Paul van Gerven
20 March

The high-tech industry is bracing itself for the impact of the corona pandemic. Supply chains will be disrupted, demand for end-products will fall, business will suffer. But it’s not all bad news. To keep everyone’s spirits up, Bits&Chips periodically publishes the Corona Chronicles, detailing uplifting worldwide developments and prospects that might otherwise not have survived our selection process.

Carmakers turn to medical

Several car manufacturers – some of which have halted production completely – are helping out manufacturing healthcare supplies. Chinese BYD, for example, is now churning out 5 million face masks a day, making it the world’s largest producer. Meanwhile, Tesla chief Elon Musk joined GM, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota in offering to manufacture medical components such as fans for respiratory equipment.

Philips feeling generous

In January, Philips – through its Philips Foundation charity – has donated two million euros worth of diagnostic imaging, patient monitory and respiratory equipment and related supplies to Thunder God Mountain Hospital in Wuhan. Currently, the Foundation is working hard to support the deeply impacted healthcare systems in Kenya, South Sudan and Italy.

Credit: Philips

The silver lining in electronics spending

What will the pandemic do to consumer’s appetites for electronics? It might not be as bad as you think, suggests Bill Jewell of Semiconductor Intelligence. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, people spent a lot less on air travel and holidays for an extended period of time. A significant chunk of that money in their pockets was spent on electronic devices, such as phones and televisions. Now, on top of travel, people are spending next to nothing in restaurants and cinemas. Again, a lot of that will be saved up, but some of it might very well be spent on electronics again. Don’t expect 2020 to be a growth year, says Jewell, but don’t expect the worst either.

Samsung sticks to its guns

Apparently unfazed by the outbreak, Samsung Electronics told shareholders it will stick with previously announced aggressive investment plans for its semiconductor (96 billion euros up to 2030) and quantum dot display (9 billion euros) activities. In semiconductors, the Korean company is looking to snatch more customers from TSMC by regaining process technology leadership.

Adelco
Credit: Samsung

Corona winners: 5G, smart cities and VR

The crisis will undoubtedly prompt accelerated adoption of a number of technologies. Take VR, for example. With employees having to work from home and having their travel restricted, surely companies will be looking into ways to improve their virtual meetings. A teleconference might be a good-enough alternative for in-person staff meetings, discussing the intricacies of a prototype requires more room to maneuver. Also, it’s hard not to imagine how all sorts of smart city technology could help curb the current pandemic, as well as prevent a next one. Both VR and smart cities would benefit enormously from 5G, so the rollout of the next-gen wireless technology will gain speed. 5G also enables telehealth applications, whose appeal will be strengthened as well.