posted by Bryon Moyer
The sensor market is highly fragmented. Many sensor companies are good at one or a few sensors based on super-secret ways they have of building them. When combining with other sensors for things like IMUs, they may actually bring in partners for sensors they don’t make themselves, and they may use sensor fusion software from yet another company.
Bosch Sensortec has been taking a different tack, however. As one of the two really big sensor guys, it’s taking the “you don’t need anyone else” approach, doing a wide variety of its own sensors and writing its own fusion code. And, for those that don’t want to customize and optimize the code, they then combine them into complete units that abstract the lower-level stuff away. They refer to these as application-specific sensor nodes (ASSNs).
The first of these was their orientation sensor. And they’ve now announced another one: an environmental sensor, the BME280. It combines pressure, humidity, and temperature sensors. Yes, it pretty much looks like a weather station in 2.5x2.5 mm2 package. Although they say that it has application for fitness as well. And, in fact, they’re touting the pressure sensor as providing an altitude response for indoor navigation (even thought that would seem to be a better fit for the orientation sensor). Its accuracy for that is ±1 m, enough to discriminate floors in a building.
One thing they’re particularly proud of is the humidity sensor. While typical versions take 5-10 seconds to register a value, they can tap the humidity in less than 1 second. They do this using a polymer that absorbs water; when it does, it changes its dielectric constant. Apparently the variables in this physical structure – the choice of polymer, mode of access, layer stack, and thickness – all affect the diffusion time both in and out. (Yeah, after you’re done measuring the humidity right now, you need that water to leave if the outside humidity drops.)
Because it’s in a ported package (the outside air has to get inside to be sampled), they also see this as lending itself well to future gas sensors. So there may be more to come here.
You can read more about the BME280 in their announcement.
posted by Bryon Moyer
Imagine that a private company creates a public toll road. This actually happens, so it’s not a crazy idea. In exchange for building and maintaining the road, the company gets to collect tolls. That’s the monetization model.
Of course, once that’s in place, that company (or, more likely, its shareholders) might randomly decide that they simply deserve (or want) more money. So they do a deal with a specific car manufacturer. Now the tolls will be higher for cars that aren’t made by that company. Then they do a deal with a particular grocery chain: cars carrying groceries from competing chains are denied access to the road.
Imagine that the electric company establishes a protocol for communicating with appliances across the power lines. Not satisfied with the stable revenue that a utility provides, let’s say they try to goose earnings up a bit and do a deal with a particular appliance vendor. Now, if you use the wrong appliance, you’ll be charged more for the power. Or perhaps power will not be delivered to that appliance at all.
These sound like crazy scenarios, right? They’re unlikely, since both entities are regulated. Well, that’s what net neutrality is about – the guy that provides the highway should give equal access to anyone that wants to get on the highway. The FCC is trying to make that happen in the same way that agencies regulate utilities and private toll roads. Except that the guys that own the information highways are just itching to take more control over who gets to go on their highway.
This would be a different story if we could make an ISP decision each time we went online. We then might pick one ISP for one website and a different ISP for some other website. But that’s not how it works. We only get one ISP. Rather than consumers getting a choice, it simply becomes a bigger piece of the fight for Ultimate Control of Everything. He/She with the most bucks wins. Good ideas and useful stuff without a big bankroll? Buh bye.
Yes, all the ISPs say they’re interested in maintaining an open internet. That may be partly because the FCC is trying to force them to, and they don’t want to be forced to, so they have to promise to play nice. If the FCC pressure goes away and the shareholders get an urge for a new yacht, will they still subscribe to lofty ideals that leave money on the table? If, say, Verizon decides to do a deal with Microsoft, might that mean that Bing would be the ONLY search allowed on the Verizon network? <shudder>
A US appeals court today decided that the FCC didn’t have the authority to craft the rules it put in place. It’s not clear yet whether they’ll appeal, change the rules, or just give up. If it’s the latter, then, barring some major transformational change, the internet will practically fall under the control of a few ginormous companies. Yes, anyone will be able to create a website and put it on the net. But if they can’t afford the fees for preferential (or even for any) access, will anyone see it? And if the website competes with content that the ISP already owns, then no fee may be high enough.
Granted, such provisions aren’t in place now, and it’s premature to assume they will happen. On the other hand, if none of the ISPs had any interest in putting any such restrictions in place, why would they spend so much legal money trying to preserve their right to do so?
posted by Bryon Moyer
Someone I know got a new phone recently. It had gesture recognition capabilities. (No, I’m not going to name names. Partly because I don’t know.)
Fortunately, he was able to turn that feature off. And you’re not going to believe why he decided to do that.
Apparently, a “wave” gesture was used to end a phone call. And I’m sure that gesture was tested over and over, but only in the obvious use case: when you’re done with a call, you wave and the call ends.
Only one problem, and apparently this must not have been tested, since it’s so egregious. When a call comes in and you try to answer the call? By bringing your hand up to the screen? Yup: it sees that as a wave and ends the call before you even answered it.
This happened enough times that he gave up and turned off the feature.
Years ago, I got a PC with fingerprint security. I tried over and over to get it to read my fingerprint consistently, and it couldn’t. So I disabled that feature, fearing that I might end up locked out of my own computer. More importantly, I mentally wrote that feature off, and I’ve never tried it since. Even though it probably works a lot better now.
Short-sighted? Maybe. But heck, I’m human. And lots of people do that with new features.
So we may now have a cluster of people that are deciding that gesture recognition doesn’t work based on this goofy oops. It boggles my mind that a phone could have made it out into the wild working like that; maybe it’s something else going wrong, but it doesn’t matter. The user’s experience was that attempting to answer a call would hang the call up. Shutting off gesture recognition solved the problem.
Time to go back and review the testing scenarios…