Santa Clara, CA. Transistors are a dime a dozen—or maybe a dime a billion. It's how you put them together that counts. Intel is good at making transistors, and Dr. Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of the company's Mobile & Communications Group, took to the DesignCon keynote stage January 28 to praise attendees' abilities to string them together to build ever more complex and desirable gadgets.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to speak to the brilliant leaders of this industry—the design engineers who make all this happen,” said Eul, adding, “We are in the middle of exciting shift in our lifestyles with respect to the devices we carry and interact with.
Speaking from a vantage point of 25 years of experience in the industry, Eul said, “The future is calling—innovation in system and chip design will keep accelerating.”
A few years back there were no tablets, he said, adding that now they are pervasive, with the tablet market growing an average of 20% year by year. “Next-generation radio technology is upon us,” he said, “with LTE-Advanced coming to market as we speak, drawing and producing ever more data as we to innovate to bring more information overt the either.”
How we use devices is changing, he said. Households have two, three, or four PCs or tablets, and innovation occurs at such a fast pace that consumers want to refresh their gadgets every year and a half. “We can't wait to get our hands on next device.”
The way we look at devices is changing as well, Eul said. Phones used to be about the operators and service providers, but the advent of tablets is sparking more business models. In addition, apps are mushrooming, both in number and complexity, with high-end apps exhibiting the complexity offered by full programs five or ten years ago.
Plus, we are finding new uses for the devices. Eul said that a $5,200 attachment to a tablet turns it into an ultrasound device located where it's needed—not hundreds of miles away in a hospital. Five years from now, Eul said, we will look back and be astounded by what we have invented in a short period of time.
Today's successful device, Eul said, has neither cables nor external power supplies—it's mobile and always there. You can send message to anyone on planet in four seconds and get answer in four seconds, plus typing time. With only slight exaggeration, Eul said younger generations are using their devices 26 hours per day.
“This technology knows us,” Eul said. “It knows how to get me where I want to go, manage my money, manage my health, help us learn, entertain us, grow relationships, and earn money. Our complex lives are improved by mobility.”
Eul commented that devices are so easy to use it's easy to overlook the underlying complexity. Just posting a picture of a cat, he said, requires components ranging from accelerometers to image signal processors, and designers must deal with issues including redundancy, modulation, error correction, and authentication. Successful implementations require innovation in a range of areas, including process technology, architecture and design, and software.
“What you do with the transistors is where it all starts,” he said, adding that to develop a successful device, “Your design capabilities, your architecture capabilities make it an effective and cost-effective design” in which you “take billions of transistors and have them do diverse jobs to deliver the user experience.” To be successful, he said, you need to pull together the right combination of processors, communications and connectivity capabilities, I/O channels, displays, audio devices, power management (no one would accept a new device with twice the performance but half the battery life), and the security secret sauce. And last but not least is the software that unleashes the power of your algorithms.
“You have the sophistication to pull this all off,” he said. “You've done a great job—but whey we return to our offices tomorrow there are still challenges ahead, but challenges are also opportunities—the harder the challenge, the sweeter the victory.”
The Internet of things (IoT) will offer many opportunities, he said. We will need to achieve ultralow cost to reach next billion or ten billion devices. These devices will need to achieve more performance with lower power and be able to withstand the extreme conditions (with respect to vibration and temperature, for instance) found in many M2M applications. The devices will need to occupy an ultra-small footprint and be able to coexist without interference.
“Your capabilities that you are sharing at this conference are changing the world and giving people opportunities they never had before,” he concluded.