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Wearables, IoT spark demand for low-power memory

Posted: 12 Jun 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:JEDEC  low-power memory  Internet of Things  wearable  smartphone 

On top of the prevailing requirements of today's smartphones and tablets, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices are putting even more pressure on memory to consume less power. In fact, they each also have other specific needs.

Requirements vary significantly with IoT, according to Hung Vuong, chair of JEDEC's JC-42.6 Subcommittee for Low Power Memories. Criteria such as packaging and size, integration, interface, low power, low voltage, density, performance and temperature are all factors. Beyond smartphones and tablets, there are consistent needs driving demand for lower power memory from all industries, he said, including the automotive and the wearables industry, albeit to different degrees.

For wearables and sensors, for example, density and performance are not necessarily the driving requirements. Typically, Vuong noted, these devices do not have high-level output specifications, nor do they need to store large amounts of content. The major drivers for these applications typically are size, power and simplicity. He said JEDEC's approach to addressing new use-cases for low-power memory has always been demand driven. As these use cases mature in the market, JEDEC will establish a committee or technical group to address them as needed by the industry.

"What the industry is trying to do is take your laptop computer or your tablet or smartphone and shrink it down so it fits on your eyes, your wrist, any other part of your body," indicated IDC analyst Ramon Ramirez, who covers the emerging wearables segment. One of the big challenges, he said, is how to make these devices last more than one day. "No one wants a wearable that they have to take off and charge multiple times a day."

Add to that the sensors, the UI, and the overall experience requirements. "The pressure this puts on memory is absolutely tremendous," stated Ramirez. The first generation of wearables such as Fitbits and Pebble watches are very simple, he added, but they are the blueprints of what's to come. The future smart watch is going to be essentially a smartphone in a smaller form factor. "When it comes to the second- or third-generation devices, we're going to ask them to do a lot more."

Ramirez said memory for smartphones and tablets is fairly commoditised and standardised, but given the variety of use cases for wearables and IoT, devices are going to be very application-specific, and it's unlikely one vendor will be able to meet all the needs of every device.

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