I attended the Cadence CDNLive conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center on April 5 and 6, 2016 and had a chance to listen to four very thought provoking presentations given by the speakers. These presentations were combined to follow the keynote address given by Cadence CEO, Lip-Bu Tan and addressed several different aspects of the current semiconductor industry landscape.
• Lip-Bu Tan, CEO, Cadence Design Systems
• Steve Mollenkoph, CEO, Qualcomm
• Sanjay Jha, CEO, GLOBALFOUNDRIES
• Tom Beckley, Sr. Vice President and General Manager, Custom IC & PCB Group
Each presenter outlined areas that are poised to have a significant impact on our society or industry going forward:
• Lip-Bu Tan spoke about how efficiency in automobile usage can be increased, especially in urban areas. Large cities that operate their own fleets of vehicles to transport people and materials and manage the storage of the vehicles have an opportunity to improve those functions through more efficient autos. This would free up valuable land and maximize the use of resources. If managed efficiently, this could be applied to private vechiles as well.
• Steve Mollenkoph spoke about the looming rollout of 5G cellular technology and how 5G has been designed to facilitate mission critical services to be more useful to users at all levels of government, industry, and the average citizen.
• Sanjay Jha noted that the automotive industry is poised for big changes in the technologies employed in the vehicles. Improvements in data capture, analysis and dissemination will allow for much better decision making and the ability to act on the data in a more timely fashion.
• Tom Beckley pointed out that the intersection of digital and Analog/RF technologies is a critical interface for next generation applications. The Mixed Signal category of semiconductor products bridges the link between the digital and analog worlds allowing for improved features and functions aimed at real world situations, bringing more powerful control over every day processes closer to the average user.
There were several common elements that linked the presentations by the different speakers:
1. Advancements in automotive technology are going to have a major impact on the industry and our society moving forward.
2. Technological advancements in one area (sensors) impact many other areas (IoT, automotive, medical, etc.)
3. Deployment of these technologies is going to create an even larger amount of raw data, the largest amount ever seen in history up to this point.
4. The coming data tsunami wave will present many growth opportunities to the semiconductor industry and its related ecosystem of supporting industries.
These are great points and identify real trends that we should all consider in our strategic planning. The three companies that spoke during the keynote presentation are representative of the drive and vision that typifies companies in the semiconductor industry.
However, it seems to me that the speakers talked around one issue that may be bigger than all the rest when considering the 'Big Data' wave and its attendant impacts on our culture and society – how to manage it all?
If, as people expect, the average user or business manager accepts the premise of connecting all the processes in their home or business with the intent of sending that data to some location to be collected and analyzed, allowing that person to reap the benefit of more information to make a better decision about some aspect of their personal existence, then it seems like there is an opportunity for a unique product to enter the marketplace.
This product would take the form of an intermediary to stand between the user and the tide of analyzed data that is about to flood into their lives. This could take many forms, a personal digital advocate, a butler, a confidant, a mentor, a watchdog: something to help the average person manage it all and to make sense of it all. For lack of a better name, a Personal Intelligent Intermediary Agent.
What would this product do? Simply stated, it would know / remember / be a repository for all the personal configuration details of the myriad user interfaces for all the IoT / automotive / medical / mobile / networking / security / software products and services that will come with the 'Big Data' wave. It could be configured to manage all the passwords all these services will require and could even make suggestions on how to better protect the data it manages. It would not only be a library of all the user manuals that are going to come with all these things, but it would also understand how changes to one series of configuration variables will impact the operation/functionality of other services and products the user might have. Finally, it would have a capability that would advise the user about different pending events in their lives that could be important – a change in the weather forecast that could impact the thermostat settings/natural gas usage, when is the best time of the day to do laundry to take advantage of lower electricity rates, and a whole host of other 'mundane' decision points that we face each day that can now be made more intelligently because we will have the actual data about each action and its overall impact. This is the result of having processes/actions that can be connected together and how the end results will be magnified in our lives.
While the processing power and software expertise required for something like this is probably beyond the industry today, it won't be too long before we can come close to a point where this becomes feasible. At that point the semiconductor and computer industries can generate a great deal of additional interest in the industry by creating a product that literally everyone on the planet will want. The revenue potential will be very large to say the least.
This might all sound very 'science-fictionesque' and you would be right to think so – if this were 20 or 30 years ago. We are on the verge of connecting most of the devices on this planet together and that was certainly science fiction 20 years ago. Now, once we have gone through the connection phase, we need to take the last step and enter the 'manage-it-all-efficiently' phase. There are great times ahead for the EDA, semiconductor, computer and software industries if we can translate these visions into reality. If there is one group of industries in our world that is up for a challenge like this, it is our industries!