This Tech Fuels New Growth for the Internet of Things

If you use a smartphone or a digital camera, you are probably already a big user of flash storage cards. Flash memory technology allows for persistent electronic data storage that isn’t erased when power is lost. Furthermore, since it is a fully solid-state electronic data storage technology, it doesn’t suffer the drawbacks of moving parts and bulkiness associated with hard drives.

Since flash storage components are small and rugged, they are perfect for small mobile devices such as smartphones. With the use of a memory card, a user’s data are also easily ported from one device to another.

These natural advantages of flash memory have driven sharp growth for the flash industry. Demand is being driven not only by smartphones, tablets, PCs and servers.

But flash memory has been reaching a dead end. Nearly all of our semiconductor technology improvement over the past decades has been due to shrinkage. Smaller electronic components mean more of them on a chip, and therefore a more powerful computer. In processors, that means more power; in computer memory, that means more density and power efficiency.

Flash is no different. To make flash more efficient and powerful, the individual elements have to be shrunk — as has happened many times. However, every time the tiny transistors in a flash memory chip are shrunk, performance degrades.

Flash memory circuits with smaller elements aren’t as good at storing data for a long period of time as larger ones. They are less reliable. Furthermore, the way flash stores data — using electron charge-based technology — is power thirsty. This makes it less than ideal for small IoT devices, many of which run using batteries.

It’s time for a next-generation memory technology to replace flash.

And as luck would have it the next generation is almost here in breakthrough new technology called conductive-bridging random access memory or CBRAM, originally developed at Arizona State University.

Unlike flash, which stores binary data in the form of electrical charges, CBRAM works using electrical resistance.

A CBRAM memory element works by the creation or dissolution of a conductive link in a metal oxide layer sandwiched between two electrical connections.

When the element is in the off state, it does not conduct electricity well; in the on state, it does. These two states can be used to represent the zeroes and ones used to store data in binary form.

CBRAM works much faster than flash — data can be written 20 times faster. And importantly for low-power IoT applications, it does so while using 10–100 times less energy.

CBRAM is found across multiple industries, including automotive suppliers like Delphi, consumer product companies like Garmin and Roku, communications companies like Samsung and Broadcom, medical device companies like Johnson & Johnson and General Electric as well as computing companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo.

Applications include wearables, sensor nodes, smart meters, cameras, lighting and much more. Since CBRAM is a general-use memory technology, there’s practically no end to potential applications where it can replace older technology with faster, more energy-efficient memory.

This is a very exciting time for any new technologies supporting growth of the IoT. And as companies begin to reveal new advances, I’ll be right back here with new alerts on how to maximize your dollars in this exciting new space.

For Tomorrow’s Trends Today,

Ray Blanco
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning