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Monday, January 21, 2019

Renesas adds AI motor control monitor for maintenance, cuts sensors in the IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas Electronics has launched a Failure Detection e-AI Solution for motor-equipped home appliances using the Renesas RX66T 32-bit microcontroller (MCU). 

The embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances -- such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines -- due to motor abnormality. Data on the motor’s current or rotation rate status can be used directly for abnormality detection, making it possible to implement both motor control and e-AI–based abnormality detection with a single microcontroller. Using the RX66T eliminates the need for additional sensors, thereby reducing a customer’s bill of materials (BOM) cost.
When a home appliance malfunctions, the motor operation typically appears abnormal when running and being monitored for fault detection in real-time. By implementing e-AI-based motor control-based detection, the failure detection results can be applied not only to trigger alarms when a fault occurs, but also for preventive maintenance. For example, e-AI can estimate when repairs and maintenance should be performed, and it can identify the fault locations. This capability provides home appliance manufacturers the means to boost maintenance operations efficiency and improve product safety by adding functionality that predicts faults before they occur in their products.

The Renesas Failure Detection e-AI Solution for motor-equipped home appliances can control up to four motors because it utilizes the high-performance RX66T MCU. Today’s washing machines typically incorporate three motors: One to rotate the washing tub, one to drive the water circulation pump, and one to drive the drying fan. The Renesas Failure Detection e-AI Solution can therefore be used to control these three motors with a single RX66T chip while at the same time monitoring all three motors for faults.

The new solution uses the Renesas Motor Control Evaluation System and an RX66T CPU card. This hardware is combined with a set of sample program files that run on the RX66T MCU as well as a GUI tool that enables collecting and analyzing property data indicating motor states. In order to detect faults, it is necessary to learn the characteristics of the normal state. Using the GUI tool, system engineers can immediately begin developing AI learning and optimized fault detection functionality. Once the AI models are developed, the e-AI development environment (composed of an e-AI Translator, e-AI Checker, and e-AI Importer) can be easily used to import the learned AI models into the RX66T.

“Leveraging its extensive expertise in developing solutions for use in home appliances, Renesas has now developed a solution capable of detecting failures that affect the system based on detecting abnormal motor operation,” said Toru Moriya, Vice President of Home Business Division, Industrial Solutions Business Unit, at Renesas. “Even in cases where a fault occurs in the motor itself, it can be difficult to localize the source to determine whether there is an abnormality in the motor or in the inverter circuit. The new solution makes it possible to identify the fault location quickly, which has the potential to dramatically decrease the maintenance burden for customers.”

Related stories:

Power news this week ... Anglia wards off Brexit disruption ... Google taps 1.6m solar panels ... Conformal rechargeable zinc cells

By Nick Flaherty

. Anglia Components to ward off Brexit disruption

. Battery-free Bluetooth sticker sensor tag makes debut

. New efficiency record for bifacial silicon solar cell

. Korean scientists bring “tactile” internet within reach

. Start-up gets seed funding for user-friendly robot operating model

. Keysight joins CharIN to boost Combined Charging System and DC fast charging

. Google taps 1.6m solar panels to power US data centres

. Dana buys Italian rugged electric vehicle power specialist

. Researchers aim to commercialise switchable perovskite voltaic window

. Nanofibres create conformal rechargeable zinc battery

. Blockchain pilot aims to address cobalt supply chain concerns

NEW POWER PRODUCTS . 60mm thyristor modules add pressure contacts
. Drop in lead acid replacement integrates lithium battery management system
. 42V Power Management ICs have a built-in window or battery voltage detection


. AI Fabric, Intelligent and Lossless Data Center Network in the AI Era

. GDDR6: The next-generation graphics DRAM

HPE boss disses quantum computing to push HP tech

By Nick Flaherty

The chief executive of HPE has poured scorn on quantum computing and doubled down on its Memory driven architecture as the future of computing.

"We now find ourselves on a precipice, where the near future will bring with it a wealth of possibilities. The potential of what’s on the horizon of computing is something truly remarkable. However, this immense potential brings with it significant challenges – and it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to overcome them," said Antonio Neri, President and CEO of HPE.

"New emerging technologies could be the tools we need to flourish as a society. At HPE, we aim to harness the transformative power of these technologies to achieve our purpose – to advance the way people live and work. Only then can we start to unlock our technological potential," he said.

The main roadblock on this journey to a better world lies in the limitations of conventional computing solutions, he says, especially with the impact of the data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). "There is a growing data deluge as our ambitions grow faster than our computers improve. Every two years we create more data than has ever been created before, with the majority of it originating at the edge, or the periphery of the network," he said.

"We need a new paradigm that reinvents the most basic functions of a computing system from the ground up. Memory-Driven Computing is one approach that delivers an entirely new way of computing specifically designed for the Big Data era," he points out. Doubling down on the commitment, he says: "Only through a new architecture like Memory-Driven Computing will it be possible to simultaneously work with every digital health record of every person on earth, every trip of Google’s autonomous vehicles and every data set from space exploration all at the same time – getting to answers and uncovering new opportunities at unprecedented speeds."

He is negative about quantum computing, where HPE has been not been investing significantly in R&D, although it is at the leading edge of research in quantum cryptography.

