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From sand to smartphone: here’s how a microchip is made
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The raw beginning

Its semiconducting properties make silicon the ideal raw material for powering microchips. It’s made from silica—a mineral that can be extracted from sand using standard mining techniques. It is then converted to silicon by removing the oxygen.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can help mining companies identify and quantify silica sand deposits by analyzing silica and exploring data across sites and regions.


Supplying silica around the world

Silica is mined and produced by industrial mining companies across the world. The top producers of silicon are China, Russia, Norway, and the US. Once the sand is purified and processed, the silicon is transported via rail, truck, or ship to semiconductor fabrication plants which manufacture silicon chips.

Mining companies are using sensor-based field devices—like AT&T Asset Management Solutions—to monitor extraction equipment, and deliver real-time data to guide decision-making.


In the fab

Microchips are produced by semiconductor manufacturers in technically advanced and immaculately clean fabrication plants, known as fabs. Here silicon is created, melted, and cooled into a solid cylinder called an ingot, which is sliced into discs called wafers. Manufacturers create integrated circuits on the wafer, which is diced into individual microchips.

Microchip manufacturers are leveraging IoT to improve efficiencies by monitoring production equipment, performing daily maintenance, analyzing microchip-testing data, and evaluating inventories.



Once packaged, microchips are shipped to distribution centers that store the products and manage inventory until purchased by a reseller or retailer. Most chip manufacturers work with one or more distributors to reach customers around the world.

Distributors employ RFID tags to track assets with precision and gain visibility into potentially damaging environmental conditions like humidity, motion, and extreme temperature. Learn how AT&T Asset Management Solutions deploys maintenance-free devices for long-term remote use, which can gather vital data on cargo conditions like temperature and light exposure.


Microchips hit retail shelves

Chances are you won’t see stand-alone microchips in retail stores. Instead they are the brains behind products like smartphones, wearable fitness devices, home security systems, appliances, and GPS navigators, to name a few.

Retailers are leveraging IoT technologies like beacons, geo-location, and RFID tagging to boost sales, better track inventory, and improve customer relationships.

IoT Technology is transforming supply chains

In order to get the microchips that power our phones and other vital appliances, we need supply chains that are efficient, smooth, and secure. The Internet of Things holds an unprecedented potential to transform supply chains. Businesses are beginning to understand this: In a recent survey of supply chain professionals (most at the executive level), 55% of respondents believe the IoT will create competitive advantages or disruption.

The data transmitted by IoT technologies can help businesses better manage uncertainty in asset tracking and improve operational efficiencies. Technology like AT&T Fleet Management Solutions can streamline logistics by monitoring assets in transit, automating delivery schedules, and improving fuel costs. Similarly, AT&T Asset Management Solutions for containers, trailers, and storage tanks can precisely track environmental conditions like humidity, temperature, and motion.

With opportunities come challenges, however. The IoT’s sprawling footprint requires businesses to integrate data from far-flung connected assets and make that data actionable. In doing so, they must make sure that equipment and data are secure. Protecting connected business requires integrated security that is embedded in endpoint devices, networks, and applications—and integrated with a threat-management solution that identifies and manages threats in real time.

Discover how AT&T Internet of Things solutions are helping to improve global supply chains by making them more secure and efficient.

This article was produced on behalf of AT&T Business by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.


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