Rich multimedia data, advanced software drive demand for 'memory'

Technology companies, working in the space of digital data storage and management, are expected to offer innovative solutions to cater to the automotive industry’s future – and humongous – digital requirements.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 15 Sep 2017 Views icon13154 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

With digital systems in vehicles needing a higher amount of software and data, storage solutions provider Western Digital is bullish on demand for discrete flash memory.  

As modern cars, already buzzing with close to 100 million lines of codes, increasingly turn technology centres on wheels, there is an intensive inclusion of electronics on board being controlled by a few tens of computing systems.

While automakers worldwide invest considerable effort in introducing an expansive range of safety and autonomous systems to a vehicle’s ecosystem, which are set to shoot the quantum of code to up to 300 million lines in the coming future, the challenge lies in the concise packaging of all this intangible data to allow for a minimal physical intrusion of electronics in an otherwise mechanically oriented environment.

Technology companies, working in the space of digital data storage and management, are expected to offer innovative solutions to cater to the automotive industry’s future – and humongous – digital requirements.

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Working in this direction, American digital storage solutions major, Western Digital Corporation (WD), which has a strong foothold over the commonplace consumer technology device Hard Disk Drive (HDD), is extremely optimistic about the rapidly evolving electronic storage needs in the automotive market in India and the world over.

The company, which acquired another global digital storage major, SanDisk in May, 2016, has gone on to become the largest storage solutions provider in the world, leveraging the merged competencies of the two brands. The acquisition has brought about a range of contemporary flash-based storage entities (micro-SD, macro-SD and Solid State Drives-SSDs) into the company’s portfolio, which have opened the floodgates of application possibilities with these portable storage systems. Already catering to a wide variety of segments across the retail consumer space and client devices, the increasing demand of digital storage applications in the automotive scheme of things is set to see some exponential growth in the coming years.

INDIA: A FOCAL POINT

While countries including North America, Europe and Japan, with the development of technology intensive vehicle platforms in these regions, remain the top three markets for the company from an automotive storage systems   perspective, India is on its radar focus too given that it is the most rapidly developing and technology friendly market and also one of the very few in the world recording double-digit growth.

While it does not have a manufacturing presence in the country as yet, WD functions with an Engineering Centre in Bengaluru, Karnataka, running full steam with 1,000 engineers, working on fully or partially developing new storage technologies in conjunction with major automotive OEMs and Tier 1 electronics suppliers of the likes of Bosch, Panasonic and Continental, and understanding the customer needs to be developing customised storage solutions for vehicle applications.

With advent of more electronic systems in vehicles by the day, the automotive industry has projected new needs to be met and fulfilled by electronic storage companies. While the business is quite different for these firms, which are more used to the ever-so-dynamic consumer electronics space, supplying to the automotive industry involves product longevity, given the large life spans of vehicle platforms. In India as well, the company is working closely with major OEs, striving to provide storage solutions for various vehicle applications.

Speaking to Autocar Professional, Vivek Tyagi, director, India Business Development, SanDisk Commercial Sales and Support, Western Digital Corporation, said: “The auto industry is very particular about quality and reliability of the products. Specification changes are not made until the end of the model lifecycle, which usually averages five years. So, the automotive arena is more stable in that sense, and although we have to commit to keep supplying a same part for the coming few years, we have kept our 15 Nanometre NAND flash process technology dedicated to the space and will also be making standalone investments on that front.”

FAST-GROWING STORAGE NEEDS 

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Western Digital's iNAND family of automotive embedded and flash memory products has been catering to the space, offering a range of 8 to 64GB storage solutions for implementation in various systems, including infotainment, instrument clusters, black box, et al.

While the storage device types vary from semiconductor-based embedded flash memory chips to full size removable memory cards, micro-SD cards and SSDs, about 90 percent of today’s automotive electronic storage requirements of up to 2GB of data, generated from close to 20 microprocessors in the present day are sufficed by up to 64GB memory storage sizes, which, however, are slated to shoot up dramatically and reach 1TB by 2022 to 2025, with the amount of data produced skyrocketing to over 4,000GB from more than 100 microprocessors being in active use. 

With increased implementation of vehicle telematics and Level-3 and Level-4 autonomy, the needs are also bound to rise 
Inclusion of options like module OTAs (already available on Tesla’s model range), Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), vehicle operating systems, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-individual connected car interfaces, soon set to become a norm in the vehicle technology space, are all going to put thrust to this need of increased storage sizes.

 exponentially, when vehicles will be generating an immense amount of data, not far away into the future, when highly intelligent cars start replacing conventional ones.

As vehicle storage needs go uphill in the coming times, cars are going to see implementation of both-centralised embedded disk solutions (HDD) of sizes ranging up to 256GB powering the vehicle MCU as well as usage of flash memory at the micro level, with individual components like multi-info display (MID) continuing with application of flash memory, in order to keep the response times quick.

The Western Digital Group, which closed the previous three quarters of FY2017 with overall revenues standing at $13 billion, envisions India as one of its key regions in the horizon. “With the country being a major exporter of small cars, and increasing implementation of electronics and infotainment devices on these models, a sizeable amount of new business is going to be unleashed from the subcontinent,” said Tyagi.

Going ahead, demand for storage solutions in vehicles is only going to grow manifold. With car users wanting to be connected 24x7, vehicles have turned into an extension of their digital and social lifestyle. What's more, as new norms call for advanced safety features in vehicles and consumers demand new information and entertainment services, the need for top-notch energy efficiency will fuel demand for data storage solutions. 

 

(This article was first published in the August 15, 2017 print edition of Autocar Professional) 

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