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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Advantech launches palm-sized PC with Atom 3900 for IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Advantech has launched a palm-sized embedded controller measuring 170 x 117 x 52.6mm based on the latest Intel Atom E3900 processor technology to give a 30% CPU performance enhancement and a 45% graphic performance boost. It is also certified for use with the AWS Greengrass and Microsoft Azure IoT Edge cloud services for the Internet of Things.

The EPC-U2117 is designed with dual display output, multiple I/O, and 12 to 24V DC power inputs, which target smart vending machines, digital signage, smart kiosk, and more. 

It runs Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Linux OS as well as Advantech’s WISE-PaaS DeviceOn intelligent software integrated for remote system monitoring and management that also BIOS/FW OTA updates to upgrade the system and devices with latest firmware to keep everything running at peak performance.

THe unit can be mouted as a desktop PC, or via wall, or DIN-Rail mount. The top extruded aluminium passive heatsink thermal solution is designed for -20 ~60 °C wide temperature operation and there are integrates two expansion slots including one M.2 for Wi-Fi or GPU module, and one full size Mini PCIe for 3G/LTE connection or mSATA storage. 

The EPC-U2117 supports multiple storage, which includes onboard eMMC up to 128GB, mSATA, and 2.5” SSD/HDD for flexible storage options. Customers can install OS and key data in eMMC for best security protection and reliability. If customer request big storage capacity and high data transfer, they can use mSATA or SATA SSD for better storage performance.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Infineon teams with Klika Tech on smart buildings

By Nick Flaherty

Infineon Technologies has teamed up with Klika Tech to connect smart buildings to the cloud. The partnership brings together Infineon’s chips with Klika Tech's Cloud technology based on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Klika Tech is a strong addition to Infineon’s partner network, offering complementary capabilities to develop innovative solutions for smart building applications,” said Oliver Henning, Head of Partnership Management & Emerging Application Business at Infineon’s Power Management & Multimarket division. “

Klika Tech is a global developer of end-to-end networks in the Internet of Things (IoT) using cloud-based services. It is using Infineon's chips for product development, as well as rapid development kits with full AWS cloud integrations. The companies are focusing on end-to-end solutions across applications such as smart building, smart city, smart home, connected devices as well as autonomous and electric cars.

“Collaborations among hardware, software and services providers are the genesis of the custom IoT and Cloud solutions that are enabling companies to reduce their development efforts and expedite time to market. This holds especially true for smart building and smart home applications.” said Gennadiy M. Borisov, President and Co-CEO at Klika Tech. “We look forward to building on our relationship with Infineon and the integration of their outstanding sensor portfolio with AWS services.”

Cloud-based Machine Learning (ML) algorithms provide predictive maintenance capabilities for current equipment condition analysis, informs maintenance personnel, and can trigger specific tasks to keep machines running at optimum levels. Implementing a predictive maintenance plan can detect improper installation, make equipment more energy efficient, predict costly failures, and extend equipment life to reduce total costs of ownership.

Packet-based power ... Teslas's Berlin plans ... Battery minerals from deep sea nodules ... Power supply for immersed computing

Power news at eeNews Europe Power by Nick Flaherty

. VoltServer raises $7.4m for packet-based power

. Tesla gigafactory will boost electric vehicle cluster in Berlin

. Infineon optimistic despite a poor year ahead


. Trial shows network monitoring for UK grid

. Deep sea nodule mining project to harvest battery elements

. Passive cooling boost from silica microspheres


. First AC-DC supply for immersed computing

. Heat sinks for high power devices

. 2.4MHz DC-DC buck regulator has low quiescent power


. Selecting the Best Inductor for Your DC-DC Converter

. Designing for ultra-low power applications through empirical methods

Friday, November 15, 2019

First dual Arm Cortex-M33 wireless chip for low power IoT applications

By Nick Flaherty

Nordic Semiconductor has developed a flexible dual-processor hardware architecture and advanced security features for complex IoT applications using two ARM Cortex-M33 cores.

The nRF5340 combines a high performance application processor with a fully programmable, ultra low power network processor, plus advanced root-of-trust and trusted execution security features, into a low power multiprotocol SoC ready for professional lighting, industrial automation, advanced wearables, and other complex IoT applications

This is the first in the nRF53 family, building on the nRF51 and nRF52 Series multiprotocol SoCs. The nRF5340 supports major RF protocols including Bluetooth 5.1/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE), Bluetooth mesh, Thread, and Zigbee.

The nRF5340 SoC is designed for extended operating temperature up to 105°C, which together with its multiprotocol support and advanced security features makes it suited for professional lighting and industrial applications as well as wearables.

The QSPI peripheral is augmented to interface with external memory at 96 MHz, and a 32 MHz High Speed SPI peripheral is integrated to interface with displays and complex sensors.

The chip incorporates Arm CryptoCell-312, Arm TrustZone technology, and Secure Key Storage for the highest level of security. With Arm CryptoCell-312 the most common Internet encryption standards are hardware accelerated and Arm TrustZone provides system-wide hardware isolation for trusted software by creating secure and non-secure code execution areas on a single core. The nRF5340’s combined security features enable advanced root-of-trust and secure firmware updates while protecting the SoC from malicious attack.

