Archive for October, 2007


A capital event

It seems that London has a NEW (sorry, new) place in the global electronics exhibition calendar, with the news that the National Electronics Week has sold 25% of its available space in just four weeks after its launch. (more…)


Solar cars illustrate efficiency gains

The rate of progress in photovoltaic cell development may appear to be painfully slow, but the speed of the entrants in this week’s World Solar Challenge race across Australia is anything but, with most competitors breaking the 100km/h barrier. The was even a suggestion that the nation’s Northern Territory police might get to hand out their first speeding ticket to a solar-powered vehicle, following the introduction of the territory’s first open road speed limit earlier this year. But with that set at 130km/h, it might take a year or two before the boys in blue have to sharpen their pencils and write that ticket. (more…)


Pigs might fly in the gaming world

There is no doubt that games industry has had a profound effect on the “serious” business of electronics components, with several processors designed specifically for gaming even finding their way into military kit. To my recollection, the first instance of this was the founding of ARC – which came out of the Argonaut Software business that spawned the seminal Frogger game in the 1990s.

However, this week’s call from software giant Electronic Arts for the industry to standardise on a single open gaming platform has about as much chance of success as the proverbial flying pig. Nor should it succeed.

Certainly, it is easy to appreciate the motives behind EA’s campaign. The company currently has to produce its games for no fewer than 14 different platforms, ranging from PCs, to consoles to mobile phones. However, it is precisely this variety of platforms that has led to the innovations in processor design that have brought us devices such as the aforementioned ARC cores and Cell BE devices.

Once upon a time, it was military research that led the way. Now it is the gaming industry that has the big bucks to spend.


Agency to allay Wi-Fi fears

The news that the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) is to carry out a “systematic programme” of research into wireless local area networks is a rare piece of common sense amid the usual allegations of black magic and witchcraft that surround wireless communications. (more…)


Consortium to share SOI secrets

The semiconductor industry has finally worked out that some technologies are just too big for one company to keep to itself, it seems. Such is the case with silicon on insulator (or SOI), which has been widely touted as one of the key enabling technologies for the continuation of Moore’s law. (more…)


Trademark law is simplified

You probably know the scenario: you’ve just designed something you are sure will be the greatest thing since sliced bread; manufacturing is not a problem, and you are set to turn a super margin on every unit you can make. And then the patent lawyers get involved.

Patent law is a minefield, whether it be in the USA, Europe or Asia. There are always legions of lawyers willing to guide you through the maze – but at what cost?

However, moves are afoot to simplify the whole process – in the UK at least – and the initiative has already begun with a simplified procedure introduced this week by the UK Intellectual Property Office (the new name for the Patent Office). Several changes have been made to Section 5 of the Trade Marks Act 1994, all designed to make it easier for companies to register new products.

The most important change is that whereas previously trademark examiners would automatically refuse applications where there is an earlier similar trademark, now it is up to the holder of the earlier mark to seek to block the application. This may seem a small change, but in theory applications will now only be blocked if they affect others’ trading interests.

OK, I admit this small change is unlikely to see queues of patent lawyers looking for alternative employment, but it may well convince some people that they really can register their own trademarks.


“Doing the right thing” for the planet

It’s rare to find a good-news environmental story these days, and so I was particularly pleased to read this week’s news that the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is getting smaller.

According to measurements made by the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite, the peak loss in the ozone layer during 2007 has been 27.7 million tonnes, compared with 40 million tonnes last year. And in terms of overall size, the hole has shrunk from 28 million square kilometres at its biggest in 2006 to 24.7 million square kilometres today.

What makes this news so welcome is that it illustrates how much can be achieved by concerted action. In the 20 years since the formulation of the Montreal Protocol, a wide range of industries including electronics have focused their efforts on CFC replacement, ranging from aerosol propellants to fire retardants and refrigerants.

Interestingly, at a conference last September (also in Montreal), delegates voted to accelerate the elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, with developed countries committing to a 2020 deadline and developing nations agreeing to 2030.

The Envisat data would seem to suggest that for once all industries and nations are “doing the right thing” for the planet. Perhaps there’s hope for us yet!


Galileo under threat

Things are looking bleak for Galileo. The European Commission’s proposal to make up the shortfall in funding by dipping into European Union reserves has been blocked by ministers from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, and to me there appears a very real possibility that the project will be scrapped altogether.

Surely this cannot be allowed to happen. But unless the funds are found and further satellites ordered, the network will fall so far behind its scheduled startup in 2013 that the technology will be redundant.

But no, it seems certain parties would sooner see EU funds used to prop up uneconomic farming practices than to re-energise the continent’s largest ever space project, with all the commercial and technological spinoffs that will inevitably accrue.

For once Brussels is on the right track, but it is the supposedly high-tech members of the union that are at odds with progress.

The final decision on Galileo’s future is expected to be announced at a meeting of EU leaders in December. Let’s hope certain parties come to realise the benefits before irrevocable decisions are made.


What do you really think of Electronicstalk?

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been working our way through the responses to our last reader survey, and they have given us a much better picture of the typical Electronicstalk reader. But now we’re after some more information, and this time, we’re giving you the chance to shape the future direction of both the Electronicstalk website and this newsletter. (more…)


PoE set for major growth

A new report from networking specialist Panduit predicts that 2008 will be the year that PoE, or power over Ethernet, really takes off. And as any network manager will tell you, the sooner the better.

Indeed, having spent the 1990s in a fast-growing technical marketing consultancy with just such a responsibility as an added duty, I can testify that it’s easy to spend as much time routing power cables as it is connecting the data.

The appeal of PoE is easy to see. Particularly with the recently ratified power increase from 15 to 30W, the potential to add devices to a network without having to worry about a separate mains power connection has undeniable appeal. And with new generations of low-power thin clients predicted to fall within this power envelope, the ability to run an entire office from network cabling becomes a real possibility.

But why stop there. The next big challenge will surely be to combine PoE with wireless, to produce power over wireless Ethernet. Expect a major announcement on 1st April 2008.

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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