Q. What role has integration played to help the Internet of Things?
A. We have always gone towards higher and higher integration. We started with small chips and kept on integrating more features and blocks into it. We had sensors in the beginning, after which we then brought in more sensors into the mix to create a sensor hub for engineers. Bringing embedded microcontrollers and a communication system to it followed this, and the result is the self-contained unit we see today.
Q. What effect do you feel open source hardware has had on engineers?
A. What inspires any human race is freedom. We do not like jails for that same reason. So our inherent direction is to be free. Today the biggest motivation for these engineers to be excited with electronics would be the freedom that they have with these few building blocks. They can virtually create whatever they want using these building blocks. They are not a limiting factor now. For me as an engineer this would be the highest motivation – to be able to think widely and free. When I was a student the microcontroller was not so cost competitive that I could put it anywhere, which inhibited my interest in wanting to use it for development.
Q. Is there a possibility that this might trickle from circuits on to chips too?
A. Let’s say we have a microcontroller that is based on open hardware. Now even if I changed a block to suit a design of mine, the challenge will be that I would still need to manufacture it — and manufacturing is a volume game. If I am getting the current microcontroller from STMicroelectronics at 32 cents, it is because the company manufactures it in the millions. The moment I change a block, it will have to be manufactured separately and this going to cost me a bomb if the volumes are not there. Therefore the open hardware in chips is affected by the high production cost of low volume chip manufacturing.