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Posts From April, 2015

Mouser launches new space challenge that has engineers landing on the Moon 

30 April 2015 09:09:00

Mouser Electronics, the global authorised distributor with the newest semiconductors and electronic components, and celebrity engineer Grant Imahara launched a new Empowering Innovation Challenge as part of the Empowering Innovation Together program that explores the topic of Space Exploration. This challenge, now underway, partners with Astrobotic’s upcoming commercial mission to the Moon. The grand prize will be having your photo rest on the Moon’s surface in an Astrobotic MoonMail capsule. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to make your mark on the Moon without having to become an astronaut.

The new Empowering Innovation Space Challenge, accessible through the Mouser’s website, marks a historic event in space as the first commercial lunar landing. To prove their genius, entrants must submit an online photo and answer in 100 words or less what technology they believe best represents the world today. The engineering community will share ideas online and receive votes for which idea and photo should travel aboard Astrobotic’s Griffin Lander to the Moon. Grant Imahara will review the top six in votes and select two lucky winners. The new Space Challenge runs now until May 31st, 2015. As an added incentive, the first 200 entries will receive a “Letting My Genius Prevail” T-shirt.

“Without going through an extensive astronaut training program, this is the closest most of us will ever get to the surface of the Moon,” stated Grant Imahara. “It's a history in the making event for anyone to be able to send a package to the Moon. So many different types of payloads are possible: scientific experiments, research apparatus, telecommunications equipment, and the like. And YOUR picture could join them for generations to come!”

“This new Space Challenge is a great complement to our last two Robotic Challenges, and really takes it to even greater heights,” expressed Glenn Smith, Mouser president and CEO. “I can’t think of a more ultimate prize to capture and inspire the imaginations of engineers worldwide.”

“Astrobotic is excited to partner with Mouser on the Empowering Innovation Together Space Challenge,” said John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO.  “It’s a great opportunity for participants to be excited about space travel and lunar exploration. We look forward to welcoming Mouser’s two MoonMail winners aboard our first mission.”

The new Space Challenge is part of the Empowering Innovation Together program – a way that Mouser and Grant Imahara are connecting with engineers through innovation and creativity that defines engineering design. In addition to the Space challenge, the series will also be supported with new Innovation Hub editorial pieces and new Innovation Spotlight webisode videos that feature some of the leading innovators and their insights into the Space Industry.

The Empowering Innovation Together Space Exploration Series and Challenge is co-sponsored by Platinum Program Partner Microsemi. Also joining in the sponsorship are Vishay Intertechnology and Phoenix Contact as Diamond-Level partners.

Well known in the engineering community, Grant Imahara has paired his engineering expertise with a Hollywood TV and film career. In addition to his roles on Mythbusters and Battlebots, Grant has worked on many famous robotic characters – including R2-D2 in the Star Wars prequels, The Late Late Show’s Craig Ferguson robot skeleton sidekick – Geoff Peterson, and the Energiser Bunny. He joins the Mouser team as a collaborator and spokesperson who shares Mouser’s passion to positively influence and support innovative design. To learn more about Grant Imahara, the Empowering Innovation Together campaign and Mouser partnership,

Host card emulation emerges as a viable security solution in the online payment industry  

29 April 2015 08:42:00

The online payment industry was exposed to a slew of attacks in 2013-14, with hackers meticulously examining the payment infrastructure to exploit potential weaknesses. To guard against such security breaches, the payment industry needs to devise global security initiatives and establish common rules.

According to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Are Digital Transactions Secure Enough?, host card emulation (HCE) has created a new layer of security services. On the other hand, the HCE solutions have raised several concerns as in the absence of a single network, a single protocol and a common set of rules, hackers can breach security layers using sophisticated tools.

Until the recent spate of attacks, banks and financial institutions had been reluctant to invest heavily in protecting their digital transactions. However, new awareness of the huge liabilities and losses that can be incurred through these data leaks is encouraging their support for the use of HCE security technology.

