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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Researchers create invisibility cloak for the terahertz band

'Shielding' for security and communications

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Northwestern University in the US have created a new kind of cloaking material that can render objects invisible in the terahertz range. Although the design can't translate into an invisibility cloak for the visible spectrum, it could have implications in diagnostics, security, and communication networks.
The cloak, designed by Cheng Sun, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, uses microfabricated gradient-index materials to manipulate the reflection and refraction of light. Sun's results will be presented next week at CLEO: 2011, the annual Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics.
Humans generally recognize objects through two features: their shape and colour. To render an object invisible, one must be able to manipulate light so that it will neither scatter at an object's surface nor be absorbed or reflected by it (the process which gives objects colour).
In order to manipulate light in the terahertz frequency, which lies between infrared and microwaves, Sun and his group developed metamaterials: materials that are designed at the atomic level. Sun's tiny, prism-shaped cloaking structure, less than 10 millimeters long, was created using a technique called electronic transfer microstereolithography, where researchers use a data projector to project an image on a liquid polymer, then use light to transform the liquid layer into a thin solid layer. Each of the prism's 220 layers has tiny holes that are much smaller than terahertz wavelengths, which means they can vary the refraction index of the light and render invisible anything located beneath a bump on the prism's bottom surface; the light then appears to be reflected by a flat surface.
Sun says the purpose of the cloak is not to hide items but to get a better understanding of how to design materials that can manipulate light propagation. "This demonstrates that we have the freedom to design materials that can change the refraction index," he said. "By doing this we can manipulate light propagation much more effectively."
The terahertz range has been historically ignored because the frequency is too high for electronics. But many organic compounds have a resonant frequency at the terahertz level, which means they could potentially be identified using a terahertz scanner. Sun's research into terahertz optics could have implications in biomedical research (safer detection of certain kinds of cancers) and security (using terahertz scanners at airports).
Next Sun hopes to use what he's learned through the cloak to create its opposite: a terahertz lens. He has no immediate plans to extend his invisibility cloak to visible frequencies. "That is still far away," he said. "We're focusing on one frequency range, and such a cloak would have to work across the entire spectrum."
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Accent Introduces First Transceiver For 802.15.4 Smart Grid Standard

Provides 800Kbit/s for 902-928 MHz and 863-870 MHz bands (US and Europe)

By Nick Flaherty

Italian design house Accent has developed the first transceiver to support both mandatory and optional specifications for the IEEE 802.15 TG4g standard for Smart Utility Networks
The group’s charter is to create a global standard for a PHY amendment to 802.15.4 targeting applications such as smart-grid networks to replace the proprietary RF mesh networks that are currently the dominant technology of choice for Smart Grid deployments in North America, primarily based on FSK technology. The new 802.15.4g standard will enable interoperability among Smart Grid devices, such as smart meters, and more advanced performance capabilities. In addition to defining a common mandatory FSK mode, 802.15.4g currently specifies optional OFDM and MR-OQPSK modulation formats. The task group reflects overwhelming industry support with members from leading utility, equipment, and silicon companies.
The RF transceiver, based on a Zero-IF architecture, is designed specifically to exceed requirements of 802.15.4g across mandatory and optional modulation schemes, including high performance data rates up to 800 kbps and input sensitivities up to -118 dBm. The software reconfigurable receiver has high dynamic range and guarantees better than 30dB SNR on wide range of input levels. Finally, the transceiver features unparalleled integration reducing BOM and external component part count.
“The importance and positive societal benefits of Smart Grid deployments is recognized worldwide, with many countries implementing stimulus and deployment targets to accelerate adoption,” said Federico Arcelli, CEO of Accent. “With the introduction of the 802.15.4g transceiver, Accent continues its track record of enabling Smart Grid equipment vendors with leading technologies in a flexible platform to meet their evolving product needs.”
The transceiver is now sampling with lead customers and is available as a technology option for Accent’s ASMgrid Platform.
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Driving the smart grid boom with M2M

Machine-to-machine (M2M) will make or break the sector

By Nick Flaherty

With 1.3 billion smart meters worldwide by 2020, it is the applications layer of the M2M supply-chain which can make or break smart-grid implementations for utility-sector companies, says Analysys Mason.

