View From the Top

By WPG AmericasJuly 26, 2016

This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 edition of Electronics Sourcing Magazine.

As the electronic product landscape evolves, so will associated purchasing challenges. WPG Americas’ RVP embedded display solutions, Tom Muldowney explains.

New technologies outside the traditional electronics landscape have been evolving for decades now and at a lightning pace. Embedded computers (or single board computers) and flat panel displays (FPD) are two of the fastest-growing technologies worldwide. Both are disruptors in their own right — taking leaps into new application segments, opening new revenue streams for manufacturers and distributors, kick-starting innovations, and emerging as key differentiators in the wireless, mobile, sensor, M2M, and wearable device markets.

A glimpse of the market

Looking out over the next 3 years, single board computers and flat panel display designs in the embedded market will completely outpace growth in the traditional electronic markets of North America. According to Technavio’s report, the global embedded computer market is estimated to grow at a healthy CAGR of over 14% by 2019, where the Americas account for nearly 40% of the market share. When it comes to the global display market, research by Markets and Markets predicts it to hit $155.54 Billion by 2020, at an estimated CAGR of 6%. I have cited just two statistics, but most research reports give us more or less the same picture.

Growth drivers

Thin, lightweight and power-efficient FPDs represent a large and rapidly growing industry worldwide and are expanding into an increasingly diverse set of systems. As a result, most sectors including healthcare, automotive and consumer electronics are bidding goodbye to the traditional CRT (cathode ray tubes). Plus, the new and emerging demands of design flexibility and shrinking device sizes are more often the reason for the OEMs and ODMs to adopt FPDs as these are requirements CRTs could never meet.

Lower price points, lower power, and higher performance processors have given Industrial OEMs an opportunity to develop next generation product with off-the-shelf solutions.  This has resulted in faster design cycles and time-to-market benefits.

FPDs are also finding homes in these industrial markets. One of the largest application areas lies in the low-cost human interface solutions with touch capacity; these are replacing tradition interfaces such as dials, knobs, and switches for industrial equipment.

Embedded computers and flat panels are also seeing an up-lift from the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable markets. Considering the wide-ranging potentials of IoT within a multitude of different industry sectors, this alone could be the major factor that will drive long-term growth for both of these technologies. For now, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) for wearables and ARM / Intel based boards for less than $100 a unit are currently winning their share of new designs.

Quickly becoming the most important driver of growth in the fast-moving and dynamic global electronic landscape, embedded computers and flat panel designs will drive production in North America and will be an excellent growth engine in the electronics markets well into 2020.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 edition of Electronics Sourcing Magazine. To view online editions of the magazine, visit: