Friday, August 31, 2012

#CHIPS: "Sandia National Labs Favors Intel's Xeon Phi MIC"

To break through the petascale barrier to exascale supercomputing, Sandia National Labs is building six different testbeds using rival multi-core microprocessors. These massive parallel processors are currently favoring Intel Xeon's--used in four of the six systems--with the new 50+ core Xeon Phi and its many-integrated cores (MICs) in an Appro chassis--called 'Arthur'--leading the pack: R. Colin Johnson

Sandia National Laboratories "Arthur" MIC testbed is based on Appro's Xtreme-X Supercomputer Cluster (pictured).

Here is what Go-Parallel says about Sandia's work on Intel MIC: As a part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program, a testbed prototype called “Arthur” at Sandia National Labs is helping to pioneer the future of many-integrated core (MIC) supercomputers.

Sandia National Labs aims to reach the goal of exascale supercomputers one thousand times more powerful than the petascale supercomputers used today. Its strategy is to co-design future supercomputers with experimental testbeds, architectural simulators and proxy applications that together accurately predict the performance future supercomputers...
Further Reading

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#MARKETS: "Qualcomm/MStar Join Smart TV Alliance"

The Smart TV Alliance is making Smart TVs smarter by adding Qualcomm and MStar as new members, joining forces with founding members LG and Toshiba. The larger area of flat-screen TVs makes them an attractive alternative to computers when viewers are at home, and MEMS-enabled motion-processing in remote controls and high-speed processors like Qualcomm's SnapDragon powering Smart TVs, they can combine the functions of PCs and HDTVs into a large screen display that can surf the Internet, download apps, receive YouTube, Nexflix and all the other specialized video providers like R. Colin Johnson

Here is what LG says about the Smart TV Alliance: Smart TV Alliance, launched in June this year by founding board members LG Electronics and TP Vision with Toshiba joining shortly after, has expanded with new members with expertise from different areas of the Smart TV industry. As it continues to expand its market reach, the Smart TV Alliance will publish specifications for its software development kit (SDK) 2.0 on its official website In addition to Smart TV manufacturers, organizations that contribute in different ways to the Smart TV experience have also joined the Alliance. Qualcomm and MStar will bring their expertise and understanding in hardware design to the consortium while Obigo, a leading web browser provider and application developer, will provide valuable input from a developer’s perspective. And YuMe, a provider of video advertising software and services, will deliver knowledge and experience from the advertising community.

“The expanding membership of the Smart TV Alliance is clear indication that these companies recognize the value of this Alliance,” said Richard Choi of LG Electronics, President of Smart TV Alliance. “This is an industry coming together to solve a common problem, which has clear benefits for the consumer. The diversity of the Smart TV Alliance is reassuring because it shows that this is an industry movement, not just an initiative from TV manufacturers.”

Demonstrating that developing common Alliance specifications is not an exercise in theory only, Obigo has developed apps based on Alliance SDK 1.0 specifications that run consistently on TV sets from Alliance members. Consumers will be able to enjoy these apps, including Accuweather and Vilanoise, when they become publicly available in September. In addition, more apps will be developed and become available through Smart TV Alliance members.

“This is an important step for the industry. Being able to work with a much larger install base presents great opportunities for us,” stated David Hwang, President of Obigo. “Now we can put our energy into making our apps better instead of testing the same app on many different TV sets. We can be a lot more productive this way.”

As different communities in the Smart TV industry come together, the Smart TV Alliance will announce the SDK 2.0 specifications on its website, which will be supported by 2013 products from member companies. By looking at these specifications, developers will be able to understand what capabilities to expect on 2013 products and plan their application development accordingly. After the specifications are announced, the SDK software tool will be available for download from

Further Reading

#MARKETS: "Video Delivery Tops $2 Billion"

Video over the Internet has been of growing importance since YouTube debuted, but those were just shorts. Now with an increasing number of consumers turning off the TV, or rather connecting it to the Internet for watching movies and other longer content, the demand for video deliver platforms to provide all the needed bandwidth has skyrocketed to $2 billion and will grow to $4 billion in five years, according to ABI Research: R. Colin Johnson

$2 Billion Video Delivery Platforms Market Set to Double by 2017: ABI Research

Here is what ABI Research says about video deliver platforms:TV Everywhere and Over-the-Top (OTT) video, including Comcast Xfinity, HBO Go, Netflix, iPlayer, and Sky Go are growing rapidly. Making this possible are several groups of companies responsible for video delivery and management. The companies, including online video platforms (OVPs), managed video platforms (MVPs), content management systems (CMSs), and content delivery networks (CDNs) are all growing at impressive rates. In 2012, revenues for video platforms distributing video on behalf of media & entertainment companies (including cable & satellite distributors) worldwide will reach $2.1 billion, and will grow to over $4 billion in 2017.

Well-known CDN, Akamai, has a commanding lead of the video delivery market, with about $475 million in 2011. CDNs generally are responsible for finding optimal routes for the video, and storing copies close to consumers to ensure a high quality of delivery. KIT Digital, suffering through serious growing pains in early 2012, leads the market for content management systems with nearly $175 million video delivery revenues from media & entertainment companies in 2011. Brightcove is the largest OVP with $64 million in 2011 media & entertainment revenues. Synacor, who primarily hosts websites for Cable MSOs, leads out the MVP market with nearly $91 million in 2011 revenues.

