Can Cadence’s Voltus Make Us Less Pessimistic?
Many of the arts and skills developed throughout the ages have credited much of their inspiration to muses and patron saints and gods and spirits. These other-worldly beings provided both inspiration and guidance as the artisans built up a vast cultural legacy going back millennia.
So… if there’s a muse for engineering, who would it be? The thing about engineering is that free flights of fancy are often not permitted. We’re constrained by the possible, in stark contrast to experimental artists and even pure scientists. In fact, it’s worse than that: we have to make money. Usually for someone else. Which puts a further damper on things. Stuff has to work under a wide range of conditions, some predictable, some not.
Embedded Software Store, DigitalOptics, and Intelligent Robots
In honor of Thanksgiving next week, we're serving up a bountiful virtual turducken* of EE goodness. For the first course, we tackle that age old question: How do you train a fleet of robots to obey your every command? (The key to this quandary may be as close as the eyes on our faces.) In our next course, we serve up a feast of embedded software and embedded IP with Sheneka Coleman from Avnet. Lastly, we finsh up our fine Friday Fun meal with a tasty morsel from Eric Sigler of DigitalOptics. (DigitaOptics's new mems|cam may change how we interact with our smartphones forever.) This Thankgiving fryer won't be hot for too much longer, so dig in while the gettin's good.
In the Short and Long Term
It’s time to take another look at the grid, yet another part of our world that is supposed to be getting smarter. And, for this update, there are two decidedly distinct aspects to address: the here-and-now – bits that can be used today, in particular for smart meters; and the yet-to-come – a look at some insights provided by Imec last month into their view of where things are going.
SoC me ASAP
The obvious main theme for what’s become available in the last few months has everything to do with SoCs and platforms for smart meters. Now, smart meters are, for some of us, old news. I’ve seen the battles, I’ve seen the chained-and-padlocked analog meters, and, well, all of that has disappeared from the headlines. Every house I’ve been in for the last several years has had a smart meter. So… we’re done with smart meters. Right?
Microchip’s New PIC32MZ Puts Progress in Perspective
Sometimes the smallest things can knock you back on your heels and make you go, “Wow.”
Sure, we work in an industry of constant innovation. Computers get faster all the time, software gets more impressive, Internet startups come and go… we thrive on change and “destructive creation.” But still, you look around sometimes and wonder how we got here.
Not that long ago, the computer world was in the midst of a big RISC-versus-CISC battle. Would those newfangled RISC machines overturn our ideas of processor design and software’s role in computer architecture? Whole companies were founded on the basis of new CPU instruction sets. Fortunes were won and lost. Research went into overdrive. Stanford University produced MIPS, while, barely 20 miles away across San Francisco Bay, academic and athletic rival UC Berkeley’s SPARC joined the charge.
MathWorks Simplifies the Standard
The mobile world is undergoing a wonderful standards convergence. Instead of an alphabet soup of competing standards - GSM, CDMA, HSPA, HSDPA, OFDM, WiMax, EDGE, UMTS, and a host of alternatives and variants spreading their spectrum around the world and subdividing our engineering efforts into an unmanageably complicated array of special cases - we now have LTE (for “Long Term Evolution”) which has won favor both across a wide swath of the industry geographically and as a standard with some legs that may keep it around longer than two generations of smartphones.
Before there was LTE, the market was badly fragmented. Just about every geographical region had its own standard or version of a standard. Interoperability was weak to nonexistent, and getting economy of scale on engineering efforts and investment was near impossible. In that world, each project became a one-off, with few tools and little IP that were much use in the specialized task of designing and verifying a compliant device or system.
Lattice Targets Always-On Apps
Here’s one possible way to not get a job. Let’s say the interviewer asks you about things inside a cell phone. And you, having an FPGA background, suggest that there’s an opportunity for some great FPGA usage inside said phone.
Yeah… you’re likely to get a polite, “That’s interesting…” and a note, “FPGA guy with an FPGA hammer… and every system is his nail, even if it has a Philips head on it… Pass…”
No one puts baby in the corner, and no one puts FPGAs in phones or small mobile devices! Why? Well, duh… First, they’re ginormous. And second, they’d suck the battery dry by the time the thing booted up. I mean, the only device less likely to be considered would be a real-deal, old-school vacuum tube. Right? (Although audiophiles would probably totally dig that…)