The Embedded Memory Industry Has a Promising Future


We reached out to KIOXIA to learn more about the future of the embedded memory industry. Axel Stoermann, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Memory and SSD products at KIOXIA Europe GmbH, shared with us some insights on the current state of this industry along with key drivers of innovation and distinct challenges.

What is the current state of the embedded memory industry?
The industry is booming. Overall, the embedded memory industry thrives on innovation and demand, but navigating supply issues and competition remains crucial. Flash memory like NAND, NOR flash, and emerging ones like MRAM, ReRAM and PCM drive innovation. The mobile, automotive and IoT sectors drive most of the demand. Advancements target higher capacity, speed, lower power and high reliability.

The industry is experiencing a significant boom, projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15-22% until 2030. This growth is propelled by several key drivers, including the ongoing trend of miniaturization, the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the increasing demand for memory in advanced automotive technologies. In terms of market size, the industry was valued at $8-9 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to reach $22-23 billion by 2030. However, amidst this growth, challenges such as supply chain disruptions and intensified competition loom large. Additionally, notable trends are emerging, with a heightened focus on security as sensitive data becomes more prevalent in storage solutions.

What are the key drivers influencing the memory industry today?
The memory industry thrives on two major forces: data explosion and technological advancements. These forces are primarily driven by increasing demand from the mobile, automotive and IoT sectors.

On the demand side, surging data creation from AI, 5G, and edge computing fuels the need for ever-larger and faster memory. On the supply side, innovations like 3D NAND, EUV lithography, and emerging technologies like MRAM push the boundaries of density, speed, reliability and efficiency. Additionally, geopolitical concerns, supply chain disruptions, mergers, acquisitions, and regulatory changes influence market dynamics that create both challenges and opportunities for memory manufacturers.

Which emerging applications or markets have surfaced in recent years, and what distinct challenges do they introduce to the embedded memory industry?
Emerging applications like AI, autonomous vehicles, and edge computing have surged in recent years, demanding embedded memory solutions with high performance, low latency, and reliability. Two specific applications stand out: AI at the edge and TinyML. These applications demand ultra-low-power, high-density memory for on-device learning and inference, which results in:

  • Limited space: Smaller devices restrict memory size, requiring high density and efficiency.
  • Power constraints: Battery-powered devices necessitate ultra-low-power memory operations.
  • Security concerns: On-device AI needs robust security for privacy-sensitive data.

Overall challenges to the industry include meeting stringent power constraints, ensuring data security, and scaling memory capacities to accommodate massive datasets. Additionally, the proliferation of IoT devices requires embedded memories with low energy consumption and robustness in harsh environments. Balancing these requirements while maintaining cost-effectiveness, overcoming manufacturing hurdles, and ensuring compatibility with existing systems poses significant challenges.

What innovations has KIOXIA introduced in its embedded memory products recently?
In 2023, KIOXIA made significant strides in the embedded memory industry, unveiling two key innovations that cater to distinct needs and applications. Our next-generation e-MMC, released in September, leverages cutting-edge BiCS FLASH 3D memory and an integrated controller to deliver a performance boost of 2.5x for writes and 2.7x for random reads. This speed makes it ideal for devices where responsiveness and data handling are crucial, like tablets, point-of-sale systems, and smart TVs.

Shortly before, in August, KIOXIA unveiled their advanced UFS 3.1 offerings, doubling the speed of previous generations to reach a blistering 1.45 GB/s transfer rate. These chips also prioritize extended endurance, making them perfect for high-performance applications like smartphones and high-end cameras that demand both speed and reliability. With these innovations, KIOXIA is solidifying its position as a leader in the embedded memory industry, addressing the evolving needs of various devices and applications.

Further advancements include developments enabling improved endurance, power efficiency, data transfer rates, and system responsiveness. Moreover, KIOXIA focuses on reliability features like advanced error correction and NAND flash management algorithms, ensuring data integrity and longevity in embedded memory solutions.

How is KIOXIA leveraging emerging technologies in its products?
KIOXIA leverages emerging technologies like 3D NAND, UFS, and PCIe interfaces to enhance storage capacity, speed, and reliability in its products. Additionally, emerging memory technologies such as MRAM and ReRAM are explored for potential future applications, aiming to address evolving market demands for higher performance, lower power consumption, and increased data security in embedded memory solutions. By strategically positioning itself for the future of embedded memory by exploring and contributing to emerging technologies that can meet the diverse needs of customers across various industries, KIOXIA remains at the forefront of innovation. Here’s how:

  • Joint R&D: KIOXIA collaborates with industry leaders on next-gen memory, including a 2023 partnership with Western Digital on RRAM development.
  • Foundry services: KIOXIA offers foundry services for companies developing RRAM and other emerging memories, providing crucial infrastructure and expertise.
  • Patent filings: KIOXIA actively files patents related to emerging memory technologies, showcasing their commitment to future innovation.

What are the environmental considerations in the production of memory products?
Memory production walks a tightrope between innovation and environmental responsibility. Reducing energy and water consumption, managing chemical waste, and prioritizing recyclable materials are all crucial parts of the equation. Manufacturers are also exploring eco-friendly packaging and sustainable sourcing for key materials like silicon and metals. Extending product lifecycles through efficient design further minimizes environmental impact.

However, challenges remain. The industry is resource-intensive, using significant water, energy, and rare earth metals, leading to potential depletion and pollution. Additionally, specific manufacturing processes involve hazardous chemicals like arsenic and solvents, posing health and environmental risks. Finally, growing e-waste from discarded memory modules requires responsible recycling to avoid landfill burdens. The industry’s energy-intensive nature also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, impacting climate change. By addressing these challenges head-on, the memory industry can ensure its future is as bright as the technology it produces.

What is KIOXIA’s perspective on the role of memory technologies in addressing climate change challenges and supporting sustainable solutions?
KIOXIA envisions memory as a cornerstone of a sustainable future, wielding our technology against climate change through multi-pronged strategies. Firstly, green technologies like AI, IoT, and smart grids powered by efficient memory can optimize energy use and facilitate renewable energy integration. Secondly, low-power, high-density memory empowers smaller, lighter devices, minimizing material consumption and carbon footprint.

KIOXIA further prioritizes “sustainable production” by adopting eco-friendly practices like water conservation, renewable energy, and responsible material sourcing. Finally, we advocate for product lifecycles that emphasize reuse and recycling to minimize e-waste and resource depletion. This holistic approach positions KIOXIA as a leader in memory technology for a greener future.

How does KIOXIA envision the future landscape of the memory industry, and what is its role in shaping it?
KIOXIA envisions a memory future fueled by breakthroughs in capacity, speed, and efficiency. As responsible pioneers, we wield innovative technologies like 3D NAND and emerging solutions, but with a sustainability focus. Through innovation, diversification, and responsibility, we aim to shape the future of memory.

On the innovation front, our quest knows no bounds. We explore 3D NAND advancements, disruptive MRAM, and AI-powered chip design to unlock unprecedented performance and density for next-gen tech. But innovation isn’t a one-size-fits-all game. Bespoke memory solutions, tailored for AI at the edge, TinyML, automotive, and next-gen computing, address specific performance and power needs.

Finally, KIOXIA understands the responsibility that comes with leadership. Eco-friendly practices across the production chain and responsible product lifecycles minimize their environmental impact. By driving these initiatives, KIOXIA aims to responsibly lead the memory industry, ensuring the future is as bright and sustainable as the technology itself.

Prarthana Mary

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