ASIC and FPGA are both types of microchips that can be used when designing an electronic product. An ASIC must be created according to a product’s specifications, as it is only programmed for one specific use and cannot be reprogrammed. An FPGA, in contract, is manufactured for general use and can be used for multiple functions; some are able to be reprogrammed infinite times, whereas others can only be changed once.
The primary difference between the two is that an ASIC chip is specifically purposed for one application, whereas an FPGA chip can be used and reprogrammed multiple times. As such, the decision as to which of the chips to use often depends on many factors such as the quantity of the intended production, the desired level of customisation, and budget considerations.
The uses of the two chips also vary. ASIC chips, as they can be programmed specifically for the aim of a product, have a wide range of applications. These are primarily in devices with no need to remove and reprogram the chip, for example smartphones and TVs. Essentially, there is no limit to the different things that an ASIC chip can be used for.
The requirements for a reprogrammable chip such as an FPGA are slightly more limited. An engineer might use an FPGA when designing the prototype of a product, but in production stage they might instead change this to an ASIC. FPGAs are also useful when it comes to applications that require ongoing developments, such as image processing in security.
Among Microsoft’s many products and services is Dynamics AX, which is a piece of business software created by the company. Its aim is to aid businesses in managing their back-end operations, which are necessary to keep them running from day to day. These operations include businesses intelligence and warehouse management, as well as HR and manufacturing. The software was launched in 2003 with five products, and has only continued to expand since then. In 2016, Microsoft combined its CRM products with its ERP products to create one umbrella known as Dynamics 365.
This software is specifically aimed towards medium and large sized businesses, who often have more complex back-end operations. Although its versatility makes it suitable for plenty of different industries, in practice those that use it the most are within the retail, manufacturing, and distribution sectors. Currently AX Navision is in use in 118 countries using 24 different languages, and the total number of customers is over 20 000.
There are many reasons as to why the software would be attractive to a business. For one, it helps them to synchronise their operations across the company, enhance visibility for the organisation, improve their finances in terms of income and control, and achieve compliance. This helps to boost productivity and, in turn, profits.
AWS stands for Amazon Web Services – essentially, it is an Amazon product that provides cloud computing platforms to customers ranging from individuals right up to national governments on a pay-as-you-go basis. It comprises over 200 products in total which cover all of the computing needs a client might have, from machine learning and developer tools to simple computing, storage, and networking. One key feature of the service is that it offers virtual computers which can be accessed at any time via the Internet; these tend to resemble a real computer in that they have CPU/GPUs, RAM memory, and SSD storage.
The system markets itself as being a relatively cheap and easy way to achieve large-scale computer processing, with its pay-as-you-go style helping to control the price paid by the customer. Subscribers can choose from a variety of services within AWS, depending on the level of security and the specific hardware and operating systems they require. In terms of security, AWS offers coverage all subscribers; in North America alone, there are six different locations from which the service operates.
As of 2017, AWS owned 33% of all cloud, which put it far ahead of its nearest competitors, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, which owned 18% and 9% respectively. The service was founded in 2002 in order to move Amazon towards a more customer-facing approach and to open their platform to any developers; the huge interest taken in it right from its inception meant that the company has since developed over 200 products. Notable customers include Netflix and Obama’s presidential campaign (2012). The huge growth that AWS has seen (32% yearly growth was reported in 2021) only looks set to continue.
PTC Windchill is a family of PLM software offered by PTC. PLM is the process of managing the lifecycle of a product, that is, of managing it right from the design stage through to distribution and disposal. Founded in 1985 in Massachusetts, PTC initially aimed to develop CAD modelling software, before branching out to other forms of technology such as augmented reality and collaboration software. In 1998, this expansion involved the creation of Windchill, and in 2004, the software was adapted to become simpler and aimed at small and medium sized businesses. The company is global, employing workers in thirty countries, and is worth over 1b.
The first edition of Windchill (version 4.0) was released in 1999, and since then there have been new releases almost every year, up to the current version (version 220.127.116.11), which was released in December 2019. Its implementation, although it can run on just one server, commonly uses three tiers – Client, Application, and Database.
