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New frontiers in MEMS around the human body


At the recently held International Electronics Forum (IEF) 2010, organized by Future Horizons in Dresden, Germany, Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager, MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog Division, STMicroelectronics, made a wonderful presentation on how MEMS can be useful for the human body, especially from the medical electronics point of view.

MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) is a three-dimensional device embedded in silicon, and uses silicon’s mechanical (and electrical) properties. It supports multifunctional systems of actuators, electronics and sensors.

Three critical waves of MEMS
Vigna highlighted the three very important waves of MEMS — automotive airbags, consumerization, and MEMS in, on, around the body! The last part especially is the most interesting one!

Automotive airbags formed the 1st wave of MEMS. The application supported big and not-so-precise accelerometers. Additional automotive applications followed, such as tyre pressure sensors and stability control. Vigna heralded consumerization as the 2nd wave of MEMS. There have been high-volume fabrication techniques, leading to higher performance/greater reliability at lower costs. He specifically pointed out the ‘Wii effect’! In this case, the high-volume commitment of vendors + UI benefits led to consumerization of MEMS.

Vigna added that MEMS has seen a speeding spiral of success in recent times. Earlier, it took 25 years from labs to fabs. Now, three product generations are developed and released in 12 months!

Another instance or example of the 2nd MEMS wave include the move from keyboard and mouse to free motion. In this case, the MEMS sensors change interaction with consumer electronics and propel new applications. There are now:
* Motion user interfaces in phones, games and remotes.
* Advanced navigation and location-based services.
* Free-fall protection in portable devices.


MEMS market
Vigna focused a moment on the MEMS motion sensors market 2009-2013 and the MEMS market. As far as the MEMS motion sensors market is concerned, accelerometers are likely to grow at 14.5 percent CAGR for the period 2009-2013. On the other hand, gyroscopes are likely to grow at 17.3 percent CAGR during 2009-2013.

Cell phones and CE is the major market segment in both cases, registering 19.5 percent CAGR and 25.4 percent CAGR, respectively, followed by automotive at 10.7 percent CAGR and 12.3 percent CAGR, respectively.

It is to be noted that in 2009, the overall MEMS market was almost flat compared to 2008, but volumes rose significantly, showing increasing penetration of MEMS in consumer devices.

Current trends in MEMS
Coming on to the current trends, MEMS is now pushing the limits of size and power — motion sensors are squeezing the footprint to 2×2 mm and current consumption well below 10uA in full operating mode. Multiple sensor integration is another trend. The integration of motion, magnetic, pressure and temperature sensors in a single package brings more degrees of freedom.

Embedded intelligence is the third key trend. The on-chip processing capabilities are enabling smart autonomous sensors and decreasing power consumption at the system level. Finally, software, is now the ‘S’ in MEMS! Vigna said that hardware and software integration is a key added value and differentiating factor. Read more…

Top five trends likely to rule global semicon industry in 2014


Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

What are the top five trends likely to rule the semicon industry in 2014 and why? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, had this to say.

FinFETs
FinFETs will be a huge trend through 2014 and beyond. Semiconductor companies will certainly keep us well informed as they progress through FinFET tapeouts and ultimately deliver production FinFET processes.

They will tout the power and speed advantages that their FinFET processes deliver for their customers, and those semiconductor companies early to market with FinFETs will press their advantage by driving and announcing aggressive FinFET roadmaps.

IP and subsystems
As devices grow more complex, integrating third-party IP has become mainstream. Designers recognize as a matter of course that today’s complex designs benefit greatly from integrating third-party IP in such areas as microprocessors and specialized I/Os.

The trend for re-use is beginning to expand upwards to systems of integrated, tested IP so that designers no longer need to redesign well-understood systems, such as memory, audio and sensor systems.

Internet of Things/sensors
Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things for good reason. It is happening, and 2014 will be a year of huge growth for connected things. Sensors will emerge as a big enabler of the Internet of Things, as they connect our real world to computation.

Beyond the mobile juggernaut, new devices such as Google’s (formerly Nest’s) thermostat and smoke detector will enter the market, allowing us to observe and control our surrounding environment remotely.

The mobile phone will continue to subsume and disrupt markets, such as cameras, fitness devices, satellite navigation systems and even flashlights, enabled by sensors such as touch, capacitive pattern, gyroscopic, accelerometers, compasses, altimeters, light, CO, ionization etc. Semiconductor companies positioned to serve the Internet of Things with sensor integration will do well.

