The U.S. Electronics Industry Looks Forward To 2011

The electronics industry had a boom year in 2010 following the bust year of 2009. But 2010 saw some of the effects of a boom year: dwindling inventories, increasing lead times, and the rise of counterfeit components.

Despite these temporary glitches, it’s natural to wonder if the good times in the electronics industry will continue in 2011. We think so. There is certainly enough innovation around to carry us through 2011, if not the entire decade.

Wireless Moves From 3G To 4G
In the U.S., 4G wireless rollouts have been happening since 2008, but are picking up steam now. One might argue the pros and cons of WiMAX and Long-Term Evolution (LTE), but at least one company is agnostic, Beceem Communications. Its BCS500 chip integrates both technologies.

“Our BCS500 will end the 4G debate by connecting to any 4G LTE or WiMAX network with seamless roaming and switching between TDD (time division duplex) and FDD (frequency division duplex) configuration as needed, freeing operators from concerns about how best to utilize their available spectrum assets,” said Lars Johnson, vice president of marketing at Beceem.

As for wireless infrastructure, capital spending throughout the world is projected to reach $40.3 billion in 2011, up 6.7% from $37.8 billion in 2009, according to iSuppli Corp.

“The upturn in 2011 signals renewed commitment within the wireless industry to move on expansion plans that had been delayed or put on hold because of the global recession,” said Jagdish Rebello, senior director and principal analyst for wireless research at iSuppli. “Starting in 2011, wireless carriers in industrialized countries will start to deploy 4G in order to attain faster speeds and to unclog the heavy data traffic generated by the exploding use of smart phones. This 4G-driven growth in capital spending will continue at least through 2014.”

A Killer App?
Portable devices such as smart phones and tablet computers may have a killer app to drive sales in 2011. At the recent [email protected] 2010 conference, Matt Grob, senior VP of corporate R&D at Qualcomm, spoke at length about the company’s plans for augmented reality (AR).

AR is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated imagery. Imagine pointing your camera-enabled portable device at a monument and having a description of the monument automatically overlaid on the image.

Grob announced an AR software development kit (SDK) for the Android platform to be released in the fall of this year. He also said that Qualcomm will follow up with SDKs for other platforms, but would not commit to dates. He said, too, that devices would probably need to be more powerful than the current crop of smart phones and tablets.

Part of this performance enhancement will take the form of increased amounts of memory in these devices, in particular NAND flash. A recent iSuppli report contends that shipments of NAND flash in tablets are set to triple in 2011. Shipments are projected to reach 1.7 billion Gbytes next year, up a phenomenal 296.1% from 428 million Gbytes in 2010. And shipments will continue to climb steadily over the next few years, hitting 8.8 billion Gbytes by 2014.

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Power-Sipping Displays
Until now, LCDs have owned the display market, from the smallest cell phones to the largest flat-panel TVs. But a new competitor is set to come to the fore in 2011. Driven by a need for energy-efficient displays in products like tablet computers, Qualcomm has developed a MEMS-based (microelectromechanical systems) display technology called mirasol.

Unlike LCDs, mirasol is reflective, much like the e-paper displays found in the Amazon Kindle and similar products. This means the display does not need a backlight, which takes up a significant amount of power in an LCD. But unlike e-paper displays, which are black and white, mirasol displays can produce color and play video.

Also, demand for low-power organic LEDs (OLEDs) and active-matrix OLEDs (AMOLEDs) in cell phones and televisions is rising. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global OLED product market will hit $2.2 billion by 2014, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.7%. The Asia-Pacific market is expected to account for nearly 90% of total market revenues by production and 65% by consumption.

The Industrial And Medical Markets
According to Semicast Research, global industrial and medical semiconductor market revenues will grow by almost 10% in 2011 to $24.6 billion and to $35.7 billion in 2015, a CAGR of almost 10% from 2009 to 2015. The industrial and medical sector is a mixture of sub-sectors within a sector, encompassing applications as diverse as factory automation, agricultural machinery, and consumer medical.

In the consumer medical market, Cambridge Consultants has announced a low-cost platform that enables the collection of data from Continua Health Alliance Standard certified devices over the Continua PAN interface. It then transmits this data over the Continua WAN interface to online health services.

The platform combines the company’s Vena software stack and Qualcomm’s Wearable Mobile Device cellular module, all in compliance with the Continua Health Alliance Standard. The module measures just 21 by 22 by 4.5 mm, enabling Continua Application Hosting Devices (AHD) that provide a PAN-to-WAN bridge within a small highly portable footprint.

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