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Makimoto's Wave suggests a new brand of technology will be along shortly

Dr Tsugio Makimoto is one of the legends of the semiconductor industry; a man with more than 40 years of experience under his belt, including a stretch as Sony's chief technology officer. As you might expect, he knows a thing or two.

He is recognised for defining a theory which has since become known as Makimoto's Wave. In much the same way as Gordon Moore looked at the data and deduced the progression that has since been enshrined as Moore's Law, Dr Makimoto discerned that the electronics industry moves in 10 year cycles. After each of these cycles, the technology from standardisation to customisation – hence the wave.

He saw the cycle starting in the mid 1950s with discrete components (standard), moving on to LSIs (custom) for tvs in the mid 1960s, memories and microprocessors (standard) followed in the mid 1970s, with asics (custom) in the mid 1980s. The next cycles saw the rise of field programmable devices (standard) in the mid 1990s and SoCs/SiPs (custom) in the mid 2000s. The start of the next cycle – 2017, to be exact – is approaching rapidly; if the wave theory holds, we should be looking for a standard technology.

The swing between standardisation and customisation is driven by conflicting factors – differentiation, power and performance, for example, push towards a custom solution, while time to market, cost and so on push towards a standard solution.

So what might be the standard technology that sustains the next decade of the electronics industry? Dr Makimoto suggests the concept of highly flexible super integration (HFSI). The reason? As devices push towards ever smaller process dimensions, fragmented markets and horrendous design costs mean SoCs or custom devices become increasingly unaffordable at the leading edge, unless you have a consumer product with a vast market, and unfeasible on trailing edge processes.

HFSI might see devices in which a number of technologies are integrated – fpga, mcu and memory, for example. HFSI looks like it describes standard products which can be customised, and there is already evidence with Xilinx' Zynq that Makimoto-san could be on the right track.

Graham Pitcher

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