Stories – Trends

Trends – Expert view

Enabling an even more connected future.

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About Bettina Weiss

Bettina Weiss is Chief of Staff and Corporate Strategy for the industry association SEMI, where she leads SEMI’s strategic planning process, thought leadership activities, strategic partnerships and its global Smart Mobility initiative.

Bettina Weiss is the brains behind thought leadership activities and strategic partnerships at SEMI, the global industry association representing the electronics manufacturing and design supply chain. Weiss is a translator by training with a focus on Anglo-American law and economics. While working for the general manager of Metron – “a fantastic boss and mentor” – in the 1990s, she caught the semiconductor bug. “30 years later,” says Weiss, “I’m still enjoying it – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The semiconductor sector doesn’t get enough attention, Weiss believes: “I think it’s a largely unsung industry, strangely enough, because it enables really everything that we know today, but it is the most fascinating industry that I can imagine working in.”

Demand for semiconductors has steadily increased since their introduction in the 1950’s, but more so in recent years. According to Weiss, mobile phones sparked quite possibly the largest increase in demand. “Virtually everyone has one in their hand,” she says. “It’s among the biggest disruptions in our lifetime. My parents never had a computer. My father didn’t have his first mobile phone until late in life, and now every child that I see on the street is connected, and that means semiconductors.”

Although semiconductor supply is currently constrained, Weiss believes that shortages will ease in the next year or so as more capacity comes on stream. “In 2022,” she says, “more than twenty 300- and 200- millimeter fabs are expected to come on line, and even more in 2023 and beyond. That should start eliminating the huge shortages that we see right now.”

“I think it’s a largely unsung industry, strangely enough, because it enables really everything that we know today.”

Smart Mobility: one of SEMI’s four “Smart Initiatives”

Smart Mobility is a big focus for SEMI, and one of four Smart Initiatives the organization is currently focused on.

Smart Mobility includes autonomous driving, which Weiss believes will be a major disruption. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the key enabling technology for autonomous driving, and what gives autonomous vehicles the ability to collect, analyze and learn from data – to make them smarter and safer over time. Consider the intelligence needed for a vehicle to sense a person or another vehicle in front of them and brake. This not only brings increased safety, but also means a much higher concentration of chips is needed, and they have to last for the lifetime of the car.

“These devices are sometimes in very sensitive areas of the car responsible for safety as well as data security,” says Weiss. “Some need to operate under any kind of weather conditions. Reliability is a big, big issue.”

The biggest barrier to autonomous driving today is public trust, Weiss believes – people need to be convinced that it’s safe. In addition, electrification appears to be the bigger priority for the auto industry at the moment – though in the years ahead, electrification and autonomous driving will come together.

Smart Cities provide the foundation for a connected world

Smart Mobility also encompasses Smart Cities – consider the infrastructure required to support electric cars, for instance. Weiss says we’re already starting to see Smart City initiatives around the world. “Singapore is doing a great job here,” says Weiss. “For instance, they have streetlamps that light up when a person is near” – saving energy while ensuring safety. Other cities are experimenting with new types of asphalt that use sensors to measure traffic congestion, collecting data that can be used to re-route and relieve traffic. Smart Cities will drive enormous demand for semiconductors.

The other three SEMI Smart Initiatives are:

“The only way forward for innovation, is to do it together.”

SEMI intends to bring companies together

“Companies realize that it’s difficult to go it alone and not be connected to a more collaborative effort,” says Weiss. “Automakers have realized it in the past few years. Phone makers have as well – they are now routinely co-designing and co-developing next generation phones along with chip makers.” Medical device makers are next, says Weiss. SEMI is also encouraging all semiconductor stakeholders to collaborate on sustainability efforts, which are crucial for the industry going forward.

“The only way forward for innovation,” says Weiss, “is to do it together.”