Tag Archives: Electronics

Putting the Style in the Dial


By Caroline Hayes – In today’s vehicles, drivers access information for a variety of uses. This can be the distance and directions to points of interest or practical vehicle information, such as remaining fuel.

The analog displays of dial and needles are being replaced with a mix of analog and digital instrument clusters.

The digital display is being used in a similar way to how consumers use notebooks, tablets, and smartphones.

In the Automotive Display Market Tracker, Principal Analyst, IHS Markit, Stacy Wu, identifies a shift from center stack and rear seat entertainment, to safety system displays in instrument clusters as well as heads-up displays, where data is displayed in front of the driver. Sales of safety-critical display panels are expected to experience double digit growth through 2022.

This could be a boon for display manufacturers who are seeing sluggish sales in mobile devices. more>

Updates from GE

The Heat Camera Is On: Retailers Turn To Sensors For Insight
By Bruce Watson & Dorothy Pomerantz – Online retailers have been tracking their customers and their web habits with cookies for years. No wonder their brick-and-mortar rivals are looking for new ways to play the big-data game.

The French startup IRLYNX believes it can help them set sales on fire. The company developed small heat sensors, each just 1 centimeter in diameter, that retailers can place on walls, ceilings and even in light fixtures around a store to track customers.

Picking up customers’ body heat, each sensor can monitor movement as far as 15 meters away and within a 120-degree sweep. They can detect heat variances of less than 1 degree Fahrenheit, which helps them tell a human from, say, a hot computer or a fresh cup of coffee.

The sensors can also detect the size and postures of shoppers and distinguish an adult from a child or someone who is sitting down to try on a pair of shoes. The sensors are a big upgrade from the way stores typically track shoppers — with cameras.

While the images on a camera may be clearer, it’s very difficult to use those images to track data about how people are using a store. “Video-analysis software can be easily confused by mirrors, photographs, televisions, posters — almost any images of humans,” says Guillaume Crozet, IRLYNX’s vice president for sales and marketing.

Training algorithms to disregard these false images can be time-consuming and costly. more>

Updates from Ciena

Virtualizing the World of Cable
By Wayne Hickey – When cable operators saw huge demands in linear video, Video-on-Demand (VoD) and high-speed data services, and faced with an aging analog infrastructure, they moved to a Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) to increase capacity and throughput. CCAP combines headend functions into a single architecture by combing Edge Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (EQAM) and Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS).

Back in June 2011, CableLabs created CCAP by blending two competing platforms, a Comcast-backed Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) and a Time Warner Cable Converged Edge Services Access Router (CESAR) platform. The following year CCAP products were introduced, and deployed the year after.

Fast forward to today, cable operators are looking to implement software-based access platforms, migrate away from commonly deployed centralized, purpose-built CCAP equipment, and virtualize CCAP (vCCAP) — and thus begin the shift to a Distributed Access Architecture (DAA). Developed by CableLabs, vCCAP is the latest cable technologies that combines functions including the CMTS and EQAM.

Virtualizing and distributing MAC and PHY functions enables digital combining, eliminates analog optics with cost effective 10G Ethernet transport, and converts analog fiber nodes to digital optic IP-enabled devices. DAA makes it easier to push fiber deeper into the edge of the network, and along with the ability to support denser wavelengths for each fiber, digital optics greatly improves Carrier-to-Noise-Ratio (CNR), which will enable higher orders of QAM on the coax and higher performance DOCSIS technologies. more> https://goo.gl/EoPwPL

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Embedded FPGAs Offer SoC Flexibility

By Dave Lammers – It was back in 1985 that Ross Freeman invented the FPGA, gaining a fundamental patent (#4,870,302) that promised engineers the ability to use “open gates” that could be “programmed to add new functionality, adapt to changing standards or specifications, and make last-minute design changes.”

Freeman, a co-founder of Xilinx, died in 1989, too soon to see the emerging development of embedded field programmable logic arrays (eFPGAs). The IP cores offer system-on-chip (SoC) designers an ability to create hardware accelerators and to support changing algorithms. Proponents claim the approach provides advantages to artificial intelligence (AI) processors, automotive ICs, and the SoCs used in data centers, software-defined networks, 5G wireless, encryption, and other emerging applications.

With mask costs escalating rapidly, eFPGAs offer a way to customize SoCs without spinning new silicon. While eFPGAs cannot compete with custom silicon in terms of die area, the flexibility, speed, and power consumption are proving attractive.

Achronix Semiconductor (Santa Clara, Calif.) has branched out from its early base in stand-alone FPGAs, using Intel’s 22nm process, to an IP model. It is emphasizing its embeddable Speedcore eFPGAs that can be added to SoCs using TSMC’s 16FF foundry process. 7nm IP cores are under development.

Efinix Inc. (Santa Clara recently rolled out its Efinix Programmable Accelerator (EPA) technology.

Efinix (efinixinc.com) claims that its programmable arrays can either compete with established stand-alone FPGAs on performance, but at half the power, or can be added as IP cores to SoCs. The Efinix Programmable Accelerator technology can provide a look up table (LUT)-based logic cell or a routing switch, among other functions, the company said. more> https://goo.gl/nXqYvV

Updates from GE

A Bright Idea: How LEDs Are Helping JPMorgan Chase Become Carbon Neutral
By Bruce Watson – When Mike Norton took over as managing director of real estate at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2015, he took on a weighty responsibility that included finding an efficient and sustainable way to oversee the branding, maintenance, upkeep and design of 6,000 branches and commercial properties around the world. It was a complex task that turned on a simple item: the light bulb.

