When I joined Arm a little more than 18 months ago, I was thrilled to become part of a team of people delivering the foundational technology for billions of devices each year, from sensors to smartphones to supercomputers. The convergence of 5G, IoT, and AI is driving multiple industries to transform at the same time. We see this transformation in retail, automotive, factories, homes, and our cities. One of my first questions to the team was simply, “how do we make Arm the easiest company to innovate with?”
No matter the size of the business or sector, to deliver innovative new technologies, our partners need the fastest, lowest-cost and minimum-risk journey to SoC design. This was the thinking when we launched Arm Flexible Access last summer; to provide both new and existing partners with access to more than 75% of Arm’s IP portfolio, support, tools and training, but with no up-front licensing commitment.
One year later, Flexible Access is now Arm’s fastest-growing program ever with more than 60 partners signing up for the freedom to experiment, evaluate, design and customize their own unique SoCs. The program is empowering existing partners and more than 30 first-time Arm IP customers to address growth opportunities in IoT, machine learning, autonomous systems and automotive. Flexible Access provides these first-time customers with a portal to the largest ecosystem of tools, services and software.
In my conversations with Flexible Access users, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and already we’re seeing some great early success stories. These include ASIC houses such as Faraday and Socionext, established semiconductor companies such as Nordic Semiconductor, startups including Atmosic and Hailo, and even government bodies such as the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups, which has invested in the program to support startups in the region. OEMs which previously used third-party design houses to create the full design of their chips, are now able to develop their SoCs in a far more collaborative way with direct access to all of the IP they need.
Simple and easy
Two words I consistently hear from partners when talking about accessing our IP through Flexible Access are “simple” and “easy”, which enables them to focus on delivering fantastic new innovations. One example that really stood out recently came from new partner ZhorTech, which has developed new advanced footwear technology. Flexible Access allowed them to develop a chip that uses AI algorithms embedded into shoes, with multiple applications including detecting musculoskeletal malformations, monitoring diseases like Parkinson or diabetes, detecting fatigue and injury risk, or transforming the shoes into a gaming accessory.
Since launching Flexible Access, we have been evolving the program based on our partners’ requirements and feedback. This includes special adaptations for both silicon startups and research institutions, to cater to their specific needs. Startups such as Femtosense and MemryX have been able to immediately access Arm IP, empowering them to begin silicon design much earlier, even before they have secured VC funding. Researchers and academics also have the freedom to experiment and increase their opportunities using commercially relevant IP for their projects.
Another consistent point of feedback I hear from Flexible Access customers is “give us more please.” We are regularly expanding the range of IP within the program. Most recently we have added a new Arm Corstone subsystem reference design, providing SoC designers with pre-integrated IP blocks for faster design while reducing verification requirements. We have also expanded the range of physical IP, meaning designers can optimize and predict the power-performance area of their chips.
SoC designs are becoming increasingly complex, but the design process itself doesn’t have to be. The results of this program speak for themselves as 15 percent of the companies who have joined Flexible Access in its first year are already moving toward tape-out. I for one can’t wait to see what the next year brings!
Find out more about Arm Flexible Access:
- Atmosic’s Ali Bukhari explains why freedom to innovate in low-power SoC design has been crucial for the three-year-old silicon startup.
- Hailo CTO Avi Baum writes about how programs such as Arm DesignStart and Flexible Access enable startups to innovate more cheaply and flexibly than ever before.