Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Infrared camera tech used for IoT authentication

By Nick Flaherty

InVisage Technologies is using its near-infrared camera technology in a module for authenticating users in the home for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Spark Authentication Module (SAM) near-infrared (NIR) camera module is powered by the previously announced SparkP2 2-megapixel NIR sensor (shown above). At just 8.0 by 8.0 by 3.1 mm, the SAM module is custom built for authentication systems such as Microsoft Windows Hello. In addition to blocking interference from direct sunlight, SAM enables authentication at a greater distance of beyond 100 centimeters from a tablet, laptop or phone so that users are not constrained to a small space in front of their device. Because it operates deeper into the near-infrared spectrum at the 940-nanometer wavelength, SAM also eliminates any intrusive red glow from LEDs.

SAM is the only system that can deliver 2K resolution in a tiny module while consuming 50 times less system power. Existing NIR cameras operate in conjunction with high wattage LEDs to overcome low CMOS sensitivity and ambient infrared in sunlight. The resulting high power consumption and heat generated by such bright LEDs has made outdoor performance a challenge for mobile face recognition systems that operate with lighter batteries. In contrast, SAM, powered by SparkP2, leverages low-power pulsed LEDs synchronized with an extremely short global shutter exposure, allowing for accurate imaging without battery drain. At 50 times lower power consumption, overall system temperature is also up to 20 degrees cooler.

“For authentication, mobile device makers demand compact modules that produce sharp images enabling smooth user verification with minimal false negatives or false positives, regardless of whether the user is indoors or out,” said Jess Lee, InVisage President and CEO. “It also needs to work within a reasonable range so that users can say ‘Hello’ without having to plant their eye or face just a few centimeters from the screen.”

With a photosensitive layer 10 times thinner than a typical silicon infrared sensor, the SparkP2 sensor powering SAM provides significantly higher quantum efficiency at 35% of infrared light at the 940-nanometer wavelength. This greater sensitivity results in sharper images and an expanded operational radius of beyond 100 centimeters, but it also enables minimal crosstalk in a thinner, 3.1mm module with a 72-degree field of view. Infrared cameras in particular suffer from blur due to high levels of crosstalk, or misdetection of light in nearby pixels. Crosstalk typically limits camera thinness by requiring a minimum distance between the lens and the photosensitive layer, but the SparkP2 lens in the SAM module can be much closer to the sensor without increasing crosstalk and preserving a higher level of sharpness.

SAM and SparkP2 are optimized for authentication systems that operate at 850 nanometers (with a visible red glow) and 940 nanometers (invisible with a tenfold improvement in sun irradiance rjection).

Cortus brings fast crypto to home IoT designs

Microprocessor core developer Cortus has teamed up with Oberon Microsystems in Switzerland to to implement fast encryption technology to secure the Internet of Things in the home.

The highly efficient cryptographic code, a key component of its OberonHAP product, has been ported to a 50MHz Cortus APS3RP 32-bit IP core. The combination of the tiny software memory footprint and minimalist processor core is well suited to secure ASICs in battery-powered home automation devices.

Oberon Microsystems has developed, analysed and optimised the cryptographic code of OberonHAP since 2013 (see below). They have developed – and formally proved - novel algorithm combinations, and have carefully written critical parts in assembly language for high performance. The resulting software is typically three times as fast as a good implementation in C. OberonHAP thus makes secure home automation feasible even on low-power, low-cost 32-bit microcontroller cores for ASICs.

Home automation is a key application area for Cortus”, says Michael Chapman, CEO and President of Cortus, “So we are delighted to see the first steps completed in making Oberon’s code available for Cortus licensees. With growing connectivity of home devices, security is essential." 

OberonHAP implements a range of cryptographic algorithms for pairing, authentication and encryption such as:

For an integrated circuit with the processor core running at 50 MHz, the cryptographic processing of the SRP algorithm – which is required once in the lifetime of a home automation device – takes less than five seconds. Cryptographic processing during opening of a session between a device and a smartphone takes less than 100 milliseconds. RAM requirements were brought down to a record-low 2.5 KB.

“The combination of Oberon’s optimised cryptographic code and the APS3RP results in very good performance even on low-cost, low power devices”, said Cuno Pfister, managing director of Oberon microsystems AG, “We look forward to further cooperation with Cortus in the area of security for home appliances.”

The APS3RP is an enhanced performance version of the widely-deployed APS3R and provides a single cycle parallel multiplier. It has a Harvard architecture and a 3-stage pipeline. The Cortus family of APS processors offers a wide choice of computational performance and system complexity for embedded SoCs. All cores interface to Cortus’ peripherals including Ethernet 10/100 MAC, USB 2.0 Device and USB 2.0 OTG. They also share the simple vectored interrupt structure which ensures rapid, real time interrupt response, with low software overhead.