Systems companies bringing IC design in-house
Large and successful systems companies wanting to differentiate their solutions are bringing IC specification and/or design in house. Previously, these companies were focused primarily on systems and solutions design and development.

Driven by a belief that they can design the best ICs for their specific needs, today’s large and successful companies such as Google, Microsoft and others are leading this trend, aided by IP reuse.

Advanced designs at both emerging and established process nodes  
While leading-edge semiconductor companies drive forward on emerging process nodes such as 20nm, others are finding success by focusing on established nodes (28nm and above) that deliver required performance at reduced risk. Thus, challenging designs will emerge at both ends of the spectrum.

Part II of this discussion will look at FinFETs below 20nm and 3D ICs.

Skin inspired electronics for mobile health


Prof. Zhenan Bao

Prof. Zhenan Bao

Skin inspired electronics can be used for mobile health such as wireless sensor bands, cell phone and computer at doctor’s office, according to Prof. Zhenan Bao, Stanford University. She was delivering the inaugural lecture on day two of the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA.

There are organic field-effect transistors (OTFTs). The current flow is moderated by binding of molecules and pressure. E-skin sensor functions have touch (pressure) sensors, chemical sensors and biological sensors. There are other flexible pressure sensors such as conductive rubber, which is thick and has hysteresis. Another type is poly-vinylidene fluoride (PVDF) thin film. Yet another type is the OTFT touch (pressure) sensor.

There is an example of the heart pulse measurement. Another related device is the full pulse wave for medical diagnostics such as blood pressure monitoring, detecting arrhythmia, heart defects and vascular diseases. In terms of temperature sensing, Stanford has developed a flexible body temperature sensor made of plastic.

There is chemical sensing as well. These are very stable and can be put in sea water. There are also electronics to mimic the body, such as the biodegradable OTFT. Another example is the transparent, stretchable pressure sensor. Finally, the other attribute of the human skin is self healing. Stanford University also developed the all-self-healing e-skin.

The e-skin concept ‘Super Skin’ has touch pressure sensors, chemical or biological sensors in air – electronic nose and liquid environments – electronic tongue, flexible strechable materials, biocompatible or biodegradable, self-powered — strechable solar cells and self healing.

What should India do to boost semiconductors?

February 4, 2013 11 comments

I’ve already written a lot on the Indian semiconductor industry. Now, there’s nothing new to say. Even then, I am literally coaxed to say what I think the Indian semiconductor industry should do! As though the industry will listen to a nobody like me!  :)

First, the industry should stop wasting time running here and there, and focus on getting the job done! Semiconductors isn’t a new area, and has been in existence even before the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) came into being in 2005.

There have been talks (ongoing since about 2006) about building fabs in India. Well, where are they? Back in 2010, I wrote a post titled Indian industry proposes to extend deadline of India’s semicon policy up to March 2015! One sincerely hopes that has actually happened!

India could consider building 150/180/200mm fabs that tackle local problems via indigenous applications. And, there are scores of local issues that need to be dealt with! I’ve said before, and am repeating myself at the sake of repetition — the semiconductor industry is NOT the IT industry, but it appears to being treated like one, especially in India!

Indian companies could consider developing firms in the assembly testing, verification and packaging (ATMP) space. Very little has happened so far and a lot more needs to be done. There could be some attempts to attract and invite companies in areas such as RFID to address local problems and develop local applications, unless India has given up on RFIDs.

I really have very little idea whether there is any interest in India to pursue global companies in PDP, OLED/LED space for setting up manufacturing units. Although, I can safely bet that if it is the Chinese companies that Indian firms are setting themselves up to take on, we would have a very long way to go!

India also needs to kindly forget about the ‘states race’! It has not helped anyone so far, nor will it help anyone in future!! In the end, we are all looking to develop India, aren’t we?

I didn’t even know that there is so much time required for setting up a pan-industry panel that will determine the top five products that are important for India! Seriously!! Anyone, who resides in India, should be able to tell you that the key sectors in India are automotive, consumer, industrial, medical and telecom. Agree that automotive and certain medical electronics areas can be expensive. Well, there are still three areas to pursue!

If anyone had simply bothered to send me an email or even call me, I’d have very happily told them about the top five product lines that are important for India and much more!  ;)  There is a pressing need to develop a robust Indian semiconductor industry, led by local companies! Many would agree that all of this seems very easy to say, but difficult to manage!  ;)

M/H can truly deliver ‘real TV’ experience!


Ronen Jashek, co-founder and VP Marketing, Siano Mobile Silicon.

Ronen Jashek, co-founder and VP Marketing, Siano Mobile Silicon.

