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Wearables, IoT gang up on memory for low-power boosts

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT? wearable? low power? memory?

The low power and use-specific requirements of IoT and wearable devices are making heavy demands upon memories, even going above what current smartphones and tablets require.

Requirements vary significantly with IoT, according to Hung Vuong, chairman of JEDEC's JC-42.6 Subcommittee for Low Power Memories. Criteria such as packaging and size, integration, interface, low power, low voltage, density, performance, and temperature are all factors. Beyond smartphones and tablets, there are consistent needs driving demand for lower power memory from all industries, he said, including the automotive and the wearables industry, albeit to different degrees.

For wearables and sensors, for example, density and performance are not necessarily the driving requirements. Typically, Vuong said, these devices do not have high-level output specifications, nor do they need to store large amounts of content. The major drivers for these applications typically are size, power, and simplicity. He said JEDEC's approach to addressing new use-cases for low-power memory has always been demand driven. As these use cases mature in the market, JEDEC will establish a committee or technical group to address them as needed by the industry.

"What the industry is trying to do is take your laptop computer or your tablet or smartphone and shrink it down so it fits on your eyes, your wrist, any other part of your body," said IDC analyst Ramon Ramirez, who covers the emerging wearables segment. One of the big challenges, he says, is how to make these devices last more than one day. "No one wants a wearable that they have to take off and charge multiple times a day."

Add to that the sensors, the UI, and the overall experience requirements. "The pressure this puts on memory is absolutely tremendous," said Ramirez. The first generation of wearables such as Fitbits and Pebble watches are very simple, he said, but they are the blueprints of what's to come. The future smart watch is going to be essentially a smartphone in a smaller form factor. "When it comes to the second- or third-generation devices, we're going to ask them to do a lot more."

Ramirez said memory for smartphones and tablets is fairly commoditized and standardised, but given the variety of use cases for wearables and IoT, devices are going to be very application-specific, and it's unlikely one vendor will be able to meet all the needs of every device.

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