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Viewpoint Index

January 29, 2018

VIEWPOINT 2018: Ricardo Fuentes, President/CEO, MATECH
VIEWPOINT 2018: Ricardo Fuentes, President/CEO, MATECH
Ricardo Fuentes, President/CEO, MATECH
At MATECH we make our business to keep an eye on the horizon. There is not much use for looking at what's immediately afoot since, about that, there is not much you can do. You need to see ahead--far ahead.

Last year, I wrote about what was likely to emerge as the dominant drivers in our industry. I mentioned memristors, self-driving cars, and AI. Well, two out of the three are showing up everywhere and are prompting a host of devices, systems, and acronyms to be created for these applications (sorry memristors, there is always next year).

True AI is not here yet, but the buzz-words certainly are. So, my guess is that automotive, including self-driving cars, along with AI-everywhere will take the lead in the years to come. IoT may not be driving the industry, but it will certainly be in the background for some time until a host of security issues are resolved.

Talking about security; this time I want to highlight the potential impact of two recent events, since they could change the way we engineer and manufacture our chips and devices. For years there has been a lot of talk about security, data breaches, etc. but always in the context of a somewhat isolated incident; like a bank robbery, which does happen but it is rare, manageable, and part of the cost of doing business.

On the other hand, there have always been those that warn of more serious, systematic, and systemic approaches to eavesdropping into our data. John Ellis in his book Dormant Curse writes, as science fiction, about a plot by a rogue group to insert hardware in the interposers of chip stacks through which the perpetrators spy on anyone using devices incorporating the compromised chips.

Two things have happened recently that bring up these concerns and their potential implications to the forefront: 1) The Meltdown and Specter vulnerabilities affecting Intel chips as well as multiple other hardware, and 2) The collapse of the Huawei deal with AT&T, and possibly Verizon, because of security concerns.

Although perhaps politically motivated to some extent, it raises to the level of public consciousness the issue of where our devices come from, thus becoming a relevant aspect of the choices that we have to make as individuals and as a nation.

Today it's perhaps a bit hard to put together a scenario where all these elements come together to yield nefarious results, but the pieces are there. If you add AI and Big Data to the mix, you have most of the building blocks. The situation may call for a world-wide re-thinking of how our hardware is engineered and where it is made

The interesting part in all of this is that us; technical people, engineers and scientists, like it or not, are now, more than ever, drafted into a war of wits with those that want to spy on our data; into our lives.

Ricardo Fuentes, President/CEO
MATECH