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TrendForce Announces Top 10 Trends in Information and Communication Technology Sector for 2018

As 2017 comes to an end, global market intelligence provider TrendForce has unveiled a list of top 10 trends in the information and communication technology sector for 2018. These trends will be influencing the development of key industries in the upcoming year.

[1] Demand growth for both cloud and edge computing will accelerate due to the proliferation of services running on artificial intelligence

The traditional approach to cloud computing, which involves uploading data to cloud platforms for processing and analysis, has reached its limit as service users demand even shorter latency and faster feedback. The recent introduction of edge computing, which involves the pre-processing of data near their points of origin, has shown to significantly reduce data flow volumes and speed up data transfer. The devolution of computing capability to the endpoints under the edge computing framework also improves real-time environmental feedbacks (from sensors, for instance). TrendForce expects edge computing to take concrete steps in entering major vertical markets in 2018. This will bring about more effective and valuable uses of digital data.

[2] Financial sector will spearhead the commercial deployment of blockchain in 2018

The development of blockchain and its applications has moved from conceptualization to practical implementation in 2017. The level of acceptance for the technology among private enterprises and government agencies worldwide has also increased significantly. Looking ahead in 2018, blockchain will be tested in large-scale initiatives to determine its feasibility for various applications. These projects will also move the commercialization process forward, from the implementation stage to the deployment stage. What is certain for next year is that the financial sector will be leading the effort. TrendForce’s research indicates that at least 30% of all participants in the financial industry worldwide will put forward blockchain-based solutions services in 2018. At the same time, regulatory agencies will be working with the industry to set up standards for the technology. Both competition among vendors and regulatory oversight will lead to the gradual consolidation of various blockchain platforms. This in turn will lead to realization of the technology’s values for consumers and application growth beyond the financial sector.

[3] Arrival of 5G in 2018 will generate demand for new applications

Next year will see several major advances in the development of mobile wireless solutions. The emergence of the next-generation Wi-Fi standard 802.11ax will assist in dealing with the bandwidth burden that grows with the expansion of the Internet of Things. Furthermore, the Bluetooth technology now supports mesh networking. This improvement allows many-to-many device communications and the creation of large-scale device networks.

The global population of mobile broadband subscribers will continue to grow in 2018. The penetration of the 4G cellular standard is expected to climb as emerging markets like India deploy mobile broadband networking to fill the coverage gaps in their fixed broadband networks. Next year will also mark the start of the 5G era. South Korea, Japan, the U.S. and China are going to be the initial group of countries that will be aggressively promoting the commercialization of 5G. TrendForce forecasts that the global population of 5G subscribers will reach around 500 million by the end of 2022.

[4] Standalone headsets will be a major focus in next year’s VR market

As the market for VR headsets enters 2018, major brands such as HTC and Oculus are not expected to roll out their next-generation of PC-based VR products in the immediate period. Instead, the focus of development for next year will be on standalone, wireless headsets. Technology giants such as Google and Facebook are expected to be leading the efforts to bring about standalone VR devices. These companies recognize that a headset that is unconnected to other types of hardware will be an effective platform for innovative and higher-standard Internet-based services.

Furthermore, better graphics combined with freedom of movements that a standalone headset provides will allow more natural interactions between the device users and their virtual environments. This in turn will result in truly immersive VR experiences for different applications.

[5] Advanced solutions for biometric recognition to make a splash in the smartphone market

Apple this year made a radical decision to substitute fingerprint recognition with 3D facial recognition for iPhone X. The Face ID feature on this premium model is touted to be not only the next mainstream interface for mobile payment but also a new medium to develop augmented reality applications. Next year, the smartphone market can expect other brands to follow Apple’s lead and introduce advanced biometric recognition technologies with their offerings.

At the current stage, development efforts on biometric solutions used in mobile devices are mainly concentrated on 3D sensing and under-display fingerprint scanning. The potentials of these two solutions making headways in the mobile application will depend on breakthroughs in the recognition accuracy of optical and ultrasound sensing hardware.

