Is your life ruled by electronics? Mine is. It seems that everything I do—from opening a garage door to adjusting the thermostat to tracking my heartbeats during a workout—relies on electronic sensors that are embedded not just in my devices but in my life. That’s why I’m always surprised to hear people refer to electronic measurement as a “mature” industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The electronics industry that I work in is a hotbed of innovation. It has evolved from the early days when we used sensors to measure the physical and operational nature of devices to confirm that they were working correctly. Today, we tie these sensors into distributed networks, and we connect them to centralized computing engines where state-of-the-art data analysis software makes sense of the data and puts it to work. So we’re not only collecting vast amounts of measurement data but we are also analyzing it, communicating it, and acting on it. In this way, the convergence of electronic measurement, centralized data analysis software and communication networks is enabling manufacturers to introduce innovations that were unimaginable a few years ago.
In my role at Keysight, I see these 5 areas evolving fast, creating new business opportunities for entrepreneurs in electronics manufacturing—and interesting new challenges for companies like mine.
Transportation: Rolling to autonomy
A car is a rolling measurement system that collects vast amounts of data. Add data analysis and control and it becomes a proactive safety system that sees traffic slowing and applies the brakes, detects ice on the road and reduces power, and alerts you to a car in your blind spot, a deer in the road, or a bicycle behind you. The next evolutionary wave in transportation involves communications: Cars are communicating not just with the driver but with other cars and with regional transportation networks that control traffic flows through our busiest cities. Connected cars will reduce traffic jams, accidents, traffic-related injuries, emergency response times, car insurance rates, our use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions—and even the amount of time we spend commuting to work.
Healthcare: Giant steps towards personalized insight
You may already own a wristband or watch that can measure your steps, your heartrate, or your respirations when you sleep. Want to take it a step further? Add network-based data analysis and communications and that same data-collection technology can literally save lives—for example, by dialing 9-1-1 if a heart patient has an event or providing an accurate health history to an emergency responder. It may even save you money on your health insurance: If you agree to communicate your data to your health insurance provider, you might be eligible for preferred rates by proving that you run for 30 minutes twice a week or get seven hours of sleep per night. In the near future, healthcare delivery and insurance rates will be customized to you and you alone—like everything else in your digital life.
Aging: There’s no place like home
By 2030, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. An AARP study says that 87 percent of them want to age in place—meaning they hope to live in their homes, not in nursing homes. Sensors and actuators make it possible, centralized data analysis and communications make it feasible. In-home systems can monitor real-time health status, detect emergency situations such as falls, and notify healthcare providers if there’s a problem. This has significant ramifications for the cost of healthcare since home-based care is a fraction of the cost of institutional care.
Five years ago, drone delivery was science fiction. Today, Amazon sounds a lot like NASA, using terms like ConOps (concept of operations) to evaluate low-altitude airspace, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, command and control networks, and sense-and-avoid (SAA) technology. Nokia has already demonstrated a solution that maps a three-dimensional road system for Munich. The app identifies no-fly zones and landmarks, and ties into land- and space-based communication networks to allow retail drones to accurately deliver packages to their intended destination. It’s a great example of how measurement systems, data analysis software, and communications are creating not just new income streams but entirely new business models for established companies.
Workplace productivity: Making virtual a reality
In my career, the workplace has changed drastically and for the better. Hi-fidelity audio and video make it easy to have web meetings with people who are a thousand miles away. Camera-tracking technology automatically directs web video to the person who’s speaking, just as though we were sitting across the table. Soon holographic meetings will be mainstream, so virtual teams will literally be in the same room. Think of the impacts on family life, travel budgets, the environment, and product design cycles alone.
The convergence of electronics measurement and control, data analysis, and communications will continue to present new business models and opportunities to innovators and entrepreneurs. The transformation is happening so fast that I can barely imagine the digital world my children will inhabit. Whatever their world looks like, I’m proud to say that electronics design and test companies like Keysight will be in the mix, helping to solve these challenges so entrepreneurial companies can continue to amaze us with their innovations.
What does your crystal ball tell you? Leave a comment or send me an email, and share your list of the hottest opportunities you see on the horizon.