Assault on Batteries

The Internet of Things is Going to Need a Lot of Juice

by Jim Turley

I had dinner with a real venture capitalist the other evening, and lived to tell about it. I can’t tell you everything we discussed that night (wink, wink), but I can say that we had a good talk about batteries. No, really.

The VC in question is a partner at one of the primo Sand Hill Road firms and, as usual, he was the smartest guy in the room. Or at least, at my table. The conversation ranged from food, to wine, to rusty cars, to a recent acquisition by Apple. He talks very fast, uses his hands a lot, and compulsively checks his phone during lulls in the conversation. I guess if I could make (or lose) millions of dollars on one call, I’d check my messages a lot, too.

 

The Price of Ignorance

Let’s Get Rich Selling Overpriced Electronics!

by Jim Turley

Apparently, $48,000 speaker wire is a real thing. You can also find $5,000 boxes for “cleansing” the AC power going into your audio gear. (Be sure to order the $1000 power cord to go with it.) Just the thing to complement the $15,000 granite turntable for your old vinyl records.

Audiophiles must be real idiots. And rich idiots – the best kind.

You can now get “oxygen free” speaker wire with gold-plated contacts, carbon fiber ends, several layers of shielding, and your choice of clockwise or counterclockwise twist (for your left and right speakers, obviously). All for the price of a Porsche.

 

Lean Green Energy Harvesting Machine

PMICs and Biofuel Micro Trigeneration

by Amelia Dalton

In the venerable words of Kermit the Frog, "It's not that easy being green", but in this week's Fish Fry we're going to show you that being green may be getting a whole lot easier. We examine a new Micro Trigeneration Prototyping system coming out of the University of Newcastle that aims to cool, heat, and provide electricity to your home using unprocessed plant oils. Tom Sparkman (Spansion) and I also explore Spansion's super green new family of power management integrated circuits for energy harvesting targeted at the IoT market.

 

iWatch, You Speculate Incessantly

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

I held out as long possible before writing anything iWatch related. The irony is that I am iFatigued with everyone iGuessing about an iUnnanounced product, and yet here I am contributing to the noise. ¡iCaramba! The proverbial last straw: I read a piece comparing Microsoft’s unannounced wearable to Apple’s unannounced wearable. OMG.

And AFTER deciding to write this piece—but before I could start—another piece appeared with the declarative headline “Here’s Everything We Know About the iWatch.” And because I cannot make up stuff this good, apparently the things we KNOW include:

 

Enabling Creepy… and Cool

Movidius Camera Processor Helps Drones As Well As Doctors

by Jim Turley

Video surveillance, CCTV, camera-toting drones, cellphone video, stoplight cameras – they’re everywhere! It seems as though no public space isn’t being recorded, filed, uploaded, and possibly analyzed for malfeasance. The common factor in all these scenarios is digital cameras.

And what do all digital cameras need? Lots of storage, lots of bandwidth, and lots of processing power. Grabbing frame after frame of unrefined, uncompressed video isn’t interesting. You need to massage the video before it’s useful. That means some combination of white balance, edge detection, smoothing, compressing, artefact reduction, and possibly image recognition. That’s a lot of work on a lot of pixels, in very little time.

 

Where is the Value? Where is the ROI?

IoT Business Model Ruminations

by Bryon Moyer

When you think about it, the much-vaunted launch of the Internet of Things (IoT) represents an enormous investment in research, development, and rollout. Much is made of all the cool things we’ll be able to do once it’s all in place, but I see less discussion of what the return will be on all of that investment. After all, some of us may be focused on this because we think the technology is cool, but someone else has to pay us, and so they’re going to want to see something for their efforts in the long-run.

You might wonder, for example, why a simple, self-respecting thermostat maker would want to get all complicated by adding a bunch of functionality to the poor little wall-mounted bugger, bringing the phone and cloud into the party as well. If you’re that thermostat guy and you’re using classical marketing thinking, then one reason for doing this might be so that your thermostat will do more than your competitors’, and so you’ll sell more than they will.

The return? The extra profits from the extra sales.

 

Don’t Pass Me By

Project Ara Dev Boards and the Internet of Moving Things

by Amelia Dalton

The pedal is to the metal, our motor is running, and Fish Fry is hitting the open road. At the wheel this week is mCube CEO Ben Lee. Ben and I discuss the future of the IoT market, the details of mCube's super tiny accelerometers, and where you can find a truly unique golf course where you play above the clouds. Also joining our Fish Fryin' caravan this week, is an exciting update from the folks at Google's Project Ara (and you won't want to miss this!) Last but certainly not least, we round out this episode with a little ride down Static Timing and Constraint Validation Lane. Buckle up my friends, it's gonna be a wild ride!

 

Off to the Android Races

New EEMBC Benchmark Measures Android Speed

by Jim Turley

“I don’t always benchmark my Android devices. But when I do, I prefer AndEBench-Pro.” – The Most Boring Man in the World Benchmarking, like economics, is a dismal science. Both are important and both are more complicated than the casual observer may expect. EEMBC is an expert at one of these.

The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark consortium (the second E is purely decorative) is a nonprofit group approaching its 20th birthday. The merry band of benchmarkers has expanded beyond its original remit of creating tiny benchmark kernels for stressing CPU cores, and it now offers a whole catalog of benchmarks large and small for just about anything. There’s an automotive benchmark, a Web browser benchmark, and now two different Android benchmarks.

 

FPGAs in the IoT

Lattice iCE40 Ultra Brings Programmability to Wearables

by Kevin Morris

In the 1960s, an electronic device was “cool” if it had the word “transistor” in it. Even though the general public didn’t understand the benefits a transistor brought to a portable radio, everyone wanted the new “transistor” type. Then, of course, the shock and awe of Moore’s Law took the world on a fifty-year joy ride that completely isolated the electronics-buying public from any hope of understanding or appreciating what went on inside the latest consumer technology wonders.

For that reason, the “FPGA” label probably won’t be applied to mobile and wearable products the same way “transistor” was a few decades back, but the role of the FPGA today is no less transformative and enabling than the transistor was in the 1960s. Using an FPGA in a consumer device - particularly a small, power-sensitive, portable or mobile one - raises the stakes in a way that most definitely deserves a title role.

 

And Then There Was One

InvenSense Scoops up Movea, Trusted Positioning

by Bryon Moyer

Once upon a time, roughly a month ago, there were sensor makers, who made sensors and did some amount of their own sensor fusion software, and there were separate companies (note plural) that made “sensor fusion” software that wasn’t tied to any specific brand of sensor.

Why did we need this? Well, let’s review for anyone that hasn’t been following the scene in detail. You can take, for example, the output of an accelerometer and the output of a gyroscope and “fuse” them together to provide an overall orientation result in terms of quaternions. It takes software to do this – the sensor fusion software referred to above. In this case, the algorithms implement well-known mathematical relationships to provide their result. Companies aren’t likely to compete based on these specific algorithms, except to the extent that they can do them faster or, more importantly, with lower power.

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