As technologies continue to heat up, several hold considerable potential as disruptive innovations reach an inevitable tipping point. Which strategic technologies in 2019 are shaping into swiftly growing trends that will drive market change over the next five years? In the embedded world, the top seven trends include the following and in many of these technologies, sensors play a large part.
- Autonomous Things
- Digital Twinning
- High-Performance Edge Computing
- Immersive Experiences with Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)
- Smart Places
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Driven Development and Quantum Computing
Autonomous Things (AuT) bring high-performance processors into the physical environment, with the kind of decision and reasoning skills that are necessary not only to operate autonomously but to cooperate or communicate when necessary. Today’s AuTs are robots, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, a.k.a. drones), and autonomous vehicles. Data from numerous sensors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cloud technology are major building blocks in AuT.
Cybersecurity is a growing concern, not only in terms of chain-of-custody for authentic hardware components but also for anything connected to the internet.
Digital Twinning amounts to a dynamic software model, or representation, of a real-world, physical entity or system. Gartner estimates that by 2020, “there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things." Digital twinning uses multiple sensors to extract data from a physical asset, system, or process. The data is used to model a virtual version, enabling engineers to analyze efficiency and real-time status under virtual conditions before acting upon the actual assets, which and reduces real-life risks and saves both time and money. According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., "The global digital twin market size is expected to reach USD 26.07 billion by 2025."
Figure 1: Edge Computing is located between the cloud and the data sources. In a factory, multiple sensors can aggregate data at the edge computer, which is like a local cloud server, before transferring filtered data to a business application located in the cloud. Edge computing can save costs by reducing the bandwidth required for wireless transmissions. (Image Credit: Jim Machi.)
Edge Computing brings high-performance processors to large networks of IoT devices that are all collecting up to petabytes of sensor data daily. Wirelessly transmitting such large amounts of data can get very expensive, so edge computing takes over some activity that would have been completed in the cloud. Edge computers are programmed, often using AI, to filter out poor or unneeded data and to compress the data for enabling the lowest cost transmissions to the cloud. Edge computing will continue to flourish in the IoT primarily due to lower costs of high-performance processors.
Figure 2: Autonomous things (e.g., robots), digital twinning, edge computing, smart work places, and quantum computing are all on the “up slope” of the Gartner “hype cycle,” meaning that they hold much promise but are 5 – 10 years away from adoption and wide use. (Source: Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017).
Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) are increasingly used in new applications. As Marketwatch has recently forecasted for AR/VR, “The Global virtual and augmented reality Market is expected to exceed more than US$ 117 billion by 2022.” AR/VR will continue to grow as the cost of sensors (e.g., accelerometers) used in headsets continue to decrease while also improve in accuracy. AR/VR is used in a multitude of different applications besides gaming, including invaluable training and remote instruction, urban planning and development of infrastructure, mental and behavioral therapy, retail enhancements using the ubiquitous smartphone, remote real estate assessment, and much more. One of the prevailing hindrances of AR/VR today is a need for more software and better-quality content for end-users.
Using technology, Smart places enable humans and systems to connect with data from multiple sensors that improve the operational efficiency of services, processes, people, and things. Smart homes, cities, workspaces, and transportation are some examples of areas where technology is improved using electronic data collection through diverse, expertly-located sensors. Smart places use technology to increase operational efficiency and improve the quality of systems and life.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming integrated into a growing number of applications. According to Marketwatch, “The global artificial intelligence market size is expected to reach $169,411.8 million in 2025, from $4,065.0 million in 2016 growing at a CAGR of 55.6% from 2018 to 2025.” AI-powered solutions. Hardware, System Development Kits, and multiple deep learning frameworks are enabling developers to incorporate AI without intimate knowledge due to a growing abundance of AI abstraction tools.
Quantum Computing, although still experimental, functions using the quantum state of subatomic particles. Quantum Computing (QC) is exponentially scalable and capable of tackling problems that are too complicated for the conventional approach, for which the end of Moore’s Law is imminent. QC, although at least 10 years away from practical use, holds great promise as a powerfully disruptive tool with the ability to run massive calculations in seconds compared to traditional computing platforms. According to Gartner’s CIO’s Guide to Quantum Computing, “Investors are putting millions of dollars toward the technology, and more than 50 companies, universities and research companies are working on development.” QC will be better equipped to leverage the immense flood of data, beginning from well-placed sensors, to further enhance decision-making in systems and business models.
Look toward the future
The seven leading trends, Autonomous Things, Cybersecurity, Digital Twinning, High-Performance Edge Computing. immersive experiences with Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Smart Places, Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven development, and Quantum Computing will play a key role in the lives of developers and users. Collectively, they will make things faster, easier and more convenient. Many of these leading trends need to use sensors or various kind to collect data and network to transfer them. One final call to action is to be able to secure these technologies as they develop.
To learn more about these trends and see content live, be sure to sign up for Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference taking place this June 25-27 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA. You can view the schedule of sessions and speakers at www.embeddedtechconf.com/schedule.