Archive for July, 2008

Nuance Studies Speech Recognition’s Effect on Driving

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

driving.pngCan speech recognition reduce driver distraction when using cell phones or in-car entertainment and navigation systems?

Vendor studies are typically self-serving, but the latest research from speech recognition specialist Nuance Communications conforms to ISO standards for automotive safety tests, the company said.  Tests were conducted at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany.

The ISO’s lane-change-task test exposes drivers to specified skills while performing tasks such as making calls, using an MP3 player and programming a GPS unit.  Some researchers challenge the test’s validity because it partially involves subjective observations, although it is a commonly used measurement.

In the Nuance test for making calls, “Speech input improved the ability to maintain the ideal car position by 19% compared to manual dialing.  Speech input was also approximately 40% faster in making a call, reducing the distraction period by the same amount,” the company said.

For music systems, an average driver can be 50% more distracted and take twice as long to change lanes when selecting music manually compared to using speech, while for navigation the use of speech results in 10 times less swerving, officials said.

Nuance said its technology is available in 100 models of cars and in 5 million vehicles total from all major manufacturers.

Source: Wireless Week

Low-Cost Wireless Module Addresses M2M Apps

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

The Mini Socket iWiFi embedded serial-to-WiFi module quickly connects embedded devices running machine-to-machine (M2M) applications to 802.11b/g wireless LANs with minimal programming. Employing the company’s iChipSec CO2128 Internet Protocol communication controller chip, the module includes a full suite of Internet protocols and applications, the latest wireless and SSL encryption algorithms, and serves as a firewall.

Source: EEPN

RFID-enabled crop tracking

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

RFID producer Intelleflex Corp. has announced a joint solution with Minds Inc., a information systems provider for the road construction and agriculture industries, to create a system that would automate tracking of crop harvesting.

The solution combines GPS, RFID and wireless communications technologies to provide real-time visibility into the time-sensitive operations of field harvesting. Using this solution, growers and harvesters can track the exact location, timing and efficiency of harvesters, as well as the arrival, loading and departure time of crop transport vehicles.

“In the crunch of harvest time, people are focused on the task at hand (i.e. the harvesting of crops), and not the tracking, recording and communications of operational data. As a result, there is often a lack of the information required to ensure the most efficient operation,” said Pierre Vidaillac, president of Minds Inc.

In the new system, GPS units and RFID readers are mounted on harvesters to track their whereabouts in the field as well as the arrival, loading and departure times of transport vehicles. The information is then transmitted wirelessly for immediate access over the web and mobile phones.

Intelleflex and Minds Inc. have previously collaborated on a similar system which tracking hot mix asphalt for the road construction industry.

Source: RFID News

Printable RFID??

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

A research group in Europe has taken a major step towards the goal of developing printable electronics that can be used for creating RFID tags. Researchers in the EU-funded CONTACT project have demonstrated that with suitable inks and printers, organic liquid crystal displays and other optical electronic devices can be printed out precisely.

The project researchers hope to follow this proof-of-principle by developing a gravure printing press, called Labratester 2. The press will be able to print hundreds of thousands of organic thin film transistor arrays or other devices precisely and efficiently.

The end goal of the project is to establish the ability to print electronic components directly onto organic materials such as paper, fabrics, or plastic. This would allow the quick and relatively cheap printing of RFID tags, as well as everyday devices such as flexible watch displays, and could eventually lead to applications from the realm of science fiction, like electronic paper or eyeglasses with embedded displays.

Participants in the CONTACT project include Switzerland-based Schläefli Machines, the Technical University of Ilmenau, Belgium’s IMEC, and Imperial College London.

Source: RFID News

Thai rice project explores RFID

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Paddy_Plant.jpgThailand’s Hom Mali project is testing the use of RFID applications in its rice production supply chain. The Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) has created a prototype system which tracks the flow of rice in the Roi-Kaen Sarn cluster area of the country.

The system tracks the flow of rice from the Khon Kaen Bank of Agricultural Cooperatives, where the rice is grown, to the cooperatives’ community mill. Rice trucks will be tagged at the time of loading and then scanned when it reaches the mill, to confirm the receipt of the rice and its point of origin. The tags will include additional information such as weight loads and truck numbers. For the pilot project, 500 tags will be used.

