Consumers increasingly want to use their media tablets and smartphones to stream high-definition video to displays in their cars, a phenomenon that will help to nearly double the size of the market for semiconductors used in automotive wired and wireless network applications from 2011 to 2018.
Revenue in 2018 for semiconductors used for in-vehicle connectivity and networking is forecast to reach $841.8 million, up from $438.8 million in 2011, according to an IHS Automotive Infotainment Market Tracker Report from research firm IHS.
That’s following a few notable yearly spikes. The market this year is expected to rise modestly to $585.4 million, up from $545.1 million last year. Then, the segment takes a big jump to $663.4 million in 2014, followed by two years of revenue in the $700 million range and then clearing the $800 million mark in 2017.
“The need for audio and video data streaming inside motor vehicles is real and represents a significant growth opportunity for semiconductor suppliers,” said Luca DeAmbroggi, senior analyst for Automotive Infotainment at IHS. “Consumers are expressing a greater desire to watch content from mobile gadgets like handsets and tablets on vehicle displays including DVD players, rear-seat entertainment panels and navigation units.”
The analyst added, “Meanwhile, original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of both cars and vehicle infotainment systems also are promoting such functionality for pure entertainment as well as for safety purposes, such as when vehicle displays show traffic.”
Other driving forces—no pun intended-- for semiconductor in-vehicle connectivity and networking include Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and safety applications, as well as head unit and entertainment systems embedded in the vehicle.
IHS also laid out the landscape for enabling that connected car scenario from a networking perspective, given the bandwidth demands that come with streaming video. There are also several considerations could affect the video link requirements for bandwidth and security, including digital content protection, the quality of the video and audio streams, and the real-time video-processing capabilities of equipment.
“Whether wired or wireless technology is chosen for in-car connectivity will depend on cost, long-term semiconductor support from suppliers, readiness for integration within the vehicle, and issues related to performance and quality,” the firm said in its report.
Among the high-definition wireless technologies now available or under development for vehicle infotainment, 802.11ad (WiGig) appears to be the most suitable solution, it said, because of its seven gbps throughput. That compares with top Wi-Fi speeds of 100mbps. Also, it can transmit data directly over wireless HDMI, a commonly used interface for high definition.
“Japan’s Panasonic has plans to embed a WiGig module on an SD memory card for use in cars by the middle of this year. And while its coverage of one to three meters is considered by some to be short and tantamount to a physical drawback, that range is enough in most commercial vehicles for video and audio transmission between passengers in a car to their display unit of choice,” IHS said.
Qualcomm is prepping a variant, 801.11ac, which has a lower data transmission rate of 1gbps. It’s not expected until 2015. Other wireless HD technologies for vehicle infotainment systems include WirelessHD, WHDI, WiDi/Miracast and Multistream Wi-Fi.
On the wired side, IHS pointed out that several indicators suggest that an automotive version of Ethernet might soon be available. Ethernet AVB can be adapted to fit tough automotive wiring requirements, with BMW targeting its first pilot vehicles with Ethernet by 2013-14 and a complete Ethernet-cabled vehicle by 2020.
A second wired technology revolves around dedicated network architectures such as Media-Oriented Systems Transport (MOST), which can be found in high-end vehicle brands, but the MOST bus has limitations that could jeopardize its ability to deliver adequate performance for future content-transmission systems in vehicle infotainment devices.
Other wired technologies expected to compete for a place in the vehicle are LVDS, APIX, HDMI and MHL, IHS said.
When it comes to which avenue makes the most sense, IHS pointed out that wireless technologies provide obvious ease of transfer for consumers by dispensing with physical wiring altogether, but drawbacks exist like error rates in higher-bit transmissions, as well as sensitivity to interference that might make wireless technologies unsuitable for safety-critical vehicle applications.
Meanwhile, wired technologies like Ethernet seem ready for deployment, but stringent automotive requirements that target high electromagnetic interference for long wiring solutions—possibly running along the entire vehicle—must also be taken into consideration.
“The consensus seems to be that high-definition wireless deployment in automobiles may not be feasible in the short term due to limited supplier engagement, together with currently incomplete specifications and standards,” the company said. “Overall, it will be up to the consumer electronics field and its influence on the automotive sector to make high-definition video streaming happen, further boosting passenger flexibility to interact with a vehicle’s infotainment system.”
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