In this week’s Fish Fryin’ electronic engineering podcast we're talking about love - the love of cold storage, the love of analog components, and the love of integrated design environments. First, we get comfy and cozy with cold storage and open computing with Scott MCDonald (Rorke Global Solutions). Next, we revel in our desire for analog components and sensor-based applications with Sean Long of Maxim Integrated Products. Finally we round out today's EE love-a-thon with a look into our continuing infatuation with integrated design environments. Come join us for this week's Fish Fryin' EE love fest!
New Technologies Raise New Fears
Two news items made the rounds last week. Both involved hacking, and both are (probably) bogus. I think the news says more about us as users of technology than it does about the technology itself.
First, bloggers were wringing their hands over the planned wind-down of Windows XP. After 13 years, it’s time for XP to ride off into the sunset, and so Microsoft warned users that it would stop developing new fixes and new patches for XP. No big deal, right?
Within hours of each other, nearly a dozen different blogs were keening about security risks at bank ATMs. Seems many, if not most, of the automated teller machines installed in the U.S. use Windows XP as their operating system. (You’d never know it, because the user interface is covered by bank-branded replacements.) “ATMs
New Echelon Chip Eases Networking in Harsh Environments
Tired of hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT)? Good, because you’re about to get doused with a big stream of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) goodness.
Echelon has been making industrial-grade networking chips for 25 years; longer than some engineers have been alive. The company’s LONworks chips pretty much defined device networking for a generation of developers, and LONworks chips appear in more than 100 million devices, including traffic lights, railroad boxcars, and innumerable HVAC units, according to Echelon. But as useful and reliable as LONworks is, the technology is so… Eighties.
Catapulting itself into the 21st Century while also maintaining its traditional values (and traditional customers) was no small feat. The company took its time and came up with something called IzoT.
Two (relatively) recent announcements from Brussels have made it clear that the European Union is serious about pushing back into the electronics business. One, which initially looks like a bureaucratic reshuffle with added jargon, is that three programs, ARTEMIS, ENIAC and EPoSS are being merged into a Joint Undertaking / Public Private Partnership to be called ECSEL. I will translate this in a moment. The other announcement was an aspirational target - that Europe should double chip manufacture to reach 20% of the world output, and more than domestic US output, by 2020.
Both these initiatives are being driven by the Euro Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, who has said, “I’m not a politician… I’m Dutch – I tell it bluntly.”
Fans of Heavy Metal Will Like TI’s New Delfino MCU
Are you into heavy metal? Do power generation, motor control, PLCs, robotics, and automation rock your socks off? Does spinning metallica make you want to raise your fist and yell? Then grab your lighters, motörheads. Stuff’s about to get real.
The number of this beast is F2837xD (it probably means something if you say it backwards), and it comes out of Texas. Dallas, to be exact, and more specifically, TI. Within the walls of TI’s black metal warehouse it’s called Delfino because, well, F2837xD is too hard to pronounce when you’re sober.
Apparently That Makes Sense
A simple-sounding-yet-bizarre notion has been frequenting certain optical research spots. It’s the concept of a “lens-free” imaging system. I’ve found no mentions that bother to explain exactly what that means.
Perhaps that’s because it should be obvious: you need no lens. Duh…
You know, it’s been a long time since I studied optics in college physics. And once my career was plotted on the digital scale, my mathematical tendencies have been spoiled by a solution space that gives you a 50:50 chance of being right just by guessing. Things are either 1 or 0. (OK, or Z or X. Fine. Happy?)
Indoor Location System Knows Where Your Treasure is Buried
As first-world problems go, losing your car keys is a bad one. Losing a whole warehouse full of shippable merchandise is probably worse, but warehouses typically have lots of people standing around watching over the goods. But what do you do when you’ve lost your car keys somewhere inside the warehouse? Needle, meet haystack. Not so easy now, huh? What are you going to do?
If you’ve planned ahead, you’d have little badges on your keys – badges stuffed with technology designed by DecaWave. The Dublin, Ireland startup has created an itty-bitty little chip it calls the ScenSor that’s designed to solve this, and much larger, problems.
Assigning Blame After Accidents
In Britain a four-year-old boy was allowed to starve to death, and his body wasn’t found for two years. After his mother was sentenced to prison a few months ago, an inquiry was held into how the various local agencies and the police had dealt with the matter. I have no knowledge as to how competent the inquiry was, but when the report was published, it was violently attacked by the press and by government sources because no individual was blamed.
“So what has this to do with electronics?” I can hear you asking.
Sloppy Coding Practices Led to a Fatal Crash
You’ve probably heard by now about the lawsuit against Toyota regarding its electronic engine control. The jury found the automaker guilty of writing fatally sloppy code, and, based on what the software forensics experts found, I’d have to agree.
This case is fundamentally different from the “unintended acceleration” fiasco that embroiled a certain German carmaker back in 1986. That scare was entirely bogus and made-up, and it was fueled by an ill-considered “60 Minutes” exposé that aired in the days when Americans watched only three TV channels. Sales of the affected cars plummeted, and it took more than two decades for the company to recover. An engineering spokesman for the carmaker told reporters, “I’m not saying that we can’t find the problem with the cars. I’m saying there is no problem with the cars.” He was dead right – there was no problem with the cars – but the remark was viewed as arrogant hubris, and it just made the situation worse.
In the Short and Long Term
It’s time to take another look at the grid, yet another part of our world that is supposed to be getting smarter. And, for this update, there are two decidedly distinct aspects to address: the here-and-now – bits that can be used today, in particular for smart meters; and the yet-to-come – a look at some insights provided by Imec last month into their view of where things are going.
SoC me ASAP
The obvious main theme for what’s become available in the last few months has everything to do with SoCs and platforms for smart meters. Now, smart meters are, for some of us, old news. I’ve seen the battles, I’ve seen the chained-and-padlocked analog meters, and, well, all of that has disappeared from the headlines. Every house I’ve been in for the last several years has had a smart meter. So… we’re done with smart meters. Right?