Guest commentary: 2016 - A Time of Transformation

January 04, 2016 // By Lothar Maier
Turbulence, technology and transformation are driving the analog semiconductor market and will define 2016. There is a tendency to focus on the near-term global economic speed bumps, but what we need is a view toward long-term horizons where opportunities abound.

The global analog semiconductor market is poised for expansion, as new devices and end markets demand solutions requiring many new analog solutions. These requirements can be found in such diverse markets as automotive, communications, energy efficiency, factory automation, Industrial Internet of Things, lighting and medical instrumentation.

One market in the forefront of transformation is the automotive market, where innovation will profoundly transform this market for the next decade and beyond. The automotive market has been on an evolutionary path for the last century, making incremental improvements each year on the basic internal combustion vehicle, where styling initially trumped true innovation. This market is poised for transformation, which will change how we view, drive and interact with the automobile. The majority of this transformation will come from innovations in automotive electronics. Most advances in fuel efficiency, safety, drivability, reliability, communication and comfort will have their origins in electronics.

Many years ago, Linear realized that these changes were on the horizon and refocused our design, customer interface, manufacturing and sales efforts into this emerging automotive analog growth opportunity. At the time, this decision was controversial, with investors and even employees questioning the wisdom of moving away from a large and conspicuous consumer electronics market and moving into a nascent automotive analog market. History has validated this decision, with automotive being the company’s fastest growing end market, now making up 21% of total sales. Our early head start in this market has allowed Linear to become a leader in navigation, battery management systems (BMS), LED lighting, and all forms of automotive power management. Our BMS products for hybrid/electric vehicles, including the just announced LTC6811 battery stack monitor, are designed into many of the hybrid and electric vehicles on the road today, as well as those in the future. These road-proven, highly accurate BMS products enable the use of efficient lithium-ion batteries in automobiles and all other forms of transportation.