Forecasting is still alive and well in spite of the U.S. presidential election’s outcome. Pundits claim the 2016 election was unprecedented. Businesses are hoping the same will be said about 2017’s technology market.
Trends don’t necessarily guarantee market success, but as IHS Markit points out, they do impact business and consumer behavior. While 2016 was generally flat for electronics companies, the year ended better than it began for the U.S manufacturing industry, and the global chip market saw demand surge in the month of November. Experts say uncertainty around the 2016 election has finally abated. IHS has identified 7 trends it believes will shape 2017.
One of the commonalities among these trends is continuing demand for electronic components and hardware. “The cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) could not have come about without the astounding developments in connectivity, made possible in turn by more economically priced device modules and components resulting from improved manufacturing and production,” IHS analysts said in their report. In other words, these trends represent new end-markets as well as new opportunities for tech companies to improve their manufacturing performance.
The smartphone revolution and mobile connectivity enabled the development of many of the devices that IHS Markit predicts will gain traction in the coming year. The surge in smartphones sales -- which increased by 40 percent between 2010 and 2015 -- redefined the supply chain for mobile components and drastically reduced the cost and power requirements of mobile devices. Components across the spectrum -- processors, memory chips, sensors, semiconductors, screens and battery units -- are now widely available and cost-effective for applications such as virtual reality headsets, smart glasses, smart watches, Bluetooth headsets, speakers, drones and robots. "In short, we are at the beginning of an explosion in device innovation and connectivity made possible by the supply chain for smartphones," analysts said. Even as growth plateaus in the smartphone market, new devices are proliferating.
Notably, many of the companies behind these products are not typical hardware companies -- Amazon, Facebook and Google are among the movers and shakers of 2017.
The top technology trends for this year, as identified by IHS Markit, are:
- Smart Manufacturing Accelerates With More Real-World Products
Companies use IoT to transform how products are made, how supply chains are managed and how customers can influence design.
Projects that were formerly in the “proof-of-concept” stage are now complete. Look for automation/operator tech firms to release their own Platforms-as-a Service (PaaS) offering in the cloud as they compete to offer and own IoT projects for the industrial market. IHS anticipates customers may not want to store manufacturing data on a remote cloud and will instead look for a local alternative.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Gets Serious
Already, personified AI assistants from a handful of companies (Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri) have access to billions of users via smartphones and other devices. AI is also being used in the freight industry to better manage cargo and container assets.
However, even bigger, more profound changes are on their way as levels of human control are ceded directly to AI, such as in autonomous cars or robots.
- The Rise of Virtual Worlds
After several years of hype, the operative reality behind virtual, augmented and mixed digital worlds is set to manifest more fully in 2017. The technology for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will advance significantly as Facebook, Google and Microsoft consolidate their existing technologies into more exhaustive strategies.
New versions of VR-capable game consoles featuring 4K video and high dynamic range (HDR) will also create the medium for high-quality VR content, even if availability will be limited for the next few years. More importantly, said IHS, is VR’s application in commercial and industrial markets such as healthcare monitoring.
- The “Meta Cloud” Era Arrives
Communication service providers plan to deliver a new wave of innovation, allowing for a single connection to the enterprise and acting as a gateway to multiple cloud service providers. IHS Markit refers to this as the meta cloud.
In 2017, new offerings will become available from traditional Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors, coupled with expanded offers from the likes of IBM, Amazon and— most notably—Google via its Tensor chip. Watch for the development and deployment of more specialized silicon in the next two years.
- A Revolution in New Device Formats
The development of the consumer drone is the closest example of a product type evolved over the past few years that has quickly gone mass market. 3D printers and pens are heading the same way.
The next set of new devices may well materialize at the boundary of cheap 3D printing and inexpensive smartphone components to create completely novel device types and uses.
- Solar Still the Largest Source of Renewable New Power
The next year, 2017, will see photovoltaic (PV) technology retaining—and confirming—its position as the planet’s largest source of new renewable power.
More than a quarter of all PV capacity added worldwide in 2016 and 2017 will be in the form of solar panels. The growth of solar can be attributed to sharp drops in the cost of PV systems, combined with favorable country policies toward new renewable power.
- Low-Power Technologies Extend Reach to Inaccessible IoT Devices
The first batch of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) will go live around the world in 2017 as an alternative to short-range wireless standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. LPWAN technologies will connect hard-to-reach, IoT devices more efficiently and at a lower cost, dealing with challenges stemming from range limitation to poor signal strength. As a result, opportunities will open up for telecom providers to support low-bit-rate applications.
In turn, the increased availability and low cost of LPWAN technologies will drive connectivity for smart metering, smart building and precision agriculture, among many other applications.
“From artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, far-reaching innovations are unfolding in virtually every technology sector around the globe, continuing to change the way consumers, businesses and machines interact while also spurring the next revolution in tech market growth,” IHS Markit concluded.