Edge Executive Insight – Reza Kazerounian, Co-Founder & President, Alif Semiconductor – Rising Star of the Year FINALIST
In the lead up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to key Executives from the leading companies. Today we’re talking with Reza Kazerounian, Co-Founder & President of Alif Semiconductor
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market and Alif Semiconductor
I am an innovative leader who has been recognized for building and managing multibillion-dollar businesses in the Automotive and Industrial sectors, as well as IoT solutions. I am well known for my work in the areas of microcontrollers, embedded processing, and connectivity. Prior to co-founding Alif Semiconductor, I was the Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Microcontroller and Connectivity Business Unit at Atmel Corporation until its acquisition in 2016. Prior to Atmel, I served as SVP and GM of Freescale’s Automotive, Industrial, and Multi-Market Solutions Product Groups with annual revenue exceeding $2.7B, accounting for over 65% of corporate revenue. Under my responsibility, this business consisted of the Microcontroller, Connectivity, MEMS sensors, and Analog Product divisions. Prior to Freescale, I served key appointments at STMicroelectronics. I served as the CEO of STM Americas region until March 2009. Prior to this, I was the Group Vice President and GM of the Smart Card Security and Programmable Systems Memory Divisions at STM corporate based in Geneva, Switzerland.
My many years of experience in the semiconductor industry showed me that something was missing from the current solutions provided on the market. The main suppliers of embedded microcontrollers were providing inefficient solutions that forced developers to piece together many different platforms. What we continued to notice is that what is currently available on the market for embedded MCUs is often power hungry, lacks scalability, and has poor security. That’s what led to the founding of Alif Semiconductor- a desire to disrupt what has already been done by bringing a scalable and extremely low
power solution forward.
What is it you & your company are uniquely bringing to the edge market?
Alif Semiconductor seeks to address the current embedded MCU market deficiencies, where developers are often forced to choose from inefficient, discontinuous solutions. We bring to the market an optimum solution for devices operating at the edge of the market with superior capabilities, to deliver:
1.) Integrated Security built from the ground up.
We provide multi-layered security that has been built in from the start of the design cycle. Solutions that we see on the market today have tried to add security as an afterthought, modifying existing designs. The result is poor security and devices that are at a risk of being hacked. Alif’s embedded microcontrollers contain an advanced secure enclave that provides multiple layers of security, such as device integrity protection, secure identity and strong root-of-trust, secure lifecycle management, and more.
2.) Scalable Processing
One of the biggest attributes that makes Alif devices unique is that our families are designed with scalable processing selection in mind. We are here to provide you with product families, not point products. Our EnsembleTM family scales from a single-core MCU to a quad core-MCU, making us accessible to a variety of applications such as smart home products, appliances, point-of-sale, robotics applications, AI cameras, and much more.
3.) Efficient AI & ML at the Edge
Our architecture provides the capability to run many AI/ML use cases at the edge (for example: image classification, voice processing, sensory functions) in an extremely efficient manner, all without the need to use cloud computing power.
4.) Ultra-Low Power Consumption
We have designed our devices to be genuinely power efficient, which is based off our exclusive aiPM TM technology. This provides extreme low power, balanced power consumption and wake up time, while powering on only what’s needed, when needed.
Tell us more about the company, what’s your advantages compared to others on the market, who is involved, and what are your major milestones so far?
Alif Semiconductor was founded in 2019 by Syed Ali and I. Syed co-founded Cavium Networks, where he served as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board. Syed’s timely vision and leadership in secure high-performance networking equipment enabled him to take Cavium public in 2007 (NASDAQ: CAVM), grow the company’s revenue to $1B+, and close an acquisition by Marvell Technology for $6B+. Prior to this Syed served as VP of Marketing and Sales at Malleable Technologies, where he was a founding management team member, leading to the acquisition by PMC Sierra. Mr. Ali also served as Executive Director at Samsung Electronics where he started the flash memory and CPU businesses. Mr. Ali was named winner of the Ernst & Young Technology Entrepreneur of The Year 2008 award for Northern California, an award recognizing those who build and lead dynamic, growing businesses. Syed continues activities that give back to the engineering community.
Since Alif’s inception over 3 years ago, we have expanded to four global offices, with offices in Silicon Valley, Irvine, CA, Bangalore, Singapore, and as of recently, Oulu, Finland! What started as a meeting between stakeholders at a coffee shop, has now expanded to a global workforce of over 250. We have also recently closed on our Series C funding. After announcing to the public our EnsembleTM family of microcontrollers and fusion processors on September 1st, our devkits are now being sampled by customers all over the world, as we prepare for mass market launch this year.
Our advantages on the market that continue to propel us forward are our scalable processing selection of MCUs & MPUs, a monolithic die that integrates everything you need on a single chip (Memory, Wireless, Security, PMIC, and more), the most efficient artificial intelligence and machine learning available, and fully integrated, selectable security. We have designed our EnsembleTM family with leading edge technologies, which includes Alif being the first silicon on the market built on the latest generation embedded processing technology from Arm® (Cortex-M55 CPU and Ethos-U55 NPU).
In one of our recent benchmarks we have demonstrated the ability to run image classification at the edge with orders of magnitude better than the existing solutions on the market (As seen at Arm DevSummit).
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
In today’s market, we are seeing a trend where developing applications across multiple market segments including smart cities, wearables, smart homes, and infrastructure, require efficient local computing at the edge. This trend will place increasing pressure on the ability of edge devices to run a higher level of compute ability with more power efficiency and intelligence. Simultaneously, the key challenge that the developers in this market are facing is to have access to more standardized solutions, which will result in a more optimal path to product development.
What are the main trends you see about integrating edge computing into different verticals?
Privacy is becoming a strong concern in certain market segments, like healthcare, and more efficient edge compute capabilities helps to alleviate that concern by keeping data local rather than relying on cloud-based computation. Battery life is also a key concern for products like wearables and hearables, so in these segments power efficient edge compute is naturally very important. There is also a strong general movement among developers to adopt more standardized hardware and software for machine learning, to be able to leverage their development investment across multiple platforms.