Through the day with 1000 chips

We don’t see them, but they are omnipresent. It’s hard to imagine our high-performance, networked devices without them, making safe navigation through road traffic, smartphones, smart homes and much more possible in the first place.

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We don’t see them, but they are omnipresent. It is impossible to imagine our high-performance, networked devices without them, making safe navigation through road traffic, smartphones, smart homes and much more possible in the first place.
But microchips are also in less complex devices. Where exactly, has Stefan Schubert, a developer of integrated circuits, once looked for us and the result is amazing. In his quite normal day are already today over 1000 microchips.

05:00 am

Two hours before I wake up, my heat pump has come on. It is controlled by an atomic clock. Some hundreds of chips are built into this atomic clock – which, by the way, is located in Braunschweig – at least, so that this can always send the absolutely exact time to the most diverse receivers.
Two chips, in the outside sensor of my heat pump measure the outside temperature at the house for the correct heating curve. 100 different chips are installed in the heat pump itself. These include the central control unit and the individual controls of the solar module and water heating, as well as the chips in the two circulating pumps.
Five chips each in a smoke detector, have done their monitoring duty in my house.


A chip, is what wakes me up from sleep in the morning. It’s in my alarm clock. It, too, receives the signal from the atomic clock.

07:10 am

I can’t do without light at this time of day in the winter. A chip in the LED lighting provides a dimmed feel-good light. Another chip is in the power supply for the LEDs.
I already have 30 chips on my arm when I put on my smartwatch, so that the first step of the day is already counted, I see incoming e-mails and messages immediately and – of course – can also read the time.


Two chips are stuck in my electric toothbrush. 200 chips in the TV, which presents me with news from the breakfast TV. Hundreds of chips on the transmitter side in the studio and 6 chips on the transmission line, in the Astra satellite – chips, LNB receiver on the SAT dish.


My home office begins.  50 chips run my laptop with monitor here. One chip is in my mouse.
Another chip in the keyboard.
About 100 chips provide in a gray junction box on the side of the road that I am connected to the Internet. Then it goes via routers and switches into unknown depths of the Internet, all the way to our company – and that for the whole working day. 12:00

Five chips in my microwave help heat up the leftovers from the weekend’s dinner.
Outside, it’s reasonably bright – for winter conditions. The photovoltaic system on the roof is currently generating just under 1 kilowatt per hour. Ca. 30 chips are installed in the inverter, in addition to the power electronics, which also use semiconductors.
I decide to recharge the e-car in an environmentally friendly way. It is already connected to the wallbox.
About 15 chips plus power electronics, contains the wallbox. When charging, my smartphone helps again. A software connects the smartphone via the Internet to a server farm – somewhere. From there, it goes via LTE – numerous chips in the signal chain, to the car in front of the door. I click “Start Charging” and power flows from the solar cells to the car batteries. These have a complex charging control consisting of – chips.


I’m on my way to an out-of-office appointment. I decide to preheat the car via my smartphone and corresponding infrastructure. On this way again numerous chips do their service.
I develop integrated circuits professionally. Over my home office days I had thereby today with six different chips to do, which are with us in the team in different stages of development.
After a last video conversation with my colleagues, I leave the house.
A chip in the remote control – and I open the car already from the door. The interior is pleasantly warm when I drive off.
A chip also assists in opening the sliding gate by remote control before I leave the lot. Approximately ten chips are installed in the gate column.
In the car, other chips now do their work than during the charging process. The display informs about the most important functions, the Navi shows the way – my GPS connection with 5 satellites is displayed. The car is permanently connected via LTE to an emergency assistance service, which can be reached at the touch of a button if necessary.
Hundreds of chips in the signal chain make this possible.
The DC voltage from the batteries must be converted to AC, varying in frequency.
Various chips in the signal chain control this when stepping on the “gas” pedal. A tiny change in angle on the “gas” pedal (sensor chip) already has a major impact on the acceleration of the 2-ton vehicle.
Further chips control the LED headlights. Chip-coupled sensors enable the reaction to oncoming vehicles by partial de-/activation of the front headlights. When the “gas” pedal is released, the braking action of the engine kicks in, which now becomes a generator where the negative acceleration energy of the vehicle’s mass recharges the batteries. Many -zig chips are involved in this. At the same time, the 2 LED brake lights light up even without the brake pedal being pressed. In total, there are up to 1,300 chips in my vehicle alone.


I have an appointment with the family doctor. The nurse at the front desk uses a reader to read my patient information on the health insurance card. In the card is a chip obstructed. In the reader there are already five chips. A digital scale measures my body weight, here is also a chip integrated. When I later stand in the pharmacy and pay with my EC card – one chip – also here 5 chips in the reader ensure a smooth transfer between card and device or payment service provider.


Back home, I use the kettle –  one chip – to make myself some tea. In the meantime, the thermostats in the apartment have also switched the heating in the living room to the heating circuit and switched off the one in the study long ago. 5 chips stuck for it in each wall thermostat.
Since it is dark outside, the shutters were automatically lowered with the help of timers on the wall. Each clock contains four chips.


Finally, I’m lying on the sofa. It’s time for some relaxation – time for me. I have my Ear-Buds in my ear, listening to music from my Fritz- Box in the function as NAS server.
40 chips support to transfer via WLAN the data from the USB stick of the Fritz Box to my smart phone. 50 chips are in this. Currently, it decodes the data stream and gives it digitally to a Bluetooth transceiver, which is also in the smart phone. This sends the data stream to the Ear Buds.
20 chips are built into these Ear Buds. They convert the data stream into an analog signal, amplify it until vibrations are created that my ear can process.
More than 100 chips of different manufacturers, type and technology needs the music from the USB stick in the Fritz Box to my ear. Also hundreds of chips have needed the creators of the music –  lined up in signal processing chains – to create, process, produce and distribute the music.


As I lie in bed, I read a bit more on the “Tolino”. There are about ten chips in it. The digital book comes from the online library. As I put it aside, I ask myself how many semiconductor chips have accompanied me throughout the day … it was probably well over 1000 and I have neither washed the laundry in an energy-saving way because it was pre-programmed, nor had the house monitored smartly, nor had the robot vacuum cleaner in operation.
If I were to think about this again in 10 years, billions of IoT devices – sensors in the Internet of Things – would be networked together by then. At least one edge AI chip will be working in every node. This is a chip with the ability to analyze sensor data at the sensor itself via algorithms and communicate the results. In this way, information is already extracted from large volumes of data at the point of extraction by artificial intelligence and does not burden the world’s data centers, which continue to grow anyway.
A thought that accompanies me as I finally fall gently asleep….
Yours, Stefan Schubert

This article was first published as part of our NEXT magazine “In Focus: Microelectronics”. To the complete issue of the magazine.
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Photo: CANVA

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