As social pressures and demands from both consumers and corporations increasingly focus on the environmental impact of products and their use, the 'green' trend has been affecting the semiconductor industry in important ways. The reality is that 'green' is a necessary market feature today - a demand that must be met to stay competitive. How this feature demand is met is increasing design complexity as devices must now also compete along a 'greeness' scale.
Power management was an obvious initial feature that device designers considered when addressing 'green' improvements (cf. our recent MarketWatch Quarterly (MWQ) article here for the growing importance of analog in power management design-ins). Reducing power consumption is an immediate design win and provides obvious market advantages.
These greener, more energy efficient designs have been achieved not only through improved battery technologies, but importantly through the increased use of components that require less power. These designs include more analog components (as explored in the above mentioned MWQ article);mixed-signal technology on single chips, such as those by NXP (cf. here for an interview with NXP CEO Rick Clemmer); stacking (multiple-dimensional stacking on single chips to reduce power consumption); and maximizing MEMS advantages on single chip designs (e.g., Freescale's new use of accelerometers to extend battery life discussed here), to name a few.
As devices continue to improve in energy efficiency (through better power management and on-chip designs), more 'green' demands are being made by an expanding set of users. While consumer electronics (CE) users increasingly compare devices beyond power consumption levels to more inherent 'greeness' levels of the components and products themselves (e.g. recyclable, manufacturing footprint, environmentally sensitive material sourcing, etc.), corporate users are now also demanding more 'green' features. On the rise from corporate users are significant energy use reductions by their data-centers and overall IT power consumption footprint (as discussed here in Financial Times). As FT.com cites, "The information technology industry accounts for about 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions - about the same as the airline industry."
The implications of the equal footprint of IT and aviation industries underscores the coming wave of design demands from corporate clients. As budgets are contiuaously reviewed for improvements and CE products laud energy efficiency features, corporate consumers are increasingly demanding similar energy efficiency improvements to the power consumed by their data centers, servers, PCs, and other hardware. These feature demands necessitate continued design improvements at the component level, leaving much room for improvement in market sectors beyond CE.