digital transformation

A look at the decade in technology 2010-2019

We have had another interesting decade! While it was not so engrossing as the 2000s, there were several developments worth mentioning.

Mobile Internet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Back in late 2000, at the ITU World Telecom event in Hong Kong, the first mobile phones with Internet browsing were being touted. Back then, mobile Internet was all the rage! As, were 3G and Bluetooth! This was the 3G technology based on W-CDMA and also, TD-SCDMA. Those were also the days when ‘WAP is CRAP’ made more headlines, and bore the brunt of many ‘telecom jokes’! Today, we can’t even imagine a life without the mobile Internet! And, we are greatly bothered if we can’t access a page on our mobiles!!

In early 2002, I wrote an article for Electronics Business Manufacturing Asia (EBN Asia), Singapore, on Bluetooth, which was still trying to find its bearings. I can’t locate that article anymore! Some of the comments are worth remembering. One comment was whether Bluetooth and Wi-Fi could co-exist! Today, the world is very much into launching Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1!

March 2011, we witnessed the Japanese earthquake. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami stunned the global electronics and semiconductor industries!

The preliminary assessment of Texas Instruments’ manufacturing sites in Japan revealed that the fab in Miho suffered substantial damage during the earthquake.  Sony Group Operations were said to have been affected by the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and related power outages. For Elpida, the Hiroshima Plant suffered little impact as it is located in Hiroshima in the southwest of Japan. Iwate Toshiba Electronics did not report any casualties, but as of March 15, there was power lost, with limited partial recovery to start from March 13. As of March 15, 12:00pm, seven factories out of 22 of the Renesas Group’s factories in Japan temporarily shut down production.

The Shin-Etsu group reported that as of 1pm, March 15 (Japan Time), necessary inspections were carried out at Shin-Etsu Chemical Kashima Plant (Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture) and Shin-Etsu Handotai Shirakawa Plant (Nishigo Village, Fukushima Prefecture), both of which were out of operations. Mitsui Chemicals Group reported the effects of the Kanto-Tohoku earthquake on its operations. At its Ichihara Works (Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture), production at the ethylene plants was according to schedule. The operations at Mitsui DuPont Polychemicals and Chiba Phenol plants were suspended since the earthquake. At the Mobara Branch Factory (Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture), operations at acrylamide and paint toner binder resin plants have been suspended since the earthquake. After assessing effect of scheduled “rolling” blackout, operations were resumed.

USB 3.0 also became widely available, while 22nm chips entered mass production. Consumer-level robotics were booming. In 2011, the first Chromebooks, by Acer and Samsung, went on sale. The first 4 terabyte hard drive is released by Seagate.

In May 2011, the Embedded Vision Alliance was born! Over 15 leading technology companies, came together in Oakland, USA, to ‘speed up the adoption of computer vision capabilities in electronic products.’BDTI, Xilinx, and IMS Research initiated the EVA, and were joined by Analog Devices, Apical, Avnet Electronics, CEVA, CogniVue, Freescale, NVIDIA, National Instruments, Texas Instruments, Tokyo Electron Device, MathWorks, Ximea, and XMOS as the founding members.

Still in June 2011, June 8 happened to be World IPv6 Day. Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight Networks were among some of the major global organizations offering content over IPv6 networks on a 24-hour test flight! World IPv6 Day’s goal is to motivate organizations — ISPs, hardware vendors, OS vendors, web companies, etc., to prepare their services for IPv6, as IPv4 addresses ran out! IPv6 was designed to succeed the IPv4.

In July 2011, we saw the end of the spectacular Harry Potter movies!

Come October 2011, Steve Jobs, the master of the game, is gone! I first had a look at the Apple Mac, while at SBP Consultants & Engineers, back in 1988. I was surprised to find a computer that could do desktop publishing so well! By then, Jobs had gone out of Apple, fired by John Sculley, then Apple’s CEO, sometime in 1985.Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, a time when he had floated PIXAR and NeXT — the companyApple eventually bought, and returned Jobs to Apple. The rest is history!

In 2012, Microsoft released the Windows 8 OS. TDK demonstrated a 2-terabyte hard drive on a single 3.5-inch platter. Nintendo released the Wii U in North America.