These findings are part of ABI Research's Video Delivery Hardware and Platforms Research Service, which includes Research Reports, Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments. In addition to tracking the growth and dynamics of CDNs, OVPs, CMSs and CDNs, this service tracks video encoders and transcoders, video servers, VOD hardware, and CDN equipment.
Further Reading

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Parallel Processing Standards Enjoyed by DSPs"

Parallel processing standardization has come to digital signal processor. King of the DSP--Texas Instruments--has just integrated multi-processing software support with an OpenMP application programmers interface (API) that comes as a part of its the Code Composer Studio for its multi-core DSPs. As parallel processing seeps into everything electronic, DSPs were bound to join the shared-memory standardization efforts represented by OpenMP: R. Colin Johnson

Texas Instruments multi-core digital signal processor (DSP) block diagram.

Here is what TI says about its OpenMP API: Getting developers one step closer to tapping the full potential of multicore digital signal processors (DSPs), Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NASDAQ: TXN) announced the industry’s first commercially available support for OpenMPTM Application Program Interface (API) on multicore DSPs. The OpenMP API is a portable, scalable model that provides developers utilizing TI’s KeyStone-based TMS320C66x multicore DSPs a simple and flexible interface for developing parallel applications in markets such as mission critical, industrial automation, embedded vision, medical imaging, video surveillance, audio and video infrastructure and high performance computing. With this optimized software offering, developers can benefit from faster development on TI’s C66x DSPs and can take full advantage of their multicore designs. For more information, please visit TI’s multicore page.

“With the industry’s first production release of OpenMP API support on their multicore DSPs, TI is truly making multicore programming easier for developers,” said Michael Wong, CEO of OpenMP. “TI’s support of the OpenMP API on its KeyStone-based C66x multicore DSPs allows developers to easily migrate their applications to take advantage of power and performance. This is an important milestone for all developers in the embedded processing space.”

Over time, software for embedded systems has become more complex for multicore developers. This complexity makes the production of software the critical path in the development of multicore embedded systems. With the OpenMP API, developers designing with TI’s C66x DSPs can easily increase programmer productivity, while reducing design, development costs and time to market for embedded systems. TI currently offers OpenMP API support for its TMS320C6670, TMS320C6671, TMS320C6672, TMS320C6674 and TMS320C6678 multicore DSPs.

“With the addition of OpenMP to their development tools, TI makes it simpler for customers to develop advanced software for TI’s high-performance multicore systems by increasing productivity and reducing development costs and time to market,” said Barbara Chapman, professor of computer science, University of Houston. “The combination of the tools and TI’s extremely powerful multicore processors will enable the creation of applications that were previously not possible.”

OpenMP API tools for TI’s C66x multicore DSPs are currently available for download as part of the C6x Compiler.
Further Reading

#ALGORITHMS: "Making every TV 'smart'"

Just as every cell phone is becoming smarter, TV manufacturers too are aspiring to make all they models smart. Smart TVs don't all have the same capabilities, but one element that is becoming essential is the ability to aim the remote at menu items in a point-and-click user interface. Usually that means burdening the application processor in the TV with interpreting the MEMS sensor data from an accelerometer or gyroscope, but by putting those smarts inside the remote itself, TV manufacturers should be able to upgrade more of their low-end models to Smart TV status. R. Colin Johnson

Hillcrest Labs has managed to downsize its Freespace MotionEngine algorithms to run entirely on the 8-bit microcontroller inside the Smart TV remote control.

Here is what EETimes says about making every TV smart: Hillcrest Labs Inc. announced Tuesday (Aug. 28) it downsized its motion processing algorithms to run on an 8-bit microcontroller inside a television remote control.

Known as Freespace MotionEngine Lite, the software allows nearly any TV manufacture to convert existing "dumb" models into Smart TVs merely by choosing the right remote.

All Smart TVs today run their motion processing algorithms on the 32-bit application processor inside the television, relegating the remote control to merely sending the raw sensor data from the MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope inside it...
Further Reading

Monday, August 27, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "LG's Game World to Rival Consoles"

LG is intent on making the Smart TV a gaming console killer with its new Gaming World portal that houses both 2-D and 3-D gaming apps for purchase and download. Gamers will use their Hillcrest-powered Magic Remote to control game action. Of course, a Smart TV does not have the realtime graphics prowess of a high-end console, but for simple games it at least offers an easy way to browse and buy them: R. Colin Johnson

Game World's main menu displays four categories – Featured, Top Chart, New and Genre – for quick and easy access to gaming content.

Here is what LG says about its new Game World: LG Electronics (LG) today announced the launch of its new Smart TV game portal, Game World. Anticipating a new era of downloadable casual 3D games, LG developed Game World exclusively for its CINEMA 3D Smart TV lineup. The portal provides a user-friendly way to search, purchase, and play game apps – in both 2D and 3D – through an intuitive interface. Many of the games can be played with LG’s Magic Remote or with any third-party game pad.

“Game World is a wonderful source of games – especially 3D games – which are suitable for everyone,” said Havis Kwon, President and CEO of LG Home Entertainment Company. “Many popular titles will be available along with games developed exclusively for LG CINEMA 3D Smart TVs. By making the most of the capabilities of LG 3D TVs, Game World will allow us to push the boundaries of 3D gaming and expand the market.”

A simplified user experience begins with the main menu, which prominently displays a menu bar listing four categories – Featured, Top Chart, New and Genre – for quick access to the contents. The Featured category comprises some of the hottest games available, including games recommended by LG. Top Chart offers the most popular paid as well as freeware games. The New link lists the most recent games available in Game World while the Genre option gives access to game titles in the following categories: action, adventure, arcade, puzzle, RPG, shooter, simulation, sports, and strategy.

