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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Athena?
Based in Gainesville, Florida, Athena has innovated breakthrough arithmetic technologies that deliver better silicon efficiency, achieving higher performance while reducing both area and power. Athena's patented breakthrough technology powers semiconductor intellectual property cores in a wide range of performance levels for both communications and security products, enabling system-on-chip designers to achieve the optimum balance of power, performance, and silicon area. With products ranging from the market-leading TeraFire® security cores, Atomic DSP™, and Atomic SDR™ software defined radio cores, Athena's proprietary technology powers leading edge applications such as wireless, satellite communications, GPS, and secure communications.

Athena was founded in 1986 and is privately held.

What is semiconductor intellectual property?
Commonly referred to as semiconductor IP, or even SIP, this term designates building blocks of semiconductor designs. System on a chip (SoC) designers combine and integrate semiconductor IP blocks to create a new product. Designing with semiconductor IP provides faster time to market, lower design risk, and greater functionality, all at a lower cost than can be realized with traditional design methodologies.

What is a system on a chip (SoC)?
An SoC is a single chip that contains processors(s), memory, and other functions such as peripheral interfaces. In the past, each of these elements would have been a discrete chip, and the system would have been composed of these chips on a board. Thanks to Moore's Law, it is now possible to combine these functions into a single "system on a chip." The semiconductor IP for the processors, memories, and other functions required for each SoC design comes from in-house sources, is newly designed for the specific product, or is purchased from third parties.

What does Athena sell?
The primary product purchased by each customer is semiconductor intellectual property (IP). Athena's semiconductor IP is delivered to each customer as a firm core, optimized to any customer specified manufacturing technology. Each firm core is delivered with supporting documentation, test suites, and simulation models. Athena's semiconductor IP customers also purchase support and integration design services.

What are Athena's target markets?
Athena targets those markets where performance counts, and Athena's technology makes a difference. This implies a strong barrier to competition. High-performance, low-power semiconductor intellectual property is a great business. This business is characterized by complex, high value products, with long, multi-generation product life cycles, designed by scarce, highly talented engineers.

Who are Athena's customers?
Athena's customers are first-tier semiconductor manufacturers, fabless semiconductor manufacturers, and system manufacturers who produce application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for their own system-level products. Athena also has customers in the federal government.

Who are Athena's competitors?
Competition comes from Athena's customers themselves who have in-house intellectual property, from leading general purpose DSP microprocessor vendors, and from other third-party IP suppliers.

Does Athena manufacture its designs?
Athena's customers manufacture SoCs that contain Athena semiconductor intellectual property (IP). Athena recognized the SoC integration trend in the late '90's and developed its technology and business to best exploit that trend. Jim Tully, Chief Analyst for Semiconductors at Gartner Dataquest said, "Many firms that are now fabless chip houses should seriously consider becoming IP vendors instead."1 All SoC designers who require low-power and/or high-performance DSP can realize the benefits of Athena's technology. This means Athena can address a vastly larger market than if Athena had chosen to sell its technology in the form of packaged chips.

1. Ron Wilson, "World needs fewer chip suppliers, analyst says," EE Times, June 3, 2002.

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