Compact Real-time Clock Modules Gain Widespread Application in Industrial Electronics

There is growing demand for real-time technology in the consumer electronics and automotive sectors. Likewise, compact real-time clock modules are gaining widespread application in a range of products that require clock functions. Companies in the real-time clock IC market are increasing focus on the development of small electronics and factory automation equipment. For instance, in October 2019, Seiko Epson Corporation – a leading Japanese electronics company, announced the launch of two new real-time clock modules under its product portfolio.

Companies in the real-time clock IC market are focusing on increased volume production during the forecast period. This is evident, since the production of real-time clock IC components is projected to reach an output of ~5.4 billion units by the end of 2027. Stakeholders in the industrial electronics value chain are benefitting from the time-stamp function of newly-introduced real-time clock modules. This new function is being widely incorporated in equipment that needs time of day information to be logged in and stored. This trend has also helped in the reduction of the equipment’s physical and environmental footprint.

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Introduction of New Ultra-low Power RTC Components Supports Development of Industrial Electronics

Manufacturers in the RTC IC market are increasing production capabilities to develop new products that cater to low-power applications. For instance, in June 2019, Cymbet Corporation – a supplier of thin-film and solid-state storage devices, announced the launch of next generation real-time clock IC products with power management and power switching functions.

Ultra-low power RTC components are becoming increasingly mainstream in many consumer electronics. As such, consumer electronics are anticipated to dominate the real-time clock IC market throughout the forecast period, with a revenue prediction of ~US$ 3.2 billion by 2027. Manufacturers are increasing the application of low-power RTC components in battery-less sensors and wearable sensors. They are increasing production capabilities to meet the needs of stakeholders in the industrial electronics value chain.

Power management and power switching functions are helping customers support charging voltage options in a range of backup power sources. Since the I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuit) is predicted for exponential growth in the real-time clock IC market, manufacturers are offering best-in-class operating current functions in I2C and SPI interface bus options.

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Tiny RTC Features Empower Designers to Develop Close-packed Wearable Devices

The tiny real-time clock feature is one of the important drivers for the real-time clock IC market. Compact RTC components are enabling designers of space-constrained systems to deliver extended battery life to devices. This trend is very prominent for medical monitors and portable terminals. Companies in the real-time clock IC market are increasing production capabilities in compact RTC components that eliminate the need for central microcontrollers for timekeeping.

Microcontrollers waste battery life, especially when small batteries power the system. Hence, companies in the real-time clock IC landscape are increasing production expertise in industry-standard power-management circuitry to provide timekeeping with extended battery life. Also, ultra-small wafer-size components significantly reduce the overall design size of wearable systems. Companies in the real-time clock IC market are competing to develop compact external circuitry by incorporating features such as integrated load caps, power management, and trickle chargers.

Innovations in Design for IoT and Wearable Devices Aid Power Conservation

Real-time clock IC components have revolutionized the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables sector. For the development of ultra-low power devices, manufacturers in the real-time clock IC market are increasing research efforts to thoroughly understand the dynamics of size and connectivity requirements in devices. Manufacturers in the RTC IC space should strengthen their technology supply chain by steering innovation in new semiconductor designs, passive components, software, and the cloud.

The low-duty activity cycle of most IoT and wearable designs has extended battery life, even while executing tasks. However, power conservation still poses a challenge in IoT and wearable devices. Since human intervention is not guaranteed, there is a growing need for ‘self-awareness’ in these devices for efficient power conservation. Hence, manufacturers in the real-time clock IC market should innovate new designs for devices that can starve continuously active circuits of power to meet battery life requirements.

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Real-time Clock (RTC) IC Market: Overview

  • According to Transparency Market Research’s latest report on the global real-time clock (RTC) IC market for the base year 2018, and forecast period of 2019 – 2027, the global RTC IC market is expected to expand at a moderate rate during the forecast period, owing to the rising demand for standalone RTC ICs for use in low-power IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
  • In terms of revenue, the global real-time clock IC market is estimated to reach a value of US$ 4 Bn by the end of 2019, and is expected to expand at a CAGR of ~4% throughout the forecast period.