It forecasts 1.3 billion residential and commercial smart meter connections by 2020 with a CAGR of 56% over a 10-year period, according to a recent forecast. This high level of growth happens primarily in the developed world economies from 2010–15, but by 2016 it expects very high levels of growth in the emerging world, especially in the Asia–Pacific region.

Utility/energy-sector M2M device connections worldwide, 2010–20 [Source: Analysys Mason, 2011]

Utilities must do three things to be successful in the smart-grid space, says the research. First, they must prioritise deployment of the top cost-reduction and revenue-enhancing applications associated with the smart grid. The complementary aspects of cost reduction and revenue enhancement promise utilities a multitude of new opportunities. But choosing too many applications or deploying them in a haphazard fashion will reduce the effectiveness of these new programmes.
Second, they must work with a system integrator (SI) or communication service provider (CSP) that can provide a pre-integrated or pre-tested solution. SIs or CSPs need to offer solutions that include equipment, communications, a hardware/software platform and applications. Trying to piece together a solution from 5–7 vendors will prove financially painful and time-consuming.
Third, they must pick application vendors with a proven track record in actual deployments in their countries of interest. While M2M solutions are relatively new in the energy/utility sector, the company identifies some notable successes from Trilliant, eMeter, EnerNOC and others. And the experiences of application vendors matter a lot in this new field.
The roll-out of smart metering is the first step in smart-grid development and introduces the potential for utilities to start offering additional value-added services to residential and commercial customers. In the UK, for example, suppliers will be under licence obligations to complete the roll-out of smart metering to 25 million households, most likely by the end of the decade. A degree of flexibility is expected in the pattern of installations, with some utilities seeking to engage with local delivery partners to increase deployment efficiency, and others focusing on early adopters. The regulator Ofgem has suggested that suppliers’ discretionary installation rate could peak at an annual 17% meter replacement rate during the middle of the decade 2010–20.
Is the applications layer of the M2M supply chain which can make or break smart-grid solutions and a utility’s ability to meet its cost-reduction or revenue-generating goals. The top applications include pre-paid metering, home energy management, residential or commercial security, smart metering, storage management and demand response programmes. However, identifying the field of vendors for each of these six applications is no trivial task. Providers include Eschelon, OPower, Tendril, Eragy, Alertme, eMeter, Trilliant, Current Energy, EnerNoc and many others. Top application providers for smart-grid solutions will have exponential growth for their services. Making sure they have the proper supply-chain partnerships is key in quickly bringing to market cost-effective, value-enhancing solutions.
Research and consulting from Analysys Mason and Cornwall Energy delve deeply into the utility-sector supply chain, regulatory and policy issues, business planning, and technology feasibility of smart-grid implementations. Future research highlights the top application vendors in the M2M smart-grid space.
For more information, please contact Steve Hilton, Principal Analyst,
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TI launches free software for microcontrollers

Free Grace software platform that generates C code and eliminates manual peripheral configuration for 16bit chips

By Nick Flaherty

Texas Instruments has launched a free visual plug-in that enables developers to easily enable and configure ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontroller peripherals through a graphical user interface (GUI). With the Grace software, developers can interact with buttons, pull-down menus and helpful pop-ups to generate easy-to-understand C code that automatically configures the low-level register settings of analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs), operational amplifiers (op amps), timers, serial communication modules, clocks and other peripherals. 
By simplifying the peripheral configuration process, Grace software enables developers to focus on their differentiated application layer and user experience, removing barriers to microcontroller development and quickening time to market.
As a free Code Composer Studio IDE plug-in, Grace software seamlessly integrates into the MSP430 microcontroller tool chain and development process, compatible with all MSP430G2xx (Value Line) and MSP430F2xx devices, most eZ430 modules and the LaunchPad development kit. Open source tutorials and project examples are also included. Additionally, Grace software technology is scalable, with the potential to support other TI embedded processing solutions.

