Q1 2014

Cleanroom disposition

About three weeks before Christmas, I bought myself an early present and installed two Nest thermostats in my house. Lifting it out of the box, even before it was connected, I immediately realized Nest was special. Perhaps it was the  custom-designed screwdriver that comes with the thermostat. Many packages come with some type of assembly tool,  but nothing that comes close to the simple elegance of the Nest Driver.

Nest Internet of ThingsThe designers working for Tony Fadell pay close attention to detail and style. So, yes, the Nest is a brilliant connected device that allows me to control the temperature in my home from a tablet or a smartphone, but that might not bethe only reason why Google bought Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash. Nest’s combined design, packaging, technology, and functionality create customer passion and the willingness to pay a premium for the product. That said, paying an estimated 10x revenues (Morgan Stanley estimates Nest revenues at $300 million) seems like a full price. There are probably people at Honeywell kicking themselves now for not having created a $3 billion division. Instead, they are suing Nest for patent infringement. But building a successful company is not just about having technology.

From automotive applications to medical and agriculture, everyone seems to be making a smart sensor-enabled device of some kind that can be connected to the Internet, and The Internet of Things (IoT) was featured prominently in many of the products at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Mobile World Congress (MWC). In fact, John Chambers highlighted the IoT (Internet of Everything, in Cisco parlance) in his opening keynote at CES, saying that the IoT could become a $19 trillion market. Cisco, of course, is trying to enable that business and grab a healthy share. Since at least 2011, the company has been talking about how big the Internet of Things could be, saying that by 2020, 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet. Based on what I saw at CES this year, that number could be low. Here are some of my favorite IoT products demonstrated at CES this year:

While I expected to see quite a bit of IoT at CES, I was slightly more surprised to see as much focus on wearables and connected devices at MWC. Samsung and Huawei were prominently displaying their smart watches and Ford was a major presence along with other automakers talking about the connected car. For semiconductor companies, the IoT opens up a huge market potential for devices with sensors (gyroscopes, accelerometers, pressure sensors, and micro-bolometers) and microcontrollers, processors, and connectivity that turn objects into smart devices. However, as is the case with Nest, consumers (and businesses) are discerning in what they are willing to pay for. Not every collection of sensors and ICs will create a product that people want to buy.

So what does the future hold for IoT? ATREG expects to see significant growth in the markets related to IoT, including all forms of MEMS. We anticipate IDM and fabless companies alike to show increasing interest in MEMS technology and MEMS manufacturing capability. MEMS have significantly improved over time thanks to enhanced technology and reduced power consumption. At the same time, manufacturing capacity has expanded and costs have come down, making a wider variety of MEMS products commercially viable. We are already seeing growing demand in older fabs that could be converted to MEMS production. While the IoT portion of the semiconductor market is a small component of the overall market and is dwarfed by the sale of processor chips in PCs, tablets, and smartphones, we expect IoT growth in 2014 to be one of the bright spots in the overall industry. And if you want to be a part of it, all you have to do is buy a Nest!

Barnett Silver
Senior Vice President & Principal 





Intellectual property (IP)ATREG is pleased to announce that it recently facilitated an agreement between TSI Semiconductors and IBM under which TSI expands its portfolio of power-management foundry technology offerings by licensing IBM’s 0.18µm high-voltage process known as 7HV. The process supports a range of 1.8 volts to 120 volts on the same chip and makes it feasible to place components that are tailored for different tasks right next to each other on a single chip.

The addition of this technology to its existing power management process portfolio will enable TSI to broaden its foundry services for customizable and proprietary development of mobile, consumer, and industrial solutions. This additional technology will address wireless sensors, digital media, alternative energy, automotive, smart buildings, and high-reliability markets.





