The internet of things


The future of electronics is increasingly being shaped by two major trends: mobile computing and the "internet of things." The pervasiveness of mobile is fairly obvious, with 1.2 billion units expected to ship in 2014. The internet of things is less obvious, but slowly becoming a reality. The idea is that all objects in our environment will be equipped with sensors and identifying devices and connected to the internet. And I'm talking about everything, from buildings to freeways to food containers to medicine.

With the internet of things, companies would not run out of stock, as involved parties would know which products are required and consumed. Mislaid and stolen items would be easily tracked and located, as would the people who use them.

At the recent Common Platform Technology Forum -- produced by Global Foundries, Samsung and IBM -- Simon Segars, executive vice president and general manager of the physical IP division at ARM, spoke about the impact on the way electronics are designed. "Microcontrollers and sensors are getting embedded into pretty much everything we interact with," he said. "You're going to need very small and very power-efficient technology, and a power-efficient wireless network to pull it all together. "

Segars said changes in computing requirements will create a demand for smaller, dedicated technologies. "It's the case in pretty much any form of electronics, if you know what you're doing, dedicated hardware is the best way of saving power. This is why you have a video engine and a graphics engine in your phone -- because it's very expensive to do it on a general purpose computer. The same holds true for servers," he said.

Rather than get "fixated" by the apps processor, Segars said it's important to pay attention to the other chips required, such as smaller control chips used to manage battery power or the touch screen. "These aren't necessarily manufactured on the most leading edge digital process," he said. "These are using older, more mature processes which can drive higher voltages. There's a need for continual evolution on that kind of process technology, because it's going to be required for a long time." The big boys will have their $7.5 billion fabs, but let's not forget about the importance in investing in the rest of the supply chain.

Solid State Technology, Volume 55, Issue 3, April 2012

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