Even More Interesting Than Apple Watch
The 9 March event provided color on the Apple Watch; it revealed the future of Apple the company.
Well that was interesting; at times, downright fascinating. I refer to the big Apple event last month. We learned more about Apple Watch—not a great deal more about the product itself, given that the functionality was detailed in the September 2014 event—and got multiple lessons in metallurgy. The fascinating bits were pricing and the implications therein for Apple corporate positioning moving forward.
Let’s begin with some honest scoring: how did I do with my observations in my column written last fall? Bear with me, this will necessitate skimming over some of the most fascinating bits; we’ll circle back around to those after we peek at my prognostications.
Microchip Takes LoRa and Motion Detection by Storm
One of the biggest challenges in IoT communications is distance. In this week’s Fish Fry, we examine a new communications technology called LoRa. Tyler Smith (Microchip Technology) is here to tell us how it can be used, where it is best suited for implementation, and how LoRa could change the future of IoT communications. Also this week, we look into the details of a new motion detection module that packs a big ol’ punch by combining a powerful motion co-processor with 9-axis sensors (including an accelerometer, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope) all in an itty-bitty package.
Giving a Voice to Your Abode with Conexant’s Smart Home Technology
When you think of a smart home, what comes to mind? The Jetsons? A Ray Bradbury novel? The "Clapper" perhaps? In this week's Fish Fry, we investigate one of the biggest technological trends in IoT: Smart Home Automation. My guest is Saleel Awsare from Conexant. Saleel and I explore how voice control technology will shape the smart home revolution, and we look into the challenges of creating a voice-controlled Smart Home. We also speculate a bit about the direction voice control software is headed. Also this week, we check out how FPGA technology can lend a very valuable hand in your next USB Type-C design.
Changing the Face of Electronics One Silver Nanowire (and Blue-Rayed Limpet) at a Time
What do the blue-rayed limpet and silver nanowires have to do with advances in touchscreen technology? Absolutely everything! This week's Fish Fry looks into how silver-coated nanowires are changing the touchscreens and OLEDs of today, and could change the film-based solar cells and flexible displays of tomorrow. My guest is Sri Peruvemba from Cambrios, and we discuss the technology behind silver nanowires, how they can be implemented into a variety of designs, and what The Society for Information Display is all about. Also this week, we check out a groundbreaking new study by a team of researchers from MIT and Harvard that looks to harness unique reflective power found in the blue stripes of the blue-rayed limpet to unlock a new kind of transparent display technology.
When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions
“The fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” – Cassius, Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Paperwork – you gotta love it. There’s some evidence that nowadays, in the age of the “paperless office,” we create (and fill out) more paperwork than at any other time in history. This dreary fact demonstrated itself to me just the other day.
A nice man with whom I was doing business handed me a three-page form to fill out. How quaint! Because this is the 21st Century and because I am not Bartleby the Scrivener, I scanned the document into Acrobat and let the software convert all the printed boxes into fill-in fields. From there, I could just click each box in turn and type in my information. Click, click, done. I printed out the completed form for a signature (which I could also have done electronically, had the other party been willing to accept it).
Radio Shack Goes From 50-in-1 to None
My fingers trembled and my heart pounded. I carefully bent spring terminal #35 and inserted the tinned end of the final wire. I was confident that I had double-checked every connection, but I still felt unsure.
As I slowly turned the knob labeled “variable condenser,” I thought I heard a hiss or some static. Then, suddenly, Merle Haggard singing “Branded Man” boomed through my tiny earphone. I jumped! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I hated country music, and it was the most beautiful sound my seven-year-old ears had ever heard.
Some Are New, Some Are Not
It started with mentions of two new (at least to me) standards in conference presentations: I3C and LoRa. I made a note to learn more about them.
But as I dug in, I kept finding other protocols – some open, some proprietary – being leveraged in an IoT way. Granted, some predate the IoT and were conceived simply as machine-to-machine (M2M) or smart-home protocols before the cloud and the IoT buzzwords were such a big deal. But they are part of the picture, so giving them some daylight seems useful. For the moment, then, I decided to focus on summarizing some of these standards here; I’ll come back with more detail on I3C and one or two others shortly.
Intel Goes for Notoriety, IoT Goes for a Catchy Tune
I’ve had a month to mull over CES 2015 and read much of the breathless coverage. I’ll get my own ball rolling with Intel, the company that had a VERY large footprint at CES with one of the largest, flashiest and most expensive booths in the entire show. Before you jump to the “well OF COURSE a company of Intel’s size would have a gigantic booth” conclusion, do keep in mind that a modest little company called Microsoft has not had ANY booth at CES for the last few years. And last time I checked, Microsoft had a far larger consumer (that’s the ‘C’ in CES) business than Intel.
Intel had a cornucopia of announcements at CES, from real products to coming-soon products to WHAT THE?!?! concepts. Peruse Intel’s CES page for a high-level summary and, if you have the time, watch Brian Krzanich’s keynote: partially for the scope of the spectacle and mostly for the elements that Intel felt were important enough upon which to shine the spotlight.
Lattice Introduces iCE40 UltraLite
There has been a lot of chest-beating over the years about who had the biggest, fastest FPGA in all the land. Countless press releases, PowerPoints, and posters have touted 30% better this and 4x more that. Each time a competitor leapfrogged the other, we lapped up the LUTs with renewed glee.
Lately, however, Lattice has been pushing the other end of the envelope, proudly proclaiming that they make the very smallest FPGAs. These FPGAs are so small, power-efficient, and cheap that they completely rewrite our notion of FPGAs. Literally everything you probably thought you knew about FPGAs is busted by these devices. Ask the average engineer and you’ll probably hear that FPGAs are big, expensive, power-hungry, and useful mostly for prototyping. They’ll generally continue that FPGAs would not work in mobile or battery-powered devices, aren’t useful for space-constrained designs, and would never-ever be found in a smartphone teardown.
Leveraging the Biology of Tactile Sensation
Kids goof around with all kinds of things, not knowing what will occur. It’s how they learn how the world works, and it’s why they can learn novel electronic user interfaces so much more easily than adults (which we mistake as intuition). Well, in one such bout of goofing about on our apple orchard, I was monkeying with balloons over the opening of a bottle of apple cider.
You see, my dad had this thing where he’d poke a few needle holes in a balloon and then place it over the bottle opening. Fermentation would start, inflating the balloon, which opened the little holes and let the CO2 escape. When the process completed, the balloon deflated and the holes closed, blocking oxygen from reaching the inside – and preventing a continuation of the process that would otherwise lead to vinegar.*