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Analog/mixed signal industry demands higher performance at lower cost

Analog/mixed signal industry demands higher performance at lower cost

High performance and low cost are the twin goals of vendors in the analog/mixed signal market, says Madavi. Those analog/mixed signal products make many new products for emerging applications, like DSL, possible and affordable.

Design News: What is the major trend in the analog/mixed-signal market?

Madavi: The most significant trend we see today is that analog/mixed signal products are providing the enabling technologies, in terms of performance and cost, that make our customers' products economically viable. In other words, systems are more and more dependent on the performance of the analog/mixed signal portion to achieve higher performance at lower prices. This trend is seen in consumer audio, digital imaging, and communications, to name a few.

Q: Can you describe a specific application where this enabling technology is used?

A: In looking at the communications market, for example, high-speed data transfer over existing telephone lines (DSL technology) relies on the ability to transmit and receive analog signals, as well as to convert these signals to and from the digital domain. This is not an easy task, since integrity must be maintained within the current conditions of the telephone system, which requires long reach with relatively low power levels. Thus, analog/mixed signal component provides the signal conditioning and conversion that enables DSL technology to be implemented. However, since DSL technology is targeted for the consumer market, it is not enough to provide high performance. High performance must be provided at a low cost.

Q: How is high performance defined?

A: In analog/mixed-signal applications, high performance is defined by key specifications such as data conversion speeds, bits of resolution, dynamic range, and low noise. In addition, these performance requirements must be met using less power and offering products in ever-shrinking package sizes.

Q: What does low cost mean in this market?

A: Simply put, low cost means providing the needed analog/mixed-signal performance at a cost that allows our customer to supply a product at a price the end-user market will accept. Within this industry, the drop in price has been dramatic. Just ten years ago, a 16-bit multi-chip A/D converter cost over $100. Today, this performance can be obtained in a single-chip integrated circuit for less than $7.00.

Q: What applications are driving the need for higher performance products at lower costs?

A: Consumer applications such as DVD/CD systems, digital cameras, DSL communications, wireless communications (cell phones), and touchscreen devices are fueling the demand for better performance at lower cost. Another driving force is the increasing presence of low-power applications in portable, battery-powered consumer systems. However, these cost/performance requirements are not unique to consumer markets. Industrial applications (control and automation for factories and laboratories), medical analysis equipment (ultrasound, CT scanner, dialysis), and high-precision test and measurement systems are markets constantly pushing analog/mixed-signal products to provide the needed high-performance/low-cost ratio.

Q: Where is the analog/mixed-signal industry heading?

A: Down the road, our industry will see an increasing focus on higher integration to provide more functionality on-board a single chip. Also, we will see the continued development of IC (integrated circuit) products that address specific applications. By focusing an IC's design on a specific application, engineers can hold cost to a minimum since the product contains only those functions needed for the application. With application specific products, a customer can often achieve breakthrough performance and cost not often possible with standard catalog products. By working directly with customers and effectively meeting customers' performance and cost requirements, analog/mixed-signal products will continue to provide enabling technologies that help our customers create and expand their markets.

Madavi has been president and CEO of Burr-Brown for the past five years. He has more than 20 years of experience in general management, engineering, and marketing in signal conditioning, data conversion, and mixed signal products for the instrumentation and control, industrial, medical, and communications markets. He previously served as president of Raytheon Semiconductor. Other positions he has held include vice president and general manager of Honeywell's Signal Processing Technologies. He has a BSEE and an MS in computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology, as well as an MBA from UCLA.

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