Engineers embrace AI for component selection

Wednesday, 06 September, 2023

Engineers embrace AI for component selection

A survey carried out by element14 has found that 86% of respondents trust AI to play at least some role in their component selection for their designs, while 23% said they would “completely” trust AI to select components. The survey findings indicate that while engineers believe AI will have an increasing role in assisting with component selection in the future, there is lingering concern about intentional or unintentional bias in AI systems, with some designers saying that they would trust AI to play a “limited” role in selection that remained subject to reviews and checks by themselves.

Although most respondents welcomed complementary AI, they also felt that human beings will always be required as part of the selection process, especially for safety-critical systems and innovative designs. One retired systems engineer said AI is no substitute for good engineering calculations; when others pointed out that humans make errors, the engineer said: “I am more willing to tolerate human error than rely on an AI solution where I cannot control the data used to train the AI model.” This reflects a concern that engineers will not be able to fully understand why an AI module selects particular products.

Another respondent said that AI could be more useful as an assistant rather than a replacement. “That comes with the caveat that I’d reserve the right to vet everything the AI selected. In this capacity, AI would be used as an enhanced search engine of sorts,” the respondent said.

A respondent that was keen to use AI said hardware design is fundamentally composed of patterns, adding that it is “just a matter of time” until people discover ways to get online netlists and schematic PDFs and used them as good AI training data.

“In fact, AI will even be able to improve on them once there are better digital representations of devices and what’s inside them, coupled with telemetry from all of the subsystems. There are already completely generic AI systems that can do impressive, if limited selection, even building up simple VHDL for example. It's specifying what logic to use and how to assemble it,” the respondent said.

Cliff Ortmeyer, Global Head of Technical Marketing and Solutions Development at element14, said the survey results show that engineers are beginning to see a path for AI’s place in terms of component selection in their designs, especially where safety or innovation are considerations. “As AI models get more sophisticated, it seems clear that they will become more useful for modelling designs, selecting components, shortening design cycles and reducing time to market of new products,” Ortmeyer said.

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