electronica 2018 highlights: smart, safe & secure

Author : Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

03 January 2019

electronica 2018 logo
electronica 2018 logo

electronica is the world’s leading trade fair & conference for electronic components, systems, applications and solutions, held every two years at the renowned Messe München showground in Munich, Germany. EPDT editor, Mark Gradwell reports from the show…

This column was originally featured in the January 2019 issue of EPDT magazine. Read the digital issue or sign up to receive your own copy.

A huge show and truly international affair, electronica attracts exhibitors and visitors from all around the world, providing a display window for innovations and trends in the electronics industry. Helping shape its status quo and offering a glimpse into its future, it aims to inspire and enable a global network of decision makers, engineers and developers.

This wasn’t my first electronica – but it was my first as EPDT Editor. As our industry’s leading trade show, it’s important for EPDT to cover it for our readers – and many of you may also have attended as either visitors or exhibitors. electronica always presents the latest electronic technologies, products and solutions for the design challenges of the future – the components, systems, applications and services that make new developments such as smart homes and connected cars possible. And as well as its comprehensive exhibition, with exciting live demos, it also includes a range of technical conferences, forums, presentations, roundtables and expert panels to help visitors develop their competencies and knowledge.

The biggest electronica ever

The scale, scope and popularity of electronica also make it an important electronics industry meet-up and networking event. And 2018 was the biggest electronica ever – with 80,000 visitors from over 80 countries (up 10% over 2016), as well as 3,100 exhibitors from over 50 countries (up 8% over 2016). A global show, over half of all visitors were from outside Germany (with Italy, Austria, the UK, France, Switzerland, the US, Russia, China and Poland completing the top 10 of visitor nations, after Germany), with two thirds of exhibitors from overseas (with the top nations being China, Taiwan, the US and the UK). Media interest was also strong, with over 500 journalists attending, from over 25 countries.

And with four new halls (expanding again from 13 to 17 halls in 2018), helping house the co-located SEMICON Europa, plus the electronica experience (which enabled visitors to experience, test and try exhibitors’ products in their respective applications), floorspace at the show was up over 20%, now covering more than 90,000 square metres.

Theme and technology highlights

The show’s theme in 2018 was: Connect Everything – smart safe, & secure. Technology highlights included:


The automotive industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation, becoming increasingly dominated by electronics and digital technology. By 2025, it is reckoned that a quarter of all cars worldwide will be electrically powered. On top of that, manufacturers and suppliers are currently responding to increasing demands for ‘next-generation’ technologies, including autonomous and connected vehicles, as well as developing completely new data-generated business models.

electronica show floor
electronica show floor

Electronics and software already account for over 90% of all automotive innovations. And these developments are not only being driven by autonomous and connected driving, but also the electrification of roads, for example. In addition, growing demand for driving performance, safety, comfort and environmental compatibility can only be achieved using the latest electronically-managed vehicle functions.

These trends, combined with rising car production, mean that worldwide sales of automotive semiconductors are forecast to rise from $45.5bn in 2017 to$53.4bn by 2022, an average year-on-year growth of 5.5%.

Current technology trends and the latest thinking on electronics technology within the automotive sector covered included: artificial intelligence, electric mobility, emission-free and autonomous driving up to level 5, as well as so-called last-mile vehicles, as part of the overall mobility mix.

Embedded systems & sensors

As a key technology component of the ‘smart’ world, and one of the 21st century’s most important interdisciplinary technologies, embedded systems are again represented across almost all areas of the show. As the most widely used ‘computers’ worldwide, without embedded systems, the IoT, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and Industry 4.0 would not be possible.

A recent study by market research firm, HNY Research sees the global market for embedded systems increasing from $86.85 billion in 2017 to $110.28 billion by 2023, with billions of dollars being spent in IoT across all key industries. Key growth areas include automotive, healthcare and wearables.

Embedded topics at electronica included: IoT processors with higher performance, lower power consumption and additional security; machine learning algorithms; embedded vision; smart machines; software and development tools and methods.

Increasingly networked and intelligent, sensors technologies, and the data generated from them, were also a focus as another key technology for future developments in IoT, autonomous driving, Industry 4.0, smart healthcare and smart cities. They play a fundamental role in IoT development, turning every ‘thing’ into a source of data. And in doing so, they build bridges between the analogue and digital worlds in vehicles, smart cities, smart factories, smart homes and healthcare.

electronica show floor
electronica show floor

The sheer variety of applications is naturally leading to explosive growth in the number of different types of sensors available, all of them based on around a dozen basic measurement principles. The development of smart sensors plays a particularly important role in this context. In addition to acquisition, sensors now also combine preparation and processing in a single component. With the help of microprocessors, sensors are becoming interfaces with higher-level systems – without the need for an external computer.

