Electronics trends for 2013

Electronics industry hopefully starts to glow after not so good year 2012. It’s safe to say that 2012 has been a wild ride for all of us. The global semiconductor industry has demonstrated impressive resilience in year 2012, despite operating in a challenging global macroeconomic environment. Many have already ratcheted back their expectations for 2013. Beyond 2012, the industry is expected to grow steadily and moderately across all regions, according to the WSTS forecast. So we should see moderate growth in 2013 and 2014. I hope this happens.

The non-volatile memory market is growing rapidly. Underlying technologies for non-volatile memories article tells that non-volatile memory applications can be divided into standalone and embedded system solutions. Standalone applications tend to be driven primarily by costs is dominated by NAND FLASH technology. The embedded market relies mainly on NOR Flash for critical applications and NAND for less critical data storage. Planar CT NAND and 3D NAND could fast become commercially viable this year or in few years. MRAM, PCRAM, and RRAM will need more time and new material innovation to become major technologies.

Multicore CPU architectures are a little like hybrid vehicles: Once seen as anomalies, both are now encountered on a regular basis and are widely accepted as possible solutions to challenging problems. Multi-core architectures will find their application but likely won’t force the extinction of single-core MCUs anytime soon. Within the embedded community, a few applications now seem to be almost exclusively multicore, but in many others multicore remains rare. There are concerns over the complexity and uncertainty about the benefits.

FPGAs as the vanishing foundation article tells that we are entering a new environment in which the FPGA has faded into the wallpaper – not because it is obsolete, but because it is both necessary and ubiquitous. After displacing most functions of ASICs, DSPs, and a few varieties of microcontrollers, it’s fair to ask if there is any realm of electronic products where use of the FPGA is not automatically assumed. Chances are, in the next few years, the very term “FPGA” might be replaced by “that ARM-based system on a chip” from Xilinx, Altera, Lattice, or other vendor.

Software and services have become the soul of consumer technology. Hardware has become increasingly commoditized into blank vessels that do little more than hold Facebook and Twitter and the App Store and Android and iOS.

Are products owned when bought? The trend in recent decades has been an increase in the dependence of the buyer on the seller.

More than 5 billion wireless connectivity chips will ship in 2013, according to market research firm ABI Research. This category includes standalone chips for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, satellite positioning, near-field communications and ZigBee as well as so called “combo” chips that combine multiple standards. Broadcom seen retaining lead in connectivity chips. Bluetooth Smart, WiGig and NFC are all are seeing increased adoption in fitness, automotive and retail applications. Combo chips are also a growing opportunity based on the popularity of smart phones, tablet computers and smart televisions.

Signal integrity issues are on the rise as both design complexity and speed increase all the time. The analog world is moving faster than ever. Learning curves are sharper, design cycles are shorter, and systems more complex. Add to all this the multidisciplinary, analog/digital nature of today’s designs, and your job just gets more complicated.

High-speed I/O: On the road to disintegration? article tells that increases in data rates driven by a need for higher bandwidth (10Gbps, 40Gbps, 100Gbps networking) means the demands on system-level and chip-to-chip interconnects are increasingly challenging design and manufacturing capabilities. For current and future high-performance, high-speed serial interfaces featuring equalization could well be the norm and high levels of SoC integration may no longer be the best solution.


For a long time, the Consumer Electronics Show, which began in 1967, was the Super Bowl of new technology, but now consumer electronics show as a concept is changing and maybe fading out in some way. The social web has replaced the trade show as a platform for showcasing and distributing products and concepts and ideas.

NFC, or near-field communications, has been around for 10 years, battling its own version of the chicken-and-egg question: Which comes first, the enabled devices or the applications? Near-field communications to go far in 2013 article expects that this is the year for NFC. NFC is going to go down many different paths, not just mobile wallet.

3-D printing was hot last year and is still hot. We will be seeing much more on this technology in 2013.

