IBM, Nissan and Toshiba talk computing and smart car innovations: Key takeaways from SEMI Japan Members Day

By Yoichiro Ando

The Japan semiconductor manufacturing supply chain is a global semiconductor industry workhorse, producing about one third of world’s chip equipment and more than half of its semiconductor materials. In contributing the vast majority of these products, SEMI Japan member companies hold the high distinction of enabling continuous development of the worldwide semiconductor industry. Aptly, then, technology powerhouses IBM, Nissan Motors and Toshiba offered insights into the latest trends and innovations in computing and smart cars at the late-May SEMI Japan Members Days in Tokyo with 133 technologists from member companies in attendance.

As the audience discovered, chip innovation never sleeps and, as futuristic as it can be, invariably gives rise to possibilities beyond the human imagination. That was the message of kickoff presentation “Computing Reimagined – AI/Quantum/IoT” – by Dr. Shintaro Yamamichi, Senior Manager, Science & Technology at IBM Research-Tokyo. Dr. Yamamichi cited three examples of how semiconductors uncover new technology frontiers.

  • Computational materials discovery, a novel methodology, is the application of theory and computation to unearthing new materials and the key to enabling an ongoing stream of semiconductor innovation. In particular, using cognitive technology to mine huge volumes of literature reveal new insights into materials that uncover even more functionality such as greater conductivity and heat resistance. With new materials the oxygen of ever more advanced semiconductor chip manufacturing, the semiconductor industry will surely benefit from this methodology.
  • The opportunity to accelerate quantum computing innovation is now. Launched in May 2016, the IBM Quantum Experience gives students, researchers and general science enthusiasts hands-on access to IBM’s experimental cloud-enabled quantum computing platform. The online platform features a forum for discussing quantum computing topics, tutorials on how to program IBM Q devices, and other educational material about quantum computing. Dr. Yamamichi encouraged the audience to join the program.
  • The world’s tiniest computer, unveiled by IBM at the company’s Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas, packs several hundred thousand transistors and, IBM claims, the equivalent power of a 1990s x86 chip into a package smaller than a grain of salt. The computer’s small form factor (less than 1mm x 1mm) and low manufacturing cost means it can be embedded in product price tags and packages as an anti-fraud device using blockchain technology.

Vehicles need to be both electric and intelligent as countries become more populous and traffic density increases. More drivers extend average drive time, boost greenhouse emissions, devour precious energy resources and lead to more traffic congestion and accidents. Dr. Haruyoshi Kumura, fellow at Nissan Motor, highlighted these issues in stressing the importance of a new era of intelligent mobility. To mitigate these problems, Nissan is focusing on the electrification and intelligence of its vehicles:

  • Nissan’s electric vehicle, Leaf, reduces accidents with electric intelligence systems such as e-Pedal, which uses an accelerator pedal only for both acceleration and deceleration, and ProPILOT Park, a feature that automatically parks the car by using multiple cameras and ultrasonic sonars to detect pedestrians and other objects around the vehicle.

  • With more than 90 percent of traffic accidents caused by driver error, Nissan plans to introduce autonomous driving on multi-lane highways by the end of 2018 and on city streets by 2020. By 2022, the company plans to roll out full autonomous driving to reduce traffic accidents caused by inattentive drivers.
  • For full autonomous driving to materialize, sensor fusion technology must incorporate a combination of technologies – radar systems, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems and cameras – to identify the shapes and locations of nearby moving objects and measure their speed. Sensed information is then processed by a 3D graphic analyzer to make electric throttle, braking and steering decisions.

The outlook for automotive industry includes car sharing and more electrification – both insights from Yoshiki Hayakashi, general manager, automotive solution strategic planning division at Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage, who offered his perspectives on trends in Japan’s automotive industry and beyond.

  • To meet the requirements of the COP21 Paris agreement, the global automotive industry is shifting to electrification. Toshiba estimates 60 percent of new cars will be electric vehicles by 2040 to meet the International Energy Agency’s global EV outlook.
  • In Japan, autonomous driving or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will be offered in certain areas by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympic games. Growth of these advanced driving systems hinges on infrastructure development. Supporting data centers, intelligent transport systems, vehicle-to-everything connections, and smart city are all necessary components.
  • Car ownership will begin to cede ground to car sharing with technology elites such as Tesla, Apple and Google leading the way. To expand the car-sharing industry, new alliances will take shape between new and old-guard automotive companies and electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers.
  • Autonomous driving requires precise 3D renderings of actual roadways using sensors for route mapping. While sensor fusion must be deployed for these capabilities, LiDAR offers better sensing range and space resolution precision than ultrasonic sonars, radars, and cameras.

The next SEMI Japan members day is scheduled for October 30 in Tokyo. SEMI holds similar events in most regions where SEMI and its members operate. For the members events in your region, contact the SEMI office nearest you.

Yoichiro Ando is a marketing director in SEMI Japan.

Originally published on the SEMI blog.


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