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Zigbee 3.0 Released

iStock_000043268584_Medium_cr.jpgZigbee rolled out their latest revision late last year: 3.0. I sat with Zigbee Alliance CEO Tobin Richardson right as he had arrived back in country from Europe. Alas, I didn’t manage to find a way to turn any jet lag to my advantage. (Gotta work on that…) He summed up the main contribution that this new revision brings: unification of all the profiles. The intent is to further, how … Read More → "Zigbee 3.0 Released"

World’s Smallest Chess Program

Chess is tough, right? It’s a complicated game. Just explaining the rules can take hours, or hundreds of pages, and that’s before you get into subtle strategies. Mastering chess can be the work of a lifetime.

So how did a French kid write a fully featured chess program in just 487 bytes of code? Not 487 MB. Not even 487 KB. It’s four hundred and eighty-seven bytes of code. And it plays chess. This kid is good.

In case you’ … Read More → "World’s Smallest Chess Program"

Rezence Wireless Charging Takes Steps

There have been a couple of developments in the wireless power world over the last couple months, both involving the new Rezence standard. You may recall that this is the new high-frequency resonant approach, as contrasted with the established lower-frequency Qi approach. We’ve reviewed the differences and proliferating standards before.

While Rezence beat out Qi in terms of establishing a resonant (as opposed to inductive, which is … Read More → "Rezence Wireless Charging Takes Steps"

More than Memory

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “Spansion,” I hear memory. But there’s more going on there these days than FLASH. I talked with them last November when they were exhibiting at the IDTechEx show, which is partly about energy harvesting.

In particular, they acquired Fujitsu Microelectronics a year or so prior to broaden their product line. What they got were microcontrollers, with lots of digital and analog connectivity, and analog – primarily power management ICs (PMICs).

With this, they’re gunning for the internet of … Read More → "More than Memory"

Drawings as Cartoons?

41241920_thumbnail.jpgThis one is for those of you that are interested in language. Our industry tends to take a lot of liberties with language (largely, I think, because we’re engineering majors, not English majors, and we fired all the literate production people years ago when we learned how to use Word.)

So, for instance, we routinely eliminate the spaces and hyphens between numbers and units (did you know that “5mA” … Read More → "Drawings as Cartoons?"

Monolithic Plastic… Or Not

With semiconductors, we have this expectation that, at some future time, we’ll be able to integrate everything onto a single chip. Analog, digital, MEMS… you name it.

And, theoretically, we will be able to. In fact, we probably can now. Do we? Nope. And it’s even less likely as we keep moving forward.

Why? Because the most advanced wafers are freakin’ expensive. If there’s a bunch of your stuff that will work at 28 or 180 nm, you’re going to do that because it’s so … Read More → "Monolithic Plastic… Or Not"

ARM embraces 26262 Auto safety standard update

A couple of months ago, I wrote about ISO 26262 and the changes that this was forcing on the chip development process. (Spaghetti versus ISO 26262 http://www.eejournal.com/archives/articles/20141125-iso26262).

Many of the chips used in vehicles use ARM processor cores, particularly the Cortex-R5, and today ARM has announced that it is making available a safety document set that provide developers with the information needed to demonstrate that their products are suitable for use in systems that meet the highest level (ASIL-D) of safety.

Read More → "ARM embraces 26262 Auto safety standard update"

Buckle your seat belts: the semi market could be about to explode.

At the Future Horizons Semiconductor Industry Forecast on January 20th Malcolm Penn was in one of his classic ebullient modes. His message was “It is time to prepare for one of the strongest (and longest) upswings in chip industry history.”

Firstly, the context: this time last year Penn predicted semi sales would grow by  8%, with the most pessimistic case being only 4% and the most optimistic 14%. In fact, with December still to be finalised, it looks like 9.9% for the year.

For 2015 his target is 8.5% growth, with sales of $364.183 billion ($1 billion day). However if … Read More → "Buckle your seat belts: the semi market could be about to explode."

Towards Smaller Solar Inverters

Inverters are getting smaller.

We’re talking here about the inverters used in solar cells to convert the DC that they generate into AC for the grid. But there seem to be a couple of different motivations for this reduction in inverter size; I was made aware of them by a two different product releases.

First came an SoC from Semitech. Semitech has primarily been focused on power-line communications (PLC) on the so-called Smart Grid. Their focus hasn’t so much been on residential settings, where broadband connections dominate, but rather longer-distance machine-to-machine … Read More → "Towards Smaller Solar Inverters"

50% Deeper TSVs

We’ve been talking about through-silicon vias (TSVs) for years now, but 2.5D and 3D ICs are still trickling out at the high end.

Processing costs aside, one contributor to higher cost is the impact of TSVs on die size. While we debate the best ways to save a nanometer or two here and there, TSVs operate on a scale three orders of magnitude bigger: microns. And a good part of the reason is aspect ratio: at the current limit of 10:1 or so, then, if you want a 150-µm deep hole, you’re … Read More → "50% Deeper TSVs"

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