The trends in analog IC match the trends across all electronics. Everything needs to be smaller and more energy efficient, while offering a wider range of functionality. This is particularly true in power management. "In the area of power management, the trend is towards multiple functions in smaller packages," says Tony Armstrong, product marketing manager for power products at Linear Technology Corp. "Some analog IC manufacturers have taken the "kitchen sink" approach, cramming in more functions than a designer needs or can actually use."
Another driving trend in analog IC is the need to accommodate medical devices for home monitoring. "Medical monitoring equipment is moving from the hospital to the home. That's been an organic movement," says Pat O'Doherty, product line director for the Precision Signal Processing Group at Analog Devices Inc. "From a signal acquisition standpoint that means miniaturization and lower power. The boxes have to be smaller and easier to use. They have to communicate with other peoples' boxes and communicate over the phone." He says that also means there has to be more functionality on one piece of silicon. The trend toward home-based medical monitoring is expected to grow significantly in coming years as hospitals work to curb costs and the population ages.
Another trend that's expected to grow in coming years is the drive toward greater energy efficiency. "Everybody is trying to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gases and that means increased energy efficiency," says Mark Davidson, marketing director for the Power Management Div. at National Semiconductor Corp. "So, we need to use a switching regulator to more efficiently convert power to different voltages." Davidson also sees other ways environmental concerns are affecting product design and ultimately analog IC. "It's more than just reducing energy consumption," says Davidson. "Our products have to be lighter and they have to reduce waste."
Davidson says one of National Semiconductors' moves toward greater energy efficiency is synchronization. "We're now giving 10 different options on synchronizing. That's our response to the trend of energy efficiency," says Davidson. "You'll see the high efficiency sync go across the board." He says power supply has grown in value. "When power supply is done poorly, it takes away value," says Davidson. "So, now the power supply system has become an added value because it reduces energy consumption."
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.