A New IoT Cellular Network

SIGFOX Is Installing Cells in Europe and Beyond

by Bryon Moyer

It’s not every day that a major infrastructure build-out happens.

Imagine that you wanted to switch from your current cable provider, but you wanted to stay with cable technology. The only way you could do that (other than finding some reseller that leverages the cable you’re trying to escape) would be for a competing company to come dig up your town and install a whole new parallel network. Yeah, not likely to happen. (Which is why the incumbent cable companies can act like the monopolies they are.)

Similarly with cell networks, although slightly less so. Here in the US, we started with two providers per geography. Obviously, we have grown beyond that by now, and yet, for the most part, US coverage is dominated by two companies. Others, like Metro PCS, have cherry-picked markets and users, limiting their build-out. But the prospect of a completely new cell provider installing a completely new network to compete with the entrenched big guys seems exceedingly unlikely.

 

Making Tesla Proud

OneTesla Makes Your (Singing) Tesla Coil Dreams Come True

by Amelia Dalton

It’s creepy! It’s crawly. It occasionally has scales! It’s Amelia’s Weekly Fish Fry! This week we are celebrating one of the coolest (and one might say, creepiest) scientists, electrical engineers, and visionaries the world has ever seen -- Nikola Tesla. My guest this week is physicist Heidi Baumgartner. She can run a nuclear reactor, she can teach soldering, and most importantly for today’s broadcast, she is one of the founders of OneTesla. Heidi is here to explain exactly how you can build your very own singing Tesla coil, how she became involved with OneTesla, and what it's like to vacation at Chernobyl. Also this week, we check out why 8-bit shouldn’t be thrown out like last year’s Halloween candy.

 

I Brick Your Chip

Driver Update Disables Counterfeit Chips

by Jim Turley

It sounds like something out of a spy thriller. A piece of security software, masquerading as a routine driver update, sniffs out enemy chips and terminates them with extreme prejudice. There is no fix; the chip, and everything it’s connected to, is bricked.

Sneaky, huh? And not really all that hard to implement. With nearly everything connected “to the cloud,” it’s easy to insert new software remotely. And we’re all accustomed to downloading and installing new drivers every few weeks, so there’s nothing suspicious that would tip anyone off.

Except…

The case this week involves FTDI, a company that makes popular and inexpensive USB-interface chips. You’ve probably got one inside some device nearby, or you’ve used FTDI chips in your own designs.

 

Sights on Systems

Mentor Elevates PCB Game

by Kevin Morris

For decades, the PCB design tools competition has been a board game. The scope of the problem was the design of a single PCB, and the competitors - Mentor, Cadence, Zuken, Altium/Protel, and the rest - all battled for supremacy with the scope, features, power, and cost of their solutions. The market for board tools actually got a little boring for years, with the major players competing mainly on cost and incumbency in the high-end (enterprise) level and in the low-cost (desktop) markets.

In the past few years, however, the battle has been heating up again. Demands on even “ordinary” board design have grown, as signal- and power-integrity became common problems with higher speed components, and IC packaging and mounting technology caused new challenges for layout. As a result, “desktop” tools began to inherit many of the features associated with “enterprise” tools. Enterprise design tool suites had to once again scramble to differentiate themselves and justify their significantly higher costs.

 

Constraining Light

Or, How the Heck Do I Design a Photonic Circuit?

by Bryon Moyer

Several weeks ago we took a look at the expanding role of EDA. And then a couple weeks ago we delved into the bizarre world of silicon photonics. Yeah, we didn’t get too deep because the bottom drops off pretty quickly, and I’m not sure I could tread water credibly any deeper. But we got a flavor.

So now, we bring these two things together to answer the question, “If I’m going to be involved in a photonic chip design, what tools am I going to use?” OK, so if you’re an electronics designer, you’ll probably be asking the question, “What tools will the photonics pholks be using, and how will thier world interface to mine?”

Folks have been doing silicon photonics research for a long time now, and you need tools to do that. So it’s not like we’re just now seeing the emergence of new tools for this purpose. The thing is, there’s not a lot of profit in research, so the big guys that are commercially driven may not be attracted to such new endeavors in the early stages.

 

First Responder Robots and Virtual Prototypes

Carbon’s New Virtual Prototype Portal and UDG’s New Smart Robot

by Amelia Dalton

What’s the difference between a human and a pile of rocks? A robot algorithm (of course)! In this week’s episode of Fish Fry, we check out a new robot being developed at the University of Guadalajara that utilizes a pattern recognition algorithm to determine the silhouette of a human body. Also this week, we talk about the trials and tribulations of SoC design with Bill Neifert of Carbon Design Systems. Bill and I discuss Carbon's focus on the automatic creation of RTL-accurate models for integration into SoC designs and how you can make your IP configuration options a whole bunch easier.


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