Winners in this market will be secure devices that are extremely low power, inexpensive, and they will have multiple applications onboard.
Who today doesn’t think IoT is cool? And, why not? We’re in an era where everything is connected to everything else in a six degrees of separation-like scenario for our electronics devices.
Automatic washing machines and domestic refrigerators were cool to our grandparents because they enabled them to have more time for other pursuits. IoT is cool today for the same reason. Smart homes, smart autos and even smart cities are all cool amenities to make life easier and more comfortable. Smart, wearable consumer devices, such as running shoes and fitness trackers, furnish us with a personal health coach on our feet or wrist. Smart health and wellness applications are popping up everywhere, giving anyone with a smart phone or tablet instant access to an informed medical professional. Smart tile, a Bluetooth tracker, helps find lost or misplaced keys or wallets. A smart button creates shortcuts to our phones.
Much of this innovation is due to a common hardware platform that has enabled what will be close to 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and lets consumers access multiple time-saving, health-conscious applications. In these new devices, the differentiation is created in embedded software, not so much hardware any longer. The embedded memory requirements are stringent and range from a small silicon footprint and low power with instant-on to programmable, non-volatile code storage. Most important is a guarantee that the memory is highly secure to protect software IP and prevent hacking of these next-generation devices.
The need for highly secure memory and lower power memory is greater than ever because that is what’s needed for the coming devices that could make us better than what is humanly possible. Today, connectivity is ubiquitous. Sensors are ubiquitous. Hardware cost is decreasing because of Moore’s Law. We love to share (or don’t know we are sharing) through various social media platforms or application services. Next-generation smart peripherals could address improving our five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing.
As we age, for example, our hearing gets worse. Smart phones now have a microphone that can capture the ambient. What if the phone or another form factor in the future could hear better than we do and alert us of the environment around us or of possible danger? We can have context awareness, which will allow us to be aware and perhaps anticipate.
We have just started to think about what is possible with IoT and, maybe, not thinking big enough about the possible applications. Winners of this emerging IoT market segment will be devices featuring low power and hack-proof security. They will be inexpensive because the hardware will be tightly coupled with differentiating embedded software. And, naturally, they will have multiple application services onboard. Today, we trade data unknowingly, and the need for security will continue to be important.
Power, power and more power will become even more important when we think about the changing mankind type of applications. We can’t have a lithium battery in our eye when there’s a contact lens helping us see beyond 20/20. Bitcell current of embedded NVM needs to be reduced in addition to the traditional peripherals done today.
From the cool applications of today to life-changing peripheral applications of tomorrow, technology requirements are advancing, and the NVM technology used for these applications needs to be at ultra-low power, low cost and highly secure. It will be exciting to see, with these accomplishments, what the next-generation applications can do for humankind.