By Sophie Sassard
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Softbank's <9984.T> semiconductor subsidiary ARM will deliver about a trillion chips designed for the so-called internet of things (IoT) over the next 20 years, the chairman and CEO of the Japanese company said on Monday.
Speaking at the Mobile World Congress, the industry's largest annual trade show, Softbank's Masayoshi Son said the number of "brain cells" in chips would surpass the number of human brain neurons in 2018, opening up a huge opportunity for smart and connected objects.
"This is why I spent $32 billion to acquire ARM," Son said, explaining his 30-year-vision of a world where the artificial computer brain will have 10,000 intelligence quotient (IQ) capabilities compared with 100 for the average human.
The internet of things is a term used to describe a network of devices other than computers and smartphones that are connected to the internet and can collect and exchange data, such as for controlling heating at home.
Jennifer Belissent, an analyst at Forrester Research <FORR.O> who attended Son's keynote speech said the numbers he mentioned were very dramatic.
"The greater connectivity and new artificial IQ capabilities offer so much potential. It sets the scene for a Marvel movie. Now, the key question is how to make that new technology available to everyone," she said.
"It's not the number of new devices that is relevant but what you make out of it in terms of analytical capabilities."
Faced with a secular decline in average revenue per user (ARPU) and a smartphone market only expected to grow by 5 percent in the coming years, Son stressed the need for mobile operators to invest in new technology.
Son and Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund have created a technology investment fund that could grow as large as $100 billion and become a kingpin in the high-tech industry.
The Japanese businessman also predicted that by 2040 there would be an army of 10 billion smart robots making human lives easier. But these advances won't come without risks and addressing cybersecurity issues will have to be part of the equation, he said.
"There are about 500 ARM chips in a car today and none of them are secure," said Son, predicting that 64 percent of cyber attacks will be through hacking connected objects.
Last year, for example, hackers attacked websites such as Twitter, Paypal and Spotify by targeting hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices from millions of internet addresses in one the largest attacks ever seen.
(Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by David Clarke)