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Plug and play in industrial plants 

05 July 2018 04:43:00

Contradictory to the common belief that technology necessary for Industry 4.0 is expensive, the Combine and Conquer report by Accenture found that combining technologies such as AR/VR, big data and machine learning can save large businesses an average of £60,000 per employee.

Here, Nick Boughton, sales manager at industrial systems integrator, Boulting Technology, explores the growing trend of plug and play technologies.  

Despite Industry 4.0 being far from a new concept, first being coined in 2011 at the Hanover Fair, the long lifespan of industrial machinery and the high perceived costs associated with purchasing smart technologies means manufacturers may still be  reluctant to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

A growing trend for many manufacturers looking to ‘smarten’ up their factory and integrate Industry 4.0 technology’s such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, is the introduction of plug and play devices. However, with growing concern about vendor lock-in, choosing hardware that is compatible with the existing products within a plant is essential to saving costs in addition to ensuring compatibility. 

Plug and play

Plug and play devices are one way of maximising compatibility between new products and existing systems.

A plug and play device or computer bus has a specification that allows for the discovery of a hardware component in a system without physical device configuration or user intervention.

A multitude of IoT functions are now available with plug and play IoT kits. One popular example is the use of sensors that allow for digital condition monitoring for any kind of machinery. A direct physical attachment means they are able to take measurements such as vibration and temperature to facilitate maintenance plans, without any compatibility complications. 

Because many manufacturers and developers of industrial automation equipment are producing their own devices to fill this market, it can be difficult for engineers to choose the best solution for their plant and application. As industrial machinery often has a long lifespan, for example a motor control centre can be expected to last for twenty years with the correct maintenance, many plants will be faced with this dilemma each and every time they choose to purchase new equipment.

Universal systems

True plug and play technologies are able to integrate with equipment from all vendors, eliminating any integration headaches and potential issues. They can also deliver a quality and performance that matches plant requirements exactly.

Although the concept of true, open, plug and play technologies might sound idealistic to many, it is a growing trend for many manufacturers of industrial automation solutions, such as intelligent drives and remote monitoring software.

Experienced and independent systems integrators such as Boulting Technology are experts at recommending the best system for a plant’s unique requirements and capabilities. This includes ensuring the seamless integration of plug and play, out-of-the-box systems, while retaining the cybersecurity and tried and tested processes from the existing system.

Integration

As plants are constantly being upgraded and technology is evolving, the choice of products, services, software and hardware is becoming ever more complicated. Retrofitting existing systems with new sensors and communication software is therefore becoming more popular each year, as it is often a far cheaper solution. However, even within the retrofitting sector, vendor lock in can be an issue.

The choice to retrofit plug and play technology, which requires less complex integration and user training, can continue to ensure cybersecurity through consistent protocols and firewalls. This is proving to be the best solution for many plants as a means of lowering costs associated with industry 4.0.

 

New Delta-ee electric vehicle research predicts public chargers to account for only 8% of charging 

01 June 2018 05:22:00

New research uncovers how drivers will behave and what it means for charging infrastructure, utilities and the electricity system

Delta-ee (Delta Energy and Environment), the specialist ‘new energy’ research and consulting company, has launched its new Electric Vehicles (EVs) & Electricity Research Service. It has found that, in the next 3-10 years, only eight per cent of charging is expected to use public charging infrastructure.

The service will offer insights into the burgeoning market, with initial research focusing on charging behaviour and retailing electricity and services to EV drivers across Europe. The research draws on extensive surveys to profile the next wave of (UK) EV drivers – the early adopters – who behave very differently to today’s ‘innovators’. Of these, 85 per cent will have off-street parking and 50 per cent will use their car for commuting. Public charging infrastructure is expected to be important for addressing range anxiety but will account for a small portion of total charging.

However, within early adopters, the research identifies three distinct segments with vastly different charging patterns and behaviour:

  • The suburban commuters (the largest segment): charge at home and work, will seek a deal that fits with their regular schedule
  • The mix-and-matchers: urban movers looking for the best deal. Happy to use public chargers and latest tech to find the best deal
  • The home dwellers (the smallest segment): rural-suburban homeowners who are financially secure. Tend to be older and retired, not particularly tech savvy.

The research profiles each segment and its needs in detail, as well as what that means for the electricity system and for companies seeking to market EVs or related services.

“Understanding who is going to be driving EVs and how they will behave is critical for a lot of actors, for varying reasons,” explains Matti Kahola, Senior Analyst, Delta-ee. “Electricity network operators will need to understand when, how and where different groups are going to be charging in order to manage demand on the grid. Then you have the brewing battle to capture the market for EV-related services. Winning that will require building new business models and propositions around different types of customers. Will we see companies selling mobility, not cars; kilometres rather than kilowatts?”

The research profiles 20 leading early-entrants into the space across Europe, representing OEMS, oil majors, utilities and new entrants, finding that while there are many active players, very few offer integrated solutions for customers so far. Finnish utility company Fortum is the current stand out leader in Europe.

Alexander Lewis-Jones, Analyst, Delta-ee comments: “The EV revolution will be just that – a revolution but not just for the automotive sector, also for the electricity sector. EVs have the potential to change not just the cars we drive, but how we balance the electricity system and the shape of our electricity infrastructure. But it also brings into question who we buy electricity from and how we buy it. No one can take anything for granted. We’re already seeing the boundaries between the transport and electricity industries becoming more blurred; an understanding of tomorrow’s customers and their needs is one of the ingredients to make the most of these opportunities.”

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.

Cash-in-transit

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 
www.imgtec.com

The Internet of infrastructure 

19 October 2017 14:11:00

By Dave Roat, Strategy Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems

Travel would be so much simpler if access was centralised, with a one-stop solution granting passage from end-to-end, no matter the distance. Giant strides are being made in this area, with connectivity transforming public transit for commuters and tourists. Contactless device-based payment has become the new norm in London, and across Britain cities are growing smarter.

We are now on the brink of biometrics spilling out of sci-fi and into the subway. Our faces could soon serve as our travel pass, or you may be able to scan your palm as an alternative method of payment. There are still trials to be done, but the technological direction of travel is clear.

This proliferation of connectivity is largely a result of falling costs and increasing availability of sophisticated off-the-shelf components that can easily be integrated with any project. The tools now at our disposal mean an IoT solution exists for most applications. In ticketing, NFC readers have brought about one of the biggest revolutions transport has seen in decades, feeding back key data-driven insights that will propel Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) over the coming years.

Working smarter, not harder

Widespread adoption of smartphones is creating new possibilities for public transport operators. NFC has been the centre of attention in recent years as the premier contactless solution, but Bluetooth has been overlooked. The advancements in Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) components means this is set to change, making contactless solutions effective without even taking the device out of your pocket.

Another benefit that IoT will deliver is significant advancements in real-time monitoring that will result in greater efficiency.

The transport sector has embraced the drive for efficiency wholeheartedly. Smart cities must make use of IoT technologies. Without a means to monitor performance and usage, we cannot provide the reactive service that will define the cities of tomorrow. IoT is a means to connect hardware, but to make a smart city, introducing a layer that makes the collected data useful to the traveller and the city is required. Today that is done by mathematical algorithms, tomorrow it will be done by artificial intelligence.

Outpacing growth

As congestion threatens to strangle mobility, it is clear a push for more physical infrastructure will not be enough. It is not a time for brute-forcing the system in an attempt to outrun the population growth – transport doesn’t work that way. Instead, a focus on managing the existing infrastructure as cleverly as possible is needed.

It may be controversial to say, but there are enough trains, enough buses, and more than enough cars. What is missing is flexibility – people find themselves tied to a rigid nine-to-five, despite changing attitudes to work. In the domain of connectivity, the workplace is leagues ahead, and the number of people choosing to work from home is on the increase.

This expanding flexibility can be leveraged by informing commuters of any issues to their usual route, taking data from on-board sensors to convince those who are able to alter their schedules or work from home to do so. By providing objective information on overcrowding or delays, people will make the decision to travel later, filling unused capacity on off-peak services instead of running peak services over capacity.

Bringing IT all together

The simplest way to address the issue of overcrowding and delays is through a system that integrates live transport data across various modes of transport with an individual travel account. Whether this is tied to your face or your phone, the data collected at the point-of-authentication will contribute to a back-office database capable of analysing capacity in real-time.

At the device level, a single-purpose travel account would depend on  a network of connected  components to build a unified picture of the system. While facial recognition may eventually provide a promising solution for non-obstructive ticket checkpoints, the first iteration will likely be based on Bluetooth. Similarly, the first hands-free ticket authentication system will likely use BLE beacons: one at-a-distance in the station, to prompt devices to prepare for authentication, and one at close range on the barriers to detect the device’s approach.

The ability to retrofit microdevice systems, such as Bluetooth, to existing gate hardware exemplifies the huge potential for improving efficiency. On the reporting end, various sources of data will allow would-be travellers to pre-emptively avoid any delays on their route. This data will aggregate CCTV analysis of bus routes, bicycle hire availability, station gate or platform queues, and many other individual sensors across the system. Informing travellers allows them to make informed decisions about their travel plans for the day and organically reduce load on the system.

There are high expectations for the IoT and the promise that it will tease efficiency out of every aspect of daily life. Centralised data management will lay the groundwork for the IoT revolution in transport. Having that in place will allow travellers to make informed decisions, and grant access to whatever means of public transport suits them best. 

Researchers are teaching robots to respond to touch  

25 September 2017 04:39:00

By teaching robots how to show personality and emotion through touch and other senses, a group of researchers from Université Paris-Saclay are being recognised pioneers in robotics. 

Research conducted by Professor Adriana Tapus from ENSTA ParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, aims to develop a humanoid robot sensitive to tactile stimulation. The Heroes Project – in collaboration with Dr. Moustapha Hafez from CEA Paris-Saclay, Prof. Mehdi Ammi from LIMSI, and PhD student Pierre-Henri Orefice – addresses interaction via touch.

First results show that a robot is capable of inferring someone’s gender and personality in 75% of cases simply by shaking hands. 

"Giving robots a personality is the only way our relationship with artificial intelligence will survive. If we can simulate a human like emotional response from a robot we can ensure a two-way relationship, benefiting the most vulnerable and isolated members of our society. Our research will help the next generation of social robots to be polite, empathetic, and maybe have their own sense of humour”, says Prof. Adriana Tapus.

In addition to an anthropomorphic appearance, robots must also develop social interaction strategies to be better integrated in human centred environments. The ENSTA research team have developed robots to elicit different emotions and dominance depending on the situation and context. This includes, for example, adapting the arm stiffness and amplitude in a hand shaking interaction. 
Prof. Tapus’ research group at ENSTA have also studied emotion recognition. This was mainly part of a project designed for people suffering with Autistic Syndrome Disorder (ASD). 

It is well-known that individuals suffering ASD have difficulty in recognizing and understanding social stimuli. However, past research shows they have affinity in interacting with robots. So Prof. Tapus’ research group, with Prof. Jean-Claude Martin from LIMSI and Prof. Brice Isableu from CIAMS, investigated the recognition of emotions by those suffering ASD with various embodiments, from real humans to robots and human avatars. This work was done in collaboration with three centres working with individuals with ASD; MAIA Autisme and IME Notre Ecole – two associations for children and adolescents with ASD – and FAM-La Lendemaine, a residence for young adults with ASD.

These potential new therapies could help autism sufferers become more social. This work on autism and robots was part of Pauline Chevalier’s PhD thesis.

This work also means that robots have the potential to become carers for our ageing population, work with humans to complete complex tasks and intervene in situations where human contact is welcome. This was only previously seen possible in Science Fiction.

Winning Design of Mouser Electronics’ International Space Station Design Challenge Is 3D-Printed in Space 

24 April 2017 08:16:00

Mouser Electronics Inc. and Grant Imahara today announced that the winning design in the International Space Station (I.S.S.) Design Challenge has been 3D-printed in space. The winning design, a satellite-launching device, is now in orbit and may one day be used by astronauts for a variety of missions.

Cupertino (Calif.)-based engineer Andy Filo designed the device, which allows astronauts to launch femtosatellites (tiny satellites about the size of a postage stamp and weighing less than 100 grams) in zero gravity. Scientists can use femtosatellites in many different missions and applications, including monitoring disasters, studying Earth’s environment, and even flying in formation to create a giant antenna for deep space analysis.

“Mouser is excited to be part of new and innovative projects that bring together engineers and makers from around the world and — in this case — beyond,” said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics. “Andy’s femtosatellite-launching device meets the needs of astronauts as well as Earthbound researchers and engineers.”

Filo’s femtosatellite project was chosen from 242 entries and digitally transmitted to the I.S.S., where it was 3D-printed on April 3 by Made In Space’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) — the first commercially available off-world manufacturing service and the only 3D printer adapted for use in the vacuum of space. Made In Space and Filo made some last-minute modifications after I.S.S. received the original design, rounding the handle to increase usability and comfort and further editing the design to increase printing speed.

Filo and his creation are showcased in a video that features celebrity engineer Grant Imahara as the two visit the Made In Space 3D Printing Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Mouser will soon release the final video in the I.S.S. Design Challenge series on Mouser’s YouTube channel as well as on the Empowering Innovation Together™ program page. The I.S.S. Design Challenge is one of several innovative series in the Empowering Innovation Together program, which features the Innovation Lab for new projects ranging from bringing superhero technology to life to 3D printing a semi-autonomous car with drone technology.

Mouser’s valued suppliers Amphenol and Intel® are co-sponsors of the I.S.S. Design Challenge. Mouser also partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab.

Proactive vs reactive obsolescence management 

25 January 2017 07:34:00

With industrial obsolescence speeding up, it is vital for manufacturers to have some level of obsolescence management strategy in place to mitigate the risks of obsolescence. Companies can implement strategies that are proactive, reactive or a mixture. Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete parts supplier EU Automation discusses the benefits of a proactive obsolescence management strategy for manufactures.

According to one of Aesop’s fables, one summer’s day an ant was working hard dragging food back to its nest when came across an idle grasshopper, singing to its heart’s content. The grasshopper asked the ant to stop and chat – but the ant ignored him and carried on preparing for winter. When the seasons changed, the grasshopper looked enviously upon the ant’s vast food supplies and regretted his idleness bitterly.

Grasshoppers and ants aside, we have all heard stories and anecdotes on the importance of being proactive. In fact, it is listed as the first quality in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But what exactly is proactive obsolescence management and is it the best strategy for manufacturers?

Don’t sit and wait

A proactive obsolescence management strategy means that the plant manager is monitoring the availability of parts as well as taking actions to manage obsolescence before a part is discontinued. In general, proactive obsolescence management is a good idea if the component is essential to process or production, because if the component does become obsolete, it will be difficult to replace, which in turn could cause costly downtime.

It would be challenging for any company to monitor the obsolescence status of every single item in its bill of materials, so components should be ranked in order of importance and appropriate measures put in place. Using data available from the part manufacturer or an independent database as well as looking at algorithmic andhistorical data can enable a manufacturer to predict lifecycle changes early and decide on the most appropriate solution.

Go with the flow

Reactive obsolescence management relies solely on acting once a product discontinuation notice is made public or once an obsolete component breaks down. Whether it’s due to a core component for production or a dwindling supply chain of spare parts, obsolescence can cause plant managers serious headaches. A reactive strategy leaves a smaller window for action once the discontinuation has happened.

Taking action

There are several courses of action when a component becomes obsolete. The manufacturer can source the same part using lifetime buys, although this means the spare parts must be stored and ordered in a quantity that predicts future use, which it is not always possible to do accurately. The same part can also be sourced througha supplier of obsolete industrial equipment. This way, a replacement can be delivered in record time, withminimal impact on production.

The manufacturer could also choose to redesign the product – but this is not always a practical option. If a second component goes obsolete and a second redesign is needed, this can be difficult and incredibly costly. A redesign is unlikely to be possible for a company using a reactive strategy as the window is too short.

The manufacturer could also switch to a different product with similar form, fit and function from the original supplier or a competitor. However, this requires complex analysis to guarantee the part is exactly the same in its parametric, dimensional and electrical characteristics.

A reactive strategy can make even these viable options impractical, so incorporating a proactive approach to themost important components should be considered to some extent. Staying one step ahead to ensure you are prepared for any critical component obsolescence is a good way to safeguard production, just like the proverbial ant prepared itself for the cold winter months.

The sword of Damocles gets a reboot 

06 January 2017 09:06:00

The Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens and even Google Cardboard are a far stretch from the first virtual reality (VR) headset, created in 1968 by computer scientist, Ivan Sutherland. The concoction was called the sword of Damocles and, because of its formidable size and weight, had to be anchored to the ceiling so it didn’t crush the user. Almost 50 years later, we are only now seeing VR and augmented reality (AR)being used in manufacturing environments.

Here Leroy Spence, head of sales development at industrial spares supplier EU Automation, looks at how AR and VR are changing the world of manufacturing.

Like any disruptive technology with roots in the consumer market, industry viewed VR with a certain level of scepticism to begin with. Many companies questioned the practical applications of the concept, labelling it another gimmick that would not stand up to the rugged manufacturing environment. However, like Ethernet, touch screen and mobile devices proved before it, VR has real-world manufacturing potential.

New concepts and technologies are prone to hype. In 2015, Gartner's Hype Cycle saw VR emerging from the Trough of Disillusionment into the Slope of Enlightenment – this means VR started being used for real-world useful applications. In 2016, we are betting the technology will continue its ascent as more manufacturers start to take advantage of its benefits. 

Indeed, a PWC survey at the beginning of 2016 found that more than a third of the US manufacturers surveyed,already used VR technology or planned to do so in the next three years.

Virtual design

The automotive market tends to be an early adopter of disruptive technologies — including automation, robotics and now VR.

The US automotive manufacturer Ford built its own immersion lab where designers, engineers and other employees can don an Oculus Rift headset and walk around exploring the exterior and interior of its cars.

Ford uses VR to test its designs and assess how individual elements of a vehicle look, without having to build a physical car. The VR links directly with the company's computer aided design (CAD) software, so engineers can make changes and visualise results quickly and easily.

Virtual training

Another area in which manufacturers are seeing VR shine, is training. The British engineering firm, BAE Systems recently revealed that it creates virtual representations of projects, such as ships, for engineers to practice on.

BAE's virtualisation suites allow engineers to examine the virtual elements of a system, so they can analyse,design and plot where they need to make changes in the physical world. VR provides a level of test redundancy by giving engineers the chance to try out changes before they make any final alterations.

VR training programmes can simulate realistic and hazardous situations on the manufacturing floor, includingchemical spills, dangerous machinery and loud environments, without putting operators at risk. Should the unavoidable happen, employees have relatable experience and are more likely to react appropriately in an emergency.

Furthermore, VR is an effective way of teaching machine operators or maintenance technicians about a new piece of equipment on the factory floor. Visualising the inner components of devices allows companies to makedetailed maintenance plans. This process is incredibly useful for identifying obsolete components or predictingwhich parts the original equipment manufacturer will cease to support in the near future.

This allows plant managers to create an effective obsolescence management plan, which could involve stocking up on spare parts or opting for a redesign.   

Virtual factory

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of the potential of AR and VR for industry has come from a shift in recruitment at major engineering companies. Recently, firms have been very open about actively recruiting graduates with game design degrees. Astute with VR, Android and mobile technology, this next generation of engineering recruits are helping make Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) applications a reality.

Although VR and AR are years away from mainstream adoption in manufacturing, the technology is being put to good use by a minority of progressive companies, looking for a competitive edge. It seems VR and AR both have a prosperous future in the manufacturing industry; those willing to invest in the virtual world will be rewarded in the physical.

WatchGuard makes seven security predictions for 2017 

19 December 2016 13:33:00

Security researchers at WatchGuard Technologies warn of ransomworms, IoT botnet zombies, civilian cyber cold warcasualties and the use of AI in attacks in the next 12 months. 

 

  1. 2017 will see the first ever Ransomworm, causing Ransomware to spread.

 

Cybercriminals will take ransomware to the next level in 2017 by introducing the kind of auto-propagatingcharacteristics traditionally found in network worms like CodeRed and Conficker. This will result in a breed of ransomware designed to produce endless duplicates of itself, spreading the infection across an entire network.

 

  1. Attackers will exploit infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) as both an attack platform and attack surface.

 

Cloud adoption is growing at an incredible rate among organisations of all sizes. RightScale’s 2016 State of the Cloud report showed that 71% of SMBs are running at least one application in AWS or Azure. As these platforms have become increasingly engrained in the fabric of business operations, they’ve also become a ripe target for criminal hackers. Public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will be leveraged as both a potential attack surface and as a powerful platform to build criminal malware and attack networks. Expect to see at least one headline-generating cyberattack either targeting, or launched from a public IaaS service next year.

 

  1. IoT devices become the de facto target for botnet zombies.

 

In 2016, the Mirai IoT botnet source code was leaked, enabling criminals to construct enormous botnets and launch gigantic distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks with record-setting traffic. Now that hackers are weaponising IoT devices in this way, we can expect them to expand beyond DDoS attacks in 2017. The pure volume of Internet-connected devices that are manufactured full of vulnerabilities presents a shiny new attack surface that hackers are sure to use to their advantage. In the coming year, we’ll see criminals launch specialised IoT botnet click-jacking and spam campaigns to monetisthese new attack methods the same way that traditional computer botnets weremonetised.

 

  1. In 2017, we’ll see civilian casualties in the Cyber Cold War.

 

With the nation state cyber cold war well underway, expect to see at least one civilian casualty as collateral damage in 2017. In the past several years, nation states have allegedly damaged enemy nuclear centrifuges using malware, stolen intellectual property from private companies and even breached other governments’ confidential systems. For some time now, the U.S., Russia, Israel and China have been mounting strategic cybersecurity operations and hording zero-day flaws to use against one another. This government practice of building up arsenals of vulnerabilities – rather than helping vendors fix them – will undoubtedly lead to an unsuspecting private business or citizen falling victim to an undisclosed zero-day exploit.

 

  1. SMBs turn to small MSSPs for cyber security.

 

As they continue to be aggressively targeted by cyber criminals, small and medium businesses (SMBs) will continue to make network security a higher priorityWith small IT teams and rarely any dedicated security professionals on staff, and without the resources to configure, monitor or adjust their own security controls, SMBs will recognise that their managed service provider (MSP) may be the solution. As a result, MSPs will continue to add security services to their basic IT offerings. In 2017, at least a quarter of small businesses will turn to more specialised managed security services providers (MSSPs) for their security needs and this percentage will continue to increase each year.

 

  1. Increased use of biometrics hides credential insecurity; passwords aren’t really gone.

 

In the face of countless credentials breaches over the past several years, biometric solutions like fingerprint scannersfor authentication will continue to rise as a popular alternative to passwords. These frequent breaches have also brought into question whether or not passwords should be part of the authentication solution at all. The widespreadadoption of biometrics as a convenient alternative to remembering passwords and as the primary method for authentication in 2017 will not erase the fact that weak passwords are still hiding in the shadows – a core part of operating systems and just as vulnerable as ever.

 

  1. Attackers start leveraging machine learning and AI to improved malware and attacks.

 

Cyber security companies will come to a rude awakening when it becomes clear that they don’t have a monopoly on machine learning in 2017. Machine learning has done far more than any human could to help the security industry become more predictive and less reactive in the fight against malware. By analysing gigantic datasets and hugecatalogues of good and bad files, these systems can recognise patterns that assist information security pros in rooting out never before seen threats. Next year, advanced cyber criminals will turn the tables and begin leveraging machine learning themselves to cook up new and improved malware to challenge machine learning defences.

 

 

“As new technologies come out, attackers continue to evolve their attacks to be more effective,” says Corey Nachreiner, CTO at WatchGuard Technologies. “As the Cloud, IoT and AI become increasingly prevalent, hackers adjust their tactics and create more evasive malware and new attack vectors that exploit previously hidden vulnerabilities. And hackers are not only focused on the big companies; SMBs have customer data and computing resources that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting.

 

About WatchGuard Technologies

 

WatchGuard® Technologies, Inc. is a global leader in network security, providing best-in-class Unified Threat Management, Next Generation Firewall, secure Wi-Fi, and network intelligence products and services to more than 75,000 customers worldwide. The company’s mission is to make enterprise-grade security accessible to companies of all types and sizes through simplicity, making WatchGuard an ideal solution for Distributed Enterprises and SMBs. WatchGuard is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, with offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. To learn more, visit WatchGuard.com.

 

For additional information, promotions and updates, follow WatchGuard on Twitter, @WatchGuard on Facebook, or on the LinkedIn Company page. Also, visit our InfoSec blog, Secplicity, for real-time information about the latest threats and how to cope with them at www.secplicity.org.

Fifty years before electric cars impact global oil demand in transport 

07 November 2016 16:04:00

Despite developments in renewable energy, it will take 50 years for electric cars to impact global oil demand in transport, according to Dr Mamdouh G Salameh, professor of energy economics at the ESCP Europe Business School.

In his recent paper, ‘Is oil supremacy on the wane?’ Salameh says the enabling technologies of renewable energy are not developed enough to properly impact consumption levels of oil in the transport sector.

Predictions of a post-oil era are also unlikely as in 2015, renewable energy accounted for only 2.8% of the global primary energy consumption.

Salameh says: “There is no doubt that the future of energy lies within renewables, yet technologies such as electric cars are still relatively new and will take up to five decades to have a real impact on the global demand for oil in transport. Despite increasing appearances on the roads, the cars’ enabling technology is decades away from even impacting fuel demand, let alone replacing it entirely.”

The price collapse of 2014 demonstrated oil’s true impact on the global economy and the enormity of renewables’ task to replace it. From 2013 to 2015, Middle Eastern export revenues fell by $320bn.

Salameh continues: “Could future electric car usage prompt a post-oil era? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’ for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. Not only is oil production deeply entwined with these economies, but were demand to drop because of advances in the renewables sector, Arab Gulf oil producers would be likely to use any excess to power new projects such as water desalination schemes both for drinking water and to make the desert bloom again. It is likely also to be used to dominate the global petrochemical sector, meaning that demand will not fall, it will merely broaden to other sectors.”

SMEs must be the new focus to solve the UK’s productivity problems 

11 July 2016 00:32:00

The Open University says technology can come together with training to help smaller firms boost productivity

The UK has received a chance to assess progress in tackling the country’s productivity crisis. New government figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), detailing output per hour since January, show that with a growth of only 0.5 per cent from the last quarter, productivity is trailing 17 per cent behind an extrapolation based on pre-downturn trends. This latest report indicates that nationwide measures being taken to solve the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’ are failing to make the wholesale improvements that will reset the UK’s productivity levels.

Boosting productivity amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must become a priority, but it requires a bespoke approach to meet the specific needs of these companies. Research from Albion Ventures has shown that 50 per cent of SMEs believe that their productivity will increase. Among these companies, the most influential factor on output is expected to be the level of skills within the organisation.
However, SMEs, which employ 60 per cent of the private sector workforce, face continuing barriers to developing their human resources, and embark on up to 50 per cent less training than larger firms. Skills development can be a resource intensive activity for SMEs, but The Open University’s Trends in Learning Report 2016 highlights how technology is enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of training for smaller enterprises.

Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at The Open University, comments: “Most leaders would easily agree that employees are the biggest asset their company has, with the most potential to transform their business outcomes. Yet it’s often the case that larger businesses are relying on technology to improve their output levels. Instead it’s Britain’s smaller companies who are aware that people will always be key to productivity.

“Despite their recognition of its value, I hear from a lot of smaller firms who express that investing in training can still represent a difficult path. What’s most important moving forward is that these businesses understand how to access the training they need in a form that will contribute to their overall productivity.
“Advancements in educational technologies have transformed the value of training for small businesses. These firms often find the time commitment involved in traditional forms of training simply does not fit with their business set-up. The flexibility of online and mobile learning has already significantly altered the structure of training so that it can fit with different organisational needs.

“Now, the opportunity to apply data analytics to these programmes promises to deliver greater returns on learning and development than ever before.”

