What a week we just had at the Munich Messe in Germany! If you’ve never had the chance to attend SEMICON Europa and Productronica simultaneously, I highly recommend you put it on your must-do list. Not only will you reach your daily step goal, but you’ll also learn about the latest in technology innovation, see how integrated the electronics supply chain has become, and get to meet with many of the industry movers and shakers.
By my calculations, the 3D InCites team put in a collective 104,577 steps (approx. 43.5 miles) over three days attending talks, meeting with exhibitors, socializing with industry colleagues and friends, and taking tons of photos to capture the event. This two-part series brings you the highlights of our week, in words and pictures. Let’s start with the keynote talks.
“Politics Divides and Technology Unites”
SEMI President and CEO, Ajit Manocha, officially opened SEMICON Europa, once again highlighting how critical semiconductor devices are to enable today’s technology megatrends.
“Semiconductors drive smart,” he said. “We are taking the world beyond smart. The semiconductor image is not very well known, but none of the digital companies can survive without semiconductors.”
Manocha predicted the industry would grow from $440B in 2019 to $480B in 2020, and that number will double by 2030. “The volatility of the geopolitical situation may slow us down here and there, but while politics divide, technology unites,” he said. “We will unite the world and drive the growth this industry’s needs.”
The keynote line-up provided inspiration for the week’s programming, which focused on Industry 4.0, automotive electronics, and smart medical technology, as well as the emergence of quantum computing.
Understanding the Hyperconnected World
Olivier Schwab of the World Economic Forum (WEF), an organization dedicated to sustaining societal benefits, talked about the notion of the 4th Industrial Revolution as an “intellectual compass” that will help us understand our hyperconnected world. Schwab is the son of WEF founder, Klaus Schwab.
“The 4th Industrial Revolution is redefining what it means to be a human,” said Schwab. He emphasized the importance of a human-led Industry 4.0., and that the benefits must be spread equally, and risks must be managed, for us to truly reap the rewards of this era. For example, manufacturing the lithium-ion batteries needed for electric vehicles come at a cost because of the rare earth minerals used in the process, which are often mined using child labor. We need to be mindful of situations like this that are counterintuitive to our ultimate goal of improving the lives of everyone.
While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are enablers of Industry 4.0, Schwab said that it is critical that we must manage the side effects and ethical issues that could lead us down a dark path. The workforce will require new skills and training, and these must include analytical and critical thinking. Human skills like emotional intelligence and service orientation will increase in value. Collaboration is the key to ensuring the 4th industrial revolution takes the right path.
Can Smart Technology Innovation Make the World A Healthier Place?
Listening to keynoter, Anushka Patchava, makes you think so. Dr. Patchava is a medical doctor turned healthcare strategist and expert advisor on policy to the United Nations. She talked about the advantages of embracing connectivity in healthcare to enable telemedicine.
According to Patcheva, over $40B has been invested in digital healthcare technology this year. She is an advocate of using distributed ledger technology (DLT) – commonly known as blockchain – to create “data fluidity” between systems that will improve patient outcomes.
She explained how the current system is fragmented, and that we need to design technologies that are interoperable and create a health care continuum. She envisions mobile health using wearables and the Cloud to shift behavior from a reactive “sick care” system to a proactive healthcare system.
If we can rely on diagnostic wearables and preventative behavior, we can shift most healthcare from the hospital to the home. Healthy patients will be left in the hands of health care “coordinators” who keep track of patient behavior. This frees up the system for high-risk patients to get the care they need from skilled practitioners, she explained.
A New Approach to Automotive Manufacturing
There is a significant shift happening in the automotive manufacturing market with the plethora of electronics being developed and implemented to enable advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), electric vehicles, and overall “smart” transportation systems. According to Berthold Hellenthal, Audi, over 80% of automotive innovations are semiconductor-based. For example, the Audi A8 contains 10K integrated circuits (ICs).
Parts as simple as a door handle are now using advanced packaging and semiconductor technology to create an electronic entry system that takes up one 10th of the volume of previous systems. It relies on 3D integration of active and passive devices in an optimized form factor to ensure both space-saving and design flexibility. He said these door handles will become standard on all Audis and Volkswagens, creating another high-volume application for our industry.
However, to achieve these advancements requires a new semiconductor value chain. SEMI has been instrumental in forming a new collaboration to create an innovative platform between the materials and equipment suppliers, as well as automotive OEMs. This may be one reason why both Audi and VW recently become members of SEMI.
This Global Automotive Advisory Council is a five-year project to create an automotive electronics roadmap. One year in, Hellenthal says it has been very successful. For example, a need for Si Carbide standards has been identified as a need as the substrate material is critical for power electronics used in electronic vehicles, but it involves a different value chain than silicon.
I had several discussions on this topic with exhibitors who are either involved in the GAAC or working on their own versions of collaborative approaches to address the needs of the automotive industry. I’ll dive deeper into that discussion in the next post.
Computing Beyond CMOS
IBM Research Fellow, Allessandro Curioni, took the keynote conversation into the future, past the realm of semiconductors to talk about bits, neurons, and qubits that comprise quantum computing. “The future of computing will bring together electronics, biology, and physics,” he said. He explained that to get the most out of AI, we need to go way beyond the capabilities of today’s AI accelerators, which are mainly graphics processor units (GPUs).
While AI exists and is being used, Curioni says we are only at the beginning of AI – what he called “narrow” AI. The real value of the technology will be realized when we go to the next level up – what he called “broad AI.”
“CMOS-based technologies may not be the best way to bring AI to the next level,” said Curioni. “AI accelerators go beyond exact computing – or classical, digital approaches.” The next phase will involve approximate computing. (If you understand any of this, please contact me about contributing a blog post, because it’s beyond me.)
The final three speakers in the keynote session, Hubert Lakner, Fraunhofer IPMS, Sundar Ramamurthy, Applied Materials, and Carlos Mazure, SOI Industry Consortium focused on continued efforts in photonics, Moore’s Law scaling, and SOI technologies to address the needs of AI applications. Lakner stressed the importance of holistic system concepts that combine hardware and software. All emphasized the need for new architectures and materials, and stressed the importance of collaboration and roadmaps to continue the pursuit of technology innovation that will “make the world a better place.”
In Part two of our coverage of SEMICON Europa, we’ll take a tour through the exhibit hall, talking with exhibitors about how these trends are impacting their businesses. ~FvT