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Outlook 2003 - Knowing the market cycle

Posted: 20 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:National Semiconductor? Dennis Monticelli? Electronics? portable devices? analog devices?

Dennis Monticelli

Fellow and Chief Technologist, Analog Products Group, National Semiconductor

The industry again finds itself at the bottom of a market cycle that we know all too well. It is during these down-turns that leading companies incubate the new technologies and products that will drive the next upswing. What will these exciting products be like and what technologies will make them possible? To answer these questions, let us look at some important trends already in progress.

Electronics is becoming more personal, even more a part of our individual lives. We find electronics to be enhancements, if not necessities in our daily life. They are in used as information providers, as entertainment devices, and as communicators. Mobility demands portability as these tools become as pervasive and personal as the watch on our wrist. Meanwhile, electronics will emerge from behind the panel of expensive fixed equipment, such as in the medical field, and become personal too. By looking at a few representative emerging products more closely, we will see the vital role that analog technology will play.

Multimedia 3G cellphones will bring voice, pictures, video, data and entertainment into the small form factor to which we have all become accustomed carrying around. In fact cellphones represent the first truly personalized hi-tech portable device to be introduced to worldwide culture. It is already a mega hit in 2G, but it will need a lot of help - a lot of analog help, to be a hit in 3G.

To start with, the RF link itself is analog with both the bandwidth and linearity representing new challenges. Fortunately, advanced SiGe BiCMOS and/or analog enhanced CMOS in the hands of expert designers is up to the task. Functions like MP3 and hands-free demand new approaches to efficient audio drivers and signal conditioning. Audio subsystems-on-a-chip supplied in chip-scale packaging will provide the answer. Sophisticated small color displays and power consumption will be crucial to these 3G function-laden phones. It will require an entirely new approach to power management in which the power supplies and transistor biases for major system blocks are dynamically adjusted to the current throughput. However, analog power management innovations such as AVS (Adaptive Voltage Scaling) will come to the rescue.

PDAs, on the other hand, will share many analog needs experienced by 3G phones, but will be even more power hungry due to the larger displays, higher resolution cameras, and heavy Internet use. Instead of depending upon WANs for connectivity, PDAs will depend upon WLANs and PANs. Mixed signal SoC will be needed to hit the size, power consumption, and cost targets of these wideband wireless modems.

Analog enhanced CMOS processes at 0.185m and 0.135m appear to offer the best opportunities for mixed-signal designers to achieve the tough system specs. Cameras will be CMOS based, not CCD, for power, cost, and integration reasons. They will be sold as modules to handset and PDA OEMs, much like Bluetooth is today. Power management solutions will have no choice but to take advantage of the new AVS techniques because Moore's Law for batteries only delivers 10 percent improvement per year.

Another personal device or OEM module destined for wide acceptance has its value tied to the increasing need for security. Passwords are not enough for our cyber future. The risk of identify theft increases greatly as we do more and more of our daily business via the Internet or through wireless links. Biometrics hold the greatest promise, with the field fingerprint identification being the closest to meeting that goal. Quality fingerprint identification requires a robust sensor tied to an analog sensory interface and A/D converter. Properly executed, such a function could be integrated into a smart card or key fob that carries enough non-volatile memory to store all our personal and even medical information.

In relation to this, the aging population will demand more efficient and convenient diagnostic and monitoring technology than those of today. Already, the popularity of partial and whole body scans is growing. Another example of advanced medical electronics at work is the M2A Diagnostic System from Given. This small camera-in-a-capsule is first swallowed and then transmits two pictures per second to a wearable receiver as it passes through your gastro-intestinal tract until eventual "splashdown." The captured images are invaluable for screening a whole host of medical problems. Much of this tiny device is analog: a CMOS camera; A/D converter; white LED illumination drivers; wireless modem; and advanced battery management.

Analog technology has and always will play an important role in these new applications, and Asia is an important market for many of the up and coming technology innovations.





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