Rising Demand for Standalone RTC ICs for Use in Low-power IoT Devices: A Key Driver

  • RTC ICs play an important role in IoT applications, ranging from multi-core smartphones to small connected sensors. In these devices, power and accuracy are critical factors.
  • Real-time clock ICs offer extended battery life to IoT devices, which is the fundamental requirement for all these devices.
  • In IoT applications, it is required to keep updates regarding communication time slots and event occurrences, which is achieved by using a small battery or capacitor.
  • Standalone RTC ICs are designed to have a backup of capacitors by analyzing different parameters such as current consumption and minimum and maximum voltage supply.
    • For instance, STMicroelectronics offers M41T62 is a standalone RTC that keeps the time with a supply voltage as low as 1.0 V, and can tolerate voltages of up to 4.5V.
  • Thus, increasing demand for standalone RTC ICs for use in IoT applications is driving the global real-time clock IC market, and the trend is anticipated to continue in the near future also.

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Technological Advancements in RTC ICs: A Key Factor Propelling Global Real-time Clock IC Market

  • Initially, real-time clock ICs were used to track time and provide information related to time and data in a more usable manner than a simple clock counter.
  • With technological advancements, manufacturers are continuously introducing new features such as embedded memory, alarms, timestamp recording, and watchdog.
  • For instance, some of the offerings of real-time clock ICs by Maxim Integrated Products, Inc. are:
    • DS3231M: first temperature-compensated RTC with an internal MEMS resonator to reduce crystal mechanical failure.
    • DS3232M: with additional memory in the smallest package with 236 bytes of battery-backed user memory.
  • Owing to these substantial features of real-time clock ICs, these ICs are employed in several applications such as burglar alarm systems, gaming devices, e-metering, building access control, point-of-sale terminals, and industrial applications.

Timekeeping Accuracy Limitations to be Major Challenge for Real-time Clock IC Market

  • One of the factors limiting the global real-time clock IC market is that these ICs can be updated per second and not per fraction of second.
  • The accuracy of RTC ICs depends on a time-based oscillator that contains crystals of 32.768 kilo Hertz. These crystals are highly inexpensive, but they are not able to maintain timekeeping accuracy. This affects the performance of RTC ICs.
  • The above-mentioned factors are anticipated to hamper the global real-time clock IC market during the forecast period.
  • However, in response to the increasing demand for real-time clock ICs from several industries, manufacturers have started focusing on research & development activities to better their position in the real-time clock IC market space.

Global Real-time Clock IC Market: Competition Landscape

  • Detailed profiles of manufacturers of real-time clock ICs have been provided in the report to evaluate their financials, key product offerings, recent developments, and strategies.
  • Key players operating in the global real-time clock IC market are –
    • Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.
    • Seiko Epson Corp.
    • Integrated Device Technology, Inc.
    • STMicroelectronics International N.V.
    • Microchip Technology Inc.
    • NXP Semiconductors N.V.
    • Diodes Incorporated
    • Texas Instruments Incorporated
    • Ricoh Semiconductor
    • Abracon LLC
    • ROHM CO., LTD
    • Cypress Semiconductor Corporation
    • ABLIC Inc.

Global Real-time Clock IC Market: Key Developments

Key manufacturers operating in the global real-time clock IC market, such as Seiko Epson Corp. and STMicroelectronics, are increasing their sales by increasing their production capacity. Some of the key developments in the global RTC IC market are as follows:

  • In March 2018, Seiko Epson Corp. launched RA8804CE and RX8804CE, two new modules of real-time clock ICs. These modules have integral temperature compensated crystal oscillators. RA8804CE is designed for use in automotive applications, whereas, RX8804CE is meant for industrial applications.
  • In December 2018, STMicroelectronics announced to add STM32GO microcontrollers (MCUs) to its STM32 family. The new series is based on Arm Cortex-M0+ core, which ensures high performance of the device. This device draws as low as 3 – 8 µA of electric current in the stop mode with the real-time clock running, and just 500 nA of electric current in the standby mode with RTC (all at 3.0 V, 25°C).

In the report on the global real-time clock IC market, we have discussed individual strategies, followed by company profiles of manufacturers of RTC ICs. The ‘Competition Landscape’ section has been included in the report to provide readers with a dashboard view and company market share analysis of key players operating in the global real-time clock IC market.

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