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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2021-02
End: 2022-09
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Trustworthy open hardware design tool for electrical engineers

Today, the chip design industry is deeply proprietary with NDAs at every level, which means it is not possible to share design files at all, which in turn stifles innovation and transparency in chip design. In order to create a chip design industry that can be trusted with our digital lives, and is accessible to educational institutions and small business, it is essential to develop powerful open source tools for chip design, which can be used by anyone and allows unhindered collaboration. Mosaic is a tool that attacks the first design phase of an analog chip, or analog peripherals for a digital one: design and simulation of the schematic. It will also interact with other phases of the design as needed. Unlike existing open source solutions it will be catered towards chip design, based on modern technologies, and extensive UX design.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

When you go to a store to buy a laptop or mobile phone, you may see different brands on the outside but choice in terms of what is inside the box (in particular the most expensive component, the processor technology) is pretty much limited to the same core technologies and large vendors that have been in the market for decades. This has a much bigger effect on the users than just the hefty price tag of the hardware, because the technologies at that level impact all other technologies and insecurity at that level break security across the board.

In the field of software, open source has already become the default option in the market for any new setup. In hardware, the situation is different. Users - even very big users such as governments - have very little control over the actual hardware security of the technology they critically depend on every day. Security experts continue to uncover major security issues, and users are rightly concerned about the security of their private data as well as the continuity of their operations. But in a locked-down market there is little anyone can do, because the lack of alternatives. European companies are locked out of the possibility to contribute solutions and start new businesses that can change the status quo.

To break through this standstill, developer communities are working hard to deliver open, trustworthy and accessible alternative computer hardware that anyone can use, study, modify and distribute, just like they can with open source software. This project adds an essential tool to the tool kit for open hardware development, one of the first a developer would use: design and simulation of a chip mosaic. Using the latest technologies and an accessible user interface, Mosaic solves yet another part of the puzzle of open hardware design.

Run by Wishful Coding

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.