nor Microchip or Lattice. There’s a very interesting market domain in the low power, low gate count area with a high level of programmability for IoT and industrial devices that can be put together and provide a customer an advantage that they couldn’t get before. This is a very nice niche in the marketplace that hasn’t been addressed. The combination of low power, low gate count, is a very nice domain that very few people have gone after and this addresses that market needs. The reason we call it a ForgeFPGA is it allows us to forge ahead into the industrial market with these kinds of applications.
Renesas Electronics Europe | https://www.renesas.com