The nRF5340 is based around dual Arm Cortex-M33 processors; a high performance application processor running up to 128 MHz (510 CoreMark) with dedicated 1 MB Flash and 512 KB RAM, and a fully programmable, ultra low power network processor running at 64 MHz (238 CoreMark) with dedicated 256 KB Flash and 64 KB RAM. 

The application processor is optimised for power efficiency at 65 CoreMark/mA, has an 8 KB 2-way associative cache, is DSP and floating point capable and offers voltage and frequency scaling options. The application processor integrates the Arm Cryptocell-312, Arm TrustZone, and Secure Key Storage advanced security features, plus a wide range of interface peripherals including NFC, USB, QSPI, and High Speed SPI. 

The M33 network processor is even more efficient at 101 CoreMark/mA and is optimised for low power during radio operation and low duty-cycle sensor data collection. Programmable access to the network processor offers optimal implementation of proprietary 2.4 GHz protocols, ensuring portability from the nRF51 and nRF52 Series.

The nRF5340 incorporates a new, power-optimized multiprotocol 2.4 GHz radio with a TX current of 3.2 mA (0 dBm TX power, 3 V, DC/DC) and RX current of 2.6 mA (3 V, DC/DC). Sleep current is as low as 1.1 µA. The SoC features enhanced dynamic multiprotocol support enabling concurrent Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth mesh/Thread/Zigbee operation for provisioning/commissioning and interaction with a mesh network from a smartphone using Bluetooth LE. The radio is capable of all Bluetooth 5.1 Direction Finding features. The nRF5340 operates over a 1.7 to 5.5 V supply voltage range, allowing supply from rechargeable batteries and USB. The SoC integrates XTAL load capacitors for both 32 MHz and 32.762 kHz crystals, lowering by four the number of external components required compared with Nordic’s nRF52 Series - reducing both bill-of-materials (BOM) and solution size.

The software development kit integrates the Zephyr RTOS, a Bluetooth LE protocol stack, application examples, and hardware drivers. It unifies low power cellular IoT and low power, short range wireless development and is publicly hosted on GitHub, offers source code management with Git and comes with free SEGGER Embedded Studio IDE support. 

Nordic has also launched the nRF5340 PDK, an affordable, single board preview development kit for the nRF5340. The nRF5340 PDK makes all of the nRF5340’s features and GPIOs available to the developer and comes with an on-board SEGGER J-Link debugger for programming and debugging the SoC.

“Bluetooth, Thread, Zigbee and other low power wireless technologies now form a critical part of the IoT. Developers are already working on tomorrow’s commercial products based on highly-complex applications such as property tech, location services, medical, smart home, and Industrial IoT. These demand greater computational power with high security, yet developers expect Nordic’s wireless solutions to remain compact and highly energy-efficient,” says Kjetil Holstad, Director of Product Management at Nordic Semiconductor.

“The nRF5340 SoC is designed to meet these needs and more. The product is the culmination of Nordic’s decades of experience in ultra low power wireless, the lessons learned from the development and support of the nRF51 and nRF52 Series over the last seven years, and several years of focused product development from perhaps the most experienced low power wireless R&D team in the world. The nRF5340 and nRF Connect SDK combine to make it easy for developers to build wireless applications that until now were impossible.”

The nRF5340 PDK is available now through Nordic’s distribution network. nRF5340 SoC engineering samples will be available soon in a 7x7 mm aQFN package with 48 GPIOs.

AI chip reaches 1petaOps/s

By Nick Flaherty

US startup Groq has developed a single chip for machine learning that is capable of 1 PetaOp/s performance.

The architecture is also capable of up to 250 trillion floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) and has been used to create the Tensor Streaming Processor shown on this PCIe board which is currently being tested by customers

“We are excited for the industry and our customers,” said Jonathan Ross, Groq’s co-founder and CEO. “Top GPU companies have been telling customers that they’d hoped to be able to deliver one PetaOp/s performance within the next few years; Groq is announcing it today, and in doing so setting a new performance standard. The Groq architecture is many multiples faster than anything else available for inference, in terms of both low latency and inferences per second. Our customer interactions confirm that. We had first silicon back, first-day power-on, programs running in the first week, sampled to partners and customers in under six weeks, with A0 silicon going into production.”

The architecture provides both compute flexibility and massive parallelism without the synchronization overhead of traditional GPU and CPU architectures. Groq’s architecture can support both traditional and new machine learning models, and is currently in operation on customer sites in both x86 and non-x86 systems.

Groq’s new, simpler processing architecture is designed specifically for the performance requirements of computer vision, machine learning and other AI-related workloads. Execution planning happens in software, freeing up valuable silicon real estate otherwise dedicated to dynamic instruction execution. The tight control provided by this architecture provides deterministic processing that is especially valuable for applications where safety and accuracy are paramount. 

Compared to complex traditional architectures based on CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs, Groq’s chip also streamlines qualification and deployment, enabling customers to simply and quickly implement scalable, high performance-per-watt systems.

“Groq’s solution is ideal for deep learning inference processing for a wide range of applications,” said Dennis Abts, Chief Architect at Groq, “but even beyond that massive opportunity, the Groq solution is designed for a broad class of workloads. Its performance, coupled with its simplicity, makes it an ideal platform for any high-performance, data- or compute-intensive workload.”

