IoT, Healthcare and 5G: Are we ready?

BY PETE SINGER, Editor-in-Chief

Imagine the world in 2020, only five years from now. If predictions hold true, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet (creating the Internet of Things), through smart homes, smart cities, smart factories, smart everything.
Two recent Cisco studies show that $19 trillion in IoT value is at stake in the private ($14.4 trillion) and public ($4.6 trillion) sectors. The studies see, for example, $2.5 trillion in value from better use of assets, improving execution and capital efficiency, and reducing expenses and cost of goods sold.

In 2020, cars could be driving themselves and people could be monitoring their health through a variety of smartwatches and other wearables. And, of course, smartphones will continue to proliferate.

5G could also become a reality as early as 2020 (some estimate it will be later, perhaps 2025). Carriers’ base stations can handle hundreds of simultaneous users now, but that’s not enough to accommodate the billions of new devices that will hook into the Internet of Things. Some estimate that equipment makers will need to increase base station connectivity capacity by a factor of 1,000.

How all of this will impact the semiconductor industry remains to be seen. Certainly, it will be a boon to the trailing-edge technology (i.e., 65nm and above). It will also be beneficial to the RF and microwave arena. Consider RF chips in smartphones. Instead of 30-40 cents for RF chips in a 2G phone, chipmakers will see $2 to $3 in a lower-end 3G smartphone. It then rises to $4 to $6 for a mid-tier LTE smartphone and $10-plus for high-end global LTE smartphones. No estimate yet on 5G smartphones, but it’s sure to be more.

It’s almost sure to create even more demand for the very leading edge semiconductor chip, such as those found in the high end servers used to crunch huge amounts of data in “the cloud.”

Where companies seem to be struggling now is with integration and packaging. It’s not yet clear if the existing infrastructure will be able to adequately address the rapidly evolving needs of new markets, such as wearables. But that’s a good kind of problem to have.


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