Japan hangs hat on Android, sensors 12
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October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 3
U.S. must fast-track policy patents do not expire until 2014.
One hopeful sign is a recent contract
on rare earth materials
between Boeing and U.S. Rare Earths
Inc. under which Boeing will use a ver-
sion of its remote sensing technology to
identify and confirm rare earth deposits
at sites for which USRE owns the min-
eral rights. USRE will use the Boeing
findings to expand its exploration and
incorporate large-scale mapping of con-
firmed and suspected rare earth
The U.S. House of Representatives has deposits.
USRE holds the rights to significant
approved H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Criti- deposits of rare earth elements in the
United States, according to the U.S. Geo-
cal Materials Revitalization Act of 2010, author- logical Survey.
izing development of a domestic rare earth Meanwhile, Molycorp Inc., currently
acknowledged to be the Western Hemi-
materials program to address short-term scarci- sphere’s only producer of rare earths,
this month rehired Stan Trout as direc-
ties and ensure long-term supply for the tor of magnet manufacturing to
nation’s security, economic and industrial advance its “mines to magnets” strategy
of modernizing and expanding its
requirements. The nod comes none too soon. Mountain Pass., Calif., processing facili-
ty. Trout is considered a leading expert
According to a Bloomberg report, tronic components that use rare earth in the design and manufacture of per-
China in July reduced rare earth export elements—could hold consequences for manent rare earth magnets. For the past
quotas for the rest of the year by 72 per- producers of electronics. 10 years, he ran industry consultancy
cent, inflating prices more The GAO report states Spontaneous Materials. Before that, he
than sixfold for some rare that the fate of materials worked for Magnequench—one of the
earth materials vital to the based on such elements as last companies to make neodymium-
energy, military, electronics neodymium, dysprosium iron-boron permanent rare earth mag-
and manufacturing sectors. and terbium is largely in nets in the United States—as well as for
The U.S. Government the hands of Chinese sup- Hitachi Magnetics, Crucible Magnetics
Accountability Office, in a pliers. China has adopted and Recoma, in addition to his first stint
briefing to congressional domestic production quotas at Molycorp.
committees on “Rare Earth on rare earth materials Trout helped pioneer the use of per-
Materials in the Defense while slashing export quo- manent rare earth magnets in early MRI
Supply Chain,” warns that tas. It has increased export equipment as well as in other applica-
while rare earth ore Rebuilding taxes on all rare earth mate- tions. He “is one of the few individuals
deposits are geographically the supply rials to a range of 15 to 25 in the United States who has the knowl-
diverse, current capabili- percent. edge and practical experience necessary
ties to process rare earth
chain for Still think China’s indus- to lead our rebuilding of this manufac-
metals into finished mate- these critical trial ambitions are purely turing capacity in the U.S., which Moly-
rials are limited mostly to resources benevolent? corp is on track to accomplish in 2012,”
Chinese sources. The Unit- Rebuilding the U.S. sup- Molycorp CEO Mark Smith said when
ed States can no longer could take ply chain for rare earth Trout’s rehiring was announced.
claim a role in all stages of 15 years materials to a level that will But it’s going to take a lot of blood,
the supply chain for mate- ensure sustainability could sweat and tears to revive the long-
rials based on the rare take 15 years. Development neglected rare earth materials manufac-
earths, the GAO notes . is dependent on new technologies that turing industry. Molycorp has a long
China’s dominance not only has some experts believe will not be avail- history, having discovered the rare
implications for global availability and able on a production scale for up to four earth metal bastnasite in Mountain Pass
pricing of rare earth-based materials years and will require high startup back in 1949, but it has undergone
but also could jeopardize U.S. defense costs. There is also an intellectual prop- many organizational changes in its bid
readiness. In a concern closer to the erty rights issue: Japanese and other for- to be an effective producer. The compa-
industry, ceding control of both mag- eign companies own key technology ny currently manufactures approxi-
netic polarities of the world’s magnets patents for manufacturing neodymium mately 3,000 tons of commercial rare
to China—magnets being the key elec iron boron magnets, and some of those earth materials per year. By 2012, it
4 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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expects to be producing at a rate of Can our elected officials not overcome come to fruition. It needs to start
20,000 tons of rare earth oxide equiva- the Chinese lobbies and all the dollars opening the mines it closed earlier
lent per year and to offer a range of rare being thrown at them thanks to all the to catch up. — Nic_Mokhoff
earth products, including high-purity extra profits being generated by this
oxides, metals, alloys and permanent false scarcity? Boycott Chinese goods Rare earth metals are needed
magnets. until they reverse this, or impose an for electric motors [used in
China’s export and tariff rule changes equal tax rate on all Chinese imports. products] including hybrid electric
for the rare earths are a wakeup call for — new2coding vehicles, commercial wind turbines
nations that have let their own capabili- and high-speed
ties lapse. The U.S. government must Unfortunately, [exerting pressure on trains. With ‘Yet another
fast-track its policy on rare earth miner-
al exploration, development and com-
the Chinese] is unlikely to be possible.
The U.S. and EU . . . are addicted to
to corner the
mercialization. cheap Chinese labor and have moved market on rare no nation
The rare earths are critical ground. p almost everything to China. Now the earth elements, should
Chinese have secured power over it is trying to
By Nicolas Mokhoff (nicolas.mokhoff@ production and, gradually, resources. become a
ubm.com), editor in chief of EE Times’ We should focus on new technologies major manu- production
all-digital editions and executive editor
of EE Times
that won’t require China’s involve-
ment, and [rethink] globalization.
in the above
— Baolt technology another’
I heard China is soon going to become A recent PBS news segment
READERS RESPOND the world’s strongest economy. May be stated there was only one U.S. rare
this is one way [it’s getting there]. earth metal mining operation and that
Just issue fast-track visas to scientists — Sheetal.Pandey it needed help to get production up.
and engineers specialized in rare earth A recent U.S. Geological Survey report
refinery technologies. Wow, an export tariff. I haven’t heard found deposits of minerals including
The time frame could be cut down of that happening since the 19th cen- rare earth in Afghanistan may be
to less than 10 years. — pixies tury. Anybody still think that the worth $1 trillion.
Chinese believe in free trade? It seems only fair that U.S. compa-
‘Wow, an I would ask — Kaiser Silicon nies should have mining rights to the
export tariff the President Afghan deposits. — Davewav
how he plans I just read an article on eetimes.com
. . . Anyone to overcome that talks about the development of China is also investing heavily in Africa
still think this huge prob- an electric motor that doesn’t rely on and in South America to access natu-
lem, since he rare earth magnets (“Japan develops ral resources such as rare earth mate-
that the mentions all electric motor sans rare earth metals,” rials. A monopoly or near-monopoly
Chinese the time how http://tiny.cc/flhay). Perhaps the rest on these resources is not in the inter-
believe in important it is
to focus on
of the world should follow suit.
It seems that we are being sur-
est of anybody. I do not think the
Chinese officials are stupid [enough]
free trade?’ renewable prised by this development [in China], to use these materials as economic
energy and to but should we have been surprised? weapons. I believe they are simply
stop paying huge amounts of [energy] It makes great business and political trying to secure their own supplies,
dollars to the Middle East . . . oh, and sense to control these high-tech met- like any other major power [would do],
let’s not forget about bringing industri- als; why would we in the U.S.—or any including the U.S.
al jobs back to the U.S. other country—not already be engaged — KB3001
In this case it seems the United in securing supplies?
States will pay lots of [materials] dol- It makes me wonder . . . This is yet another lesson that no
lars to China, or IP costs to South — Robotics Developer nation should cede its manufacturing
Korea and Japan. — Baolt power to another. Too many times, U.S.
Our infatuation with low-cost labor companies and the government have
Since it will take us quite a few allowed China to call the shots in rare let industries and key technologies
years to start getting to the point of earth metals used by the electronics slip away because of financial short-
producing these metals, the patents industry. Japan and the U.S. cannot sightedness and failure to support
don’t become an issue until they are afford to be cut off. So yes, while national imperatives. — kdboyce
being used. Sounds like we are Japan is trying to find alternate solu-
already behind in getting started, if tions to using rare earth elements in
they expire in 2014! — JLS its motors, the U.S. cannot afford to lJOIN THE CONVERSATION ONLINE
wait for this kind of development to http://tiny.cc/96tn5
6 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
News OF THE TIMES
Microsemi continues its
buying spree with a bid that
exploits mil/aero ‘synergies’
but rocks the longstanding
FPGA status quo
Microsemi’s play for Actel appeal of Actel products is not sufficient
to command high margins.
raises questions for FPGA market Garcia said Microsemi would instead
focus engineering, marketing and sales
By Dylan McGrath resources on applications in which
Actel’s low-power, mixed-signal and
radiation-hardened FPGAs offer the
most value to customers and thus the
MICROSEMI CORP. last week logic market leaders Xilinx Inc. and most potential profits to Microsemi.
launched a $430 million tender offer for Altera Corp. “We will not continue to “These products are so differentiated
programmable logic vendor Actel Corp. dilute profitability by chasing the two in the marketplace,” Garcia said. “We
to leverage synergies in the military, big competitors in the marketplace,” he want to take full advantage of that and
aerospace and industrial markets, said. “That’s not Microsemi’s game.” continue to grow and build on it.”
according to executives. But Microsemi Many interpreted Peterson’s com- Many observers were caught off
also plans to stop marketing Actel prod- ments to mean that Microsemi would guard by the proposed acquisition, but
ucts into some applications, they said. discontinue some Actel products. Russell Microsemi executives said the two com-
James Peterson, Microsemi’s presi- Garcia, Microsemi’s executive vice presi- panies’ common strengths in the mili-
dent and CEO, said the company would dent of marketing and sales, later said tary and aerospace segments promise an
“disengage” Actel from “nonproductive” his company would not kill any Actel ideal match. “The purpose of this deal is
businesses aimed at commercial mar- product lines, but neither would it seek not to enter an FPGA market,” Garcia
kets in which Actel lags programmable- further design wins in sockets where the said. “The purpose is to add breadth and
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 9
NEWS OF THETIMES
scale to the markets we both play in very well.” Last year, Microsemi made several acquisitions, snapping
The acquisition is part of Microsemi’s strategy to “move up up Electro Module Inc., Endwave Corp., Nexem Inc. and a
the value chain,” he said. Spectrum Microwave power product line.
Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, echoed According to Garcia and Steven Litchfield, executive vice
that comment in a report issued late last week, saying that president and group president of Microsemi’s High Perform-
the acquisition would allow Microsemi “to move up the val- ance Analog and Mixed Signal Group, the moves are part of
ue curve and supply its defense and aerospace customers the evolution of Microsemi from a vendor of discrete compo-
with more sophisticated systems-level solutions.” nents to a supplier of integrated system solutions.
Berger noted that the deal would bring Microsemi capabili- Berger said Microsemi “is building meaningful scale with
ties in aerospace-targeted flash FPGAs, low-power FPGAs, suppliers and customers as the firm approaches the $200 mil-
radiation-hardened FPGAs, FPGAs with integrated ARM Cor- lion-per-quarter revenue level.”
tex microcontrollers (Actel’s SmartFusion line), and other
anti-tamper technologies. Small player, minimal impact
Peterson said Microsemi and Actel have 80 percent overlap Actel is ranked fourth in the FPGA market, with a total share of
in common customers and that Actel dominates in many about 6 percent. It reported revenue of $191 million for fiscal
mil/aerospace markets. 2009, slightly below Lattice Semiconductor’s $194 million.
