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Will 2012 Be the Year of Smart Green Tech?


With the December holidays coming to a close and 2012 anticipation mounting, what better time to venture into trend forecasts?  It's not that we've been void of smart, green technology trends, but there is a mounting wave of coalescing demand and innovation that seems to be meeting in a "smarter" and "greener" feature set for components, end-devices and the use cases for the devices.

Looking at the  market as we move into 2012, strategic and design decisions seem to be centering around providing a critical set of "smarter" features in smaller and lighter form types.  To provide a "smart" device with "smart" features means to leverage components and architectures and spur (or at least address) demand.  At the same time, the desirability of products identified as "green" is on the increase.  Happily, for electronics makers, "smart" and "green" features are converging.  Smart solutions and green solutions across the board enable better chip designs, better power management, smaller medical implants, and bigger connected platforms, such as a truly smart grid which leverages the most integrated cloud computing.  Green is smart and being smart, it turns out, happens to promote green (see more on this topic and forecast in Smith's MarketWatch Quarterly Volume 5 No.4 , available to subscribers now, or to the general public in January; free subscription available here).

One sector and product example of the smart, green trend that is likely to (finally) see a more substantive rise in 2012, is the global increase of smart meters to meet increased energy and environmental stewardship demands.  A recent iSuppli study here forecasts significant growth from 2011 to 2016:

" Worldwide smart meter shipments are set to rise to 62 million units in 2016, up from 20.5 million in 2011, according to the IHS iSuppli Industrial Electronics service at information and analysis provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). Global sales of semiconductors used in these smart meters are set to rise to $1.1 billion in 2016, up from $505.6 million in 2011."

Part of the added spur in smart meter adoption forecasted comes from the critical missing link thus far, consumer acceptance of the devices.  While utility companies have long recognized and needed demand management capabilities, and governments have promoted the shift to smart grid systems (via smart meters) through financial incentives and grants, it is the critical "last mile" that has been the stumbling point.  With smarter, greener feature sets in consumer electronics on the rise, the widening of these advantages to in-home smart thermostats (such as this from nest), is seen as extending to smart meters also (see both the iSuppli report and Smith's MarketWatch Quarterly Vol. 5:4). The convergence of smart and green not only means additional semiconductor drivers, but also the continued momentum of more integrated ICs and more powerful System-on-Chip (SoC) solution sets.

In other words, taking a 10,000-foot view of the semiconductor and electronics industry for 2012, if we consider both users and designers together, there is a pervasiveness of smart and green technology.  This push, or demand driver, comes from both the strong demand and the response from semi R&D to constantly move technology to the next level.  This next level is not just improved capabilities of a "smarter" nature (whether longevity, lowered latency, memory, processing, or other features), it is also "greener" (lower energy consumption/better power and dissipation management, smaller footprint (manufacturing, emissions, etc.), green/sustainable use cases, and similar).  The continued integration of new architectures, designs, and technologies is providing both green and smart solutions to a wider set of verticals and end-users.  In turn, these solutions are designed to meet the next set of feature and function demands, as well as to drive demand.

It looks as though in 2012 green will be very smart.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 12:23 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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