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I attended the GSA (Global Semiconductor Alliance) Silicon Summit in Mountain View, California a while back which addressed “More-than-Moore” (MtM) developments.  It was an interesting meeting and had an excellent group of speakers addressing the subject.  In considering what to say about that meeting, I decided that general background information leading up to MtM would be helpful.  The White Paper “More-than-Moore” by Wolfgang Arden, and others, provides a wealth of information in this regard.  The following is my interpretation of some of the key background information items described in this White Paper.

The amazing development of semiconductor industry for the past decade and continuing today has been guided by the “International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors” (ITRS).  This roadmap, essentially limited to digital functionalities development (logic & memory storage) is based on Moore’s Law (Gordon Moore observed that market demand and the resulting industry response for functionality per chip (bits, transistors), doubled every 1.5 to 2 years).  Using Moore’s Law and in particular by dimensional scaling as conceptualized by R. Dennard  (reducing dimensions while keeping electric field constant)  as a “technology push”, the ITRS has been able to identify the key industry developments necessary to sustain this very rapid growth of digital technology.  Known loosely as “More Moore” (MM) the scaling of digital IC’s has been able to continually improve performance-to-cost ratios of products and hence the exponential growth of the semiconductor market.

Essentially left out of this rapid growth in the past have been the functionalities which would add significant value to new products, but that do not necessarily scale according to Moore’s Law.  This led to the need for a “More-than-Moore” (MtM) development roadmap. These functionalities (sensors, actuators and powering products) are typically needed for the More Moore technologies (digital processing and storage) to interface with the outside world.   These functions imply analog and mixed-signal processing, passive components, high voltage components, micro-mechanical devices, sensors and actuators and micro-fluidic devices.  The Arden White Paper suggested that the ITRS community (the Technology Working Groups (TRGs) and the International Roadmap Committee) include the MtM domain in its work and then proposed a methodology to identify the feasible & desirable MtM technologies for such a roadmap.

The proposed methodology is different than that for More Moore technologies.  Moore More was a “technology push” based on Moore’s Law and Dennard’s scaling rules.  The proposed methodology for MtM is more “market pull” based.  The basic concept is to identify future markets that need the MtM capabilities and work back to the specifics of the technologies necessary to meet the market need.   In taking this approach, it would be necessary to assure that the development would also most likely enhance the development of other market needs and hence allow for accelerated growth.

An example cited was in the automotive market.  One of the products was an advanced power management and handling capable for CMOS low voltage circuitry. This would require innovation in power electronics and drive technical requirement for the underlying high voltage power technologies.  From this point, is should be possible to determine the technical requirements for key parameters on the technology module level – such as the on-state resistance specification (Ron) of the end unit control electronics.

Another example given was the “Radio Frequency and Analog-Mixed Signal Technologies for Wireless
Communications” TWG who have been roadmapping many devices in the RF space and in effect have pioneered the methodology described in the White Paper.

One of the sessions at the GSA Summit was “How More than Moore Impacts the Internet of Things”.  This session was chaired by Edward Sterling, Editor in Chief, System-Level Design and Editorial Director, Low-Power Engineering.

Although the concept of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been around for some time – the term was first used by Kevin Ashton in 1999.  I think the following quote from Wikipedia expresses both the concept and potential of the Internet of Things:  “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did.”

Here are some of the points of discussion from this session that I felt were interesting:

  • Everything that can be connected (to some advantage) will be.
  • Once you get to the extremes – going out to the edge – power management will be key and mixed-signal technology will be much more important.
  • Need seamless, programmable local devices to enable communication.
  • Almost everyone could make money – instrumentation important
  • Chip Support:
    • Micro-controllers
    • Custom Chips
  • Standards will develop later – as soon as better understood
  • A Killer App example: Home thermostat aware of people present

A lot more information on IoT is available on the web.  I think “The Internet-of-Things Is About To Change Everything” in Beverly Macy’s Blog is especially informative.