Podcast: Episode #16 - COVID fast-forwards electronic designs

20th November 2020
Joe Bush

Now is a great time to be an electronics design engineer – they have a key part to play in controlling the virus. COVID-19 has been a global and national tragedy – but it has also pressed the fast forward button to the future and accelerated many technologies and concepts by as much as ten years. 

This is most obviously true on the COVID front line: technologies that have a direct application in testing for, treating and vaccinating against the disease, but it is happening everywhere. It is so exciting to travel (virtually and, increasingly often, for real) around our customers, and to see the innovation that is taking place. Electronics engineers in businesses large and small around the UK are developing the solutions that will keep us safe as we learn to control this virus. In this latest podcast from Electronic Specifier Insights, Mick Elliott speaks to John Bowman, Marketing Director at Anglia Components to find out more.

I am seeing a strong shift from “we could” to “we must.” In January 2020 we might have said: “We could integrate air quality monitoring into our light installations.” “We could offer touchless control.” “We could add presence detection.” “We could add air purification and/or UV sterilisation.” Today we are saying that we must add these and many other features. Projects that have been sitting on the shelf awaiting funding or resource have been dusted down and implemented. Many of the technologies needed are not actually new, some of them have been around for a while – but they are now being adopted more widely and in new and very innovative ways. 

Often, the fastest path to a viable solution is to repurpose an existing design, adding new features to it. For engineers, the challenge is that so often they are pulled out of their comfort zone. Digital engineers are being asked to design with analog sensor outputs. Analog engineers need to get their head around wireless communications protocols to transmit sensor outputs to a hub and hence to the cloud. Lighting engineers now need to have an understanding of air quality. It is an amazing opportunity to add a new string or two to engineers professional bows.

Yet few have the time, or the opportunity, to go back to the classroom and learn the new skills that they need from scratch. Instead, this new generation of solutions is emerging from collaborations and partnerships – working together to make the inconceivable conceivable and the impossible possible. Distributors have a key role to play here. First and foremost, with a strong awareness of the full field of technology available, we can point customers at the appropriate solution. Many forward thinking suppliers are offering complex technologies in a package that can be used right out of the box often even with a proven reference design – taking the complexity out of the design process and speeding the solution to market. Great examples include the Thales Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE Terminal, the world’s first plug and play IoT solution that automatically connects with AWS. It simplifies and automates all the Cloud elements of the design process including device security, provisioning, and connectivity into Amazon Web Services (AWS). Another is the Omron Human Vision Component that takes all the complexity out of face and body recognition and just provides a digital output at the interface.

Secondly, seeing all the innovation that’s taking place out there, we can connect businesses together. Anglia is probably closer to more customers in the SME space than anyone else, and we can join the dots: link companies working in parallel to mutual benefit.

Electronics will play a big part in making the world COVID safe. We all want to go back not only to schools and offices but also to sports stadiums, theatres, and night clubs. And we want to be safe in every part of these locations: not only at our desks and in our seats but also in the canteen, at the bar, in the ticket office and even in the washroom. This will mean technologies that enable social distancing, technologies that eliminate touch and technologies that de-risk by sterilising and cleaning.

Technologies that enable us to live with the effects of COVID in our social environments are critical, not only to saving lives but also for the economy. Anglia is here to assist customers in any way possible to get these designs that will ultimately keep us safe and healthy rolled out as quickly as possible.

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