Chip tech will revolutionise healthcare, everything

Luc Van den Hove, CEO of IMEC, produced an interesting presentation at the Future Horizons conference here in Sevilla this morning, demonstration the effect chip tech will have on our life in 2025.

IMEC (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) coordinates research and developments in the semiconductor industry, assisted by practically every semiconductor company known to man.

Video, he said, will dominate mobile data traffic and the only thing a smartphone hasn’t got yet is an electronic nose. But that, he said is on the way and there’s no doubt there are many applications for this element of a smart device. “Smartphones,” he said, “will get smarter and smarter. They will become true personal assistants.” Perhaps when that happens they will turn into devices that nurture us, a concept that Genevieve Bell put to us at the recent Intel Development Forum.

There’s other developments on the way too. The first plastic microprocessor was shown off earlier this year, and while its spec is not even close to the performance of the first CPU, the Intel 4004, it also has plenty of applications too. For example, he said, it could be incorporated on the packaging of fresh food where it would be able to provide data for customers on the state of the food she or he is going to buy. Other applications could include smart lighting and smart displays. While he acknowledged it could never be as fast as a silicon based CPU, it will still be developed further.

Healthcare will be revolutionised by semitech too. He said that by 2030, one billion people will be older than 65, far outnumbering children born. Developments he expected to come to pass included body area networks, and ultra low power ECG patches, using harvested energy and not needing battery changes. Labs on chips, and nano based DNA sequences will be far cheaper and up to 1,000 times faster than the expensive units in place now, making diagnosis easier.

Chips could be embedded in pills, so sending valuable diagnostic data to doctors and to hospitals. The automotive industry will be transformed meaning we won’t have to worry about steering ourselves around – we’ll be steered by very smart cars indeed.

There are still big technological advances but he believes those can be overcome.

Beyond the 14-16 nanometre shrink, and at the eight to 11 nanometre level, there are several developments that hold promise, including tunnel FETs, FinFETs and optical interconnects.

Extreme ULV is already practically with us, but the scale of things is such that every member of the semiconductor industry would have to cooperate. That’s already happening, he said.