The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by durability, robustness, innovative braking technologies and the need to reduce CO2 and particulate matter emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as hydraulic drum brakes, pneumatic-assisted brakes and mechanical drum brakes. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Drum brake actuators.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Drum brake actuators is a key innovation area in automotive

The purpose of the drum brake actuator is to restrict the flow of brake fluid from going back and forth to the drum brakes as they can chatter if the brake fluid moves rapidly back and forth from the master cylinder and brake. The drum brake actuator also has a check valve, which retains pressure in the brake lines and wheel cylinders to ensure that there is little or no delay in braking action.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of drum brake actuators.

Key players in drum brake actuators – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to drum brake actuators

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Continental 76 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 66 Unlock company profile
Aisin 65 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Mobis 48 Unlock company profile
Stella Vermogensverwaltungs 41 Unlock company profile
Mando 25 Unlock company profile
SAF-HOLLAND 24 Unlock company profile
Akebono Brake Industry 22 Unlock company profile
Tokai 21 Unlock company profile
Nuova FourB 15 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 12 Unlock company profile
Lewis Designs 5 Unlock company profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 5 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 5 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 5 Unlock company profile
Cummins 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Continental is a key player in the drum brake actuators innovation area. The company’s latest innovation EPB-Si is a patented drum brake solution that is particularly suitable for more sustainable braking. The patented design features an integrated electric parking brake function that prevents corrosion and minimises particulate emissions. Hitachi, Aisin, Hyundai Motor and Stella Vermogensverwaltungs are the other key players in the innovation area.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.