IP Core Watermark Technology Protects Chip Designs
Addressing the rapidly-growing international trade in stolen IP, counterfeit chips, and cloned designs, Algotronix has launched DesignTag, a novel concept in tagging using a small low-cost IP core that can be included into an FPGA design or built into a semiconductor. It allows ownership of the design to be positively established and helps in the fight against piracy and fraud. 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 bitstream or decapsulate the chip. The tag works by modulating the power dissipation of the host device by around 5mW which creates 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 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. Available at an introductory price of $200 per code license, DesignTag Reader Software is available separately at a cost of $800, and a Starter Kit comprising an Evaluation Board and thermocouple data logger, together with the Reader Software and licenses for five codes costs $2,000.