April 13, 2011
A new report by International Data Corp. (IDC)'s semiconductor research team predicts that "smart systems"—those with programmable processor cores, high-level operating systems and Internet connectivity—will consume more than 12.5 billion processor cores representing more than $100 billion in revenue by 2015, more than double the number of cores that shipped in 2010.
IDC predicts that by 2015 more than six times more microprocessor cores will ship in smart systems than in PCs. The firm also predicts that the number of processor cores consumed by smart systems will nearly double again between 2015 and 2020, reaching an estimated 24.6 billion cores.
Shane Rau, an analyst at IDC, said his firm's research is putting hard numbers around the market for smart systems, a buzzword that seems to be ubiquitous now but is generally poorly defined. Systems such as smart meters, the smart grid, smart phone and smart TV are growing drivers for electronics sales.
"The story of smart systems is about the migration of these technologies to what we've historically referred to as embedded systems," Rau sad. "What we are doing is quantifying the market for the systems that have all of these elements [processor, OS, connectivity] together."
IDC will issue its complete findings on the smart systems next week at its SMART Technology World conference here April 19 and 20.
"For the first time, the IDC report and the SMART Technology Conference seek to give meaning to the 'smart' market by defining its taxonomy and quantifying its size and value," said Mario Morales, vice president of IDC's semiconductor and EMS research programs.
In addition to adopting programmable microprocessors or SoCs and a high-level OSes, a major step in the evolution of embedded systems to smart systems is the ability to communicate over Internet Protocol to a human being or another system, according to IDC. Excluding mobile phones and PCs, unit shipments of IP-connected embedded systems will grow from approximately 1.4 billion in 2010 to over 3.3 billion in 2015, according to the report.
The IDC report also predicts that in 2015, the more than 3.3 billion units of connected embedded systems that ship will exceed the number of PCs that ship in the same year by more than six times. The firm further predicts that the functionality, ease of use and access that users of PCs and smart phones are accustomed to will spread to the embedded systems that form much of the infrastructure of modern society, such as energy, industrial systems, automotive, and communications.
M&A activity in and around smart systems will force more forward-looking and co-opetition among vendors, technology providers, and investors, according to the IDC.