Electronic Design

Forecasting 2008 With Some Help From Our Friends

Welcome to Electronic Design’s annual forecast issue, where our editors look into the crystal balls of their particular beats and tell you what to expect in 2008 and beyond. While I don’t have a particular coverage area, I’ll make some predictions anyway. But how do we come up with these prognostications? The answer is simple.

When we meet with company representatives in person or speak with them over the phone, they usually talk to us about today (their current product) and tomorrow (their plans for the future, better known as their roadmap). If we listen attentively and fill in the blanks here and there, we can get a good idea of what to expect in the coming year, as the companies we cover are creating the electronics future.

Since I spend a lot of time during December planning my trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, I think I’ve developed a fairly good understanding of what to expect in consumer electronics. I attend most if not all of the keynotes at the show, so I get the information straight from the top, from guys like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Paul Otellini of Intel, and Rick Wagoner of GM. (As you can probably tell, I’m writing this prior to CES, even though the cover date of this issue is after the show.)

Consumer Electronics Forecast
So what’s in store for 2008 and beyond in consumer electronics from an electronics OEM perspective? MEMS devices continue to impress and foster innovation in consumer applications.

Well known for its DLP (Digital Light Processing) MEMS devices, Texas Instruments is making possible HDTV technology that shows 3D TV, a dual-view HDTV technology for two-player gaming, and a cell-phone projector. Microvision also offers a MEMS device for cell-phone projectors. The company’s PicoP display engine uses a MEMS scanning mirror to power pico projector displays for cell phones as well as wearable displays and vehicle displays (see the figure).

Wolfson Microelectronics, which makes ICs for high-end audio systems as well as personal media players and other portable devices, has tapped MEMS technology for its new integrated IC. The company’s AudioPlus strategy builds on its audio technology and integrates power management, MEMS microphone technology, and noise-canceling software. So, we should see more products where you can record audio as well as listen.

Wireless Goes Boom!
The use of wireless technologies in consumer electronics seems ready to explode in 2008. One indicator is the emergence of WirelessHD. Earlier this month, the WirelessHD Consortium released the WirelessHD 1.0 specification. And one of the consortium’s founding members, SiBeam, is expected to announce products based on the new spec.

In other areas, Alereon provides a complete worldwide chip set, the AL5000, for Wireless USB and Bluetooth applications. It should beget consumer products such as digital still or video cameras that download their content wirelessly to a computer or printer, MP3 players that download music wirelessly, and DVD video streaming to a TV.

WiQuest’s WQST100/101 chip set incorporates the company’s innovative WiDV Technology, specifically developed to address the unique requirements of efficient video transmission using Ultra-Wideband wireless connections. WiDV coexists in combination with other protocols, such as Certified Wireless USB. The technology leverages WiQuest’s 1-Gbit/s extended data rate, and it should enable a raft of wireless video-streaming applications in consumer devices.

Metalink offers a video-grade 802.11n-draft 2.0-compliant solution for wirelessly delivering multiple multimedia streams throughout the home, including HD video, data, gaming, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Key applications for its chips include video bridges, set-top boxes, residential gateways, HDTVs, media adaptors, digital video recorders (DVRs), portable display appliances, and game consoles. In other words, all of these consumer electronics products will be going wireless in the near future.

Kleer recently announced that its ultra-low-power-consumption KLR3012 RF module now supports high-quality compressed video in power-sensitive applications such as digital media players. It can stream video from a digital media player to a larger display or to another media player to allow multiple individuals to view content. According to the company, this technology achieves 10 times the battery life of a comparable Bluetooth solution for stereo audio and should do much the same for video.

Once I’m back from CES, I’ll have more forecasts and news to share. Check out my reports from the show in my blog: Joe Desposito's Electronic Engineering Blog.

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