Alix 1

Making Lemonade

June 11, 2020

It’s pretty obvious to even the most casual observer that we are currently living in interesting times. Even before our society was challenged by the latest cultural unrest, climate issues, and a viral pandemic, the electronics industry was and is being rocked by disruptive technologies. Fomented by events, these turbulent situations have merged into a perfect storm of change. Confronted by all of this, what are we supposed to do now?

The first thing to do is to recognize times like these as opportunities for positive change. Another thing that should be obvious to everyone is that in every one of these fronts, going forward is the only way to overcome the challenge. From developing more efficient electronics and improved green-energy systems to healthier societal paradigms, we will prevail over the monsters that oppose us. There are several positive trends resulting from this storm of change, and we will all be better for them.

Personal focus

Being quarantined in one’s own space provides an opportunity to ruminate on various issues, and the first issue is confronting yourself. To steal a line from the salesman in the Schwarzenegger film Total Recall, “no matter where you go, there you are”. Spending a lot of time with yourself is an opportunity to learn more about what you want from yourself.

That’s about all I have to say on that aspect, since we are an engineering magazine. However, this opportunity for reflection also gives us the chance to take a look at some of the tech trends we think may stick around and gain traction in the future. Empowered by and the result of the disruptive technologies roiling society, the result will be a more efficient, resilient, and safe living environment.

Task-based work

We are already beginning to experience the ramifications of the shift to remote work for those who are able. This has fomented many different management styles to address the need to ensure productivity and goal achievement with a widely-spread team. Among the most successful and productive are those focusing on task-based, rather than time-oriented, work.

This approach is well-suited for the electronics industry, which usually has a project-oriented philosophy in the creation of products. Reducing the number of meetings and attend-only events often results in significantly increased productivity, while also allowing workers to use the rest of their time in a more personally-fulfilling manner.

Web-based collaboration

Team-oriented online collaboration has been around for a while, but has now entered its apogee. While this may be the peak, the ebb will not be large, as web-based tools have demonstrated that effective (and short) meetings and the easy exchange of documents and data are business force multipliers. Telepresence applications have also underscored the unimportance of where people are. This is freeing in multiple ways, as workers can locate to (or remain in) places with a more favorable cost of living, culture, or climate to them.

The ability to have productive workers living anywhere also expands the ability for companies to grow, as previously the people with the ability to jumpstart new ventures couldn’t leave the office long enough to implement them. Now that the value worker can be on-site while still participating in day-to-day operations, companies can do more with less. It is also easier to address remote problems when the raw data can be acquired on the spot.

Improved web infrastructures

The significant increase in the number of users and volume of traffic online has also exposed the issue of web infrastructures. The best tool in the world is useless if you can’t operate it, and the best gathering of minds on the planet can’t get anything done if there are bandwidth and latency issues. This nuisance situation creates a strong demand for better and more robust connection and networking solutions, faster and fatter than before.

Next-generation solutions like 5G and WiFi 6 promise to deliver the performance we demand, with the security and reliability we need. There are other things going on in the industry that will also impact web and Cloud bandwidth and latency, from Edge Computing to the migration of low-information devices to solutions such as Long-Range Wireless (LoRaWAN), Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), and Low-Power Wireless Bus (LWB).

Smart cities, smart people

This storm has also accelerated the development of next-generation technologies such as smart devices, facilities, and municipalities. These will all be integrated at some level, providing advanced functionalities to everyone. The transition to green energy systems, advanced personal devices and self-driving EVs will also accelerate. The result of this, once we come through the storm, promises to be a better place for us all. 

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