Monika Dunkel Shares the Emerging Technology Trends Featured at IDTechEx (part 1)

Posted on: 08/05/2018

Monika Dunkel explores worldwide technology and market trends in nine key areas, and opportunities they present for the UK.


IDTechEx show presenters and exhibitors gave an overview of key market and technology trends in nine emerging technologies. Set in Berlin on 11th and 12th April 2018 this European show attracted visitors and exhibitors from across Europe, Israel, US and a noteable South Korean presence.

The technology areas presented were:

  • 3D printing, including structural electronics and additive manufacturing
  • Printed, flexible and organic electronics
  • Sensors
  • Internet of Things Applications to enable industry 4.0
  • Wearables
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Energy Storage Innovations / Battery technology
  • Off Grid Energy Independence
  • Graphene and 2D materials / new materials

Furthermore the intersection of these technologies was highlighted. Linking between industry players across those technologies is and will become even more important in the future to create innovative market applications – a huge opportunity for the UK, and a reason to connect with KTN.

In the first of two articles, Monika Dunkel, KTM Emerging Technologies and Industries, summarises the key findings of the IDTechEx show, focusing on 3D printing, including structural electronics and additive manufacturing, printed, flexible and organic electronics, sensors, Internet of Things applications to enable industry 4.0 and wearables.

3D printing, including structural electronics and additive manufacturing

Metal 3D printer sales are growing fast. This presents an opportunity for UK metal alloy producers like Metalysis or LPW technology. LSE listed Inkjet printer head company Xaar Plc confirmed in their talk that high volume printing is a reality nowadays. Demand for high temperature thermoplastics which can be metal substitutes, are the fastest growing segment of 3D printing polymers with a prognosed growth rate of 55% CAGR to 2023. London based Digits2Widgets which are specialized in 3D scanning, and 3D polymer printing of complex objects can ride on this growth wave. They also work in the opportunity area of 3D printing services and 3D printing software with has a prognosis CAGR to 2028 of 23%.

IDTechEx predicts that aerospace and defence applications will account for 37% of the market in 2028 and medical and dental applications 23%. A focus of the show was flexible electronics printing to reflect the industry need to print whole components and mixed materials.

Printed, flexible and organic electronics

Oled Displays have the biggest market share, estimated market size in 2022 is predicted to be $24.4 billion, with many new display technologies entering the market.

UK company SmartKem and FlexEnable both work in the space of organic display electronics.

Second biggest market share are printed and flexible sensors  ($6.9 Billion in 2022) with mature technologies like glucose test strips or force sensors. Emerging technologies and innovations are coming in the form of organic photo detectors, printed temperature sensors and gas sensors. For example Bristol based Altitude Tech works on a separate NO and a NO2 sensor to differentiate the market standard NOx sensor even further.

Conductive inks continue to be a booming market with new application areas in-mold electronics, stretchable inks, die-attach and shielding. Farnborough based copper ink and pastes company Intrinsiq confirmed the growing demand for new applications from industry at their IDTechEx stand.

A further trend in the market is vertical integration. Producers move from a component production to the full product.

A niche market is OLED lighting. Glaswegian company DesignLED displayed innovative lighting solutions and has managed to attract retail interest from IKEA.


Technology wise conventional technologies will move to hybrid sensors. New materials with organics and quantum dots are leading the development of better image sensors. Smaller and lower power gas sensors enable the integration in more applications.

ThriveWearables, London and Brighton based wearable design company, explained that better user interface design (smaller, not noteable sensors) and clever use of user data is key to develop a successful product.

Furthermore, new form factors enable new products, including e-textiles, flexible cell phones and stretchable materials.

Market wise the trend to measure at the point of care to improve user convenience, speed of data analysis and reduction of costs is reflected in the estimate market growth from $14Bn in 2017 to $24Bn in 2022 of the point of care sensor market share.

In his talk about trends of the healthcare market, Dr. John Cocker, CPI, mentioned the opening of a new Printed Electronics facility in Durham in April 2018 to reflect the market need of more printed sensors and printed electronics applications.

Internet of Things Applications to enable industry 4.0

The biggest driver of IoT in most countries is the government, which has high interest in improving safety and efficiency to manage its people. IoT applications include smart meters, intelligent lighting, smart vehicles and parking.

Industrial IoT drives the market as well, with more diverse application areas from asset tracking to predictive maintenance and a small number of sensor nodes, to solve specific problems with a quantifiable ROI.

In the consumer IoT market the race is on to establish the winning Smart Home Platform with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri in the lead.

UK has big opportunities in the second biggest consumer IoT market, health monitoring. An interesting market in the UK is agriculture and the growing pet market with players like IceRobotics or Felcana using sensors, IoT and smart data analytics.

A key issue is connectivity, for example to establish a LPWAN low-power wireless wide area network. Phil Beecher, UK chair of the Wi-Sun alliance and director of Brighton based Beecher Communications Ltd. mentioned how important interoperability, privacy, and security is to scale up IoT networks. With no central IoT standard and no over site of development, IoT devices are enticing targets for hackers. Cyber security is an area where the UK is traditionally strong, furthermore data analytics and smart use of algorithms presents an opportunity for UK data companies.


The wearable technology market spans a wide area of technologies from mature technologies like smart watches, fitness trackers and headphones (hearing aids being on of the first established wearable technologies) to AR, VR, MR technology for immersive experience, to the medical devices market with skin patches for specific disease monitoring.

High entry barriers into the medical wearable market need a considerable amount of investment, research and testing before creating a successful product. Big players like Merck and its Displaying futures award, help with price money up to $50,000 and more importantly the chance for UK SMEs to partner and co-develop with Merck medical division.

It also takes some convincing to do to pay more upfront and then safe in the long run, as hospital providers and underfunded NHS struggle to cope with their daily business activities at the moment.

Fasted growing albeit from a very small base is the e-textiles market with many players across the UK like Pireta, Footfall & Heartbeats, Kymira, infi-tex Ltd or SmartLife.

How to treat diabetic retinopathy with wearable a light-emitting mask, the Noctura400, was demonstrated by Polyphotonix during their key note talk.

Always on the lookout for wearable innovations to enhance player performance and to prevent injuries are professional sports teams like Arsenal. Similar to other teams they have their own innovation lab and mentioned at the show how important the data analytics part is. Millions of subsets of data are generated in training and matches and the key factor is to filter and analyse the relevant data. Imperative is the player interface, and technology that is good to wear, quick to install and data that is easy to understand in a reasonable amount of time. At the moment they are looking to find suitable Graphene tattoos for example.

Powering of wearable technology at the moment is mostly done with batteries. Although sensors and devices are getting smaller, batteries are not in that extent. Therefore, research and working applications in energy harvesting that generate enough energy to power wearable devices are key. To name the UK companies present at the show: Lightricity works towards ultrahigh efficiency energy harvesting applications and Silent Sensors Ltd develop energy harvesting materials at the moment for tyre sensors. But the piezo electric technology might be re-used for wearable applications. There are many more in the UK that can contribute to this technology area.


Other new enabling materials that were presented or at least mentioned at IDTechEx are:

  • Conductive inks
  • Perovskites
  • Quantum Dots
  • Transparent Conductors
  • Electroactive polymers
  • Organic light emitters
  • 3D printing materials
  • Replacing toxicants with less harmful materials

In the second article, to be posted next week, Monika Dunkel, KTM Emerging Technologies and Industries, summarises further key findings of the IDTechEx show, focusing on; electric vehicles, energy storage innovations/battery technology, off grid energy independence and graphene and 2D materials/new materials.


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