Making the world a cleaner, better and smarter place

Date:   Friday , February 01, 2008

There are three major trends that will dramatically impact all of our businesses. First, there is the global movement to green everything. Energy conservation and carbon awareness are not only becoming business mandates, they are at the heart of technology’s social responsibility for earth-friendly living. Second, there is the aging population and the special needs and opportunities this presents. And third, the vibrant new social communities and new business and consumer behaviors around the world created by the impact of broadband and constant connectivity.

As these powerful trends are converging in the world around us, there is another form of convergence taking place. Embedded intelligence, networking, and wireless technologies are merging in everything from transportation to consumer electronics, from factories to homes, and from avionics to medical equipment. These three core technologies are increasingly being combined to create new and exciting synergies.

Applications that once stood alone are becoming connected and are sharing information for more efficient operation. Simple things are gaining intelligence, and extremely complicated tasks are being solved by more simplified, system-level designs.


There should be no debate that the number one challenge facing the engineering community is to increase energy efficiency in everything we create.

Electricity consumption in India has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world due to population growth and economic development. The total outlay for energy in the tenth five-year plan has been projected to be Rs. 4.03 trillion, which is almost 27 percent of the plan and represents an 84 percent increase from the ninth five-year plan. On a global basis, worldwide energy consumption is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2010.

More efficient and higher quality forms of commercial energy are steadily replacing the traditional energy resources being consumed in the rural sector. Energy supply is struggling to keep pace with increasing demand, and India continues to face serious energy shortages.

As markets like India and China become affluent and expand the demand for natural resources, energy price pressures on both businesses and consumers are expected to increase. Energy management and other green issues are becoming considerations in virtually every purchase decision, consumer or corporate.


If you own an automobile, then the price at the gas pump is probably top of mind when you think of the cost of energy. Half of new vehicles shipped globally use micro-controllers to deliver fuel-efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety.

Automotive manufacturers are already exploring advanced safety systems to help control speed and monitor the distance of oncoming traffic. Engineers are even looking at systems that can tailor airbag deployment and steering wheel placement for those with senior stature. The autonomous vehicle promises even more safety and conveniences for all ages. Today wireless, networking, and embedded intelligence are converging and transforming the automobile into the ultimate mobile computing device.

With the advent of electronic engine management, electronic injection systems, and catalytic converters, passenger cars now emit 95 percent less Nitrogen Oxide and other pollutants compared to 1970 levels. The automotive industry will continue to look to new technology to meet the stringent Euro 6 standards in 2014.

During 2005-06, India has emerged as the third largest automotive market in the Asia-Pacific region. Unfortunately, emissions control in India is very low by international standards, and fumes from motor vehicles contribute to India’s air pollution.

Combine that with the fact that the Indian automotive industry is the second fastest growing in the world with about 8 million vehicles produced annually, and it is clear that semiconductor technology will help protect quality of life in India.

Silver lining

Our next trend deals with the aging population, and the economic and healthcare challenges it presents. In 2006, almost 500 million people worldwide were 65 and older. By 2030, that total is projected to increase to 1 billion, or 1 in every 8 of the earth’s inhabitants.

India is no exception to this phenomenon. In the 1950s, the average male life expectancy in India was 40. In 2003, it reached 63 years, and today it is close to 70.

While it took France 120 years for the population of the elderly to double, it took India just 25 years. This population jumped from 19 million in 1951 to 77 million in 2001 and is anticipated to reach 137 million by 2021. India now has the second largest aged population in the world.

India is a land where age and wisdom are traditionally respected. But improved longevity and increased mobility of the population is challenging these age-old traditions.

In rural India, we are beginning to see the old left to themselves as the young have gone for jobs elsewhere. Fostering independence for older persons will become increasingly important as the traditional family structure changes.

Our current methods for housing and caring for the senior members of our society will not scale. We will need to find new solutions, and those solutions will be technical in nature. It will also create a demand for greater convenience and ease of use in virtually every electronic device.

Biometric health care devices of all kinds, some new, others embedded in products we already use, will see wide adoption. Geriatric telemedicine is another solution that will allow people to “age in place”, in safety, dignity, and with their autonomy intact.