The APS toolchain and IDE (for C and C++) is available to licensees free of charge, and can be customised and branded for final customer use. Ports of various RTOSs are available such as FreeRTOS, Micrium μC/OSII, Micrium μC/OSIII and Blunk TargetOS. To date over 900 million devices have been manufactured containing Cortus processor cores.
By Nick Flaherty

Monday, May 23, 2016

RadioVerse aims to simplify software defined radio in embedded designs

By Nick Flaherty

New ecosystem includes the AD9371 integrated wideband RF transceiver, enabling simple, versatile solutions for wireless infrastructure, aerospace and defense, and instrumentation applications.
Analog Devices (ADI) has launched a technology and design ecosystem to simplify software defined radio implementations at at the circuit, architecture, system and software levels.

RadioVerse provides with integrated transceiver technologies, a robust design environment, and market-specific technical expertise to move their radio designs from concept to creation quickly. The new ecosystem’s transceiver technologies reduce radio size, weight and power (SWaP), while the design environment offers board support packages, software and tools to help customers simplify and accelerate radio development across a range of applications including wireless infrastructure, aerospace and defense electronics, and electronic test and measurement. 

As part of the RadioVerse technology and design ecosystem release, ADI introduced the AD9371, the latest addition to the integrated wideband RF transceiver product series. It is a highly versatile, carrier-grade, system-on-chip radio solution that achieves a wide RF tuning range of 300 MHz to 6 GHz, 100-MHz signal bandwidth, and power consumption of less than 5W under standard operating conditions. It replaces or eliminates as many as 20 discrete radio components and can be used as a common design platform across multiple applications and standards, increasing R&D efficiency and reducing time-to-market of the end product. Other products in the wideband RF transceiver series include the AD9361 and AD9364.

“ADI’s RadioVerse technology and design ecosystem demonstrates our system-level approach to innovation through which we deliver solutions that go beyond silicon to enable designers to get to market faster and reduce their costs,” said Rick Hess, executive vice president, Communications Business Group, Analog Devices. “RadioVerse’s industry-leading radio technology gives our customers a competitive advantage to be innovative for their customers.”

RadioVerse provides integrated RF transceivers, software API, design support packages, robust documentation, access to ADI’s EngineerZone online technical support community, and more. RadioVerse provides integrated wideband RF transceiver evaluation boards that directly connect to an FPGA development platform, allowing customers to perform chip-level performance evaluation and rapid prototyping of complete wireless scenarios using a single hardware platform. The boards are supported by a toolkit that includes HDL, Linux drivers, software API, a GUI, and design files necessary for customers to kick-start their own designs. An exact, verified model of the AD9371 transceiver, enabling advanced simulation and analysis of the transceiver, can be developed by using MATLAB and Simulink. End users can then use the model to configure the transceiver and verify performance, correct problems earlier, and accelerate completion of their RF system design.

The RadioVerse design environment will continue to expand to include third-party design houses, COTS providers and other partners to further enable customers to rapidly deploy their products to market.
The AD9371 integrated wideband RF transceiver is ideal for applications such as wireless communications, aerospace and defense electronics, and electronic test and measurement equipment that require high-performance radios across a wideband frequency range while maintaining industry leading low-power consumption levels. The AD9371 covers a 300-MHz to 6-GHz frequency range and supports receiver and transmit large signal instantaneous bandwidths up to 100 MHz, observation receiver and transmit synthesis bandwidths up to 250 MHz, fully integrated LO and clocking functions, and highly advanced on-chip calibration and correction algorithms. It supports a wide range of standards and applications, and enables customers to reduce component and development costs by reducing their need for multiple design variants. The versatility, ease-of-use, and reduced SWaP of the AD9371 enable designers to deploy radios in an array of applications:

· Small-form-factor, multi-band base stations on buildings, light poles, and office walls

· Long-range, high-definition video links in unmanned aerial vehicles

· Wide bandwidth military satellite communication systems

· Electronic test and measurement equipment supporting testing of multi-mode, multi-band applications.

Pricing and Availability
Part Number
Sample Availability
Production Availability
Price Each in 1,000 Units
July 2016
12mm x 12mm, 196-Ball CSP_BGA

Xilinx expands its 16nm UltraScale+ FPGA roadmap for new data centre technology

By Nick Flaherty

Xilinx has added new acceleration technologies for the data centre to its 16nm FinFET-based UltraScale+ product roadmap.

The integrated High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) is combined with the recently announced Cache Coherent Interconnect for Acceleration technology (CCIX). CCIX is initially driven by a group of seven companies to enable an acceleration framework that works with multiple processor architectures. These acceleration enhanced technologies will enable efficient heterogeneous computing for the most demanding data center workloads. The new products will also be highly leveraged in many other compute intensive applications requiring high memory bandwidth.

