Imec CEO looks forward to the ‘happy many’

July 14, 2015

San Francisco, CA. The history of the world has been the “happy few” served by the unhappy many. At the Imec Technical forum held today in conjunction with SEMICON West, Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of imec, painted a picture of centuries past in which presumably unhappy servants and butlers anticipated the every whim of the happy upper class, meeting their betters’ every need.

In the future, he contended, there will not be the happy few, but rather the happy many. We may not be served by butlers, he contended, but we will be served by the myriad of interconnected devices that make up the Internet of Things, or as he put it, the Intuitive Internet of Things, or I2oT.

Today, the old-fashioned IoT may tell you whether your house is too hot or too cold, and if you are planning to arrive home early during a particularly cold spell, it might turn up the thermostat a half-hour before your updated anticipated arrival time. In Van den hove’s vison, the I2oT goes much further. Your elderly parents can noninvasively keep in close contact with their healthcare providers, and they can keep in touch with you—at times not inconvenient for you or them.

To meet the promise of the I2oT, we will need wearables that are essentially invisible, he said—they fade into the background. To deal with context, intention, and your emotional state, they will need personalized algorithms.

Van den hove presented a future in which I2oT devices not only diagnose disease—they help prevent disease. Almost all of us, he said, fear cancer. If we can diagnose cancer before it metastasizes, treatment options can be much more effective. To that end, imec has been instrumental in developing cell-sorter technology that can identify circulating cancer cells before they become a fatal threat.

But diagnosis and treatment are only part of what imec is addressing with respect to health and well-being. You need not just address the disease (cancer, for example) but the cause of the disease. A contributor to many diseases, he intimated, is stress—reduce stress, and you reduce disease.

A key contributor to stress, he suggested, is the daily commute. To reduce that stress, he painted a picture of a transportation infrastructure that—with or without autonomous vehicles—gets you to and from work (or whatever your destination)—with a minimum of inconvenience.

Reaching the ideal that Van den hove described will take a lot of hard work, and his visionary introduction at the imec Technology Forum was followed by many in-depth technical presentations on topics ranging from 3D NAND to silicon photonics. If you want to learn more, I can only suggest you attend upcoming imec events.

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