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Top 2019 trends impacting the demand for data and power

12 December 2018

For the past several decades, the topic of ‘power’ has been consistently viewed as a challenge focused primarily on incremental improvements in making devices run more efficiently and less expensively. Today, the conversation is changing as energy efficiency has grown into a strategic initiative in increasingly power-reliant industries such as data centres, electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, industrial motors, and consumer electronics.

Those industries rely on the ability to efficiently store, move, process, and analyse vast quantities of data. This requires millions of megawatts of energy. With the beginnings of the explosion in other data-intensive technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, and robotic autonomy – the pressures on power demand and energy-efficiency technologies will notably increase.

How businesses choose to generate, store, deliver and use power will be an important impetus for global change in 2019. Over the past year, in conversations with corporate leaders, GaN Systems are more certain than ever before that yesterday’s silicon has reached its limits in solving critical power systems challenges. GaN technology is the clear and undisputed solution for driving more robust growth and product innovation, as well as enabling companies to elevate the conversation and engage more deeply in sustainability initiatives. 

As 2018 draws to a close, GaN Systems unveils the four trends for 2019 which it believes will have a major impact on the world’s power and energy footprint:

Trend 1: Electric Vehicles and Autonomous-Driving Vehicles

In 2018, it became increasingly clear that the future of transportation revolves around electric and autonomous vehicles. There are on the road today 4 million electric vehicles, with more than half of global sales in China. New entrants challenged entrenched leaders and global governments mandated low to zero emission protocols. 

• In the UK, the government launches Road to Zero Strategy to lead the world in zero emission vehicle technology.

• In China, the new blue electric taxis from BYD cost less to operate than the old red internal combustion engines vehicles.

• New manufacturers, like NIO, enter into the market place with impending IPOs challenging established global car brands.

In 2019, GaN Systems predicts:

• The increase in fuel efficiency regulations and demand for eco-friendly automotive will continue to drive demand for electric vehicle alternatives.

• Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will gain more mind share. Change in the social relationship between individuals and vehicles will continue to move from individual ownership to convenient on-demand use. On-demand itself will start to evolve to increasingly include fleets of autonomous vehicles, rather than be dominated by vehicles shared from individuals. As a result, research and design work in autonomy will move beyond just driving and into the recharging process for vehicles – that will pave the way to a fully autonomous vehicle experience in urban markets.

• Considerations into new cost and business models will need to be made in response to the move to more autonomous fleets of vehicles. Fleet vehicles are required to run 20 hours a day; not the 2 hours of private use vehicles. Not only will a low initial cost be important, but lower operating cost per kilometre and longer vehicle lifetimes in order to maximise ROI.

• New business and social behaviours, including autonomous fleets, will drive evolution towards new vehicle design requirements. Vehicle designs will evolve to be smaller, lighter, and more utilitarian, with a focus on maximising passenger capacity. These new designs will require GaN technology and the smaller, lighter, more efficient power systems that it brings to vehicles.

Trend 2: Data Centres – The Impact of IoT, AI, Blockchain and 5G Services

In 2018, we saw autonomous robots powered by AI transforming factories, and our environment, including the remote-controlled, floating, trash-collecting robots that eliminate trash from Chicago’s rivers. IoT-enabled smart cities, such as Barcelona, Singapore and Denver, are already saving millions in energy and labour efficiency while improving citizen services and public safety. 5G services will be available in U.S. cities in 2019, ushering in new augmented reality mobility applications that will make Pokémon Go seem like a relic of the past.

The ever-increasing influx of massive amounts of data and the explosive demand for energy will continue to be deeply linked – and will become even more so demanding with the rise of 5G, AI, and blockchain technologies.

In 2019, GaN Systems predicts:

In Data Centres, we will see:

• Continued push for energy efficiency and density – as computationally heavy demands grow and tech such as AI, electric vehicle, 5G and blockchain begin to be integrated across the infrastructure and operations of key industries

• Operators will need to evolve from today’s server rack designs – and embrace technology to increase data and power density. 

• IoT devices will require the data centre industry to continue to reinvent itself – not only incrementally adding more security and robustness, but also evolving the edge with new kinds of edge/locally-focused data centres.

• Highly-efficient power supplies are key to the necessary evolution of the data centre, tackling the challenge of increased energy conversion efficiency and enabling greater server rack density.

For AI and Blockchain, we will see:

• Using GaN technology in power supplies to create smaller and more energy efficient hardware. This will enable blockchain to scale for business needs by processing more transactions per second without significantly increasing energy costs.

• When it comes to the integration of blockchain and the impact of artificial intelligence, faster traceability will improve companies' business operations and accelerate delivery of their products to market – while enabling them to do so at lower power costs. 

For 5G, we will see:

• 5G equipment will be everywhere in the world, requiring more bandwidth and power in smaller packages. GaN technology will play an important part on the rollout of 5G because of power density, energy efficiency and device size.

• 5G microcell base stations require very high efficiency and power density. Low cost power electronics using GaN technology will be needed so these can be installed economically.

• More local data centres will be built, leveraging the telco central office footprint, requiring the same focus on energy efficiency as in today’s mega data centres. 

Trend 3: Renewables and Energy Storage

In 2018, we saw technology, business economics, and social imperatives merge as the world’s need to address climate change and pollution has transformed the need for renewables from a secondary to a 24/7 constant source of power. New products are being developed that reflect a focus on connecting into the sometimes-unreliable energy grid in areas prone to catastrophic storms. A growing number of home energy storage projects are underway in several cities around the world. One such project highlighted was Mandalay Homes, a new housing development in Prescott Valley, AZ where 2,900 residences will be outfitted with solar and 8 kilowatt-hour energy storage systems. 

In 2019, GaN Systems predicts:

• Highly efficient residential and commercial energy storage systems using GaN technology finally enabling high efficiency distribution, storage and on-demand access to renewable energy.

• Development of mainstream ways to supply portable power to residents and businesses in the aftermath of natural disasters such as storms and fires.

Trend 4: Wireless Charging Becomes Commonplace

One of the most significant trends in power electronics is wireless charging. As consumers continue to accumulate laptops, smart phones, wearables, e-bikes and e-scooters, the need for the convenience of wireless charging will take precedence. And, as industrial markets integrate more drones and robots into the supply chain and delivery processes, the charging of those devices needs to become more efficient, effective and long-lasting.

In 2019, GaN Systems predicts:

• Widespread fast wireless charging tech will impact the future and speed of adoption of the autonomous world (vehicles and drones) for new and expanding consumer uses.

• Robots that not only operate, but can recharge, autonomously without human intervention will continue to the fuel the evolution of Industry 4.0

• In wireless charging, providing high power for big loads or for fast charging small loads is the key and this is where GaN technology delivers high power with high efficiency

Conclusion: meeting these challenges with GaN

At the centre of these 2019 trends is the undeniable need for new ways of thinking about and addressing the power needs of the diverse technology that surrounds us. If we are to evolve globally, power cannot be taken for granted and simply viewed as an endless resource that comes out of a plug in a wall. Our global power footprint cannot continue to grow at past historic rates – for both business reasons and the health of our planet. Power semiconductor companies must take the lead in providing the technology for new power system design approaches. Businesses must take the responsibility for bringing attention to power expertise inside their own companies. Removing the limitations of yesterday’s silicon by using GaN power transistors will enable enterprise organisations to usher in entirely new energy efficient systems and products capable of transforming the future.


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