Page 6

EETE DEC 2015

by money in some way because as resources become scarce they go up in price. One possible outcome would be significantly higher and progressive charges from Internet Service Providers used to meet government levies to pay for investment in power generation, which is effectively a tax. The progressive nature of the charges means that smallscale users of the Internet, emailers and so on, will attract low charges but excessive users will be charged at a higher rate. And lest you think that this is all unlikely, be aware that Pakistan introduced a 14 percent tax on Internet usage in July 2015,; that legislative battles over taxes on the digital economy are being fought in the US Congress and in 2014 public protests forced the scrapping of a draft law in Hungary to levy a fee on each gigabyte of Internet data transferred. All that said electronics engineers have a clear opportunity and a responsibility to develop energy-efficient solutions for the benefit of future generations. And reading the two books in the CHIPS 2020 series is a good place to start that task. Starting all over again on plastic: ARM By Julien Happich Reviewing over 30 years of ARM’s history during ARM TechCon, CTO Mike Muller put side by side the ARM1 designed at the 3000nm (3μm) node with 25k transistors and the Cortex M0’s 48k transistors now designed at the 20nm node. And to better put things in perspective, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the company’s founding, Muller had set to pick 2μm design rules to build a small SoC around a Cortex M0 and exhibit the result to the conference attendees. “You don’t put many SoCs on a six-inch wafer at the 2μm node ”, he said, showing a nearly transparent sheet with about 5 or 6 “dies”, each holding the Cortex M0 and enough memory and enough I/Os to boot and make an LED flash. But as Muller flexed the wafer back and forth, he revealed the Cortex M0 blocks had been built on a sheet of plastic, using plastic transistors instead of silicon. “It’s pretty slow, it’s nMOS, we haven’t got to CMOS yet, so its power dissipation is not the best, but it’s about the thickness Moore’s law for imprinting, moving from compact disks to DVD to Blu-ray of cling film” Muller added, hinting that such designs could be used to run very low power IoT applications integrated into packaging. The CTO then shared his expectations of Moore’s law for imprint technology, the technology used to implement these circuits in plastic, establishing a parallel with the move from CDs, to DVDs to Blu-ray as finer imprint resolutions are achieved. The roadmap read as if a Cortex-A5 would be next in line by 2020 with sub-micron design rules. Of course, Muller doesn’t see plastic electronics compete with silicon (as on a performance level, plastic would always be about 20 years behind he commented), but he confirmed ARM’s appetence to start all over again with plastic electronics, as it could open up new applications for IoT and vastly expand its licensing model. This is a natural progression from ARM’s recent investments in PragmatIC Printing, a company developing imprint technology for plastic electronics. Reached over the phone, PragmatIC Printing’s CEO Scott White confirmed that the roadmap was representative of his company’s efforts to shrink circuits, though, the timescale was not so clear cut according to him, depending on resources and business drivers. ARM is clearly focusing on digital implementations, but with imprint technology, you could have side by side and at no extra cost, larger analogue parts complementing finer digital blocks. PragmatIC Printing is busy developing a library of analogue components too, quite elementary for now, but something it hopes to widen over time. So in the hope of expanding its licensing business to analogue and sensor-driven plastic IoT applications, would ARM start to mix analogue and digital IP in its offering? ARM’s CTO Mike Muller showing plastic SoCs. The future will tell. 6 Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE DEC 2015
To see the actual publication please follow the link above