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Thin cells against theft - How thin cell batteries improve asset tracking 

15 May 2018 05:00:00 Categories: news

Jimpa, an Australian dog, travelled 2,000 miles to make his way home after losing his owner while working at a farm. We may wish that our lost possessions had an inbuilt tracker to return themselves to home, but with the development in asset tracking technologies, tracking of valuable items is improving. Here, J.D. DiGiacomandrea, applications manager at global battery manufacturer Ultralife Corporation, looks at how the development of thin cell battery technology has helped companies and consumers alike to keep a better track on their precious items.

Anyone who has worked on a construction site will tell you that deliveries are constantly coming and going, making it an ideal spot for thieves to operate. Materials such as metals can reach high values on the black market, so the risk of theft is ever present.

In the US, the National Equipment Register (NER) estimates that the value of construction equipment stolen every year is between $300 million and $1 billion. Not only does this equipment have to be replaced, but there are additional costs with renting replacement equipment, delays and increased insurance premiums.

There is therefore a strong demand for asset tracking on construction sites, which must have a reliable and long-lasting power source to maintain accurate tracking. Tracking devices should also be as small as possible, as if the device is easily spotted on the valuable item, the thief may simply remove it.

Using a thin cell battery allows the valuable materials in the construction yard to have a discreet tracker that can monitor where the materials are, meaning they can be tracked in the case of theft and the culprit can be identified.


Naturally, cash and valuables in transit (CVIT) are a key target for thieves. There are numerous deterrents, including SmartWater security dye systems or exploding glue, but tracking devices in cases are commonly used to help the police track down stolen items.

In this situation, the smaller the tracker, the less noticeable it is to thieves. This means that the criminals are less likely to simply rip out the tracker immediately, reducing the likelihood of the authorities finding the items.

Not only is the size of the thin cell advantageous in this situation, the battery is designed with optimized current collectors to ensure it can deliver high bursts of energy. This is particularly useful for radio frequency (RF) transmitters, as used in tracking devices.

Consumer tracking devices

Tracking devices are not only used for valuable business items but are increasingly used by consumers to keep track of items. Not only can they be used for items of monetary value such as mobile phones, they can also be used for items with a sentimental value such as a child’s teddy. 

One leading brand uses Ultralife’s Thin Cell batteries in its trackers due to the reliability and size of the batteries. The trackers use Bluetooth technology to feed a signal back to the app to alert the user of the item’s location.

All the components inside the battery must be small to ensure that they can be attached to small items such as keys, without adding additional bulk. They must also be long lasting, as the company guarantees that the tracker has a lifespan of a year, without having to replace the battery.

With the rise of connected devices in the industry, business and consumer sectors, tracking devices are increasingly playing a role. The development of thinner, yet still energy dense, battery technologies such as Ultralife’s Thin Cell batteries helps tracking devices to be more discreet and used in even more applications in the years to come. Your possessions might not find their own way back like Jimpa did, but you’ll be able to find your way back to them.

Happy 70th Birthday to the transistor 

09 January 2018 06:54:00 Categories: Comment news

Few people outside of the electronics industry know this but the fact remains – the transistor has transformed the world that we live in and today, in the internet age, it is just as important.

In 1957 three engineers named John Bardeen, Walter Houser Brattain, and William Bradford Shockley working for Bell Labs in New Jersey, USA, invented the first transistor. Together, they ushered in the silicon age.

Before the transistor, engineers relied on vacuum tubes, which were enormous, slow to respond and burnt out. The transistor represented a major shift in technology and led to the integrated circuit. The first of these contained just four transistors at 125 microns in size but since those early days, the technology has improved so much that the number of transistors in a product has grown exponentially. Today, transistors are built on processes down to as small as 7nm—or 10 billionths of a metre. 10 million of them fit on a pinhead and the typical smartphone boasts around 85 billion of them.

It is no exaggeration to say the transistor is the foundation of our modern world. It has had an enormous impact in every sphere of our lives, influencing medicine, politics, science, and via the transistor radio, even helped transform popular culture.

The first available product to use a transistor was the hearing aid. Technology advancements during World War II meant that by the late 1940s hearing aids with circuit boards and button-sized batteries were possible, enabling the batteries, amplifier and microphone to combine into one portable unit that could fit in a pocket. But, the move to transistor-based hearing aids meant they were even smaller and needed far less battery power. They could be worn either inside or behind the ear, making them practical. In 1953 over 200,000 transistor hearing aids were sold, eclipsing the sale of vacuum tube hearing aids.