"Quantum computing is one component that is in the global spotlight at the moment. Undeniably quantum computers will be able to achieve some amazing things, like the discovery of new drugs and materials. So rightly, organisations are exploring this technology. But as a society we can’t rely on quantum computers as the sole solution because quantum computing only solves quantum problems," said Neri.

"For instance, quantum computers can’t analyse and derive insights from the massive amount of sensor data our society is producing – from factories and connected cars to airports and security infrastructure. And quantum systems require a tremendous amount of energy."

However machine learning has been demonstrated on quantum computing systems (see the work by Regetti , link below), highlighting the ability to identify patterns in IoT data.

"As the complexity of the demands we place on computers increases, so too does our need for customised solutions, built for the problem at hand," said Neri. "A holistic view of future challenges combined with a new type of computing will allow for tailored solutions to some of the most significant problems facing our world. The challenges we’re facing are not insurmountable, and for governments and businesses around the world, the question is how to best prepare to meet these challenges head-on and succeed."

Related stories:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

CommAgility and Aricent team for 4G and 5G smallcell basestation designs

By Nick Flaherty

CommAgility in the UK has teamed up with Aricent, a global design and engineering company that is part of the French Altran group, to develop 4G eNodeB solutions for Network Equipment Providers (NEPs). THe same deal will lead to pre-integrated 5G solutions.

The current eNodeB small cell basestation designs will be based on the KeyStone II digital signal processors with CommAgility’s PHY software, which delivers a complete LTE Physical Layer for macro cells. Aricent is supplying the L2 and l3 layers of software.

Having a complete solution will help operators boost the capacity of 4G networks to provide more coverage for cellular IoT networks, significantly reducing development costs and mitigate risks to launch LTE eNodeB products to market faster.

“CommAgility is one of the leading PHY software developers for Texas Instruments SoCs, backed up by expert support and worldwide presence. With CommAgility as eco-system partner for PHY software on the TI platform, we have been able to create pre-integrated LTE eNodeB solutions that exceed the requirements of network equipment manufacturers, and we look forward to creating pre-integrated SoC based 5G solution,” said N. Mohan Rangan, Chief Engineering Officer at Aricent.

The SmallCellPHY software is available in two variants – as a Reference Chain, and a version for Texas Instruments’ small cell SoCs. Compliant with 3GPP standards, it is entirely software-defined, to increase flexibility and scalability. SmallCellPHY is optimised for low memory, processing power, and power consumption, and provides innovative algorithms such as advanced scheduling.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

TMT tech trends for 2019

By Nick Flaherty

Market researcher GlobalData has revealed its top trends for 2019 across the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) industry.

The company’s latest thematic research report analyses the major trends impacting companies across 15 TMT sectors. While many of these trends are specific to individual sectors, there are several broad themes that we track every day at the Embedded blog.
“In 2019 companies should ensure they are tracking the relevant themes, as companies who invest in the right themes become success stories; those who miss the big themes end up as failures. Given that so many themes are disruptive, it is very easy to be blindsided by industry outsiders who invade your sector,” said Cyrus Mewawalla, Head of Thematic Research at GlobalData.

Emerging technologies will continue to cause significant disruption
Every TMT sector will experience major upheaval due to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), process automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). In order to maintain their position, leading incumbents will have to adapt to market conditions that are changing profoundly and at pace, while also fending off challenges from innovative start-ups.

China’s influence on the global TMT industry will growChina’s growing influence across every segment of the technology sector is not an accident, but an intrinsic part of the country’s strategic plan. The Chinese government has made clear its desire to lead globally in AI and has also invested significantly in other emerging technologies such as 5G. At the same time, the country’s leading technology companies are emerging as major forces on the global stage, with the likes of Alibaba and Huawei expanding their international presence. Consequently, companies in all TMT sectors should be watching developments in China very closely.

Cybersecurity will become a priority for all senior executives
The frequency of cyberattacks will continue to increase in 2019 and it is vital that senior executives across all industries have a clear understanding of both the inherent risks they face, and the potential consequences of a security breach. Organizations must embrace cybersecurity as a core component of their digital transformation efforts and partner with third parties to establish the right cybersecurity strategy.

Political issues will present major challenges for TMT companies
The ongoing trade war between China and the US will continue to impact the sales, profits and global supply chains of businesses across the TMT industry. The ultimate outcome of the dispute is difficult to predict, with neither side willing to back down, and the resulting uncertainty will only add to the challenges facing technology companies. In Europe, the long-running saga of Brexit is still far from settled and is likely to create cost, pricing, and supply chain issues for a wide variety of firms.

Regulation will be an issue for the tech giants, but it will not stop them growing
The world’s largest technology companies are under increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies on a wide variety of issues, including tax avoidance, data privacy, hate speech and fake news. While these industry giants are strong enough – and diversified enough – to continue growing despite greater oversight, they should not underestimate the threat that regulation poses, not least to their bottom line. Many of these regulatory initiatives are also driven by very real concerns about the ability of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon to negatively impact society, something that the companies themselves should not be too quick to dismiss. Tech, Media & Telecom Trends 2019

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

5G chip market set for 50% annual growth to $22bn by 2026

By Nick Flaherty

The global market for 5G chips is expected to grow from $2,120.0 million in 2020 to $22,929.0 million by 2026, an annual CAGR growth of 48.7%, says a report from Allied Allied Market Research.

