A Guide to Technology Roadmaps
Technology roadmaps have been developed in the last few decades to drive the technology industry in new ways. Technology is constantly changing and expanding in development and application. Leaders in technology industries need a tool to both learn about development and consider directions for future innovation. That’s where technology roadmaps come in.
Technology roadmaps are comprehensive documents. They help industry researchers and developers engage in unified exploration of past, present, and future technologies with the goal of solving problems and creating better technologies for future generations.
What Are Technology Roadmaps?
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a leader in the creation of technology roadmaps. IEEE defines technology roadmaps as documents that “stimulate an industry-wide dialogue to address the many facets and challenges of the development and implementation of an emerging technology.”
Technology roadmaps provide direction for companies looking to expand their own technological processes through advancements in their industries. These roadmaps provide a basis for industry leaders and company-based developers to work together as they develop new products in their fields.
The Elements of Technology Roadmaps
A roadmap is a peer-reviewed and published report usually available in digital and printable formats. The architecture of a technology roadmap varies by subject.
In general, roadmaps are forward looking documents that provide guidance for companies interested in the future of a particular area of technology or industry. Roadmaps can be product-specific, application-specific, or industry-wide.
Technology roadmaps are revised regularly. IEEE refreshes its roadmaps yearly, performing more serious updates and revisions every two years. In this manner, technology roadmaps remain relevant as industries establish and implement technological advancements.
The Development of Technology Roadmaps
Technology roadmaps are a relatively new phenomenon. According to Rakesh Kumar, a semiconductor veteran and chair of the IEEE Technology Roadmaps Committee, the first technology roadmap was created for the semiconductor industry in the 1990s.
This initial process of technology roadmapping brought together scientists and engineers from universities, industry, and government to define and develop the direction of semiconductor technology. These stakeholders used roadmapping to anticipate and prevent potential problems in maintaining development and to define the future needs within the semiconductor industry.
In 2015, IEEE adopted this semiconductor-based roadmap and used it as a roadmap template to develop additional technology roadmaps.
Today, IEEE has roadmap activities under development in a number of areas to address the needs and guide the work of scientists, engineers, and academics researching future technologies. IEEE is dedicated to continually expanding its roadmapping practices to provide industry experts with an overview of the course that their respective technologies are taking.
How Are Technology Roadmaps Used?
Technology roadmaps have a specific audience, though members of that audience use them in unique ways. Overall, stakeholders, such as company executives and research and development teams, use technology roadmaps to understand their industry, expand their companies, and guide their decision-making.
As technology advances, industries continue to refer to technology roadmaps to remain current on developments, design and implement new tools, and sustain their research for generations.
The Industries That Use Technology Roadmaps
The first technology roadmaps were designed for the semiconductor industry, but the creation of the first roadmap set a foundation for future technology roadmaps in many industries. Further roadmaps have been designed to benefit IT, medical, computer science, and electronics industries.
In each of these areas of technology, key stakeholders use roadmapping to stimulate and guide innovation within their field. Company representatives, equipment manufacturers, service providers, and government and research agencies all collaborate. They update one another on research, strategy, technology planning, and developments. They then consider the guidelines in the roadmaps to generate ideas and create plans for future technology solutions.
Technology Roadmaps vs. Product Roadmaps
It’s important not to confuse technology roadmaps with product roadmaps. A key distinction is in their application.
Technology roadmaps provide industry-wide guidelines and perspectives for future developments. In contrast, a product roadmap outlines company-specific guidelines and is usually viewed as a proprietary and competitive resource that explains a single company’s internal processes and designs.
For example, IEEE is the creator of a technology roadmap called “International Roadmap for Devices and Systems” (IRDS) which details the history of semiconductor devices and systems and aims to stimulate innovation for all participants in semiconductor devices and systems. It has been made widely available to individuals and organizations working in the semiconductor sector. However, an individual company within the semiconductor device sector may create a product roadmap that outlines the company’s best practices and intentions for product expansion, but this document would be proprietary and would not typically be shared with other sector participants. As companies develop product roadmaps, key stakeholders and research and development teams rely on technology roadmaps to guide their product development plans.
Initially, companies may review a technology roadmap to determine what technology is available and will be available in the near future. They then use that knowledge to develop their product roadmaps and, ultimately, new products to expand their business.
Who Uses Technology Roadmaps?
Technology roadmaps are designed for specific users within specific industries. Those who use them are typically involved in the design and implementation of new products or scientific research. Some examples are provided below.
For most roadmap users, the purpose of technology roadmapping is development. Most companies work in a repetitive chain-like process, moving through the stages of research, development, and manufacturing for each new product. Developing new products, equipment, and processes benefits greatly from the regular use of roadmaps.
Government or private funding agencies often refer to technology roadmaps to determine how to allocate funding for research and other initiatives.
Within individual companies, product managers rely on the predictions and statistics found in technology roadmaps to determine how to best allocate resources to allow them to meet their long-term goals.
Academics use technology roadmaps to identify long-term problems and technology gaps in a given industry. Technology roadmaps can guide the focus of academic research toward finding technology solutions and technology alternatives to address those problems that lack solutions.
What is IEEE’s Role with Technology Roadmaps?
Technology roadmaps are more important than ever, and IEEE is a prominent voice in their development and use. As the world’s largest technical professional organization, IEEE is dedicated to advancing technological innovation to benefit humanity. Since its founding in 1884, IEEE has been a key player in the development of technological excellence around the world.