“The emergence of the cloud-based HCE will please security service providers as it offers an alternative that is easy to deploy in a short time frame,” said Jean-Noël Georges, global programme director for Information & Communication Technologies at Frost & Sullivan. “The solution is expected to accelerate the deployment of other payment solutions and already, it has forced the ecosystem to rethink the entire roadmap and portfolio strategy.”

HCE has drastically changed the way mobile payment is processed and it is demanded because of certain aspects. For instance, HCE’s security level is lower than that of near field communication (NFC). Nevertheless, HCE is the answer to part of the bottleneck since it can aid in consumer management and reduce deployment time.

Significantly, HCE does not use a hardware secured element to store secret keys. Credentials are moved to a cloud-based platform and are accessible through a specific payment application. The credentials are available for one-time use and based on the risk, can be used only for a particular amount. With HCE, time is critical during a transaction and the payment mechanism usually does not request considerable encrypted information.

“More than the security component, consumers and retailers seek convenience. Many companies are now building solutions especially for the mobile instead of adapting existing solutions to the mobile,” noted Georges. “Technology developers could adopt the same approach with respect to convenience, so that security is an invisible component of the payment process.”

The payment industry needs to evolve a global standard that will provide answers to client and customer demands for advanced security solutions. A solution that is secure-by-design, and not merely a compilation of best secured practices, is essential to guarantee the safety of a payment process.

If you are interested in more information on this study, please send an e-mail to Edyta Grabowska, Corporate Communications, at

Are Digital Transactions Secure Enough? is part of the Smart Cards Growth Partnership Service program. Frost & Sullivan’s related studies include: Transforming National eID Programs and Services into a Mobile Success Story; Global Mobile Biometrics Market; How Can Cloud-Based Payment Impact the Payment Ecosystem?; Is Mobile Identity the Key for Digital Authentication?; and Global One-time Password Market. All studies included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

World's first crowd controlled robotic bar debuts on new 'smart' cruise ship 

23 April 2015 09:58:00
Makr Shakr, the world’s first robotic bartending system – designed by architect, engineer and inventor, Carlo Ratti – made its debut as the Bionic Bar onboard on Royal Caribbean’s new ‘smart’ cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas, in Southampton.
Makr Shakr is a new mixology system that allows users to create personalised cocktail recipes in real-time through a smartphone application – also transforming them into crowd-sourced drink combinations.
“Makr Shakr is a great example of how robotic technologies are changing the interaction between people and products – a topic that we have been exploring in great depth,” said Carlo Ratti, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-founder of Makr Shakr. “The system explores the new dynamics of social creation and consumption – ‘design, make and enjoy’ – allowing users to design their own cocktail creations, while digitally controlled machines transform these designs into reality.”
The Bionic Bar powered by Makr Shakr is located at the centre of Royal Caribbean’s new Anthem of the Seas latest ‘smart’ cruise ship. To use Makr Shakr, users will access a simple app on a tablet, allowing them to create an almost limitless number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink combinations. The cocktail creations will then be assembled by two robotic arms, whose movements – shown on a large display positioned behind the bar – mimic the actions of a bartender, from the shaking of a martini to the thin slicing of a lemon garnish to the muddling of a mojito. Guests will have the possibility to name their own recipes, access their order history and reorder their favourite cocktails, while rating and commenting on each other!
“Makr Shakr does not suggest replacing the bartender with a robot, but rather was conceived as a social experiment that looks at how people might embrace the new possibilities offered by robotics and digital manufacturing,” said Saverio Panata, COO of Makr Shakr.
In Makr Shakr, social connections are woven throughout the co-creation and mixing of ingredients, which are then fed back to the user through the app. With this new technology, consumers can learn from each other, sharing connections, recipes and photos on social networks. “Digital connectivity is not replacing physical interactions, but rather reinforcing them,” added Panata.
To create an engaging bar experience, the robots’ movements were modeled on the gestures of Italian choreographer Marco Pelle from New York Theatre Ballet. Mr Pelle’s movements were filmed and used as inputs in programming the robots’ animation.
Makr Shakr collaborated, among others, with Automation Company CIA, German robot Manufacturer Kuka, IT consultants Seac02 and installation construction company Kibox.

