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Put a tag on it

With fake components and IP theft climbing the agenda, Algotronix has launched a tagging concept which it believes will help stem the tide.

DesignTag is a small IP core that can be included into an fpga design or built into a semiconductor. According to the company, it allows ownership of the design to be established positively.
DesignTag is a digital core coded with a customer specific ‘signature’ that can be identified externally from a working device without needing to read the fpga bit stream or decapsulate the chip. It works by modulating the power dissipation of the host device by around 5mW, creating small temperature changes which are sensed by a thermocouple and decrypted by the reader software running on a pc. Ownership details are then simply extracted from the database.
“The problem is how to deter theft and prove ownership of the design,” said Tom Kean, Algotronix’ managing director. “The circuitry for DesignTag will be buried inside the fpga bit stream and very difficult to locate and disable – even if the fraudster knows that it is included”.
The tag can also be used to confirm the design revision loaded into the fpga or to signal internal status conditions, such as when an overflow has occurred or a soft error was detected in memory. Signalling is done without interrupting the system operation or accessing package pins.

Graham Pitcher

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