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.
 
The OU regularly supports over 2,400 organisations, including KMPG, Hay Group and the NHS, delivering flexible learning solutions at scale to address skills shortages and develop high performing workforces. Four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
With a global reach and as the UK’s leader in part time education, with 76 per cent of OU’s current students studying whilst working full or part time, the OU is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces.
 
In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent.  The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.
 
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads. For further information please visit: www.open.ac.uk

Lithium-ion Battery Costs - by Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx 

14 June 2016 09:04:00

Stellar growth over the coming decade is forecasted by analysts IDTechEx for the electric vehicle business resulting in nearly one trillion dollars sales at ex-factory prices in 2026. About half of that will probably be the 48V mild hybrids first launching in 2017 when they will not be electric vehicles i.e. propelled by electric motors some or all of the time. By 2026, however, they will be electric vehicles. Indeed, they will have up to four pure electric modes. If pure electric cars have a lift-off mimicking that of smart phones then the trillion dollars will be achieved with fewer hybrids. However, even if that consumer demand suddenly appears, there may be insufficient gigafactories to produce all those large batteries. Looking closer, IDTechEx sees the current surge in strong hybrids continuing for several years, mostly focussed on plug in versions with quite long range thanks to substantial lithium-ion batteries being fitted. However, that market will not endure. As pure electric vehicles replace them just as they are today in the bus market due to strongly biased government support in China sensibly addressing local pollution.

Predicting lithium-ion battery demand is therefore a complex business given that cars and buses will remain the largest part of it. It is not just disagreement about which powertrains win, some having a supercapacitor or NiMH traction battery instead of a lithium-ion one. It is also a matter of price reduction driven by cost reduction, this being complicated by the assumptions about whether the price of competing forms of energy storage will improve faster.

In 2017, any pure electric car with less than 200 miles range, a doubling over 2016, will look jaded. However, that doubling is coming from larger batteries being fitted within an affordable price and various other improvements such as more efficient powertrains and aerodynamics.  Looking specifically at the battery, progress is more sedate. The most common projection of lithium-ion traction battery cost by others has been a halving in ten years which can also be taken as a doubling in range, this figure constraining sales of pure electric cars just as much as price.

However, in late 2014, Elon Musk of Tesla said that he will be disappointed if $100/kWh could not be achieved within ten years with the economy of scale of his planned gigafactory. At the time, costs were around $450/kWh. The statement is deeply significant because it would make family cars cheaper up front than conventional versions probably causing a lift-off in sales. IDTechEx does predict a tipping point for mainstream electric car sales in about seven years because we see range tripled as a result of many advances but we do not yet support such a huge drop in cost per kWh.

For more see the new IDTechEx Research report, “Lithium-ion Batteries 2016-2026” and the IDTechEx drill downs on thin and flexible batteries, post-lithium batteries, electric vehicles land, water and air and so on. One thing is certain. In electric vehicles and in lithium-ion batteries, everything is changing. Both are being totally reinvented in technology, competitive landscape, applications and more. This is a violent gold rush creating spectacular winners and losers.

IET response to Queen’s Speech: driverless vehicles will need software MoT 

22 May 2016 06:14:00 Categories: Comment

New laws announced in today’s Queen’s Speech will allow fully autonomous vehicles to be insured under normal policies in the UK. This announcement, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is an important step forward which will ultimately improve road safety and reduce congestion, but the Government also needs to introduce legislation to improve cyber security in autonomous vehicles.

Hugh Boyes, the IET’s cyber security expert, said: “Driverless vehicles have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network and are a great opportunity to test the technology so that the UK can remain at the forefront of research and development.

“However, we must ensure that cyber security is carefully considered. It is not just about the threat of a car being hacked, it also relates to the overall security and safety of the vehicle’s operation. 

“For that reason it will be crucial that the Government introduces proper regulations for autonomous vehicles, which should include the need for a software MoT to be performed on a regular basis. This should help to assure the ongoing trustworthiness of the vehicle software and systems.

“Operation of an autonomous vehicle will be heavily dependent on a lot of software embedded in the vehicle, which provides very complex functions that are currently performed by the driver, e.g. interpreting potential hazards, changes in vehicle direction and speed (both of the vehicle itself and of adjacent or approaching vehicles), and responding safely to vehicle faults or malfunctions.

“It will be vital to ensure that this software runs smoothly so, in the same way as we take our cars for annual MOTs at the local garage today, in the future we will need to include a check on the software to ensure defects and vulnerabilities are addressed. How these checks happen – and who is responsible for them – is something we should be thinking about now.

“While we are used in our daily lives to putting up with software errors in non-safety critical situations, such as when our computers freeze and require a reboot, we cannot tolerate such behaviour in autonomous vehicles as this could put the safety of the vehicle’s passengers and those outside the vehicle at risk.”

Should I Specify an AC- or DC-operated LVDT Linear Position Sensor For My Application? 

08 January 2016 06:02:00 Categories: Comment

Mike Marciante
TE Connectivity (Macro Sensors LVDTs)

An AC-operated LVDT Linear Position Sensor does not contain any internal electronics and requires an external oscillator, carrier amplifier, or demodulators and filters to operate. A DC-operated LVDT Linear Position Sensor is comprised of an AC-operated LVDT and a carrier generator/signal conditioning module.  It maintains all the desirable characteristics of the AC-LVDT, but has the simplicity of DC operation.   

Applications often dictate the choice of an AC- or DC-operated LVDT.  Here are some examples:

AC-OPERATED LVDT APPLICATIONS

  • Extreme temperatures: below -20°C or above 85°C:- Constructed with appropriate materials, AC-operated LVDTs can operate in temperatures from ‑200°C to 500°C.  A DC-operated LVDT, on the other hand, is limited by the properties of the materials in the electronic signal conditioning module. 
  • Hard-to-Reach installations:- While LVDTs with internal electronics may have a 20 year expected life, free-core, non-contact AC LVDTs have an even longer life expectancy.   Their high reliability makes them ideal for installations in locations without easy access.  Without the need for internal electronic components, AC-LVDTs also can be offered in smaller package sizes to fit in compact locations. Remote electronics can be installed in an accessible location away from the LVDT.  
  • High Shock/Vibration Environments:- Sensitive electronic components can be affected by shock and vibration.  Installing an AC- LVDT allows the user to segregate the sensing element from the electronic circuitry. Connected by long cables up to 31 meters (100 feet), AC-operated LVDTs can work in hostile environments with remotely-located electronics that operate in benign areas.

DC-OPERATED LVDT APPLICATIONS

  • Easy and Fast Installation:- DC input/DC output and factory-calibrated output allow for a simple and quick set-up. Using ASIC and microprocessors, internal electronics can provide for more complex processing functions as well as signal conditioning within the sensor housing. As there is need for calibration or reliance on amplification equipment, setup time is reduced as well as overall system cost.
  • Eliminates Signal Conditioning Requirements:- The DC-operated LVDT can eliminate the volume, weight and cost of conventional external AC excitation, demodulation and amplification equipment (ideal for outdoor applications where a control panel may not exist).   They also can produce digital outputs directly compatible with computer–based systems and standardized digital buses, which is desirable in metrology and subsea applications.
  • Loop-Powered Designs:- Unlike voltage signals, current signals will not diminish over a long run of cable.  This makes loop-powered 4-20 mA LVDTs ideal for applications where long cable runs in excess of 1,000 feet are required.  This is a very useful feature in subsea and outdoor applications where control panels can be located far from the sensor.

Benefits of AC- vs. DC-Operated LVDTs at a Glance

AC-Operated LVDTs

DC-Operated LVDTs

Unlimited electrical/mechanical life

Pre-calibrated analog or digital output

Greater shock and vibration resistance

Eliminate reliance on signal conditioning

Wide operating temperature ranges

Integrated error compensation

Smaller package size/hard to reach places

Lower overall system cost

Infinite resolution

Faster set-up time

SCENARIOS FOR CHOOSING AN AC VS DC LVDT

1. A position sensor was required on the door to a large furnace where temperatures reach 175°C.  Because of its 200°C temperature rating, TE Connectivity’s Macro Sensors HSTAR AC-operated LVDT and LVC-4000 signal conditioner were specified.  While the LVDT was exposed to the high temperatures, the LVC-4000 was mounted remotely where the temperature was controlled to produce a 4-20 mA output.      

2. The Macro Sensors GHSIR Spring-Loaded 4-20 mA Loop-Powered LVDT was specified to monitor structural components on a bridge.  Because control panels on bridges can be far apart, the cable runs between an LVDT and its associated electronics could be as high as 1,000 ft.  Using TE Connectivity’s Macro Sensors GHSIR allowed the customer to make the measurements with little concern over the LVDT’s proximity to the closest control panel.

http://www.te.com/

Lock the backdoor - Connected medical devices creating cybersecurity risks 

04 January 2016 05:06:00
 
Security experts billed 2015 as the ‘year of the healthcare hack’, with increasing numbers of medical systems attacked by cyber criminals targeting valuable personal data. While cybersecurity is commonly associated with software attacks, the healthcare sector is finding that the hardware it’s employing to improve patient care is creating backdoors. Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager of Accutronics, takes a look at the vital role hardware encoding plays in the battle to secure medical devices
 
Across the medical sector the amount of digitally stored data is growing year-on-year, and while pharmaceutical companies, healthcare facilities and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have to constantly work at keeping hackers out, a hacker only has to be successful once to cause serious damage. For instance, at the end of 2014, the number two US health insurer, Anthem Inc, disclosed a massive breach of its database containing nearly 80 million records.
 
Medical equipment has taken an evolutionary leap in recent years to take advantage of the developments of the digital age. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), medical devices are ‘connected’, and not just to the Internet. They are often connected right into a healthcare provider’s network, establishing a pathway to data that seems otherwise protected. 
 
At 2015’s hacker conference DerbyCon, it was revealed that there had been 68,000 attempts at hacking critical medical devices, such as MRI scanners, over a six-month period. Fortunately, in this instance these were fake devices, “honeypots” set up to lure in malicious hackers. This goes to show the importance of addressing cyber security flaws, particularly in devices that leave patients at risk of harm if compromised. 
 
In the fight to close the backdoor, every measure must be taken to secure the hardware itself. A lack of hardware-based encryption is causing widespread concern about medical equipment and about the reliability of batteries used in such equipment.
 
Battery counterfeiting is a problem faced by the medical industry on a scale never before witnessed in the sector. The ready availability of grey market, untested copycat batteries, possibly using inferior components, means that many life-critical devices used in our hospitals and medical establishments may be unreliable or unsafe to use.
 
Accutronics has worked hard to tackle this problem, developing a new CMX series of smart batteries and chargers. The new range incorporates some innovative features, including SHA-1 hardware encryption.
 
SHA-1, which stands for secure hash algorithm, is a cryptographic hash function designed by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The algorithm is flashed onto the smart battery's fuel gauge before being sealed in during production. At the same time, a software update is made on the host medical device. Upon insertion, the battery is challenged to complete a calculation within 100ms, if it matches with the one performed by the host device, it's genuine, otherwise it's fake and can be rejected for non life-critical applications. 
 
It’s time to lock the gate behind us and shut cyber criminals out of medical devices by building cybersecurity and encryption into the equipment. Doing this means thinking of every part of the machine, even something as seemingly insignificant as the battery. Building encryption into the hardware itself will provide the first line of defence against those who would use medical devices to cause trouble, reducing the threat to life and reducing the potentially massive costs of leaving the backdoor unguarded. 

Market Gravity predicts business trends for 2016 

18 December 2015 06:16:00 Categories: Comment

Technology is set to have an even bigger influence on British businesses and their product development strategies in 2016, with growth expected within connectivity, omnichannels, financial and payment technology and Artificial Intelligence. In addition, the way big businesses discover and implement innovation is set to shift, with the launch of venture teams and accelerator panels or internal ‘incubators’ to bring a start-up mentality to corporate organisations. 

Gideon Hyde co-founder of Market Gravity, the specialist innovation and propositions design consultancy, shares his predictions on emerging technology and innovations and how businesses can embrace these to enhance their offerings, launch new products, services and ventures to stand out in the competitive marketplace.  

Get connected  

Homes around the UK are going to be smarter and more connected than ever as consumers embrace the benefits of using devices and smartphones to control energy and thermostats, lighting, security and safety systems and even fridges and washing machines. Energy, utilities and home appliance organisations should ensure they are up to speed with the latest product offerings so development teams can embrace the trend for ‘connected homes’ and the Internet of Things. Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be between 30 and 50 billion connected entities so businesses should act now to avoid getting left behind.  

Onmichannel retail strategies 

Retailers and marketers are understanding the benefits of offering customers multiple ways to shop – via the internet, through social media channels and apps and the ability to sell, cross, sell, upsell, reward and personalise the shopper experience is a highly attractive proposition. Beacon technology, geo-location services, and content filtering based on personal preferences, purchase patterns and history all enhance the interaction and we expect to see even more retailers adopting an omnichannel strategy across all their sales channels next year. 

Fintech, banking and payments

Mobile banking and payments are already gaining traction as there has been an influx of new tech companies, start-ups and retail banking organisations launching disruptive and innovative new products and services. Established banks need to be proactive with disruption and accelerate change so may need to offer new capabilities and facilities, while also investing in traditional systems to open their offering up to customers of all ages. Digital and mobile services are key but enhancing and personalising the customer experience also plays a big part in retaining and attracting new users so ensuring new products and services are seamless, secure and convenient is more important now than ever before. 

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not as futuristic as it sounds as there are already UK businesses embracing the benefits of this technology. We predict that 2016 could be AI’s biggest year yet, especially within customer services. It’s algorithms can process ‘big data’ far more efficiently than humans and it can recognise speech, images, text, patterns of online behaviour, for example to detect fraud as well as appropriate advertisements. Smart machines and technology can turn data into customer insights and enhance service provisions, bringing the digital experience closer to the in-store interaction for consumers. 

Innovation within big businesses

Big businesses are embracing the concept of ‘intrapreneurship’, an entrepreneurial approach where teams and individuals are driving new venture ideas from within the organisation. We are witnessing an increase in the launch of venture teams, or internal ideas incubators, as well as in investment in research and prototype development. It’s essential for businesses to work collaboratively with experts in this field, listen to creative new ideas from all levels of the company and encourage a culture of change and innovation to facilitate commercial growth. 

For further information on Market Gravity please visit the website http://marketgravity.com/

Better demand management needed’ to handle rising complexity of electronics supply chain, Future Electronics conference is told 

14 December 2015 05:25:00 Categories: Comment

OEMs need to re-think the way they manage their demand for electronics components if they are to handle the risks inherent in an increasingly complex supply chain, a speaker from STMicroelectronics told a conference hosted by Future Electronics in Leipzig on 12th November.
    
The conference, which was dedicated to the theme of ‘Supply Chain Innovation’, was organised by Future Electronics and held in a Leipzig hotel close to its EMEA Distribution Centre (EMEA DC), one of Europe’s largest stores of electronics components. Some 150 invited customers of Future Electronics from all over Europe attended the event, which also included visits to the EMEA DC and to the largest DHL logistics hub in the world, on the site of Leipzig airport.

Alberto Della Chiesa, Vice-President for Supply Chain Solutions at STMicroelectronics, told the conference that e-commerce retailers such as Amazon have opened to the market and to consumers the possibility of next-day delivery of almost any electronics device. This can lead, together with the wide and different product options and flavours, to extreme day-by-day swings in demand for specific parts. At the same time, he explained that semiconductor manufacturers typically require between 8 and 12 weeks to produce a finished, packaged IC.

Mr Della Chiesa added that the increasing complexity of the interactions among semiconductor manufacturers, foundries, packaging facilities, test establishments, OEMs and end users meant that the supply chain’s traditional reliance on inventory management alone was becoming ineffective. He said that it is only by combining demand management, demand propagation and inventory management with an intensified focus on manufacturing excellence that the entire electronics supply chain can handle the increasing volatility in demand that it is facing – something that STMicroelectronics calls flexible networking.

Closing the conference, Tom Galligani, Global Vice-President of Supply Chain at Future Electronics, echoed the theme, saying: ‘Supply chain complexity is not a threat that we have to think about preparing for in the next few years – it’s affecting OEMs and CEMs right now.
    
‘Electronics component distributors have a big part to play in helping OEMs and CEMs to manage the resulting volatility. Services such as Future Electronics’ Bonded Inventory Management (BIM) programme will help, giving manufacturers a three-month buffer stock and providing extra time to respond to spikes or falls in demand for specific parts. This long-distance backward visibility into the supply chain helps to make up for OEMs’ dramatically reduced forward visibility of end-user demand.’

Delegates to the conference also heard contributions from DHL, Witron, BMK, Artemis Group, IBM, Peiker, ADR International and Bird & Bird, as well as an introduction by Ole Gerkensmeyer, Regional Sales Director (Central Europe) of Future Electronics.
 

Have scientists cracked clothes to power your phone?  

10 December 2015 05:47:00 Categories: Comment
Industrial design researchers at Brunel University London have solved two of the major challenges which prevent everyday items of clothing being turned into power sources for smartphones, tablets and other personal tech.
 
Technology to produce supercapacitor thread capable of being made into cloth has been around for some time. But until now scientists have been unable to make it provide sufficient voltage for most devices or devise a method to produce it economically outside the lab.
 
Now patented breakthroughs made by colleagues Professors David Harrison and John Fyson, Dr Yanmeng Xu, Dr Fulian Qiu and Ruirong Zhang of Brunel’s Department of Design mean thread capable of storing and supplying enough power for common devices and of being manufactured at industrial scale are a reality.
 
Explained Prof Harrison: “Supercapacitors are already ubiquitous as back-up power in phones, PCs and tablets.
 
“They store energy without a chemical reaction so can be charged and discharged almost indefinitely. But in thread form they have never before been able to break the 1V barrier.
 
“What we have done is show we can produce a multi-layered structure with two sequential capacitive layers capable of producing up to 2V. Breaking the 1V threshold is important as in the real world we work on the voltage of common batteries – 1.5V.
 
“We also wanted to address mass production issues so developed a process to semi-automatically coat stainless steel wire the thickness of a human hair with eight separate layers.”
 
The work at Brunel is part of the EU-sponsored Powerweave programme which brings together researchers from seven countries to produce textiles which can both generate and store power. The Brunel paper can be found here.

Circular economy pivotal for electrical engineering 

09 December 2015 10:40:00 Categories: Comment

Nick Bull of Slaters Electricals gives an insight into the importance of remanufactured power and distribution equipment to the Circular Economy.

Remanufacturing end of life power distribution equipment provides a quick, cost effective, high performance and environmentally friendly solution that meets the best practice of a Circular Economy.

Transformers and their associated switchgear are an integral part of an electrical power network. Industrial transformers ensure that power is delivered to site at the required voltage, and industrial switchgear ensures the safe operation and maintenance of transformers and other electrical equipment.

Remanufacturing these units offers a cost effective means to complement the supply of brand new power distribution equipment.

Traditional business practices can lead to the over use of natural resources and energy and also produces large amounts of waste, potentially causing severe environmental impact. The Circular Economy concept offers the opportunity for businesses to mitigate the impact of their activities by adopting a more strategic and thoughtful approach to the use of materials, energy and labour.

According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation, the Circular Economy is: ‘One that is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times.’

Recycling of materials is of course not a new concept. However, the Circular Economy process covers the whole length of the supply chain, from initial design to the product end life, ensuring the maximum value of a product is derived by retaining as much of the embedded materials, labour and energy invested in the original product.

Refurbishing or remanufacturing parts or the products themselves, and the re-use and redistribution of refurbished products, is critical in minimising the need for completely new components and units to be manufactured; with the attendant heavy demand for materials, labour and energy.

The evidence to support the circular remanufacturing process is strong. The All-party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) recently produced two reports estimating that remanufacturing typically uses 85% less energy than manufacturing. Remanufacturing is currently worth £2.4 billion to the UK economy, with the potential to increase to £5.6 billion and the creation of thousands of skilled jobs.

The remanufacturing of transformers and industrial power distribution equipment is commercially and technically feasible when the product meets three conditions. Firstly, when the product has a high embedded value, through the materials and/or labour used in the original construction. Secondly, when the product has a slow technological evolution rate and is not subject to legislative restrictions or can be upgraded to overcome these. Thirdly, when the product design allows for re-constructability, including disassembly, overhaul, re-assembly and testing.

For nearly 70 years, Slaters have remanufactured power distribution equipment – returning end of service transformers and switchgear to their original performance. Today, we have developed a business model offering customers, new or remanufactured equipment either on a permanent sale or temporary leasing basis. Slaters can also remanufacture customer equipment using our in-house stock of power distribution spares – one of the largest in the UK.

Temporary leasing can be advantageous for customers requiring short-term transformer equipment for extra power requirements, in emergencies or due to budget restrictions, as no large upfront investment is needed and can be paid for over the hire period.

Whilst newly manufactured transformers tend to be more expensive than remanufactured units, they are produced in accordance with the recent EU Ecodesign directive which requires new transformers placed on the market after 1st July 2015 to meet strict energy efficiency requirements.

It must be stressed that remanufactured units are not subject to the Ecodesign directive, allowing us to reuse and remanufacture transformer units and components whilst being fully compliant with EU legislation.

There are challenges to remanufacturing power distribution equipment. Some customers may be unfamiliar with purchasing equipment that is not new, or perceive remanufactured units to be ‘second hand’ and therefore ‘second rate’.

However, they come with many advantages. Remanufactured units can be installed on a like-for-like basis or configured to specific orders and customer requirements. They can also be supplied with shorter lead times, are typically 35-40% cheaper than a new unit, and are offered complete with an extended warranty to that of a brand new equivalent.

Offering new or remanufactured transformers and switchgear means that we can be flexible to our customers’ requirements, as well as upholding our business philosophy of trying to be ethical wherever possible by mitigating waste and reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

More details at www.slaters-electricals.com

New development kit for smart home and IoT devices runs Brillo from Google 

08 December 2015 05:12:00 Categories: Comment

Imagination Technologies has launched a new development kit called Creator Ci40 on Kickstarter. The Ci40 microcomputer has been specifically designed for smart home, IoT and other connected devices (drones, robots, etc.) – but it also has the hardware requirements (802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, an Ethernet port, SD and USB storage) needed to be used as a high-speed wireless router.

The Creator Ci40 board runs not only Linux (Debian, OpenWrt) but also Brillo, the new operating system from Google. In fact, Creator is one of the few platforms selected by Google to be part of its Brillo golden reference program – these boards can be seen as the equivalent of the Nexus phones/tablets, receiving regular updates and patches from Google every six months: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rPkbyyviGI
 
Hardware-wise, the microcomputer packs a powerful dual-core chip that has been optimized for IoT and networking applications. Many existing IoT dev boards reuse existing mobile chips but this leads to increased power consumption and short battery life – a phenomenon recently noticed in wearable devices. Instead, Creator Ci40 includes an innovative, custom-built chip called cXT200 that delivers high performance but also includes a balanced feature set aimed at low power consumption and is manufactured using a low power process node from GLOBALFOUNDRIES. 
 
In addition, whereas other boards today might use only 802.11n Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (or don’t have any form of connectivity at all), Creator Ci40 includes a full wireless connectivity package: 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Classic and Low Energy) and 802.15.4. The latter represents the foundation for many IoT standards including the Thread protocol, ZigBee and 6LoWPAN (Imagination is a member of the Thread Group as well as the Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance).
 
Some developers are already using Creator during an initial trial; for example, a company is using the kit to monitor the temperature and humidity of the soil on several farms and adjust irrigation accordingly. Another developer is using it to monitor multiple car parks and send notifications to an iOS and Android  app that directs drivers to the nearest space available.
 
Prototyping an IoT device using Creator Ci40 is a simple process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DpZlxtOIJQ. The board supports over 200 sensors today - and more are being released every week.

Imagination Technologies is a UK-based company that designs the PowerVR and MIPS processor technology inside billions of devices around the world; its customers include companies like Apple, Broadcom, Intel, LG, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony and many others.
 
 

Charging your electric car at home 

26 November 2015 09:55:00
45th story for the pitchbook on home electrical installations
 
Monday, November 16, 2015 — Do you already own an electric car, or perhaps considering buying one? Remember to also think about the charging of the car. Many people assume you can charge a car just by plugging a simple cable into a simple power socket. While they are correct, this method has serious disadvantages, including the time it will take to fully charge the car’s battery.
 
With the pilot phase and the market introduction more or less complete, 2016 will take us into Phase 3 of establishing a new product, i.e. the volume market. More and more people will be driving on electricity. Hence, the importance of taking the appropriate measures inside your home in order to optimize the charging of your car.
 
Types of electric cars
 
There are currently several different kinds of electric vehicles. They range from micro, mild and full hybrids to plug-in hybrids with a range extender and a fully electric car. It is the latter two types that consume the greatest amount of electricity. The plug-in hybrid with the range extender has a small fossil fuel engine which serves as a generator providing a supplementary battery charge. This increases the practical range of the vehicle. Full electric vehicles no longer have a fossil fuel engine.
 
Charging at home
 
In most cases, electric cars are charged where they’re parked: in the street, the parking garage, the mall, at work, or at home. This is a major difference to cars running on fossil fuels that must be filled up at gas stations on the road. The charging rate and time depend on various factors. The charge still remaining in the battery plays its part, but also the type of connection to the charging point. A mono-phased connection to a standard 16A/230V power socket (3.7kW) will require many hours (sometimes up to 11 hours) to fully charge an electric car’s battery. Using a multi-phased 32A/400V connection reduces the charging time dramatically. It is wise to adjust the capacity of your home charging station to that of your vehicle. A home charging station with a large charging capacity of for instance 22 kW offers the greatest flexibility. You can use it to charge all types of electric cars, regardless whether they have a 3.7, 7.4, 11 or 22 kW charger on board.
 
Your home connection
 
In most cases, a home connection has a limited maximum capacity, which is often too small to charge a car within a very short timeframe. In that event, you can choose to have a larger maximum capacity installed, preferably with a multi-phased connection.
 
Types of plugs
 
There are Type 1 and Type 2 charging plugs. As of 2011, the worldwide standard is the Type 2 plug, which can be used for mono- and multi-phased connections and currents of 13 to 63A. In addition, the Type 2 plug enables you to transfer energy from the public power grid to the vehicle, as well as the other way round. The latter can be interesting if you also have solar panels at your home. However, when there is no or little sunshine, the stored energy can be used for other energy consumers in and around the home. Beginning in 2017, all electric vehicles will be equipped with a Type 2 connection cable.
 
A charging station at home
 
Certain manufacturers offer a charging station that you can use at home. This device is installed in the garage and is fed the required tension. Some models also have a wireless connection to the Internet (WiFi), enabling you to start, stop or pause the charging process via an app on your smartphone or tablet. Furthermore, such a charging station has multiple charging methods in order to reduce the cost of energy or maximize the use of self-generated solar power. In this way, you use electricity to fill up your car’s battery at the cheapest rate. You can track and monitor your electricity consumption both via your charging station and your app.
 

Industry 4.0 Made in India 

19 November 2015 03:50:00 Categories: Comment

With 58-60 million people employed in the Indian manufacturing industry, representing about 12% of the country’s overall working population, the Indian manufacturing landscape needs to undergo a massive revamp in order to remain competitive in terms of investment, infrastructure, and technology. The Indian Government therefore, invented a strategic initiative called ‘Make in India’ to reform the manufacturing industry in the country. With this road map laid out for the industrial sector, the concept of Industry 4.0 could form a key part of the debate surrounding the Make in India initiative.

The impact of Industry 4.0 on the Indian manufacturing industry will be outlined by Frost & Sullivan Global President and Managing Partner, Mr Aroop Zutshi, during his presentation at upcoming SPS IPC Drives exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany. On Wednesday 25th November 2015, he will discuss how Industry 4.0 will become an inevitable necessity for the Indian manufacturing revolution. Mr. Zutshi will deliver his presentation at the VDMA Forum in Hall 3, Stand 3-668 at 9:20am CET.

