Market Insight

IoT innovation becoming the key driver of the embedded computing market

June 20, 2018

Brian Arbuckle Brian Arbuckle Senior Market Analyst

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  • Global revenue in the embedded computing market contracted by 3.1 percent, year over year, falling to $2.5 billion in 2016, due to the ongoing effects of the collapse of the xTCA telecom market; however, the global market is forecast to grow through 2021, when revenue will total $3.4 billion, largely because of growth in the industrial automation sector. 
  • VPX is slowly replacing VME in the market. However, due to the longevity of military electronic systems, VME is expected to decline at a compound annual rate of just 2 percent, from 2016 through 2021.
  • Running alongside the procurement of VME boards and systems, the adoption of the new Open-VPX standard will result in a 15 percent CAGR for VPX boards from 2017 through 2021, albeit from a much smaller base. Growth opportunities are also expected in other board technologies.
  • Software technologies will negatively affect the xTCA board and systems markets for the foreseeable future, with five-year declines of 16 percent expected for xTCA boards and 17 percent for xTCA systems.

Our analysis

Internet of things (IoT) innovation will be a key factor in the growth of the embedded computing market over the next five years, as new wireless technologies employ it in more applications. Cloud connectivity is also becoming more prominent, as IoT continues to be implemented in the industry.

The primary focus of cloud implementation is to support IoT-related applications that monitor asset health and carry out predictive maintenance. With the acceleration of cloud connectivity, the embedded computing industry has shown increased interest in the Open Platform Communications unified architecture (OPC UA), a machine-to-machine communication protocol, and messaging protocols like Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) and Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP). Companies preferring to gain analytics outside of the cloud may do so locally, through edge and fog computing.

Increasingly, embedded board vendors are developing solutions that rely on hardware and software to address these new embedded computing applications. Embedded computing-standards organizations are also working to accelerate the adoption of industrial IoT (IIoT), providing open specifications and design guides to help member companies create high-quality, interoperable computing solutions. This accelerated adoption can be achieved by leveraging historic strengths in industrial computing, extended to a wider audience of IIoT developers, and building partnerships among IIoT-focused standards organizations.

In addition to hardware, complementary software solutions will assist in the successful overall adoption of the IIoT. Hardware standards organizations will also need to work with software standards organizations to develop a unified data model.

Meanwhile, in the military embedded systems market, the demand for commonality is driving procurement and technology development within the US Department of Defense (DoD) — from radar and electronic warfare to ISR sensors and avionics. Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA), Hardware Open Systems Technologies (HOST) and other DoD open architecture initiatives are working together to shorten fielding times, lower life cycle costs, leverage economies of scale and promote reuse for Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps platforms.

The VITA organization provides its members with the ability to develop and promote open-technology standards and is well known for its work on the VME and VPX standard boards and systems. Most of the industry discussion currently surrounds the introduction of the VPX standard, which creates the impression that VME is on its way out, which could not be further from the truth: VME continues to represent a very satisfactory standard for many applications. The longevity of the VME standard is perhaps not surprising, given the longer product lifetimes commonly witnessed in military systems procurement.

The commercial communications sector continues to experience growing end-user appetite for software-centric solutions, rather than hardware-based solutions. The popularity of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) continues to transform the commercial communications sector.

The computer-on-module (COM) business will continue to grow strongly, particularly the smaller modules, which are perfect for manufacturers with medium-to-large project quantities requiring high flexibility in a limited space. COM will become one of the most popular solutions in the coming decades, with wide applications in industrial automation, high-end digital signage, high-end POS/kiosk, medical, test and measurement, entertainment, transportation and building technology.

PICMG 1.x boards are becoming legacy products for many vendors, but significant orders are still expected. In the future, board sales will largely maintain current levels, with an inevitable decline in PICMG 1.0 within the next five years.

CompactPCI has continued to transform new applications, including the two main computers on NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity. CPCI Serial Space provides a rugged implementation for space applications. It is intended for use in space, in platform systems and the payload controllers on onboard satellites, as well as for ground-station control systems. Regular CompactPCI Serial products can be combined with cPCI Serial for space products, to develop test and simulation systems. The outlook for cPCI systems is very good, with a forecasted CAGR of 16 percent from 2017 through 2021.

Standalone boards are expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 7 percent, across the various form-factors. There are significant and increasing competitive pressures from new vendors that traditionally offered consumer boards and are now offering lower cost semi-industrial boards, which is causing some disruption in this market sector.

Embedded Computer Boards, Modules and Systems Annual Service

This annual intelligence service analyzes the merchant market for embedded computing. Seven major technology categories are covered, with detailed breakouts by region/country, form factor and industry sector. It also includes market share analysis of the leading technology providers in each region.

Research by Market
Manufacturing Technology
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