By the 1960s Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel observed in a 1965 magazine article that the number of components that couple be placed on an integrated circuit could double every year, later revising this in 1975 to every two years. This forecast proved accurate and rate held steady until 2012. 

No technology has leant as heavily on this astonishing growth in transistor count as the GPU. The first Graphics Processing Unit or GPU in 1999, integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping, and rendering engines into a single-chip processor and contained 22 million transistors.  

Generally, the smaller the transistors, the less power is required, which helps improve power efficiency and as chips shrink in size, it has a positive impact on form factor, usability, power consumption and performance. This is of critical importance for mobile SoCs where power budgets are tiny.

A cutting-edge smartphone containing Imagination’s PowerVR GPU IP today contains around 100 billion transistors; were this made out of individual transistors it would be 60 football pitches in size and cost US$150 billion.

For Imagination Technologies, the on-going development of the transistor has enabled us to innovate, creating low-power, high-efficiency designs to help our customers create ever better SoCs for all parts of the market, from mobile to TV, to IoT, and now for AI.

Architectural innovations are now as important as large transistor counts at increasing performance and maintaining power efficiency. Thanks to its innovative designs, Imagination is well placed to continue to build on the legacy of the amazing breakthrough by Bell Labs 70 years ago.

Imagination Technologies

Imahara and Mouser interview Mars One CEO, Bas Lansdorp about the technical reality of a human settlement on Mars  

19 May 2015 05:49:00 Categories: news

Mouser Electronics is announcing the live interview with Mars One and Grant Imahara as part of the Innovation Spotlight lineup of four influential leaders in Space Exploration for the Empowering Innovation Together program. Grant explores the reality of a human settlement on Mars with co-founder and CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp.

On the set of Star Trek Continues, Grant continues his discussion on space exploration and space travel by talking to a true visionary whose passion for science and the human mission to Mars led to the formation of his not-for-profit company, Mars One. Helping to make human colonisation on Mars a reality, Lansdorp has built an impressive team of ambassadors and advisers from all over the world, including an astronaut, Nobel Prize laureate and a former NASA chief technologist.

“We are very excited to be able to bring this educational program to the engineering community,” said Mouser President and CEO Glenn Smith. “It is a real honor to have Bas Lansdorp of Mars One participate in our Empowering Innovation Together initiative. We hope that our customers find it inspiring.”

Watch this new Innovation Spotlight interview with Mars One, to hear Lansdorp discuss why the mission is a one-way trip, what technology needs to be developed, and how they are selecting the average person to become a Mars astronaut. The Mars One mission is controversial to some, but it is inspiring a whole new generation of interest in space exploration. Join Mouser and Mars One CEO, Bas Lansdorp for an exclusive Twitter party discussing the colonisation of Mars from 1-2 p.m. (CST) on Tuesday, May 26th, #MouserParty.

“No one is more passionate and enthusiastic about space exploration and colonisation to Mars than Bas Lansdorp,” said Grant Imahara. “He is truly a visionary, and even though some people have questioned the feasibility of the company’s mission, seeing the engagement of the general public proves people are inspired to understand the origins of the solar system, the origins of life and our place in the universe.”

Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together Space Exploration Series is sponsored by Platinum Sponsor Microsemi and Diamond Sponsors Vishay Intertechnology and Phoenix Contact.

adidas miCoach Smart Ball coaches football players to improve their kick using wireless technology 

12 June 2014 10:24:00 Categories: news

Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor has announced that adidas has specified Nordic's nRF8001 Connectivity chip to provide Bluetooth Smart (formerly known as Bluetooth low energy) wireless comms in the world's first intelligent and app-enabled soccer ball - the adidas miCoach Smart Ball.

The soccer ball relays data on how hard it has been struck, offers visual flight trajectories, depicts ball spin, and shows impact points via the adidas miCoach Smart Ball app available for iPhone and iPod touch. This data can then be used to help train players, providing coaching instructions on how to alter kicking technique to, for example, bend free kicks, launch knuckle balls, and generate more shot power.

In operation, a six-axis MEMS accelerometer sensor package suspended in the middle of the Smart Ball continuously measures flight characteristics once a ball is kicked and streams this data via Bluetooth Smart wireless technology using a Nordic nRF8001 to a smartphone or tablet.

