CES 2013: The brains behind smart devices are front and center

by Todd Traylor, Vice President of Global Trading for Smith & Associates.

Consumer devices and cutting-edge tech make Consumer Electronics Show (CES) exciting; this year’s show stealers are the components that power it all. If you have any doubt look to center stage and Qualcomm’s opening keynote.

To those embedded (pun intended) in the semiconductor and electronics industry, Qualcomm is not a surprise keynote presenter. But CES is about the consumer, and their keynote highlighted what’s really at the core of consumer electronics’ (CE) success: powerful components. Components, after all, enable the innovative feature capabilities, mobility, power efficiency, and the integration of hardware and software, all which make CE devices "smart."   

Get smarter

The innovation behind the expanding class of smart devices (from phones to cars and all that is between) is the component breakthroughs from manufacturers – the processors, microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) and sensor hubs, and the chips that are the brains, communication, and power of the devices.

Qualcomm unveiled their Snapdragon 800 and 600 series, processors designed for a range of mobile devices. The 800 series, manufactured using 28nm architecture, enables the integration of the new Krait 400, quad-core CPU with each core running at 2.3GHz, the new Adreno 330 GPU, 4G LTE, and 802.11ac WiFi, all with reduced power consumption, due in part to the smaller and more integrated chipset; the Snapdragon 600 series has similar architecture but slower speeds. The user experiences fast processing power for the next generation of smart devices, but at the level of traditional PCs, with the added benefits of always-on, always-connected plus the enhanced graphics and fast data communication speeds.

Nvidia’s latest Tegra 4 and Samsung’s Exynos 5 are among the direct competitors to the Snapdragon series . Nvidia’s Tegra 4 boasts 72 GPU cores in addition to the powerful quad-core Cortex A15 CPU, code-named "Wayne," for processing plus an additional low-power Cortex A15 running background tasks. The Tegra 4 CPU combination improves power use, essential in today’s devices, while integrating the CPU and GPU to improve performance and signal processing, important for graphics in digital cameras.

Tough competition improves CE field

At CES we see the envelope pushed to  be the  fastest, lightest, smallest, most efficient, best integrated, or first-mover. Intel scooped CES with the announcement of the new, quad-core, 22nm, Atom processor, Bay Trail, due this year to compete with ARM processors in mobile. Beyond speed, Bay Trail is only 8mm thick and enables all-day battery-life, essential to both mobile and Ultrabooks. AMD is showcasing its new Temash chip, based on the Jaguar CPU core, designed for tablets to support long battery life, HD graphics, powerful processing for full-applications for business productivity, as opposed to the reduced capabilities found mostly today. AMD’s Kabini chips are also on display, designed for the new line of low-powered laptops with A8 and A10 quad-core chips. These advances will support Ultrabook adoption in 2013 as prices decreases and features increase.

Expanded connectivity is also CES theme this year, such as Broadcom’s "Connected Life," enhancing consumer experiences in the home, car, and across wired and wireless devices. Pushing connectivity moves CE toward a unified experience as users move through environments. It also paves the growth path for NFC opportunities, content sharing, and allows for the latest in seamless "whole-home connectivity" through Broadcom’s  4th-generation, Gigabit DOCSIS system-on-chip (SoC) series, and dedicated SoC solutions for the fastest TV, internet, and mobile connected solutions.

Another set of breakthroughs comes from Atmel XSense™ flexible touch sensor, winner of CES’ Innovations Award in the Embedded Technologies. Flexible touchscreens are certain to be a desired feature in next-gen mobile devices, and Atmel’s expertise in sensor hubs and innovative material designs will ensure success.

Opportunities for everyone

One final note, it is not just the high-end CE devices that are targeted at CES. There is more attention this year to low-cost solutions designed for the emerging markets, which are set for double-digit growth for these devices, provided low-price points are met.

Author biography:

Todd Traylor began his career with Smith in 1997 in OEM sales, and was promoted to Trading Manager in 1999. In 2001, he transferred to The Netherlands to serve as General Manager of Smith’s Amsterdam office, and was promoted to Managing Director of Europe for Smith in 2002. Todd was named CPU Commodity Manager upon returning to Houston in 2003, and in 2012 was promoted to Vice President of Global Trading. Todd is a 1991 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Management.


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