Panasonic and UMC want you to wear their chips
Japan-Taiwan partnership eyes demand for ReRAM in wearables
OSAKA Panasonic is partnering with Taiwanese chip foundry United Microelectronics Corp. to develop and mass-produce a power-sipping type of nonvolatile memory known as resistive random access memory, or ReRAM.
The partners plan to use a 40-nanometer fabrication process to make ReRAM chips that can run on as little as one-seventh the power of today's NAND flash memory, another type of nonvolatile memory that can store data with the power switched off.
Electricity consumption is a limiting factor for battery-powered gadgets. Panasonic believes its power-saving nonvolatile memory can foster the development of the internet of things -- a vast network of internet-enabled devices. The company expects to sell its ReRAM for wearable gadgets such as smartwatches, and for sensors and other components in security systems, production equipment and a variety of connected devices.
While Panasonic and UMC will co-develop the microfabrication technologies, the Japanese company will handle the ReRAM design and the Taiwanese company will handle production.
The plan is to ship samples in 2018 and begin commercial production in 2019, offering ReRAM embedded in microcontrollers. Panasonic will also promote ReRAM as a storage medium for personal information in passports and smartcards used for public services.
The goal is to quickly achieve yearly sales of 5 billion yen ($44 million) by carving out niches in markets now served by flash memory. By licensing the technology to chipmakers, Panasonic aims to make its ReRAM a standard for nonvolatile memory used in devices for IoT.
The Japanese company began the industry's first small-lot production of ReRAM back in 2013, using a 180nm fabrication process, but those chips were not competitive with flash memory in terms of power consumption or storage capacity.