Recode’s Arik Hesseldahl recently noted that chip industry is running up against some “truly fundamental” limits.
“At the five-nanometer juncture — due maybe in 2021, give or take — the outlook [of Moore’s Law] has tended to get incomprehensibly fuzzy. At that size, elements on the chip would be about twice the size of a strand of DNA,” he explained. “Smaller than that, the design features on a chip become no bigger than 10 individual atoms. At that scale, electrons start to behave unreliably: The laws of classical physics give way to the infamously uncertain rules of the quantum scale.”
According to Hesseldahl, questioning the cadence of Moore’s Law beyond the 5nm horizon prompts a “much more complex view” of future chip technology. To illustrate his point, the Recode journalist cites Daniel Reed of the University of Iowa who was recently quoted in a Nature journal article about Moore’s Law. As Reed points out, Boeing’s 787 doesn’t actually fly all that much faster than a 707 did in the 1970s. Nevertheless, a slew of industry advances has led to improved fuel efficiency, lighter airframes and more advanced electronic navigation systems.
“The road ahead will diverge from one into many with different destinations and different milestones along the way,” Hesseldah added. “Some indeed may lead nowhere, but others will lead into unexpected territory that we haven’t foreseen.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the semiconductor industry is already navigating uncharted waters as the potential slowing of Moore’s Law looms in the distance. To be sure, the industry has entered a period of rising development costs, lower margins and rapid consolidation. As Dr. Martin Scott, senior VP and GM of the Rambus Cryptography Research division puts it, the semiconductor industry is currently experiencing significant change. Consequently, fresh models of enablement will be needed to help reignite innovation across the market.
One potential new paradigm for an evolving chip industry could revolve around in-field features and service provisioning, or Features as a Service (FaaS), which is now supported by Rambus CryptoManager, alongside SoC management and device personalization capabilities.
Put simply, the expanded CryptoManager platform allows device and service providers to securely enable or disable features in-field, unlocking the full value of SoCs and delivering Features as a Service. FaaS is expected to open up a wide range of new usage models for semiconductor companies, including the generation of additional revenue streams in multiple diverse markets, such as mobile banking, entertainment and IoT device security.