Inexpensive tablets and e-readers will find their users. Sub-$100 tablets and e-readers will offer more alternatives to pricey iPads and Kindles. Also sub-$200 higher performance tablet group is selling well.

User interfaces will evolve. Capacitive sensing—Integrating multiple interfaces and Human-machine interfaces enter the third dimension. Ubiquitous sensors meet the most natural interface–speech.

Electronic systems in the automotive industry is accelerating at a furious pace. The automotive industry in the United States is steadily recovering and nowadays electronics run pretty much everything in a vehicle. Automotive electronics systems trends impact test and measurement companies Of course, with new technologies come new challenges: faster transport buses, more wireless applications, higher switching power and sheer amount and density of electronics in modern vehicles.

Next Round: GaN versus Si article tells that the wide-band gap (WBG) power devices have shown up as Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC). These devices provide low RDSON with higher breakdown voltage.

Energy harvesting was talked quite much in 2012 and I expect that it will find more and more applications this year. Four main ambient energy sources are present in our environment: mechanical energy (vibrations, deformations), thermal energy (temperature gradients or variations), radiant energy (sun, infrared, RF) and chemical energy (chemistry, biochemistry). Peel-and-stick solar cells are coming.

Wireless charging of mobile devices is get getting some popularity. Wireless charging for Qi technology is becoming the industry standard as Nokia, HTC and some other companies use that. There is a competing AW4P wireless charging standard pushed by Samsung ja Qualcomm.


In recent years, ‘Low-carbon Green Growth’ has emerged as a very important issue in selling new products. LED lighting industry analysis and market forecast article tells that ‘Low-carbon Green Growth’ is a global trend. LED lighting is becoming the most important axis of ‘Low-carbon Green Growth’ industry. The expectations for industry productivity and job creation are very large.

A record number of dangerous electrical equipment has been pulled from market by Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency’s control. Poor equipment design have been found in a lot, especially in LED light bulbs. Almost 260 items were taken from the market and very many of them were LED lights. With high enthusiasm we went to the new technology and then forgotten the basic electrical engineering. CE marking is not in itself guarantee that the product is safe.

The “higher density,” “higher dynamic” trend also is challenging traditional power distribution technologies within systems. Some new concepts are being explored today. AC vs DC power in data center discussion is going strong. Redundant power supplies are asked for in many demanding applications.

According to IHS, global advanced meter shipments are expected to remain stable from 2012 through 2014. Smart electricity meters seen doubling by 2016 (to about 35 percent penetration). In the long term, IHS said it anticipates that the global smart meter market will depend on developing economies such as China, Brazil and India. What’s next after smart power meter? How about some power backup for the home?

Energy is going digital article claims that graphical system design changes how we manipulate, move, and store energy. What defines the transition from analog to digital and how can we tell when energy has made the jump? First, the digital control of energy, in the form of electricity, requires smart sensors. Second, digital energy systems must be networked and field reconfigurable to send data that makes continuous improvements and bug fixes possible. Third, the system must be modeled and simulated with high accuracy and speed. When an analog technology goes digital, it becomes an information technology — a software problem. The digital energy revolution is enabled by powerful software tools.

Cloud is talked a lot in both as design tool and service where connected devices connect to. The cloud means many things to many people, but irrespective of how you define it, there are opportunities for engineers to innovate. EDA companies put their hope on Accelerating embedded design with cloud-enabled development platforms. They say that The Future of Design is Cloudy. M2M companies are competing in developing solutions for easily connecting embedded devices to cloud.

Trend articles worth to check out:
13 Things That Went Obsolete In 2012
Five Technologies to Watch in 2013
Hot technologies: Looking ahead to 2013
Hot technologies: Looking ahead to 2013
Technology predictions for 2013
Prediction for 2013 – Technology
Slideshow: Top Technologies of 2013
10 hot consumer trends for 2013

Popular designer articles from last year that could give hints what to expect:
Top 10 Communications Design Articles of 2012
Top 10 smart energy articles of 2012
Slideshow: The Top 10 Industrial Control Articles of 2012
Looking at Developer’s Activities – a 2012 Retrospective


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MEMS Gains Momentum in China

    China has become a global powerhouse for manufacturing every imaginable kind of product — from motherboards, smartphones, and PCs to textiles and toys. But what of MEMS in China?