This is similar to the architecture launched by Blaize earlier this week, with a focus on software planning and a simpler chip - see AI CHIP STARTUP TAPS TWO UK DESIGN TEAMS

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

PICMG finalises pin out for high performance COM modules

By Nick Flaherty

The PICMG COM-HPC technical subcommittee approved the pinout of the new high-performance Computer-on-Module specification. 

The COM-HPC standard is now entering the home stretch for the ratification of version 1.0 of the specification, which is scheduled for the first half of 2020. Computer-on-Module manufacturers and carrier board designers who are active in the COM-HPC workgroup can now embark on first edge computing designs based on this pre-approved data, with the expectation to bring them to market in time with the launch of new high-end embedded processor generations from Intel and AMD next year.
"Within PICMG we are currently working on the next generation Computer-On-Module standard which is of utter importance for the embedded and edge computing world," said PICMG president Jessica Isquith. "Next to the physical footprint, the pinout is the most essential milestone. It could only be pre-approved so quickly because we managed to get all key market players, including semiconductor manufacturers such as Intel, around one table in the COM-HPC technical subcommittee, thereby also making sure that the standard will be the best fit possible for future processor generations.

"A new Computer-on-Module specification is a complex task that involves many stakeholders," said committee chairman Christian Eder, who says he is confident that the specification can be officially ratified before the next high-end embedded processors hit the market: 

"We officially started our work back in October 2018 and are on schedule to release new COM-HPC modules, carrier boards and solution platforms in time with the next high-end embedded processor generations. They will extend the existing PICMG COM Express module standards with new solutions that move in the direction of headless edge server and more multifunctional edge client solutions," he said.

With the adoption of the pinout, all committee members now have a solid working basis from which to offer interfaces supporting up to 100 GbE and PCIe Gen 4.0 and Gen 5.0 as well as up to eight DIMM sockets and high-speed processors with more than 200 watts on standardized COM-HPC modules, and to work on standard-compliant carrier board designs.

Members of the PICMG COM-HPC committee include the University of Bielefeld and Adlink, Advantech, Amphenol, AMI, congatec, Elma Electronic, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, ept, Fastwel, GE Automation, HEITEC, Intel, Kontron, MEN, MSC Technologies, N.A.T., Samtec, SECO, TE Connectivity, Trenz Electronic and VersaLogic. Adlink, congatec and Kontron are also committee sponsors. e.

More information on the COM-HPC Computer-on-Module standard and its pinout is at

Thursday, November 07, 2019

COM Express Type 7 module for embedded low power server

By Nick Flaherty

Kontron has launched a smaller version of its COMe-bDV7 (COM Express basic), for use in extremely space-constraint and low-power, fanless embedded applications. 

The COMe-cDV7 module carries a member of the Intel Atom C3000 processor family with up to 16 cores and two SODIMM sockets for up to 2x 32GB DDR4 memory (ECC) offering a balanced core count vs memory size implementation. 

Available interfaces are up to 14x PCI Express Gen 3.0 lanes, up to 3x USB 3.0, 2x SATA Gen3, 2x UARTs and optionally support of eMMC 5.1. In combination with up to four 10GbE-KR ports, the COMe-cDV7 is aimed at network intensive implementations, such as real-time Industry 4.0 edge servers, micro servers, network appliances, robotics or energy. 

The KR design allows for maximum flexibility by defining the physical interface – KR for backplane connectivity, copper (RJ45) or fibre (SFP+) on the base board. Furthermore the available NC-SI signals allow the connection of a Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) on the baseboard for the purpose of enabling out-of-band remote manageability. This enhances reliability and helps reduce the overall operating cost in general.

In addition, the COMe-cDV7 module supports the Kontron APPROTECT security solution based on Wibu-Systems CodeMeter. Kontron APPROTECT Licensing also enables new business models such as 'pay-per-use' and time-based trial versions.

The module is available immediately including Board Support Packages for Linux and Windows Server 2012 R2, 2016 and also in industrial-grade versions.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

3D printing embeds silver nanowires

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Rutgers University in the US have embedded high performance electrical circuits inside 3D-printed plastics, which could lead to smaller and versatile unmanned aircraft and better-performing small satellites, biomedical implants and smart structures.

They used pulses of high-energy light to fuse silver nanowires, resulting in circuits that conduct ten times more electricity than the state of the art, according to a study in the journal Additive Manufacturing. This higher conductivity reduces energy use, extend the life of devices and increase their performance.

“Our innovation shows considerable promise for developing an integrated unit – using 3D printing and intense pulses of light to fuse silver nanoparticles – for electronics,” said Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Embedding electrical interconnections inside 3D-printed structures made of polymers, or plastics, can create new paradigms for devices that are smaller and more energy-efficient. Such devices could include CubeSats, drones, transmitters, light and motion sensors and Global Positioning Systems. Such interconnections are also often used in antennas, pressure sensors, electrical coils and electrical grids for electromagnetic shielding.

The team used intense pulsed light sintering with high-energy light from a xenon lamp to fuse long thin rods of silver as nanowires in the 3D printed objects. The next steps include making fully 3D internal circuits, enhancing their conductivity and creating flexible internal circuits inside flexible 3D structures, said Malhotra.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Renesas consolidates its energy harvesting controller family

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas Electronics has consolidated its energy harvesting embedded controllers into a single family.

