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Wearables reach $1bn

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IDTechEx predicts that 2017 will be the first billion dollar year for wearable sensors, components that are central to the core value proposition in many wearable devices.

The “Wearable Sensors 2018-2028: Technologies, Markets & Players” report includes IDTechEx’s latest research and forecasts on this topic, collating over 3 years of work to provide a thorough characterisation and outlook for each type of sensor used in wearable products today.

Despite sales volumes from wearable products continuing to grow, creeping commoditisation squeezes margins, with hardware sales being particularly vulnerable. This has led to some consolidation in the industry, with several prominent failures and exits, and challenging time even amongst market leaders in each sector. As hardware margins are squeezed, business models are changing to increasingly focus on the valuable data generated once a device is worn. Sensors are responsible for the collection and quality of that data, so understanding the capabilities and limitations of different sensor platforms is critical to understanding the progress of the industry as a whole.

In the report, IDTechEx address 21 different types of wearable sensor across 9 different categories as follows: Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs), optical sensors, electrodes, force/pressure/stretch sensors, temperature sensors, microphones, GPS, chemical & gas sensors & others. Hundreds of examples from throughout the report cover a breadth of technology readiness, ranging from long-established industries to early proof-of-concepts. The report contains information about the activities of over 115 different companies, with primary content (including interviews, exhibition or site visits by the authors) to more than 80 different companies, large and small.

IDTechEx describe wearable sensors in three waves. The first wave includes sensors that have been incorporated in wearable for many years, often being originally developed for wearable products decades ago, and existing as mature industries today. A second wave of wearable sensors came following huge technology investment in smartphones. Many of the sensors from smartphones could be easily adapted for use in wearable products; they could be made-wearable. Finally, as wearable technology hype and investment peaked, many organisations identified many sensor types that could be developed specifically with wearable products in mind. These made-for-wearable sensors often remain in the commercial evaluation or relatively early commercial sales today, but some examples are already becoming significant success stories.

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Billions of wearable electronic products are already sold each year today. Many have already experienced significant hardware commoditisation, with tough competition driving prices down. Even as wearable devices become more advanced, introducing more sensors and better components to enhance value propositions, lessons of history tell us that hardware will always be prone to commoditisation. As this happens the role of sensors only becomes more important; with hardware prices being constantly squeezed, increasing proportions of the value that companies can capture from products will be from the data that the products can generate.

The key hardware component for capturing this data is the sensors, so understanding the development and prospects of sensors today is critical to predicting the potential for this entire industry in the future. “Wearable Sensors 2018-2028: Technologies, Markets & Players” is written to address the needs of any company or individual looking to gain a clearer, independent perspective on the outlook for various types of wearable sensor. The report answers detailed questions about technology, markets and industry trends, and supported by years of primary research investment collated and distilled within.

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

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ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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