    I recently traveled to Shanghai, and did my level best to explore that question while taking a closer peek into the Chinese MEMS industry. I was definitely impressed. Though the current MEMS industry in China is at a nascent stage — and there are only a few players on the field (including SMIC and MEMSIC) — the seeds are being planted for a fruitful future.

    What struck me the most when I went to Shanghai is the energy of entrepreneurism. I saw it everywhere: There are the vendors in the French Concession where you can find competitors selling hand-painted scarves just doors away from each other. Competitive differentiation came in the form of each seller showcasing their advantage/uniqueness either in price or in quality.

    Soon the same will be true for MEMS in China. There are several initiatives currently underway in China to catapult the current MEMS industry into the world arena. While we now have the dominance of ST and Bosch as they battle for the number one spot in MEMS, it’s just like in any horse race: You gotta look out for the competitor who is sneaking up from the outside. Bosch and ST have benefitted from a mature supply chain that they have honed and refined to leverage each of their advantages. This fierce competition has driven down the price of MEMS so that revenue-per-device is minimal, compelling suppliers to make profit in the margins.

    What I see happening in China is that there is and will continue to be a huge influx of government dollars into initiatives focused on the Internet of Things (IoT). And since MEMS is a cornerstone of IoT, China is now heavily investing in MEMS and especially, into its supply chain.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Stacks & Security Key for IBM in Server Market
    The MCU is dead, says IBM technologist

    According to a top IBM technologist, the future of cloud computing depends on 3D chip stacks and new kinds of accelerators for functions like security, as the industry faces processor shrinkage slowing down while processor integration increases.

    To him, 3D stacking is clearly the Next Big Thing. Instead of the continuation of Moore’s law, engineers will increasingly look to a different sort of packaging. Meyerson believes that density can be achieved by combining multiple functions. “It’ll look like a single chip, but it will be about 50 chips stacked one on top of the other.”

    Meyerson believes in the importance of solid-state devices in storage in servers. “Ultimately, we’ll hopefully start to see things like storage class memory. We’ll actually be able to integrate this, but it will be at the same clutch time as external storage.”

    Security at all levels
    The other major shift Meyerson underscored was towards more integrated security on servers:

    Cloud security and other elements will be dramatically upgraded. Systems don’t have it on the inside. There will be elements of the server that, in and of themselves, add dramatically to the security of that system. Hackers are going to get smarter, and the systems will also have to get smarter at what you might call self-defense.

    Meyerson pointed to the need for security at all levels, including the high end, which IBM’s servers are known for offering.

    If you shut down for even a few moments your losses can be catastrophic. The inherent security of our capabilities is important. You have to offer more than just what I call “Here’s a server, good luck to you.” The impact of outage and the impact of breach becomes extraordinarily problematic. We run many of the world’s banking systems. People are putting important stuff in the cloud.

    “My joke is ‘What’s going to come after silicon? Silicon.’ ”

    Coherently Attached Processor Interface
    Meanwhile, coprocessors and accelerators linked to microprocessors on coherent APIs are a major part of the future of server processors. “There is a need for accelerated systems and certain types of microprocessors like FPGAs that contain huge amounts of processing power. It would be great to run this through on an accelerated pace.”

    In this context, Meyerson mentioned CAPI, the Coherently Attached Processor Interface, which provides a high-speed bus on top of PCI-E, replacing the older GX bus.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Future Is All Robots. But Will We Even Notice?

