How the Semiconductor Shortage is Influencing Supply Chains

In a Secure High Level Laboratory Scientists in a Coverall Conducting a Research. Chemist Adjusts Samples in a Petri Dish with Pincers.

You may have noticed the recent price increase for consumer and business electronics, and it’s all caused by issues related to the global semiconductor shortage. How have these supply chains, stable for so long, been dealt such a severe blow to the point where acquiring new computers and networking equipment is so challenging? Read on to find out.

The Law of Supply and Demand

In 2020, as COVID-19 forced the majority of businesses and organizations to shift to remote operations, the global demand for new computers skyrocketed. 2021 has not been much better. While this looks like a great benefit for the semiconductor industry at first glance, that is only half of the equation. The industry may have seen its sales expand to nearly half a trillion dollars over the past year, but at what cost?

When the supply chain cannot keep up with demand, it is natural that the supply will eventually run dry. When you compare this immense demand to the PC market in previous years, you might start to see why such a shortage exists. The stagnation in the PC market coupled with the increase in demand for these devices, as well as other electronics and the greater need for cloud computing, led many industry professionals to forecast increases of another 12 percent in 2021 to $511 billion.

As a result of this massive bump in demand, the industry simply was not prepared for the influx of sales and, thus, could not keep up with it. The shortage itself began in the second quarter of 2020, and its effects have been felt by manufacturers, retailers, and businesses alike.

The Greater Ramifications

The semiconductor shortage doesn’t only impact computers and smartphones; it is causing ripples all over for any devices that require them. One notable example is the automotive industry, which has experienced several halts in production due to the chip shortage.

On a greater scale, the electronics industry has had to make several hard choices related to hardware simply because the pieces required to make their devices are not available in the needed quantities. As you might imagine, this shortage has a considerably larger impact on smaller organizations, as large-scale manufacturers have the advantage of more capital to invest in buying up the remaining stock.

How This Affects Your Business

It might not be clear how this semiconductor shortage will affect your business, but what is clear is that people with an understanding of this industry are not holding their breath expecting the issue to resolve itself. Businesses, in particular, will need to keep their eyes on the market for any signs of recovery, as the need for new hardware and increased data processing capacity will drive the demand for semiconductors until the shortage recedes.

It’s likely that businesses will see increased prices for the foreseeable future–at least for the next four to six fiscal quarters, or until the supply chain is able to recover and fulfill demand. AE Technology Group will keep an eye on this situation so we can best serve our clients. After all, we want to help you get the best resources at a reasonable price. If you have any questions or concerns about this semiconductor shortage, AE Technology Group is happy to help. To learn more about how we can help you navigate this situation, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

How Old Technology is Actually Recycled

Pile of old computer monitors and keyboards on grass. old technology.

Regardless of how well a new device or gadget works when it is first acquired, they certainly don’t last forever. Eventually, the time comes that your old technology needs to be replaced, leaving you to dispose of it. This requires more than just a quick trip to the dumpster, however. These devices need to be properly recycled, as many contain hazardous materials.

Let’s take a few moments to look at the process that this old and discarded technology undergoes when it has been recycled properly. But first, let’s briefly go over what kinds of devices now count as “e-waste”, and what about them has the potential to be recycled.

What Qualifies as E-Waste?

Effectively, anything that can be described as an electronic device would become e-waste if it were to break. This includes, of course, the computers and laptops, mobile devices, batteries, drives, monitors, and such things that we all rely on today, but it also lumps in our other appliances, things like air conditioners, televisions, kitchen appliances, radios, fans, and such things.

It isn’t uncommon to hear people complain that things “just don’t last as long as they used to.” While the reasons for this is another can of worms that we won’t be opening, this has contributed to a growing amount of e-waste to contend with. Projections from 2019 estimated that over 52 million tons would be produced annually by this year.

Unfortunately, much of this waste is destined for the landfill. Recent data suggests that only about 20 percent of e-waste around the world is reportedly collected and recycled, the rest presumably winding up buried deep in landfills. This is not good.