The Actel acquisition, which is pending the results of a Those results place both companies far behind Xilinx and
$20.88 per share cash tender offer in place for 30 days, would Altera, which reported revenue for their most recently con-
be the most expensive and ambitious in a string of transac- cluded fiscal years of $1.8 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
tions Microsemi has made in recent months. Last month, Ian Ing, an analyst for Gleacher & Co. in San Francisco, said
Microsemi acquired the assets of VT Silicon, a maker of that because of Actel’s relative size, the impact of its acquisi-
multiband RFIC solutions for the mobile wireless broadband tion on the FPGA market would be small. He said the compa-
market. In April, it paid roughly $100 million for White Elec- ny has “tried to make a go” of competing with Xilinx and
tronic Designs Corp., a specialist in ICs and modules for Altera in commercial markets with its flash-based FPGAs.
defense and aerospace applications. Nonetheless, he expects Microsemi to pull back on those
efforts, concentrate on Actel’s strengths in military/aerospace
and treat Actel as a “cash cow,” though he added that Microse-
mi would probably maintain some level of investment in
Actel’s antifuse FPGAs.
While an acquisition of Actel wouldn’t have much of a
material impact on the programmable logic market, it would
shake up a status quo that has been entrenched for many
years. Actel, founded in 1985, has never been a dominant sup-
plier, but it has been one of only four standalone companies
to survive in a market in which dozens have failed. Roughly
50 companies have made plays for FPGA market share since
the devices were invented in the late 1980s; nearly all have
exited the field, folded or been acquired.
In addition to the four established programmable-logic
vendors, there are several promising startups, including
Achronix Corp., SiliconBlue Technologies Corp. and Tabula
Inc. Some established semiconductor vendors, such as Atmel
Corp. and Cypress Semiconductor Corp., hold slivers of the
On news of the tender offer, Actel’s stock gained nearly
31 percent last Monday, closing at $20.95. Peterson said
Microsemi was not the only suitor for Actel, though he did
not identify the other interested parties.
FBR analyst Berger said he was aware of two other bidders
for Actel, including a private equity firm. He said he did not
expect the other interested parties to raise their bids for Actel,
noting that the other suitors would have had ample time to
raise their existing bids before Actel’s shares went higher
Peterson said the terms of Microsemi’s definitive agree-
ment with Actel call for the latter company to pay a “breakup
fee” of about 3 percent, or about $17.5 million, if the acquisi-
tion is not completed. p
10 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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NEWS OF THETIMES
Japan hangs hat
on Android, sensors
By Junko Yoshida
MAKUHARI, JAPAN — CEATEC, Japan’s premier consumer
electronics show, spotlighted three trends that the Japanese
industry appears to have embraced as guiding principles:
• When in doubt, go with Android. Most Japanese CE ven-
dors are in survival mode against Apple and are hanging their
hats on Google’s open-source OS for platforms such as smart-
phones and media tablets.
• Sensors rule. Japanese engineers might have found their
true calling: developing products, from robots to home health bThrowing displays a curve
care devices, that leverage the power of sensors. Many of the Fujitsu showed curved displays made of thin, lightweight
sensor-packed offerings at CEATEC were pretty creative; some materials that can be wrapped around pillars.
were pretty strange. The bendable structures consist of glass tubes, filled
• Don’t take your eyes off displays. Most Japanese compa- with phosphor and xeon gas, that are vertically aligned in
an array. Images are controlled using electrodes attached
nies realize they will never be the next Intel or ARM, but they to the back of the tubes. The tubes emit light using the
also know that hammering away at display innovations will same principle applied in plasma displays.
keep the door open to novel apps and markets.
bYour lovin’ teddy bear
These high-tech teddies, shown at Fujitsu’s bCybernetic songstress
booth, embed a CMOS image sensor, several Japan continues its love affair with robotics, and the objects
motors, voice sensors and 13 touch sensors. of its affection grow ever more weirdly realistic. The HRP-4C
They wave back when waved at, respond to a entertained a crowd at Yamaha’s booth. Loaded with Yama-
smile, and coo and wiggle when touched. ha’s Vocaloid singing synthesis software, she belted out
Smarter than the average bear? tunes on request, moving in rhythm with the music and
even subtly changing her facial expressions—blinking coyly
12 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
and smiling—as she sang. What stage presence!
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NEWS OF THETIMES
You might want to hold tight to this heart-shaped device when
you’re away from your loved one. It lets you transmit your body
temperature and heartbeat to a waiting digital heart back home, bStaking a claim for Galapagos
according to NTT Docomo. Japanese mobile handsets have often been light-years
Think of it as a mood ring on steroids. ahead of the competition, so why have they so rarely
The digital heart is embedded with sensors and an LED to meas- found a global market? The stock answer is “Galápagos
ure your heartbeat, body temperature and grip pressure. The device syndrome,” a metaphor for Japan’s increasing techno-
translates information into vibrations, warmth and LED colors, then logical isolation from the rest of the world.
transmits the data to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. Your phone Japanese mobile phones, the theory goes, are like
sends the information via a 3G wireless network to your loved one’s the endemic species that Darwin discovered on the
handset, which transmits the data via Bluetooth to his or her own Galápagos Islands: so highly adapted to their environ-
digital heart. That device then vibrates, glows red or blue and ment that they bear little resemblance to their mainland
warms up in response. Once the two hearts are in perfect sync, cousins. Packed with bells and whistles that make
they flash in rainbow colors. Ain’t love grand. sense only in the local market, Japanese cell phones
have evolved to the point that they have no relevance to
users outside Japan.
Now Sharp has chosen to wear the Galapagos label
as a badge of honor, using it as the brand for a series of
media tablets. The 5.5-inch mobile version features a
1,024 x 600 LCD touchscreen and a trackball; the
home version has a 1,366 x 800 display.
Both come with 802.11/b/g Wi-Fi, and, of course,
fMEMS shutter display ditches the filter
Hitachi Displays demonstrated a MEMS shutter display co-developed with
Pixtronix Inc. MEMS shutter displays, unlike LCD displays, need no color
filter or polarizer and are said to use light very efficiently.
The device adjusts color tones by opening and shutting the MEMS
shutter at high speed, nimbly changing the amount of light coming from
the LED backlight as well as natural light.
The specs show that the prototype display has a screen size of 2.5 inch-
es, pixel counts of 320 x 240 (QVGA), a pixel pitch of 163 micrometers
and a 120 percent color gamut based on NTSC standards.
Hitachi claims that the device can display images in reflective mono-
chrome mode with very low power consumption, suiting e-reader applica-
tions, and that it can display moving pictures at lower temperatures
compared with LCDs.
16 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
NEWS OF THETIMES
DC-DC Buck Converter
and POL Applications
Praise, pans for Logitech’s Revue
By Rick Merritt
Part V nC m
SAN FRANCISCO — The first Google Dish Network, thus far the only serv-
IRF8252PBF 25 35 2.7
TV device, the $300 Logitech Revue, ice provider supporting Google TV,
IRF8788PBF 30 44 2.8 premiered here to mixed reviews. helped create a special protocol to let
IRF8721PBF (Cntrl) 30 8.3 8.5 The product scored kudos for integrat- users search content stored on a Dish
IRF7862PBF (Sync) 30 30 3.7 ing broadcast and Web video on any DVR and schedule recording. APIs for
HDMI-capable HDTV and for support- the protocol will be made available
ing personal media playback and 720- when a Google Android Web site for
progressive videoconferencing. But its Google TV apps goes live early next year.
PQFN (5x6) $300 price tag—plus another $149 for Dish will sell the Revue set-top and
Part V nC m an HDTV camera—will dampen sales, keyboard for $179 plus a $4/month acti-
IRFH7928TRPBF 30 40 2.8 analysts said. vation fee to new and existing cus-
IRFH7921TRPBF (Cntrl) 30 9.3 8.5 The Revue integrates the functionali- tomers. The unit can access electronic
IRFH7932TRPBF (Sync) 30 34 3.3 ty of Logitech’s Harmony
IRFH7934TRPBF 30 20 3.5 Remote universal A/V
IRFH7914TRPBF (Cntrl) 30 8.3 8.7 controllers, which cost as
IRFH7936TRPBF (Sync) 30 17 4.8 much as $200 and are not
widely used. Meanwhile,
Roku and Apple are sell-
PQFN (3x3) ing set-tops that bring
Part V nC m Web content to the TV
IRFH3702TRPBF 30 9.6 7.1 for as little as $99. The Logitech offering Logitech’s pricey set-stop will
IRFH3707TRPBF 30 5.4 12.4 will also compete with a growing array compete with an array of choices
for bringing Web content to TV.
of TVs, game consoles and Blu-ray play-
ers that bring Web content to the TV. program guide data from any cable or
“If Logitech sells a million of these, satellite service, but it will not provide
D-PAK they will be doing very well,” said Colin interactive services such as searching or
Part V nC m Dixon, senior partner at market watcher automating recording on DVRs from
IRLR8743PBF 30 39 3.1 The Diffusion Group (Frisco, Texas), other service providers.
IRLR8726PBF 30 18 8.4 which predicts “steady but not spectacu- The Revue keyboard uses Logitech’s
lar growth” overall for Web TV set-tops. 2.4-GHz wireless technology running
The Revue is nonetheless a com- on two AA batteries to link to the set-
Your FIRST CH
pelling alternative to Cisco Systems’ top. A smartphone-sized remote con-
e Umi, a $599 device that delivers HDTV troller sells as a $129 option.
for Performanc videoconferencing at 1080-progressive Logitech’ s $149 TV cam is its first
resolution using an Intel Canmore excursion outside PC Webcams. It will
For more information call 1.800.981.8699 processor and other dedicated hardware. also sell indoor and outdoor security
or visit www.irf.com “It will be hard for Cisco to compete cameras that can be controlled using
with the Revue,” said Dixon. “Logitech’ s Google TV for $299 and $349.
video quality is clearly not as good as Logitech CEO Gerald Quindlen said
the Umi’s, but it is good enough.” the Revue is the first of many products
The Revue uses the Intel CE4100 in the works for Google TV. But the
Sodaville; the same processor will power company’ s focus will continue to be on
an upcoming Sony TV integrating the keyboards, remotes and other peripher-
Google TV software. The code that als, not set-tops, he added.
