The world of memory and storage technology is constantly evolving, and new advancements are being made each year. One such innovation is SD Express, which offers a broader range of benefits and advantages that are propelling storage technology forward. SD Express is a next-generation bus feature available for full-sized and microSD memory cards that combines the existing SD interface with PCIe® and NVMe™ architectures. This allows for SSD-like data transfer speeds supported by the PCIe interface as well as improved power efficiency and more efficient storage utilization using the NVMe protocol. As the card’s capacities constantly increase – like the recently announced 1.5TB and 2TB cards, the advantage of the SD Express high speed may be even more valuable. The SD9.0 and SD9.1 specifications bring several new capabilities to the table, including enhanced security (self-encrypted Drive using TCG and Replay Protected Memory Block mechanism) and secure boot options. These features make SD Express an attractive choice for a wide range of new devices, including smartphones, cameras of all types, virtual and augmented reality, IoT devices and much, much more.
Another important development is the introduction of new SD Express Speed Classes including 150, 300, 450 and 600. These classes define the minimum assured sequential read/write performance of an SD Express card under defined conditions and create possibilities for high-speed data transfer in several applications in which minimum assured performance is critical for them, allowing proper operation along with the provision of a common language used to communicate between host vendors, card vendors and consumers. One standout feature of SD Express Speed Class is its ability to support multi-stream recording of up to eight streams simultaneously. This makes it ideal for capturing high-resolution video on devices like security and vehicle cameras using multiple cameras simultaneously. The latest specification also includes advanced power and thermal management capabilities supporting the speed class assurance, that improves the overall lifespan and performance of SD Express cards.
These features will help fuel innovation in product development for the next decade.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Of the hottest trends going into 2024 is undoubtedly the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having on nearly every conceivable industry that touches anything digital. An outgrowth of the meteoric rise in the use of AI, for both consumer and professional use, is the particularly high demand for resources and massive amounts of data and processing power required to function properly. For example, large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT require a great deal of memory capacity and bandwidth.
According to RankiaPro Magazine, The chips found in memory cards and computing and storage systems represent the largest share of sales in the industry.
With a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past 10 years, the memory chip market (accounting for 26% of the total semiconductor sales revenue) is expanding due to increased smartphone usage, sophisticated digitalization, and the semiconductor industry’s broader application in sectors such as automotive and IT. However, the development of Large Language Models (LLMs) has raised the bar, requiring significantly higher levels of memory and storage that match the size of databases.
The use of new technologies, such as SD Express, with its PCIe/NVMe interface, can potentially aid in the optimization of these processes by accelerating access time to larger amounts of storage memory, sharing its computing power, improving performance and increasing power/energy efficiency.
As wearable technology continues to evolve, the use of microSD cards will undoubtedly become more prevalent as manufacturers seek to provide more value to their customers. Wearable technology offers users a range of benefits from monitoring fitness goals to tracking vital signs. A microSD card in a wearable can add to the overall user experience and utility of the device. With more storage, users can store more applications, media files and other data. For example, a smartwatch that can store detailed medical records such as a patient’s medical history, vital signs and live monitoring data in real-time—for an extended time—wouldn’t need to rely on the limited internal storage capacity of the device. The market is also seeing the evolution of smart glasses and VR headsets, which are greatly enhanced by microSD cards. They can also use their devices for longer periods without having to worry about running out of space. This makes the overall experience of using the wearable device more enjoyable and convenient.
Right to Repair
In today’s world, consumer electronics are increasingly complex and difficult to repair. However, the rise of the Right to Repair movement is pushing for more accessible and serviceable devices and less disposable ones that put pressure on landfills. The small form factor of microSD memory cards can play a crucial role in this movement by offering an alternative to embedded memory. By utilizing SD Express, product manufacturers can easily integrate interchangeable and replaceable memory cards into their devices, using semi-embedded solutions (such as cards undercover, or M.2 SSDs) making it easier for technicians and consumers alike to perform repairs and maintenance.
As the Right to Repair movement continues to gain ground, governments around the world are starting to add teeth to their legislation. For example, a new law in California covers cell phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic products, authorizes California or any of its cities and counties to sue potential violators. These potential violators can be subject to significant fees. These robust laws and hefty fines represent a trend that will continue into 2024 and beyond, requiring product designers and manufacturers to rethink how products are designed to comply with these laws.
A few analyst reports on the state of microSD markets agree that the future is bright for this space and are optimistic in its growth. For example, the firm Valuates projects that the market will reach US$5968.1 million by 2029. This expansion is mainly driven by the increased demand for microSD cards, at least in the next several years. Their use in smartphones, tablet PCs, dash cameras, industrial usages, digital cameras, gaming consoles and other devices are propelling the microSD market.
According to a recent forecast report from Gartner Inc. on the semiconductor industry, 2023 ended with a strong demand for chips to support artificial intelligence (AI) workloads, but it still saw a decline overall. However, 2024 is forecast to rebound, where revenue for all chip types will grow, but the highlight will be double-digit growth in the memory market. Gartner analysts forecast the worldwide memory market will see a 38.8% decline in 2023 but will rebound in 2024 by growing 66.3%, representing US$53 billion, up 49.6% year-over-year.
Tips and Trends for microSD
There’s no doubt that the features of microSD can push the boundaries of what is possible with memory and storage technology. That said, even though high-end smartphone manufacturers do not always include a microSD slot on their models, consumers can rest assured that they can still be used to back up an iPhone.
With the help of a suitable adapter, users can easily transfer their iPhone data onto a microSD card, providing a convenient and accessible backup solution. The recently introduced USB-C interface with iPhone 15 further opens those opportunities for microSD usage, including Pro-Res recording directly to high-speed external storage in iPhone 15 Pro—or, for that matter, any smartphone or other devices with a USB-C interface..
Innovation is at the core of the SDA, and it’s clear that microSD will continue to fuel products and solutions well into 2024 and beyond. With new and more advanced capabilities, compatibility and versatility, microSD will lead the way toward the future of memory and storage technology.
As technology continues to advance, so will the capabilities of microSD Express and SD Express memory cards. To stay updated on the latest developments, check out the upcoming ABOEs (Articles By Our Experts) by following us on LinkedIn or visiting our website. These articles will provide insights and analyses on latest trends and advancements in this field.