“Safety and reliability are two different things”

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Texas Instruments, popularly known as TI, helps customers develop new ideas that change the way we live. By providing semiconductor technologies that promote greater power efficiency, enable more features, enhance performance and deliver more value, TI expands the possibilities every day for how we learn, connect, grow and discover. TI India operations include a huge R&D centre in Bengaluru, which is where the TI MCU Design Contest 2011-12 Award Ceremony took place.

Shailesh Thakurdesai, general manager- Business Development, Texas Instruments, met up with Dilin Anand of EFY at the TI MCU Design Contest Awards Ceremony.


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Shailesh Thakurdesai

EFY: What motivated TI to hold the MCU Design Contest?
The primary motive for TI to hold this event lies in the fact that we want to make sure that all design engineers are made aware of TI’s increased focus in Embedded Space.

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Until recently, we were known as a business that targeted only Product companies and firms. What we want them to know is that we also actively target design engineers and consumers with our products. The fact that TI has a robust portfolio of microcontrollers that are for all kinds of applications is something that all customers can take advantage of. TI’s microcontrollers are ultra low power and highly efficient that can reduce time-to-market significantly.

This event also encouraged designers to start experimenting with our wide range of MCUs and get really innovative results. During this event, we were very happy to see around 1200 innovative entries from throughout India. During the ceremony, 12 of the finalists were present with innovative projects across markets like medical, consumer, industrial, energy, etc.

EFY: What differentiates your MCUs?
The 3 segments that we focus heavily on are medical, industrial, and automotive. Of course, an innovative designer can use our chips for any application successfully. Except for FPGAs, memories, and high voltage transistors, we have sell everything else.

EFY: What has been the most important MCU for TI?
All our microcontrollers are important to us. Having said that, the MSP430TM MCU is a flagship product that has given us a lot of success. Considering that, it’s not a surprise that a lot of the entries in the design contest had been based on it.

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The USP for the MSP430 is ultra-low power (TI’s online doc shows that at 0.1 per cent active, an MSP430TM can last for 20+ years on a 200mAh coin cell). It is used as an ultra low power MCU in niche segments such as blood glucose meter, general metering, home automation, wireless smoke detectors, etc.

EFY: Which has been the most ground breaking MCU for TI?
We do have success with other architectures as well, but a majority of our success can be attributed to the MSP430TM. That’s why we have also launched the low-cost Launchpad based on the MSP430TM which sells for US$ 4.30. It has all the debug capabilities and one can do all the prototyping on the Launchpad itself.

There is also the Value Line controller which has a lower footprint. In its case, the designer can use the TI software itself as our software is free for the limitations of the Value Line.

EFY: Could you tell us about an exciting new MCU that your R&D is working on?
In the last few months, we have come out with a new line of microcontrollers targeted for safety-critical products. The new line is known as Hercules. The unique value proposition for the Hercules line is complying with safety standards. A lot of people confuse the term safety with reliability – but in reality these two terms are very different.

The safety controllers are essentially dual core ARM processors operating in lockstep. They feature either a dual ARM Cortex-R4 floating-point CPU or a dual core ARM Cortex-M3 CPU. As you might have noted, the main feature has to do with the dual core.

When these safety processors operate in lockstep, what actually happens is that one core executes the same instruction as that is executed in the other core but with a delay of one clock. Thus, if one core hangs up or malfunctions, the other core would be able to continue work seamlessly.

EFY: Aren’t there similar solutions already available in the market?
The TI Hercules chip is different from other similar products in the sense that it allows you to have this feature on a single chip. Moreover, since both redundant cores are on a single chip we are able to run it in lockstep of just one clock. Finally, the memory, clock, and peripherals are also protected in this chip. The single chip implementation also helps to reduce power consumption in the system.

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EFY: Where are your R&D centres located?
We have got multiple R&D centres around the globe across USA, India, Europe and China. Dallas, USA being the headquarters is the largest centre. We are proud to say the R&D centre here in Bengaluru is TI’s second largest TI R&D centre in the world.

EFY: What does the Indian R&D centre work on?
All our products are designed as part of a global effort. However, the India R&D centre plays a very significant role in the design and development of TI products. There is hardly any TI product that is untouched by TI India.

EFY: Does TI consider India as a sales destination, or a marketing decision influencing destination?
India is a very important market for TI. We started investing in India by setting up a design centre in Bengaluru as early as 1985. Since the last 6 years, our sales have grown considerably and now we have Sales and Applications offices across Tier I and Tier II cities all over India. As part of our strategy to be as close to the customer as possible, we have 3 offices in Bengaluru itself. We also have Application Engineers in all our sales offices thus making them self-sufficient in giving technical support to the customers.

EFY: Do you handle manufacturing in-house? If not, who are your major solution providers?
We have our own fab for most technologies but if it makes sense to outsource it, then we do have solution providers for that.

EFY: What are the breakthroughs that have come out over the years?
Our history of innovation includes industry-leading advancements at the circuit design, process technology, software and systems levels. Over the past few years, we have been investing in research and development. We pursue innovation by funding and collaborating with universities and industry leaders, incubating breakthrough ideas in our Kilby Labs, executing competitive roadmaps within TI’s business units and specialized labs, and developing world-class manufacturing technologies.

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This approach allows us to develop, evaluate, refine and capitalize on the technology advancements that enable differentiated products to meet our customers’ evolving needs.

Customers in diverse end-equipment sectors around the globe rely on TI’s innovative semiconductor devices – from catalog and custom analog products to wireless and embedded processing products, including digital signal processors (DSPs) and microcontrollers.

Specifically to microcontrollers, we recently launched the Wolverine line, which is an ultra low power line of MCUs. We also have the Hercules line that we talked about earlier. Another thing to note is the price point of our MCUs. We have been able to sell 16-bit MCUs at a 4 or 8 bit price point. Our MSP430s have starting selling price at 25 cents and 4.3$ for development tool.

EFY: Could you please elaborate on your hiring policies?
We have a specific programme for hiring engineers here at TI. It’s called the NCG programme, which stands for New College Graduate. If you look at TI’s worldwide priorities, the 4th priority is to invest heavily into getting freshers.

EFY: What about hiring for your sales side?
We also hire people for our sales operations through these programs. We need engineers at our sales offices too. So we hire for Technical Sales Associates, and Analog / Digital Application Associates.


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