The main menu of Game World also provides a tutorial, with manuals and instructions for playing with a Magic Remote or a game pad. The My Games section links users to all previously purchased games and displays a list of the most frequently played games, making it easy to find the next big hit. The titles available on Game World will consist mainly of family-friendly titles, with most titles being compatible with LG Magic Remote’s gestures and movement capabilities and many also playable in 3D.

Game World will be launched globally in the second half of this year.
Further Reading

#CLOUD: "Industry Leaders Form Cloud Advisory Council"

Cloud computing is one of the most talked about capabilities in the history of information technology (IT). To speed the mass migration to the clouds, a new non-profit was recently formed. Called the Cloud Advisory Council, its aim is to define terms, promote open-source interoperability, publish best practices and provide easy-to-use cloud management tools: R. Colin Johnson

Charter members of the Cloud Advisory Council include AMD, SGI, Supermicro and 12 other pioneers in cloud computing.

Here is what the Cloud Advisor Coucil says about its mission and formation: The Cloud Advisory Council, an innovative not-for-profit organization dedicated to develop and enable the next-generation cloud architecture, today announced the organization’s formation and directive to provide cloud designers and IT managers with the tools needed to enable computing in the cloud, to strengthen the qualification and integration of cloud solutions and to provide best practices.

The Cloud Advisory Council is an industry collaboration of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), strategic technology suppliers, independent software vendors (ISVs), and end-users across the entire range of the Cloud market segment. Founding members include: AMAX, AMD, Atlantic.Net, Check Point Software, Colfax, DDN, Eucalyptus, Mellanox Technologies, Nanjing Standard Communication, Nimbula, ProfitBricks, SGI, Sugon, Supermicro, and Xeround.

Through this organization, new cloud architectures will be researched, defined and specified as a basis for next-generation cloud infrastructures. The council main objectives are:

Definition of the next generation of cloud architecture
Providing open specification for cloud infrastructures
Publications of best practices for optimizing cloud efficiency and utilization
Enable ease-of-use with comprehensive cloud management and tools
“The Cloud Advisory Council has been established by industry leaders to develop a cloud specification and best practices for building the most efficient cloud infrastructures. This is critical for vendors as well as for the cloud users,” said Eli Karpilovski, chairman of the Cloud Advisory Council. “The Cloud Advisory Council will assist and provide resources for industry and community organizations to better leverage their infrastructure and improve productivity and efficiency.”

“AMAX shares the vision of the Cloud Advisory Council and is dedicated to developing the next generation of cloud architectures in an effort to strengthen the qualification and integration of cloud solutions and give cloud architects and IT managers the tools they need to enable computing in the cloud,” said Jean Shih, President of AMAX. “Our 30 years of award-winning x86 engineering and manufacturing expertise, along with our open architecture approach, affords us maximum flexibility to establish best practices & reference architectures for designing, building and deploying high-quality, cost-effective cloud infrastructures.”

“We are delighted to participate in the Cloud Advisory Council’s research activities,” said Terri Hall, Corporate VP Alliances and Solution, AMD. “AMD has a comprehensive energy efficient cloud portfolio that provides world class scaling of enterprise applications. We are very well aligned with the goals of the council to address emerging cloud and virtualization workloads effectively and efficiently.”

“The Cloud Advisory Council represents the best technology vendors and we are excited to be a part of the future. With our twenty years of industry experience being a service provider, this forum will enable us to work closer with leading technology hardware vendors to define the next generation of cloud, “ said Marty Puranik, President of Atlantic.Net, Inc. ( “Being a leading cloud hosting provider, we have already developed one of the fastest cloud platforms on the market. Now, working with this elite group of hardware vendors will provide collaborative opportunities to further enhance and strengthen our massively scalable and industrial grade cloud infrastructure.”

“Enterprises worldwide are embracing cloud computing as the best path to improving IT efficiency and operational effectiveness. Strong security solutions that protect IT assets are an essential ingredient to successful cloud adoption,” said Ofer Raz Head of Platforms & Architecture, Check Point Software Technologies. “Check Point is happy to participate in the Cloud Advisory Council, and we look forward to contributing our expertise to assist in the development of solid security solutions for cloud-based IT services.”

“For over 13 years DDN has been a leader in storage performance, density and efficiency in the most content intensive storage environments. That is why we are proud to be a founding member of the Cloud Advisory Council and join in its mission that so closely aligns with ours, extending into cloud storage,” said Jeff Denworth, VP of Marketing for DDN. “Our Web Object Scaler product is the ideal cloud storage platform designed for today and tomorrow’s web scale demands and will make a great contribution to the specifications and best practices for building efficient cloud infrastructure.”

“Mellanox, as a founding member of the Cloud Advisory Council, is dedicated to develop and collaborate with industry leaders in developing next generation cloud architectures. Together, we share the vision of a simplified and a higher efficient cloud infrastructure that will deliver the best return-on-investment for cloud providers and users,” said David Barzilai, vice president of marketing at Mellanox Technologies. “Mellanox’s end-to-end 10/40GbE and FDR 56Gb/s InfiniBand cloud interconnect solutions have been proven to provide the best interconnect technology to enable cloud deployments of tomorrow.

“ProfitBricks is a second generation Cloud Computing IaaS provider. Our vision, formed in 2009, of an IaaS 2.0 platform was launched in 2012 and now we look forward to sharing and learning from other progressive technology providers in the Cloud Advisory Council,” said Conrad Wood, Deputy CTO, Head of Infrastructure at ProfitBricks. “Businesses of all sizes are replacing physical data centers with virtual ones, and it’s key that all of us in the industry deliver on the promise of performance, flexibility, reliability and data security in the cloud.”