Key features:
  • Free plug-in for Code Composer Studio IDE, which provides an intuitive graphical environment for enabling and configuring MSP430 peripherals.
  • Helpful tool tips and pop-ups based on MSP430 datasheets and user guides provide a rapid understanding of the various peripherals and configuration options
  • Generates easy-to-understand C code and minimizes configuration conflicts or collisions between multiple peripherals to further quicken time to market
  • Compatible with LaunchPad, eZ430-F2013 and eZ430-RF2500 development tools to offer a completely user-friendly development environment for first-time microcontroller users
  • Grace provides a Basic, Power User, and Register-level view offering different levels of abstraction for setting up peripherals
The Grace software platform is available today for free download at
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Toshiba launches 19nm process NAND flash memory for 128Gbytes in a single package

By Nick Flaherty 

Despite production problems in the wake of the Japan earthquake and power shortages, Toshiba Electronics Europe has made NAND flash memories with 19nm process technology, the finest level yet achieved. This latest technology advance has already been applied to 2-bit-per-cell 64-gigabit (Gb) and Toshiba says it will also add 3-bit-per-cell products fabricated with the 19nm process technology to its product line-up. This will make solid state disk drives significantly more cost effective.
Samples of 2-bit-per-cell 64-gigabit will be available from the end of this month with mass production scheduled for the third quarter of the year (July to September 2011).
The 19nm process technology will further shrink chip size, allowing Toshiba to assemble sixteen 64Gbit NAND flash memory chips in one package and to deliver 128GB devices for application in smartphones and tablet PCs. The 19nm process products are also equipped with Toggle DDR2.0, which enhances data transfer speed.
As the market for mobile equipment, such as smartphones, tablet PCs, and SSDs (solid state drives) expands, demand for smaller, higher density memory products grows. By accelerating process migration in NAND flash memory, Toshiba aims to reinforce and extend its leadership in the NAND flash memory market.

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New line of shielded wallets to protect RFID and NFC credit cards from skimming

Faraday caged apparel to protect credit cards

By Nick Flaherty

DIFRwear in the US has launched the first line of wallets, ID badge holders, and passport cases specially designed to protect sensitive information now found on many major credit cards and other forms of identification. These chips often contain private financial and other personal information that can be easily swiped without any person-to-person contact – also known as "card skimming." Resound will target the mainstream media to raise awareness about how the DIFRwear line of wallets can help consumers maintain privacy and ensure security, wherever they go.
RFID and NFC (near field connunications) add convenience by making it easy to remotely and wirelessly transmit information from credit cards, passports, and more. Yet it has also opened the door to more unauthorized data snooping, credit card skimming, and identity theft than ever before – especially for people who are constantly on-the-go. With summertime travel rapidly approaching, many consumers are paying high prices for credit protection, or choosing to leave certain cards at home. Now, they can just put their items in a DIFRwear wallet or passport case, and rest assured that the lining's built-in blocking shield will prevent hacking attempts – from the most rudimentary to the most sophisticated.
"As credit cards become 'smart cards' thanks to RFID technology, the wallets we carry them in need to be even smarter – making sure there's no chance of anyone stealing critical personal information," said Kevin McLaughlin, Principal and Co-Founder of Resound Marketing which is promoting the range. "We think consumers will be excited – and relieved – to know that there's a proven and trusted line of products out there that will keep that information safe, whether they're traveling across the country or around the corner."

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Develop your own NFC 'smart' poster

By Nick Flaherty

The NFC Forum has published a White Paper about developing and deploying NFC Smart Posters, aimed at helping both business and surprisingly consumers, develop their own. 
NFC Smart Posters are objects in or on which readable NFC tags have been placed. Smart Posters use reader/writer mode, one of the three modes of NFC; the other two modes are Peer-to-Peer and Card Emulation. An NFC Smart Poster can come in many forms – it can be a poster, billboard, magazine page, even a three-dimensional object. Information on each NFC tag is read when an NFC device is held close to it. Smart Poster examples include a poster with a web address for buying concert tickets, a museum exhibit sign with in-depth information, a restaurant menu for quick ordering of daily specials, and an in-store display offering special savings to shoppers; many more are described in the paper.
The process for creating Smart Posters is simple enough that consumers can make their own for household use and the White Paper offers helpful information to guide them in this activity says the NFC Forum.
The paper - How to use NFC tags and readers to create interactive experiences that benefit both consumers and businesses - aims to encourage businesses and consumers to implement and use NFC Smart Posters with an easy guide to understanding what an NFC Smart Poster is, what is required to develop NFC Smart Posters, and how to avoid common obstacles when creating them. Through use cases, the paper highlights ways in which NFC Smart Posters are already in use around the world, benefiting industry and consumers alike.
NFC Smart Posters can be of value to retailers, transport agencies, financial services companies, museums, health care providers – any entity with information to share. NFC Smart Posters can deliver a wide range of business benefits, such as cost advantages over other means of communication, relative ease of implementation, and automated interactive communications with target audiences. NFC Smart Posters can also provide an immediately useful call to action on advertisements. 
The NFC Smart Poster White Paper is one of a series produced by NFC Forum members to educate the public and the industry about various aspects of using NFC technology and is available for download at no charge from Appendices include Frequently Asked Questions, a Glossary, and a selection of other available resources.
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Almost 28% of Total Consumer Smartphones Will Be NFC-Enabled In 2015

By Nick Flaherty

A new report available from Research and Markets in Dublin sees NFC making headway in consumer smartphones, with penetration of 28% in the next four years.