CCIX is backed by AMD, ARM, Huawei, IBM, Mellanox and Qualcomm alongside Xilinx to provide a high-performance open acceleration framework to data centers. For the first time in the industry, a single interconnect technology specification will ensure that processors using different instruction set architectures (ISA) can coherently share data with accelerators and enable efficient heterogeneous computing – significantly improving compute efficiency for servers running data center workloads.

Applications such as big data analytics, search, machine learning, NFV, wireless 4G/5G, in-memory database processing, video analytics, and network processing, benefit from acceleration engines that need to move data seamlessly among the various system components. CCIX will allow these components to access and process data irrespective of where it resides, without the need for complex programming environments. This will enable both off-load and bump-in-the-wire inline application acceleration while leveraging existing server ecosystems and form factors, thereby lowering software barriers and improving total cost of ownership (TCO) of accelerated systems.

“AMD strongly supports development of open standards to make heterogeneous computing more pervasive,” said Gerry Talbot, AMD corporate fellow and vice president of I/O and circuit technologies. “By joining with others in the industry to develop new interconnect specifications to accelerate performance, AMD continues its commitment to open, heterogeneous computing.”

“A ‘one size fits all architecture’ approach to data center workloads does not deliver the required performance and efficiency,” said Lakshmi Mandyam, director server systems and ecosystems, ARM. “CCIX enables more optimized solutions by simplifying software development and deployment of applications that benefit from specialized processing and hardware off-load, delivering higher performance and value to data center customers.”

"IBM Power Systems have recently demonstrated a total commitment to openness as a catalyst for industry innovation, creating benefits in cost and performance to clients in a post-Moore's Law era," said Brad McCredie, IBM Fellow and Vice President of POWER Development. "IBM is committed to working with like-minded industry leaders to expand our efforts around open coherency to help meet our clients' growing cognitive needs."

Built on the TSMCs proven CoWoS process, the HBM-enabled FPGAs will improve acceleration capabilities by offering 10X higher memory bandwidth relative to discrete memory channels for the lowest possible latency. The CCIX technology promotes efficient heterogeneous computing by allowing processors with different instruction-set architectures to coherently share data with accelerators such as the HBM-enabled FPGAs.

“Having already delivered 19 billion transistors on a chip at 20nm leveraging our second generation 3D IC technology, we are creating a third generation 3D IC breakthrough for data center acceleration and other compute intensive designs,” said Victor Peng, executive vice president and general manager, Programmable Products at Xilinx. “When combined with next generation CCIX acceleration framework and our software defined SDAccel development environment, this technology will enable a new breed of high-density, flexible platforms for accelerating compute, storage and networking applications.”

“CCIX enables greater performance and connectivity capabilities over existing interconnects, and actually paves the road to the next generation CPU – Accelerator – Network standard interface,” said Gilad Shainer, vice president of Marketing at Mellanox. “With an anticipated broad eco-system support of the CCIX standard, data centers will now be able to optimize their data usage, thereby achieving world-leading applications efficiency and scale.”

“Qualcomm Technologies is excited about the development of a new technology enabling efficient, high-performance architectures in an open, ISA-agnostic platform,” said Vinay Ravuri, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The data center of the future demands open architectures enabling choice of compute, acceleration and interconnect technologies, and this is a significant step forward in delivering on that goal.”

“CCIX will leverage existing server interconnect infrastructure and deliver higher bandwidth, lower latency, and cache coherent access to shared memory,” said Gaurav Singh, vice president of Architecture at Xilinx. “This will result in a significant improvement in the usability of accelerators and overall performance and efficiency of data center platforms.”
Xilinx is already collaborating with leading hyperscale data center customers to create optimized configurations and products.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Robotics drives Qualcomm's European Innovation Fellowship Programme

By Nick Flaherty

Qualcomm Technologies has announced the winners of its Europe Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship (QInF) that focuses on recognising, rewarding, and mentoring the most innovative engineering PhD students across Europe and the United States.

Elias Mueggler from ETH Zurich and University of Zurich, Tim de Bruin from TU Delft and Jason Lee from ETH Zurich have been selected as the winning students for their proposals, all around robotics. Each winning student will receive $40,000 as part of the fellowship along with mentoring by a Qualcomm researcher.

“This year’s proposals focused on hot topic areas of research including, computer vision, machine learning, and autonomous navigation,” said Peter Rauber, Senior Director of Engineering at Qualcomm International. “Qualcomm’s culture is about invention, and collaboration to encourage the advancement of new technologies that can make a tremendous impact on the future of mobile. QInF helps us support external innovation by working with top PhD students from elite universities across Europe to mentor them and help propel their ideas forward:”

