A Q&A with Arm CEO Simon Segars last week at the Collision tech conference focused on topics ranging from the company’s recently released Armv9 architecture and the state of the company’s pending US$40 billion sale to Nvidia, which appears to be in jeopardy to the importance of tapping into insights from Generation Z.

The 20-minute session preceded an earlier panel Segars moderated with four members of Arm’s GenArm2Z initiative – Josh Lowe, Avye Couloute, Emma Yang and Samaira Mehta.

“Every time I talk to them, I learn something,” said Segars. “They're growing up just surrounded by this technology.

“They are AI natives. They're very familiar and comfortable with it and much more aware of the pros and cons of AI than I think a lot of people give kids at that age credit for. They're just incredibly informed in a way that it is surprising.”

Meanwhile, a pivotal announcement for the company occurred in late March with Armv9, which Segars wrote at the time “signals a new era for our company,” and addresses the need for specialized computing from “the smallest sensor to the largest supercomputer.

“One year ago, as Arm’s global workforce began adjusting to remote working, we knew that technology would be key to weathering the storm.

“Across the complex data-driven networks supporting all areas of the business world, we saw how technology enabled us to keep communicating and collaborating. The sudden switch to a digital-first life for Arm’s 7,000 people was almost seamless and we were all able to keep pushing our design and engineering efforts without much interruption.

“Now, as we think about a return to working together face-to-face, we’re once again considering how technology can speed our path back to shared physical workspaces.

“The traditional workspace will evolve. Concepts such as thermal screening and the contactless office – automating doors, light switches and other shared touchpoints so employees don’t need to engage physically – are front of mind. Many of these systems will employ Arm technology in areas like automation and control.”

He added that Armv9 also addresses computing’s greatest challenge: security: “Hardware security isn’t a given. A single vulnerability could compromise an entire network, and we face new attempts to exploit Arm technology every day.”

Segars pointed out at Collision that the company put a “lot of focus in version 9 around the future computing needs for AI and also the future needs for building highly secure products, because that’s really important with so many things connected to the Internet.

“Unless you get security right then you can’t get trust right.”

Whatever happens, said Segars, who joined Arm 30 years ago when it was spun-off by Acorn Computers and “set up in a converted turkey barn in the middle of the Cambridge countryside,” the issue of sustainability must be addressed.

“We should absolutely be thinking about how we ensure that technology delivers a sustainable future.”

That future will involve a combination of a vast array of IoT-based sensors, connected over a 5G network and finally AI-based processors that are “able to make sense of what is going on in the world.

“The combination of those things, especially in the context of smart cities, is going to help us create a much more sustainable future,” said Segars. “It’s really important we know what is going on so that we can use the world resources in the most efficient way.”

Meanwhile, when the proposed sale of the company to Nvidia was first announced in September, Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia described “AI as the most powerful technology force of our time"  that has and will launch a new wave of computing.

“In the years ahead, trillions of computers running AI will create a new Internet-of-Things that is thousands of times larger than today’s Internet-of-people," he said.

“Simon Segars and his team at Arm have built a company that is contributing to nearly every technology market in the world. Uniting NVIDIA’s AI computing capabilities with the vast ecosystem of Arm’s CPU, we can advance computing from the cloud, smartphones, PCs, self-driving cars and robotics to edge IoT, and expand AI computing to every corner of the globe.”

Whether that ends up happening remains to be seen. While there appears to be a number of regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome, Segars predicted that the two companies will be able to merge.

“We're very confident about that, because we're really confident about the benefits that it's going to bring,” he said.

Paul Barker