On the first day of the Design Automation Conference 2013, the keynotes were given by people from Texas. Gregg Lowe followed a vision talk by Wally Rhines, who spent the first half of his career in Texas as well. Wally talked about the impact of the Internet of Things on both the semiconductor and EDA industries.
Gregg started off by welcoming everyone to Austin before diving into the topic of the Internet of Things (IoT). Other terms that it goes by include connected intelligence, ubiquitous computing, machine-to-machine communications. He compared these to the movie “The Matrix” which he noted didn’t end too well for humans so he thought he needed to show a more positive side to what the IoT could bring. He showed a video which was, unfortunately, very Freescale marketing centric and had little real content. All it really showed is that technology will touch every aspect of our lives. I think we all know and recognize that already.
Gregg said that the Internet of Things is real and is happening today. It has kind of crept up on us, is happening and is evolving at a rapid pace. In 2010 the number of connected devices exceeded the number of humans and it is predicted in the next 4 or 5 years that it will increase to 50 billion devices. Gregg noted that there are practical issues associated with this kind of growth and this presents both challenges and opportunities. An example is that embedded processing solutions must get smaller. He talked about one of their current ARM-based 32 bit controllers that he says moves them closer to the notion of digital dust. The development of this device came from one of their customers who wanted a wireless device that was small enough to fit into the size of a pill and had to have a similar cost. This would allow less invasive diagnostics.
He noted that these devices are enabling new markets, such as smart meters that monitor usage and improve distribution. These can link to home gateways that manage heating and light control, appliances and security systems and can intelligently monitor and adjust themselves. They can add to efficiency and make life more enjoyable. He gave some examples of the types of things they might be able to do – many of them that have been available to hobbyists for quite a while already.
Like Wally, Gregg used the automotive industry of an example of how this type of technology has been adopted and called it the ultimate mobile device. The next step is vehicle to vehicle communications that will enhance safety. However, the example he gave also shows the potential problems with this types of system. He suggested that as you are sitting at a light and the light turns green, your car is communicating with other cars and a car that has sped up to beat the red light might hit you. It thus makes you avoid the accident. I could ask: why did the system in the other car not stop them from running the red light?
The IoT will require more cost effected services for communications and the demand for bandwidth will be insatiable. So what are some of the design and engineering challenges? The first he noted was the need to increase performance while reducing energy consumption. He said that half of the energy consumed in data centers is used for cooling and that the cooling system itself uses electronics which creates heat. A car is even worse in that only about 13% of the fuel is turned into motion. The rest does other stuff.
With billions of connected devices, designers must find ways to dramatically reduce power. Renewable energy is becoming important and we need more efficiency in those as well. With the increase in device count, security becomes a larger concern and this requires hardware-based solutions that provide hack-proof security. The days of software bolt-ons are gone.
Contrary to Wally’s statements, Gregg says that processor complexity is progressing faster than EDA tools and that variability of devices is an increasing problem. Gregg’s laundry list of challenges include: to build a deterministic circuit, new levels of behavioral models to reduce power consumption, biosynthetic design, mimicking cellular structures that would make systems a million times more efficient, and simulation and emulation solutions that can demonstrate that systems cannot be compromised or threatened.
Gregg says that Freescale has a unique view of the IoT because of their wide scope of products and that they want to work together with their customers and EDA companies to address some of these issues.
Gregg Lowe is President and CEO of Freescale Semiconductor. He joined Freescale from Texas Instruments, where he was Senior Vice President for analog. Gregg has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. He later received the university's Career Achievement Award to recognize his accomplishments in the community and within the semiconductor industry. He graduated from the Stanford Executive Program at Stanford University. Gregg serves on the Board of Trustees for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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