  • Elias Mueggler's proposal “Event-based Vision for High-Speed Robotics” focuses on investigating how to use event-based cameras in autonomously moving robots such as drones. The work will be an important first step towards bringing microsecond-resolution image processing to fast moving mobile robots. Elias will work on creating a generic six-degrees-of-freedom SLAM system with event based cameras which will advance the state of the art.
  • Tim de Bruin's proposal “Unsupervised Multimodal State-representation Learning for Robotics" which combines reinforcement- and deep learning to make robots learn a uniform representation of their state and their environment to learn new tasks autonomously. Tim will investigate learning control policies in high dimensional state spaces which still adhere to physical rules. This project will look to improve autonomous learning for robots.
  • Jason Lee proposes “A Unified Neural Language Model for Morphology, Grammar and Coherence” to bring together the benefits of character-level and sentence-level language models. Jason will model morphology, grammar and coherence jointly with a single neural network-based model. The model will incorporate past sentences and words to predict the next word. Having no pre-defined linguistic rules to start from, the project will improve language-agnostic natural language processing.
The QInF Europe program continues to expand its reach with the addition of two new universities: for the first time this year, the Technical University Delft (Netherlands) and KU Leuven (Belgium) were invited to participate in the program, bringing the total number of participating universities to six.

“This was the first year that we consolidated the Europe program and brought all of the region finalists together to present their proposals to a panel of technology topic expert judges who determined the winning proposals. It was great to have the different European universities together to meet and discuss their research,” said Charles Bergan, Vice President of Engineering at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The high caliber of innovative proposals we received again this year for QInF Europe made the selection process quite difficult. In the end, we chose Elias, Jason, and Tim for their innovative work. We congratulate them and look forward to collaborating closely to bring their ideas to life.”

Charles participated for a fifth time in this year’s QInF Europe judging panel, along with the head of Qualcomm’s European research offices, Peter Rauber, and several Qualcomm Europe researchers. The QInF Europe finalist event was hosted by QUVA, the joint research lab, announced by Qualcomm Technologies. Inc. and the University of Amsterdam, focused on advancing state-of-the-art machine learning techniques for computer vision. Prof. Arnold Smeulders, one of the three QUVA directors, provided an interesting keynote speech on the open challenges in tracking.”

For more information about QInF, please visit

Shakeup in the top 20 semiconductor suppliers continues in 2016

By Nick Flaherty

Apple's internal chip value puts it at #15

Sales at the top 20 semiconductor companies declined by 6% in the first quarter of this year as the impact of consolidation and the downturn starts to bite. 

The figures from IC Insights show that seven companies displayed a double-digit 1Q16/1Q15 decline and three that registered a dramatic 25% fall (with memory giants Micron and SK Hynix posting the worst results). Half of the top-20 companies had sales of at least $2.0 billion in 1Q16, so it takes $832 million in quarterly sales just to make it into the top 20 list.

Apple is an anomaly in the top-20 ranking with regards to major semiconductor suppliers. The company designs and uses its processors only in its own products—there are no sales of the company’s MPUs to other system makers. Apple’s custom ARM-based SoC processors had a “sales value” of $1,390 million in 1Q16, up 10% from $1,260 million in 1Q15. 

 Apple’s MPUs have been used in 13 iPhone handset designs since 2007 and a dozen iPad tablet models since 2010 as well as in iPod portable media players, smartwatches, and Apple TV units. Apple’s custom processors—such as the 64-bit A9 used in iPhone 6s and 6s Plus handsets introduced in September 2015 and the new iPhone 6SE launched in March 2016—are made by pure-play foundry TSMC and IDM foundry Samsung.

There were some surprises though - despite the doom and gloom around the prospects for growth at Intel, the company still saw significant growth against the declining backdrop. Growth star MediaTek continued to advance, but Infineon also saw healthy growth. In terms of rankings, the biggest moves in the ranking were made by the new Broadcom (Avago/Broadcom) and Nvidia, each of which jumped up three positions in 1Q16 as compared to 1Q15.

There was one new entrant into the top-20 ranking in the first quarter US fabless supplier AMD. AMD had a particularly rough 1Q16 and saw its sales drop 19% year-over-year to $832 million, which was about half the $1,589 million in sales the company logged just over two years ago in 4Q13. Although AMD did not have a good 1Q16, Japan-based Sharp, the only company that fell from the top-20 ranking, faired even worse with its 1Q16/1Q15 sales plunging by 30%

In order to allow for more useful year-over-year comparisons, IC Insights combined the acquired/merged semiconductor company sales results for both 1Q15 and 1Q16, regardless of when the acquisition or merger occurred. For example, although Intel’s acquisition of Altera did not close until late December of 2015, Altera’s 1Q15 sales ($435 million) were added to Intel’s 1Q15 sales ($11,632 million) to come up with the $12,067 million shown in the chart aboe. The same method was used to calculate the 1Q15 sales for Broadcom (Avago/Broadcom), NXP (NXP/Freescale), and GlobalFoundries (GlobalFoundries/IBM).

