Life In A Connected World

The Internet-of-Things isn’t just about the Internet. And think of all the chips.


By Qi Wang
At this year’s DA, we heard a lot of discussions on the Internet of Things. Gregg Lowe, CEO of Freescale, said in his keynote speech that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices. Considering there are an estimated 4 billion devices in the world now, mostly unconnected, this represents huge growth potential for the semiconductor industry because each device will have at least one chip. In fact, as Lowe pointed out, the Internet of Things is happening now, rather than some distant time in the future.

There are common discussions on how the Internet of Things will revolutionize many applications like healthcare, automotive, home and entertainment, etc. But I was stunned by a question from a friend of mine: Why do we want to have everything connected? To answer that question, we have to take a step back and take a look at some “old technology,” namely computers connected by the Internet. What makes the Internet great is not the Internet itself, but what it brings to us. The Internet allowed us to work more productively, communicate better and live better, which are enabled by information and data sharing.

Now, considering we have tens of billions of devices connected together, the amount of data acquired from each device will be huge. Someone estimated the Big Data volume will reach 50 zettabytes (one zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes) by 2020. What we will do with all of this data?

I was at the Smart Technology World Conference a couple weeks back. Along with many interesting presentations, there was one showing traffic data. It is estimated that in the United States, 11% to 13% of time is wasted in urban congestion, which equals total 90 billion hours wasted every year. Some 10% to 17% of urban fuel is wasted at stoplights when there is no cross traffic. And 80% of accidents are caused by driver distraction, which leads to a total of 6.3 million accidents. In the era of the Internet of Things, all the data collected from sensors at stoplights, street intersections, within cars, and even from the human body or any other connected things, the big data analytics can help us optimize the traffic control systems and automobiles to improve those metrics in a very significant way. In the end, this will mean less pollution in the cities, more time spent with family or friends, more money spent on a value-creation economy, and, of course, it could mean more profits for the insurance companies.

So the real impact of the Internet of Things is not that everything is connected by the Internet. Rather, it provides a way to access much more information/data than before, enabling us to do a better job with everything by extracting useful information for a particular application. And the direct impact to the semiconductor industry is that we will not only need more storage space for the big data, but we also will need special hardware processors and software algorithms for processing all of this data in real time with lowest amount of energy. And such changes in computational models or infrastructure will, in turn, create more opportunities for the chip design business, and hence more business for EDA tools and IP’s. This makes the future of EDA very exciting, and it’s why I believe the best time for EDA is yet to come.

—Qi Wang is the technical marketing group director at Cadence.