THE OPTIMA team poses at the 2016 ChipEx Conference in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: OPTIMA)
If Jamil Mazzawi, the founder and CEO of Nazareth-based Optima, executes his vision, the cost of manufacturing vehicles with high-end electronics (i.e. autonomous) systems will drop by several thousand dollars over the next several years.
According to Mazzawi, as the automotive industry continues to increase the amount of sophisticated electronics in the cars they produce, the same stringent levels of mechanical and overall safety that automotive manufacturers apply to the construction of their respective vehicles is now being applied to all the electronics that go into the navigation, communication, entertainment, driver assistance and autonomous-vehicle systems.
However, the layers of testing needed to ensure that these systems – and the chip sets upon which they are built – function the way they need to 100% of the time has added significant time and expense to the development and rollout of the systems.
In fact, performing exhaustive fault-simulation testing on chip designs to ensure there are no errors, while also ensuring they meet the correct standards, followed by certification, can be an extensive computational task, performed usually in months, impacting schedules and the time to market.
When it comes to chip sets, many mistakes are caused by soft errors, which, while it may sound made up, are caused by cosmic particles, mostly protons coming from the sun, penetrating our magnetic field and the atmosphere and hitting electronic chips while in production and operation. A soft error is an error in signal or data value that is caused by an external source (i.e. cosmic rays) rather than the design itself.
A soft error does not damage the system’s hardware, and by rebooting itself, the system returns to normal state. Additionally, after going through the reboot, there has been no indication to date that the system is any less reliable than before. However, stopping the system for reboot, or if the system crashes, gets stuck or simply miscalculates, can be catastrophic in many cases, especially mission-critical systems such as those found in autonomous vehicles, which need to be constantly calculating and processing complex algorithms every second they are in operation.
This is where Optima comes in. The company has built a certification tool that automates and expedites almost all chip-set certification needs and provides chip-set manufacturers with a complete solution that allows them to significantly increase the speed at which they are able to deliver their products to their customers. More importantly, Optima’s platform guarantees that the products its customers are shipping are not going to fail.
Prior to founding Optima, Mazzawi worked for more than 20 years in senior positions in the hi-tech industry, both in Israel as well as in Silicon Valley, and has serious engineering chops. (During our conversation, he confided that he was one of the members of the team that helped build the Play- Station 2.) He founded Optima because he saw a gaping hole that existed in the process of building and testing chips that went into everything from Internet-of-Things platforms to robots to vehicles.
Mazzawi is convinced that the automotive industry – and its collective push toward bringing autonomous vehicles to market – offers a unique combination of a very large market that is heavily dependent on complex, chip-based systems that power mission-critical operations – meaning that before they go into the cars, the chip sets must be proven to be flawless.
In fact, he is currently negotiating deals with several tierone automotive manufacturers and is hopeful he is going to be able to close several deals over the course of 2017. The company also plans to double in size over the next year.
Despite this, Mazzawi is concerned that he will have a harder time raising capital than, say, Tel Aviv-based entrepreneurs and their companies have. He is currently beginning the process of seeking additional investment and has just started talking with venture-capital firms both in Israel and around the world. His story, though, is a good one, and should he succeed, his company will be well positioned to have a major impact on an entire industry – an achievement that can only be categorized as most favorable, or “Optima(l).”Matthew Krieger is the founder and managing director of Tel Aviv-based GKPR. His semimonthly column will focus on telling the lesser-known stories and personalities from the Israeli tech community.