A Dialog with Imagination

Two Companies Want You to Wear Their Chips

by Jim Turley

Ooh, trends. Gotta love ’em. There are trends in music, trends in fashion, trends in politics, trends in economic theory, and trends in our good ol’ electronics business. Fortunately for us, almost all of the trends in the latter category are of the good, healthy, up-and-to-the-right, variety. Chips get faster, power efficiency improves, and software gets better. Well, two out of three.

Another trend is shrinkage, of course. On this, the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, we’re still seeing our devices get smaller and smaller, to the point that we’re now wearing them. A computer that once took up an entire room in our grandparents’ time now fits on a wrist, in a pocket, or behind an ear.

 

The Vision Thing

Synopsys EV Processor for Games, Security, and Everything

by Jim Turley

Politicians used to argue about “the vision thing,” a borderline unintelligible swipe at opponents who didn’t share their view of the big picture. As a company, Synopsys may not be very political, but it’s definitely on board with the vision thing.

Embedded vision – that is, adding real-time image recognition to embedded systems – used to be a high-end, pie-in-the-sky kind of feature. Cheap systems couldn’t do image recognition, could they? They don’t have the processing power. And anyway, what would you do with it? Why does a thermostat need to recognize my face?

 

Watching Apple

Even More Interesting Than Apple Watch

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

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.

 

All Modules All the Time

Microchip Takes LoRa and Motion Detection by Storm

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

If You Build It

Giving a Voice to Your Abode with Conexant’s Smart Home Technology

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

The Touchscreen Revolution

Changing the Face of Electronics One Silver Nanowire (and Blue-Rayed Limpet) at a Time

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You

When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions

by Jim Turley

“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).

 

Engineering Childhood’s End

Radio Shack Goes From 50-in-1 to None

by Kevin Morris

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.

Nothing happened.

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.

 

More IoT Standards

Some Are New, Some Are Not

by Bryon Moyer

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.

 

A Look ‘Pack’ at CES 2015

Intel Goes for Notoriety, IoT Goes for a Catchy Tune

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

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.

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