January 2013 saw the rise of LTE! Dave Williams, CTO, Stoke, said that 2013 will be the year of LTE globally. Europe, in particular, had woken up to LTE.

In April 2013, there was focus on breast cancer diagnostics! A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), comprising of Dr. Ishan Barman, Dr. Narahara Chari Dingari and Dr. Jaqueline Soares, and their clinical collaborators at University Hospitals, Cleveland, developed the Raman scattering-based concomitant diagnosis of breast cancer lesions and related micro-calcifications.

Still in April 2013, skin-inspired electronics can be used for mobile health, such as wireless sensor bands, cell phone and computer at doctor’s office, according to Prof. Zhenan Bao, Stanford University. She was delivering a lecture at the 13th Global Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA.

There are organic field-effect transistors (OFETs). The current flow is moderated by binding of molecules and pressure. E-skin sensor functions have touch (pressure) sensors, chemical sensors and biological sensors. There are other flexible pressure sensors such as conductive rubber, which is thick and has hysteresis. Another type is poly-vinylidene fluoride (PVDF) thin film. Yet another type is the OFET touch (pressure) sensor.

In 2013, Apple released the first Retina Display MacBook Pros. Microsoft released Xbox One, while Sony released the PlayStation 4 in Europe and USA.

2013 and 2014 were big years for robotics as great leaps were made in the area of robotic agility. Gene editing – cutting out pieces of DNA we don’t like, or inserting, or re-ordering was made possible! CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) was the name of the technique.It was successfully tested on twin monkeys in China in late 2013.

In 2014, Google debuted Google Glass – wearable augmented reality. We know augmented reality as technology or images that combines with reality, and augments it.

In August 2014, IoT was gathering pace as a revolution, as per Guru Ganesan, Senior VP and MD, ARM India. As per a survey conducted by ARM, 95% of the users expect to be using IoT over the next three years. Common standards are being developed for interoperability. Mobility and connectivity are also happening among automotives! In 2014, Google Glass was launched to the public, as were 14nm chips. Smart watches became the latest must-have gadget.

In 2015, Microsoft released the Windows 10 OS. AlphaGo became the first Go AI computer program developed by Google to defeat a professional human opponent on a full-sized board without handicap.

September 2015, Industry 4.0 and robotics were on display. I had heard about Industry 4.0, robotics and more, earlier! But, I had a first-hand experience at Siemens, in Boston, USA. The late Chuck Grindstaff, CEO, Siemens PLM, also, a good friend, said that digitalization is the strategy to realize smart innovation. It weaves a digital thread across the value chain. New technologies and paradigms are enabling digitalization – e.g., machine learning, advanced robotics, etc.

For Siemens PLM, the primary theme is the digitalization of the manufacturing enterprise, and how there is a digitalization transformation taking place in manufacturing for products, production systems, and product service that will impact industry, consumers, business, and society.

There was a huge autonomous robot arm on display, as well. Today, robots are gaining immensely in the intellectual and mechanical capabilities. There are various types of robots. These are pre-programmed robots, humanoid robots, autonomous robots, teleoperated robots and augmenting robots. They are all finding use across various industry segments, as food robots, farm robots, healthcare, automotives, drones, robocops, robo-banking, etc.

With new robot systems that are sensitive and mobile, and able to work hand-in-hand with humans, new possibilities arise in production. People’s tasks will change and many new job descriptions will emerge, especially at the interface between mechanical engineering and IT.

In October 2015, Tesla made the Model S vehicles into self-driving cars with a $2,500 “Autopilot” upgrade that the cars downloaded over the air. This was one of the world’s most significant software updates and in-app purchases.

SpaceX unleashed the re-usable rocket! SpaceX spent much of the decade developing its re-usable rocket system. In December 2015, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched, and delivered a payload into orbit, and landed at Cape Canaveral. This may well be a new era of space travel. Tesla’s Powerwall, also launched in 2015. It offers the ability with a high level of sophistication, letting you program your usage to collect energy during off-peak hours, and then consume it at peak times.

In 2015, personal biometric scanners for online banking were introduced, while Microsoft launched the Windows 10. Electric car ownership reached 1 million worldwide, while trucks with emergency braking systems were made mandatory in Europe.

