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Microelectronics: A Key Part of the Digitization Puzzle

Digitization is rapidly gaining ground in all areas of our day-to-day lives – promising to offload routine chores onto technology, allowing us to concentrate on the creative, value-adding tasks we do best. But achieving this requires ever more sophisticated devices that combine both speed and intelligence. Microelectronics are the beating heart of such gadgets and associated systems. This month, we’ll zoom in on the vast role played by this tiny technology in a variety of industries.

The Way Forward: Faster, Smarter Devices

As I see it, there are two main things we expect today’s and tomorrow’s technologies to do for us: first, to improve our quality of life; and second, to give us the freedom to focus on making the world a better place in which to live and interact with each other. When it comes to turning this vision into reality, smart, high-speed devices are key. And tech of this kind increasingly relies on embedded systems, comprising built-in software, hardware, and microelectronics components.

These embedded solutions range from operating systems to all-important hardware, such as sensors and processors. Given our growing need for faster, more intelligent devices, it’s no surprise that demand for embedded systems is rising fast – with Bloomberg predicting annual market growth of 6.1% between 2020 and 2025.

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Microelectronics are one of the most important elements in these systems. Constructed from semiconductor materials, these miniature electronic components enable embedded systems to handle a vast array of tasks, ranging from gathering data, to monitoring and regulating processes, right through to mastering technology challenges. And with the latest advances in miniaturization, these components are becoming ever smaller.

As microelectronics decrease in size, the number of use cases and products in which embedded systems can be deployed is steadily rising – making these components an increasingly important enabler of widespread digitization. To understand what this means in real-world terms, let’s take a closer look at just a few of the areas in which microelectronics are driving progress.

Fuelling the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Embedded systems built on advanced microelectronics help deliver the integration and interoperability that are key to the success of Industry 4.0. Thanks to these miniaturized components, smart factories can now leverage a seamless combination of diverse disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and big data analytics.

One example of this in action is provided by Mercedes Benz, which has deployed cutting-edge embedded systems to enhance its smart factories. As a result of adopting the technology, the Germany-based automotive giant can now rapidly deliver flexible tailored-made solutions, cut time-to-market, and reduce the environmental impact of its operations.

Fast, Faster, 5G

Another important area in which microelectronics acts as a tech enabler is 5G. Take the example of autonomous vehicles: As these become more sophisticated, they will need to access vast volumes of information to respond to unexpected hazards quickly and reliably. But onboard processing of this information is simply not an option. So, the required computing power must be provided by a central unit that links all vehicles on the road.

Here, the life-or-death challenge is to ensure rapid, uninterrupted communications between autonomous cars and the central “brain”. And this is where embedded systems and microelectronic components come in – delivering the 5G communication capabilities required to transmit sensor data and access the necessary remote computing power in near-real-time.

And There’s More

Of course, the digital technologies supported by microelectronics don’t stop there. Embedded systems also support integration of GPS sensors for a wide range of use cases, including supply chain applications. What’s more, microelectronics can enhance transparency and reduce fraud throughout the supply chain by supporting integration of RFID transponders and blockchain logging solutions, enabling stakeholders to verify every step of a product’s journey and authenticate its origins.

And the list goes on: Thanks to ever-smaller microelectronics components, it’s now possible to deploy augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, as well as 5G and IoT in a far wider and more varied range of applications and contexts than ever before. In fact, you could say that microelectronics and embedded system are bringing innovative technologies into every aspect of our lives.

The benefits are not far to seek: By streamlining processes, embedded systems and microelectronics not only help save costs; they also greatly enhance flexibility (as seen in smart factories) and can significantly improve delivery to customers, boosting revenue.

Want to Take a Deeper Dive?

This brief consideration of microelectronics gives some idea of the many different areas in which the tech is driving the digital revolution. But how can it help your business? As ever, that depends very much on your individual situation and requirements.

If you’d like more details about how microelectronics is driving digitization in general, or if you’re looking for a more specific analysis of how this technology can benefit your business, feel free to reach out to me.

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