Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#MEMS: "IDT claims first piezoelectric MEMs"

Integrated Device Technology Inc. (IDT) said Wednesday (Nov. 30) it has developed what it claims is the world's first piezoelectric micro-electro-mechanical system (pMEMS).

IDT (San Jose, Calif.) also claimed its new pMEMS process could produce oscillators that operated at higher-frequencies than traditional MEMS, had higher-stability than quartz oscillators, and could be delivered in the world's smallest waferscale package.
Further Reading

#CHIPS: "IBM Aims to Top Supercomputer List"

An enhanced high-end supercomputer ordered by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will aim for 20-petaflop performance--almost twice the performance of today's top supercomputer.
Today's fastest supercomputer, with peak performance in the 10-petaflop range, will be bested by twofold when IBM's Blue Gene/Q supercomputer becomes fully operational in 2012 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The 20-petaflop "Sequoia" Blue Gene/Q supercomputer will be used to simulate nuclear weapons performance, decode gene sequences, analyze oil exploration readings and predict the path of hurricanes. Sequoia will also be the leading candidate for again winning the "green" supercomputer crown next year—it already won the Green500 in 2011—by cranking out 2G flops per watt.
When completed, the Blue Gene/Q system named Sequoia is expected to achieve 20 petaflops. (Source: IBM)
Sequoia follows the earlier announcement of the "Mira" Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, which is currently being constructed at the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). When finished next year, Mira is expected to run at 10 petaflops. Mira will be dedicated to improving U.S. competitiveness by virtue of running detailed simulations of new electric car battery designs, analyzing climate change and testing theories about the evolution of the universe.
The Department of Energy (DOE) maintains a national security laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Lab for its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), one of whose major concerns is measuring the effectiveness of U.S. nuclear deterrents without tests (which have been banned since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1996). Using supercomputer simulations of the aging nuclear weapons, the lab gauges their yield and detonation capabilities. The massively parallel supercomputer will also be useful for network management simulations, energy research and climatology.
The Sequoia Blue Gene/Q will be composed of more than 1.6 million processor cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory in 96 racks, covering an area of 3,000 square feet and drawing 6 megawatts of power. Mira will have half as many processor cores as Sequoia, plus Mira will feature 70 petabytes of disk storage. Both were designed to expand in capabilities to meet the needs of future scientific and defense applications.
The Blue Gene supercomputer architecture, now in its third generation, can be scaled up to 100 petaflops by merely adding new racks of processors. Using IBM's PowerPC A2 processor architecture—each of which includes 16 cores—supercomputers are built up from cascading 100-teraflop processor planes, each of which houses 8,192 cores. Special hardware speeds parallel processing tasks, such as speculative execution using transactional memory that stores intermediate results in order to permit easy backtracking to redo work dependent on the outcomes from other parallel threads.
The Blue Gene family of supercomputers has won the Top500 prize for world's fastest supercomputer six times and earned IBM the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2009.

Further Reading

Monday, November 28, 2011

#OPTICS: "Optical diode boosts silicon photonics efforts"

A thin-film optical diode demonstrated recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be integrated onto a silicon photonic chip along with lasers and waveguides. Previously, a separate, discrete device was required.

Further Reading

#SENSORS: "Self-Powered Cyber-Bug Sensors"

Researchers are crafting self-powered sensors for installation in insect cyborgs, enabling them to perform surveillance, monitor hazardous environments and assist first-responders in search-and-rescue missions.
For decades, the U.S. Defense Department has been implanting remote-control electrodes inside flying insects during their pupae stage (caterpillar) so that when they metamorphose into winged creatures (moths) their flight can be controlled by wireless neural stimulation. Now researchers at the University of Michigan are perfecting self-powered video, audio and gas sensors so the tiny cyborgs can perform reconnaissance during military surveillance, monitor hazardous environments and assist first-responders in search-and-rescue missions.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has been funding cyborg insect development that combines wireless transmissions to neural implants that allow humans to control insects' flight patterns the same way a horse is guided by reins. Called the Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical System (Hi-MEMS), the technique installs wireless implants before birth, so that the insects accept human-directed flight control commands as if they were a part of their natural nervous system.