A proprietary app specially developed by adidas analyses the data from which key ball parameters such as how hard the ball has been struck, launch angle, spin rate, spin axis, and velocity can be accurately calculated, along with visual flight trajectories and an option to take a video of a kick and replay it frame by frame. This collective information - never before possible to obtain - can be used to help players to improve their game, either alone, with friends, or under the supervision of a team coach.

"In addition, in order to manufacture the Smart Ball to identical regulations employed in all high end match balls [Size 5 regulation weight] we also had to develop our own proprietary wireless induction charging solution to eliminate the need for any kind of external charging socket on the ball," explained Ian Munson, senior electromechanical engineer within the adidas Innovation Team that developed the Smart Ball. "This is used to charge a 160mAhr lithium-ion polymer battery embedded within the ball that powers all of the on-board MEMS, data logging, and Bluetooth Smart wireless electronics."

The ultra low power operating characteristics of the Nordic nRF8001 help the Smart Ball's rechargeable battery to support around 2,000 kicks per week. "This was one of the reasons we selected Nordic Semiconductor wireless technology," continued Munson, "in addition to the fact that adidas has worked with Nordic for many years and found its technical support to be excellent and its chips to be straightforward to design-in and robustly reliable in operation."

"The whole project started from asking ourselves how to make a football better," added Christian DiBenedetto, adidas senior innovation director. "Until now all soccer coaching and skills improvement has had to be done by eye and feel, which has turned it into a kind of art form. Now players will be able to scientifically measure their ball kicking skills and use that to fine tune their performance and compare with each other and the pros. This includes app-based tutorials designed to help master progressively more advanced techniques, and a 'challenge yourself' feature that challenges players to kick the ball within a certain speed, bend around a wall, or try to replicate pro level free kicks, all of which is sharable by social media."

"What really gives me a kick about all of this is how Bluetooth Smart wireless technology allied with the app-based computing power of modern smartphones like the iPhone and portable devices like the iPod touch is helping to enable the development of applications that simply were not possible before," concluded Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor's director of sales and marketing. "This frees companies like adidas to focus their resources on developing applications that the world has never seen before and consumers will love."

The adidas miCoach Smart Ball is available to buy now at, Apple retails stores, and the Apple Online Store ( in the U.S. and Europe for $ / € 299.95.

Apple, Facebook, Google lead focus towards greener Internet, leaving Amazon behind 

11 April 2014 09:10:00 Categories: Comment news

Apple, Facebook and Google are to lead a growing number of technology companies that are working to power the Internet with 100 percent renewable energy, signaling a major shift in the sector over the past two years, according to a new report released today by Greenpeace. Those companies are leaving behind Amazon Web Services, the company which hosts the data for many of the Internet’s most popular services and powers its infrastructure with polluting energy sources that contribute to global warming, the report found.

The report, “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” [1] details the immense power that technology companies have either to drive a renewable energy revolution, or to chain the new digital economy to old, polluting sources of power. The stakes are high: if the Internet were a country, its electricity demand would currently rank sixth, according to the report. Estimates from the industry expect Internet data to triple from 2012 to 2017.

Apple, Facebook and Google are powering our online lives with clean energy, and building a greener offline world for everyone in the process,” said Gary Cook, Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst. “These companies have proven over the past 24 months that wind and solar energy are ready and waiting to power the Internet, and the rest of our economy, with clean electricity,” Cook said.

Greenpeace evaluated the energy choices of 19 leading Internet companies, surveying their electricity supply chains of over 300 data centers. [2] Five of those companies have committed to a goal of powering their operations with 100 % renewable energy.

Apple became the first company to achieve its 100 % renewable energy goal to power its iCloud, leading the companies evaluated with its Clean Energy Index of 100 %. Apple is operating the largest privately owned solar installation in the US at its North Carolina data center.

“Apple’s rapid shift to renewable energy over the past 24 months has made it clear why it’s one of the world’s most innovative and popular companies,” Cook said. “By continuing to buy dirty energy, Amazon Web Services not only can’t seem to keep up with Apple, but is dragging much of the internet down with it.”

Facebook flexed its muscles to push its utility in Iowa, MidAmerican Energy, to power its data center there with wind energy. MidAmerican responded by investing $1.9 billion in wind power generation, placing the world’s largest-ever order of onshore wind turbines in part to meet the social network’s demands.

Google has pioneered the use of power purchase agreements for wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube.

Google, Apple and Facebook all pushed Duke Energy, the largest utility in the US, to offer new renewable energy options for large electricity buyers in North Carolina.

