Bits&Chips 6 | 4 December 2020 | Technologies for the IoT

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4 DECEMBER 2020 | 5 FEBRUARY 2021



Axign chips at the heart of Harman Kardon’s beat


“Testing is tattooed on my forehead”

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pinion EDITORIAL Paul van Gerven is an editor at Bits&Chips.

A challenge


efore summer, I expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of a corona tracking app. Echoing expert opinion on the limitations of using Bluetooth to gauge distance, I didn’t think it would be possible to reliably catch exposure events without generating heaps of false positives. Who would want to quarantine because they happened to be at the grocery isles while, at the same time, an (unaware) corona carrier happened to linger at the nearby meat section a few meters across? Well, the app has been released, and I’m sure you’re dying to know whether I installed Coronamelder on my phone. The answer is: I did. When 15 minutes of proximity is required for an encounter to be considered a potential corona-transmitting event, Bluetooth’s shortcomings aren’t that important. I don’t know if virologically it makes sense to set the minimum at 15 minutes, but for sure, the characteristics of Bluetooth make such a long time span a necessity. So, in the end, I figured installing the app might do a little good. I’m under no illusion, however, that it’s a game-changer in getting the virus under control. The deciding factors are social distancing, good hygiene, widespread testing and limiting people’s movements and encounters. The app would be a worthwhile addition if only a lot more people would start using it. More generally, when it comes to combating the virus itself, technology has been a little disappointing during this pandemic. Technology has undoubtedly shined in other departments – imagine what this pandemic would have been like in, say, the nine-

ties! – but it hasn’t contributed much to getting the numbers down. Could it, though? Tapping into the collective wisdom of the Bits&Chips community, I think it might. Having squandered our chance in summer to squash the virus like many Asian countries did, we’re now facing a long partial lockdown during the dark winter months. Worse, if we’re not careful, we face an exhausting sawtooth-patterned series of them for who knows how long. If a vaccine

What if we could ‘certify’ individuals to be corona free? makes it past the post soon, it won’t make a difference because it’ll take a long time to deploy. Now more than ever, people need a ray of hope, a credible perspective that they can regain some of their freedom soon. So what if we could ‘certify’ individuals to be corona free? As shortlived as such a certification would be, it would open up so many possibilities. Like safely going to the office for a day or two, attending a concert or even cheering at a football game. That sounds pretty good, right? Technically, you could make all this happen by testing people at the entrance, using rapid Covid-19 tests, which are increasingly becoming available. And, indeed, this approach will probably work fine for, say, going to a bar. People take a test at the door, go for a little walk and are allowed in (or not) when the result comes back

not much later. The disadvantage is that someone with corona still left the house before finding out. With social distancing still in effect in public spaces, chances of infecting someone else are low, but it’s not ideal. Testing at the door won’t work for big events, though. So many people traveling and then waiting near the venue to get tested and to receive the result: hard to see how this could be done without helping the virus spread. So, ideally, people need to be able to test at home and be able to provide proof when the test took place and what the result was. It also shouldn’t add much cost to that of the test itself, it shouldn’t take long to develop and, of course, the method needs to be airtight – no faking negative results. Can this be done, dear reader? I might be biased, but I can’t think of a community better suited to come up with a viable solution.








Axign chips at the heart of Harman Kardon’s beat

“Testing is tattooed on my forehead”

Harman Kardon’s new Citation Amp boasts 200 watts of Class D amplification per channel, enabled by Axign’s digital feedback audio chip.

As a student, Erik Jan Marinissen didn’t have the slightest interest in chips, let alone in testing them. Now, he’s an authority.


EUV needs a couple more years to fully mature

News 7 8 9

10 11 14 18

Noise Axign chips at the heart of Harman Kardon’s beat TU Delft students shatter the competition with sustainable glass speaker EUV needs a couple more years to fully mature ASML readies next-gen EUV pellicle for production Photonics startup Mantispectra takes chemical analysis out of the lab TUE puts quantum security to the test


Photonics startup Mantispectra takes chemical analysis out of the lab

Opinion 3 13 19 29 33 39

A challenge – Paul van Gerven The headhunter – Anton van Rossum Building bridges – Joachim Burghartz Challenges put by the ubiquity of IoT devices – Aad Vredenbregt Wi-Fi 6 and CHIP: the ideal indoor couple? – Cees Links Executives don’t understand software and that’s a problem – Robert Howe


20 “Testing is tattooed on my forehead” 44 TUE PDEng answers the call to drive the future of industry



24 现在下单

Theme Technologies for the IoT

Signify and ESI connect on cleverly connecting smart lighting Smart lighting systems can bring big cost and energy savings. The Prisma tooling streamlines their development and deployment.


