Israel is identified worldwide as a "start-up nation", whereas Taiwan is identified as a "scale-up nation". How can the two join forces and take on the heating semiconductor challenge endorsed by leading tech companies around the globe?
The semiconductor industry has grabbed the headlines with titles such as “soaring revenue”. Amid the semiconductor frenzy, few places in the world can compare with Taiwan, where a complete and robust semiconductor supply chain has gained a firm ground in the global market.
Leading IC design company MediaTek hit record revenue last year, while wafer equipment manufacturer Applied Material and ASML ramps up talent recruitment on the island. Not to mention the one and only foundry giant TSMC, regarded as the “guardian angel” of Taiwan, is ranked top semiconductor company in terms of market cap, which amounts to $468 billion in 2021.
8000 kilometers away, a country off the coast of the glistening Mediterranean Sea also boasts uncomparable advantage in the semiconductor industry—Israel. Known as the start-up country, Israel enjoyed a stream of foreign investments in the tech sector, receiving a staggering amount of $25.6 billion in 773 deals.
One company that shone particularly bright is proteanTecs. proteanTecs is a software company founded in Haifa, Israel in 2017, providing chip monitoring platform that enables big tech companies to preempt failures and improve efficiency via data insights. Its innovative approach is trusted mainly by automakers, data centers and the mobile communications industry.
Several co-founders of proteanTecs previously co-founded Mellanox, a supplier of computer networking products acquired by Nvidia for US$7 billion in 2019, which is by far the biggest deal carried out by Nvidia. / Photograph : proteanTecs
Several co-founders of proteanTecs previously co-founded Mellanox, a supplier of computer networking products acquired by Nvidia for US$7 billion in 2019, which is by far the biggest deal carried out by Nvidia. “Our founders have long been in the electronics and semiconductor industry, therefore the connection of the field was already there,” said Yuval Bonen, co-founder and VP of Software at proteanTecs.
Seasoned expertise and vast experience in the industry paved the way for a collaboration between proteanTecs and TSMC as well as MediaTek. proteanTecs was included in the catalog of the TSMC Silicon IP alliance, and was later awarded Partner of the Year in 2021, which recognizes TSMC’s ecosystem partners’ pursuit of excellence. MediaTek foresaw proteanTecs technology's potential and decided to invest in it.
The collaboration between Taiwan and Israel has proven a mighty one. “Israel has niche expertise, which complements Taiwan’s robust and complete supply chain,” said Bonen.
Currently, proteanTecs’ solutions support the latest 3-nm processes by TSMC. On TSMC customers’ part, health and performance monitoring has proven to be beneficial. As leading foundries around the world compete for leading market position, more tailored and innovative services are critical to striking a difference between rivals.
In this modern day, electronics are practically everywhere. From mobile phones, EVs to datacenters, chips are key components that make the world go around. However, chip health and performance monitoring is a challenge that most manufacturers are not ready to take on.
A research article published by the New York Times, titled “Tiny Chips, Big Headaches”, illustrates the problem of hardware malfunction detection. “As the tiny switches in computer chips have shrunk to the width of a few atoms, the reliability of chips has become another worry for the people who run the biggest networks in the world.”
Chip errors are even dubbed the “Achilles heel” of major semiconductor companies. Intel, Facebook and Google are all scratching their heads to come up with solutions to ensure hardware reliability.
proteanTecs’ technology is determined to tackle the problem. “We provide visibility into the chips. Much like eyes and ears inside their electronics which help our customers monitor chip health and performance,” said Bonen.
proteanTecs tech can be used to carry out predictive maintenance in data centers. / Photograph : proteantecs
Data monitoring dashboard allows proteanTecs customers access to insights and also predict when the chip is likely to experience an error. / Photograph : proteanTecs
With data monitoring, proteanTecs are able to provide insights and also predict when the chip was likely to experience an error, and preempt possible breakdown. So-called “agents” are embedded into semiconductor chips, extracting data back to the cloud-based SaaS platform. Insights generated will then be critical value to customers.
The “agent” bestows visibility upon any given product life cycle. In the initial stages of chip assembly and design, production visibility and variability analysis allows for faster time to market and improved quality. Further down the supply chain, such technology can be applied in-field such as EV chip monitoring, which provides alerts on faults before failures. EV-owners are guaranteed a much safer riding experience with proteanTecs’ technology.
The business proteanTecs is involved in is far from an intuitive one, as the entry barrier for this is extremely high. “Our business consolidates a diverse array of talents, not a lot of companies can do that successfully,” said Bonen. Cross-discipline collaboration on proteanTecs’ team, including chip designers, software engineers and data scientists, is what contributes to proteanTecs success.
proteanTecs has invented a unique approach, never seen before in the industry, building services holistically with data analysis and machine learning. Customers are thus able to see a red flag and understand impending failure in their devices. On the whole, proteanTecs solve problems that are not addressed today.
Currently, proteanTecs is expanding its presence around the globe. Specifically in the APAC region, where economic growth is robust. “Taiwan is the growth engine of APAC. We set up offices here in order to tap into the massive market,” said Bonen
proteanTecs landed in Taiwan in 2020, which couldn’t have been a harder year due to the raging pandemic. Vivian Chou, proteanTecs Regional Director of Greater China talked to us about the hardships she went through operating the single function in Taiwan, where she had to manage technical support and sales, secure region partnerships and establish distribution models.
“We are like missionaries. As our solution is pretty new to the market, we had to work on government compliance issues and also seek out potential partners,” said Chou. Strong commitment and support was given by proteanTecs headquarters back in Israel, which shows the company’s commitment in this part of the market.
Currently, proteanTecs has already partnered with industry juggernaut TSMC on the island. In the meanwhile, collaboration plans with automotive makers are underway, and strategic partnerships that integrate software solutions with the company’s technology are on the horizon.
Furthermore, Taiwan’s wealth of talents is also a big allure for the Israeli startup. “We are looking for application engineers and technical support personnel to join our ranks,” said Bonen.
〔Original :Meet Global〕