“SGI is proud to be a founding member of the Cloud Advisory Council,” said Bill Mannel, VP of Product Marketing, SGI. “We welcome the opportunity to apply our leadership and expertise in public cloud solutions to private cloud challenges. SGI has been powering public and government cloud deployments in traditional and mobile datacenter environments, leading the market in design-to-order capabilities, innovative cooling and management software.”

“Cloud computing is the future of IT. The foundation of the Cloud Advisory Council will accelerate the development of cloud computing, which will benefit the end users and the whole industry. Sugon is glad to be a founding member and work together with other industry leaders,” said Shao Zongyou, vice president of R&D at Sugon. “Sugon is dedicated to provide the best technologies and products to our customers. Our leading cloud infrastructures have been adopted by many city cloud computing centers in China. Cloud is the key in our R&D roadmap.”

“Xeround is excited to be joining the Cloud Advisory Council and take an active role in designing the future of database solutions and data services for the cloud era,” said Razi Sharir, CEO of Xeround. “Xeround’s unique native cloud database technology, distributed architecture, and our extensive experience delivering a zero-management database-as-a-service solution to thousands of cloud users – all put us at a unique vantage point to lead the way we transform data management in the cloud.”

The Cloud Advisory Council recognizes also the importance of establishing metrics for Cloud sustainability and performance. For this reason, the Cloud Advisory Council will propose the use of a new metrics, Cloud Center Efficiency (CCE) and Power Consumption Efficiency (PCE), to address inefficient utilizations associated with cloud centers. The impact of efficient usage is emerging as extremely important in the design, location, and operation of current and future cloud centers.

Become a Member of the Cloud Advisory Council Today:

Help influence the direction of the Cloud by becoming a member of the Cloud Advisory Council. Membership to the Council is free. More information can be found on our website:

Visit the Cloud Advisory Council at VMworld San Francisco (August 26-29, 2012):

During VMworld, visit us at our member booths: AMD (Booth #801) and Mellanox Technologies (Booth #2029) for more information about the Cloud Advisory Council, its activities, and membership information.

About the Cloud Advisory Council

The Cloud Advisory Council is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to develop the next generation cloud architecture, to provide cloud designers and it managers with the tools needed to enable computing in the cloud, to strengthen the qualification and integration of cloud solutions and to provide best practices. The Cloud Advisory Council is led by a broad coalition of industry practitioners and corporations. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter: @Cloud_Advisory.
Further Reading

Friday, August 24, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Touch sensing software gets robust"

Have you noticed that nothing comes with a manual anymore? The trend is to use commonly known symbols and functions with touch control being the newest way to make user interfaces self-explanatory. Touchscreens, of course, offer the ultimate in configurability, since you can change the image to redefine its buttons, but for the fixed functions of most devices a touchpad with stenciled legends and symbols is just as good and almost free. The easiest path is just etching traces on a printed circuit board that are then mounted behind a plastic control panel. The key to making them work, however, is the software that interprets the touches: R. Colin Johnson

Touch Sensing Software (TSS) offers a common set of algorithms for the touch panel functions of buttons, dials and sliders as well as allowing for innovative designers to define custom control surfaces for special purposes.

Here is what EETimes says about touch panels: New touchpad technology introduced by Freescale Semiconductor Inc. converts capacitive touch panel readings into reproducible functions of buttons, dials and sliders and other control surfaces.

Touch has become the expected modality for human-machine interfaces for everything from smartphones to washing machines. Touch-based control panels use touchpads with pictures demonstrating common functions that people already know how to do, virtually obsolescing mechanical switches.

Touch Sensing Software libraries (center) make use of touch-sensing modules (bottom) built into or added on to any Freescale microcontroller

Freescale (Austin, Texas) provides the artwork to make a variety of analog-like input devices by patterning copper traces behind a plastic control panel covered with pictures of those buttons, dials and sliders. By artfully crafting a pattern of copper traces to track the capacitance of up to 16 locations, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can create a control panel that is self-explanatory in how it controls their specific device, according to Freescale.

For a slider, for instance, dividing a rectangular copper pad into two right triangles allows you to change the differential capacitance between them by running your finger over its length. Other novel patterns allow ordinary controllers—like dials and switches—or an infinite variety of custom control surfaces to be defined...

Further Reading

Thursday, August 23, 2012

#MARKETS: "App Culture Dictates Retailer Strategies"

Apigee, which claims to be the "magic ingredient" that keeps Netflix streaming, Shazam listening, and the weather apps timely and accurate, has done a survey (admittedly self-serving) which reveals that 54% of Americans think brands will suffer if they don't get an app by Christmas. The 2012 Holiday Shopping Survey was conducted jointly with the Harris poll and reveals that 53% of app users plan to purchase holiday gifts on a mobile device, and a whopping 82% of Americans think mobile shopping is beneficial--50% for browsing for deals--48% for performing price comparisons inside a store, and 40% for using a mobile device to find a retail store. In any case, if you don't have a strong online presence and you want one, it might be worth checking out Apigee's enterprise-grade UserGrid app management platform which is available free for a limited time: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Apigee says about its survey: Apigee, the API company, today announced the findings of its 2012 Holiday Shopping survey of over 2,200 American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted online on its behalf by Harris Interactive in August. The survey, which was drafted based on Apigee’s knowledge of mobile apps, found that three out of five (57%) mobile app users[1] would consider purchasing their holiday gifts this year on a mobile device. The top items include:

Books – 32%
Electronics – 31%
Gift cards – 27%
DVDs/Blu-ray Discs – 26%
Clothing – 24%
Toys – 20%

