The Convergence of Trends

Date:   Monday , January 05, 2009

Industry trends

Last year we began exploring three major trends impacting our world, our markets, and our customers. These are The Net Effect: this is the emergence of user-created content and the insatiable demand for bandwidth to fuel the multimedia experience. Second is Health and Safety: the need for improved healthcare monitoring and the opportunity for electronics to keep us out of harm's way. And third is Going Green: the need for energy conservation and the quest for preserving our environment for future generations.

Since last year, these trends have continued to gain momentum and have magnified in their importance. The continued convergence of these trends is creating demand for new applications that often combine multiple technologies and require expertise in multiple markets.

The Net Effect

The proliferation of social networking and user-generated content combined with the impact of broadband and constant connectivity is creating new social communities and new business and consumer behaviors around the world. In the recent years, the growing availability of high-speed Internet access and search technology user-generated content has become one of the dominant forms of global media. User-generated video and video-sharing sites are among the fastest growing social networking categories. Total worldwide revenue for user- generated content is expected to exceed $4 billion by 2012.

Increasing pressure on margins and declining prices for mobile voice services are making network operators seek a host of value-added, non-voice services from text messaging to email to mobile TV and gaming. In 2007, non-voice services were just under 19 percent of worldwide mobile services revenue and some analysts predict this figure will grow to over 25 percent by 2012. Research has shown that mobile TV is the number one non-voice service that users want on their phone. The challenge facing operators is that large video packets slow other voice and data traffic on existing 3G networks. LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, will enable high-speed data rates over cellular networks that rival current fixed wireless and wired standards, opening up a new world of possibilities in the cellular market. With LTE, consumers will be able to access all types of multimedia services and applications, but with true mobility. LTE offers data transfer rates that are 50 times greater than the currently deployed 3G networks.

We believe that the ability to offer compelling multimedia services over fast networks will have profound effects on our daily lives and the way we do business. The increasing performance demands for user-generated multimedia content will continue to put pressure on network resources worldwide.

Health and Safety

The global population is aging. For the first time in history, people age 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five. Life expectancy is increasing, and new economic challenges are emerging. Current methods of housing and caring for the senior members of our society will not scale. We will need to find new solutions, and those solutions will be based on semiconductor technology. The successful combination of medical and information technologies will erase boundaries of time and geography to help provide health information, medical care, patient monitoring and lifesaving methods to virtually every part of the globe. The next era of Telemedicine will incorporate wireless technology and allow caregivers to monitor their patients while encouraging as active a lifestyle as possible. Studies have shown that encouraging normal, active routines and patient-control rather than just disease-control promotes a healthier lifestyle and reduces healthcare costs.

A variety of portable healthcare devices like glucometers for diabetes and blood pressure and heart-rate monitors for cardiovascular disease are empowering patients with the ability to collect and monitor their personal medical data. And medical software companies are now developing programs that can transfer the patient’s information to their cell phone for storage and transmission to the healthcare provider for review and action.

With more than 2 billion cell phones in use worldwide, the estimated market for wireless remote monitoring systems to help care for the sick is projected to increase to a $345 billion market by 2010. The ability to connect more patients to healthcare providers and nursing call centers will help improve the patient’s quality of life and decrease healthcare costs. The proliferation of personal medical devices connecting patient and doctor will redefine the way we conduct regular check-ups, help detect diseases early, dramatically decrease complications, and simplify care.

Today, heart disease is the number one health problem in the world. And the electrocardiogram or ECG is the key diagnostic and monitoring tool for the heart. It typically requires a trained professional to place a multitude of electrodes on the patient and a trained professional to interpret the ECG readings. Consequently, these tests are conducted only in professional medical environments with the required personnel and equipment.

We envision applications in the medical market like hospital bedside monitors as well as telemedicine and portable ambulatory monitors. We also see possibilities on the consumer side with products for fitness and personal health.

Going Green

Perhaps the most significant challenge facing the engineering community is the need to increase energy efficiency in everything we create. As we look for solutions, efficiency is our first fuel. Energy is embedded in virtually every aspect of our economy, and simply using energy more efficiently can make an enormous difference. In the consumer market, many countries around the world are instituting new standards to eliminate "vampire electronics", those devices that consume a huge amount of energy as they spend much of their time in standby mode.

The industrial sector accounts for about 37 percent of the global primary energy consumption. It has been estimated that high-efficiency motor systems could reduce electricity use by motor-driven systems by 30 percent.

Emerging standards like Wireless Highway Addressable Remote Transducer, or WirelessHART, are helping deliver industrial-strength wireless networking solutions that are both affordable and efficient. The major industrial automation vendors believe that Wireless Sensors will make up 60 percent of the instrumentation in a future green field plant and in existing plants; many believe that wireless technology will result in a 30 to 40 percent increase in instrumentation.

Wireless sensor networks and high-speed mesh networks will begin to permeate the industrial world, and enable the wireless mobile operator to view and interact with the process while in the field, as well as have access to information. With the increasing threat of terrorism, security in process plants has become a huge concern.

More and more wireless cameras are being deployed. And the ability to easily integrate video into the system is a must.

For the transportation industry, the rising price of oil has intensified the demand for more fuel efficient vehicles, while at the same time, we must meet ever-tightening standards on emissions. Since the advent of electronic engine control for automobiles fuel efficiency in the United States has increased by 50 percent while carbon emissions have been reduced by 90 percent. Moving forward, semiconductors will play a major role in improving fuel economy reducing emissions and increasing safety while keeping overall costs at a minimum.

Demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles and rising government standards have positioned electronics as the key for solving both environmental concerns and the expectations for more comfort and safety. Many in the industry are placing their hopes on electric car technology. The biggest challenge today seems to be centered on battery technology and until battery costs come down the totally electric vehicle is not expected to make a significant impact on transportation’s role in global warming. In the mid-term, we believe the more likely candidate is the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle.

These are being developed by several automobile manufacturers and typically feature a battery-powered electric motor with an internal combustion engine for when the batteries run low. Assuming a moderate rate of adoption, estimates project that there will be 80 million plug-in hybrid vehicles registered within 30 years of their introduction. Owners would recharge the vehicle batteries at night during off-peak hours by plugging into a standard wall outlet. Even if the plug-in vehicle got all its electricity from coal-fired plants the dirtiest of all fossil fuels would still emit only half the greenhouse gases released by a conventional car.

Several utilities across the globe have begun developing the infrastructure necessary to support this vehicle-to-grid model and developing meters for more efficient energy network management. By introducing “smart meters” that adjust rates for peak demand and off-peak times, consumers will have the financial incentive to shift their consumption to when there is a surplus of electric capacity.

Major utility companies across Europe are planning to deploy smart meter networks in the coming years. Italy has already deployed 25 million connected meters, and France and Spain are running pilot projects for the planned deployment of their automated meter network in 2011.

In India 26 million Indian households are without an electrical connection. The Indian government has provided a subsidy on kerosene oil to be used in lamps to help provide lighting for these homes. With the rising price of oil and the carbon emissions associated with burning kerosene, the Prime Minister's Energy Coordination Committee is considering a proposal to shift part of this subsidy to fund solar lanterns in India’s rural areas. If implemented on a large scale, replacing at least one kerosene lantern with a solar-powered LED lantern in each of these homes could eliminate 1.9 million metric tones of carbon dioxide per year.

[Excerpts from the Keynote address delivered by Rich Beyer, CEO of Freescale Semiconductor at Fresscale Technology Forum held in Bangalore recently]