Global research shows healthcare, energy and environment as top consumer priorities for tech and Innovation 

23 April 2015 04:57:00
Healthcare, renewable energy and the environment should be the top priorities for technology and innovation according to a global study of 3,500 consumers released today by element14, the global online network of more than 325,000 engineers and technology enthusiasts. The study, Engineering a Connected World, also explores consumer interest in, and adoption of, emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), driverless cars, robotics and gesture control.
The results of the global consumer research, carried out in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, reveal that 59% of people identified healthcare as a top priority for technology and innovation, followed by renewable energy (56%) and the environment (47%). Opinions vary considerably by region, however. For example, education is more of a priority in India than elsewhere, space exploration and aerospace is almost three times more important in China than the rest of the world, and those living in Germany are most interested in advancing entertainment via technology.
The study also reveals some specific technologies that consumers would like to see become a reality in 2015, such as universal high speed internet (68%) and flexible or foldable screens (40%). Thirty-seven percent would like to see self-driving cars become a reality this year, and space tourism is appeals to 15% of those questioned.
The study, presented in a new report available today, is part of element14’s broader “Engineering a Connected World” initiative which includes a series of global design challenges over the next 24 months. The challenges will focus on innovation in energy efficiency, food production and medical technology, and in leading them Farnell element14 will oversee the development of more than 100 engineering concepts and prototypes.
“As the world’s largest community of engineers and technology enthusiasts, we wanted to know consumers’ perspectives on where engineers should apply their abilities in design and innovation,” said Dianne Kibbey, Farnell element14’s Global Head of Community. “Our broader ‘Engineering a Connected World’ initiative is designed to reflect those priorities and will connect engineers to powerful new ideas, the latest technologies and to each other to create innovative solutions to everyday problems. Through our design challenges, our Community can actively explore technology that will make people’s lives better, more fulfilling, more exciting or make a difference to how they live and work.”
The first “Engineering a Connected World” challenges are already underway. “Enchanted Objects” tasks engineers with re-imagining everyday objects using embedded IoT technology. “Sci Fi Your Pi”, sponsored by Raspberry Pi creator Pi Trading, challenges engineers and enthusiasts to use the Raspberry Pi 2 to design applications inspired by science fiction.
New challenges are also planned around vertical farming and smart vehicle technology. Specialist experts from each field have been enlisted to judge entries and mentor finalists, and element14 will provide support in the form of parts, tools, software and advice.
For more information on “Engineering a Connected World” or to view the research report, visit

Industry 4.0 - How should manufacturers adapt?  

22 April 2015 06:03:00

The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) things in everyday life has been talked about a lot recently. Some have said that even the smart fridges of the future will be able to utilise the IoT to notice you’re out of eggs and order some themselves. But at Fascia Graphics we are really excited by its potential as the fourth industrial revolution; industry 4.0. Launched by Siemens at the Hanover Messe two years ago, the concept refers to the computerisation of traditional industries like manufacturing and predicts a transition to intelligent factories.

The potential of the smart fridge is easy to transfer into industry, for example restaurants will be able to monitor how much food they have, what they are short of and make adjustments accordingly, saving them money by reducing waste. The same principles can be transferred to many different applications. As an example, for the medical supplies industry this new technology will allow monitoring of temperatures remotely to ensure heat sensitive products are safely stored.

This collaboration of operational technology (OT) and Information Technology is the key to industry 4.0. Despite the technology to combine the two being readily available, there has been very little crossover between OT and IT on an industrial level. A study of manufacturers conducted by Industry Week found that only 14 per cent of executives indicated that all plant floor data is integrated with enterprise systems. Also about a quarter of executives indicated that little more than half of their plant floor machinery (not including computers) is internet enabled and 30 per cent reported that none of their equipment is internet enabled.

