Indium Blog

The Materials Behind Internet of Things

  • Videos

  • Phil Zarrow: This video is for electronics assemblers looking to the future of the Internet of Things. It will cover the types of technology and the materials necessary for assembly. 
    Andy, the Internet of Things and the applications, how is this going to affect the semiconductor industry?
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: At the moment, the Internet of Things is really on everybody's mind, there's clearly a lot of opportunity out there. From a device perspective, the Internet of Things can be divided, fairly basically, into the things themselves, the individual devices that will have an internet address that will have logic to them, RF communication, necessarily, and something that they do. That would be either a sensor or an actuator at the very least for the functionality, as well as security which is becoming a very big thing for Internet of Things devices. Then, you have the bigger things that are actually interconnecting the devices, the servers, the RF towers, the switches, and the routers, and so on. Basically, there are the small devices themselves and the things that interconnect with these.
    Phil Zarrow: The things that comprise the infrastructure to support them.
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: Sure, exactly.
    Phil Zarrow: For example, dumb and smart. What would, typically, be dumb, for example?
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: We already talked a little bit about some of the dumb and smart things, but things like the table-lamp controllers and lighting controllers for the home, heating controllers for the home, things that many people... Again, if you go on Amazon or one of the websites you'll see that those are things sold.
    Phil Zarrow: TV infomercials.
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: TV infomercial, as well, sure. It would be something that goes on and off controlled by a cell phone, but that's a fairly dumb kind of device. Talking to a friend of mine who works in the semiconductor industry on the West Coast at the beginning of the year, it was pretty obvious that those kinds of devices are not going to require a lot of computational intensity. That means we're not talking about a very fine gate nodes and that kind of thing. We're talking, really, about devices that are maybe 65 nanometer or even, possibly, 90 nanometer.
    There's going to be a lot of different types of chip that's going to be needed for each application. They are going to be manufacturing very high volume, so you can leverage the already depreciated capital that you have in many of the fabs that perhaps that would have mothballed and now, potentially, can be brought back into service for these very wide applications. If you believe the hype, or the truth, depending on who you're talking to, we're talking now somewhere around 60 billion devices in the next five years or so. There's a lot of opportunity out there.
    Phil Zarrow: What about smart devices?
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: Smart devices – these are the things that people are very familiar with. It's the cell phones, the smart watches, that kind of thing. Rather than being 65 to 90 nanometer, those things are very much going to be powered by the very fine logic, 14 nanometer node and higher, that type node devices that are currently being developed by TSMC and Samsung and Intel, of course. We have a lot of opportunity there for some very interesting developments in terms of materials, particularly because of the packages these have required, so you have a high computational intensity. You a relatively small device with a lot of computing power in it, a lot of functionality in it.
    It means that the central logic processor will require to be, perhaps, joined by a flip-chip assembly process into a BGA package. Possibly, a wafer level CSP-type package. It's going to vary from application to application, but the devices around that logic chip also are going to require to be very much smaller, very low-power and packed very densely with the device itself. Again, we use the term computational intensity, but it really means you're doing a lot of things in a small package.
    Phil Zarrow: Andy, where can we find out more information about some of the work you've done and Indium has done in this direction?
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: First thing to do would be to go to, of course. We have a lot of information. About once every week or so we're posting more information about these emerging applications. I would encourage anybody who wants to find me, again, at
    Phil Zarrow: Andy, thank you very, very much. 
    Andy C. Mackie, PhD, MSc: My pleasure. Thank you, sir
    Phil Zarrow: Appreciate it. Thank you.


    Keywords: indium, Indium Corporation, internet of things, semiconductor, smart devices, wireless, RF connectors, Phil Zarrow, TSMC, Samsung, Intel, low-power,, Andy Mackie