    We’ve watched the rising interest in robotics for the past few years. It may have started with the birth of FIRST Robotics competitions, continued with the iRobot and the Roomba, and more recently with Google’s driverless cars. But in the last few weeks, there has been a big change. Suddenly, everybody’s talking about robots and robotics.

    It might have been Jeff Bezos’ remark about using autonomous drones to deliver products by air.

    But what really lit the fire was Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics, a DARPA contractor that makes some of the most impressive mobile robots anywhere. It’s hard to watch their videos without falling in love with what their robots can do. Or becoming very scared. Or both. And, of course, Boston Dynamics isn’t a one-time buy. It’s the most recent in a series of eight robotics acquisitions, and I’d bet that it’s not the last in the series.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY “smart” watch idea:
    Stylish OLED Watch Uses Accelerometer Instead of Buttons

    The watch is based on the low-power MSP430F microcontroller from Texas Instruments

    [Andrew] chose an 0.96″ OLED display that only consumes up to 7mA. He also included an accelerometer that allows him to interact with the watch through its single and double tap detecting feature. He modeled his PCB using EagleCAD and the whole assembly using Sketchup. Most of the components were soldered in his reflow (toaster) oven.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Healthcare IT’s Achilles’ Heel: Sensors

    Fitbit, FuelBand, and ingestible sensors aren’t quite enough to support researchers’ grandiose dreams for healthcare IT.

    For several quarters, tech publications and pundits alike have crowed about the benefits we’re soon to collectively reap from healthcare analytics. In theory, sensors attached to our bodies (and appliances such as the fridge) will send a stream of health-related data—everything from calorie and footstep counts to blood pressure and sleep activity—to the cloud, which will analyze it for insight; doctors and other healthcare professionals will use that data to tailor treatments or advise changes in behavior and diet. If nothing else, it could translate into significant revenues for everyone from data-analytics firms to hardware builders.

    That healthcare data could also come from a variety of sources, not just a set of devices or sensors

    “if it’s talking into our iPhone, where we do our grocery shopping, our exercise habits, there are many behavioral outputs that others like Amazon, like Google, are measuring about us that our caregivers don’t have access to and we as patients can’t use.”

    Health apps for mobile devices aren’t much better when it comes to accurately recording physiological information; the need to manually input data makes them somewhat cumbersome to use, and people often give up after a few days or weeks.

    Once more sensitive hardware arrives on the market—whether in the form of wristbands, digital pills, or something else entirely—it could give doctors, researchers, and patients better access to “good” data that can actually make a difference in research and treatment.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Eraser or Sledge Hammer? You Decide

    I’m not a big gambler, but I think I understand the basic strategy of certain games. Take blackjack. The strategy is to keep track of the cards that have gone out. As the game progresses, you can better calculate your level of risk with each hand played. Once you have that understanding, you start betting more often and in higher amounts, based on your card observations.

    It’s the same in product development. Conducting design research up front reduces your risk of problems occurring downstream. As you move through the R&D process, you can invest more money more confidently. The betting here is your monetary investment in development, engineering, and prototyping. As your risk goes down, you can spend more money.

    People sometimes have an inverse approach. They believe they have a great idea, and they throw a lot of time, money, and resources at it. Some even leap right into a concept, a prototype, and a working model. They’ve already spent a ton of money, but then feedback starts coming in, and changes need to be made — some of them drastic. It takes time to make changes. At this point, the risk is really high, because of money already invested, and now there is a lot to lose.

    It’s a Catch-22. The point of design research is to provide the right information up front, so you can develop the best ideas early on. But nobody wants to spend the money to do it. In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright: “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site.” The sledge hammer is a bit more expensive.

    Design research minimizes your risk if you approach it correctly. What you’re ultimately trying to do with research is understand what a user needs to do to be successful with the device. You might spend a small or moderate amount up front to get this done, but it will take you more time and more money to change it later.

    You should walk away from this type of research thinking: “I have a checklist of everything this user group needs to do to be successful using this device to perform the job.” Now your task is set before you, and that task is to design something that can check off every item on that list.

