Tag: automotive

Chip market continues to consolidate

Old carsAnalysts have predicted for the last couple of years that the semiconductor market would increasingly consolidate and today there’s more evidence that their assessments are correct.

ROHM, which manufactures analogue power IC semiconductors bought Powervation, another digital power IC company.

Powervation’s speciality is in digital power management integrated on single semiconducts and ROMH paid $70 million in cash for the company.

Powervation was started in 2006 and specialises in digital power controllers aimed at the cloud and communications infrastructure markets.

ROHM is a $3 billion company in analogue and power semiconductors and has served customers in the automotive and industrial marketplace.

It’s obvious what it’s buying in taking over Powervation – it’s getting a diversified customer base which now covers about analogue and digital technologies, along with expertise from the acquisition.

Semi sales rose in May

cashRevenues from semiconductors during May totalled $2.873 billion, said the European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESIA).

But while those revenues were similar to those in April 2015, EISA said there were “some remarkable areas of strength” in May with increased demand for several product categories.

Sales of discrete semiconductor devices rose by 3.7 percent, diodes by five percent, and optoelectronics by 6.7 percent.

And, said EISA, if measured in Euro, the market showed “very strong growth” compared to May 2014, an illustration of the effect exchange rate fluctuations have on sales in Europe.

In May 2015, worldwide, sales of semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, wireless and wired comms applications went well. Worldwide, sales were up 5.1 percent compared to May 2014.

EISA released a graph showing monthly European semiconductor sales development between January 2011 until now.

Semiconductor sales in Europe up till May 2015

Nvidia could buy MediaTek

Old carsMediaTek has become a quiet giant in the semiconductor business over the last two years and now the rumour mill is suggesting that it may be the subject of an acquisition by Nvidia.

MediaTek has filed a statement with the Taiwanese bourse which is slightly ambiguous on whether it is in discussions with the graphics giant or not.

In a statement it merely said that it wasn’t the source of a rumour carried by the Chinese newspaper, Economic Daily News.

According to Digitimes, investors believe that it could merge with Nvidia as part of a plan to move into the burgeoning automotive market.

The semiconductor industry has seen a rash of mergers and consolidation over the last 18 months as the cost of research and development and the pace of change continues to make it an ultra competitive sector.

Nvidia has already forged partnerships with several major car outfits and has publicly said it wants to make waves in the automotive sector. A merger of the two firms would make sense as they both have different, but complementary, skills.

Internet of things continues to buzz

Bee swarm - Wikimedia CommonsAlthough there is still a lack of standardisation for the Internet of Things (IoT), a bullish report suggests the market worldwide will grow by 19 percent this year.

The forecast, from IDC, is even more bullish about the future. For example, it estimates that the IoT market in manufacturing will be worth $98.8 billion by 2018.

Digital signage will be worth $27.5 billion in 2018, that’s up from revenues of $6 billion in 2013.

But IDC predicts strong growth in “connected vehicles”, with the market growing by 34.8 percent this year.

IDC is concentrating on 11 vertical industries including home, retail, healthcare, government, manufacturing and transportation.

ARM places car industry in its sights

ARM logoBritish technology semiconductor company ARM said it is offering a safety package for its Cortex-A microprocessors and is broadening its aims in the automotive industry.

ARM said that advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) for vehicles will need at least 100 times more computing performance by 2024.

The firm said that companies have to build safety cases on a chip by chip basis, and that involves both duplication of effort and higher costs.

AMR’s ADAS system, it claims, gives the promise of more intelligence and better road safety.

The safety features will include support for future Cortex-A processors but there are already initial packages for the Cortex-A57, A72 and A53 microprocessors.

The use of these systems will help firms meet safety standards including ISO 26262 and IEC 61508.

ADAS features are expected to grow at an 18 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the coming years.

Future developments are likely to use radar and vision technology, as well as other features including driver assist and “infotainment” systems.

ARM thinks it can increase performance by 20 times by 2018, 40 to 50 times by 2020, and 100 times by 2024.

Freescale and Texas Instruments have already announced they will support Cortex-A72 processors for vehicle systems on a chips (SoCs). High end vehicles already use over 100 processors, using tens of millions of lines of code, ARM said.

