San Diego, USA based Ethertronics Inc., enabling innovative antenna and RF solutions to deliver the best connected experience, has launched Ether 1.3.1, a phone adaptive antenna solution. Ready for integration with smartphones or other classes of phones, the Ether 1.3.1 can realize design benefits such as 50 percent reduction in antenna volume, yet maintain compliant performance.
According to Laurent Desclos, president and CEO, Ether 1.3.1 allows an antenna system to dynamically tune itself for optimum performance. Phone form factors are constantly changing throughout the design cycle.
“Current solutions, using passive antennas, require the antenna to be re-tuned with each change to the phone form factor, lengthening the time to market. Ether 1.3.1’s advanced active circuitry is able to adapt to changes in the form factor, reducing the need for lengthy antenna redesigns.”
In addition, Ether 1.3.1 can be designed to take up less volume than other antennas (up to a 50-percent reduction), providing more space for other components, and yet, still remain specification compliant.
Is this solution only suitable for smartphones then? Desclos said that Ether 1.3.1 is not limited to just smartphones. It can be integrated into all tiers of devices such as feature phones and tablets supporting 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile device designs. Ether 1.3.1 is said to be ready for commercial deployment. Several design references have been accomplished to date. Products from OEMs will be announced in the future.
It is said that Ether 1.3.1 allows more freedom in antenna structure design. Elaborating, Desclos said: “Ether 1.3.1 allows more freedom in antenna structure design in a few core areas: size, placement and ability to meet performance specifications. Through the use of active impedance matching techniques, smaller volume antennas can be achieved.”
This is especially important as phone form factors shrink, while more components are added to phones for increased functionality (cameras, GPS, etc.). Ether 1.3.1 can additionally be used to achieve compliance as the antenna system can be dynamically tuned for known challenge areas in specification compliance.
Finally, how can the Ether 1.3.1 solution be tuned for tougher challenges by toning down the antenna size?
Typically, when the antenna’s size is decreased, performance suffers since there is less volume area to cover the required bandwidth. The beauty of active impedance matching is that the technique allows for the antenna volume to be reduced by as much as 50 percent and still maintain compliant performance. As a result, active impedance matching allows for a wide range of designs, since the technique is applicable to a broad range of form factors.
However, post the meeting, to my horror, I misplaced my notes and only managed to locate them last week. My apologies to Infineon for being late with this blog post.
I was able to discuss Infineon’s wireless strategy with Dr Ludwig and also managed a peek at Infineon’s range of microcontrollers during my discussion with Peter Schaefer. First, let’s have a look at the company’s wireless strategy.
Dr Matthias Ludwig said: “We are good in RF and baseband. There are about 1.5 billion RF transceivers out there globally, from Infineon.” He added that one third of the market falls in the low cost mobile phone segment.
Infineon’s wireless strategy is two fold — low cost solutions and the smartphone platform — where the company is focusing on the modem and the RF side, respectively. Infineon’s Android based smartphone platform uses an ARM 11 baseband. “Customers can come up with their own application processor,” Dr Ludwig said. “Our strategy gives us a lot of flexibility.”
He mentioned that Infineon receives a lot of requests from customers for smartphones at $100 solutions. “We believe that we can manage our single core Android platform in the $100 segment.”
Thanks to Dr Ludwig, I had a first hand experience of some of the smartphones that Infineon is currently working on. Actually, think about it! A $100 dollar (and even sub $100) smartphone may be just the thing Indians would love to have.
As for Infineon’s India strategy — part of the focus is on low cost. “We know that there is tough competition out there,” noted Dr. Ludwig. One other aspect that Infineon is focusing on is: how to develop and build an ecosystem in the country.
Of course, Infineon is also looking beyond the Indian market when it is developing solutions. In that respect, Dr Ludwig added that one of Infineon’s focus is to find the sweet spots that are not only of interest to India. “There is a certain drive to have low end products. Safety and reliability of the products are also important,” he concluded.
I will add a separate post on the conversation with Peter Schaefer, VP & GM, Head Microcontrollers, Infineon.
