Forecast: Cloudy, but with silver linings 1

Anyone who’s been to an optometrist will recognize the test – if not its name, retinoscopy – in which the practitioner places different lenses before one’s eyes, to arrive at and simulate a winning prescription. It’s an apt analogy, I think, for viewing our world during these extraordinarily tumultuous and troubled times.

Viewed through a public health lens, the world is, at present, a fairly frightful place thanks to the Coronavirus. Snap on the weather lens? We see an equally jarring landscape, as successive hurricanes ravage our southern coast, wildfires return to the West Coast, and tornadoes rip through the Midwest. Political lens? Whatever your leaning, its a pretty unsettling picture, rife with division, vitriol, and both civic and social unrest. Economic lens? Equally bleak, with business closures, unemployment, and our nation’s GDP all at historically low-water marks.

It’s enough to make many folks squeeze their eyes shut, like kids recoiling from the scariest parts of a horror movie.

As tempting as it may be to put blinders on — and at the risk of being a Pollyanna — there is one lens we as entrepreneurs, participants in the tech industry, and job-creators must consciously don if we’re to remain open, competitive, and emerge from these troublesome times: The lens of optimism.

Seen through this lens, there are silver linings on some of the clouds that abound. Here are just a few positives for nimble and enterprising EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services) companies, PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly) manufacturers.

COVID-19 has clearly and dramatically demonstrated the need for:

  1. higher and more widely distributed quantities of ever more advanced medical technology, including but not limited to ventilators, handheld devices thermometers, patient isolation systems, and a wide array of lab/testing equipment.

  2. devices and equipment that empower the skyrocketing remote workforce, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, and a host of Internet of Things (IOT)-ready home office tech like printers, postage machines, speakers, videoconference aids, and even ‘smart’ furniture.

  3. ever-smarter and more readily available personal-hygiene technology like sanitizer dispensers, touch-free appliances and restroom fixtures, and next-generation sanitization solutions, like electrostatic and UV-based disinfection systems.

  4. stationary and mobile technology to aid in real-time modeling and tracking of public health threats like viruses, bacteria, and other contagions.

  5. technologies that support and enable telehealth services and solutions eagerly being deployed by individual physicians, multi-office practices, hospitals, and both private and municipal health systems.

  6. all-weather POS and customer-communication systems, critical to operating in today’s (and probably future) drive-thru and curbside operations.

Not to mention the macro-level observations and learnings technologists can take from these admittedly disruptive, pandemic times. Among them:

  • The U.S. tech industry was probably overzealous in off-shore sourcing many of its core building blocks, like microelectronics and PCBAs. Takeaway for tech companies: It’s high time to bring sizeable portions of that business and innovation back to the Western hemisphere, to achieve more resilient and local partner/suppliers.

  • If tech companies had any doubt about the risks associated with relying on sole-source suppliers, the pandemic likely made the downsides of that practice crystal clear. Takeaway for tech companies: Multisource, multisource, multisource!

  • The appetite for the long overdue huge, federally funded infrastructure program akin to the WPA-era or Eisenhower years has only grown stronger and, arguably, more necessary during the pandemic if we’re to foster a strong recovery. Takeaway for tech companies: It may be a good idea to look hard at developing technology likely to be deployed in our nation’s next-gen infrastructure (i.e. smart highways, high-speed rail, airports, unmanned transportation, etc.)

  • And despite the dips and erratic behavior one would expect of the major stock indices in the face of the pandemic, the NASDAQ and S&P appear to be continuing their decades-long upward trending. Takeaway for tech companies: Investors and consumers remain cautiously confident in our industries’ ability to innovate, evolve, and provide products and services that enhance and expand our quality of life, both domestically and worldwide.

Point is, there are many silver linings out there. We just need to look for them. Let’s collaborate to realize these opportunities!

–  Shantanu R. Gupta,
CEO — Cascade Systems Technology