How semiconductors make cars, mobile phones, tablets smarter

May 05 2014, 08:41 IST
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Semiconductor-enabled products today play integral roles in virtually every aspect of modern life and their use is expanding constantly. Semiconductor-enabled products today play integral roles in virtually every aspect of modern life and their use is expanding constantly.
SummaryLook inside cars, mobile phones, tablets and medical devices—semiconductors are hard at work, making our devices smarter, faster and greener

Semiconductors seem to have taken the world by storm. Be it smartphones, tablets, flat-screen monitors and television sets, sophisticated cars, new aircraft, and many medical devices—semiconductor-enabled products today play integral roles in virtually every aspect of modern life and their use is expanding constantly. From a market standpoint, the worldwide semiconductor sales for 2013 reached $305.6 billion, the industry’s highest-ever annual total and an increase of 4.8% from the 2012 total of $291.6 billion, estimates The Semiconductor Association, an industry trade body. Semiconductor market in India is growing rapidly too, thanks to our growing electronics consumption.

However, the semiconductor market is volatile and unpredictable, and has had its share of worries during the financial crisis of 2008-09. The industry historically has been cyclical due to sudden changes in customers’ manufacturing capacity requirements and spending, which depend in part on capacity utilisation, demand for customers’ integrated circuit products, inventory levels relative to demand, and access to affordable capital. Therefore, some of the questions that come to the forefront—How will the market for chips develop in the next few years? Where are the current opportunities?

Francois Guibert, executive vice-president & president, Greater China & South Asia Region at STMicroelectronics (ST), a leading semiconductor major, says, “While the semiconductor industry is cautiously optimistic overall, we see a few more exciting areas that should drive growth for many years into the future. In addition to smartphones and tablets continuing to shine, the automotive sector is benefiting both from Asia’s unabated growth in car ownership, as well as the expanding pervasion into the vehicle of semiconductor technology for safety, efficiency, and convenience. We are also enthusiastic about the adaptation of existing technologies to connect everything to the Internet—the Internet of Things (IoT).”

Guibert, who has led ST’s operations in Asia Pacific since 2006, says that the mobile sector remains a primary growth driver for semiconductors in Asia as the region continues to pace manufacturing for the world’s smartphones and tablets. “No one should be surprised by the emergence of Chinese brands in the top-5 list of smartphone makers. From our perch as the market leader for micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensors in this segment, STMicroelectronics sees smartphones and tablets incorporating environmental and audio sensors in addition to the motion sensors,” he predicts. “This range of sensors will deliver smarter services and features tailored to where you are and what you are doing, whether helping you shop for lunch, finding

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