THE POWER MANAGEMENT LEADER enables searches across broadcast TV and “Today is just the beginning of this
Web content requires at least 1 Gbyte of platform and what we intend to do
DRAM and 4 Gbytes of NAND flash. around it,” Quindlen said. p
18 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
NEWS OF THETIMES
IP IN THE
Microprocessor pioneer sues patent pool firms
By Peter Clarke
CHARLES H. MOORE, who developed cense president; and Michael Davis, Alli- ductor companies, including Advanced
many patented microprocessor tech- acense senior vice president of licensing. Micro Devices, Intel and several Japan-
nologies and is known as the inventor Numerous patents originally filed by ese vendors, to pay for licenses. Though
of the Forth programming language, is Moore are included in the Moore Micro- details were not disclosed, it is believed
suing patent licensing firm Technology processor Patent (MMP) portfolio, that many of the payments, involving
Properties Ltd. LLC (The TPL Group) which was owned and administered by sums in the millions of dollars, were
and its subsidiary Alliacense LLC, alleg- Patriot Scientific Corp. (San Diego) one-off fees for licenses in perpetuity.
ing fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and until a June 2005 settlement of an earli- In April of this year, Patriot sued TPL,
breach of contract. er patent dispute under which Patriot alleging contractual breach on nonpay-
Moore filed the suit in California agreed to unify its interests in the MMP ment of $1 million that had been due
Superior Court in Santa Clara County. patents with those of TPL Group. on Feb. 28, 2010.
He is also requesting preliminary At that point the TPL Group and The MMP portfolio includes patents
injunctive relief against TPL and Allia- Patriot became joint owners of the that are said to cover fundamental tech-
cense and has filed individual suits MMP portfolio. With Alliacense acting nology used in microprocessors, micro-
against Daniel E. Leckrone, TPL Group as the licensing agent, they achieved controllers, DSPs, embedded processors
chairman; Daniel M. Leckrone, Allia- some success in persuading semicon- and systems-on-chip.p
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Full product data sheet, price list & ordering info:
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20 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
of about 40° (if viewers step beyond that
boundary, they will see double images
on the screen). The previous viewing-
angle maximum for experimental glass-
es-free approaches was about 20°,
Hirayama said. “We doubled the view-
ing angle by developing special soft-
ware to optimize light emission from
the center, right and left of the screen.”
To improve the screen resolution,
Toshiba engineers developed a special
panel technology and integrated propri-
etary multiparallax conversion chips
with Toshiba’s Cell processor engine.
Conventional 3-D using a lenticular sheet. Toshiba’s new glasses-free 3-D technology.
The panel design team turned out a
high-definition, LED-backlit LCD panel
that packs 8.29 million pixels, or “about
four times the pixels used in a full HD
panel,” Hirayama said. The Toshiba
Toshiba doubled the viewing angle for its new panel used in the 20-inch TV can pro-
glasses-free 3-D TV by optimizing light emission
from the center, right and left areas of the screen. duce a final 3-D image at 1,280 x 720 res-
olution, Hirayama noted.
CONSUMER The panel also uses 1,440 LEDs posi-
tioned directly under the LCD to bright-
Toshiba’s glasses-free 3-D TV: en 3-D images.
The 20-inch TV’s resolution still falls
Worth the wait? short of the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution
reproduced on a large-screen TV requir-
By Junko Yoshida ing glasses for 3-D viewing. Still, Toshi-
ba’s autostereoscopic TV looks far better
than other glasses-free 3-D TV demos.
Beyond packing more pixels into the
MAKUHARI, JAPAN — CEATEC atten- multimedia laboratory of Toshiba’s cor- LCD panel, Toshiba engineers arranged
dees queued up at Toshiba’s booth here porate R&D center, said the company’s each pixel to support the display of
last week for a peek at what 3-D will management had decided there was “no RGB in a layout expressly designed for
look like without those clunky glasses. reason to keep the fruits of our research 3-D imaging. By systematically aligning
The wait averaged 90 minutes to results hidden in our lab. ‘If we know it pixels and adopting a perpendicular
check out the 20- and 12-inch autostereo- works,’ they said, ‘we should get it out lenticular sheet, Toshiba’s LCD panel
scopic LCD 3-D TV sets that Toshiba there in commercial products.’ ” Hiraya- eliminates blurring, or the vertical
plans to release for the Japanese market ma has been working on glasses-free wave pattern (caused by interference
in December. A host of consumer elec- 3-D TV technologies since 2005. in the display cycle) that plagues other
tronics manufacturers, including Sony, Toshiba designed its TVs using a autostereoscopic 3-D technologies.
are believed to be working on glasses- lenticular lens system, which leverages The difference was visible on the
free 3-D TV solutions, but only Toshiba well-understood principles for enabling CEATEC show floor, where Sharp
thus far has shown models scheduled autostereoscopic high-definition 3-D. showed 3.8-inch and 10.6-inch glasses-
for commercial launch. Developers of glasses-free approaches free 3-D panels on which the vertical
Toshiba also demonstrated a 56-inch have long struggled to overcome the wave pattern could be seen. Sharp is the
LCD 3-D TV prototype that will require technology’s low resolution and limited LCD panel supplier for Nintendo’s
no special glasses for 3-D viewing. But viewing angle. Toshiba claims to have upcoming 3-D handheld.
the company said it has no immediate addressed those problems in its first Toshiba collaborated on 3-D panel
plans to launch the 56-inch model. commercial autostereoscopic models. development with Toshiba Mobile
In an interview with EE Times, Yuzo The demonstration showed that all Display Co., a subsidiary focused on
Hirayama, chief research scientist at the three Toshiba TVs have a viewing angle small to midsized LCD displays. Toshiba
22 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Our engineers needed a
better scope. So we built it.
J One million waveforms/second
J Fastest realtime processing
J Industry‘s first digital trigger
J World‘s only single-core ADC
J Lowest noise front end
J Coolest user interface
See for yourself
declined to identify its partner for its developed several chips to accomplish models’ screen size, and Toshiba Mobile
56-inch glasses-free 3-D TV prototype. various image postprocessing tasks. “In Display has no plans to develop large-
principle, what such LSIs have to do is screen LCDs, so finding a large-panel
Heavy-duty postprocessing to take a 2-D image, estimate its depth partner is a must. The 12-inch model
At the heart of Toshiba’s 3-D technology and create nine images from nine direc- will sell for roughly $1,400 and the 20-
are an integral imaging system and a tions to deliver 3-D images,” he said. inch model for $2,800, so Toshiba will
perpendicular lenticular sheet to dis- So was the 90-minute wait for the also have to tweak its architecture to get
play natural images, according to Toshi- demo worth it? Judging by Toshiba’s the cost down. And it may have to decide
ba. The image processing technology results compared with earlier technolo- soon whether to allow its chip division
creates nine parallax images from the gies for glasses-free 3-D viewing, the to sell or license Cell engines to others.
original content to deliver 3-D images. answer would be yes. But consumers are For now, Toshiba is offering no
Hirayama said Toshiba engineers bound to be underwhelmed by the initial answers to those questions. p
Renesas reaches for cloud TSMC gets nod for
markets with SoC strategy 130 nm in China
By Peter Clarke By Mark LaPedus
JAPAN’S RENESAS ELECTRONICS rate/double-data-rate SRAM, low-laten- TAIWAN’S GOVERNMENT has
Corp. has announced measures it says cy DRAM and ternary content-address- approved foundry giant Taiwan Semi-
will strengthen the company’s system- able memory. conductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.’s
on-chip business and its approach to the The company also intends to expand application to upgrade its 200-mm fab
networking and industrial infrastruc- its SoC lineup with devices that inte- in Shanghai, China, to 0.13-micron
tures that support cloud computing. grate memory and peripheral functions. (130-nm) technology, according to a
Emphasizing the importance of inter- It aims to grow its market share in Reuters report.
nal design and manufacturing, Renesas memory devices for network equip- The change represents a further relax-
said its main thrusts would include ment from 40 percent this year to 60 ation of the rules governing TSMC’s pro-
memory devices and SoCs with memo- percent in fiscal 2012. duction in China; Taiwan earlier
ry for networking; USB controllers; Renesas has released a USB 3.0-com- allowed TSMC to migrate to 0.18 micron
SoCs with built-in Ethernet PHYs; and pliant host controller chip and said it from 0.25 micron before approving the
microcontrollers for smart-grid applica- plans to launch hub controllers and most recent application. The restrictions
tions. It laid out plans to gain market other USB 3.0-compliant SoCs for reflect the Taiwanese government’s
share in many of those areas. peripheral devices starting in 2011. It desire to keep leading-edge chip produc-
Renesas’ first SoC business unit will aims to increase its global market share tion on the island.
concentrate on the infrastructures that of USB SoCs from 15 percent at present TSMC continues to operate its lead-
support cloud computing, whereby var- to 30 percent in the 2012 fiscal year. ing-edge fabs on its home turf. The com-
ious service applications are provided Next month, Renesas plans to sample pany announced recently that after the
over the Internet via such devices as SoCs that incorporate Ethernet physi- 28-nm node, it plans to skip the 22-nm
PCs, smartphones and mobile handsets. cal-layer functions for real-time pro- “full node” and move directly to the
By concentrating resources on the net- cessing and high reliability in 20-nm “half node”; manufacturing will
working and industrial areas, Renesas industrial automation products. The take place in Taiwan.
aims to increase the annual sales of its company said it expects to build its Even at 130 nm, TSMC is behind the
SoC business by an average of 5 to 7 per- global market share in SoCs for indus- curve in China, where homegrown
cent per year from fiscal 2010 to fiscal trial devices from 25 percent this year foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing
2012, expanding its market share in to 30 percent in fiscal 2012. International Corp. is ramping up 65-nm
each focused area. For the smart-grid market, Renesas production.
For example, Renesas will focus on will provide SoCs with Ethernet, ZigBee Hynix Semiconductor, meanwhile,
memory devices for networking equip- and powerline communications func- manufactures leading-edge memories
ment and SoCs for USB devices. It can tionality, together with MCUs offering in China. And Intel plans to make 65-
supply such memories as quad-data- power measurement features. p nm devices at its new Chinese fab. p
24 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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‘Ideas’ could be India’s
next growth industry
By Sufia Tippu
BANGALORE — If eyes roll when talk turns to India’s stood the power of entrepreneurship and wealth creation.”
promise as a high-tech innovation hub, it’s understandable; If you’re wondering how India might go about reinventing
certainly, that promise remains unrealized. Still, there are itself as a country known for its inventions, cast a glance at
signs everywhere of an emerging entrepreneurial class, some of its prosperous Asian neighbors. “India has to move
and potentially game-changing ideas are being hatched not away from the me-too mindset. If a product or service comes
only among the country’s IT establishment, but also in the out of the U.S. or elsewhere, there is a tendency to think that
humblest corners of a land where 70 percent of the popula- it should be copied here, probably tweaked a bit to fit into the
tion of 1.2 billion still scrapes by on half a dollar a day. Indian environment,” said Bob Kondamoori, managing direc-
“We get literally 30 to 40 ideas from entrepreneurs every tor of venture capitalist firm Sandalwood Partners. But Japan,
week. Not all are great, but there is a lot of confidence and too, “was into the copy act” before its engineers and entrepre-
enthusiasm,” said N.R. Narayana Murthy, chief mentor and neurs became innovators, Kondamoori noted. “Then came
co-founder of Infosys Technologies and the founder of $129 China. [Now] you see a tremendous amount of innovation
million venture capital firm Catamaran, symbolically named coming from these two countries, as well as from Taiwan.
for the light, nimble craft used by local fishermen. India’s “It’s just a matter of time before India emerges from
8.5 percent GDP growth has engendered “tremendous confi- its cocoon.”
dence in the country among the younger generation,” Murthy India watchers note that world-changing innovations like
said. “A lot of them are willing to take risk; they have under- the transistor, the PC, the cell phone and the Internet didn’t
PA N O R A M I C V I E W O F T H E G E I N D I A T E C H N O L O G Y C E N T E R C A M P U S .
