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Archive for June, 2015

Getting Started With IoT In A Box

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

With all of the buzz that the Internet of Things (IoT) has generated, a number of our readers have asked if there was anything available for experimenters who may have interest, but not a lot of money to spend on exploring the technology. Until recently, the answer would have been, “No.” However, that all changed this month with the availability of the ARM® mbed™ IoT Starter Kit-Ethernet Edition from ARM Ltd.

In the 1980s British computer manufacturer Acorn Computers first developed the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) architecture for its personal computers.

A reduced instruction set computing (RISC)-based computer design approach with ARM processors require significantly fewer transistors than typical complex instruction set computing (CISC) x86 processors in most personal computers. This approach reduces costs, heat and power use. Such reductions are desirable traits for light, portable, battery-powered devices and other embedded systems. A simpler design facilitates more efficient multi-core CPUs and higher core counts at lower cost, providing improved energy efficiency for servers.

ARM Holdings develops the instruction set and architecture for ARM-based products, but does not actually manufacture products itself.

ARM core processors are used in a wide range of products including the Microsoft Surface tablet, Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod, ASUS tablets, Canon PowerShot digital cameras, and Nintendo DS handheld game consoles. In a word, ARM cores are everywhere.

ARM Processor – Sowing the Seeds of Success

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Hexagon and HxGN Measure Up and Beyond

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Hexagon Global Network (HxGN) 2015 Live conference. Although not held in my favorite destination, Las Vegas, this was an opportunity for my first direct exposure to Hexagon. In a word, I was not disappointed. In fact, the experience went far beyond my modest expectations that I had before attending the event.

I went to HxGN specifically for the metrology (science of measurement) portion of the conference with regard to sensing, inspection, QA, and reverse engineering applications – in other words what Hexagon Metrology is all about. However, metrology was not the only area represented, as the company known as Hexagon AB also has a huge presence with its hardware, software, and services in other industry segments, such as geospatial (GPS and surveying); process, power, and marine (PP&M); and security, government, and infrastructure (SG&I). It was a lot to take in and I focused on industrial metrology and related technologies – sensors and software used for optimizing manufacturing processes and throughput.

Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Hexagon AB has offices in 46 countries, 15,000+ total employees, and is R&D focused with 11% of net sales and more than 3,400 employees invested in R&D. The industrial side of Hexagon AB, known as Industrial Enterprise Solutions (IES), that includes manufacturing and industrial plant facilities accounts for about half of the company’s sales. Roughly one third of Hexagon’s business is derived from metrology.

HxGN LIVE 2015 Conference

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The Invisible Labor Shortage of Technicians Who Keep Things Running

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The pressing need for engineers of virtually all disciplines has become increasingly urgent as relatively few students view and pursue engineering as a career.  Business seems more attractive to many, and yeah, there’s always psychology (the “new” liberal arts degree) that has a lot of sellers, but relatively few buyers, at least at the BA/BS level.

Yes, engineering education and engineers are vital for keeping our technological world moving ahead, but who keeps the underlying machinery, tools, and software moving at all? Technicians.

Whether you recognize them, or not, there are technicians in just about every field and industry. For example, automotive mechanics, machinists, cosmetologists, electricians, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) — the list is about endless. If it’s “technical,” the odds are extremely good that there is a technician involved somewhere in the chain, and that may include many links in the chain.

So, what exactly is a technician?

Technicians can be classified as either highly skilled or semi-skilled workers, and are usually an integral part of a larger process. They work in a variety of fields, and they usually have a job title with the designation “technician” following the particular category of work. For example, an engineering technician is a highly skilled, highly educated occupation requiring several years of post high school training in a formal apprenticeship and probably college (usually two year) for further education.

Experienced technicians in a specific domain typically have at least an intermediate understanding of theory and expert proficiency in technique. Because of this practical knowledge, technicians are generally better versed in technique compared to average laymen and even general professionals in that field of technology, namely engineers, for whom theory often trumps practice.

What is the Future of (Automotive) Technicians?

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IoT and PTC’s Brave New World

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

About a month ago I spent a few days in Boston at PTC’s LiveWorx 2015 event. It was an eye opener for me and a brief look into the future of PTC with its growing emphasis and dependence on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Recaps of the event, entitled LiveWorx 2015: PTC Drives Home Its IoT Future – Part 1 and  PTC ThingWorx Converges On IoT were published shortly after the event last month.

Beyond the technologies and business strategies presented, what struck me was the relatively young crowd attending with relatively young PTC PR people pushing the IoT platform. Sold out with over 2,300 attendees (up from ~350 in 2014), the draw was similar or maybe more than this year’s PTC Live Global user event. Although Creo and Windchill were certainly present at LiveWorx, they took a back seat to IoT offerings, such as ThingWorx, Axeda, and others.

So what does IoT really mean? I don’t know either because it’s evolving so rapidly and all participating vendors define it so that it accommodates what they offer best. In other words, until standards are established, the definition continues to evolve. I will admit, however, that PTC currently has a leg up on virtually all of the competition for IoT in its traditional design, engineering, and manufacturing space.

A standard definition is in the works, however, and IoT generally refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999, although the concept has been discussed since 1991, so it’s not exactly brand new.

According to PTC, the Internet of Things has the potential to create trillions of dollars of new economic value in the coming decade. To capture this value, manufacturers will rely on new applications that enable the creation of smart, connected products, thus PTC’s interest and commitment, as shown in the brief video below.

PTC’s Vision for Smart, Connected Products
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