Macro photo / Shutterstock
The 1950s saw the invention of the semiconductor chip, and since then it has been at the heart of the computer technology revolution. The well-known expressions of "Silicon Valley" and the "silicon economy” refer to the use of silicon in the semiconductor chips and transistors that are the building blocks of almost every kind of modern computerized technology. From smartphones to automobiles, semiconductor chips are key to their functioning, making them the foundation of today’s digital economy.
While they’ve already caused a great shift in the technological industry, their full potential is still yet to be fully realized. They’re now aiding another technological transition, and that is enabling the shift to connected technologies - the Internet of Things. The advent of smart technology and connected devices has only been made possible through the use of semiconductor chips. Experts predict that by 2025 there will be over 75 billion devices connected to the IoT, and this trajectory is predicted to continue for years to come.
This technology has facilitated the establishment of the smart building market, where semiconductors are playing a key role in supporting the automation of heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning, and other systems in a building through a central management system. Growth in the smart building sector is estimated at 34% annually from 2016 through 2021, resulting in a total market value of $25 billion by 2021.
Semiconductors are facilitating growth in this industry. They are being used to make automation of lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning possible.
There have been recent innovations in the use of semiconductor chips to automate lighting in smart buildings. Current smart buildings can automatically control lighting by using lighting systems that have semiconductor chips implanted within the luminaries, allowing sensors to draw on the same energy source that the lights rely on. These sensors can detect how much light is required in real-time, and feed this back to the management system.
A recent development has innovated a way to mount sensors outside of the lights and power them through other sources of energy, such as solar and kinetic. These outside sensors with semiconductor chips feedback information via a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transceiver to control light settings. In these ways, semiconductor chips give smart buildings a way to automatically manage their lighting systems.
Smart thermostats rely on semiconductor sensors in order to measure temperatures and activate/deactivate heating systems as necessary. These systems are more efficient than traditional thermostat systems which wasted energy and money as they required someone to change the desired temperature manually.
The systems were not intuitive in the way that smart thermostats are. Smart thermostats have far greater capabilities than previous ones did. They rely on their semiconductor chips as well as a myriad of other enabling technologies to generate usage reports to recommend how to reduce energy consumption. They can integrate data from sensors in various rooms to manipulate heating on a room-by-room basis, which means that factors such as the heat generated from a kitchen stove would be taken into consideration and additional cooling would be activated.
Semiconductors are incorporated into occupancy detection sensors which can feedback the number of people present in a space in real-time. This information is then used to trigger ventilation systems automatically when the occupancy reaches a certain level. This makes ventilation systems work more efficiently, reducing wasted energy and also improving the comfort of building occupants.
It is predicted that semiconductors will be increasingly relied upon as the smart building market continues to grow and that this will mainly be through their use in smart sensors to control lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning and other factors.
References and Further Reading