The Era Of Data, By The Numbers

Industry executives offer a rosy portrait of the future.


Standing-room only keynote speeches. A future awash in data amassed by transformative technologies and applications, with semiconductors at their core. Smart everything: Cars, medicine, manufacturing, workforce, you name it.

The sheer numbers impressed as a record lineup of SEMICON West keynote speakers offered a glowing portrait of the future: The semiconductor industry stands on the cusp of a breakout expansion.

Standing and seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the packed-to-gills opening keynote, the audience learned, indeed, that the best was yet to come: “This is the best SEMICON West, ever,” observed SEMI CEO Ajit Manocha.

Here’s a glimpse of the keynotes by the numbers, starting with the luckiest of all.

7 – The number of keynotes – among the brightest lights in technology – sharing their visions of the future through the lens of breakthrough technologies that are nearly ready to make their indelible mark. Dozens of expert panelists also weighed in at SEMICON West, the annual U.S. flagship microelectronics gathering in San Francisco.

90 – The percentage of all data ever generated has been created in just the past two years as the cloud mushrooms with tweets, texts, emails, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, medical records and all manner of business information, noted Bill Bottoms, president and CEO of Third Millennium Test Solutions. In the years ahead, an almost unimaginable wealth of data will require analysis by artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in semiconductors to enable applications that go well beyond smart.

12-18 – That’s how many months it will take for data volume to double, predicted John Kelly III, IBM’s Senior VP, Cognitive Solutions. And it will double again and again, every 12-18 months. Kelly foresees a scale of growth “that will dwarf previous eras of computing … the number of opportunities is enormous.” Kelly’s four decades in computing gave considerable weight to his point that “in the industry, there has never been a more exciting point in time than today.”

First – Technology is being re-born. Using baseball lingo, several speakers noted that we are just in “the first inning,” “the top half of the first inning” or “the beginning of the first inning” to make clear in the most emphatic terms the duration of prosperity that lies ahead for the industry. AI embedded in chips and demand for real-time analysis of AI data will be its fuel.  As SEMI Americas president Dave Anderson observed with a smile, “We all know how long baseball games can go.”

Third – That’s the current wave of machine learning the world is now experiencing, according to Sandia National Laboratories’ Principal Member Conrad James. Computers are now capable of solving many increasingly complex problems on their own, with no human intervention necessarily required, he said.

1000x – As spectacularly fast as computing power already is today, the industry will need to double that the rate of performance in the years ahead, predicted Applied Materials president and CEO Gary Dickerson. Demand for this herculean processing capacity will spur a “tremendous focus on innovation” among SEMI members, their customers and their customers’ customers.

5 to 15 – The remarkable amount of silicon that power today’s mobile devices will be overshadowed by the chips – equivalent in computing capacity to 5 to 15 cell phones – that will be the engine of self-driving and other features in future automobiles, predicted Pierre Ferragu, New Street Research Managing Partner, during the SEMI Bulls and Bears session. Automobiles with this souped-up computing capacity will sell in the millions worldwide in the years ahead, generating never-before-seen opportunities for the chip industry, he noted.

10,000 – It’s not just cars. Ten thousand is the number of sensors that will be built just into the wings of new Airbus A380-1000 aircraft, AMD CTO Mark Papermaster explained during his keynote.

10 terabits – The staggering amount of Facebook data uploaded daily in to the cloud, Papermaster noted.

1 Trillion – SEMI’s 2020 forecast that the industry will reach $500 million in revenues by 2020 was eclipsed by one analyst, speaking at the SEMI Market Symposium on the first day of the event, predicted that the industry would top $1 trillion in the foreseeable future. SEMI’s Manocha later added that $1 trillion in industry revenue is possible by 2030, “maybe sooner.”

1 (sexy) coda – Coders are hip and software applications are the apple of the world’s eye. Even the most casual mobile device user knows that software apps makes it whirl.  But “hardware is becoming sexy again,” said Applied Materials’ Dickerson, adding that equipment and other semiconductor hardware developed by SEMI members will enable the next great wave of global economic growth.

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