Archive for September, 2007


IT professionals ignore energy

Sometimes it makes you wonder whether it’s all worth it. Let’s face it, the energy efficiency message has been out there in some form or other for many years, and the electronics industry has embraced efficiency mandates such as Energy Star with alacrity. But what is the point of producing ever more power-efficient equipment if the biggest end users don’t give a tinker’s cuss about power consumption?

So when that doyen of business intelligence, The Economist Intelligence Unit, published a report this week of which the two headline findings were that a half of the companies surveyed do not know or measure their IT-related power consumption, and that power consumption is not viewed as an important purchasing criterion, it rather makes you question why we bother.

The survey concerned was conducted during June and July 2007, and covered 213 chief information officers and other senior IT executives. The majority of respondents were from Western Europe (59%), Asia-Pacific (19%) and North America (19%). All of the organisations polled had at least 1000 employees, to ensure that the businesses being polled had significant IT assets.

Surely, you would think, there have been sufficient reports on data centre power consumption for energy to have moved up the IT department priority list. If a supposedly technically savvy branch of business and industry has not yet grasped the efficiency message, what hope can there be that the public at large will get on board?


Charger accord is impressive co-operation

When you are an organisation with a brief to “make life easier, less confusing and less complicated for consumers” you need a bit of headline news to prove to all and sundry that you are doing your job. So the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP) should be feeling pretty happy with itself.

The organisation, which is sponsored by mobile network operators, is tasked with brining some degree of uniformity to mobile terminals. And its first major coup has been to obtain mass-market commitment to standardise the charging interface on future handsets. All the five dominant manufacturers (Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson) are party to the agreement, which will see the micro-USB plug used as the charging interface in all future models.

While the agreement may be bad news for accessory vendors and the purveyors of those fast-charge gizmos bristling with different power cables that are starting to appear at railway stations and airports around the world, for once the end user appears to be getting the good end of the deal.


Don’t condone counterfeiting

Further to my recent posting about counterfeit and reclaimed components, the good people at TUV Rheinland UK have come out with some interesting statistics.

Apparently, during 2006, seizures by customs of counterfeit goods across the European Union quadrupled year-on-year, and involved 36,000 cases encompassing no fewer than 350 million items. And although textiles, foods, and pharmaceuticals remain high on the list, counterfeit electrical products, cosmetics and toys are becoming more commonplace.

Interestingly, China now only accounts for one-third of the bogus merchandise. India and the UAE are fast climbing the counterfeiters’ league table.

However, while we might “tut-tut” at the statistics, we may well all be guilty of condoning the act. Whether it be unreasonably cheap Callaway golf clubs picked up in Hong Kong, absolute bargain Lacoste tee-shirts from a market in Phuket, a knock-down copy of AutoCAD procured over the Internet or some dodgy DRAMs bought on the grey market, counterfeiting is wrong.

And in this instance there are really no half measures. As little as you might like Bill Gates, buying counterfeit (or pirate) Microsoft software is just as bad as somebody ripping off your own intellectual property.


Buy two, get one makes perfect sense

Top marks to the One Laptop Per child organisation for coming up with its G1G1 scheme as a means to kick-start its campaign. (more…)


Lack of legislation threatens US ability to compete?

It’s not often you find anyone pleading for more legislation. But in a fascinating article posted on our site today, Joel Deutsch, President of E-Certa questions whether the lack of domestic RoHS and WEEE legislation will leave US electronics manufacturers “hanging out to dry”.

Many US commentators have argued in the past that EU directives – beginning with EMC and culminating now in WEEE – are little more than protectionism dressed up in green clothing. Fortunately, such negative sentiments appear to be on the wane.

No single nation - or even continent - can ignore the global nature of the electronics industry. The arguments that were put up against the UK delaying implementation of the EMC Directive way back in 1990 still have the ring or truth: any nation that finds itself in a noncompliant second tier will inevitably become uncompetitive.

With the rest of the world queuing up to enact RoHS and WEEE style legislation, could the US electronics industry really become marginalised?


