Technology is increasingly disrupting every year, affecting every bit of our lives, business and career. While smartphones have taken over traditional means to communicate and collaborate, Smart speakers and voice assistants let us interact with our homes and with retailers in seamless ways like never before. Likewise, commercialization of 5G is expected to roll out in 2019 and at the same time the dominance of IoT devices and networks will force enterprises to consider investments in IoT operations. The list is endless.
Nearly every industry has been disrupted by digital technologies over the past 10 years. And in 2019, we expect to see more transformative developments. TrendForce provides predictions of the information and communication technology industry for 2019, focusing on 10 key themes. Some of these themes continue from last year but will show significant evolution in the upcoming year.
The memory industry will show acceleration and evolution
For the semiconductor industry, the migration to each new process node is becoming much more difficult due to the physical limitations. The industry has been exploring advancements following the Moore’s Law, while increasing the productivity through next-generation products and advanced die-stacking technology like 3D packaging. Manufacturers have applied through-silicon via (TSV) techniques for chip stacking, and launched High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) in order to increase the throughput within a single package, overcoming the limits of bandwidth. Looking forward to 2019, they will continue to invest in the R&D of advanced solutions. In addition to saving space in the package, next-generation products are also intended to meet the demand from edge computing applications, which require shorter reaction time and different structures. Compared with existing DRAM products, next-generation solutions may fit into different architectures, for example, in the embedded systems, memory products are closer to CPU. The solutions may also offer significant performance improvements, such as power saving resulted from the non-volatility of memory.
Commercial 5G to rollout in 2019
Deployment of optical communication infrastructure, the foundation of 5G network, has been ongoing in the past years. The 5G architecture has been gradually expanded from backbone network to metropolitan area network and access network, providing 5G-compatible bandwidth at a low cost. Commercialization of 5G is expected to roll out in 2019, with 5G telecom services to be launched in United States, South Korea, Japan, and China. Smartphones and other devices supporting 5G technology are also expected to be available some time in 2019. The major advances in 5G mobile wireless solutions will support higher bandwidth and faster connection, enriching the telecom ecosystems. The arrival of 5G may also generate demand for a wider range of technology-based services, including high resolution (4K/8K) of video, mobile AR/VR gaming and immersive multimedia applications, industrial automation, telesurgery robots, massive Internet of Things, and automated control of vehicles, etc.
Smartphone specs to be upgraded
The global smartphone market expects specs upgrades in the coming year, with more models featuring all-screen design, narrower borders, a smaller notch, and subsequent smaller front-facing camera modules to fit the smaller notch. Moreover, the smartphone market will expect increasing penetration of biometric recognition, with triple cameras emerging. The advanced solutions for flexible AMOLED may allow brands to launch single-screen foldable smartphones next year, while 5G smartphones are also expected to be launched in 2019. Brands are now planning for the 5G-fueled market, expecting commercial 5G to open up more opportunities and growth momentum. Offerings combining 5G and foldable screen may also see great potential and would make a splash in the smartphone market.
Under-display fingerprint sensor to be embedded in mid and high-end smartphones
With increasing demand from smartphone vendors, design houses have invested heavily to increase the yield rates of fingerprint sensors and seek more cost-effective solutions. Optical under-display fingerprint sensors are normally found in flagship smartphones currently, but are expected to be embedded in mid and high-end Android models in the coming year. Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensors also have a chance to be adopted by Android phone vendors. TrendForce estimates that ultrasonic and optical under-display fingerprint sensors will account for 13% of all fingerprint sensor technologies in 2019, significantly up from 3% in 2018. Particularly, some design houses also consider moving the fingerprint sensors to the very edge of the screen, trying to break through the bottlenecks of technology and yield rates. The edge solutions may change the landscape of industry if they manage to hit the market in the next few years. However, the target market and acceptance of products remain to be seen.
Mini LED making its way into displays of consumer electronics
With advantages in brightness and contrast, Mini LED has a chance to compete with OLED in segments of cinema display and home theater display. Compared with self-emitting RGB LED digital display (video wall), Mini LED-based backlight units use blue LED as the basic light source, making it more cost-effective, so Mini LED has higher potential to make its way into the blue ocean of displays of consumer electronics, including smartphone, tablets, desktops, TVs, and automotive displays. The next two years (2019-2020) will likely see acceleration in the development of Mini LED, which may record a market value of US$1699 million in 2022.
More applications to enable voice interaction, opening up new opportunities
Smart speakers remain in the spotlight of the market in 2018, drawing attention to applications enabling voice interaction, such as vehicles, smart TVs, and smart headsets. Looking forward to 2019, increasing number of applications will enable voice interaction, including virtual assistant, voice recognition, voice shopping, etc. Companies will continue to develop new voice-activated applications to explore the market potential.
eSIM to provide added value to smartwatches, driving the market growth
Driven by major companies like Apple, Huawei, and Qualcomm, eSIM has been introduced into the market, making smart devices more independent from smartphones and driving the growth of smartwatches at a pace faster than smart bracelets. The eSIM has been already embedded in smartwatches and always connected PCs to allow Internet connection, and more applications will adopt eSIM in 2019 to enable functions like streaming music, making calls, sending messages, and virtual assistant, etc.
A key year for IoT with intensified competition
This year has witnessed a rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, with the commercial use of low power wide area networks (LPWAN) becoming popular worldwide. Edge computing and AI have been integrated to IoT architectures, enabling transformation in vertical industries. With technology movements and global deployments in the following years, IoT is expected to come strong in operation of enterprises, making 2019 a key year for them to evaluate the outcome of adopting IoT in their businesses. Meanwhile, however, the competition is also intensified, thus enterprises are poised to consider whether investments in IoT operation are cost effective enough to enhance their profitability in the longer run.
New technologies to change the landscape of healthcare industry
Following the 21st Century Cures Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces new regulations on next-generation sequencing (NGS) and digital medicine this year. The new technologies may change the landscape of biotechnology industry and attach increasing importance to software in the healthcare industry. Particularly, digital therapeutics has evolved, integrating ICT, software and drugs in treatment. Moreover, surgical robots and surgical navigation systems (SNS) are expected to integrate various medical imaging technologies including hybrid imaging, molecular imaging, AR and MR to optimize minimally invasive surgery. In terms of gene sequencing, NGS has been adopted in clinical application. FDA has been building genetic databases ClinVar and ClinGen, as well as PrecisionFDA that verifies the algorithms of sequencing. Gene sequencing data analysis and gene variants application will become the focus of the future NGS clinical market. In conjunction with new treatments, NGS will help achieve precision medicine in the future.
Smart grid, energy management and energy storage system to be keys of global photovoltaic market
This year witnessed constant expansion of installed PV supply capacity in China, but the policy updates by the Chinese government have led to oversupply in the market, resulting in global module price declines and cost pressures in the supply chain. Therefore, the global PV industry may expect a changing landscape in the upcoming year. On the other hand, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of PV projects have seen significant decline, and grid-parity has been observed in the global PV market. With the constant decrease in PV feed-in tariff (FiT), smart grid, energy management and energy storage systems will become the key considerations for PV system developers. They will need to achieve effective energy storage to balance loads of power plants and stabilize the overall power quality in connection with grids and power plants.