Detailed Analysis of SIG 2020 Annual Market Update Sep 15, 2021

1.  Analysis of three battlefields of Bluetooth

• Smart phones, tablets and PCS

According to ABI data, the development momentum of Bluetooth usage for smart phones, tablets, and PCs is still the strongest, with a total shipment of 2.02 billion. It accounts for half of the entire Bluetooth shipments in 2019. This type of product is very mature and the shipments will remain stable in the future. From the perspective of system architecture of smart phones, tablets and PCs, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi controllers are bundled on a single radio frequency chip. Qualcom, Broadcom, Cypress, MTK, and Realtek are the main players in the market.

For better promotion of Bluetooth 5.0+ protocol, the Bluetooth SIG officially abandoned Bluetooth 4.1 and below protocols in 2020. It is expected that all smart phones, tablets, and PCs on the market will use Bluetooth 5.0 + Bluetooth Low Energy dual-mode chips after 2024. With the help of this upgrade, Bluetooth SIG hopes to improve the performance of Bluetooth host devices, enhance the stability of Bluetooth connection, and make an overall plan on the new application needs of accessories of tablets and smart phones, audio, data transmission and mesh networking.

• Audio transmission
Compared with 2018, the shipment of Bluetooth audio equipment increased by 120 million, and the total shipment has reached 1.35 billion in 2019. The continued growth of Bluetooth audio shipments is due to the high imitation of Apple’s TWS, the TWS whitebox market, the emerging brand of TWS, and the consumption subsidy policy in smart audio market from the Internet companies. Bluetooth headset players mainly use Bluetooth SoC chips from CSR, Cypress, Realtek, Airoha, Bluetrum Technology, Jieli Technology, and Bestechnic. The Wi-Fi Bluetooth combo chip players of Bluetooth audio are mainly Cypress, Realtek, and MTK.

At CES 2020, SIG organized the release of Bluetooth 5.2 core specifications. The new BT5.2 standard supports audio streaming applications based on one-master and multiple-slave connections, such as TWS headsets, multi-room audio synchronization, and the transmission based on broadcast data stream. It can be widely used in waiting rooms, stadiums, conference halls, cinemas and other places with public screen audio reception. The emergence of Bluetooth 5.2 not only breaks the patent right of Apple TWS, but also provides support for multi-channel synchronous audio transmission. According to the forecast of the ABI, the shipment of true wireless headsets combined with LE audio and earbuds will occupy 38% of the Bluetooth audio market in 2024, with a total of 720 million.

Wearable devices such as smart watches and bracelets are undoubtedly the largest single-product application of Bluetooth in the IoT field. In the next five years, annual shipments of smartwatches will grow to 119 million, accounting for 33% of the market share in the Bluetooth IoT field. In order to meet the Bluetooth call function of smart devices and mobile phones, and the music transmission between watches and earphones, wearable devices are gradually developing from Bluetooth Low Energy only to classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy two-in-one trend. In the increasingly complex bracelet watch system, the Bluetooth Low Energy, dual-mode Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Bluetooth combo of Nordic, Dialog, Cypress, Qualcomm, Huawei, MTK, Realtek have a place. In addition, other applications of the Bluetooth connected device, such as keyboards and mouse, printers, POS machines, Bluetooth beacons all occupy a place in the IoT market.

2.  Bluetooth Emerging Market Analysis

Smart Home
910 million Bluetooth chips for smart home had been shipped in 2019. The life essentials, such as TV and voice remote control, Soundbars, speakers, HID keyboard and mouse, have been growing steadily. In 2019, the subsidy policies for smart locks, smart speakers (Amazon, Alibaba, Google, Baidu, and Xiaomi), SIG Mesh lighting control market and Internet companies stimulated the continuous growth of Bluetooth shipments in smart home market. With the deployment of smart home Bluetooth, SIG MESH networking can be expected to replace current Zigbee markets in the future. The voice control market for smart home will continue to grow substantially, and more nodes and accessories will be added to the Bluetooth family. ABI predicts that the shipments of Bluetooth devices for smart home will double in 5 years, and shipments are expected to be close to 1.82 billion in 2024. CSR, Silicon Lab, Nordic, Cypress, ST, Dialog, TI and many domestic manufacturers Telink, PHY, Maxscend, Yichip, Realtek, MTK are all competing in this market.

• Smart building
Bluetooth technology has shipped 95 million in the smart building market in 2019. The main application fields of Bluetooth emerging markets are as follows: SIG MESH lighting control system, Bluetooth Low Energy access control system, Bluetooth Low Energy indoor positioning system, Bluetooth gateway and beacon. According to ABI data, the market’s shipments will increase by 42% over the same period in 2020 (the actual data is not published). ABI predicts that 90% of smart lighting control systems will use SIG MESH standard Bluetooth chips

• Smart City and Automotive
With the help of PHY long-range, large broadcast package and other new functions of Bluetooth 5.0, better solutions of Beacons can be supplied for smart cities, supermarkets, and garage location service. The new Bluetooth 5.1 AoA and AoD standards also provide fast solutions based on smart phones for indoor positioning, navigation, personnel positioning, keyless entry system and other fields. These will be emerging markets driving the growth of Bluetooth in the future.

