Keeping up with consumer

Kevin Parmenter, Power Systems Design Contributor


Power electronics must accompany personal electronics

Kevin Parmenter, Power Systems Design Contributor

The consumer electronics market is growing, yet it’s always in a state of flux. In this huge and competitive market you must have the latest features and functions and the best, easy-to-use interface, or your products will be yesterday’s news and they won’t sell.  The typical pace of the consumer market is 3-6 months, so once the newer models are released you better have an offering with the latest technologies on them.  

The stakes are also high since safety and quality missteps are extremely costly. Imagine airlines telling your customers they can’t bring certain models of your products on planes on penalty of being fined and removed from the aircraft.

From power electronics industry perspective, the safety standard we’ve all been working with is IEC60950. But that is now being replaced with IEC62368. This new risk-based standard covers audio/video, information and communication technology equipment, so it’s incumbent on us to learn all about it.

Consumer electronics are setting the bar for ease-of-use and GUIs and smart manufacturers are mindful of this. An interesting side effect of better interfaces is that consumers have come to expect user-friendly interfaces everywhere.  For instance, a nurse or lab tech now expects the same intuitive, reliable, high-resolution graphics touch screen interface on their $200 phone to be as good or better on the $200,000 clinical chemistry analyzer that they use at work.

Consumer electronics will continue to expand rapidly due to the possibilities provided with connectivity and the falling price of computing power. For example, a garage door opener was not thought of as a consumer electronics product until recently, but now an interface for your garage door opener can be connected to the Cloud to allow you to operate the door and alert you to when it goes up and down – plus you can read the temperature there.  Other examples include light bulbs and thermostats, thanks to smart-home Wi-Fi connected products. 

The largest electronics show on earth, the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, will have already happened when you read this, but the themes have already been announced: connectivity, 5G specifically; drones; virtual reality; self-driving vehicles; GPU’s (graphics processors); immersive entertainment, including video and audio products; consumer convenience products; wearables and of course IoT and IoE.  Semiconductor companies also will be in attendance to promote reference designs for key consumer vertical markets.  

No one knows what we will see in the future of consumer products but it will be exciting.  One thing we do know, of course, is that as these applications grow and improve, they will need to be powered and/or charged. It’ll take all of us in the power electronics industry working together to move things forward.