The RE Family is based on Renesas’ proprietary SOTB (Silicon on Thin Buried Oxide) process technology, which dramatically reduces power consumption in both the active and standby states, eliminating the need for battery replacement or recharging.

An evaluation kit for the first of the family, the RE01 (formerly the R7F0E embedded controllers), was launched this week to jump start system evaluations for energy harvesting applications.

The RE01 embedded controllers are based on the Arm Cortex-M0+ core, which can operate at clock frequencies up to 64 MHz, and provide up to 1.5 MB of low-power flash memory and 256 KB of SRAM. The RE01 can operate at voltages as low as 1.62 V and the lineup includes three package versions: a 156-pin WLBGA package, a 144-pin LQFP package, and a 100-pin LQFP package. The RE01 also includes an energy harvesting control circuit, an ultra-low power 14-bit A to D converter, and a low power circuit that can rotate, enlarge, or invert graphics data.

"Energy harvesting eliminates the labour and costs associated with battery maintenance and is a key solution contributing to environmental conservation," said Hiroto Nitta, Senior Vice President, Head of SoC Business, IoT and Infrastructure Business Unit at Renesas. "I am extremely pleased that Renesas’ technology innovation with SOTB has enabled these alternative energy solutions, and with the new RE01 Evaluation Kit, Renesas will be making it possible for engineers around the world to quickly start the evaluation. We hope this will accelerate the spread of IoT equipment powered by energy harvesting."

The RE01 Evaluation Kit includes an evaluation board which features an RE01 embedded controller, an interface for the energy harvesting device and a rechargeable battery interface. The Kit also includes an Arduino-compatible interface for easy expansion and evaluation of sensor boards and a Pmod connector to expand and evaluate wireless functionality. 

There is also an ultra-low power LCD expansion board so that users can evaluate display functions faster. The Kit also contains sample code and application notes that serve as references for power management design that eliminates the need for battery maintenance, and driver software that supports CMSIS, Arm’s Cortex Microcontroller Software Interface Standard. 

Sample code for ultra-low power A/D converters, digital filter and FFT (fast Fourier transform) routines, 2D graphics MIP LCD displays, and secure boot and secure firmware update functions for improved security are available. With these features, this kit makes it possible to adopt energy harvesting based on RE01 Group devices at the system level and will accelerate the development of equipment that does not require battery maintenance.

The kit uses the IAR Embedded Workbench for Arm which can use the high efficiency IAR C/C++ compiler, and e2 studio (note 2) which can use the free GNU compiler are available as the developmental environment.

These embedded controllers make it possible for applications to perform highly accurate sensing and data judgement by excluding noise from signal data when they are used as biological monitors or outdoor environmental sensing applications. By eliminating the need for battery maintenance in a wide range of applications, these embedded controllers will contribute to the increasingly widespread use of IoT equipment, such as wearable equipment without the inconvenience of recharging batteries, and sensing applications for homes, buildings, factories and farms, where manual changing or recharging of batteries is difficult.

Renesas will continue expanding the RE Family beyond 2020 with new members including small memory sizes featuring up to 256 KB of flash memory.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Renesas moves ThreadX to Azure RTOS for IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas is to support Microsoft's Azure RTOS real time operating system (formerly ThreadX) across its microcontroller (MCU) and microprocessor (MPU) portfolio for the Internet of Things (IoT).

ThreadX is one of the most deployed RTOS worldwide for microcontrollers, and is currently integrated with the Renesas Synergy Software Package (SSP). The new versions, now called Azure RTOS since the purchase in April this year, will be added to the broader set of Renesas RA and RX microcontrollers and RZ/A microprocessors, starting with out-of-the-box integration into the new Renesas RA Flexible Software Package (FSP).
The deal, one of the first for Azure IoT. aims to provide a complete chip-to-cloud IoT solution based on Renesas’ intelligent and secure devices and Microsoft Azure IoT building blocks including Azure RTOS, Azure IoT device SDK for C, IoT Plug and Play, IoT Central and IoT Hub.

“Renesas Synergy customers have already experienced Microsoft Azure RTOS’ out-of-the-box connectivity to the Azure IoT Hub, making it an ideal choice for the billions of connected endpoints on the horizon,” said Sailesh Chittipeddi, Executive Vice President, General manager of Renesas’ IoT and Infrastructure Business Unit. “We are excited to bring Azure to customers working with our MCUs and MPUs. This collaboration will enable customers to bring their innovative connected solutions to market quicker with proven, trusted, and secure IoT building blocks.”
“Making Microsoft Azure RTOS offerings broadly available across Renesas’ product families, including Renesas Synergy and RA MCU devices means customers, will be able to deliver new connected solutions quicker," said Sam George, Corporate Vice President for Azure IoT at Microsoft 
"Our collaboration with Renesas is making enterprise grade IoT development as easy and seamless as possible.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Protocol boosts WiFI range for smart home IoT devices

By Nick Flaherty

A group of researchers in the US has created a protocol that significantly extends the distance a Wi-Fi-enabled device can send and receive signals as noise and could be implemented as a software upgrade.