When asked about the benefits of using a mobile device to buy gifts this holiday season, 82% of mobile app users said there are benefits including,
Browsing for deals wherever you are – 50%
Performing price comparisons inside a store – 48%
Using a mobile device to find a retail store – 40%
Redeeming electronic coupons – 38%
Secretly shopping without a spouse/significant other knowing – 25%
Buying embarrassing or personal items without using a work computer – 14%
Sneaking shopping time in at work – 12%

And mobile app users are speaking out about what it means when a retailer does not provide a mobile app. More than half (54%) say there could be consequences when a retailer does not have a mobile app. The top concern was that they could waste a trip to the store looking for items they don’t carry (30%), followed by:

I could lose out on the best deals the store offers – 25%
It makes me think the retailer is old-fashioned – 19%
I could lose time – 17%
I could lose money – 12%
It could hurt my loyalty to the store – 7%

A further 7% said it could even make them think the retailer doesn’t respect its customers. Interestingly, the Millenials[2] are the generation most likely to say there will be consequences, and men are more likely to say so than women (58% vs. 49%) “

These findings demonstrate that the app economy is having a big impact on the way we live, and people are increasingly demanding a lot more from the apps they use every day," said Chet Kapoor, Apigee CEO. “APIs are the ‘magic ingredient’ in mobile apps, and Apigee’s new API platform is helping build a digital world where we all shop, communicate and connect across apps on trillions of mobile devices.”

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Apigee from July 31- August 2, 2012 among 2,262 adults age 18+. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tom Carpenter.

Further Reading

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#ROBOTICS: "Land Robots Teaming with AirBots"

AirBots called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) act as the eye-in-the-sky for soldiers, allowing them to see enemies impossible to locate from the ground. On the ground the soldiers also have robots, such as the iRobot PackBot, which can enter uncleared buildings to root out insurgents, can defuse explosives from a distance, and perform reconnaissance without risking U.S. lives. For the future, however, the Middle Tennessee State University, the U.S. Army and Marines are teaming up their air and land robots, so they can perform both military and civilian missions. For instance, agricultural applications include spraying fertilizers, removing invasive weeds and even monitoring herds of cattle: R. Colin Johnson

Up, Up and Away. Sgt. Dane Phelps, from 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division prepares to launch the Raven unmanned aerial vehicle during a joint U.S. and Iraqi cordon and search operation in Patika Province, Iraq.

Here is what MTSU says about UAVs: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the very popular Raven pictured act as the eye-in-the-sky for soldiers, allowing them to see enemies impossible to locate from the ground. On the ground the soldiers also have robots, such as the iRobot PackBot, which can enter uncleared buildings, defuse explosives from a distance and perform reconnaissance. For the future, however, the Middle Tennessee State University, the U.S. Army and Marines are teaming up their air and land robots, so they can perform both military and civilian missions. Agricultural applications include spraying fertilizers, removing invasive weeds and monitoring a herd of cattle: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Middle Tennessee State University says about UAVs: From facilitating missile strikes on terrorists to keeping soldiers from harm’s way by defusing improvised explosive devices in war zones, unmanned aerial and ground vehicles have moved from Hollywood scripts to military necessities.
But the technology surrounding these tools holds greater possibilities on and beyond the battlefield, and MTSU will be at the forefront of that research by partnering with the military to explore ways to improve and expand use of the technology, including commercially.

“Imagine a small unmanned aircraft directing a ground robot where to spot-spray agricultural fields for weeds in real time,” said Mark Blanks, interim director of the MTSU Unmanned Aerial Systems Program. “Or imagine an unmanned ground vehicle providing a closer look at an object identified by an aircraft.”

An historic educational partnership announced Aug. 13 between MTSU, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps will explore how to add low-cost hardware and software to existing small robots to use Raven aircraft as an eye-in-the-sky relay. The new pact will study ways robots on the ground can be used in concert with unmanned vehicles in the air.

The agreement allows the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office “to loan and transfer research equipment to MTSU.” The Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, jointly operated by the Army and Marines, is headquartered in Warren, Mich., with a satellite office at the Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Ala.

The partnership also allows the Army and Marines to help develop courses and materials for MTSU and involve faculty and students in defense-laboratory research projects.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and the Army’s Lt. Col. Nick Kioutas signed the formal agreement Aug. 13 at the Murfreesboro campus.

Four students, a military Raven unmanned vehicle, the iRobot PackBot 500 system and other unmanned vehicles participated in a demonstration for media and others attending the announcement — the first of its kind between MTSU and the two military branches.

It comes one year after the University and Army entered into another unique partnership to support MTSU’s educational and research efforts into the Army’s remote-controlled Raven aircraft.
“It’s awesome,” Brent Taylor, a senior aerospace administration and business double major from Fort Campbell, Ky., said of the technology and research possibilities for students. “I stumbled into it in an unmanned aircraft systems class last fall, and then (fellow student) Brett Bornhoft mentioned the Unmanned Systems Club.

“A year later, we’ve already advanced up to two partnerships and received a special-projects grant funding from the MTSU Foundation … that will allow us to purchase things like the robots and the technology that goes with them.”

Such advances would increase the range and utility of the robots and build on the university’s ongoing scientific-research pursuits by students and faculty.

“Our partnership provides us the opportunity to enhance the capabilities of today’s soldier and tomorrow’s commercial markets,” Blanks said.

Many unknowns still surround the project, which is awaiting FAA approval. But unmanned ground vehicles and aircraft potentially could be used in agricultural applications, including:
• inspecting an irrigation pump with its camera;
• spraying herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, etc.;
• selectively removing invasive weeds from high-value crops such as vineyards; and
• monitoring a herd of cattle and even checking vital signs from RF transmitters installed on the cattle.

