As we touched on in our Products and Services section, our industrial market is accelerating down a route of smart automation. For our customers, this means collecting, analyzing and acting upon data from potentially enormous networks of sensors incorporated in their products. Specifically, by knowing what is happening, when it is happening, and where it is happening data analytics become highly valuable. The move from stand-alone to connected systems forms part of this shift towards greater industrial automation – the Industry 4.0.
The other key requirements for the industrial market are product quality and longevity. Customers need confidence that the large networks of connected devices they roll out can be relied upon for their expected lifespans: exceptionally low failure rates are a must. Equally importantly, the components they use need to be available for many years – or any new generation products must be backwards-compatible, so as to protect the investments our customers are making.
Our traditional automotive business around navigation and emergency call services remains a solid market, in addition barely a week goes by without big stories in the media involving autonomous vehicles. Major corporations – and not just the traditional car and truck manufacturers – are putting a lot of resources into this, spurred on by national government initiatives to promote autonomous driving.
With lives at stake, safety is and will remain a huge focus in this market. Firstly, vehicles need exceptionally precise and reliable location sensors, to enable their control systems to identify not just which road they are on (something standard GNSS has long been able to do), but also which lane they are in, and where exactly in that lane they are.
Second, vehicles must be able to communicate with one another (vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V) and with other connected devices (vehicle-to-everything, or V2X). To keep vehicle passengers and other road users safe, these communication links need to be fast, dependable and completely tamper-proof at every level. Thirdly, automated cars need high band-width connectivity to the Internet as large amounts of data are transferred between the vehicle and cloud services. Fourth, the control systems for autonomous vehicles must deliver extremely high functional safety. Every component must comply with this requirement, including our products.
And as in the industrial market, there is the need for longevity and reliability, without exception, given car models’ long production timespans. Manufacturers require guarantees that the same (or compatible) chips and modules they include in their vehicle designs today will be available for the duration of the model’s production. Moreover, they require products that are manufactured in certified automotive process chains.
In the consumer space, the personal fitness and healthcare wearables market continues to grow, as does demand for trackers that keep tabs on anything from children to pets and personal possessions. Bicycle, car and other equipment sharing services represent a further growth area, and one that benefits from the technology advancements happening in the cloud.
With short product lifespans and continuing consumer expectation of new features, minimizing time-to-market is a big driver for our target customers. Many new devices are also expected to be smaller and lighter than their predecessors, while offering ever-longer battery lives.
Satisfying all these things is a challenging balancing act. Highly integrated products, such as systems-in-packages (SiPs) are the adequate choice, given that they are typically more compact and require less design and testing work than discrete components. Meanwhile, super-low-energy modules with innovative power-saving modes are essential in this market, helping free up power budget.