Test results for the On-Off Noise Power Communication (ONPC) protocol show a boost of over 60m, which could also be used to reduce power consumption and extend battery li.

"That's the really cool thing about this technology: it's all done in software," said Phil Lundrigan, assistant professor of computer engineering at led by a Brigham Young University (BYU). "In theory, we could install this on almost any Wi-Fi-enabled device with a simple software update."

ONPC is programmed right on top of the existing Wi-Fi protocol using the same hardware. While Wi-Fi requires speeds of at least one megabit per second (1 Mbps) to maintain a signal, the "ONPC" protocol Lundrigan and his co-authors created can maintain a signal on as low as 1 bit per second -- one millionth of the data speed required by Wi-Fi.

To do so, Lundrigan, Neal Patwari of Washington University (in St. Louis) and Sneha Kasera of the University of Utah adjusted the transmitter in a Wi-Fi-enabled device to send wireless noise in addition to data. They programmed into the Wi-Fi sensor a series of 1s and 0s, essentially turning the signal on and off in a specific pattern. The Wi-Fi router was able to distinguish this pattern from the surrounding wireless noise (from computers, televisions and cell phones) and therefore know that the sensor was still transmitting something, even if the data wasn't being received.

"If the access point (router) hears this code, it says, 'OK, I know the sensor is still alive and trying to reach me, it's just out of range,'" said Patwari. "It's basically sending one bit of information that says it's alive."

But according to Lundrigran, one bit of information is sufficient for many Wi-Fi enabled devices that simply need an on/off message, such as a garage door sensor, an air quality monitor or even a sprinkler system. During the research, the team successfully implemented their ONPC protocol, along with an application to manage the protocol ("Stayin' Alive"), ultimately extending the range of an off-the-shelf device 67 meters beyond the range of standard Wi-Fi.

The researchers made clear to point out that their ONPC protocol is not meant to replace Wi-Fi or even long-range wireless protocols like LoRa, but is meant to supplement Wi-Fi. Specifically, only when Stayin' Alive detects that the Wi-Fi device has lost its connection, it starts transmitting data using ONPC.

The protocol can also be used with LoRa sub-GHz links. "We can send and receive data regardless of what Wi-Fi is doing; all we need is the ability to transmit energy and then receive noise measurements," Lundrigan said. "We could apply this to cellular or Bluetooth as well," he said.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Solid state drives on a roller coaster ride

By Nick Flaherty

Solid state drives (SSDs) and the underlying NAND flash technology have seen a huge swing in shipments over the last six months.

Following a plunge during the first three months of the year, global SSD shipments snapped back to growth in the second quarter, as demand from the client system market boosted the performance of third-party suppliers like Kingston, says the latest report from IHS Markit | Technology.

Worldwide SSD revenue rose to $57.9 billion in the second quarter, up 9.7 percent from $52.8 billion in the first quarter, says IHS, now a part of Informa Tech. Shipments declined by 8.4 percent sequentially in the first quarter. This dramatic shift from contraction to expansion represents a more than 18-percentage-point swing between the first and second quarters.

Despite the vigorous rise in unit shipments, sequential SSD revenue growth in the second quarter was limited to 1 percent. That’s because overall average selling prices (ASPs) fell by 9.7 percent in the second quarter, preventing revenue growth.
“Falling prices are continuing to fuel SSD demand growth in client systems,” said James Zhao, Principal Analyst, SSD and HDD, at IHS Markit | Technology. “The global average selling price (ASP) for client SSDs declined by 6.7 percent sequentially in the second quarter, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of ASP contraction in the client segment. These declines are making SSDs more affordable for a larger number of systems.”

The client SSD segment, which includes devices like mobile and desktop PCs, was the main driver of the rebound, Client SSD shipments increased by 11.9 percent sequentially in the second quarter. In contrast, the enterprise SSD market saw sequential growth of only 1.9 percent.

This surge in the client segment disproportionately benefitted third-party players that don’t manufacture the NAND flash memory microchips used within their products, despite chip maker Samsung being teh largest SSD supplier by far (see chart).

Kingston exemplified this third party trend, with shipments rising by 23.3 percent sequentially in the second quarter. This propelled Kingston to the No. 3 rank in SSD unit market for the first time in three years, after placing fifth in 2017 and 2018 and fourth in 2016. The company saw six consecutive quarters of double-digit revenue growth.

“Third-party players like Kingston are outperforming the overall market because NAND components are available at such low prices compared to a year ago,” Zhao said. “These companies are able to take advantage of these lower costs and gain market share rapidly.”

Intel captured the No. 2 position in SSD revenue share in the second quarter 2019. Because Intel focuses more on the enterprise market, its SSD ASP is far above average. Intel shipped more than 4 million SSDs in the quarter, up 17.5 percent compared with the previous quarter.

The SSD and HDD Storage Market Tracker from IHS Markit | Technology provides coverage of quarterly/annual shipments, ASP, density, revenue and various dimensions of insights for major strorage devices, including HDDs and SSDs.

Low power front end module for IoT designs quadruples range

By Nick Flaherty

Skyworks has launched a a 2.4 GHz front-end module (FEM) designed to boost the range of Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth Low Energy wireless links in the Internet of Things. The multichip module can be used in applications ranging from sensors, beacons, smart meters and thermostats to wireless cameras, smoke and CO detectors, as well as wearables and medical devices.