In-car wi-fi to boom over next five years

In-car wi-fi is set to boom as the automotive industry gets to grip with the popularity of mobile devices.

Car manufacturers have been fitting vehicles with cutting edge technology for some time, and more and more microchips have been finding their way into cars. According to IC Insights, chips sold to the automotive industry will grow at a faster pace than the overall industry, with the market growing to $28.0 billion by 2016. As Google lives out its sci-fi fantasies with its driverless car projects, we can expect the average car to be looking very different over the coming decades.

In addition to this, analysts are forecasting that the introduction of wi-fi will allow the integration of tablets and smartphones with onboard systems to be greatly increased in the next few years.

So far only a few manufacturers have bothered with in-car wi-fi, Audi being one of those which has included it either as a feature or an optional extra.  

Increasingly this is changing, and, according to analysts IMS Research, the market for in-car wi-fi will increase eightfold over the next seven years across America and western Europe.

While Bluetooth has been used by manufacturers, it has not been able to deliver the speeds that would be made possible by wi-fi, which is likely to be plug the gap and be introduced as a standard in the future.

By fitting cars with wi-fi, drivers and passengers would be able to share content from internet enabled devices as well as creating in-car hotspots, enabling camera modules or allowing wireless screen duplication. More specific automotive applications such as wireless car diagnostics or wirelessly upgrading software would also be enabled.

Filomena Berardi, senior analyst at IMS Research said that wi-fi uptake is expected to grow swiftly, particularly with advances such as Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast.

“The uptake of wi-fi in vehicles will be fairly aggressive,” Berardi said in a statement. “The recent Wi-Fi Alliance announcement regarding Wi-Fi Miracast, is very exciting. Some in the industry see this being used in conjunction with MirrorLink for wireless screen duplication.”

“All in all, the future for Wi-Fi in the car is very promising,” Beradi said.

Freescale looks to former Texas Instruments man to replace CEO

Freescale has appointed former Texas Instruments man Gregg Lowe as the firm’s new CEO, with Lowe responsible for steadying the ship after the firm’s initial public offering last year.

Effective immediately Lowe will be installed as a replacement for the outgoing Rich Beyer, the former CEO and chairman who served at the US semi firm from 2008.

As part of the top level shake up J. Daniel McCranie was handed a role as non executive chairman of the board of directors.

McCranie highlighted Beyer’s leadership through a transformative period of the company’s history, with the former CEO set to stay on the board of directors to ease the incumbent CEO’s transition.

Business has been tricky for Freescale recently and last month Beyer admitting that Freescale had been subject to a slump in the semi industry, as the 12 month anniversary of the firm’s IPO saw its stock drop by almost half.

According to reports stocks fell to an all time low of $8.5 yesterday, from a reported $18 a share at the time of its IPO, as the effects of the economic downturn hurt its industrial and automotive embedded processor business.

This means that the onus is on former TI man Lowe to help revive Freescale’s fortunes, and he will be relying on his experience as senior vice president and manager of the analog business to help turn things around.

Lowe served at TI in a variety of roles since starting in 1984.

Low emission standards to open the door for MEMS auto market

Here at the MEMS Industry Congress Europe, a panel discussed how the tiny devices are a growth economy in the automotive sector and outlined where the industry is heading. 

Principal MEMS analyst for IHS iSuppli Richard Dixon said that, in 2010 alone, the MEMS sensor market managed to grow by 28 percent, lending more weight to the argument that this is an industry in its infancy. In 2011, the market was up again by 15 percent. Dixon pointed out that pre-2008 sensors were growing at seven or eight percent and, he says, the car industry really managed to claw its way out of recession bringing MEMS with it. Now, it is entering a new fast growth phase, and this is driven mostly by lowering emissions and on safety.

Some devices also cover 99 percent of the market, like power sensors and airbags. What really is driving the market is safety mandates, according to Dixon. Emerging markets like China are of particular significance, with the country employing tire pressure monitoring systems in the majority of their cars over the next three years.

Driver assist is expected to become much of a feature, along with hybrid and electric vehicles. When markets like China and India open up further it will present the industry with more opportunities. But, Dixon said, “South America will be the next major market”.