26 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Equity financing for venture-backed 8
Amount invested ($B)
spring from arid soil but were nurtured in rich R&D environ-
ments where the supporting ecosystem was already well 6
established. In contrast, India’s infrastructure buildout began
in earnest only three decades ago. 5
IT and beyond Total U.S.
Total Europe (converted $)**
The seeds of India’s rise as an IT power were planted in the
Total Mainland China
1980s, when conglomerates Tata Consultancy Services and 3
Wipro zeroed in on the software business and Infosys opened Total Israel
its doors. Several hundred startups followed in their foot- Total India 2
steps, but only a few have stood out from the pack in terms of
patented innovations. They include Cosmic Circuits in power
management, Ittiam in DSP applications, MindTree in com-
munications products, Subex in operations support systems
and Tejas Networks in the telecom space. 0
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Going forward, India’s best chances to make its mark on 2009 2010
innovation may be in cleantech and other disruptive tech- *Includes cash investments by professional venture capital firms, corporations,
other equity firms and individuals in companies that have received at least
nologies that can improve the quality of life for the world’s one round of venture funding
poor while enriching their inventors and investors. One such **Exchange rate based on the first day of the month of the financing round
invention along that vein, a low-cost, durable, prosthesis
known as the Jaipur foot, has restored function to amputees
the world over and is probably the best-known Indian inno- Venture capital investment in India
vation to have found a global market. Deals and equity flow into startups
Other recent inventions that hold similar promise include:
• A hybrid electric/kerosene stove that saves 70 percent on $400
Amount invested ($M)
Amount invested ($M)
fuel costs compared with conventional stoves that burn liq- 30
Number of deals
$300 Number of deals
uefied petroleum gas. The stove uses a 6-V coil to heat
kerosene for cooking. One liter of kerosene lasts for eight 20
hours, and the stove consumes one unit of electrical power
for every 20 hours of use. $100 10
• Mitti Cool, the so-called village fridge. Invented by a pot-
ter, Mitti Cool is made from special clay (mitti) and uses evap- $0 0
oration to cool three or more storage chambers for water, 1Q ’09 2Q ’09 3Q ’09 4Q ’09 1Q ’10 2Q ’10
fruits and vegetables. Source: Dow Jones VentureSource
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 27
AT GE, INDIA IS ALREADY • Modified lanterns that produce light equal to a 100-watt
bulb but run on kerosene, diesel or ethanol. The lamp has a
AN R&D HUB wick coated with high-temperature materials, such as silica;
a self-cleaning nozzle; and a special glass that reduces the
“The greatest danger for most of us,” Michelangelo Buonarroti chances of explosion.
said, “is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it • A diesel motorcycle that doubles as a tractor when the
is too low and we reach it.” The 5,500 employees of the GE back wheel is removed and replaced with a spiked cylinder.
India Technology Center, which has filed more than 1,000 • A micro-windmill-based mobile charger that uses wind
patents in the 10 years since its founding, cannot be accused power to charge phones and laptops.
of aiming too low. Chances are, the creators of these inventions weren’t think-
A decade ago, the center was housed in a small, rented ing far beyond their own needs or those of their nearest
space in the International Tech Park and employed a couple of neighbors when they devised their novel solutions to com-
hundred people. Today it sits on a sprawling, bucolic campus monplace problems. Few probably dared to hope they would
grab the attention of the Indian market at large, much less
the global marketplace. They weren’t looking for what the
late management guru C.K. Prahlad called “the fortune at the
bottom of the pyramid.”
But others are.
Enter the VCs
“I feel the only way to abolish poverty is to embrace entrepre-
neurship and create lots of jobs with high disposable income.
If I can encourage entrepreneurs and youngsters to do that, it
would be wonderful,” said Murthy. Among the organizations
in which his firm has invested is SKS Microfinance, which
funds cottage industries launched by poor rural women.
Weighing just 1.2 kg, the MAC 400 portable ECG machine A number of well-known funds have set up shop in India,
can record up to 100 ECGs on a single battery charge and but entrepreneurs looking for angels are often disappointed.
does not require extensive medical training to operate. “Indian startups and entrepreneurs have to work with a
very different environment,
and is GE’s largest integrated R&D operation outside the U.S. and we recognize that out
“When you cross-fertilize scientists, engineers and market- here in [Silicon] Valley,”
ing people, they all come together not just to create new sci- said Sun Microsystems co-
ence and engineering but to create new ways to approach founder Vinod Khosla, who
your development,” said Sanjay Correa, vice president and later became a general part-
managing director of GE Tech India. ner at VC firm Kleiner,
The results of the center’s R&D work are funneled into GE Perkins, Caufield & Byers
products and often go to serve local needs. One device under- and today is a partner at
going pilot testing, for example, would filter groundwater to Khosla Ventures. “To do
reduce toxins such as arsenic, which is present at dangerous business in India, you have
levels in some village water supplies. The device would be mar- to be a little creative and
keted “through not-for-profit organizations or the government to innovative to thrive. But I
get it installed in those villages,” Correa said. “The device does am still quite positive on
not need electricity; gravity pulls the water through a specialized India. The way to grow an
membrane that will get rid of bacteria as well as toxic metals.” economy is through entre-
Biomass conversion technology that would collect agricul- preneurship and capital-
tural waste and convert into usable energy is another focus. ism, and India seems to ‘To do business in India,
Since the usable biomass varies from crop to crop, a special- have figured out the right you have to be a little
creative and innovative to
ized converter that could handle the different biomass types is formula. thrive,’ says Vinod Khosla
due to be tested soon. “Clearly, there are still a of Khosla Ventures.
One GE Tech India innovation that has already found local lot of issues. Starting a
use is the MAC 400 Ultra portable ECG machine. Designed, business in India is still harder than it needs to be. But I
developed and manufactured in India, the simple, lightweight believe fundamentally that the major energy breakthroughs
(1.2-kg) portable machine can record up to 100 ECGs on a will have to compete at ‘Chindia’ prices, because you have
single battery charge and does not require a trained physician 2.5 billion people [in China and India] trying to raise them-
for operation. A standard 12-lead ECG interpretation program selves from poverty to a Western standard of living.”
is built in. — Sufia Tippu Organizations such as The Indus Entrepreneurs; the
National Entrepreneurship Network, a Wadhani Foundation
28 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Get Your Hands On What’s Next.
mouser.com The Newest Products For Your Newest Designs ™
Mouser and Mouser Electronics are registered trademarks of Mouser Electronics, Inc. Other products, logos, and company names mentioned herein, may be trademarks of their respective owners.
project; Nasscom; the India Semiconductor Association; the preneurship another go in the future.
National Innovation Foundation; and the Rural Innovation MindTree Consulting (now MindTree Ltd.) co-founder
Network offer networking opportunities for Indian entrepre- S. Janakiraman suspects the VC and private-equity firms that
neurs. But most of the business founders here who manage to got burned as a result of the recent global economic melt-
hold their heads above water are able to do so only with down pulled back in India just as they did elsewhere. But
financial help from friends and relatives. Janakiraman expects “the investment climate for startups to
“It’s all about connecting with the right VC and getting change for the better as firms see a few success stories from
someone to vouch for you; otherwise things just don’t hap- startups making it big in India.”
pen,” said Partha Ray, who with partner T. Rai tried and failed Nasscom, the primary trade organization for India’s soft-
to secure funding for a semiconductor project. Today, Ray and ware services industry, estimates that there are 652 early-
Rai are back at their office jobs, but both hope to give entre- stage IT companies in the country. VC Sharad Sharma at the
WHERE THE IDEAS ARE: STARTUPS TO WATCH
Sources at Indian IT trade organization Nasscom and at various Les Travenues Technologies
venture capital firms that do business in India listed the following Offers a mobile travel search engine that lets users search
startups as among the country’s most promising: across multiple sites and book directly on the transactional site.
8KMiles Web Services
Provides on-demand outsourcing infrastructure and collaboration
A provider of teleradiology solutions that can transfer images on
tools to enable a distributed development platform in a cloud
very low bandwidth for remote diagnosis.
PathPartner Technology Consulting
A design services firm targeting semiconductor companies,
Offers an SMS-enabled online campus recruiting and job place-
mobile OEMs and videoconferencing equipment OEMs; recently
ment platform that connects colleges, companies and students.
released an Android-based media-phone software stack for ODMs
and telecom operators.
Eko India Financial Services http://www.pathpartnertech.com
Developer of a financial transaction platform that delivers basic
banking services through mobile access devices by connecting
Calling itself an advocate for India’s “downtrodden,” rents
mobile and banking infrastructures.
rickshaws to drivers for a nominal fee; also helps drivers obtain
insurance and set up small bank accounts.
Expert Voicetap Technologies http://www.sammaan.org/
Provides knowledge engine to connect knowledge seekers with
experts over various media, including textual chat or voice.
Software provider focusing on Web content management and
health care markets.
GQuotient Systems http://www.srishtisoft.com
Designs green ICT solutions for information and communications
technology optimization; leverages SaaS technology for delivery
Provides mobile value-added service infrastructure for telecom
Makes industrial, educational and domestic robots for the Indian
Provides a mobile-enabled social messaging platform that can
market; some models are used as learning tools for robotics
be tailored for consumers or businesses.
Indrion Technologies India
An infrastructure automation solutions provider whose focus
is embedding context sensitivity into apps for the industrial,
enterprise and public utility/service markets, among others.
30 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Indian Angel Network said the numbers are rising as the India has engineering talent in spades, that’s not enough to
startup environment grows more hospitable “due to several build successful startups. “You need product managers who
factors: better availability of angel/seed capital, the opening are able to chart out the road map and carry it through. And
up of the domestic market and the ability to penetrate the you need customers who would like to buy tech innovation
SMB [small- and midsized-business] market in the West using from India—and right now, we don’t see customers rushing
software-as-a-service business models.” to buy products from startups. This, in turn, affects the avail-
But India is a huge country with enormous needs, and the ability of capital” for Indian tech startups.
VC pool is just not deep enough to float every worthy busi- The dearth of global customers for Indian innovations
ness plan. Seedfund partner Bharati Jacob said it’s not even reflects Indian companies’ inability thus far to get the hang of
possible to go through all the plans the fund receives. global marketing, said Ravindran Govindan, executive chair-
One hurdle for startups seeking funding is India’s asset- man of Singapore-based Mercatus Capital. “Most of the [Indi-
based economy. “For a working capital loan from an Indian an] companies I meet with have global products, but they are
bank, you have to show asset-based collateral; they don’t val- not able to brand the product well and market it. When VCs
ue the intellectual property or capitalization of R&D that you like us do manage to connect with some good companies, we
have,” said Sandalwood’s Kondamoori, who has spent more are able to accelerate the growth tenfold,” Govindan said.
than 25 years in the Silicon Valley investment community Indian companies are self-sufficient and steeped in the cul-
and says he is always on the lookout for promising startups ture—perhaps to a fault, as they can be provincial in outlook,
said Govindan. “They carry the culture into the market, and
30% of investment ventures are outside U.S. it’s extremely difficult to break through. When you enter a
Venture capital investment by major region,
foreign market, it is just not about opening an office there; it’s
first half of 2010 about knowing how to talk, how to engage people in relevant
Canada conversation, how to negotiate shrewdly and, most important,
Israel 2% how to sell. I feel this where India is really lacking.”