For complimentary access to more information on the Industr y 4.0 Ecosystem as outlined in a new Frost & Sullivan report, please click here

“Although German in provenance, the concept of Industry 4.0 is bound to achieve global resonance,” explains Mr. Zutshi. “India will have to take part in the development of a globalised manufacturing environment, and the Make in India initiative is a solid kick-off in this direction.”

India’s manufacturing industry contributes around 16 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year and less than two percent of the overall global manufacturing output. With nearly 250 million people set to enter the workforce in the next 15 years however, the adoption of Industry 4.0 will be an inevitable necessity for the Indian economy in realizing its plans of elevating its manufacturing industry to global levels of excellence.

2016 SmartFactoryKL Demonstrator to Include ODVA's Machine Data Model Concept Bosch Rexroth 

06 November 2015 06:17:00 Categories: Comment

In a keynote speech given by Prof. Dr.-Ing Detlef Zühlke, executive chairman of SmartFactoryKL, at ODVA's 2015 Industry Conference & 17th Annual Meeting of Members held October 13-15, 2015 in Frisco, Texas, it was announced that the 2016 SmartFactoryKL Demonstrator will include a proof of concept implementation of ODVA's machine data model. The proof of concept will be supported by ODVA principal member Bosch Rexroth, which is also an executive member of SmartFactoryKL.

ODVA's machine data model is a result of ODVA's initiative for the Optimization of Machine Integration (OMI) which was first announced in 2011 in cooperation with Sercos International and the OPC Foundation.  The OMI initiative is focused on techniques to optimize the integration of manufacturing machinery with the industrial ecosystem. One of the key machine integration problems that OMI seeks to solve is the streamlining and standardization of heterogeneous communication interfaces, such as CIP and Sercos, in order to enable standard reporting methods and tools across machines and thus aid in the management of machines and the monitoring of their states. To investigate and develop standards in this area, ODVA established a Special Interest Group for Machinery Information (SIG) with participants from ODVA principal members Bosch Rexroth, Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric along with invited experts from OPC Foundation and Sercos International. The SIG has now completed its first phase of work to define a standard approach to machine data models which will then be mapped to the structures in CIP, OPC-UA and Sercos. The 2016 SmartFactoryKL production cell sponsored by Bosch Rexroth will illustrate the benefits of this approach.

"The concepts and standards being developed as a result of ODVA's initiative for the Optimization of Machine Integration are well aligned with the goals of the SmartFactoryKL," said Prof. Dr. Ing Detlef Zühlke, executive chairman of the Technology-Initiative SmartFactory KL e.V. "The concepts for ODVA's machine data model will be a welcome addition to the SmartFactoryKL demonstrator in 2016."

"Certain types of data are typical to machine-to-supervisory communication. This data can be placed into logical groupings such as base machine context, condition monitoring, energy, safety, machine diagnostics, machine states, production recipes and product information," stated Dr. Ludwig Leurs, co-chair of ODVA's SIG for Machinery Information and engineering manager of Ethernet convergence for Bosch Rexroth. "The SmartFactoryKL demonstrator will allow the SIG participants to prove out the concepts in ODVA's machine data model before completing final specification for the model and its mapping to the protocol standards."

"The concept of ODVA's machine data model is groundbreaking because it applies the concept of 'Things' as conceived in the Industrial Internet of Things to the machine itself," said Katherine Voss, ODVA president and executive director. "The alignment of SmartFactoryKL with the Industrie 4.0 initiative, and thus the Industrial Internet of Things, makes the 2016 SmartFactoryKL demonstrator an ideal venue to illustrate the benefits of ODVA's concept of the machine."

ODVA's machine data model will be integrated into the Bosch Rexroth production cell for 2016 SmartFactoryKL demonstrator that will premiere at Hannover Fair 2016 on April 25th, 2016. 

 

Driverless cars will stall without independent perspectives to drive consistent global standards, interoperability and test platforms 

05 November 2015 11:09:00 Categories: Comment

Plextek Consulting vision paper highlights the various steps the industry can, and will need to take, to make the autonomous car vision a reality over the next 10 years

Driverless cars, and more broadly autonomous vehicles, are high on the agenda for every major player in the automotive industry (and the likes of Google and Apple) with innovations set to monumentally change the landscape of the automotive industry and create the biggest transformation of society’s view of the vehicle in 150 years. However, getting there will necessitate the coming together of many diverse stakeholders, each with their own agenda, to try to resolve complex debates over safety, security, reliability and liability.

Plextek Consulting argues that it is therefore essential the industry takes on-board independent perspectives if it is to successfully drive the consistent global standards, interoperability and test platforms needed to certify the resilience of autonomous vehicles to wireless threats and cyber-attack. This will ultimately help fuel public confidence and acceptance of the benefits that autonomous vehicles bring to society, with the potential to create a $42 billion market by 2025.

Andrew Ashby, Automotive and Transport Business Manager at Plextek Consulting commented: "To realise the autonomous ‘dream’, industry and societal stakeholders must be brought together in order to discuss and resolve complex issues over safety, security, reliability and liability to ensure this revolutionary technology makes the leap from concept to reality. To produce fully autonomous vehicle systems where drivers or owners will reap the full benefits - such as reduced journey times, insurance premiums and a healthier lifestyle overall - a whole new level of integrated connectivity over and above what Google call an ‘autonomous car’ is a fundamental requirement.”

To elaborate on the challenges the autonomous vehicle industry faces, Plextek Consulting's Andrew Ashby has authored a vision paper "Why won’t Google eliminate human driving in five years?” drawing on more than a decade of experience designing leading-edge technology for automotive equipment manufacturers in areas such as infotainment systems, vehicle tracking, telematics and communications. This paper can be downloaded here .

The vision paper discusses in detail five key steps to achieving industry momentum:

  1. Government legislation must be passed to allow autonomous vehicles (the level of autonomy that Google refers too) on all public roads
  2. Insurers will need to accept the risks/implications of new levels of connectivity and an entirely new model for ownership that doesn’t make the driver/owner responsible
  3. Manufacturers & service providers must agree – as a partnership – to standards for resilience to cyber-attack
  4. The automotive industry will need to adopt international rules for interoperability that ubiquitously apply across all manufacturers and vehicle models
  5. Manufacturers and service providers must agree – as a partnership – to standards for data-
    sharing between vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. There will be need for end-to-end communications of critical/private data to be authenticated by some means

RS Components supports Practical Action’s ‘Pumpkins Against Poverty’ appeal with 3D printed pumpkin 

04 November 2015 05:02:00 Categories: Comment

Halloween pumpkin designed with DesignSpark Mechanical 3D CAD tool to help raise awareness of the worthwhile initiative 

RS Components (RS), the global distributor for engineers, supported the international development charity, Practical Action, and its ‘Pumpkins Against Poverty’ appeal, by designing a pumpkin with DesignSpark Mechanical to raise awareness of the initiative. The 3D printed file can be shared in time for Halloween, so that anyone can 3D print one and add an LED to illuminate it.

Every year 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown away in the UK after being carved for Halloween. In Bangladesh, 160 million people still live in extreme poverty, on less than £1 a day; and on the banks of massive rivers which drain meltwater and rain from the Himalayas, people have lost their land to river erosion. Moreover, climate change is causing devastating floods to become ever more regular, with more families losing their possessions year after year.

Practical Action has come up with a clever way of using pumpkins to feed families and supplement their income by using sandbars which emerge from rivers as flood waters recede. Previously, this land was considered barren and unusable, but through new growing techniques and training, people with no land of their own are able to grow up to 600 pumpkins a year, eating what they need and selling the excess to enable them to send their children to school, buy livestock and other foodstuffs.

“At RS, we've been supporting engineers for over 75 years, and last December we made friends with Practical Action when we ran a Power Hack - Hackathon at the Google offices in London,” said Pete Wood, Community Manager at DesignSpark. “What we love about these guys is that they utilise technology to find practical solutions to improve the lives of poverty stricken communities around the world. When we heard about their latest project in Bangladesh, Pumpkins Against Poverty, we were keen to get involved.”

So far 120,000 people have benefited from Practical Action’s Pumpkins Against Poverty project. Moreover, the UK Government is backing this appeal by matching every pound raised, meaning all donations will have double the impact. Since the appeal is not a tech project, RS is helping to raise awareness of this worthwhile initiative with the help of its DesignSpark Mechanical 3D CAD tool.

For further details or to learn how to make a donation please visit Pete’s blog on DesignSpark.

The Amazing ― and Emerging ― World of Electronics and Vanishing Electrics  

04 November 2015 04:59:00 Categories: Comment

By Dr. Peter Harrop, IDTechEx

In Japan, a leading car manufacturer grows a car seat as a structure based on the principles of a bird bone – with extreme porosity yet containing plenty of strength while using almost no material. However, he does more than this: his 3D printer creates the heating elements and other electrics in the seat as it grows. Germany-based CoTexx molds a load-bearing aircraft aerofoil with knitted heating mesh sealed in the composite to do the de-icing. In the United Kingdom, Imperial College does something similar with two carbon fiber textiles with glass textile holding an electrolyte in between. In this way they make shaped load-bearing car bodywork that doubles as a huge supercapacitor.  In the USA, NASA realizes that composite fuselages for aircraft do not conduct like the old aluminum ones and lightning can be catastrophic ― so they mold conductor patterns into the composite. These also act as antennas:  electrically smart aerospace bodywork unfolding in many forms.

Taking a Closer Look

At first glance, this may all seem prosaic, but it is a leading technological mega-trend of this century with profound implications. It is structural electronics. Consider the most glamorous things that recently burst upon the scene, such as the MIT robot dog that jumps over obstacles, the Dyson robot vacuum cleaner that is as effective as a traditional model or the latest smart watch with its myriad features. Behind the dazzling exterior, they are made by 100-year-old design rules: buy components, connect them together and drop them in a box. Yes, those components are awesome: think of the sensors, integrated circuits and displays and the heroic software behind them. Nonetheless, components-in-a-box for electronics and electrics is equivalent to cooking dinner in a spaceship by lighting a wood fire: the future with an anachronism inside. That is about to change and that change will be rapid.

Consider the conventional car with its 30,000 parts fitted together and put into a mindless body. It is becoming much simpler as it turns into a pure electric car, making modernization with structural electronics far easier. TactoTek say their first 3D molded electrics will be seen in a volume-produced car soon. “Dumb” windshields being replaced by ones with embedded heaters and antennas was only a beginning. The company states: “TactoTek manufacturing process removes constraints on the traditional design so that products with great functionality and form factors can be delivered by the brands. TactoTek has made possible thin and light designs that are capable of incorporating electronics and structural plastics. It uses LEDs for advanced lighting systems, sensors, touch controls and ICs in rigid as well as flexible designs.” Be it lighting features, integrated circuits, controls, sensors or antennae, solutions that incorporate design and intelligence together that can be produced in rapid cycles are highly desirable, is its point.

We’re Closer Than You Think

Individual vehicle components are merging and vanishing. The BYD K9 is the best-selling pure electric large bus and it already has in-wheel motors and the option of a solar roof instead of a dumb one. Boeing, Airbus and others are starting to use Conformal Load-Bearing Antenna Structure CLAS and Smart Composite Actuators SCA in aircraft. Structural metamaterials as honeycomb will be used for antennas and electromagnetic manipulation, according to a researcher in one major car company.

The W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, University of Texas at El Paso has developed what it calls Multifunctional Impact-Resistant Structural Batteries. By interrupting the 3D printing process and integrating electronics functionality into the structure, rapidly-developed, high-fidelity prototypes can be fabricated in order to capture and evaluate form and functionality simultaneously. In a collaboration between the University of New Mexico’s COSMIAC, Keck Center launched structural electronics in a CubeSat Satellite.

The Drayson electric racing car has a battery fitted into the aerofoil but BAE Systems has made a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) out of load-bearing battery material as a substitute for existing, dumb carbon-composite structural materials. Stewart Penney of BAE Systems declares, "There are number of people that will build a battery shaped like a beam, for example, but fundamentally that is just an odd-shaped battery, it isn't a structural battery. The beauty of what we've got is that, when it's fully developed, a company will be able to go out and buy what is a standard carbon-composite material, lay out the shape, put it through the curing process and have a structural battery," he said.

The Future of the Market by Design

Investors and technologists have much to contemplate here because structural electronics will disrupt the value chain. For example, it is well known that those making lithium-ion batteries or flat screen displays have a tough time whereas, earlier in the value chain, the materials suppliers prosper and later in the value chain the system integrators prosper. In Japan that graph is called “the smile.” Now add structural electronics ― and board-stuffing and product assembly are largely bypassed by the chemical and intermediate materials people. The smile just got deeper.

Design rules change. Components that do not swell and shrink and prematurely destroy themselves will be first candidates for vanishing into structures, not today’s batteries. That means supercapacitors and metal patterning of antennas, interconnects, capacitive controls and actuators and the chips as LEDs and integrated circuits are prime candidates for the benefits. In laboratories you already see supercapacitors as wallpaper, cable cladding, load-bearing printed circuit boards and bodywork. 

Design rules will no longer dictate that supercapacitors are much larger and heavier than batteries if the supercapacitor vanishes into the structure and the battery does not. Now the race to make solid-state supercapacitors, batteries and other components can be seen as more than seeking miniaturization, longer life and non-flammability. In cars, structural electronics company T-Ink sees up to 40% space- and weight-saving, and IDTechEx anticipates up to ten times improvement in reliability and life from the structural alternative to plug-in lighting and to switches that move. With interconnects, antennas and other components, the saving is virtually 100%. And what can go wrong in a waterproof chunk of solid, sealed composite?

From the Bench to Benefit

From the point of view of the finished product, the benefits are many. Who wants a bus that holds ten fewer passengers versus one using structural electronics? Boeing has bird-strike detector patterns printed into the leading edges of some aircraft wings and complete smart skin over the whole aircraft will give it a nervous system mimicking that of a human. Call it real-time structural health monitoring and think of it in the medical prosthetic, mobile robot, smart bridge and building applications, too. Then who will settle for less?

For the military and highly critical missions, the distributed intelligence of structural electronics can confer redundancy and damage tolerance. For others, it makes many new things possible such as the whole of a car glowing in the dark and complete interior lighting when needed. Daimler has already created concepts like these and added photovoltaic skin on the outside. The body of a vehicle can become very smart, particularly when you realize that almost every component can now be made transparent. Some vehicles doing tasks that are not time critical, such as vineyard soil and plant monitoring, can have no battery and wake up like a lizard with the sun to perform their tasks, powered by smart photovoltaic skin.

The Nature of Things to Come

Certainly biomimetics – usefully copying nature - is alive and well. Consider that integrally electromechanical device the muscle. You could call it structural electronics. In nature it is used to change shape, to actuate and to propel. It is far more sophisticated than the artificial muscles we have started to design with electroactive polymers and dielectric elastomers. This story already involves mimicking bird bones though not yet the electric nerves integral within them; it involves smart skin as in nature and the bees’ honeycomb. For the future, do not look at the embarrassingly antediluvian guts of that computer, those wearable electronics or Internet of Things nodes. Sophisticated hardware? Try again. Look up at the creatures flying over you.

More information about this topic can be found in IDTechEx Research’s study of the world of “structural electronics” in its’ new report, “Structural Electronics 2015-2025: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts”.  And learn even more in Santa Clara, Calif, November 18th-19th at the 2015 IDTechEx Show

 

Secure airspace management for small drones is here - RelmaTech's SIAM solves safety concerns 

26 October 2015 09:16:00
An innovative solution for drones operated below 500 feet Concerns of policy makers, regulators and the public answered
 
Near collisions with commercial aircraft and numerous other incidents involving Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – commonly known as drones – have become major problems for regulators and the emerging drone industry.
 
Recent examples include drones disrupting the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, drones interfering with fire fighters in California and drones being used to smuggle contraband into U.S. prisons. All received widespread news coverage, as did the earlier episode when an out-of-control drone penetrated the security perimeter of the White House.
 
Such incidents will soon be a rarity when RelmaTech’s Secure Integrated Airspace Management system – SIAM – is adopted and deployed, according to Philip Hall, RelmaTech’s Founding Director and CEO.
 
Patent Filing and Engagement with Regulators:
 
SIAM offers a viable and robust solution to the critical issues confronting regulators and manufacturers responsible for ensuring the safety of low-flying Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). According to Hall, RelmaTech has initiated patent filing for SIAM and is now actively engaged in advising international regulatory bodies and major industry organizations of the system’s impressive operational potential. “We have advised the International Civil Aviation Organisation RPAS Program Office in Montreal, and earlier this month conducted briefings to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in Washington DC and the UK Civil Aviation Authority in London. Those meetings were very positive with commitments for further discussions and demonstration of system capabilities.”
 

Cyber hacking medical devices - letter to the editor 

15 October 2015 05:44:00 Categories: Comment

A recent presentation of findings at US hacker conference DerbyCon demonstrated that medical cybercrime is on the rise.

Using a specially designed search engine called Shodan, hackers were able to identify vulnerable hospital networks along with all their connected devices including MRI machines, defibrillators and equipment in radiology and paediatric units.

Even though 68,000 medical systems have already been exposed, I expect this number will continue to rise. The growing trend in the medical technology (MedTech) industry for more portable and wearable medical devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) will render more devices vulnerable.

The problem here is that we have so far only been concerned with the cybersecurity and software based protection of our devices. For those OEMs who design, develop or manufacture their own hardware, it's vital to consider a more holistic, hardware based, approach.

The last thing you want is for your life-critical medical device to be compromised when it's needed most. Built-in algorithmic security, for example, can detect when a fake battery is used with a host medical device.

Algorithmic security prevents attempts to use counterfeit or copycat batteries, of which there are millions in worldwide circulation that are easily available at the click of a button from grey market sources online.

By ensuring that software and hardware works harmoniously to protect our medical devices, we can prioritise patient safety in the face of increasingly malicious cybercrime.
 

Rob Phillips, managing director
Accutronics

Dream bigger and build faster: a look at the new Bluetooth Developer Studio 

14 October 2015 09:32:00 Categories: Comment

Steve Hegenderfer, director of developer programs at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), explains why the organisation created the tool and how it will help to ease development for those building for the IoT.

When I first joined the Bluetooth SIG, although I was a wireless developer I wasn’t familiar with the ins and outs of Bluetooth® technology. I spent a long time immersing myself by reading through over 3,000 pages of specification guidelines, learning about the development process for both adopted and custom profiles and finding out what tools were already available, with the ultimate aim of trying to understand how to implement the technology. The bottom line was that it was not prescriptive. As a developer understanding Bluetooth technology, then the terminology and then how to get it onto a Bluetooth chip or module, was difficult to get your head around. It was at that point that I decided there must be a better way.

Because of that my team at the Bluetooth SIG started to create tools to make developing with Bluetooth simpler and quicker. We created a couple of great tools, including the Application Accelerator and Smart Starter Kit, but we still thought we could do better. We wanted to achieve three key things: to lower the barrier to entry, speed time-to-market for developers and increase consistency and collaboration.  

Lower the barrier to entry: we wanted to get developers what they needed quickly while reducing the learning curve. Bluetooth has lots of great documentation but as the technology advances, it gets harder for developers to keep up with the changes, even in just the GATT technology. The concept of creating custom profiles, use cases for how a device should function in a solution, added an extra layer of complexity. We had to find a way of doing this without creating a massive document.  

Speed time-to-market: reducing the documentation and making the process more intuitive would certainly speed up the process. But we wanted to go further. There are a lot of great tools in existence for creating device-side (and client-side) code, including compilers and IDEs. We didn’t want to create a whole new tool chain. The tool needed to be easy to use, but also flexible enough to allow for integration into other tool chains to avoid duplication and ensure the process is as quick as possible.

Increase consistency and collaboration: I’m constantly astounded by the amount of good ideas we see from the community. Hobbyists, makers, all the way through to large ODMs are using Bluetooth to create the latest and greatest connected devices and applications. We wanted a way for people to be able to share their innovations in a simple way that would benefit the community as a whole.

That’s why we have created the Bluetooth Developer Studio, the official new Bluetooth development tool. We launched an Alpha version earlier this year and is now in beta with a full launch scheduled for Q4 2015. It allows developers to use existing adopted profiles, or create their own custom profiles, in the same intuitive graphical tool. You don’t have to poke around strung-together XML files, and then parse them to get what you want. You don’t have to read a 3,000 page specification to see how the GATT-based services hang together. You can interact with those things in real-time.

Bluetooth Developer Studio is designed with ease of use in mind, allowing you to focus on the solution you’re building, not the Bluetooth implementation. For those that don’t know much about developing with Bluetooth you can get started quickly using an intuitive, drag and drop user interface. The tool gives you a list of all the adopted profiles and lets you search within it, for example if you’re creating a fitness tracker you could type in ‘fitness’. Once you’ve found the correct profile you can then drag and drop it into the designer frame to import it.

If you don’t find an adopted profile that meets your needs the tool allows you to reference a library of custom solution implementations published by community members to see if you can find one that already fits the needs of your product. Developers can also share and rate these profiles, providing an extra layer of assurance and information from the community to help you make the right decision on what profile to use.  If you don’t find what you want from the adopted profiles or from within the community you can still turn to creating a new custom profile. Bluetooth Developer Studio makes this far easier by using a template for profile, service, and characteristic development.

To ensure interoperability with partner tool chains and various development tool sets, Bluetooth Developer Studio is built with a plug-in infrastructure. We already have a range of plug ins available in the beta from chipmakers including Nordic Semiconductor and Texas Instruments, as well as OEMs like Seed Labs, and we expect this ecosystem to grow. If you want to ensure your product will work with other devices, applications and platforms these plug-ins enable the quick creation of code that can easily be flashed on to a development kit or a particular device. If you’re creating a temperature sensor and you want to allow a particular application to be notified when the temperature changes, a Bluetooth Developer Studio plugin could generate that stub code for you.

To take you right through the development process Bluetooth Developer Studio also ties in with the testing process. Currently the Bluetooth SIG Profile Tuning Suite automates protocol and profile testing, ensuring a device supports the specification and is therefore interoperable with other devices. But while it supports technical testing it doesn’t support functional testing to ensure the product works in the way you want it to. So PTS can tell you if your device supports the heart rate profile but not what will happen when a user’s heart rate goes below a certain amount. With Bluetooth Developer Studio, we’re looking to provide functional testing in real time, using virtual testing environments and physical devices, within the tool so you can do all your testing in the same environment.

Throughout the process if there are things that still aren’t clear, service annotations, descriptions and notes all help you along the way. But you can also access in-depth tutorials directly from the tool – including how to create a custom profile or use a plug in. Bluetooth Developer Studio has a full help system with access to the in-depth documentation already in existence, so if you do need it you don’t have to find it somewhere else. We know people learn in different ways so whether you like to read, watch or listen we’ve got different types of tutorials for you.

Over 3,000 people have signed up to the beta and the feedback that we’re getting so far is that it is a solid development tool. The programme will continue for a couple of months before launch so if you’re a developer interested in the tool sign up today – get involved and give us your feedback. We’ve created a tool for the community and will continue to develop it so we want to hear your ideas on how we can improve it. We don’t want Bluetooth developers to feel constrained by the process, we want them to focus on their products and making them unique. We hope Bluetooth Developer Studio will allow you to dream bigger and get your product to market quicker.

Switching on after the switch off – how TV White Space could boost Scottish tourism 

28 July 2015 09:20:00

By Ian Reid, chief executive, CENSIS

A quiet revolution has taken place in one of Scotland’s forests. Its results could have incredible consequences for many of the country’s remote tourist attractions – connecting them with the rest of the world for the first time, writes Ian Reid.

We take for granted the connectivity we enjoy today – whether it’s Wi-Fi in city centres or the ability to surf the internet with relative ease on our mobile devices. But, when one ventures off the beaten track, that often ceases to be the case; most of the UK still only receives the lowest level of 3G coverage, according to Ofcom’s latest available data.

In a country with Scotland’s topography, that can be a major challenge – particularly for tourist destinations which tend to be in remote locations. If these areas could be enfranchised, there could be real benefits for some of Scotland’s most picturesque attractions, nearby businesses and local people.

A recent pilot project in Glentress forest – a remote and hilly terrain in Peeblesshire, typical of “adventure tourism” attractions – was an important milestone on the road to achieving this.

At this year’s Enduro World Series mountain biking competition, a consortium of companies came together to bring an emerging networking approach, known as TV White Space (TVWS), to the event. This method uses VHF/UHF channels, released by the analogue TV switch-off, to transmit internet traffic wirelessly over long distances.

This technology could offer an economically viable way of delivering connectivity to remote and inaccessible locations, without the need for regulatory approval or the installation of extensive cabling. It also has the added benefit of being able to propagate through trees, meaning you don’t require a direct line of sight for transmission – especially useful in forested and mountainous areas.

Working together, Scottish Enterprise, CENSIS, Boston Networks, Microsoft and Indigo Vision were able to provide the event organiser, Tweedlove, with capabilities which were previously unavailable in this location. The project, based on pioneering work from The Centre for White Space Communications at the University of Strathclyde, allowed the company to provide and make use of live video streaming, increased access to data and enhanced automation for its staff and spectators.

In practice, this meant Tweedlove could stream live video of the races to a nearby screen in Peebles town centre, provide live information and cut down on the need for manual data input and radio communications. This is great progress on what was available at the event last year. But, the real excitement is the potential that could be released if this connectivity is rolled out to attendees and the local area.

At many events, this could mean organisers, participants and tourists will be in a position to share their experiences in real-time on social media platforms – opening up a huge, hitherto untapped, audience for Scotland’s remote regions and attractions. That could cement Scotland’s place on the adventure tourism map and make it a top destination for young, tech-savvy sports enthusiasts.

There are obvious benefits for the companies involved too: this breakthrough for connectivity gives the project partners a unique opportunity to gain an early lead with technology which is on the cusp of widespread adoption. Significant progress is already being made on introducing this technology across the world, in both mature and emerging markets.

The Enduro World Series attracts more than 600 riders and 15,000 spectators – it’s a huge opportunity to promote Scotland on the world stage. The project at Glentress has opened up this possibility and, with further adoption of TVWS technology, we could be looking at a revolution for Scottish tourism.

Connectors for tomorrow’s system integrators 

27 July 2015 09:55:00

Have you ever heard the claim that there are more neurons in the human brain than stars in the Milky Way? The assertion has never been proven, but chances are the numbers are relatively close. The baffling numbers involved remind me of a day in the life of a systems integrator, especially given the rise of smart factories and smart grids – systems that fulfil multiple functions and require more connections than ever before in industry.   

Here, Amy Wells, marketing manager of industrial connector specialist Electroustic, explains the latest trends in systems integration.

In the last few decades, factories have changed a lot. Concepts like Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things and the smart factory all have a common trait: interconnectivity.

Let’s connect
With increasing levels of industrial automation in manufacturing and adjacent sectors, systems integrators are looking for more complex connectors. X-coded M12 and M8 sensor connectors, for example, provide a future-proof interface and support high bandwidth needs of up to 10GB/s, which makes them ideal for industrial internet. Chances are you won’t be able to walk into a factory without finding M12 or M8 connectors in I/O boxes, sensors, actuators, switches and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
 
Another result of the interconnectivity trend in systems integration is the increasing demand for industrial Ethernet products. Whether in power generation, public transport, manufacturing or oil and gas, Ethernet technology has established itself as the most popular choice for company-wide data networks. Ethernet allows the rugged connectors and industrial equipment on a factory floor to communicate data with control equipment and the enterprise network, while also reducing electrical noise that can cause serious equipment damage.
 
Bring out the big boys
Although industrial automation equipment has been getting smaller, it still needs to work in difficult environments, tolerating a wide range of temperature, continuous vibrations and electrical noise. Not to mention its fair share of bashing about. Similarly, industrial connectors for factory automation continue to have the same ruggedness requirements. A bit like Rocky, they need to be able to take a battering and still perform.