As would be expected, given the possible acquisitions and mergers over this years such as Microchip/Atmel and ON Semiconductor/Fairchild, as well as any new ones that may develop, the top-20 semiconductor ranking is likely to undergo a significant amount of upheaval over the next few years as the semiconductor industry continues along its path to maturity.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Google uses Infineon 60GHz radar for gesture interface

By Nick Flaherty

Two prototypes of products controlled exclusively through gestures via 60GHz radar have been demonstrated at the Google I/O conference in the US. Both devices - a smartwatch and a wireless speaker - can recognize gestures that replace switches or buttons. 

“Gesture sensing offers a new opportunity to revolutionize the human-machine interface by enabling mobile and fixed devices with a third dimension of interaction,” said Ivan Poupyrev, Technical Project Lead at Google ATAP. “This will fill the existing gap with a convenient alternative for touch- and voice controlled interaction.” 

Infineon and Google ATAP aim at addressing numerous markets with the “Soli” radar technology. Among these are home entertainment, mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). Radar chips from Infineon as well as Google ATAP’s software and interaction concepts form the basis. Both companies are preparing for the joint commercialization of the “Soli” technology. “Sophisticated haptic algorithms combined with highly integrated and miniaturized radar chips can foster a huge variety of applications,” said Andreas Urschitz, President of the Power Management & Multimarket at Infineon,

In addition of their efforts in the audio and smartwatch markets, the developers’ ambitions are more comprehensive: “It is our target to create a new market standard with compelling performance and new user experience, creating a core technology for enablement of augmented reality and IoT,” said Urschitz. "While Virtual Reality technologies could already visualize new realities in the past, users could not interact with these so far. The 60 GHz radar application developed by Google and Infineon bridges the gap, as a key technology enabling Augmented Reality."

Transformers come to life with shape-shifting embedded design

By Nick Flaherty

A prototype for an interactive, shape-shifting mobile device called Cubimorph has been developed at the University of Bristol.

Cubimorph is a modular interactive device that holds touchscreens on each of the six module faces and that uses a hinge-mounted turntable mechanism to self-reconfigure in the user’s hand. One example is a mobile phone that can transform into a console when a user launches a game.

The modular interactive device, made out of a chain of cubes, contributes towards the vision of programmable matter, where interactive devices change its shape to fit functionalities required by end-users.

The research is led by Dr Anne Roudaut from the Department of Computer Science at the University, in collaboration with academics at the Universities of Purdue, Lancaster and Sussex. The team is demonstrating the mechanical design, three prototypes demonstrating key aspects - turntable hinges, embedded touchscreens and miniaturisation and an adaptation of the probabilistic roadmap algorithm for the reconfiguration.

“Cubimorph is the first step towards a real modular interactive device. Much work still needs to be achieved to put such devices in the end-user hands but we hope our work will create discussion between the human computer interaction and robotics communities that could be of benefit to one another other,” said Dr Anne Roudaut, Lecturer from the University’s Department of Computer Science and co-leader of the BIG (Bristol Interaction Group).

The Bristol Interaction Group (BIG), based in the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, is united by a common interest in creative interdisciplinarity. BIG acts as a hub for collaboration between social scientists, artists, scientists and engineers to combine efficient, aesthetic and innovative design. The group is particularly interested in areas which couple the design of devices with deployment and evaluation in public settings. Members of the group have expertise in research areas spanning human-computer interaction, visual, auditory and haptic perception, visualisation and sonification, touch and gestural input, tangible interfaces, augmented and virtual reality, wearable and on-body computing, sustainable interaction design, digital engagement, interactive fabrication as well as flexible and actuated devices.

Afero raises $20m for Bluetooth IoT roll out

By Nick Flaherty

Bluetooth module designer Afero has raised over $20m from Samsung to accelerate the development of IoT applications both in and outside the home.
With this first major investment, Afero is promoting the use of the technology in areas where wifi is not available, which avoids competition with Samsung IoT subsidiary Smart Things.

The investment is led by Samsung Catalyst Fund. The round is also joined by the SoftBank Group, Fenox Venture Capital, Presidio Ventures, Sanshin Electronics Co. Ltd., Robert Dobkin, and Assembly Partners. The modules are being made by Murata.

“Our technology helps companies rapidly create and deploy connected products by automating the core embedded, mobile, and cloud development tasks,” said Joe Britt, CEO and co-founder of Afero. “Afero was designed to speed and simplify product development, whether companies choose to modernize a legacy product or create something entirely new.”

To connect back to the cloud-based management software, Afero needs a gateway, which can be a smartphone with the Afero app or a dedicated gateway with 4G cellular, making this an M2M sell for the enterprise.

Afero sees a number of obstacles stifling the widespread adoption of IoT, so the platform is built to power both the home and the enterprise IoT market, which is predicted to reach $3 trillion by 2021, more than thee times the size of the consumer IoT market. For greenfield and brownfield developments, Afero  allows the modules to be easily added to existing systems
The Afero platform also has layers of security embedded throughout the platform, from application services on your phone to network access control services with built-in authentication to the cloud and back. It also seamlessly connects walled gardens by intelligently assembling all your smart devices, regardless of brand, so they can work together through the secure Afero end-to-end architecture.

