Smartphone integration shifts automotive processor demand

September 26, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
As the most disruptive trend in the automotive infotainment industry has market researcher IHS identified the use of smartphones in cars. The reason: Since smartphones are as ubiquitous as they are in today's vehicles, consequences for the design of head units and telematics portals in the vehicles are necessary, leading to a shift in microprocessor demand in these components.

From IHS' perspective, this situation bears challenges as well as opportunities for semiconductor suppliers. The telematics portal head units in cars will offer the most promising prospect for semiconductor vendors. These head units utilise the smartphone as broadband modem for mobile radio access and act as the connection between the vehicle and the internet. IHS predicts that the revenue for processor chips to be built into the telematics portal head units will grow from slightly less than $128 million in 2013 to $508 million in 2018 (see figure). With the emergence of the connected car, the significance of this application is rising substantially: While telematics head units in 2013 accounted for just 8 % of the total automotive infotainment processor market, their share will surge to 30 % in 2018, predicts Tom Hackenberg, senior analyst for microcontrollers at IHS.

The connected car drives microprocessor demand in the telematics head units

In contrast, the automotive processor segment with the highest revenue in 2013, head units for navigation, will shrink dramatically by 2018 - revenue will plunge from $368 million in 2013 to just $51 million during the forecast period. The main reason: Navigation becomes a standard feature by smartphones.

To keep up with customer preferences, OEMs are increasingly providing integrated systems. Infotainment systems will come with features such as networked displays, controls integrated into the steering wheels and large touch screens. In addition, cars will be able to capitalise on users' smartphones to connect with the various integrated systems in the vehicle, offering a richer user experience. This trend, by the way, will go at the expense of aftermarket vendors which will be get under pressure to exceed the already rich user experience from pre-installed, highly integrated infotainment systems.

Nevertheless, OEMs will face major challenges in their pursuit of developing media-rich vehicles. Feature-laden infotainment systems bear the risk of introducing flaws or clashing with critical electronic systems, which can lead to