“We are still trying to determine the way this is going to work,” Blanks said. “We know the systems can be used for ag purposes, but it is doubtful that these systems are ideal for it. They probably will be more of a stand-in for a later-to-be-developed commercial robot product.”
By adding an unmanned aircraft to the mix, Blanks said counter-IED operations gain an aerial view of a specific area and can see insurgent “scouts” or other evidence to help determine if the threat they are investigating is really the explosive device.

Military usage of unmanned ground vehicles can be explained this way:
• A suspicious package or location(s) is brought to the attention of an explosive ordnance device team.
• Instead of approaching the location on foot and endangering a soldier, the unmanned ground vehicle is sent in to use its cameras for a closer look at the area and potentially manipulate the package to determine its nature.

If personnel believe it is an explosive device, the unmanned vehicle will carry a smaller demolition charge out to the package to be remotely detonated when the vehicle has resumed a safe distance.

After the Aug. 13 signing, MTSU senior Steve Lawn, an aerospace professional pilot major from Charleston, S.C., maneuvered a robot across the floor of Cantrell Hall for a demonstration and then outside and down a small flight of stairs to the MTSU Veterans Memorial site.

“The end goal for interoperability (systems working together) is basically to take all unmanned vehicles — air, ground, water — and have a common interface, a common language, so that if a person … gets trained on the system, they don’t have to go to a different training for every single system,” Lawn said.
The robot he demonstrated is considered an unmanned ground vehicle or tracked vehicle with manipulator arm, Blanks said, adding that both systems were used to investigate and probably defeat IEDs during a recent deployment with a combat engineer battalion in Afghanistan.

“These robots save lives,” the Army’s Kioutas said. “The Raven UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), they look like little remote-control airplanes, but there’s a lot of technology in there, and those save lives.”
Kioutas added that MTSU’s existing partnership with the Army for education and research on its remote-controlled Raven aircraft, as well as the university’s proximity to Redstone Arsenal, helped clinch the newest agreement.

Lt. Col. Robb Walker of the Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program echoed Kioutas’ comments.
“The UAS Project Office enjoys a great relationship with MTSU, and we’re excited about this new opportunity for them,” he said.

Blanks re-emphasized the benefit of the partnership to MTSU students. “Our educational partnership with the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office provides our students with the opportunity to work hands-on with the actual hardware that is employed by today’s soldiers and to research the most cutting-edge advances in unmanned technology,” he said.
“This agreement is another in a series of bold steps forward that we’ve taken to provide the very best in facilities, training and service in this important area,” McPhee added.
Further Reading

Monday, August 20, 2012

#MEMS: "Gyroscopes Crack Power Tool Market"

Invensense has cracked the PowerTool market with the world's first motion activated screwdriver. The Black & Decker screwdriver uses Invensense's MEMS gyroscope to sense the user turning their wrist to the right or left thus switching the direction of rotation of the screwdriver bit. A single axis gyro is perfect for this application, since you don't want to sense rotation ing the other two planes--just when you rotate the shaft of the screwdriver: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Black and Decker say about their gyro-enabled screwdriver: Black & Decker® (NYSE: SWK) brings innovation to the screw driving category once again with the introduction of the GYROTM 4V MAX* Lithium-ion Rechargeable Screwdriver (BDCS40G), the world’s first motion-activated screwdriver that controls variable speed and direction. The variable speed feature and direction change that occurs with a twist of the wrist provide improved control while screwdriving compared to rechargeable screwdrivers on the market.

Black & Decker continues to set the pace of innovation with the patent pending GYROTM screwdriver featuring gyroscopic technology — an industry-first for a screwdriver. With gyroscopic technology, users need only to rotate their wrist one-quarter turn to the right for forward or left for reverse. With traditional rechargeable screwdrivers users are typically required to engage a switch for a direction change and are not offered variable speed.

“We’re taking a technology people are familiar with using in motion-sensing video games, smart phones, and even toy helicopters and using it in a new and innovative way to create a unique power tool,” said Matt Nestorick, product manager for consumer power tools at Black & Decker. “The new GYROTM screwdriver harnesses the latest technologies to provide consumers with a unique DIY experience.”

The 4V MAX* Lithium Rechargeable Screwdriver joins Black & Decker’s expanding lineup of Lithium products, including the existing range of drill/drivers and Black & Decker’s extensive Lithium outdoor lineup featuring a string trimmer/edger, hedge trimmer, sweeper, cultivator, pole pruning saw, pole hedge trimmer, chain saw and powered lopper. With lithium ion battery technology, the GYROTM screwdriver holds a charge up to 18 months. With this and other Black & Decker lithium ion products, users receive long-lasting, lightweight and compact products that won’t experience battery memory effect problems.

The Black & Decker 4V MAX* GYROTM Lithium Rechargeable Screwdriver will be available October 2012 for $39.97 at most major retailers. The GYROTM screwdriver features an LED light and comes with two standard screwdriving bits, jack plug charger and a two-year warranty.

Further Reading

Thursday, August 16, 2012

#CHIPS: "Yellowstone Supercomputer Sports Massive Xeon E5 Array"

Long past is the era when faster supercomputers depended on faster system clocks. In fact, the next generation of faster supercomputers are turning down the clock--to save power--and instead multiplying the number of cores to achieve their performance boost. Witness the lower clock speed of the petaFLOPS-class supercomputer called Yellowstone which is being assembled by IBM using a massive array of Intel Xeon processors for introduction next month by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR): R. Colin Johnson

Yellowstone, the newest supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is now fully assembled and undergoing testing for its debut next month.

