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audioXpress Magazine

June 2021


From The Editor's Desk
A Glimpse Of The Future, Inside A Car
Editorial By J. Martins


audioXpress Magazine June 2021


  A year and a half later, the devastating global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still far from over. Fortunately, the successful take-up in vaccines and new treatments, innovations in products and services, and overall strong social and business resilience, afford us relatively high levels of optimism for a strong global economic resurgence.

Most macroeconomic and industry reports tell us that while demand for many products was drastically reduced, changes in consumer behavior have also accelerated, and major trending shifts created strong opportunities. As most countries and large economies start to gear up for what promises to be a very strong post-pandemic economic recovery, it becomes clear that the pandemic accelerated technologies and consumer trends by at least a few years.

In parallel with spectacular sales in product categories such as televisions, computers, and even microphones, triggered by stay-at-home consumers, adoption of new technologies accelerated in-home networking, streaming content subscriptions, video conferencing, and remote collaborations. Despite the disruptions in manufacturing, product categories such as smartphones and smart home devices remained resilient. And new working practices have created strong incentives for investments in strategic areas such as IP-based infrastructures, cloud and broadband services, and 5G networks.

The audio industry in most terms has proven resilient throughout the pandemic, and some product categories in home audio or communications have turned into promising areas of growth. According to Futuresource Consulting, the value of the Home Audio market in 2020 was the highest it has ever been, rising 4% to $19.8 billion. Soundbars and wireless speakers, which are relatively new product categories, have also seen very strong growth.

As I previously noted, while lock downs have frozen many activity sectors, the pandemic has in fact contributed to accelerate research and development efforts. Even if some standardization efforts have been delayed, the underlying work on specifications has continued and that will be reflected as soon as organizations and consortia are again able to convene with a clearer vision of the road ahead. This will enable accelerating trends that weren't a priority until now, such as in smart home technologies, and most certainly, automotive.


audioXpress Magazine June 2021


Many of the same technologies that have seen a resurgence or spectacular adoption at home during the pandemic, such as immersive audio and streaming services, will now also transition to the car. First, through aftermarket products, but steadily into new in-vehicle infotainment systems.

According to ABI Research, aftermarket sales and revenues for automotive applications have dropped 28% in 2020 because of the pandemic, and although they are being threatened by almost ubiquitous OEM embedded systems, hardware shipments are still estimated to continue to grow until 2026. Because consumers will look for ways to bring the technologies they are using to the car — even before they buy a new one.

Regardless of its many unique challenges, automotive audio technologies are one of the most interesting markets at the moment, conveying all the technological and consumer behavior trends in a well-defined ecosystem — a small microcosm of what the future will bring. One where it is easier to implement complete solutions, instead of one-off features — as Harman promotes.

Even before electric or hydrogen-fueled cars evolve into autonomous or shared-mobility models, consumers will expect enhanced audio quality and innovative experiences. Virtual acoustics, advanced noise cancellation, sound zones, augmented reality, and advanced voice assistants all make sense inside the car. And elusive concepts that are just a nice-to-have elsewhere, are expected to become indispensable requirements in self-driving or driver-assistance systems.

Before the pandemic, innovation was taking place in the mobile industry, where the investments and computing power were available. Post pandemic, the car will be the most valuable extension of mobility and a natural laboratory for cutting-edge experiments.



J. Martins





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