2% 8% On the other hand, the eastward expansion of technology
markets is bringing the global marketplace to Indian compa-
nies’ doorstep, noted Raj Khare, co-founder of media conver-
3% gence startup SureWaves. “The center of gravity is shifting to
Europe emerging markets such as India and China. Earlier, the [vol-
ume] markets were in the Western world, and it was not really
15% United States
possible for someone to sit here and say that he or she was
70% going to innovate for someone living in San Francisco. But now
it’s much easier, and entrepreneurs feel it’s a risk worth taking.”
Those startups that do succeed here are often led by sea-
soned professionals. “I had three very important things
checked off: I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do in my com-
Source: Dow Jones VentureSource
pany, I had a team that I trusted to be able to do that and I had
in India and China. “It’s different in the U.S., which is an earn- done this startup thing before,” noted Narasimhan (Kishore)
ings-based economy; the valuations [of U.S. companies] are Mandyam, co-founder of cloud computing startup Impelcrm
very high based on earnings. A lot of this kind of metrics— (formerly PK4 Software Technologies), which sells the Impel
measuring and building valuation in companies—needs to CRM contact management SaaS. “The initial challenge was to
come into Indian management teams. Anyone I speak to in convince people in India that a cloud offering made sense.
India always talks about revenue and top-line growth; they When we realized, very quickly, that it was an evangelical sale,
don’t concentrate on net margins.” we switched the emphasis to marketing Impel CMS to people
Kondamoori believes such metrics will fall into place as [who were already sold on the cloud concept]. Although that’s
more Indian companies start listing on the established global a smaller number, any number in India is big.”
exchanges, as reservations booking service Makemytrip did A final piece of the puzzle for India’s tech entrepreneurs is
in April with its Nasdaq IPO. the cooperation and support of the country’s government.
“Right now, there is no saturation in the [Indian] marketplace Kondamoori believes tax exemptions on the portion of
for any product or service,” he said. “Take the telecom sector, for profits poured back into R&D would stimulate “innovation,
instance . . . today every telecom operator is interested in merely IP [creation] and long-term sustainability.” Couple that with
putting up towers and attracting subscribers, and the way they global reach and global ambition, he said, and “it’s just a
go after the subscribers [by making incremental, cent-by-cent matter of time” before India is known as an innovation hub.
cuts in charges for calls] is taking its toll; they are losing money Said Mercatus’ Govindan, “I see a spark in India, and if this
all the way. There is so much one can do in the telecom space if country if given the right platform—government support, an
you really want to innovate, but everyone is too busy grabbing organized initiative—innovation will take off.
their share of subscribers . . . I think once saturation takes place, “This is the future wealth [of India] . . . the wealth of ideas.” p
then innovation will definitely come in.”
Alok Mittal, a partner at Canaan Partners, noted that while Sufia Tippu is a freelance technology journalist in Bangalore, India.
32 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
IBM characterizes single-atom memory
By R. Colin Johnson
TOMORROW’S “ULTIMATE” MEMORY chips are expected (San Jose, Calif.).
to encode bits on individual atoms. IBM’s Almaden Research Invented at IBM in the 1980s, scanning tunneling micro-
Center recently demonstrated the capability using iron atoms scopes have become the workhorse of the semiconductor
when it unveiled a pulsed technique for scanning tunneling materials industry. Their resolution extends to the atomic
microscopes. scale, allowing individual atoms to be imaged, but conven-
Pulsed STMs yield nanosecond time resolution, a require- tional STMs are slow at making such delicate measure-
ment for designing the atomic-scale memory chips, solar pan- ments. IBM researchers claim the pulsed technique puts the
els and quantum computers of the future. STM’s ability to measure time on a par with the nanoscale
accuracy of its distance measurements.
IBM’s pump-probe technique works similarly to how
a pulsed laser works. First, a pump signal is passed
into the material from the STM tip to put the atom’s
electron spin in a known state. Next, after a waiting
period, a smaller probe signal is used to make a
measurement. By repeating the process, each time
extending the delay between the pulses by a few
nanoseconds, the method can accurately measure the
electron spin relaxation time, or how long a bit of
information is retained by a single iron atom.
Today’s DRAM cells must have their bits refreshed
every 50 milliseconds or so, but by using the pulsed-
STM technique, IBM has determined that single iron
atoms would need to be refreshed about every 250
nanoseconds—about 200,000 times more frequently.
“We now know the answer to the question, ‘What
happens when you try to store information on a single
iron atom?’ And we hope that in the longer-term
future, we can make similar progress in answering
questions about solar cell efficiency and quantum com-
puters,” said Heinrich.
The pulsed-STM technique will be adapted to meas-
Pulsed STMs yield nanosecond time uring the efficiency of individual solar cells by using a
resolution, required for designing light pulse as the pump to stimulate the solar cell, then
probing it with the STM tip.
atomic-scale memory, solar panels As for using pulsed STM to reveal the inner workings
and quantum computers of quantum computer gates, Heinrich believes that “if
we can put quantum bits on surfaces so they have to
“My hope is that we can spawn a great following [of interact with each other, then basically we will be showing
developers who will be] doing nanosecond time resolution a new way of performing quantum computations truly on
and atomic-scale spatial resolution with their STMs,” said the atomic scale.
Andreas Heinrich, a physicist at the IBM Almaden Lab “That’s my vision of the future of quantum mechanics.” p
34 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Semiconductor industry watcher
cuts 2010 growth projection
By Peter Clarke
CURBING ITS ENTHUSIASM a bit for the global chip The next-strongest growth area is wireless communica-
market as 2010 winds down, forecaster iSuppli Corp. has tions, fueled by booming demand for smartphones. Global
trimmed its growth forecast for the year to a still-impressive semiconductor sales to the wireless communications area
32 percent. will rise by 30 percent in 2010.
Having predicted in May that the market would record Even the lowest-growth markets are expected to generate
growth of 31 percent in 2010, the research firm joined with impressive semiconductor consumption in 2010. Wired com-
most other forecasters in raising its chip growth prediction to munications and consumer electronics will drive semicon-
35 percent in August. But iSuppli now says it sees softening ductor revenue growth of 25.4 percent and 26.5 percent,
demand and rising inventories tempering 2010’s growth per- respectively, this year.
formance, and it expects the chip business to experience a soft In terms of specific semiconductor products, the hottest
landing in 2011, with semiconductor revenues set
to rise just 5.1 percent.
“There has been a significant slowdown in the
Semiconductor revenue by application market
second half in consumer demand for some elec-
tronic devices, including PCs,” Dale Ford, senior 140 45%
vice president at iSuppli, noted in a statement.
“Meanwhile, inventories have been building 120 2009 40%
throughout the semiconductor supply chain. 2010 35%
“These factors will conspire to cause a small
sequential decline in semiconductor revenue in
the fourth quarter.” 80 25%
The 32 percent growth figure implies global 20%
semiconductor sales amounting to $302 billion in
2010, up from $228 billion in 2009, a particularly 15%
difficult year that saw markets tank in the first 10%
half as the global economic crisis spread. 20
Despite the reduced outlook, revenues in 2010
will still rise by about $74 billion over 2009’s total, 0 0%
Data Automotive Consumer
resulting in a record sales year that will come in processing electronics electronics
$28 billion higher than 2007, the previous peak Wireless Industrial Wired
year for semiconductor revenues, according to communication electronics communication
iSuppli’s semiconductor industry analysis.
The firm now expects that industry revenues in
the fourth quarter will decline 0.3 percent compared with the items in 2010 are DRAMs, voltage regulators, LEDs, program-
third quarter, which would be roughly in line with typical sea- mable logic devices and data converters. Revenues for each of
sonal changes and would be the first sequential decrease since those products are projected to grow by more than 43 percent
the market collapse in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quar- this year. DRAMs lead the group, with 87 percent projected
ter of 2009. growth, on the strength of the soaring PC market and firming
average selling prices.
PC market leads rebound Sequential quarterly growth in 2011 is expected to follow a
Semiconductor demand this year has been driven by sales of more normal seasonal pattern compared with 2010, with
data processing equipment, including the various PC cate- declining revenues in the first quarter followed by improving
gories. With shipments of mobile PCs and tablets having sales that will reach a peak in the third quarter.
soared in 2010, semiconductor sales to this area will have The long-term growth expectation is for average annual
risen overall by 38.6 percent by the end of December, accord- growth of slightly more than 4 percent between 2010 and
ing to iSuppli. 2014, according to iSuppli. p
36 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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DESIGN + PRODUCTS
Editor’s note: In early Sep-
tember, EE Times’ Com-
published an article by
QLogic’s Joseph Yaworski
outlining how to achieve
greater Infiniband per-
formance using onload-
ing (view the article at
Gilad Shainer took excep-
tion to Yaworski’s con-
tention and submitted a
rebuttal, presented here.
Shainer makes a per-
ment for offloading
why, in the case of Infini-
band, they provide the
needed scalability for
multiple system cores
while ensuring maxi- Network- vs. host-based
mum core performance
for user applications.
processing: Lessons learned
Some readers disagreed; By Gilad Shainer
you might too. Join
the discussion at CPU CLOCK SPEEDS have remained elements used in a single user job have
essentially constant over the past sever- increased the urgency of addressing sys-
http://tiny.cc/0alqg. al years, resulting in a rapid rise in the tem characteristics that impede applica-
And to submit your number of CPUs used in high-end sys- tion scalability.
tems to keep pace with the performance By providing low latency, high band-
own technical feature to boosts predicted by Moore’s Law. Sys- width and extremely low CPU over-
EE Times and its network tem size on the Top500 list of supercom- head, Infiniband has become the most
puting sites has changed rapidly; in commonly deployed high-speed inter-
of Designlines, contact November 2009, the top 10 systems connect, replacing proprietary or low-
Patrick Mannion at averaged 134,893 cores, with five sys- performance solutions. The Infiniband
architecture is an industry-standard fab-
email@example.com tems larger than 100,000system size and
This rapid increase of
ric designed to provide high scalability
or (631) 543-0445. the associated proliferation of compute and efficient utilization of compute
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 39
DESIGN + PRODUCTS
processing resources. RDMA write latency comparison process protections
Infiniband scalability 8 (or security) and data
has already been proved 7 segmentation and
on multiple large-scale reassembly. Moreover,
systems on the Top500 list. offloading is the only
Los Alamos National Lab’s 5 Onloading latency way to counter the
Roadrunner (4k nodes and 4 Offloading latency effect of system noise
130k cores), NASA’s instal- and jitter on application
lation (more than 9k performance and scala-
nodes and 82k cores), the 2 bility (for example, by
China National University 1 offloading MPI collec-
of Defense Technology’s 0 tive communications),
Tianhe (3k nodes and 72k 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 and it is the only way
cores), Jülich Supercom- Message size (B) to allow overlap be-
puting Center’s JuRoPa tween computations
and HPC-FF (3k nodes and Figure 1. Latency comparison of a network write transaction and communications
30k cores), the Texas
on different Infiniband solutions. within the server.
