So, what could 2018 bring?
1. Smart Metering: An adjustment to the Smart meter roll-out. It is looking unlikely that the SMETS2 rollout, which is the installation of smart meters that can be switched between utility providers, will be met as planned by 2020 – there has simply been too little done so far and there is a groundswell of opposition. Something has to give.
2. Smart Home Systems: IoT will become even more inclusive, with new and existing products integrating into smart home systems such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Homekit. As well as exposing APIs to give other developers the ability to use more open technologies, for example Samsung Smartthings, IFTTT and Deutsche Telekom’s QIVICON. Instead of having a myriad of standalone IoT home devices – each with their own proprietary communications protocol – we anticipate the growth of a more cohesive, standardised approach in this space using the above technologies.
3. Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5 and Bluetooth Mesh are separate technologies but both have been recently approved by the Bluetooth SIG. Expect to see a rapid increase in the number of Bluetooth 5 devices over the next year. Advantages are meshing ability, increased data rate or range and an increase in advertising capacity. The addition of meshing in particular is interesting in relation to the impact this could have on Thread and ZigBee. For end users, this should remove one of the bigger flaws in Bluetooth; its limited range.
4. Constricted Component Supply: Problems with manufacturing of electronics due to constricted component supply. Standard lead times have gone out as lots of parts are on allocation (with buyers allocated limited quantity from suppliers) due to continuing growth in markets, including mobile and automotive, pushing up component demand. Semiconductor mergers and acquisitions have also had an impact on availability, and memory prices have rocketed. This will cause problems for everyone but the tier one companies, who are limiting their exposure to supply issues by swallowing the stock.
5. Automotive Communication: Standards will develop for self-driving vehicles to adapt driving styles and routes based on shared information. Together with this, we expect growth in the automotive semiconductor sector - occupied by giants including NXP Semiconductor, Renesas Electronics and Osram - as the insatiable demand for infotainment from drivers shows little sign of abating.
6. Electric Vehicles: Steady increase in EV adoption with associated infrastructure. This, in part will be fuelled by the continuing worldwide expansion of the electric vehicle market, expected to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 21% over the next decade.The growing number of global initiatives to tackle environmental pollution and the wider availability of low cost Li-ON batteries will also act as key drivers to expansion of EV infrastructure.
7. Vehicle2Grid: First V2G tariffs in the UK allowing EV drivers to earn money from their vehicles. This will take off slowly due to a lack of infrastructure support.
8. InfoSec: Security will be a hot topic – the year’s spate of Ransomware attacks in particular have moved this up the agenda. There is no magic bullet for this myriad of issues, but in the embedded space chip manufacturers are now offering many features to help make systems secure. However they require the software to be written to support them and this, and user behaviour, will be the weak points. With that in mind, we also expect to see the increasing prominence of…ethical hackers being employed to increase security of devices/services following recent events including Apple’s High Sierra bug, the Wi-Fi Krack vulnerability and the NHS attack.
9. Artificial Intelligence: More buzz about AI – a mix of real and phoney AI products being announced. Some will be devices that move the field forward; some will be a marketing exercise. Advances in AI for crunching the vast amount of user data that is being collected also for analysing and acting upon user behaviour and habits.
10. Augmented Reality: More augmented reality releases following the Pokémon Go success and the hotly anticipated Harry Potter Go (releasing in 2018) as well as Apple wanting to further flex its muscles in the AR arena.
Dunstan Power is Founder and Director of ByteSnap, the Electronic Design Consultancy