Updated Guidelines Identify Trends for the Development of Electronic Devices and Systems

New IRDS chapters cover quantum information processing, semiconductors, and smart manufacturing

4 min read
circuit board in the shape of an arrow
Illustration: iStockphoto

circuit board in the shape of an arrowlllustration: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTEIEEE recently released the 2018 edition of the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS). This road map builds on the success of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which for many years provided the semiconductor industry a vision of technology capabilities, limitations, and directions.

The IRDS aims to continue providing a road map not just for technology directions, but focuses on helping device and system developers in their quest to reduce their product development cycles. The document is sponsored by the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative in coordination with 11 IEEE societies and the IEEE Standards Association’s Industry Connections program. Twelve international focus teams also collaborated on the road map.

A group of experts led by the IRDS International Roadmap committee analyzed the current landscape of the electronics industry and made predictions about advancements it anticipates during the next 15 years. The document also considers the needs of industry and opportunities for innovation, as well as challenges and potential solutions.

The IRDS covers technology areas such as mobile communications, factory integration, quantum information processing, and system connectivity. Market drivers for medical devices and automotive applications are included. In addition, there are white papers on silicon wafer cleaning processes and cloud, core, and edge computing.

“The IRDS continues to lead as the go-to reference for researchers, developers, and technologists around the world by providing a comprehensive overview of the computer and electronics industry’s trajectory,” Thomas M. Conte, IRDS vice chair, said in a news release. “The updated IRDS builds upon 16 years of [the ITRS], projecting technology needs for the evolving semiconductor and computer industries.”

“Road maps are really important for the R&D community because it wants to go from Point A to Point B but it doesn’t have a path to get there,” IEEE Fellow William Tonti, senior director of IEEE Future Directions, told The Institute. The Future Directions group is overseeing the road map effort through the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative. The initiative investigates new platforms of computing—which include the requirements of new architectures and tools. Incorporating the IRDS is synergetic with the initiative, Tonti says.

“Road maps identify gaps that require solutions,” he says, “and identify whether fundamental applied research is required, or simple evolution of the existing solutions. Equipment providers and end users also use the road maps to build the tools and equipment needed to produce whatever the next technology generation demands.”

Here are highlights from the 38-page IRDS executive summary.


A chapter on quantum information processing and cryogenic electronics has been added. Cryogenics electronics, which operate at below minus 150 ºC, or 123.15 K, include circuits made from a variety of materials. The chapter explores superconductor electronics, cryogenic semiconductor electronics, and quantum information processing.

The quantum computing section looks at different approaches for building the quantum logic gates needed to achieve a general-purpose quantum computer.

There’s also a summary, “Beyond CMOS,” about the future of digital technology once scaling comes to an end. The chapter is divided into five sections: memory devices; information processing or logic devices; emerging application areas; emerging device-architecture interaction; and assessments. Each section covers operation principles, advantages, technical challenges, maturity, and current and projected performance.


The Factory Integration section looks at the components necessary to produce items at high volume and an affordable price. The update considers what sort of smart manufacturing, big-data tools, and security systems factories of the future are likely to need.

In the past 10 years there’s been a lot of innovation in packaging integration, which is the final manufacturing process that transforms semiconductor devices into salable products. The IRDS Packaging Integration section covers wireless and mixed-signal devices, biochips, optoelectronics, and microelectromechanical systems. Such technologies are placing new requirements on packaging and assembly, according to the summary.

 The Yield Enhancement section, which explores future requirements for high-yield manufacturing, includes two white papers. They discuss particle control and metal contamination in the silicon wafer cleaning process.

Several tables were updated in the Outside System Connectivity chapter, which identifies and assesses the capabilities needed to connect to the Internet of Everything. They cover wavelength performance, data center requirements, and optical interconnects for telecom, office, and factory LANs.


The IRDS also looks at long-term challenges. It predicts that video will continue to drive demand for increased mobile-device bandwidth and display capabilities. Augmented reality will require further increases in communications and computational capacity, the IRDS predicts. The long-term challenge is to substantially reduce power consumption and increase battery capacity to meet such demands.

Nearly 75 percent of an organization’s important data will be stored in the cloud, according to the IRDS. Therefore, it says, servers with higher-bandwidth memory and better power dissipation will be needed.

Factories, it predicts, will need to tackle a variety of issues including how to recycle toxic materials, how to find substitutions for scarce materials, ways to redesign manufacturing processes to accommodate new machines, and strategies to deal with stricter government regulations.

Packaging integration challenges include reliable interconnects and substrates for wearable electronics, biocompatible systems for miniaturized implants, and the integration of cooling systems for quantum computing.

The IRDS can be downloaded at no charge. You just need an IEEE account to access it. Setting up an account is free.


IEEE is working on other road maps, which are in various stages of development. They include the International Technology Roadmap on Wide Bandgap Semiconductors and the IEEE International Network Generation Roadmap. The Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap also builds on the ITRS.

The documents spring from an IEEE ad hoc committee, which was formed last year. The committee is overseen by the IEEE Technical Activities Board and supported by IEEE Future Directions. Its goals include creating policies, procedures, and guidelines to aid in road map development; developing templates and checklists; and improving distribution of completed guidelines.

“There is no other organization that has the breadth of more than 40 different technical areas and the technical depth to develop and consolidate road maps,” says IEEE Life Fellow Rakesh Kumar, chair of the committee. “IEEE is now taking a leadership role in providing road maps to drive research and the industry forward.” 

To get involved or to learn more, send a request to ieee-roadmaps@ieee.org.

The Conversation (0)