Check out what you missed: news from week of February 3

Some of the biggest problems in the design of systems that involve sensors are at the interfaces.
Notable news this past week includes the effects of the spreading coronavirus on the electronics industry, more lackluster earnings reports, and the results of a FierceElectronics survey finding that sensor interfacing is the number one gripe among design engineers. (Pixabay)

Coronavirus has so far shown little evidence of slowing its spread, and its effects are rippling throughout the electronics industry. Companies such as Apple are delaying the resumption of manufacturing, and manufacturing partners such as Foxconn are pulling out all stops to prevent the virus from spreading, such as quarantining its workers.

But at the same time, electronics suppliers are being careful not to spread panic, issuing statements that they are closely monitoring the situation to avoid disruptions to their supply chain while taking common sense measures such as restricting travel to China. While companies such as Sony express concern about possible supply chain disruptions, the effects on near-term sales and earnings are still not yet clear.

In other news, several more electronics suppliers announced their quarterly earnings, with less than stellar results. Infineon, Samsung, ON Semiconductor and Vishay all saw quarterly earnings and sales fall from year-ago levels, and full-year results did not fare well either. Although many electronics companies stated inventory reductions and other cost-saving measures were starting to improve results, global geopolitical conditions and current events such as the coronavirus could play a role.

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There was also interesting news in the world of sensors. A recent study conducted by FierceElectronics found that sensor interfaces—the task of integrating sensors into a product or system design—was the biggest challenge faced by design engineers. The all-too common problem of meeting budget constraints was second.

More specifically, engineers cited the availability of multiple interfaces and the work of testing and designing for each interface as challenges. The lack of standardization across different interfaces compounded problems.

Perhaps a new MIPI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) could help. The recently announced MIPI I3C v.1.1 spec offers a speed increase and new features for better reliability in such buses, according to the MIPI Alliance.

According to MIPI Alliance, the revised spec allows for a multilane bus for much faster interface speeds. The spec relies on a lower number of pins than an earlier version and the smallest circuit board of available bus products. It is designed to integrate mechanical, motion, biometric, environmental and other sensors and includes new features for peripheral command, control and communication to a host processor over a short distance.

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