A reflection on 2020 and a look at the year ahead

Last year was a remarkable one for us all, yet despite the global pandemic, the pace of innovation in the electronics industry continued. System Plus Consulting’s CEO, Romain Fraux, considers the technology highlights of 2020 – and what lies ahead for 2021. 

Smartphone introductions and new vehicles models, advances in ADAS and vehicle connectivity, coupled with the increased electrification of vehicle systems were some of the main features of 2020. System Plus Consulting diligently reported the evolution of the electronics industry and introduced some new products to reflect the evolution of a dynamic electronics market.

Charting trends in 2020

The power semiconductor market continued to use new materials. Analyses of SiC and GaN charted the evolution of these two materials and their applications. There was a clear trend in 2020 for the increased use of GaN in chargers for consumer products, particularly 65W GaN fast chargers.

Product and technology introductions from power semiconductor market leaders and newer players in the market were analyzed throughout 2020. More info.

For 2021, we expect to see more SiC-based inverters in automotives, for example, and in the power electronic systems in electric vehicles.

Another area of activity in 2020 was advanced packaging. Foundries continued to reduce the size of process nodes – currently down to 5nm in some areas. This has led to increased levels of integration and shrinking form factors. More info.

In 2021, we are looking forward to more innovation, perhaps with chiplet technology – to advance the industry further.

Consumer electronics

Key to consumer electronics in 2020 was the analysis of the use of 5G, its advances and its applications.

The introduction of Apple’s iPhone 12 in 2020 provided multiple components and a new system to analyze. Its 5G capabilities using technologies developed in-house were analyzed. Its capabilities using LiDAR sensing with direct time of flight (dToF) technologies resulted in further analysis of specific sensors. Detailed teardowns of the iPhone 12 and other smartphones are available today: Here.

Technologies to look for in 2021 will be the implementation of 5G mmWave, the impact of foldable phones and the design and use of LiDAR and 3D sensors in smartphones. 

In 2020, Qualcomm supplied the majority of smartphone 5G chipsets and we will wait to see if this dominance changes in 2021.

System Plus Consulting is introducing the Smartphone Design Win Monitor, to be released in Q1 this year. This detailed monitor offers a clear view of the semiconductor companies leading the market and a direct comparison between OEM. It includes design wins for the top smartphones’ OEMs, packaging evolution, die area evolution and supplier locations to provide a great deal of invaluable insight to the components, chip system functionality and costs.

The automotive market

As part of our focus on emerging technologies, an automotive teardown track was introduced in 2020. It provides online, subscription-access to exhaustive analysis from system to semiconductor level.  A dedicated automotive analysis team will follow ADAS systems, infotainment, telematics and safety.

A big topic for this year will be electrification of the whole vehicle. A new track, published in January 2021 analyzes key modules of electric vehicles. It is extensive in its coverage, encompassing components from on-board chargers, to all battery management systems and inverters. We will continue to target innovations, new systems and new modules throughout 2021.

The emergence of ADAS, telematic systems, the introduction of LiDAR and electrification defined this market in 2020. A mixture of new introductions and upgrades produced some insightful material, from the analysis of the Tesla Model 3’s upgrade and the unusual step to develop its own chipset, to ADAS and the introduction of LiDAR.

The results of the partnership between BMW and LiDAR sensor company, Innoviz, the evolution of camera and radar systems, in-vehicle infotainment, and the use of OLEDs in dashboard displays, as well as 5G will all be of interest throughout 2021.

There will also be interest in vehicle connectivity, in particular vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) which is expected to be implemented in more cars this year, and also vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems.

Another area will be lighting in vehicles, whether headlamps will be halogen or LED, the use of sensors for digital light projections, laser technology and the use of micro-LEDs.

Sensors for COVID-19

We cannot review 2020 without mentioning COVID-19. IR sensors are commonly used for temperature monitoring, to identify carriers. We identified that a Chinese company, IRay, was using a specific camera which made the miniaturisation of IR sensors economically feasible. A specific analysis report was compiled, dedicated to this project which opens up a new market for IR sensors.

A new year

System Plus Consulting continued to respond to changes in markets. We introduced two portals, for consumer and automotive product teardowns, offering access to over 1,000 consumer and automotive products and 15,000 semiconductor devices.

New capabilities were also developed, covering leading edge semiconductor technology with advanced technology nodes, and we developed our activity around memories, with reports on DRAM and NAND Flash memories in 2020. We will also intensify our analysis of processors as we move into 2021.

Despite COVID-19 defining 2020 for many, it is clear that innovation has continued and System Plus Consulting has reflected the technologies and trends of this historic year. New products and capabilities will ensure a steady flow of insight and data continues to support the entire supply chain throughout 2021.

Stay tuned on!

Headline image: photo at System Plus Consulting’s office, 2020 – Courtesy of Franck Drion

About the author

Romain Fraux System Plus Consulting

Romain Fraux is the CEO of System Plus Consulting, part of our Yole Group of companies. System Plus Consulting’s activities are dedicated to reverse costing analyses of electronics, from semiconductor devices to electronic systems.

Supporting industrial companies in their development, Romain and his team are offering a complete range of services, costing tools and reports. They deliver in-depth production cost studies and estimate objective selling price of a product, all based on a detailed physical analysis of each component in System Plus Consulting laboratory.

Romain has been working for System Plus Consulting for more than 15 years and was previously the company’s CTO.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Heriot-Watt University of Edinburgh (Scotland), a master’s degree in Microelectronics from the University of Nantes (France), and a Master of Business Administration.

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