Mobile driving energy-efficient design, says Intersil v-p

Mark Downing

Mark Downing

A number of growth areas have emerged in semiconductors over the last decade – three of the most important are connectivity, mobility and energy efficiency due to the profound impact they have had on how we live, work and communicat, writes Mark Downing, senior vice-president, corporate strategy at Intersil.

A climate of rapid technological innovation has transformed the consumer electronics market from PC and TV centric to smartphone and tablet centric as devices continue to become more portable, reliably connected and power efficient. These innovations have also transformed the infrastructure market, from central offices to cloud compute farms, and have enabled the realization of the mainstream electric vehicle. And far from getting tired, these areas are accelerating.

In 2014, we expect energy efficiency to be a major driver for semiconductor demand and innovation. In mobile computing, we are seeing the processing power and complexity that used to be the sole domain of the PC move into smaller form factors.

This translates to a system design challenge as battery limitations and power demands work in opposition to each other. Increasingly power hungry display technology and the introduction of new battery technologies compound the system design challenges and create opportunity for new solutions. The drive to add intelligence, reduce the footprint and, most importantly, to conserve battery life will continue to be a key system need and an inflection point in 2014 and beyond.

Mobile is not the only area in which power management is taking a leading role. An explosion in cloud computing is driving a significant increase in the demands on computing infrastructure.

Server and enterprise storage platforms currently being designed will have as many as 50 voltage rails, creating significant complexity that will require a much higher level of system intelligence to enable efficiency. Power density will also be a primary issue in these systems to preserve precious real estate and reduce system cost.

Given these dynamics, we expect 2014 to be a break-out year for digital power. Digital power has evolved over the last decade, and become lower in cost and much easier to use. 2013 witnessed the introduction of fourth-generation digital power solutions and with system cost parity to comparable analog solutions based on higher integration, the significant size and density advantages, combined with the flexibility inherent in a digitally based solution, digital power now offers real differentiation for customers designing next generation infrastructure equipment.

Configuration through a simple GUI compared to writing lines of code and the ability to use off the shelf modules to accelerate design are putting digital power within reach for both high-end and low-end systems, in infrastructure and beyond.

There are many things that are debated in the semiconductor industry – length and frequency of the cycles, return on investment for advanced process nodes, commoditization, consolidation and growth potential. But there are a few things that are undeniable. Battery life is critical to the success of mobile devices.

Power efficiency is a key variable in the cost effectiveness and scalability of data transport and storage. And convenience and safety features will drive continued adoption of IC technology in our cars and beyond. The semiconductor pie will continue to grow and create new opportunities for innovators to carve out compelling businesses.

 

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