Arm Survey Highlights Tech Predictions Amid COVID-19

Article By : Don Scansen

Technologists believe that attitudes and behaviors that people adopted during the pandemic are likely to linger for some time to come.

Although Arm may have had the idea of a survey under other circumstances, the Covid-19 pandemic was central to the responses if not the concept itself. Arm recently released the results along with analysis and comments from executives in Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives.

Few would doubt the impact of the virus on market and technology directions, but the view from Arm provides a little more color to the analysis.

Bandwidth is the currency of the COVID age (source: Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives, Arm)

Arm collected responses from about 900 people covering students to CEOs at everything from sole proprietors to multinational corporations. This was certainly better than many polls, and a few observations are worthwhile.

Pandemic Security

In the words of Rene Haas, president of the IP Products Group, “one area that stood out for me was security.”

In an era of pandemic and with everyone constantly reminded of its dangers, it seems natural that purely rational concerns over technology security will get a healthy boost from self-preservation focused amygdalas.

Security is a primary concern for Arm customers (source: Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives, Arm)

Haas introduced the survey quite elegantly with these words, “Put simply, security equals trust, and in the current COVID-19 driven economy the T Factor (Trust Factor) is just as important as the famous R number, the rate at which the virus is able to replicate itself.”

Two themes that emerge are security and the potential of a “new normal” as many work and lifestyle changes are assumed to be permanent. In fact, 93 percent of respondents felt that remote working would persist for design teams beyond the public health requirement.

Homeward Bound

Results were less clear for questions about how the pandemic has affected people and companies operationally. Some prefer it, some struggled but are now comfortable, but about a quarter still see work being more difficult during the pandemic. Those 25 percent might deserve a deeper dive. Is it some fundamental aspect of working from home or just the kids, pets, or noisy home renovation obsessed neighbors that make it more difficult to do the job now?

For the job itself, two-thirds of Arm customers suggested that they will be focusing more on security in 2021.

Some predictions were provided by Paul Williamson, VP and general manager, Client Line of Business. In general, Williamson suggests that consumers will look for features they have come to expect in their smartphones to migrate to the laptop. All-day battery life is one. My thoughts are that improved battery life in the laptop is a nice feature, it is not yet made critical by the quarantine rules. I think Williamson is a step ahead here thinking forward to people who will not be expected to come into the office but who will be looking for places outside the home to get work done during the day (when the neighbor is out with his chainsaw again).

Another improvement will be imaging for laptops as videoconferencing is a ubiquitous feature of remote work. A very large group (43 percent) of those surveyed expressed an interest in exploring AI features for camera technology. This may have been a leading question (it’s a poll, after all), but we should look forward to improved image quality. Williamson takes this a step further suggesting, “dedicated system on chips (SoCs) capable of AI-powered image correction in future generations of laptop-class devices.”

Healthcare is expected to drive augmented and virtual reality applications (source: Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives, Arm)

To Better Health

Health and fitness monitoring was second to the AI camera as a top area for future exploration. As Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives explains, one hot topic took a backseat to health. Or did it? Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR, or rolled up as XR) was more than ten points behind at 24 percent. However, the respondents noted healthcare as the biggest potential benefit of XR.

That is an interesting outcome. My impression was that gaming or entertainment might be a little higher, but healthcare polled at 63 percent to gaming at only 24 percent. This could be driven by our intense focus on health as we live through a public health crisis. Or it might be as simple as a quarantine-driven current need for remote medicine that could have a solid future that outlives the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

Another point Paul Williamson made was that a significant number of respondents indicated an interest in exploring home automation in 2021.

Like laptop battery life, this at first struck me as odd for our 24-7 at home lifestyles. Why do I need to automate a home when I’m sitting right here? For your own health, I think you would be better off just getting up once in a while to turn on the lights or adjust the thermostat. But again, this might be required as much as it was in the old days of commuting for work when it was nice to have a remote connection to some home functions. People will have to get out occasionally to maintain the sanity they have left.

The Arm ecosystem survey revealed a product outlook biased toward autonomous endpoint devices (IoT and automotive) and cloud infrastructure.

Home automation products are generating interest with Arm customers (source: Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives, Arm)

It is interesting that many of us are guilty of placing a lot of emphasis on the smartphone and its core technology while ARM itself concentrates their survey on two other fields, IoT / automotive and cloud infrastructure. No doubt, there is a lot of advancement in mobile, and it’s still a very important market. Then there is the fact that the darn things rarely leave our hands and gaze. It’s natural, but let’s take a short break.

Arm customers are concentrating efforts in IoT and the cloud (source: Ecosystem Predictions and Perspectives, Arm)

In the IoT space, sensor processing was called out as the most important aspect of future product development. At nearly half of respondents, it placed well above computer vision at 38 percent. Voice recognition didn’t receive much acknowledgment well down the list at only 13 percent. It’s not clear how to interpret the low interest in voice. So much of interactive devices currently depends on voice input. But if developers think the problems are already solved, I invite them to listen to some of my own NSFW conversations with digital voice assistants.

Just get out of the house

On the automotive front, there most significant response was another data point falling into the remote work lifestyle bin. 58 percent of survey responses pointed to working from the car as the most popular future automotive mobility solution.

This theme is becoming a little depressing. It seems that the preponderance of future market drivers for technology are related to extracting more work time from people. On the other hand, perhaps life at home has us longing for more time away from the house. Oops, same hand. “Shared activity e.g. games with family” was just a blip at 11 percent. Sad.

Finally, we get to the infrastructure discussion. Cloud computing is such an obvious need as work locations rapidly decentralized, there is perhaps little need to even look closely. But it is an important part of the semiconductor business and growing in importance in the short term due to the pandemic and in the long term for a host of additional reasons.

Chris Bergey, SVP and General Manager for Infrastructure at Arm noted: “It is difficult to predict the future exactly, but when you look at the world we are living in, our insatiable desire for infrastructure connectivity and computing is only accelerating.”

Cloud computing infrastructure is so much like a utility, we see the anticipated response that cost savings was fully half of all responses. But there is significant focus on flexibility with distributed architectures coming a close second at 43 percent.

Begley predicts, “more time and energy looking at multivendor cloud strategies, cloud/edge/on-premises architectures and other distributed cloud concepts as a way to ensure better data and application access.”

It has certainly been a weird year. The Arm survey and ecosystem report gives some positive outlook to our shared technology future, at least from an innovation and business perspective. Let’s hope that when the pandemic finally dissipates, these predictions will help us break free and get back to normal. A pessimist might think otherwise.

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