Blockchain Grows Up – Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is poised for adoption in a wide range of applications that will greatly benefit from its inherent security. Smart secure contracts based on blockchains will emerge in industries from finance, and real estate to education and healthcare. Even mature industries are likely to begin to adopt permissioned or private variants of this technology as a way to validate compliance with international process standards.
Software is Everywhere, Really – Virtualization technology has driven a revolution in large-scale networked computing, enabling the rapid emergence of cloud architectures that offer radically new approaches to delivering value. As this trend accelerates in the networked computing world, the broad application of this concept to electronic systems will enable new breakthroughs in application performance and value. Traditional approaches will be disaggregated and reassembled in new ways to optimize the combination of high-performance customized hardware and the flexibility of software.
CMOS Enables the Commercialization of the mm-wave Spectrum – As cost-effective CMOS pushes to higher and higher frequencies, it promises to enable the widespread utilization of the mm-wave spectrum for consumer applications from 5G to autonomous vehicles. The traditional home of secure government communication and research is opened up to a wide variety of commercial applications, unlocking a new universe of “new” bandwidth.
Rapid Expansion of Hybrid Photonic ICs to Support High Speed Communications & Computing Applications– Power requirements associated with traditional electrical/optical data transfer interfaces in data centers is fast approaching a practical limit. To economically exceed a 25.6 Tbps transfer rate in future data center switches, new packaging technologies will emerge that will enable the integration of a wide range of photonic and switch ICs. Although widespread commercial deployment of this technology is not likely until 2020, aggressive R&D in this area is predicted in 2018.
Commercializing Space – Private enterprises are rapidly changing how humans will explore and utilize space. In the past, central governments funded, owned and controlled satellites, and dominated how space was utilized. Despite some significant technical challenges, companies, playing by commercial rules, will push forward with the aggressive launch and operation of spacecraft and commercial satellite networks that will deliver new applications from real-time weather-imaging and ubiquitous global Internet access, to consumer space travel and asteroid mining.
Schrodinger’s Cat is Calling – There will be major advances in secure long-distance communication. Harnessing the physical phenomena described in quantum mechanics will, in theory, enable completely secure communications over very long distances. Quantum communication holds the potential to be virtually unsusceptible to tampering or eavesdropping. Should anyone attempt to intercept or modify this type of communication both the sender and intended recipient would be notified of a security breach.
AR/VR Emerges from Gaming – Expect developer kits to be broadly available which will promote the creation of new applications beyond gaming. Robust ecosystems will develop around them in manufacturing, operations, service and support, and training since augmented reality will greatly improve communications in complex environments where human judgment is required.
Autonomous Vehicles Will Arrive, But Expect Challenges – There has been a great deal of progress in the development of driverless cars, but the industry will evolve beyond solving technology challenges to addressing practical implications such as regulatory issues (fuel, safety, communications, insurance and legal). Moral challenges will need to be addressed, such as responsibility for accidents with implications for insurance and legal matters, before autonomous vehicles become commonplace. How do you assign responsibility when a machine is driving? The industry needs regulations and standards to deal with these issues.
Electric Vehicle Adoption – Advances in powertrain, control systems and battery technology bring electric vehicle ranges closer to those of traditional combustion-engine powered cars. Their adoption will exceed expectations, increasing competition, driving infrastructure development and lowering costs. In support of this virtuous cycle, wide-band gap semiconductor technology (e.g., GaN, (Gallium Nitride), SiC (Silicon Carbide)) investments will enable breakthroughs in form factor and power efficiency, further accelerating the trend.