This means that over the last few years, we’ve seen a move towards more robust Mil-spec connectors. Originally developed in the 1930s by the US Department of Defence for difficult military applications, like aeronautical and tactical service, these heavy duty connector ranges are now a common sight in manufacturing environments. They are the perfect combination of complexity, because you can put several signals through them, size, because they are smaller than regular connectors, and functionality, due to their minimum IP67 rating.
 
When the going gets tough
Systems integrators today like their connectors tough and resilient, but also smaller and easy to assemble. For this reason, push-pull and bayonet mount connectors are much more common these days than older models. Although they can be pricey, system integrators prefer them because they are easier to install and change, plus they ensure a system is future-proof.

This takes us to the final trend in system integration - quality. Historically, system integrators looked at the high value products when it came to the controller, motors or drives, but didn’t see the point of choosing more expensive, higher quality connectors. After all, the connector's role was a simple one and if it failed, it would just be replaced with another. 

Today, systems integrators are starting to understand that increasingly complex industrial automation systems require increasingly advanced and resilient connectors. After all, if even one connector fails, the entire system could go down before a replacement is found. And in industries like oil and gas, automotive or aerospace, even a few minutes of downtimes can cost thousands of pounds.

Smart factories are becoming a bit like the human brain, with industrial connectors playing the role of neurons. In our brains, each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 others, passing signals via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. By some estimates, this is equivalent to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor – something that the factory environment is still a long way away from achieving. Nevertheless, the onward march towards the factory of the future continues apace and connectors remain at the vanguard of the movement. 
 

Hard coatings specialist helps motorsport students find the right friction formula for braking 

02 July 2015 06:19:00

Formula Student, the annual competition to build a racing car from scratch, attracts over 100 international teams to Silverstone every year. Participating for their sixth time, in 2015, The University of Sheffield Mechanical Engineering Department overcame many technical challenges. Material selection for the braking system posed an especially sticky problem that was overcome with help from ultra-hard coating specialist Wallwork Cambridge.

Team Principal, Thomas Bloomfield explained, “The competition exposes students to a raft of real-life engineering problems from the design of components, using computer aided design (CAD), through manufacture using additive manufacturing (3D Printing) to the final fitting and testing of components on the completed car. A key design objective was to achieve good power to weight ratio for race advantage, so titanium alloy was selected for brake components, but this created a new technical challenge.”

Nathaniel Wellicome, a final year student who led the chassis and vehicle dynamics team, explained, “Titanium is very strong, fatigue resistant and most of all light in weight. We were able to translate the design into a manufactured component using an additive process where metal powder is fused by electron beam melting (EBM) to create the complex component shapes. Unfortunately, relative to heavier alternative materials such as steel alloys, titanium is a soft material, so it can bind when under load in metal-to-metal contact. Wallwork have a lot of experience in the application of titanium in aerospace and motorsport so we asked them how to overcome the problems.”

Dr Jonathan Housden takes up the story for Wallwork, “The 3D printed parts were delivered to us with the mating surfaces machine cut to overcome the typical surface roughness that is common in 3D printing. This gave a smooth surface for the coating, but applying a hard coating to this machined surface on its own would be insufficient since the titanium substrate alone is too soft and the coating would break up under load. The answer was to use Nitron O, a duplex process that first infuses nitrogen compounds into the metal surface to produce a hard layer to support the subsequent titanium nitride surface coating. This permits the alloy to be used in high-load sliding wear applications, giving endurance and the required frictional properties, without binding.”

Silverstone will host around 100 international teams from leading UK and overseas universities for the race and technical judging between July 9 and 12. In addition to the race, a team of expert judges will score the Sheffield car for factors such as endurance, cost and sustainability.

Thomas Bloomfield concluded, “Our students participate in this challenge alongside their degrees so they gain multiple practical skills and develop fantastic time management skills and learn how to deal with realistic high pressure fast-paced environments. This makes them very employable and is why some companies, like Wallwork, are happy to sponsor the team by sharing their expertise. Dr Housden added, “Engineering is a dynamic profession and projects like this help us engage with the next generation of engineers, a collaboration that is beneficial for Wallwork, the University and the Students.”

To follow the Sheffield motor engineers story visit their You Tube channel https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1wg7llyBHhk.
 

Mouser-backed Piquet is Electric car racing’s first World Champion 

02 July 2015 05:26:00

Mouser Electronics congratulated Nelson Piquet Jr. for capturing the first-ever FIA Formula-E championship following a thrilling final battle in the London ePrix on Sunday.  The Mouser-sponsored Piquet went into London’s races ranked No. 1 among the Formula-E series drivers after a commanding victory earlier this month at the Moscow ePrix.

Piquet, who drives the all-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E, which can go 0–60 in three seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph, went to London with two first-place finishes and a commanding 17-point lead in the driver championship standings over No. 2 Lucas di Grassi.

In Saturday’s opening round, Piquet finished fifth after an early clash with di Grassi, who crossed the line just ahead in fourth to give himself an outside chance of winning the championship. Piquet started 16th on the grid on Sunday, but managed to fight his way up to seventh in the final timings to clinch the title by just a single point ahead of Sebastien Buemi.

“It was an incredible finish to an incredible year,” said Todd McAtee, Mouser vice president for Business Development, Americas. “We could not be more pleased and proud to be partners with Piquet and the entire China Racing team.

“In tandem with our supplier partners, we are excited that we could be a part of this high-tech sport that is paving the way for future automotive technologies,” McAtee added. “High-tech auto racing provides the perfect platform to raise awareness for Mouser and our partners.”

Mouser is sponsoring the China Racing Formula-E Team this year in partnership with its valued partners Molex and Vishay Intertechnology.

Formula-E is a new FIA global racing series featuring cars powered exclusively by electricity. It represents a vision for the future of the motor sports industry over the coming decades, serving as a framework for research and development around the electric vehicle. To learn about the series and the drivers, visit the website at http://www.mouser.com/formula-e. Fans can vote on FanBoost for Piquet (or their favorite drivers). The three drivers with the most votes win FanBoost. The live leaderboard shows how each driver is performing and updates every time a new vote is cast. Racing fans can learn more about FanBoost at http://www.mouser.com/formula-e.

At the Moscow ePrix on June 6th, Piquet quickly took the lead from the second he left the grid. He broke away and led the race by as much as five seconds with 15 laps remaining, before managing his energy to eventually win by two seconds. He also took the top prize in California at the Long Beach ePrix in April after back-to-back podium finishes in Uruguay and Argentina. To watch a YouTube video from the race in Moscow, click here.

Mouser-backed Formula-E driver Piquet to bring the heat to London 

26 June 2015 08:56:00

Mouser Electronics has announced that expectations are soaring for Formula-E Driver Nelson Piquet Jr. as he and his team head to London after a commanding victory at the Moscow ePrix.       

The Mouser-sponsored Piquet drives the all-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E, which can go 0–60 in three seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph. Piquet heads to the season-ending London ePrix double-header June 27th–28th with two first-place finishes and a commanding lead in the driver championship standings.  The popular driver is now ranked No. 1 among the Formula-E series drivers with 128 points and a comfortable 17-point lead over No. 2 Lucas di Grassi. Piquet races for the Mouser-sponsored China Racing Formula-E Team, which is now ranked third overall as they prepare for the upcoming races in London.       

A new 15 turn, 3-kilometer circuit has been built through Battersea Park in south London. The track is next to the River Thames, just across from Chelsea and with some of the most famous features of London's skyline in the background.  “We are amped up. The feeling around here is positively electric,” said Todd McAtee, Mouser vice president for business development, Americas. “With Piquet behind the wheel, we have high hopes for a historic World Championship Victory – a superb finish to an exhilarating inaugural Formula-E electric car race season. In tandem with our supplier partners, we are thrilled to support this high-tech sport that is paving the way for future automotive technologies.”       

Mouser is sponsoring the China Racing Formula-E Team this year in partnership with its valued partners Molex and Vishay Intertechnology.  Since every advanced, sophisticated component that goes into a race car is all about precision and gaining a performance edge out on the track, auto racing is the perfect vehicle to build top-of-mind awareness for Mouser and its industry-leading manufacturer partners,       

Formula E is a new FIA global racing series featuring cars powered exclusively by electricity. It represents a vision for the future of the motor sports industry over the coming decades, serving as a framework for research and development around the electric vehicle. Fans can vote on FanBoost for Piquet (or their favorite drivers). The three drivers with the most votes win FanBoost.  The live leaderboard shows how each driver is performing and updates every time a new vote is cast. Racing fans can learn more about FanBoost at http://www.mouser.com/formula-e.

At the recent Moscow ePrix, Piquet quickly took the lead from the second he left the grid. He broke away and led the race by as much as five seconds with 15 laps remaining, before managing his energy to eventually win by two seconds. He also took the top prize in California at the Long Beach ePrix in April after back-to-back podium finishes in Uruguay and Argentina. To watch a YouTube video from the race in Moscow, click here.     

 

Mouser’s Moon Challenge winners to send mail to the Moon 

23 June 2015 04:45:00

Mouser Electronics, the global authorised distributor with the newest semiconductors and electronic components, congratulates the winners in Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Space Challenge – the latest contest in Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together program. The two lucky winners, Roberto Chiesa Bartelmebs of Brazil and Rodolfo Magnus of Texas will have their photographs and ideas sent to the Moon.       

The Empowering Innovation Space Challenge, accessible only on Mouser.com, marks a historic event in space as the first commercial lunar landing. To prove their genius, the entrants submitted a photo and idea, in 100 words or less, on what technology best represents the world today. The engineering community shared their ideas online to receive votes for which idea and photo should travel aboard Astrobotic’s Griffin Lander to the Moon.

Both winners will have their entry and photo placed on the Moon’s surface in the Astrobotic MoonMail capsule. Roberto’s entry, in part, said:  “Digital electronics is the mother of current technologies and with it the software that manages the information. Electronics can move the world. The Moon cannot be different.”       

And, Rodolfo’s entry said: “The internet represents today’s world better than other technologies because for the first time we humans are connected in ways that before were only dreams…. This technology will be fundamental when colonizing the Moon to remain connected to our Mother Earth.”      

“I can’t think of a more ultimate prize to capture and inspire the imaginations of engineers’ worldwide,” said Glenn Smith, Mouser’s president and CEO. “This Space Challenge was a great follow-up to the Robotic Challenges. We’d really like to thank Astrobotic for their partnership. Sending a personal payload to the moon is an unbelievable engineering prize.”

“We are excited to welcome Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together Space Challenge winners aboard our first lunar mission,” says John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. “This partnership is a great example of how Astrobotic is opening up access to the moon for companies, governments, universities, and individuals. The winners will forever be connected with the Moon in the night sky thanks to Mouser and Astrobotic.”

The Space Challenge is part of the Empowering Innovation Together program – a way that Mouser and Imahara are connecting with engineers through innovation and creativity that defines engineering design.     

The Empowering Innovation Together Space Exploration Series is sponsored by Platinum Program Partner Microsemi and Diamond sponsors Vishay Intertechnology and Phoenix Contact.

To learn more about Grant Imahara, the Empowering Innovation Together campaign and Mouser partnership, www.mouser.com/empowering-innovation.

Wi-Fi to Carry up to 60% of Mobile Data Traffic by 2019, finds Juniper Research 

17 June 2015 09:37:00

New research has forecast that Wi-Fi networks will carry almost 60% of smartphone and tablet data traffic by 2019, reaching over 115,000PB (Petabytes) by 2019, compared to under 30,000PB this year - representing almost a four-fold increase.

Addressing the Wi-Fi Offload Benefits & Challenge

The new research - Mobile Data Offload & Onload: Wi-Fi, Small Cell & Network Strategies 2015-2019- found that mobile data offload, [data migration from a mobile network to a Wi-Fi network], offers several key benefits to industry stakeholders. Offload not only addresses the issue of patchy coverage, but also has the potential for the creation of new services such as VoWi-Fi (Wi-Fi Calling) and to increase the usage of existing 3G/4G services.

However, the research cautioned that Wi-Fi offload brings challenges to Operators of effective deployment and ROI (return on investment). “Operators need to deploy own Wi-Fi zones in problematic areas or partner with Wi-Fi hotspot operators and aggregators such as iPass and Boingo”, added research author Nitin Bhas.

Additionally, operators are also converting residential customers to community hotspot providers, especially in the US. According to Wi-Fi service provider iPass, there were nearly 40 million community hotspots in 2014 and expects this to more than double this year to nearly 90 million.

Other global mobile data traffic highlights include:

  • Global mobile data traffic generated from devices including smartphones, featurephones and tablets forecast to exceed 197,000PB in 2019.
  • Juniper estimates global smartphone data consumption to be nearly twice the amount of tablet traffic in 2015.
  • Developing markets such as the Indian Subcontinent are forecast to witness higher growth rates and increased market share of the total mobile data traffic over the next 5 years; with operators in India already witnessing close to 100% y-o-y growth in data usage.
  • North America and West Europe will together account for over 50% of the global mobile data being offloaded in 2019.

The whitepaper, Wi-Fi Calling Operators is available to download from the Juniper Research website together with further details of the new research and interactive dataset.

Juniper Research provides research and analytical services to the global hi-tech communications sector, providing consultancy, analyst reports and industry commentary.

Worried about executing an IoT strategy? Top 10 things manufacturers must consider 

17 June 2015 05:11:00

While the opportunities for embracing IoT are incredibly exciting, it is essential that manufacturers ask the right questions from the beginning when identifying and executing an IoT strategy said Mark Lee, CCO of Intamac, an IoT enabler and innovator with over a decade of experience in this sector. 

Mark continued: “IoT is a relatively new sector where best practices around things like security are constantly evolving and certainly not widely adopted across the industry. This means manufacturers have to be extremely careful when developing their IoT strategy and selecting an IoT technology partner. Asking important questions about security, reliability and customer experience from the beginning is essential in order to avoid potentially disastrous consequences in the future. 

“A classic example is consumer products being shipped with ‘username’ and ‘password’ as the default login settings. In most cases the user won’t change these, either because they aren’t aware or because the product doesn’t prompt them to do so. As a result, the user is automatically vulnerable to attack and it is from small errors like these that the IoT’s ‘insecure and hackable’ reputation was born.” 

While Mark does acknowledge this reputation, he says that in Intamac’s experience, by rigorously scrutinising your strategy and solution architecture, manufacturers are able to successfully develop and bring exciting new connected products and services to market. Mark offers his top 10 tips for manufacturers: 


1.    Value proposition – Have you considered what the added value of connecting your products is, and is it meaningful? The IoT industry is littered with examples of gimmicky products, with tenuous business cases. The usual rules apply: ‘Does connecting the product solve a real problem it didn’t solve before it was connected or add value in some other way?’ If you are increasing productivity, adding useful functionality, reducing maintenance and repair costs, or providing something people don’t already have then chances are that you will have a solid business case and a viable connected product.

2.    Security – Remember it is your company’s brand reputation that will suffer if there are problems with security, personal data breaches or similar, not the reputation of your IoT technology provider. Contract provisions to penalise the supplier are possible but this is unlikely to fully offset the damage to your brand reputation. As a result, you need to know that the technology and your provider has a quality reputation within the industry, and uses best practices such as encryption and locking down communication to minimise the risk of a security breach to the greatest extent possible. 

3.    Data – By 2016 53% of manufacturers will offer smart products, but the biggest game-changer for these companies will arguably not come from the added product value, but from the data created by the end-user. Companies considering an IoT strategy must ensure this information is collected, and used to discover deep and meaningful insights into the end-user, their behaviours and how they use the product, to drive product development.

4.    Business Model – Implementing IoT technologies also creates the opportunity to modify your current business model to incorporate services with a regular revenue stream, or potentially new markets, products or partnership opportunities for extra value services. Make sure you have considered all the options, and have the technology in place to do so before you launch your product. 

5.    Scalability – While you might not need a cloud infrastructure resilient enough to cope with millions of users now, it is possible that you will in the future. How easy will it be to scale your cloud and will it still be cost effective? These questions need to be addressed from the beginning to ensure a complete rebuild is not required at a later date. 

6.    Reliability – It is important that your connected products work as reliably as your unconnected products. This isn’t only about risk of reputational damage. Depending on what the connected product is, the consequences of poor reliability could be serious (for example, a remotely controllable lock that you are unable to unlock). Ensure you have a reliability feedback loop to confirm a product has acted upon a message when it has received it. Without this you have no way of knowing if your command (unlock/lock etc.) has been received and acted upon. The technology in your product has to work every single time without exception. 

7.    User install – When a consumer buys a new product they want it up and running as soon as possible, and while it may be easy to create something that technically works at proof of concept or lab stage, it can be painful for the user to set up and use in the real world if the right design steps aren’t taken. Make sure you do thorough trials of your product before launch and be open to the feedback you receive. 

8.    User experience – We live in a world where there ‘has to be an app for that’. Consumers want to control their technology from their smartphones and expect this functionality. However, consumers will judge you on the user experience of the app, rather than the technology itself. Have you considered building an app? And, if so which functions would be of value to include on it? Make sure the user experience is clean and simple to ensure easy usability. 

9.    No Internet?  - People often ask what happens to IoT when there is no Internet, and it can be extremely inconvenient if simple things like turning your lights on and off won’t work because your Internet is down. This issue is pronounced in IoT security systems, when the house can effectively be blind without the Internet. You need to ensure architecture is in place to prevent these issues. For example, Intamac’s technology features ‘distributed intelligence’ which means its partners’ products are resilient to loss of Internet connectivity, allowing them to function autonomously. 

10.    Data efficiency - A significant part of the rational for connecting products is to collect and analyse data, such as diagnostics, usage or performance. It is easy to take the view ‘we will collect as much data as we can and crunch it in the cloud’, but it is important to consider the cost and other ramifications of this approach, both for the user and you. Remember, the more data you collect, the greater the cost. It is important therefore to have an efficient data management system in place, so that only useful data is collected and that this process is intelligent and optimised. 

Mark concluded: “The most important thing to remember is to choose your IoT technology partner carefully, and then plan, test and refine your connected product for as long as is required before you bringing it to market, as it is your reputation that is on the line if something goes wrong. Having said that, this industry is moving quickly, and manufacturers need to take this opportunity seriously. To be left behind could be highly costly to a manufacturer at this exciting and revolutionary time for the industry.” 

How will integrated mass notification systems change the industry? 

17 June 2015 04:18:00

The mass notification systems (MNS) market has historically been segmented between indoor, wide-area, and distributed recipient notification hardware and software. In its most recent report on the MNS market IHS found that some end users are beginning to install integrated MNS solutions that use a combination of indoor, wide-area, and distributed recipient notification technologies to ensure notifications reach the largest number of people. IHS expects integrations of multiple notification modalities to be a key driver of growth in the Americas market over the next five years. IHS found the fastest growth within the Americas industrial market. IHS expects a large percentage of this growth to be the result of increased uptake in integrated MNS solutions. IHS expects the industrial market to increase by more than 7% over the next five years to more than $320m as a result of the uptake in integrated MNS solutions. 

Our Take

What is driving the uptake of integrated MNS solutions?

  • A major factor contributing to the uptake of integrated MNS solutions is the introduction of IP notification appliances. The use of IP notification appliances such as speakers, sounders, strobes, and digital signage has enabled MNS vendors to connect these appliances to building management systems and life safety control panels which can also send messages via indoor, wide-area, and distributed recipient notification systems. This allows end users to send notifications across multiple notification devices to ensure notifications are received. 
  • Enterprise MNS solutions are also driving investment into integrated MNS solutions. IHS found that large industrial end users have a need to integrate their notification systems across multiple facilities and regions. This enables the corporate office to monitor and notify employees throughout an organisation of an emergency and allows local offices to notify the corporate office in the event of an emergency. 
  • The ability of an organisation to use their MNS solution for purposes other than emergency communications was found to be a major factor when deciding to install an integrated MNS solution. IHS found that organisations are installing integrated solutions for business processes, business continuity, and information technology uses.


What does this mean for the MNS market? 

  • As end users look for more integrated MNS solutions, IHS expects systems integrators and physical security information management (PSIM) vendors to take a more prominent role in the MNS market. 
  • Increased demand for integrated MNS solutions is also expected to drive more open protocols within the MNS software market. As end users demand seamless integration with existing notification appliances IHS expects MNS vendors to adopt more open software protocols to enable multiple systems from different manufacturers to work together. 

The need to notify personnel in the event of an emergency is expected to remain a key driver of growth in the MNS market; however, as integrated solutions gain more traction in the MNS market IHS expects systems integration companies to have a larger role in the market. This is expected to result in more cooperation between MNS suppliers as end users drive demand for seamless integration of notification solutions.    

Ultrahaptics to receive €1.49M Grant from the European Commission under Horizon 2020 

09 June 2015 03:59:00

Ultrahaptics, a developer of ultrasonic free-space haptics technology, has announced that it is to receive a grant of €1.49M in the latest round of Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 2.

The company applied for the grant under the commission’s Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme which aims to foster the development of fast-growing, innovative SMEs with promising, close-to market ideas bearing high disruptive potential in terms of products, services, models, and markets.

Ultrahaptics has developed a technology that uses ultrasound to create feeling in mid-air. By holding their hand over ultrasound speakers the user can feel virtual objects, control switches and buttons.

Speaking of the grant, CEO, Steve Cliffe said: “We are enormously proud to have been selected as one of only four companies in the UK to receive this funding. Our innovation will be truly disruptive in the way we interface with technology, and this funding will help us develop the breadth of applications. We are already engaged with key partners in multiple markets but the applications really are limitless. Everything you touch physically today, every light switch, dashboard control, keyboard, you could feel yourself touching virtually, in mid-air, in the future.”

RS Components supports mission to find Ireland’s brightest coders 

09 June 2015 03:50:00

RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents, the global distributor for engineers, is helping to support IT in education and nurture an interest in coding for future engineers with a donation of 50 Raspberry Pi devices – small, credit card-sized computers that can be used in electronics projects – for an event to find Ireland’s best and brightest young coders.

CoderDojo’s Coolest Projects takes place on 13th June, allowing members of CoderDojo – community-based programming clubs for young people, supported by the Coderdojo Foundation – to show off their skills and the projects they have created, from websites and apps to Scratch projects, HTML and other advanced coding languages. RS has also offered a prize of €250 worth of RS products for use in future projects. 

The event, now in its fourth year, is open to younger members of society from aged seven to 17. It will be held in the RDS Dublin, where the BT Young Scientists Competition is held each year. Up to 500 projects are expected to be showcased, double that of last year, and the event includes participants from around Europe, with around 10% of projects from CoderDojo members outside of Ireland.

Gary Bradley, country manager - Ireland, RS, said: “CoderDojo’s Cool Projects is a fantastic initiative that supports innovation, which is something RS is committed to doing. What these participants can develop with a little help does not fail to amaze me and it is great for RS to be a part of that support.”   

One of last year’s winners at the Coolest Projects event was Niamh Scanlon, who created an app that pinpointed the map location of all electric car charging points around the country, whether they were currently in use and if so, how long for - all in real time. The app also provided directions to the charging points. Niamh has since gone on to develop the app for Android phones, which is expected to be available on the Play Store soon. She is now also working on an Apple version.

Electronics firm supports local school’s STEM project 

01 June 2015 04:20:00

TDK has announced that TDK-Lambda UK is again supporting 6th form Diploma students at The Ilfracombe Academy with a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project.

Developing skills and practicing scientific practical techniques is core to the Applied Science curriculum. The unit involves students in a range of practical sessions, which involves the analysis and separation of substances and the use of various high-tech test and measurement instruments and sensors.

“We have been working closely with the course tutor and STEM lead, Vikki Cooper to develop a session that fulfils the needs of Unit 4 in their Diploma that focusses on scientific practical techniques but also ensures that all Health & Safety requirements are met,” said Anne Sutton, training and development officer at TDK-Lambda UK.

Working with the component engineering team, groups of students had the opportunity to review some electronic components, before analysing them in more detail using TDK-Lambda’s state-of-the-art test & measurement equipment. The merits of all the different practical techniques used throughout the day were compared and contrasted by all of the students during the closing session.

“Many TDK-Lambda employees began their careers in engineering with apprenticeships, internal training and graduate paths,” Anne added. “This type of STEM activity can provide invaluable help and advice to students looking to take their first steps on the career path and, interestingly, all of the engineers involved in this project attended The Ilfracombe Academy for their own formative education.”

 

LPRS sponsors Warwick University satellite (WUSat) project 

22 May 2015 05:05:00

Low Power Radio Solutions (LPRS), World-Wide Radio specialists supplying robust wireless solutions where reliability is paramount, is pleased to announce itself as a new product sponsor in support of the Warwickshire University Satellite (WUSat) Programme[e1] .

The Warwickshire University Satellite Team, now in their ninth year of operation was in the beginning - an undergraduate team created by Dr William E Crofts: BA; MSc by Research; PhD (Warwick); MIET; MIEEE; Chartered Engineer, to complete six years of work as the electrical power subsystem team on ESA’s moon orbiting satellite (ESMO).

The WUSAT project, run by this team of Engineering Undergraduates,  commenced in 2012 with the aim of producing a CubeSat (a nanosatellite which is typically in the form of a cube 0.1m wide, with a mass of less than 1.33kg) to launch into orbit. Their first project was WUSAT-1 where the team launched their first CubeSat to an altitude of 30km via a high-altitude weather balloon. This project explored the harsh environment the CubeSat would be subjected to, an environment where the ambient temperature can fall as low as -50°C.

The team successfully achieved the second phase of this objective in April 2015 as part of the prestigious DLR/SNSB project REXUS (Rocket Experiment for University Students) where WUSAT-2 was launched from Sweden’s Space Centre (Esrange) to an altitude of 87km. The CubeSat was ejected from the rocket’s nosecone payload and returned to earth at speeds approaching Mach2. During descent, The CubeSat’s spectroscopy payload measured elements of the earth’s atmosphere and transmitted the data, via LPRS radio modules, to a ground station receiver. This was the first occasion that an ESA/Rexus launch device had successfully achieved stand-alone radio transmission on re-entry. A major achievement for the team and for the LPRS components to work under such extreme conditions.

The WUSAT’s CubeSat radio transmission system uses LPRS’ eRIC (easyRadio Integrated Controller) modules for communication and in component prototypes. Donated initially by RS Components, the eRIC module is the latest in LPRS’ worldwide sub-1GHz easyRadio range which provides secure data transmission, on-board user programmable application memory and fully programmable low power options.

Dr Crofts commented in recent correspondence with LPRS, “…the communications subsystem is always going to be a critical part of our satellites as we begin to work on our next mission – WUSAT-3.”

LPRS is very excited to have the opportunity to assist Engineers of the future in discovering the potential and new limits of wireless technology, and are consistently amazed by the projects and innovations they see via universities and academy’s – there seems to be no bounds to the imaginative use of technology. LPRS are grateful to RS Components for introducing the WUSAT team to eRIC.

 

Data traffic to soar as mobile devices generate the equivalent of 10 billion Blu-ray movies by 2019 

21 May 2015 05:37:00

New research has forecast that mobile data traffic, generated by Smartphones, Featurephones and Tablets, will approach almost 197,000 PB (Petabytes) by 2019, equivalent to over 10 billion Blu-ray movies, according to Juniper Research.

However, the research found that only 41% of the data generated by these devices will be carried over cellular networks by 2019, with the majority of mobile data traffic offloaded to Wi-Fi networks.

Smartphone & Tablet Data Usage to Double Over the Next Four Years

The research, Mobile Data Offload & Onload: Wi-Fi, Small Cell & Network Strategies 2015-2019 estimates that the average monthly data usage by smartphone and tablet users will double over the next four years. The daily media consumption by mobile users will continue to rise, bolstered by the rise in 4G adoption and factors such as HD video usage.

“Certainly, video is forming an ever-greater proportion of network traffic. For example, Juniper Research anticipates that video traffic over smartphones will increase by nearly 8 times between 2014 and 2019”, added research author Nitin Bhas. Video currently accounts for around 60% of global IP traffic and, in some developed markets, this proportion is likely to exceed 70% in 2-3 years.