Siano Mobile Silicon, based in Israel, is going strong in mobile digital TV space. Thanks to Rachel Glaser, of Ruderfinn, Israel, I managed an exclusive with Ronen Jashek, co-founder and VP Marketing, Siano Mobile Silicon.

First,  let’s understand what the US standard for mobile digital TV — ATSC-M/H (Advanced Television Systems Committee – Mobile/Handheld)– all about! Jashek said: “ATSC-M/H is a standard that was established on the foundation of ATSC, a digital technology that replaced Analog TV in the US back in 2009. ATSC is the US equivalent to other international standards, like DVB-T (Europe), ISDB-T Full-Seg (Japan), and others around the world.

“ATSC is targeted (and consequently, was designed to do just that) to deliver HD content to domestic, stationary applications (i.e., big-screen TVs at home) that primarily use fixed antennae. It therefore does not address issues that are related to mobile use-cases – mobility (being able to receive the signal while moving at high speeds), efficient power consumption (to address the mobile, battery-powered devices) and extremely high sensitivity and immunity to interface (which is required in a typical mobile use-case when “on the go”).  As a result, these aspects are exactly what M/H (Mobile/Handheld) is addressing. In a word, M/H can be considered the equivalent of DVB-H (again – in Europe), CMMB (in China) and ISDB-T 1-Seg (Japan and LatAm).

“ATSC-M/H was established by the ATSC standardization body, as a joint effort by its members, after realizing the need to secure a technology that would enable true mobile TV service to take off and flourish in the U.S. The various ATSC committees worked on the standard for several years, up until its final version was formally approved in the fall of 2010, paving the way to the deployment and launch of the M/H TV service.”

Given the considerable interest around mobile handheld TV, how significant is the mobile-ready programing? Jashek replied: “Based on the underlying M/H technology, US broadcasters now have the means to get their content out there – direct to consumers. Currently, there are about 60 cities with a total of close to 80 TV stations that are already airing mobile TV content.

“To date, however, most of this content is local – meaning, it’s produced and aired locally. But this is not nearly enough to generate a successful, enticing mobile TV market. Enter the Mobile Content Venture, the MCV – a coalition of the top US broadcasters (FOX, NBC, ION, and others) that set its mission on delivering the mobile TV service built on the broadcast technology and spectrum.

“Naturally, the content that can be delivered by this coalition is the best available premium content in the US Quoting their official plans – “At launch, the service will initially consist of at least two ad-supported, free-to-consumer channels in each DMA. Additional channels and markets are expected to be added.” There’s no doubt that once the MCV plans are in motion and materialize, the content will be extremely attractive to render the service successful.” Read more…

Need to work toward sustainable future: imec

September 5, 2011 2 comments

Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec.

Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec.

At an ISA CXO Conclave, Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec, said that we need to work toward a sustainable future. Started in 1984, Leuven, Belgium-based imec performs world leading research in nanoelectronics. He touched upon some research programs currently undertaken by imec.

Green radio is for low-power wireless communications. Technologies would be 1000K energy efficient. He added: “We are also developing low cost, low-power reconfigurable radios. Further, we feel that videos will dominate mobile phones.”

Another innovation, E-Nose, can be used for air quality, safety, food and well being. Human++ BAN life sciences, is yet another innovation. Now, the cost of healthcare is said to be exploding. By 2030, over 1 billion people will be over 65+ years. imec is developing body area network. According to imec, wearable wireless sensors can grow to over $400 million by 2014.

imec is working on technologies ranging from bio sensors to lab-on-chip. “We are also working on implantable devices such as microprobes,” said Van den hove. imec is also working on the NVision technology. According to estimates, there will likely be 78.1 million 3D TVs by 2012. Van den hove said, “we are developing holographic visualization.”

On energy, he said that renewable energy was growing in importance. “We are working on solar, storage, switching, etc. As an example, we have replaced Ag (silver) with Cu (copper) metallization.” Organic solar cells is yet another technology imec’s working on.”

In power electronics, imec is working on GaN power devices. “We also have a program for boosting chip performance and system functionality,” he added. “We are also exploring the third dimension — DRAM on logic.”

CMORE, is said to be more than CMOS, as well as MEMS, sensors, photonics, SiGe based metals/devices. In organic electronics, imec and Holst have developed the first plastic microprocessor, which was introduced in 2011. imec has research programs for full ecosystems as well.

