Cheap Chips

ASICs for the Rest of Us

by Dick Selwood

We all know the story: ASIC starts are falling as the costs of the design tools, the mask sets and the manufacturing process are all going through the roof. Don't even think about starting an ASIC design unless your budget is measured in millions of dollars. The development process is going to require a large team of engineers. The only way you can make money with an ASIC is to sell many hundreds of thousands of devices, and that normally implies consumer markets. But ASICs take months to years of development – a development cycle that can be longer than the product life of a consumer product, which is typically measured only in months.

But over the last few weeks, I have been talking to people who will happily talk about ASICs that cost only tens of thousands of dollars to design and begin to manufacture, and have a return on investment measured in months. How come there is such a huge difference?

 

Using Accelerometers to Check for a Fever

A Look at One Side of Vibration

by Bryon Moyer

The People’s Polyharmonic Posse had a sound. Of course, all serious choruses have a signature sound, but these guys took it further than most. Their leader, Sirius Lee Aihurdthatt, had an incredible ear. He auditioned newcomers by recording them and then seeing how well they blended in with the rest of the group. Heck, after a while, he didn’t even have to do that; he simply knew when he heard someone whether or not they would work.

You see, he was blind, and, yes, it’s cliché to talk about how the absence of one sense might heighten the others. But this guy was uncanny. The group had tried to mess with him here and there – all in good fun, of course. One of the tenors might start singing the soprano line falsetto. One of the altos might lip synch only. It didn’t matter: the director could hear the slightest flaw. He couldn’t always tell exactly what was wrong, but he knew that it was wrong.

 

Data-Centric IoT Messaging

A Look at Key DDS Characteristics

by Bryon Moyer

The internet of things (IoT) is all about sensor data and communications. It involves some entity taking the data it receives, making some complex (or even simple) calculations, and then making decisions for the purposes of control or informing someone or something. Of course, there’s more than one way to do this.

The consumer IoT (CIoT) is all about sending the data – probably from your phone or wearable gadget, but, in the future, from various appliances in your home or elsewhere – up to the cloud, which acts as the brain of the system. It’s centralized and hierarchical.

 

Where is the Value? Where is the ROI?

IoT Business Model Ruminations

by Bryon Moyer

When you think about it, the much-vaunted launch of the Internet of Things (IoT) represents an enormous investment in research, development, and rollout. Much is made of all the cool things we’ll be able to do once it’s all in place, but I see less discussion of what the return will be on all of that investment. After all, some of us may be focused on this because we think the technology is cool, but someone else has to pay us, and so they’re going to want to see something for their efforts in the long-run.

You might wonder, for example, why a simple, self-respecting thermostat maker would want to get all complicated by adding a bunch of functionality to the poor little wall-mounted bugger, bringing the phone and cloud into the party as well. If you’re that thermostat guy and you’re using classical marketing thinking, then one reason for doing this might be so that your thermostat will do more than your competitors’, and so you’ll sell more than they will.

The return? The extra profits from the extra sales.

 

Tesla, Edison, and the Patent Office

Positive and Negative Poles in the World of Electricity

by Jim Turley

Elon Musk is a guy so rich that he builds real-life rocket ships for fun.

He also builds electric cars. Or, more accurately, he built a company, Tesla Motors, that builds electric cars. Before that, he made money by handling other people’s money via PayPal. He grew up in Canada, so he’s also a nice guy.

Evidently Mr. Musk is also something of a philanthropist, because last month he gave away Tesla’s patents. Yup, just gave ’em away. Want to build an electric car that competes with Tesla’s? Knock yourself out; here’s the key technology you’ll be needing.

 

Turning Brown Fields to Green

The IIoT Leverages Legacy Plant

by Bryon Moyer

There is no such thing as “the Internet of Things (IoT).”

I’m gradually coming around to the conclusion that this entity, as something integral, is an over-simplification. At the very least, there are two IoTs: the consumer one (which I’m starting to refer to as the CIoT) and the industrial IoT (commonly referred to as the IIoT).

This gives me some sympathy for a complaint certain players have had for a while: “The IoT is nothing new; it’s just a new name for M2M (machine-to-machine).” Although this statement, in and of itself, is also over-simplistic, since it still maintains that there is one IoT, by a different name, and that it’s not new.

In fact, there’s plenty that’s new, but, the more I get exposed to products dedicated to the IIoT, the more I realize how different it is from the CIoT. You could also argue whether the IIoT includes medical and automotive, but, whether or not it does, my sense is that medical and possibly even automotive share more in common with the IIoT than they do with the CIoT.

 

Kaizen and the Art of Vehicle Maintenance

Remote Diagnostic Service Brings Auto Repair to the Cloud

by Jim Turley

How often has this happened to you? You’re sitting outside a Paris café, sipping aperitifs, when suddenly you find yourself wondering about your car’s tire pressures. Unfortunately, it’s still in the long-term lot at LAX, 5,600 miles away. Problème majeur! Not to worry; your companion whips out a smartphone, taps the screen a few times, et voila! - there is all the information, right at your absinthe-stained fingertips.

Whew, that was close.

While you’re at it, you decide to see how much gas is in the tank, you roll down the windows a bit (it’s hot inside the car right now), you change the radio back to your favorite station, and you schedule the next maintenance appointment. Yup, all avec un téléphone portable.

 

Who Gets Access?

Will the IoT Use the Desktop or Cellphone Model?

by Bryon Moyer

It’s like we have two separate brains, and only one of them can be on at a time.

In one brain, we deal with desktop and laptop computers. These are machines we use to do work. (Well, they used to be until content consumption via tablets looked tempting, and then all computers had to be that, making it harder to do actual work. But that’s a separate topic.)

The work we do on our own computers is considered to be our private business. We connect the computers to the internet in order to get information or talk to other computers or buy stuff or whatever. Historically, it was an “option” to connect, but these days, it’s pretty much only black networks that have no outside access. For the most part, all desk- and laptops are connected.

 

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.

 

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.

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