Insects are fitted with sensors powered by piezoelectric generation from muscle movement as well as thermal harvesting of body heat. (Source: University of Michigan)
In addition to flight control, the Hi-MEMS program has been experimenting with tapping into the native sensors already a part of insect physiology, such as training bees to use their olfactory senses to locate explosives, mines and chemical weapons. By harnessing natural olfactory sensors (nose) powered by biochemical storage (fat), military surveillance controlled by bio-actuators (muscle) can be performed by insects that appear to be normal.
However, for many reconnaissance tasks, a different complement of sensors and actuators is needed other than those built in to the insect. Hi-MEMS has several projects under way to install resonant piezoelectric, magnetic- and thermo-electric-generators, as well as non-resonant broadband energy scavengers. And to power tiny MEMS sensors for video, audio and gas sensors, a University of Michigan team recently displayed its designs for energy harvesting devices that convert muscle motion into usable energy to power the MEMS.
Called energy scavenging by University of Michigan Prof. Khalil Najafi and doctoral candidate Erkan Aktakka, the researchers claim that their techniques aim to make insect cyborgs into useful tools for reconnaissance.
"We could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry," said Najafi. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments."
One of the most promising energy harvesting approaches being tried by the researchers is tapping into the strong wing muscles, using tiny piezoelectric coils to generate electricity that powers on-boards sensors and a radio transmitter. Harvesting kinetic energy from wing motion kept a tiny battery charged for powering video, audio and gas sensors that stream back data to the operators controlling the insect's flight. The tiny coiled piezoelectric generator was machined from bulk piezoelectric material using a femtosecond pulsed laser at the University of Michigan's Lurie Nanofabrication Facility.

Further Reading

Friday, November 25, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "X-Gen vs. Y-Gen Bifurcates Cyber Monday"

Cyber Monday retailers must diversify their marketing pitches, according to recent business school research released to coincide with Cyber Monday. Generation X and Generation Y make buying decisions for different reasons, with new results only now revealing why.
Business school researchers nationwide have been comparing Generation X with Generation Y consumers, in advance of the upcoming Cyber Monday (the first Monday after Thanksgiving). Generation X has a higher income due to their ages—born between 1964 and 1977—compared with Generation Y—born between 1978 and 1998. On the other hand, Generation Y is composed of 72 million consumers compared with 44 million for Generation X.
At issue, according to Prof. Nelson Barber at the University of New Hampshire, is that marketing campaigns aimed at Generation X are incompatible with those aimed at Generation Y, forcing Cyber Monday retailers to target one group or the other, or they must at least provide different types of information for each group.
"Generation X [shoppers] tend to use information not as a point of pride, but as assurance that they are not being taken advantage of by marketers and are getting the best deal," said Barber. "For Generation X, marketing strategy should focus on providing product-related information that is verbally and visually rich, and highly informative."
Generation Y, on the other hand, considers these information-only approaches as old-school. Rather than seek a deep understanding of products prior to purchase, Generation Y consumers look to their parents and peers for guidance when faced with complex product information, resulting in indecisive "hovering" behavior that they seek to resolve by conforming to the norms set by their friends and family.
"Generation Y selects and consumes products that help them achieve their goals of blending in with the crowd or a certain group," said Barber. "They are influenced by the need to conform in order to be liked and accepted."
Thus, to attract Generation Y consumers, Barber suggests marketing campaigns that add social networking, microblogging and live-chat customer service to their traditional product descriptions and benchmarks. And even the type of social networking needs to be carefully crafted, since Generation Y consumers react in an opposite manner to different styles of social networking.
According to a separate study by Prof. Qi Wang, at Binghamton University, Generation Y consumers react in an opposite manner to word-of-mouth (reviews) and "observational learning" (showing statistics that observe the percentage of viewers who went on to buy a popular product). Marketers already knew that Generation Y consumers often discount positive word-of-mouth reviews of products, believing the reviewer may have been a ringer. Negative reviews, on the other hand, often cause a Generation Y buyer to beware.
"Negative word-of-mouth affects people more than positive word-of-mouth. This is not new, [but] our study is the first to note that the opposite is true for observational learning," said Wang.
Wang's new research disproves a widely held myth that consumers will be scared away by low percentages of viewers going on to make a purchase. In fact, high percentages help, but low percentages don't harm. Also word-of-mouth reviews that aren't negative can combine with positive observational percentages to doubly enhance consumer interest.

Further Reading

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "EU to pursue smart system R&D"

The European Union is launching a three-year, $13 million effort to develop standards for smart systems that will be coordinated by STMicroelectronics.

