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Outlook 2021: Getting smarter, connected and more secure

Mike Ballard

As the world responds to new challenges, the next generation of end electronic products will need to meet high expectations and deliver even higher levels of security.

It takes more than using the latest embedded devices for customers to develop ground-breaking products which deliver real change. Selecting a new device is only the start, and engineers working in Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of all sizes must be able to realize the potential that can be unlocked by each new part.

To do this, OEMs need to understand how to integrate the functions and capabilities provided by the latest devices into their application. They will also need a deep knowledge of their market and the trends that are happening within it to succeed.

Daily life is becoming a smarter and more connected experience for developers as well as for end users. And, as the levels of sophistication and connectivity continue to grow, the need to deliver smarter advanced security for connected applications is also growing.

Driven by market intelligence

Microchip identifies and understands the needs and trends across multiple markets, now and into the future. To help customers to respond to these trends, the technology values of each new solution must be conveyed accurately, clearly and quickly. The insights gained from monitoring different trends can benefit clients of all sizes, from major multi-nationals to the start-ups which drive grass-root innovation. Technology is moving fast and the path to developing new products and applications should be made as smooth as possible.

Microchip’s wide range of partnerships with clients, of every size across every market sector, gives us insight into the unique needs of various applications. This enables our business units to create new devices that meet our client’s needs for current and yet-to-be-realized end products.

Technology is a moving target

As technology continues to evolve, security must evolve at the same speed or faster and engineers must deliver secure connection to MCUs as well as to cloud servers.

The growth of cloud connectivity leaves OEM products more open to the risk of attack. For developers, this means that the products they create must keep their IP secure and maintain high levels of security for the users. The challenge is to bring emerging technologies to OEM customers in a way that puts safety at the forefront of technology.

To deliver the products of the future, the speed of development must be combined with an understanding of how technology is moving across different markets. When the first smartphones came out, consumer expectations changed dramatically. The first touchscreen excited the market, but that technology is now integrated into products at the lower end of the market. Cutting-edge technologies which are developed for high-end applications will soon be scaled to reach lower-cost devices.

The reality is that today’s high technology will become mainstream in three or four years.

Product developers must envision where they should be heading and understand what they should be avoiding.

Game changing technologies

Today, the technologies which are providing the biggest disruption to the user experience are facial recognition, voice commands, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). Scaling these technologies from high-end to individual applications in the mass market can deliver a more customised user experience and simultaneously drive higher expectations.

What will these future applications do? Your front door may be able to recognise you and unlock itself automatically. A big trend in the US is the video doorbell that already allows you to talk to someone who is standing at the door when you are in another location. The combination of facial recognition and machine learning could also mean that your coffee maker will recognise you and then make the type of coffee that you prefer.

New drivers for technology are also coming from unexpected sources. The Covid-19 lockdown changed the world in just a few weeks and new market trends are appearing. So how will the electronics industry respond to these changes?

As working from home becomes the new norm, the risk of leaving home resulted in fewer cars on the road and a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Companies may embrace this concept more in the future and products may be needed to enable people to work together even when we are separated.

The University paradigm may also change, as classes are moving online; and, there is a rise in the use of home-based products for health monitoring and even virtual healthcare appointments.

Will the long-term result of these changes be that business moves to a more communication-based model? Will using a ride-sharing app on your phone replace owning a car? And will the new products be able to learn on their own and write their own code?

Creating the future

Engineers have great ideas for applications that respond to new opportunities. However, they often do not have the internal design resources and expertise to develop them. Working closely with a major global partner, like Microchip, can make a real difference in delivering the performance expected of next-generation products to the right markets at the right time.

To enable companies to create products which break new ground, they must have access to the resources which support advanced development as well as to proven software and a solid security platform.

The wide range of partnerships that Microchip has in virtually every sector of the market gives us market insight that we share with our customers directly or through third-party partners. It is important for engineers to be able to have the building blocks for new devices and to implement the security which protects their users as well as their products and reputation. This means that all the secure elements of a new product or application must be connected to deliver the most robust levels of security.

The support which helps customers capitalise on using the latest technologies and devices enables applications to be delivered across different markets. The size of these customers ranges from major companies with significant resources and revenue, to smaller start-ups where the focus is on innovation and individualism. This could include a university student who may be using an easy-to-use maker board to develop their revolutionary new application.

A new device may do a million things. Microchip’s role is to connect the dots between shaping the capabilities of each new device and helping customers to keep pace with technology when they are creating that new device.

Author details: Mike Ballard, Global Home Automation and Security Leader, Microchip Technology

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Mike Ballard

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