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IoT Chip Design: Not One Size Fits All

The internet of things (IoT) isn’t as preternatural a creature as you might think, but that doesn’t mean its definition is cut out of bricks and mortar. Broadly, it can be defined as devices that share their sensor states with the internet, so the more gadgets are added to the mix, the more sensors diversify. Semiconductor design is evolving to achieve greater processing power, more off-chip memory types, and embedded security. The industry is thus becoming thrillingly specialized.

The Problem With Convention

Traditional platforms must offer wireless and sensor fusion support, but hardware security support is quickly becoming invaluable. Conventional microcontrollers have their place, but they simply don’t offer enough power efficiency, so they’re evolving to incorporate features like preconfigured mutual authentication and improved power consumption. IoT devices are expected to rise by 5.4 billion by 2020, and researchers are desperately trying to come up with a chip design that offers enough power efficiency to match this growth.

The Era of Customization

Why design your own chip if you can find one that can be customized to suit your needs? Even mobile devices don’t suit a single solution, so integrated circuit designs are becoming less exclusive. To suit the ecosystem, low cost prototyping is becoming a necessary strategy. This way, samples and the like can be created to suit small businesses who lack capital.

The market was once dominated by standard microcontrollers, but specialized processes suited to 65nm and 90nm are becoming popular.

The Challenge

Chip design for IoT is no easy process, and connected devices aren’t expected to earn more revenue than data and analytics in the near future. This demands a chip that can make do with severe profit margins, but all that price pressure will have one outstanding result: a flourishing market bursting with IoT chip innovations.

For a thorough discussion of the diverse design and application considerations for IoT chips, read What Does An IoT Chip Look Like?