Adrienne Downey is Semico's Director of Technology.  See her bio here.

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Adrienne Downey's blog

Is this the Death Knell for NFC in Mobile Payments?

On September 12, 2012, Apple introduced the iPhone 5.  One of the biggest rumors surrounding the device was would it have NFC (Near Field Communications) built in.  A big reason for the rumors is that Android has supported NFC since Gingerbread was released, and the first Android NFC-enabled phone was the Samsung Nexus S which was released in December 2010.  So the iPhone is well behind Android phones in this area.

The iPhone 5 will debut with the brand-new iOS 6, which includes Passbook, Apple’s new wallet app.  This app manages information that might normally be stored in a wallet or purse, such as coupons, store loyalty cards, movie and concert tickets, airline boarding passes, and more.  It also supports payments in a limited fashion, such as Starbucks’ card that allows payment via barcode.  However, NFC was not mentioned in the product launch, so we can only assume that the iPhone 5 will not have it built in.

NFC enables mobile payments simply by touching your mobile phone to a payment terminal.  Passbook could be a sign that NFC will come to the iPhone in the future, as it gets people used to using their phone for payments and coupon management.  It is still possible that the iPhone 5 contains NFC, and we will see for sure when the teardowns roll in once the device is released.

Who Wins in the IP Ecosystem?

Mahesh Tirupattur, Executive Vice President of Analog Bits, led the panel "Who Wins in the IP Ecosystem?" during the Semico Impact 2012.  Other members of the panel were Suk Lee of TSMC, Jean-Marie Brunet of Mentor Graphics, Tony Stelliga of Intersil, and Dr. Naveed Sherwani of Open-Silicon.

Mr. Tirupattur began the panel by describing today's industry as a collaborative model, where customers tell the IP companies what they want, and what they can do better.  What the industry needs is a dynamic ecosystem that improves efficiency, with no waste or redundancy.  It's not just who wins in the ecosystem, but how do we get paid for the value we bring to the table?

Paolo Gargini of Intel Speaks at Semico Summit

Paolo Gargini—Intel Fellow, Technology and Manufacturing Group and Director of Technology Strategy for Intel—spoke on May 3 at the Semico Summit 2011.  He highlighted the time gap between when an idea is formed, to when the science, technology and engineering are able to make that idea a reality.  The incubation time for an idea to become real has shortened from several hundred years for satellites, to 12-15 years now for many ideas.

Dean Kamen Issues Call to Action to Semiconductor Industry at Semico Summit 2011

Dean Kamen, inventor and founder of DEKA and First, delivered the keynote address at the Semico Summit 2011.  He also received Semico’s Bellwether Award, granted annually to a visionary leader in the technology industry.  Dean has invented the insulin pump, a portable dialysis machine, the iBot mobility system, the Segway people mover, a prosthetic arm for DARPA, and a self-contained water cleaning and purification system, among other things.

The topic of Dean’s presentation was innovation, and how the United States is lagging behind in terms of educating and inspiring our youth to become innovators.  We take invention for granted because we have so much technology around us.  However, in developing countries, they are ready to take risks at much lower investment levels.

In the United States, we have the lowest percentage of kids going into science and technology in the world.  We also have the highest percentage of kids dropping out of high school in the world.  “Innovation should be thought of as a gift from one generation to the next,” Kamen said.

Dean believes we have a culture problem, where it is the tech industry, not lawyers and politicians, that needs to support a long-term serious commitment to science and technology.

