Ahead of the curve: Interview with Introspect CEO on how its innovative GDDR7 memory test system beats the market

Judy Lin, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: Introspect Technology

Introspect Technology, a Canadian private company, introduced its M5512 GDDR7 Memory Test System, which is designed for testing GDDR7 memory controllers, GDDR7 physical layers, and GDDR7 SGRAM chips, less than one month after the graphics memory specification was announced in March 2024.

When there is no CPU or GPU yet able to run GDDR7, whose spec development started three years or more ago, this test and measurement company is already providing a unique solution to help memory makers test the products they are developing as early as possible in their R&D activities.

DIGITIMES Asia had an exclusive interview with Dr. Mohamed Hafed, founder and CEO of Introspect Technology, a test industry pioneer, principal inventor on several patents related to signal integrity tests and measurement, and also a published author on the topic of analog tests and built-in tests.

"Because of the anticipated GDDR7 demand due to AI, we decided to develop a toolchain for this unique memory standard and be ready to help the tech industry early on – you see, our customers need a link partner to interoperate with their devices before the ecosystem develops," said Hafed, a softspoken yet expressive, a very atypical kind of engineer- founder. "If you're a memory maker and you're making a new GDDR7 memory, there are no GPUs now that can exercise it. So, the Introspect M5512 comes in with a ready-made virtual memory controller that exercises it for you."

The tool will enable memory and processor manufacturers to verify that their products perform to the levels specified by the JEDEC standard.

Seeing the market need for versatile test and measurement tools

The journey of Introspect Technology began with Hafed's background in semiconductor test design. With a focus on creating design-for-test (DFT) tools and on-chip instrumentation, such as an oscilloscope on a chip, during his PhD research, he gained insights into the complexities of semiconductor workflows.

Recognizing the need for versatile test and measurement equipment, Hafed founded Introspect Technology in 2012 to accomplish a mission: to bring the best elements of semiconductor test equipment to the engineer's bench instead of the factory floor.

Before founding Introspect, Hafed worked on designing semiconductor Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) channel cards. In the early days, Introspect started serving semiconductor companies like Qualcomm and image sensor companies such as Sony and OmniVision. Quickly it expanded to cater to their customers, leveraging the increasing silicon content in systems across various industries.

"That's how we benefited from the diversification in systems because, all of a sudden, an endoscope has a camera. A car has a camera. Everything has high-speed electronics interfaces in it," said Hafed.

Introspect's tools are designed to facilitate every stage of product development, from early samples to prototypes to production.

What differentiates Introspect's technology from other competitors? Hafed said that the approach at Introspect is akin to creating the "smartphone" of test and measurement solutions -- while traditional bench instruments serve specific purposes, Introspect's tools offer unparalleled flexibility and scalability. "For instance, a single Introspect unit can cater to the diverse needs of engineers working on different aspects of a project, from characterization to firmware verification or software regression. This versatility sets us apart from competitors, offering a complementary solution that is both cost-effective and efficient."

The value proposition of Introspect is to provide a complementary solution for customers who normally have spent big money on traditional equipment. "We often tell our customers they can keep the high-end equipment that costs US$1 million. They cannot replicate 16 of those whereas they can deploy 16 Introspect tools to get more engineers to access them. Introspect is bridging that gap where you don't have to go to the expensive equipment; you can actually buy something that's less expensive and many users can use it in many ways."

With its distribution partner in Taiwan, Introspect has successfully penetrated the DDIC market, getting Novatek, FocalTech, Ilitek, and others as customers. Later on, MediaTek, Faraday, and others became users as well. Introspect gained a reputation from these industry leaders to win in the DDIC market, and it is still looking to serve customers at the design stage to help them get ahead as early as possible.

Mightier than you think

There are only 35 engineers in Introspect, but its footprints have expanded to the US, Asia (Taiwan, China, South Korea, and India), and Europe. Taiwan has been the central hub for Introspect entering Asia. It has leveraged Taiwan as a springboard to China and some other countries.

For future expansion opportunities, Hafed sees automotive and systems business opportunities in Europe, "but there's still a lot of semiconductors to be accessed." In the meantime, as the company's CEO, Hafed sees the consumer electronics market in Japan and other Asian countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia that he is looking to strengthen.

His vision for the company is to build Introspect as a brand that creates exemplary solutions and services for customers, "just like today people would recognize Keysight as the oscilloscope company or NI as the data acquisition company."

"So we do want to stay in the high-speed interface testing area and create these niche products that eventually become their own category," said Hafed, expressing his vision for the company.