The Next Evolutionary Step After FPGAs?
It’s just semantics, right?
With the fast-paced evolution of electronic engineering, it’s difficult to maintain a context, a sense of perspective, a mental tourist map of the technological universe with a big red “You Are Here” star that helps us understand how everything relates to everything else. Humans have an instinctive need for situational awareness, and we crave some lynchpins to which we can make fast our psychological ships - preventing them from drifting aimlessly into the gray chaotic expanse of static noise.
One of the tricks that helps us keep our frame of reference is labeling. These devices are “MCUs,” these are “CPUs,” these are “Memories,” and these are “FPGAs.” Once we have a label for a thing, we can stereotype and generalize, abstracting away the specific details and gaining a higher sense of our environment - like climbing a tower to survey the surrounding terrain.
Software is Complicated, But How Much of it is Useful?
“We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.” – Donald Rumsfeld Consider the humble ladder. It’s a hardware device that’s elegant in its simplicity. Two parallel side rails, with evenly spaced rungs in between. Everything you need; nothing you don’t. Ladders can be made of wood, metal, Fiberglas, or other materials. There are long ones, short ones, portable ones, and permanent ones. Nobody really needs to be taught how to use a ladder, although there are some standard safety rules that might make your tenure at the top a bit more secure.
The HSA Foundation’s New SoC Architecture
So you’ve got some compute-intensive work to do, and you need the results really fast. OK, well, here: I wrote some code that takes full advantage of the nifty multicore processor so that it can run multiple calculations at the same time and get it all done so much faster. Oh, wait, you didn’t want to use the CPU cores? You wanted to use the GPU? Dang… OK, well, let me go recode this and get right back to you. Oh, you wanted to use the GPU only for that one part, but not the other? Hmmm… OK, gimme a sec here to go recode that. Wait, you want it to be portable?? Not gonna happen.
Let’s Get Physical with Sensoria
Your heart is pounding. Your iTunes playlist is nearing its end. The final mile is at hand and you couldn’t be happier. What if you could make your morning run smarter? In this week’s Fish Fry, we investigate sensor-enhanced fabrics from IoE (Internet of Everybody) company Sensoria that aims to do just that. Davide Vigano (Co-Founder - Sensoria) and I delve into in the details of Sensoria’s wide range of high tech fitness products, and reveal how Sensoria can help you make your own MEMS-enhanced fabrics. Also this week, we check out a new design competition recently launched by NASA and America Makes where you can help design (and build) a 3-D printed space colony for MARS (and make some serious cash while doing it).
Better Batteries Without the Fireworks
This is yet another tale from the long saga of the Quest to Build a Better Battery. We’re all waiting for the day when we can unplug everything and yet never have our batteries run dry, so, for the time being, battery technology is cool.
This tale is very specific. It’s about building a lithium-based battery with a lithium anode. Why is that a goal? Well, it always was the goal for the best performing lithium battery, but inconvenient problems like potential fires have gotten in the way. So we’ve used carbon-based anodes as a next best thing.
But according to a team from… well, from several institutions (the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, and the US Army Research Lab), batteries built this way may be reaching their potential energy density limit. And so figuring out how to get a lithium anode working would extend the energy density roadmap.
Where is the Real Value in Embedded Engineering?
“I suppose that even the most pleasurable of imaginable occupations, that of batting baseballs through the windows of the RCA Building, would pall a little as the days ran on.” – James Thurber
What do buses, windows, and iTunes have in common? They’re all engineering successes that don’t really look like, well, engineering successes.
This week I spoke with two different companies that sell on-chip networks for SoC designers. They’re IP companies, which is to say they license their R&D efforts to other hardware engineers in exchange for an upfront fee and a royalty. It’s a pretty well understood business model, so no surprises there.