Welcome to my new regular blog on EE Times covering the wild and wonderful Internet of Things.
I blogged here in the past when I was part of the EE Times management team (including my infamous year-end predictions, but this is a fresh start on everything IoT). I noticed there was a session on the Internet of Things at last week's Semicon West and decided to brave the $20 parking and attend. Semicon is all about materials, and expensive machines for chip manufacturing. It can be very esoteric, but even down in the world of nanotechnology the Internet of Things is getting these guys excited.
Intel, ARM, Cisco, and IBM are bandying around the concept of ~20 billion connected devices in the next five years. That’s a lot of chips, but just think about how many sensors might be in those devices and all around (even in) you and then the math gets crazy.
SEMI.org and the MEMS Industry Group organized a keynote by Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor, who thinks we are looking at a trillion (yes trillion) sensors and MEMS as the big driver. Here's why:
- The mobile market is the bullet train of MEMS and sensors. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has eight sensors today and who know how many more in the next version.
- 3D printing and printed electronics have huge implications for IoT because sensors can be printed on anything (even your arm) and could become very cheap. Anybody see an inflection point there?
- UC Berkeley is now developing printed transistors at 180nm. The technology could deliver chips costing $25 a square meter, not the $25,000 per square meter of current processes, again a huge cost reduction that is mind boggling.
- Using microfluidics on paper opens up the possibility of a lab on a chip, which could change medical diagnostics forever. That's going to generate huge amounts of data -- and you can forget about the plastic bottle for samples!
- Printing sensors on skin is also a huge breakthrough and points to the fact that much of IoT will probably be triggered by medical applications which are sucking up a big chunk of our GDP these days. We need this technology now.
Janusz went on to paint a picture of huge potential growth. There are so many more applications and underlying technologies that exist today for this that it's just a question of time.
To me, this is why the IoT is real, because all these sensors generate data -- useful, valuable, even life-saving data that needs to be processed and acted upon for all the right planet-changing reasons. The trillion sensors are coming, and they will make the IoT not just real but a global imperative.
Meanwhile, Brysek is busy launching the Trillion Sensor summit in October at Stanford.
Researchers have demoed working circuits applied like tattoos.