Asia-Pacific is expected to dominate the market, followed by North America. In 2020, the US is expected to dominate the North America market and Germany is expected to lead the overall market in Europe. In Asia-Pacific, China is expected to dominate the market.
"In 2020, in terms of revenue, ASIC segment is expected to dominate the global 5G chipset market in the IC type category. By industry vertical, the consumer electronics segment is anticipated to dominate the market throughout the forecast period (2020‐“2026). The key players are adopting new techniques to provide advanced and innovative products to the customers," said Prasad Kakade, Lead Analyst at Allied Market Research,

Proliferation of M2M/IoT connections and increase in demand for mobile broadband services drive the growth of the market. However, high investment and technological and infrastructure challenges in the implementation of 5G network and privacy and security concern impedes this growth. In the near future, rise in government initiatives for building smart cities in the Asia-Pacific is expected to create lucrative opportunities for the key players operating in this market.

5G Chipsets Market by IC Type, Operational Frequency, Product and Industry Vertical: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2020 - 2026

LON moves to IP as IoT standard to boost building and industrial automation

By Nick Flaherty

A new standard to move the LON protocol to IP could help to boost building and industrial automation systems.

The ANSI/CTA 709.7 LON IP protocol, recently approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), will speed further adoption of LON technology and continue to expand the LonWorks ecosystem, says Adesto Technologies. 

The new standard enables native LON communication over any IP transport such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi, as well as interoperability with IP-based web services so that building and industrial automation systems can seamlessly and securely interoperate with cloud and IoT applications.
Adesto acquired LON developer Echelon last year and worked with other LonMark International ( members to drive development and standardization of the new protocol, which describes the complete set of requirements for users, developers, vendors, integrators and specifiers of open building and industrial control systems to develop LON devices with native IP transport. 

Adesto is delivering technology to support the new LON IP standard including:
  • Multi-protocol smart transceiver chipsets that support LON, LON IP and other IP-based protocols, including BACnet IP, for simplified system integration, lower cost of ownership, multi-application and vendor interoperability, and standardised tools
  • Open MQTT based web services protocol (IAP) and rich APIs that can easily and securely connect to LON and other control protocols – enabling increased support for cloud-based and remote applications
  • Edge servers and network interfaces that provide connectivity from IP cloud services to a variety of control protocols including LON, Modbus, and BACnet.
As building and industrial control networks must handle ever-expanding datasets and additional IoT application interfaces, IP communications can provide higher speeds, greater bandwidth and increased flexibility. 

LON IP builds on the device management and control services of the LON technology implemented in over 150 million devices over the years across all critical industrial markets including building automation, smart grid, lighting controls, transportation and manufacturing equipment. 
“Following Adesto’s acquisition of Echelon Corporation, the company is pursuing an aggressive embedded product roadmap which puts LON technology and LonWorks at the forefront of open standard networking for IoT systems,” said Rich Blomseth, principal product manager for Adesto. “We believe that as the new protocol becomes an internationally recognized standard, we will see increased adoption of LON and LonWorks in IoT systems for building and industrial automation.”

“Standardisation of the LON IP protocol validates the approach of combining LON application and data layers with IP standard transport,” said Ron Bernstein, CEO and executive director, LonMark International. “The new standard provides greater interoperability between IT and operational technology systems, promising to create a broad ecosystem for connecting building and industrial automation systems with IoT applications and cloud analytics.”

Related stories:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

ST adds features to 25c 8bit micro

By Nick Flaherty

8bit controllers are still widely used, and ST has added a range of features to its STM8L050 range that starts at $0.25. 

The STM8L series adds a four channel, 12bit ADC, a DMA controller, and separated data EEPROM, all in an inexpensive SO-8 package with up to six user I/Os for a 16MHz core.
The devices are aimed at industrial sensors, toys, access cards, e-bike controllers, home-automation or lighting products, smart printer cartridges, or battery chargers.

The integrated DMA (Direct Memory Access) controller speeds application performance by streamlining data transfers between peripherals and memory, or from memory to memory, ultimately saving power consumption. The 256 bytes of separated EEPROM allows applications to store important program data when the MCU is powered down, while allowing maximum use of Flash for code storage.

Alongside two comparators, the STM8L050 has a 4-channel 12-bit analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) and a low-power real-time clock (RTC) with programmable alarm and periodic wakeups, allowing designers to minimise external analogue components. In addition, support for either an external or internal clock at up to 16MHz further enhances flexibility to balance performance with bill-of-materials (BOM) savings.

Other features include 8Kbytes of on-chip Flash memory, 1Kbyte of RAM, two 16-bit timers, one 8-bit timer, and popular connectivity and debug interfaces including SPI, I2C, UART, and SWIM.

The STM8L050 has power-saving modes that cut current to as little as 350nA, and operates over a wide voltage range from 3.6V down to 1.8V. The MCUs are fully specified from -40°C to 125°C, ensuring robustness and reliability in demanding applications such as industrial controls or lighting products.

