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Will the oximeter, which is no longer “short of core”, be the beginning of fierce competition for domestic alternatives?

Recently, the “white lung” phenomenon caused by the new crown disease has attracted more and more attention, driving the oximeter to become a hot commodity. Due to the surge in short-term demand, the price of portable finger-clip oximeters has soared. On the e-commerce side, many oximeters that usually sell for only a few tens of dollars have suddenly increased in price to 299 or 399, which is basically double the price. It is even more unreasonable to see high prices of thousands of yuan in some retail pharmacies.

But the cost of the oximeter itself is not high, especially the chip, which is a mature solution, and the cost is very controllable.

A typical oximeter chip solution architecture

Judging from the typical oximeter solution above, the core is undoubtedly the MCU, which integrates ADC and DAC to complete the conversion between digital and analog signals. The periphery is analog circuits such as amplifiers and band-pass filters, which are used to transmit processed signals to the MCU. In addition to these computing circuits, two LEDs responsible for shining red and infrared light to the fingertip are also essential. By calculating the difference between the absorption of these two kinds of light by reduced hemoglobin and oxygenated hemoglobin, the blood oxygen saturation value can be calculated.

The product structure of the oximeter itself is simple, and the market demand since the epidemic has been huge. Various solutions at home and abroad have long been numerous, such as ST’s STM32, TI’s MSP430, and Renesas, plus domestic GigaDevice, Neusoft Many other manufacturers have solutions suitable for oximeters. Due to the simple structure and mature scheme, it is not difficult to increase the production of oximeters in the short term.

In this round of “consumption winter”, the public has lost interest in products such as large electrical appliances, mobile phones and computers, but the concern for health will promote the popularization of home medical equipment such as oximeters and blood pressure monitors. For these small devices, the domestic solutions are perfect enough, and the degree of substitution is also high. With so many chip companies competing for the same outlet, the intensity of competition can be imagined.

Oximeters that are no longer “core missing”, domestic solutions compete here

Looking back at the beginning of 2020, the outbreak of the epidemic led to an outbreak of medical needs such as ventilators, oxygen machines, infrared thermometers, and forehead thermometers. At that time, the industrial chain and logistics were at a standstill. It was not easy to arouse the production capacity of these equipment due to the standstill of international logistics. , At that time, materials from TI, ADI and other major international manufacturers generally began to be out of stock and price increases, and the subsequent wave of “core shortage tide” basically started here.

But time has changed, and in 2023, the shortage of general-purpose materials has basically disappeared. At least the MCU used in the oximeter, whether it is ST, TI or domestic materials, is no longer a problem. Therefore, The reason why the oximeter is out of stock is mainly due to the short-term surge in demand, which has caused some intermediate links to raise prices. As far as the cost of the chip is concerned, it has long been low and controllable. Especially in recent years, domestic solutions continue to emerge, and the cost of chips for home medical equipment such as oximeters is still falling.

Of course, in the process of replacing home medical equipment with domestic solutions, there will be no less competition. A series of competitiveness, including solution integration, supply capacity, and technical support capabilities, will determine whether chip manufacturers can win the favor of terminal manufacturers. Consumer electronics is in a downturn, and the semiconductor industry is also in a period of adjustment. How to survive until the “cold air” dissipates will undoubtedly have to fight for the internal strength of chip companies. This year, the significance of chip companies to do a good job in products and services, and to keep customers and shares is greater than the pursuit of profits.

Competition among distributors will also intensify

As far as the chip industry is concerned, whenever the structure of the original factory changes, the distribution field will also change accordingly. However, the rise of domestic substitution will not replace or change the important role of distributors in connecting original manufacturers and terminals. Emerging local chip companies need distributors more to carry out sales and customer docking work. In contrast, distributors are not passive to chip manufacturers, but can actively choose companies with strong competitiveness to form agency relationships. And those enterprises with low supply capacity and uncompetitive products will inevitably withdraw from the market competition without the support of distribution channels.

For distributors who have accumulated a wide customer base in the early stage of operating foreign chips, it is obviously more advantageous to cut into domestic materials. In the process of promoting domestic chips to the downstream, higher requirements will be placed on the comprehensive service capabilities of distributors. The competition between distributors in the future will focus on resources and technology. Under the tone of lower consumption and stock game, the competition in the distribution industry will also become more intense.