Apple has done it again! Trust the Cupertino-based company to come up with great products — time after time, after time!
Today, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been announced! These were followed quickly by announcements regarding the Apple Watch and Apple Pay.
The phones have 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD displays, and packed with innovative technologies in an all-new dramatically thin and seamless design. Also, they are engineered to be the thinnest ever. Both models run on the all-new A8 chip and include iOS 8, the very latest version!
The Apple Pay now allows a very easy way to securely pay for physical goods and services in stores or apps with the touch of a finger. You can pay securely and conveniently in stores by holding the phone near the contactless reader and keeping a finger on Touch ID. There is absolutely no need to unlock your iPhone or launch an app!
The Apple Watch introduces a specially designed and engineered Digital Crown that provides an innovative way to scroll, zoom and navigate. It is Apple’s most revolutionary navigation tool since the iPod Click Wheel and iPhone Multi-Touch.
Analysys Mason believes that smartwatches will become the dominant wearable smart device by sales in early 2017, and that, Apple will drive this market. Analysys Mason also feels that Apple has an advantage in the race for mobile commerce and payments dominance.
IHS reports that Apple rarely invents new markets, despite its reputation. But when Apple launches a new product category, it attempts to redefine the market. Apple Pay may also get introduced internationally as soon as possible.
According to Vasudevan Aghoramoorthy, VP at Wipro Technologies, a product-centric approach targets multiple customers as well as diverse needs.An example is the desktop server. He was delivering the guest keynote on day two at the CDNLive 2014 in Bangalore, India.
For an app-centric approach, it addresses one specific market and has multiple end customers.Examples are set-top boxes and mobile phones. A services-centric approach addresses the service providers’ needs. Examples would be PoS machines, base stations, ATMs, patient monitors, etc.
A customer-centric approach has diverse needs. These are faster time-to-market, diversification into complementary markets, reduction in product costs, completion of product portfolio, market development, expansion and customization, as well as leveraging analytics.
As a case study, he referred to Wipro engineering a low-cost, low-power ATM with battery back-up. It has been implemented with multi-language display and voice instruction, with spoil-proof keyboard. It also has a fingerprint biometric reader, and serves as a tamper-proof machine for secured transactions.
What did the product development process achieve? Product cost was reduced by 60 percent, and power consumption was reduced by 50 percent. The concept to deployment time was 10 months. An innovative design was used to address the strict power requirements. Wipro used an agile approach to develop the product.
Another case was of a patient-monitoring machine at a fraction of the cost. There was cost reduction by 5X at the physician’s end and 50 percent at the patient’s end. There was ease of use for physicians as connectivity options were enabled for smartphones and tablets.
All of these cases tell us that the product development ecosystem must be efficient. Product management and understanding use cases are key. In Wipro’s case, the development methodology was adapted to market needs. Product differentiation can be done by software. There is a need for cross-disciplinary engineering skills. It will lead to newer methodologies, enabling joint reviews in collaboration for cross-disciplinary projects.
Market opportunities are available for product development and retaining value. Market-driven needs drive innovation, and possibly, lead to the growth of the ESDM sector in India.
IoT gathering pace as revolution: Guru Ganesan
By 2020, there will be over 8 billion people on our planet. This will also bring tremendous innovations and challenges. ARM has been connecting intelligence at every level, said Guru Ganesan, president and MD, ARM India.
He was delivering the guest keynote at the recently held CDNLive 2014 event in Bangalore, India.
Newer apps are helping connect with the world. As per Gartner, $27 billion worth apps were downloaded in 2013. By 2020, this is estimated to rise to $80 billion.
According to Ganesan, consumer trends are driving innovation in embedded apps, including rich user interface (UI). ARM is also at the heart of wearable technologies, for example, Smart Glasses from Google. Some examples from India include Lechal from Ducere Technologies, GOQ Pi remote fitness companion, Fin+ navigation and device control gesture based device from RHLVision, and Smarty Ring that brings instant smartphone alerts to your fingers from Chennai.