Amazon Web Services, which hosts a large part of the Internet, including popular companies like Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr, AirBnB, Yelp and Vine, currently sources only 15 % of its electricity demand with clean energy. [3] Coal powers 28 % of the company’s cloud, nuclear 27 %, and gas 25 %. [4] Amazon’s growth is fueling the increased use and construction of coal and gas-burning power plants in Virginia, and has jeopardized clean energy growth in Oregon. [5] While companies like Apple, Facebook and eBay have led the broader sector to be more transparent about its energy use, Amazon steadfastly refuses to reveal any details about its energy footprint to its customers or the public.

Twitter also does not share any details about its energy footprint, and has made no efforts to procure cleaner electricity, in stark contrast to its social media rival Facebook.

Fast growing business-to-business companies Rackspace and Salesforce joined Apple, Facebook and Google in 2012 in committing to a goal of powering their operations with 100 % renewable energy.

Rackspace's UK data center runs on 100% renewables as will Salesforce's new UK data center opening in 2014. Next Generation Data runs a large 40MW data center in Newport using 100% renewable energy, and British Telecom, which operates numerous UK data centers has signed a utility contract for 100% renewable energy.

Greenpeace assessed colocation data center companies, which rent out data center space to customers, for the first time in “Clicking Clean,” finding that they use low amounts of renewable energy; most also lacked transparency about their energy footprints.

Greenpeace is calling on all major Internet companies to:

•Make a long-term commitment to become 100% renewably powered.

•Commit to transparency on IT performance and consumption of resources, including the source of electricity, to enable customers, investors, and stakeholders to measure progress toward that goal.

•Develop a strategy for increasing their supply of renewable energy, through a mixture of procurement, investment, and corporate advocacy to both electricity suppliers and government decision-makers.

 [1] Report available at:

[2] For 2012 “How Clean is Your Cloud?” report, see

[3] For a list of many Amazon Web Services customers, see: Tumblr:; Vine:

[4] Greenpeace provided AWS with facility power demand estimates to review. AWS responded that the estimates were not correct, but did not provide alternative data. Using conservative calculations, Greenpeace has used the best information available to derive power demand. Greenpeace invites AWS to be transparent and provide more accurate data for its facility power demands.

[5] See “Where the Cloud Touches the Ground” in “Clicking Clean”, Ch. 7.


What next for the Internet?’ 

10 March 2014 13:14:00 Categories: Comment di displays & UIs news

To mark the ‘silver jubilee’ of the web, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is drawing attention to the huge contribution the Internet has made to society while calling for a global debate about how we develop the web and improve digital skills to make sure it continues to create opportunities and enhance people’s lives over the next 25 years.

Dr Mike Short CBE from the Institution of Engineering and Technology said: “In a recent US survey, 76 per cent of people believed the web has been a positive force for society. This is encouraging and, given that we have really only scratched the surface with what the web can do, the potential for it to further improve our daily lives is still considerable.

But we now need an agreed vision for the web for the next decade – and on how we will address critical challenges such as security, capacity and capability. We must also do more to create the necessary digital skills to enable the Web to achieve its full potential. Currently, the UK is facing a well-documented shortage of these technological skills.”

The wish-list for the Internet over the next few years includes:

  • A wider range of content in a greater number of languages
  • Trusted e-learning resources
  • Greater inclusion of, and accessibility for, groups currently not engaged with the internet such as large parts of the developing world, the older generation and those with visual and audio impairments
  • Further innovation in web technologies, for example language and format conversion
  • New thinking about how we operate commercially in a digital world, with a broader choice of ecommerce and payment options
  • Global governance and standards for data privacy and security, including techniques such as human factors and user-based design to improve user confidence and adoption.
  • The Internet has revolutionised business practices and created all sorts of new opportunities for communication and interaction – first with email and more recently with social media. We can expect to see social media transcending individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to bring together contacts across all platforms in the on going bid to create web technologies that allow people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.

It won’t only be people who benefit from searching the web for information. Computers will be able to analyse the web to find data from a range of sources, linking data and identifying patterns. So in the future a faulty product or health scare could be addressed by machines scanning the web to find all available data to better prevent and prepare for future incidents.

Finally, improved usability depends on a web infrastructure that allows us to connect to the web on demand - any time, any place – without having to worry about how the connection is made. To overhaul the existing infrastructure to provide universal high-speed broadband coverage is prohibitively expensive. Instead, availability could be achieved by bringing together technical standards, embedding greater intelligence in the network architecture and introducing more proactive and innovative regulation to allow individual devices or appliances to find connectivity on demand.



