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Predicting the Future of Technology

01.09.2014 // Dennis M. Zogbi // Passives

As a result of the ubiquitous nature of passive electronic components, and the scientific maxim that all electrical and electronic devices require some degree of capacitance, resistance or inductance to operate, I am continually exposed to a myriad of end-markets, each of which is crowded with dreamers who hope to innovate better products for the future—who are trying to roadmap how their customers will embrace the new and improved products they plan on developing over the next ten years. In this MarketEYE article, I have collected and disseminated this data, and will attempt to create a novel picture of the future at hand, and to emphasize the innovators, large and small, that are at the leading edge of where the past makes way for the future.

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Almost every major brand company in the world encourages forward-thinking creativity, and many of the ideas that result from such endeavors are truly revolutionary but never make it out of the planning stage because the corporation determines the return on investment will not justify the initial expense; while other ideas grow at such a rapid pace that legislators cannot act quickly enough to provide adequate regulations. So while this article is designed to offer some guidelines for the future, it is by no means a guarantee that such developments will come to fruition. The following is a collection of expected areas of growth in the high tech economy between 2014 and 2017 and the manufacturers who are endeavoring to make change happen by innovating for the customer of the future.

  • SMARTPHONES:
    By the end of 2013 the number of wireless handset subscriptions will be approximately 6.8 billion worldwide, of which about 2.1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions. Wireless handsets are used in almost every country in the world including the most rugged and inaccessible regions in the world. Cellular coverage is almost ubiquitous, which has helped tripled global unit demand for handsets since 2005. Smartphone's will continue to displace older model phones, keeping component demand high over the next five years. In 2020, Smartphones will have the computing power of personal computers operating today. While individual sensor technology will have the capability of today's wireless handsets. Therefore, the continued miniaturization of electronic components will be necessary to achieve the grand vision of volumetric efficiency in communications of the future. The three major Smartphone manufacturers in the world continue to be Apple, Inc., Samsung Electronics and LGE
  • THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT):
    "The Internet of Things" is a phrase coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton who co-founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The term describes a system where the Internet is connected to the physical world via ubiquitous sensors. It is now estimated by Cisco that by 2020 that as many as 50 billion devices of all types, shapes and sizes will be wirelessly connected to the internet. Cisco has also established a "Connections Counter" which currently shows an estimated 10.15 billion "people, processes, data and things connected to the internet," as of December 2013, up from 8.7 billion connected objects in 2012. This represents only 0.6% of the estimated 1.5 trillion total "things" in the world. Furthermore, according to Cisco -more than 50% of the objects connected to the IOT will be added between 2017 and 2012. They also believe that the maximum number of connected objects are likely to be added when the connectivity costs are the lowest, which will be about 25% lower than costs today. According to Qualcomm, mobile data transmission volumes will increase 1,000 times over the next 10 years, and that the wireless industry will increase the number of antennas proportionately in handsets and inside buildings; access new parts of the wireless spectrum; and improve the signal-to-noise ratio of data transmissions. Furthermore, both Qualcomm and Nokia (whose wireless business was purchased by Microsoft in 2013) also think that future wireless communications networks will be designed with small cells augmenting the traditional larger cells handled by base stations. This will improve connectivity inside residences, business and on city streets. Component requirements for the fruition of the 2020 vision of the IOT will require massive proliferation of sensor technology including Bluetooth antenna, RFID (radio frequency identification) tagging, NFC Technology (near field communication), barcoding, QR (quick response) coding and digital watermarking.
  • WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
    One fertile area of anticipated growth, prompted by the IOT, will be wearable electronic technology, which will begin with innovative designs such as Pebble's smart watch (Sony has the MN2 smart watch, and Casio has the G-Shock) Google Glass and Nike Fuelband. The smart watch has great potential for electronic component consumption, because it has a myriad of functions and in many ways resembles the component circuitry of the smartphone, which now offers GPS, calculator, radio, compass, calendar, thermometer and related functions in a compact, sleek wristwatch design. Some smartwatch designs also contain telephone capabilities, while others work seamlessly with existing smartphone technology, vibrating for instance when an incoming call or text is received. Google Glass, is a wearable set of computer-enabled eyeglasses that are either voice or touch activated and can take photographs or shoot video, it can also access Google, and operate as a texting device and a hands-free telephone. The Nike Fuelband is an electronic bracelet worn on the wrist that Tracks the intensity of the wearer's workouts and enables sleep tracking with Nike+ Sessions, it also counts steps and can tell time; as well as Earn NikeFuel, a universal way to measure movement for all kinds of activities. FitBit has also developed a wearable bracelet that communicates with the wearer's cell phone and can sync with a bathroom scale.
  • PERSONAL MEDICAL DEVICES
    Personal medical devices are also a trend to watch. The technology has developed from the initial success of low-tech wearable technology such as pedometers, heart rate monitors and smart scales (sold by such companies as Basis Band, Tictrac, Withings and Vita Salutis) and the high-tech success of implantable cardio defibrillators that can store heart related data, which can be downloaded in a doctor’s office (sold by such companies as Medtronic, St. Jude’s, Guidant and Sorin). Advanced personal medical devices are expected to resonate with the self-reliant who wish to have greater control over their medical care through the advent of “digital health.” Advanced medical devices can offer the wearer access to personal EKG (electrocardiogram) monitors, glucose measuring devices and blood pressure monitors; and with the further adoption of the “internet of things” will also be able to transmit the collected data to their primary care physician without having to visit the doctor’s office. Manufacturers of advanced personal medical devices who wish to grow the digital health market suggest that the technology can offer accuracy that is on par with expensive machines located at hospitals and clinics. One such remarkable device is the Scanadu Scout, developed by Scanadu, which is a scanner packed with sensors that enables anyone to conduct sophisticated physical exams by simply placing the device to a patients forehead. Another fascinating device is the FDA approved AliveCor Heart Monitor- AliveCor’s Heart Monitor is intended for use by licensed U.S. medical professionals and prescribed patients to record, display, store, and transfer single-channel electrocardiogram (ECG) rhythm strips. Another company to watch is Cellscope, which is offering a new approach to visualizing the ear by converting the smart phone into a connected digital otoscope according to the company, parents benefit from an easy-to-use, at-home tool that lets them capture high quality images of the ear canal and eardrum. CellScope allows parents to share these images as well as symptom information with their physician, providing peace of mind without having to leave the home.
  • ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING-3D PRINTING
