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  Date: 20/10/2015

Semiconductor IP fingerprinting tech by Ipextreme

IPextreme announced a revolutionary technology and an ecosystem providing capabilities never seen before in the tracking and management of semiconductor IP and embedded software. The technology includes a free software app that allows IP owners to “fingerprint” their IP so that their customers can easily discover it in their chip designs using ”DNA analysis” software without the need for GDSII tags. In addition, a new IP marketplace, the Core Store, will provide IP suppliers with a no-cost platform to market their IP and securely store the digital fingerprints of their IP in a central place. This repository will serve as a reference library for customers using the DNA analysis software.

“Our research findings at Semico indicate that the IP market will continue to grow at double-digit figures for the foreseeable future,” said Jim Feldhan, President, Semico Research Corporation. “What this effectively means for chip designers is that the challenge of managing IP compliance is only going to worsen. Having a system in place to understand what IP is at play in a given chip design—and whether that IP is being used appropriately—is essential.”

Introduction to IP Fingerprinting: Making Your IP Detectable

Fingerprinting IP is accomplished by using a simple app that is available for download from the Core Store. The user invokes the app to scan their IP, which results in a small fingerprint file that contains a digital representation of all the files in their IP. The fingerprint file is designed with security as a top priority: specifically, it is impossible to reverse engineer the IP from a fingerprint, which is in the format of a text file. This can be opened and read easily with any text editor, but serves only to identify the IP and does not reveal design details. The size of the fingerprint file varies only by the number of files associated with the IP, with sizes typically in the range of 75 bytes per file scanned.

Any type of file can be fingerprinted, including all the standard formats associated with semiconductor IP, such as Verilog/VHDL and GDSII, but also System Verilog, SystemC, and common embedded software languages such as C, C++, Java, Javascript. Fingerprinting is compatible with hard IP (GDSII format) and soft IP (RTL) tags, but does not rely on them. Furthermore, fingerprinting is completely non-invasive and does not modify the source IP in any way.

The fingerprint app is available for free download from the Core Store at https://the-core-store.com.

Introduction to IP DNA Analysis: Discovering the IP in Your Chip

With the steadily increasing amount of internal and third-party IP being used in today’s modern SoC designs, it has become challenging to keep track of the content of these chips. DNA analysis allows semiconductor companies to analyze their chip databases to discover both internal and third-party IP contained in their chips, serving as a final line of protection against accidental IP reuse; that is, when an IP is being used in a chip without the requisite license from the IP owner. Not only can DNA analysis detect the presence of IP in a chip design, but also it can detect the specific version of the IP to help the user to confirm that the right versions of the IP are in place.

“Coming from a public accounting background and having run a leading IP company for many years, I can appreciate the challenge that semiconductor companies face in keeping track of the huge amount of IP they are using,” said Grant Pierce, CEO, Sonics, Inc. “Fingerprinting and chip DNA analysis enable companies to be sure that the IP they possess is compliant with the terms under which it was licensed. Reducing liability exposure is on the mind of every legal and finance professional.”

An additional benefit of chip DNA analysis is the ability to detect modified IP. This capability is the last line of defense for security-oriented applications where there is a concern that a “backdoor,” “Trojan horse,” or other malware may have been maliciously introduced to the chip design by contractors or other people with access to the design.

DNA analysis is provided as a subscription service on the Core Store for semiconductor companies that wish to analyze their chip design databases for evidence of third-party IP. The customer will use the same free fingerprinting app to create a chip-level fingerprint for their entire design database and then upload that fingerprint to the Core Store for analysis. The result of the analysis is a report that shows all the IP detected in the design, including the versions found and any soft or hard tags that were detected. The report uses these findings to generate a score indicating a confidence level at which the IP was detected. Partial matches are possible; a score of 15% may indicate that a portion of an IP was detected, but not the entire IP. As another example, a score may reflect that there is an 85% chance that version 2.0 of an IP is present and a 35% chance that version 3.0 is present. Upon studying the report, the designer can then take the necessary steps to investigate any findings that do not match with the IP components that should be present in the chip. This could mean something as simple as correcting the version of an IP used, or something as urgent as seeking to remedy a case of IP reuse outside proper license terms.

A white paper explaining more about DNA analysis can be found on the Core Store at

Introducing the Core Store: A New Kind of IP Marketplace

The Core Store represents a new paradigm for what we think of when we hear the term “IP marketplace.” A key precept of the Core Store is that it protects the privacy of those people searching for IP. By default, all browsing and searching of the Core Store can be done anonymously, without registration. Customers have the option of registering on the Core Store and receiving updates or news from the IP suppliers that market their products there. Registered users also have the ability to contact an IP supplier directly through the Core Store. Under no circumstances are the customer’s contact details ever provided to suppliers. It is the customer who must establish communication. In practice, this means that IP decision makers are able to browse for IP products for their next design projects without fear of a deluge of unwanted emails and qualifying calls from salespeople.

IP suppliers may sign up for Core Store membership for no charge and manage an unlimited number of products there. There are no ads or other features that promote one supplier over another. The only paid option currently available to IP suppliers who are members of the Core Store is the ability to self-publish their own news, which is then provided to registered Core Store users, who have the option to decline to receive such news items via email or to control the frequency at which they receive news.

A welcome kit for IP providers can be found on the Core Store at https://the-core-store.com.

Early Adoption

The Core Store is available today with the following companies signed up as inaugural members:
CAST, Inc.
Certus Semiconductor, Inc.
Embedded Access, Inc.
EnSilica, Ltd.
IPextreme, Inc.
Oxford Digital, Ltd.
Sidense Corp.
SoC Solutions, LLC
Sonics, Inc.
UltraSoC Technologies, Ltd.

Fingerprinting, DNA Analysis, and Core Store Pricing

The fingerprinting app is free for IP suppliers and semiconductor users of IP alike.

Unlimited DNA analysis is available at no extra charge for existing Xena Enterprise customers.

DNA analysis for non-Xena customers is available on the Core Store as a subscription service. Interested customers may request more information through the Core Store landing page.

IP suppliers can become members of the Core Store for no charge. The elective self-publishing news option is available at $1000 per year per Core Store member and includes an unlimited number of news items.

News Source: IPextreme, Inc.

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