The STM8L050J3 is in production now, and available in the SO-8 package, priced from $0.25 for orders of 10,000 pieces.

Study shows massive IoT device breaches could go undetected

By Nick Flaherty

A study by Gemalto has shown that only around half (48%) of businesses can detect if any of their IoT devices suffers a breach.

While spending on protection has grown (from 11% of IoT budget in 2017 to 13% now) and nearly all (90%) believing it is a big consideration for customers, the survey of 950 IT and business decision makers globally showed significant problems.
Gemalto found that companies are calling on governments to intervene, with 79% asking for more robust guidelines on IoT security, and 59% seeking clarification on who is responsible for protecting IoT. Despite the fact that many governments have already enacted or announced the introduction of regulations specific to IoT security, most (95%) businesses believe there should be uniform regulations in place, a finding that is echoed by  consumers - 95% expect IoT devices to be governed by security regulations.

“Given the increase in the number of IoT-enabled devices, it’s extremely worrying to see that businesses still can’t detect if they have been breached,” said Jason Hart, CTO, Data Protection at Gemalto. “With no consistent regulation guiding the industry, it’s no surprise the threats – and, in turn, vulnerability of businesses – are increasing. This will only continue unless governments step in now to help industry avoid losing control.”

Businesses are calling for governmental intervention because of the challenges they see in securing connected devices and IoT services. This is particularly mentioned for data privacy (38%) and the collection of large amounts of data (34%). Protecting an increasing amount of data is proving an issue, with only three in five (59%) of those using IoT and spending on IoT security, admitting they encrypt all of their data.
Consumers believe security needs to improve (62%), followed by privacy concerns (54%), control of devices by hackers (51%) and lack of control over personal data (50%).

Gemalto sees blockchain emerging as a potential technology; adoption of blockchain has doubled from 9% to 19% in the last 12 months, with a quarter (23%) of respondents believe that blockchain technology would be an ideal solution to use for securing IoT devices, with 91% of organisations that don’t currently use the technology are likely to consider it in the future.

As blockchain technology finds its place in securing IoT devices, businesses continue to employ other methods to protect themselves against cybercriminals. The majority (71%) encrypt their data, while password protection (66%) and two factor authentication (38%) remain prominent.

However web security company High-Tech Bridge sees that figure as be too optimistic:

“I think the survey results are somewhat optimistic with almost a half of the European companies claiming to have IoT breach detection capacities,” said CEO Ilia Kolochenko. “ In my experience, less than 10% of European organizations have an up to date inventory of their IoT devices, let alone breach detection capacities. Shadow IoT, brought and implemented by employees, exacerbate the situation as corporate data starts being stored on unidentifiable and uncontrollable devices, often with backup in external storage locations or the cloud.”

Blockchain capacity to secure IoT is somewhat overestimated, she says, as the technology by definition has nothing to do with many popular attack vectors on IoT devices. GDPR's role is also questioned, as most of the careless IoT manufactures are located far beyond EU jurisdiction and do not care about any judicial decisions of European courts against them. Moreover, not every IoT is designed to store or process PII, thus making GDPR simply inapplicable.

“Uniform regulation of the IoT market is a Utopia amid current geopolitical tensions in the technology sector. Nonetheless, governmental regulation of secure-by-design IoT is certainly a good idea and probably is the only way to make the IoT market more reliable,” she said.

The State of State of IoT Security website

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Dual-Radio dev kit for simultaneous Bluetooth 5 and LPWAN IoT

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has launched a dual radio development kit that combines Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Sub-1GHz wireless.

The STEVAL-FKI001V1 kit is aimed at the development of smart-home or smart-building systems as well as asset-tracking, energy-management, smart-farming and industrial monitoring and control use cases with the BlueNRG-1 Bluetooth 5 System-on-Chip and S2-LP sub-1GHz transceiver. The dual-radio architecture enables simultaneous operations on a variety of radio-frequency bands and protocols such as Bluetooth LE or proprietary 2.4GHz, Sub-1GHz, and Sigfox.

The kit helps developers create smart objects that connect to each other locally through mesh or point-to-point connections and support flexible ways of connecting to the Cloud. For instance, a convenient sensor ecosystem for smart-home could be easily forged with local sensor networking leveraging either BLE or Sub-1GHz wireless link and the whole system connected to the Cloud through a local gateway or directly via a seamless Sigfox ubiquitous link, for surveillance or remote monitoring purposes – all based on same STEVAL-FKI001V1 kit.
The BlueNRG-1 ensures convenient setup, configuration or modification of device settings during installation or maintenance and permits monitoring of networked node sensors through a stylish app running on any Android or iOS device.

The sub-1GHz S2-LP transceiver allows local networking as well as LPWAN installations including global Sigfox connectivity, which allows capabilities such as real-time notification of events. Moreover, users can leverage out-of-the-box Sigfox-ready networking to track and remotely localise devices or assets.

The kit can readily be expanded through its Arduino Uno V3 connectors with the vast and comprehensive ST X-NUCLEO offering, including expansion boards with MEMS sensors, motor control, GNSS receivers or industrial input/output and power drivers.

The STEVAL-FKI001V1 development kit is also fully interoperable with the recently announced BlueNRG-Tile board, to build end-to-end smart-sensor solutions including the sensor node, local gateways and global Cloud connectivity.