In 2014, data traffic generated by smartphones, featurephones and tablets in the Far East & China exceeded that of North America for the first time.

The Demand for Wi-Fi
Additionally, the research observed that Wi-Fi has now become an integral part of operators’ network strategy. Wi-Fi is not just being used for data offload, but also to maintain call connection quality in challenging network topologies. For example, EE UK launched its Wi-Fi calling feature on a selected number of handsets in April 2015.

Other key findings include:

  • Onloaded M2M traffic will significantly increase over the forecast period, primarily driven by telematics and connected car infotainment systems.
  • North America and Western Europe will have the highest offload factor throughout the forecast period.

The Wi-Fi Calling Operators whitepaper is available to download from the new Juniper Research website together with further details of the full research

Juniper Research provides research and analytical services to the global hi-tech communications sector, providing consultancy, analyst reports and industry commentary.

Magnetic field harvesting project triumphs at 2015 CWIEME Challenge 

21 May 2015 05:31:00

At last week’s CWIEME Berlin exhibition, key players in the electrical and electromagnetic industries gathered to watch four student teams battle it out for a €1,000 technology prize in the first ever CWIEME Challenge. This new initiative, sponsored by longstanding CWIEME exhibitor Marsilli (who also provided the prize), aimed to discover the most innovative electrical design and engineering projects from students around the world and introduce them to the industry’s leading manufacturers.

More than 20 high-quality entries were received, of which four were selected to present at a live final on Wednesday 6th May, moderated by author, broadcaster and futurologist James Bellini. The students were judged on communication and presentation, relevance to industry needs, technical innovation and potential for industrialisation, with solo entrant Sheng Yuan from the University of Liverpool in the UK scoring the highest.

Yuan, originally from Shanghai, presented his PhD project on the potential to harvest magnetic field energy to power condition monitoring devices, such as partial discharge sensors and infrared detectors at electrical substations, as well as real-time weather stations beneath overhead power lines. The idea was suggested by UK wireless energy monitoring and control tools manufacturer Invisible Systems, as it was important to Yuan to spend time developing technology that would bring considerable and immediate benefits to the industry and society.

His proposal includes a novel bowtie-shaped core, which he discovered to have a much higher magnetic moment and as much as five times greater power output than a conventional solenoid, and a switch in the matching circuit, which could increase transmission efficiency by 30%. These could significantly improve the reliability of condition monitoring devices, and reduce their maintenance and running costs. Yuan plans to complete his PhD project within the next one to two years and has already filed a patent.

Other projects in the final included the implementation of a DC/DC converter powered by a DC voltage inverter circuit, an integrated motor drive system, as well as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s winning electric racecar from the 2014 Formula Student grand prix.

One of the judges, Giorgio Cacopardo, sales director at sponsor Marsilli said: “Sheng’s project stood out because we could see its industrialisation in the near future and there was some ingenious thinking behind it – but all the competitors worked with impressive enthusiasm and patience.”

Marsilli leapt at the chance to sponsor the inaugural CWIEME Challenge.

“Many smaller companies like us have cut their R&D budgets, but we remain thoroughly committed to innovation. We’re not an off-the-shelf equipment supplier; rather we aim to co-innovate with our customers according to their individual needs, even the ones they haven’t thought of — constantly perfecting our machines with each order, whether in regards to size, precision, noise level, flexibility or user-friendliness. That’s why the CWIEME Challenge’s focus on promoting innovation struck such a chord with us,” said Dieter Kiefer, area manager for Germany at Marsilli.

“What’s more, there are lots of well-educated and ambitious young people out there who fit our philosophy of working independently and with passion. But coil winding is a niche area, which many students may not have heard of. CWIEME Berlin is an excellent occasion for the engineers of tomorrow to learn about what we do but also for us to support them. Only with a good mix of ages, genders and cultures can we continue to generate fresh and game-changing ideas,” he said.

Yuan said: “It’s an honour to have won this prize. I enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate my project – how it can be beneficial to the industry and society at large and how we can improve the facilities we currently have. CWIEME Berlin is also an excellent event for students to find out what the industry needs and what we can do. As students, we have lots of ideas, and with the support of the manufacturers, we can achieve great things.”

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.

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, www.mouser.com/empowering-innovation.

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 edyta.grabowska@frost.com.

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 element14.com.

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.

http://www.fasciagraphics.co.uk/ 

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 http://greenpeak.com/Press/PressKit/2015GreenPeakWhitePaperSmartHomeHype.pdf

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. 

Donation of Raspberry Pis means it’s ‘game on’ for new top attraction 

26 March 2015 11:28:00

RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents, the global distributor for engineers, has demonstrated its support of innovation and education by donating 300 Raspberry Pi credit card-sized computers to be used in a new games hub, the National Videogame Arcade (NVA) in Nottingham’s creative quarter, a CNN ‘top ten attraction’ set to launch in March.

The NVA is the brainchild of GameCity, an annual festival that aims to bring games culture to a wider audience through pioneering approaches, which works in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham City Council and Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies. The launch of the NVA, which is hailed as the ‘world’s first permanent cultural centre for videogames’, will provide a video games hub with themed galleries, a changing programme of interactive exhibitions, and an educational programme across the National Curriculum whilst promoting the diverse cultural, educational, economic and social benefits of games to a broad audience.

The Pis of which 50 are new and 250 are mendable, will be used in the setup of the venue, as well as in the education programme and exhibitions to make easy platforms for showing content. They will also be used for lighting control and as part of 'Introduction to Raspberry Pi' workshops for school groups.

GameCity was founded in 2006 by Iain Simons, a creative journalist with a background in theatre and music who grew up in the Commodore 64 era, which first sparked his enthusiasm for gaming.

Iain explained: “The National Videogame Arcade is a limited company with 20 members of staff with experience across many disciplines, and will pioneer new forms of creative engagement with technology. GameCity has established partnerships with institutions such as the British Library, the Welcome Trust and Nottingham Trent University as well as the games industry. The NVA has a strong education ethos that will work to support the changes in the IT curriculum in schools.”

“The donation of the Pis is fantastic, as we have a variety of uses for them; we can offer them as a resource to resident artists, who will be creating and delivering workshops, and we'll offer their use to teachers, to help them take their new knowledge back to the classroom. We are hoping that with the ones that need mending, we may inspire groups interested in up-cycling, who are up for a challenge.”

The centre will hold a mixture of permanent and constantly-changing exhibitions suitable for all ages. It will be a ‘show and tell’ themed centre for excellence where people can play games together, learn different ways of putting input into games and have lessons in coding and design. The first major exhibition ‘Jump!’ examines the history and craft behind one of the medium’s most fundamental pleasures. The exhibits include Mission Control, a multi-player experience designed to encourage people to make games as soon as they arrive and convey the message that games are something you can easily create.

One permanent feature of the NVA will be ‘A History of Games in 100 Objects’. This interactive exhibition will map the history of videogame culture in Britain – from the appearance of the world’s first game-playing computer at the 1951 Festival of Britain, to the newest virtual reality experiences on Oculus Rift.

There will also be member only events where members can meet, network and use the centre and equipment to create games. Members will be encouraged to learn to fix and recycle, as well as experiment.

Iain concluded: “Our general philosophy is that there should be no barrier to learning, so we really want to encourage people to use our equipment during visits and workshops.”

For more information about GameCity and The National Videogame Arcade, visit http://gamecity.org/national-videogame-arcade/.

Mouser and Imahara unveil giant Spider-Bot as basis for second robotics “Empowering Innovation Challenge”  

26 March 2015 11:10:00

Mouser Electronics, the global authorised distributor with the newest semiconductors and electronic components, is partnering with celebrity engineer Grant Imahara to call on engineers of all levels to collaborate with him to provide creative ideas and solve real world problems using his Spider-Bot as part of the next Robotics Empowering Innovation Challenge. This second challenge is a continuation of Mouser and Imahara’s journey with the engineering community to Empower Innovation Together, where engineers can engage with Grant Imahara through a variety of topics and series of challenges that question and defy innovation in the pursuit of new ideas.

The Robotics Empowering Innovation Challenge is the second in a series of different challenges on a variety of engineering topics. This time, Grant is asking engineers to solve a problem using his robot known as “The Spider.” The challenge is to creatively describe what to attach or add on to enhance Grant’s existing Spider-Bot to solve a real-world problem and why that particular problem should be solved. Once submitted online through Mouser.com, entrants are encouraged to share their idea with their friends through social media channels to help in gaining votes.  To vote, simply go to the Empowering Innovation Challenge webpage, click and scroll through the list of ideas, and pick which one you think deserves the top honors. It’s as simple as entering your email and hitting the vote button. The top three ideas with the most votes will qualify for a prize. With less than a month remaining, the race is on for the engineering community to share their ideas online, let the public vote and let genius prevail.

The first 200 entrants of the Robotics Challenge will receive a “Letting My Genius Prevail” T-Shirt. Grant, familiar to many through the Mythbusters television series, will select the Grand Prize winner. The Grand Prize winner will also receive signed Grant memorabilia.

For over 20 years, Grant’s passion has been in robotics, and it’s apparent in his Spider-Bot design. Now he’s looking to engineers of all levels to collaborate with him to help solve real-world problems using “The Spider,” and encourages everyone to go online, share their ideas and invite their friends to do the same.

“This challenge, similar to the first Robotics Challenge, is a great opportunity for engineers to prove their genius and earn those bragging rights…again,” said Grant Imahara. “With so many great ideas from the first robotics challenge, I’m really looking forward to what our engineering community has in store for my Spider-Bot this time around.”

The Robotics Empowering Innovation Challenge is just another way that Mouser is connecting to engineers through innovation and creativity that defines engineering design.

“We’re so thrilled to be working with Grant on this Empowering Innovation Together campaign,” said Glenn Smith, Mouser president and CEO. “It’s a great partnership, because Mouser provides the newest products and technologies, while Grant provides the inspiration and engineering expertise – it’s a perfect pairing, and so far, the response has been phenomenal.”

The Empowering Innovation Together campaign is sponsored by Platinum Program Partner Texas Instruments. Also joining in the sponsorship are Molex and Panasonic 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.  

With its broad product line and unsurpassed customer service, Mouser caters to design engineers and buyers by delivering What’s Next in advanced technologies. Mouser offers customers 20 global support locations and stocks the world’s widest selection of the latest semiconductors and electronic components for the newest design projects. Mouser Electronics’ website is updated many times per day and searches more than 10 million products to locate over 4 million orderable part numbers available for easy online purchase. Mouser.com also houses an industry-first interactive catalog, data sheets, supplier-specific reference designs, application notes, technical design information, and engineering tools. 

Equipment donation helps college specialisation  

09 March 2015 05:17:00 Categories: Comment

Specialist in connectors and industrial Ethernet products Electroustic is investing in the future of engineering by donating £3000 worth of stock to Milton Keynes College. In recognition of the current UK skills gap in science and engineering, Electroustic seeks to promote practical learning opportunities and help cultivate bright young minds for the future. 

"The progressive nature of the connector and industrial Ethernet market dictates that products must constantly evolve to keep up with security, speed and power developments,” explained Paul Carr, managing director of Electrousic. “This means equipment becomes obsolete faster than in more traditional industries. Electroustic didn’t want to see older generations of fully functional connectors, capacitors, resistors and components go to waste. 

"We came up with the idea of asking our local campus, Milton Keynes College, whether it had any use for the equipment. The response was very positive and the outreach has opened talks for future collaboration with the college. Electroustic would like to encourage other engineering companies to reach out to local schools more and get involved in training the next generation of engineers."         

The £3000 worth of stock was donated to the Department of Leadership Technology and Built Environments to provide learning materials for the college students for years to come. 

"The call from Electroustic asking if we wanted the stock couldn't have come at a better time really," explained Mark Pears, deputy director for Leadership Technology and Built Environment at Milton Keynes College. "A lot of the electronics donated were things that we were about to order anyway. This meant that we were able to allocate that budget on other equipment for the department, creating a richer learning environment and attracting prospective pupils to the college." 

Electroustic has a history of over 50 years distributing top brand connectors, leads and electromechanical components for industry, particularly sectors like automotive, transport, food manufacturing, energy, petrochemical and security.

Qi App guides you to more Than 3000 Wireless Charging Locations  

03 March 2015 03:24:00 Categories: Comment

Aircharge has announced the launch of a new mobile application to allow consumers to easily locate a public location or venue that provides wireless charging compatible with the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) Qi interoperable standard. Currently, there are more than 3,000 existing locations deployed around the globe, and the WPC predicts this will increase rapidly as support for Qi wireless charging from major mobile phone manufacturers continues to accelerate, driving widespread consumer awareness and adoption.

Qi wireless charging provides a convenient and safe method for powering consumers' mobile devices throughout their day without having to carry a charger, cable or battery pack. Whether the need is to charge at home, in the car, the office, a coffee shop, restaurant, airport lounge, hotel or even at the gym, an established and rapidly expanding ecosystem is enabling this. The new Aircharge-Qi wireless charging locator app helps consumers to locate nearby public charging spots so they can charge mobile device wirelessly.

The app, designed and managed by Aircharge -- recently elected as chair of the WPC Infrastructure Application Group (IAG) and co-chair of its Promotional Working Group (PWG) -- already includes more than 3000 public locations worldwide. These include all Aircharge installed locations as well as all other Qi wireless charging locations via input from a number of WPC members. This illustrates how large the rapidly expanding ecosystem for Qi wireless charging is, already fifteen times greater than that of public available infrastructure supporting other wireless power standards. 

Users of the App can choose to set a battery percentage threshold, which when reached, triggers an alert to prompt them to locate a charging location. Using the map function, they can quickly locate and be directed to a nearby venue which offers Qi-enabled wireless charging. Consumers can also switch to a list view to view details about a nearby venue and view its distance from their current location. Additional features include the ability to leave user feedback and experiences at each specific location. Collectively these features not only supply a convenient tool for general consumers but also a powerful portal for businesses to drive traffic to their location.

The Aircharge-Qi wireless charger locator app is available to download now on iOS and Android and from the relevant App stores. It can also be downloaded from the Aircharge website at http://www.air-charge.com/app. It will be available on the Windows platform in early March. All public Qi-enabled locations can be added to the App via the Aircharge team. Please contact Aircharge for details.

The importance of colour in branding 

26 February 2015 08:50:00

We all associate colours with different emotions and actions. Red means stop, green means go (as does yellow if you’re in a hurry!). Therefore getting the colour right for your brand is imperative, you want to stand out from the competition, but not so in a way that is detrimental to the brand. Colour is the first element the mind sees and the last it forgets and therefore is one of the most important components in creating brand identity.

Research by Xerox discovered consistent colour branding across all your platforms (branding, social media, advertising and logo) not only makes you look more professional, customers are more likely to remember your brand and your business. Colour improves brand recognition by up to 80% and increases comprehension by as much as 73%.

We all associate colours with emotions, blue can be related with cold and depressing if the wrong hue, however it can also represent authority and calm. Red induces excitement but can be seen as aggressive. These two are the most popular colours online, when you consider how many social media platforms have a blue logo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter it is clear that brands are considering their colour. 

Colour is so important in branding that confectionary giant Cadburys have copyrighted the pantone colour 2865c for chocolate bars and drinks, winning an intellectual property argument against Nestle in 2011.

Colour offers an instantaneous method for conveying meaning and message without words and is the aspect people remember most about a brand. So the colour of your brand should not be random. Below are two factors to consider when deciding on the colour for your brand.

Target Audience

People are affected by colour in different ways according to cultural trends. For example, the colour white in the US represents purity; however in some parts of Asia white represents mourning.  So when you pick the colour for your brand it is important to ask – who are your target audience? What do they care about? You need to decide on a colour that best conveys the values of your brand, whilst also distinguishing your brand from your competition. 

Brand Character

Colour influences how people view the personality/character of a brand. When choosing the colour for your brand you need to consider what colour best represents the attributes of your brands personality.  For example, if one of the attributes of your brand is excitement, then the colour red would be an ideal choice, however if you want to convey trust then perhaps the colour blue is more suited.

Once you have decided on the colour, logo, shape and message of your brand you can then move on to label and packaging production. At Fascia, we can advise on how your brand colour and character can be translated into a physical product, and we also have the capabilities to match to any colour system (Pantone, RAL, BS, Munsell etc), or a corporate hybrid, ensuring that when printed your labels are the perfect representation of your brand.

5 top tips for designing a label 

25 February 2015 06:18:00

When it comes to designing a product label, it can be a very daunting task. There are many different things to consider in the design. Below are five tips to help with design the perfect label.

1.When designing product labels the first thing you need to consider is; what is the message your want to put across to your customers? And what information do you want to include?

It is very common for labels to have limited space for all the information required; therefore it is important that you select the most important information to be printed on your label. Information such as product name, company name and registration number, contact details, ingredients, country of origin and barcode, are just some of the information you should consider adding to your label. It is also important you know the demographic you are marketing to before designing your label.

2.Size and shape is very import in the design of your label. The shape and size can make a fundamental difference, whether it will stand out from your competitors, or just be buried in a crowd.

Good practice is to take a look at what labelling your competitors use, and see what shapes and sizes they used, using something a little different can help you stand out. It can pay to get creative with the shape of a label, however you have to know your market as a cool creative funky looking label will not look good on a bottle of toilet bleach.

3.As well as the shape and size of your product, the font is also extremely important. The font needs to be readable so use a serif or sans-serif font, as scripted fonts can be difficult to read. Your font also needs to be big enough to be clearly and easily read, don’t make your customers squint to read your labels.

Depending on the demographic and age group of your customers, the font you use can be vital. For example if you are targeting teenagers a quirky fun font will be more effective, whereas it is the complete opposite for 50+’s, where a clear more formal font would be appropriate.

4.Once you have decided on the look of your label, you then have to decide on the feel. With many different materials and finishes available, each producing different textures and effects. You need to consider how you want your label to be viewed by your potential customers.

Do you want a metallic finish? A matt or gloss finish? Do you want the material to be clear? Do you want the material to be white? There are so many different options, so it is important that you take your time before deciding, so your label can be produced for the best results.

5.If you are unexperienced with design, for the best results you may want to use a professional designer.

Just discuss with the designer what information you want the label to contain and any aspects of the label design you have in mind and they could create a stunning label for you.

Fascia Graphics can match to any colour, shape, size or font you desire so that when printed your labels are the perfect representation of your brand.

Transforming the in-car experience - connecting drivers to their cars 

25 February 2015 06:02:00

Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president of Qualcomm Europe, discusses how consumer demand for mobile technology is shaping the connected cars of 2018.

From the early days of developing bigger and better engines that up a car’s top speed, to the more modern concepts of in-car comfort, safety, driver-assistance and infotainment, the automotive sector has spent decades pushing technology innovation forward.  Now, as more smart devices have come to market, a new benchmark for the pace of innovation has been created. Current generation cars are expected to be as much connected devices as they are modes of transport.

Just as with the mobile industry, Qualcomm’s first contributions to the auto industry were focused on enabling, enhancing and extending connectivity. Over the past decade, and working closely with key players in the automotive sector, we at Qualcomm have developed a number of new technologies that enhance the in-car experience through wireless connectivity. The GM OnStar telematics system is present in over 10 million cars on the road today, and the first cars with embedded LTE, the Audi, Cadillac, BMW are already on the market. The demand for connectivity is already there, and only set to expand. Bringing much of our expertise and success from mobile, we are focused on transforming automotive communication as it’s known today to improve driver safety, deliver more personalised in-car experiences and enable in-vehicle entertainment.

Increasing connectivity

The connected car of the future has become the new platform for the development of mobile technology. ABI Research reports 60% of new cars purchased will be connected through mobile technology by 2017. One in five cars on the road will be ‘aware’ by 2018, according to Gartner.

The connectivity demand is an important issue in automotive design, one that is spurring increasing collaboration between technology companies and car manufacturers. What the consumer is demanding, whether they realise it or not, is hardware that both lasts for years and can be updated with future features that run on a standard system. At the same time, engineers need to grapple with creating more aesthetically pleasing designs, developing more efficient engines and alternative fuels, and improving safety.

All the tech under one bonnet

Mobile technology has slowly crept into cars, both on the dashboard and under the bonnet. Not so long ago, the pinnacle of in-car tech was having a powerful sound system and perhaps a small screen with an early sat-nav system. Now, full colour and 3D sat-navs are the norm, decent sound systems are a given, and background technologies have snuck in to tie everything together; Bluetooth connectivity, multimedia screens, front and rear displays, 3G and 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi hotspots and more. As these existing technologies get replaced, what’s in a car’s dash quickly becomes outdated. Automotive manufacturers and engineers need to build-in systems that can be updated incrementally so drivers aren’t left with outmoded technology.  

At CES, the international technology trade show, this year Qualcomm debuted two concept technology cars to show how designs are changing in response to consumer demand for increased connectivity and entertainment. A ‘mashup’ of a Maserati Quattroporte GTS modified with a host of connected technologies, including both the QNX CAR platform and the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform, alongside an Android based Cadillac XTS, were present.

The Maserati is equipped with advanced infotainment, digital instrument clusters, and driver assistance systems, all aimed at improving the overall driving experience. Such systems all feature the latest multi-touch high-resolution displays and user interfaces (UIs), 3D graphics for navigation, and LIDAR-based obstacle detection. Even the standard wing mirrors were upgraded with smart displays that both provide colour-coded information for improved driver safety and remove the usual blind spots from regular glass mirrors. Despite being a concept car the possibilities for improving the overall passenger experience through improved connectivity and upgraded technology are clear to see.

A future-proof system

What sets both cars apart is the technology found deep inside, and how it seamlessly improves the overall driving experience The Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform works to manage all the infotainment features, process vehicle safety data and information from a number of camera, proximity and LIDAR sensors, and reports all the relevant information back to the driver in real-time.  

How is this different from other cars on the road today? To answer that it’s important to understand what the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform actually is; a highly integrated, thermal-efficient automotive-grade platform that combines a number of components in a single system; CPU, GPU, 4G LTE modem, GPS/GNSS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. As well as enhancing the driver (and passenger) experience through modern infotainment systems you’d expect to see in current-generation cars, the system also provides a glimpse of the car for next-generation features – whether they’re on the drawing board or at concept stage now, or are still to be dreamt up by automotive designers and engineers.

Three areas where the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform makes the biggest impact include: the instrument panel, the connected infotainment system, and the driver information assistance system. While some of these features can be seen as a polished version of what’s on the market today, it’s important to note they are built on a system that supports both today’s features and the next-generation of developments that will appear in years to come.

The digital, reconfigurable instrument panel

The instrument panel is not a static display, and can be adjusted to a number of different views to provide a range of information to the driver; the view from a rear park assist camera, the current audio track, sat-nav information and routes, and vehicle data, to name a few.

The connected infotainment system

Alongside the digital instruments is a second, larger touchscreen. Built on the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment, which in turn runs on the powerful Snapdragon processor, the system’s UI supports voice recognition, has a touch screen with the ‘tap’, ‘swipe’, and ‘pinch/zoom’ functions you’d expect to find on your smartphone, and allows rear-seat control of navigation, audio selection and temperature by passengers. 4G LTE embedded SAS platform enables drivers to seamlessly switch to digital streaming radio feeds delivered by popular streaming radio applications.

Driver information assistance system

Using LIDAR and proximity sensors, the system detects obstacles near the car and provides the driver with warning information through either the instrument panel, side-view displays or a set of dashboard LEDs.

Conclusion

Although the Maserati Quattroporte GTS and the Cadillac XTS have been designed purely as concept cars, they embody Qualcomm’s vision of advanced in-car experiences delivered through wireless and computing technology. Most importantly, with the pace of innovation and customer demand, current and future connected technologies must be built on integrated systems to ensure infotainment technologies can be upgraded for the lifetime of a car. With the evolution in the connected car space set to intensify, automotive manufacturers will begin to look at ways their designs can differentiate themselves in terms of connectivity, infotainment systems, performance and aesthetics. The safety, servicing and entertainment benefits delivered by a connected car with integrated platforms will increasingly influence the decision making process of car purchasers.

As automotive manufacturers and engineers approach the design stage for new cars, connectivity and infotainment features should be front and centre of new designs.  Consumer demand for the latest technology in their car will become a prerequisite, rather than a nice extra, by 2018.  

Back to a healthy development pace: 2015 China wearable tech industry prospects 

11 February 2015 10:22:00

Wearable tech was a major sensation in 2014. The wearable tech industry generated extensive interest among media, investors, start-ups, wearable tech enthusiasts, technology leaders and trade fairs. Many events were held around wearable products and industry last year.  The trend for early 2015 has seen the industry fall back into a healthy developmental pace. Investors are keen to see a return on their capital injections and former start-ups are now reaching maturity.

While the industry is on a steady footing, the market remains hot and investors optimistic about prospects in wearable tech. The government recognises the strength of the industry too. Wearable tech is a key highlight identified in the Notification on Launching the Mobile Internet and 4G Industrialisation Project released by the National Development & Reform Commission. In 2014, the Shenzhen Municipal Government set up a special fund managed by the Municipal Economic & Commerce Commission to support the robotics, wearable tech and smart equipment industries.

The medical and health segments remain on a strong upward trajectory. According to a report by iiMedia Research, the wearables market is still in the early stages of development, with the medical and health segments regarded as offering the brightest prospects. Baidu’s Wearable Product User Demand Report released states that sports and health monitoring have become core use demands in wearable tech. Industry experts believe that wearable products are an opportunity to transform the medical equipment landscape. Smart technologies have the potential to revolutionise the whole chain of medical service delivery, including clinics, treatment, care and medication. A recent report by Guotai Junan Securities also predicts that new technologies, like mobile internet, wearable tech and big data will disrupt the traditional medical equipment industry.

The wearable tech industry spans hardware, industry applications, social networks, operation services, big data, clouds and other elements. Companies must find the right entry point to capitalise on burgeoning prospects.  Industry development is being driven locally to make the most of segment opportunities. Today, two major hubs are leading industry in growth: Shanghai and Shenzhen. Pudong and Zhangjiang are at the forefront of Shanghai’s efforts, focusing on R&D, localisation of specialised chips and integration. A range of leading domestic brands are emerging in Shanghai, including Guokr, Oviphone and Cloud Ants. Shenzhen is featuring a complete industry chain, from raw materials to production and processing. Many wearable tech makers are setting up factories around Shenzhen or locating EMS partners there.

Building on a 30-year legacy and a reputation as the must-attend event for Asia’s electronics manufacturing industry, NEPCON China 2015 will take place in Hall 1 of Shanghai Expo Exhibition Center, from 21st to 23rd April, 2015. NEPCON is a one-stop platform for SMT and automatic packaging solutions. The event attracts manufacturers and developers on the application side too, particularly those involved in the R&D of wearable tech.

According to the general manager of Oviphone, Mr. Yu Wenjie, wearable products are fun, fashionable, functional, and, at the same time, customised.  Mr. Yu believes that wearable products will become indispensable personal accessories for consumers. The product may evolve from a simple watch to a full-sized wearable garment. To unleash the full potential of the technology, top-level expertise is a must - from design to production. Manufacturers and developers should come to professionally organised trade events like NEPCON to gather information on the latest equipment, processes, and solutions, under one roof, in a very short space of time. Information gathering, after all, is the first step to tackling problems and challenges.   

NEPCON China 2015 will feature the latest technologies in SMT, surface welding, electronic measurement, automatic electronic production, static electricity prevention and new materials. The exhibition will span 25,000 sqm and gather over 500 leading companies from 22 countries and regions, who will exhibit to 21,000+ trade visitors. NEPCON guarantees you top quality and top business leads. Don’t miss it! 

ESL ushers in the age of smart shopping 

11 February 2015 09:35:00

Ms. Smith goes to her local hypermarket to buy steaks for dinner and an LED lamp. In the past, she would have to search the aisles for these products, but not today. She gets out her smartphone, starts the app provided by the store to look for the LED lamp.  The app shows her where the LED lamps are and how she can get there.

