Semiconductors are pivoting again, and the space is exploding.
As someone who’s been involved with semiconductor flows from front to back over the years, I’m observing a profound shift. Many tremendous opportunities in semiconductors – nascent just a short while ago – are suddenly coming into focus.
When I started in the industry over 35 years ago, we were building chips for mainframes. Today, semiconductors and the applications they enable are moving into every industry verticals that were unimaginable just a short while ago.
Today we are finding that the sky is no longer the limit. Here are a few of my views on the current horizon.
Semiconductors heading into new industry verticals will require a different approach than in the past, demanding some level of understanding to meet each vertical’s needs. In each, optimization of critical factors such as performance, functionality, reliability and cost for specific industries will be essential.
With each industry, we will be picking the best technologies to fit the needs – this includes re-using older process nodes or increasingly more powerful reconfigurable interconnects.
On the production side, the need for low-cost, low-power, low-level processing at the edge will send us back to using older process nodes. The cool upshot of the Internet of Things, for instance, is that we can dust off old fabrication designs that are good enough for edge-of-network sensors. IoT can go crazy on something we developed 10 years ago.
Lifecycle also plays a part. For example, those designing in spaces such as automotive must learn how to embrace innovation within longer overall hardware lifecycles.
Security is likely to get baked in at every level. The need for security is rising as applications move into a real world where cars crash and industrial control technologies get hacked with people’s lives at stake.
Every vertical has different requirements and we’re going to need specialists in each one, perhaps guided by the folks who have seen and assessed risks over the years in traditional semiconductors.
Those of us who’ve seen semiconductors grow, certainly are excited about the myriad opportunities in the emerging technologies space. You’ll hear many of these themes explored and debated at the IEEE Technology Time Machine conference, 20-21 October 2016, in San Diego, Calif.
--Kathy Herring Hayashi is a senior member of the IEEE and chair of the San Diego IEEE Women in Engineering.