    It’s important to mention what design research is not: “Here’s Option A and Option B. Which one do you like better?” This is just a simple focus-group comparison. Unfortunately, much development research is done this way

    Finally, some people claim that doing design research puts too much restraint on their creativity. Ironically, a robust design research process actually gives you a lot of design freedom.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Survey: Development Boards Reduce Need for Custom PCB Design

    My firm recently conducted a survey among global engineers involved in PCB design, to get a snapshot of the industry’s trends from the year. We found that these engineers are increasingly targeting a variety of applications, with some of the most popular including control systems (74%), open hardware, and robotics.

    When choosing design software and graphical layout editors, engineers’ preferences rely primarily on functionality and performance.

    What do these results suggest about the evolution of PCB design? Online forums and social media didn’t exist 25 years ago, and the majority of design engineers today recognize the benefits these channels present. Despite this, communities remain an untapped resource to an emerging generation of PCB designers. In addition, the growth of development boards, which have reduced the need for custom PCB design for 64 percent of our respondents, provides software developers an opportunity to evolve alongside the changing electronic design landscape.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bluetooth Smart Radio Boasts Ultra-Low Power Consumption

    Imec is offering a new ultra-low-power Bluetooth Smart radio that can consume less than a fifth the power of current competitive products, and also features a low-memory footprint.

    The Bluetooth Smart compliant 2.4 GHz short-range radio — which Imec co-developed with its open-innovation lab, Holst Centre — is well suited for a host of wireless sensor applications, such as heart monitors, interfaces such as styluses, smart watches, smartphones, as well as sensors that take temperature and other atmospheric readings,

    These types of sensors, which generally should consume as little power as possible so their batteries or power sources don’t need frequent replacement, are the foundation of the Internet of Things (IoT), in which myriad devices and everyday items or household appliances will communicate with each other via radios like this one.

    Currently, Bluetooth Smart (formerly Bluetooth Low Energy) is emerging as one of the leading wireless protocols for these sensors and devices, alongside WiFi and Zigbee. ABI Research in London said that Bluetooth Smart will lead in shipments and WiFi will lead in revenues in the healthcare device intelligent component market, which is expected to exceed $100 million by 2018.

    For sensor nodes the wireless system usually is 50 to 85 percent of the overall power consumption of a system, De Groot said.

    The new short-range radio — which uses a 1.2 V battery — achieves a DC power of only 3.8 mW at 1.2 V supply for the receiver and 4.6 mW for the transmitter, according to Imec.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Robots Can’t End Amazon’s Labor Woes Because They Don’t Have Hands

    Could Amazon turn the metaphorical machines that are its warehouses into literal machines driven entirely by robotics? Not any time soon. The Kiva drones it has deployed so far represent a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of workers needed to meet Amazon’s holiday demand, and Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako tells WIRED the company does not see using robots as a way of avoiding conflict over labor.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is it a Human, a Robot, or an Android?

    Are they robots or androids? We’re not exactly sure. Each Geminoid has been made to look just like a real individual — all three of them, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.

    Like the standard definition of robots, the Geminoids are electromechanical devices. But they look and act like living creatures, in fact, like specific individuals, so they might be considered androids. As we’ve previously discussed, though, that usually implies the incorporation of some living cells. It also implies embodied computer intelligence. The Geminoids don’t have either, so I’ll call them robots.

    Are they robots or androids? We’re not exactly sure. Each Geminoid has been made to look just like a real individual — all three of them, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.

    Like the standard definition of robots, the Geminoids are electromechanical devices. But they look and act like living creatures, in fact, like specific individuals, so they might be considered androids. As we’ve previously discussed, though, that usually implies the incorporation of some living cells. It also implies embodied computer intelligence. The Geminoids don’t have either, so I’ll call them robots.

