October 6, 2009, Stockholm, It was a historic moment for digital cameras when their shutters opened for the fraction of a second to capture the committee, award the coveted Nobel Prize to the ones who invented the electronic eyes. Had it not been the duo Willard Boyle and George Smith, those cameras might still have been shuttering light on a photosensitive film and then drying them on rails in the dark room. By inventing the ‘Charge Coupled Device’ and predicting its applications way back in 1969, Boyle and Smith opened up the domain of solid state devices for imaging and memory applications.
Bats are wonderful creatures. Blind from the eyes and yet a vision so precise that could distinguish between a moth and a broken leaf even when flying at full speed. No doubt the vision is sharper than ours and is much beyond human capabilities of seeing, but is certainly not beyond our understanding. Ultrasonic ranging is the technique used by bats and many other creatures of the animal kingdom for navigational purposes.Ultrasonic sensors are devices that use electrical–mechanical energy transformation, the mechanical energy being in the form of ultrasonic waves, to measure distance from the sensor to the target object.Ultrasonic waves are longitudinal mechanical waves which travel as a succession of compressions and rarefactions along the direction of wave propagation through the medium.
The task of supervision of machinery and industrial processes on a routine basis can be an excruciatingly tiresome job. Always being by the side a machine or being on a 24×7 patrol duty around the assembly line equipment checking the temperature levels, water levels, oil level and performing other checks would be considered a wastage of the expertise of the technician on trivial tasks.
After the invention of video games, ‘Short Message Service’ is by far the best thing that could have happened to the youth of the world. Short Message Service or lovingly shortened as SMS, has been one of the most significant means of exchanging information in the modern era of thumb twiddling youth. They are fast…
Gone are the days when huge computers made of vacuum tubes sat humming in entire dedicated rooms and could do about 360 multiplications of 10 digit numbers in a second. Though they were heralded as the fastest computing machines of that time, they surely don’t stand a chance when compared to the modern day machines.Since the invention of the first IC in the form of a Flip Flop by Jack Kilby in 1958, our ability to pack more and more transistors onto a single chip has doubled roughly every 18 months, in accordance with the Moore’s Law. The development of microelectronics spans a time which is even lesser than the average life expectancy of a human, and yet it has seen as many as four generations.
Linux is one of the few, ever expanding endeavors developed in the 20th century. Obvious or not, it has continuously cranked itself up to reach new horizons since its humble beginnings in 1991. A more than 50 year old market segment, the embedded systems, which encompasses a vast domain of electronic products ranging from little wristwatch cameras, to huge distributed systems like telecom switches, has been charmed by the frills and thrills of Linux and has deeply benefitted from the same. Embedded Systems are everywhere, ranging from small control applications which require small microcontrollers to massive parallel processors which have colossal memory requirements. Mobile phones, Inverters, microwaves, PDAs, you name it, and you might find an embedded system at its essential core.
“A small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind”, such were the words that travelled through space all the way from the Moon to our television sets as frames of Armstrong’s setting foot on the moon flashed across 600 million screens. It was indeed a technological milestone. But have ever wondered that people were sitting in their living rooms watching a mortal reach an alien land and show to you live pictures from there. Much before that feat, the technology to transmit video had been developed and was in itself a technological achievement. About half a century later, two-way communication involving real-time streaming of video and audio is becoming commonplace with almost every smart phone. Videoconferencing is a technology by means of which two or more parties situated in different geographical locations can watch and converse with each other by means of two-way transmission of video and audio data in near real-time. From once being a high profile, owned by a famous few, this technology has made inroads to every middle class homestead that owns a healthy broadband connection.
‘The world is getting warmer day by day.’ This sentence has started to crop up every now and then in our day to day lives. But seldom do we wonder what it means. What is warmer? How warm is warm? Is it hotter than hot, or just hotter than cold? To our human senses, temperature is only a subjective evaluation. For an objective and reproducible measurement, we need to quantify the temperature values, and to do that, a suitable measurement device is required. This is achieved through the use of temperature sensors. Simply speaking, temperature is the degree of hotness of the body or, a measure of the heat content in the body. The problem to quantify the heat content of the body on a scale did not arise until the invention of the Steam Engine. The curiosity of scientists to understand the behavior of water at different levels of hotness gave rise to a better laid out study.
Where there’s smoke, there’sfire and we usually don’t amuse ourselves with the idea of having a fire anywhere else other than a fireplace. So, we equip ourselves with an arsenal of early detection sensors that can help avert a potential disaster to life and property. One of the chief whistleblowers in this assortment of accident prevention devices is the smoke detector, which we can often see as round perforated plastic disks, fixed to the ceilings of offices and homes. A smoke detector, in all its simplicity, detects smoke in its surroundings and sounds an alarm. These are one of the most important safety devices in an establishment especially in homes, where it is one of the few sensors which can provide safety 24×7. The alarm issued may manifest itself as a Blinking LED, an Audio siren, or in case of establishments connected with a central monitoring station, an alert on the management screens in the control room.
Zigbee is a low power spin off of WiFi. It is a specification for small, low power radios based on IEEE 802.15.4 – 2003 Wireless Personal Area Networks standard. The specification was accepted and ratified by the Zigbee alliance in December 2004. Zigbee Alliance is a group of more than 300 companies including industry majors like Philips, Mitsubishi Electric, Epson, Atmel, Texas Instruments etc. which are committed towards developing and promoting this standard. The alliance is responsible for publishing and maintaining the ZIgbee specification and has updated it time and again after making it public for the first time in 2005. Most of the recent devices conform to the Zigbee 2007 specifications has two feature sets– Zigbee and Zigbee Pro. The manufacturers which are members of the Alliance provide software, hardware and reference designs to anyone who wants to build applications using Zigbee.