As she puts the LED lamp into the shopping cart, her smartphone beeps to let her know that steaks will be sold at a special discount for the next ten minutes.  The new price is posted right after the announcement, and she rushes to the food section. Just after she grabs the meat at the discounted price, the price switches back to the original price.

This everyday scene is not set far in the future. It's actually happening now with many supermarkets and department stores introducing the Electronic Shelf Labeling (ESL) system. Just what is an ESL system and why is it causing a sensation among both consumers and the distribution industry?

Electronic shelf labels are the newest solution available to large supermarkets and department stores, enabling them to replace old paper labels with LCD, e-paper and other forms of display to show the price and advertise products that are on sale. Electronic shelf labels wirelessly receive the data from a central server. The system is composed of a gateway that delivers product information by using low power wireless communication technology and a tag that acts as a receiver.

With the implementation of an ESL system, distribution chains can manage the prices and inventory of thousands of items in the store on a real-time basis. An ESL system can also greatly save time and labor in changing the price labels. As for consumers, they can receive the location of the items they want as well as product information through communications between the ESL system and their smartphone, and order the items they want, pay for the merchandise and fill out the delivery request right on the spot. The ESL systems are likely to evolve into an Internet of Things (IoT) hub that provides a wide array of distribution-related services. TechNavio, a UK based technology research and advisory company, forecasted that the ESL market will post an average annual growth rate of at least 20%, and the market size will grow from $2bn this year to $5bn by 2017.

Many global suppliers of electronic parts are taking an interest in ESL, and some have launched initiatives in the development and mass production of ESL. One of them is LG Innotek, a global materials and components manufacturer which has been aggressive in pursuing its ESL business based on its global leadership in wireless communication and control systems, combined with its core technology for IoT development.

LG Innotek can provide customised ESL solutions to suit the characteristics of every store. Its product lineup includes small size 1.5" and 4.2" monitors and medium size 9" monitors, while the company has developed an NFC-based solution and products with special features such as water-proofing and sensing temperatures and humidity. In particular, the company has succeeded in developing and commercialising an ultra-thin ESL that is only half the thickeness of existing products with its exclusive technology. 

The company also plans to actively promote mid-range ESL products by using TFT-LCDs that offer full colour to screens.

LG Innotek developed stable, low-power ESL solutions by applying Zigbee, Wi-Fi and IR-UWB. They offer secure and integrated management of the central store system network by providing two-way communications that connect gateways with every ESL in the store. It's structured to monitor the current battery status of all the tags and send out a warning signal when the battery is low.  It also uses two-way communications to enable stable network management through real-time monitoring of tags and a gateway for the system administrator to take necessary measures in case of a system error.

The company is also developing a system that precisely tracks the location of a shopping cart in real-time to help customers shop more conveniently. The system can be applied to existing systems without any additional construction, resulting in more revenues for the retailers by saving costs. LG Innotek is planning to roll out its ESL products to large distribution chains in the U.S., Europe and Asia as part of a global marketing campaign.

Meeting the UK’s big appetite for truly wearable technology 

04 February 2015 09:42:00

Sales of wearable devices in the UK is on the rise, according to a new survey from consumer insights research company GfK. Ownership of wearable tech amongst Brits has shot up with a total of 420,000 units bought since January 2014, reaching a combined value of £51m.

The research, undertaken to investigate the main selling points for wearable tech, suggests that the crossover between technology and fashion in wearables is likely to increase. 73% of those surveyed said that they would consider wearing clothing or jewellery items with integrated trackers.

Earlier this year we conducted our own survey of consumers’ views on wearable technology and our results pointed to a similar trend. The research found that 72% of Brits agree that it’s important that wearable technology devices look good and 67% think that it’s important that their wearables fit with their personal style.

However, GfK has found that companies are not yet meeting these expectations. The report states for example that there is a widespread perception that smartwatches are regarded as “gadgets for geeks” and haven’t yet achieved mainstream appeal desired by manufacturers. This should mean that we can expect new and exciting designs ahead, prompting even more growth for the industry.

In order to prove that a device can balance being both fashionable and functional, we at CSR decided to develop a range of connected jewellery ourselves.

Designed in conjunction with boutique jeweller Cellini, the pendant-style connected necklaces contained CSR’s Bluetooth Smart solution – the CSR1012. The integrated electronics enabled the wearer to customise the colour and brightness of the integrated LED to suit their mood or to coordinate with a particular outfit.

What is also clear from this report is that the challenges faced by manufacturers extend beyond just looks. Those surveyed by GfK ranked battery life, comfort and functionality as almost equal to or more important as the device’s design. What CSR’s connected pendant proves is that manufacturers can achieve great aesthetics as well as battery life, small form factor and fast connectivity.  

If you are interested in learning more about the CSR1012, visit our product page where you can purchase a CSR µEnergy Development Kit.

Five key IT security trends for 2015 

04 February 2015 09:16:00

Ian Kilpatrick, chairman Wick Hill Group, specialists in secure IP infrastructure solutions, looks at five key IT security trends and solutions for 2015.

Rise in security breaches
The current high level of security breaches, from the largest organisation down to the smallest, will continue unabated. What will also grow in 2015 will be the acceptance that security breaches are pretty well unavoidable for the majority of organisations. Companies will need to change their approach to security in order to reflect this. Security spending will continue to increase, with spending growth higher on asset security over perimeter security.

Cloud/virtualisation
The ongoing growth in cloud (and cloud data breaches) will carry on boosting awareness of the need to manage risks in a virtualised world. Identity management technologies will continue to experience a resurgence. Some of these technologies, such as two-factor authentication, despite already being well-established, will experience high growth, as companies secure access to key data and application assets

Mobile and wireless
The new multi-gigabyte 802.11ac wireless standard, coupled with BYOD, tablets and the apps they support, will continue to drive businesses into a mobile universe, willingly or unwillingly. The slow shift from a wired network to a wireless one will interestingly be driven by SMBs and public sector organisations.

Wireless and mobile security has lagged considerably behind the security curve. For example, research has shown that the majority of smartphones (i.e. devices with more capabilities than many old laptops) don’t even have PIN protection, never mind antivirus, encryption, remote wipe etc. So there is huge growth potential for both security on these devices, and also for securing the wireless connection. This has already been highlighted by a number of high profile security breaches in 2014 and will become even more evident in 2015.

Big Data
The continued growth of big data and virtualisation has already shown that virtualisation security and the security of data farms in general is often lower than that of the data, before it was migrated to data farms. The huge volumes of data thefts will continue to accelerate, with a corresponding increase in compliance fines, as organisations struggle to upgrade their security to keep pace.

The next area for big data management is log files. Organisations have huge amounts of business beneficial information in their log files. However, these files are typically held in large numbers of silos and are often treated as more of a storage problem, than a business benefit. 2015 will show a clear shift toward aggregation and analysis of these log files.

Visibility reporting and remediation systems
One of the big challenges for organisations is the sheer volume of security information they have to deal with. Multiple security solutions create multiple reports and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to get the big picture and identify the actual threat. In fact, the average time from breach to detection is over 100 days!

Significant growth in consolidation solutions can be expected. However, given that most organisations aren’t green field sites, there will be even greater growth in solutions that report on and carry out remediation over multiple security platforms
Compliance, an acceptance that breaches will occur, and a fundamental need for C- level access to relevant security information, will drive this area strongly forward.
 

Innovation in sensor solutions and virtual reality holds the key to transforming the UK healthcare landscape 

02 February 2015 09:12:00
With articles about poor NHS performance dominating news headlines, Plextek Consulting argues that upcoming technological advances in the medical industry will start to drive the most active and rapid progression the UK health system has ever seen during 2015. Moving away from the typical ‘doctor-patient’ model, the company predicts that the next five years will witness the health service become increasingly more open to portable, easy-to-use and low-cost systems, that empower patients to self-monitor, prescribe and resolve medical problems to ease the burden on over-stretched GP surgeries, A&E departments and hospitals across the UK.
 
Analysts predict the sensor market in Consumer Healthcare is expected to reach $47.40bn by 2020 and will bring real value to the medical industry in terms of potentially enabling more patients to be screened and treated in the community, with post-operative patients returning home just 48 hours after major surgery. However this mass introduction of sensor technology needs a major education programme to help speed adoption by consumers and enable the rapid movement of the market.
 
Collette Johnson, business manager medical at Plextek Consulting commented: "To realise innovative care models and make our vision a technical and commercial reality, emerging start-ups, manufacturers, retailers and healthcare professionals must all work together to ensure innovative devices and revolutionary medical systems make the step from concept to reality. Sensor technology will revolutionise the future of our health for the better, and with the correct education of users of the system and intelligent interpretation of the data collected in areas such as dementia and hydration monitoring, it can change the way we deliver healthcare. Consumers must embrace this technology, start using it and be in control of their health." 
 
In virtual reality (VR) Plextek Consulting is already seeing a perception shift in the medical industry with VR systems helping rehabilitate and train patients and industry professionals, with the medical simulation market estimated to be worth $1.9 billion by 2017. Further innovation in VR will lead to the development of systems to help patients overcome traumatic situations or rehabilitate their body; unite the family by providing a greater understanding of how loved ones are being affected by their particular health issue e.g. schizophrenia; and open up VR as an effective distraction technique for subduing pain.
 
To elaborate on how pioneering technologies in sensor applications and virtual reality systems will enhance healthcare delivery within the next five years Plextek Consulting's Collette Johnson has authored a vision paper "Patient of the Future: 2020” drawing on more than a decade’s knowledge and experience of the NHS and working with breakthrough medical start-ups. This paper can be downloaded here.
 
Plextek Consulting is actively involved in the design of new products, systems and services in the medical sector helping device manufactures to innovate and take ideas from concept to market. The company has extensive experience integrating technologies for medical, health and well-being applications; enabling life changing systems for integration into the home setting to provide optimum patient benefits; and using its sensor expertise to enable suitable technology at the right value proposition for the market application.

Connected and smarter products at CES 2015 show how market has transformed 

14 January 2015 09:53:00

Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) reports that an impressively broad range of products at the recent International CES 2015 incorporated one or more of its  technologies, reflecting a growing recognition of Imagination’s leadership capabilities helping to drive industry trends such as higher quality graphics, audio and video; high-performance and highly-efficient processing; and on-chip connectivity. Imagination’s technologies were at the heart of products ranging from the most embedded smart devices for automation and control to the latest high-resolution entertainment products (listed in part below), and featured in notable SoC launches at the show from Actions and RockChip.

Said Tony King-Smith, EVP marketing at Imagination: “It’s been a great start to the year for us. At CES 2015 we saw more ‘smart’ and connected products than ever before using our technologies, including a number of new IoT and wearable products as these segments begin to ramp volume. In home entertainment, CES confirmed there is an overall move toward studio-quality audio and video, migration  of 4K TV to mainstream, and growing interest in 8K, along with the re-emergence of OLED as a potential volume TV display technology. These trends all point to the growing demand for Imagination’s scalable technologies and customisable platforms that enable differentiated products as well as feature and performance leadership.”

Products powered by Imagination’s IP (intellectual property) cores at CES included the latest devices in Imagination’s core markets including smartphones, tablets and TVs, and a wide range of smarter connected consumer devices incorporating Imagination’s technologies for communications across both connectivity and broadcast, wireless audio, automotive and intelligent vision. An increasing number of products also combine multiple Imagination IP technologies including including PowerVR multimedia, MIPS CPUs, Ensigma connectivity, Caskeid audio, HelloSoft VoIP, and FlowCloud device-to-cloud technologies.

Entertainment is better with Imagination
On display at CES were some of the latest TVs with PowerVR technology. Imagination demonstrated next-generation 4K user interfaces on an LG smart TV. In addition Imagination featured up to four HD streams being manipulated using advanced graphics effects to deliver an outstanding user experience thanks to combining PowerVR VPU and GPU capabilities on the Intel-based Google Nexus Player. Also on display were a new TV from S2-Tek that uses a demodulator chip for DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 based on the Ensigma Explorer RPU and a soon-to-be-released OTT streaming device that features a Toshiba chip with PowerVR graphics and video as well as Ensigma Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 connectivity. Imagination’s PowerVR GPU technology was also featured in a number of new TV models from LG announced at the show.

During the show, Google announced that it is working to reimagine the living room alongside an ecosystem of TV partners, highlighting Imagination as key participant in its Android TV initiatives.

The latest smartphones, tablets and smartwatches have Imagination
Many of the latest smartphones and tablets announced at the show make use of Imagination’s high-performance, highly efficient PowerVR graphics and video technologies. Products with PowerVR video included the Acer Iconia One 7 B1-750; E-Fun Nextbook 8”; FuHu DreamTab; HP Stream 8; Huawei Honor 6 Plus and Ascend P7 flagship phones; Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10” (1051F), 8” (830F) and Pro 13” (1380F); Ramos i9s; SurfTab xintron i 7.0 and more.

Products with PowerVR GPUs included the ASUS Fonepad 7 (FE171CG), MeMo Pad 7 (ME572CL), and Zenfone 2; the extremely thin Dell Venue 8 7000 Series tablet – which won the prestigious 2015 CES “Best of Innovation” award; Lenovo P90 phone; KD Kurio Tab (Kurio Xtrem); Illumination Minion Pad and Tectoy Disney Frozen Tablet among others. In addition, the Nokia N1 tablet was made available for pre-orders during the show, selling 20,000 units in just four minutes, as reported by Nokia on its Weibo social media channel, with around half a million others wanting to buy.

Imagination’s customers also unveiled new chipsets with PowerVR Rogue GPUs for tablets and beyond, including the new Falcon Series ATM9009 from Actions Semiconductor, a 64-bit quad-core solution for high-end Android tablets and OTT set-top boxes; and the RK3368 from RockChip, a 64-bit octa-core SoC for tablets and 4K UHD media players.

New smartwatches featuring Imagination’s IP included the Motorola Moto360 smartwatch which features a PowerVR GPU, and new MIPS-based smartwatches including the GEAK Watch 2 and a new smartwatch from iPPea.

The future of high quality audio with Imagination
Imagination’s Caskeid wireless audio IP platform was demonstrated at CES playing back Meridian MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) content. Caskeid is the first wireless multiroom streaming solution to support MQA, a revolutionary new technology that lets listeners hear sound exactly as it was captured in the studio. (See full press release at: http://www.imgtec.com/news/detail.asp?ID=950)

Imagination also demonstrated the latest audio products using technologies including its Ensigma, MIPS and Caskeid technologies. Among the products demonstrated were the PEAQ Munet Smart PMN300 speaker, the Pure Pop Mini radio, and updates to Pure’s Jongo multiroom wireless speakers including the S3X, T2X, and T4X with new family sound, digital equalization and app assisted setup. Philips also showed the new Philips Spotify wireless multiroom speakers which is based on Imagination’s technologies.

The Geek Wave Portable Music Player, a MIPS-based compact music player designed to deliver the highest-resolution audio available, and funded by a highly successful indiegogo campaign, was also shown at CES.

Driving the latest automotive products with Imagination
New automotive products at CES with Imagination IP inside included the Ford SYNC 3, a connected communications and entertainment system that incorporates TI’s Jacinto automotive SoC featuring a PowerVR GPU.

Other demonstrations included the latest Kanzi dashboard UI from Rightware on platforms with PowerVR GPUs including the Renesas R-Car H2 and TI Jacinto 6 platforms. In addition, QNX Software showed an ADAS system, infotainment system, and digital instrument cluster in a QNX reference vehicle based on a Jeep Wrangler, running on the Jacinto 6 processor.

Green Hills Software announced the addition of virtualized, accelerated graphics support for Renesas R-Car H2 processors in its INTEGRITY Multivisor virtualisation solution, targeting next-generation graphics-intensive automotive applications such as reconfigurable clusters, navigation systems, ADAS and infotainment. The update to INTEGRITY Multivisor leverages work performed by Green Hills Software, Renesas and Imagination.

A connected, smart home with Imagination
CES attendees could see a demonstration of a variety of smart home applications running on the new MIPS-based Securifi Almond-2015 router, through which Zigbee enabled functions can be controlled via a touchscreen or connected app on Android and iOS devices.

Imagination’s FlowCloud device-to-cloud technology was demonstrated in healthcare and smart home applications, including a home heating control system built on the chipKIT WiFire development board which features a MIPS-based PIC32 MCU from Microchip Technology.

In addition, Imagination showed its HelloSoft HD video, VoIP and echo cancellation software integrated with its mobile FlowTalk client software running on devices including Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. The EVQM (Enhanced Voice Quality Management) and DVQM (Dynamic Video Quality Management) algorithms ensured superior voice and video quality even in the crowded wireless environment at the show. Imagination’s WebRTC and VoIP software was also demonstrated embedded in a home gateway and a new MIPS-based IP camera.

Imagination powers the connected experience
Ikanos Communications announced that ST&T, which has a track record of providing home automation products to top global OEMs and carriers including Honeywell, AT&T and NTT, selected its MIPS-based Ikanos Fusiv Vx500 chipset for next-generation high-performance gateway platforms targeting a range of home automation, monitoring and other smart-home applications.

Quantenna Communications and Lantiq announced availability of a joint system solution, leveraging Lantiq’s MIPS-based GRX300 communications processor family, designed to address the Ethernet retail router market. Liquid Image announced that it selected Altair Semiconductor’s 4G chipsets – which are based on MIPS – for the Ego LS Camera developed to live stream videos and images through the Verizon 4G LTE network to social networks and cloud servers.

Also on display at CES was the Chiwawa, a compact Wi-Fi module with a MIPS-based Qualcomm Atheros AR9331 SoC which supports a Linux distribution based on OpenWrt called Linino.

New Imagination technologies will power future consumer products
Imagination showed the power of its new PowerVR imaging framework for Android, highlighting GPU compute features including image processing, live camera stream processing, face detect and fluid dynamics, on phones from Lenovo and tablets from Dell and ASUS. During CES, Luxoft announced that it has implemented its advanced image and video enhancement technology, Pixerra, to leverage Imagination’s PowerVR imaging framework for Android, achieving optimal SoC performance and power-efficiency.

Imagination demonstrated the latest PowerVR Rogue graphics features, including 4K textures, high-triangle throughput, physically based lighting, HDR (high dynamic range) rendering and hardware tessellation on a variety of products including the latest tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, smart TVs and OTT set-top boxes. In addition, Imagination showed hybrid rendering with ray tracing running on a PowerVR ‘Wizard’ development platform. Using the new Huawei Honor 6 phone, Imagination showed how H.264 video can be played back, captured by a PowerVR video encoder and sent over the network to a receiver via Miracast with exceptionally low latency.

Highlighting the benefits of combining PowerVR GPUs and video processors, Imagination showed region of interest encoding with an algorithm using GPU compute for face detection in bandwidth-limited scenarios. Imagination also showed how GPU compute can enable powerful retail analytics functionality in a demonstration using a Vadaro camera with a PowerVR GPU.

The connected products of tomorrow are only as secure as their weakest links, making Imagination’s hardware virtualization based multi-domain security a must for next-generation connected products. Multiple hypervisors including the FEXEROX hypervisor from SELTECH Corp. were demonstrated on a MIPS M5150 platform, showing how virtualisation-based security enables multiple operating systems to run separately and securely on one CPU.

Imagination powers innovation with Creator
The recent announcement of the Creator CI20, the first of a series of advanced low-cost boards targeting developers and featuring not only MIPS and PowerVR technologies, but also Imagination’s FlowCloud IoT infrastructure, continue to stimulate tremendous interest with schools and universities as well as developers and entrepreneurs worldwide. New projects demonstrated or developed on the MIPS Creator CI20 development board at CES included a wide range of Linux desktop and Android applications running at full HD resolution, such as OpenArena and the popular VLC media player.

See Imagination for yourself
The next opportunities to see Imagination will be at Embedded World, Mobile World Congress and the Game Developers Conference (GDC), where further announcements will be made around SoCs and end products using Imagination’s IP.

Cambridge Wireless experts make 2015 predictions 

09 January 2015 04:59:00

Industry experts from Cambridge Wireless (CW), the global community for companies involved in wireless and mobile technologies, have made their personal predictions for 2015. CW Special Interest Group (SIG) Champions comment on a wide range of topics from the evolution of wearable devices and the promised launch of the Apple iWatch to the hype surrounding the Internet of Things and the roll out of LTE.
 
CW also predicts further expansion in 2015 and the last 12 months saw a wide range of new members including Telecom Italia, Huawei, Network Rail Telecom and AstraZeneca. It is calculated that the combined value of some 400 CW members is over $1.5 trillion.
 
Claus Bentsden, head of computational biology Astra Zeneca (Academic / Industry SIG): "It will be really interesting to see if there is a step change wearables in 2015 – the Apple watch launch and evolution will be interesting to follow and there is plenty of room for tech innovation here such as flexible touch screens. Maybe less sexy and consumer oriented – but it feels like proteomics is about to take off big time. Will we finally be able to effectively quantify the proteome at the single cell level? Possible implications include disruptive innovation regarding our understanding of biology and our ability to deliver life changing medicines.  And 2015 will be the year of anything, anywhere, on any device with further steps towards being truly agnostic about where your information is – probably with much more press focusing on security."
 
David Chambers, founder and senior analyst at ThinkSmallCell (Small Cell SIG): "During 2015 mobile network operators will put in place the foundations for phase timing for LTE, to enable full HetNet operation of features such as eICIC, eMBMS and CoMP. This establishes the groundwork for highly efficient densification combining macrocells and small cells to achieve the highest coverage, capacity and spectral efficiency that meets the demands of future wireless data traffic growth."
 
Kevin Coleman, managing director, Alliantus (Business SIG): "Device focus will switch to wearables, especially Apple iWatch."
 
Timothy Cook,  head of strategic business development, Arqiva (Digital Delivery and Content SIG): "4K/UHD standards will be defined."

Marciocci Giuliano, senior staff user experience manager, Qualcomm Technologies (User Experience SIG): "Virtual Reality will heat up as a new medium for delivering interactive experiences, with new players coming onto the market to join Samsung and Oculus VR. This will intensify a discussion on how the new medium can be used to deliver learning, shopping and entertainment and its potential impact for gaming and storytelling."
 
Zahid Ghadialy, managing director, eXplanoTech (Small Cell SIG): "Wearables will continue to disappoint in 2015 and won’t take off in huge numbers."
 
John Haine, innovation coordinator, u-blox UK (Radio Technology SIG): "2015 will be the year where the wireless industry discovers that it needs a new technology for Internet of Things communications.  At the moment there is a hotch-potch of short range solutions that need a smartphone or similar gateway; proprietary systems that have limited functionality and/or coverage and capacity; and cellular, designed for voice and mobile broadband, which is too expensive and uses too much energy for applications that have to live in the field for years or decades.  Attention will suddenly focus on standards for wide-area ‘one hop’ communications that can connect billions of simple sensors and actuators, wherever they are, at low cost and lasting for years on a simple battery."
 
Nick Hunn, CTO, WiFore Consulting (Connected Devices SIG): "The Apple iWatch will arrive, although probably later than expected.  Despite a tsunami of other wearable products appearing, it will take up around 75% of the media coverage and may be the product upon which the market decides whether wearables are worth pursuing."
 
Collette Johnson, business development manager, Healthcare at Plextek Consulting (Healthcare SIG):  "We will see the use of virtual reality in consumer systems for experiential retail."
 
Dana Pavel, general partner, TecVis LP (Big Data SIG): "2015 will bring even more movement towards personal wellbeing, through more sophisticated data gathering and processing systems as well as through increased efforts towards integrating personal healthcare with existing healthcare systems. This could also involve new business models, hopefully some more focused on preserving data ownership, while also enabling more sharing with various parties."
 
Tim Phipps, business development – Wireless Cambridge Consultants (Security and Defence SIG): "5G will be claimed to include faster-than-light artificial intelligence / technology innovation and convergence will drive a big shake-out in the wireless networks industry; small cells, SDN, SDR and 5G will lead to dramatic new winners and losers."
 
Anthony Rix, senior consultant, TTP Group (Connected Devices SIG): "he current Silicon Valley VC tech funding bubble will burst in 2015."
 
Dirk Trossen, principal engineer, InterDigital Europe (Virtual Networks SIG):  "There will be a deflation of the IoT hype with the realisation of major limitations to delivering the IoT. This is despite many expecting 2015 to be the year of IoT."
 

Intel CEO outlines future of computing 

08 January 2015 09:08:00

Intel has announced a number of technology advancements and initiatives aimed at accelerating computing into the next dimension. The announcements include the Intel Curie module, a button-sized hardware product for wearable solutions; new applications for Intel RealSense cameras spanning robots, flying multi-copter drones and 3-D immersive experiences; and a broad, new Diversity in Technology initiative, which includes a $300m investment to encourage more diversity at Intel and within the technology industry at large.

“The rise of new personal computing experiences, intelligent and connected devices, and the wearable revolution are redefining the relationship between consumers and technology,” said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. “Our goal with Intel technology is to help solve real problems and enable experiences that are truly desired by people and businesses. In order to do this, we must also do more to lead the growth of diversity and inclusion within the technology industry. Women and under-represented minorities will continue to play a greater role as consumers, influencers, creators and leaders.”  

Krzanich made the announcements during a keynote address at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. He also unveiled a wearable device collaboration with Oakley, a product design and sport performance eyewear brand, a 3-D collaboration with HP, and highlighted True Key, a new cross-platform application by Intel Security that uses personal factors like the face, device or fingerprint to make logging in easier and safer.

The Wearable Revolution

The growth of wearable technology is creating a new playing field for innovation. Krzanich disclosed plans for the Intel Curie module, a tiny hardware product based on the company’s first purpose-built system-on-chip (SoC) for wearable devices. The module is scheduled to ship in the second half of this year and includes the Intel Quark SE SoC, Bluetooth low-energy radio, sensors and battery charging.

Intel has been actively pursuing the wearable technology segment, and since Krzanich revealed several projects here last year, the company has announced multiple products and initiatives with different fashion, fitness and lifestyle brands. These efforts include Basis Peak, Fossil Group, Luxottica Group, MICA and Opening Ceremony, SMS Audio, and the Intel “Make it Wearable” challenge.

Building on this work, Intel and Oakley announced a strategic wearables collaboration. Oakley is the first Luxottica Group brand that Intel is working with to fuse premium, luxury and sports eyewear with smart technology. Krzanich was joined on stage by Colin Baden, CEO of Oakley, who said the companies are working on an intelligent product, available later this year, designed to enhance athletes’ performance.

Krzanich also highlighted Nixie, the 2014 “Make it Wearable” challenge winner and the first wearable camera that can fly. Nixie rests on your wrist like a bracelet, then unfolds and takes flight on cue to take the perfect shot of you in the moment. Krzanich welcomed Nixie founders Christoph Kohstall and Jelena Jovanovic to the stage to discuss the Intel “Make it Wearable” challenge and highlighted the opportunity it offers to innovators and entrepreneurs. Krzanich and the founders also posed for the first Nixie flying photo. Krzanich went on to say that Intel will sponsor the Intel “Make it Wearable” challenge again later this year.

Accelerating Diversity in Technology

Krzanich, who acknowledged a recent confluence of events related to women and under-represented minorities, announced the Diversity in Technology initiative.

To support this initiative, Intel has set a bold new hiring and retention goal to achieve full representation of women and under-represented minorities at Intel by 2020. Full representation means Intel’s U.S. workforce will be more representative of the talent available in America, including more balanced representation in senior leadership positions.

Intel also plans to invest $300m to help build a pipeline of female and under-represented engineers and computer scientists; to actively support hiring and retaining more women and under-represented minorities; and to fund programs to support more positive representation within the technology and gaming industries.

“We’re calling on our industry to again make the seemingly impossible possible by making a commitment to real change and clarity in our goals,” said Krzanich. “Without a workforce that more closely mirrors the population, we are missing opportunities, including not understanding and designing for our own customers.”