Paving new ways for next-gen IoT

Theme Technologies for the IoT 24 28 30 34

Signify and ESI connect on cleverly connecting smart lighting 5G will swing up the number of IoT applications Paving new ways for next-gen IoT IoT and PC-based control to utilize manufacturing and machine data


37 Getting the data out 40 Where the hack is my mobile robot going?

Order your Dutch or English copy of ASML’s Architects at



Semantic segmentation for wildlife conservation.

Š2020 The MathWorks, Inc.

With MATLAB,ÂŽ you can build and deploy deep learning models for signal processing, reinforcement learning, automated driving, and other applications. Preprocess data, train models, generate code for GPUs, and deploy to production systems.



Arm sets its sights on PCs and laptops – this time for real

Credit: Apple

A new processor war is brewing. Leveraging its power-efficiency advantage over the traditional X86 architecture, the Arm chip became king of the hill in the mobile arena. From there, it started to encroach on the data center, where it’s increasingly proving to get the same amount of work done while lowering power bills. And now, after some less-than-impressive attempts in the low end of the market, Arm has begun its siege on the last bastion of the X86 arena: PCs and laptops. Judging from the reviews, Apple’s new systems based on the in-house designed M1 chip deal a spectacular first punch by marrying high efficiency to high performance. But is it The octa-core M1 is manufactured fair to attribute this combo in a 5nm process. of highly desirable characteristics to the Arm SoC alone? As Ed Sperling of Semiengineering observed, Apple is in a unique position to design its hardware specifically in conjunction with software, allowing it to fine-tune just about everything. Perhaps it’s not a processor war after all, but a systems war. PvG

Credit: Samsung



The American Foxconn factory that wasn’t

On 28 June 2018, President Trump pushed a golden shovel into a field in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, breaking ground on a planned Foxconn LCD factory. He said the heavily subsidized 10 billion dollar investment project was “one of the great deals, ever,” bringing manufacturing back to the United States and “restoring America’s industrial might.” Now, things aren’t looking so good anymore. According to a report issued by Wisconsin’s Division of Executive Budget and Finance, Foxconn has built a structure much more consistent with a Gen 6 LCD factory, instead of the promised Gen 10.5 factory that would employ 13,000 workers and create another 22,000 indirect jobs. And it’s not even an impressive Gen 6 at that: it would be the smallest in the world. Not that it matters much because Foxconn hasn’t ordered any manufacturing equipment. “Right now, the project looks dead,” Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) CEO Ross Young told EE Times. PvG


Semiconductor industry consolidation: the foundry wars

Eventually, there will be “less than a handful” leading-edge chip manufacturers, ASML CEO Peter Wennink recently told investors. “Things aren’t getting easier. The next nodes will see an increased complexity. And I think only the very large customers can deal with that,” he said. With this in mind, will there be room for two leading-edge foundries or will TSMC be the only one left standing? Currently, the Taiwanese foundry has a huge lead in terms of market share over Samsung’s foundry business: 50 percent versus

Samsung’s “Nano city” in Hwaseong.

15-20 percent. And while the Koreans serve some high-profile customers, such as Nvidia, IBM and Qualcomm, they’re trailing TSMC technologically. Management has vowed to close the gap in time for 3nm production to start in 2022, but Samsung starts the race with some major disadvantages. TSMC has many long-standing relationships with customers, smoothing the road to high yields, and many potential Samsung customers will be wary to outsource production to a direct competitor. On the other hand, the fabless industry might like to have more than one foundry to choose from, instead of creating a monopolist. The next couple of years are sure to be interesting. PvG


Renewable power defies Covid, but renewable energy does not

Many parts of the energy sector, such as oil, gas and coal, took a hit from the Covid-19 crisis, but renewable power isn’t one of them. Driven by China and the United States, new additions of renewable-power capacity worldwide will increase to a record level of almost 200 gigawatts this year, the International Energy Agency’s Renewables 2020 report forecasts. This rise – representing almost 90 percent of the total expansion in overall power capacity globally – is led by wind, hydropower and solar PV. Wind and solar additions are set to jump by 30 percent in both the United States and China as developers rush to take advantage of expiring incentives. However, renewables outside the electricity sector, such as biofuels and industrial bio-energy, are suffering from the impacts of the pandemic The net result of these declines and the growth of renewable power is an expected overall increase of 1 percent in global renewable-energy demand in 2020. Next year, the IEA expects that number to be 10 percent. PvG




Axign chips at the heart of Harman Kardon’s beat Cr ed it: Ha

Harman Kardon’s new Citation Amp boasts 200 watts of Class D amplification per channel, enabled by Axign’s digital feedback audio chip.

