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Freescale builds bridges with Japan carmakers, enters IoT

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

Keywords:Freescale? David Uze? IoT?

Every foreign chip company, not limited to Freescale, saw an opportunity to milk the 3/11 tragedy that especially hurt Renesas Electronics!a key supplier of critical automotive MCUs to Japan's automotive giants.

Since the earthquake, Japan's carmakers, traditionally obsessed with custom chip solutions for their braking systems, electronic-power steering, etc., began to shy away from custom ASICs, notes Uze.

Such designs, once prized as keys to "differentiation," are now perceived as a risk by the Japanese automotive companies, since custom solutions often lock them into one chip supplier. Hence Japanese carmakers are open to multiple sources, which, Uze believes, opens the door to Freescale.

Forbidden to enter

The art of building long-term relationships with Japanese customers, however, doesn't necessarily mean taking all the sales orders you can get, according to Uze. "If you were a sales guy, you would take all the orders, of course."

But the president of a local company for a US chip supplier needs to be cognizant of constraints!on resources his Japanese team can offer to its customers, and on terms and conditions for any service-level agreements to which the local company can commit.

We need to "be transparent to our customers, by not making promises that we can't keep," thus building "trust," he says. Even though his customers in the Japanese automotive industry repeatedly complain to Uze, "'We are increasing your share, but you're not taking it, David,'" Uze says, "if you mismanage your customers' expectations, business with them won't be sustainable."

Overreaching is a common pitfall. Look no further than Freescale Japan four years ago. "When I joined, there was a long list of Japanese customers who forbade Freescale from visiting." The label, "deiri-kinshi" (meaning "forbidden to enter") is applied to suppliers of parts and components, when system vendors suffer from shortages or unsatisfactory quality of chips. For years, this stigma kept Freescale Japan out of many Japanese companies.

How do you change that? "Keep knocking on the door." If direct sales calls weren't possible, Freescale Japan would meet and work with the top Japanese carmakers through race sponsorships and tradeshows. Freescale Japan became a sponsor for the Super GT series, a grand touring car racing series in Japan. "This has given opportunities for our engineers to work with Toyota engineers, side by side, on the track and in the pit."

Freescale also began exhibiting at Car Electronics in Japan. In early 2012, when Freescale first showed up, only 25 per cent of attendees!mostly from car OEMs and Tier 1s!said they'd heard of Freescale. By 2014, that number had doubled.

Four years ago, Uze was warned by his team that no automotive OEMs would talk to chip vendors!especially foreign chip vendors!directly. "Directed buy was impossible, I was told. We were supposed to work with Tier 1s." Four years later, for the first time, "three car OEMs in their advanced R&D Labs are suggesting a chip supplier [Freescale] and its solution to Tier 1s. Something impossible became possible."

Building IoT momentum

Uze noted, "I like IoT because for the first time all of the business sectors are well aligned behind it. We have a unified goal."

Connectivity, security, cloud technology, and data mining are necessary ingredients to unify IoT and build momentum behind it. While it's one thing for an edge device in IoT to talk to its cloud-based service to generate data, the power of the IoT resides in the ubiquity of data!collected by different edge devices!shared among different services and different applications, says Uze.

For that to happen, "we need to make it clear that if it is your data, you own it. Security is vital." Further, there must be "downstream applications that add value to IoT, compelling enough for consumers to pay for such devices and services."

Unfortunately, every current IoT is like a fiefdom building a separate castle, according to Uze: "It's time to tear down the walls."

Ubiquitous IoT demands that vendors collaborate. Uze knows that what he's suggesting is bigger than Freescale. As a consummate advocate, not only for Freescale Japan, but also for Japanese industry, Uze says, "Japan needs to get off its island. IoT gives a chance for Japan to lead again."

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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