Intel plans to engage with several partners in the industry to support, enhance or create new programs for this initiative, including the International Game Developers Association, the E-Sports League, the National Center for Women in Technology, the CyberSmile Foundation, the Feminist Frequency, and Rainbow PUSH. The company also plans to deepen its engagement with primary education programs focused on underserved areas and expanding its collaborations with computer science and engineering programs at higher education institutions, including minority-serving institutions.

Computing Unleashed

Up until now, computing has largely been defined by human interaction with a screen, keyboard and mouse. Krzanich highlighted several new technologies and real-world applications that will usher computing into a 3-D world and also free the experience from wires and passwords. 

Krzanich demonstrated a range of capabilities that will be introduced in products by the end of the year, including True Key, a newly announced cross-platform application by Intel Security to address the hassle of passwords. The True Key application uses personal factors like the face, device or fingerprint to make logging in easier and safer. True Key is supported on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and across all your favorite browsers. It will also be preinstalled on devices from HP and Lenovo and a part of McAfee LiveSafe in the coming months. 

Krzanich also highlighted new wireless charging collaborations including Hilton, Jaguar Land Rover, San Francisco International Airport and Marriott. These collaborators are planning wireless charging pilots, development and deployments including Marriott, which plans to pilot wireless charging capabilities across the Marriott portfolio of brands, including JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard and Residence Inn.

Intel’s CEO said Intel RealSense cameras and new immersive applications can be found in a growing number of 2 in 1s, tablets, notebooks and all-in-one PCs, including many powered by the new 5th generation Intel Core processors available this quarter. 

As computing moves further into the third dimension, Krzanich welcomed Dion Weisler, executive vice president of HP’s printer and personal system’s business. Weisler discussed how HP is working to enable a blended reality ecosystem and announced that the Intel Core i7 processor will power the company’s forthcoming HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, engineered to resolve critical gaps in speed, quality and cost. Weisler said the added performance and scale of Intel’s technology is critical to realize the full potential of 3-D printing.

Intelligence Everywhere

Krzanich highlighted a number of areas where the rise of connected computing intelligence is helping to reshape many facets of people’s daily lives. He showcased practical, real-world examples for robots and multi-copter drones and said that Intel RealSense cameras can provide intuitive, sight-based collision avoidance capabilities for solving complex problems. For example, Ascending Technologies* is targeting to use Intel RealSense cameras to develop intelligent and safer multi-copter drones, and iRobot is collaborating with Intel to explore this technology for its intelligent robotic platforms. 

It’s not the spoon that bends - Machine to machine communication - what spoon? 

16 December 2014 10:30:00 Categories: Comment

Our geeky blog readers will easily recognise the Matrix references in the title of this post. We’ve not changed our company profile, but we couldn’t resist referencing one of the greatest films of all time before talking about a more serious topic - Machine to Machine technology (M2M). 

By Jonathan Wilkins

Science fiction would have us believe M2M will inevitably lead to a dystopian future where humans only serve to power a network of sentient machines. In reality, we humans are pretty much in control, despite the ever increasing degree of automation and evolving M2M technologies.

Earlier this year, Analysys Mason delivered a forecast report predicting that at the end of 2013 there will be 0.2 billion M2M device connections worldwide. Infonetics Research was even braver, and calculated the existence of nearly 1.4 billion M2M connections in 2012, with wireless personal area networks technology comprising the vast majority.

Vodafone’s M2M research identified an encouraging growth in the M2M adoption process across several vertical sectors. Results showed that 78% of respondents thought M2M would be at the heart of successful businesses in the future. 

You take the blue pill – the story ends

Much like any term that has been around for a while, designating something vast and a little abstract – see our recent article on big data, M2M has been defined in many different ways and applied to a variety of sectors. 

A study from the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published in 2004 defined M2M as, “A term used to describe the technologies that enable computers, embedded processors, smart sensors, actuators and mobile devices to communicate to one another, take measurements and make decisions – often without human intervention.” 

Sound familiar? It might be because M2M goes hand in hand with concepts like Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT).

It definitely rings a bell with us here at European Automation, because it reflects an increase in sales for products like PLCs and more powerful industrial computers, actuators and smart sensors. 

At the moment, we’re still in the early days of M2M, and this means very high implementation costs for early adapters. Other drawbacks, like low immediate return on investment, the lack of infrastructure, power consumption and the lack of international standards will also have to be addressed before taking the next steps into the M2M universe.

You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland

Across vertical sectors, the automotive industry seems to be leading the M2M adoption race. According to the Vodafone survey, 19% of respondents in the automotive sector have already launched an M2M initiative and 88% are currently developing one. 

This information comes as no surprise for anyone following the latest developments from automotive manufacturers like Nissan - the talk of this year’s Frankfurt Motor show, where it launched the first smart watch to connect driver and car.

Another early adopter of M2M is the energy and utilities sector. Part of the reason is that M2M offers measurable returns for these specific applications. According to the Vodafone survey, 100% of the energy and utilities companies that participated said they saw some return on investment for M2M. More than half saw ‘significant’ ROI. With global energy demand set to double before 2050, smart grids and metering technologies are becoming more viable energy solutions around the globe.

What spoon?

M2M today is conceptually very different from the way we would have described it ten years ago. The pace at which technology is evolving has been growing almost exponentially in recent years. Many of today’s M2M applications are still transmitting fairly simple data across 2G or 3G mobile networks. Instead, 4G can now support bandwidth-heavy applications and wireless technology has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years.

In the film The Matrix, the spoon is a metaphor for our fixed views of reality. Much like the spoon Neo, the film’s central character, is trying to bend; M2M and the IoT aren’t permanent or rigid. They’re just names for technologies which are evolving continuously. 

A company that wants to survive and grow needs to stay ahead of the technology race and adapt whenever necessary. M2M is growing and will soon become a requirement for an agile engineering business, so the best solution is to embrace it wisely and steadily.   

The Spectrum Electronics Group – twenty years on 

05 December 2014 10:10:00 Categories: Comment

Twenty years in the electronics business can be compared to  a lifetime in many other industries: Continual technological evolution, radical economic changes and globalisation have all paid their part in challenging organisations in every sector of our industry to  thrive or merely survive. The Spectrum Electronics Group (a.k.a. Ismosys) has survived and is celebrating twenty years as an Integrated Sales Marketing and Operations (ISMO) business.

Focusing on the UK market specifically, managing director Nigel Watts said that the last twenty years has witnessed a revolution in the electronics industry that has affected virtually every aspect of the supply chain - from the concept of a product through to the consumption of raw materials and the production of finished goods: "Institutional OEMs such as the GEC Group, Marconi, Nortel, Psion and a plethora of others have disappeared from the industry map to be replaced by new innovators who deploy a full distributed supply chain, including outsourced design," Watts said. "The engagement rules with these organisations today are entirely different to those of the past and not everyone in  the semiconductor sales and marketing world has made a successful  transition."

Ismosys uses the strap line “Innovation not Emulation” to define the company's attitude towards meeting and exceeding the challenges presented by the electronics industry today. The demand creation programmes deployed by the company are designed to access a broader and deeper customer base via low touch, high penetration methods with the aim of identifying the emerging businesses destined to become the industry leaders of tomorrow. According to Watts, it is widely acknowledged by semiconductor manufacturers that demand creation is at an all time low when in fact it should be at an all time high, especially in a design lead region such as the UK and Ireland.

Announcing the anniversary milestone Watts went out of his way to thank the partners - especially Mouser Electronics - and customers who have backed his initiatives and supported his business over the last two decades. "Twenty years on everything, and nothing, has changed!  The quest for increased business is even more relentless, but many companies are still looking under the same rocks," says Watts. "For these companies the tide has turned and sadly their  future is not guaranteed." He maintains that Innovation is the key: "Companies have to develop the courage to seek a different route and not simply roll over because the ROI is not obviously  apparent."

"So here’s to the next twenty years," concluded Watts. "The Spectrum Electronics Group sincerely wishes EVERYONE in the UK & Ireland electronics industry prosperity and success in 2015 and more immediately, a very merry Christmas!"

Operators forced into a corner with new legislation to fix mobile ‘black spots’  

05 November 2014 04:19:00 Categories: Comment

According to reports, culture secretary Sajid Javid plans to announce new legislation this week that requires service providers to introduce network ‘roaming’ across Britain. This means customers will be able to switch networks when they have no signal from their usual provider.

John Spindler, director of product management at wireless network specialist TE Connectivity, offered the following comment:

“If all goes ahead, this legislation may hold the key to solving the mobile not-spot problem that has plagued so many parts of the UK for such a long time. Indeed, unreliable network coverage is commonplace for many of those living in and travelling through more rural regions, and patience is running out. Users are increasingly expecting a certain level of service and operators need to take this, and future demands, into account and consider realistically whether they can meet these expectations using their existing infrastructure.

“While it’s good news that the Government is shining a light on the ‘black spot’ issue, operators haven’t been able to find new solutions or work together and will essentially have to be forced into a national roaming agreement. This is particularly surprising considering the benefits sharing networks provides both the customer and the operators themselves. Not only does it make more operational and economic sense in all areas – including urban towns and cities – but it is particularly effective in areas of low population. Mobile operators can share antenna sites, base station enclosures, power and even fibre assets and amplifiers, which will significantly reduce their outgoing costs. In addition, with demand for data increasing at a rapid rate, the reduced time-to-market shared infrastructure brings is hugely beneficial. Ultimately, unless significant investment is made, working together is the only solution to meet user service level expectations and this shared-system model has been successful in other regions. By failing to come up with their own plan, the Government has had no choice but to step in.”

Greenpeace reveals challenges ahead for truly Green Gadgets 

03 September 2014 05:19:00
As Berlin prepares to host Europe’s biggest consumer technology show on Friday, the IFA 2014, Greenpeace has released a new report measuring the tech giants progress towards greening the gadgets on display there.
 
Apple is leading the consumer electronics sector in addressing its environmental footprint, ahead of rivals Samsung, who are failing to match Apple’s leadership.
 
The Greenpeace International report, Green Gadgets: Designing the future evaluates the progress and future challenges for 16 leading consumer electronics companies on the elimination of hazardous chemicals, reducing their energy footprint and building sustainable supply chains.
 
Greenpeace UK’s head of IT, Andrew Hatton said: “Apple has shown us a glimpse of a greener future, leading the sector on toxic-free products and starting to address the huge environmental footprint of electronics manufacturing. But the industry still has a long road ahead of it before they’re giving customers the level of efficiency and sustainability they are asking for.”
 
More than 50% of the mobile phone market, represented by Samsung, Apple and Nokia, is now free from the worst hazardous substances: Polyvinylchloride (PVC) and Brominated flame retardants (BFRs). However, Apple remains the only company to have eliminated the use of these substances in all its products and recently announced promising further steps on chemical elimination in production.
 
Unfortunately, the report reveals that Samsung, the world’s biggest electronics company, has failed to meet its elimination goals for products beyond mobiles, joining Dell in backtracking on previous public phase out commitments. Meanwhile, new players in the tablet and mobile markets continue to lag behind: Microsoft have dropped their previous phase-out commitment, and rival Amazon is failing to provide any information to the public.
 
The report identifies supply chain transparency and the elimination of all hazardous chemicals from across the supply chain as key next steps for the industry to Detox. Other sectors, such as textiles, have shown what is possible, offering a credible and applicable model for electronics companies to follow. 20 global textile companies have now committed to eliminating all hazardous chemicals by 2020 and many are implementing changes throughout the supply chain from the products to manufacturing hubs like China. 
 
The findings reveal that overall, electronics companies are failing to address their growing energy footprint. The manufacturing of phones, laptops and other devices requires a huge amount of energy and is concentrated in East Asia where coal dominates energy production. Some companies, like Lenovo and Huawei, are setting a positive example with small solar installations on factories, while Apple is planning the first 100% renewable energy factory to make iPhone screens. However, only with ambitious targets to expand renewable energy use in supply chains will reduce the carbon footprint of our gadgets.
 
In 2014 sales of the most popular consumer electronics are predicted to reach 2.5 billion products. Such rapid growth has multiplied the industry’s environmental impact and raised crucial questions around the sustainability of a prevailing business model that promotes ever-increasing consumption. The report highlights this as an essential element for the industry to address in order to meet the urgent and growing environmental crisis.
 
“The innovative electronics industry is perfectly placed to reimagine their manufacturing and marketing processes. They’re designing our future, and we need that future to be a lot cleaner and greener than where we are now,” added Hatton.

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 adidas.com, Apple retails stores, and the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com) in the U.S. and Europe for $ / € 299.95.

Memory Channel Storage Overcomes Pitfalls of Using PCIe, Say Experts at Diablo Technologies 

23 April 2014 04:24:00

In recent years, the enterprise SSD market has gained significant traction from organizations looking to reap the benefits of server-side flash. Until now, PCI Express-based flash has been the performance standard for SSD implementation - praised for its high bandwidth and low latency. Although compelling, the improvement over pre-existing technologies (namely SATA/SAS) has served to obscure several shortcomings. While PCIe represents progress, it is still a less-than-optimal approach for applications with strict performance requirements. The introduction of Memory Channel Storage™ (MCS™) eliminates the need for suboptimal trade-offs – thereby unlocking the true potential of flash in the enterprise.

When NAND flash first started gaining popularity, storage protocols and interconnect speeds were the performance bottlenecks. While PCIe’s theoretical bandwidth appears attractive, limitations due to design create significant overhead – thereby reducing its real-world applicability. 

PCIe is not a native storage interface and requires an onboard controller to manage resources between flash and server I/O. Handling large amounts of flash create computational complexity, limiting both the performance and reliability of the controller. Thus, despite access to a wide pipe, PCIe-based SSDs are unable to realize the high-speed interface under load – making theoretical bandwidth irrelevant.

The above architectural limitations impact the throughput of data and subsequent IOPS supported for both read and write operations. As a result, when outstanding I/O requests scale beyond controller thresholds, latencies dramatically increase. Furthermore, due to the limited number of card slots, it is often impractical to scale PCIe-based solutions without significant investment in additional IT infrastructure.

To overcome the drawbacks of traditional PCI Express architectures, Diablo Technologies has developed a no-compromise approach that represents the next logical step in the evolution of server-side flash storage technology.

“Memory Channel Storage is a ‘purpose-built’ solution, designed to provide a scalable interface that expands the architectural advantages of flash as memory,” said Riccardo Badalone, CEO and co-founder of Diablo Technologies. “By maximizing parallelism and eliminating the complexity of PCIe-based architectures, MCS accelerates and virtually eliminates the latency overhead associated with data persistence. Applications can now perform several million IO operations per second with ease.”

Diablo Technologies has published results supporting the benefits of deploying Memory Channel Storage over leading PCIe-based solutions. The White Paper detailing the results is available for download at:
http://www.diablo-technologies.com/files/MCS_WHITEPAPER_12_WEB.pdf

MCS is an innovative storage architecture that enables non-volatile media to reside within the memory subsystem. By placing NAND flash into a highly-scalable DIMM form factor, MCS delivers tens of terabytes of flash capacity in a single server, with near-DRAM speed. Diablo’s MCS technology eliminates the I/O performance bottleneck, supporting levels of application acceleration far beyond the capabilities of PCIe-based SSDs. 

Diablo Technologies
http://www.diablo-technologies.com/

 

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: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/

[2] For 2012 “How Clean is Your Cloud?” report, see http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/Campaign-reports/Climate-Reports/How-Clean-is-Your-Cloud/.

[3] For a list of many Amazon Web Services customers, see: http://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/all/. Tumblr: http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/14/cloud-burn-rate-tumblr-backend-architecture-amazon/; Vine: http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/amazon-web-service-outage-affects-both-instagram-and-vine-214876.html

[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.

IET

www.theiet.org

 

Intel unveils advances in IoT shaping next era of computing at Mobile World Congress 2014 

24 February 2014 04:45:00

Intel Corporation President Renee James has unveiled the company's latest developments in computing and communications technologies at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, 2014. The company advises its latest product portfolio is designed to compete in today's mobile ecosystem and shape the next era of computing, the Internet of Things (IoT).

At an Intel news conference, James introduced two Intel Atom processors, an LTE-Advanced communications platform, and announced multiyear agreements with Lenovo, ASUS and Foxconn to expand the availability of Intel-based mobile devices. With the explosion of mobile and connected devices in the IoT, she also highlighted how Intel is re-architecting the network infrastructure to reduce costs and make it easier for service providers to deliver improved customer experiences and new services by extracting business value from the vast amounts of data.

The continued growth of the mobile ecosystem depends on solving tough computing challenges -- unlocking data's potential while securely and reliably connecting billions of devices with leading edge computing and communications technologies," said James.

New Intel Atom Processors and LTE-Advanced Communications Platform
Intel launched its 2.13GHz Intel Atom processor Z3480 ("Merrifield") that offers a combination of fast, smart performance and long battery life for Android smartphones and tablets. The 64-bit ready SoC delivers compute performance for the mainstream and performance segments, and offers high performance in compute-intensive applications, web applications and light media editing performance.

The company advises, based on its 22nm Silvermont microarchitecture, the new processor also features a PowerVR Series 6 Graphics IP core from Imagination Technologies and is designed for simple pairing with the Intel XMM 7160 LTE platform. Merrifield is the first Intel Atom SoC to feature the new Intel Integrated Sensor Solution, which efficiently manages sensor data to keep applications smart and contextually aware even when the device is in a low-power state. Intel expects Merrifield-based devices from multiple OEMs to launch beginning in the second quarter.

James noted that all Intel Atom processors today support a 64-bit computing experience. "Sixty-four bit computing is moving from the desktop to the mobile device," James said. "Intel knows 64-bit computing, and we're the only company currently shipping 64-bit processors supporting multiple operating systems today, and capable of supporting 64-bit Android when it is available."

Intel has also delivered 64-bit kernels across operating systems, so customers who choose Intel Atom have a ready foundation for a 64-bit experience as the operating system and applications evolve.

The company also disclosed new details on its next-generation 64-bit Intel Atom processor, called "Moorefield" for devices expected to be available in the second half of the year. Building on the Merrifield feature set, Moorefield is claimed to add two additional Intel architecture (IA) cores for up to 2.3GHz of compute performance, an enhanced GPU and support for faster memory. This device is claimed to be optimised for the company’s 2014 LTE platform, the Intel XMM 7260, which the company also recently introduced.

The company points out that its XMM 7260 delivers good LTE-Advanced capabilities including carrier aggregation (supporting 23 CA combinations in a single chip), category six speeds and support for TDD LTE and TD-SCDMA, which expands the addressable market.

The company adds that as this product ranfe is now certified to run on 70 percent of LTE networks worldwide, the 7160 is expanding to connect a range of products spanning smartphones, tablets, 2 in 1s, Ultrabook systems and more.

"We are entering 2014 with a very competitive mobile portfolio spanning application processors and communications platforms that will only get stronger," said Hermann Eul, Vice President and General Manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group. "Our new Atom processors for Android smartphones and tablets offer leading 64-bit performance and battery life, and the new 7260 platform gives the ecosystem a compelling LTE-Advanced experience."

Securing the Mobile Experience and Expanding Availability of Android Apps on IA
James said Intel is leading the effort to guard today's mobile devices with unique data and device protection solutions from Intel Security and McAfee. Notably, Intel Device Protection Technology (Intel DPT) proactively protects consumers against malware and allows enterprise customers to separate personal and corporate data on Intel-based Android devices. Leading mobile device management providers including AirWatch, Citrix and McAfee will provide manageability extensions for devices with Intel DPT later this year. Intel expects tablets featuring Intel DPT will begin shipping later this year from leading OEMs including Dell.

James also revealed the features of the free, full-featured McAfee Mobile Security offering for Android devices now available. It includes enhanced protection features and, for the first time, unlocks security extensions for Intel-based mobile devices, making it the most comprehensive, free mobile solution for consumers on the market. Specifically, the free McAfee Mobile Security includes anti-virus, app protection, web protection, and call/SMS filter, in addition to anti-theft and contact back-up.

In an effort to accelerate development and availability of applications for Intel-based devices, James announced the Intel Integrated Native Developer Experience (Intel INDE), a beta productivity suite for devices running on both Android and Microsoft Windows. Intel also introduced the Intel System Studio 2014 for embedded and systems development and the Intel XDK developer tool for HTML5-based apps to enable developers to simplify and accelerate time-to-market development of innovative web and hybrid content mobile apps that run faster and better.

Expanded Customer Engagements to Accelerate Availability of Intel-Based Mobile Devices
Signaling the expanding availability of tablets and smartphones powered by Intel Atom processors and connected by Intel communications, James announced three new multiyear agreements with leading device manufacturers for Intel-based mobile devices.

Intel and Lenovo announced plans to introduce new Intel-based mobile devices this year. Both companies will dedicate engineering resources to deliver unique experiences across a variety of smartphone and tablet form factors spanning value to performance market segments. Lenovo also said it plans to incorporate Intel LTE connectivity into some Ultrabook and multimode designs.

"We have a strong history of working with Intel to bring compelling, computing experiences to market with products like our K900 smartphone, Yoga line of multimode laptops, MIIX 2 and ThinkPad 8 tablets," said Peter Hortensius, chief technology officer, Lenovo. "We look forward to an even stronger future together – delivering exciting mobile experiences from stylish smartphones to high-performance tablets with Intel inside."

Additionally, ASUS announced it will bring a full portfolio of Intel-based smartphones and tablets to market this year. The company recently introduced its ZenFone line of smartphones and the unique PadFone mini, both of which feature Intel processors and communications platforms. At Mobile World Congress, ASUS unveiled the ASUS Fonepad 7 LTE (ME3762CL) featuring an Intel Atom processor and Intel LTE connectivity.

Dell and Intel are expanding the long-standing collaboration between the two companies to include a range of innovative tablets that started with the introduction of the Dell Venue line in fall of last year. Intel-based products from Dell will span Android and Windows solutions.

Finally, Foxconn and Intel are teaming up to drive the broader, global availability of high-quality, affordable Intel-based Android tablets. Intel will provide Intel Atom processors and communications platforms for a range of Foxconn products, beginning with tablets, this year.

Transforming Wireless Networks, Fuelling Internet of Things
The explosion of mobile devices and rapid growth in the Internet of Things is driving transformation of the network infrastructure to meet increasing demand for more connectivity and real-time data. Intel is enabling this transformation by delivering standardized hardware and software that apply open standards and high-volume economics to help reduce costs, while accelerating the delivery of new services, capabilities and revenue models for service providers.

In an effort to bring the benefits of a standards-based approach to communications networks consistent with Intel's work in data centres and the cloud, James announced expanded relationships with Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco to accelerate network function virtualisation (NFV) and software defined network (SDN) technologies. By working to optimise these technologies on IA, service providers will be offered a faster and more flexible network that enables them to quickly scale new services.

James also highlighted numerous Intel-based trials with global operators including China Mobile, SK Telecom and Telefonica that are demonstrating the benefits of NFV and SDN for enabling personalised and contextually aware services, improving asset utilization, and simplifying installations and upgrades.

Intel

www.intel.com

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 

www.fasciagraphics.co.uk

For further information on ISO 9001:2008, visit www.iso.org, and the UL mark, go to www.ul.com

 

 

 

 

2014 starts with same momentum that saw 2013 out 

05 February 2014 10:03:00 Categories: Comment

Erhard Hofmann, MD AdoptSMT Group Europe AdoptSMT gives an outlook for the year 2014

I started this outlook for 2014 before Christmas. Trying to finish it after the holidays I can confirm one thing: The New Year is starting as busy as the old one ended.

Productronica 2013 held in Munich last November was for us by far the best show ever (we have had our own booth at every productronica show since 1995), kept us busy into the start of 2014 and raises our confidence that 2014 will bring another nice increase of business (even though no-one will bet on future business growth any more like than they did before 2008).

We at AdoptSMT expect little changes to the trend we saw during 2013. There is no uniform market. Even comparable companies in the same geographic area and in the same industry segment can show different levels of success, one can expand, the other one be forced to reduce head count and machines in use.

While these differences between our customers help our business in our pre-owned equipment market (we need both demand and supply) we expect to gain market share in the overall stable market of consumables, spares and tools. Our additional customers in 2014 will be in the situation as the ones were we could win during 2013: They have enough business so they needed parts and supplies but are not too busy to look for alternative suppliers who save them money without compromising on quality. During 2013 we managed to enter many additional accounts, also multinationals, with our range of AdoptSMT Premium Parts and also with many parts and supplies distributed under the suppliers’ brand names including Hover-Davis, Count On Tools, Nortec, Thermaltronics, JBC, Techspray and Indium Corporation. The basis for our growth of business was of course to keep our existing customers, which was the case with the exception of some customers in areas which still suffered from the banking crises (in the South East and South West of Europe).

We do expect higher investments being done by our customers in 2014 compared to 2013. But what we see even more is the focus of them on optimising the utilisation of their existing equipment. This is where we see ourselves as their prime partner – we help them to keep their SMT lines running. This will have us continue the growth we already experienced in 2013.

AdoptSMT Group Europe

www.AdoptSMT.com

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 uk.farnell.com/panasonic in February 2014."

The forum is open so submit your question now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PiFace Control creates special effects in Hollywood 

17 December 2013 06:26:00

Mike Powell, Technical Development Manager, PiFace Control and Display, element14 – explores Hollywood effects with the Pi

When Dr Andrew Robinson created PiFace Control and Display, a new add on board for Raspberry Pi he had no idea it would enable the recreation of the iconic Hollywood 'bullet time' effect popularised by The Matrix film. PiFace Control and Display sits neatly on top of the Raspberry Pi to allow users to interact with the credit card sized computer without the need for a monitor, keyboard and mouse; perfect for the ambitious project which required a ring of 48 Raspberry Pis!

PiFace Control and Display is a device that provides users with buttons and a navigation wheel to control applications, and an LCD display to show menus and status information. The supplied libraries and sample code make it easy to program in Python making rapid development of embedded applications a breeze. It's also possible to add the display of status information and interactive menu functionality to an existing Python application in minutes with PiFace Control and Display.

By separating the Raspberry Pi from the traditional monitor, keyboard and mouse combination, PiFace Control and Display can improve mobility, saves valuable space and power and means the credit card sized computer can be used in many different locations. PiFace Control and Display also provides an infra-red receiver to allow applications to be controlled by IR remote controls.

I designed PiFace Control and Display to help people use the power of Raspberry Pi in their own standalone applications. I'd envisioned it being used to build applications like Internet Radios and in prototyping of industrial control,” said Dr Andrew Robinson, creator of PiFace Control and Display.

One of the many demo applications provided for PiFace Control and Display is a camera interface that turned the Raspberry Pi and associated camera into a simple point and shoot camera with options for image processing. It was this application that would form the basis for creating the bullet time effect.

Andrew continued: “We already had started playing with time in the simple camera application, as it had a time-lapse mode. Ever since I'd seen in the film The Matrix and a BBC documentary called Supernatural: The Unseen Powers of Animals I wondered how hard could it be to recreate the amazing effects.”

The effect, called Bullet Time, or Time-slice, consists of taking a number of pictures from multiple cameras at the same time, but playing them back one after another. Because all the frames are taken at exactly the same time from different views but shown in order, it gives the effect of moving around a scene while time is frozen.  The project was fairly involved requiring a three metre ring of 48 Raspberry Pi’s, half a kilometre of network cable and a few industrial network switches!

“When we fired it up and got the first images back I was amazed when it worked, The Raspberry Pi had frozen time, recreating a Hollywood effect for a fraction of the cost,” Andrew said.  The results are shown in this YouTube video: http://youtu.be/IqoA4HeBCQ4?t=2m19s

In setting up the rig PiFace Control and Display proved essential for debugging by showing what was happening on each Raspberry Pi, and enabling push switches to trigger actions and see status without plugging in a monitor, particularly when network connectivity failed.

Clearly not everyone can build a rig of 48 cameras, but PiFace Control and Display makes it easy to build applications such as a time-lapse camera. That way instead of freezing time with the bullet time effect, it's possible to speed it up with a time-lapse as shown in this blog post.