The SKY66405-11 measures 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.56 mm and provides increased efficiency as well as more than 4X range extension compared to a standalone system-on-chip (SoC).

The module includes a power amplifier with +13 dBm output power alongside a low-noise amplifier with 2 dB noise figure, low-loss bypass path, single ended transmit and receive switches, and digital controls compatible with CMOS levels.

A wide supply voltage range of 1.7 V to 3.6V allows the device to be used in battery powered IoT applications over a broad spectrum of the battery discharge curve and it covers worldwide unlicensed bands. A fast switch on/off time of under 800ns and 1μa sleep current also help reduce the power consumption, and no external bias resistor is required.

The operating temperature ranges from -40 to 105° C, making the module also suitable for lighting and industrial applications in the IIoT.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Bioprinting living cells with a 3D printer

By Nick Flaherty

Slightly outside the things we usually cover, but the 3D printing in a new process developed at TU Wien in Vienna opens up new types of sensors as living cells can be integrated into fine structures created in a two photon laser-based 3D printer.

Tissue growth and the behaviour of cells can be controlled and investigated particularly well by embedding the cells in a delicate 3D framework. This is achieved using additive 3D printing methods - so called "bioprinting" techniques. However, this involves a number of challenges: Some methods are very imprecise or only allow a very short time window in which the cells can be processed without being damaged. In addition, the materials used must be cell-friendly during and after the 3D biopriting process. This restricts the variety of possible materials.

A high-resolution bioprinting process with completely new materials has now been developed at TU Wien (Vienna). Using a particular "bio ink" for the 3D printer, cells can now be embedded in a 3D matrix printed with micrometer precision - at a printing speed of one meter per second, orders of magnitude faster than previously possible.

"The behaviour of a cell behaves depends crucially on the mechanical, chemical and geometric properties of its environment," said Prof Aleksandr Ovsianikov, head of the 3D Printing and Biofabrication research group at the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at TU Wien. "The structures in which the cells are embedded must be permeable to nutrients so that the cells can survive and multiply. But it is also important whether the structures are stiff or flexible, whether they are stable or degrade over time".

It is possible to first produce suitable structures and then colonise them with living cells - but this approach can make it difficult to place the cells deep inside the scaffold, and it is hardly possible to achieve a homogeneous cell distribution that way. The much better option is to embed the living cells directly into the 3D structure during the production of the structure - this technique is known as "bioprinting".

Printing microscopically fine 3D objects is no longer a problem today. However, the use of living cells presents science with completely new challenges: "Until now, there has simply been a lack of suitable chemical substances," said Ovsianikov. "You need liquids or gels that solidify precisely where you illuminate them with a focused laser beam. However, these materials must not be harmful to the cells, and the whole process has to happen extremely quickly."

In order to achieve an extremely high resolution, two-photon polymerization methods have been used at TU Wien for years. This method uses a chemical reaction that is only initiated when a molecule of the material simultaneously absorbs two photons of the laser beam. This is only possible where the laser beam has a particularly high intensity. At these points the substance hardens, while it remains liquid everywhere else. Therefore, this two-photon method is best suited to produce extremely fine structures with high precision.

However, these high resolution techniques usually have the disadvantage of being very slow - often in the range of micrometers or a few millimeters per second. At TU Wien, however, cell-friendly materials can be processed at a speed of more than one meter per second - a decisive step forward. Only if the entire process can be completed within a few hours is there a good chance of the cells surviving and developing further.

"Our method provides many possibilities to adapt the environment of the cells," said Ovsianikov. Depending on how the structure is built, it can be made stiffer or softer. Even fine, continuous gradients are possible. In this way, it is possible to define exactly how the structure should look in order to allow the desired kind of cell growth and cell migration. The laser intensity can also be used to determine how easily the structure will be degraded over time.

"Using these 3D scaffolds, it is possible to investigate the behaviour of cells with previously unattainable accuracy. It is possible to study the spread of diseases, and if stem cells are used, it is even possible to produce tailor-made tissue in this way."

Quantum tunnelling boost for smaller chips ... Wireless charging coils in Formica laminates ... Quad rotor wind turbines

Power news this week by Nick Flaherty at eeNews Power

. Bizen uses quantum tunnelling for smaller chips
. CATL breaks ground on German battery gigafactory
. Two team for US automotive discrete power device production
. Formica adds wireless charging to its laminates
. Calcium looks to replace lithium battery technology
. Wind turbine boost from modelling
. Single-chip ASIL-D battery monitor for mid-to-large cell counts
. MJD bipolar transistors up to 8A
. Compact form factor for DC link film capacitor

Sunday, October 20, 2019

AI data compaction boosts IoT bandwidth

By Nick Flaherty

AtomBeam Technologies is launching data compaction software that enables intelligent IoT networking by reducing data transmission by 75%, while adding virtually no latency. The patented technology will be on show at Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Los Angeles this week.

The data compaction system reduces the amount of IoT data transmitted by 70-80%, effectively expanding existing bandwidth by 3-5x. AtomBeam's proprietary AI/machine learning can provide savings of 30 to 70% in hardware, network and cloud costs. The software also provides a built-in security layer.

