Nand flash memory emerged by the turn of the 20th century. It dates back over 2 decades. Invented in 1994, this flash memory became the first application for replacing audio tapes in phone answering machines.
It is interesting to note that while the first device with random-access capability used a NOR structure, NAND flash memory, relatively slower, successfully substituted NOR technology in most of the industrial applications.
It is so because, the NAND technology offers lower cost per bit, which has actually increased the NAND demand in the market and industries all over the globe. An extensive range of products have been reported to use high-density NAND flash storage, and there is no stopping this technology.
Why is NAND Flash Memory Preferred For Industrial Applications?
Industrial applications demand the maximum level of memory operations and data security that’s available. These applications cannot afford to have any room for unpredictability or error since they are often on the front lines of critical systems, such as aerospace and healthcare.
Hence, for most experts – engineers and designers – the choice is pretty clear: NAND Flash Memory. Undoubtedly, NAND flash memory has overshadowed hard-disk drive-based memory in local market for consumer-oriented applications. Likewise, special industrial graded NANDs are designed specifically to meet the higher demands of industrial sector.
Today, Solid State Drives (SSDs) with NAND flash memory have become the norm. It is because this Flash memory is not only faster but also more reliable than other forms of memory. Owing to these capabilities, it becomes an ideal fit for industrial applications.
Smartphones and SSDs Currently Dominating the NAND Market
According to Statista, smartphones, as of now, consume 35% of all NAND flash production. Despite the slumpy sales of smartphones with 4 year-over-year decline, NAND flash sales have held their ground.
New and smarter mobile phones with rich features contain more NAND flash memory thein their ancestors. The storage factor in almost all the smartphones has been exponentially rising over the period.
In 2021, finding a smartphone having less than 64 GB of storage gets hard. For instance, the new Apple or Samsung smartphone feature 128 to 512 GB flash memory. Thus, the NAND demand is only increasing.
Another noteworthy device dominating the NAND market is Solid State Drive (SSD). According to Statista, SSDs for enterprise and client applications are just below smartphones with 28% share in the NAND market.
NAND Flash SSDs have marked their presence both in the client-oriented SSDs as well as enterprise-oriented SSDs. Ranging from notebooks, netbooks, kiosks, digital signage to industrial storage, high performing computing and data centers
NAND Flash in the Cloud Sector
NAND flash storage is a new contender in the cloud sector facing a few initial challenges.
Being a semiconductor technology, NAND’s reading and writing speed is faster as compared to Hard disk drive (HDD).
However, NAND flash’s cost per GB relative to HDD storage is considerably high at the moment. Due to which the initial usage of NAND in the cloud sector for all-flash storage is for low-latency applications.
With the traditional NAND technology reaching its limitations in scalability, allowed the development of three-dimensional (3D) NAND flash structures.
The 3D NAND Flash structure stacks 2D flash arrays in up to 96 layers, thereby, making it possible to cater to the needs of higher-density products.
As three-dimensional devices keep treading with the lowest cost per bit trend, this will help boost NAND flash penetration further into cloud-storage applications.
A bold footprint in the Automotive industry
Nand flash has a bright future in the automotive industry for the next couple of years. The expansion is evident in several applications. Moreover, the horizon of demands for continuous improvements in applications makes NAND flash the viable technology to utilize.
With the increasing trend of incorporating Artificial intelligence in the automotive industry, emerging applications would require even lower latency rates guaranteed by NAND flash technology.
Thus, the latest 3D NAND flash technologies under development focus on optimizing performance over cost and aim to address the demands of different market segments of the automotive industry.
These emerging NAND flash technologies, commonly referred to as storage-class memories include: phase charge memories, optimized flash and resistive memories.
Likewise, Advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) prevalent in autonomous automobiles is expanding its footprint in the market for low-latency and high-density flash.
Owing to this ADAS category, the adaptive cruise control, automatic lane centering, and collision avoidance technologies came into being.
Light distance and ranging (LiDAR) systems is one of the prominent ADAS technologies that utilizes flash for real-time image recognition and helps the vehicle to navigate through the surrounding environment.
Integral Role in Internet of Things (IoT)
Quite modest is the flash requirement of the smallest of IoT applications – a remote edge perhaps. But as per the connected devices forecast, reporting 30 billion connected devices by 2020, and 75 billion by 2025, the numbers add up quite quickly.
The renowned Internet of Things (IoT) with its data-heavy devices is yet another emerging ground for the NAND flash market.
IoT constitutes a multitude of segments, such as: wearables, healthcare, aviation etc. Moreover, almost anything with a “smart” prefix: smart homes, smart farms, smart metering, smart logistics, and much more are included in it.
According to IHS Markit forecast, 4.9% is the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of NAND flash memory from 2017 t-2022. With Asia Pacific region playing the largest part in this continued growth owing to increasing demand of NAND flash memory in the consumer and enterprise sectors coupled with IoT technology.
Thus, it is quite safe to say that over its two decades of life so far, NAND flash technology has marked its ground and it is growing exponentially. It has undoubtedly become the favorite choice for low-latency, high-density storage. It has spread its tentacles across all industrial sectors globally. And continues to cater to needs of existing and emerging applications.