Further demos of how easy and what can be created with PiFace Control and Display, including an Internet Radio, currency converter, radio and train times guide and even simple games, are available from the PiFace website.

Technical details for the bullet time setup:

•          48 Raspberry Pi Model Bs

•          48 Raspberry Pi Cameras

•          48 PiFace Control and Display

•          48 NOOBS SD cards

•          48 5V PSU

•          About half a kilometre of network cable

•          2 x 24 port switches

•          1 wireless router

•          Custom laser cut frame

•          Python script listening to receive command to take picture (included in snap-camera package) https://github.com/piface/snap-camera

•          Python script to collect images over network and assemble frames in order

 

PiFace

www.piface.org.uk

 

 

 

Key industry players reap the rewards at NMI 2013 industry awards 

26 November 2013 07:42:00

Industry veteran Jamie Urquhart, ARM Holdings co-founder, serial investor and the ESCO report chair, has been honoured with the contribution to industry award at the annual NMI Electronic Systems Awards.

NMI also named McLaren Electronic Systems, a world leading designer of control and data systems for motor sport, including Formula One, Nascar and Indycar, as company of the year.

Derek Boyd, NMI CEO and presenter of the awards said: "The ESCO report, which outlines what's needed for significant growth to create a £120 billion industry in the UK by 2020, has made 2013 a key year for the electronic systems community.

"In his role as chair of the report, Jamie stepped up to the mark to bring this community together. That sounds simple enough but in practice it is incredibly difficult as can be seen by previous attempts. It is only fitting that we honour Jamie's effort and achievement for the industry here tonight. Jamie is a very deserving winner."

In awarding Company of the Year to McLaren Electronic Systems, the judges cited the company's technology provision for all F1 teams and, significantly, the growth into new, high-value and high-reliability market sectors.

In giving the award, Derek Boyd said: "Tonight we honour a relatively small company with big ambition, a company that has been successful not only in the market they are readily identified with but one that is also seeking out opportunities in new areas both nationally and internationally."

McLaren's technology can also be found in hospitals, undertaking real time monitoring of children's health in primary care; rail transport, undertaking real time video, data and internet systems; and in electric sports cars, with both the McLaren P1 production hybrid road car and the Formula E electric race cars.

The full list of winners is:

·    Contribution to Industry            Jamie Urquhart

·    Company of the Year            McLaren Electronic Systems

·    Young engineer of the year        Adam Malpass

·    Innovation                Coveritas

·    Innovation in Power Electronics        Anvil Semiconductor

·    Semi360                Lime Microsystems

·    Product Excellence            Frontier Silicon

·    Collaborative R&D Achievement        Infineon

·    Automotive Electronics Innovation    Freescale

·    Low Power Green Design        CamSemi

·    Environmental Management        Seagate Technology

·    Manufacturing Site of the Year        Xaar

·    Manufacturing Supplier of the Year    Memsstar

·    Training & Development            Dialog Semiconductor

·    University Department of the Year    Heriot Watt

The awards promote practices conducive to the long-term health of the UK's electronic systems community. 2013 is the Awards' 12th outing, with this year's event being held on the 21st November at the exclusive Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London.

Over 400 guests from throughout the UK and around the world attended the sell-out event. The celebrity speaker was the automotive journalist and former Top Gear presenter, Quentin Willson.

NMI  

www.nmi.org.uk

 

NI and the University of Edinburgh collaborate on MIMO technique to advance 5G wireless 

20 November 2013 11:11:00

National Instruments and the University of Edinburgh are jointly developing a test bed to drive forward indoor wireless communications capacity. Professor Harald Haas, lead researcher at Edinburgh has pioneered a next-generation massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technique, referred to as spatial modulation, to power a highly energy efficient capacity increase in another step on the path toward fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications.

Haas and Professor Cheng-Xiang Wang, head of the Advanced Wireless Technologies Lab at Heriot-Watt University, recently used NI PXI Express hardware and NI LabVIEW system design software to create the first working prototype showing spatial modulation techniques over a wireless RF channel. Previously Haas demonstrated a concept, nicknamed LiFi, using visible light communication over a single-channel, point-to-point link. He now plans to combine these technologies to create even higher density optical wireless networks—called optical attocell networks—that will harness massive MIMO gains in both the optical and RF domains for energy-efficient indoor wireless communications.

“We’ve known for a long time that decreasing cell size can significantly increase cellular capacity and user data rates, but it’s not been clear how we could facilitate that given current spectrum, energy and interference limitations,” said Haas.

“RF wireless and optical wireless networks that work together using spatial modulation and massive MIMO approaches could allow us to effectively mitigate interference and significantly increase energy efficiency, coverage and capacity using existing infrastructure.”

The Edinburgh team is extending its research capabilities with the NI’s LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture for rapid prototyping. Using the company’s FlexRIO Software Defined Radio Bundle with reconfigurable FPGAs and interchangeable I/O adapter modules, the team is building prototypes that operate beyond the rates of a commercial RF wireless system. The team recently achieved 3.5Gbit/s from a single colour LED, allowing them to create an ultra-realistic test bed.

National Instruments

uk.ni.com

Intelligent defence 

31 October 2013 12:41:00

Michelle Winny, Editor of Electronics visits the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2013 exhibition to find out about the latest in defence component technology and how the electronics industry is currently serving the critical demands of Mil/Aero applications

A single electronic component seems pretty innocuous on its own but put the right combination together and you could be looking at a lethal killing machine capable of mass destruction; or on the other side of the scale and more hopefully, serving to protect and defend. Of late, the reality of deployment in theatres of war such as Afghanistan and other areas of conflict have placed significant demands on technology companies and their capabilities to provide ‘the right’ solutions for these challenging applications.

Technological advancements have seen electronic components built into nearly every weapons system and piece of equipment. Whilst shrinking device geometries have enabled ever smaller and more integrateable electronics, finding their way onto infantry uniforms, into field equipment and armory vehicles. Examples of some of the latest in component technology being developed for these applications were showcased at the recent Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2013 exhibition in London. Solutions included a range of Mil/aero ‘D-Sub’ connectors and socket kits launched by component distributor, TTI. This range of connectors is the M24308, which are suited to military applications.  

The company has also recently made a significant increase to the size and scale of its European connector assembly service. The facility, at its European Distribution Centre near Munich is now twice the size and is capable of producing seven different connector styles and their many variants. The distributor has also recently expanded the product range it offers and can now also assemble connectors from Amphenol and Souriau. Continuing the offering of specialised connectors for Mil/Aero applications, Amphenol announced that its Black Zinc Nickel connector plating finish is now qualified to MIL-DTL-38999 Series III Class-Z. This is an RoHS compliant conductive and non-reflective black finish that is approved for 500 hours of salt spray endurance.

ITT Corporation showcased the latest customised connector, vibration isolation and shock absorber products from its Cannon, Enidine and KONI brands. Cannon’s Nemesis is a new series of connectors that have a smaller form factors and enhanced sealing technology, that offer maximum connectivity, durability and reliability. As a result this makes the devices well-suited for soldier-wearable and unmanned vehicle applications.

Frequency control specialist, Euroquartz showcased its range of high reliability crystal and oscillator products. The company also supplies markets where high reliability components are essential. These include crystals and oscillators for electronic systems used in satellites, civil and military aircraft and a broad range of ‘defence related’ equipment. The company’s EQXO-2000BM range of oscillators offers full MIL screening when required and provides frequencies from 30kHz to 70MHz with frequency stability of ±100ppm or ±50ppm over the full military temperature range.

Gaia Converter, a manufacturer of modular power components, released a new family of configurable integrated power supplies. The company’s GPACK device is able to deliver up to 800W without a fan in 24 – 28 VDC avionic, aerospace, military and missile applications. Diamond Microwave, a specialist in high performance microwave power amplifiers, announced the launch of ultra-compact high power solid state power amplifiers in the X-Band and Ku-Band, which are ideal for defence, aerospace and communications applications. The company advises, these solid-state power amplifiers are based on GaN devices, and offer state-of-the-art pulsed power performance coupled with a power-to-volume ratio. The designs are flexible in layout and architecture, and are fully customisable to meet individual specifications for electrical, mechanical and environmental parameters. Amplifiers with pulsed power outputs in excess of 1kW, and with multi-octave bandwidths, are also under development.

Link Microtek demonstrated its recently enhanced Azdec infra-red mobile communications system with the introduction of a new battle-helmet headset that offers active noise reduction. This headset is designed to ensure clear audio communication is maintained, offering secure short-range voice communication using infra-red signals. Linear Technology launched its LTM4624, a 14V, 4A step-down µModule (micromodule) regulator. This device includes the DC/DC controller, power switches, inductor and compensation in a single package. Only two external ceramic capacitors (1206 case size) and a resistor (0603 or smaller case size) are required for operation. The device operates from a 4V to 14V input supply, delivering a regulated output adjustable between 0.6V to 5.5V.  

Above all, electronics provide capabilities that are critical to defence requirements and the effectiveness and severity of weapons systems are increasingly dependent upon the electronics subsystems they employ. To ensure proper equipment that can handle the demands of the Mil/Aero and defence industry a high performance and innovative industry is essential. The UK electronic component industry is proving its capabilities in these fields, delivering high-tech performance and in many cases providing the soldiers with the tools needed to fulfill their duties. As with many other applications, it is also all about partnerships and finding the right company with the right solution to handle the highly sensitive and demanding nature of the industry.

The Internet of Things craze: Stop debating terminology, start talking money 

31 October 2013 06:06:00

Raghu Das, CEO at IDTechEx explores the latest debate

 

The term the Internet of Things was conceived when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set up the Auto ID Center in 1998. It focused on applying an electronic tag (RFID) to all items, effectively connecting them to a wider network - the Internet. Automated monitoring en-masse throughout the value chain could make logistics faster and more cost effective, reduce theft and counterfeiting and provide other benefits such as no stock-outs in shops. However, this ambitious project took time to take off - developing the technology, standards and then finding the first financially successfully applications.

The UHF RFID industry moved through the hype cycle of visionary dreaming; huge investment; disappointment in early sales, performance and user pull, to a pragmatic and now increasingly profitable approach today. This involved focusing mainly on ‘closed loop’ systems - applications where the technology gives a strong payback. This is then expanded to other locations and eventually these locations may connect up, such as in retail apparel, where many of the world’s largest apparel retailers are tagging clothing to reduce stock-outs. The term the Internet of Things is barely mentioned in RFID circles nowadays - companies are focused on the pragmatic roll out of the technology and revenue generation.

The Internet of Things v2

A catchy title like the Internet of Things is too good to waste, so it has been resurrected again by a different set of companies - not those focused on low cost, passive RFID tags, but more those making powered sensors and consumer electronics, such as mobile phones and their communication links and back end data management. This is driven by the rise of mobile computing - mainly smart phones - which has unwittingly created a huge global, connected infrastructure of high computing capability. Smart phones can be connected RFID readers, positioning devices, offer many connectivity options (WiFi, low power Bluetooth etc) and much more. What's more, consumers want smart phones. Privacy implications have yet to be aired in this new Internet of Things because consumers are likely to want most of the benefits of it.

Businesses from consumer goods companies to pharmaceuticals are jittery with excitement as smart phones and the enabling edge technologies such as wireless sensors, RFID tags and others enable new ways for them to engage with and add value to their customers. Look at the success of the Nike+ band in the USA, for example.

Is it at the beginning of the hype cycle again?

This time round, many of the organisations involved are different. It is not companies pursuing low cost passive tags but telecoms providers that want to handle as much data as possible over the expensive wireless communication networks they have deployed. It involves network companies that seek to sell more switches and storage. It is big data companies that want to add value by exploiting the huge amounts of data that will be generated.

However, IDTechEx, which has tracked the RFID and wireless sensor industry since 1999, has some concerns. The brilliant and worst thing about the Internet of Things is that it is so broad. Does it include passive RFID, wireless sensors, machine to machine M2M, big data, cloud computing and storage? Others believe the Internet of Things is not enough and the true term is the Internet of Everything because people are part of the network.

This all begins to distract from what is important - providing a useful service. If the industry cannot clearly understand what it is then what hope is there for adopters to implement it? As we saw the first time round, the global open systems envisaged take time to commercialise - with heavy losses along the way. Meanwhile, the successful companies were quietly deploying tangible RFID systems solving problems with great return. Those avoiding the 'glamour' usually did well.

IDTechEx

www.idtechex.com

A game of strategy 

18 October 2013 12:14:00

Michelle Winny, Editor of Electronics talks to Steve Roberts, Managing Director of Amphenol about the company’s restructuring initiatives for meeting the demands of military and defence applications

The human machine interface is a phenomenon that is also quickly infiltrating the military and defence market as the trend for wearable electronics is proliferated by shrinking device geometries. Along with the HMI, the concept of interaction is also shaping the way we do business, as the acumen of ‘listening to and interacting with your customers as a route to innovation’ continues as a driving force.

Companies such as Amphenol are taking the HMI revolution a step further and are running the gauntlet with a worldwide vision of connecting people and technology through its manufacturing capabilities by giving its customers a direct involvement with the company’s vision of the future.  To keep at the fore of innovation and to drive towards this ideal, literally with a futuristic vision of manufacturing, the company is planning a £2.3 million capital investment into its manufacturing facility in Whitstable, Kent.

To help spearhead this mammoth project the company has recently appointed Steve Roberts as General Manager who is already rising to the challenge with a clear vision of driving this project forward.  Roberts advises: “Amphenol has already begun plans to develop its prototyping facility in the UK at its manufacturing facility in Whitstable. The capitol investment includes bringing on board seven new engineers to focus on customer requirement.  The investment will centre upon state-of-the-art manufacturing lines for our UK production of new interconnection development technology in areas of specialisation which includes hermetics, miniature and filter products for industrial as well as aerospace and defence sectors.”

The company is also undergoing a 20 month programme, which commenced in April 2013, which is under the ‘Future Site’ initiative, a vision to incorporate new manufacturing lines together with contemporary work practices.  “We are literally asking our customers what they need most from a facility such as this and their feedback is now forming the basis of the services and capabilities of the new facility and what we are planning on implementing,” said Roberts.

In the age of globalisation, the company has endeavoured to retain its full end-to-end manufacturing capability for its products in the UK, whilst having opened access to low cost manufacturing sites around the world to complement its offering to customers globally.

According to Roberts: “The first objective is to structure the business – the systems, planning etc. to equip the company for the plan ahead. The second objective is to significantly improve the flow and responsiveness in prototyping and new product development and attach this to a greater international sales activity.  Thirdly, the aim is to use a combination of low cost plants in India and Mexico in conjunction with the latest standards of operational performance in the UK to make the company as competitive as is possible.”

Roberts is indeed the man to drive these operations forward with an already established career within the Amphenol Corporation, having originally joined the company with the acquisition of Jaybeam in 2008.  He served as General Manager of Amphenol Jaybeam UK from 2006 through 2010.  Most recently Roberts has held the role of Global Director of Worldwide Site Solutions for Amphenol RF and Microwave.  “Amphenol is a business that has been in the industry some 50 years and has this knowledge and experience as a solid foundation. We are now looking to the future by refocusing our markets and the manner we concentrate on them.”

With $4 billion yearly global revenue, the company currently employs around 300 people at its site in Whitstable, Kent and provides a full design and manufacturing service for a large range of connectors and interconnect solutions; including cable assembly, over-moulding and electronic packaging.

“It gives me pride to join one of Amphenol’s leading sites with such a strong history and pedigree in this sector, as we now look to the challenges of growing business in the UK and to forge a stronger position within the global industry and the Amphenol group,” said Roberts. 

Amphenol

www.amphenol.co.uk

 

The Internet is not the only way to do business 

08 October 2013 10:06:00

In an interview with, Solid States Supplies, Michelle Winny, Editor of ­Electronics speaks with the company’s MD, John Macmichael to find out how niche distributors are still well placed against major broadliners and how e-commerce has yet to replace good fashioned business practises

 

Differentiating yourself when you are a niche distributor in an industry that often appears over shadowed by larger broadliners can seem tough for smaller operations. However the role of the smaller distributor sits squarely beside that of the larger broadliners, as John Macmichael, Managing Director of Solid State Supplies explains: “Life for niche distributors has never been easy within the UK electronics market. “However estimates suggest there is close to some 400 smaller distributors operating in the UK versus a handful of large broadliners. This alone indicates the fact that there is still a major role to be played by the niche distributor.” This is particularly so when quality of customer service and a superior level of technical expertise is at the forefront of business objectives. Solid State Supplies is a franchised distributor that primarily services the UK OEM market. The company ­specialises in semiconductors, related components and modules for embedded processing, control and communications, power management, and LED lighting. John advises: “As we focus on products from a limited number of suppliers, we understand their products in depth and so can offer customers outstanding levels of commercial and technical support.” The distributor believes, excellent customer service is achieved through maintaining personnel with very high levels of technical expertise. This enables the company to offer a tailored service, achieved through closer business relationships and by truly understanding customer needs, which is not always possible with bigger broadliners. “By their very nature the larger broadline distributors with the best will in the world can’t hope to employ experts in all areas of electronics, nor can they give detailed attention to the thousands of UK electronics companies, Macmichael said. There are many companies out there who often require very small order quantities or a service that is bespoke. Often such small order requirements are not attractive to larger broadliners or they cannot facilitate the extra customer service. In responses to this Macmichael advises: “A need arises therefore at two levels: first and foremost customers that don’t have the large spend necessary to justify the attention of the broadliners still need support; secondly suppliers that don’t fall into the top 20 or so in the world need a sales channel that will actively promote and support their products. This leaves a very large proportion of the market available to the niche distributor. The  age  of doing  business t online For many companies across the industrial spectrum, the Internet and online sales are paramount to business, if not increasingly making up the greater proportion of business. However not for Solid State Supplies, who has yet to enter into the field of online commerce. Perhaps nowadays this would appear somewhat out of place with the rest of the industry but not necessarily so as Macmichael advises: “As broadliners are forced to battle it out over the Internet responding to major innovations from their overseas competitors and to lower cost models being operated elsewhere in the world, the niche ­distributor is left to do what it does best – add value. “No amount of web-based innovation will, for example, ever truly replace the need to hold dedicated stock or replace face-to-face, hands-on, skilled engineering support.” Macmichael explains: “The NHS 111 service has adequately demonstrated what happens when support is passed to staff following scripts from a computer program, whilst Internet-based FAQ centres frequently serve only to prove that the question that needs resolving is in fact not one that is frequently asked. The answer of course is field-based application support provided by highly skilled engineers from niche distributors. Some niche distributors, like Solid State Supplies, take this one stage further by not only employing highly trained application engineers alongside franchise specialists but also by partnering with expert companies. “The broadliners through their immense Internet resources may be able to provide some of the biggest tools in the business but tools are of little use if you haven’t been trained in their use. Again specialists like us are able to provide a solution with  regular, free, hands-on training for customers ensuring that their investment is kept current and both fully and ­efficiently utilised, Macmichael continued. Of course expectations of value go well beyond the ability to provide technical and commercial support but again the niche distributor is able to respond as John explains: “The agile approach taken by Solid State Supplies means that their in-house secure programming facility, one of the very few certified to AS9100, can be utilised to provide 24 hour turn around on FPGA samples for customers, to tape and reel devices in quantities that would frankly be uneconomic for broadline distributors, or to bake customer products that would otherwise be unusable. For niche ­distributors the term service is used to encompass all of their customers not just the handful in the top 20 percent.” The distributor has experienced continued  growth and success highlighting how its business model is successfully working as John explains: “Solid State Supplies is one of the few companies that have managed to grow their business significantly throughout the market downturn and it has done this by investing heavily in the things that customers want. Macmichael summarises with a view to the future: “No niche distributor can afford to be complacent and web-based services will inevitably be a part of the way we do business but the reality is that people still do business with people whether that’s in engineering or purchasing. It’s still a people business.”

Olympics infrastructure supported by varying array of electronics devices and components 

15 August 2012 04:37:00 Categories: Comment

If you have been watching the Olympics, though it is hard to avoid whether you are a sporting fan or not, it cannot go unnoticed just the varying array of electronics devices and components that have gone into developing the supporting infrastructure surrounding the different venues. But to decide which aspect is the most pertinent degree is not an easy speculation, however power and lighting d evices would be very near the top of my list.

In this month's issue there is a selection of these article focuses including a look at some inspiring LED ideas that are emerging and how these are driving the dynamics of modern lighting.

There is also an interview for this month's cover story with Lumonic, a relatively recent start-up. The company has developed and built an innovative LED lighting solution with support from EBV Elektronik.

With the later edition of the military stepping in to reinforce security at the games it is only apt to mention our Mil/Aero & defence focus in this issue with an interview with Hypertac exploring the company's recent industry developments in this sector.

Also the problem of counterfeit components and the threat to the supply chain is discussed in an article from Maxim.
Power supplies and batteries are our key power focus with an article from Linear Technology discussing a new range of feature rich power supplies for telecoms and datacoms from the company.h

There is also a focus on enclosures in a feature special from Rittal exploring some important design characteristics worth considering when selecting the right enclosure for housing sensitive electronic equipment.

For more latest news and features visit us online on the CI porthole: www.connectingindustry.com/electronics or follow us on Twitter: @CI_Electronics.

Boom expected in video surveillance equipment market 

14 July 2012 04:35:00 Categories: Comment

The world market for video surveillance equipment is expected to grow more than 12 percent in 2012 according to IMS Research. This is good news for companies such as BVS who specialise in biovision smart cameras.

The boom in the market is perhaps due to a wealth of new technologies as the company explains in our Security & Surveillance feature special.

Also offering a special focus on advancing technology in this sector is our cover story special from Linear Technology with an insight into the company's latest developments in this market.

Widespread adoption of retrofit LED lamps are anticipated to create global energy savings worth $100 billion over the next five years, according to another recent report from IMS Research. This is an interesting statistic for the market and will leverage technology from companies such as OMC who offers an insight into how Light Engines are enabling effective lighting design across the industry.

These are just some of the important and advancing market segments driving the industry forward, featuring in this issue.

Celebrating 30 years in the industry 

02 May 2012 04:33:00 Categories: Comment

Welcome to the May 2012 issue of Electronics and what a special issue it is indeed as we mark our 30th year anniversary in the industry.

To celebrate the occasion we have put together a special 30th anniversary supplement inside this issue, with features looking at the past 30 years in the industry and a look towards the future.

May has been a busy month also heralding the 10-year anniversary of PCIM in Nuremberg.

If you attended the show then you will have experienced its visible growth with additional halls of exhibitors and steady throng of visitors.

30 years ago microcontroller technology was taking the industry by storm, debuted first then by Intel. Now this technology can be found in just about every application.

But to look at what is driving the industry currently then that would be most certainly power efficiency, alternative energy, all things wireless and connected and anything that engages with the human machine interface.

In an industry special this month’s Editor at Large: Industry Insight focuses on the ergonomics of design and how the human machine interface is shaping the electronics of the future.

Positive results across the market 

13 April 2012 07:13:00 Categories: Comment

 The test and measurement market is experiencing positive results and according to a report by Frost and Sullivan, found that: “the world power quality test and measurement (T & M) equipment market earned revenues of $556.7 million in 2009, estimating this to reach $697.6 million by 2016.”

A feature special on test and measurement in this month's issue focuses on JTAG test architecture and how the boundary-scan tool has gone from high-end test tool to now also offer a low-cost alternative.

The connectors market is continuing to be driven by application demands such as the rail industry with a connector solution from Hypertac. This solution was developed specifically for the Eurobalise system incorporated in train communication systems throughout Europe.

Finally, enclosure design is taking on something of a fetish as device manufacturers attempt to enhance the user experience with intuitive housings that take on a whole new perspective with a new range of enclosures from OKW for the medical market.

Innovations in lighting 

13 March 2012 08:04:00 Categories: Comment

Developing innovations in lighting that are non-power intensive is a high-priority on any lighting application list. A solution that offers a low-voltage HB-LED for Li+ battery operated systems and that responds to these power budget needs.

The ten-year anniversary edition of the Embedded World exhibition and conference that took place in Nuremberg at the end of February proved that embedded technology is indeed a lucrative market that is delivery some astounding results.

Once again power comes into focus with a power efficient transmitter for the broadcast industry.

The latest power products such as a new synchronous buck regulator for dual-cell Li-Ion applications.

FPGA technology has featured regularly in the trade press recently and in this issue there is a focus on FPGA technology and how to use this to develop low power, high-performance devices.

The month of love 

07 February 2012 06:56:00 Categories: Comment

February is quintessentially the month of love with the 14th of the month marking St Valentine's Day and as we here at Electronics hold a particular passion for all things 'electronics', we have not only crafted an exciting February issue full of all the industry's latest breaking news and features but we also bring you a selection of new 'en trend' focuses.

Included in this is our special feature on 'Broadcast, audio and visual'. This is an industry sector receiving champion innovation right now fuelled by applications such as the 'big switch over' from analogue to digital penned for June this year.
Endeavours to broadcast the Olympics with vast far-reaching coverage is taking audio and visual to new levels whilst the entertainment industry, particularly the music arena is pushing the boundaries between existing and new technologies for companies such as Cliff Electronics.

Not one to be left behind in the technological revolution, the Connecting Industry industrial portfolio is stepping out, debuting its recently re-designed website porthole and online media hub.

The home of Datateam’s Connecting Industry online portfolio is now new and improved and continues to offer comprehensive news and editorial coverage but now with an even better user experience than before.

Each title has a dedicated section on the website bringing daily news feeds and links to social media sites such as Twitter. You can follow us on: www.twitter.com/CI_Electronics.

With this, Datateam is building a community within and across the portfolio’s industrial sectors thus, not only creating a comprehensive industrial news network but also offering a unique opportunity to reach every corner of these widespread markets. Visit: www.connectingindustry.com to experience the evolution for yourself.

As Editor much time is spent on the road with the role requiring the fortunate disposition of visiting and meeting a retinue of key industry players.

These latest developments and findings are bought to you in a new 'Editor at large' feature focus in each issue; delivering industry interviews, company profiles and latest industry extras. The first of these is published in this issue and explores the dynamics of test equipment supplier, Microlesease during a site visit and interview.

So whether it is online, in print or following us via social media there is a medium of every format for the ocean of information that our industry culminates around, so Electronics is well positioned as the first place to visit for comprehensive coverage of the electronics component and design community reaching every corner in the industry.

Brave new world 

13 January 2012 04:53:00 Categories: Comment

This is the year which heralds the 2012 Olympics, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the continued turning of the tides I expect across many monumental social, financial and natural situations.

For the electronics industry, developments will no doubt continue to deliver innovations that take us one step further to that ever prophesied 'Brave new world'.

But right now it is the technology in industries such as the displays and user interface arena that are shaping the world around us such as in train stations, high-streets, not to mention the installation of the latest technology advances to bring us the games later this year.

This is why we thought it timely to kick off the Jan 12 issue with a displays & UIs special, exploring a new solution in proximity detection from Semtech.

Eclipsing this is our power supplies and batteries feature special covering some of the latest advances from solutions providers such as Excelsys, with a focus on principals in power conversion.

After all power is the life source of all electronics and is vital to the performance and functionality of all devices.

Remaining positive amongst economic gloom 

21 December 2011 06:51:00 Categories: Comment

After months followed by years of economic gloom and no sign of recovery we all sit in abject fear of further disdain. Though we, here at Electronics strive to remain positive along with all those who put their best foot forward with fighting spirit.
In testimony to this we have covered considerable news on investment into the technology sector from both Government and private funding. Eclipsing this has been much direction towards training and development schemes to bolster education and accessibility of the technology industry to young engineers taking a path in our sector.I

t is to these investments and efforts that will gain footing to elevate us out of the downturn as technology comes to be the very fabric in all our surroundings from the home to industry to every conceivable application.

So ours is an industry that shall endeavour and will continue to inspire and be needed as it goes from strength to strength. So we can at least see positivity in the fact that our sector produces solutions the world cannot do without.

PS Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

 

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.