Semiconductors have been instrumental in revolutionizing the creation of new products on the one hand, and on the other to ensure its benefits reach to the masses. Today, semiconductors power every product from the common place to the complex. Sasken has been at the helm of enabling technology that touches and betters lives. The firm is currently working with leaders in the IoT ecosystem to enable cognitive technologies that help define the world of tomorrow in areas such as car, home, automotbiles, wearables and devices and industrials.
Mr. Srinivas Prasad, VP and Head – Semiconductor BU, Sasken interacts with Vaishali Umredkar, Executive Editor of Electronics Maker on how players in the technology industry are re-defining the electronics segment through the emerging 5G capabilities, how technology chip advancements are re-defining the electronics segment for automotive platforms (in-vehicle infotainment, V2X, ADAS) and what companies are doing to re-engineer their product innovation to meet the current market expectations. Excerpts from Interview:
The semiconductor and wireless segments are constantly evolving to cater to today’s industries, so can you elaborate around the evolution of these technologies in those segments. You can start by explaining how 5G technology is evolving, and what are some of the semiconductor opportunities in this space?
Sasken has been a very focused communications company. Before I talk about 5G, it must be known that Sasken has been a pioneer in the wireless space. We were one of the earliest companies who were focused on developing 2G, 2.5G, 3G, up to 5G related technologies. When it comes to 5G, the market expectation is that it has to be more reliable, have better speed and better range.
Sasken is working on 5G related areas. We are building accelerators and deep expertise, which we believe will add a huge value proposition for our customers. We think we can be an end-to-end solution provider by working with various partner ecosystems, whether it be the semiconductor, platforms or device companies, as well as the regulators that tie the entire partner ecosystem and make communication possible with respect to 5G.
Can you talk about the various platforms which are required for 5G capabilities?
I think there are market traders there. I cannot share the names of the companies that we are engaging with within 5G, but there are a lot companies who are investing significantly for several years in 5G technologies. This includes companies like Qualcomm, Intel, InterDigital etc. So every company who wants to move on from 4G technologies is making a significant amount of contribution and trying to get a larger market share in the IT space.
5G and IoT are emerging today in different verticals and domains, and semiconductor vendors and Silicon players are playing a key role in this. Can you elaborate more on these technologies that are evolving in this space?
When you look at 5G per se, the expectation is to solve multiple problems. One of the things that the market has seen in the last one decade is that, there has been a significant investment on Internet of Things (IoT). And the expectation of IoT is that it is going to revolutionize, and make the field of communications beneficial. In that context, there are a lot of deployments that are expected, as there are millions of devices that are there to get connected. The fifth-generation wireless system and IoT are in the central stage, because the device is going to be a key player in the 5G network ecosystem. When we work with semiconductor companies and the solutions that they offer, it spans across multiple platforms. 5G has relevance in the automotive space, industrial market, IoT and in the devices space. So, I think 5G in totality is going to be across multiple platforms, and every platform company is going to make the most of it.
In the automotive space, people has started talking about connected and autonomous driving. Can you highlight some of the major technologies and current challenges in this space?
I think one of the expectations of 5G is that it could be one of the biggest enablers for autonomous driving, and there are certain issues that 5G is expected to resolve for the automotive market. One of the biggest issues is related to latency. It also depends on the levels of autonomous driving, right from Level 0 to Level 5. In the next one or two years, while L1 and L2 will be the levels where major volume of the business will be coming from semiconductor companies, there are others who are making significant investments in the area of 5G to make autonomous driving a reality.
I expect that 5G will enhance the existing connectivity and bandwidth in order to make automotive driving technologies more predictable in terms of features like lane departure warning, collision warning, and making the lives of the drivers much easier.
What are the current challenges related with this, if any, and can you also talk about market expectations related to this?
With respect to automotive, 5G will be seen more in countries like North America, China and Europe. It will take a long time for the 5G market to evolve in India when it comes to the automotive segment. This is mainly because of the infrastructure which has to first evolve for 5G to play a key role in the automotive space. One of the key challenges faced when you look at autonomous driving is the fact that you need an end-to-end play. One needs to have the right infrastructure in place, the vehicle should be able to communicate with another vehicle, and eventually communicate with the infrastructure and signaling systems. All this must evolve and that will take time. Today, many platforms are getting integrated based on Release 14 specification of 3GPP, and are trying to implement the required features which will make V2V communication possible. That is the first step. While this is happening, the infrastructure, telecommunications and signaling systems must evolve so that the overall autonomous driving becomes a reality.
In that regard, what is the Sasken role and the audience support for semiconductors?
Our ability to work with platform companies around cellular V2X has added a significant value proposition for our customers. We believe that, while we do that, the Release 15 specifications of 5G have been approved, and now more investments will continue to happen by platform players. That can be one of the leading factors for the semiconductor space and aid in providing product engineering services by partnering with relevant companies to perform well in making this a reality.
Being an expert in this space, what are the key trends that you see for the coming years?
In the area of semiconductor companies, while the volume would still come from the devices ecosystem, I feel that almost every semiconductor company is betting significantly on building high-end variable automotive platforms. That is one area where you see that semiconductor and R&D investments going heavily into. The revenue that they used to generate by selling into the automotive market is going to rise significantly. That’s the second thing that you would see. And the ability to build AR, VR, and customized platforms for the IoT market, drone and gaming market, are some of the areas where we feel semiconductor companies should invest in.
What differentiates Sasken from the other semiconductor vendors?
For the third year in a row, Sasken was rated is in the leadership zone for its expertise in semiconductors by Zinnov. This definitely comes from the fact that we very well understand the end-to-end space within semiconductors. We have the capability to perform concept for go-to market solutions. Our ability to work with our customers when the solution is in the incubation phase or a concept phase all the way to take over to legacy platforms and maintaining it for our customers, and our ability to make significant investment in infrastructure elements things like Lab, is something we differentiate ourselves with. We have niche capabilities when it comes to engineering and embedded, not just for the software service, but even for the chip design service. We are known to be an innovative company when it comes to semiconductors. Our contributions to standardization, partners and then co-invest with our semiconductor customers differentiates us from competition.
Can you also discuss your current growth in the space?
I can’t talk about it individually, but the semiconductors segment is a key segment for us. In the value chain, our ability to help our customers, whether it be in the devices, industrials space, or automotive space, comes due to the fact that we understand platform engineering much better when compared to other service providers. For Sasken, the semiconductors space is just not a vertical approach, but is also a horizontal approach because of the capabilities that we build across this space, be it in Android, Linux or QNX. Once this expertise is on the occupation processor platform, we liberate this capability to serve customers in automotive, industrials and devices segments, eventually adding to our growth. So, in totality, we can’t solely look at our growth in the semiconductor business, but we also have to look at how our capabilities in the semiconductor space are helping Sasken grow across its other verticals.
Are there particular innovations that you would like to highlight that Sasken has undertaken recently?
Our ability to build end-to-end devices stands out. We are currently the only company in India that can build end-to-end satellite and ruggedized terminals. Our association is larger than software and embedded engineering. We also have niche capabilities when it comes to RF, mechanics and designing hardware platforms for our customers. It is something that we believe will add significant value for our customers.
So my last question is – what can we expect from Sasken in the coming years?
Sasken will continue to play significantly in the product engineering segment. We will continue to serve our customers in the semiconductor space, not only by partnering with them in their legacy and industrials platforms, but also by significantly invest in the next generation platforms, be it the V2X, 5G, or even the IoT space. And, we will take this capability and continue to serve our customers in other verticals like automotive, industrials and devices.