Advanced Computing Scientific simulation
Center installation (4k nodes and 63k bridge from the host-based interface codes frequently use collective commu-
cores) and Sandia National Labs’ Red (in most cases today, it is PCI-Express) nications. Offloading networks typical-
Sky (5.4k nodes and 43k cores) all use and the network interface (Infiniband, ly include programming capabilities for
Infiniband solutions that provide net- Ethernet, etc.), along with a buffer for special features, as well as simulation
work-based processing. shock absorption (protecting the net- of future problems.
In offloading solutions, or network- work from data bursts). Such systems With the increase in demand for
based processing, the entire network require no investments in new technol- higher performance and scalability,
transport is handled and performed by ogy development. offloading solutions are required in
the network interface card (NIC) or The big drawback to onloading solu- order to balance the increased number
adapter, including error handling, data tions is the scalability and performance of CPU cores and to provide a solution
retransmissions for reliable data trans- they can provide. As more overhead that can maximize the platform com-
fer, and other sophisticated communi- processing is done by the CPU, less CPU pute capability. Offloading does require
cations such as the Message Passing time is available for user applications, sophisticated technology and advanced
Interface (MPI). Onloading (host-based) resulting in lower system performance simulations for the NIC or adapter de-
solutions, by contrast, rely on the host and scalability. sign, however, so only a limited num-
CPUs to perform any task that is related Consider the difference between the ber of vendors have the knowledge and
to data transfer between servers or Ethernet and Infiniband solutions on capabilities required to produce
between servers and storage—from data the Top500 list. Since most of the Ether- offloading networks.
gathering to data packet creation, trans- net solutions require the TCP (i.e., the
port checks, reliability, physical-to-vir- transport) to be handled by the CPU, System latency
tual memory translation and security. the Ethernet-connected systems achieve User applications reside in the user
Simply put, offloading frees the only 50 percent efficiency on average, space, where no protection can be guar-
CPU from the need to handle server- meaning 50 percent of the system capa- anteed for the process data. Data move-
to-server communications and instead bility is wasted. But the network-pro- ment thus needs to involve a safeguard
dedicates most cycles to the user appli- cessing based Infiniband-connected entity to ensure that data from one
cations. Onloading networks, by con- systems on the Top500 list demonstrate process will not erroneously overwrite
trast, are analogous to the proverbial up to 96 percent efficiency, maximizing the memory space of another process,
string and two metal cans that we the CPU cycles for the user application which would result in data destruction
played with as children. and hence the overall system return on and security issues. Such an entity can
investment. be the host CPU in the kernel space or
Why onloading? the networking adapter.
The appeal of onloading solutions is the Balancing the system If the task falls to the CPU in the ker-
simplicity of building them (thus my Offloading network solutions eliminate nel space, a buffer copy of the user data
telephone-game analogy). Since all net- the CPU overhead related to process-to- needs to be made there before the data
work processing is done by the host, the process communications, data transfer is sent to the wire, and a user-to-kernel
NIC or the adapter need only include a reliability, memory translations and system call and CPU interrupt need
to be triggered. Data copying in large
Gilad Shainer is a senior director of HPC and technical computing at Mellanox messages can increase the negative per-
Technologies. He holds a BSc and an MSc from Technion-Israel Institute of formance effects as a result of cache
Technology. trashing, translation lookaside buffers
(TLBs) and the like. That implies higher
40 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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DESIGN + PRODUCTS
latency for data transfer, as upper boundary) that a
Message rate comparison given interconnect solu-
can be seen in Figure 1,
which compares server tion can support, from a
write transaction latencies 70 single packet message
Message rate (millions)
in onloading and offload- 60 to multiple messages
ing Infiniband solutions. encapsulated within a
Latencies can be up to 700 50 single network packet.
percent higher for onload- 40 The message rate that an
ing solutions. 30 application will see will
One can question the be within that range.
latency difference for 20 If the application has
remote direct memory 10 burstiness characteris-
access (RDMA) writes in 0 tics—that is, if it tends to
light of the MPI latency 1PPN 2PPN 3PPN 8PPN send bursts of small mes-
data provided by various Mellanox msg rate area (between lower and upper boundaries) sages between nodes—
vendors. Vendors of Qlogic msg rate area (between lower and upper boundaries) the message rate used
offloading and onloading will be toward the upper
Figure. 2. Message rate area comparison between offloading
solutions alike tout about (green) and onloading (red) Infiniband solutions. limit of the interconnect.
a 1-microsecond latency Figure 2 compares the
for MPI transactions. Since message rate areas
offloading solutions demonstrate speed, more messages will be sent on between two Infiniband solutions: one
around 1-μs latency for RDMA write the wire as more CPU cores are used for that includes full transport offload
and send transactions, it is obvious that network packet creation. (Mellanox ConnectX-2 adapters, in this
the MPI latency would be in the same But there are two things to keep in case) and one that relies on the CPU for
range. On the other hand, onloading mind when this benchmark is applied to onloading (QLogic QLE7342 adapters, in
solutions demonstrate 7-μs latency for an onloading solution. First, all of the this case). As can be seen, the message
RDMA write transactions, so how can CPU resources are being used for net- rate supported by the offloading solu-
vendors promote figures of around 1 μs work packet creation; therefore no CPU tions ranges from 22 million to 90 mil-
for MPI latency? is available for the user applications. Sec- lion messages/second; the range
The reason is that with onloading ond, the same network packet is being supported by the onloading solutions
solutions, MPI latency benchmarks send sent to the wire over and over again. extends from fewer than 1 million mes-
the data directly from the user space to That does not reflect the real application sages/s to 23 million messages/s.
the network and write the data back situation, in which the data on the wire Moreover, the onloading results
from the network to the user space, varies from packet to packet. require CPU cycles to create the net-
avoiding the buffer copy and the kernel In other words, for onloading net- working packets, so in the presence of a
space memory mapping. While that’s works, message rate is a CPU bench- real application, the onloading message
acceptable in the case of artificial bench- mark and not really a network rate area would shrink.
marks, avoiding memory checking and benchmark.
allowing process isolation in production For offloading networks, the message Applications performance
usage can result in data reliability and rate benchmark truly measures the net- When considering interconnect latency,
security issues that would be unaccept- work’s ability to create data packets and CPU overhead and the message rate
able in systems that host many users, send them to the target. The CPU is not influence performance and productivity.
such as in cloud computing. involved in the data transfer and there- To demonstrate the performance differ-
fore is free for the user applications. ence, we tested two of the most com-
Network message rate For Infiniband message rate testing, monly used applications in the high-
In addition to latency and throughput, in particular, there are two known performance computing space: Fluent
a well-known benchmark is the net- benchmarks: the Infiniband message and LS-DYNA (see Figures 3 and 4).
work message rate, which is basically rate and MPI message rate. The application performance testing
the network throughput divided by the The IB message rate benchmark provides a genuine comparison. A sin-
message size (for small message sizes). measures the number of Infiniband gle benchmarking platform was used:
In the case of onloading networks, packets that can be sent between two eight nodes, each with dual Intel Xeon
this benchmark tests the ability of the hosts. The MPI message rate bench- X5670 processors at 2.93 GHz.
CPU cores to create a network packet mark measures the number of MPI mes- The results show that Mellanox
and send it through the two metal cans sages that can be sent between two Infiniband (offloading) demonstrates
and the string. Assuming that the bridg- hosts and allows several MPI messages up to 16 percent higher performance
ing between the host interface, or PCI- to be accumulated within a single with Fluent and up to 36 percent higher
Express, and the network interface Infiniband packet. performance with LS-DYNA on the
(Infiniband, for example) is sufficient to These two tests describe the range of eight-node system. The performance
allow the interfaces’ maximum data message rates (lower boundary and gap increases with system size.
42 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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Scalability and productivity ANSYS Fluent
When one invests in the latest CPU (Aircraft-2M)
technologies and a fast connection to 6000 18%
host memory, it is critical to ensure 5000 15%
that those resources can be fully uti-
lized, as well as to connect them via 4000 12%
high-performance, offloaded network- 3000 9%
As indicated above, the Mellanox 2000 6%
ConnectX Infiniband adapter is an 1000 3%
offloading solution. It delivers the
entire transport offload with added 0 0%
Higher is better 2 4 8
sophistication, such as MPI collective Number of nodes
offloads and data reduction. Mellanox Infiniband QDR QLogic Infiniband QDR Percentage
The ability to offload MPI collective
communications is important for high-
Figure 3. Performance comparison between offloading (blue) and onload-
performance computing applications ing (red) for Fluent app; green line indicates the percentage difference.
based on MPI.
Collective communications, which
have a crucial impact on the applica- LSTC LS-DYNA
tion’s scalability, are frequently used by (Neon refined revised)
scientific simulation codes, such as 600 40%
broadcasts for sending initial input 500 35%
data, reductions for consolidating data 30%
from multiple sources and barriers for
global synchronization. Any collective 300 20%
communication executes certain global 200 15%
communications operations by cou- 10%
pling all processes in a given group.
That behavior tends to have the most Lower is better 2 4 8
significant negative impact on the Number of nodes
application’s scalability. Mellanox Infiniband QDR QLogic Infiniband QDR Percentage
In addition, explicit and implicit com-
munication coupling, used in high-per-
formance implementations of collective Figure 4. Performance comparison between offloading (blue) and onload-
algorithms, tends to magnify the effects ing (red) for LS-DYNA app; green line indicates the percentage difference.
of system noise on application perform-
ance, hampering application scalability.
Mellanox ConnectX adapters address solutions are critical for high-perfor- offloading networks provide the need-
the collective communication scalabili- mance system scalability, performance ed scalability for multiple system cores
ty problem by offloading a sequence of and productivity. Onloading solutions while ensuring maximum core per-
data-dependent communications to the can negatively affect the system efficien- formance for user applications. One
host channel adapter. This solution pro- cy and therefore are not recommended can argue that the frequency of the
vides the mechanism needed to support for scalable HPC systems. The main (and NIC or adapter is not as fast as the
computation and communications probably only) reason for onloading CPU, but such speed is not required.
overlap, allowing the communications solutions could be their price. Surpris- Offloading adapters need to be able to
to progress asynchronously in hard- ingly, however, public market surveys handle all incoming and outgoing data
ware as computations are processed by have found no real price gap between at wire speed, and since this is done in
the CPU. It also reduces the effect of sys- onloading solutions and offloading solu- a highly parallel way, they can main-
tem noise and application skew on tions in the Infiniband market. tain the needed scalability and high
application scalability. For cases in which price gaps do exist, performance without running at CPU-
Onloading solutions do the opposite; one should always review the entire like frequencies. As the number of
they eliminate any way to overlap system cost (i.e., by taking into account cores grows, the adapters provide high-
computation and communications both capital expenses and operational er throughput.
cycles. Thus they magnify the effects expenses) and the desired return on Thus, using adapters that can handle
of system noise and jitter on applica- investment before making a decision. all network data at wire speed, as in a
tion performance. From the performance figures, one full offloading architecture, is the secret
As tests show, network offloading can see that for Infiniband systems, for scalable systems. p
44 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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Semiconductor scaling: Strong cessful implantation of an artificial car-
diac pacemaker in 1958; the use of ultra-
medicine for home health care sound imaging for diagnostics by 1960;
the invention of computed tomography
By Allan Yogasingam scanning in 1972; and the arrival of
commercial MRI scanners in 1980.
