With his company dominating the market for processor cores in mobile systems, ARM chief executive Simon Segars has his eyes set on the Internet of Things.
Segars shared an IoT wish list at the recent Imec Technology Forum that suggested semiconductor designers have their work cut out for them. Of course, the list started with ultra-low power everything and designs that push costs and area ever closer to zero. But I found a few of the action items surprising.
“We need new non-volatile memories,” Segars told the audience of several hundred Imec researchers and their partners.
“Flash is great, but for IoT devices it’s not so good — it’s power hungry, its area is too big and it’s unreliable,” said Segars who compiled the list based on suggestions from his R&D team. “We need high density with reliability and low-voltage operations that involves not just scaling today’s flash down but a really low-cost process with fewer steps to integrate into devices,” he said.
Engineers also need to develop new packaging technologies focused on enabling a new class of highly integrated, small, low-cost components. Today’s efforts in chip stacks using through silicon vias are “in a very early stage” and focused on high performance parts, Segars said. “For IoT, I want density,” he said.
Segars reiterated the call for a new class of “fog computing” networks. Cisco Systems created this concept of local area nodes that handle processing without the cost and latency of going to a remote cloud. The ARM CEO said such nets ought to have their own resources for storage and task-specific acceleration.
Such new networks will need heavy use of compression “to avoid sending and replicating data up the chain to the cloud…reducing bandwidth needs,” he said. “This is what 5G networks are all about — network providers are looking at the equivalent of set-top boxes in the neighborhood,” he added.
Segars made clear in his first keynote at the annual ARM Tech Con that he sees part of his job as staking a position for ARM in IoT. So far, he has taken several steps in the direction such as rolling out an operating system for IoT for his microcontroller-class cores and creating an IoT platform with TSMC.