IoT may need sub-50-cent SoCs

Panel previews rough road to 2027 end nodes.

November 03, 2017

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Panel previews rough road to 2027 end nodes.

By 2027, an IoT SoC needs to hit radically new lows in power and cost.

The future of the Internet of Things could depend on a chip that sells for less than 50 cents, according to a panel of technologists at ARM TechCon. SoCs will need new kinds of memories, connectivity and sensors to scale to dimensions the IoT will demand, but the path to get there is still unclear, they said.

Today's SRAM and flash memories, Bluetooth interfaces and sensors consume too much power to serve volume IoT nodes in 2027, the panelists said. They sketched out a few possibilities for what may replace them.

Ideally, a 2027 end-node SoC will consume just 10µW/MHz and send and transmit data on a radio drawing only 1 or 2mW, said Jason Hillyard, a director of software in ARM's wireless group. His "slideware SoC" used a new architecture built of subthreshold circuits suited for its energy-harvesting power source.

One of the widest chasms in getting to such a device is the lack of suitable memories, said Lucian Shifren, a senior principal research engineer at ARM.

"Memory energy is a major problem going forward," Shifren said. "Everyone is betting on ReRAM and STT to replace SRAM and flash, but I don't think either one will work … and I don't see any viable replacements out there," he said, noting STT is expensive and uses too much write energy, while ReRAM and phase-change alternatives use relatively high voltages.

ARM has made test chips using new memories based on academic research, said Mike Muller, ARM's chief technologist in an interview with EE Times. However, he declined to share any milestones from the test chips.

To read the full article, go to EE Times.

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