After its initial launch in 2010, NFC-enabled smartphones will contribute to 28 percent of total smartphone sales to end users (250 million units) by 2015, "Mobile handsets that are NFC-capable will see skyrocketing sales in 2011 and 2012," says Stela Bokun, Mobile Devices Practice Leader at Pyramid. "These sales will be driven by the overwhelming supply of NFC-enabled smartphones that will hit the market in the next two years, as well as service providers' 'push' marketing strategies across the globe," she indicates.
As the NFC ecosystem rapidly evolves, there will be an abundant supply of other NFC devices, in addition to NFC-enabled handsets. "To trigger sales, equipment vendors will have to convince their users (mostly retailers) that the benefit from NFC-based services will outweigh the cost of investment," says Bokun.
"Over the next five years, as high-impact partnerships and profitable business models emerge, NFC-based services will become ubiquitous, consistent and secure," Bokun says. "That will ultimately create sustainable demand for NFC-enabled devices, including handsets. The current abundance of business models will eventually yield a healthy NFC ecosystem, despite the initial hiccups," she notes.
The majority of demand for NFC-enabled devices will come from Asia/Pacific, Western Europe and North America. "89 percent of the total NFC-enabled handset unit sell-through will come from these three regions in 2015," indicates Bokun. The high quality and convenience of the new NFC-based services, and the emergence of a healthy NFC ecosystem, will stimulate sustainable long-term demand for NFC-enabled handsets.
To get ahead of the game, mobile operators should create partnerships with credit cards and banks immediately. "Their solutions will be the most wanted at the outset," says Bokun. Followed by aggressive campaigns convincing end users that they stand to benefit from NFC-enabled services, without end-user buy-in, all efforts will be in vain.

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Top 20 fabless chip companies of 2010

US Companies Held 13 of the Top 20 Fabless Spots in 2010

By Nick Flaherty

Combined, the top 20 fabless IC suppliers represented 77% of the $59.9 billion in fabless IC sales last year, down two points from 2009 but up two points from 2008 according to Bill McClean of ICinsights.
He points out that 2010 was the first year on record that total fabless IC company sales did not outperform total IC market growth (a 27% increase for fabless IC companies versus a total IC industry growth rate of 31%). Relatively poor performances by Qualcomm, MediaTek, Nvidia, LSI Corp., ST-Ericsson, Realtek, and Himax were to blame as these seven “poor performers” increased their 2010 IC sales by only 8%, dismal results compared to total IC market growth of 31%.
Overall, 13 fabless IC companies had over $1.0 billion in IC sales in 2010. In contrast to the seven “poor performing” fabless companies, the “Magnificent Seven” fabless IC suppliers. These sales-growth ranking includes fabless IC suppliers that had over $1.0 billion in sales in 2010 and outgrew the total IC industry increase of 31%. It is interesting to see MStar catching up with Mediatek and Broadcom gunning for Qualcomm.

These seven high-growth billion-dollar fabless companies, in total, registered a strong 47% increase in IC sales last year. Moreover, they accounted for 45% of the total increase in fabless IC sales in 2010 ($5.7 billion out of $12.6 billion)! With only seven fabless companies out of just over 100 major fabless IC
suppliers (i.e., companies with greater than $10 million in sales) representing such a large share of last
year’s fabless IC sales increase, these companies are the prime targets for the IC foundries (e.g., TSMC, GlobalFoundries, UMC, Samsung, etc.).

