Typically, coming off the fourth-quarter holiday season, the year starts for the semiconductor and electronics industry with the barrage of new consumer electronics at the January Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, followed by Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
This year, the rising South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive began in earnest to take on a hardware role. While social networking companies still had a strong presence this year, there was a noticeable shift from virtual, networked products and enterprises to physical, hands-on products. There is no question that the most striking and divergent aspect of these shows has been the rise of a new, central theme: components.
CES pushed smart
At CES, the focus was squarely placed on significant improvements to chip architecture, as underscored by the unveilings by leading chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm, Intel, ARM, AMD, Nvidia, and Samsung.
products, but the news this year is the Internet of Things.
Beyond power efficiency, which is critically moving to address increasing demands by all users for improved device battery life, are the improvements in chip design promoting system-in-package (SiP) and versatile system-on-chip (SoC) capabilities to maximize end-product applications. New processor offerings designed specifically for mobile devices address the form-function demands: faster, lighter, smaller, highly integrated, big-data transfer capability, and necessarily power efficient.
SoC designs provide highly integrated solutions that offer a boost for original design manufacturers (ODMs) and component manufacturers (CMs) looking to provide the best (sub-) component solutions. Additionally, expanded connectivity — given the focus on solutions for mobile devices — speaks to increased supply chain activity for the networking, communications design, and server sectors. The driving force is the data-rich, machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic at the heart of improved mobile functionality and features.
Strong synergies point to growth
MWC continued the component focus theme. Notable for MWC were the numerous SoC and baseband solutions from the leading chip manufacturers, many of which used MWC to continue the unveilings initiated at CES. The solutions highlighted new forms and architecture strategies but, significantly, leveraged cost, size, and functionality to meet targeted audiences of users, particularly for the midmarkets and emerging economies. At MWC, it was clear that handset OEMs are focused on targeted diversification to expand global market reach to meet the demands of emerging economy users.
SXSW brought it to consumers
At SXSW Interactive in Austin we could plainly see the dedicated focus on M2M connectivity, data transfer, and broadening of the mobile device growth wave.
This path deepens and expands the next growth wave for the semiconductor and electronics industry, the Internet of Things (IoT) — or, as some, such as Cisco, are naming it, the Internet of Everything. IoT encompasses the wider supply chain, including big-data storage, networking, communications base stations, M2M solutions, and a plethora of devices, components, and chip architectures to realize full, mobile connectivity.
The next wave
IoT is not about putting the cart before the horse, but rather realizing various users' M2M data demands. IoT meets these expanding needs and moves users and enterprises beyond the present and into the highly integrated level of connectivity, coupled with efficiencies and growth opportunities. At MWC, GSMA's Connected City provided a proof of concept for exactly this vision of IoT.
In sum, the biggest news of the first quarter is not a single, hot device, chip, or architecture. Rather, we are seeing the widening growth implications that IoT presents, growth that includes hardware and IT alike. The solutions and strategies are not just about business and social connectivity. The reality of M2M IoT is that it spans verticals as inclusively as it spans the semi supply chain.