How IEEE Uses Technology Roadmaps
Researchers and developers in the IEEE community have long been stakeholders in creating roadmaps designed to support advancement in electronics, internet technology, neurotechnology, semiconductor devices, and other areas of technological innovation. IEEE has designed roadmaps to encourage the advancement of emerging technologies.
Science and technology roadmaps designed by IEEE are intended to portray the structural relationships among science, technology, and applications. They function as technical roadmaps that provide a practical and applicable business plan for stakeholders from companies in science and technology fields.
For example, IEEE’s “International Technology Roadmap for Wide Bandgap Power Conductors” (ITRW) provides guidance for developers and researchers seeking to transition from silicon devices to wide bandgap devices. Meanwhile, IEEE’s “Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap” (HIR) is devoted to developing the components that make up technologies such as smartphones, Internet of Things devices (IoT), intelligent automobiles, and many other products. IEEE’s “International Network Generations Roadmap” (INGR) focuses on the future of communications, including applications and services, deployment, energy efficiency, Massive MIMO (developers in the 5G and beyond wireless ecosystem), security, and systems optimization.
Using technology roadmaps from IEEE, industry leaders are closing the gap between potential and attainable solutions to development challenges in the semiconductor and electronic manufacturing fields. IEEE’s roadmaps unite experts to engage in strategic planning to reach
a unified consensus on advancing technology in their fields and setting unified goals.
Who Is Involved in Building Technology Roadmaps?
Technology roadmaps are never developed in a vacuum. Developing a successful roadmap requires input from stakeholders and specialists. It is essential that each roadmap team contain experts with diverse skills in areas such as management, product development, research, and product implementation. Key roles are the roadmap manager, Product Developers, Project Managers, Program Directors and other industry experts. Senior management may also be involved.
A roadmap manager should be identified to guide the development process. This manager should be an expert product manager who can guide participants to create a technically realistic and innovative roadmap useful for future product development. The manager should be devoted to creating a roadmap that meets the needs of the industry while allowing room for improvement and growth in the field.
The experts working on a roadmap typically come from a variety of backgrounds. Within a company, this could include Product Developers, Project Managers, and Program Directors. More broadly, Scientists, engineers, researchers, development teams, and even academic or government leaders may work together to create an effective roadmap.
Experts who understand marketing needs and the mission of new products should also be involved in roadmap development. These experts ensure that roadmaps don’t just benefit the scientific community but also aid companies in designing product roadmaps based on technology roadmaps.
The senior management of industry-leading companies can also be involved in roadmaps, although sometimes only in a review capacity. Their focus is often on the business implications and outlook of the roadmap. Senior management can also provide guidelines and incentives to workers to encourage the roadmap development process. Support and oversight from senior management can drive the speed and accuracy of development to ensure that each roadmap meets the needs of the industry.
As one example, IEEE’s “International Network Generations Roadmap” (INGR) is run by a series of teams. These teams cover applications and services, deployment, energy efficiency, Massive MIMO (developers in the 5G and beyond wireless ecosystem), security, and systems optimization.
Each team is headed by two or three chair members who act as managers. All roadmap development teams at IEEE work under the IEEE Technology Roadmaps Committee members (senior management), who set the standards, guidelines, and checklists for developing roadmaps.
How Do Technology Roadmaps Relate to Industry Standards?
Technology roadmaps are beneficial in determining industry standards. Each industry has different needs for the development and implementation of technology solutions and products. Technology roadmaps define these standards in a few key ways.
First, technology roadmaps unite industry leaders and development teams in one space. Together, these two groups define the unifying standards and principles necessary to create effective products.
Second, as time goes on and things change within industries, technology roadmaps provide a succinct history of industry standards. When industries need to add new standards or improve upon old ones, roadmaps are easily updated with new information.
Third, as companies develop new strategies and business goals to meet the growing needs of their stakeholders and customers, they can use technology roadmapping to determine what is possible in product development. Then they can implement these standards into their own product roadmaps.
The development process of IEEE’s “International Roadmap for Devices and Systems” (IRDS) is a great example of how this works. The initial “International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors” (ITRS) was a precursor to the IRDS that outlined a vision for the semiconductor industry intended to expand the vision of Gordon Moore, a widely acknowledged visionary in the semiconductor industry.
Over time, the semiconductor industry targeted by the ITRS developed new areas of research and new standards for integrating related but tangential devices and systems within the industry. The IRDS was created to broaden the scope of research into developments in communication, the use of fiber optics, and other changes that go beyond the industry’s initial work in semiconductors.
Technology Roadmaps at IEEE
Throughout their history, technology roadmaps have become increasingly useful for development in the fields of science and technology. With IEEE’s comprehensive and ever-evolving technology roadmaps, researchers, development teams, and key stakeholders are unifying around comprehensive documents designed to address past, present, and future processes and needs in their industries.
IEEE is dedicated to helping stakeholders from many industries engage with one another in the development of useful and actionable technology roadmaps.
Interested in learning more about technology roadmaps? IEEE Roadmaps provides guidance and structure to support technical roadmap development and activities. Joining this initiative will provide you the opportunity to discuss common challenges and objectives while continuing progress towards your roadmap goals. Connect with other industry, academia, and governmental experts providing this critical resource for the advancement of technology.