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What is 2014 going to bring to the electronics industry?

Posted by Mona Ghobadi on 3rd January 2014

The electronics industry is the life-blood powering the thriving consumer technology and IT devices we use every day. We’re all very interested in the next smartphone we can lay our hands on and where the hell we’re going to put all that big data, but without the good old semiconductor these things would remain a fantasy.

So, we wanted to get a few predictions as to how the electronics industry is shaping up for 2014 and what the big trends are likely to be this year.

The unanimous conclusion is that the 2014 headlines are likely to be dominated by the Internet of Things. Opportunities in the M2M space affect a great number of stakeholders – from the smartwatch-wearing consumer to the sensors and SoC manufacturers. Here’s how the electronics journalists see 2014.

Nick Flaherty, editor (embedded), EE Times Europe

Wearable technologies will continue to stutter until compelling apps demonstrate the need, and the integration of Microsoft and Nokia, coupled with the change of leadership at Microsoft, will also slow the market, and the Surface tablet is unlikely to get traction.

Despite years of discussion, Moore’s Law continues its march. 14nm FinFET technology will continue the drive to higher density and higher performance, with Intel and TSMC shipping 14nm devices. These will be mostly digital, and the challenge of integrating analogue and power components onto such devices will be interesting to watch. That opens up opportunities in Europe for analogue and ‘real world’ integration with STMicroelectronics taking the lead with its FD-SOI process as it pulls back from its digital consumer business. We will also see a dramatic rise in the use of Android and app-based methodologies in the industrial market.

One interesting trend to watch will be ARM’s move into servers and the data centre. With companies such as AMD and Calxeda already starting to ship ARM-based server chips, and Google looking closely at the technology, ARM implementations on FinFET will be a major competitor to Intel over the next year. As the Internet of Things and home automation drive more data, so the need for more cloud services will drive a dramatic increase in data centre capacity within the same footprint, making power consumption the key metric of the year.”

Matthias Laasch, editor, Elektronik Informationen:

“At EL-info, we are mainly looking at the trends and technologies in industrial electronics. “Industrie 4.0” turns out to be a next year’s megatrend, at least in Germany. Referred to as the Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems in the United States and elsewhere, the term Industrie 4.0 describes the convergence of embedded intelligence (electronics), software, and network communications technology in smart and autonomous products – which we will see rapidly accelerating in 2014. Those smart electronic products will be able to configure and optimise themselves.

They can finally control their own manufacturing and will (after the utilisation of steam power, the transition to batch fabrication and the introduction of digital industrial control) again revolutionise industrial production.

From the electronics point of view, Industrie 4.0, Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems will increase the demand for sensors, actuators, signal processing, embedded control, communication IP and ICs and – probably most of all – highly integrated programmable logic devices (FPGAs and programmable Systems-on-Chip).”

Chris Edwards, freelance:

“I’m tempted to say the Internet of Things will roll off the top of the hype cycle but I suspect it will probably just about make it into 2015 before tipping into oblivion. But it will not be nearly as stretched out as the introduction of the foundries’ 14nm/16nm processes.”

Caroline Hayes, freelance:

“I think the future will look sunnier for PV (photovoltaics) around the world, now that over-supply has rebalanced and production is ramping up again.  

If you can wear it, then it’s bound to be popular – whether it’s monitors, fitness bands, wearable technology can only beg the question – does my wrist look big in this!!

This also links with the Internet of Things, which is a catchall phrase but is becoming more relevant as people post how many miles they have run/or doughnuts they have consumed and this is uploaded to social networks but also to remote advisors (personal trainers, doctors etc). The IoT also means mobility of information and the smartphone/tablet will continue to be important next year and improved graphics processing will make it a mobile cinema/photo album/gaming centre.

“As the global markets show signs of recovery, 2013 was hailed as the year of the tablet computer. With a £30 tablet going on sale at Christmas, that will continue through 2014 with iOS and Android as the driver, although the quality of the fragmented Android operating system implementations and the interoperability of apps will slow that market down. However the use of technology for home automation will continue to increase significantly on the back of the boom in tablets and smartphones, coupled with the drive to the Internet of Things that provides the apps.

Mona Ghobadi