Dawn Of The M2M Age

Machines talking to machines using the Internet of things will drive the next big increase semiconductor demand.

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By Jack Browne
With the unrelenting progress of Moore’s Law, the semiconductor sector has enabled technology to power today’s cloud computing model. For 30 years, the industry has been talking about the convergence of computing, control and communication. But today, people are mostly intrigued by the end user experience for their devices and how to connect to the Internet of things.

The possibilities are endless, but just imagine where we are going by looking at the graphic below:

– Smart phones surpassed the volume of notebook devices last year while delivering performance on par with notebooks. And high-end smart phone application processors are now dual cores, moving to quad cores, with multicore graphics.

– We have moved beyond the first 4 billion IP addresses as the remaining uncommitted blocks of IPv4 (32-bit IP addresses) were released in 2010. With IPv6 supporting 64-bit IP addresses, we envision build out of the cloud supporting a rich range of devices connected to the network. By 2015, Internet traffic will be more than 75 Exabytes per month (75,000 Petabytes). That’s 26 times 2010 traffic, with mobile video accounting for two thirds of all traffic. Cisco predicts there will be 7.1B devices on the Internet, and GSMA (host of Mobile World Congress) expects 20B to 50B Web connected devices by 2020.

One of the key market drivers (and among the most interesting battles now taking center stage) is the high-end of the smart phone space where Apple, Nokia, Samsung and others are competing to dominate— and ultimately trying to win the end user. Today’s smart phones provide performance similar to PCs with a form factor that enables us to carry the device with us, constantly connected 24X7.

Smart phones are progressing at an amazing pace with processor MIPS increasing 5x, graphics polygon/sec by 10x, with continuing focus on power-efficient designs that match and exceed consumer expectations. The bells and whistles are not only expected, but demanded now—regardless of whether or not people use them. Remember PIP on DTVs that everyone wanted and most never used? But we all had to have it.

Today’s build out of devices enabled by the cloud of the Internet further energizes the demand for connected devices. Imagine the future—the increasing performance available to the system designs and increasing use of Internet technologies (IP address, browser capability, XML capability)—will allow devices to interact across the Internet cloud with other devices. This M2M, or Machine to Machine, operability may leverage the browser and XML capabilities to substitute a device for an operation that the user might also want to have, such as checking on flights and hotels. Imagine using Facebook to “friend” the devices in your home. You can look at this group of M2M friends and turn down the AC.

Realizing these remarkable consumer experiences essentially means increased opportunities (and no rest) for most innovative technology companies. In addition to advanced silicon process technologies, having the ability to take advantage of the latest system architecture tools and IP will further drive innovation and allow more companies to emerge as leaders in given a market. Rapid adoption of these new design methodologies and technologies will ensure companies stay relevant at least in the short term. Hopefully it also will spawn new products that may still be only concepts now, but which undoubtedly will help realize this vision at a quicker, more aggressive rate than what we are achieving even today.

–Jack Browne is senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sonics.


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