Ultra-low power wireless connectivity market to grow strongly
ARM and Cadence Design Systems have announced the tape-out of the first 14-nanometer test chip implementation of the ARM’s lowest power core, the Cortex-A7 processor.
Designed with a complete Cadence RTL-to-signoff flow, the chip was fabricated on Samsung’s 14-nanometer FinFET process.
This is the nextstep in implementing ARM technology-based SoCs on FinFET technology.
“This is an important milestone in our efforts to enable our silicon partners for continued low-power leadership in future generations of innovative, energy-efficient mobile products,” said Dr. Dipesh Patel, vice president and general manager, physical IP division at ARM.
This test chip also includes ARM Artisan standard-cell libraries, next-generation memories, and general purpose IOs.
“Our collaboration with ARM and Samsung, is essential to semiconductor companies as they move to designing for a 14-nanometer FinFET process,” said Dr. Chi-Ping Hsu, senior vice president, Research and Development, Silicon Realization Group at Cadence.
According to Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi, senior vice president at Samsung Electronics: “Our collaboration with ARM and Cadence allows us to innovate quickly as Samsung develops this new process technology for mobile multimedia applications.”
ABI Research expects the ultra-low power wireless connectivity IC market to grow to over $2 billion annual revenues by 2016. This will be shared by a number of technologies with Bluetooth Smart and 802.15.4 being the two main markets.
“Bluetooth Smart has seen strong growth in applications such as sports and fitness equipment, in many cases supplanting proprietary technologies,” says ABI’sPeter Cooney, “Bluetooth Smart device shipments are expected to grow to over 1 Billion units per annum in the next five years as manufacturers of devices such as remote controls, home automation sensors, and PC accessories embrace the ultra-low power capability of Bluetooth Smart and take advantage of the massive ecosystem of Bluetooth devices.”
There will be significant competition from other technologies. ZigBee’s mesh networking capability with theoretically unlimited node count gives it a significant advantage over Bluetooth Smart in markets where large nodes counts are likely, such as home networking. However, in point-to-point applications including TV remote controls, wireless mice, and keyboards, Bluetooth Smart will prevail due largely to the high penetration rates of Bluetooth Smart Ready in many consumer devices. In the longer term low-power Wi-Fi is also expected to be a competitor as this technology is developed.
The ultra-low power wireless connectivity market is set apart from many traditional consumer markets for wireless connectivity as it is dominated by lower volume designs, spread across many different customers, much like many industrial markets. Vendors such as Texas Instruments, Freescale Semiconductor, and STMicroelectronics are at an advantage having operated very successful catalogue type businesses for many years. Texas Instruments is seen as being in the strongest position currently, having the widest product portfolio, however, competition will be fierce over the next five years as the market grows and other vendors expand their presence in the market