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It Is Time for Businesses to Build Their Own Microprocessors

Breaking down the silos between developers and hardware designers could be an effective way to alleviate the semiconductor shortage,
Sep 15th, 2022 10:00am by
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Miao Luo
Miao Luo is working at The Qt Company where he serves as a Director in Product Management, overseeing Automotive business and managing product strategies among HMI design tools, graphics, and Functional Safety product lines. Prior to The Qt company, he worked at various positions ranging from product management and sales to software engineering for more than 15 years, and he also been a co-founder at a successful startup in the flight simulation market.

It’s a “FAB” time to be a developer. Two years on, the semiconductor shortage continues to plague businesses that manufacture connected devices. Production plants are springing up across the globe, and governments across Europe and the U.S. are implementing initiatives aimed at boosting the production of semiconductor chips.

Building our way out of the semiconductor crisis is very much a long-term strategy for businesses. The enormous complexities that go with building a semiconductor fabrication (FAB) plant, as well as the huge monetary investment, have been highlighted by the consulting firm, Deloitte, which predicts that chip shortages are going to be with us for some time to come — and impacting businesses well into 2023.

However, there are some immediate strategies businesses can implement to alleviate semiconductor supply chain pressures and business processes that can be adopted to help speed up the delivery of in-demand, connected products and circumvent the need for these coveted chips.

Software Development Is Your Ally

As demand for connected devices grows, so does the pressure to quickly create and launch them. Traditional processes are no longer fit for purpose in today’s connected world, developers and designers are faced with unnecessary procedures, working across a multitude of different software and hardware. As such, smarter development is needed. Bridging the gap between developers and designers — businesses stand to experience a more efficient journey to their finished product.

Two teams that have historically had a siloed approach to their work are developers and designers. They both typically use different sets of tools, leading design iterations to become interruptions. By unifying these teams and thinking of development and design as a combined “DevDes” function — in the same way we think about software development with DevOps — silos are broken down, workloads are lightened and delivery is simplified. Businesses maximize efficiency during the development and design phase of product development, ensure they are in the best possible position to bring their products to market when semiconductor chips become more readily available.

Companies making small changes to design and development processes and using cross-platform frameworks that promote and enable cooperation between designers and developers, eradicate unnecessary feedback loops, through a more joined-up and collaborative approach and can deliver strong results. Developers and designers working together can reduce unnecessary business expenditure and deliver operating efficiencies. Giving both teams access to the same workspace, eliminates additional effort that has to be made when communicating across multiple work platforms.

Adopting New Business Processes

Businesses should look at their working practices to assess where time can be saved during the production process. One way this can be achieved is through the introduction of cross-platform frameworks. Making use of a single codebase to build native apps for multiple devices can help organizations utilize a wider variety of silicon — and choose semiconductor chips that are most widely available at any given moment for use in their products.

A good example of this approach working well is how Tesla responded during the height of the semiconductor crisis. By adopting a software-first approach, the automotive manufacturer was able to mitigate the impact of the chip shortage better than many automotive manufacturers. Tesla owns the source code, so they have the ability not only to quickly rewrite their firmware to support alternative chips, but they can also very effectively swap component parts — maintaining high production levels and continuing to meet consumer demand. By owning their own software framework while operating in a cross-platform environment, companies can better adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics, and mitigate the impact of component shortages.

Cross-platform frameworks and tools are vital to blunt the effects of ongoing market challenges. Digital product decision-makers will need to become flexible and shift to using materials that can be sourced more easily rather than waiting for previously supplied components.

In adopting this approach, businesses also stand to reap additional benefits, having the ability to design and deploy products across multiple devices. Android and iOS devices for example can be built using the same cross-platform framework, even though they are inherently different — meaning developers and companies who are building apps for multiple platforms, are able to continue offering a seamless customer experience.

And let’s not forget future proofing — focusing on a software-first approach gives businesses the ability to upgrade rather than replace, work across multiple devices, and change component parts without having to wait for a specific semiconductor chipset to become available. The fewer times hardware within connected devices needs to be replaced, means the longevity of connected devices will be greatly increased.

Breaking down silos and enabling developer and designer collaboration is an effective way to alleviate the semiconductor shortage, save businesses money, and deliver an overall better experience for manufacturers and consumers. In streamlining the product development process, businesses place less pressure on developers and designers as individuals. Making use of cross-platform frameworks to promote DevDes collaboration, promotes a fresh way of working that is long overdue in the industry.

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