The global IT hardware and device industry continues to expand in tandem with technological developments

By Ninad Raje,Director & CIO At  HealthAssure
By Ninad Raje,Director & CIO At HealthAssure
With the advent of sophisticated & super-advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Digital Currencies, Blockchain, IOT, Robotics, Assisted Transportation, Assisted Reality & Virtual Reality, Ethics-Laws-Policies for Privacy-Security-Liability, Accelerators & 3D Printing and finally Cyber Security – IT hardware & devices, too, have evolved to cater to the burgeoning digital era. The IT hardware & device market is constantly evolving due to technological innovation. Consumer demand for new products seems endless, with extremely high growth potential for devices such as ultra-modern digital handhelds & wearables.
Hardware & Device companies enjoy international presence, selling their wares worldwide. On the manufacturing side of the business, much of the device production is carried out in Asia - particularly in China, Japan and India. Many high-tech companies work in conjunction with universities and are often located close to third-level educational institutions.
Companies are less bound by borders than before, with electronic equipment outfits often basing their headquarters in one country and locating factories and development facilities in other countries. As per global predicted forecasts, with increased digital adoption, the global spending on hardware & devices is expected to rise to US$1.19 Trillion* in 2019.
An Augmented Elixir for Consumer Hardware & Devices
2018-19 is a hot year for hardware. It’s not just Apple trying to get products into every household, but now Internet giants like Amazon, Google, and Baidu, among others, have put personal computing devices into our hands, allowing us to spend more time engaging with their ecosystems. Recent experiences have shown device startups strategize their go-to-market and raise more-and-more capital through crowdfunding campaigns. It is also observed that companies are building at the cusp of this industry change.
When we thought about IoT few years ago, it seemed we were better off without the Internet, because it involved a large amount of effort to build your own community or app to provide a robust user experience. For consumers, it meant installing separate apps and clicking 3-steps into tucked away menus to control different light bulbs in the house. This was the seemingly hard-to-scale and difficult to adopt IoT vision of the past.
Today’s computing devices are taking the form of consumer hardware, opening new opportunities for companies to build out these passive computing systems. Previously, we were only able to tap into the utilities of the Internet while we were actively browsing a computer. Now, we are seeping into a world of passive computing, through smart speakers, voice A.I assistants, and smartphones in the palm of our hands. Connected to the Internet through devices everywhere around us allows us to tap into an infinite spectrum of resources that expand what is possible without the need to interact with a computer in the traditional sense. This can be as simple as video doorbells that allows you to check for packages while you’re away on vacation or smart speakers that you can command to buy groceries while you are in the kitchen.
In the past few years, consumers were provided with a vision of what is possible through passive computing, such as using a wearable to measure real-time performance data and receive notifications. Hence, declarative statements such as “IoT is dead” or “Wearables are dead” misrepresents what they can promise to consumers. In fact, it is estimated that over 115 million units* of wearable devices were distributed worldwide in 2017, making it one of the most lucrative categories.
In the recent past, we have been told that “Consumer hardware is dead”. However, I believe that there is no better time, since the inception of the personal computer, for companies to take advantage of the ecosystems that are shaping up relative to our daily habits.Everything, from wider-ranging cellular networks, to faster Internet speeds, and accessible developer platforms, has converged recently to open more consumer-facing opportunities which are entirely dependent on hardware devices.

These include searching for things on the Internet, capturing moments around us with cameras, safely entering and leaving our homes, and even driving our cars.
It’s no wonder that companies with million-plus users are figuring out how to extend their applications to other areas in their customer’s lives, beyond their time spent actively browsing the web. In the years to come, we’ll see more and more hardware device companies decide how to extend our time spent engaging with their devices, offering spurts of value in different areas in our lives.
You may have already read and understood the mainstream predictions for hardware this year, viz. around industries such as augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, and more. In addition to these, I would like to share my own predictions:
1.Bigger (yet smaller-sized), better, flexible, and wireless power
Until now, lithium-ion batteries have powered everything around us, from our phones & tablets to our portable power banks, and I don’t see this changing quite yet. Alternative power sources are in development, but we’re not yet close to a consumer-level power substitute that is as efficient, safe, and powerful. However, we’re on the horizon of monumental gains in the size-to-capacity ratio, battery management systems, and power output speeds. The form factor is prime for experimentation and change, as consumers are tired of breaking, changing, and getting entangled by charging cables. Wearable electronics will be overhauled with the possibility using flexible and extra thin batteries, which was not available in the past.
2.Personal entertainment brought to a whole new level
Large screen cinema can be brought to micro-LED TV displays, or enlarged in crisp 4K through smart projectors allowing us to access online content. In fact, we’re even seeing growing interest in pocket-sized cinema headsets, which allows you to view videos privately, anywhere you are. High-fidelity, surround sound that fills a room, can be packed into a small speaker that operates wirelessly. We’re not limited to streaming movies through our mini-screen computers anymore, and I’m excited to see projections and holograms take a greater role in replaying life-like content.

3.Bridging the old with the new in automobiles and last mile vehicles
Even with the promise of autonomously driving vehicles that can support hands-free driving in the foreseeable future, people are still glued to their five to 10-year-old cars. In addition, cars aren’t the only way to get to work anymore. Powerful electric skateboards with four-wheel drive can propel us up-hill, and city-shared commuter bikes can be rented without worry of parking security. Daily commuters in urban cities are seeking new solutions, whether it be hover boards, electric bikes, or smart car devices that can help track, upkeep, and improve our automobiles.

4.Growing ecosystems need hardware to activate experiences
Large companies continue to build their platforms that allow companies across software and hardware to introduce new experiences to customers. For example, there is a Bluetooth device that affixes to your car vent, so you can transform your car into a voice activated assistant. These ecosystems present a new, viable opportunity for companies based in hardware, as these new utilities will be valued greatly by the ecosystem owners. Whether it’s Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri, Baidu DuerOS, Samsung Bixby, or Microsoft Cortana, these are just some of the ecosystems that can help you access new customers in different settings – however these, too depend on various hardware devices to deliver their services.
5.Cameras and video capturing devices that can powerfully compute for specific content needs
Through content creation platforms, we’ll be live streaming, video blogging, and spontaneously capturing moments of our lives when we’re not actively filming through our smartphones. While smartphone cameras are becoming more powerful than our stand-alone point-and-shoot cameras, these will still primarily serve mass consumer-use cases. Specific content creation tasks require different types of devices, such as high point-of-view landscape photography by drones, Live streaming by 360-degree cameras, action sports by rugged, high-frame rate camcorders, and more. Improved sensors and digital processing allow us to enter a new world of videography and photography, helping us to bypass limitations on lighting, action scenes, and environment. Drones are now being used even for delivering packages.
The appearance of stagnant investment portfolios for consumer hardware device companies in 2017 does not alarm me yet. In the early stages of building an industry, there will always be winners and losers. A decline in the number of consumer hardware companies is not a bad thing. If anything, the past two years have helped the industry weed out the companies who were not ready to deliver a hardware product, a task that comes with its own manufacturing, design, and marketing challenges. I’m excited to see 2018 become a springboard for new solutions, delivered to us through the form of consumer hardware & devices.
The Indian context
In India, there is significant growth in the IT hardware & devices industry. This is predominantly due to the phenomenal adoption of handhelds propelled by the widespread acceptance of digital technology. This tremendous growth is primarily driven by the new Millennial generation. With the availability of faster internet speeds, the hardware devices, too, have evolved with better computing and processing power. I firmly believe - along with the software industry, these are exceptionally good times for the hardware & devices industry in India.