As I noted in my day one coverage of SEMI’s Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS 2018), which took place last week at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, CA, this was the first time I’d been invited to join the industry elite as a member of the press* at this most coveted annual event. In this role, I was made privy to the inner workings of what makes the semiconductor industry tick, and the recommended strategies that will take us collectively forward for another year. As we all absorbed the presentations, which covered everything from economic and geopolitical trends, market perspectives, technology and how it’s disrupting society, to the challenges of a talent crunch in a growth trend, I was struck by what an exciting time it is to have the privilege of writing about this industry.

Despite this, I didn’t title this post “Living the Dream” because it has always been my dream to write about the semiconductors industry. I pretty much fell into this career by accident and have been flying by the seat of my pants ever since. I chose this title because in an interesting turn of events, Dan Durn, CFO, Applied Materials, chose to deviate from his assigned topic about industry consolidation, and instead issued a call to action by the industry to join him, Applied Materials, and SEMI in a campaign to spark dreams in young talent to pursue careers in the semiconductor industry. Durn’s motivation is personal: thanks to inspiration from his father, he’s living his own dream and he wants to inspire others. Rick Merritt, EE Times, captures the story well here.

Therefore, this post will not provide an executive summary of all the presentations. SEMI’s Mike Hall has already done a good job of that for day one here. Nor will it dive deep into the hard news angles (again, Rick Merritt has a head start on that here, and Ed Sperling, Semiengineering, offers his take on how the economics are shaking out here. Rather, my goal is to focus on the impact that the actions of the semiconductor industry will have on the dreams of many. Through this lens, I thought the most powerful messages were the ones addressing critical issues of how the digital world, which would not exist without semiconductors, is changing the way we work and live, for better and for worse.

Reimagining Semiconductor Business Models
In his keynote, Kevin Bandy explained how the digital economy is rapidly redefining business and manufacturing. Business is no longer about manufacturing products and selling them; it’s about enabling better human experiences.

Semi's industry strategy symposium
Figure 1: Why we need to reinvent business models. (Courtesy, Cisco)

As an example, he pointed to BMW’s understanding that as we shift from a driving economy to a passenger economy, the company needed to adapt its business model from focusing on the driving experience to experiencing the ecosystems within the car. This is why the BMW Series 7 contains more lines of code than the Large Hadron Collider. It’s also why BMW has launched the DriveNow car-sharing club featuring BMWi, in which a $39 membership fee allows you to use a car based on the minute.

Gone are the days where semiconductor volumes were driven by a single “killer app,” such as PCs and smartphones. Nowadays, data is driving Si consumption with AI, cognitive and edge computing (Figure 2).

Figure 2: AI and cognitive computing is driving Si demand. (Courtesy, VLSI Research)

According to VLSI’s Andrea Lati, in this Zetta-Data Era, the cloud has made IT a profit center (Figure 3). “Moore’s law is being replaced by the Law of Value, where value growth comes from storing, processing and transferring data faster using less power each year,” he said.

Figure 3: Courtesy of VLSI Research

This is why Amazon has become so successful. As David David Pellerin of Amazon Web Services explained, the company’s value is in its data, not in its ability to move product. He said the same machine learning can be applied throughout semiconductor design and production.

Making Dreams Come True
As the industry is realizing the utility of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI), concern for what that means with regards to security and privacy has come to the forefront, and rightfully so. But Rob High, IBM Watson is concerned that for some, imaginations have gone wild. He tried to put the room at ease, explaining that cognitive systems are here to amplify, not supplant, human cognition. “AI is becoming a tool that extends the strength and reach of the human mind,” he said. “Tools that have had lasting value are those that amplify our reach, such as hammers, shovels, and hydraulics. We need to think about AI the same way. It’s about helping us become better at what we already do.”

To illustrate his point, he showed scenarios where AI and machine learning were implemented in a Watson-driven personal assistant, Celia, to research and compile data in minutes, instead of weeks, so that executives could make well-informed business decisions quickly.

Taking this to a more altruistic level, Marc Carrell-Billiard, Accenture, showed how the company’s work in AI and machine learning has been implemented in a smartphone app, Drishti, to enable visually impaired people to better understand their surroundings using facial and person recognition capabilities.

When Dreams Become Nightmares
But before we could fully relax with the idea that an AI-enabled digital planet would be programmed to do no harm, Bhaskar Chakravorti, an economist and business dean at The Fletcher School took us down an alternate path exploring digital trust, where those dreams could rapidly turn into nightmares the more we depend on digital tools.

Teen addiction to smartphones is akin to heroin addiction. He showed a map that illustrated “Facebookistan” as the largest country in the world. Teenagers in Macedonia figured out how to make money by planting fake news stories in American headlines (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Can we really believe everything we read? (courtesy of Bhaskar Chakravorti)

In China, facial recognition technology is being used to track people’s behaviors in public spaces and is connected to their WeChat activities in an effort to create a human database. By 2020 every Chinese citizen will be associated with citizenship score that will be used to issue or deny travel visas, can impact your credit score and the ability to rent an apartment, and more. According to Chakravorti, these are some of the realities we now face in a fully digitized and connected world.

Figure 5:  Truth. (Courtesy of Bhaskar Chakravorti)

Chakravorti’s intention was not to scare us to abandon our efforts but to encourage us to proceed with caution. He said that on this journey to a 100% digital planet, we are traveling at different speeds. The advantages of technology are different for each of us, and there are very real tradeoffs in terms of trust. Additionally, that degree of trust varies enormously depending on where you live.

Securing Sweet Dreams
The message that rang loud and clear for me, and I hope to every key decision maker in the room, is how critical security is to the path forward. Sam Wang, Gartner, called on the industry to “fulfill our human responsibility and be proactive in regulations to transform the world in a good way.”

Luc van den hove, imec, said it best. “Hacking IoT systems can be risky. They will be around us an inside our body. We don’t want the Internet of Things to become the Internet of Threats.” I couldn’t agree more. The way I see it hacking into a computer is one thing, but at least it’s not going 65mph when it happens.

From a business perspective, Bandy stressed that AI, the IoT, and security are not distinct and separate, but interdependent**, and should be addressed as such. Both Van den hove and Hermann Eul, Eul Ventures, noted that security is complex and has many aspects. Software alone is not enough to protect us. As Eul noted, it needs an architecture from day one, anchored in hardware and built as a stack, and assessed from the top down.

In our digital world, there is no place left untouched by semiconductors, noted Eul. Make no mistake, 2018 kicks off with dreams of a bright future for our industry, but we could lose it all if we don’t pay attention to security better than we ever have before. Welcome to the new reality. Let’s try not to mess it up, shall we?

Living the dream from ISS 2018, that’s a wrap. ~ FvT

*Other members of the press at this year’s ISS 2018 included Mark Lepedus and Ed Sperling, Semiengineering; Rick Merritt, EETimes; and Peter Singer, Solid State Technology. I encourage you to also read their coverage of the event, as you will no doubt find different perspectives and focus.

**Bandy actually used the word “co-dependent”, but interdependent seemed to be more accurate. 

Feature image courtesy of  Marc Carrell-Billiard, Accenture

Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

View Francoise's posts

Become a Member

Media Kit