2011 Semiconductor Preview

We can all agree, 2010 has been a great year:  +30% growth over 2009.  The economic recovery has been a breath of fresh air after the downturn in the world economy over the last couple years.  Semico predicts 2011 semiconductor revenues to grow less than 10% over 2010.  At first glance, this looks like bad news.  After all, a drop of almost 25 percentage points has to be bad, right?  However, in reality 2011 represents a return to a normal semiconductor sales cycle.  2010 growth was so huge because 2009 was so awful.  2011's growth will be softer because 2010 was so strong, particularly in DRAM, which grew 75% over 2009. Let's focus on:

Kinect for the Xbox = "awesome"

I had the opportunity to try out the Kinect device for the Xbox at the new Microsoft store in Scottsdale's Fashion Square Mall this weekend.  I highly recommend visiting the store if you live in the Phoenix metro area, San Diego, Mission Viejo, or Denver metro area.  There was no one watching the Microsoft store employee playing with the game (prominently located right in the window for maximum exposure), but by the time we left there was a crowd of people around, and a line of people waiting to play.  The employee was playing a driving game that actually looked quite complicated in terms of the motions he had to use to drive the car. 

However, for us to demo Kinect, he pulled up the bowling game (what was odd is that he had to turn the system off and then back on before doing so).  My 6-year-old was first, and easily picked up the directions on how to play (stand in a certain spot, raise your right arm straight out to "pick up" the ball, then throw like you normally would).  We all got a turn, and the Kinect seamlessly transferred from one of us to the other, even though there was three feet difference in height from the shortest to the tallest of us. 

Jay Cormier Speaks on Energy Metering in the Home and Enterprise

Jay Cormier, VP and GM of Energy Measurement and Communications for Teridian, spoke at the Semico Outlook 2010 Event this morning.  The topic was "Sub-metering in the home & enterprise...The Next Wave."  Some of the problems facing the energy industry today include higher demand than supply forecasted for the next twenty years, amid an aging electrical grid system in the U.S.  The solution is the smart grid, which could save up to $75 billion in capex costs in the US over the next twenty years, in addition to reduced electricity consumption and opex savings. 

Dr. Makimoto Predicts "Next Big Thing" at Semico Outlook Event

Dr. Tsugio Makimoto, Chairman of the Society of Semiconductor Industry Seniors, spoke this morning at the Semico Outlook event about "Chip Innovations Opening the Age of the Digital Nomad."  He pointed out that devices from the Communications, Computing, and Consumer areas are converging into more intelligent portable digital products, driven by the digitalization of everything and with chip innovation.  He noted how PC companies are changing, just in the last few years.  Apple is becoming a consumer company with the iPod, Microsoft is now in the game business with the Xbox, and, most significantly, IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo. 

Our world has transitioned from analog to digital, and chip innovation has been the most important enabler of this transition.  Dr. Makimoto showed a slide of a $6 million Cray-1A supercomputer from 1976, based on 5 micron bipolar technology.  He said the Cray's performance specs are comparable to the 2006 iPod Shuffle, which is based on 90nm CMOS technology.  Dr. Makimoto predicts that the "Digital Nomad" will change where and how we live, reducing or eliminating rush hour as more people telecommute and live in rural settings.  Remote health care and education will also fuel this trend, as will the desire to live a "low-carbon" lifestyle with solar power, an electric car, and LEDs for green lighting.  Dr. Makimotor predicts that the next big thing will be language translation and recognition. 

E-readers are Here to Stay

Many have said that 2009 is the year of the e-reader, and I firmly agree. Others think it will be 2010, but I believe the e-reader has entered the public's consciousness enough that I call 2009 the tipping point. I have been excited by the prospects of e-readers since I first heard of them, around ten years ago. The idea of being able to carry a whole bookshelf worth of books on a single book-sized device is very compelling. I know there are people out there that thrill to the feel, smell, and heft of an actual book, but I'm not one of them. I'll be happy to get rid of the majority of my printed books once I own digital copies of them.
I recently received an e-reader as a gift - the Sony PRS-300. I'm in love. For me, it's easier to obtain ebooks and transfer them to the e-reader than it is to transfer music onto my iPod Shuffle. The startup time is a little slow for this device, but I'm sure that's been sped up for the new Sony Daily Edition model. Once it's on, I can quickly jump to any book in my library, and the device remembers where I leave off in a book so I don't have to. The battery life is great; so far I have only used one bar on the battery meter. The device is heavy for its size, and comes with a really protective sleeve. It fits great in my purse, allowing me to keep it handy for whenever I have a few minutes of downtime.