editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Thinking a Bit Too Local

A few weeks ago we looked at a local “boutique” Bay Area manufacturing operation that was struggling to stay local and “sustainable.” Inherent in the effort is the assumption that local is better, resulting in a smaller human footprint (carbon or otherwise).

But is that always the case?

This week a European group issued a press release on work they’ve done to assemble an embedded systems tool flow. Called the INTERESTED project (I won’t get into how they came up with that acronym – it’s a stretch), it sounds like a good thing on its face, since embedded system design doesn’t have quite the same intricate well-defined flows that semiconductor design has (perhaps, it could be argued, because they don’t need them, but that’s a separate discussion).

But here’s the deal: the goal wasn’t just to build a best-of-breed flow; it was to build a European tool flow, using only tools built by European companies. Not to take anything away from European tools – there are obviously some notable names – but it raises the question: is this local or parochial?

To be clear, the goal of this effort was never couched in the language of sustainability; I’m making this leap between topics. So my first impression was, OK, the goal is European only, so I might disregard this because having that be the top filtering criterion does nothing to reassure me that I’m getting the best tools for the job. It’s simply a governmental thing to stoke the European economy.

But if local might be a goal for one guy, then why shouldn’t it also be a consideration for tools?

I come up with two reasons.

  1. The local movement tends to involve commodities. I don’t care how good some guy’s tomatoes are in New York or Iowa or wherever. If I buy them, then, if they were picked ripe, they’ll be awful when they get to California. If they’re not rotten when they arrive, then that means they picked them too early and they won’t be as good. A local tomato, even if missing some amazing component in the soil, will still be better because it doesn’t have to travel. And anyone can grow tomatoes anywhere. Or any of the other kinds of produce you find (with some exceptions, of course). They’re a commodity.

    Same thing with speakers. In theory, you can build or buy speakers anywhere. There’s nothing about a particular region (other than wages) that makes one speaker inherently better than another. And with something like a little iPod speaker, we’re not talking high fidelity, so sound quality isn’t the determining factor; it’s a commodity. So in theory, you can make them anywhere.

  2. One of the main driving motivations of “local” is the energy involved in moving something from the point of production to the point of consumption. Tomatoes get shipped. Speakers get shipped. Less shipping requires less energy.

Tools fit neither of those scenarios. They’re not commodities and they can be downloaded from the internet.

Which is a long way of saying something that most people outside the European government (or those companies named in the report, which, oddly enough, has some sections marked “confidential”) would instinctively sense: it make little sense to build a tool flow that originates only out of one particular region.

More info in their press release

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Dec 2, 2020
The folks at LEVL are on a mission is to erase your network footprint. Paradoxically, they do this by generating their own 48-bit LEVL-IDs for your devices....
Dec 2, 2020
To arrive at your targeted and optimized PPA, you will need to execute several Innovus runs with a variety of design parameters, commands, and options. You will then need to analyze the data which... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community site...
Dec 1, 2020
UCLA’s Maxx Tepper gives us a brief overview of the Ocean High-Throughput processor to be used in the upgrade of the real-time event selection system of the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider). The board incorporates Samtec FireFly'„¢ optical cable ...
Nov 25, 2020
[From the last episode: We looked at what it takes to generate data that can be used to train machine-learning .] We take a break from learning how IoT technology works for one of our occasional posts on how IoT technology is used. In this case, we look at trucking fleet mana...

featured video

Product Update: Broad Portfolio of DesignWare IP for Mobile SoCs

Sponsored by Synopsys

Get the latest update on DesignWare IP® for mobile SoCs, including MIPI C-PHY/D-PHY, USB 3.1, and UFS, which provide the necessary throughput, bandwidth, and efficiency for today’s advanced mobile SoCs.

Click here for more information about DesignWare IP for 5G Mobile

featured paper

How to optimize an OpenCL Kernel for the data center using Silexica's SLX FPGA

Sponsored by Silexica

FPGAs are being increasingly employed as co-processors in data centers. This application note explains how SLX FPGA accelerates a Fintech design example, leveraging Xilinx’s Vitis Platform’s bottom-up flow, Alveo U200 accelerator card, and Vitis quantitative finance library.

Click here to download the whitepaper

featured chalk talk

Medical Device Security

Sponsored by Mentor

In the new era of connected medical devices, securing embedded systems has become more important than ever. But, there is a lot medical device designers can borrow from current best-practices for embedded security in general. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Robert Bates from Mentor about strategies and challenges for securing modern medical devices and systems.

Click here to download a whitepaper called "Medical Device Security: Achieving Regulatory Approval"