IC Insights’ April Update to The McClean Report (to be released later this month) is dedicated to IC company rankings and includes the top 50 semiconductor, IC, and fabless IC suppliers. Moreover, the top company rankings of MPU, MCU, foundry, flash memory, DRAM, analog, etc., suppliers are also provided in the April Update.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

173m Wi-Fi Direct Devices to Ship in 2011

Turn WiFi devices into access pointsBy Nick Flaherty

Although it is currently on the market in small numbers, Wi-Fi Direct is expected to have a break out year in 2011 says market research In-Stat. The number of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled devices shipped will reach 173 million, led by desktop PCs, digital TVs, mobile phones, and notebook PCs. Wi-Fi Direct creates a much more powerful Wi-Fi solution, as it enables the premier wireless networking standard to add peer-to-peer capability, with no need for a Wi-Fi access point. This creates a much more compelling standard, a type of one-stop-shop for wireless connectivity, and brings Wi-Fi into competition with specifications such as Bluetooth. And because Wi-Fi Direct is software based, the marginal cost of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled silicon over basic Wi-Fi silicon is negligible.
"Wi-Fi Direct enjoys wide backing from Wi-Fi silicon vendors," says Brian O'Rourke, Research Director. "Companies such as Atheros, Broadcom, CSR, Intel, Marvell, Qualcomm, Ralink, and Realtek all have plans for widespread release of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled silicon. In fact, many of these companies received Wi-Fi Direct certification for at least one chip solution in the fourth quarter of 2010, shortly after the specification was released by the Wi-Fi Alliance in October. Ultimately though, the key to Wi-Fi Direct’s success will lie in the application programming interface (APIs) software that is developed to make Wi-Fi Direct useful to the consumer.”
Recent research by In-Stat found:
  • Every PC, CE device, and mobile phone that ships in 2014 with Wi-Fi silicon will be Wi-Fi Direct-enabled.
  • The Wi-Fi Direct-enabled device shipment compounded annual growth rate will be 79% between 2011 and 2015.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conexant goes private

Acquisition by Golden Gate Completed
By Nick Flaherty

One of the world's classic embedded chip suppliers, Conexant Systems, has been sold to private equity just like NXP and Freescale Semiconductors. In a deal that saw the company sold in the face of an earlier competing offer by SMSC,  it is now 'merged' into a new venture, Gold Acquisition Corp, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gold Holdings. Gold is an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm headquartered in San Francisco, and as a privately held company, Conexant will no longer trade on the NASDAQ Global Market exchange.

After several years of downsizing (Mindspeed and Jazz Semioconductor are Conexant spinoffs and it sold off land next to its headquarters in Caifornia) the company's portfolio of embedded chips includes products for imaging, audio, embedded modem, and video surveillance applications.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

LDRA and TASKING Integration drives code re-use in automotive, control and avionics

Integrated tools to certify small-footprint controllers
By Nick Flaherty

Liverpool-based embedded code verification tool developer LDRA has linked its tool suite with Altium's TASKING VX-toolset for the Infineon C166 controller. This brings compliance to safety standards such as MISRA, IEC 61508, and DO-178B to small-footprint microcontrollers like Infineon’s C166 family
The combined solution maximises code reuse and process compliance for safety- and mission-critical software across automotive, industrial and avionics markets which has previously been a significant issue.
With the increased call for compliance to safety standards, development teams need integrated solutions that ease the challenge of proving compliance through all stages of the development lifecycle from requirements through coding, test and verification. LDRA provides standard compliance across all stages of the lifecycle, whether for automotive with MISRA and ISO 26262, industrial with IEC 61508 or avionics/military with DO-178B. With an Eclipse-based framework, the LDRA-TASKING integration covers the whole C166 family and its derivatives.
The integration between the TASKING compiler and the LDRA tool suite avoids tedious configuration challenges and enables developers to easily apply LDRA’s analysis and testing capabilities from within TASKING’s IDE. With a simple right click in TASKING’s IDE, developers can directly invoke LDRA analysis phases, gaining access to static analysis violations and code coverage, or quickly generate test cases, executing code on the target or TASKING simulator. With complete integration, all LDRA tool suite capabilities—from analysis to verification—can aid the TASKING developer in achieving certification compliance.
“Today’s customer is increasingly asked to certify applications that deliver more functionality within a shorter development cycle,” noted Harm-Andre Verhoef, Product Manager at Altium BV. “Automated software testing tools like those of LDRA deliver standard compliance and scalable solutions that test the applications on the target microcontroller no matter how small the footprint. Such capabilities ensure that automotive giants such as Daimler or industrial players like Siemens can meet their time-to-market goals within budget constraints.”
Code reuse has become a fundamental way to cut development costs in today’s tight economy,” said Ian Hennell, LDRA’s Operations Director. “Thanks to this integration, application developers using TASKING’s
toolset can port code between standards, platforms and markets while maintaining superior code quality
because of the scalability of the LDRA tool suite. This represents significant cost savings and superior ROI in
choosing this combined solution, whether for medical, automotive or industrial applications.”
The integration with LDRA’s eXtreme Testing, the tool suite’s automatic test case generator, removes the time-consuming, error-prone process of test generation for TASKING-based applications. LDRA has a different approach to unit testing which is typically performed on the host and/or target systems with automatic test case generation. Instead LDRA’s automated unit testing tool TBrun, eXtreme Testing automatically populates unit test cases to the point of generating the test cases themselves.
Such automatic test vector generation enables developers to quickly achieve the required levels of compliance for safety standards. Thanks to the extendable nature of the LDRA tool suite, compliance for one standard or platform can be scaled to another. Customers developing for the automotive market, for example, can therefore sell the same component solution into industrial or avionics environments, simply adding the verification tasks required for the new environment.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trends for the next decade