So, what are the key requirements for wearables? These are video/image, audio, display, software, OS, connectivity and battery life! In 2013, over 1 billion smartphones were shipped. Further, mobile data 12 times over between now and 2018.
In medical electronics, besides humans, it has extended to keeping the cattle healthy and have intelligent agriculture with OnFarm, by using sensors. IoT as a revolution is gathering pace. As per a survey conducted by ARM, 95 percent of the users expect to be using IoT over the next three years. Common standards are being developed for interoperability. Similarly, mobility and connectivity are also happening in automotives.
Now, let’s see the development challenges for high-end embedded. Embedded applications today integrate more functions. Consequently, design and verification challenges continue to grow. Further, lot of smart devices are now generating lot of data. The question is: how are we using that data?
Ganesan added that by 2020, there will be new challenges in transportation, healthcare, energy and education. Once devices start communicating with each other, we are likely to see the evolution of a smart infrastructure.
There have been several innovations of innovations happening in the global technology industry. The IoT, mobility, cloud computing, etc., are creating opportunities for the system of systems, according to Lip-Bu Tan, president and CEO, Cadence Design Systems Inc.
Tan was delivering the main keynote. at the recently held CDNLive 2014 in Bangalore, India,
Some of the trends driving the global semiconductor market growth in the end markets include automotives at $24 billion, computers at $76 billion, industrial electronics at $14,1 billion, medical electronics at $12.5 billion, and mobile phones at $100 billion. In India, especially, a lot of fabless companies are said to be coming up.
The tablet is a system of systems. It has communications, navigation, recording and photography, etc. Even the automotive vehicle is a convincing example. Next, there is the IoT. There are said to be diverse needs for the IoT.
There are said to be several challenges for the system of systems. Some of these are more IP and software requirements, and more needs for low power and mixed signal. System design enablement requires system integration, packaging and board, etc.
Cadence has a comprehensive SoC IP solution. The mixed signal verification solution ensures functionality, reliability and performance. Cadence also introduced the Voltus-Fi custom power integrity solution in Shanghai the week before. Its Quantus QRC extraction solution gives up to 5X performance.
Next, the Jasper acquisition expands the Cadence development suite. Cadence also provides the FPGA-based prototyping with Palladium flow for software development.
Tan concluded that new technologies always require closer collaboration — from IP through manufacturing. Cadence is here to help designers innovate — from systems to silicon.
At the recently held Semicon West 2014, Daniel P. Tracy, senior director, Industry Research and Statistics, SEMI, presented on SEMI Materials Outlook. He estimated that semiconductor materials will see unit growth of 6 percent or more. There may be low revenue growth in a large number of segments due to the pricing pressures and change in material.
For semiconductor eequipment, he estimated ~20 percent growth this year, following two years of spending decline. It is currently estimated at ~11 percent spending growth in 2015.
Overall, the year to date estimate is positive growth vs. same period 2013, for units and materials shipments, and for equipment billings.
For equipment outlook, it is pointing to ~18 percent growth in equipment for 2014. Total equipment orders are up ~17 percent year-to-date.
For wafer fab materials outlook, the silicon area monthly shipments are at an all-time high for the moment. Lithography process chemicals saw -7 percent sales decline in 2013. The 2014 outlook is downward pressure on ASPs for some chemicals. 193nm resists are approaching $600 million. ARC has been growing 5-7 percent, respectively.
For packaging materials, the Flip Chip growth drivers are a flip chip growth of ~25 percent from 2012 to 2017 in units. There are trends toward copper pillar and micro bumps for TSV. Future flip chip growth in wireless products are driven by form factor and performance. BB and AP processors are also moving to flip chip.
There has been growth in WLP shipments. Major applications for WLP are driven by mobile products such as smartphones and tablets. It should grow at a CAGR of ~11 percent in units (2012-2017).
Solder balls were $280 million market in 2013. Shipments of lead-free solder balls continues to increase. Underfillls were $208 million in 2013. It includes underfills for flip chip and packages. The increased use of underfills for CSPs and WLPs are likely to pass the drop test in high-end mobile devices.
