Tag Archives: TSMC

Don’t Hack My Light Bulb, Bro

The age of the Internet of Things is upon us. It’s about all anyone talked about over the last few weeks, as I visited the TSMC Open Innovation Platform (Sept 29th), ARM TechCon (October 1-2) and Semicon Europa (Oct 7-9).

I think Rick Cassidy, Senior VP of TSMC and president of TSMC North America, captured most people’s feelings when he kicked off the TSMC OIP saying: “The IoT is hot, it’s hot, it’s really hot.” Pete Hutton, ARM Executive VC, speaking at the ARM TechCon a day later, said “ IoT is a very, very exciting area for us and a very, very exciting area for the industry.”

There are, of course, two aspects of IoT. One is at what you might call the sensor level, where small, low power devices are gathering data and communicating with one another and the “cloud.” The other is the cloud itself. “IoT devices are expanding fast. There’s vast innovation going on in the space. It’s innovation driven by a range of people. A range of people from very large multi-nationals all the way to small groups of engineers in a garage. That innovation is going to create lots of opportunities. It’s also going to create massive volumes of data. Massive amounts of small data rippling through the network, rippling through the infrastructure.”

There is a lot to think about at both levels – how sensors will be integrated with batteries, energy harvesting devices, networking/connectivity capabilities, etc. on the one hand, and how servers will need to change and adapt to process massive amounts of data in the cloud and the “edge” of the cloud on the other.

What I found interesting in listening to many speakers over the last couple of weeks is how many people believe that the lowly light bulb might be how the IoT makes it’s way into your home. Light bulbs  have a ready energy source, they are in every room of your home and if they’re LEDs, they already have some computer functionality built in (through the driver chip). Yes, the NEST smoke detector has grabbed the headlines lately, but it’s probably the light bulb that will win.

Of course, this needs to be easy to use. As Simon Segar noted in his keynote talk at ARM TechCon, you don’t want to unlock your phone, find an app and click on it to turn on the light when you walk into a room. Nor do you want to have your light bulb talk to a server in Norway before it communicates with the thermostat (or your fridge/toaster/smoke detector/washing machine).

And you don’t want your light bulb hacked.  At SEMICON Europa, I sat in on a presentation titled “Secure Connections for The Internet of Things” by Dr. Wouter Leibbrandt, Senior Director, Manager Systems & Applications, Central R&D CTO, NXP. He said that while some parts of the IoT, such as banking, are very secure, the various parts are not well connected. There is considerable vulnerability through devices such as an internet-connected light bulb that would allow hackers to broach your system and gain access to sensitive documents and perhaps even bring down your whole system (or hold it for ransom).

How big the IoT is going to get is anyone’s guess. At the ARM TechCon, ARM founder and CTO Mike Muller said there could be 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. A week later, at a SEMI press conference, Claus Schmidt, managing director, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, said he’d heard 80 billion.

Clearly, the IoT is going to be huge. But security, even at the light bulb level, is going to be critical.

Editor’s Note: My muse for the headline.. On September 17, 2007, U.S. Senator John Kerry – now Secretary of State — addressed a Constitution Day forum at the University of Florida in Gainesville. A student, Andrew Meyer, became agitated during a subsequent Q&A and was arrested. During arrest, the officers asked him repeatedly to stop resisting, but Meyer continued to struggle and scream for help. While six officers held Meyer down one of the officers stunned him with a Taser following Meyer’s shouted plea to the police, “Don’t tase me, bro!” The YouTube video went “viral” and now has more than 7 million views.

No technical barriers seen for 450mm

Paul Farrar, general manager of the G450C consortium, said early work has demonstrated good results and that he sees no real barriers to implementing 450mm wafers from a technical standpoint. Speaking at the SEMI ISS meeting in January, Farrar showed impressive results from, etch, CVD, PVD, CMP, furnaces, electroplating, wet cleans and lithography processes and said the inspection/metrology tools were in place to measure results. “I don’t believe we will find fundamental technology limiters,” he said. “But we will have to keep working to find ways to maximize the efficiency.” Gaining such efficiencies are critical in order to meet the cost-saving goals of the program. “In the end, if this isn’t cheaper, no one is going to do it,” he said.

G450C is a consortium based at the CNSE campus in Albany, NY. It is financed by Intel, TSMC, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and New York State (CNSE). “Our job is to make it as easy as possible to innovation and be collaborative between the semiconductor makers and our key friends in the industry who enable the 450 work to be done in an economic way,” Farrar said.

At the end of 2013, G450C at 34 tools delivered to its 50,000ft2 fab in Albany, with another 7 tools in place at partner’s facilities. “The FOUPS are going, the overhead transport is well underway and some of the cleanroom is actually starting to look like a cleanroom,” Farrar said.


Farrar started with etch results, saying they were “starting to see some pretty good data – 3 sigma at about 2%. Yes, there’s still some work to get to the very edge of the wafer but relatively good progress and good jobs on gas delivery, etc.


He showed good results with both oxide and silicon nitride CVD, with close to 1.5mm edge exclusion. “It’s very representation data from early in the program,” Farrar said, noting that they were starting to pattern some of the more complex oxides.


He said the goal for PVD was to demonstrate better than 5% uniformity. “We know we have step coverage challenges for both the 10 and 7nm nodes. There’s tremendous work going on in the injection rings for gases, high density plasmas from multiple RF sources, but again some progress to me made but pretty good data for right out of the chute,” he said.


CMP results demonstrated repeatability less than 4%. “Very good job done by our suppliers,” Farrar said.


Farrar described data from furnaces as reasonably good. “We still need to do more characterization at what I call the micro level,” he said. “We see some hot spots on the edge, but we’re starting to work on those.”


Also “pretty good data” from electrochemical plating (ECP) of copper. “Well done here,” Farrar said. “The challenge is thermal and pattern loading effects, and gap fill.”


More of the same with wet cleans. “We’re starting to see some pretty good particle data. We’re cleaning wafers relatively well. We are seeing a few things like what I would call micro-metallic contamination that can grow some things so we’re still working on that. But from a particle removal standpoint, pretty good unit process work,” Farrar said.


Farrar acknowledged that lithography remained as one of the biggest challenges in the 450mm transition, but showed good results from directed self assembly across a 450mm wafer, and said the consortium had a very strong partnership with Nikon. “We’re working with them and we’ve seen some tremendous progress at their factory,” he said. “I’m fully confident that we’ll have capability by July to run patterned wafers. Immersion is going to be the workhorse. I think that’s a key enabler to get to 450mm.” He said the industry would have to see how the economics of EUV played out later in time. “I don’t think it’s going to be early in time,” he said.


Farrar seemed to draw hope from the earlier transition from 200mm to 300mm wafers, which started around 1998.  “By 2008, we were getting more than 2X the number of wafers per tool out compared to what was going in 2003. There was about a 70% improvement over 5 years,” he said.