About 70% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is driven by consumer demand. What consumers are looking for is influenced by, for example, fashion trends, product innovations, environmental forces, and personal interests. Regarding personal interests: Sales of electronic components at Fry’s are poor, Radio Shack stores even vanished completely. Today’s consumers do not like to tinker; they want to buy software-enabled, user-friendly systems with over-the-air updating that serve their current and future requirements well – e.g. Smartphones. System vendors followed the same transition, and so did semiconductor vendors. Instead of offering (low margin) components, they develop and manufacture big portions of, if not complete, (high value) hardware and software solutions for electronic systems, targeted at specific markets.

Mid-August, two SEMI webinars outlined the Smart Mobility market and what it expects from system and semiconductor vendors.

SEMI’s Smart Initiative

“None of us knows as much as all of us”, “Connect – Collaborate – Innovate”, and other strategic considerations, have motivated SEMI to become the gateway for the $ 2 Trillion (= 2,000 Billion) global electronic design and manufacturing supply chain. Figure 1 shows how many companies and organizations have joined this large industry organization, to work together efficiently and serve customer demands cost-effectively. Especially in four high-growth markets/application areas – Smart Data, Smart Mobility, Smart MedTech, and Smart Manufacturing – SEMI enables highly rewarding cooperation.

Fig 1: Overview of SEMI members, technology communities, and areas of focus. (Courtesy: SEMI)

MEMS and Sensors for Smart Mobility

Tim Brosnihan, Executive Director, MEMS & Sensor Industry Group (MSIG), moderated the webinar on MEMS and sensors for Smart Mobility. Bettina Weiss Chief of Staff and Global Smart Mobility Lead at SEMI, presented the overview. In addition to Figure 1 above, she showed how many companies are now supporting SEMI’s Smart Mobility efforts and have joined the Global Automotive Advisory Council (GAAC). The European GAAC was founded in 2018, based on requests from VW and Audi. Regional chapters have also been formed in the U.S., China, Taiwan, and Japan. Figure 2 shows the current members of the American GAAC – new members are welcomed in all five regions.

Fig 2: Current GAAC members in the Americas. (Courtesy: SEMI)

Market Trends and Technology Innovations in MEMS & Sensors

Andreas Breiter, Partner, McKinsey & Company

Andreas Breiter, Partner, McKinsey & Company, addressed markets, and Armen Mkrtchyan, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company, spoke about technology.

Breiter addressed both vehicle and infrastructure changes required, as well as many ongoing and planned activities to enable Smart Mobility. He outlined autonomy, connectivity, electrification, and shared mobility of vehicles as the major opportunities for MEMS & sensors.

Armen Mkrtchyan, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company

Mkrtchyan showed which technologies enable Smart Mobility and which regions will invest how much in software, hardware, and services by 2030, to capture data and process it in partially/fully autonomous vehicles’ Domain Control Units (DCUs) – see Figure 3.

Figure 3: Pre-COVID market estimates. (Courtesy: McKinsey & Company)

MEMS-based sensors are used in vehicles to monitor pressures and perform as accelerometers or gyroscopes. Non-MEMS-based sensors capture light (e.g. for time-of-flight distance measurements) or magnetic fields (e.g. for RPM measurements).

Regarding the many infrastructure upgrades needed for enabling autonomous vehicles on the roads, in Figure 4, Breiter gives road planners a lot of food for thought and planning work. City planners face much more complex challenges. That’s why electronic systems will also be needed to make these large infrastructure investments earn returns.

Figure 4: Smart roads are essential for autonomous driving. (Courtesy: McKinsey & Company)

EDA and Smart Mobility

The second Smart Mobility webinar focused on how Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tool vendors, Intellectual Property (IP, System Building Blocks) vendors, and system/IC Design Services can contribute to the success of Smart Mobility. Bob Smith – Executive Director, Electronic System Design Alliance (ESDA), moderated the webinar, highlighting where the relatively small but essential ESDA and its members fit in the semiconductor ecosystem – see Figure 5.

Figure 5: EDA, IP, and design services enable the entire electronics ecosystem.  (Courtesy: ESDA)

Bettina Weiss explained how SEMI and the Smart Mobility Team are working to bring together stakeholders in the semiconductor ecosystem in general and the Smart Mobility segment specifically, to jointly address topics of common interest, work on solutions and agree upon standards where and when needed.

Market Trends and Technology Innovations in EDA, IP and Design Services

Andreas Breiter and Armen Mkrtchyan presented McKinsey’s perspectives regarding these topics. In addition to the above-mentioned market data, Breiter emphasized that DCUs are playing an increasingly important role in capturing the data provided by smart sensors, are processing it, and initiating appropriate actions. Together with application-specific software, these DCUs perform tasks like sensor fusion, manage creature comfort, assure safe operation of the vehicle, and secure communication with the outside world (Figure 6).

Figure 6: High growth for DCU; likely shift in business models. (Courtesy: McKinsey & Company)

Mkrtchyan addressed EDA, IP, and services for Smart Mobility from ten different technical perspectives. Here are the highlights.

Component failures can and will have severe consequences in Smart Mobility, therefore screening, testing, and exhaustive verification are extremely important. Software content is likely to increase at 10% CAGR during this decade. To increase the productivity of software and middleware developers, he emphasized that standards need to be agreed upon. Over-the-air (OTA) updating capabilities are needed, that’s why cybersecurity is important to keep vehicles current and safe. Power train electronics need to function at up to 150°C. New materials will be needed to increase reliability, reduce cooling efforts, and lower unit costs. Last, but not least, Mkrtchyan emphasized that every city needs to design its own infrastructure, not only to enable Smart Mobility but also to monetize the large investments needed; EDA, IP and design support will help to achieve both. In summary, he stated that Design and IP as well as packaging and test will be the most impacted areas in the transition to Smart Mobility.

Personal Comments

After having attended several MSIG events, I am impressed by how MEMS, NEMS (Nano…), and sensors can lend machines in many ways sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. They can replicate these human senses, often better than found in us. If you, like me, celebrated when your first modem enabled your PC to communicate with the entire world, you’ll appreciate the value MEMS and sensors can and will add to machines’ “communication skills”.  Also, I can assure you that innovative engineers in this field will find many new ways to capture data in the physical, chemical, and biological domains and enable machines to keep humans safe. (I look forward to a handheld Covid-19 sensor that provides results within a few seconds!)

Having worked for a small, then a large EDA vendor, many years ago, and for the ESD Alliance several years ago, I know how difficult it is to motivate innovative software developers to work together or agree upon standards. I am glad that the ESD Alliance is now working closely with SEMI. Most SEMI member companies, and their innovative employees, have learned over the years how important standards are to reduce development cost, processing, and test time, as well as time to profit.

I wish Bob Smith and the ESDA members all the best for cooperating closely to define design standards, bi-directional hand-off points up and down the entire supply chain, primarily at the interface between design and manufacturing. I want to encourage EDA and IP experts to work closely with the experienced and knowledgeable people in materials, equipment, manufacturing, and test.

5G mm-wave communication, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), reliable solutions for Smart Mobility, and development/characterization of new materials offer great opportunities and challenges for design AND manufacturing. Together, these two big camps can monetize required solutions much better and faster, than on their own.

Your contact at SEMI can tell you how and where you can watch the webinar recordings and/or download all the slides.

P.S.: Having two eCars and one eBike in our garage encourages me to appreciate SEMI’s efforts in advance Smart Mobility!

Herb Reiter

After more than 20 years in technical and business roles at semiconductor and EDA companies,…

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