The initiative comes several weeks after a similar U.S. announcement to pursue smart systems in a national effort coordinated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Further Reading

#CHIPS: "Brain Microchip Faster Than Humans"

By emulating electrical ions in the human nervous systems with the electronic charge in a custom analog microchip, MIT researchers claim to have created an artificial brain technology that learns even faster than the human brain.
IBM's Watson recently showed that supercomputers can play the game show "Jeopardy" just as well or better than humans. The one advantage that humans still had over software simulations of learning and recall was that a human's analog nervous system was smaller and lower power than the room full of high-performance servers needed for Watson. Now, by using low-power hardware emulations of human neural networks, instead of software simulations on high-performance supercomputers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers predict that microchip-sized artificial brains will learn-and-recall even faster than humans.
MIT's brain-like microchip uses more than 400 transistors and other support circuits to emulate the ionic fluids that cause real brains to learn. (Source: MIT)
In this age of computer-aided design (CAD), software simulations have become the first approximation for any smart system. The decision as to which parts of a design--if any--to implement as a hardware emulation often depends on the results of the software simulations. By identifying the most often used routines and approximating how much faster hardware emulations would speed up execution, the question of whether the extra cost of accelerators or custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) can be evaluated. Emulators outperform simulators by recreating an analog function in another medium. With this new work, the researchers use electronic charge in place of chemical ions.
For speeding up human learning-and-recall simulations, Professor Chi-Sang Poon, MIT's principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and associates have created a hardware emulation of the brain's learning element--the synapse. Brain cells are connected by synapses that grow when voltage spikes cause learning, and atrophy when their absence causes forgetting. Poon claims his electronic synapses emulate both learning and forgetting even faster than in humans, by virtue of using electronic charges in wires as opposed to chemical ions in neurotransmitter channels.
"We wanted to mimic brain functions realistically, by capturing the intracellular processes that are ion-channel-based, not just the voltage spikes," said Poon. "Our model now captures all the ionic processes going on inside a synapse."
MIT's artificial synapse could eventually become a circuit element in a neural prosthetic--such as the artificial retinas that cure blindness--and may eventually be replicated across very-large-scale integrated circuits (VLSIs), where millions could emulate whole brain regions like the pattern-recognition capabilities of the visual cortex. Today, however, the MIT researchers are still perfecting a single synapse, which so far requires about 400 transistors. Poon did the research with fellow MIT professor Mark Bear, University of Texas professor Harel Shouval and former MIT postdoctoral researcher Guy Rachmuth.

Further Reading

Monday, November 21, 2011

#OPTICS: "Digital Cinema Killing 35mm Film"

Digital cinema based on inexpensive MEMS mirror-arrays has fueled a worldwide switchover to the digital cinema format from 35mm celluloid film cinemas, predicted to be complete by 2015. By the end of 2011, 35mm celluloid film use will pass the point of no return as the 50 percent mark is surpassed in digital cinema conversion.
The worldwide 35mm distribution of all major motion pictures will likely cease in 2015 when the number of traditional celluloid-film projectors will drop to less than 17 percent worldwide, relegating them to showing legacy films rather than new releases. According to IHS iSuppli's Digest Cinema Intelligence Service, the "reign of celluloid 35mm will come to an end in two short months [Jan. 2012] when the majority of cinema screens go digital."
The celluloid film industry is more than 120 years old, creating legends galore, from Hollywood to Kodak. The ability to create high intensity projectors with digital light processors (DLP)--micro-mirror chips from Texas Instruments--has enabled the digital cinema to reach into even rural theaters. IHS iSuppli predicts that by the end of 2012, 35mm film cinemas will decline to just 37 percent, the exact opposite of 2010 when digital screens were just 32 percent.
Digital remasters have been made from nearly all legacy 35mm films. And the quality of the digital video cameras has improved to the point where they rival the scans made of legacy celluloid films that now populate the world's digital archives of all Hollywood films.
"Movie theaters are undergoing a rapid transition to digital technology, spurred initially by the rising popularity of 3D films," said David Hancock, head of film and cinema research at IHS. "This is resulting in the rapid decline of 35mm, first losing its status as the dominant cinema technology in early 2012 and then causing it to dwindle to insignificance in four years."
Hancock claimed that the movie Avatar drove the stake in the heart of 35mm celluloid cinemas; every outlet wanted it, but only those that went digital could screen the movie in 3D. Since Avatar, the conversion to digital has jumped into double digit growth, at a 17 percent increase for the last two years. But by 2015, the phased transition to digital will be complete as the United States and the five largest countries in Western Europe will pass the critical 80 percent penetration mark where it is no longer economical to distribute celluloid films.
While the era of 35mm will end at that time, there will still be films circulating in print for art cinemas. Ironically, these last prints may increase in value as they circulate among a relatively small number of theaters dedicated to keeping the legacy of traditional film alive, according to IHS.