Frost & Sullivan Identifies Top Global Mega Trends and Launches Innovation Research Programme
By Nick Flaherty

Market researcher Frost & Sullivan believes it has identified the top Mega Trends that will influence and shape the world in the coming years and has launched a Visionary Innovation Research Programme. 
Ongoing research will cover a spectrum of interesting Mega Trends in the following areas: 
  • Development of Mega cities, regions and corridors, 
  • “Smart” emerging as the new Green, 
  • Geo Socialization, 
  • Innovating to Zero, 
  • Beyond BRIC: The Next Game Changers, 
  • Space Jam, 
  • Personal Robots, 
  • e-Mobility 
  • and New Business Models

The objective is to provide companies with special reports to focus on the evolution of these global trends to help them drive growth and innovation in a rapidly changing environment.
According to the analysis, sustainability was one of the major Mega Trends that shaped human, organisation and government behaviour in the last decade. The study forecasts health, wellness and well-being with a much wider definition than mere healthcare, which will include body, mind and soul as the most important factor of discussion and differentiation in this decade. It reveals that women empowerment will reach new heights, with one in three workers being a woman and up to 40 percent of boardrooms in some nations comprising women by 2020. The world will also witness reverse brain drain, wherein the vast vacancies for CXOs in countries like India will be filled not only by returning Indians, but also by Americans and Europeans seeking better prospects.
There will be many interesting Mega Trends to watch out for. First, future urbanization will drive integration of core city centres or downtowns with suburbs and satellite cities, resulting in expanding boundaries from the current average of 25 miles (40 km) to around 40 miles (64 km) with the emergence of 30 Mega-cities, 15 Mega-regions and at least 10 Mega-corridors with over 20 million people by 2020. Urbanization will lead to new hub and spoke business models for healthcare, logistics, retailing and many other functions, forcing organizations to re-think their ‘Urban’ business model.
Second, e-Mobility will redefine personal mobility. Over 40 million electric vehicles, including electric pedal cycles, scooters, four-wheelers and buses will be sold annually around the globe in 2020. The opportunity in the e-Mobility market is not in making cars but in its value chain, batteries (including second life and recycling), charging stations and packaging innovative mobility solutions such as ’pay by electrons.’
The next level of social networking will focus on geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging to enable additional social dynamics. User-submitted data with profiles and interests will be matched with location-based services to connect and co-ordinate with surrounding people or events. This type of geo-networking will drive markets, businesses and individuals to interact, advertise and promote in real time.
Another trend identified by Frost & Sullivan is Innovating to Zero. This trend examines a world of zero emissions, zero accidents, zero fatalities, zero defects, zero breaches of security and carbon-neutral factories.
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Infineon guns for Atmel's microcontrollers - updated

Files US Patent Infringement Lawsuit over AVR chips

By Nick Flaherty

Infineon Technologies has filed a patent lawsuit against Atmel in the US over microcontrollers and touchscreen controllers.
Infineon says it is seeking damages for infringement of eleven of its US patents covering Atmel's AVR, XMEGA, and maXTouch controllers and related products used in automotive, industrial, and touch screen applications.

