What are the technology trends that will help deliver mass customization, one of the key consumer growth areas that will be the driving force to propel technology innovation in 2022 and beyond? Executives from Molex give their perspectives on what we’ll see in key application areas in the next 12 months.
Consumers have always demanded choices. But never before has consumer demand dominated how nearly every industry is driving product strategy—from design and planning to supply and production. Buyer attitudes have changed due to recent changes in the market, largely fueled by the pandemic, which has propelled technology and businesses to quickly develop new services and solutions for consumers, which better suit their individual needs.
From grocery pick-up and food delivery to mobile experiences, virtual doctor visits, and work-from-home options, consumers have become even more accustomed to having more options to create their customized lifestyle. This desire to choose and pick “what works best for me” is here to stay and technology will need to follow suit. Consumers’ desire for mass customization will propel technology innovation in 2022 and beyond.
As OEMs and suppliers race to keep up with their ever-demanding user base, this prompts a number of key movements, reactions and changes which should be understood and planned for, including:
- How is this desire for customization impacting their product development and go-to-market strategies?
- What are they doing to react faster, pivot quickly and keep pace with demand?
Here are a few perspectives on how this dynamic will affect technology innovation and the likely trends in automotive and transportation, consumer devices and IoT, data centers, healthcare and medical technologies, industry 4.0. And there’s a peak in to what Molex Ventures is looking into for the future.
Automotive: decoupling of hardware and software will impact every aspect of vehicle
Kelly McCartney, director corporate strategy, highlights how EVs will see new enabling models, the benefits of decoupling hardware and software, and the rise of V2X:
- Electric vehicles will see a dramatic change in their enabling models. From new functionality to improved batteries to different charging station options, EV designers will need to stay ahead of and plan for the mass movement in all aspects of EV enablement to serve higher market demand.
- The decoupling of hardware and software will impact every part of the vehicle, well beyond infotainment, forcing OEMs and suppliers to leverage software expertise for automotive design. This supports zonal architectures and the central nervous system analogy. Consumers will continue to ramp up demand for more customization in their automotive choices, requesting more pick and choose / ad hoc bundles that allow them to create their own world, including entertainment, warranties, maintenance bundles, and insurance bundles. But 2022 will likely see a delay in providing these full features due to the chip shortage, forcing auto makers to keep buyers engaged and interested with creative solutions that rely on connected devices and fast data in the short term and offering the promise of leap-frogged advancements once chipsets become available.
- Electric truck availability will be the catalyst for mass adoption of EVs in the U.S., ushering in an era of greater customization in the automotive fleet, with drivers demanding more models, features and uses for their electric vehicles. This will lead to a whole new test market for electric vehicle adoption going forward, helping to define new sets of demographics, geographies, and feature sets that will bend all previous consumer-driven rules.
- V2X will ramp up quickly, heading for hyper-drive by 2026. Vehicles will talk to other vehicles, then move to interacting with infrastructure, with pedestrians and other elements of the environment. But this means addressing the challenges of rapid data capture, transfer and access, potentially using smart algorithms that speed analytics and predictive capability.
- Auto designers will need to move antennae position in all designs to ensure efficient communication with the many new technologies that will need to talk to the vehicle.
Consumer devices / IoT: dramatic rise in robots
Lee Ettleman, director corporate development, sees device intelligence going off the charts, and the rise of robots:
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning will drive device intelligence off the charts. This means compute processing power will need to expand by vast levels in a multitude of consumer products, ranging from the smart watch to smart home security systems.
- 2022 will see a dramatic rise in robots. The labor shortage, new minimum wage requirements, continued e-commerce growth and inflation will accelerate robotic adoption, bringing new robotic technologies from their initial locations in the warehouse to more areas of the factory floor, or even beginning to foray into retail stores and restaurants.
- Advancements in technology and labor challenges will continue to drive the adoption of robots in the service industry, prompting robotics and automation to work alongside today’s workers to efficiently serve consumers, drive more business opportunities and brand differentiation.
Data centers: localization will drive move away from heavy backhaul cabling
Neha Aggarwal, director corporate development provides her perspective on data centers:
- Innovations arising from the integration of electronics and photonics will disrupt the current technology ecosystem, making connectivity and device interactions more seamless and on-the-go wellness monitoring and detecting more mainstream.
- Requirements for more connectivity, increased data speed and latency will prompt software and hardware companies to build more infrastructure around transmission. As data speeds increase and fiber networks begin branching directly into homes, more optical cabling will be needed to support local fiber branches, representing a deviation from the current model that relies on heavy backhaul cabling for all transmission needs.
Healthcare: self-tracking, smarter medical devices and 3D printing
Justin McMath, director corporate development said changes in patient expectations and new ways of interacting with clinicians will drive plenty of trends in this sector:
- Consumers’ desire for the quantified self (referring both to the cultural phenomenon of self-tracking with technology and to a community of users and makers of self-tracking tools who share an interest in “self-knowledge through numbers”) will drive technology that delivers real-time consumer health diagnostics to keep them at peak performance. This requires a seamless data capture and exchange between the myriad of devices and equipment that provide reads on several health-related vectors including blood-based diagnostics, microbiome analysis, AI-powered support bots, mobile imaging, and other direct-to-consumer testing to ensure a high quality of data that provides the most accurate medical picture.
- Patients will increasingly seek alternatives to traditional treatment locations such as doctor’s offices, clinics, etc. – they will demand at-home treatments including testing and monitoring. This will prompt a swift ramp up in designs and models of easy-to-use, sustainable devices that can be produced to provide availability to large numbers of patients.
- 2022 will see more individualized treatments and tailored therapeutic regimens to meet patient needs resulting from advances in companion diagnostics, real world evidence, and drugs based on patient cells (CAR-T therapies).
- Medical devices will be become smarter: clinician and patient expectations will require new systems and delivery methods that are easier to use and more comfortable such as smart inhalers, smart injectors, and non-invasive continuous glucose monitors.
- Healthcare will embrace AI as a means of enabling the human machine interface, accelerating diagnoses with greater accuracy, applying predictive analysis or suggesting new compounds and mechanisms of action, all extrapolated from massive sets of reliable, accurate data.
- 2022 will see a strong emergence in use of advanced imaging, 3D printing, and other enhanced materials to simulate and build custom medical devices to treat individual physiologies such as congenital heart defects and neurovascular stenting.
Industry 4.0: better smart factory implementations
Molex executives said smart factories will start to become a reality, with more flexible architectures, broader implementation of sensors and a cross-organizational leverage of the consolidated sensor data, enabling industrial automation stakeholders to raise visibility and monitoring of the entire facility while increasing production-line innovations and operational efficiencies.
In addition, manufacturers will reduce their dependencies on rigid hardware while increasing their implementation and use of both stationary and mobile robots, so they are able to support more automated material handling, pick-and-place, and eventually reconfigurable production lines to support the manufacturing of custom products.
As highlighted earlier, 2022 will see a dramatic rise in robots. And as mobile robotics and automated guided vehicles grow in importance, so too will adoption of 5G private networks over traditional wired ethernet, to support wireless low-latency, high-bandwidth, secure communications.
Future investment areas
Looking to the future, Lily Yeung, vice president, Molex Ventures, said some of the 2022 top investment trends will focus on technologies enabling next generation infrastructure upgrades and leapfrogs in related technology, such as 6G, quantum computing, energy and power to increase efficiency and support sustainability.
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