The BlueNRG-1 SoC’s Arm Cortex-M0 core has 256KB of embedded program memory to add external sensors and process the data acquired locally in real-time. The STEVAL-FKI001V1 comes with an easy-to-use SDK that simplifies development and compresses time-to-market while preserving flexibility, scalability, and extensibility. It could also be used in conjunction with the ST BlueNRG-Mesh software package to create extensive networking on a large-scale installation. OTA firmware update is possible via the BLE connection.

Based on a ready-to-use WS2118 RF dual-radio module from Jorjin, the STEVAL-FKI001V1 provides a convenient, pre-certified solution for developers to quickly move from early concept-feasibility phase to prototyping, field trials and volume production. The programmable ultra-low-power radio module has flexible power management and wake-on-event capability that allows multi-year lifetime from a small primary battery.

The STEVAL-FKI001V1 development kit is available now from ST distributors, or directly through, priced $56.00.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Predictive energy analytics for the IoT in Smart Buildings

By Nick Flaherty

Adesto Technologies has teamed up with IBM to combine the Watson AI platform with Echelon networking for predictive energy analysis in smart buildings.

Echelon has been selling its Open Embedded IoT Platform into the building automation and energy management industry for over two decades, and Adesto’s SmartServer IoT edge server platform ( ) provides built-in device and data management for sensors, meters, actuators and controllers in buildings, through various emerging and traditional protocols including BACnet, LonWorks, Modbus, and others.
The Watson IoT Platform enables organisations to capture and explore data for devices, equipment, and machines, and discover insights that can drive better decision-making. IBM Tririga Building Insights is built on the Watson IoT Platform and uses AI analytics to surface building inefficiencies without the need for dedicated data scientists. The powerful capabilities of the IBM Watson IoT platform combined with the seamless connectivity of rich data from Adesto’s SmartServer IoT can provide facility managers with deep insights into energy consumption and other operational aspects of a building.

“IBM Watson IoT Platform enables customers to maximise the value of their physical assets,” said Sanjay Tripathi, VP of strategy and business development, IBM IoT. “Adesto’s SmartServer IoT provides the critical connection from industrial data to our platform so that customers can perform powerful analytics on their data. We are delighted to work with Adesto to demonstrate our combined capabilities, and we look forward to making the solution available to customers in the buildings sector.”

“We are extremely excited to demonstrate how industry-leading AI systems can make knowledgeable decisions that drive the sustainability and efficiency goals for property managers,” said Sohrab Modi, chief strategy officer, Adesto. “The combination of our SmartServer IoT and IBM Watson is a perfect example of our strategy that enables customers to ’Embrace’ their legacy systems, ‘Extend’ them with emerging IoT capabilities, and ‘Enhance’ them with insights from cloud and AI systems.”

Related stories:

Power news this week ... TDK buys Nextys ... Time division power coils ... Algorithm boosts SiC reliability

from eeNews Europe By Nick Flaherty

. TDK acquires Swiss power supply company Nextys

. Pioneer sees $2.6m data centre deal for transformer coils

. Simon Electric teams with Tuya for AI and IoT

. Flex targets industrial and railway power markets

. Algorithm boosts SiC transistor reliability

. Galvanic isolation key to 48V electrical architectures

. Time division power supply enables flexible wireless charger sheet that can be cut to shape

. Passive design uses solar power to convert seawater into fresh

. First in a series of PMICs for wearables

. 1800W supply targets cryptocurrency mining

. Hybrid module protects against sustained overcurrents and overvoltages

Xiaomi launches into smart home Bluetooth mesh with Silicon Labs

By Nick Flaherty

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has launched a range of smart home products using Bluetooth mesh technology from Silicon Labs.

SiLabs' EFR32BG Wireless Gecko RF and microcontrollers are being used for smart LED light bulbs, candle bulbs, downlights and spotlights. The voice-assistant XiaoAi smart alarm clock serves as a gateway to control smart Bluetooth mesh lights through voice commands.

“Silicon Labs is a valued technology partner providing best-in-class wireless hardware and software, development tools and local engineering support for Mi Ecosystem partners in the China market,” said Yanlu Zhang, RD Director of Xiaomi IoT platform. “Silicon Labs’ Wireless Gecko platform provides the connectivity options, design flexibility, ease of use and security features our ecosystem partners need to simplify smart product design and accelerate time.”

“We are seeing increasing deployment of Bluetooth mesh in China’s fast-growing smart home market, and Xiaomi is poised to ship mesh-enabled smart home products at scale, driving further adoption of this versatile, ubiquitous wireless technology,” said Matt Johnson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs. “We look forward to collaborating with Xiaomi and Mi Ecosystem developers on future products leveraging our Wireless Gecko hardware and software platform.”

Silicon Labs has shipped more than 150 million mesh networking SoCs to date after its acquisition of Energy Micro.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Production starts on first European 'Ready-to-Connect' cellular modules

By Nick Flaherty

Sierra Wireless has started volume production of its 'Ready-to-Connect' IoT modules for European roll out. The cellular module has an integrated eSIM that’s pre-connected to global mobile networks and IoT platform for device and subscription management and simplified operations in one bundle.