On Wed 13th April, Atmel said it had not yet reviewed the complaint in detail but intended to vigorously defend the allegations.
Infineon asserts that Atmel is infringing 11 Infineon patents. It is also seeking a declaration that three Atmel patents are either invalid or not infringed. Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, Atmel says it and Infineon were engaged in discussions to determine whether a licensing relationship between the companies was desirable, including whether Infineon required a license from Atmel for patents that Atmel believes Infineon may be infringing. During those negotiations, Atmel concluded that its products did not infringe any of the Infineon patents under discussion or that those patents were, in fact, invalid. In its complaint, Infineon identified five additional patents that it alleges Atmel has infringed, none of which the company has yet fully reviewed.
"With the tremendous success we have had in the microcontroller market over the past several years, this type of suit does not come as a surprise. We believe these allegations are baseless, and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously. As part of this process, we will also now evaluate, more definitively, whether Infineon has infringed our intellectual property," said Scott Wornow, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.

The AVR family was originally based on an 8051 core developed at Nordic VLSI and launched in 1996 and so have been shipping for over 15 years, and Atmel has seen considerable success with its maXTouch touchscreen controllers. The 32bit variant, developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology was launched in 2006 and has been widely used in open source designs.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Silicon Line aims at optical DisplayPort with ultra low power chipset

Launches World’s Most Power Efficient 6Gbit/s VCSEL Driver and TIA Chipset

By Nick Flaherty

Fabless analogue chip designer Silicon Line in Munich has launched an ultra-low power 6Gbit/s VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) driver and TIA (transimpedance amplifier) CMOS chipset that only consumes a total of less than 14 mW at full line rate, aiming at new applications such as optical DisplayPort links.
“In the consumer market we see several key trends. One trend is the demand for ever higher data bandwidth as Full HD video and 3D become mainstream in EMI sensitive devices. Another trend is the demand for dramatically reduced power consumption, not only to increase battery life for portable devices but also for environmental reasons. Additionally, devices with slim form factor designs are highly popular and they place severe restrictions on the size and mechanical flexibility of the link used to transport the high-speed data”, says Ian Jackson, Senior Manager Sales and Marketing at Silicon Line. “An optical link which uses these chips - the SL82028 and SL82018 - enables all these key trends”, he added.
An example of an application where these trends can be seen is the DisplayPort / embedded DisplayPort technology used in notebooks, netbooks and tablets, as well as to connect external monitors to PC’s. The latest version of DisplayPort, version 1.2, operates at 5.4Gbit/s per lane. When used in notebooks, netbooks or tablets, minimum power consumption is required in order to extend battery life. The inputs of SL82028 and the outputs of SL82018 are DisplayPort compliant and using an optical link using these ICs eliminates any EMI concerns and enables slim form factor designs.
The SL82028 and SL82018 are aimed at a wide range of applications including DisplayPort optical cables, mobile / smart phones, as well as other mobile consumer products like tablets, digital still cameras, digital video cameras, notebooks and netbooks. They can also be used for automotive, industrial and medical applications.
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Gennum buys Nanotech Semi for $34m

From SiliconSouthWest - Bristol-based telecoms chip designer Nanotech Semiconductor has been bought by Gennum of Canada for $34 with a $6m earnout for staff.

MathWorks Introduces Automatic C Code Generation Directly from MATLAB Language

MATLAB Coder Eliminates Manual Recoding 
By Nick Flaherty

Design tool developer MathWorks has taken a key step forward im simplifying the development of embedded systems with MATLAB Coder - a tool that enables design engineers to automatically generate readable, portable C and C++ code directly from their MATLAB algorithms. 
This new tool eliminates the need to manually translate MATLAB algorithm code into C and C++ code for prototyping, implementation, and software integration. This automation results in a faster, more efficient system-development workflow with less bugs - vital for embedded systems.
The design of algorithm-intensive electronic and communications systems typically begins with MATLAB algorithms that eventually need to be converted into C code for integration into the final product. Manually converting from MATLAB to C can take from days to weeks, introduce design errors, and contribute to time-to-market delays. Now design engineers can use MATLAB to speed up development tasks, such as fixed-point design and prototyping, and then automatically generate C code with MATLAB Coder.
MATLAB Coder supports an extensive set of MATLAB language features for algorithm development, including built-in matrix math operators and dynamic array handling. Hundreds of operators, functions, and System objects are supported, including many advanced algorithms for DSP and communications.
Along with the introduction of MATLAB Coder, MathWorks released Simulink Coder and Embedded Coder. These two new products simplify code generation for Simulink and Stateflowusers by combining capabilities previously available in multiple MathWorks offerings. The new products incorporate the industry-proven Real-Time Workshop technology, and offer full code generation support for rapid prototyping, real-time testing, and production embedded system implementation with built-in links to embedded development environments.
“Automatic C code generation from Simulink has transformed embedded system development in many organizations for more than a decade,” said Ken Karnofsky, senior strategist at MathWorks. “Now, MATLAB Coder brings those productivity gains to engineers who use MATLAB to develop algorithms for electronic and embedded systems. With MATLAB Coder, Simulink Coder, and Embedded Coder, MathWorks offers a simple and more comprehensive code generation offering for all of its customers.”
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

