What are the most important drivers and developments in the today’s global electronics industry? Molex’s Brian Krause gave us an overview of what’s happening and what we should keep our eyes on for the future:
1. Personal Electronic Devices
Global economic development, rising Internet traffic, and the rapid proliferation of mobile devices are among key societal trends driving industry growth. The proliferation of the personal electronic device has driven tremendous design innovation during the past decade, as is the current consumer demand for smaller, more powerful devices with an unending amount of functionality. Data consumption continues pushing demand for ever-faster download speeds and storage capacity. The convergence of proven technologies developed for consumer electronics, infotech, and telecommunications into feature-rich mobile consumer, automotive, and medical devices has forged new market opportunities. Device functionality and content are burgeoning in automotive infotainment and safety systems, medical devices, and factory robotics and automation for industrial applications.
2. Immediate Access to Content
Technological advances and product convergence have brought to market mobile devices that offer broad-based functionality to empower people to better manage their daily lives. Smartphones have gone far beyond revolutionizing communications, impacting cultural norms and the way people access news, entertainment, photography, navigation, and even how we interact with our homes, vehicles, and, increasingly, automated equipment in our workplaces. Mobile devices have become indispensable. Consumers’ wish to access content anywhere, anytime, and on any device, also drove changes in the industry including more powerful and faster connectors to support the heavy bandwidth requirements of video and music streaming. OEMs also required a new way to address heat dissipation, creating new solutions for thermal management for a variety of electronic device connectors, ranging in size from microminiature to large scale. Sustaining the “smaller, faster, more economical” pipeline comes with significant design challenges.
3. Data Taxing Infrastructure
Globally, we are seeing many existing infrastructures — telecommunications, wireless networks — taxed by unprecedented growth in mobile communications. This mean we are in need of equipment upgrades and capacity additions. Demand is on the rise for data storage capacity and high-speed retrieval. High-density micro-miniature technologies that were originally developed for consumer product applications are expanding into markets such as infotech and mobile devices, leading to smaller devices and even greater mobility. Addressing next-generation, high-speed applications is a shared priority among many in the industry. Molex has taken action in meeting demand for miniaturization, higher data rates, and lower power consumption by partnering with other industry technology leaders to become a founding member of the CDFP consortium, whose objective is the development of a robust form factor for delivering 400Gb/s transceivers. The joint efforts of the CDFP consortium will increase customer choice, reduce end-user costs, and ensure interoperability to allow the copper cable and fiber optics transceiver market to expand.
4. Advanced Vehicle Innovations
The automotive industry has seen burgeoning in-vehicle content driven by customer demand for advanced product features, convenience, and connectivity. This applies not only to mobile device use but also to the proliferation of infotainment, telematics, and safety systems. The concept of the driverless car has also received considerable attention with the publicity surrounding the Google X R&D. While Google projects a rollout in 2018, some car manufacturers are expected to step up as early as 2015. Cadillac plans vehicles featuring “super cruise”, with autonomous steering, braking, and lane guidance. Nissan expects to sell vehicles with autonomous steering, braking, lane guidance, throttling, gear-shifting, and, as permitted by law, unoccupied self-parking. The capital, enthusiasm, and technologies exist, so we can expect to see further development of autonomous vehicles.
5. Next-Gen Hands-Free Electronics
The rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets vividly illustrates the way innovative manufacturers can create entirely new markets — and have broad-reaching impact on how we as a society work, play, access news and entertainment, and communicate. We can expect to see portable and wearable electronics continue to gain momentum. Wearable markets, including smart watches, smart glasses, smart clothing, and even upscale smart jewelry, are projected to become a multi-billion dollar market. Wearable offerings are proliferating, with many new products in the prototype phase. These will usher in a new era of “hands-free” mobility. From a design standpoint, wearable devices present complex challenges to meet the signal and power requirements of a feature-rich environment, but also provide a compact, lightweight, and durable product, with a pleasing aesthetic that people will want to wear. Consumer expectations for wearable devices are strikingly similar to those in emerging telehealth and remote healthcare monitoring applications for wirelessly conveying data to hospitals and doctors in real time. Whether a user wants to schedule business appointments; track nutrition and fitness goals; safeguard their children, home, and pets; or monitor their heart rate or blood sugar, they want comfort, convenience, and less-bulky devices, with the ability to synchronize or communicate seamlessly with their smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth, and other common communication protocols.