How You Can Detect Substances With or Without Electronics
OK, so you’ve got this hole. A really deep hole. I mean, reaaaaally deep: some miles, perhaps. And you’d really like to know what’s down there, at least gas-wise.
Problem is, there could be lots of different things down there. You want to cover a wide range of substances – say, a hundred of them – with a single sensor to get some answers faster.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: as your sensor drops down into the hole, it’s going to pass through all kinds of materials and metals and whatnot. That’s going to play havoc with any electrical signals coming back up telling you the answers. Besides, it’s hot down there – most electronics won’t do well anyway. So… yeah, no electronics. How’s that going to work?
Contrived problem? Perhaps, but only because it abstracts a real problem that real companies have sensing the environment in areas hostile to electronics. This down-hole scenario could definitely apply to mining and oil-exploration applications with little added context.
Liquid Metal, Communication Protocols, and Embedded MCUs
We all know it's coming. It's only a matter of time. Skynet is close at hand. This week's Fish Fry takes a look at a new study released by the University of North Carolina that has made reconfigurable metal a reality. But, before we can build Skynet (or build the counter-revolutionary forces led by the one and only John Connor) we must be able to connect the IoT communication dots. Today's episode also examines two of the many building blocks needed to get this sci-fi plot line from fantasy to fact. We chat with John Beal and Artem Aginskiy about a new RF-enhanced embedded microcontroller family from Texas Instruments (SimpleLink) and TI's C5000 fixed-point DSP products.
It Is Not iWatch! Write It Ten Times: Apple Watch, Apple Watch …
Well, holy cow: when Apple does a wearable, they REALLY do a wearable. Plenty of kudos, plenty of TBDs and a few issues in the big announcement. Let’s break it down using the framework I dropped some weeks back while lamenting the state of journalism.
“My point here is that the wrist is VERY PERSONAL real estate.”
Major kudos. Apple Watch (the product formerly known as iWatch) will be available in a dizzying array of sizes, metals, colors, and bands. Apple Watch is JEWELRY. The attention to detail—even if you consider nothing but the bands—is extraordinary, even when viewed through the lens of a beautifully designed piece of jewelry. (Next time you’re in an Apple store, take a look at the wall o’ cases selected by Apple; that ought to give you a sense of how very wrong these elements could have gone.)
Hierofalcon Processor Does Pretty Much What It’s Supposed To
I really wanted to like this chip. But then I talked to the manufacturer.
Let me explain. Your humble servants here at Electronic Engineering Journal talk to a lot of people at a lot of different companies. That’s what we do. The vendors tell us about their whizzy new chip, or new software, or new business venture, or whatever. We listen politely at first, knowing that the vendor will – quite rightly – present the product in its best possible light. That’s their job.
Now, if we were working for some other publications or online journals I could name, we’d just print whatever the vendor told us. “New chip promises to revolutionize Internet of Things!” or “Software update is a game-changer!” or “Company reveals new product and you’ll never guess what happens next!” We’ve all seen those types of breathless (and brainless) headlines. But here at EEJ we like to do a little better. That’s our job.
Altera Redefines Non-volatile FPGAs
The venerable CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device), forefather of today’s flourishing FPGA and programmable logic industry, died peacefully in its sleep last night of natural causes. No memorial services are planned. The CPLD is survived by an incredible array of modern, capable devices that take the concept of programmable hardware to places never envisioned by the stately senior sum-of-products statesman.
If you visit the Wikipedia page for “CPLD” you will find a picture of an Altera MAX device (EPM7128), a 2,500 gate-equivalent, 128 macrocell “second generation” CPLD (or “EPLD” as the company was spinning it in those days) which, according to the datasheet, was capable of implementing “complete system-level designs.” That is, of course, if you were designing a “system” that could be implemented in well under 2,500 gates, was all digital, and had a 2-digit number of IOs.
Newer Tools Let You Do More than Just Electronics
Welcome to autumn. It’s usually a busy season – although the activity typically starts more with the onset of September and the resumption of school than with the equinox. But it also comes on the heels of a quiet season, even in the overworked US.
And EDA has seemed moderately quiet. So I started looking around to see what I might have been missing, and I’m not sure there’s a lot. But it did get me musing on why things might be quiet for the moment as well as what fills the gap – which gets to the topic of what qualifies as EDA. It’s more than you might think.
At the risk of being obviously over-simple, the legions of coders in EDA-land are doing one of two things: building new technologies or improving on old ones. The new technology category might include support for FinFETs or multi-patterning or the design kits for the latest silicon node. The improvement side of the tree is where performance and capacity and usability are juiced up – all in the name of productivity, of course.