SanDisk enters the auto industry, sets sights on wearables

SanDisk today released a new line of automotive-grade flash storage, and said it sees that -- and wearables -- as a key area of growth.

SanDisk today announced its first automotive grade NAND flash devices for next-generation 'connected cars' and auto infotainment systems.

SanDisk also plans to focus more attention on embedded flash in wearable devices, a market it believes will drive growth in flash shipments over the next decade.

In just five years, most cars and trucks will be connected to the Internet, according to a report from Gartner Inc.

By 2020, about 150 million vehicles will be connected via Wi-Fi, and 60% to 75% of them will be capable of consuming, creating and sharing Web-based data, the report said.

The added connectivity will let carmakers change their business model from pure hardware to tech innovators that draw income from mobile apps. To do that, however, vehicle manufacturers will need to team up with companies such as Google, Apple, Samsung and SanDisk.

SanDisk's new Automotive iNAND embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) and Automotive SD cards will offer storage capacities of up to 64GB and meet AEC-Q100 specifications, a stress test qualification for automotive integrated circuits.

SanDisk Automotive flash is optimized to fit a range of in-vehicle applications, including 3D mapping and advanced augmented reality in navigation systems, entertainment systems, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), as well as data event recorders.

The new iNAND card sports sequential read/write speeds of 120MB/s and 30MB/s, respectively. The drive also supports two boot or two user partitions, which allow two separate platforms to run at the same time. The Automotive SD card has sequential read/write speeds of up to 20MB/s.

Both the Automotive SD and iNAND flash devices can withstand temperatures of -40° to 85° Celsius.

"As we move forward over the next five years we're moving into the connected car era. That opens up new requirements for storage," said Martin Booth, a director of product marketing at SanDisk.

Booth pointed out that new model cars are offering Wi-Fi routers allowing users to  download more applications and information, "meaning that you'll typically need to cache more data because your car may not always connected," he said.

In addition to ADAS, autonomous cars will have more powerful computer systems that will require more storage for high-definition maps, and for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

SanDisk plans to fully integrate its flash with vehicles, entertainment equipment and wearable devices, not only producing the flash memory, but the controllers as well.

"We're able to offer a soup-to-nuts solution," Booth said.

Drew Henry, a senior vice president of marketing at SanDisk, said that along with automobiles, the company has its sights on everything from TV set top boxes to smart watches.

"An entire industry is waiting with baited breath for the Apple Watch. That's the first one that will indicate to the industry what these wearable devices can offer," Henry said. "But it's early days stiil."

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