A supercomputer with a massive array of Intel Xeon E5 cores will debut next month, multiplying by 29 times the computing power at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Called Yellowstone, the 1.5 petaFLOPS supercomputer at NCAR’s Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC, Cheyenne) will be used by the Computational and Information Systems Lab for weather forecasting, the development of detailed climate models and other critical environmental research.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has a new Yellowstone supercomputer which houses 72,288 Intel Xeon E5 cores in its main computing array (center) with dedicated data-analysis and visualization (DAV) resources (Geyser and Caldera respectively, left) and a Globally Accessible Data Environment--GLADE (right).

Yellowstone has been under development for several years at NCAR–long before Intel announced its Xeon Phi 50+ multi-core coprocessors due this fall–but already NCAR is planning to evaluate Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture for follow-on systems to Yellowstone...
Further Reading

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"CHIPS: "IBM maps spin-helix semiconductors"

IBM and scientists at ETH Zurich for the first time have demonstrated a spin helix in a semiconductor, thereby synchronizing electrons to extends their spin lifetime of the electron by 30 times to over one nanosecond--the same time it takes for an existing 1 GHz processor to cycle: R. Colin Johnson

IBM scientist Gian Salis demonstrates how synchronizing electrons extends the spin lifetime thereby making spintronics feasible.

The first direct mapping of a persistent spin helix in a semiconductor has been demonstrated by IBM Researhc (Zurich). By extending the spin lifetime of electrons by 30-times to the cycle time of a 1GHz processor, the researchers were able to demonstrate the feasibility of using spin to store, transport and process information. IBM claims its discovery heralds a new class of magnetic-based transistors that use spin--instead of charge--resulting in more energy efficient semiconductors.

"The idea of a persistent spin helix was put forward by theoretical physicists in the group of professor Daniel Loss at the University of Basel [in 2003]," said IBM researcher Gian Salis. "Our direct experimental observation was enabled by both, the unique experimental set-up that allows for time-resolved imaging of spin polarization at low temperatures and high magnetic fields, as well as the excellent sample material produced by our collaborators at ETH Zurich."

Spintronics has been favored for the next generation of electronics, since individual electrons could then be used to store either ones or zeros depending on their spin orientation. However, researchers have not been able to demonstrate long-enough spin lifetimes to make the technique commercially feasible.

IBM scientists demonstrated spin lifetimes of over a nanosecond by using laser pulses to monitor spin orientation of thousands of electrons in a quantum well. By arranging their spins into a regular stripe-like pattern--called a persistent spin helix--the IBM scientists were able to synchronize electron spins and verify they stayed in sych over distances of over 10 microns, a distance that would allow logical operation to be performed.

The gallium arsenide (GaAs) material in which the persistent spn helix was demonstrated was produced by scientists at ETH Zurich. The experiment was performed at 40 degrees Kelvin (-387 F).

Funding was provided by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Nanoscale Sciences and NCCR Quantum Science and Technology.
Further Reading

Monday, August 13, 2012

#MEMS: "Freescale MEMS sensors target mobile"

MEMS sensor are becoming standard equipment on all touchscreen-based devices, including all low-end smartphones and other mobile devices. Freescale is accordingly filling out its catalog of inexpensive MEMS accelerometers with ultra-small inexpensive models that nevertheless do not compromise of specifications: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what EETimes says about Freescale's new accelerometers: As smart touchscreen devices shrink in price and size, MEMS motions sensors must keep pace. To that end, Freescale Semiconductor recently introduced a smaller, cheaper MEMS device the company claims does not compromise on accuracy, noise and power specifications for the next-generation of low-cost smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, portable navigation and health care devices...
Further Reading

Friday, August 10, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Sparse Inference Uncovers 9/11 Perpetrators"

In hindsight its sometime easy to see hot the dots could have been connected if only we have known which dots were the important ones. Now a new algorithm called Sparse Inference claims to have succeeded in predicting the source-location of terrorists, spammers, malware, biological epidemics and even the most important blogs for a marketing campaingn: R. Colin Johnson

The ringleader of the hijackers involved in the September 11th 2001 attack, Mohamed Atta, could have been identified from two wiretaps (green) using the Sparse Inference algorithm which identified three possible sources (red) one of which was Atta. SOURCE: EPFL

The complex webs of interactions that distinguish the propagation of malware, spam, biological epidemics and even terrorism plots is extremely difficult to analyze. However, the inventors of a new algorithm at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) claim to be able to track down perpetrators using just a few sources--even claiming that the mastermind of 9/11 could have been identified from just two wire taps.

"The mastermind of 9/11 was Mohammed Atta, which was already known," said inventor of the algorithm, EPFL researcher Pedro Pinto. "What we have shown is that monitoring the communications of just a few terrorists and applying our source-location algorithm could have led to the same result. And in other scenarios, it can be used for prevention as well."

The algorithm called "Sparse Inference" (SparseInf) makes accurate source-location predictions using a multi-dimensional version of the algorithm that cell phone carriers use to triangulate the location of mobile handsets.

"It was inspired by how localization works in wireless networks, where three or more base-stations measure the distance to your cell-phone, and use triangulation to pinpoint it's location. We just do something similar, but on a graph," said Pinto.

Sparse Inference used historical data to trace the source of a cholera outbreak that occurred in the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, in 2000.

Using historical databases the researchers have shows how the algorithm could have been used to quickly find the source-location of a whole variety of hard-to-trace examples--from epidemic outbreaks in Africa to the source-location of the sarin nerve gas that killed 13 and injured nearly a 1,000 in Tokyo in 1995. They claim that the algorithm could also be used to trace the source-location of malware and spammers online, and speculate that in the future, even businesses could use the algorithm to identify the Internet blogs that are most influential for their target audience.