Despite the apparent limited risk of connecting a fridge to the internet, issues can arise when more and more of the production line becomes internet enabled. For example, hooking your production line up to the internet may allow you to control the manufacturing process remotely, but it may also open your business up to unwanted eyes. The security of connected devices must be prioritised to prevent crucial information being potentially stolen by competitors.

With the correct security measurements in place however, IoT technology can provide valuable benefits to the manufacturing process, creating an efficient leaner manufacturing process that can save you (and your customers) money in the future. In our 20 years’ of manufacturing graphic overlays and membrane keypads, we have transformed into a much larger and leaner operation because of large scale investment year on year. Utilising the IoT should be viewed as a tactical investment that will lead to a slicker operational management. Something that will also help achieve our goal of delivering bespoke products in the fastest time through an efficient design and printing process.

Individualisation is also playing a key part in industry 4.0. Individualisation of products is already an everyday reality, with customisable photo albums, t-shirts and calendars all readily available in a matter of days with any pictures you desire and in just a few clicks. This level of individualisation is something that has significant further great potential.

How could industry 4.0 impact Fascia…

To illustrate other ways in which we could see Industry 4.0 impacting our business, I see that there are three key areas of our business where it will have a significant impact. These are:

·         Customer Delivery Schedules

·         Online Ordering

·         Stock Patterns via links to internal systems

Industry 4.0 is really about manufacturers continuing what they have been doing for years – striving for leaner operations that deliver products that are admired across industry. The key is making that tactical investment that makes the difference, and keeps you as the market leader.

How the right stencil can improve profitability 

22 April 2015 06:00:00

If you’re about to place an order for your next batch of graphic overlays or membrane keypads, the last thing that you will think to consider is the impact that a stencil could have on your product. But, one of the major causes of production inefficiency for a printer comes from trying to use the wrong screen print stencil for the job in hand. Having the right one, can greatly improve productivity, reduce ink usage and also reduce wastage.

Improving productivity is one of the best ways to improve profitability whilst providing the most competitive price to the customer; consequently huge efforts are placed on increasing printing speeds and throughput. Yet how much time is really spent focusing on screen print set-up times, right first-time quality, out of specification print wastage.

In fact, one of the major causes of production inefficiency comes from trying to use the wrong screen print stencil for the job in hand. This undoubtedly leads to unnecessary time spent carrying out 'on-press' fixes, such as changing squeegee pressure/angle/type/speed. In terms of efficiency, this effort is wasteful as this treats the symptoms rather than the cause and these fixes don't always work on the next job.

The solution is simple: all manufacturers in this industry should be using the right stencil for the job.

Our preference is the MacDermid Autotype Capillex CX, the 'Controlled Profile' stencil system. Specifically formulated for the most demanding of industrial applications Capillex CX improves production efficiency through minimising the stencil influence on ink build to produce a cleaner, more reliable print. The end result is an extremely flat, low-ink deposit with minimal edge build or saw-toothing, which reduces ink usage and ensures a consistent finished result.

This stencil system is also compatible with both conventional UV and solvent based inks, making it ideal for our requirements. We have experienced massive increases in productivity and simultaneously managed to reduce costs on ink and cut our waste since switching to the Capillex CX.

The use of a state-of the art stencil system is just one way in which Fascia improves its service to customers. There are many other areas that can also improve production efficiency and product quality. Not all suppliers in the market meet these high standards, so you may want to at least cover the following with them:

1.    Are they a certified supplier for printing the UL logo?

2.    Have they achieved the ISO9001: 2000 Quality System?

3.    Can they provide low cost prototyping within five days?

4.    Can you be assured that you are receiving the highest levels of quality because of 100% final inspection?

5.    Are you provided with a state-of-the-art bar-coding system, which provides you with full tracking of products?

If the answer to any of these is no, then it may be time to consider switching supplier. 

