Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Fashionable IP Takes the Stage
Recent events hosted separately by Apple and Intel emphasized the need for IP designers to cast a discerning eye at the wearable market.
While the Internet-of-Things (IoT) has undoubtedly become an overused buzzword by media and corporate public relation (PR) firms, that shouldn’t diminish its relevance. Consider the recent announcements at major Apple and Intel events.
Last week, Apple’s annual iLaunch unveiled the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. That same day and not far away, Intel showcased their own goals for the IoT space by emphasizing wearable smart watches plus fashionable electronic couture. What does this have to do with semiconductor IP?
Plenty, if you believe the predictions such as those from Markets-and-Markets that peg the global wearable electronics market revenue at $8 billion, and the total unit shipment is expected to cross 130 million units globally, by 2018.
Such growth and increased system-on-chip (SoC) diversity in the wearable space is mirrored in larger numbers by the entire IoT space. All of which will present renewed challenges to silicon hardware and “software” IP developers in terms of overall connectivity and the hardware-software interplay.
For example, at IDF, Intel stated a goal of eliminating all cables from PCs in the near future. Eliminating cables means increasing wireless connectivity, which in turn means greater reliance on analog mixed signal and RF IP. It also means more 3D stacked dies since analog designs don’t scale to the same degree as digital one. [Side note: Warren Savage at IPExtreme is writing an article for Chipestimate.com on how 3D Stacking will affect future IP.]
The role of application-level software also played a big role in the show announcements from both IDF and Apple. Most hardware (silicon) designers think of IP software in terms of high-level language like RTL, C++, Verilog or VHDL for modeling and development. However (and this is critical), to the rest of the world this definition of software is mostly meaningless. (see, “Soft (Hardware) and Software IP Rule the IoT”). The semantic differences in the word software lead to a discussion of models that will have to wait for another blog.
Designing for Fashion
When most consumers think about wearables, they envision smart glasses, watches and heath monitors like the Fitbit. But wearables span a vast market. For example, IDF showcased a number of wearables devices in the watch, health monitoring device and fashion areas. It is in fashion that the sensibilities of engineers often clash with the seemingly inscrutable desires of fashion. But the business realities are perhaps the biggest design constraint. Wearables with technology have to compete directly against other non-technology enabled fashions, explained Matthew Woolsey from Barney’s of NY during the IDF “The Next Revolution in Computing” keynote. This means that designers need to think about the end products of their devices. As Intel’s Mike Bell said, ‘People want beautiful devices not just technology.” And some of these devices and fashion applications were wild.
One of the more provocative wearable fashions was a voice and emotion activated dress. A Dutch designer named Anouk Wipprecht highlighted her ‘Synapse’ mind-controlled dress powered by Intel® Edison. The LEDs embedded in the dress change in pattern and intensity in response to the wearer’s concentration and physical surroundings.
Intelligent jewelry was another form of wearable fashion on display at IDF. My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, combined semiprecious gems and water snakeskin within a bracelet of advanced technology. Aside from it fashionable design, the bracelet included communication electronics and wireless charging support. Both wrist accessories were designed by Opening Ceremony and were based on the Intel Edison IoT platform.
There were many other unique IoT applications showcased at IDF, but it was the fashion aspects that seemed to take center stage.