Technology: the glue that holds us together in the new normal

By Sunil Dhar, President of Renesas Electronics Singapore

In 2020, the world underwent a major disruption with unknown long-term effects on global economies and the health and well-being of citizens around the world. We’ve already experienced forced lockdowns, with some slowly being lifted region by region. Very rarely in history has a disease like COVID-19 so severely impacted global supply chains, workers, and their families.

Experts predict the aftermath of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time in terms of everyone adopting a new way of living and working – it’s called the “new normal”. The semiconductor industry has felt this impact as factories have shutdown or reduced operations, affecting supply chains and delivery of goods worldwide. However, in the “new normal”, more and more companies have shifted to remote working and people have begun consuming more content from home on digital platforms, and laptops, smartphones and other gadgets have found a reinforced importance in our lives. As a result the importance of the cloud and data center server and storage solutions, has soared.

Additionally, Industry 4.0 is seeing increased demand for industrial edge and endpoint AI-enabled connected devices. Healthcare is another sector that has witnessed forced disruptions, with a steep increase in demand for devices like ventilators, oximeters, contactless infrared thermometers, and more. The COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented demand for devices that can help with remote patient healthcare and monitoring . Sometimes game-changing innovation benefits from the disruption and upheaval that we are all confronted with in the face of the coronavirus.

Poor air quality has forced many homes and establishments to install air purifiers and other types of devices, powered by air quality sensors. The air quality mechanism fitted with smart sensors, enables users to sense both indoor and outdoor environments for gases, and measure and improve air quality.

Due to the pandemic, more people are working from home along with their school-age children taking online classes. This has spurred the need for a more reliable and robust Internet connectivity, higher 5G bandwidth and an explosion of data center hardware and cloud applications. Work from home is likely to stay in the “new normal” and the requirement for more bandwidth and cloud usage will continue to grow unabated. There will be a greater need for 5G base station solutions built with cutting-edge digital, analog, power and mixed-signal Integrated Circuits that will manage the increased amount of data, video, web browsing, and text messages being transmitted via the cloud.

Within industrial applications, the major demand drivers for semiconductors include investments in medical electronics, aerospace equipment, solar power and energy products, as well as upgrades to lighting solutions. Demand is expected to decline for all these end markets through 2020 as companies postpone infrastructure investments, reduce manufacturing activities, or decrease operations. However, there will be renewed demand for robotics and automation in the field, where human intervention is considered risky. For example, In Chinese hospitals, robots helped in administering medicines and carrying out tests on COVID-19 patients, reducing the risk of transmission from COVID-19 patients to frontline medical staff.

Semiconductor chips underpin several vital sectors of the economy, and ensuring the continuity of these ICs and their related supply chains is necessary to support the even greater range of services that will be digitized in the coming weeks and months. Additionally, since the semiconductor supply chain is highly globalized, semiconductor shortages created by operating restrictions in one region cannot be readily made up by production in other regions. For these reasons, we need to prioritize continued operations for domestic semiconductor companies and their suppliers by defining the semiconductor industry and its supply chain as “essential infrastructure” and/or “essential business.”

Like other sectors, semiconductor market dynamics are also rapidly changing. Demand is moving in different directions, and to different extents, depending on the application segment involved. As semiconductor players adapt to these changes and progress their journey in the “new normal” via bold and timely moves, they will not only help their business thrive but also help the world stand up against the coronavirus. Semiconductor technology is the invisible glue holding us together in the “new normal” and ensuring the continuity of critical infrastructure and operations during this global health crisis.

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