ORLANDO, Fla. The semiconductor industry's global opportunities are shifting to "green everything," an aging population and broadband, ubiquitous connectivity, Freescale Semiconductor CEO Michel Mayer said during a keynote address at the company's technology forum here this week.
Mayer predicted that the embedding of intelligence in everyday devices, coupled with wireless connectivity, will be disruptive. "Appliances that stood alone are now being connected," Mayer said, pointing to the lowly light switch as an example.
However, it is the need for energy efficiency that Mayer identified as the top challenge. "Energy is a $200 billion cost to consumers and $100 billion for industry per year," he said. "That's going to grow by 53 percent by 2010." By that time, emissions will rise to 25 million tons a day.
The enormity of the challenge will create "opportunities for innovation and design intelligence," Mayer added. While jumping to finer process technologies is one route to improving efficiency, Freescale is also focusing on energy education. "We need to educate [designers] to be more energy efficient," he said, "and software is the key."
For example, engine control modules started out 20 years ago as an 8-bit microcontroller with a few lines of assembly code. Now its a 32-bit system with up to 1 million lines of code.
Healthcare is set to take off as "75 million [Americans reach] the 60-year mark in the next 20 years," said Mayer, "and they need better health care and safer transportation." That will likely translate into opportunities in biometrics, blood-pressure monitoring, blood analysis and other remote technologies as well as geriatric telemedicine.
Emphasizing Freescale's commitment to medical electronics, Mayer demonstration a blood-pressure monitoring system and pointed to artificial sight and robotics as other research areas. Freescale has committed "tens of people" across several divisions to work on medical technologies. Mayer declined to say how much Freescale is investing in medical technologies.
The Freescale CEO also stressed the "Net Effect" and the implications of social networking for connectivity. "We're moving from the Information Age to the Participation Age21 million people have been weaned on the Internet." Tied to this is the aging of the population. "Fifty-two percent of Americans 50 to 58 years of age are connected. What happens when they start social networking?"
For Mayer, the answer resides in 3G LTE, or Long Term Evolution.