Wafer-level dielectrics were $94 million market in 2013. Materials and structures are likely to enhance board-level reliability performance.
Die-attach materials has over a dozen suppliers. Hitachi Chemical and Henkel account for major share of total die attach market. New players are continuing to emerge in China and Korea. Stacked-die CSP package applications have been increasing. Industry acceptance of film (flow)-over-wire (FOW) and dicing die attach film (DDF) technologies are also happening.
At Semicon West 2014, Bob Johnson, VP Research, Gartner, presented the Semiconductor Capital Spending Outlook at the SEMI/Gartner Market Symposium on July 7.
First, a look at the semiconductor revenue forecast: it is likely to grow at a 4.3 percent CAGR from 2013-2018. Logic continues to dominate, but growth falters. As per the 2013-2018 CAGRs, logic will be growing 3.5 percent, memory at 4.5 percent, and other at 6.3 percent.
As for the memory forecast, NAND should surpass DRAM. At 2013-2018 CAGRs, DRAM should grow -1.1 percent, while NAND should grow 10.8 percent. Smartphone, SSD and Ultramobile are the applications driving growth through 2018. SSDs are powering the NAND market.
Among ultramobiles, tablets should dominate through 2018. They should also take share from PCs. Next, smartphones have been dominating mobile phones.
Looking at the critical markets for capital investment, smartphones are the largest growth segment, but have been showing signs of saturation. The revenue growth could slow dramatically by 2018. Ultramobiles have the highest overall CAGR, but at the expense of PC market. Tablets are driving down semiconductor content. Desktop and notebook PCs are a large, but declining market. This also requires critical revenue to fund logic capex. Lastly, SSDs are driving NAND Flash growth. The move to data centers is driving sustainable growth.
In capital spending, memory is strong, but logic is weak through 2018. The 2014 spending is up 7.1 percent, driven by strong memory market. Strength in NAND spending will drive future growth. Note that memory oversupply in 2016 can create next cycle. NAND is the capex growth driver in memory spending.
The major semiconductor markets, which justify investment in logic leading edge capacity, are now running out of gas. Ultramobiles are cannibalizing PCs, smartphones are saturating and both are moving to lower cost alternatives. It is increasingly difficult to manufacture complex SoCs successfully at the absolute leading edge. Moore’s Law is slowing down, while costs are going up. Breakthrough technologies (i.e., EUV) are not ready when needed. Much of the intelligence of future applications is moving to the cloud. The data centers’ needs for fast, low power storage solutions are creating sustainable growth for NAND Flash.
The traditional two-year per node pace of Moore’s Law will continue to slow down. Only a few high volume/high performance applications will be able to justify the costs of 20nm and beyond. Whether this will require new or upgraded capacity is uncertain. 28nm will be a long lived node as mid-range mobility products demand higher levels of performance. Finally, the cloud will continue to grow in size and influence creating demand for new NAND Flash capacity and technology.
What does the future hold for MEMS? How can the MEMS indistry stay profitable and innovative in the next five years? The MEMS market is still in a dynamic growth with an estimated 12.3 percent CAGR over 2013-2019 in $US value, growing from $11.7 billion in 2013 to $24 billion in 2019.
This growth, principally driven by a huge expansion of consumer products, is mitigated by two main factors. First, due to a fierce competition based on pricing, the ASPs are continuously decreasing.
Second, innovation is slow and incremental, as no new devices have been successfully introduced on the market since 2003. Fierce competition based on pricing in now ongoing putting thus extreme pressure on device manufacturers.
Some trends are still impacting MEMS business. These are:
* Decrease of price in consumer electronics; ASP of MEMS microphones.
* Component size is still decreasing.
However, successful companies are still large leaders in distinct MEMS categories, such as STMicroelectronics, Knowles, etc. But maintaining growth in consumer electronic applications remains a challenge.