Further Reading

Friday, November 18, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "Analytics Optimizes Marketing Campaigns"

Managers can now track media campaigns with cloud-based analytics that optimize return on investment in real-time rather than using after-the-fact reports of success or failure.
As more and more applications migrate to the clouds, analytics providing real-time situational awareness are spreading to functions that have traditionally been managed after-the-fact. Management of media campaigns, for instance, is usually done by making careful placements, tracking resultant sales, then reinvesting in the placements that provided the most return on investment. New cloud-based tools, however, are enabling digital marketing management algorithms that can track sales as they happen in order to optimize multi-faceted campaigns in real-time, maximizing successes and nipping failures in-the-bud.
Such smart, marketing-campaign managers could be applied to nearly every industry today--from financial services to processed foods. Every enterprise wants to maximize profits and quickly kill off failing projects. This makes digital marketing management an emerging new aspect of every industry. A recent Forrester Research report singled out digital marketing management (DMM) as an inevitable merger of analytics platforms with centralized media buying platforms.

DataXu's active analytics performs real-time campaign management, audience management, attribution management, cross channel media buying, targeting, and reporting of actionable intelligence.
"We see ourselves as the next Google, but in the role of referee," said Mike Baker, co-founder and CEO of DataXu. "Since we don't own any media, our customers can rest assured that we are not steering them toward media that we make more money on versus media that is best for them."
Cloud analytics is crucial to digital marketing management. A typical scenario would have sales results relayed to the cloud where analytics correlates the rollout schedule of a campaign, deduces which media placements are achieving the most return on investment, and optimizes the mixture of media to maximize profits--all in real time.
The world's first fully integrated digital marketing management platform was recently announced by DataXu, which claims its DX3 can optimize media campaigns across the most profitable audience segments, media channels, and creative messages. DataXu claims marketing campaigns using its real-time automated DX3 as a manager reap as much as twice the profits of traditional campaigns.
Media buyers use a DX3 dashboard to route their "big data" through machine-learning analytics that make smarter, faster decisions regarding the optimal mix to enables the most profitable digital media campaigns. Several modules make up DX3--including a programmatic media buyer, the analytics to automate decision-making, and a unified audience management tool that increases customer retention. DataXu also provides consulting services to help marketers get started as well as to custom-craft a software solution for enterprises that are in need of data-driven innovations that provide a competitive advantage.

Further Reading

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#MEMS: "Smart Pills Transmit After Being Swallowed"

Smart medicine needs smart tools, and the smart pill will be the "point of the spear," according to presenters at the MEMS Executive Congress.

As the world population ages, smart medicine is coming up with all sorts of monitoring systems for allowing the elderly to remain home instead of being institutionalized. Cloud-based services monitor patients remotely to make sure they are safe, right down to tracking whether they have taken their meds today, by virtue of smart pills.
"We need a more affordable and personal health care infrastructure--an intelligent medical approach that takes proven drugs and digitally enables them with grain-of-sand-sized devices made of materials in your diet, but which generate small bio-organic 'digital signatures' specific to each medicine," said Ben Costello, vice president of product engineering at Proteus Biomedical.
Medical implants of all types are becoming increasingly commonplace--from tried-and-true devices like pacemakers to next-generation smarter medical solutions that take advantage of the ubiquitous cloud-based broadband infrastructure now encircling the globe. Smart pills are the newest frontier, having recently received authorization to go on sale in Europe in 2012.

The Raisin System from Proteus Biomedical includes smart pills (center) that transmit their state back to the smart patch (bottom right)--a wearable physiologic monitor that relays vital medical stats to a smartphone in contact with cloud-based analytics accessible from the HealthTiles app (left).
One solution leading the charge is the Helius system being launched in the U.K. next year. The system combines smart pills with a wearable physiological monitor that looks like a designer band-aid, but uses a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) called ChipSkin that tracks the smart pill's progress along with the patient's heart rate, respiration, sleep-state and temperature. The smart pill--activated by stomach fluids after swallowing--allows all monitored biological data to be transmitted from the wearable physiological monitor to cloud services where medical analytics integrates it with other telemetered parameters such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose and patient-generated feedback, all of which can be displayed on a smartphone.
The smart pill--called an Ingestible Event Marker by Proteus Biomedical--is made from organic materials ordinarily found in foods, but can be tracked by the Helius bandage-like wearable monitor, which transmits that patients have taken their meds back to cloud-based servers whose analytics can be displayed by running the HealthTile application on a smartphone.
The entire system--called the Raisin Personal Monitor by Proteus Biomedical--has been approved for use in the European Union countries and is currently under review for approval in the U.S. The Raisin Personal Monitor will be sold by retail pharmacies, and will also become a part of institutional-based outpatient service units aimed at reducing the cost of caring for the elderly by allowing them to stay at home.
Further Reading

