Many models of cars today have waiting periods of months. Prices for laptops, TVs, refrigerators are rising every month. The root cause of all of this – sparsity of semiconductors.
Electronics have become central to almost everything in our lives – more so since the pandemic – and electronic devices are built on semiconductors. “They are there in even less visible areas. The shrimp farms on the eastern coast of India near Vizag are using electronic devices to maintain acidity and the food supply in the water for shrimps. Farmers no longer have to go into the water daily to test it,” Ruchir Dixit, country manager for Siemens EDA, said.
Cars are practically electronic devices today. Depending on how premium the car is, there could be between 50 and 1,000 semiconductor devices inside it, said Vivek Tyagi, GM of RP tech India, and vice-chairman of India Electronics & Semiconductor Association (IESA). “Not long ago, semiconductors were hardly anything in the bill of material of a car, but now they are a significant part,” he said.
Most of this, Dixit said, is currently for basic functions like turning rain-sensing wipers on, turning headlights on when ambient light reduces, for infotainment. “As we transition to autonomous cars, electric vehicles, this will only go up,” he said.
The need for chips, and often specialized chips, is surging as new use cases of AI/ML, and IoT emerge. This trend will accelerate as 5G enables faster data transmission speeds.
Dixit said elite athletes today have a number of devices on their jerseys, monitoring heart rate, breathing pattern, oxygen level, while they perform. Tyagi noted that automated guided vehicles – with multiple AI-based high-resolution cameras – have become essential to picking and sorting in the massive warehouses of e-commerce companies.
Given how critical semiconductors are, Tyagi said India should look at them as a strategic asset. Incentive schemes for manufacturing have helped to contain India’s dependence on electronics imports. Similar schemes, Tyagi said, should be extended to semiconductors, starting with assembly and test units. Dixit said India already has a world-class semiconductor design talent pool of 9 lakh engineers, perhaps the biggest in the world. Now, we need manufacturing too.