Why Should Old Technology Be Recycled?

There are numerous reasons that recycling e-waste is a better alternative to utilizing “fresh” raw materials, in a manner of speaking. First off, let’s consider the types of materials we’re talking about here. You have your metals, like:

  • Iron
  • Tin
  • Aluminum

Accompanying those is a small, yet significant, portion of valuable metals, like:

  • Titanium
  • Gold
  • Silver

Finally, there are plenty of other recyclable materials involved in making these components, including:

  • Plastic
  • Glass

You’d be surprised to hear what can be extracted from your devices through the recycling process. Circuit boards contain recoverable materials like tin, copper, and various valuable metals like gold, silver, and palladium. Hard disks contain aluminum that can be repurposed into creating an automobile. Batteries can have their contents recovered to produce new batteries. This helps us make the most of the resources we have already invested so heavily into procuring, and it creates jobs to boot! Someone needs to take on the responsibility of recycling these materials to be used again, after all.

Furthermore, recycling e-waste helps prevent many of the more hazardous materials incorporated into our devices from being introduced into the natural environment, where it could cause some harm.

How is Old Technology Recycled?

As you might imagine, there is no single procedure for recycling e-waste… there’s simply too many different variables to consider in terms of the materials used and how they have been incorporated into the device in question. Despite this, there is a somewhat uniform process that each of these procedures will follow.

Collection and Transportation

After the electronics to be recycled are gathered in an established place, these materials are brought to the recycling facilities that will process it.

Disassembly and Dispensing

The collected electronics are then shredded—in a very literal sense, broken down to pieces small enough to be sorted by hand, unless the nature of the product means it shouldn’t or can’t be broken down—and sorted out by type.

Dusting, Magnetic Separation, and Water Separation

Next, the shreds are spread out and broken down even more, with all dust produced drawn out and safely discarded. Once this is accomplished, magnets are used to pull out the metallic elements from the rest of the waste along with other methods, with water separation used to pull glass and plastics away from one another.

Purification

Finally, any leftover metals are removed from the plastic wastes to ensure that the waste stream remains as pure as possible.

Preparation and Resale

Finally, all the sorted materials are processed back to a more raw state to be reused in the production of new products.

Before You Recycle Your Old Technology

Before you hand off your older computers, laptops, and mobile devices over to be recycled, donated, or any other track where it leaves your possession, you’ll want to make sure that they are properly wiped of any data. This doesn’t just mean deleting files or reinstalling Windows – it needs to be done so thoroughly that there is no chance your sensitive information can get accessed. Old drives can not only contain files, but your web history, passwords, and plenty of other personal information can be pulled, sometimes even if the drive has already been formatted. You’ll want a professional to handle this for you if you aren’t 100 percent positive how to handle it correctly.

Fortunately, we can help! Give us a call at (516) 536-5006 before you get rid of your old technology.

Will Google Revolutionize Online Privacy?

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Your online privacy matters, even if you don’t think you have anything to hide. Over the last few years, this has become more and more evident as we watch tech giants profit off of understanding the people who use their services. Facebook, Amazon, and Google are among them. Google in particular has made some recent policy changes that are worth understanding.

Google isn’t a Search Engine, They are an Ad Platform

We all know and use Google as a search engine every single day. A majority of us use their Android smartphones, surf the web with the Chrome browser, use their Gmail email service, watch television through a Google Chromecast, and a whole lot more. Fundamentally, however, Google makes their money by serving relevant ads to people who do Google searches.

Whenever you are on the Internet, you are being watched. Not by human beings necessarily, but by the constantly learning and changing algorithms that power Google and many other similar entities.

It’s how services like Google can get so good at giving you the answers you are looking for. For example, if you search for “chinese takeout near me” Google will give you results based on your location. It collates those results based on reviews and tons of other metrics to try to give you the best possible experience.

