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Outlook 2020 - Technology is driving innovation and requires companies to chart a new course

When we use the term megatrend, we are talking about a long-term change that affects all aspects of a society and its economy permanently and these megatrends end up driving other trends whether that is, for example, transportation, communications or technology.

The driving forces behind these megatrends are unique and complex but can be demographic in nature, driven by resource limitations or caused by technological advances.

Technological innovations, such as computers, the internal combustion engine and power generators have all played a part and impacted modern societies.

The automotive industry is good example of an industry being disrupted by megatrends, whether that’s the proliferation of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies, with the prospect of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs); electrification and the rise of mobility-as-a-service, which is challenging the traditional concept of individual car ownership. Technology is radically changing the way we live, work and socialise. Whether that’s the greater use of data, the Internet of Things or the growing use of artificial intelligence.

The explosion in the generation and use of data means that everything we do, even the simplest retail transaction, will leave a trail of data.
Google and the likes of Facebook through logins, searches and tweets are helping to double the amount of data created in the world every two years.

Everyday devices are, through the advent of the Internet of Things, becoming smarter. Phones and watches are a major contributing factor to this increase in data and this data is being collected without human intervention.

Figures vary, but there’s talk that by 2020 75 billion devices could be connected, possibly trillions in a matter of a few years.

Interaction with technology
The way we interact with technology is changing too, again driven by smart phones and tablets. Today, we can carry out a range of tasks on the move simply by touching a screen or, as is increasingly the case, talking to our devices. More and more we are using voice searches via Siri and it’s estimated that within the next twelve months, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches, with 30 percent involving no screen whatsoever. In response, companies and industries are embracing the likes of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are still yet to really deliver but together they represent what could be the next massive leap in interface innovation, transforming how businesses interact with customers.

As Michal Siwinski, corporate VP, Marketing at Cadence says in his contribution to this year’s Outlook 2020, “There is a rapid industry shift underway in the electronics industry, and that shift incorporates intelligence into many things that we touch on a daily basis. In applications ranging from mobile phones to automobiles, smart cities to smart homes, retail to manufacturing, and healthcare to entertainment, intelligence is changing user expectations for the impact that electronics can have on everyday life.”

All of these advances require a massive increase in computing power and that computing power has doubled almost every two years, before slowing to the current rate of approximately every two and a half years.

However, it’s generally agreed that we are fast reaching, if not reached, the limits of what traditional computing power can handle.

Thankfully, as Ivo Bolsens, Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Xilinx suggests, “While companies became somewhat complacent in the Moore era, the end of Moore’s Law delivers a stronger incentive to push other trends harder.”

Bolsens points to new emerging technologies such as multi-chip 3D integration and the introduction of new technologies such as storage-class memory and silicon photonics.

“As we come up against the physical speed limit for conventional I/O circuits, which we know is about 100Gb/s per metre, the quest to increase the speed of multi-chip connectivity and lower I/O power will draw silicon photonics technology into future generations of advanced ICs, like FPGAs.”

Another significant transformational trend in terms of computing power is quantum computing, which could see computers become millions of times faster.

Artificial Intelligence
2020 is like to see the continuation in the growth and development of artificial intelligence. Computers are now able to learn in much the same way as we humans do, and this leap in AI capabilities has been made possible by the massive increases in data and computing power, all of which means that computers can now undertake more and more human tasks.

The more intelligent machines become, however, the more they can do for us. That means more decisions, functions and systems being automated and carried out by algorithms or robots.

The growth in automation means that humans will no longer be needed to do the jobs that machines will be able to do and which they can do faster, safer, cheaper and more accurately.

“Innovation for industrial systems is intrinsically linked to the advancements in semiconductor technology,” says Peter Lieberwirth, Vice President, Toshiba Electronics Europe, but while many of the larger step improvements have been achieved, he warns that, “It’s the time-intensive research to attain single-digit improvements in efficiency, reductions in latency for legacy networks, and higher levels of reliability that will define the challenges and resulting solutions that are developed.”

Blockchain could change our world and provide a practical solution to the problem of storing, authenticating and protecting data – whatever the future holds, it represents a huge leap forward compared to our current data security technology as there’s no one single point of failure.

The records, or blocks, within blockchain are connected to the previous block and the whole chain is self-managed - no one person or organisation, is therefore, in charge of the entire chain.

Financial services, insurance and healthcare are some of the sectors where blockchains are likely to be heavily adopted. In fact, 90 percent of major European and North American banks are exploring blockchain solutions. However, how blockchain could be used and in what sectors remains in its infancy.

Finally, 2019 appears to have been the year when 5G finally began to deliver on some of its promises.

As Sam Darwish, UK & I Sales Manager, Microlease suggests, “Services are already available in some cities in the USA and another 80 operators in 46 countries plan to launch 5G between now and 2022.

“5G promises to transform our personal and business lives and the step-change in network performance levels that will be delivered by 5G promises to unlock currently unforeseen use cases and applications that will have a fundamental impact on the global economy.”

Like IoT, 5G will be heavily reliant on edge computing and machine learning and while, according to Geoff Lees SVP and GM of NXP’s Microcontroller business, the benefits of edge computing can yield a better user experience by supporting fast, AI-enabled decisions, “We are still just at the beginning of their development and there is much greater potential to be unleashed as our understanding grows.”

The technical challenges regarding 5G are immense, so the speed at which the deployments are taking pace are truly impressive.
The rate at which the electronics industry continues to evolve and, in many of the cases highlighted above, accelerate.

I hope that Outlook 2020 provides a sense of where we are, where we are going and some idea of the decisions many of you will have to make.

Author
Neil Tyler

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