Written words often betray emotions. What was intended is often mistaken for something drastically obtuse. Voice conversations are different, unless the emotions and expressions betray each other of course. Nevertheless, phone calls have always been the lifeline of most people from all walks of life. They are way faster than any inland mail and give a real sense of interpersonal conversation; distances seem to reduce to zero. Despite the advances of the internet into the life of a common man, phones still hold great importance. Now what if internet, living up to its reputation of being adaptable and innovative offered phone calls and that too at rates much lower than any PSTN service provider can offer? It did, and the offering was soon a phenomenon. Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP as it is popularly known.
What would the cars run on if one day the fuels that we’ve been lavishing on for so long just disappeared? Earth had once been a planet replete with stockpiles of consumable fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. But as mankind progressed and advanced its appetite for energy shot up to humungous proportions and in much less than three centuries since the Industrial revolution, there is an outcry to conserve these natural resources and look for alternatives. Of all the industries that would directly or indirectly hit the consumers if these fuels disappeared from earth, the most obvious would be the automobile industry. To offer a viable solution to these dilemmas, many innovations in the field of automobile industry have taken place from time to time. One of them is ‘electric cars’, a solution for a cleaner and healthier tomorrow.
Since the dawn of time, communication has played a pivotal role in advance of every great civilization. It has been a constant endeavor to convey things in a fast and secure manner in the absence of which, great empires have just succumbed to crisis. There is an old saying that highlights the feat that a little miscommunication achieved, ‘For the want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost. For the want of a horseshoe, the steed was lost. For the want of a steed, the message was not delivered. For the want of that undelivered message, the war was lost.’ The means to transport and deliver messages have evolved ever since.
Remember C-3PO, the talking human like robot from the Star Wars Saga? The gold plated Tin humanoid could just do anything that he was told to. Most importantly, he could understand languages and respond, that too in over six million forms of communication. Six million forms might still be a farfetched goal, but the possibility of a total hands-free vocal control and operation over cognitive machines beckons the scientists and the corporate. Speech technology refers to the recognition of human speech by computers and performing the voice initiated program or function. The challenge that is handled so easily by the human brain, of interpreting speech amidst all accents, pitch, tone, articulation, nasality, vocalizations and pronunciation is a challenge when a computer tries to do it.
‘And then the troops, unnoticed, surrounded whole of the desert city in that dark night, which certainly was all green for them’, we must have come across such lines in some or other war related article. Well, as quite a number of people do know that what does the word “green” here refers to, very few are able to tell the deep insights about it. This article takes every inch of that green and explains its cause, the night vision technology. Night vision technology, as the name suggests, is the expertise that makes us capable to see in the night without using any external light source such as a torch or a lamp. Highly advanced light sensitive cameras are used in this technology that produce clear visible images at night which the naked eye can’t do.
Rainbows have always fascinated human curiosity. The appearance of various colors in the sky out of basically nothing was something science had been trying to understand from a very early stage. It was when Newton discovered the visible spectrum that other scientist got some firm footing to explore the deep chasms on the edges of the visible spectrum. The visible spectrum is just a small fraction of wide electromagnetic spectra which extends both above and below it, much beyond the ocular limits of the human eye. When scientists started experimenting with the infrared light, they realized that there was an immense potential in this particular band for seeing things much beyond the realms of visible spectrum, owing to its greater penetrability and thermal properties. Infrared imaging evolved as a result of continual effort towards harnessing the power of infrared.
By now, there would be a very small segment of the mobile community that would not have heard anything about the Android OS by Google. This OS seems to be giving many proprietary vendors a run for their money and the owners many a sleepless nights. But did you know as to what does Android depend on for its good performance apart from its robust code? What makes it run so smooth and yet amazingly fast without costing you a fortune? What drives the Android? The answer is ARMs, Advanced RISC Machines, previously known as Acorn RISC Machines. ARM machines have a 32 bit Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) Load Store Architecture.
The success of any creation is often dependent on the foundations it is built upon, be it the strength of a character, depth of a building’s foundations or the extent of a tree’s roots. Much in the same way, the success of any electronic device depends on what it is built on. The motherboard of any electronics device serves as a playground and a host to every form of electrical signal that performs some function for the equipment. A Printed Circuit Board doesn’t just connect electrical components using etched copper pathways, but also provides mechanical strength to it. Printed Circuit Boards are found in almost all of the commercial products as a packaging medium as building blocks.
Simulations and prototyping have been a very important part of the electronics industry since a very long time now. Before heading in for the actual fabrication of a dedicated hardware, everyone would want to be sure that what they are making will work the way they want it to. Over all these years while electronics companies offered dedicated hardware in their products, it was not possible for the end user to reconfigure them to his own needs. This need led to the growth of a new market segment of customer configurable Field Programmable integrated circuits called Field Programmable Gate Arrays or FPGA.
What Buddha saw of the world, Matisse sought in his paintings, and Heisenberg found in the quantum, was a simple fact that “Precision is not the truth”. They all found out in different novel ways that things can be a certain degree true, and a certain degree false at the same time. Drawing absolutes can certainly increase precision, but cannot make it perfectly precise as is clear from the finite word length effects in the digital domain. In a quest to seek the ultimate, in a bid to imitate the human capabilities, we have constantly resorted to the continuum of phenomenon and not discreteness. This is the world of fuzzy logic. The roots of fuzzy logic date back to the time when intelligent life forms evolved and they all can be classified as fuzzy systems.