Jim Anderson, President and CEO and Esam Elashmawi, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
Integrated Circuits (ICs) have long served as the substrate to numerous consumer and commercial use-case-specific applications, allowing OEMs and solution providers to scale the innovation ladder and develop utilitarian products and services for end-users. And Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), in particular, enable customers to configure these ICs post-manufacturing stages, thereby provisioning a greater degree of programmability, flexibility, and operational efficiency.
The merits of using FPGAs in today’s system designs is evident when looking at a recent example from Lattice Semiconductor. As the leader in low-power FPGAs, Lattice was recently approached by a client trying to make laptops as small and light as possible while providing superior user experiences.
But how does one go about making smarter and more efficient mobile devices such as laptops without making them bulkier or heavier?
Esam Elashmawi, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Lattice Semiconductor, suggests one avenue to address this predicament. “If you look at image signal processing operations, a larger, more sophisticated camera is required to achieve higher quality images. Instead of incurring that expenditure, we enabled the client to enhance the quality of images taken from a less-expensive camera through artificial intelligence technology.” Whereas, if the client were to have used the coreIntel or AMD processors featured in most laptops, it would have consumed more power natively as they carry out such image signal processing operations. Offloading these discrete tasks to Lattice FPGAs enabled a substantial reduction in power consumption. This, in turn, allowed the client to not only deliver high-quality images, but also to do so with increased power efficiency and battery life.
This is just one example of how FPGAs help deliver real-world end-user benefits for the applications that are expected to drive semiconductor consumption for the foreseeable future.
From the edge to cloud computing, solving problems across communications, computing, industrial, automotive, and consumer electronics marketplaces, Lattice Semiconductor has fundamentally shifted the FPGA landscape and made these small, adaptable chips an increasingly essential part of system design for the most important applications over the next decade and beyond.
“We have completely rebuilt our product portfolio and have all the necessary ingredients to help our customers deliver breakthrough solutions for today’s most in-demand technology applications,” says Jim Anderson, President & CEO, summarizing the company’s suite of software and hardware solutions. And, Lattice has set itself up to lead the next wave of FPGA innovation.
Paving the way for Next- Gen FPGAs
With the overarching goal of offering the best small, power-efficient and easy to use FPGAs in the microelectronics industry, Lattice introduced the Lattice Nexus FPGA platform in late 2019, which it designed from the ground up with a new architecture and modern features.
Nexus is now the basis for four Lattice FPGA families that, in comparison to similar competing devices, consume only 1/4th of the power while delivering twice the performance and reducing Soft Error Rates (SER) by 100x. In tandem with the Lattice software-based solutions, they help accelerate a multitude of applications across varied industries. AI Inference at the Edge, Embedded Vision, Hardware Platform Security, Control & Management, and Industrial Automation are some of the excellent examples of the technology’s applicability.
But Lattice isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, the company recently announced plans for another new platform – Lattice Avant – targeting the mid-range FPGA market. Launching in the latter half of next year, Avant is based on an advanced lower power architecture and is designed to scalein computational capacity by a factor of 5 compared to the Nexus platform. The Lattice Avant platform enables Lattice to address an expanded range of applications in several of the markets it already has expertise in, including communications, industrial and automotive.
“Because of the innovation we’ve developed with our Nexus and Avant platforms, we can go after problems that people did not traditionally think FPGAs could solve. For instance, applications that required an MCU, ASSP, or ASIC can now be efficiently offloaded to FPGAs for greater operational efficiency,” adds Elashmawi. “On the artificial intelligence front, for example, FPGAs are highly capable of performing predictive maintenance and carrying out discrete security functions.” FPGAs are highly critical to infrastructure and crucial equipment across multiple industries – they have fueled products that have become the lifeblood of Lattice Semiconductor today.
Anticipating Market Demands and Customer Requirements
Lattice’s credibility in the industry is backed by its architectural ingenuity in the low-power FPGA segment, spanning more than 9000 customers and 38 years as an innovation leader in the semiconductor industry. Today, the company supports the biggest names in the industrial, automotive, communications and computing markets to bring their innovations to reality with differentiated, forward-looking capabilities and features.
Amidst the pandemic, as the push for intelligent analytics in factories increased due to restricted working conditions, Lattice partnered with several of its customers to implement safety and monitoring functions through robotics and automation technology. The push for high safety standards and contactless interactions allowed the company to partner with organizations that sought a more elevated degree of autonomy within their workflows, thereby infusing Lattice’s intelligence products into robotics and the automation of factory and industrial floors, to note a few. This is an area the company sees continuing to grow post-pandemic as well, as its customers increasingly realize the benefits of features like predictive maintenance and safety monitoring based on the AI capabilities Lattice FPGAs enable.
We can go after problems that people did not traditionally think FPGAs could solve. For instance, applications that required an MCU, ASSP, or ASIC can now be efficiently offloaded to FPGAs for greater operational efficiency
In addition to collaborating with its customers on applications, Lattice also takes a customer-centric approach to its product planning and roadmap development. In fact, its customers were central to the company’s decision to move into the mid-range of the FPGA market with its upcoming Avant platform. According Elashmawi, more than 100 customers were involved in the definition of the platform and specifically asked Lattice to bring its low power architecture to this portion of the market to meet their design needs.
One Milestone after Another
‘Under Promise Over Deliver’ is an apt comprehension of Lattice’s efforts within the semiconductor industry; the company delivers on its promises and does it with a certain finesse. For instance, Lattice promised faster product cadence, broader software solutions, and higher execution fidelity in May 2019. As of May 2021, Lattice has introduced its well-acclaimed Nexus platform, three Nexus-based FPGA families, and four software-based solution stacks, surpassing each of its product launch milestones. This represents a tripling of the company’s product introduction cadence.
From a shareholder value perspective, the company has parlayed this surge of innovation into an impressive financial transformation. In May 2019, it set targets to achieve double-digit revenue growth by 2022, in addition to a more resilient balance sheet, and gross margin expansion. It is also delivering on these commitments, having achieved a 12% growth in its core markets in 2020 gross margin expansion of +450 bps and a 109% growth in EPS since 2018. Lattice was also among the best performing stocks in the SOX index in 2020, seeing its market capitalization grow from roughly $2.7 billion in 2020 to more than $6 billion today.
Entering a New Growth Phase
At its recent Investor Day event, Lattice made it clear it’s just getting started as it detailed its plans to build off this momentum with further technological advancements designed to meet the needs of its customers.
By combining efficient and nimble hardware and software solutions, Lattice Semiconductor has reimagined the art of IC craftsmanship. The company has proven its ability to deliver on its promises to its customers and shareholders alike and has reinvigorated the FPGA market with innovation. Now its sights are firmly set on delivering innovative products and solutions that makeits FPGAs as essential to system design as are a CPU or GPU.