With the Indian electronics industry growing at 13.4 per cent per annum, Freescale Semiconductor Inc, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, sees a great opportunity to grow in automotive, consumer and networking segments. Its senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer Henri Richard speaks to Jesus Milton Rousseau S about the future trends in markets which Freescale is exploring.
EB: What are the trends in the future markets of consumer, automotive and medical electronics? Is Freescale Semiconductor attempting to explore these fields?
Freescale is focusing on three main verticals—automotive industry, consumer and networking. In the automotive sector, our focus is on sustainability, energy efficiency and safety.
Future automotive will be more technologically advanced and well connected. By 2020, cars will have Internet protocol (IP) systems inbuilt. Our engineers are working on a technology that will have automated contacts with their manufacturing units. This connectivity of cars will offer a lot of functionalities, for example, in case of an accident, the car owner can request for emergency services immediately.
New services like voice guided traffic and map functionality on dashboard similar to personal computers (PC) will also be offered. In future cars, one will not require to carry DVDs as the cars will have an option to download movies from the Internet on the move. Future cars will also be connected to the neighbouring cars for collision detection, driving assistance and traffic management. But these advancements are moving in a relatively slow pace because of the nature of the market.
In the industrial sector there are two potential markets—smart grids and medical equipment. The grid infrastructure is progressing slowly and even in developed nations the intelligence of power grid is limited. But in future, we need to have intelligent grids at our homes. For example, when you plug in your hybrid/electric car for charging, other home appliances would automatically be removed from the power grid to make space for your car to be fully charged as you may need to charge your car before leaving home in the morning.
Today, the most sophisticated medical technology available in an average home is just a weighing scale. So there are lots of opportunities in the robotic and remote diagnostic fields as well. Freescale is exploring the personal healthcare devices segment like body mass index (BMI) calculator, weight measurement, etc. We are also working on single electrode solution for electrocardiograph (ECG).
In the consumer market, we will introduce smartbook, which links computing with entertainment. Personal computers were initially created to take care of engineering tasks but today’s generation needs a system with high performance audio and video connectivity and mobility features like thin, light and high battery life. Freescale is involved in this space as well. The year 2010 will be the year of smartbook for all key consumer electronics companies.
EB:What are the opportunities emerging for Freescale in India?
According to the ISA-Frost and Sullivan report, the Indian electronics industry is growing at 13.4 per cent. Our plan is to grow faster than the market. In India we see opportunities in the automotive sector. New electronics applications and microcontroller units (MCU) are increasingly being used in two-andfour-wheeler segment. Pulsar uses three Freescale MCUs for cluster, body electronics and ignition. Similarly, Mahindra and Tata use Freescale products for local R&D for their next generation vehicles. In industrial sector, our products are applied in energy meters, industrial controls, etc.
As far as hybrid vehicles are concerned, in India we see the scope of very low-end vehicles with a start-stop option. The technology will enable the car to stop when the traffic signal is red and just by pressing the accelerator the car will start again when the signal turns green. We also have mid-end hybrid cars which pose challenges to engine and electric conversion. All these technologies are being developed.
Freescale gets a new life
After more than 50 years as part of Motorola, Freescale started a new life as a standalone company in July 2004. Since then, under the leadership of chairman and CEO, Michel Mayer, the company has focused on improving financial performance, reenergising the culture and building a global brand.
Product and services
Freescale may be one of the largest companies that people touch every day but have never heard of. It has shipped more than 17 billion semiconductors, which can be found in everyday name brands like Motorola cell phones, Sony electronics, Whirlpool appliances, Logitech keyboards and mice, Lifefitness cardiovascular and strength training equipment, Cisco routers, Bose acoustic wave radios, Trane heating and cooling equipment, Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Hyundai and General Motors vehicles.
Recently, we exited from our telecom business but we will continue operating in telecom infrastructure business. Our telecom infrastructure business is growing because of the increasing cellphone connectivity. In India we have global partners like Huwei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia. We are also engaging companies in micro BTS for solar power in base stations. In the consumer market, our .iMX is used in multimedia applications and our focus is on video phones, surveillance and smartbooks.
EB: What are your investment plans in India?
India presents great opportunity for investment. We feel that it is the right time now to invest in India. We are taking it as a priority. We believe that the need of applications and solutions in the emerging markets of different countries is different. The applications required by India and China can be best developed by the local workforce as they understand the market needs better. But we will take up the challenge. Our Indian design centre at Noida near New Delhi is doing well and we are looking forward to tap the Indian talent.
EB: What are the challenges being faced by Freescale in India?
India is a large geography, hence one of the main challenges for us is to reach the masses with the products that cater to their needs. The other significant challenge is how to shorten the design cycles. We are working with design alliance partners and are coming up with reference designs to help our customers. We are pushing comprehensive software and reference designs to the mass markets.
EB: How does Freescale support the Indian customers? What value added services do you offer?
India is a unique market. On the one hand, there are design houses of local companies, on the other hand there are lots of global companies present in the market. These are critical markets for Freescale and we support them equally.
We support our customers through our field engineers. We also provide value added services like tools, sample, hardware schematic reference and software schematic reference to them. In short, we provide complete support to our customers from the concept stage to the execution of the projects.