ATREG is pleased to announce that it has been appointed by Renesas Electronics Corporation as advisor to facilitate the sale of three Japanese semiconductor assets – a 300mm facility located in Tsuruoka City (Yamagata Prefecture) and two 200mm fabs, the Kofu fab and the Shiga fab, respectively based in Kai-City (Yamanashi Prefecture) and Otsu-City (Shiga Prefecture). It is the first time that three fabs have been brought to market simultaneously in the semiconductor industry.

With the aim to create a company that excels in the global arena and contributes to all aspects of society, Renesas is implementing a reform plan to be achieved by promoting growth strategies while pursuing profitability. As part of this effort, the semiconductor manufacturing business of the Renesas Group is moving forward with reforms with a consistent focus on profitability and promotion of autonomous management as its hallmarks. In line with these policies, Renesas decided to consolidate and reorganize its manufacturing sites and is now actively seeking possible candidates for the sale of Kofu and Shiga fabs.

Former Renesas Shiga fab

On January 29th, Renesas and Sony Corporation announced that they signed a definitive agreement to transfer a semiconductor manufacturing facility and related equipment at the Tsuruoka factory of Renesas Yamagata Semiconductor Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Renesas Electronics, to Sony Semiconductor Corporation (SCK), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony.

The 200mm Shiga CMOS fab operates at 350nm, 250nm, and 150nm nodes. It currently manufactures PowerMOS FET LCD / PDP, driver ICs, MCUs for automotive, and LCD monitor power supplies with an installed capacity of 22,000 wafers per month.

The high-voltage, 200mm Kofu CMOS fab operates at nodes ranging from 1300nm to 150nm (with a majority at 350nm and 180nm). It manufactures a wide variety of analog / mixed-signal products, including power management devices, high-power amplifiers, and high-voltage power devices. The fab offers an installed capacity of 25,000 wafers per month.





ATREG is pleased to welcome two new members to its Advisory Board – Sagar Pushpala, CEO of TSI Semiconductors, and Ronald Steger, former Partner at KPMG. In conjunction with ATREG’s existing Advisory Board members, Sagar and Ron will help steer ATREG’s future growth and business direction by providing support across the full spectrum of ATREG’s business activities.

Sagar Pushpala, ATREG Advisory Board memberAcademic curiosity brought Sagar Pushpala from India to the U.S. in the early 1980s to attend one of the country’s top petroleum engineering programs. But it was chemical engineering that won his heart. After changing focus and earning a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas, he headed west to Silicon Valley and hasn’t looked back. For the past 25 years, Sagar has held executive and senior-level operations, engineering, and technology management positions at such analog mixed-signal companies as Intersil, Maxim, National Semiconductor, Saratoga Semiconductor, and AMD. Sagar currently serves as CEO of TSI Semiconductors, a niche, specialty analog mixed-signal foundry focused on technologies and manufacturing services for emerging market products. Previously an Operating Partner at Khosla Ventures, Sagar continues to serve in board and advisory roles for many system and medical device companies. In addition, he has held board positions in various industry consortiums, including the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) and the Fab Owners Association (FOA).

Sagar’s mix of experience from technology development to manufacturing gives him a well-rounded view on how to innovate, adapt to environments, and serve customers that are on the leading edge of technology. Even on the weekends, you’ll find Sagar in coffee, lunch, and wine settings, learning about new businesses and how they operate. He thrives on working with customers of all sizes, helping them explore new breakthrough technologies and achieve operational excellence. Sagar holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, and a Master’s of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Kansas.

Ronald Steger, ATREG Advisory Board member

Ronald Steger began his career with KPMG in 1976 and was admitted into the partnership in 1986. He has served as an SEC Reviewing Partner, one of the firm’s most senior technical positions, and has extensive experience serving the needs of various Fortune 1000 companies in the technology industry.

Ron worked as Global Leader of KPMG’s semiconductor practice as well as National Industry Director for electronics. He presents at trade associations and client conferences related to the global semiconductor industry and is a frequent panelist with KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute.

After working for the firm for the past 37 years in New York, Munich, Silicon Valley, Orange County, and Austin, Ron retired from KPMG on December 31, 2013.