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Opportunities and Challenges for Semiconductor Industry Awaits in 2021

January 6th, 2021 by Industry Experts

Frankwell Lin President, Andes Technology

2020 was a year like no other in recent history. The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the global economy. In the challenging times, we are all learning how to resume normal operations and seek opportunities at the same time.

Production in Full Swing despite COVID-Crisis

Widespread vaccination is key to the global economy’s return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. As the coronavirus vaccine is on track for international deployment, however, the global economy is not expected to recover until mid-2021. Even so, the pattern of our working life has already changed irreversibly. Working from home, for instance, may become a new norm for some companies as it not only prevent the spread of the virus, but also reduces operating costs.

Due to the rise of the stay-at-home economy brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a huge growth in applications including wireless networking, gaming, at-home learning, etc. Some of the products are even facing shortage due to strong demand worldwide. The production of many semiconductor manufacturers is in full swing because of the related orders. The momentum is expected to last in 2021 as stay-at-home economy will likely thrive before the pandemic ends. Taiwan’s IC industry chain is ready for the development and production of these popular applications.

Another Strong Year of Growth and Momentum for RISC-V

In 2021, we expect it to be another strong year of growth with RISC-V adoption, following the growing trend in 2019 and 2020. Applications boosted by the pandemic have created new opportunities for RISC-V, such as cloud service, stay-at-home technology, video calling, telemedicine, contactless payment, robots, streaming media and gaming, etc. IoT, AI and other applications requiring customization have brought great advantages to the RISC-V modular ISA.

Another hot topic in 2020 gave RISC-V a major boost—that is, NVIDIA’s acquisition of ARM. There is still uncertainty about the deal and even if the final acquisition case succeeds, it may take NVIDIA a considerable amount of time to straighten things out. Also, it’s possible that ARM could no longer maintain its customer nonpartisanship so some companies will need to look for alternatives. The overall environment is quite favorable for the rise of RISC-V. Although mass-produced RISC-V processors are still growing, it’s only a matter of time before RISC-V products shine in the markets.

When it comes to the challenges businesses facing in the pandemic, the principle of “survival of the fittest” is brutally demonstrated. Semiconductor industry should always prepare for the rainy days ahead and choose partners who are reliable with superior quality. Developing solid technology and robust products are fundamental to the stability of a company while reckless expansion could make businesses vulnerable when facing uncertainty like the pandemic. In the end, the foundation for the success of the IC industry still lies in the financial and technical solidity.

More Trends to Watch: 5G and Autonomous Vehicles

Looking ahead to 2021, new technology breakthrough like 3nm manufacturing process will be achieved. Also, commercial operations of 5G will impact on businesses and people’s lives. The power of combining 5G and AI will become the new trend, which will be driven towards reality faster than expected.

Also, green energy and automotive electronics are major trends to watch. We expect electric vehicles and their extended applications, like autonomous vehicles, to flourish further. The main determining factor in the development of this rising industry is strongly dependent on the research and development of semiconductors. To bring autonomous vehicles and driver-less cars to life with safety, stronger computing CPUs are of utmost importance. In addition to computing power, integration of image recognition, LiDAR sensing and advancements in smarter AI algorithms are paramount to the success of this application. How to meet the functional safety requirements of ISO 26262 is a challenge for semiconductor industry, including manufacturers and IC design companies. Meeting key criteria like stability, safety and comfort of automated driving becomes the new goals for future development.

About Author

President Lin started his career being as application engineer in United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) while UMC was an IDM with its own chip products, he experienced engineering, product planning, sales, and marketing jobs with various product lines in UMC. In 1995, after four years working on CPU chip product line as business director, he was transferred to UMC-Europe branch office to be its GM when UMC reshaped to do wafer foundry service, he lead UMC-Europe to migrate itself from selling IDM products to selling wafer foundry service.

In 1998, after 14 years working in UMC, President Lin switched job to work in Faraday Technology Corporation (Faraday), he lead ASIC business development as starting, then on-and-off leading ASIC implementation, chip backend service, IP business development, industry relationship development (IR), as well as Faraday’s spokesperson, in 2004, he started to lead the CPU project spin off operation of Faraday. President Lin became co-founder of Andes Technology Corporation (Andes) in 2005 when it was found up, he formally took position to be Andes’ President since 2006.

President Lin received BSEE degree of Electrophysics from the National Chiao-Tung University, Taiwan, and MSEE degree of Electrical and Computer Engineering from Portland State University, Oregon, USA. Under his management, Andes has been recognized as one of leading suppliers of embedded CPU IP in semiconductor industry. Andes also won the reputation of leading technology company with awards such like 2012 EE Times worldwide Silicon 60 Hot Startups to Watch, 2015 the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific award, etc.

In 2015, President Lin received accolade award of Outstanding Technology Management Performance, Taiwan, for his contribution to the high-tech industry.

Category: Predictions

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