In 2016, supercomputers reached 100 petaflops. The agricultural robots became increasingly common on farms. HD CCTV cameras became ubiquitous and OLED displays came in widespread use.

In 2016, the high bandwidth memory 2 standard was released by JEDEC. Fixstars Solutions released the world’s first 13 TB SSD. Scientists at MIT created the first five-atom quantum computer that had the potential to crack the security of traditional encryption schemes.

In 2017, sales of electric and hybrid trucks reached 100,000 annually, while 10nm chips entered mass production. Electronic paper started seeing widespread use. Wireless, implantable devices that monitor health conditions in real-time, became more into use. In March 2017, we heard about Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal!

In 2018, the enterprise-grade SSDs reached 100TB of capacity. There were foldable phones and dual-screen laptops on display, as well. In December 2018, Kumar N. Sivarajan, CTO, Tejas Networks listed the top telecom trends for the year 2019.

* 4G (and upcoming 5G) deployments will drive greater fiberization of cell towers around the globe, especially in India, where only 20 percent of cell sites are currently served by optical fiber.
* Large-scale fiber-to-the-home (FTTx) rollouts on GPON and NG-PON technologies will gain momentum to cater to the growing fiber broadband market for homes and enterprises.
* High-speed 200G and 400G DWDM interfaces with multi-terabit packet and OTN switching will see increasing adoption in metro and core optical networks.
* Early commercial deployments of 5G technologies based on 3GPP Release 15 will begin with fixed wireless access (FWA) being the anchor use case.
* Continued push for network automation through a combination of SDN (Software-defined Networking) and NFV (Network Function Virtualization) technologies.

NextFuel AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, introduced the world’s first CO2 negative fuel at the UN Climate Summit, on December 12, 2018, in Katowice, Poland.

In January 2019,Toshiba Memory America Inc. began sampling the industry’s first Universal Flash Storage (UFS) Ver. 3.0 embedded flash memory devices.Available in three capacities (128, 256 and 512GB), the new line-up utilizes its cutting-edge 96-layer BiCS FLASH 3D flash memory. High-speed read/write performance and low power consumption make the new devices ideal for applications such as mobile devices, smartphones, tablets, and augmented/virtual reality systems.

In February 2019, Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO Emeritus, Mentor, a Siemens Business, said that neuromorphic computing was the next wave of automation. The evolution of non-von Neumann computer architectures will improve processing speed, reduce power and integrate more memory.

Traditional Von Neumann computer architectures are not efficient enough for pattern recognition. Computer architectures are a long way from human brain pattern recognition and power dissipation. Large number of computer cycles are required to perform the same level of pattern recognition as the human brain.

Neural networks are a fundamental building block for AI-related machine learning. Today’s AI scenario looks like this: in 2017, more than 300 million smartphones were shipped with some form of neural-networking capabilities. In 2018, 800,000 AI accelerators were shipped to data centers. Every day, 700 million people use some form of smart personal assistant, like an Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri.

In April 2019, the role of Industry 4.0 was further emphasized! Krishnan Shrinivasan, MD, Lam Research India, at the IESA Vision Summit 2019, said, the world is changing with industry 4.0. Technology is progressing as a double exponential function of time. AI/ML has the ability to disrupt everything, including the semiconductor industry. It is driven by big data, deep learning algorithms, and specialized processors. Industry 4.0 will see the computerization and digitalization of all processes.

In May 2019, there was the statement: watch out for EELs (edge-emitting lasers)!Martin Vallo, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement, France, said: “Growth is still driven by the optical communication market segment with optical systems for datacom and telecom. It is today the largest EELs segment with 56 percent of the total revenue in 2018.” The potential market size for EELs in future, is said to be worth $4.6 billion for 2023 at a CAGR of 13%.

In June 2019, Favier Shoo, Technology and Market Analyst in the Semiconductor & Software division at Yole Développement, member of Yole Group of Companies, France, based in Singapore, noted: “In the mega-trend driven era of the new digital age, there are key market demands, such as increased I/O and package size overlaps. Low-power consumption also requires packaging innovation and is demanded by many end-applications — from IoT to datacenters.”