Research by analyst firm Frost & Sullivan found that many IoT deployments can take more than 18 months to move from concept to commercial launch. With Ready-to-Connect, companies can innovate in a third of the time, while also simplifying operations and reducing product and logistic costs by up to $500,000/year. The module eliminates the need to manage different vendors and platforms, as well as the complex pairing of multiple components that can lead to security vulnerabilities.

“The complexity of IoT deployments, with the multitude of vendors, devices, modules, connectivity services to be integrated with a management platform, make it incredibly difficult for most companies to implement successfully,” said Adrian Drozd, Research Director, ICT Europe, Frost & Sullivan. “By taking away some of the integration and deployment pitfalls, Sierra Wireless enables its customers to focus on their core business and extract maximum value from the transformational impact of IoT.”

Ready-to-Connect removes the main barriers to a successful IoT deployment. It uses the multi-operator Sierra Wireless Smart SIM and Connectivity Services to provide reliable, global IoT connectivity that allows businesses to use the same solution wherever they want to deploy. The AirVantage IoT Platform manages all SIMs, subscriptions and devices out of the box, through a single interface. All new devices and SIMs are paired and pre-declared into the platform when shipped, which highly simplifies integration. With such a degree of integration from the device to the cloud, Ready-to-Connect guarantees a low start-up time and a high level of security.

“Businesses see the value of IoT data but, for many, the difficult and long path to commercial launch and ROI is simply too risky,” said Marc Overton, senior vice president and GM of IoT Services, Sierra Wireless. “With Ready-to-Connect, Sierra Wireless has removed the integration and management complexity that has stalled many IoT initiatives, allowing our customers to innovate in a third of the time and deploy a more secure, easy-to-manage IoT solution. This demonstrates Sierra Wireless’ commitment to delivering fully integrated device to cloud solutions.”

The Ready-to-Connect solution for EMEA is available now with the North America version in the next three months. 

Related stories:

ARM moves into retail software

By Nick Flaherty

Chip designer ARM is branching out into the retail market with a full software stack that enables retailers to securely consolidate, unify and manage their previously separate digital customer data and physical in-store IoT data.

The move highlights the increasing importance of a full stack up into the cloud sitting on a particular chip architecture (which is currently Intel, of course).

The data management system combines ARM's Pelion IoT and Treasure Data Customer Data Platform (CDP) to help retailers break down data silos and obtain a holistic view of a shopper’s path to purchase. The key is collecting customer data and in-store IoT data and making this accessible to the right stakeholders.

The software runs across a huge range of IoT devices. It comes from display advertising, email, web, mobile and more by including physical in-store IoT and POS data from the CDP platform, and then links to Pelion IoT to provide data management of real-time data in-store and API-enabled integration for digital maps, beacons, computer vision and store execution software.

The stack seamlessly integrates with retailers’ existing systems and software, including those from ARM partner Reflexis, whose store execution software is used by more than 250 retailers globally.

The Reflexis ONE platform then brings an additional layer of value by providing retail store associates with actionable tasks based on real-time data insights from the stack. For example, data captured from a shopper's engagement with a product in-store and their online shopping behaviour can trigger an alert in Reflexis ONE on potential interest in the product, areas to provide better customer service and opportunities to deliver a personalised offer so that the store associate can prioritise their tasks. Our partnership with Reflexis minimises the costs of change management and will allow retailers to quickly deploy the solution in stores and train store associates.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Agent simulation tool highlights congestion in airports in a few minutes

By Nick Flaherty

It's not a typical story for the Embedded blog, but identifying network congestion is a key challenge around the world, particularly in airports.

Many airports are operating beyond their maximum capacity due to the growing number of passengers and cargoes. Measures are being taken to alleviate congestion, such as increasing the number of staff on ground or expanding airports. However, understanding human behaviour and the actions people take depending on their attributes and information given is a key challenge to tackle. 

Professor Shingo Takahashi of the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at Waseda University and Fujitsu Laboratories developed a new technology that automatically analyses the factors leading to congestion based on the results of human behaviour simulations.

Conventionally this analysis uses the results of large numbers of congestion prediction simulations to try and find the root cause of congestion, but this overlooks potential causes due to human error from time to time and required the simulations to be evaluated one by one, which sometimes took several months.

"The new technology groups categories that have a certain degree of commonality, and expresses the characteristics of respective agents (which represents a diverse group of people) in a small number of combination categories without listing the results of movements and routes of tens or hundreds of thousands of agents individually through simulation-based modelling," said Professor Takahashi.

"This makes it easier to discover the cause of congestion and answer the question of what sort of measures can be taken to change the mindset or actions of people with specific sets of attributes in a matter of just few minutes."

Takahashi and Fujitsu applied this technology to a simulation at a local airport in Japan. They discovered approximately four times as many causes of congestion in comparison to analysis by experts. 

In an analysis of congestion at security screening, the system found that passengers lining up at a specific check-in counter caused sudden congestion. The measures implemented according to the findings of the technology reduced the number of people waiting in line by one sixth than the measures proposed by experts. Additionally, the number of staff required to implement the measure was reduced by two thirds.