"The algorithm relies on the principle of 'maximum likelihood hypothesis testing', adapted to arbitrary graphs, so it's pretty general in applicability," said Pinto.

Currently, the team is attempting to adapt SparseInf to be used preemptively, to make important predictions before they materialize--from epidemic outbreaks to terrorism plots to finding the sources of an Internet rumors to identifying blogs key to a successful marketing campaign.
Further Reading

Thursday, August 09, 2012

#CHIPS: "Cray Moving to Intel-based Supercomputers"

Intel is aggressively moving into massively parallel supercomputers with its Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture starting with the 50+ core Xeon Phi coprocessor. By wooing Cray to its microprocessors, Intel aims to expand its dominance in high-performance computing (HPCs) and establish a beachhead for its massively parallel MICs due out later this year: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what says about Cray and Intel: The most famous supercomputer maker of all time, Cray Inc. (Seattle, Wash.) has moved to Intel processors for the first time in its long history. Originally founded in 1972 by Seymour Cray who practically invented the supercomputer in the 1960s at Control Data Corporation (CDC), Cray Research was sold to SGI in 1996, and then resold to what became the current Cray Inc. in 2000. Since then Cray’s supercomputers have been best known for their high-end systems using AMD’s Opteron processors. Cray’s next-generation supercomputer code-named Cascade, however, will be its first high-end system based on Intel (although Cray has sold the CX1 and CX1000 work-group systems using Intel-based processors for several years)...
Further Reading

Monday, August 06, 2012

#MEMS: "MEMS enable 'human body on a chip'"

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are usually all electronic, but by adding the ability to pipe fluids around on the chip's surface allows them to emulate the interactions among our different systems--from nervous to respiratory. The new arena of bio-cicuitry can now combine living tissue functionality with electronic control, enabling human-bodies on-a-chip that speed both drug discovery and security screening: R. Colin Johnson

Human body on-a-chip hosts up to 10 interchangeable human tissue modules using microfluidics to model human responses to drugs and vaccines.

Here is what EETimes says about human bodies on-a-chip: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and elsewhere have embarked on an ambitious $32 million " human body-on-a-chip" research project that will use micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microfluidics to mimic people's reactions to substances-of-interest.

The researchers will use microfluidics to test drugs, vaccines and toxins on engineered human tissue samples housed above sensors on an integrated circuit. Funding for the project is being provided by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH)...
Further Reading

Thursday, August 02, 2012

#3D: "Animated characters brought to life by 3-D printing"

3-D printers use a laser to cure a liquid polymer on its top surface, allowing nearly any object to be created as the level of a platform holding up the object is sunk deeper and deeper into the vat. After the top layer of the object is congealed in the polymer with the laser, the vat is drained and the 3-D object revealed--completely assembled. And with this new Harvard software showing at Siggraph 2012, any animated character can be quickly fabricated using a 3-D printer:: R. Colin Johnson

The 3-D animation character (left) was imaged with a 3-D printer (right) with Harvard software. Photo Credit: Moritz Bächer/Harvard

Here is what EETimes says about 3-D printers: The virtual world is being brought to life by reverse engineering the rendering operation that draws on-screen characters in video games and other software animations. Harvard University researchers will describe a patented new algorithm that uses three-dimensional printers to create personalized action figures from animations at next week's Siggraph 2012 show in Los Angeles. Software animations create both realistic and fanciful characters, but their makeup and capabilities need not match those that are possible in the real world. Harvard's software, however, translates the primary characteristics of the on-screen characters into articulated components that together realize a figurine that can be created by a 3-D printer.
Further Reading

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

#MEDICAL: "Independa Provides Plug-and-Play Health Monitoring"

At home wireless medical monitoring equipment allows elderly to lead independent lives in their own homes without the risk. Independa today announced deal with Ideal Life to incorporate its medical dispensers and other monitoring devices into its wireless hub: R. Colin Johnson

Here is what Independa says about its deal with Ideal LIfe: Home health, home care and other professional caregivers face a bewildering array of options for monitoring the independent elderly, and they often have to play integrator to make disparate devices work together. A new agreement between Independa™ and IDEAL LIFE will help avoid that hassle, time and expense by providing caregivers and caregiving organizations a suite of solutions that are connected and ready to use right out of the box.

Independa will integrate IDEAL LIFE’s wireless health monitoring products – including scales, glucometers, pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, medication dispensers and a wireless hub – into the Independa Artemis™ solution.

Caregivers and the independent elderly will simply unpack and power up the devices, which will automatically connect wirelessly to other Artemis elements. This turnkey out-of-the-box experience is ideal for quickly establishing monitoring systems, such as when a person returns home after surgery or moves into an independent living facility.

Artemis, scheduled for general availability this fall, will feature a wide selection of health, safety and activity sensors, with support for a variety of healthcare communications protocols. Artemis will be offered through Independa partners, including home health, home care and senior living providers that want to provide next-generation telecare services.

“Technology is a means to achieve longer and better independent living, more cost-effective care and peace of mind,” said Independa CEO Kian Saneii. “Through our relationship with IDEAL LIFE, technology will fade into the background the moment caregivers and the older adults open the box. In the process, our companies are setting the standard for integrated, cloud-based telecare and eliminating a major barrier to adoption.”

“Many IDEAL LIFEand Independa customers were searching for such a complete and plug-and-play solution, urging our companies to work together,” said IDEAL LIFE President Jason Goldberg. “The integration of IDEAL LIFE solutions into Artemis creates an innovative platform that meets this need by providing a turnkey experience allowing caregivers to focus on what they do best.”
Further Reading