And, they will be everywhere! The world is going to sensors in a big way. You currently interact with 50-100 daily. By 2020 this will be something like 1000 or so. Impossible you say. No, actually this is happening. Semico Research is estimating that 30 billion will be shipped in 2017. Welcome to your Brave New World.
There comes a time in every SoC designer’s life that the marketing guys start complaining that they are losing sockets to the competition, because the chip that you designed no longer has enough performance. Nothing lasts forever and this is especially true with electronics. What is state-of-the-art today is destined to be your Momma’s electronics, and sooner than you think. The performance demands for electronic applications increase at a constant rate. This is due to the combination of more stuff being added to applications over time, the convergence of functions from multiple devices into one device and the natural tendency that we all have to be less tolerant of slow functionality the longer we use a product. Oh yes, and the constant demand by marketing that engineering increase performance because they can’t think of anything else to do to beat the competition.
Well of course that depends on what you are talking about. In the world of microprocessors size does matter. Not only does size equate to cost, but also to power consumption. Depending on the design that you are doing both can be major considerations. There can also be size considerations for the amount of memory that will be used with the processor making code density a critical parameter. If the only thing that you care about in a design is performance then size maybe doesn’t matter, but then again maybe it does. It used to be that I would have customers tell me that performance is all that mattered. I don’t hear that so much anymore – in fact it is rare.
Last March (yeah, time flies), I attended Sensorscon in San Jose. The event was insightful, with a wide variety of participants and speakers. The consistent theme of the speakers was that sensors will proliferate and broadly penetrate our lives. I saw some pretty big numbers there, such as a $19.5B market by 2016, and sensors in each smartphone approaching 20 by 2015. There are many driving factors behind these numbers, such as ubiquitous data collection through sensor networks, better health through lower cost consumer medical devices, and improved user experiences on our consumer electronics devices.
Sensors are becoming more prolific and changing the way that you interact with your world. That smart phone in your pocket is a good example. A lot of what you can do with it is the result of sophisticated sensors that are built into it. For instance, the accelerometer inside determines the orientation in which you are holding the phone so the screen can switch making it easier to read. It also makes games that you control by moving the phone and applications like a bubble level possible. The accelerometer is actually a very sophisticated piece of technology, which is true of many of the sensors that are being developed today.
We like to blog about how technology changes our lives and will continue to do so. And, it is exciting to see Synopsys leading the semiconductor industry and pioneering new solutions.
I few months ago, I posted a blog (“Bringing Order to Chaos”) about the inherent power of our hyper-connectivity to bring order to potentially chaotic situations. This hyper-connectivity is the result of the dramatic increase in processing power that we are realizing with microprocessor technology and is giving us the tools we need (we know where you are, how many are in an area, and can get you information at the push of a button) to instantly modify behavior through the proliferation of information.
When we have a choice to pick a name for something, it usually reflects some meaning for us. For example, I chose my daughter’s name as Abigail because I once saw a Mike Leigh play called ‘Abigail’s Party’ (the video below is a clip from the play). But, I also chose it because the name means ‘Father’s Joy’. Similarly, my name is Allen. It is of Scottish and Irish origin and it means ’handsome’. So, now you know why my parents chose to call me Allen.
There was a time when you got your new computer home it was likely to be an HP and it ran Microsoft Windows on an Intel processor. You knew what to expect. Well, not anymore. At Microsoft’s BUILD conference for developers in Southern California, they unveiled their next operating system on a machine that didn’t have an Intel processor inside. At the same time, a few hundred miles north in San Francisco, Intel was unveiling a software partnership for an operating system – and it wasn’t with Microsoft! A few weeks ago, HP said it was spinning off or getting rid of its PC business, or not. What’s going on! Can’t we trust the status quo anymore? What happened to the Old Order?
We are moving from the “Mobile Revolution” – the revolutionary advance that is allowing everyone on the planet to connect to everyone else, all the time – to the “Internet of Things.” This latest revolution will be profound because not only will we be connected to each other, but our stuff will be connected too. Our cars, refrigerators, light switches, cameras, and every other device we interact with will become intelligent and will connect seamlessly to other intelligent devices to make life easier without our even having to pay attention.
At the age of 10 Mike begged his father to get him a computer. Never mind that at the time computers were the size of a large office and cost millions of dollars. Yes, Mike is no spring chicken and he didn’t get the computer, although his father did give him an abacus telling him that it would enable him to use the computer that he already had between his ears, which was not appreciated. Whether it was due to the trauma that resulted from using an abacus or just Mike’s love of anything electronic he has spent the last 30 years or so designing, building, and programming computers, microprocessors, and microcontrollers and developing applications that run on them. And his fascination continues with the definition of new processors and architectures in his search for the holy grail of computing: infinite performance at zero power consumption. Statistically speaking he is convinced it is just a matter of time.
Allen started in the ‘semiconductor IP industry’ before it was called the ‘semiconductor IP industry’. Back then, it was about ‘megafunctions’, ‘megablocks’ or MegaMacros™ (as trademarked by the pioneering UK IP company Allen was with… no, not that UK company). The biggest of these ‘mega’ things was an 8051! Today, of course, IP blocks are much larger and much more complex. And, it’s about the software, as well as the hardware. It’s also about working with a set of partners, sometimes called an ecosystem or community. Allen has been doing that for many years and is enjoying working with old and new friends on the ARC processor ecosystem.