More Than Industrial Temperature at Stake: Q&A with Amit Gattani, Senior Director of Segment Marketing, Micron

A promising mint for the global economy, the Industrial IoT nevertheless needs the right approach to realize its potential.

Editor’s note: Recently Embedded Intel Solutions spoke with Amit Gattani, Senior Director of Segment Marketing, Micron. He shared insights about mobile’s effect on Industrial, leveraging memory’s common denominator role to realize security benefits, and the effect an increasing reliance on supply chains is having, among other topics. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow.

Embedded Intel Solutions: What Industrial IoT features and trends should embedded engineers be keeping an eye on?

Amit Gattani, Senior Director of Segment Marketing, Micron

Amit Gattani, Senior Director of Segment Marketing, Micron

Amit Gattani, Micron: Certainly one feature to note is the Industrial IoT’s potential to add up to US$14 trillion to the global economy by 2030[1]. Automotive and Industrial are areas that we are focusing on and we see substantial technical and business innovation going on in both those sectors. Industrial encompasses factories, transportation, surveillance, healthcare, and energy—for these and other sectors the business model change the Industrial IoT is bringing will generate significant operational savings as well as bring significant new economic factors into play.

A trend we are seeing might be called the “mobile waterfall effect.”  People in the Industrial IoT market, following in the mode of those in the mobile market, want quick, cheap productization, including leveraging mobile platforms. But while it’s important to get something quick and fast, that may not be the best thing from a life cycle cost perspective or when considering total cost of ownership [TCO].

Especially where it concerns a device that becomes part of, say, a smart infrastructure like a surveillance camera or the parking/congestion management systems deployed in smart cities. The failure of any of these things can cause notable downsides to your business, much beyond the replacement cost of the hardware device. So, it is important to look at that aspect of it and not just ask, “How do I get the quickest device?”

Embedded Intel Solutions: How is Micron encouraging that attitude in the Industrial sector—one which considers TCO and not just, as with mobile, “How fast can we get to market?”

Gattani, Micron: Yes, we want a shift from this idea that if you could just translate a mobile or consumer-like platform into an industrial platform, then you could move things faster. That idea leads to thinking that picking a component with an industrial temperature, or ‘IT’ range and deciding, “Hey, if I get a wider temperature range product, I am going to be fine with it.”

But the reality is—and this is why we have come up with this idea of Industrial Quotient or IQ—going beyond just IT—you need more than just an industrial-temperature product. You need ruggedization for vibration, shock, and thermal cycling. You need reliability that is not just one year but five to ten years. As an example, NAND technology is transitioning very rapidly from multi-level cells (MLC) to triple-level cells (TLC), and from planar to 3D. This is driven by insatiable demand for more flash storage capacity in mobile phones—everyone wants more storage in their iPhone.

As we move from MLC to TLC NAND, its program/erase cycle (P/E cycle) and endurance can go down a very steep curve. That may be acceptable for mobile or consumer applications because the life cycle of these products is meant to be just a couple of years or maybe three years at best. That endurance may not provide the five or 10 years’ useful life needed for an industrial application. You have to really understand the reliability of the part you are selecting, not just at the initial stage of its life but for the latter part of its life cycle as well.

Embedded Intel Solutions: How does the Industrial Quotient approach come in part from customer conversations?

Gattani, Micron: The customers who have been in the Industrial market do understand why an Industrial Quotient approach makes sense, but these customers are also relying more and more on their supply chains. A GE, Tyco or Honeywell is not building a lot of the hardware itself. Their monetization is going to come from software, services, analytics and data bases. These companies are typically spending over 10 dollars on software for every dollar they spend building the hardware. The investment in software is so much higher now.

With the Industrial market’s reliance on a fairly broad set of supply chains across the world, we have to get the ‘Industrial Quotient’ message to these supply chains and not just to the traditional customer base.

The role of the supply chains had the spotlight during last October’s huge DDoS attack. Common to the surveillance cameras from a number of different OEMs, which the hackers used to create the attack, was a camera from Chinese firm Xiongmai.

So many people now come together to make a product, it’s important to make sure everybody in your supply chain knows how to do the right thing and not just thinking it will be okay if the final end customer knows. Whether in the case of security-specific features or reliability-specific features, we have multiple examples of instances where such issues lead to field issues, which in turn ultimately increase the life cycle costs of the products. Obsolescence management is another major challenge that needs to be managed throughout the supply chain to drive down the life cycle costs.

Embedded Intel Solutions: One challenge with the Industrial IoT is that it can’t be treated as a single entity.

Gattani, Micron: Yes, Industrial IoT applications are varied. One answer doesn’t work for everything. There are different: system-level requirements; usage models; applications; read-write workloads; number of software updates you might get over the life cycle of your product. We understand end applications, including security demands, and the security features on our flash devices can be leveraged to build system-level security features.

And because the IoT, not just the Industrial IoT, is so fragmented, when it comes to boot security and being able to create the root of trust in hardware, flash memory is one of the best places to create that root of trust in hardware because it is the common element that goes across a lot of these devices.

On the other hand, the MCUs or CPUs for different applications are not the same and have a different capability and approach to implementing security. So, one of the threads of Micron’s emphasis on Industrial Quotient Matters is to push the security down to the least common denominator, memory, because if you can address that in one place it applies to everything you build, irrespective of what MCU, CPU, or operating system you eventually use.

For example, in an automotive use case, you may have 40 to 50 ECUs in the car, and each ECU could [be based on] a different SoC architecture, but memory is the common thing in many of those. Wherever you can leverage the lowest common denominator to address a system-level problem, [that’s the approach to take].

Embedded Intel Solutions: Do customers appreciate that given Micron’s experience in a variety of sectors, there is opportunity for synergy and cross pollination?

Gattani, Micron: Absolutely. The semiconductor business requires very significant manufacturing investments and a lot of technology innovation and product development innovation to ensure we are providing the most leading edge products at best possible cost to our customers. If you are focused only on a smaller part of the market for industrial or automotive, it is very hard to be the technology leader. You may be the quality and reliability leader, but it’s hard to be the leader [with regard to] the latest technologies, because that investment requires high volume and faster time to money.

Automotive markets are traditionally slower time to money. The fact that Micron has both pieces is a very strategic advantage for us because we can extend our leading-edge technology investments from mobile or storage markets to bring to market industrial- or automotive-quality and feature specific products. Our typical competition in these markets tends to be smaller mixed companies that are either a one- or two-technologies or product line type of company; they are not as broad a technology leader the way Micron is and that’s what gives us a very good competitive advantage.


[1] Source: Accenture, Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products & Services, March 2015

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