According to technical and scientific association, the VDE, the number of sensors on the market will rise from 10 billion currently to 100 trillion by 2030. Zion Market Research believe that profits from IoT sensors will grow to $27.38 billion by 2022 (compound annual growth rate or CAGR of over 24%), largely due to Industry 4.0 and the automotive sector, as well as medical electronics.

Artificial intelligence [new for 2018]

In view of the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI) in everyday life, Kurt Sievers, President of NXP Semiconductors, emphasized this year’s core electronica theme of ‘Connect everything – smart, safe & secure’, saying “First, artificial intelligence needs a functioning communications infrastructure. Second, consumers will only embrace AI if they can approach it with a sense of security and trust.”

On the fair’s opening day, the CEO round table was dominated by artificial intelligence, as prestigious industry representatives discussed the importance of AI for electronics. Participants included Jean-Marc Chery (STMicroelectronics), Dean Ding (Alibaba), Alexander Kocher (Elektrobit), Reinhard Ploss (Infineon), Walden Rhines (Mentor Graphics) and Kurt Sievers (NXP).

At the round table, Reinhard Ploss emphasized the need for a sustainable approach to the issue of AI:  “We’ve a raft of strong industries in Germany. Artificial intelligence will enter them everywhere and supplement or even replace existing things. It’s therefore important to develop an AI strategy in order to establish a digital industry in Germany and Europe.”

During his opening keynote, on the first day of the fair, US economist, Jeremy Rifkin voiced clear demands relating to the use of artificial intelligence: “We need to understand what we can use AI for and what not. Big data plays a major role in communication, energy and transportation. AI makes sense in those sectors in order to increase efficiency and cut costs.”

Medical electronics & healthcare

Physicians and electronics engineers discussed the future of medicine at the successful premiere of electronica’s Medical Electronics Conference (eMEC), which was devoted to the topic of medical electronics and networking of electronics engineers and physicians. The theme of the discussion was: ‘The Connected Human: Healthier thanks to electronics and data?

electronica show floor
electronica show floor

Wearables and portable devices are a key focus for medical electronics. Over the last few years, there has been significant growth in the adoption and development of smart wearables. From simple motion trackers and devices which can monitor vital signs, to devices that can monitor the breathing of sleep apnoea sufferers or even implantable technology, wearable and portable medical devices have the potential to revolutionise healthcare – most notably, in the context of being able to manage and treat the ageing population and long-term health conditions.

Smart grid/energy [new for 2018]

The energy system in Europe is undergoing a historic transition. The switch to sustainable generation is bringing about increasing decentralization with huge ramifications for the entire value chain. Smart energy is the umbrella term for a wide range of technologies in this area relating to energy storage, consumption control and energy conversion.

Power supply from a small number of large, centrally connected power plants will soon be a thing of the past. More and more customers are becoming ‘prosumers’, that is consuming and producing electricity at the same time. Many small power plants are also obtaining energy from renewable resources. This increasingly fragmented, bidirectional and volatile supply structure urgently requires an intelligent load and generation management system – in other words, a smart grid.

Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 & smart factories

IoT technology – essentially the integration of electronics into ‘smart’ devices and ‘things’ to provide sensing capabilities, connectivity and intelligence – is accelerating, and will underpin and enable many applications and industries, including many of the other technology highlights discussed above. Fundamentally, IoT technology will deliver the ‘smart’ infrastructure required by many modern applications – and electronics will power those ‘smarts’ in every conceivable way.


Safety and security are also themes that thread through all the other technology highlights – from automotive to medical and AI, and will be critical to gaining consumer trust, facilitating the regulatory environment and ultimately driving adoption. In addition to many traditional security technologies, Blockchain – a single, shared/distributed, digital, tamper-evident ledger (database) – is one technology that will help provide the necessary safety and security.

What next?

electronica provides a microcosm of the global electronics industry, reflecting the trends and technologies that will drive electronics design and manufacturing over the next few years. EPDT will return to and cover many of these topics in more detail going forward, shining a light on the collective achievements of the electronics industry – and helping inform, educate and engage our readers, providing you with timely, relevant and interesting content to help you develop your skills, knowledge and careers.

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