Moore's Law turns 50 today  

20 April 2015 06:49:00 Categories: Comment

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, an unspoken agreement between the electronics industry and the world economy that inspires engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs to think about what is possible. Moore’s Law enables much of today’s innovation - wearable technology, genomic sequencing, smart cities –and is helping industries tackle seemingly intractable problems and turning fantastic ideas into profitable business ventures.

What will the next 50 years hold?

Why are our cars still so much smarter than our so-called Smart Homes? 

08 April 2015 10:26:00 Categories: Comment

Check out this new white paper from Cees Links, CEO of GreenPeak.

Various analyst groups and industry prognosticators have been tossing out some very big numbers. According to these fortune tellers, within the next few years, there will be hundreds of millions, tens of billions, even trillions of smart homes connected by the Internet of Things.

However, if you take a careful look at what is really happening – if you actually count up the number of homes that actually are “smart” – having intelligent systems installed within them that actually make our lives smarter, easier and safer, you will see that the number is actually pretty small. Why is this?

Because today’s – and tomorrow’s smart homes – are not very smart. In fact, most of them are still downright dumb.

This is because people are confusing “connected” with “smart”.  Just because a house, its devices and its systems are connected to each other and to the Internet, enabling the home owner to monitor and maybe even control what is happening in the home from a smart phone, does not make the house smart.

To be smart, the smart house actually needs to have some intelligence of its own. It needs to be able to gather information from its network of sensors, review and analyse that data, and then take some kind of action – without a human person in the loop to make the decisions for it. Sentrollers need to actually do something without waiting for us – their masters – to tell them what to do!

Check out the entire white paper at

Saft batteries provide critical backup to Crim Sales and Engineering for utilities 

07 April 2015 05:46:00 Categories: Comment

Saft, a designer and manufacturer of advanced technology batteries for industry, has been awarded a contract by Crim Sales & Engineering. Under the contract, Saft has already delivered nearly 30 lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery systems to provide traditional power generating units deployed at a major Southeast utility with critical backup for process controls.

Crim Sales & Engineering was the first United States Standby customer to utilise Saft’s battery technology, IntensiumFlex, in their AC/DC UPS power supply. This specific power supply was custom designed with Saft’s battery solution for a major Southeast Utility. The IntensiumFlex range of Li-ion solutions for industry offers utility end users significant advantages including internal continuous monitoring.

Saft’s intelligent IntensiumFlex Li-ion battery technology based on proven Synerion modules will produce a highly reliable modular AC/DC power supply. These batteries allow operating and alarm parameters to be continuously monitored.  The IntensiumFlex system provides increased efficiency by decreasing installation, start-up and operating costs as well as minimising the amount of necessary preventive maintenance.

The IntensiumFlex battery technology, delivered by Saft, will provide a nominal voltage of 125 Vdc backup power for a mix of AC and DC loads. The system has a total nominal power rating of 7.5 kW in two-hour modular backup increments and has an energy content of 15 kWh.

Each Saft IntensiumFlex system is equipped with two parallel strings, each comprised of five modules in series with a battery management module (BMM). The entire battery is managed by a master battery management module (MBMM). The battery utilises Crim Sales & Engineering’s advanced switch mode power conversion system to back up a major Southeast Utility’s AC and DC loads.

“The agreement with Crim Sales & Engineering highlights a continued demand for Saft’s IntensiumFlex technology as a reliable and efficient solution for utility customers. The Saft IntensiumFlex solution provides a system with 3X the energy density requiring 1/3 the space allowing the critical scrubbers to continue operating for longer periods than traditional battery technology,” said John Adeimy, vice president sales and marketing, Saft America. “Saft’s dedication to advancing Li-ion technology for the utility industry will bring cost-savings to end-users. We are appreciative of the opportunity to continue our mutually beneficial relationship with Crim Sales & Engineering and look forward to growing our presence in the utility marketplace.”

The IntensiumFlex system has the potential to generate significant growth in the US utility markets in the future. 


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.