Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a cradle of innovation. Inventions that have come out of the Valley have impacted our lives and changed the way that we interact with each other and, really, the way that we live.
Drive around a 10-mile radius from Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, and you could stumble upon Apple while searching for the Googleplex. You can also send a shout-out by Yahooing across the wetlands at Facebook and be LinkedIn to both Cisco and Intel.
Who would have expected that the happy hour napkins from Walker’s Wagon Wheel would become the canvases to solve the problem du jour faced by the Fairchildren known as the “traitorous eight”? And that these napkins would turn into the patent drawings for new product ideas and the business plans that would spawn many other Silicon Valley companies? Look beneath all of this innovation, and you’ll find a simple single-gate silicon device from Mr. Schockley and Mr. Noyce, not to mention the wizardry of a Jobs and Woz.
Pondering the influence so far of Silicon Valley, we can reasonably assume that “the next big thing” is already being developed in some random building dotting a suburb along El Camino Real, affectionately known as The Royal Road. Of course, Silicon Valley isn’t alone in its penchant for innovation. Look around the world and you’ll find many of these communities. One unique factor about Silicon Valley is its high density of diverse technical talent, all concentrated in one area. Now, consider the creations we have already, and those that are taking root. It would be reasonable to assume that the one constant denominator to spark “the next big thing” will focus on further enhancing our quality of life. My feeling is that this is always a good gauge to determine whether a technology or new service will successfully influence or impact our daily lives.
Smart Sensors Leading to Informed Decisions
As our everyday products become smarter and connected, we’re quickly becoming a very data rich society. This trend highlights a few areas to watch. Smart sensors are playing key roles in helping us manage our lifestyles and improve the quality of goods and services in the manufacturing world. Securing and processing the voluminous amounts of data collected by these sensors is the key to the informed decision-making that can influence our actions or modify our behaviors. This, in turn, is bringing forth new levels of artificial intelligence (AI), which are giving machines more self-awareness. This probably brings to mind various parallels, such as Hal from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, or I Robot. Self-aware machines can determine their own limits and constraints, and make temporary adjustments to keep themselves working until they can be serviced, or work with other machines in their cells to compensate for their restricted performance. This level of machine intelligence will help enhance productivity and lead to a greater level of fail-safe performance to ensure that critical systems remain up and running.
Now, if we extract this performance need back to its silicon heritage, it becomes clear that a whole new class of products is needed to improve performance flexibility. This new class of silicon products will have the ability to self-adjust its parameters to provide a flexible I/O solution. In my view, creating silicon solutions that can make configuration choices on-the-fly is the next big thing! One example can be found in the company’s newest industrial IoT (IIoT) demonstration platform, the Pocket IO. The IO-Link standard is being adopted and integrated quickly into automotive and factory automation environments. As this happens, we’re seeing new levels of adaptive manufacturing, which in turn call for silicon solutions with self-configuration capabilities. With all of this innovation underway, it probably won’t be long before we start seeing self-aware digital factories—and benefiting from the productivity boost they can deliver.