Whatever innovations that will come out in 2018, their hardware components are expected be costlier than the ones used in existing capacitive fingerprint scanners. Even as smartphone brands intend to bring new biometric technologies to the market, these offerings will be limited to the very high-end, flagship segment. According to TrendForce’s analysis, the market share of more advanced biometric solutions within the global smartphone market will still be below 20% in 2018.

[6] More smartphones will be sporting all-screen design next year

Spurred by the designs of Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s latest flagship devices, the display industry has started to roll out smartphone panels specifically for models featuring the all-screen, bezel-to-bezel design and the 18:9 or above aspect ratio display. The trend towards higher screen-to-body ratios is affecting the production of all types of display solutions from OLED to LTPS and a-Si. The share of total smartphone shipments sporting the all-screen design is forecast to grow rapidly from less than 10% in 2017 to around 36% in 2018. The trend is also going to affect all market segments, from the premium to the mid-range and even the entry-level models

[7] Mini LEDs will be available for display backlight next year

Because the fabrication of Micro LEDs (smaller than 100μm) still faces numerous technological hurdles, LED suppliers are optimizing their existing manufacturing equipment and processes to create “Mini” LEDs (100μm to 200μm) that are much more compact than the traditional LED packages. Backlight units using Mini LEDs can be set on flexible substrates to achieve curved displays. The various applications that Mini LEDs are poised to enter include smartphones, TVs, automotive displays and high-end gaming notebooks. Next year will likely see demonstrations of sample products that use Mini LEDs for display backlight.

[8] The formal rollout of automotive chips for Level 4 automation will occur in 2018 and move us closer to fully self-driving cars

The race to develop smart, self-driving cars has led to a market boom in automotive components and system solutions for processing traffic information and safety control. Key products that are now sought after by car makers include radar modules, image sensors, automotive processors, automotive displays, advanced driver assistance systems and connected vehicle platforms. It is expected that in 2018, major automotive chip suppliers will begin shipping solutions that allow vehicles to achieve Level 4 automation as defined by SAE International. The increasing availability of Level 4 hardware solutions, in parallel with worldwide legislative changes permitting autonomous vehicles on the road, will make the automobile market a vital and lucrative application segment for emerging technology fields such as artificial intelligence/machine learning.

[9] The four major foundries will reignite the technology rivalry in semiconductor manufacturing during next year

In the foundry market, TSMC and Samsung were initially the only two choices for IC design houses when it comes to 16nm and 14nm fabrication. In 2018, however, Intel and GLOBALFOUNDRIES will be joining TSMC and Samsung to offer the next-generation 10nm and 7nm processing nodes. With the four major foundries competing within the same range of semiconductor technologies, significant changes are bound to take place in terms of product design and distribution of profits along the IC supply chain.

As major producers of semiconductor components for consumer electronics, Intel and TSMC in 2018 will directly confront each other for the first time in the market for smartphone application processors. Both companies will position themselves as leaders in the shrinking of processing nodes to the 10nm and 7nm classes. Next year will also marked the first year since Samsung declared that its foundry business will operate as an independent entity. Samsung’s plan for 2018 is to differentiate from other competitors with its deployment of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography in its 7nm production. Likewise, GLOBALFOUNDRIES following its acquisition of IBM’s semiconductor business will be introducing its new 7nm technology to the foundry market next year.

[10] China to guide the global photovoltaic market in 2018

The annual global photovoltaic (PV) demand for 2017 is also projected to surpass the 100-gigawatt mark for the first time, with China capturing a lion’s share of about 50%. The outsized contribution of the Chinese demand to the global PV market will continue to 2019. At the same time, products from Chinese solar companies are estimated to responsible for more than 70% of the installed PV-generation capacity worldwide. Developments of Chinese manufacturers – with regard to pricing, production capacity and technology – will have direct impact on the entire solar industry. In the coming year, China’s enormous representation in the global PV supply will result in tougher trade barriers against solar exports from the country. Nevertheless, all participants of the solar sector will also depend on the Chinese demand to survive and prosper, irrespective of where they are based.

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