This technology enables a quick evaluation of measures to ameliorate congestion in commercial facilities, event venues and other locations that deal with congestion due to high attendance or urban centralisation as well.

The work has significant implications for the Internet of Things, linking to digital signage. Fujitsu will also use its Human Centric AI Zinrai artificial intelligence and supercomputer technologies, and together with its Fujitsu Technical Computing Solution Citywide Surveillance software, which enables a real-time understanding of urban conditions. These will be used to develop a future predictive solution for congestion. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Major boost for in-mold electronics

By Nick Flaherty

Integrating components into the thermoplastic of devices to create 3D embedded systems is set for dramatic growth according to a new report by IDTechEx. 

In-mold electronics (IME) is a process of integrating printed decorations and electronic circuitry with thermoforming and molding. The results are 3D-shaped objects with embedded circuits of differing degrees of complexity. 

The commercial uptake of IME has a complex history with Ford embracing this technology for an automotive interior device, but the product had to be recalled. Despite this setback the market is on the cusp of large adoption. Very large addressable markets are at different stages of adopting this technology with automotive interiors and touchpads for white goods providing the most significant volumes. IDTechEx forecast the market for IME devices to exceed $1.11bn by 2029.

The capacity to print electronic circuitry on a 2D substrate prior to converting this into a functional 3D part has many manufacturing and material challenges. The report, In-Mold Electronics 2019-2029: Technology, Market Forecasts, Players covers the commercial and emerging solutions from the key players as this technology progresses from R&D to gaining high-volume end-user designs.

The advantages of IME include light weight, space-saving, robustness, accelerated time-to-market, and high throughput capabilities. However, the technology does not come without its drawbacks in: shape limitations, yield, software immaturity, environmental stability, and post-processing. These merits and hurdles are detailed within the report with upcoming solutions in the material-space for the functional inks, substrates, and adhesives facilitating this.

The prototypes have been diverse, ranging from simple devices for wearable technology, automotive light heating, antennas, and white goods touchpads to more complex sensors, actuators, and displays.

IME is not the only technological solution to 3D electronics. Aerosol jet printing, Mold Interconnected Devices (including laser direct structuring, two-shot molding, and film inserting), and 3D printing electronics are all rapidly emerging and gaining traction. This report benchmarks these technologies and looks at some of the key players and latest advancements.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

64 core 7nm ARM server processor tops performance chart

By Nick Flaherty

Huawei has launched the industry's highest-performance ARM-based CPU. 

The 7nm Kunpeng 920 is aimed at data, distributed storage, and ARM-native application applications and is based on ARMv8 architecture license. It significantly improves processor performance by optimizing branch prediction algorithms, increasing the number of OP units, and improving the memory subsystem architecture. 

At typical frequencies, the Kunpeng 920 CPU scores over 930 in the SPECint Benchmarks test, which is 25% higher than the industry benchmark. At the same time, power efficiency is 30% better than that offered by industry counterparts. Kunpeng 920 integrates 64 cores at a frequency of 2.6 GHz alongside 8-channel DDR4. 

System integration is also increased significantly through the two 100G RoCE ports as well as PCIe 4.0 and CCIX interfaces, providing 640 Gbps total bandwidth. In addition, the single-slot speed is twice that of the incumbent offering, effectively improving the performance of storage and various accelerators.

"Huawei has continuously innovated in the computing domain in order to create customer value. We believe that, with the advent of the intelligent society, the computing market will see continuous growth in the future. Currently, the diversity of applications and data is driving heterogeneous computing requirements. Huawei has long partnered with Intel to make great achievements. Together we have contributed to the development of the ICT industry. Huawei and Intel will continue our long-term strategic partnerships and continue to innovate together," said William Xu, Director of the Board and Chief Strategy Marketing Officer of Huawei (above).

"At the same time, the ARM industry is seeing a new development opportunity. The Kunpeng 920 CPU and TaiShan servers newly released by Huawei are primarily used in big data, distributed storage, and ARM-native applications. We will work with global partners in the spirit of openness, collaboration, and shared success to drive the development of the ARM ecosystem and expand the computing space, and embrace a diversified computing era."

Huawei has released its TaiShan series servers powered by Kunpeng 920, including three models: one with a focus on storage, another on high density, and a third focused on balancing both requirements. The TaiShan servers are built for big data, distributed storage, and ARM-native application scenarios.
TaiShan will enable computing platforms with high performance and low power consumption for enterprises. For example, in big data scenarios, the TaiShan servers are tuned for optimal many-core high concurrency and resource scheduling to deliver a 20% computing performance boost. Based on the TaiShan servers, Huawei Cloud also provides elastic cloud services, bare metal services, and cloud phone services.

Huawei has been working with industry organizations such as Green Computing Consortium (GCC), Linaro, and Open Edge and HPC Initiative (OEHI) to build an open, collaborative industry ecosystem, alongside partners such as Hortonworks, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, SUSE, Ubuntu, and China Standard Software.

On the hardware side, Huawei is a core member of Linaro. On the basic software side, Huawei is a Platinum member of the OpenStack Foundation and a founding member of Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). With regard to applications, Huawei has joined the GCC. GCC has released the Green Computing Consortium Server Technical Standards Report, along with other efforts to build a green open source computing community. Huawei is also a member of the OEHI.

