It's buyer beware when shopping for electronics in Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei district.
My first blog from my China trip was about a new business model that's emerging in electronics based on crowd funding and agile manufacturing in Shenzhen. During my meeting at Seeed Studio, I asked the founder Eric Pan about his supply chain and where he purchases components. As I predicted, the top two sources for parts are DigiKey and Mouser, no surprise there, but his third source was, as he calls it, the "market"--meaning the legendary Huaqiangbei district in Shenzhen. Even Seeed, which is based in Shenzhen and has a dedicated supply chain team, is not immune from shortages and counterfeits. Eric told me that recently they were victim to counterfeit substandard components purchased at Huaqiangbei, which begs the question "why would the supplier knowingly do this?" The supplier is not going to get any further business from Seeed and has damaged whatever reputation it had. The answer is complex and ranges from the complete lack of trust in China to the extremely short-term thinking many companies exhibit. I will look at the trust crisis in depth my next China blog. Clearly I had to see Huaqiangbei, so I made plans to go there the next day with Mike Zhang, an analyst with from EETimes China.
Huaqiangbei is more than what westerners may think of as a market. It's more of a district or neighborhood consisting of multistory buildings packed tight with tiny stalls and in early June, it's hot! Each building has a focus, so there are buildings for video, mobile phones, computers, and of course, components. Entering one of the components buildings was complete sensory overload, the heat, noise and sheer number of people inside is overwhelming.
Atmel in-house distribution, Huaqiangbei. (Photo: David Blaza)
This reminds me of Akihabara (Tokyo) in the early 1980s - I remember picking up a blue LED (8V drop?) - no one in the US had ever seen anything like it. Great article, going to have to add this to my "bucket list." I've dealt with Seeed Studios, and talked with them at Maker Faire in 2011 - good group of guys!
I was an expat working in SZ (Yantian) and used to go to this place with my team to get parts for prototypes/production. We called it Sai 4 ge 1 in Chinese. We setup a factory for an American company in Yantian. First time I have seen photos of this place outside of China. By the way, in Southern China most of the major cities have some type of place like this - smaller scale - where you can get just about anything electronic. What is strange is that this place you mention has all kinds of cool parts that I have never seen in the USA. For example, the strange little battery connectors for hand held stuff, housings for remotes and key fobs, and other stuff all at great prices.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.