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.

 

Let’s Get This Party Kickstarted

Is Crowdfunding a Good Option For Your Million-Dollar Idea?

by Larra Morris

“More ideas are lost than found.” That was Maker Faire co-founder Dale Doughtery’s response to a reporter’s question about intellectual property concerns in the show-and-tell environment of the World Maker Faire (quoted in Kevin Morris’s terrific article about the faire). This simple statement seems especially true in the world of engineering.  How many ideas for new projects, new start-up companies, and new inventions never make it out of their would-be inventor’s brain? The electrical engineering industry has probably produced millions of lost ideas. Some of these lost ideas may be better off never becoming a reality, but it’s almost certain that there are some truly brilliant or even genius ideas that never come to fruition. 

Getting a new idea off the ground can be particularly difficult in this industry, where the inventions and innovations tend to be technical and complicated. Trying to find investors and funding for a project is no picnic for any inventor or innovator, but it can get especially tricky when you’re trying to explain complex electrical engineering concepts to, say, the panel on “Shark Tank.”

 

Grabbing Keys Out of Thin Air

Rambus’s AES Crypto IP Resists DPA Attacks

by Jim Turley

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

You have got to be kidding me. I mean, I’m an engineer. I know how stuff works. And you’re telling me you can somehow snag my computer’s encryption keys out of thin air? No way. No. @%$#-ing. Way.

Way.

I’ve seen it happen. I didn’t believe it at first, but there’s nothing quite like a live demonstration to make you a convert. It’s time to stock up on tinfoil hats. Here’s the background: Practically every computer, cell phone, tablet, cable TV decoder, satellite box, smartcard, modern passport, or other gizmo uses encryption in some way.

 

Moore’s Law Meets the Trade Press

EE Journal Turns 11

by Kevin Morris

We live and work in an amazing time. The global community of electronic engineers has created the greatest leap of technological progress in human history. In the almost fifty years that Moore's Law has existed, the number of transistors we can put on a single chip has risen from fifty to somewhere around twenty billion. That is a truly amazing achievement. And the power of that almost unimaginable feat has rippled and ripped through just about every aspect of our lives and our culture.

As the creators of that change, we have faced a unique challenge. While the rest of the world gets to enjoy the fact that electronic technology doubles in capability every two years, electronic engineers are faced with the harsh reality that we have to double our own productivity on that same schedule. Moore's Law becomes our mandate. I am aware of no other profession that requires a constant exponential improvement in worker productivity just to stay in the game.

 

New Sound in Town

Vesper Announces Piezoelectric Microphones

by Bryon Moyer

Microphones are not for the faint of heart. There is a sordid history of MEMS microphones, replete with big companies crying “Uncle!” and with legal vitriol.

Unlike something as “simple” as an accelerometer (with apologies to anyone that’s worked damned hard on a fine accelerometer), there’s been less rush to compete once everyone figured out how hard microphones can be.

And so we have a few deeply entrenched incumbents manning the sound.

But microphones still look interesting as an opportunity. We saw some time ago that multiple microphones are becoming a thing. Why? For the same reason that high-quality sound recording uses them. By recording an orchestra and the audience with two mikes, for example, you now have two tracks, and you can subtract the audience track from the orchestra track to get a cleaner version of the orchestra.


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