With the Euro 6 emissions standards well on the way, companies are being forced to fight tooth and nail to cut down on emissions. Euro 6, Dixon said, could add implications for gasoline engines which produce too many particles, which in turn, could see a push for pressure sensors. In terms of safety technology becoming pervasive in cars, he closed: “You need a breathalyser in your car in France.”

Although companies which design and manufacture MEMS are trying their best to introduce devices and features which they hope will save lives, Freescale’s global automotive strategy manager, Marc Osajda, added weight to the claims that safety is driving in-vehicle MEMS. “A lot of accidents are related to human behaviour,” he said. Freescale, which is the largest supplier of pressure sensors in automative, hopes that with its devices it can at least reduce the number of accidents as much as possible.

As well as safety, Osajda said, reducing size and power consumption will drive automotive. “If you take an airbag, which is one of the largest markets,” he said, “the biggest technical improvement is probably cost reduction.” To streamline the MEMS process along with the testing helps cut costs all around, especially with how enormous the market for airbags is – with China leading the charge, followed by Brazil.

Hannu Laatikainen, executive VP in transportation at VTI, said while speaking on the panel that cars should be more like people. MEMS can help bring their senses to life – with what they are able to see, what they are able to hear, and even what they are able to taste. The audience laughed, but Laatikainen said it’s entirely possible to have a car recognise the quality of its own fuel.

Japanese firms partner for multi-standard mobile modem

A multi-standard modem has been developed by a group of Japanese electronics firms: DoCoMo, NEC, Fujitsu and Panasonic.

The companies teamed up to work on a modem that covers a variety of standards without requiring multiple chips to be housed in a mobile device.

Jointly working on the hardware and software’s intellectual property, the group came up with a a chip that will serve GSM, W-CDMA, HSPA+ and LTE standards.

With the transition to 4G connectivity in full swing, unless you are in Britain of course, the chip will make the jump less painful by catering for all needs.

By only needing to use one chip to ensure that a mobile device is able to connect to different networks, which could be a problem for business users abroad, there are efficiency bonuses in terms of power.

By operating on a single chip, power consumption is said to have been reduced by 20 percent when in use, as well as when on standby. Furthermore, there are inevitable reductions in costs by housing everything in one place.

However, the group noted that the standard for LTE Advanced is not currently part of the deal, though they are currently looking at technology that would allow for its development.

Testing for all major networks has now been completed, and the partners hope to begin commercialisation in Japan.

DoCoMo has been developing wireless technologies alongside other partners too, striking an agreement with Jasper Wireless to connect machine-to-machine (M2M) devices with consumer electronics.

The pair will look to create a new category of embedded wireless devices, with a likelihood of automotive applications in Japan.

Microtweezers make complex MEMS devices easier

As components get smaller and smaller, MEMS devices are increasingly found everywhere in the electronics industry, like accelerometers and gyroscopes which fit in your smartphone.

Researchers are creating even more intricate MEMS systems, with silicon based devices used for applications such as detecting chemical on an atomic scale being discussed by scientists at the University of Purdue.

As the stubby-fingered Lego enthusiasts among us will know, manipulating tiny components is difficult to do with finesse.

To upon the doors to MEMS devices of much greater complexity, Purdue researchers have developed, and provisionally patented, a set of ‘microtweezers’ that can build tiny structures such as those hidden in your iPhone or in your car.

MEMS components could be used to create devices by being individually manipulated with the silicon prongs of the microtweezers.

So far, the team has managed to manipulate polystyrene spheres measuring 40 micrometres, which we can imagine would make Hasbro’s Operation a breeze.  However, the researchers claim it is as simple as selecting a melon at the supermarket.

While there have been other attempts to create working microtweezers, the researchers believe they have distinct advantages in that no electrical power source is needed, and Purdue’s is considerably easier to manufacture and function.  The tool also involves only one movable ‘spring’ piece, rather than a complex set of components.

The team believes that it could also be possible to study individual stem cells in isolation by separating from the large groups that they are currently able to be view.  Furthermore, there are potential applications in precision printing of chemical or protein dots, or conversely coated in chemicals to attract specific materials to the microtweezers.