    Most uncanny of all, like real humans, the Geminoids appear to talk. Of course, it’s actually a real human doing the talking and controlling the robot’s movements remotely, so the apparent human presence is simulated.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    E-Waste to Jump One-Third by 2017, StEP Report Says

    By 2017, all of that year’s end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys, and other products with a battery or electrical cord worldwide could fill a line of 40-ton trucks end to end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Equator.

    The forecast, based on data compiled by the Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative, represents a global jump of 33% in just five years. While most of these used e-products are destined for disposal, gradually improving efforts in some regions are diverting some of it to recycling and reuse.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Indiegogo Propels MedTech Startup to CES

    At 33, Jose Bohorquez made the leap from design engineer to chief executive thanks to some old-school and new-school networking. His grad school adviser at MIT introduced him to a professor who became a key partner in a startup that is exceeding expectations on the Indiegogo crowdfunding website.

    The two formed Skulpt, a company building medical and fitness devices that look like smartphones. The key ingredient is electrical impedance myography (EIM), a novel technique developed by Seward Rutkove, a professor of neurology at MIT, for measuring muscle and fat tissue with relatively high accuracy.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    GSB: Circular economy hub
    Using copyright to keep repair manuals secret undermines circular economy
    Electronics manufacturers are denying consumers access to repair manuals, and it’s working against the environment

    Everything from tractors to home appliances came with detailed repair manuals. There was an expectation that if your tablesaw broke or your vacuum stopped working, you were going to open it up, figure out what was wrong, and fix it. If you got stuck, you called the manufacturer and they walked you through it.

    Ironically, we now live in an age where information has never been more abundant, and yet every day more repair manuals disappear.

    It’s not an accident. Manufacturers of computers, mobile phones, appliances, and cars still create repair manuals for every product they ship. You’re just not allowed to have them anymore. And that gap in repair information is hindering our efforts to create a circular economy.

    Last year, Toshiba enraged the wired generation when it issued a mass takedown to Tim Hicks, a young Australian laptop refurbisher. Hicks runs Future Proof, a site that hosts ad-free, virus-free manufacturer repair guides for laptops. In no uncertain terms, Toshiba Australia’s legal department told Hicks that he had to delete every one of its repair manuals.

    Toshiba’s actions are symptomatic of a much larger corporate tactic to quell independent repair. Only a handful of electronics producers, including Dell, HP, and Lenovo, voluntarily release service manuals to the public for free. Others, including Apple, Acer and Sony, refuse to release repair, maintenance, or service manuals to the public, using copyright claims to scrub internal manuals off the web when third parties post them.

    It’s unclear whether companies like Toshiba and Apple are within their rights. No one can legally copyright facts or procedures but you can copyright any form of creative work, like writing. Manuals, despite their lack of creative or artistic merit, are a form of writing. Companies aren’t going out on a limb by hiding them behind the shield of copyright.

    My company iFixit, a free repair manual for everything, has dodged copyright entanglements by taking apart products, writing our own guides from scratch and posting them online for free. We’re trying to fill the information gap left when manufacturers use copyright to keep their manuals offline. We’re making progress, one industry at a time

    Let me make one thing clear: copyrighting repair manuals doesn’t protect creative work and it doesn’t prevent knock-off artists from copying design. All it does is stop people from fixing their things. It prevents independent repair facilities and shops from having the information they need to repair your stuff at competitive prices. And it prevents refurbishers from having the resources they require to fix products and put them back on the market.

    Without critical repair information from the manufacturer, more and more of our goods will be shredded for recycling or worse, simply thrown away to make up part of the 1.37m tonnes of e-waste Britain disposes of each year.

    Repair and reuse is an important loop in a circular economy because they are the most resource-efficient way to manage end-of-life products. Unlike recycling, repair lengthens the life of goods without compromising material quality or expending any extra resources. Reuse means our stuff can go on to a second, third, or even fourth life before recycling.

    By limiting repair information, manufacturers are eliminating the possibility of repair for thousands of consumers and refurbishers.

