If there were ever a time for storage and memory components to take a front seat in the innovation and transformation of today's computing, it would be now. Data is being created and moved throughout data platforms at unprecedented levels making the need for large and fast storage and memory capacity critical. You can read Moor Insights & Strategy research brief on the next generation of DRR5 memory here, which goes into the benefits of DDR5. Although it targets the data center, it should also be good for understanding how memory and storage are in the spotlight when it comes to addressing the data management "problem" at the edge.
Micron has made three announcements within its embedded portfolio and ecosystem expansion that addresses data at the edge within the industrial and automotive markets. The first is the launch of the world's first high-capacity 1.5TB microSD available for sampling to customers. Micron is also announcing the first International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 26262 Automotive Safety Integration Level (ASIL) D certification of memory for its LPDDR5 DRAM. Micron is also adding embedded and edge computing module providers congatec and PHYTEC to its Industrial Quotient (IQ) partner program. Let's dive into these announcements and what it means for the competitive edge.
Data at the edge
Just about every industry has experienced some digital transformation and acceleration. Although it was in large part due to the pandemic, the world was to run into this digital transformation at some point in the future. It was more of a question of when not if, and it came sooner than expected. Now that the pandemic is arguably over and much of the dust has settled, there is little to no sign that digital transformation across every industry is going to slow down.
We are expected to see an estimated 25 billion connected IoT devices by 2026 across industries such as automotive, industrial, consumer, healthcare, and video security just to name a few. Each of these devices is going to be connected to some type of network, transferring an unfathomable amount of data. Some of that data is mission-critical data, and most data will carry some type of value, making it digital gold. The most valuable component for an edge device becomes the components that store and move this digital gold securely, reliably, and quickly.
Micron i400 1.5TB microSD
microSD cards are great for taking large files and transferring that data from one device to another. It is why computers with SD or microSD card slots are critical for photographers and videographers. However, suppose you have noticed within the past decade that microSD card slots are no longer on flagship smartphone devices. In that case, we will notice that the manual way of transferring data from one device to another is being replaced by improving networks. Smartphones do not need a microSD card to transfer thousands of pictures to another device because cloud services are efficient at doing so. While smartphone storage is not the only solution for microSD cards, it brings up the question, where does the future of microSD lie? Arguably it is within special IoT use cases.
The rise of IoT devices largely goes hand in hand with improving networks such as 5G. The higher bandwidth and lower latency of 5G enable more IoT devices to be connected to the network and other IoT that revolve around ultra-low latency. While 5G is great for connecting IoT devices to a digital platform, it is not ideal for all scenarios. For IoT devices that are independent of a network or benefit more from not relying on a network, high-capacity microSD storage may be the best solution.
Micron's i400 1.5TB microSD addresses the rise in demand for real-time video security or video security-as-as-service (VSaaS), such as fleet dash cameras, smart home security, police body cameras, and AI-enabled factory cameras. Micron's jump from 1TB of storage capacity to 1.5TB of storage capacity allows for up to four months or 120 days of video security media that is stored locally. Compared to connecting a VSaaS to the cloud, microSD has better scalability and a higher total cost of ownership. Video camera data is stored locally on a primary device, making it ideal for video surveillance scenarios that want to avoid high bandwidth costs or connecting to an unreliable network. In the same context, microSD has fewer privacy concerns. It eliminates the need to immediately upload data to the cloud for primary storage and instead allows VSaaS deployments to wait every couple of months when the microSD cards fill up to then delete the data or upload it to the cloud.
The i400 is designed for the video security environment with five years of high-quality continuous 24/7 recording and the ability to handle 4K video recording concurrently and up to eight AI events per second. I believe the i400 is great for scenarios where 5G networks are not an option and there is no need for immediate data transfer. For small and medium-sized businesses that don't have a lot of IoT, microSD for video surveillance is both affordable and scalable for VSaaS.
While Micron's microSD solution is great for many scenarios, it may not always be clear whether it is the right solution. Micron's Industrial Quotient (IQ) partner program was launched in 2020 to help make these industrial and business decisions easier for customers. Micron says IQ is all about making intelligent choices for customers' IIoT designs.
Micron saw the need for the IQ partner program when it noticed the blurring of lines between consumer-grade and industrial-grade solutions in the last decade. Problems arise when customers who need industrial-grade solutions to meet market requirements receive consumer-grade solutions. Depending on the industry, these consumer-grade solutions can be financially costly, create safety risks, and even cause brand damage.
Micron now has a total of ten IQ partners, with congatec and PHYTEC being the newest of the ten partners. Congatec and PHYTEC design and manufacture computer-on-modules and system-on-modules that are used in medical technology, industrial automation, renewable energy, aerospace, and transportation. You could imagine how costly it would be, financially and otherwise, if a doctor were using a medical instrument with a consumer-grade component and what might happen if it failed because it does not meet industry standards. As the world becomes increasingly complex, programs like IQ need to consolidate and simplify the road to success. For IQ, that success is within the realm of ensuring customers of the right industrial-grade solutions.
World's first LPDDR5 ISO 26262 ASIL D certification
Micron also announced it has received ISO 26262 ASIL D certification of memory for its LPDDR5 DRAM. Its LPDDR5 DRAM is based on Micron's 1-alpha process node, which has a 40% improvement in memory density. The certification has four rating levels, with A representing the lowest degree and D representing the highest degree of risk. Micron's certification of a D puts it on par with other critical automotive computing components such as SoCs and GPUs, allowing Micron's LPDDR5 DRAM to be designed into every part of the car. As ADAS becomes more redundant and complex, the need for fast and reliable memory becomes critical to the system's decision-making process.
One of the challenges that I stress in Moor Insights & Strategy research paper on DDR5 memory in the data center is the need for higher data speed memory for faster computing systems. Advanced driver assistance system-enabled (ADAS) vehicles are ingesting hundreds of tera-operations per second and rivaling data center compute in their need for better memory devices. Micron's LPDDR5 DRAM with 1-alpha process node has up to a 50% increase in data access speeds, ensuring no bottlenecks from the memory when it comes to decision making. The "LP" in LPDDR5 stands for low power, and Micron's LPDDR5 memory has over 30% improvement in power efficiency. As the United States opens its eyes more toward EVs, battery efficiency and consumption is going to be its greatest challenge. Having memory with a 30% improvement in power efficiency may not seem like a lot, but any amount helps.
Micron continues to innovate, and I believe it continues to strengthen its leadership in the memory and storage space. The company was quiet for years externally, but obviously they were busy creating some killer capabilities and shoring up execution. Micron's 1.5TB microSD is an incredible feat that shows SD card technology is still very much alive with practical use cases. 5G networks cannot solve all data problems, and Micron's 1.5TB microSD is there to fill those gaps. Similarly, it is moving quickly within the automotive industry with the world's first LPDDR5 ISO 26262 ASIL D certification.
With automotive vehicles having more sensors and computing power that rivals data centers in terms of the sheer amount of data, memory reliability and speeds are going to play a major role. I believe now is the time for memory and storage components to sit front seat in terms of computing innovation, and Micron is doing so with no hesitation.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.