Understanding the broader technology trends that are occurring throughout the world provides context to the rise of sales for certain electronic components. Here's a deeper look at five electronics trends that are driving the need for components in the coming years.
Shifting Semiconductor Materials And Needs
The movement from silicon to silicon carbine (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) is attracting considerable attention. SiC is driving sales because of its high thermal conductivity, which makes it more attractive for certain high-power applications compared to traditional silicon-based semiconductors. Its applications are numerous, for example, it is viable for use within green energy applications to boost the efficiency of power transmission, as with solar inverters and power converters within electric vehicles.
Gallium Nitride (GaN) is another material ideally suitable for high-power environments that also has high current-carrying capabilities. For example, it finds employment in high-brightness LEDs and MOS tech devices. Other practical applications are within Blu-Ray players and solar panels as well as several military applications.
Let There Be LEDs
LED lighting moving beyond its status as a new technology/niche is driving the sales of LED chips, drivers, heatsinks, circuit boards, and optics. In the automotive world, LEDs are replacing traditional bulbs at a fast pace, with the latest Mercedes S Class being the world's first production car featuring all LED lights for greater efficiency and longer life.
LEDs find use in retail environments. For example, they are replacing fluorescent tubes in refrigerated display cases. This provides multiple benefits including greater efficiency, less heat generated by the bulbs, and more attractive food presentation due to the softer, more natural glow of the LEDs compared to fluorescents. Adoption of LEDs is not just happening in food service, with gas stations and other retail outlets changing to outdoor lightning, and retail giant Walmart committing to a goal of 100% LED lighting for its more than 5,000 stores.
The Rise Of Low-Cost Development Environments And Single-Board Computers
For designers and hobbyists, the latest open-source hardware single-board computer from BeagleBoard is the BeagleBone Black development platform. It features more RAM and faster processor clock speeds, as well as HDMI and additional flash memory capabilities. Developed by Texas Instruments to provide the capabilities of a desktop machine without the associated expense or noise, the BeagleBone Black is available for only $45, providing developers with a credit-card size computer for nominal cost, allowing them to explore open-source hardware's numerous applications.
An example application is available in a video that describes a DIY home brewing operator employing the BeagleBone Black to manage beer temperatures. The operator moderates the temperature of a steel coil submerged in water via a heat exchanger through the Internet. The product has dozens of applications, giving individuals and companies a low-cost and flexible computing solution.
Sensors, Sensors Everywhere
Home automation and the "smart home" are driving the need for a variety of sensors that help homeowners manage the safety, convenience, and efficiency of their homes. According to a home automation industry report from Transparency Market Research, the home automation market hit $3.6 billion in 2012 and may see 24.5% CAGR from 2013 to 2019.
Even the cable companies are getting in on the trend. Time Warner Cable offers a home monitoring solution that's accessible through the internet, with security views, panic/fire alarms, remote arming, and even energy efficiency through thermostat and lighting controls.
All of this automation requires devices and an increase in their related components. Such devices include glass breaking/motion/window detection systems, advanced smoke detectors, and smart thermostats such as Nest. All of these products require the use of sensor components which are in increasing demand to meet the needs of this automation and the "smart home". Sensors that measure humidity, force, airflow, pressure, speed, and temperature are all in high demand.
Wireless And RF
Several of these trends are interrelated to the Internet of Things (IoT) which requires devices such as refrigerators to have the wireless capability to connect to the Internet in order to communicate various data points.
A device that is enabling the IoT is the Electric Imp, a platform that brings internet connectivity to various hardware devices. It features a hardware-software platform that makes it simple to build connected solutions, removing the pain points for manufacturers who can then focus on their products, not the challenges of connectivity. Innovations such as the Electric Imp will further enable Internet-connected devices, driving component demand for the devices themselves and the broader Internet infrastructure.
Component makers and distributors should examine the underlying trends in wireless, automation, lighting and semiconductors that are pushing demand for components and recognize these trends are starting to move faster than ever. They need to quickly understand the implications of these trends in order to build components that perform efficiently and effectively.
About the Author
David Sandys is Director of Supplier Marketing at Digi-Key Corporation in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Sandys has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information System from Arizona State University, a Master of Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and International Business from the University of Southern California, and brings with him over 25 years of industry experience with companies such as Arrow Electronics and Advanced Micro Devices.