The market for motion sensor in cell phones and tablets is large and continuously expanding. Discrete sensors still decline, but will still be used in some platforms (OIS function for gyros). Next, 6- and 9-axis combos should grow rapidly. Because of strong price pressure and high adoption rate, the total market will stabilize from 2015.
STMicroelectronics, InvenSense and Bosch are still leaders in 3-axis gyros and 6-axis IMUs. It seems difficult for new players to compete and be profitable in this market. The automotive, industrial and medical applications of MEMS are driving growth of MEMS business. MEMS for automotive will grow from $2.6 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion in 2018 with 5 percent CAGR.
MEMS industry is big and growing. Strong market pull observed for sensors and actuators in cell phones, automotive, medical, industrial.
• Not limited to few devices. A new wave of MEMS is coming!
• Component and die size are still being optimized while combo approaches become mainstream. And several disruptive technology approaches are now in development to keep going in term of size and price decrease.
• But the MEMS industry has not solved a critical issue: how to increase the chance of new devices to enter the market?
–RF switch, autofocus, energy harvesting devices, fuel cells… are example of devices still under development after over 10 years of effort.
–How to help companies to go faster and safer on the market with new devices?
Here is the concluding part of my discussion with Sam Fuller, CTO, Analog Devices. We discussed the technology aspects of Moore’s Law and
‘More than Moore’, among other things.
Are we at the end of Moore’s Law?
First, I asked Fuller that as Gordon Moore suggested – are we about to reach the end of Moore’s Law? What will it mean for personal computing?
Fuller replied: “There is definitely still life left in Moore’s law, but we’re leaving the golden age after the wonderful ride that we have had for the last 40 years. We will continue to make chips denser, but it is becoming difficult to continue to improve the performance as well as lower the power and cost.
“Therefore, as Moore’s law goes forward, more innovation is required with each new generation. As we move from Planer CMOS to FinFET (a new technology for multi-gate architecture of transistors); from silicon to more advanced materials Moore’s law will still have life for the next decade, but we are definitely moving into its final stages.
“For personal computing, there is still a lot of innovation left before we begin to run out of ideas. There will continue to be great advances in smart phones, mobile computing and tablets because software applications are really just beginning to take advantage of the phenomenal power and capacity of today’s semiconductors. The whole concept of ‘Internet of things’ will also throw up plenty of new opportunities.
“As we put more and more sensors in our personal gadgets, in factories, in industries, in infrastructures, in hospitals, and in homes and in vehicles, it will open up a completely new set of applications. The huge amount of data generated out of these sensors and wirelessly connected to the Internet will feed into the big data and analytics. This would create a plethora of application innovations.”
What’s happening in the plane?
The plane opportunity – 90nm – 65nm – 45nm – 22nm – 20nm – 14/18nm – is starting to get difficult and probably won’t work at 12nm, for purely physics reasons. What is Analog Devices’ take on this?
Fuller said: “You are right! We have been going from 45 nm down to lower nodes, it’ll probably go down to 10 nm, but we are beginning to run into some fundamental physics issues here. After all, it’s a relatively finite number of atoms that make up the channels in these transistors. So, you’re going to have to look at innovations beyond simply going down to finer dimensions.
“There are FinFETS and other ways that can help move you into the third dimension. We’re getting to a point where we can put a lot of complexity and a number of functions on a single die. We have moved beyond purely digital design to having more analog and mixed signal components in the same chip. There are also options such as stacked dies and multiple dies.
“Beyond integration on a single chip, Analog Devices leads in advanced packaging technologies for System in a Package (SiP) where sensors, digital and analog/mixed signal components are all in a single package as the individual components would typically use different technology nodes and it might not be practical to do such integration on a single die.
“So, the challenge often gets described as “More than Moore”, which is going beyond Moore’s law, bringing those capabilities to do analog processing as well as digital and then integrating sensors for temperature sensing, pressure sensing, motion sensing and a whole range of sensors integrated for enabling the ‘Internet of Things’.
“At Analog Devices, we have the capability in analog as well as digital, and having worked for over 20 years on MEMS devices, we are particularly well positioned as we get into ‘More than Moore’.”