    So, when buying a new gizmo, check to see if the manufacturer posts service and repair information on its website. Support the companies that are doing a good job, and pressure other companies

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    It Works! A Tiny Speaker Printed on a Single Sheet of Paper

    If you’re the tinkering type, you’ve probably deconstructed a fair number of electronics. It doesn’t take a genius to tear apart a radio, but once you get past the bulk of plastic packaging and down to the guts, you begin to realize that reading the mess of circuits, chips and components is like trying to navigate your way through a foreign country with a map from the 18th century.

    But it doesn’t have to be so complicated, says Coralie Gourguechon. “Nowadays, we own devices that are too complicated considering the way we really use them,” she says. Gourguechon, maker of the Craft Camera, believes that in order to understand our electronics, they need to be vastly simpler and more transparent than they currently are.

    Gourguechon has created a series of paper electronics—an amplifier, speaker and radio—stripped down to their most basic components and fitted onto a single sheet of paper. “The idea was that the sheet of paper become the object, with no complicated assembly needed,” she says

    All of the components are linked together through a series of lines that are printed with conductive ink, which allows the paper electronics to actually function. To turn the speaker on, for example, you pop out the sound cone in order to amplify your input. To close the circuit and turn it off, you simply lay the cone flat.

    Though this is just a prototype, Gourguechon says that she can envision a day where paper electronics could be part of a massive database of pattern modules that users could simply print out and assemble.

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  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Check Out the CEO’s Paycheck

    As images of holiday bonuses dance through our heads, we thought it was a good time to look at the compensation of a handful of the semiconductor industry’s CEOs. We found packages that ranged from less than $3 million to nearly $20 million.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Power Week-in-Review: Smallest Laptop Adapter, Fusion Power Breakthrough & BLE Wireless Power Solution

    Power conversion startup FINsix has announced the development of what it claims is the world’s smallest laptop power adapter. Packaged as a standard wall plug (see figure below), the 65-W unit is one fourth the size and one sixth the weight of traditional adapters, and is based on the company’s VHF power conversion technology that allows switching speeds of between 30 and 300 MHz. The adapter is expected to be shown at next month’s CES and to be commercially available sometime in mid 2014.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google’s SCHAFT robot wins DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013

    The SCHAFT robot beat out five other teams in the Track A category to win the DARPA Robotics Challenge 2013 Trial held December 20 and 21, 2013. Google recently purchased SCHAFT as part of its secret robotics project.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NeverWet on Electronics?

    Does NeverWet work on electronics? The team over at Adafruit just had to find out — and to an extent, it does work!

    But wait, what’s NeverWet? It’s Rust-Oleum’s miracle water-repelling coating which is super hydrophobic. It actually works, and we’re kind of surprised we haven’t seen it used in a hack yet! Anyway, let’s start this hack with a quick disclaimer. NeverWet is not designed for waterproofing electronics.

    The experimenters chose a few electronic guinea pigs to test out NeverWet’s capabilities. An Arduino Micro, a FLORA LED broach, and a Raspberry Pi. Using the proper application method they coated the unlucky electronics with a few generous layers of the product.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    News & Analysis
    E-Waste: Lack of Info Plagues Efforts to Reduce E-Waste

    Key gaps in information play an increasingly important role in thwarting efforts at environmental protection — including the reduction of waste from electronic materials.

    The creation of trade codes is necessary to track used electronics products according to a recent study concerning the waste from growing quantities of used electronics devices—including TVs, mobile phones. and computers.

    The report re-iterated the need to create trade codes for used products to allow the precise tracking of such products, as well as the need to investigate specific trade codes used by exporters for used electronic material that comes in whole units.

    Approximately 80 percent of used electronics, including mobile phones, television sets, and monitors end up in places with a significant middle class — whereas Africa receives a very small fraction of used electronics from the United States.

