Moore’s Law said that computing power would double every 18 months; the law was actually wrong, as computing power being rolled out has accelerated instead of slowed down since 2010. The sheer power of computing systems is only one trend in the electronics world. Here are four trends that have affected the world of electronics design in 2017 and will continue to shape it for years to come.
Printed circuit boards have been designed via software for more than twenty years because there is no other way to design smaller components in increasingly complex assembled arrays. The biggest shift has been the integration of functions into design software that used to be done separately.
For example, someone can lay out the circuitry tracing and then have the program determine whether the circuit paths will generate interference for nearby integrated circuits. The entire design can be studied for its thermal profile with some applications.
3D modeling of assembled boards to test for interference issues if put in higher level assemblies is common, while the ability to export the design and component information for quality control analysis on the odds of mechanical or part failure, is less common. Altium Design Software combines easy-to-use PCB layout tools to seamlessly generate linked documentation like parts lists, which is very useful during the production of an efficient and functioning PCB.
Industrial Automation and Control
While artificial intelligence and data mining get the most attention, the greater revolution has been the “smarts” showing up everywhere else. Smart watches, smart thermostats, smart appliances and more have built-in levels of data collection, analysis, and control that rival mid-grade electronics a few years ago.
Demand for programmable logic controllers and smart control boards for appliances that are smarter than the average PC of the 1980s is only going to increase as the smart grid becomes the norm and people learn the value of such fault-tolerant systems.
Why use other devices to track body temperature, pulse rates, and activity levels when you can put on a watch or bracelet that does it for you continuously? Healthcare providers are looking forward to real-time blood pressure monitoring while diabetics want to have such devices track blood sugar levels continuously and pain-free.
This mix of life-saving benefits and convenience is driving both the rapid adoption of medical wearable technology and innovation in such devices. Obviously, this use of wearable tech can have both advantages and disadvantages for healthcare, as many people worry about their personal health information being vulnerable.
The PC/TV/Entertainment System Merger
We’re slowly seeing the dissolution of the categorization barriers between cable boxes, televisions, and computers. You can watch satellite TV via an app on your gaming system or computer. Your computer can let you watch shows on-demand that aired on broadcast television last week.
The cable box turns into a set-top box to let you watch on-demand content available through the internet or play games. All of this is driving design changes to the devices used to connect televisions to the wealth of entertainment options, making them smarter and able to network with more devices than ever.
Electronics design is continually evolving. It’s an exciting field to be in right now!