Micron’s 2021 Predictions for 5G, AI, & Data Science

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Micron Technology is a world leader in innovating memory and storage solutions that accelerate the transformation of information into intelligence, inspiring the world to learn, communicate and advance faster than ever.

Thought Leaders at Micron had the following 2021 predictions to share:

Steve Pawlowski, Micron Corporate Vice President of Advanced Computing Solutions & Emerging Memory Solutions

AI will become more accurate and more ubiquitous, and, we’ll start to see it filling in more gaps for simple tasks where people would traditionally say “Why would I ever use an AI algorithm for that?” For example, grocery stores could use AI-enabled cameras that periodically check to see if a shelf is empty and if so, alerts a clerk to restock. In a post-COVID world, we’ll see more businesses adopting AI for use cases like these to create contactless experiences that reduce unnecessary face-to-face interaction. We’ll also see AI moving into infrastructure such as data centers and telecom base stations as neural network algorithms become more adept at error correction and recovery.

You’ll have AI algorithms for simple, singular tasks and sophisticated algorithms for mapping the human brain.  AI this agile requires a significant amount of memory bandwidth, and when you add memory bandwidth, you’re adding power – researchers have found that training a single AI model can emit 5x the lifetime carbon emissions of an American car (including manufacture).

These immense power requirements aren’t sustainable if AI is to be pervasive in our society—both in terms of the data center and our planet. In the next several years, we’ll see ecosystem players exploring new ways of powering AI in an energy-efficient manner. That could be taking AI architecture and moving it closer to the memory via stacking memory in a 3D package on top of the logic. Beyond the hardware, today there’s a lot of bandwidth—and data—we’re leaving on the table, meaning huge amounts of energy wasted. So in the years ahead, we’ll see a rise in technologists analyzing how to finetune AI algorithms to get as high performance as possible, but with extremely stingy power levels. Basically, it’s squeezing insights out of every bit of data to ensure it’s not going to waste.

Raj Talluri, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Micron’s Mobile Business Unit 

5G takes flight in a brave new socially distanced world: In 2021, we’ll see near-term benefits in mobile, especially with the deployment of 5G networks this year — which will accelerate globally.  The fast speeds and low latencies will enable people to truly multitask with their phones as the hub.  Consumers will be able to stream a high-definition multiplayer video game to their television while video chatting, texting, and doing work on their phone simultaneously.  With all these rich, data-heavy mobile needs, in 2021, we’ll see increased demand for low-power memory such as LPDDR5 which will be critical for keeping pace with compute-intensive behaviors without draining battery.

Further ahead in the next few years, we’ll see 5G enable new and improved telemedicine, tele-learning, and virtual entertainment. Already, the pandemic has forced us to embrace these, but it’s clear that the optimal infrastructure isn’t there. As 5G becomes a reality and the cultural shift toward social distancing lingers, we could see it enabling 4K/8K high-resolution video for telemedicine, personalized AI-based teachers in virtual classrooms, and lag-free Zoom meetings. In 2021 and beyond, 5G might power inventive contactless experiences in retail and hospitality, and interactive sporting and entertainment experiences. Imagine immersive, 360-degree, virtual experiences for football, all enabled by six cameras shooting the same scene, with a machine processing together these feeds to allow viewers to watch the game from different angles in real-time.

On the flip side, the promise that 5G will revolutionize our lives immediately or even by the end of next year is overhyped. It will take time for disruptive use cases to develop—maybe five years. First, the foundational 5G infrastructure and memory and storage needs to be in place—then those disruptive applications will come.

Raj Hazra, Micron Senior Vice President of Emerging Products & Corporate Strategy

The pandemic has allowed hypothesis to be proven true by catalyzing digital transformation. As meetings go virtual, streaming data has exploded. And all of the sudden, AI self-learning models look less risky. In the past, a CIO would say “It would be great to do that, but I can’t take those risks.” This risk tolerance has changed because they’ve had to make the changes.

In 2021, the prevalence of remote work—even post-pandemic—will continue accelerating capabilities in the cloud. This will drive unprecedented interest in disaggregated composable systems, so there aren’t wasted resources in an over-provisioned environment. This move toward streamlining resources will be critical in reducing the rising environmental impact of IT. For example, information and communication technology is already predicted to use 20% of the world’s electricity by 2030. As companies look to incorporate sustainability into business strategy and reduce OpEx for compute-intensive workloads such as AI and high-performance computing, we’ll see escalating demand for energy-efficient memory and storage.

Boundaries between memory and storage will blur: 2021 is going to see AI-as-a-service become mainstream, intelligence migrate to the edge, and 5G come to life. This is going to propel fundamental changes in the way server systems are architected. Memory will extend into multiple zones—and will become a shared resource. And storage and memory will merge. You’ll no longer think “DRAM for memory and NAND for storage,” because faster NAND will create the ability to use it as memory.

The age-old demands of “Let’s get one more generation of faster DRAM” or “Let’s get less costly memory at higher capacities” are going away. As data demands complexify, we’ll see enterprises asking, “Can we get memory with half the power of DRAM” or “Can we get memory with a different interface to be pooled amongst servers?” The real interest is in innovation beyond CPUs and GPUs. In 2021, we’ll see enterprises seeking new kinds of solutions such as storage-class memory and memory virtualization to meet these evolving needs.

Kris Baxter, Corporate Vice President & General Manager of Micron’s Embedded Business Unit

 For 2021, set autonomous aside for a second and think about advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). COVID put a damper on the aggressive adoption we might’ve seen otherwise in the mobility space; people are hesitant about public transportation and ridesharing. We’re also a long ways away from having the technology to be fully autonomous. We’ve seen Tesla backing away from autonomous claims and highlighting ADAS Level 2 and Level 3. We see an increase in that space — adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, automatic braking, driver monitoring systems. The overall market is going to be very strong in 2021, not for autonomous vehicles, but digitalization of the cabin.

We still believe that autonomous vehicles are going to make it into the enterprise first: robo-taxis, long-haul trucking applications, areas that can afford the costs associated with autonomous.

And with the explosion in automotive data, we’ll also see a shift towards centralizing vehicle computing. There’s an architectural transition where we’re going to go from having a fragmented architecture with individual ECUs around the car to having a single domain controller.

Drone delivery will take off in time, but likely not in 2021. Having drones flying around, dropping off packages is not something that most consumers are super excited about. So the technology may be there, but we need to work through the regulations and societal adoption first. Same thing with autonomous: How many people are going to be comfortable with autonomous semi-trucks sharing the same road as their families?

The autonomous factory won’t be fully realized in 2021. You would think that with the current COVID environment that we’d see acceleration of autonomous factories, but there’s still a lot to be done with how factories are using edge and IoT devices and analyzing that data. And security has been a critical roadblock. In 2021, we’ll see demand for unified plug-and-play, end-to-end, edge-to-cloud platforms that can manage, connect and secure smart embedded devices. This is the missing linchpin that autonomous factories need to fully realize.

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