Portable Heterogeneous Multicore

The HSA Foundation’s New SoC Architecture

by Bryon Moyer

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.

 

The Smartest Socks on the Block

Let’s Get Physical with Sensoria

by Amelia Dalton

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).

 

A Dendrite-Free Lithium Anode

Better Batteries Without the Fireworks

by Bryon Moyer

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.

 

Buses, Windows, and You

Where is the Real Value in Embedded Engineering?

by Jim Turley

“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.

Lemme ’splain.

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.

 

The Hardware Vanishing Point

Someday, Will it All be Software?

by Kevin Morris

The disciplines of hardware and software engineering have always been intertwined and symbiotic - like the yin and yang of some bizarre abstract beast. Software cannot exist without hardware to execute it, of course, and most hardware today is designed in the service of software. The vast majority of systems being designed today involve a mix of both elements working together, with software steadily inheriting more and more of the complexity load.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

On the one hand, we have digital hardware technology that has rocketed up the Moore’s Law curve for five solid decades, exploding in complexity like nothing ever seen by humans. One might expect, based on that fact alone, that hardware would bear the brunt of system complexity. After all, we have gone from tens of transistors on a chip to billions, and from scant kilobytes of memory and storage to terabytes.

 

A Stictionless NEMS Switch

Or, as MIT Calls It, a Squitch

by Bryon Moyer

Mechanical switches are as old as, well, electricity. Whether you picture the giant two-handed switches in horror movies or the simple wall switches in our houses, we’re used to making contact metal-to-metal.

So transistors used as switches, as old as they may seem, are the newcomers. The thing is, they can be made so small that, within the world of digital logic, we’ve never looked back at their mechanical predecessors – until now.

The advent of MEMS and NEMS technology is bringing mechanical concepts, which have been on the sidelines for years, back into the discussion. But simply scaling down a macro switch into a micro or nano version doesn’t quite work. There are forces at play – literally – in this tiny realm that you just don’t notice in the macro world.

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