Aaron Partridge

Today SiTime is introducing the World’s first 32kHz MEMS timing devices. This is a huge deal, and it will forever change the way people measure time.

Inside almost every electronic product there is a clock tracking the time of day. There is one in your watch of course, but also in your cell phone, computer, tablet, microwave oven, Wi-Fi router, printer, car, and just about everything else.

Most of these clocks are presently based on 32kHz quartz crystal resonators. These were first introduced in the 1970’s and have proliferated, with about ten billion units being built each year. Yes, that is billion with a B, and it is more than one for each person on earth, every year. Of course most of you reading this blog buy more than one a year.

Now MEMS will replace these crystals. MEMS can keep time better, with smaller size, more reliably, and with less power. Compared to the legacy quartz crystals, SiTime’s 32kHz MEMS oscillators:

  • Take a sixth of the PCB area
  • Use half the power
  • Are fifteen times more reliable
  • Are twice as accurate

We have been sampling these devices for a while. Customer interest is tremendous, and we expect that these parts will drive SiTime’s fastest production ramp ever.

So here it is … Day #1 of a new way for Humanity to keep time.

“In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.” Michael McFaul wrote this about nations, but it is true in technology as well. This is exactly what is playing out in the quartz timing industry.

The quartz timing industry is now seeing a revolution that they thought was impossible. Even a few years ago most industry insiders said it could not happen. Now I don’t hear that anymore. They all know that change is coming. Change happens all around us – film cameras moved to silicon, disk storage is moving to silicon – there is a long list and quartz is on it.

Now some leaders in the industry speak with a sense of wishing it were not so, or hoping that it would progress more slowly. Some speak with a sense of riding through it or holding tough. But from the few more capable leaders one hears a determination to move forward and transition their businesses with the technology. That is the right thing to do, but it is difficult.

When folks look back on the change from quartz to silicon timing they will say it was inevitable.

EE Times just published a list with SiTime as one of ten companies to watch in 2013. They chose just ten from the areas of “Processors, memory, manufacturing processes, chip architecture, EDA, MEMS, RF, touch screens, servers and the Internet of Things.”

I am very happy with this! For over 30 years, EE Times has been a premier publication for the electronics industry; the place to go for news, analysis and well considered opinion. As a young engineer I used to carry my copy of EE Times constantly. In those days it was published as a broadsheet. It is now published on the web and their writers and editors are still completely up to speed. Wikipedia calls them the “newspaper of record for design and development engineers and technical managers.”

So having EE Times recognize SiTime is a big deal. It is something like an EE-Grammy award!

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