Van den hove noted: “We also celebrate the launch of imec India. We want to develop sustainable nanoelectronic solutions. For example, rural India drives the mobile phone growth. India is also driving e-health.” In Arise Labs, imec has provided the nanoelectronic platform, technology and design expertise, application programming and strong industry network.

NXP launches CAN partial networking solution for automotives


NXP Semiconductors N.V. has announced the first NWP ISO 11898-6 and AUTOSAR R3.2.1 compliant solution supporting CAN Partial Networking.

The stand-alone TJA1145 CAN transceiver and integrated system basis chip UJA1168 – the world’s first highly integrated solution to support CAN Partial Networking – give design engineers precision control over a vehicle’s bus communication network. By intelligently de-activating electronic control units (ECUs) that are currently not needed, engineers can significantly reduce vehicle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions without sacrificing performance or consumer experience.

Reducing CO2, improving energy efficiency
So, how will the NXP solution reduce CO2 and improve energy efficiency in vehicles? Karsten Penno, business development manager, Business Unit Automotive, NXP, said: “In current CAN networks, all ECUs are always active and consuming power when the vehicle is in use. This is the case even if the applications they control aren’t continuously required, such as seat positioning, sun roof operation, park assistance systems, etc.

“CAN Partial Networking changes this model by activating only those ECUs that are functionally required, while other ECUs remain in a low-power mode until needed. This results in significant savings in power/fuel consumption, reducing costs, wiring and CO2 emissions. CAN Partial Networking is also extremely beneficial for electric and hybrid vehicles as it helps extending their operating range and optimizing charging time. Saving potential: 0.11l fuel savings/100km and 2.6g CO2 reduction/km.”

Why not before?
Now, if the CAN Partial Networking solution is so novel, why wasn’t it thought of before?

Penno said: “Innovations like CAN Partial Networking always require a broad industry acceptance and standardization. The CAN bus system – as key component of in-vehicles networks – has been around for many years (introduced in early ’90s). However, only with the rising awareness on CO2 emissions and overall vehicle efficiency – along with growing CAN node counts – came the need for a more efficient CAN standard. NXP is innovation leader in this area and is chairs the standardizing working group within ISO.” Read more…

Celebrating the World IPv6 Day!


June 8 happens to be World IPv6 Day. On this day, tomorrow, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight Networks will be among some of the major global organizations offering content over IPv6 networks on a 24-hour test flight!  World IPv6 Day’s goal is to motivate organizations — ISPs, hardware vendors, OS vendors, web companies, etc., to prepare their services for IPv6, as IPv4 addresses run out!

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is a version of the Internet Protocol (IP) that is designed to succeed Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4).  The growth of the Internet has mandated a need for more addresses than is possible with IPv4. IPv6 allows for vastly more addresses.

Dave Kresse, CEO of Mu Dynamics.

Dave Kresse, CEO of Mu Dynamics.

Thanks to Lauren Willard at Sterling Communications, I got into a conversation with Dave Kresse, CEO of Mu Dynamics, on the eve of the IPv6 Day. Mu has been working with network operators and service providers for years now to ensure that their networks are up for IPv6.

Wednesday, the company will be announcing a free solution for network operators and service providers to ensure that their networks will operate smoothly both during the transition to IPv6 and once it’s complete. Mu is doing all of this in conjunction with the leading lab for IPv6 testing in the nation – UNH-IOL InterOperability Lab.

Talking about the significance of the World IPv6 day from Mu’s perspective, Kresse says that everybody has been talking about IPv6 for the longest time, and a majority of our customers have been focusing on it for awhile. The IPv6 World Day bring additional visibility to the exhaustion of the IPv4 addresses and for those who have not started to make the transition, they are definitely behind the game.

As for Mu’s role in IPv6, he adds: “For the last several years, our proven testing solution has helped network equipment manufacturers and operators around the world with their IPv6 testing and certification. The Mu Test Suite for IPv6 is comprehensive suite of automated testings solutions and test content assisting customers and prospects to test, certify and validate their products and services for conformance, security and resiliency.” Read more…

Maxim well positioned for future success!


A view of Maxim's Analyst Day 2011.

A view of Maxim's Analyst Day 2011.

According to Tunç Doluca, CEO, Maxim Integrated Products, the analog market is changing. Maxim is the analog integration pioneer. Integration accelerating in growth markets. The company has been executing its strategy via innovation, integration and balance. It is well positioned for success in the future. Doluca was speaking at the Analyst Day 2011 event held recently.

Speaking about the evolution of analog, Doluca touched upon analog integration, system solution and building blocks. Six areas act as market growth drivers — automotive electronics, HD video infrastructure, energy, mobility, security and healtcare.

