The past 18 months have seen unprecedented market change brought on by the global pandemic - which, like dropping a stone in a pond, will continue to create expanding ripples of change throughout the industry.
One such ripple has been the global shortage of ICs, affecting the electronics industry and the worldwide economy. As the world heads back to normality after the pandemic, the primary concern of most governments has been to reboot their economies - but as the IC crisis deepens and more manufacturers are affected, the shortage may inevitably slow down economic recovery.
Like many other companies, Winbond has adapted its strategic product and technology plans considering the changing circumstances. Although the thought was that industry demand would decline as factories sent thousands of workers home to curb the infection's growth, the exact opposite has happened with the demand for chips soaring.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) estimated that worldwide semiconductor industry sales were $40.0 billion for January 2021, an increase of 13.2% over the January 2020 total of $35.3 billion and before any lockdowns began. The same organisation found that global semiconductor industry sales were $439.0 billion for the whole of 2020, an increase of 6.5% over 2019.
Looking towards 2022 and beyond, we see the most significant growth coming from several key markets.
Increased AI applications
AI in IoT devices – we expect to see more examples of technology simulating intelligent behaviours and decision making with less (or no) human interaction. Also, expect more AI in Computer Information Systems (CIS) enabling higher and faster facial/object recognition rates.
Winbond’s HyperRAM has been designed for such applications with its ability to operate at a maximum frequency of 200MHz and provide a maximum data-transfer rate of 400MB/s with either 3.3V or 1.8V operation voltage. It also offers ultra-low power consumption in operating and hybrid sleep modes.
Take Winbond's 64Mb HyperRAM as an example; at, in room temperature, the standby power consumption is 70uW at 1.8V, and most importantly, power consumption of HyperRAM has only 35uW at 1.8V in Hybrid Sleep Mode. In addition, HyperRAM has only 13 signal pins, which can greatly simplify the PCB layout design.
When design engineers are developing new end products, it allows the MPUs to have more pins out for other purposes or using MPUs with fewer pins for enhanced cost-effectiveness.
In addition, Winbond's early response to this emerging trend was the development of OctalNAND Flash memory. The first OctalNAND Flash device (the 1Gbit W35N01JW) set a new benchmark for the Read performance of NAND Flash technology: a maximum Continuous Read throughput of 240Mbytes/s, three times faster than Winbond's earlier high-performance W25N-JW QspiNAND Flash family, and almost 10 times faster than general QspiNAND Flash products currently on the market.
At this level of performance, OctalNAND Flash could be the alternative solution for Octal NOR Flash with limited loss of Read performance, and at a lower cost-per-bit at densities higher than 512Mbits.
Winbond's HyperRAM’s small density with high bandwidth and low power consumption can deliver AI and AIoT computing efficiency. OctalNAND Flash, on the other hand, offering another solution for Octal NOR Flash, will be used for storing large code bases by robots and other systems that utilise AI and machine learning capabilities going forward.
5G and beyond
5G driven applications such as Wi-Fi 6 will deliver better upload/downloading speeds as file sizes continue to increase, along with demands for high data to stream high-quality video, not only for gaming but also for security for PON and IP Cams.
Winbond's DRAM provides IP cameras and camera drones manufacturers with LPDDR3 DRAM. Offering the high bandwidth, high-resolution video systems will require easier integration into end-product designs compared to the LPDDR4 or LPDDR5 generations of DRAM technology.
ADAS in automotive
The most significant market growth for Winbond will be in the automotive market. We know that electronics play a vital role in almost every part of the modern vehicle, from the body to the powertrain to the infotainment system. As consumers demand more innovation in advanced safety, security, infotainment, comfort, and convenience features and fuel economy standards keep increasing, future generations of vehicles will have an even more significant number of electronic components.
It is increasingly important that the core technology, such as flash memory, meets the highest level of security and safety standards.
Threats from hackers will continue to become increasingly sophisticated, forcing semiconductor manufacturers to develop more modern approaches to thwart these attacks quickly and effectively.
When it comes to safety and security, NOR Flash plays an essential role in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), and in today’s cars is already performing semi-autonomous highway-driving functions such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping.
The pace of development in autonomous driving technology is swift. In the next few years, more and more of a vehicle's activity will be controlled by electronics systems containing Flash.
In ADAS, as well as in the instrument cluster and elsewhere, Flash is a component in safety-critical systems: an uncontrolled failure of such a system would have the potential to render the vehicle unsafe or uncontrollable!
Winbond’s W75F Secure Memory Element is compliant with the AEC-Q100 and is also officially certified Common Criteria EAL5+ and ASIL-D. It provides fault detection capabilities covering more than 99.9% of failures ranging from flash array cells, through the physical interface, and all the way to the host. The safety rating for the W75F surpasses that of internal embedded Flash memories while offering much more storage capacity that can potentially be scaled up to even higher densities.
The W75F is also suitable for automotive platforms, which have to meet stringent requirements for security and functional safety.
Winbond is the only flash vendor with the proven capability of designing devices that can bridge the gap between high safety and high security levels without compromising either.
The effects of the chip shortage will continue well into the future. It has damaged long-existing supply chains and forced companies to adapt their just-in-time philosophy to new conditions. Maintaining a close partnership with suppliers remains, as always, a good business strategy.
Looking to IDMs as a source for the future could benefit product designers in more ways than just having a reliable supplier. It could put you at the front of the queue in challenging times like these and ensure you are first to know about changes in the industry.
Author details: Johnson Chen is Senior Director, Winbond