The development and convergence of ARM-based applications on smart terminals are accelerating, along with cloud-device collaboration, with new applications in cloud computing driving data diversity. For example, big data applications, distributed storage, and some edge computing scenarios have specific energy efficiency requirements for many-core high-performance computing. 

First 3D atomic-scale quantum chip architecture

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in Australia have shown for the first time that they can build atomic precision qubits in a 3D device - another major step towards a universal quantum computer.

The team of researchers, led by Professor Michelle Simmons, director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) at the University of New South Wales, have demonstrated that they can extend their atomic qubit fabrication technique to multiple layers of a silicon crystal - achieving a critical component of the 3D chip architecture that they showed in 2015.

The group is the first to demonstrate the feasibility of an architecture that uses atomic-scale qubits aligned to control lines - which are essentially very narrow wires - inside a 3D design.

The team was also able to align the different layers in their 3D device with nanometer precision - and showed they could read out qubit states single shot, i.e. within one single measurement, with very high fidelity.

"This 3D device architecture is a significant advancement for atomic qubits in silicon," says Professor Simmons. "To be able to constantly correct for errors in quantum calculations - an important milestone in our field - you have to be able to control many qubits in parallel.

"The only way to do this is to use a 3D architecture, so in 2015 we developed and patented a vertical crisscross architecture. However, there were still a series of challenges related to the fabrication of this multi-layered device. With this result we have now shown that engineering our approach in 3D is possible in the way we envisioned it a few years ago."

Now the team has demonstrated how to build a second control plane or layer on top of the first layer of qubits.

"It's a highly complicated process, but in very simple terms, we built the first plane, and then optimised a technique to grow the second layer without impacting the structures in first layer," said CQC2T researcher Dr Joris Keizer.

"In the past, critics would say that that's not possible because the surface of the second layer gets very rough, and you wouldn't be able to use our precision technique anymore - however we have shown that we can do it, contrary to expectations."

The team also demonstrated that they can then align these multiple layers with nanometer precision.

"If you write something on the first silicon layer and then put a silicon layer on top, you still need to identify your location to align components on both layers. We have shown a technique that can achieve alignment within under 5 nanometers, which is quite extraordinary," said Dr Keizer.

The researchers were also able to measure the qubit output of the 3D device with what's called single shot - i.e. with one single, accurate measurement, rather than having to rely on averaging out millions of experiments. "This will further help us scale up faster," Dr Keizer explains.

"We are working systematically towards a large-scale architecture that will lead us to the eventual commercialisation of the technology," said Prof Simmons.

Spin off company Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Limited (SQC), has been working to create and commercialise a quantum computer based on a suite of intellectual property developed at CQC2T and its own proprietary intellectual property.

"While we are still at least a decade away from a large-scale quantum computer, the work of CQC2T remains at the forefront of innovation in this space. Concrete results such as these reaffirm our strong position internationally," she said.

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Ultra-low power IMU is optimised for wearables

By Nick Flaherty

Bosch Sensortec has developed an ultra-low power smart Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) specifically targeted at wearable applications. It offers a strongly improved accelerometer offset and sensitivity performance, enabled by the newest Bosch MEMS process technology and simplified calibration.

The BMI270 includes intuitive gesture, context and activity recognition with an integrated plug-and-play step counter, which is specially optimised for accurate step counting in wrist-worn devices. The IMU is also well suited for other types of wearable devices, such as hearables, smart clothes, smart shoes, smart glasses and ankle bands.

As an ultra-low power IMU, the BMI270 significantly extends system battery life by handling multiple activity tracking, step counting and gesture recognition functions independently of the main system processor, without having to wake it up. These processor-independent functions include tasks such as sending an interrupt when a certain number of steps is reached, or geofencing to activate GPS when the user stands up and starts walking.

A key point is that the gesture and activity recognition features run in the ultra-low power domain, with current consumption of just 30 μA. This noticeably reduces power consumption and users can benefit from extended battery charging intervals.

"The BMI270 combines robustness, accuracy and ultra-low power consumption, making it ideal for wearables," says Dr. Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch Sensortec. "It also features a dedicated set of functions developed for wrist-worn and other wearable devices, giving wearable manufacturers and vendors the capability to develop differentiated products with a competitive edge."

The smart IMU is available in two application-specific versions. The 'gesture' version, which detects gestures including flick in/out, arm up/down, and wrist tilt. This version is fully compliant with Wear OS by Google, ensuring a user-friendly and feature-rich experience for end users. The 'context and activity' version has advanced features for recognising context activity and activity change, for example standing, walking or being in a vehicle.

Embedded designers benefit from the sensor performance of the IMU and can customise it based on the specific use case with gesture and context/activity features.

 The sensor includes a 2 kB FIFO and the motionless Component Retrimming (CRT) that provides built-in gyroscope self-calibration without a rotation stimulus, which saves OEMs valuable time and costs during testing and manufacturing. The embedded plug and play features of the BMI270 help to substantially cut time to market.

The BMI270 measures only 2.5 x 3.0 x 0.8 mm3, and is pin-to-pin compatible with the BMI160, BMI260, BMI261 and BMI263.

The BMI270 will be available for distribution in the second quarter 2019.

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