    However, according to a spokesperson for Interpol quoted in The Guardian in spite of the fact that it is legal to export products that have been thrown out as long as they can still be refurbished and put to use in a different form, high levels of electronic waste are being sent to Africa and Asia under false pretenses. “Much is falsely classified as ‘used goods’ although in reality it is non-functional.

    According to the European Environment Agency quoted in the same article, many of the countries confronted with the problem of e-waste are unaware of its magnitude due to lack of information. They have not kept track of the used electronics materials coming onto their shores and have thus not been able to protect themselves from it.

    StEP estimates worldwide e-waste to increase by 33 percent from 50 million tons in 2012 to 65 million tons by 2017. China and the U.S. lead the world as top producers of e-waste, with China producing 12.2 million tons and the U.S. at 11 million tons. However, America produces about 65 pounds of e-waste per person every year, which is more than the 11 pounds per person China produces.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Need to Be Open: U.S. Laws Are Killing the Future of Robotics

    The next step in transformative technology is already here, and the United States runs the risk of getting left behind.

    The amount of robotics inventions is steadily on the rise, and the U.S. military is already in on the action. A few years ago, Air Force drones surpassed 1 million combat hours. Hobbyists are using platforms like Arduino to build their own robots, and they’re building them by the thousands. Tesla recently announced its intention to develop and market driverless cars by 2018.

    Yet for all its momentum, robotics is at a crossroads. The industry faces a choice — one that you see again and again with transformative technologies. Will this technology essentially be closed, or will it be open?

    Closing Software, Stifling Innovation

    What does it mean for robotics to be closed? Resembling any contemporary appliance, they are designed to perform a set task. They run proprietary software and are no more amenable to casual tinkering than a dishwasher. The popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and the first AIBO mechanical pet are closed in this sense.

    Open robots are just the opposite. By definition, they invite contribution. It has no predetermined function, runs third-party or even open-source software, and can be physically altered and extended without compromising performance.

    Consumer robotics started off closed, which helps to explain why it has moved so slowly.

    Compare the early days of personal computing, as described by Jonathan Zittrain in The Future of the Internet. Personal computers were designed to run any software, written by anyone. Indeed, many of the innovations or “killer apps” that popularized PCs came from amateur coders, not Apple or IBM.

    The open model — best exemplified, for a time, by the Silicon Valley robotics incubator Willow Garage — is gaining momentum. Seven years ago, iRobot’s cofounder Colin Angle told The Economist that robots would be relatively dumb machines designed for a particular task. Robot vacuums will vacuum; robot pool cleaners will clean the pool.

    Two years ago at the Consumer Electronics Show, the same company unveiled a robot called AVA designed to run third-party apps.

    Enter the Lawyers

    The trouble with open platforms is that they open the manufacturer to a universe of potential lawsuits. If a robot is built to do anything, it can do something bad. If it can run any software, it can run buggy or malicious software. The next killer app could, well, kill someone.

    Liability in a closed world is fairly straightforward. A Roomba is supposed to do one thing and do it safely. Say a Roomba causes an injury in the course of vacuuming the floor. Then iRobot generally will be held liable as it built the hardware and wrote or licensed the software. If someone hacks the Roomba and uses it to reenact the video game Frogger on the streets of Austin, Texas (this really happened), or used the Roomba for a baby rodeo (it’s a thing), then iRobot can argue product misuse.

    But what about in an open world? Open robots have no intended use. The hardware, the operating system and the individual software — any of which could be responsible for an accident — might each have a different author. Open-source software could have many authors. But plaintiffs will always sue the deep pockets. And courts could well place the burden on the defendants to sort it out.

    But there is one, key difference between PCs and robots: The damage caused by home computers is intangible. The only casualties are bits. Courts were able to invoke doctrines such as economic loss, which provides that, in the absence of physical injury, a contracting party may recover no more than the value of the contract.

    Open robots combine, arguably for the first time, the versatility, complexity and collaborative ecosystem of a PC with potential for physical damage or injury.

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