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Intel is Not Moving Smart Enough in the Smart Devices/IoT Market Says The Information Network

New Tripoli, PA, January 29, 2015 --( According to The Information Network’s latest report Convergence of Semiconductors and Smart Technology – A Market Analysis, microcontrollers (MCUs) used in Smart Cities, Smart Homes, Smart Industry, Smart Health, and Smart Transport (a subset of the Internet of Things (IoT)), represented just 10% of the overall MCU market in 2014. But in 2020, $10 billion in MCUs, representing 40% of the total market, will be used in these applications.

MCUs provide local processing capability for the “real-time” embedded processing of most Smart Technology applications. Since utilization of MCUs in the various Smart Device applications vary significantly, a scalable family of devices from a manufacturer will be required, although 8-bit MCUs will predominate.

The MCU is part of a sensor network that is capable of performing some processing, gathering sensory information and communicating with other connected nodes in the network along with a transceiver and one or more sensors. These semiconductor devices are also analyzed in the report in terms of revenue and shipments for the period 2014 to 2020.

In 2014, Smart Cities will represent the largest application share of MCUs at 54%. As other applications gain traction, Smart Cities’ share will drop to 48% of MCU consumption in 2020 while Smart Home MCU consumption will increase the greatest at a compounded annual growth rate of 35%.

MCUs incorporated with a sensor and a wireless connectivity chip into the design of a dumb gadget turns them into smart products. For example, a toaster is just a dumb device that can only tell you if it's on or off. According to Kaivan Karimi, VP and GM of Atmel Corporation’s Wireless Solutions business, “Design an MCU into a toaster oven with a user interface and you can control it in a more predictable and systematic manner. It now has become a “smart” toaster. Add the appropriate connectivity and you can now communicate and control that smart toaster remotely. And because these devices are sleeping most of the time, they benefit from the nonvolatile memory (flash) in many MCUs. When the power is off, the device’s memory retains the content.”

The report notes that MCUs being designed into Smart Technology by most manufacturers, although most are primarily ARM based. Leading ARM licensees are Atmel, Freescale, NXP, STMicroelectronics, TI, and Toshiba. Freescale has cut back on its ColdFire in favor of ARM.

Keep in mind that a microprocessor (MPU) can be used in Smart Technology and are, in fact, used instead of MCUs in compute-intensive applications. It is estimated that 15% of all Smart Devices use an MPU.

So where is Intel in all this? Intel has dabbled in wearables (which is included in the Convergence of Semiconductors and Smart Technology – A Market Analysis report), primarily by working in collaboration with other companies that includes SMS Audio's BioSport In-Ear headphones and Opening Ceremony's MICA bracelet. Intel also acquired Basis Science, the makers of the Basis fitness band, back in March. Intel also promoted its Make It Wearable contest in 2014.

Intel’s Quark, announced in 2013, is an embedded system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor design intended for smaller mobile devices like wearable computers. The Quark processor is said to be a fifth of the size of Atom and draw a tenth of the power. Quark’s core is a 32-bit x86 design based on the original Pentium chip. Like the older Pentium, it lacks some of the enhanced instruction sets, like MMX and SSE. Quark is not a replacement for Atom, as it is not as powerful a processor. It is intended for competition with ARM’s Cortex M RISK-based processors, which are already found in wearable computing like Google Glass and Recon Jet and many mobile phones.

Is Intel’s product too little, too late to compete in the lucrative MCU/MPU market for Smart Technology? According to our Smart Technology report, the Smart Health sector represents only a 3.4% share of MCU consumption in 2014, growing to 4.8% in 2020. In other words, Health represents only $70 million in MCU revenues and wearables are only a subset of Health.

In the report Wearables - Electronics and Semiconductor Markets, they analyze the wearable market for CPUs (MCU/MPU) for Smart Clothing and Sports/Activity Monitors. For Smart Clothing, the size of the CPU market was only $3 million in 2014.

"The sweet spot for MCUs is in the Smart City and Smart Industry sectors," noted Kristian Castellano, an analyst with The Information Network. "Intel needs to enter these markets in order go establish a viable position in Smart Technology and the IoT."

The Information Network is a leading consulting and market research company addressing the semiconductor, LCD, HDD, and solar industries.

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Contact: Kristian Castellano, 610/737-7596
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Robert Castellano

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