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Three fundamental shifts

At The ConFab last week, Dr. Gary Patton, vice president, semiconductor research and development center at IBM, said there is a bright future in microelectronics (I heartily agree). He said that although there seems to be a fair amount of doom and gloom that scaling is ending and Moore’s Law is over, he is very positive. “There are three huge fundamental shifts that are going to drive our industry forward, will drive revenue growth and will force us to keep innovating to enable new opportunities,” he said.

The first fundamental shift is the explosion of applications in the consumer and mobile space. Patton noted examples such as cars that can drive themselves and can detect people and bicyclists and avoid them, smart phones for as little as $25, wearable devices that not only tell you what you’re doing but how you’re doing, and 4K television. “That is an incredible TV system, but it’s going to demand a lot of bandwidth; twice the bandwidth that’s out there today. If you turn on your 4K system, your neighbors are going to start to notice it when they try to access the internet,” he said.

Patton said that it’s estimated that today there are about 12.5 billion devices connected to the internet. That’s expected to grow to $30 billion by 2020. This represents the second fundamental shift commonly known as Big Data. “All these interconnected devices are shoving tremendous amount of data up into the cloud at the rate of 1.5 Exabytes (1018) bytes of data per month,” Patton said. “And that’s grown by about an order of magnitude in just the last 13 years. The estimate is that in the next 4 years, it’s going to go up another order of magnitude. It’s accelerating.”

The third fundamental shift is with all this data going up into the cloud, the data is almost all unstructured data, such as video and audio. “It’s related data but disconnected. How do we take that data and do something with it? That brings us to analytics and cognitive computing. We have really just started in this arena.”

So there you have it. Three reasons to be very positive about the future of the semiconductor industry: an explosion of applications, the rise of big data and the need to analyze all that data.

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