Power Windows 2.0

Chromatic Glass Adds Embedded Intelligence to Construction

by Jim Turley

This week we’re going to talk about programming windows. No, I mean it. Literally, windows. As in, the glass outside your building.

Think I’m nuts? Then you haven’t met the people at View, Incorporated, the Silicon Valley–based company that makes “smart glass.” This isn’t the glass for your smartphone or tablet. It’s window glass, like you’d use for an office building, hospital, or hotel. We’re talking big sheets of glass – as much as 50 square feet. And they’re programmable.

Google Glass, meet Microsoft Windows.

 

Mass to Maker

Engineering the Deindustrial Revolution

by Kevin Morris

The Industrial Revolution was all about scalability. By developing efficient, scalable processes for manufacturing goods, engineers were able to create products for the masses more efficiently. Instead of treating each individual new automobile as a separate artisan project, assembly lines cranked out enormous numbers of identical cars with dramatically less (and less-skilled) manual labor. As a result of this more labor-efficient production, the cost of cars dropped, and automobiles became available to the masses. And so it went, from cars to candy to Converse, the flood of mass-produced commodities flowed across the landscape of civilization, forming rivers and lakes, carving gorges and valleys, and re-forming the very fabric of society.

The key element in the engineering of the industrial revolution was standardization. Epitomized by Henry Ford’s “A customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black,” We collectively took advantage of identical products, interchangeable parts, and rigid standards to reduce the amount of skill and labor required for production. Engineering is the art of compromise, however, and the big compromise in this strategy was customization. Mass production was antithetical to individuality. Human beings devolved into an indiscernible sea of grey as this loss of customization and choice robbed us of our personal preferences in product design.

 

Sub-threshold Design

Ambiq and PsiKick Chart a Challenging Path

by Bryon Moyer

We’ve been turning it down for years.

Energy consumption has gradually grown as a concern, to the point where it’s eclipsed performance as a primary driver for many circuits. To reduce power, you can do one of two things: turn down frequency (for dynamic power) or turn down the supply voltage. We’ve already stopped driving clocks as hard as we used to, what with the shift to multicore for scaling performance. But we’re still turning down the voltage.

The first move, where we took logic from 5 V, where it had been for years, to 3.3 V happened… a long time ago. Some components still use 3.3 V, but the leading-edge stuff is all down in the 1-point-something range. And drifting south.

 

Connected Dots

Wireless Connectivity and a Whole Lot of Sensors

by Amelia Dalton

Smart, ultra-low power wireless modules are the name of the game in this week’s Fish Fry. We sit down with Nick Kanopoulos (CEO of Econais) to chat about the pain of end product WiFi integration, why the need for low power consumption in IoT devices is becoming a bigger issue these days, and how software can ease our pain in both of these realms. Also this week, we'll unveil some of the cool details of this year’s Sensors Expo and Conference and we'll also let you in on a secret code to get in for free (or cheap, at least).

 

Aiming Wireless Power

We Explore PowerByProxi and Cota

by Bryon Moyer

Not long ago, we looked at wireless power. And we looked at some of the standards and conflicts underway as companies and technologies vie for best position. And it looked like a simple two-sided issue, with the eventual winner not yet clear.

Well, turns out there’s even more going on, some of it in places we rarely visit. I’ve run across two more wireless power stories, and they’re different from what we’ve seen and from each other. In an attempt to find a unifying theme as I bring them into the discussion, the common denominator seems to be their ability to “aim” their power at a device that needs charging.

Let’s back up, however, and start with a quick review.

 

Buy-Curious?

A Visit to Avnet HQ Sheds Light on the Dismal Science of Distribution

by Jim Turley

“Daddy, where do electronic components come from?”

“Well, sweetheart, when a customer and a vendor love each other very much…”

We’ve all had that awkward conversation. When you release the bill of materials for your new project, somebody has to source all those components and get them into your hot little hands. How does all that stuff get to you? A while ago, I got to see where the electronics stork actually lives.

If you’ll pardon the expression, Phoenix, Arizona is a hotbed of electronics distribution. That’s where the galactic headquarters of Avnet is located, and Avnet is certainly one of the largest electronics distributors on the planet. As an engineer, I never thought much about distributors (“distis,” we called them) because they just seemed so… well… boring. How hard can it be to load up a warehouse with components and then ship them to me?


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