The spectrum should not be a national asset

I may be missing something here, but surely the proposal by the UK Government regulator Ofcom to open up the 900 and 1800MHz bands for 3G services is a perfect illustration of the folly of having a national regulator in the first place.

The proposal is not a bad one. The 900 and 1800MHz bands in the UK remain reserved for 2G service providers. And while there is still plenty of life in 2G, future growth will focus on 3G, in all its flavours.

Suffice it to say, that while the UK is not alone in having such a restriction, other regulators are in the process of opening up the bands in question (or have never made such restrictions), and manufacturers are readying handsets to take advantage.

Regular readers will recall that my personal view is that spectrum allocation is too important to be put in the hands of national governments. At the very least, such important matters should be handles on a Europe-wide basis – if not globally. What greater barrier to competition can there be than each country allocating frequencies to services seemingly on a whim?


Kick-starting Galileo

The European Commission’s proposal to dip into European Union reserve funds to overcome the shortfall in funding for the Galileo satellite navigation project is sure to spark debate in all member states.

Certainly, the original idea of a public-private partnership would have been ideal. But with no private sector investors willing to even part fund the project, the onus is now on the EU to come up with the cash (the shortfall is said to be around Eur 1 billion) – and to do it without forcing member states to raise taxes.

The EU certainly does have the reserves available. But the big question is whether it has the political will to take on such unplanned spending.

In my view, the project is essential, and so this is a valid use for funds that have been put aside “for a rainy day”. What’s more, the funds should be committed as soon as possible to kick-start Galileo, which is in danger of falling behind schedule for its 2012 launch. Otherwise some bright spark might decide to fritter the money away by subsidising inefficient farming methods.


A WEEE oversight

Some two and a half months after the enactment of the WEEE Directive it appears that significant numbers of UK companies have so far failed to join an approved WEEE compliance scheme, and the Environment Agency is now warning that it intends to get tough. And as far as I’m concerned, there really is no excuse.

According the agency, which has been given the brief to enforce the law in the UK, around 3900 companies have signed up for suitable schemes that cover the first compliance period (until the end of 2007). But that figure certainly does not cover all the importers, rebranders and manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment that fall within the scope of the legislation.

“Our message is simple”, says Liz Parkes, Head of Waste at the Environment Agency: “Join an approved compliance scheme now”.

“Leave it too late and you risk enforcement action from us”, she warns.

If you really are one of those companies that should have registered but has yet to do so, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to regard this as an idle threat. As with any EU directed legislation, there will surely be competition between the enforcement agencies of each member state to see which can bring in the highest profile prosecution. You have been warned.

A full list of approved compliance schemes can be found on the Environment Agency website.


The dangers of reclaimed components

Recent discussions with both semiconductor manufacturers and distributors have highlighted growing industry concerns over the use of counterfeit and reclaimed components. And although I have written at length of the necessity for the electronics industry to embrace the recycling ethic for materials, the recycling of components is a whole different kettle of fish. (more…)


More mobile medical madness

In 2001, I had the misfortune to find myself in the critical care department of a UK National Health Service hospital in the SW of England and was somewhat surprised to find a total ban on the use of mobile phones anywhere within the wards. This, I was told, was national policy. (more…)

About the Author

Electronicstalk and this Editor's Blog are edited by Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini began his career in the electronics press with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1980, cutting his teeth on a variety of learned and member publications, ranging from IEE Proceedings to Electronics and Power. He moved on to join the launch team of the innovative weekly Electronics Express in 1986, and became Editor just 18 months later. Sadly, Electronics Express lasted just four and a half years, wound up by the infamous Robert Maxwell. However, Laurence had already jumped ship and joined the world of electronics PR with the agency of the 1990s, Smith and Jones Communications. It seemed Laurence was lost to the world of journalism. But after 11 years we managed to lure him back as launch editor of Electronicstalk. Laurence is married to Sally and has a young son, Alexander.

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