Impact of IoT on semiconductors

The Internet of Things(IoT) is prepped to disrupt the semiconductor industry at industrial and business levels.

Fremont, CA: A global IoT ecosystem will create a world in which every product, every piece of industrial equipment, and every health care device is connected to greater networks. A world of IoT devices will need sensors and integrated circuits to operate, whether the IoT applications in question are enclosed in a grocery store freezer or offer information to AI software.

IoT will play a considerable role in the future of semiconductors due to consumer and industrial demand for connected devices.

What is IoT?

IoT explains a network of interconnected wireless devices. Each device incorporates sensors, integrated circuits, and software that allows it to collect data, exchange information with other IoT applications, and take action according to such data. A normal IoT ecosystem is the modern smart house, where electronic equipment, HVAC systems, lighting, and appliances are monitored and controlled from a central hub.

How will IoT applications influence the semiconductor industry?

The smartphone market has pushed growth in the semiconductor industry for years and has started to level off. IoT applications cannot operate without sensors and integrated circuits, so all IoT devices will need semiconductors.

The IoT market could portray new revenue for semiconductor manufacturers, enabling the semiconductor industry to maintain an average annual growth of 3 to 4% for the foreseeable future.

IoT devices will raise demand for sensors, connectivity, memory, microcontrollers, and integrated circuits, which could put pressure on the present semiconductor supply chain. Semiconductor manufacturers that choose to meet IoT demand now will be well positioned to take advantage of this developing market.

How does IoT influence semiconductor manufacturing?

Smaller chip sizes

While the smartphone industry previously heard the need for ever smaller, stronger semiconductors, IoT products put even higher demands on the industry.

IoT applications usually require the smallest possible microcontrollers for implanting in small electronics.

The result will pressure the semiconductor industry to develop the technology required for the smallest chip size while retaining acceptable levels of chip power consumption. The base material employed in integrated circuits (silicon) may be required to be replaced with a modern type of semiconductor, such as gallium-arsenide.

IoT circuits must be small: the average IoT device is about a third the size of a smartphone. The manufacturer needs sensors, processors, memory, Wi-Fi capability, microelectromechanical systems, and analog and digital circuitry in this constricted space.

The most probable solution to IoT size constraints might be a high-density interconnect board, which would enable placing more components on both sides of the printed circuit board while positioning them closer together.

Other space solutions incorporate 3-D-integrated circuits and multichip modules, raising the number of circuits connected on a single die or stacked configurations.

Diversity of supporting technologies

The growing diversity of IoT applications will need a greater diversity of new supporting technologies. For instance, smart vehicles require much more processing power and data collection to support various operational technologies than sensors in smartwatches or clothing.

The more autonomous a vehicle—the more competent its advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs) are—the more processing power it requires. Vehicle ADASs require three functional elements: sensing, computing, and actuation.

Sensing: Smart vehicles use radar, lidar, infrared, ultrasonic, and camera sensors to capture external environments. These sensors discover and capture data on nearby pedestrians, road signs, road obstructions, other cars, etc.

Compute: The data a smart vehicle captures with its sensors make inferences in pattern recognition. These patterns are a blend of visual images and motion analyses.

Actuation: Lastly, a smart vehicle applies a calculated understanding of what its sensors are detecting to override its driver and take corrective measures. Smart vehicles connected via the IoT share all this data, uploading it to the cloud for analysis and automation advancement.

Smart vehicles assembling and uploading data offer only one example of the plethora of supporting technologies that IoT applications need to function. Some IoT applications require organic semiconductor integrated circuits. And others depend on ultralow power consumption to allow moderate processing power.

Generally, each new IoT application places new stress on semiconductor manufacturers. For smart vehicles, semiconductor manufacturers will be required to make chips that can support the multiple sensors and edge compute performance that generates terabytes of data per hour in a single smart vehicle.

Other stressors

As many IoT devices will be open to adverse industrial or environmental stressors, IoT integrated circuits will often need a degree of temperature, water, and/or salinity resistance not needed in mass-produced chips for non-IoT applications.

Efficient power intake will also be a consideration. The mass of IoT devices will run on battery power. Preferably, IoT batteries will just need swapping out a few times a year, so efficient power use is a significant consideration.

Also, IoT demand may lead to new directions for the semiconductor industry. Other than concentrating solely on developing chips and hardware, the industry may need to provide security and software solutions, moving from component suppliers to solution providers.