Google custom tailors all of its search results for you like that. Gather a few of your colleagues and have them search for hot-button issues and compare results. Google is more likely to deliver content that it thinks is relevant to you and your search behavior. Some of that content might be ads that individuals and companies purchase and pay money for, hence how Google has become such an affluent global enterprise.

What’s New for Google Involving Your Online Privacy

Google plans on dropping some of the methods it uses to track an individual’s online behavior across the web. This is actually pretty surprising, considering that they built their entire business around that sort of thing. For the record, Google has been, for the most part, pretty trustworthy about how they use this type of data, especially compared with how some other entities (we’re looking at you, Facebook) have done some pretty shady stuff with this wealth of information.

Google isn’t eliminating their data-gathering altogether, but they are shifting away from using cookies. Cookies are tiny files that your web browser stores that track your online activity. They are meant to be helpful, mostly. They make it so your browser can remember where you are logged in, they help your website track the number of hits it receives, and a lot more. Most cookies are pretty benign, and often they make your online experience better.

Instead of using cookies, Google is going to start watching trends amongst groups of similar users, as opposed to building individual profiles of each individual user. This builds a sort of “privacy sandbox” that lets a user be a little more anonymous, but should still deliver a good experience overall online. It sounds good on paper, but there has been some scrutiny.

For instance, if a user signs into a website with their Google account, that information is still passed over, and the entity that controls the website (or their partners) can glean any information about your time on that site. The UK, which is often first in line to question privacy issues online, are currently investigating these new tools to find any anticompetitive features.

It’s probably a good step in the right direction for Google, as the world becomes increasingly conscious about how an individual’s data is used, and how other entities can use this information for their advantage.

In general, we have faith that Google has the best intentions, but it’s still up to each of us as people to be careful about what we do and post online. It’s important to stay safe and vigilant, and to take the time to understand what online entities can learn about you.

What are your thoughts? Do you like how convenient websites and search engines can be when they know who you are, or would you rather give up that convenience for more online privacy? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to contact us if you have any questions!

FCC Speed Test App to Help Fix Internet Inequality

Communication technology for internet business. Global world network and telecommunication on earth cryptocurrency and blockchain and IoT. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

With the transition of broadband Internet from a helpful convenience to a prescient need for modern life and business, it is staggering to consider that access to this resource is not equally distributed. While the U.S. Federal Communications Commission intends to change this, they need data to help them gauge the true scope of the problem. To do so, the FCC is pulling out an application that they first released years ago: FCC Speed Test.

How Important is Broadband Accessibility?

To answer this question, all that is needed is a little reflection. Take a few moments to look at your own online activities—how much of your life is now primarily handled online, through the Internet? Shopping online, keeping in touch with friends and relatives, or (most pertinently to our considerations) working remotely?

The lack of consistent broadband access makes these activities considerably more difficult for many people and businesses, if not eliminating them as options altogether. Therefore, the FCC is rallying behind the FCC Speed Test app they launched in 2013 and pushing for people to install it on their mobile devices.

FCC Speed Test

With enough people downloading and enabling the application, the FCC will be able to better keep track of the areas where Internet service quality is lacking. This will in turn enable funds to be most effectively allocated to where they are most needed.

FCC Speed Test evaluates the upload and download speeds, along with the latency, of your mobile device via a Wi-Fi network or cellular connection. Kicking in once every 24 hours, these tests can be scheduled to meet your itinerary and how much data these evaluations will use.

In addition, the app helps to test connectivity speeds, plotting them out by time and geographic location. In exchange, the app collects some data (like location, IP address, device type, operating system, and ISP) but refrains from collecting any personally identifiable data.

You can also report any lacking speeds to the FCC through the app, adding to the data they collect.

Available for either iOS or Android, this application can be downloaded now. Check out the FCC’s official FAQ page to find out more about it.

With any luck, these kinds of actions will help bring more equitable Internet access to more people, businesses, and organizations. While we wait, we will continue to deliver whatever IT services we can to companies. Give us a call at (516) 536-5006 to find out what we could do for you.