SIPA representatives hope the pilot project, which is expected to conclude in September, will develop into a system that enables local farmers to better compete in the global market. In an effort to further boost the regional economy, the project also encourages local software companies to adopt domestic supply-chain management software instead of importing it from abroad.

The system’s prototype will also be tested on other local agricultural products such as tapioca.

Source: RFID News

Home automation hits UAE

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Dubai_Desert.jpgSmart home, or intelligent homes, technology is no longer just for the technophile hobbyist. It’s right on the cusp of becoming mainstream.

Of course, some of this stuff has been around since the 1970s in the form of X10, the industry standard for TV remote controls.

But new wireless standards (like Insteon, ZigBee, and Z-Wave) and cheaper chipsets have enabled two-way, low-cost communication between devices.

Source: Gulf News

Differences Between Zigbee 2006 and Zigbee 2007

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The Zigbee spec started out in 2004 and that was known as the original Zigbee spec or Zigbee 2004. In 2006, they revamped the spec based on the feedback they got and that version ended up being called Zigbee 2006. In late 2007, they announced Zigbee Pro which most people think of as Zigbee 2007. However they actually created two versions of the spec. One of them is Zigbee 2007 and one of them is Zigbee Pro. The Zigbee 2007 update didn’t get a lot of press coverage so most people didn’t even know that they updated the Zigbee 2006 spec.

There were actually many changes from Zigbee 2006 to Zigbee 2007 and unfortunately, they weren’t clearly documented in the public version the spec. In fact, there is only one Zigbee spec which includes Zigbee and Zigbee Pro. To understand which features belong to Zigbee and which belong to Zigbee Pro, you have to turn to the feature set definitions documents.

I don’t really want to get into the differences between Zigbee and Zigbee Pro right now, but I thought I’d highlight some of the major differences between Zigbee 2006 and 2007. Also, I’ll complain a bit about how there is no changelist so we need to find a lot of the spec changes ourselves. Two of the main features that changed between Zigbee 2006 and 2007 is the addition of fragmentation and frequency agility. Fragmentation is the ability to handle data transfers that are larger than the maximum payload size that a frame can handle. An example would be to transfer 10 kB of data when the max frame payload size is much less than this. In order to transfer such a large chunk of data, you previously had to break it up into chunks in the application and send it via Zigbee. With fragmentation, the spec gives instructions on how to transfer such a large amount of data in a standardized way. It’s pretty similar to the way TCP handles fragmentation, ie: windowing and counters. This feature is optional in Zigbee 2007. (more…)

Development of Nano-Sensor Technology

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

BAE Systems, under an agreement with Micromem Applied Sensor Technologies Inc., will co-produce nano-sensor technology that will leverage both companies’ expertise for use in military, commercial, and homeland security applications.

As a foundry and business development partner with Micromem Applied Sensor Technologies, BAE Systems’ Microelectronics Center in Nashua, NH, will further develop Micromem designs and manufacturability for advanced magnetic random-access memory (MRAM) products. The goal is to bring the designs to maturity and begin production of gallium arsenide-based nano-sensors that offer features such as very high-speed and low-power capability, radiation-hardness, and overall robustness.

“Foundry facilities are very expensive, and development work on new products is highly capital-intensive,” said Gino Manzo, foundry director at BAE Systems in Nashua. “This arrangement will advance technology and design maturity for products developed by Micromem by giving both companies the means to produce devices for a wide range of commercial and military uses.”

Micromem Applied Sensor Technologies’ patented submicron nano-sensor, based on MRAM technology, also can be designed for use in highly accurate magnetometers—instruments used to measure the strength and/or direction of magnetic fields—and for threat-detection solutions for defense and homeland security.

About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is the premier global defense and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 97,500 employees worldwide, BAE Systems’ sales exceeded £15.7 billion (US $31.4 billion) in 2007.

Source: Sensors

CO2 Pollution Could Erase Coral Reefs

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Coral_Reef.jpgCoral reefs, nature’s most lively architecture, could come tumbling down and it could take millions of years for them to return, if carbon dioxide emissions aren’t cut quickly, scientists warned today.

