SmartPhone, SmartTV, SmartEverything

How Silicon IP developed for mobile electronics will pervade everything.


In only a few years, the Smartphone has become the personal computer of over one billion people. Another billion will be added in the next few years. The success is not merely due to the electronics in the phone, but the infrastructure of cloud services, applications and storage that allow personal computing devices to pervade and enhance our lives. The technology inside today’s smartphones is comprised of ARM-based and Intel CPUs, graphics and video engines (GPUs), Mobile Interface IP, Memory components, peripherals, and wireless access devices (e.g. Cellular, Wifi, Bluetooth). Mobile Interface IP is governed by Standards, and optimized for low power consumption with high performance. This same technology is now moving into a range of products beyond phones – powered by batteries or the grid – like wearable accessories, SmartTVs, SmartCars, SmartHomes, etc. These products will expand rapidly as the ecosystem evolves. The common denominator in these products is the same mobile computing Silicon IP that powers Smartphones. The AppleTV is just an iPhone without the cellular radio. The Samsung Chromebook has the same chipset as the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Wearables – Smartphones siblings emerge

ABI research forecasts a wearable computing devices to ship ~500M units by 2018 into seven main categories: (current and emerging products).

  • Watches: Apple, Martian, Pebble, Qualcomm, Samsung
  • Wearable Cameras: Contour, GoPro
  • 3D motion sensors: Leap Motion, Xsens
  • Smart clothing: NanoSonic, NuMetrix, GOW Trainer
  • Smart Glasses: Google, Kopin, Vuzix
  • Healthcare: Asthmapolis, Dharma Innovations, Re-Timer
  • Sports / Fitness: Fitbit, Nike Fuelband


“Smart TVs are the ultimate smartphone accessory” – Lei Jun, CEO Xiaomi

Connected TV is the combined class of SmartTVs and smart set top boxes. According to Digital TV Research, the worldwide market for ConnectedTVs is 300M units in 2013 growing to 750M units by 2018.  

Typical Components

Media players first emerged in the early 2000s from companies like WebTV (later acquired by Microsoft) and peripheral component suppliers like D-link and Buffalog Technology. The performance and user interface was crude and adoption was limited. Today’s solutions are comprised of high performance ARM based controllers, GPUs and/or video transcoders, plus interfaces for HDMI, Ethernet, USB, etc. Storage solutions for buffering and archiving media content is comprised of NAND Flash, such as with eMMC. The next generation of SmartTVs will contain UFS. TVs and set top boxes may contain motion detection cameras and associated processing. The most popular way to turn a TV into a Connected TV today is with the AppleTV. The 3rd generation AppleTV contains the same application processor (A5) as the iPhone 4S and iPad2 with NAND Flash memory and the Ethernet and HDMI features enabled. A Raspberry PI is a popular open source “kit”. When combined with XMBC software, it becomes a $35 Media Player supporting streaming from Smartphones, Tablets or PCs on a local WiFi network. The processor is the Broadcom BCM2835 containing interface IP employing MIPI Alliance, USB and SD Association standards.

Google’s Chromecast is latest incarnation of a GoogleTV product. The Chromecast is a USB pendrive formfactor with an HDMI output. It provides access to subscription media services, Netflix, Hulu+, Pandora, etc. while supporting streaming from media played in a Chrome Browser on a device connected to the same WiFi network. The processor is Marvell’s Armada 1500 family which is being deployed in a number of new connected products. The interface IP is USB, SD, Ethernet, HDMI.

The Internet of (Smart) Things

According to market research firm Gartner Inc. 25 billion such devices will be in operation by the end of the decade, creating a $260B marketing for systems and a $31B device market. Cisco is more optimistic, putting the total number of IOT devices at 50B by 2020. That number will be in addition to 7.5 billion conventional devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal computers that require humans to input information.


Virtually every semiconductor supplier is working on Internet of Things devices. For example, ARM’s Development Platform Freescale’s QorIQ, and Intel’s Quark. Vertical segments are ramping ICs for sensors (Analog Devices), energy harvesting (Texas Instruments), communciations (Sierra Wireless), and security (Atmel), to name a few.


The IOT is much more than refrigerators that know when you need to buy more milk. Millions of IOT devices are active today in industrial applications, home monitoring, energy monitoring, agriculture and medical services. Connected devices may be powered by connection to the grid, batteries, both high-capacity rechargeable and long lifetime, and harvested energy (from RF, inductive motion, acoustic, solar, etc.) Devices that harvest energy or consume energy in short bursts from a long lifetime battery will have the smallest component footprint – a micro-controller, a radio, and a sensor. Security will be a key IP component. Radio technologies include Bluetooth (e.g. wearables, person health monitors), IEEE 802.15.4 Zigbee (building automation and control), WiSun, and various mesh networks (e.g. Smart Meters).

Machine to Machine M2M

Clusters of smart sensors will communicate with “hubs” that could be or look quite to a smartphone with embedded local storage and cellular communication features. Network and software platforms are a focus of major corporations like Cisco, SalesForce, and Oracle as well as startup companies like Xively.

Even More SmartThings

Video game consoles and controllers, motion detection systems (e.g. Microsoft Kinect and Leap Motion), and smart automobiles are additional examples of human interaction segments that increasingly use processors with mobile Silicon IP. The computing power of a billion 100+ MIPS smartphones connected to the compute and storage resources of the cloud will impact virtually every industry. Your smartphone will communicate with everything around us: house, car, TV set, personal health monitors, and wearables from watches to glasses and even your wardrobe. The common denominator is the widespread integration of mobile standards-based IP in “Smart Everything”. Smart Everything means the market for mobile storage and connectivity is much bigger than we think.   Written by