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#WIRELESS: "Freescale tips home health hub ref design"

As medical sensors monitoring both people and their environment proliferate, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. aims to reintegrate them with a home health hub (HHH) reference design that handles all popular wired and wireless protocols—a kind of universal router for connecting cloud computers to home health care.

At the Medica conference this week in Dusseldorf, Germany, Freescale will describe how its HHH integrates Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth and ZigBee into a single router that connects medical sensors (inputs), to tablet displays (outputs), to medical analytics in the clouds (processing) and to doctors advise online.
Further Reading

Monday, November 14, 2011

#MEMS: "Heads-Up Goggles Smarten Skiing"

Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) chips enable skiers, snowboarders and other alpine enthusiasts to quantify their boasts with smart goggles that track and record feats of prowess.

By continuously tracking position, velocity--both vertical descent and horizontal speed--and a dozen other parameters, smart goggle-mounted heads-up displays (HUDs) allow alpine enthusiasts to come clean about their skiing and snowboarding runs with quantifiable metrics that can be compared with the best performances of world-famous skiers and snowboarders.
"Unlike fish stories which depend on your memories of events, skiers and snowboarders can now upload quantifiable proof of their best runs, and compare them with other great runs recorded on our Website," said Dan Eisenhardt, CEO of Recon Instruments, at the MEMS Executive Congress (Nov. 2-3, 2011, Monterey, Calif.).

Heads-up displays inside standard ski goggles display a variety of tactical dashboards derived from on-board MEMS and GPS sensors plus analytics run on wirelessly connected smartphones. (Source: Recon Instruments)
Recon Instruments micro-optic displays (MODs) mount inside your ski goggles to provide real-time readouts of your speed, latitude, longitude, altitude, vertical distance traveled, total distance traveled, temperature, time and jump analytics, as well as providing chrono/stopwatch modes and a run counter. The HUD can also communicate wirelessly (using Bluetooth) with a wristwatch-like remote control as well as with smartphones. Android applications provide live connectivity for navigation maps, points-of-interest, caller ID, text messaging, MP3 playlists and buddy tracking. And the HUD can also serve as a viewfinder for wearable video cameras.
With the system, jump analytics like air-time, along with a dozen other metrics like maximum downhill speed, are recorded and viewed on a heads-up display mounted inside standard ski goggles by sensor-studded wireless electronics combining microelectromechanical system (MEMS) accelerometers and GPS micro-chips.
Skiers and snowboarders upload data from their smart goggles by plugging a USB cable into their computers, which transfers data from up to eight-hours of alpine adventures, then performs complex motion-processing analytics on the day's runs, which can then be compared with the runs of other skiers and snowboarders at that location.
The small, full-color HUD is located in the bottom right corner of the skier's or snowboarder's goggles so that it does not obstruct the user's view, and the device is managed by a remote control that can worn like a watch, but on the outside of a parka. Large buttons on the watch-like remote control can be operated without taking off winter gloves. Recon-ready goggles are available from Uvex, Alpina and Briko.
Online communities at the Recon Instruments Website allow users to recount memorable runs and share them with other users, as well as to enjoy the runs of others. There, thousands of memorable experiences can be relived and be statistically compared with a user's own best runs.
Further Reading

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "Medical Privacy Secured on Smartphones"

Anti-cloning encryption technology is being used to secure validated medical data, which can only be accessed by an attending physician or the patient.

The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandated that medical data be standardized for easy exchange between institutions, but was crafted before the proliferation of smartphones and other wireless access devices. To protect standardized medical records from being hacked--while simultaneously securing confidential communications of medical advice to patients on their smartphones--is the aim of a new genre of anti-cloning encryption algorithm.
Smartphones and tablets have given health care providers, including attending physicians, a wireless portal into medical databases. In fact, according to some industry estimates, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population will have smartphones by the end of 2011, a percentage that will grow to more than 70 percent by 2013.