Created by veterans from Apple, Amazon, Danger, and Nest, Afero unlocks smart capabilities for any product in virtually any industry. After 18 months in development, Afero went live in December 2015 and announced partnerships with industry leaders Murata, Infocom, and BANDAI NAMCO Studios. Afero serves as the secure foundation for these partners and others to drive IoT innovation and reimagine industries like automotive, retail, manufacturing, consumer electronics, gaming, healthcare, office supply, and more.

“Afero has built an elegant end-to-end platform solution that solves a real problem for companies struggling to set-up, deploy and manage IoT at scale,” said Shankar Chandran, vice president and head of Samsung Catalyst Fund, Samsung Electronics. “This investment amplifies our strategy of open innovation and collaboration which fuels innovative startups and enables them to bring their visions to market more effectively.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Real innovation is needed for Big Data to boost jobs

English: Imperial College, London SW7 Looking ...
 Looking across Exhibition Road towards Imperial College London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Nick Flaherty

Phenomenal quantities of valuable data are now being collected and created by UK businesses but we are really rubbish at using and sharing it, says a new report from researchers at Imperial College London.

This is mostly down to the fear of data leaks and of losing control, which leads to companies hoarding data rather than sharing or trading it openly and transparently or turning it into profitable information-based products and services as 'big data'
Over the last two years the researchers worked closely with organisations such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Ofcom, IBM and the BBC and found that, on average, data-based capital contributed just 0.015 per cent to UK GDP each year over the period studied by the team, even though investment in data-based assets in the UK reached US$7 billion in 2013 -- which equates to around 40 per cent of the amount invested in R&D.
Turning data into a widely traded, growth-boosting commodity similar to oil, for example, would require a clearer regulatory framework and low-cost trading mechanisms enabling data to be exchanged in vibrant digital market-places without sensitive information about its originators being revealed.
"The world is increasingly awash with data and the key objective must be to ensure that it can be turned into growth, prosperity and jobs. Currently, however, data is still at the very early stages of commercialisation. It can't really be legally owned and that makes companies very protective and secretive where their data assets are concerned. Moreover, even anonymised data can be collated to reveal sensitive information about the organisations where it originates," said Professor Aija Leiponen, Associate Professor at Imperial College Business School who led the work.
"What's needed is the development of new trading technologies -- technologies like the emerging 'blockchains' that incorporate protection against tampering or unauthorised use and could potentially enable anonymous trading of relatively high-value data assets. Alternatively, data assets can be commercialised as part of other digital products and services, though this can require significant R&D. However, data is unlikely ever to become formal intellectual property in the same way as patented inventions or copyrighted content are.

IoT brings new players into the end-to-end delivery

By Nick Flaherty

The move to the Internet of Things is bringing new players into the embedded market to deliver end-to-end solutions.
While M2M companies such as SIGFOX have been building their own cloud-based end-to-end solutions and then partnering with companies such as Microsoft to get scale, so enterprise and government software vendors are looking for the M2M network hardware and software capability. 
As a result, Telit has teamed up with a US company called DM Inc to deliver end-to-end Internet of Things solutions for the enterprise. The companies are aiming to make connecting ‘things to apps’ effortless, resulting in a data-driven customer experience that enables cost reduction, improved compliance, personalisation and new revenue opportunities.
The collaboration with DMI has resulted in the Cloud-based Telit IoT Portal, providing customers an intuitive single point of access for integrating data from remote assets with their enterprise systems, databases and Web-based mobile apps and dashboards. This combines their expertise in monitoring and control, industrial automation, asset tracking, field service operations and predictive maintenance to bring actionable business intelligence. 
DMI started out in 2005 as an e-government software supplier, but it has been moving into apps and IoT over the last few years. 
The slightly strange this is that this is market independent - this information will be available to organizations across virtually all industries and market segments around the world, but this is consistent with DMI's claim to be the world’s first end-to-end mobility company, combining all the skills and services necessary to deliver mobile enterprise solutions through mobility, with expertise in mobile strategy, UX, web and app development, channel commerce, brand and marketing, big data management and analytics, and secure mobile device, app and data management..
For example, Tennant, a supplier of cleaning equipment, has implemented the integrated solution to extract real-time performance data from remote machines to generate actionable insights using big data analytics. Industrial customers and cleaning contractors can now review when and where facilities are cleaned, determine where machines are physically located, track consumable levels / order replacements and perform preventative maintenance on a single unit or an entire fleet worldwide.
“Telit works closely with an ever-expanding network of recognized experts and innovators from the M2M/IoT community and we are excited about our global collaboration with DMI to provide customized apps that help organizations gain actionable intelligence from the thousands of IoT devices connecting to their corporate networks,” said Fred Yentz, CEO of Telit IoT Platforms.
“As the Internet of Things continues its exponential growth around the world, enterprises are challenged to produce tangible business results through the connection of IT systems and M2M-enabled devices," said Sunny Bajaj, founder and CEO of DMI. "This collaboration makes it easy for enterprises, large and small, to realize the benefits of the Internet of Things by reducing cost, time-to-market, complexity and risk versus trying to engineer a fragmented, in-house solution,” he said.

