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Each era of electronics innovation is generally marked by a dominant end application: Mil/Aero (1960-70s), Computing/PCs (1980s), Communications (1990s), Internet/Mobile (2000s). And each-for the most part-had a signature interface.
These technology eras were usually dominated by two interfaces: a keyboard (computing) or a keypad (communications). But that changed with the introduction of the smartphone and touchscreen technology first, and voice recognition technology (e.g. Siri) next.
And now the application explosion expected in the IoT Age demands not that we bend our habits to the prevailing technology but that we bend technology toward us. Because applications will be so ubiquitous, they must integrate seamlessly and productively into our daily lives. That will be enabled by natural user interface design.
This next frontier in technological innovation must take into account the natural human experience if electronics systems designers are to unlock markets.
No easy challenge
That experience will be more comprehensive than ever: It will include voice, gesture, touch and facial/object recognition. You should be able to talk to your thermostat and say "temperature down 5 degrees" or wave your hand at your flat-screen TV to change channels. Devices and nodes will need to understand that you're you (sound of your voice or the look on your face); they'll need to be secure, cost effective and power miserly. And they will be everywhere: on your clothes, your hair, your wrist, your finger (the wearables), on your wall, your ceiling, your door (the smart home), your car wipers, trunk hoods (automotive), etc.
Unfortunately for electronics designers, the dawn of the natural user interface era comes after years of technology breakthroughs (think smartphones, the FitBit, GoPro cameras, Siri, Google Now). Those successes have created consumer expectation that only heap on the time-to-market pressures for tomorrow's solutions on today's design teams.
The market opportunities-in areas such as healthcare, life sciences (wearables), smart home/grid, industrial, manufacturing, consumer and more-are among the most lucrative the semiconductor industry has seen in years. Global IoT applications are expected to be $1.9 trillion in the next 6 years, represent 25 percent of the global semiconductor revenues and become a $5.4 billion IP opportunity. In end markets, sales of semiconductors into the cloud and the IoT nodes are expected to grow 54 and 35 percent, respectively.
It's a breathtaking opportunity but requires a new approach to system design that embraces new types of processors, design IP, verification IP, tools, flows and partner ecosystems to enable systems designers to focus on their core strengths and get to market more quickly in a hyper-competitive world.
Seow Yin Lim
(Seow Yin Lim is the Group Director of Marketing for Cadence's IP Group and is responsible for driving Cadence's Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. Lim, who has worked at leading SoC companies, will blog about the challenges and opportunities in the global IoT market).
-- The Internet of Things - the Next Growth Driver, Enabled by High-Level Synthesis?
-- "The Last Simple Node" and its Profound Consequences
-- IoT's Promise Shadowed by Privacy Questions