50 years on, Moore’s Law still rules: Intel exec
By Benjamin Cher August 31, 2015
- Remains the foundation of the semiconductor industry
- ‘We see Moore’s Law as both a forecast and as a challenge’
It was first expounded by Gordon Moore (pic) – who else? – while he was still working at Fairchild Semiconductor, in an article in Electronics magazine in 1965.
More accurately, he observed that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit chip doubled every two years.
Moore would later, with Robert Noyce, go on to cofound semiconductor giant Intel Corp, a company which argues that Moore’s Law is the foundation of the semiconductor industry.
“We see Moore’s Law as both a forecast and as a challenge,” says Intel Malaysia and Singapore country manager Sumner Lemon.
“While Moore’s Law has been a predictive model for five decades, technological advancement doesn’t ‘just happen’,” he tells Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Technological advancement takes place because people keep pushing boundaries, he says, adding that this is what Intel strives to continue doing.
“We must constantly push the boundaries of technology on multiple fronts, from chip architecture to manufacturing – to ensure that we continue to move processing technology forward and stay on track with the prediction set forth by Gordon Moore,” Lemon says.
Formulation and validation
Intel looks to continue validating Moore’s Law 50 years on, Lemon (pic above) declares.
“For example, when we moved from 32nm (nanometre, or one-billionth of a metre) processors to 22nm processors, we realised that conventional methods of shrinking processors would not yield optimal results,” he says.
“Thus to make that leap, a drastic change in the fundamental structure was required,” he adds.
That “drastic change” was Intel making the jump from two-dimensional planar transistors to three-dimensional Tri-Gate transistors.
These transistors are smaller, more powerful and require less energy to operate, according to Lemon.
“Last year, we introduced a 14nm processor and recently introduced our latest Skylake K processors, which offer up to 10% better performance over the previous generation of processors,” he claims.
Challenges and innovation
Intel’s innovations didn’t come easy, with Lemon arguing that there were great technical challenges to overcome in keeping up with Moore’s Law.
“The greatest challenge we face is developing new approaches to overcome the significant technical hurdles to advance semiconductor technology,” he says.
Not content with just redefining or improving existing technology, Intel is looking to new approaches in its innovation process, he claims.
“Radical new approaches are required to overcome the challenges imposed by the physical limitations of continuing to push Moore’s Law,” Lemon says.
“For example, the shift from 2D to 3D transistors required a completely new approach to building transistors, and fundamentally changed the way we look at manufacturing CPUs,” he added.
The CPU or central processing unit is essentially the brain of a computer.
Lemon declares that technological leaps of the magnitude Intel has taken were made possible by “fostering a strong culture of innovation that embraces smart risk-taking and challenges conventional thought.”
The company also keeps an open mind to new ideas, according to Lemon. Beyond just looking out for new technology, it invests in the next generation of innovators through various education programmes, and by developing technology that lowers the barriers to innovation.
“Intel has also embarked on several initiatives around the world to drive innovation in various communities and in the next generation,” he says.
One such programme saw it establishing Open Innovation Labs at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and Nanyang Polytechnic; while another was the Invent 50 competition, which is aimed at helping drive innovation among students.
“For example, through our Make It Wearable competition, we helped a team develop Nixie, the world’s first wearable drone,” Lemon says.
“This is just one of many breakthroughs that have resulted from Intel’s innovation initiatives,” he adds.
But Intel isn’t just looking at innovation in the processor space. “We don’t see innovation as being about just developing faster, cheaper and more efficient products,” Lemon says.
“We are also interested in innovation that changes the way we interact with technology,” he adds.
He cites, as an example, the Intel RealSense camera which uses depth-sensing technology to give devices a way to ‘see’ the world the same way people do.
“This capability opens a whole new spectrum of applications and uses in the real world,” Lemon says.
“For example, RealSense can allow users to scan 3D objects, control their devices with gestures, or even allow devices to interact with physical objects,” he adds.
Popular trends such as the Internet of Things and wearable devices have not escaped Intel’s gaze either. The company has developed the button-sized Intel Curie module to help facilitate innovation in that space.
“The Intel Curie module [is] the first platform of its kind from Intel, a complete low-power solution designed for wearable technology applications,” Lemon says.
Beyond just technological breakthroughs, Intel is invested in understanding how its technology is used in the world, he adds.
“Take for example Intel Edison, a product specifically designed to lower the barrier-to-entry for quick prototyping and productising connected computing devices – or the Intel Galileo development boards for the maker and education communities,” says Lemon.
He says Intel is holding a Galileo innovation camp in South Korean schools.
“60 upper elementary students were asked to identify real-world problems, come up with ideas to solve them, then create, design and make solutions using a Galileo board,” he says.
All this, Lemon argues, is not just innovation for innovation’s sake, but about bettering lives through technology.
“We can create an environment where people can explore and develop new ways of improving lives through the use of technology in all aspects of society,” he says.
“At Intel, we have the resources and the commitment to help make this a reality,” he adds.
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