• Audio steaming
Bluetooth technology solves the trouble of wired and completely changes the audio. And Bluetooth wireless earphones, headsets, true wireless earphones TWS make our life more convenient. With the launch of LE Audio, Bluetooth technology is poised to change the way we experience audio and connect with the world around us. In 2019, 1.1 billion devices were shipped, and it is still growing at a compound growth rate of 7% each year. The cost-effective TWS true wireless headsets, smart speakers and other voice devices will be the main growth of Bluetooth audio in the future.

• Data transfer
From battery-powered IoT devices such as home appliances, wearables, and portable medical devices, Bluetooth connectivity is ubiquitous. The data transmission market is divided into two categories, one is mainly based on Bluetooth Low Energy technology, supplemented by classic Bluetooth SPP data transfer, and the other is mainly based on HID devices. In 2019, the shipments reached 800 million, and it will continue to maintain a compound growth rate of 13%, of which Bluetooth Low Energy SoC will increase by more than 13%.

• Device networks
A total of 280 million Bluetooth device networks were shipped in 2019 (the data includes Bluetooth star network and Mesh network). Since Bluetooth issued the new SIG MESH standard in 2017, SIG MESH shipments in the lighting control market have continued to rise. With the implementation of the smart speaker deployment, smart speakers supporting MESH services have evolved into one of the industry standards. In the future, there will be more Bluetooth MESH nodes in smart home and other applications, such as curtain switches, door locks and so on.

• Location services
In 2019, global shipments of chips using Bluetooth technology to obtain location services reached 130 million. There is a huge demand in the use of Bluetooth beacons to locate and navigate. Simple Beacon solution has poor positioning accuracy and complex network. And UWB technology has high power consumption, requires the establishment of a multi-station system with high cost. The commercial applications for both are limited. With the release of Bluetooth 5.1 AoA technical specifications, the application of indoor positioning and keyless entry has a huge market demand in the future. The threshold for AoA technology is relatively high. At present, there are not many enterprises in the world doing business application based on AoA technology, because they need to spend a lot of efforts on research and development. However, the compound growth rate in the next 5 years will be as high as 32%, with great market potential.

• LE Audio

It is estimated that Bluetooth Class Only will withdraw from Bluetooth history stage and Bluetooth Low Energy will replace it by 2024. LE Audio will redefine Bluetooth Class audio transfer, and voice change is imperative. LC3 Codec can provide high-fidelity music, but the corresponding data throughput will be reduced, such as LE audio and voice broadcast, and LE true wireless earphones. In the future, LE Audio will coexist with dual-mode Bluetooth for a long time. At the same time, in the next 2 ~ 3 years, many emerging startups will combine LE Audio to create their own products, and provide customers with more audio products based on Bluetooth Low Energy Audio.

Bluetooth Low Energy

According to the forecast of the ABI, the market demand for Bluetooth Low Energy chip will be 7.5 billion in the next 5 years (compared with 2019, the shipments will triple in 2024), involving industries ranging from consumer to industrial and even automotive. In addition to many foreign giants in this field, domestic chip companies have accelerated their entry into the industry in the past two years. At the beginning of 2020, Xiaomi officially announced that the important deployment of the chip industry will shift from mobile phone chips to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth IoT chips. It is a wise move for domestic semiconductor companies to enter Bluetooth Low Energy, but how to break the situation, such as differentiation and price wars, is a challenge. In the future, it can provide a simple and easy-to-use SDK, a rich selection of peripherals and resources, a new Bluetooth standard chip, and an excellent performance in power consumption, all of which are the entry points for engineers to pay for.

• MESH and indoor positioning

The ABI predicts that the scale of chip shipments based on location services will exceed 2 billion in 5 years, and the shipment of network Bluetooth chips for networking applications is expected to reach 800 million after 5 years. However, this data still needs to be verified. At present, there are large gaps in industry demand and industry undertaking. The networking and positioning industry based on Bluetooth technology is still in its infancy. The MESH networking core protocol specifications need to be improved, and the actual performance of mesh low-power nodes needs to wait for market verification and feedback. In terms of location services, at present, many domestic companies have developed and designed Bluetooth AoA location service systems, and there is only one enterprise that has completed commercialization abroad. The threshold for R&D is relatively high. Whether chip companies can integrate more functions, reduce the entry threshold of AoA and AoD, and enable developers to quickly carry out system R&D and resource integration. And whether the upstream and downstream of R&D and production can be carried on smoothly and the production capacity can be improved. It's all related to whether the location services can be commercialized on a large scale. Future development is worth looking forward to.

Finally, we will be very appreciated if you can tell me the most optimistic market in your point of view so that we can better research the market and technology that everyone cares about.

Written by RF-star senior adviser XCODER (a We-Media essayist)
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