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Neeraj Sharma

Neeraj is spearheading growth at Spreadtrum India and is responsible for corporate strategic planning and implementing strategic goals and objectives for India & Asian region. He has spent over a decade and a half across semiconductor companies and has rich experience in new business development and overseas customer support. An avid reader, Neeraj enjoys reading many of John C. Maxwell’s books. Neeraj is passionate about technology and spirituality and devotes much of his free time to both.

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Vision 2020: What the Chipset Industry Will Look Like In Future?

Chipsets have come a long way since the advent of single core smartphones which dotted the mobile landscape.

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When Gordon Moore first postulated ‘Moore’s Law’ way back in the 1960s, he couldn’t have foreseen exactly how the emerging field of semiconductors and electronic circuits would shape up in the future. With his theory having since become the fundamental principle governing the evolution of integrated circuits for more than 50 years, processors have become smaller, faster, and more powerful with consecutive iterations. It is now possible for us to carry in our pockets electronic devices far more powerful than most computers were barely a decade back.

These rapid progresses made in the field of electronics – specifically chipsets – have been at the core of every technological development, from computers to laptops to smartphones and wearables, and are the foundation stone upon which the current digital revolution is being built. Multiple industry forecasts predict that more than 6 billion people across the world will own a smartphone by 2020. But as we celebrate past achievements and future innovations, it bodes industry players well to take a look at where the mobile chipset sector is at now, and how it will shape up in the near future.

Chipsets have come a long way since the advent of single core smartphones which dotted the mobile landscape. Rapid evolutions and breakthroughs mean that dual-core and quad-core processors are extremely common in most smartphones available within low to medium price ranges today, while octa-core and deca-core processors are finding greater application at the higher end of the smartphone spectrum.

Smaller, faster, better:
The shift towards smaller processor sizes
Most of this innovation has been powered by the need to carry high-performance, faster devices with high-speed digital connectivity in the palm of one’s hand. As a result, mobile chipsets are fast evolving beyond the 18-nanometer process technology that used to be the norm a few years back. The industry has already achieved 14-nanometre processes, while most experts expect the introduction of commercially viable chipsets manufactured with seven-nanometre processes to be available by either late 2018 or early 2019. Several chipset manufacturers are already eyeing the once-impossible element size of five nanometres by the end of 2020.

What does this mean?
For one, more processing power and faster processing speeds; these chipsets will exponentially increase the processing power available to smartphone manufacturers, which in turn will make it possible for app developers to develop and launch more feature-driven applications that heighten the end-user experience. Resource utilisation is also expected to improve with this enhancement in chipset design, thereby providing a solution to one of the most apparent problems with smartphones – energy consumption and efficiency.

5G connectivity to become a tangible reality

The rapid development of high-performance chipsets also gives rise to the possibility of high-frequency spectrum, millimetre wave-based 5G connectivity becoming a tangible reality in the near future. The introduction of 5G will herald incredibly smooth and fast connectivity, which will aid in more immersive delivery of services and features over a digital medium. Collaborative efforts are already being made by major chipset and smartphone manufacturers to leverage this exciting opportunity, with prototypes expected to be available in the market by early 2019.

Moving onto an interconnected world with the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is one of the most exciting areas of opportunity that the digital revolution has unlocked. Think on the possibilities: a house that senses its owners’ arrival and only opens for the authorised person, a smartphone which can help users in remotely connecting to other devices at home or at the workplace to get things done on-the-go, a smart car which knows where its owner wants to go – the list is endless.

All this would require specially designed processors which allow IoT devices to function smoothly and efficiently. The chipset industry has been experimenting with various ultra-low power chipset configurations which can make machine-to-machine communication possible through fog computing. The prospective application of such chipsets will in particular be of interest to the automobile industry, which has been looking to improve urban mobility and driver convenience by integrating technology into their operations.

Artificial Intelligence will become the real deal
As the world continues its rapid migration onto neural networks, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and heuristic/deep learning algorithms for any and all day-to-day activities, there is a need for processing competencies far greater than what most processors are currently capable of. There is, therefore, a growing demand for chipsets which come pre-equipped with AI capabilities and can handle the vast amounts of data that such operations will demand in negligible time. Many leading chipset manufacturers as well as IT leaders already have research operations in place to develop chips which can do much more in significantly less time and power the AI engines of the future.

Focus on making digital payments more secure and accessible
With online rapidly establishing itself as the new place to be for an exponentially increasing chunk of the global population, digital payments have registered massive growth in the past couple of years. This growth, however, has also led to a lot of security red flags. Most digital devices used by consumers to make online transactions do not support hardware-level security, something which raises the risk of their confidential financial information being compromised. This aspect is something which chipset manufacturers are addressing by partnering with digital payments processing companies for enabling enhanced security at a hardware level through technologies like iris scanning and biometric recognition.

Making innovation available to the masses
What is perhaps the most promising aspect of the mobile chipset industry’s future outlook, however, is the benefit it will bring to the common consumer. While state-of-the-art technology is being explored by the industry, what is novel today will become tomorrow’s norm. This means that 4G-enabled chipsets, such as ARM 64-bit processors with an integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) implementation, will be adapted and implemented in a host of tablets and smartphones on the lower end of the price spectrum. Chipset manufacturers will look to create faster design cycles with a lower development cost in order to make it possible for the benefits of technology to reach the masses. Digital migration will receive a big boost, as everyone everywhere will be empowered with devices capable of meeting their needs and requirements at affordable and value-driven price points.

And to think it all started out with transistors.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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