ST teams with Arduino for IoT applications

By Nick Flaherty

Marking a distinct move into more professional use, STMicroelectronics has teamed up with Arduino to develop boards with a range of microcontrollers and sensors for IoT applications.

Arduino has been popular with hobbyists, but the first product of the STAR (ST and Arduino) program, the STM32F469-based STAR Otto baseboard, means IoT developers and other makers can build high-performance graphics into their smart devices using accessible hardware and software to improve their applications with easy-to-use touch displays and audio for command and control as well as for media-streaming.

The STM32F469 MCU is based around a 180MHz ARM Cortex-M4 core alongside ST’s Chrom-ART graphics accelerator and MIPI DSI display interface along with an open-source software graphics library. The board also provides a pre-integrated wireless link and audio capabilities, enabled by an ST MEMS microphone together with the necessary open-source drivers. This efficient and optimized approach lets makers focus on their value-add and makes integration a breeze while enabling a broad range of Smart Home and Smart Industry applications.

In addition to the STAR Otto microcontroller baseboard, the cooperation aims to deliver a range of Arduino shields that expand the functional possibilities. DSI-display and NFC-reader shields are planned for Q2 2016 and a Sensor shield is scheduled to be available in H2 2016. Moreover, several STM32 Nucleo expansion boards and software libraries, including those for environmental sensors and proximity detection, have already been ported to the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and can seamlessly be used with the new STAR Otto baseboard.

“By adding ST’s broad family of industry-leading STM32 ARM Cortex-M-based microcontrollers to the Arduino universe along with a broad array of ST sensors and other components, makers will have at their fingertips the ability to design, build, and manufacture just about anything,” said Daniel Colonna, Marketing Director, Microcontroller Division, STMicroelectronics. “Because of the tremendous enthusiasm within the maker community for Smart Home and Smart Industry applications, we’re supporting those development efforts with our audio- and graphics-friendly STM32F469 MCU and other exciting products from ST broad portfolio.”

Arduino  is the world’s leading open-source software and hardware ecosystem. The Company offers IoT developers and Makers of all ages the ability to build smart, connected and interactive devices using affordable technologies. 

“Arduino has grown by encouraging kids – from 10 to 100 years old – to learn electronics and programming to make projects by building on the learnings of others and now we’re excited to add the STM32 family into the Maker community, to broaden learning with new features such as audio input/output and touchscreen display control,” said Federico Musto, CEO & President of Arduino in Italy. “We fully expect commercial IoT companies to also use these new features to easily design new smart home devices and applications, or improve products that drive industrial automation and control.”

MicroEJ brings its OS and IoT app store to Kinetis microcontrollers

By Nick Flaherty

MicroEJ has shown its latest hybrid C and Kava  operating system (OS) for developing IoT applications using NXP's ARM Cortex-M powered Kinetis microcontrollers.
The MicroEJ OS offers a multi-language programming environment to developers who can use the C language for writing low-level hardware-dependent software and the Java language for high-level hardware-independent software. MicroEJ OS offers a full set of libraries for wired and wireless connectivity, Internet Protocol IP-based networking, security, data storage, graphical user interfaces, and software components management based on the Kinetis Software Development Kit (SDK) that enables developers of IoT and wearable devices to deliver functionality comparable to mobile devices while benefiting from the optimal cost/low-power performance of Kinetis K Series Cortex-M4-based MCUs.
The OS can provide IoT-ready building blocks based on standard protocols such as HTTPS REST, CoAP, MQTT or LWM2M for enabling interoperability with IoT cloud platforms for data streaming and device management and offers the capability for extending device functionality in the field and managing software content with more flexibility than over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates as software apps can be dynamically installed and uninstalled on the run. 
There is also an app store for MicroEJ solutions where apps can be published by developers and downloaded by devices – as with mobile devices.
“MicroEJ and Kinetis solutions offer the ideal hardware/software combination to developers of connected, interactive, and wearable devices,” said Emmanuel Sambuis, NXP Executive Director, MCU & Connectivity Products. “With MicroEJ, the world-largest community of software developers can now benefit from Kinetis MCUs’ optimized performance, scalable integration and low-power capabilities to develop better and more secure IoT devices with reduced risks, time and costs.”
The company has shown the OS running on NXP’s TWR-K65F180M Kinetis K65 MCU Tower System Module for Kinetis K65 MCU. MicroEJ OS can also supports the full family of Kinetis MCU Series based on ARM Cortex-M0+/M4/M7 MCUs.
Not a well known name yet in the industry, MicroEJ has  more than $20M of R&D investment and is focused on turnkey software products to enable application-driven uses and services in the IoT.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ARM moves higher up the stack with Apical acquisition