    Additive manufacturing, which is known in the popular media as 3-D printing, is one of the most exciting and far-reaching developments to impact global industrial manufacturing platforms in the past quarter century. Additive manufacturing is the process of building a three dimensional object by spraying ceramics or metals along with liquid binder materials. The process can create new inexpensive prototypes or be used for mass production of new inventions. The 3D printer itself is of great interest, and can be described as robotic in nature, and under computer control. Throughout 2013 there has tremendous media interest in this technology, and this has resulted in a massive increase inn sales of 3D printers for industry and individuals, which has resulted in a significant price reduction and this will in turn continue to spur unit sales. 3D printer sales in 2012 were an estimated $2.2 billion USD worldwide. The grand theory is that domestic 3D printers of the future will enable consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects. Instead they can simply manufacture them in-house and on demand. Currently, 3D printers have been sold into a broad spectrum of industrial end-use markets for prototyping, including the automotive industry, the dental and medical industries; the aerospace industry, the defense industry, the fashion industry, the footwear industry, the architectural industry and the construction industry. The three major manufacturers of 3D printers include 3D Systems, Stratasys (which owns MakerBot) and ExOne.
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY
    Solar, wind, geothermal and ocean wave sources of renewable energy accounted for an estimated 7.6% of global power generation capabilities (Paumanok estimate) in 2013. Based on targeted goals of the established and emerging economies, we estimate that by 2020 approximately 21.4% of global energy requirements are satisfied by renewable energy sources. This will require a 275% increase in renewable energy power generation in seven years. The great benefactors of this increase will be wind power generation and solar farms, although ocean wave technology also seems quite promising because it is not intermittent. The electronics associated with the transference of wind and solar energy into stored electrical energy requires a variety of electronic components (including aluminum and film capacitors). Major manufacturers of inverters, for example, that consume large volumes of electronic components for renewable energy systems include SMA Solar Technology, Power One, Inc. (ABB), Fronius International, Schneider (Xantrex), Refusol GmbH, KACO New Energy, Siemens AG, Sputnik Engineering, Ingeteam Energy and Satcon Technology.
  • OIL and GAS ELECTRONICS
    The true benefit of the development of renewable energy sources is a lower reliance upon fossil fuels, namely oil and gas, to produce the majority of electricity consumed in the world. The theory is that through manipulation of government backed subsidies- giving more to the renewable sector and less to the fossil fuel sector, will cause a dynamic shift in how power is generated on a global scale. But even the best forecasts still suggest that fossil fuel demand will grow between 2013 and 2020, probably at a combined rate of 7%. To address growing demand for oil and gas, vendors have become innovative in how they drill for and access vast pockets of underground wealth, relying more heavily on specialty electronic sensors and logging tools to make sure that nothing is missed and all wells are fully vetted. Electronic components consumed in these applications must withstand tremendous heat, pressure, shock and vibration and must be robust for harsh environments. Major manufacturers of oil and gas electronics and major global providers of oilfield services include Schlumberger (Pathfinder), Haliburton, and Weatherford International.
  • HOME AUTOMATION
    Revenues derived from sales of home automation have been growing substantially since 2009 and this trend is expected to gain momentum through 2020. Home automation includes the centralized control of entertainment, lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, home appliances, and security systems; as well as the dispersion of touch panel controls throughout the residence, and additional remote controls through tablets and smartphones. It is believed that the “Internet of Things” mentioned above will have a major impact on accelerating growth in home automation systems. To date, the majority of “smart homes” are multi-million dollar residences newly constructed or under renovation and located in upscale urban environments or luxury seaside or country retreats. However, the continued proliferation of low cost technology and the expected simplicity of management of home automation systems over time suggests they will be available for the masses in the near term. Many companies have invested heavily in product development for home automation, including Crestron, Lutron, Savant, Sonos, Control 4, Marantz, Integra, Bower & Wilkins, JBL, Leon and many more.
  • ADVANCED TELEVISION
    The concept of advanced television permeating the home is well underway; beginning with the movement from cathode ray tube monitors to flat panel displays, and then the introduction, adoption and transference from analog to digital signals, which is well underway in most parts of the world. The next successful step in the adoption of advanced television is in “time-shifting” which places greater control in the hands of the viewer and through the augmentation of television with the digital video recorder, for the viewer to control when it reviews content. The next logical step will be the interoperability of the best functions of computing and video imaging in multiple appliances. Some analysts’ best describe this as the development of an Apple “iWall” which will be similar in functionality as a Smartphone, but with the added value of an “iPad” hanging “bevel-less” from the wall. Therefore, the viewer has access to all the basic functions of a Smartphone and iPad in a centralized location, but with the added value of being able to transfer that value to multiple viewing locations throughout the residence. This concept fits nicely with advanced “home automation” and the “internet of things” and suggests further developments involving “electronics ready architectural glass displays” that will augment mirrors, refrigerator doors and physical desktops with high definition displays that offer the best of television, the internet and word processing capabilities seamlessly between devices. It is believed that the concept of architectural glass displays will also find applications in the ‘smart cities” of the future, and be employed in transportation and control signage and signaling, advertising billboards and bus stop walls. Major manufacturers of television sets include Sony Corporation, Samsung Electronics, Panasonic, Hitachi, LGE and Sharp. The long-term capabilities of advanced television also suggest the possibility of holographic television being available in 10 to 15 years. The development of the spatial light modulator chip at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the catalyst for holographic television. The chip can create a display of 50 or more giga-pixels per second and bend light in multiple directions.
  • FUTURE CONCEPT VEHICLES
    The “electronification” of the automobile will continue to 2020, and this will include various levels of hybridization- mild to full- although the full penetration rates of hybrids is difficult to gage, simply because there is a direct correlation between fossil fuel prices and increases in hybrid electric vehicle sales. In the short term, the development of smaller, lighter automobiles, with start/stop technology, fuel efficient tires, small quantity cylinders with turbo charged boost power, will certainly increase fuel efficiency to the 30 mile per gallon range for a price that is less than $20,000 USD (cars such as the KIA Soul, the Ford Fiesta and the Mazda 3) which seems like the right combination for growth. In fact future concept vehicles introduced by Nissan for example, seem to have greater focus on multiple avenues of efficiency that combine robotics and advanced computing with transportation. The Nissan Pivo, which is already in its third stage of development, employs a 360 degree rotating passenger cabin on a chassis of four “pods” that allow the car to drive in any direction. The Pivo also employs large windscreens and windows for high visibility. The Pivo is powered by a lithium ion battery, can be remotely operated by a smartphone, and comes with a built in robotic assistant that helps the driver navigate and can respond to the driver’s facial expressions.

