The ambitious United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from reducing food waste to enhancing global healthcare access, hinge on a connected world where every object whispers valuable data. As technology strives to address environmental challenges, healthcare needs, and promote responsible consumption, traditional integrated circuits (ICs) are facing limitations in emerging applications. While traditional ICs power our smartphones and computers, their mechanical rigidity and environmental footprint create hurdles in achieving sustainability for emerging applications.
Vision of the Future Connected World
Item-level intelligence involves enabling individual items or products to collect, store, and transmit data through sensors and communication capabilities. This concept is particularly relevant in the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices, providing valuable information about an item’s status, location, and usage. For instance, in retail, smart tags on products enhance inventory management, while in healthcare, sensors on pharmaceuticals ensure proper storage conditions. In addition, health monitoring systems can become more sophisticated by leveraging wearable devices for continuous data analysis and personalized health recommendations. For example, smart patches could help prevent strokes through early detection of heart arrythmia.
Overall, item-level intelligence improves visibility, traceability, and efficiency across various industries and applications.
Smart packaging, a transformative concept, involves integrating intelligence into packaging to monitor food freshness, for example, or optimize healthcare item handling. Challenges such as cost, chip scarcity, and environmental concerns with traditional semiconductors hinder adoption. An alternative solution is flexible semiconductors, offering customizability and a lower carbon footprint, providing a viable path forward. At the forefront of this wavefront stands Pragmatic Semiconductor, a UK-based company pioneering the technology. Pragmatic’s flexible Integrated Circuits (FlexICs) use thin-film transistor (TFT) technology in combination with conventional semiconductor processing to deliver the world’s most complex flexible circuits.
These ultra-low-cost circuits can be shaped to a millimeter-range radius of curvature without impairing functionality. FlexICs enable ease of addition of item-level intelligence at large-scale. FlexIC fabrication omits many of the resource-intensive stages of silicon semiconductor manufacturing, resulting in a single-site production process that is not only faster but also de-risks against a globally disaggregated supply chain, thereby promoting semiconductor sovereignty and onshoring production. Single-site production provides environment-friendly benefits as well, as discussed below.
Environmental Impact and Customization
FlexICs also boast a lower environmental impact compared to traditional silicon, since the simplified production requires less water and energy, and fewer hazardous chemicals, compared to silicon fabs. It also produces no PFASs – per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as ‘forever chemicals’. This aligns perfectly with the UN’s push for sustainability.
Traditional semiconductor supply chains can span several geographies. The single-site production process of FlexICs eliminates the air miles a standard silicon chip is likely to rack up as it jets around the world from the fab to the packager to final assembly.
Market Opportunities Galore
The IoT has connected our devices, but the future lies in the Internet of Everything (IoE), where every object, from furniture to clothing, interacts and shares data. FlexICs, with their adaptability and affordability, are the perfect bridge between these two domains. Imagine bendable displays integrated into shaped walls or smart fabrics that monitor our health. They’re the possibilities FlexICs unlock, paving the way for a truly interconnected ecosystem. Imagine wound dressings that not only protect but also monitor healing in real-time, sending data to doctors for personalized care. Use of microscopic smart sensors in “in vivo” applications for gaining crucial medical insights is a strong possibility, with of course FDA (or other country-specific equivalent) approvals. This is the healthcare revolution FlexICs bring, democratizing access to data-driven care and transforming the way we diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases.
The Pragmatic Revolution
Pragmatic’s solutions empower businesses to harness the power of flexible integrated circuits. FlexICs offer a compelling alternative to legacy-node chips, providing sufficient performance for simple tasks. The company’s rapid production method enables quick iteration of designs and chip production within weeks, accelerating time to market for IoT devices. By utilizing flexible semiconductors for tasks where “just enough” performance suffices, silicon can be freed up for high-end applications. This approach not only enables rapid, high-volume production through localized fabrication but also yields significant savings in production time, materials inventory, and transportation costs. In essence, FlexIC fabs offer the opportunity to achieve semiconductor sovereignty at a fraction of the cost, time, and resource consumption of traditional silicon fabs.
As the semiconductor industry aligns its trajectory with UN’s SDGs, FlexICs emerge as a catalyst for transformative change. Pragmatic’s dedication to providing sustainable solutions in diverse applications exemplifies the profound impact of FlexIC technology. The journey from traditional ICs to FlexICs signifies not only a technological evolution but a step towards a future where technology seamlessly integrates with our lives, fostering innovation, sustainability, and connectivity across industries.
For more details, visit www.pragmaticsemi.com