Exciting New Robot from Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics, who has produced some of the most advanced robots in the world, deserves a huge applause for creating Handle. .

These robots, with incredible mobility, agility and speed, are the future in alleviating physical weight on troops in our military.

Handle2Boston Dynamics has developed an exciting new robot named Handle. As an article on ElectronicsWeekly.com  describes it as “It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds”

The robot can run at 9 miles per hours and stands at 6.5 feet.

Boston Dynamics, who has produced some of the most advanced robots in the world, deserves a huge applause for creating Handle.

These robots, with incredible mobility, agility and speed, are the future in alleviating physical weight on troops in our military. These robots can handle the same strain as a military squad can. Today’s war fighter can carry more than 100 pounds of gear resulting in physical strain, fatigue and possible poor for performance. While the Army has identified physical overburden as one of its top five science and technology challenges these robots become a major point of research and development and relief of such obstacles.

Check out the  Electronics Weekly article at http://www.electronicsweekly.com/blogs/gadget-master/robot/getting-handle-latest-boston-dynamics-robot-2017-03/


Preventing counterfeiting through e-waste export control

With increased dialogue and networking of intelligence information between these organizations in the electronic component recycling and supply chains, I feel that the SEERA will decrease the supply of counterfeit electronic components,

I just read an article on the Secure E-waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA) at http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/20170207/rep-cook-reintroduces-bill-to-make-it-tougher-to-counterfeit-us-electronics .  This bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Paul Cook of California and Democrat Gene Green of Texas, aims to stop the export of e-waste to countries where it is used as source material for counterfeit electronics.

While the electronics industry continues to research stricter testing protocols to mitigate the risk of counterfeit products and to implement quality control practices to help protect the global supply change from this evolving threat, cutting off the supply of source materials is a great step forward.  If SEERA passes, non-working equipment would be recycled domestically.  Working equipment could be exported.  The US Customs and Border Protection would be part of the enforcement by inspecting equipment bound for export to make sure that it is working.

This program set up by SEERA could be even more effective if agencies inside the US Department of State and the US Department of Defense, who are already working to contain the epidemic of counterfeit electronic components, became involved in this process of preventing the export of e-waste.

With increased dialogue and networking of intelligence information between these organizations in the electronic component recycling and supply chains, I feel that the SEERA will decrease the supply of counterfeit electronic components, thereby increasing quality and safety in electronic equipment for consumers and the military alike.

I am looking forward to seeing SEERA move through the House to the Senate and then on to the president for signature.

Semiconductors Require Testing

I just read the press release from the Digital Journal announcing Transparency Market Research’s Analysis of the Radiation Hardened Electronics Market.  It comes as no surprise that high power semiconductors will be in critical demand in future aerospace space projects.

Semiconductors which are the “brains” inside electronic devices will be vital in controlling and converting power in electronic systems. These devices require extensive testing which includes screening and qualification to see if the components are susceptible to radiation damage in space application from high altitude flight around as well as nuclear reactors, particle accelerators, nuclear accidents and even nuclear warfare.

The screening and qualification of this product should include total dose ionizing, enhanced low-dose rate effect tests, neutron and proton displacement damage and single event effects. Furthermore, strict monitoring of the percent defective allowable ratio is paramount in the qualification of any future semiconductor product undergoing these radiation reliability tests.

Update: The Change the World Challenge

Here is a contest that calls for engineering creativity and vision:    http://element14changetheworld.com/    Note that the deadline for submissions has been extended to February 28, 2017.

I have always been a big advocate on engineering contests that are fair game with proper compensation to the excellent ideas that we see every day. Historic world changing engineering competitions such as artificial intelligence, the first private aircraft in space and Lindbergh’s historic Trans Atlantic flight are only a few of the monumental ideas that have illustrated talent, skills, ingenuity and imagination on the world stage of engineering creativity.

While the industry today seeks an outline of achievable ideas, I would seek advice to protect any product concept or design while entering these competitions as a matter of non-disclosure for any future anticipated developments.

Talking Cars Coming to a Highway Near You

US Department of Transportation rulemaking on V2V and V2I communications.

There is likely to be much more chatter on the road, but you won’t hear it. Cars will soon be talking to each other and to the road infrastructure.

Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication took a significant step forward this month as the US Department of Transportation issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on deploying the technology. The proposed rule would require automakers to include V2V technologies in all new light-duty cars and trucks. The rule proposes requires V2V devices to “speak the same language” through standardized messaging.

Cars equipped with V2V will be aware of what other cars are doing, including speed, direction, turn signal and other information. In the early versions, this technology might turn on a red warning light on your dashboard or other notifications to alert you to a possible crash or other danger ahead.

Vehicles that contain automated driving functions—such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control—could also benefit from the use of V2V data to better avoid or reduce the consequences of crashes, according to the Department of Transportation website: https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/us-dot-advances-deployment-connected-vehicle-technology-prevent-hundreds-thousands

Meanwhile, the Department’s Federal Highway Administration plans to issue guidance soon for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications. V2I involves cars communicating with such things as traffic lights and road signs and work zone markers.