TI CEO appeals to customers over Nat Semi deal

Commits to no requalification of parts or changes of part numbers
By Nick Flaherty

Rich Templeton, CEO of Texas Instruments, has written to customers about the impending takeover of National Semiconductor in a move that looks like an attempt to reassure some nervous embedded designers.

"This acquisition will allow us to address your analog needs with a product portfolio of unmatched breadth and depth," he said. "National's 12,000 products plus TI's 30,000 means more performance, power and packaging options when selecting the right ICs for your application. And we'll provide a common set of best-in-class online tools to make the selection and design process easier."

"Our combined sales and applications team of 2,500 will be larger than any in the industry so we can provide more customers with greater face-to-face support than ever before. Our manufacturing operations will offer more capacity to support your growth. TI's fabs and National's available capacity can enable higher production levels."

In a strong commitment that is important for the embedded market, he says that TI will continue to use the Nat Semi fabs and part numbers. "While both companies will operate independently pending the close, our goal thereafter is to make the integration process as seamless as possible. No requalification of products will be necessary since National's manufacturing sites will continue to be utilized. Part numbers from both companies will remain the same," he said. "There will be no obsolescence of products."

More on the acquisition is at, including answers to frequently asked questions and video messages from TI leaders regarding the acquisition.

TI buys National Semiconductor

Creates analogue and power management giant
By Nick Flaherty

Texas Instruments is to acquire National Semiconductor in a $6.5bn cash deal that demonstrates the continuing consolidation of chip providers for embedded systems. The deal, under which TI will acquire National for $25 per share in an all-cash transaction of about $6.5 billion, combines two industry leaders in analogue semiconductors, each with unique strengths in delivering products to improve performance and efficiency and convert real-world signals in electronic systems. The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the transaction.

“This acquisition is about strength and growth,” said Rich Templeton, TI’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “National has an excellent development team, and its products combined with our own can offer customers an analog portfolio of unmatched depth and breadth. In recent years, National’s management team has done an outstanding job of improving margins and streamlining expenses, which upon close will increase TI’s profitability and earnings per share, excluding transaction costs. Our ability to accelerate National’s growth with our much larger sales force is the foundation of our belief that we can produce strong returns on our investment. The combined sales team will be 10 times larger than National’s is today, and the portfolio will be exposed to more customers in more markets.”

“Our two companies complement each other very well,” said Don Macleod, National’s chief executive officer. “TI has much greater scale in the marketplace, with its larger portfolio of products and its large global sales force. This provides a platform to enhance National’s strong and highly profitable analog capability, power management in particular, leading to meaningful growth.”

Each company has unique strengths. Among them are the breadth of TI’s 30,000 analog products, extensive customer reach, and industry-leading manufacturing including the world’s first 300-millimeter analog factory. National brings a portfolio of 12,000 analog products, a strong position with customers in the industrial power market, and excellent customer design tools. Upon close of the transaction, National becomes part of TI’s analog segment, and sales of analog semiconductors will represent almost 50 percent of TI’s revenue.

The combined company also will benefit from National’s manufacturing operations, located in Maine, Scotland and Malaysia, which TI will continue to operate. Each site has additional capacity to increase production. National’s headquarters will remain in Santa Clara, California.

The market for analogue semiconductors was $42 billion in 2010. TI is the market leader with 2010 analog revenue of $6.0 billion, or 14 percent of the market. National’s revenue in calendar year 2010 was about $1.6 billion, or 3 percent of the market.