MobiSecure Health’s mobile technology supports secure data messaging such as alerts, question/response and advanced questionnaires.
Unfortunately, most of the security measures already in place for HIPAA-compliant databases assume that access will be from computer terminals that are secured by virtue of being on-site. Today, however, physicians expect access from wireless devices. In addition, app-generation patients expect medical professionals to offer smart software that can give advice and reminders about specific directions they are supposed to be following. Both require a new generation of anti-cloning technologies to insure that HIPAA-compliant databases are not exposed by hackers gaining access through wireless devices.
Many U.S. service providers are addressing the need to integrate wireless access into HIPAA-compliant databases, but Diversinet Corp. (Toronto) claims to have a unique approach to the mobile-health care--what it calls "MobiHealth"--that locks secure medical data to a specific mobile device. Diversinet's end-to-end MobiSecure solution--based on Open Authentication (OATH)--secures messaging, and on-the-go storage of personal health data.
Diversinet's unique patented technology (U.S. Patent No. 8,051,297) locks data to a specific mobile device by using its serial number to generate a unique encryption key. As a result, even if medical data is cloned to another device and the hacker steals the user's password, access to the data will still be denied by decryption algorithms which combine the password with a device's serial number to derive the correct decryption passkey.
Other solutions require that user's be online to access medical data, but Diversinet's MobiSecure solution enables both doctors and patients to store and view medical data on their smartphones--Apple, Android or BlackBerry--even when no network access is available.
Merck--the pharmaceutical giant---recently chose Diversinet's solution as a part of a deal with MiHealth Global Systems to promote MobiSecure to Canadian doctors. Part of that effort includes the ability to prompt patients to take their medications on time and to follow other directions, which are securely loaded into the patient's smartphone and accessed with an app.
Further Reading

#MEMS: "Sports Analytics Smartens Surfing"

Smarter surf reports contain not only how high the waves are, but also how long the rides last, how fast the surfers are going and even how long it is taking riders to paddle out, thanks to smart wireless sensors surfers can attach to any board.

Motion-capture analytics could revolutionize surfing by transforming data from board-mounted sensors into recreational intelligence--such as, the most likely beach and sweet-spot to paddle out to for the best surfing, according to speakers at the MEMS Executive Congress (Nov. 2-3, 2011, Monterey, Calif.).
Surfers are religious about checking the "surf report" for a particular beach before they leave the house and head over to catch some waves, but now smarter surf reports can rely on motion-capture analytics uploaded from smart microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors attached to surf boards.
The Syride sensor (the black triangle on the nose of board) tracks location, height of wave, speed of surfer, length of ride, time to paddle out and even the calories the rider burns.
MEMS sensors already perform a variety of tasks for smartphone users, such as automatically rotating from portrait to landscape view. MEMS sensors also lock up the heads on a dropped laptop's hard drive before it hits the floor by sensing free fall. But the same MEMS accelerometer, in combination with a built-in GPS, can also enable all kinds of analytics on surf stats, from how high the waves are, to how fast the surfers are going, to how long it is taking riders to paddle out, to how many calories a rider is likely to burn per hour.
"Syride has spent five years developing a feather-light, ultra-reliable MEMS-based sensor and motion-capture technology," said Romain Lazerand, who is in charge of North American business development for Syride. "Now surfers can compare their runs with the best surfers in the world."
The Syride Sys Evo motion sensor mounts on any surfboard by first attaching a carrier--with a sticky backing--onto the board where the smart sensor is mounted. During a surfing session, the smart sensor tracks location, speed and the distance traveled on each wave, which is automatically logged alongside the tide schedule for that spot. Analytics then takes over to deduce for each run the height of the wave, the elapsed time of the ride, the peak speed, the time and distance paddled out, the calories spent for each hour and the sweet-spot most likely to give the best rides in the future.
After the surfing day is done--back at the homestead--the surfer detaches the smart sensor from the surfboard, dries it off and plugs it into his or her PC with a USB cable. Supplied software displays the results of the motion-capture analytics in charts and graphs that recount the best and worst runs of the day, tallies up averages and recommends when would be the most likely time to return to that beach, depending on tides, and the most likely sweet-spot to paddle out to for the best rides.
Finally, the application uploads the board's data to the Syride Website, so it can be integrated with that of all the other surfers visiting that beach, allowing surfers to compare their results with those of the best runs at that beach.
Further Reading

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

#MEMS: "ADI debuts tactical-grade MEMS"

A new tactical-grade inertial-measurement unit (IMU) from Analog Devices Inc. achieves performance rivaling expensive, bulky fiber-optic based units by virtue of micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chips that are almost eight-times smaller and over 10-times lighter, according to the company.

