Imagine a world without microchips. No smartphones, no laptops, no Internet, no electronic household appliances that make our lives easier… But also no advanced medical diagnostic devices, no smart factories, no smart logistics, no smart energy solutions. Without microchips, even our cars would be less safe and much more polluting. In short: microchips have penetrated every aspect of our lives.
Since the 1960s, the chip industry has been at the heart of electronics innovation, through the creation of cheaper and increasingly smaller microchips that possess ever more computing power and memory – all while reducing chips’ power consumption.
And today, microchip technology has brought us to the dawn of a new era. Thanks to the integration of image sensors, microfluidic sensors or microelectromechanical systems, we are embarking on an exciting new journey; a journey during which we will see an explosion of creative applications. New generations of hyperspectral cameras to inspect crops, rapid cancer detection by means of labs-on-a-chip, or smart valves to control air or liquid flows – microchips make it all possible!
One of the great opportunities brought by microchip technology is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) – which is expected to consist of billions of connected, ‘thinking’ objects by 2020. Using unobtrusive and cheap microchips, the IoT’s wireless sensor systems will constantly monitor our environment, provide status reports, receive instructions, and take short-term and long-term actions based on intelligent processing of the gathered data. It will interact with us and learn from our habits, preferences and health – and help us create a more comfortable, sustainable and safer world.
In order to make this IoT really work – which will require all (big) data from a great many sensors to be processed and turned into statistics and predictions – we will need cloud computing resources. That is why the IoT era (and the resulting data tsunami) also comes with the need for high-performance, energy-efficient data centers – again driven by ever more performant and more complex microchips.
Together with our global ecosystem of microchip partner companies, imec will continue to drive the innovations that are needed to make the new microchip era a reality – thus paving the way for a connected, sustainable society.