Key market trends in automotive electronics include electronic content increasing, infotainment now becoming standard, and hybrid and electric vehicles. Maxim’s product investments include lighting and body electronics, infotainment solutions, automotive connectivity and battery management. The analog TAM is said to be $10 billion as per IC Insights. Automotive electronics is likely to grow at 9.2 percent CAGR through 2014, according to DQ 2010.

Key trends in HD infrastructure include infrastructure for HD video, smart TVs – Skype TV, and wireless HD in the home. Maxim’s product investments include the optical transceivers, video SoCs including so]ware and wireless HD 1080p chipset. The Internet traffic is likely to grow 13x times from 2006 to 2014.

Key trends in energy include energy measurement everywhere, which requires communication. Maxim’s product investments include energy metering and measuring, smart grid communications and low-power product focus. As per Frost & Sullivan, 2011 should see 116 million meter installations.

Key trends in mobile devices include richer features and smaller devices, emergence of tablets and touchscreen displays. Maxim’s product investments include Power SoC — analog integration, sensing — proximity and imaging, ModelGauge technology, TacTouch controllers and Flexsound audio. Year 2011 should see 1.6 billion cell phones, including 428 million smartphones, as per Oppenheimer, and also 220 million laptops and 55 million tablets, as per MS Research.

Key trends in security include rise of electronic transactions, stringent security requirements and digital surveillance. Maxim’s product investments include key acquisitions for secure SoCs, H.264 SoCs — IP cameras and DVRs, and end-to-end silicon solutions. Financial terminals should grow 6.3 percent CAGR over the next five years, as per BCC Research.

Key trends in healthcare include diagnostics closer to patients, home-based care and enabling healthier lifestyles. Maxim’s product investments have been in areas such as integration for miniaturization, low-power for portability and high-performance analog. Medical electronics is said to grow at 10 percent CAGR over the next five years, as per Databeans.

Maxim has been executing its strategy based on three key areas — innovation, integration and balance. Maxim is doing innovation in areas: 0.18 micron process on 300mm wafers, 10 touch capacitive touchscreen controllers, mobile power SoCs that integrate analog functions, and energy metering SoCs that are said to replace seven discrete ICs and reduce costs up to 40 percent. The integration trend has been progressing across all markets.

In five years, Maxim should be a leader in integrated analog solutions, have the industry’s fastest growing rate, have high profitability and be one of best companies to work for. A new world headquarters is under construction in San Jose. Relocation is scheduled for 2012.

 

ISA Vision Summit 2011: Nanotech likely to catch us all unaware!


Dr. Bobby Mitra speaking at the ISA Vision Summit 2011.

Dr. Bobby Mitra speaking at the ISA Vision Summit 2011.

“The electronics industry in India, touching $60 billion, has now thrown up a challenge,” said Dr. N. Seshagiri, former director-general, National Informatics Centre (NIC), chief guest at the 6th ISA Vision Summit, which kicked off today in Bangalore. “This decade can see many disruptions. One innovation likely to catch all of us unaware is nanotech!”

According to Dr. Seshagiri, nanotech devices have been valued at $1.6 trillion by 2013.  Electronics, especially nano-electronics is yet another opportunity to energize the Indian economy in this and the next decade.”

He added that India isn’t lagging behind as about 30 Indian companies had exported goods worth a few billion dollars. Nanotech isn’t far away, as there can’t be a better enabler than microtech and nanotech. The entry cost to nanotech is relatively low. One can find companies from China and India emerging.

What should India do with electronics hardware and IT? We don’t expect the Indian software industry to be interested in nanotech. We need to start learning new electronics from now on.

More and more R&D should now come to India and China. Our patent laws are neither bad nor good. There is now a need to work out a win-win situation. To make that happen, the Indian government’s patent policies need to change.

Dr. Seshagiri added: “We must build awareness among the Indian ESDM companies and also within the government. The ISA would do well to bring the Indian government into its shelter.”

Dr, Ajay Kumar, joint secretary, Department of IT, Government of India, said that the ISA Vison Summit 2011 focuses on a very relevant theme. While India is fairly well known in software, it lacks in electronics system and manufacturing. As per the task force in 2009, demand for electronic systems is projected to grow from $45 billion to $400 billion. At the current rate, approxiately $104 million can be  manufactured here and the rest has to be taken care of by imports. He added: “Electronic system design and manufacturing can propel the industry toward energy efficiency. The time has come to show India’s might.” Read more…

Categories: Semiconductors
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