Thought Leadership

January 20, 2016
Why the SD Market Continues to Focus on Capacity, Security and Reliability

By: Andre Chen

As the world becomes more digitally focused, technology continues to evolve, and so do the tools used to store digital assets. Gartner says 6.4 billion connected things will be in use by 2016. The research firm also states 5.5 million new things will get connected every day, with no sign of halting innovation and technology transformation.

 

From smartphones to cars, and all applications in between, the more data that’s cerated, the stronger the need for more storage, and storage solutions that deliver security and data reliability.

Consumer Market Trend: Need More Capacity

The digital universe is doubling in size every two years, according to EMC and IDC, expanding to include not only the increasing number of people and enterprises doing everything online, but also all of the “things” – smart devices – connected to the Internet. By 2020, it’s expected that the digital universe – the data the world creates and copies – will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.

To meet this voracious growth in data, the SD Association (SDA) is creating higher bandwidth specifications, giving end users options when choosing a memory card. Memory manufacturers are thus increasing storage capacities by using new technologies to accommodate mainstream applications and storage demands.

The automotive world can be included in this digital universe. For example, automotive applications may incorporate sensors and computer intelligence, connected via the Internet to the cloud or other smart cars, to allow dashboard cameras or drive recorders to log drives, for insurance purposes in case of an accident. Storage solutions for automotive applications should possess the capacity to store large amounts of data as the volume and use of these applications rises steadily. They serve a wide range of purposes, including the aforementioned drive log example, in-vehicle-infotainment, 2D/3D navigation and mapping, intuitive driver assist systems, logistics and fleet management, and autonomous vehicle control. As a result, the applications need to perform while receiving a constant stream of data.

An example of storage advancement in consumer electronics is Android Marshmallow. The newest Android operating system now allows smartphone and tablet manufacturers to develop technologies that combine internal and external storage. Marshmallow, or Android 6.0 as it is more formally known, allows the end user to combine external storage (microSD memory cards) and internal storage (eMMC) by formatting external storage as internal storage. Internal storage focuses on random speed and accesses many small apps. External storage focuses on large file recording and sequential speed. When a device merges a microSD memory card into internal storage, it secures and adopts the card as its own. This drives the memory card to behave like internal storage and creates a higher storage capacity solution.

With more capacity comes more data stored on a device, facilitating the need for increased security on digital devices.

Commercial Market Trend: Need More Security

In a nationwide survey by the advocacy group Consumer Reports, only seven percent of adults use security features other than the screen lock on their mobile phones. Mobile phones are just one device that holds personal data – think about the other mobile technologies open to data loss and attack due to a lack of security implementation. In addition to the features provided by the SD standard, there are various proprietary initiatives provided by many card producers that enable enhanced security options.  The following are two non-standardized examples of features in SD memory cards that can have an impact on security in mobile technologies:

1. Password Lock Through General Card Reader
  Reliable specifications that support market needs and enables new capabilities
While users are able to lock a card using the adapter switch on the outside of a device, the hardware lacks the ability to create a password to secure the stored data. With password lock capabilities, the end user or host could support this function with normal read/write commands. Similar to the way many programs and apps on tablets and smartphones require passwords, much of the host manufacturers’ attention is on creating the ability to lock and unlock a microSD memory card with a password.
2. Secure Area
  microSD memory cards are not always for personal use; creating a secure area on the card for each individual person, similar to a personal folder on a shared drive, gives users another level of security on microSD memory cards for critical information that can’t be compromised.

Embedded Market Trend: Greater Data Reliability

 

Internet of Things devices often operate without a break, and their sensors must record every single second of data. Any small delay in sending data from the SD memory card to its associated device can have serious consequences. If a delay interrupts data flow, data in transit is lost, and the device misses critical information. As a result, the system attempts to function without implementing the most current information, which can lead to data corruption.

The simple solution to this problem is to back up the data. Devices should include a backup battery, but a more streamlined option exists for SD memory cards. Manufacturers can program a backup code into cards that allows them to revert to a previous state. Additionally, the microSD memory card industry incorporates more features into the card itself.

For example, S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) technology will evolve into a solution for consumers and businesses across multiple industries. It’s considered a health monitoring feature for SD memory cards: S.M.A.R.T. technology reports the status of the microSD memory card to its host device. Devices like cameras, tablets and smartphones will know when its card is at the end of its life and will let the end user know it’s time to purchase a new card. This type of monitoring system emerged as a way to protect critical information stored on any type of external storage.

In anticipation of the 44 trillion gigabytes of data that will comprise the digital universe by 2020, and the 25 billion devices expected to generate that data, SD memory card technology continues to push the evolution
on standards for capacity, security and reliability.

Andre Chen is a Project Manager at Phison. He can be reached at andre_chen@phison.com.

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