The first two members of the new tactical-grade MEMS family, include a 10-degree-of-freedom IMU that combines a three-axis accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, a three-axis magnetometer, and a barometric pressure sensor to determine altitude—the 10th dimension. Drift is 6 degrees per hour for a unit that consumes just 0.7 watts.
Further Reading

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

#MATERIALS: "Superinsulators Self-Heal to Rival Superconductors"

Supercomputers have already helped design superconducting wires that can transmit high-voltage energy for power grids with zero resistance between power stations, and now supercomputers will be used to design superinsulators that self-repair, thereby preventing power losses over the conventional wires that deliver electricity from power stations to residential and industrial users.

Power generation creates megawatts of power, but transmission and distribution lines can siphon off kilowatts during the routing of that power to users. Superconducting wires can be used to transmit megawatts of electricity with virtually no resistance on the first leg of its journey between power stations, but when sending high-voltage transmissions from power stations to users, a significant portion can be lost to the environment due to weaknesses in conventional insulators. Now IBM Research (Zurich), in collaboration with ABB Corporate Research Center, is using supercomputers to design superinsulators that remedy the problem with self-healing.
Energy-efficient power cables using high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire from American Superconductor (foreground) will soon be joined by superinsulators to mitigate power losses during transmission and distribution (T&D).
ABB--named for the first letters in the two companies that were merged to form it, Swedish corporation Allmanna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget and the Swiss company Brown, Boveri & Cie--is now the world's largest builder of electricity grids, with over 124,000 employees in 100 countries and revenue of nearly $32 billion. ABB ranks 143th in the Fortune 500 listing of the world's largest and most successful companies, and its corporate research labs are near IBM's research labs in the Zurich area.
IBM Research scientists Alex Mueller and Georg Bednorz were recognized with the Nobel Prize for Physics for their seminal work leading to superconducting wires. Now IBM hopes to make a similar contribution in the field of superinsulators, together with ABB. Using supercomputers to test alternative formulations, these new superinsulators for high-voltage conventional power lines aim to eliminate the significant losses in-current worldwide as electricity is shuttled from power stations during transmission and distribution (T&D) to residential and industrial users.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, up to 7 percent of electrical energy is lost during transmission and distribution. IBM and ABB scientists reasoned that these losses were due to materials factors, such as deterioration of insulators after they are exposed to harsh weather conditions. Both underground and overhead power lines use insulators to prevent electricity from bleeding off, but aging and other environmental factors--including humidity, high winds and pollution--conspire with weather to waste generated power. As a result, more power is generated that is used--to compensate for the losses--causing both higher-than-needed prices and even an occasional power outage that could have been prevented with more efficient power transmission materials.
To remedy that, IBM and ABB researchers have been cooperating to accurately simulate the molecular dynamics of conventional silicon rubber (polymethylhydrosiloxane, or PDMS) insulators in an effort to accurately model the physical processes that affect power lines.
The team is using IBM's Blue Gene/P--a second-generation Blue Gene supercomputer capable of running continuously at 1 petaFLOPS (1 million gigaFLOPS or floating-point operations per second)--to create ultra-high-resolution simulations that go down to the molecular level of the PDMS insulators. Simulations of up to 1 million atoms and their interactions were used to carefully characterize the material, after which alternative formulations have been tried to remedy shortcomings with self-healing that improves the superinsulator's resiliency to damage.
Based on amorphous siloxane polymers, which are hydrophobic (repel water), these superinsulators mitigate the main source of losses by self-healing tiny defects that today accumulate to cause insulators to slowly deteriorate over time.
Further Reading

Monday, November 07, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "In a smart-system world, data’s ‘the new currency’"

We give them human names—Watson, Siri—that suggest how much “like us” they are. Today’s smart systems can intuitively handle tasks that until now have been impossible to automate in real-time.

And by mining the resultant sea of real-time data coming in from billions of streams worldwide, analytics science is creating services that have even more value than the smart systems themselves.

Further Reading

#WIRELESS: "Samsung Passes Apple Smartly"

Samsung took over the No. 1 spot in quarterly sales of smartphones from Apple, and the two are currently neck-in-neck for the title of most popular smartphone maker of 2011.