NHTSA estimates that safety applications enabled by V2V and V2I could eliminate or mitigate the severity of up to 80 percent of non-impaired crashes, including crashes at intersections or while changing lanes, according to the Department of Transportation website.

For an explanatory video and more information about vehicle communications, visit http://www.its.dot.gov/communications/media/15cv_future.htm

While vehicle to vehicle technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety, it will be very interesting to see how the industry and political decision makers react to the public’s concern on many issues such as the potential safety of hacking very important information and what methods will be taken to prevent these cyber-attacks which can cause major communication issues.

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays and Green Technology

I find this blog on FPGAs (Field-programmable Gate Arrays) (http://blog.earthtron.com/5-intriguing-uses-of-fpga-in-green-technology) most intriguing based on the evolutionary progress of FPGAs.  I am not surprised at some of the applications in green technology because, as illustrated in a 2012 National Instruments white paper, the following benefits continue to propel the growth of FPGAs in electronic component testing industry.

  1. Performance-Utilizing the similarities between FPGAs and other hardware, FPGAs have increased their performance to outperform digital signal processors (DSPs). This is done by allowing for simultaneous procedures and increasing the output per a given amount of time.  All of this can be done at a lower cost than in DSPs*.  This is done by altering the hardware to allow increased control of the inputs and outputs (I/O).  In turn, this creates the ability to more closely match the constraints of the systems and decrease the systems’ response times.
  2. Time to market-The improved FPGAs drastically improve prototyping capability and speed. For example, the hardware allows for concepts to be analyzed prior to fabrication.  This lets the iterative design process be reduced to mere hours.  Different types of I/O hardware can also be purchased commercially (COTS) with an imbedded FPGA chip for user-programming.  This, along with prebuilt functions (IP cores) and higher-level software and teaching tools make advanced control and signal processing more accessible to less experienced users.
  3. Cost-Using FPGA hardware is much cheaper than using custom ASIC (Application-specific Integrated Circuit) designs. The ASIC expenses are unjustifiable for companies that use them for testing systems currently in development.  Using programmable silicone reduces costs to almost nil.  The FPGA is also cheaper than ASIC when used in systems with changing requirements.
  4. Reliability-FPGAs do not use operating systems. This reduces the layers of abstraction and issues with multitasking that occur in processor-based systems as well as removing the imbedded control of the memory and bandwidth.  FPGAs ultimately reduce the necessity of driver layers – who control hardware resources, – which in turn decreases the risk when trying to run several time critical tasks at once.  FPGAs, instead, run multiple tasks simultaneously with dedicated hardware for each task.
  5. Long-term maintenance-FPGA chips are also superior with respect to ASIC when it comes to forward compatibility and maintenance. FPGAs are field-upgradable, which can be beneficial in use with systems, like digital communications, whose protocols can change.  This allows the chips’ functions to be enhanced without needing to change the layout or hardware of the board.

*FPGAs for DSP (BDTI Industry Report), 2nd ed. (Berkeley Design Technology Inc., 2006)

Changes to the DFAR Regulations

If you get a chance, I recommend that you read “When it Comes to Counterfeit Part Prevention, Semantics Matter” – a blog post by Kevin Sink. He discusses the need for the revisions to the DFAR regulations that are currently underway.

The DFAR regulations are positive tools detailing how to purchase manage and dispose of components. In addition, the introduction of the AS6171 standard will be an important aid to quality-control testing and providing standardize techniques and practices.

Counterfeit Electronic Part Prevention Rules Issued by DOD

Department of Defense published a new rule aimed at preventing counterfeit electronic parts from entering the military supply chain at any level.

 The final version of the rule can be found in the Federal Register as: Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts-Further Implementation (DFARS Case 2014-D005) https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/08/02/2016-17956/defense-federal-acquisition-regulation-supplement-detection-and-avoidance-of-counterfeit-electronic#h-4.  The final version was drafted after a period of public commnet. It includes some changes in terminology to match industry standard terms and well as changes in requirements.

 I strongly feel that AS6171 will be a paramount aid to the future of quality-control testing and providing standardize techniques and practices. In uncovering counterfeit electronic component product. I also feel participating in these mandatory requirements shows a good faith effort in the purchasing, managing and disposal of the electronic components in question.


Proposed Changes to the Definition of Exempted Electronic Waste Items

This article describes the bill being considered by Congress that would amend existing export administration regulations. The change is that nonworking or non-tested used electronic items would be classified as electronic waste, so that they cannot be exported unless specific conditions are met.
I believe that one of the specific conditions that should be met for any electronic component that is disassembled and prepared for export is that the component be tested with a thorough risk mitigation and counterfeit test program with traceable paperwork results.

A New Generation of Field Programmable Gate Arrays

I just read this post on the Earthtron blog about Xilinx’s new Field Programmable Gate Arrays.  I strongly believe Xilinx has made great strides to improve the Kintex-7 Line.

Reducing power consumption by 40% will strengthen applications from long distance WAN support to improving live events such as radio and satellite feeds. These are paramount improvements in actual real time applications to move toward an Internet-of-Things.