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The Power of ISSCC
I am not a circuit designer, but I’ve been a sporadic attendee at ISSCC over the years due to my passion for systems and signal processing.
Well, I’m attending this year for both of my passions – low power and medical applications. What a combination integrated circuit technology has brought to us. We have experienced revolutions with computers, the Internet and communications over the last several decades. All were enabled by IC technology advances, and our experiences will continue to be shaped by IC developments in the years to come.
In fact, semiconductor technology development is now at a point of enabling the next revolution. One of those possible revolutions is personal medical. I recently gave a talk at a conference, called “Health – don’t leave home without it.” I’ll also speak more about this at ISSCC in a presentation called “Electronic system challenges for healthcare.”
What advances in technology guide me to think medical is the next revolution? For medical applications to significantly impact society, they must be both portable and connected – and we are there with a promise of further advances to make it all happen.
Portability allows us to leave home with our health. We now have a computer in our pocket with wireless communications connecting us to the world. We now call it connecting with the Cloud. This Cloud concept is possible thanks to the computer revolution.
Equally important is the drive for lower power, which will allow us to stay away from home longer periods of time. To a great extent this drive to longer battery life came from our need to go longer periods of time between charging our cell phones. We chose to make power dissipation the new performance metric at Texas Instruments long before the owners of cell phones began to demand longer battery life. A focus in this area is critical to our success, and something that we strive toward in all of our products, not just a select group of components.
Our leadership in driving low power started with a hearing aid company demanding a lower power DSP in the mid 1980s and also dates back to our beginnings in the calculator business and efforts to extend battery life. In the early 1990s, we had one of our cell phone customers tell us that if we didn’t drive the power down further they would find another vendor. It was about that time that I first put together a chart showing the reduction of power that technology was giving us. I called it “Gene’s Law” and began to use it to convince our technologists at TI and in the industry that lowering the power dissipation of our circuits would add value to the systems created by them.
Obviously the ultimate goal is the perpetual device that uses so little power that it doesn’t need a source of power. And as we work toward that goal, our technologists are making significant advancements in energy harvesting technology and energy conversion from solar to electricity. At TI we are also using new semiconductor materials technologies to achieve higher power densities, voltages and efficiency levels that will be needed in the future.
So here we are ready to create that next revolution, making personal health affordable, accessible and portable. It will be these technology advances and innovation in low power that we will use to fuel it.
Power House is a part of the TI Blogs and covers power management ICs. Check back every day to the Power House blog on E2E for topics on designing and managing power supplies for a range of end equipment applications.
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