Changing the World with Cell Phones?
Deciding what to write about for EEJournal is difficult. It is not that there is a lack of stories, but picking just one topic out of the many that are competing for my attention every day is sometimes close to impossible. But occasionally there are signals that just cannot be ignored. In the last few days these signals have all been pointing at wireless.
The biggest single signal was the Cambridge Wireless "Future of Wireless" conference. Cambridge Wireless is a community (its word – not mine) of "nearly 400 companies across the globe interested in the development and application of wireless and mobile technologies to solve business problems". Within the community, there is an active programme of events, many organised by one or more of the twenty Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Atmel’s Tech on Tour and Super Awesome Sylvia
In honor of the first annual National Day of Making, Fish Fry is headed into the delight-filled world of Maker Faires, microcontrollers, and watercolor painting robots. Andreas Eieland (Atmel) starts off the excitement by giving us a tour of Atmel’s Tech on Tour 18 wheeler. Andreas and I also discuss the disconnect between the growing number of IoT devices and the declining number of engineers in the world, and how Maker Faires can be instrumental in filling this void.
Also this week, Fish Fry is proud to welcome the one and only Super Awesome Sylvia. Sylvia has her own web TV show, is a maker extraordinaire, and is a trending tech celebrity. Did I also mention she’s 12? Join me as I chat with Sylvia about one of her latest projects...a watercolor painting robot.
Will the IoT Use the Desktop or Cellphone Model?
It’s like we have two separate brains, and only one of them can be on at a time.
In one brain, we deal with desktop and laptop computers. These are machines we use to do work. (Well, they used to be until content consumption via tablets looked tempting, and then all computers had to be that, making it harder to do actual work. But that’s a separate topic.)
The work we do on our own computers is considered to be our private business. We connect the computers to the internet in order to get information or talk to other computers or buy stuff or whatever. Historically, it was an “option” to connect, but these days, it’s pretty much only black networks that have no outside access. For the most part, all desk- and laptops are connected.
New EM5D and EM7D Compete with Rival’s Cortex-M4
Always wanted an ARM Cortex-M4 processor but didn’t like the popular instruction set and massive software support? Well, friend, your ship may have just come in. Step right this way and shake hands with the ARC EM5D, the latest miniature CPU core from Synopsys. Now with more DSP!
ARC is the in-house CPU arm (hah!) of Synopsys, a company normally associated with EDA tools. The ARC processor is more popular than most people might think: the architecture has nearly 200 licensees (more than ARM and MIPS put together) and is on track to ship 1.5 billion units this year. The ARC processor is small, cheap, and configurable. You can add and subtract features, either from a menu of options or from your own imagination. The CPU’s register set, instruction set, buses, and functional units are all modular and adjustable, which allows SoC designers to twist, tweak, and dial-in just the CPU design they want for their project.
I should probably start here by laying out my biases. I’m not a shopper. And when I shop, I like to be left alone until I need (and ask for) help. I think my worst shopping experience was in Shanghai at one of the markets where they hawk all manner of (probably counterfeit) goods. For someone like me (especially if you’re feeling moderately ill, as I was), it was like shopping hell – “Hey DVD!” “Hey watch!” People shouting from all directions, pulling on your sleeve, vying for your affections. (OK, just kidding – vying for your money.)
In these cases, I like to subscribe to the philosophy that some CEOs and other self-styled god-like humans do: Don’t speak to me until I speak to you first. Except that, for me, it’s not because I think I’m all that; it’s because I want to shop in peace.
How Boom Boxes Are Inspiring a New Age of Engineers
Do you remember your first EE project? Do you remember the delight in your soul when you first saw that LED light up or that plume of blue smoke rise across the room? In this week's Fish Fry, we harken back to the days when we were all budding engineers trying to make our circuits work for the first time. My guest is John Weiss, Director of Bayview BOOM. John is here to to introduce us to Bayview BOOM - a revolutionary program that brings engineering education to the young people of San Francicso's Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood. Join John and I as we chat about how Bayview BOOM nurtures cognitive growth, physical activity and a love for electronic design in its students - one boom box at a time.
We Explore PowerByProxi and Cota
Not long ago, we looked at wireless power. And we looked at some of the standards and conflicts underway as companies and technologies vie for best position. And it looked like a simple two-sided issue, with the eventual winner not yet clear.
Well, turns out there’s even more going on, some of it in places we rarely visit. I’ve run across two more wireless power stories, and they’re different from what we’ve seen and from each other. In an attempt to find a unifying theme as I bring them into the discussion, the common denominator seems to be their ability to “aim” their power at a device that needs charging.
Let’s back up, however, and start with a quick review.
Sensor Platforms and ARM Propose Framework
It might just be the end of another lurch.
Technology doesn’t evolve in a smooth, continuous fashion. Someone has an idea for something totally new and makes it happen. And someone else sees that idea and thinks, “OK, that’s pretty cool, but I have a better way to do it.” And someone else looks on, shakes her head at the pitiful, primitive attempts underway and puts forth yet another approach that does its tricks even more efficiently and elegantly.
And so, from that original brainstorm comes a flurry of innovation. Each modification benefits from hindsight, having in hand the results of those that came before. This goes on for a while until some asymptote is approached and the activity level mellows out. And then, sometime hence, yet another new brainstorm occurs, and the process repeats.
Security in the Age of IoT
There’s a break in the wall. It’s tiny but it’s there. The water will seep through at some point, we know this. Will we be ready for the rising tide or will we flounder to find a patch to save the day? Security in our embedded systems is no longer an issue we can ignore and in this week’s Fish Fry, we get down to the heart of the matter with Alan Grau (President - Icon Labs). Alan and I chat about the rise of intrusion detection in RTOS-based systems and we address the challenges of providing security for Smart Home devices. Also this week, I rant about certain people I know not “believing” in IoT and the pains of IP integration.
M5100 and M5150 Add Tasty Virtualization to the MIPS Recipe
If multiple CPUs aren’t enough for you, how about multiple operating systems on one CPU? That’s what virtualization is all about, and MIPS now offers it in its low-end range of embedded microprocessor cores.
The CPU company that’s part of Imagination Technologies recently rolled out two sibling processors for embedded designers who have the budget for SoC development. The new M5100 and M5150 CPU cores add virtualization to the already familiar MIPS 32-bit architecture.
The M in the product name tells you that these are comparatively low-end MIPS processor designs, as opposed to the midrange I-series or the performance-oriented P-series. If you’re still stuck on the previously (short-lived) product names, this would be a microAptiv, not an interAptiv or proAptiv. Got all that?