From Intelligent Design to Evolution in Engineering
I once had a colleague who defined a “system” as “the thing one level of complexity higher than you can understand.”
I always thought there was a bit of profound insight in that definition.
We humans have a finite capacity for understanding, and that capacity does not benefit from the bounty of Moore’s Law. Our brains don’t magically think twice as fast every two years, or have the capacity to consider exponentially more factors each decade. Our limited brains also don’t compensate well for the layer upon layer of encapsulated engineering accomplishments of our predecessors. Even comparatively simple examples of modern technology can be deceptively complex - perhaps more complex than a single human brain can fully comprehend.
The IIoT Leverages Legacy Plant
There is no such thing as “the Internet of Things (IoT).”
I’m gradually coming around to the conclusion that this entity, as something integral, is an over-simplification. At the very least, there are two IoTs: the consumer one (which I’m starting to refer to as the CIoT) and the industrial IoT (commonly referred to as the IIoT).
This gives me some sympathy for a complaint certain players have had for a while: “The IoT is nothing new; it’s just a new name for M2M (machine-to-machine).” Although this statement, in and of itself, is also over-simplistic, since it still maintains that there is one IoT, by a different name, and that it’s not new.
In fact, there’s plenty that’s new, but, the more I get exposed to products dedicated to the IIoT, the more I realize how different it is from the CIoT. You could also argue whether the IIoT includes medical and automotive, but, whether or not it does, my sense is that medical and possibly even automotive share more in common with the IIoT than they do with the CIoT.
Adventures for a New Day
Fish Fry: the Final Frontier. In this episode, we journey to a world where our analog is programmable (ok, configurable) and our food is replicated (complete with a full serving of your nutritional needs). First, we delve into the bits, bobs, and ADCs of Maxim's new PIXI configurable analog with Martin Mason. Martin and I discuss the details of this new configurable analog, and why the PIXI is better (and more flexible) than a big ol' pile of discreet components. Also this week, we check out Nestlé's new "Iron Man" program that aims to reshape our kitchens and resupply the world's nutritional needs. (Spoiler Alert: A true Star Trek food replicator may be closer to reality than we know.)
We're giving away five PIXI kits (courtesy of Maxim Integrated Products) but you'll have to listen to the podcast to find out how to enter to win!
New MEMS Accelerometers from mCube are World’s Smallest
Most startups have no product. This one has shipped 60 million products before coming out of stealth mode.
Say hello to mCube, probably the most successful chipmaker you’ve never heard of. In keeping with the company’s low profile, mCube makes little bitty motion sensors. Accelerometers, magnetometers, and even teensy gyroscopes. Most of those little chips have been sold to Chinese cellphone makers, but the company hopes that its fortunes will soon change.
Cellphones are just the beginning, says mCube CEO Ben Lee. The real volume is in the “Internet of Moving Things (IoMT).” (Oh, good, another marketing initialism. At least they’ve got that part of the startup strategy figured out.)
Will FPGAs Take Over the Data Center?
At the Gigaom Structure 2014 event last week, Intel’s Diane Bryant announced that Intel is “integrating [Intel’s] industry-leading Xeon processor with a coherent FPGA in a single package, socket compatible to [the] standard Xeon E5 processor offerings.” Bryant continues, saying that the FPGA will provide Intel customers “a programmable, high performance coherent acceleration capability to turbo-charge their algorithms” and that industry benchmarks indicate that FPGA-based accelerators can deliver >10x performance gains, with an Intel-claimed 2x additional performance, thanks to a low-latency coherent interface between the FPGA and the processor.
If we did our math right, Intel is implying that an FPGA could boost the speed of a server-based application by somewhere in the range of 20x.
Applied Materials Introduces a New Metal
Metal has always been a bit messy. Even in the old days, when we laid metal lines over the rough terrain that resulted from various deposited layers and etch steps, step coverage was an issue when the metal didn’t conform well to those ups and downs.
Of course, what with the development of dual-damascene processes with chemical-mechanical polishing (CMP), we’ve eliminated all that topography, and metal has been smooth sailing ever since. More or less. (I know – tell that to the yield guy…)
But those days are coming to an end with the increasingly tight dimensions of the nodes below 28 nm. Voids are starting to raise their heads again, as Applied Materials (AMAT) describes it. In fact, when it comes to vias, voids are already an issue that has been made more tolerable by the use of redundant vias – two where one might theoretically do. That improves the chances that at least one of the two vias will have good, clean connectivity between metal layers.