Windchill capabilities are taught in IT/programming degrees at many universities, which has enabled it to become a globally used software. Its user base also ranges from individuals to large corporations, and the ease of scaling its software up or down to suit this has also aided its growth. The majority of its customers work in fields such as Automotive, Aerospace/Defence, and Industrial Products.
The products created by Windchill range from Product Analytics (this service is provided by Windchill Compliance, Windchill Materials & Substances, Windchill Cost, and Windchill LCA) to Utilities and Collaboration, both of which have multiple products to provide the service.
The automotive industry has seen massive growth worldwide during recent years, due to factors such as the development of electric cars in response to climate change considerations, and growing numbers of people who desire autonomous transport. South-East Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia display particular growth, as they have both large markets to sell to and important manufacturing hubs which produce vital car parts for companies all over the world.
Thailand is the major production hub in the region, and as such is both an important market and an important producer. Automotive parts and entire cars that are produced there can be exported all over South-East Asia, and to the world in general. More than half a million people in Thailand are employed in the automotive industry in some capacity, and in 2015 1.9 million cars were produced in the country (with 1.2 million of those being sold abroad, and the rest domestically). As green automotive becomes ever more important in accordance with local laws, the production hubs based in Thailand will need to shift their focus to accommodate this, and the Thai government is eager to assist them in this.
This growth has been difficult to achieve, however. Following suspended production due to lockdowns in 2020, the restarting of production in many South-East Asian factories was slow. Between April and May 2020 in Thailand there was a 130% growth on the number of vehicles manufactured, but even this larger figure still represented almost a 70% drop on the previous year. Nonetheless, as the country has opened up in response to falling cases, the increase in production of car parts in Thailand has been large, and continues to grow.
Technological advances in Latin America are taking place at an unprecedented rate, and this is most clear in the fintech sector. Fintech is a portmanteau of “financial technology”, and as such refers to software that is used to enable and support financial services. Fintech aimed at small and medium businesses has experienced much greater growth than that aimed at large businesses, and there are multiple factors affecting that.
Brazil in particular is an excellent place for the development of fintech because of the high equity returns enjoyed by its major banks – these can reach up to 20%. Just five of the major banks control some 90% of the money in Brazil, meaning that it is very difficult for new businesses to break in. However, they primarily cater to a wealthy sector of the population, as great proportions of people are not affiliated with a bank in some areas of the country and prefer to use cash. Many small business owners in the region have therefore struggled in the past with finding financial systems that will work for as many clients as possible, and fintechs catering to small business owners have found a lot of work in this area.
One example of a fintech company catering to small businesses is Cora, which is based in Brazil. Having noticed the gap in the market for fintechs that do not only work with wealthy clients, the two co-founders of the company started engaging with customers. Cora is now valued at nearly $30m, and hopes to expand globally.
It is obvious that a website’s UI is the key to boosting sales and revenue; even the best products won’t sell as well as they could if your UI interface doesn’t draw customers in. These UI trends, used by the top companies in the world as well as newly-launched enterprises, can help to boost a website’s revenue.
- Colour psychology. It has long been known that the colours we see can affect our decision-making and so boost revenue for businesses; some bold colours (as long as they are well balanced with more subtle shades) can do wonders for a UI.
- This trend was only brought into the mainstream relatively recently, but has quickly become a fixture of many eCommerce websites; chatbots allow for a customer’s concerns or questions to be answered 24/7, and so provide obvious benefits to sales.
- Checkout innovations. Fast checkouts and support for lots of payment methods make purchases easier and encourage customers both to buy products and to return to a site, boosting sales.
- Personalised experiences. Suggesting products to customers based on their previous browsing activities can help to match them with the best products for them, and thus make them more likely to turn to that site again in the future.
- Micro animations. These are (as you might expect) smaller changes to make to a UI than some of the others listed, but can have great effects, as they make a website stand out to customers.
These are five of the most common trends at the moment in UI development, and are used to drive up sales and revenue through their impact on the customer experience.
Many elements of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it abundantly clear that Europe as a continent is facing a severe shortfall in skilled workers; both the people needed to find solutions throughout the pandemic, and the people needed to manufacture those solutions, have been in short supply.
