Steven Woo, VP of Solutions Marketing at Rambus, recently participated in an Internet of Things (IoT) Summit panel discussion about the creation of new monetization opportunities in the burgeoning space.
As Woo noted, chip design projects that once cost a few tens of millions of dollars a decade ago have jumped to $200 million or more. In addition, a significant increase in the number of IP blocks, use cases and configurations have created complex schedule risks and logistics challenges for chipmakers.
“The IoT cannot reach its full potential based on the current paradigm of rising development costs and ever-decreasing margins,” he told conference attendees. “The industry must also begin thinking of security as a primary design goal, rather than as an afterthought.”
One potential approach, says Woo, is to create secure, reprogrammable chips that enable a Features as a Service (Faas) model. Simply put, FaaS unlocks the true – or full – value of the intellectual property present in chip designs.
“A big challenge for chip manufacturers is predicting demand, and this problem is compounded when there are multiple products to be managed. Rather than producing one chip for each product configuration and having to deal with issues such as missed estimates and holding inventory across a wide range of configurations, chipmakers can leverage Moore’s Law and make a single chip with a wide range of functionality and enable different sets of functions to meet the needs of each product category. OEMs and end customers can also enable additional features and services in the chip once it has left the manufacturing facility,” he explained. “We also see FaaS leveraging a silicon root of trust to securely enable and disable features and services in-field, opening up potential new usage models, with revenue flowing back through the supply chain.”
According to Woo, the success of the IoT is clearly contingent upon the benefits of connectivity outweighing the added costs and security risks. More specifically, chips will need to address a growing range of third-party security requirements, necessitating the ability to store and protect cryptographic keys and parameters that will vary by application and end customer.
“Reprogrammable chips, enabling FaaS, will allow system architects to significantly extend the range of markets they can address per chip design while exceeding customer requirements,” he said. “In addition, re-programmability reduces development and inventory management costs and can create new opportunities for downstream revenue.”
As Woo adds, there will be numerous ways of implementing this new model. However, gaining access to more of the industry’s downstream revenue will clearly be the start of a truly transformative change for many chipmakers in the context of the IoT.