Technologists tout IoT success

Rick Nelson, Executive Editor

Last month on this page, I commented on politicians’ opinions on the Internet of Things—or lack thereof. Subsequently, SEMICON West provided an opportunity for technologists to weigh in on the topic—and weigh in they did.

For example, Doug Davis, senior vice president and general manager, Internet of Things Group, Intel, said the IoT has risen to the next frontier of technology. “The Internet of Things is fueling innovation in every different type of industry,” he said, adding that with the cloud and data analytics, the IoT’s scope will become grander and much more ambitious. That’s not to say there is no need for the mundane—Davis went on to describe smart wastebaskets.

Davis outlined four specific challenges the IoT can address: an aging population, increasing carbon emissions, increasing urban populations, and the need to feed the planet. For example, over a billion people will be over 60 by 2050, he said, and every day in the United States, 10,000 people turn 65. The IoT can facilitate independent living by turning the home into a connected care center.

As for carbon, he said, the IoT can improve efficiencies of industrial equipment and, through accurate weather forecasting, the effectiveness of solar and wind plants. The IoT will also have a role to play in reducing pollution and traffic congestion in ever-denser urban environments. And as for feeding the planet, he said the IoT can boost agricultural yield while reducing waste and water usage.

Speaking at the imec Technical forum held in conjunction with SEMICON West, Luc Van den hove, imec’s president and CEO, sounded similar themes but added his own take. Citing a particular example, he noted that the IoT in the form of wearables will have to fade into your life and employ smart, personalized algorithms that take into account context, intention, and emotional state—leading to the Intuitive Internet of Things, or I2oT.

Other presenters throughout SEMICON West went into detail about how the IoT will be built. For example, An Steegen, imec’s senior vice president for process technology, described emerging requirements for processor performance, I/O bandwidth, storage, and power. She addressed how to meet those requirements through multipatterning EUV lithography, device stacking, and spin-wave devices. And several of her colleagues commented on topics including silicon photonics, thin-film electronics, and thin-film photovoltaics.

And at a Leti Day event at SEMICON West, Marie-Noëlle Semeria, Leti’s CEO, discussed the organization’s 3D integration technologies for tomorrow’s IoT devices, describing a 22-nm FDSOI process implemented by GLOBALFOUNDARIES with support from Leti. Olivier Faynot, Microelectronic division manager, highlighted Leti’s CoolCube 3D sequential integration technology and its role in extending Moore’s Law to meet tomorrow’s IoT needs.

And finally, at the co-located Test Vision 2020 event, device makers and test equipment vendors described strategies for meeting IoT test challenges. For example, Thomas Burger, director of test development and senior manager for test technology at ams AG, urged test vendors to take an active role in developing modular, scalable, integrated test cells for what he called sensor systems on chip, or SSoC. And John Shelley, director of product marketing at Xcerra, described some novel ways of potentially cutting the cost of testing RF functionality on IoT devices.

Clearly, industry is moving ahead rapidly with IoT deployment. It might be tempting to let politicians linger in the background, staying out of the way. But given the security, privacy, and safety issues involved, legal and political factors will ultimately force their way to the forefront. It would be better to have a legal and policy framework smoothly evolving along with the technology.

Meanwhile, as Intel’s Davis put it in his presentation, over the next five years, think big about what the IoT can deliver.

Rick Nelson, Executive Editor
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