Many workers have, of course, been displaced or lost their former jobs due to the economic issues caused by the past year of lockdowns. This means that there is an annual demand for over 100 000 engineers and technicians in the UK, as well as nearly 80 000 roles that combine engineering knowledge with other skill sets such as computing. This constitutes a massive 17.1% of all the vacancies available in the country, and this statistic is mirrored in many countries across Europe and the EU. New engineering jobs are constantly being created to fill different demands, and yet there are not enough engineers to fill them.
One reason for this may be the gender disparity in engineering jobs. Only about 10% of the workforce is female, with the gender divide taking shape as early as GCSE exams, in which engineering and general STEM subjects are dominated by boys in terms of uptake. When half of the population are less likely to pursue a career in engineering, it is unsurprising that businesses are struggling to find enough workers. Inclusion within the industry is being heavily promoted, however, in an attempt to attract more female engineers.
Another reason may be the partial failure of some educational courses in providing young people with the skills they need to enter the field. Far fewer people undertake apprenticeships today than they did 40 years ago; the university degrees that many do instead can leave graduates ill-equipped for the workplace, as shown by the 2 000 engineering graduates in the UK in 2019 who were unable to find work. Steps have been taken to combat this with the introduction (from 2022) of new post-16 courses called T-Levels, which are specifically designed to provide young people with the transferable skills they will need to enter different sectors, including engineering.
Further information about the specific skill shortages in this industry are available on the Recruitment Employment Confederation’s website, at www.rec.uk.com.
Sources: Recruitment Employment Confederation JobsOutlook report, 2019, and www.jonlee.co.uk
The German automotive industry has been in decline for some years now, but this looked to be about to change in 2021, when the country’s automotive industry association (VDA) predicted a growth of 8% during 2021. However, this forecast was cut to 3% this month, with the association citing problems with sourcing the parts required for building cars, specifically semiconductors.
As well as the reason cited by the VDA, of course, there are more reasons for the automotive industry’s problems in Germany. Declining car sales over the last two years in particular can be attributed to the rising global awareness of climate change, among other factors. Traditional cars rely on petrol and diesel, which has caused friction with climate protesters. In September 2019, an auto show held in Frankfurt was blockaded by a climate group demanding that the automotive industry as a whole be held accountable for their reliance on harmful fossil fuels, and the event was declared a “huge fail” by the former boss of Vauxhall.
It is not only independent groups who support a gradual departure from fossil fuels; the VDA also discussed a possible EU-wide ban on combustion engines, which would begin in 2035. They questioned the logic and efficacy of this, citing the toll that would be taken on jobs and consumer freedom. In a statement, the VDA summed up their view on the subject: “People don’t want bans, they want offers”.
The German automotive industry has therefore been shifting towards the production of electric vehicles, but one of the main obstacles to this is the lack of infrastructure to support it. There are few charging ports in public areas for this type of car, but more are being built to keep up with rising demand for cleaner-energy vehicles. Government subsidies on electric cars are attracting more customers to them, which provides further incentive for the building of infrastructure.
While the German automotive industry is facing problems at the moment, therefore, the increasing demand for electric vehicles, combined with further implementation of the infrastructure necessary to support them, could mean that it will see a resurgence in years to come.
Google, as well as other large tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, has seen massive growth in its quarterly sales as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The companies credit the increased amount of time that people have had to spend at home because of multiple lockdowns for their increase in sales – the internet and electronic devices have been one of the main ways for people to stay in contact with one another and keep themselves up to date on developments within the pandemic. Digitalisation has only increased in speed with global lockdowns, and it seems unlikely that all of this will be reversed as the world returns to normal.
In the second quarter of 2021, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported a massive 62% increase on the same quarter in 2020, with a total revenue of £44.5 billion. The majority of this revenue has come from Google’s advertising, which gave the company $50.4 billion – a 70% increase on pre-pandemic figures. This has also driven up stock prices and profits for the company; earnings per share had been estimated at $19.30 each, but at their peak reached $27.26.
Google is not alone in this massive growth. Apple experienced the best fiscal quarter the company has had since its foundation, and Microsoft saw a 21% rise in revenue between the same quarters in 2020 and 2021. These growths have been fuelled at least in part by a huge increase in demand for technology, caused by the shift to remote work and study caused by lockdowns. The three companies now together have a combined market value of $6.4 trillion, which is more than twice their collective value in 2020.