Raising the bar with the two A’s – Auditing and Accreditation 

14 February 2014 04:02:00 Categories: Comment displays & UIs news

As membrane keypad manufacturer, Fascia Graphics turns 20, Paul Bennett, MD of the company explains the importance of ISO and UL accreditation for manufacturers and their customers

This April we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and this milestone has been a time to reflect on what has been really important to our business and our customers – in a period where we have gone from the ‘new kids on the block’ with 40 customers to the market leader with over 800.

For us and many manufacturers, quality is paramount and this is why ISO and UL accreditation has been so important. For over a decade we have carried ‘ISO 9001’ status for our Quality Management Systems (“QMS”). These standards provide customers with the confidence that your manufacturer consistently provides goods and services that:

-           Meet customer needs and expectations

-           Comply with applicable regulations

As an ISO 9001:2008 approved manufacturer, monthly audits of the systems are carried out by fully trained auditors to ensure that the systems and personnel are working to the QA procedures set out in the ISO manual. ISO requirements include top management commitment to quality, customer focus, adequacy of resources, employee competence, process management (for production, service delivery and relevant administrative and support processes).

Going global?
For international manufacturers, or those businesses that are considering going global, it is vitally important that the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) mark is achieved. This is because the UL mark is the most widely recognised safety certification mark in the world, and it has been a product safety leader for over 100 years - widely acknowledged for its safety standards, integrity and independence.

The UL mark is also particularly recognised in the US by consumers, regulatory authorities and the insurance industry. So, carrying the most accepted safety certification mark in the US can open up a vast US market for UK exporters and their customers.

In conclusion, for those manufacturers serious about developing their export markets, the UL mark is essential. Furthermore, it is our view that as ISO accreditation encompasses almost every business activity, it should form part of a continuous improvement culture, as it identifies both areas for improvement, and recognises good practice such as an investment in state of the art equipment, and the development of comprehensive training systems such as Q Pulse and NVQ.

Case Study 

Quality standards – the green light to award winning pedestrian signals…

Achieving quality standards can not only help manufacturers win new business, it can also support customers in producing an award winning products.

In 2011, Fascia assisted AGD Systems Limited win a second Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2011, by supplying screens for its flagship AGD946 combined puffin nearside pedestrian signal.

The company had supplied AGD with labels for a number of years, but following a detailed market Request for Quotation (RFQ) in 2010, it was selected to provide the optical screens for the AGD94x series of pedestrian signals.

The signal, which is widely installed in city and local authorities throughout the UK, was recognised for the Queen’s Award for its innovative styling and features. In order to meet the product requirements, Fascia took the following approach:

-           The materials used for the front panel and the gasket assemblies were reviewed. As a result, the production samples utilised more cost effective raw materials.

-           Solutions were also found to minimise the number of prints required and reduce the assembly time of the rear gaskets. The product improvements allowed Fascia Graphics to continue producing product of the highest quality in the most economical manner.

Dafydd Hughes, Supply Assurance Manager, AGD Systems Limited identified the importance of quality by saying: “In an increasingly competitive environment, we recognised that we wanted to work with a screen supplier that was willing to continuously improve its products and not stand still. Fascia fitted this mould by constantly challenging itself to improve its quality, cost and delivery.”

Fascia Graphics

For further information on ISO 9001:2008, visit, and the UL mark, go to





Reader Q&A session in collaboration with Farnell element14, Panasonic engineers 

21 January 2014 11:25:00 Categories: Comment news

In collaboration with Farnell element14, Panasonic engineers Jing Liu and Christian Gellmann will be answering questions around the use of polymer capacitors. Liu and Gellmann are on hand to help you overcome any obstacle you might have with a specific project or answer more generic question about polymers.

For example, what effect does humidity have on the life of the polymer capacitors? What polymer capacitors are suitable for high-end audio gear? How does Panasonic Polymer Capacitors compare to Sanyo OSCON capacitors overall and over temp?

15 questions will be answered and published on in February 2014."

The forum is open so submit your question now.












Michelle WinnyMichelle Winny

With a combination of news, products and feature articles, Michelle provides up-to-wire commentary on new technology and legislation. Coupled with in depth coverage for specifiers and purchasers of electronic components and equipment, Michelle brings everything within the electronics market directly to her readers.