Five young dancers bathed in a striking rainbow of colors with their silhouettes cast in the background dazzled SEMICON Japan 2018 attendees at the opening ceremony in mid-December. Gone were the standard opening keynotes and ribbon cutting, replaced by live performance and media art set against a dramatic black backdrop. There was no mistaking the wide-eyed looks of wonder in the audience.
In its sheer vibrance, the opening ceremony thrilled with an excitement that seemed to embody the extraordinary growth expectations for the global semiconductor supply chain over the next five years, with the industry poised to double sales from $2 trillion to a staggering $4 trillion – a phenomena SEMI president and CEO Ajit Manocha has called The Rebirth of the Semiconductor Industry. Driving this unprecedented growth will be SMART applications that are transforming industries and applications worldwide, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
The dramatic scene at SEMICON Japan 2018 was staged by Rhizomatiks, a media arts company that produced the Rio Olympic Games closing ceremony and is famous for its pop music spectacles. The company’s CTO, Motoi Ishibashi, the event’s first keynote speaker, described his team’s development of drones and vehicles guided by motion and precision-control technologies. It was some of these SMART vehicles that maneuvered the opening ceremony performers from the dance company Elevenplay onstage. Only Rhizomatiks, Ishibashi said, has this capability. In its mission to enrich people’s lives through new media arts, Rhizomatiks uses the latest virtual and mixed-reality technologies to orchestrate not only dance performances but music videos, commercials, fashion shows and festivals.
Toru Nishikawa, the second keynote speaker and CEO at Preferred Networks, a leading Japan-based developer of deep learning software programs, surprised the SEMICON Japan audience with his discussion of his company’s work to develop a specialized chip for deep learning processing, joining technology giants Apple, Google, Alibaba and Microsoft in chip design. As more IT and software companies develop specialized, differentiated chips, the devices are quickly becoming the heartbeat of SMART technologies. The company’s approach has taken hold. Only four years old, Preferred Networks is enjoying rapid growth by working with global powerhouses including Toyota, NTT, Panasonic, Fanuc, NVIDIA, Intel and Microsoft.
Ishibashi’s and Nishikawa’s fresh visions and the media arts extravaganza reflected the success of SEMICON Japan, held again at Tokyo Big Sight: The event’s 7,881 booths – filled by 727 exhibitors from 14 regions – was the highest count in six years. With Japan home to companies that supply about 40 percent of semiconductor equipment and materials worldwide, top suppliers historically have occupied the largest spaces on the SEMICON Japan show floor.
According to IDC, personal computers and smartphones, long the largest revenue sources for the semiconductor industry, will remain top revenue drivers in the coming years. But revenue from new SMART technologies for applications such as automotive and factory automation is growing, a trend expected to continue with a 2018-2022 CAGR of 9.5 percent for automotive and 5.2 percent for manufacturing, compared to 1.1 percent for PCs and 2.9 percent for smartphones.
SEMICON Japan’s new SMART Applications zone highlighted these and other new market opportunities for semiconductor growth with product and technology exhibits from companies including Bosch, IBM, Microsoft, NEC, Preferred Networks, Sony, SAS, Siemens, Tesla and Toyota. But the zone wasn’t all work and no play. The ROBOT SQUARE and SPORTS x IOT robot exhibits took visitors back to their school days, with robot anime – from Astro Boy to Gundam and Evangelion – that they could ride and control!
As the World Gets Smarter, So Must SEMICON and the Industry
We all agree the world is getting smarter at a fast pace. New cars are easier to drive – some models are almost fully autonomous on highways and streets. Your SMART speaker has gone well beyond an audio playback device and is more like a home AI platform. Almost all storefronts are equipped with video cameras. Your workplace, whether an office or a factory, is driven by automation. The reliance of these environments and devices on semiconductors is driving exponential chip and changing the world. Businesses need to adapt and so do SEMICON events. We’re doing just that as SEMICON Japan 2018 demonstrated – from an opening ceremony enabled by technology innovation to new faces of the industry to the SMART Application zone.
As the SEMICON Japan presidents’ reception concluded the first day of the show, a robot from the ROBOT SQUARE suddenly appeared in the reception hall in front of about 250 executives from the global industry. Everyone at the reception was impressed and stepped forward to the stage, reflecting the overall excitement about SEMICON Japan, which for many years showcased only chip manufacturing equipment and materials. This year, to keep pace with the changing world, it was much more than that.
SEMICON Japan 2019 will again take place in December at Tokyo Big Sight. However, organizers of the Tokyo Olympics will be using the East Exhibit Hall usually occupied by SEMICON Japan to prepare for the games. As a result, SEMICON Japan will be held in the West and South Halls instead. Look for more changes to the event. I hope to see you next year!
Jim Hamajima is president of SEMI Japan.