The world’s oceans have absorbed 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by humans in the industrial age, but that buffering is changing the chemistry of the oceans. Already, the acidity of ocean waters, which are generally basic, has shifted about 0.1 on the pH scale, or 10 percent, since pre-industrial times, and could get far more acidic by mid-century.

In a editorial in the journal Science, the researchers also noted that unlike CO2’s climate impacts, which vary between models to some extent, ocean acidification is based on basic chemistry and is nearly sure to occur if we continue burning fossil fuels, with disastrous consequences for some marine life.

“What we’re doing in the next decade could mean that for the next two million years, there are no coral reefs in the ocean,” said Ken Caldeira, a Stanford professor, and recent Wired profilee.

While most of the attention on the impacts of carbon dioxide emissions has focused on its ability to act as a greenhouse gas, that warms the earth’s climate, the changes CO2 emissions will bring to the world’s oceans are receiving increasing attention. The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more of it that dissolves into surface ocean water. That small chemistry change could cause huge changes in marine biology.

Marine organisms, like coral, that build skeletons out of calcium could find themselves unable to do so. If current emissions trends continue over the next decade, the world’s marine creatures will be dealing with what’s essentially an alien ocean. The last time ocean conditions like those predicted for mid-century existed was long before humans walked the earth.

“I think in order to find something that is as extreme as what we continue to do this century, you have to go back to when the dinosaurs became extinct, 65 million years ago,” Caldeira said.

After the last acidification, it took two million years for coral reefs to recover. The Science paper called for lower CO2 emissions caps and for them to come quickly. Otherwise, he warned, the Great Barrier Reef and other structures like it will be destroyed and will take millions of years to return.

“Where a doubling of CO2 might seem like a realistic target from a climate perspective, but from an ocean chemistry perspective, it means changes that haven’t been seen in tens of millions of years.”

Unlike climate change, which Caldeira thinks could be partially counteracted through geoengineering, ocean acidification is a problem of a completely different scale. In the physics of climate change, he said, sulfur particles can have an outsized effect in counteracting the greenhouse effect induced by carbon dioxide. But ocean acidification, and the chemistry that underlies it, is fundamentally different.

“There’s no way around having a molecule-to-molecule response, so the scale of the solution ends up being the scale of the problem,” said Caldeira.

While some individual reefs could be preserved by various means, the broader problem appears difficult to geoengineer.

“At the scale of the whole ocean, I don’t think is anything simpler than transforming our entire energy system,” he concluded.

Source: Wired

ABB takes underground mining to a new level

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Underground mining relies on hoists to transport people, equipment and ore between the mining zone and the surface. ABB hoist systems are raising productivity, energy efficiency and grid stability for customers all over the world.

Mine hoist systems are a key component in underground mining. They are the most efficient means for transporting crushed ore to the surface from the mining area hundreds or even thousands of meters below ground. And, they are often the only way of conveying staff and equipment up and down the mine shafts.

Speed, reliability and safety are essential in this demanding round-the-clock process, as the efficiency of the hoist system determines the mine’s productivity and eventual profitability.

ABB’s showcase hoist systems include installations at an iron ore mine in Kiruna, Sweden, operated by LKAB, a state-owned mining company, and a potash mine in Saskatchewan, Canada, run by Mosaic, a maker of fertilizer.

The Kiruna mine is the world’s largest underground iron ore mine and its 11 ABB mine hoists make it the largest hoisting plant in the world. ABB is currently upgrading the four underground hoists and has supplied a seventh surface hoist to enable LKAB to boost production capacity by 25 percent to 33 million tons of crushed ore a year.

Mosaic’s Esterhazy mine is one of the largest potash mines in the world. ABB recently upgraded one of two production shafts to increase skip capacity by 50 percent and boost mine production by 1.1 million tons a year.

The 8.6-megawatt (MW) motor and drive solution – the most powerful hoist system in the world – has improved energy efficiency at the Esterhazy mine by an estimated 5-8 percent. Despite its huge size and power requirements, it maintains grid stability without the need for additional power correcting equipment. (more…)