Consumer

The consumer electronics market is not only one of the fastest moving of all markets, it’s one of the broadest. With mobile phones, tablets and similar devices updated on a rapid time scale, consumers are always on the lookout for the latest products. Those involved in the the sector, as well as those looking to enter the consumer electronics market, need to keep up to date.

New Electronics covers developments in the consumer electronics sector, bringing technology updates and opinion from the market.

High level synthesis to make hardware design more enjoyable

In the past few years, a common complaint of hardware designers, especially those designing embedded integrated circuits, is that they are too entrenched to boost hardware implementations, with little time left to do any real design work. They don’t have the time to analyse and find the best implementation for their specific goals because they are so focused on getting their product out of the door. In 2017, an increasing numbers of designers will be returning to do real hardware design work, figuring out the best way to get some functionality onto hardware. The result: better hardware and more satisfied designers.

Issues involving convoluted neural networks

Since their invention more than 50 years ago, neural networks have enjoyed periods of popularity in the research community, then languished nearly forgotten in between. A massive increase in computing power and novel approaches to artificial-neuron training brought neural networks in from the cold 10 years ago and they have now reached the point where the algorithms are not only being deployed in servers, but are also beginning to move into embedded systems. But that shift calls for a massive improvement in their efficiency.

Bright future for fibre optical networks

In the last 30 years or so, the rate at which data can be sent down core fibre has increased by an amazing 10million times. And the UK has a long and enviable track record in this remarkable progress, with research groups and companies continuing to influence and drive the industry.

Advanced analytics for a data enabled economy

In the digital era, successful economies and businesses will be creative, innovative and economically diverse, driven by the generation and use of ‘Big Data’ created by computers, sensors and other digital devices, networked systems and improved analytics.

UK universities getting better at commercialising research

The relationship between universities and new technology start-ups is crucial and the UK has been relatively poor at the commercialisation of ideas, let alone commercial success. Should it be about the jobs that are created or should the financial returns from technological innovation be the sole driver of whether university research is worthwhile?

Will MRAM replace flash in leading edge processes?

As microcontrollers run at faster clock rates and the amount of software needed in embedded systems increases, developers are becoming more interested in embedding memory on chip, rather than transferring data to and from an external device.

What does 2017 hold for oscillator design?

Modern technology relies heavily on accurate timing as its fundamental basis, so that items of electronics all have coordinated functions. This applies across a wide range of industry sectors and, without the ability to implement precise timing, the highly connected systems upon which we all depend will inevitably fail.

Memristors as logic gates and memory cells in tomorrow’s computing devices

As the last decade ended, ARM’s CTO Mike Muller warned the era of dark silicon was approaching. The 2008 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, published a year before, showed that scaling was diverging from transistor size. Muller argued that, while Moore’s Law might well deliver billions of transistors, they cannot all be active at the same time without making the chip cook itself to death.

Choosing between PCAP and resistive touchscreen technologies

Resistive touchscreens are typically found in retail electronic point of sale (EPOS) devices and companies have traditionally used them in industry. These have several layers, including two thin transparent, electrically resistive layers, separated by a thin space. When an object such as a fingertip or stylus tip presses down on the outer surface, the two layers touch to become connected. These touchscreens simply need enough pressure for the touch to be sensed and can be used while wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Technology to integrate FPGA functionality into SoCs

FPGAs are rarely out of the news, but the acquisition of Altera by Intel in 2015 pushed the technology firmly into the headlines. Intel’s main reason for buying Altera was to provide a way to accelerate the performance of its Xeon processors, used widely in data centres. But Intel hasn’t been the only company turning its attention to the use of FPGAs in such applications; earlier in 2015, Microsoft said that Project Catapult used Altera’s Arria 10 FPGAs to boost data centre power/performance.

Advances in technology to meet frequency mixing needs

Frequency mixing is one of the most critical sections of the signal chain and, in the past, many applications were limited by the performance of a mixer – frequency range, conversion loss and linearity defined whether a mixer could be used for the application or not. Designs for frequencies of more than 30GHz were difficult and packaging the devices at those frequencies was even harder.

Energy regulations in power adaptors

The external power supply has become a staple part of system design for the electronics engineer. It provides a convenient means by which to add an AC front-end to a product which already meets international safety approvals. It also provides a faster time to market, with the option to use a connector which suits the application and reduces the risk of a generic power supply being plugged in and causing damage. By supplying a lower DC voltage to the equipment, it becomes easier to design a compact product that complies with all the necessary safety standards – a key consideration in applications in the consumer, industrial and medical markets

Security risks in the connected world

To say the Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay may be the understatement of the decade. We are all knee-deep in the IoT and there is no turning back – gone are the days of thinking connecting refrigerators, security systems and vending machines to the Internet is in a land far, far away.

Overcoming visual impairment

In 2015, more than 2million people in the UK were living with some degree of sight loss. It affects people of all ages, but the older we get, the more likely it is that our vision will be impaired. According to statistics from RNIB, one in five people aged 75 and more are living with sight loss and nearly two-thirds of those living with sight loss are women.

Focusing light on industry’s problems

One of the longest established such centres in the UK, the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde is working in optogenetics and neurophotonics, as well as more traditional areas such as solid state lasers.

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