By Nick Flaherty

ARM is continuing to move up the embedded technology stack with the acquisition of UK computer vision algorithm specialist Apical for $350m. The cash deal accelerates the ARM ecosystem’s growth into new markets such as connected vehicles, robotics, smart cities, security systems, industrial/retail applications and Internet of Things devices

The embedded computer vision technology will allow next generation devices to understand and act intelligently on information from their environment. The technology is embedded in more than 1.5 billion smartphones and approximately 300 million other consumer/industrial devices including IP cameras, digital stills cameras and tablets. The acquisition allows the Apical technology to be more closely coupled with ARM's DSP and processor technology. 

The deal supports ARM’s long term growth strategy by enabling new imaging products for next generation vehicles, security systems, robotics, mobile and any consumer, smart building, industrial or retail application where intelligent image processing is needed. Apical’s technology will complement the ARM Mali graphics, display and video processor roadmap with:

Spirit power-efficient computer vision technology gives ARM and its partners the ability to address opportunities anywhere that advanced image computing can deliver innovation. It comprises dedicated silicon IP blocks that deliver an on-chip computer vision capability by converting raw sensor data or video into a machine-readable representation of an image.

Assertive Display enables screens to adapt to changes in light by overcoming brightness limitations while reducing power consumption.

Assertive Camera can be configured as a range of image signal processors (ISPs) and software packages for  high dynamic range, noise reduction and colour management.

“Computer vision is in the early stages of development and the world of devices powered by this exciting technology can only grow from here,” said Simon Segars, CEO, ARM. “Apical is at the forefront of embedded computer vision technology, building on its leadership in imaging products that already enable intelligent devices to deliver amazing new user experiences. The ARM partnership is solving the technical challenges of next generation products such as driverless cars and sophisticated security systems. These solutions rely on the creation of dedicated image computing solutions and Apical’s technologies will play a crucial role in their delivery.”

Apical, based in Loughborough UK, was founded in 2002 and employs approximately 100 people, mainly in research and development. “Apical has led the way with new imaging technologies based on extensive research into human vision and visual processing,” said Michael Tusch, CEO and founder, Apical. “The products developed by Apical already enable cameras to understand their environment and to act on the most relevant information by employing intelligent processing. These technologies will advance as part of ARM, driving value for its partners as they push deeper into markets where visual computing will deliver a transformation in device capabilities and the way humans interact with machines.”

For more information on Apical:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bristol named as UK's leading smart city outside London

 By Nick Flaherty

A report by Huawei identifies Bristol as one of the world's leading smart cities. The city is the highest performer in four out of 10 evaluation criteria: digital innovation, stakeholder engagement, projects implementation and delivery of digital strategy.

More at Bristol named as UK's leading smart city outside London - SW Innovation News:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

IoT startup 1048 pivots to DevicePilot

By Nick Flaherty

DevicePilot, formerly startup, has  raised £600,000 from Angel backers for an IoT device management service.

I'd struggled with in the past, both with the name and getting a handle on what they were actually planning to do. It raised £250,000 back in 2014, which seemed to be for the development of a device database called Geras. It also offered consultancy services to build scalable IoT platforms for customers around that technology. With Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure now offering these services, it makes sense to pivot.  

“Since starting the company we’ve delivered IoT technology with some great partners,” said DevicePilot CEO Pilgrim Beart. “For example, our HyperWeave universal IoT gateway for ARM and our leading role in the development of the IoT Hypercat standard. But as we engaged with more and more connected-product companies across many different verticals it became clear to us that they all suffer from the same problem as they scale – managing their devices.

It is developing universal software for locating, monitoring and managing connected devices at scale. DevicePilot is completely agnostic, allowing the user to connect any device across any platform, with simple and easy integration.

DevicePilot is now in alpha stage with a range of customers, both big and small, to help them to manage their growing device estate. DevicePilot Asset Management provides information on what devices have been deployed in the field, who has them, where are they and what software are they running, for example. It will also monitor how many devices are actually working and use a triage process to discover any problems, while the Lifecycle Management functionality pro-actively configures and updates devices from deployment to end-of-life.
We ended-up being significantly over-subscribed for this round, which is testament to the strength of the team, the product focus and the exciting growth of the IoT market,” said Chairman Rob Dobson. CEO Beart and Chairman Dobsonhave each previously achieved $100m exits from new tech businesses and have a wealth of experience in scaling-up connected devices.
Angel investors aren't usually flagged up individually, so the fact that the company has done so is interesting as it tries to convince the market of the expertise behind it: 

The University of Cambridge owns a 1% “Gift Share” in recognition of Pilgrim Beart’s time as a Visiting Fellow at the University’s Computer Lab. 


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