As semiconductor technology
improved and met increasingly strin-
THERE HAS ALWAYS been a natural physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in gent requirements for performance,
convergence between the worlds of 1895 and the invention of the electro- reliability, power consumption and
technology and medicine. As long ago cardiograph by Dutch physiologist compact size, its utility for medical
as 1612, Italian physicist Sanctorius’ Willem Einthoven in 1906, further apps became more apparent to design-
development of the first medical ther- advanced the state of the medical arts. ers and engineers. The characteristics
mometer hinted at how science and A milestone for the melding of tech- and form factor of ASICs and FPGAs
engineering would increasingly be nology and medicine was the invention have made them a natural fit for use in
relied upon to advance the practice of of the silicon transistor in 1954; from small patient monitors such as blood
medicine. Over time, other scientific there the integration of electronics into glucose meters and blood pressure mon-
discoveries and developments, such as medical applications took off, leading itors. For example, ultralow-power
the harnessing of X-rays by German to such developments as the first suc- ASICs have been designed into hearing
aids to improve utility without com-
prising the units’ small size.
Allan Yogasingam (firstname.lastname@example.org) is technical marketing
Systems-on-chip are increasingly
analyst for UBM TechInsights.
being designed into portable and
implantable medical equipment. And
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 47
DESIGN + PRODUCTS
RFICs and other wireless sensors are
being pursued for their ability to trans-
mit data from inside the body via small,
implantable units to external devices
that monitor a patient’s organ activity.
Inside a BP monitor
Some of semiconductor scaling’s contri-
butions to medical technology can now
be found at the corner drug store. At my
local pharmacy, for example, I was able
to purchase the Omron HEM-790ITCAN
arm cuff blood pressure monitor.
Until very recently, if you wanted an
accurate determination of your blood
pressure, you would visit your doctor’s
office, where the doctor or an assistant
would take your reading using a med-
ical laboratory-grade sphygmomanome- Toshiba 8-bit CP23AUG microcontroller.
ter. If you had a chronic ailment that
required continual monitoring of your
blood pressure, you would have to
make repeated office visits—unless
you had your own lab-grade sphygmo-
manometer and the medical training to
operate it properly and then accurately
interpret the results.
Blood pressure monitors like the
Omron model now let you measure
your pressure easily at home, using
electric inflation, sensors and algo-
rithms to return readings that can be
stored in the devices’ software manage-
ment system and reviewed by your
How have advancements in technolo-
gy made such home medical devices a
reality? A look inside the Omron unit Cypress combination USB and
revealed a simple design that effectively PS/2 controller.
uses semiconductor technology to repli-
cate a classic medical instrument.
The pressure sensor itself is notable. the pressure measurement. CP23AUG microcontroller, which
Within the sensor part of the unit, the The main board of the blood pressure features 48 kbytes of ROM; 2 kbytes
active sensor is a pressure transducer. monitor features two ICs that help of RAM; and an eight-channel, 10-bit
As the arm cuff is inflated and then implement its primary functions. The A/D converter.
deflated, a membrane within the trans- Cypress Semiconductor enCoRe The future of medicine is one in
ducer flexes as the air pressure changes. (enhanced component reduction) USB which technology will have penetrated
The sensor measures the differential combination low-speed USB and PS/2 every facet of health care. And with
pressure and produces an output volt- peripheral controller is the primary advances in technology that have seen
age that varies with the pressure meas- interface between the blood pressure computers scaled down to the size of
ured in the cuff. Special circuitry unit and the user-designated computer a dime and wireless technology readily
within the pressure sensor minimizes on which the data will be stored. The available through evolutions in wire-
errors caused by changes in tempera- Cypress device, an 8-bit RISC microcon- less architecture, the future of medicine
ture, and an amplifier circuit condi- troller, features 256 bytes of RAM and a is now.
tions the signal sent from the pressure Serial Peripheral Interface communica- Health care facilities and professionals
transducer. With that circuit, the out- tions block. are embracing the advances in comput-
put voltage from the blood pressure Data received from the pressure sen- ing and wireless technology to provide
sensor becomes linear with respect to sor is handled by the Toshiba 8-bit more efficient, more effective care. p
48 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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Designing with ARM:
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DESIGN + PRODUCTS
Accommodating dc-level mismatch
in multi-gigabit serial data transmission
By Eric Sweetman
AC COUPLING USING a series capaci-
tor is a simple method for coupling
multi-gigabit transmitters and
receivers. It requires only one inexpen-
sive passive component and eliminates
complications due to mismatched
transmitter and receiver dc voltage lev-
els. However, low-frequency cutoff limi-
tations of ac coupling capacitors can
limit system performance for random
and long run-length encoded data.
Careful matching of transmitter and
receiver common-mode voltages
allows direct coupling of the transmit-
ter and receiver, eliminating the need
for ac coupling capacitors. When it is
impossible to match the common-
mode voltages, dc coupling of the
transmitter and receiver can be real-
ized by using voltage-leveling circuits.
While voltage leveling circuits do add
complexity to the circuit, dc coupling
can enable significant improvements Figure 1
in system performance.
the signal in ways that can be difficult random and is not readily compensated
Signal distortions that may to observe on a high-speed oscilloscope, by transmit pre-emphasis or analog
result from ac coupling but these distortions may cause bit receive equalization techniques.
This article describes the low-frequency errors. In a commonly observed exam-
components of long data patterns and ple, a system may exhibit error-free per- Resistive networks
the signal distortion that occurs from formance with a 27 – 1 pseudorandom The familiar pi or tee network, used to
blocking these components. Other bit sequence (PRBS), but the same sys- match unequal impedances, can be
related issues, such as the effects of tem may generate many errors when extended to shift dc levels while main-
unbalanced high and low logic levels, the test pattern is changed to a 231 – 1 taining equal characteristic imped-
(e.g., baseline wander and resulting bit PRBS, Figure 1. The RC filtering effect ances, Figure 2. This can work well if
errors) are also discussed. On the high of the coupling capacitor results in slow the dc mismatch is not large but it caus-
frequency end of the spectrum, ac cou- baseline fluctuations that induce zero- es greater than 6-dB attenuation when
pling capacitors exhibit self-resonance cross jitter. This jitter, although path the common mode voltage differs by
and begin to behave like inductors. and pattern dependent, appears almost more than a 3:2 ratio. In addition, the
However, the inductive
reactance is actually quite
small compared with the
(Z0) and the real problem
is with lower frequencies.
Attenuation of the low-
frequency portions of a
serial data stream distorts Figure 2
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 51
DESIGN + PRODUCTS
resistor network requires board space diode forward bias voltage is within the equalizers. Each method has its place
and additional attachment pads, both of spread of the difference in dc common depending on data rate, encoding com-
which can degrade signal integrity at mode voltage. A small forward bias cur- plexity and dc common mode mis-
high data rates. Finally, the resistive rent, through a resistor to VCC, keeps match. For the most demanding
matching network consumes a signifi- the diode in conduction. This matches combination of design constraints, we
cant amount of power. dc offset with no ac signal attenuation. have shown that the biased series diode
It requires fewer components than a offers the best performance with mini-
Common positive supply rail resistor network and, since the bias mal increase in complexity and power
Typically, CML outputs are referenced resistor is high resistance, does not consumption. p
to the positive supply. When transmit- affect signal integrity. Pre-emphasis and
ters and receivers are powered with dif- input equalization can function nor-
ferent voltages, the resulting dc mally and complex run-length encoded Eric Sweetman is a principal engineer for the
common modes differ by about the or scrambled data do not degrade jitter Serial Data Solutions Product group at
same amount as their respective sup- as much as with ac coupling. Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation. Eric has
plies. The signal common-mode volt- worked in various research and development
ages can be made identical by operating Proven method roles covering signal integrity, radio frequen-
the devices from a common positive Each of these methods is quantitatively cy identification (RFID) and interconnect
voltage supply with different negative analyzed as well as validated with lab technologies. Prior to joining Vitesse in
supplies, Figure 3. measurements of practical systems. Eye 2003, Eric held signal integrity and RFID
diagrams, jitter plots and bit error ratio R&D positions at Accelerant Networks and
Series diode (BER) data are included to illustrate the Lucent Technologies. Eric holds several
A third approach is to use a series diode effects of the different coupling meth- patents in RFID technology. He holds a PhD
in place of the ac coupling capacitor, ods on multi-gigabit systems that and MS in physics from the University of
Figure 4. This is possible when the include lossy transmission lines and Michigan and an BS in physics from MIT.
52 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
Competing for the Future:
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DESIGN + PRODUCTS
EETIMES.COM PRODUCTS: megasamples per second.
Products’ ruggedize four-slot conduction-
cooled enclosure is marketed under the
IT’S SHOW TIME Vendor: www.analog.com brand name VPX Cube.
September marks the return of conference Precision, high-bandwidth op amp Vendor: www.dawnvme.com
and exhibition season, and two of the indus- Maxim Integrated Products has introduced
try’s biggest are the Intel Developer Forum the MAX9622, a precision operational Mentor unveils ready-to-use platform for
and Embedded Systems Conference–Boston. amplifier with high gain bandwidth. embedded systems development
Product stories abounded. Our product-story http://bit.ly/aOxZ9y Mentor Graphics Corp. has delivered the
list this issue includes two synopses of our Vendor: www.maxim-ic.com Embedded ReadyStart Platform, a “ready to
coverage, with links to those roundup stories. use” solution comprising integrated soft-
DC-DC buck regulators ware IP, tools and services targeting popular
IDF coverage simplify PoL power designs hardware boards and SoCs.
Intel’s vision for new 32- and 22-nm proces- Micrel Inc. rolled out its SuperSwitcher http://bit.ly/9DKmzV
sors; Dialog’s one-chip power manage- II family of integrated MOSFET buck Vendor: www.mentor.com
ment/clock driver companion IC; congatec’s regulators for high power density dc/dc
new Ultra-Mobile Module; Aurora’s single- applications. IP/EDA
board computer; LeCroy’s new interposer; http://bit.ly/b7RCCJ Synopsys enhances FPGA synthesis:
Green Hills’ optimized RTOS and more. Vendor: www.micrel.com 4x speedup plus team design capabilities
http://bit.ly/9fK7Um Synopsys announced a number of enhance-
Boards, buses: ments to its Synplify Pro and Synplify Pre-
ESC Boston coverage Roboteq programmable 2 x150A dc motor mier FPGA synthesis tools to offer a 4X
RFM’s low-cost 900-MHZ FHSS module; controller targets mobile robot, automation speedup over traditional logic synthesis.
