A forecast of what to look out among electronic products for in the coming year.
[Editor’s note: We asked Gina Roos, editor in chief of Electronic Products, our sister publication, to weigh in and pick five pivotal components that caught her attention in 2019, which she believes will have a big impact on the electronics market in 2020.]
LiDAR sensors in vehicles
In automotive designs, LiDAR sensors are now being used in combination with cameras, which identify road users, signs and traffic lights, and radars that enable an accurate distance range. Although it’s still the early days for LiDAR technology, automotive system engineers are working on LiDAR designs to meet resolution, range, accuracy, and latency requirements. Advances like Cepton’s LiDAR sensors, based on its Micro-Motion Technology (MMT), that recognize and track objects from all four corners of the vehicle to provide a precise 3D image of the surrounding environment, and RoboSense’s RS-LiDAR-M1Pre LiDAR that incorporates a laser, a 2D MEMS scanning mirror, and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor and claims a detectable range of 200 m, will go a long way to drive the adoption of this technology in 2020.
What’s not to like about microLEDs? These devices match incumbent OLED technology in terms of response time and viewing angles and exceed OLEDs in brightness, ruggedness, and power consumption. Big markets include augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), wearables, and other mobile devices. The big drawback is still commercialization and related costs, though a lot of progress is being made as the technology matures. And one supplier making some big inroads is Plessey Semiconductors, which has demoed microLED displays for headsets, which achieve 10× the resolution, 100× the contrast ratio, and up to 1,000× the luminance of traditional OLEDs with just half the power consumption. So high-volume production of microLEDs may be around the corner, even as early as 2020.
Let’s face it: 2020 is going to be a big year in the rollout of 5G infrastructure, along with 5G-enabled services. This translates into a big need for 5G devices, ranging from the infrastructure to the smartphone. Leaders like MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung are already launching chipsets that promise to simplify the transition to 5G communications. Also watch for big announcements in other component areas as manufacturers gear up for the arrival of 5G.
Haptic technologies in VR/AR
Haptic technologies, such as piezoelectric actuators and a new category of flexible actuators and associated drivers, are now opening up new opportunities in VR/AR devices and other wearables. There has been early haptics activity in the VR market, but new technologies that deliver benefits in the areas of scalability, flexibility, size, weight, and cost will make these devices a lot more attractive to XR designers as they strive to deliver a better user experience on mobile phones, tablets, and other consumer devices.
Has the time come for commercial lithium-sulfur batteries that claim higher energy density and lower cost compared to lithium-ion batteries? 2020 may be a pivotal year for the long-emerging technology, particularly for electric and hybrid vehicles, though the technology is well-suited for other applications such as drones and energy-storage systems. In early 2019, more than a dozen European organizations decided to partner on the development of lithium-sulfur battery technology for EVs/HEVs, indicating a big push toward commercialization.