July 2019 saw smart-sensing edge architecture! Elaborating on Aspinity’s smart-sensing edge architecture, Tom Doyle, CEO and founder, said Aspinity offers a fundamentally new architectural approach to conserving power and data resources in always-on devices. The scalable and programmable RAMP technology incorporates powerful machine learning into an ultra-low power analog neuromorphic processor that can detect unique events from background noise before the data is digitized. By directly analyzing the analog raw sensor data for what’s important, the RAMP chip eliminates the higher-power processing of irrelevant data.

In August 2019, the emerging memories were enabling the AI market! Elaborating on RRAM for AI applications, specifically, RRAM integrated on silicon CMOS for AI app, Tom Coughlin, industry veteran, said: “AI inference engines are looking at MRAM, and possibly, RRAM for storing ML weighting functions. This would be either for the edge computing or end-point applications. RRAM, as well as PCM, are being pursued for neuromorphic computing architectures that use memory cell technology for analog computing, similar to the way that neurons work in the brain.”

In October 2019, Bartosz Mazurek, VP Electronics Segment, Bright Machines, said that over 60% of the plants today are focusing on technology investments. They are looking to invest in workforce and acquire new technology. Automation in manufacturing is customized today. It drives cost, and is not completely flexible. A way forward is having modular hardware.

In 2019, Lexar announced the first SD card that could store 1 terabyte. Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy.

Finally, in December 2019, enterprises will combine Raspberry Pi (RasPi) and software-defined perimeters (SDP) to create secure low-cost IoT networks. SDP software improves the security of data flows between devices by removing an IoT device’s network presence, eliminating any potential attack surfaces created by using a traditional virtual private network (VPN).

In 2020, enterprises will take advantage of the ubiquity of RasPi and the security of SDP software to enhance product differentiation with high-value IoT networks. Smart endpoints and software-defined perimeters (SDP) will transform cloud-based disaster recovery (DR).

In December 2019, the new scandal doing the rounds, involved Facebook. A massive leak was said to have left 267 million Facebook users’ data reportedly exposed. Most of these names are said to be from the USA. As per the time of publishing, Facebook is now investigating. Still in December 2019, Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman, Bharti, mentioned that the Indian telecom industry’s situation was in dire straits, and requested the TRAI to intervene.

The others
Uber, Lyft and Airbnb were introduced during this last decade. Asking Alexa (the name Amazon gave to its voice assistant) turned into a cultural phenomenon.Next, Apple’s motivation was to move the world to wireless earbuds, such as its $159 AirPods. “Hey, Siri” opened up a world of possibilities for using your phone with just your voice.

We also witnessed the birth of the Apple Watch and the wearables explosion. The iPads have ruled the world since Jan. 2010! I first heard of LTE in Hong Kong, October 2005. 4G LTE has since put the world in our pockets.

As Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO and others came out with streaming apps that gave us whole content libraries at our fingertips, the old model of channel surfing or recording shows on a DVR became a lot less appealing.

Edge computing started as the IoT and has now become the “next IT transformation.”Raspberry Pi was a $25 device that could run Linux and be at the heart of a vast array of projects. Kubernetes is now leading the container orchestration. According to a 451 Research study, containers are taking over cloud server deployments, and Kubernetes is taking over container orchestration.

There is 5G, of course, as well as adaptive security for enterprises. Blockchain — also referred to as a distributed ledger or distributed trust infrastructure, the enterprise use cases for blockchain are the most innovative. Next, deep learning-based predictive analytics is leveraging advances in AI. The innovative companies are integrating AI-powered analytics into many types of software.

Consumers continued to influence the enterprise IT heavily over the last decade. Nearly every enterprise today, has a mobile app. Across India, people are now using the electronic modes of payments. The decade also saw wider adoption and recognition of the cloud.

After entering the corporates through digital marketing, this last decade saw a new avataar — digital transformation! AI also emerged as a buzzword, after having initially made an appearance in the late 1980s. Security today has become the top of any corporate agenda, given the many breaches that happened in the last decade.

The future will see more work happening across AI/ML, AR/VR, Blockchain, cyber security, IoT, quantum computing, RPA, etc.

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