This means companies can see up to 75% data reduction in their cloud costs from solution providers, while satellite companies and their users having up to 5x more bandwidth at lower latency
Cellular and NB-IoT (LPWAN) service providers can double the transmission range of links with increased security and see a 25% reduction in battery life usage, enabling a similar OPEX savings for companies to maintain their field sensors.

AtomBeam Technologies licenses its software to manufacturers of IoT devices and gateways, edge and data centre servers and cloud storage systems as well as to networks such as satellites, LPWANs, and telcos. 

"AtomBeam is at the intersection of four powerful technology trends," said James Brehm, Founder & CEO of James Brehm and Associates, a leading consulting and market intelligence company. "It is leveraging AI-ML to manage the Big Data that 5G and IoT companies will be forced to deal with as thousands of IoT devices, gateways and sensors contribute data. Much of the data generated in IoT is repetitive. AtomBeam's technology compacts duplicative and oftentimes extraneous information, reducing network load and providing virtual network capacity gains of an additional 75% or more. This company is going to play a vital role in the movement of IoT data."

According to McKinsey, 127 new devices connect to the Internet every second. Statista reports that 75 billion devices are expected to be connected by 2025. IoT companies will need the capability of real time data transmission combined with added security to assure their networks can safely manage the tsunami of data projected from IoT devices.

"With a fast, light code, AtomBeam can be embedded in virtually any network, data centre server or connected IoT device," said Charles Yeomans, CEO of AtomBeam Technologies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Pixel 4 smartphone adds Infineon 60GHz radar chip

By Nick Flaherty

Infineon is supplying a 60GHz radar system for gesture detection in the next generation Pixel 4 smartphone being developed by Google.

An integrated antenna system in the XENSIV BGT60TR13C package allows sensing of the presence and movement of people and objects with high precision or measures distances and speeds. This chip is the base for Google’s Soli technology and has now been integrated for the first time into a smartphone for gesture control.

"With our radar technology devices become 'context-aware’. This means that they can finally understand their environment and react much more purposefully," says Andreas Urschitz, Division President for Power Management and Multimarket at Infineon Technologies. "The precise motion detection by the 60 GHz radar chip turns the Google Pixel 4 smartphone into a gesture control system. This is a revolution in the human-machine-interaction. At Infineon, we are furthermore working on the fusion of multiple sensors to simplify interaction and increase the usefulness of the devices."

Infineon’s radar technology has its roots in the automotive sector. Radar sensors have been effectively measuring distances, speeds and movements while driving for decades. Infineon has further developed these functions for small devices. The 60 GHz chip is a complete radar system with antennas on a very small area (5 x 6.5 mm) coupled with low power consumption. The BGT60 family has a transmit current of 480mA at 3.3V, giving a power consumption in use of 1.5W, which is high for a smartphone but the previous devices were aimed at tethered applications such as smart speakers with a sensing distance from 20cm to 5m. However the overall power usage of the sensor will depend on the software controlling the duty cycle, or how often it is used, as it is only likely to be used in infrequent short bursts. This version will be optimised for shorter distances from 1cm to 1m, which will reduce the power consumption by potentially by a factor of 5. Further circuit optimisations will reduce that further, and we’ll publish the figures when we get them. 

The radar sensor can perceive movements in rooms or measure distances from objects in the millimetre range with utmost precision. With the appropriate software, the motion data is converted into functions, so that control via gestures is possible without touching the device.

 The fusion of multiple sensors in a single device creates new solutions that measure and improve air quality or intelligently control burglary protection, for example. In addition to voice-controlled assistants, 'intelligent' household appliances or wearables, buildings, so-called smart buildings in particular, are becoming more interactive. Sensors detect the number of people in the rooms or can adjust the need for light sources to improve safety and energy efficiency.

Monday, October 07, 2019

NXP ARM multicore processors get Lynx hypervisor

By Nick Flaherty

NXP's QorIQ Arm-based processors can now use the LynxSecure Separation Kernel Hypervisor for to keep applications separate in avionics designs.

Lynx has ported LynxSecure onto the NXP QorIQ Layerscape 1046A (LS1046A) multicore communication processor integrating quad 64-bit Arm Cortex-A72 cores. This joins the existing support for NXP S32V234 MPSoC.
“Multicore architectures are seeing increasing adoption in avionics systems due to performance requirements and the lack of availability of single core processors," said Geoff Waters, Senior Principal Engineer at NXP Semiconductors and Chairman of the NXP- led Multicore for Avionics Working Group. "The porting of LynxSecure separation kernel hypervisor technology is an important step forward. It offers an exceptional technology for managing the complexity associated with multicores, reducing the design and certification time for safety critical systems based on NXP Layerscape SoCs.”

David Beal, Director of Product Marketing at Lynx Software Technologies, added, “Increasingly, avionics, transportation and other safety-critical systems rely on redundant platforms. Now, system architects and engineers who have strict requirements around performance, safety and security can take full advantage of the features and capabilities offered by NXP LS1046A within a straight-forward, secure-by-design software systems architecture that is enabled by LYNX MOSA.ic. The combination results in high performance and immutable security while preserving modularity and providing a natural path for future software-migration as newer, processing platforms become available.”

