We all will remember March 2020 as the month when our lives came to a halt. From one day to the next, factories and offices were closed, as were schools, shops, museums, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and gyms, to name but a few. Empty city streets, road traffic inexistent, wild animals venturing to city centres devoid of people, silence even. Millions of people around the world saw their horizon shrink to the walls of their houses or apartments. The home became the central hub from where we worked, went to school, worked out, played, entertained, while being socially cut off.
As Covid-19 was spreading, our lives changed in a matter of days. As did our use of technology. People had no choice but to adapt as fast as possible to this new situation. Remote working, distance learning, online shopping, remote entertainment, they all existed before the pandemic, but the lockdowns gave it a totally new dimension.
The learning curve was so fast that we started to use videoconference applications for virtual social gatherings, for concerts – we even had a chance to see the Rolling Stones and other stars playing music from their own homes during a benefit to raise money for the World Health Organization – dance lessons and much, much more. Suddenly, creativity knew no bounds. And the audience was global.
Will this have an impact on our lives when they get back to “normal”? Possibly, probably…
State-of-the-art technologies have certainly played and continue to play a major role in the health sector. Wearable smart devices help track vital signs, chatbots can make initial diagnoses based on symptoms identified by patients, telemedicine means that patients can talk to their physicians remotely. Robots were used in hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients (see article Robots in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19). 3D printers were on the frontline too, producing personal protective equipment, such as face shields, for doctors and nurses, or even supplying ventilators for intensive care units.
Many shops that stayed open during lockdown put up signs saying they preferred contactless payment to avoid spreading the virus and keep business flowing.
While we were physically isolated from one another, connections were never broken. Technology was the lifeline that kept us together, made us more resilient in the face of a major crisis.
We have been relying on electronics for years, and in these critical times, it hasn’t let us down. But technology wouldn’t be what it is today without electronic components. We don’t see them, we don’t necessarily know what they look like, but they are essential to any smart piece of electronic equipment, from the simplest to the most sophisticated.
Active components rely on a source of energy (DC) and inject power into a circuit. In recent years, technological advances have greatly enhanced their use in an ever-growing number of applications. They include, among others, semiconductor and display devices. Semiconductors comprise diodes, transistors, integrated circuits and optoelectronic components.
Passive components are electrical components that do not generate power, but instead dissipate, store, and/or release it. Among them are capacitors, resistors and inductors. In most circuits, they are connected to active elements, typically semiconductor devices.
Electromechanical components, such as connectors, relays, fuses, switches, microphones, or wires and cables, use an electrical current to create a magnetic field which causes a physical movement.
One type of electronic component in particular plays a major role today: sensors. These can be active or passive. Active sensors require an external source of power to operate while passive sensors simply detect and respond to some type of input from the physical environment. They come in many shapes and sizes: vision, flow, fibre optic, gas, motion, image, colour, light, pressure, infrared, photoelectric and so on.
Sensors and sensor systems are a key underpinning technology for a wide range of applications. They enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace through their use in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detection and surveillance equipment. They play a major role in medical devices, transportation, entertainment equipment and everyday consumer products.
Electronic components may come in many shapes and sizes but they have commonalities. They need to be accurate, reliable and of high quality. Defective components can have serious consequences for humans and their environment. They also have to meet the requirements of national or regional regulations concerning hazardous substances.
Manufacturers and suppliers of all types of electronic components throughout the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.
As the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards.
In addition, there are a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers.
IECQ provides manufacturers with independent verification that IEC International Standards and other specifications were met by suppliers who hold an IECQ certification.
IECQ contribution to a safer and more reliable world can only increase with the development of new technologies and state-of-the-art electronic devices.
More information on IECQ: https://www.iecq.org