14 Nov 2014

electronica 2014 showcases new electronics technology

Our editor, Ian Poole visited electronica 2014 and took a look at the main themes and technologies that were visible at the event.

Held in Munich, Germany, electronica between 11 and 14th November 2014 electronica is the international event for the electronics industry.

This year represented the 50th anniversary of the first electronica back in 1964. Since then the event has been held in a bi-annual basis.

electronica attracted 2,737 exhibitors from 50 countries and it filled 12 halls of the enormous Messe Munchen exhibition centre. During the days, the halls were full with the visitors and it was often difficult to walk quickly around the stands, certainly of the popular areas.



In addition to this more than 73,000 visitors from over 80 countries visited. While some said things were not as busy as previous years, most of the halls were very full and exhibitors noted a high level of interest. Once again, the number of international visitors has increased up from 47 to 50 percent.

Electronica 2014

Countries with the largest representation were Germany, China, Taiwan, USA, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Switzerland and Republic of Korea in that order and joint exhibits included 8 German and 24 international, among others from China, France, Great Britain, India, Japan, Spain, Taiwan and USA.

Covering all aspects of the electronics industry, electronica attracted visitors from all areas of the electronics industry. Component manufacturers from capacitors to coils and resistors to quartz products as well as the major silicon chip companies. In addition to this distributors as well as those manufacturing many products for sectors including wireless connectivity and in particular IoT, as well as automotive, security and test instrumentation. All these were represented in large numbers across the twelve huge halls.

Commenting on electronica 2014, Dr. Reinhard Pfeiffer, Deputy CEO of Messe München, said: "electronica has shown that the world is increasingly moving together. We need global platforms such as electronica to make this possible."

Electronica 2014 entrance

Entrance area for electronica 2014

With the physically wide area the exhibition covered, the travellators were in great demand enabling people to move quickly from one end of the exhibition to the other.

electronica was the launch pad for many new products and innovations. Many manufacturers and suppliers had news about many new items being launched, and also news about new business relationships and ventures.

Major themes at electronica

Some of the key areas of electronica 2014 included automotive, embedded systems and there was also a large contingent of companies who were involved in LEDC lighting. However some of the main themes of electronica included Internet of Things or IoT, security and also power reduction and energy efficiency.

While these major themes did not cover everything at the show, they certainly represented some major trends that are being seen. CEOs were talking about them, and this obviously sets the trend for the areas new developments are taking.

Power issues

Power was an issue that was a common thread through many areas of the show and hence the electronics industry. Not only was power talked about by manufacturers associated with power applications, but also by chip manufacturers.

Companies including Murata were launching new smaller DC-DC converter products with ever higher efficiency levels. Size is on ongoing driver with companies packing much higher power levels into smaller volumes while also increasing reliability levels.

Additionally other manufacturers like CUI were looking at digital supplies. Digital supplies are ones where the feedback and control loop in a power supply is implemented using digital algorithms. This provides many advantages in terms of performance and the overall operation of the supply. There is a growing trend towards the use of these supplies as they are able to offer significant improvement in performance.

Another area that is of growing importance is that of wireless charging. The key here is convenience. Charging can be initiated simply by placing the item to be charged on the charging pad without the need for finding the right cable with the right connector. In one new advance this has been combined with NFC to provide additional functionality. Wireless charging is not new, and there are several standards being developed, although no single standard has yet come to the fore enabling all types of phone or equipment to be charged from the same pad. This obviously will come in years to come.

Wireless charging with NFC

Wireless charging with NFC at electronica

Although still in the development stage, this wireless charging system shown at electronica shows the way of things to come.

Internet of Things, IoT

The term IoT, Internet of Things is very over-used, but the reality is that all the predictions say it is going to happen, and many applications are already in existence and being sold and used. The is only set to grow enormously and many CEOs have latched onto this fact.

electronica 2014 IoT advertising

Manufacturers to distributors were pushing IoT at electronica

There were a number of manufacturers addressing all areas of the chain. A variety of different standards were mentioned: Bluetooth and Zigbee featured in many offers, but another relative newcomer LoRa was being shown. This system has been developed for long range, - hence the name LoRa, and a trail network was set up in Munich to demonstrate its operation. Using some small battery powered modules manufactured by Microchip and Semtech that were being given away in the exhibition it was possible to demonstrate the messages being sent from them and then displayed on a special website and visible only with the required code displayed on the module. This demonstration showed that even very low powered signals could be reliably used to transmit data over quite reasonable distances.

Security

With the rise of IoT, one issue that is of growing importance is that of security. It is far from uncommon to hear of hackers getting in to even respected websites and stealing information. Accordingly there could be rich pickings for anyone entering IoT networks and therefore security is of really huge importance. Although many companies were saying it was important, and that very secure techniques were being used, most of the techniques being sued were high security techniques already available.

It will be interesting to see how this area that is of the utmost importance will develop in the years to come.

Automotive

Automotive electronics is an area that has seen a much greater input from electronics in recent years. Not only are some of the traditional functions using more electronic circuitry, but there is a long term development that is ongoing to automate driving and make automotive transport safer and more reliable. There is also the drive for more electric cars, and Digi-Key even had a competition for a Tesla car.

Manufacturers are developing many new chips for the whole industry and also distributors are becoming increasingly aware of the market and they are setting up to support it increasingly.

New launches of chips associated with the automotive industry were seen. The major trend that was observed was one of moving steadily towards the goal with incremental developments and an ever increasing level of electronic operation within cars and other vehicles.

General releases and updates

electronica 2014 saw a vast number of other releases. Everything from components like capacitors, resistors, quartz products and many more, through the IC manufacture, where many new low power MCUs were seen along with MCUs where it was possible to select chips with different peripherals.

Even down to minute 0201 noise suppression filters shown below, miniaturisation was a key trend.

 Miniature SMT noise suppression filters at electronica

Miniature SMT noise suppression filters at electronica

Christoph Stoppok, Managing Director of the Electronic Components and Systems Association and the PCB and Electronic Systems Association in the ZVEI (German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association) expects the world market for electronic components to grow by over four percent and reach a value of approximately 527 billion US-Dollar over the coming year.

In addition to this new power supplies were seen, new lighting products, where LED technology was making a major push.

Test equipment was another major area of interest. With new technologies requiring ever more sophisticated testing, this places the pressure on test equipment manufacturers to be well ahead of the game. They must have their new products available well ahead of the launch of any new technology as it needs to be thoroughly tested.

Not only were new products seen that were able to test the new technologies like IoT and the related standards, but smaller complex products like portable spectrum analyzers were also seen.

Next electronica

With electronica 2014 now having come to an end, planning is starting for electronica 2016. The dates for the event have been determined and were advertised at the show. So we hope to see you in Munich between 8 and 11 November 2016.

Electronica 2014

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About the author

Ian Poole is the editor of Radio-Electronics.com. Having studied at University College London to gain his degree he went on to undertake a career in electronic development working for companies including Racal. He became the hardware development manager at Racal Instruments where he was in charge of the hardware development activities within the company. Later moving in to freelance work as a consultant he also developed Radio-Electronics.com to become one of the leading publications for professional electronics engineers. He is also a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and is the author of over 20 books.

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