Machine Vision SoC Design - in 16nm


This blog looks at a twelve month verification engagement with a client that is already a world leader in machine vision technology. This design will be used in multiple applications involving camera and video, for example in the automotive sector, for surveillance, drones and in gaming products. This technology enables a machine to search and find objects and to recognise them. Our scope was to verify eight hardware accelerators within the design.

The Design

This SoC was the 3rd generation product based on a highly programmable architecture and comprised 16 VLIW processors for video, with dual RISC CPUs for control and several configurable hardware accelerators for video & image processing in real-time enabling computer vision functionality. Key to delivering performance was a NoC and a sophisticated shared memory fabric used to link all of the processing elements.

Technical Details

The scope for our engineers on this design involved tasks at top-level and block or modular level. The principle challenge in this project was to match the RTL of the design with the unit level reference model for complex algorithms implemented in the hardware accelerators. There were many change requests, resulting in the reference model falling behind the RTL within the timeline of the project. The match requirement for this task was 100%, with no exceptions Multiple revisions of RTL and reference model were tested on a daily basis until this target was met.

Top Level

At the top-level, we were involved in verifying the performance of the NoC. With an architecture of this type, there is huge amount of data that must be processed in parallel. Our task was to test the design to measure any stalling of the processing elements, so that adjustments could be made to minimise the impact on throughput.  In SystemVerilog we used directed testing methods with randomised data.  We started by selecting one master, with several slaves, moving on to multi-master test cases. Dedicated functional coverage was built to assure that all NoC configurations are checked within the NoC regression.

Block Level

At block level, we performed the functional and code coverage of the HW accelerators, integrating the reference model into the testbench, building the special test cases with a heavy arithmetic workload, verified the memory controller and enabled all the pipeline stages to prepare for the power simulations. The ultimate target was to prove that all complex computations within the hardware accelerators were achieved at low power.

The principal methodology used to perform the functional and code coverage was constrained random testing, with a large number of checkers and functional coverage points. Long regressions, often with several thousands of simulation seeds were used in order to make sure that perfect match was achieved between RTL and reference model. Functional and code coverage targets were 100%, but if we were clear on why this was not the case we were able to agree waivers or exclusions.

We also had responsibility for verifying the memory controller which involved a different technique than used for the HW accelerators. For the functional targets set for the memory controller we worked exclusively in a SystemVerilog testbench with custom built bus functional models of the interfaces and a programmable memory model in the testbench.


To summarise, for this SoC design engineering support was provided for the following verification tasks:

 Top Level

Block Level

For more information on Sondrel engagements for today's technology solutions, get in touch and we can provide you with further examples of our design services experteise in your sector.

You can find more examples of our work on the case study page.