Samsung is the top-selling smartphone worldwide for the first time ever, according to Information Handling Services Inc. The combination of Samsung's growing and Apple's declining during the third quarter of 2011 caused the reversal of fortunes. However, Apple's pent-up demand in the third quarter has been released in the fourth quarter, resulting in a stunning sales record since its recent introduction of the iPhone 4S, putting Apple back on course to outsell Samsung in the fourth quarter. The crown of top 2011 smartphone hangs in the balance, a race that is too close to call, according to IHS.
According to IHS, Samsung shipped over 27 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2011, up almost 44 percent over the second quarter when it shipped 19 million smartphones. However, Apple's sales went down in the third quarter of 2011. This was a result of people holding off on buying an iPhone in anticipation of a new model, which was expected to be the iPhone 5, but was in fact the iPhone 4S. As a result, Apple's shipments declined to just over 17 million in the third quarter of 2011, down from more than 20 million shipped in the second quarter (which was 1 million more than Samsung).
Samsung’s overall market share in smartphones in the third quarter rose to over 23 percent from about 17 percent in the second quarter. This put Samsung in the No. 1 slot, ahead of Apple with its share of less than 15 percent, compared with more than 18 percent in the second quarter. As a result, Apple fell to the No. 2 slot for the first time since it began selling smartphones.
"With the iPhone 4S now shipping in high volume, Apple is enjoying a sales spike in the fourth quarter that is expected to put it in a neck-and-neck battle for smartphone leadership with Samsung," said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS.
So far, Apple appears to be on-track to regain the No. 1 spot in the fourth quarter of 2011, reporting a stunning 4 million units sold during the first weekend of availability of the iPhone 4s. IHS predicts that Apple will sell more than 30 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, giving it total unit sales of 85 million for the year.
Samsung, on the other hand, is enjoying stronger growth overall, second only to the growth of HTC, which expanded its market share by 10 percent, compared with a 5 percent expansion by Samsung.
Further Reading

Friday, November 04, 2011

#MEMS: "On parade at Executive Congress"

MEMS was the word at the MEMS Executive Congress this week, where new improved chips, software and process technologies debuted.

Further Reading

#WIRELESS: "Enterprise Mobility Management Soars"

Mobility management services for the enterprise is a fast growing market that includes management of mobile apps, mobile devices, content, network services, expenses, policy, and security.

Enterprise mobility-management is a business-to-business service that got off the ground when employees started using smartphones. Now with the wide proliferation of touch-screen tablets across enterprises worldwide, mobility-management services are taking off. In fact, the market for these services is expected to grow from roughly $1 billion in 2010 to $11 billion by 2016, according to Allied Business Intelligence Inc. (ABI Research, New York City).
Mobility management services today are mostly used by medium and large enterprises, but by 2016 they will also be serving small businesses and even "SoHo" businesses with fewer than five employees.
Enterprise mobility-management services began as almost a niche market, when a few large enterprises standardized on the iPhone as their mobile-worker platform, using specially written apps to perform common functions like access corporate databases and file expense reports. As smartphone usage grew, and Android smartphones took off, the mobility management service sector started a period of rapid growth. Now with the introduction of both iOS- and Android-based tablets, and an avalanche of smart apps for performing nearly every corporate-computer function remotely, mainstream players are entering the fast-growing enterprise mobility-management market.
AT&T, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung Mobile are the latest entrants to this fast-growing market, offering services that include management of mobile apps, mobile devices, content delivery, network services, expense reports, policy references, and security. What began as an answer to employee requests to IT for technology to connect to the corporate servers, has now grown into an enterprise-wide outsourced service that can remotely configure devices, provision them with apps and data, monitor and control their access to corporate networks, ensure security, and control the cost of managing multiple mobile operating systems.
According to ABI Research, in its recently released report Enterprise Mobility Management Services for Smartphones and Media Tablets, the usage of mobile devices by enterprise employees is rising dramatically. By 2016, up to 85 percent of enterprise employees worldwide will be toting smartphones or tablets, according to ABI Research, with penetration as high as 95 percent at many large corporations.
Entry into the market by carriers like AT&T and companies like Motorola Mobile and Samsung reflects the desire by many enterprises for one-stop-shopping where both the devices and all the necessary services can be obtained from a single supplier, according to ABI Research. Businesses are also seeking to consolidate around just one or two suppliers for wireless mobility services combined with management of their other endpoints such as PCs, notebooks, and Internet appliances.
Further Reading