Companies To Watch: 2014-2020

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©2013 Paumanok Publications Research; All Rights Reserved

ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

There will be many additional developments over the next seven years, with great expectations for electronic systems over the long term. In addition to the main points emphasized above, there will be an increase in the commercialization of space (with space tourism at the forefront), coupled with the increased attempt at the dominance of the government backed Asian space race between China, India and Japan, which will result in additional space stations and probes as well as an expected manned flight to the moon; and the development of single stage to orbit rockets. In computing there will be a greater emphasis on implementing multicore processing and DDR4 memory. In lighting there will be greater emphasis on Light Emitting Diodes, which will also lead to fiber optic lighting of the future. Robotics will play a greater role, not only in automotive markets, but in defense and medical environments as well. Motors will evolve and become more efficient, and a variety of new and exciting electronic components will be developed to support new electronic platforms from memristors to piezoelectric nanowires. The future of electronics is bright.

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Statements of fact and or opinions expressed in MarketEYE by its contributors are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply an opinion of the officers or the representatives of TTI, Inc.

Featured Contributor:
Dennis M. Zogbi

Dennis M. Zogbi

Dennis M. Zogbi is the author of more than 260 market research reports on the worldwide electronic components industry. Specializing in capacitors, resistors, inductors and circuit protection component markets, technologies and opportunities; electronic materials including tantalum, ceramics, aluminum, plastics; palladium, ruthenium, nickel, copper, barium, titanium, activated carbon, and conductive polymers. Zogbi produces off-the-shelf market research reports through his wholly owned company, Paumanok Publications, Inc, as well as single client consulting, on-site presentations, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and he is the majority owner of Passive Component Industry Magazine LLC.

Paumanok, Inc.

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