Norton started talking to the energy management company Current, powered by GE. They devised a plan for a system focusing on improving energy efficiency, productivity and sustainability in nearly 4,500 Chase branches across the U.S. In 2016, that proposal turned into a deal for the world’s largest LED lighting installation, a project covering 25 million square feet of real estate that would eventually lead to energy savings equivalent to taking 27,000 cars off the road.

One year later, Current by GE has installed LEDs in 2,500 Chase branches. The original plan estimated that the installation would lead to 12 percent energy savings. But in reality, the savings have ranged from 15 to 50 percent, depending on the branch.

“It’s common sense: You take a 100-watt phosphorus light bulb and replace it with a 4-watt LED, and it’s going to lower energy usage by quite a bit,” Norton says. more> https://goo.gl/1UiEwV

Updates from Georgia Tech

You and Some ‘Cavemen’ Get a Genetic Health Check
By Ben Brumfield – Heart problems were much more common in the genes of our ancient ancestors than in ours today, according to a new study by geneticists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who computationally compared genetic disease factors in modern humans with those of people through the millennia.

Overall, the news from the study is good. Evolution appears, through the ages, to have weeded out genetic influences that promote disease, while promulgating influences that protect from disease.

But for us modern folks, there’s also a hint of bad news. That generally healthy trend might have reversed in the last 500 to 1,000 years, meaning that, with the exception of cardiovascular ailments, disease risks found in our genes may be on the rise. For mental health, our genetic underpinnings look especially worse than those of our ancient forebears. more> https://goo.gl/txQhqU

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X-rays from Copper Source Set New Gold Standard for Measuring Industrial Materials

By Alison Gillespie – Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have produced and precisely measured a spectrum of X-rays using a new, state-of-the-art machine. The instrument they used to measure the X-rays took 20 years to develop, and will help scientists working at the agency make some of the world’s most accurate measurements of materials for use in everything from bridges to pharmaceuticals.

The process of building the instrument for making the new measurements was painstaking. “This new specialized precision instrument required both a tremendous amount of mechanical innovation and theoretical modeling,” said James Cline, project leader of the NIST team that built the machine.

“That we were able to dedicate so many years and such high-level scientific expertise to this project is reflective of NIST’s role in the world of science.” more> https://goo.gl/e0zrET

Updates from Aalto University

Aalto-2 satellite arrived at the International Space Station
By Jaan Praks – The robot arm was operated by US astronaut Peggy Whitson from NASA and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from ESA.

‘I am glad that I could be a part of docking the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the Space Station and welcome the QB50 satellites. They will be sent into space in May. One of them is Aalto-2 – the first satellite from Finland! I am very pleased that another European Space Agency member state is becoming “a true space nation”’, greeted Pesquet.

‘The Aalto-2 satellite will now spend a few weeks at the Space Station and wait for its turn to be launched. As the plan stands now, the small satellites will be detached to their orbits either on 8 or 15 May’, says Aalto Professor Jaan Praks, who is in charge of Aalto satellite projects. more> https://goo.gl/28ckbx

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Updates from GE

Physicists Are ‘Breeding’ SchröDinger’s Cat, And It Could Reveal The Limits of The Quantum World
By Bec Crew – Physicists have figured out how to ‘breed’ Schrödinger’s cat – an object in a quantum superposition of two states with opposite properties – to produce enlarged versions that could one day reveal the limits of the quantum world.

If they can continue to breed their ‘cats’ even bigger, the experiment could finally reveal the exact point at which objects switch between classical and quantum physics – the divide between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds that physicists have been chasing for decades.

The original Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment states that if you put a live cat in an explosion-proof box with a bomb, until you open the box, you’ll have no idea if the bomb exploded and the cat died. Or maybe the bomb didn’t explode and the cat is still alive.

From our perspective, as long as the box is shut, the cat is occupying two realities. It’s both dead and alive, because we can’t confirm which one, but we know it can’t be neither.

This isn’t just a hypothetical question – in quantum physics, being in two different states at the same time is known as a superposition state, and it’s the entire basis of quantum computing, which is set to revolutionise how we process data in the future. more> https://goo.gl/XMFMB6

Updates from Georgia Tech

Surprising twist in confined liquid crystals: A simple route to developing new sensors
By Karthik Nayani, Jinxin Fu, Rui Chang, Jung Ok Park, and Mohan Srinivasarao – To answer some fundamental questions pertaining to the material’s phase behavior, the researchers used the microscopes to observe the molecules’ textures when they were confined to droplets known as tactoids.

“Surprisingly, we found a configuration that hasn’t been seen before in the 70 years that people have been studying liquid crystals,” said Mohan Srinivasarao, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. “Historically, liquid crystals in tactoids conform to what is known as a bipolar and a bipolar configuration with a twist. At lower concentrations, we found that these liquid crystals arrange in a concentric fashion, but one that appears to be free of a singular defect.”

The researchers then used a simple model of the aggregation behavior of these molecules to explain these surprising results. Further, spectroscopic experiments using polarized Raman microscopy were performed to confirm their findings.

These new findings add to the growing understanding of how chromonic liquid crystals could be used in sensing applications, Srinivasarao said. more> https://goo.gl/YVq0TE

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