Freescale–Cirrus’s reference design for digi- The HDC2450 is an intelligent motor con- http://bit.ly/cMkfYA
tal utility meters; Green Hills support for troller from Roboteq capable of directly driv- Vendor: www.synopsys.com
NetLogic’s XLP CPUs; Cypherbridge, Nabto ing two dc motors up to 150 amps each at
roll Web server module. up to 50 volts. Cadence defines Cortex-A15 MPCore
http://bit.ly/bLLsIi http://bit.ly/9KWwCH implementation methodology
Vendor: www.roboteq.com Cadence Design Systems Inc. said it is pro-
Analog viding an optimized implementation
Analog Devices offers Electromechanical methodology for the new ARM Cortex-A15
16-bit ADC at 250 Msamples/s FOUR-slot 3U conduction-cooled enclosure MPCore processor.
ADI announced the AD9647 16-bit ana- meets mil specs http://bit.ly/9v2uj6
log/digital converter, operating at 250 Designed for VPX 3U modules, Dawn VME Vendor: www.cadence.com
PRODUCT OF THE TIMES
54 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
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October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 55
Software team’s omission sounds
alarm for cross-team dialogue
By Glen Chenier
IT WAS THE BIG DAY for the software software team, which wanted to demon- competitors’ products into oblivion.
team, which was scheduled to demon- strate how its management information At the end of the presentation, I real-
strate the latest and greatest version of base (MIB) could tally and report all ized that a significant feature had not
its SNMP network management soft- sorts of transmission anomalies. been demonstrated, but rather than
ware for marketing. Many As a member of the hard- bring it up without sufficient data I wait-
months’ worth of sweat- ware team, I watched from ed until I had the equipment all to
and-blood software design the sidelines as the software myself. With nobody watching, I simu-
work was about to be team put on its dog-and-pony lated the “backhoe has cut the cable” sce-
judged. The new hardware show, demonstrating the vari- nario by removing the fiber-optic cable
was, well, just hardware. ous packet counters and that interconnected two hubs. I waited
The prototype hardware potential alarm scenarios that for the alarm; nothing. What the heck?
had already been set up in would be flagged upon When I asked a software team mem-
the lab and debugged, and receipt of packets in excess of ber why the software had not sent out
it was transmitting test traffic packets preset thresholds. The marketing team an alarm when presented with my “loss
between multiport network hubs with- was impressed with how our product’s of optical signal” hardware alarm bits,
out error. That was a problem for the software was about to kick assorted he replied, “We don’t monitor those bits;
Pesky diagonal lines on custom CRT confound designers
By Charles Glorioso
A STARTUP I worked for in the early blue and green color fil- code. It took a few hours to
’80s invented a technique to “burn” ters, to produce an 8-Mbit build up an image. When we
images on 35-mm slide film, a pixel at a bit-mapped image with developed the film, the results
time. We used a custom CRT that pro- 24-bit color resolution. were good enough to indicate
duced a very small spot of constant That quality level is we were on the right track.
brightness, along with optics to image about where consumer Management was pleased and,
the spot onto film. The electronics posi- digital cameras are now based on our early success,
tioned the spot in x and y on the CRT —and this was at a time arranged to display the product
face, turned on the spot to expose 1 pix- when computer moni- at an upcoming trade show.
el on the film for a precise amount of tors were just beginning to have color. When we took the next step and sped
time, then turned off that spot and We built an early prototype to test up the deflection circuitry, however, the
moved to the next pixel. The procedure the concepts. It filled a rolling bench, images were full of diagonal light and
was repeated for 4,000 spots horizontal- allowing us to roll it into a darkroom dark stripes. We made some changes in
ly and 2,000 rows. for imaging, since the imaging path the electronics and tried again, to no
The image was built up through a red wasn’t light tight. We hooked up the avail. Fixing the problem was going to
color filter and then repeated through prototype to a PC and ran some test be a slow process. There was no image
56 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010
that was never in the requirements for could not report a broken optical link, team has gotten it right. Further, keep
the MIB.” That annoyed me, since I had and it insisted that the code be rewrit- in contact with other design teams dur-
put a lot of effort into the fiber-optic ten to include monitoring and report- ing a project, even if their work does
link design and had specifically includ- ing of optical carrier detect bits. The not directly affect yours. Recognizing
ed the optical carrier sense hardware cir- director of software soon disappeared. another team’s design oversight early in
cuit for alarm reporting purposes. After Lessons learned? First, when a a project saves trouble at the end, when
all, if an interhub fiber link crashed, hardware function is designed into a all of the contributions are integrated. p
hundreds of users would be cut off. product, be sure the software team
When I asked the director of software understands why. Then recheck part- Glen Chenier is a design consultant based
about the omission, he answered that way through the project to ensure the in Allen, Texas.
designing software specific to the opti-
cal link functions would have taken
extra development time, so he’d kept all
port software as simple as possible. SJOIN THE FUN
After all, zero packets could just mean Like this content? Check out EE Life, our new community site, or sign up for our
that nobody was using the network. weekly EE Life newsletter and get this content delivered directly to your inbox:
He didn’t get the difference between http://tinyurl.com/335x6q3. It’s chock full of unique content written by, inspired
an individual twisted-pair port for a sin- by and commented on by engineers. From things that go bump in the lab to products
gle user and an optical interhub port that didn’t perform quite as expected and the absurd things that happen, EE Life
that served hundreds. So the MIB could explores what it means to be an engineer today. Have a good story you’d like to see
report damaged packets, but not a com- published? E-mail email@example.com, and we’ll be happy to eat up a chunk of your
plete network failure. Huge oversight. 15 minutes of fame.
Marketing was upset to learn the MIB
to look at on the CRT, just a slowly mov- tion of the stripes changed. But we bench in the original location, it was
ing spot; the only way to see the image could not find an electrical path for the nearly perfect. It turned out the CRT
was to expose color film and then spend interference. Meanwhile, the trade was so sensitive that its beam was being
an hour or so developing it. show was drawing nearer—as were the deflected by the line-voltage wiring run-
Still, we tried everything we could managers looking over our shoulders. ning in the wall next to the test bench.
think of. Was the high-voltage power Eventually, and in desperation, we We managed to get the first full unit
supply modulating the spot brightness? moved the whole table out into the finished by working all night before the
Turn off its modulation and expose a main lab, closed all the shades, waited trade show. The demo unit had two lev-
frame. Develop the film. Cuss; same until after dark, turned out the lights els of magnetic protection: a steel hous-
stripes of light and dark. Was the low- and made some images—which bore ing and a mu metal cone fitted to the
voltage power supply modulating the almost no pattern of stripes. When we CRT. It weighed 50 pounds, and it made
analog deflection? Create an experi- moved the bench back to its original great images.
ment and expose the film. Cuss; same position, the patterns returned. Tired Ultimately, the product was a techni-
stripes. Was the PC somehow interfer- and confused, we went home. cal success. The market wasn’t there,
ing with the unit? Build a very long In the morning, someone suggested however. The company was soon
cable to the PC, move the PC out of the magnetic interference with the CRT acquired, and our lab was closed.
room, expose more film. Cuss. beam itself. We bought some mu metal,
We became fairly sure that the pat- which is used for magnetic shielding. Charles Glorioso has more than 40 years’
terns were beats against 60-Hz interfer- We formed a cone of the mu metal and experience in electronics design and man-
ence, because when we changed the inserted the CRT totally into the cone. agement. He has a BSEE from Purdue and
deflection rate, the width and orienta- When we made an image with the an MSEE from Illinois Institute of Technology.
October 11, 2010 Electronic Engineering Times 57
When tight lips sink projects nessed the disastrous test. It was his
responsibility to tell the King and halt
the design, but he was too frightened of
the King’s response and never men-
tioned the stability problem.
At 4 p.m. on launch day, the ship set
sail for what was to be a short cruise
around the bay, with 90 sailors and
The Boss is under pressure to show up the com- their families—wives and children—
aboard to celebrate the pride of the
petition, and he is pressuring his product Swedish navy. With only four of her 10
development team to deliver something that sails unfurled, the Vasa pulled away
from the pier.
will blow everyone else away. A new product is The Council of the Realm described
planned that will show the world how power- the events in a letter to the King, who
was still away waging war in Prussia:
ful and important The Boss and his operation “When the ship left the shelter of
Tegelviken, a stronger wind entered the
really are. sails and she immediately began to heel
An earlier model had worked great, Sweden’s navy, with only single-gun- over hard to the lee side. She righted herself
but the new design has an important deck ships in its fleet, was behind its slightly again until she approached Beck-
new feature, and there are no analytical rivals. Gustavus II wanted the Vasa to holmen, where she heeled right over, and
models to predict its performance. The sport two decks of guns to project Swe- water gushed in through the gun ports until
designer is nervous; the new design is den’s power. But shipbuilding was an she slowly went to the bottom, under sail,
beyond his experience, but there’s no art, and no designer in the Swedish pennants and all.”
time to inch up the learning The top-heavy Vasa had trav-
curve. The Boss is impatient. eled just 1,300 meters before
The original designer leaves The 400- sinking, leaving 25 entombed.
the project midway through. year-old Why did the Vasa fail? The bal-
Meanwhile, management story last not only was insufficient to
keeps changing the spec.
Product testing is suspended
of the offset the weight of thewas com-
and the gun decks but
when the test manager realizes Vasa posed of round river rocks that
the handcrafted first article offers a rolled with the ship, inducing
would catastrophically fail. moral for the craft to roll even more. An
But the Boss is out of town and
can’t be reached, and no one is
advanced inquiry was held and one was
heard. Ultimately, no
brave enough to tell him about design punished, though many had
the failure anyway. projects been culpable.
Production moves ahead. The story of the Vasa still
The product is released to great holds lessons for advanced prod-
fanfare and is a spectacular disaster. Empire was sufficiently versed in dimen- uct development.
In less than an hour of operation, as sion and ballast to design such a vessel. • Express your concerns when man-
friends, families and competitors watch, The initial designer, Henrick Hybersts- agement changes the specs in the mid-
it destroys itself and several lives as well. son, had been conservative, specifying dle of the product design.
The Boss, who is still out of town, issues 24-pound guns for the lower deck and • There is no substitute for an analyti-
a statement: “Imprudence and negli- 12-pound guns for the upper deck. cal model that can accurately predict
gence must have been the cause, and the Hyberstsson died a year before construc- performance before you commit to
guilty parties must be punished.” tion finished. The King decided he want- hardware.
This isn’t the story of the latest tech ed to project more power and ordered • When you test the first article, use
industry flameout but the tragic tale of 24-pound guns for the upper deck as the data to verify how well it matches the
the Vasa, a ship launched on Aug. 10, well. The new shipbuilders complied. predictions; use the data to “hack into”
1628. The Boss was King Gustavus II As part of the stability testing of the design to determine its limitations.
Adolphus of Sweden, who at the time of every ship, 30 sailors would run from • Never hesitate to voice your con-
the Vasa’s construction and testing was side to side 10 times to try to capsize it. cerns to management. The last thing
leading his invading army into Poland When testing the Vasa, shipmaster they want is a surprise. p
and counting on his new ship to help Joran Matsson, quickly realizing the
win the war. craft would flip, called off the test after By Eric Bogatin, signal integrity evangelist at
When the Vasa was commissioned, three cycles. Admiral Klas Fleming wit- Bogatin Enterprises (www.bethesignal.com)
58 Electronic Engineering Times October 11, 2010