The LynxSecure separation kernel forms the foundation of the LYNX MOSA.ic framework to address markets such as avionics, transportation, industrial and medical systems. By providing the highest levels of performance, security and safety protections, LYNX MOSA.ic enables complex, systems that are responsible for both critical and non-critical functions. This reduces system design, integration, test and certification efforts.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

First fanless 100W edge and micro servers in COM Express format

By Nick Flaherty

congatec has launched a range of 100W embedded edge and micro servers in the COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Module format for fanless operation.

The range initially targets the recently launched conga-B7E3 modules featuring 3 GHz dual-die processors of the AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 series that supports a maximum TDP thermal envelope of 100 Watt, up to 16 cores and 32 threads. 

These are the first 100W Server-on-Modules in the COM Express Basic form factor (95 x 125 mm) that now have new heat spreaders and heatpipe adapters for an efficient heatpipe cooling even of extremely low profile 1U servers. By designing systems in such a way that does not use rotating fans, it is possible to develop extremely robust embedded servers that are suitable for numerous applications at the IoT/Industry 4.0 edge.

These 100W systems can be used for 5G telecom cloudlets, Industry 4.0 servers, smart robot cell servers with collaborative robotics, autonomous robotic and logistics vehicles with high speed vision and other situational awareness sensors. The ecosystem is further suitable for virtualized on-premise equipment in harsh environments to perform functions such as industrial routing, tactile internet, firewall security and intrusion detection systems, as well as VPN technologies - optionally in combination with various real-time controls and neural network computing for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

"Embedded edge servers must meet ever increasing multifunctional performance requirements while operating in harsh environmental conditions where shocks and vibration are common. Rugged fanless system designs are thus required. Until today, this ecosystem was limited to a performance class of up to approximately 65 Watt. Now, congatec has extended the capabilities of fanless designs to conduction cooled 100 Watt systems. This enables an impressive performance boost of 53% for rugged fanless COM Express Type 7 designs," said Nano Chu, R&D Manager at congatec in Taipei.

In addition to the new cooling solutions, the range includes starter kits with the two different application-ready server-grade carrier boards conga-X7EVAL and conga-STX7 that, among other things, execute four 10 GbE interfaces, which are server-compatible with SFP+ cages for both copper and fiber optic cables. Exemplifying edge server rack and box system designs, the kits can be modified to customer specifications. Relevant hardware engineering services for embedded edge server platforms round off the congatec 100 Watt ecosystem for Server-on-Modules.

Software support includes real-time configurations to avoid latencies caused by processor-side TDP management and, above all, support for the comprehensive RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) features common to all AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors. These enable the same efficient remote system monitoring, management and maintenance capabilities to optimise the total cost of ownership (TCO) in distributed deployments as known from commercial-grade data centres. 

Edge applications benefit from the hardware-integrated virtualisation and leading-edge security features of the AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 SoC that includes Secure Boot System, Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV), as well as a secure migration channel between two SEV-capable platforms. Support is also provided for IPsec with integrated crypto acceleration. As a consequence, even the server administrator does not have access to such an encrypted Virtual Machine (VM). This is very important for the high security required by many edge server services, which must enable multi-vendor applications in Industry 4.0 automation while helping ward off sabotage attempts by hackers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Qualcomm buys out RF360 for 5G front end filters

By Nick Flaherty

Qualcomm has bought out its partner in the RF360 joint venture that develops complex front end filters for 4G and 5G. 

RF360 was set up with TDK Electronics (formerly EPCOS) to develop RF front end (RFFE) filter technologies such as BAW, SAW, TC-SAW, as well as Thin Film SAW. These are used for developing and producing filters, duplexers, multiplexers for discrete, power amplifiers and diversity modules, as well as n-plexers and extractors.

The deal gives Qualcomm Technologies the complete signal chain from  modem to antenna, combining the Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF System with 5G New Radio (NR) sub-6 and mmWave solutions, integrating power amplifiers, filters, multiplexers, antenna tuning, LNAs, switching and envelope tracking products.

Qualcomm Technologies has already developed wideband envelope tracking and adaptive antenna tuning that combines the modem and RFFE aimed at future smartphone designs.

This acquisition is the final step in the signal chain. “Our goal in the formation of this joint venture was to enhance Qualcomm Technologies’ front-end solutions to enable us to deliver a truly complete solution to the mobile device ecosystem, and we have done exactly that,” said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm. 

“We are excited about the strong adoption of Qualcomm Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems in virtually all of our 150+ 5G design wins. Our systems approach has created a benchmark for 5G RFFE performance. I am very pleased to formally welcome to Qualcomm the talented employees of the joint venture, who already have been an integral part of the Qualcomm Technologies RFFE team, and I look forward to celebrating even more innovation as we continue to invent breakthrough technologies on the path towards a 5G connected world. Additionally, I would like to thank our long-time partner TDK. We look forward to continued opportunities to collaborate and to bring leading products from both companies to the market in the years ahead.”

TDK's interest in the joint venture was valued at $1.15bn in August 2019. The total purchase price, including the initial investment, payments to TDK based on sales by the joint venture, and development obligations, will be approximately $3.1bn.