Are You an Android or a Robot?

Business Models Collide, Over and Over Again

by Jim Turley

There’s an old saying that programming is – ahem – like practicing the world’s oldest profession. In both cases, there is no inventory, no fixed overhead costs, and no actual goods sold. Instead, the “product” is really a service. Both depreciate rapidly and both are labor-intensive. Most of all, practitioners get to sell their product to one customer and then sell it again to somebody else. With no cost-of-goods-sold (COGS), every sale should be pure profit, right? And yet, people in neither profession ever seem to get rich. What’s wrong with that business model?

I can’t tell if Android is doing really well or if it’s heading into a downward spiral. On one hand, Android has taken the embedded world by storm, powering all sorts of new devices. What could be better than a free operating system, and one packed with features, too? And open source? With lots of support? Sign me up!

 

Let’s Get This Party Kickstarted

Is Crowdfunding a Good Option For Your Million-Dollar Idea?

by Larra Morris

“More ideas are lost than found.” That was Maker Faire co-founder Dale Doughtery’s response to a reporter’s question about intellectual property concerns in the show-and-tell environment of the World Maker Faire (quoted in Kevin Morris’s terrific article about the faire). This simple statement seems especially true in the world of engineering.  How many ideas for new projects, new start-up companies, and new inventions never make it out of their would-be inventor’s brain? The electrical engineering industry has probably produced millions of lost ideas. Some of these lost ideas may be better off never becoming a reality, but it’s almost certain that there are some truly brilliant or even genius ideas that never come to fruition. 

Getting a new idea off the ground can be particularly difficult in this industry, where the inventions and innovations tend to be technical and complicated. Trying to find investors and funding for a project is no picnic for any inventor or innovator, but it can get especially tricky when you’re trying to explain complex electrical engineering concepts to, say, the panel on “Shark Tank.”

 

Grabbing Keys Out of Thin Air

Rambus’s AES Crypto IP Resists DPA Attacks

by Jim Turley

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

You have got to be kidding me. I mean, I’m an engineer. I know how stuff works. And you’re telling me you can somehow snag my computer’s encryption keys out of thin air? No way. No. @%$#-ing. Way.

Way.

I’ve seen it happen. I didn’t believe it at first, but there’s nothing quite like a live demonstration to make you a convert. It’s time to stock up on tinfoil hats. Here’s the background: Practically every computer, cell phone, tablet, cable TV decoder, satellite box, smartcard, modern passport, or other gizmo uses encryption in some way.

 

New Sound in Town

Vesper Announces Piezoelectric Microphones

by Bryon Moyer

Microphones are not for the faint of heart. There is a sordid history of MEMS microphones, replete with big companies crying “Uncle!” and with legal vitriol.

Unlike something as “simple” as an accelerometer (with apologies to anyone that’s worked damned hard on a fine accelerometer), there’s been less rush to compete once everyone figured out how hard microphones can be.

And so we have a few deeply entrenched incumbents manning the sound.

But microphones still look interesting as an opportunity. We saw some time ago that multiple microphones are becoming a thing. Why? For the same reason that high-quality sound recording uses them. By recording an orchestra and the audience with two mikes, for example, you now have two tracks, and you can subtract the audience track from the orchestra track to get a cleaner version of the orchestra.

 

Hello Rubber, Meet Road

Valencell’s Biometric Testing Takes IoT Out for a Spin

by Amelia Dalton

This here twin-turbo EEJournal.com podcastin’ hot rod is headed to the IoT finish line - one biometric at a time. In this week’s Fish Fry, we investigate biometric data sensors and how one company is making sure that our fitness is actually what we think it is. My guest is Valencell President Steven LeBoeuf. Steven and I are going to chat about the future of the wearable market, precision biometrics, Valencell’s new state-of-the-art sports testing lab, and a little bit about professional cartooning. Get your wearable motor runnin' folks!

 

Return News Roundup

Power, Sensors, Clock Trees, Multicore and Compression Algorithms

by Dick Selwood

September, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is often seen as the real start of the year. Companies are returning from their summer holidays and revving up with new promotional activities and, particularly in even numbered years in Europe, starting to work towards the huge techno-fest that is electronica in Munich in November. Now this may be a very interesting observation, but why is this relevant? Well, in the last few weeks, I have been exposed to a raft of interesting things, many of which would be worth a whole article in their own right, but, given the limitations of space and time, I have decided to bundle together several different stories from across a wide spectrum of electronics.

Power supplies

Much of what is written in the electronics media concentrates on digital chips and their design and manufacture. We are probably as guilty as most in focusing on these areas, but, after designs have been implemented in these ever-more-challenging process nodes, the chips have to go onto a board, and then they require power.

 

Shootout at the MEMS Corral

MEMS Executive Congress 2014 Preview

by Amelia Dalton

This week's Fish Fry celebrates the wild west of electronics - MEMS and sensor-based technology. Ridin' shotgun with me is none other than Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group. Karen gives us a special sneak peek into the upcoming 10th annual MEMS Executive Congress. I do hope you have your spurs locked on tight, your saddle equipped with the newest context-aware sensors, and your o-scope spit cleaned and polished. We're riding straight into the MEMS corral. This may get messy...

 

Is It Time for Post-ARM Already?

New APS23 and APS25 Processors Designed for “Third Wave” of Computing Devices

by Jim Turley

If you could sell 700 million units of the product you’re designing right now, would that be a success?

Seven hundred million is a big number. That’s about the total number of cars sold by all the automakers in the world combined over the past ten years. Or more than double the number of copies of Windows 8, or the number of hamburgers McDonald’s flips out in four months. As I said, a big number.

You’d think that any company responsible for such impressive product movement would be well known, right? Especially if it’s a microprocessor company? We must be talking about Intel or ARM or Freescale or Renesas?

Keep guessing.

The responsible party is a 28-person group in Montpellier, France, overlooking the blue Mediterranean. They make a 32-bit CPU for low-power devices. It’s synthesizable. It’s licensed as IP. It’s used in a lot of mobile and handheld devices.

 

Skynet Calling

Liquid Metal, Communication Protocols, and Embedded MCUs

by Amelia Dalton

We all know it's coming. It's only a matter of time. Skynet is close at hand. This week's Fish Fry takes a look at a new study released by the University of North Carolina that has made reconfigurable metal a reality. But, before we can build Skynet (or build the counter-revolutionary forces led by the one and only John Connor) we must be able to connect the IoT communication dots. Today's episode also examines two of the many building blocks needed to get this sci-fi plot line from fantasy to fact. We chat with John Beal and Artem Aginskiy about a new RF-enhanced embedded microcontroller family from Texas Instruments (SimpleLink) and TI's C5000 fixed-point DSP products.

 

iWatch, Therefore I Am

It Is Not iWatch! Write It Ten Times: Apple Watch, Apple Watch …

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

Well, holy cow: when Apple does a wearable, they REALLY do a wearable. Plenty of kudos, plenty of TBDs and a few issues in the big announcement. Let’s break it down using the framework I dropped some weeks back while lamenting the state of journalism.

“My point here is that the wrist is VERY PERSONAL real estate.”

Major kudos. Apple Watch (the product formerly known as iWatch) will be available in a dizzying array of sizes, metals, colors, and bands. Apple Watch is JEWELRY. The attention to detail—even if you consider nothing but the bands—is extraordinary, even when viewed through the lens of a beautifully designed piece of jewelry. (Next time you’re in an Apple store, take a look at the wall o’ cases selected by Apple; that ought to give you a sense of how very wrong these elements could have gone.)

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