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Smart homes will increase usage of Flash

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The smart device market is growing at a fast pace, particularly in the home where smart meters, thermostats, in-home displays and appliances are gaining popularity. In fact, according to IMS Research, within the next five years, the amount of smart home energy management devices shipped globally will reach 400 million units.

The rapid growth is, in part, driven by consumer demand for total connectivity and higher expectations for user experience. But consumer demand is only a portion of the story – the rest is more technical. In recent years, intelligence, connectivity and the user interface have come together to make smart home devices more efficient, cost effective and adaptable to consumer preferences.

If you look more closely, it's the advances in embedded systems and Flash memory technology that have been the driving force behind device innovation and increased convergence. As the demand increases for smarter devices equipped with much better graphics and instant-on capabilities, Flash memory is becoming more critical to the connected home and smart energy sectors.

When it comes down to it, memory is what makes a device smart. Without memory, a system cannot store the data needed for a device to "learn" from its user, or power the advanced user interface that consumers demand.

High-density Flash memory supports the large OS images, applications and graphics required to elevate the human machine interaction (HMI). Additionally, the ruggedness and longevity of high-quality Flash components are vital for providing the connectivity and durability needed to improve home energy management within the residential market. The smart connected home would not be possible without innovative memory solutions, which means dependence on NOR and NAND Flash memory technology will grow even more rapidly as we move towards the home of the future.

Figure: NOR and SLC NAND Flash memory are found in devices throughout the home.

Smart thermostats
In recent years, we've grown accustomed to the evolved user interface we experience with our smartphones, tablets, even our dashboard – so why not expect the same from your thermostat? As the UI transforms into a sophisticated information hub, the embedded systems powering the technology need more complex software and more persistent storage of information. This is where NOR Flash is making a big difference, providing the high-density Flash memory to support large OS images, applications and graphics needed to elevate the human machine interaction (HMI).

NOR Flash is ideal for these high-demand environments. Its instant-on performance is vital for driving fast boot time requirements as well as providing higher performance memory and processing power for sophisticated software and graphics, while reducing (or in some cases eliminating) the dependency for discrete DRAM. NOR Flash also delivers the real-time feedback and high reliability required for the increasingly complex UI. Flash memory also enables the communication functionality, which is a relatively new function of smart thermostats, which provides homeowners with the ability to control these devices remotely with their iPhone or other device.

Home power manager and smart meters
Home power managers help homeowners monitor usage and back-up systems to better understand and control the use of energy within the system of their home. These home power managers also utilise smart meters that enable two-way communication between the home meter and the electric utility. This communication functionality is powered by an external Flash memory; Flash technology is also used to log data, which is typically stored on an SOC.

Flash memory is also playing a critical role in building out the telecommunications infrastructure used to support this growing market. High reliability code and data storage is required for the build-out of next-generation telecommunications infrastructures, and NOR Flash memory—with its wide density range—is perfectly suited for advanced networking gear and helps ensure systems are up and running.

Widespread adoption of this technology has been made possible by improvements in memory longevity, because end products for the home need to have a longer life span (approximately 10 years) than consumer devices, like a smartphone, which is likely to be replaced every few years. Combined with the NOR Flash memory's inherent reliability, this longevity has allowed smart meters to move into the residential market. We are also starting to see smart meters that communicate with smart appliances, providing homeowners the ability to proactively manage their energy usage.

Smart appliances
When it comes to home appliances, embedded systems provide flexibility, efficiency and new features. Refrigerators, stoves, vacuum cleaners and other appliances require a larger memory footprint to be "smart" – stored data is how the smart fridge knows when to alert the homeowner that its door is ajar, and how the robot vacuum knows when it is running out of power and needs to direct itself back to the dock. With high-density Flash, embedded devices use a combination of sensors and algorithms to understand the world around them and even learn from the user.

As we move into the future, we will see intelligent UIs grow in complexity, paving the way for advances in predictive intelligence. Predictive intelligence provides systems with the ability to understand the different choices a user can make at any particular time. We are currently seeing this technology in its infancy (e.g., the autocorrect function on mobile devices), but with the next generation of advances in the home there is potential to make a multitude of housework and home management much, much easier.

The infrastructure and technology is there to support growth in the smart home device market. As user interfaces in mobile phones, tablets and other consumer devices evolve, we will see an increased demand for smart thermostats and appliances that offer rich graphics and HMI on par with these consumer devices. To meet this demand and maintain the integrity of this market, designers need NOR and NAND Flash memory to provide long-term support, density, performance and instant on capabilities.


By: DocMemory
Copyright © 2012 CST, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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