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What board-level technologies will be game-changers in the near future?

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:02am

Nicholas IlyadisNicholas Ilyadis, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Broadcom’s Infrastructure and Networking Group

In the case of long-term infrastructure planning, it is essential to consider how network function virtualization (NFV), will impact and enable data centers in the next five to 10 years. NFV is an ideal alternative to traditional networking solutions, as it allows organizations to upgrade infrastructure as their needs evolve instead of taking the ineffective 'guess and check' approach. With NFV, network functions are implemented in software; thus, they can be easily moved to, or instantiated in, various locations in the network without having to install new equipment.

NFV also is flexible, cost-effective, scalable, and secure. With these benefits, NFV addresses several trends shaping SP networks:

Flexibility: Operators looking to quickly deploy new services require a much more flexible and adaptable network — one that can be easily and quickly installed and provisioned.
Cost: Cost is a top consideration for any operator or service provider these days, even more so now that they see Google and others deploying massive datacenters using off-the-shelf merchant silicon (commoditized hardware) as a way to drive down cost. Cost is also reflected in opex — how easy it is to deploy and maintain services in the network.
Scalability: To adapt quickly to users’ changing needs and provide new services, operators must be able to scale their network architecture across multiple servers, rather than being limited by what a single box can do.
Security: Security has been, and continues to be, a major challenge in networking. Operators want to be able to provision and manage the network while allowing their customers to run their own virtual space and firewall securely within the network.
Virtualization in another SP network: To meet customers’ needs better, service providers want the ability to substantiate their service anywhere in the world using virtualization.

Brad BullingtonBrad Bullington, CEO of Bridgelux

Integrated networking. It isn’t just going to change lighting. It is going to change the world.

From a very high level, there are three massive benefits from solid state lighting. First, solid-state lighting devices are simply superior to incandescents. A single 11 watt LED bulb provides as much light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb and lasts 10X longer, if not more.

Second, they emit better light. Retailers report that sales increase after LEDs are integrated into a building. People and merchandise simply look better under LEDs. Potato greening and food spoilage are less of an issue.

The third benefit comes in the form of networking. LEDs are chips: they are born to be connected.  Networking can increase overall power savings from the 50 to 60% level to 90% over conventional systems.   In some tests, energy managers are finding that employees use networks to lower light levels (and save more energy) than even facilities managers. The message is loud and clear: let there be less light.

Networked lighting can also supplement customer service applications, security systems and even traffic management systems.

Most lights, however, exist as standalone devices. Only 18% of lights in U.S. office buildings are connected to building management systems, and most of these don’t allow for dynamic dimming: they just turn lights off and on at set times.

Integrated networking will fundamentally change the picture by making networking both ubiquitous and inexpensive. We’ve seen this in technology before. Wireless networks were exotic until Intel delivered an integrated package that manufacturers could just slide into device designs. Cell phone cameras went from exclusive to everywhere in two years, and laid the groundwork for companies like Instagram.

The IT industry has been driven by integration. We’re going to see the same in lighting.

Paul Scheidt, leader of product marketing, LED Components, Cree, Inc.

As the industry moves toward more integrated solutions such as LED arrays, designers no longer have to start from scratch and arrange discrete LEDs onto a printed circuit board and develop a driver to match it. By integrating the LEDs into arrays such as the Cree CXA family of LED arrays, designers can simplify the process by giving them a well-defined set of specifications that will provide a clear path to driver compatibility.

To some, the future of chip-on-board (COB) technologies may have already arrived with high-density arrays. Their high lumen output from a compact light emitting surface (LES), combined with high efficacy are driving the industry to realize new, simplified design possibilities at reduced costs. But for high-density COB arrays to become standard, the industry must embrace a shift in thinking that’s dominated it for years. One idea we’ve proposed at Cree is optical control factor (OCF), a metric for directional lighting that captures the essential concept of the combination of performance and size. For a COB array, scaled area means the area of the LES. A measurement of how LED size and performance benefit directional lighting applications, OCF allows manufacturers, as a result of tighter beam angles and higher candela, to develop a new spectrum of system design options using COB arrays that lead to higher performance and lower cost.

Rather than measuring performance solely based on traditional mid-power LED metrics like lumens per watt or lumens per dollar, Cree measures its XLamp® CXA family of high-density LED arrays by OCF. By emitting more than 15,500 lumens from a 19 mm source, the Cree CXA2590, for example, enables luminaires with the same center beam candle power light quality of a 150-watt CMH light source at lower power, longer lifetime and with better control. As a result, designers can appropriately match the array with the desired application – from commercial downlights to outdoor lighting. The most important factor for the next generation of board-level technology lies in the ways in which we leverage OCF and utilize lumens.

Cliff OrtmeyerCliff Ortmeyer, Global Solutions Development Manager, Newark element14

The biggest industry “game changer” right now is the wave of devices that are focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) control. The next few years are going to be all about board-level components that better enable IoT development, specifically miniaturization and power efficiency. Any truly innovative technology will not be an immediate industry game changer, but the next generation low-power sensors and wireless devices are two established solutions making inroads. Enhancements and better accessibility to these devices, as well as increased functionality, are the key drivers for IoT and M2M.

We are seeing more IoT-inspired low-power sensors and wireless platforms for several reasons. First and foremost, they are cost efficient and more effective. The existing high-volume applications of these devices – such as pressure gauges for automotive tires, accelerometers and gyroscopes in mobile phones – are lowering their associated costs. This resulting lowering of costs is helping to pave the way for newer niche or targeted applications that include all forms of sensors, especially MEMS sensors. Secondly, newer, more energy-efficient wireless modules and processors are being created – like those included in the EnOcean Sensor Kit that come integrated with transceivers that use ultra-low power energy to transmit signals via kinetic energy. Applications which rely heavily on all sensor types – pressure, temperature, motion, light and location – will also become more common thanks to these power saving enhancements to WiFi, Bluetooth, radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC) devices. 

Wearable technology, a major trend for mobile sensing, will usher in significant developments in areas that include health and fitness, as well as retail and entertainment applications. Smart homes, industrial automation and commercial environments will drive increased applications in energy monitoring and control. Mobile phones and tablets will continue to be the key hub consolidating all of this data, but the type of applications they will monitor will greatly expand thanks to IoT and M2M.

Last but not least, the access to low-cost development kits and community-supported development projects has become a key catalyst for engineers learning how to implement all of these “game changing” solutions into their designs.

James J. Wang, Founder, Power Gold LLC

Electronics shrink, increase performance and reduce cost.  Trends are environmentally friendly, wearable electronics and higher power density.  Discrete components have shrunk to sizes where we will cut weight plus cost of packaging and simply embed bare devices inside printed circuit boards.  We produce integrate circuits on wafers.  We will produce integrated circuits inside boards too. 

Inductors, transformers, SiC, GaN, sensors, MEMS, super-capacitors plus others are too difficult to integrate all on one silicon wafer.  Inductors with thin magnetic cores up to mH values, SiC power transistors, LED diodes, etc. are all embedded inside 0.8 mm FPCs (31 mils thick flex circuit board).  Thin-film integrated circuits are attached to a bendable heat sink. 

Embedding devices into flexible circuit boards is possible versus inside rigid PCBs, MCPCB or ceramics.  Furthermore, flex circuits are thinnest, lightest weight and bends.  Flex circuits have finer copper lines/spaces and tiny vias as compared to PCBs.  Polyimide is inert; in the human body as implants.  Polyimide survives temperatures to 425C (800F).  Polyimide had been processed with environmentally green gold-tin TAB at 340C, had bonded bumps below 60 microns pitch and well proven for decades in harsh environments as deep space.  Waste heat conducts faster through thinner materials.  One can attach aluminum heat sink onto surfaces of flex circuits to dissipate hundreds of watts.  Less raw materials consumed, fewer manufacturing steps and minimum toxic waste at end-of-life.
PCB is cheap but eventually thin-film electronics will become cheaper. 

I started working inside 3.25” silicon IC wafer fab in 1979.  Electronics continue to shrink across entire supply chain.  Integrating and shrinking at the board level is beginning.  Ten kilo-watt power electronics including heat sink will weigh less than kilogram or 2 pounds.

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