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Credit: Axign

udio control specialist Axign has announced its first A-brand designwin. American home entertainment powerhouse Harman Kardon has integrated the scale-up’s AX5689 chip into its new stereo streaming amplifier. The latest addition to the Citation product line boasts 200 watts of Class D amplification per channel into 4 ohms, controlled by the little piece of silicon from Enschede. “This is a major milestone for us, a breakthrough even,” states Richard Langezaal, Axign’s sales & marketing director. “Three years ago, we had our own mask set made, taking the big step from prototypes and proofs-of-concept to a design that can be sold. It then takes a while to convince potential customers and get on their shortlist. And once you finally get selected, it takes them another year to make the product and market it. Going to mass production requires a lot of effort and persistence, but we made it.”

Highly digital

Axign’s AX5689 digital Class D amplifier controller compares the analog signal after the output filter, at the speaker terminals, with the digital input signal. All disturbances in the loop, such as power stage dead times, power supply ripple and non-linearity from the output filter, are directly suppressed thanks to the high digital loop gain. The analog signal at the speaker is converted using a high-performance feedback ADC, which combines a low latency of several nanoseconds, for loop stability, with a high dynamic range up to 120 dB on set level for consumer audio solutions like streaming amplifiers, smart speakers and TV soundbars. With only the converter’s input stage in the analog domain, the AX5689 is highly digital and consequently has all the accompanying features like programmability, self-learning and robustness. Being highly digital, the chip is insensitive to component tolerances. This allows for high-order loop filters, up to 7th order, enabling a high open-loop gain and steep filtering. The ability to program the transfer function loop makes it easy to change filter characteristics, for example noise shaping from 20 to 40 kHz and vice versa. “The result is a Class A audio performance at Class D efficiency, size and cost,” summarizes Langezaal.

Custom installations

Powered by the AX5689, the Citation Amp features Harman Kardon’s digital loop amplification. By correcting the natural errors and distortion anomalies that occur in digital amplification, this technology claims to restore audio quality to the way it was meant to be heard. Providing access to over 300 music streaming services, the device can be connected to bookshelf, floor-standing, in-wall or in-ceiling speak8


Thanks to its small footprint – 215 mm wide, 75 mm high and 230 mm deep – the Citation Amp can be unobtrusively and flexibly placed around homes, restaurants, shopping centers and stadiums.

ers to create a multi-channel wireless surround sound system. “The Citation Amp is a stand-alone amplifier that connects to a wide range of passive loudspeakers,” explains Langezaal. “It can be used in home entertainment systems, but it’s also targeted at custom installations in homes, restaurants, shopping centers and stadiums, for example. This is a very big market, especially in the US.”

Other big names

The design-win with Harmon Kardon, a Samsung subsidiary, is all the more important as it proves that Axign can deliver on its promise. “Customers are all waiting for someone else to take the first step. They all want market evidence,” says Langezaal. “This shows we’re not a one-day fly.” With its team of 25, Axign is currently planning to expand its relationship with Harman Kardon. In parallel, the Enschede scale-up is gearing up to conquer other top audio brands, leveraging its local representatives in the US and China. Langezaal is confident: “With Harman Kardon on board, other big names are sure to follow.”


TU Delft students shatter the competition with sustainable glass speaker As technological innovation continues to accelerate at breakneck speed, electronic waste production is piling up. In a search to help mitigate this refuse buildup, a group of TU Delft students teamed up to create a fully recyclable home audio system: a speaker made from glass, which earned them a national first-place award for the 2020 James Dyson Award. Collin Arocho


Credit: Delft University of Technology

s innovation continues to accelerate, the demand for next-generation appliances and devices is at an all-time high, leaving hard to recycle and nearly impossible to upgrade electronics falling by the wayside – exacerbating the problem of waste buildup and environmental damage. This is where a group of six industrial design engineering (IDE) students from Delft University of Technology looked to join the fray. Their motivation came in the form of the James Dyson Award brief, which simply asked participants to “Design something that solves a problem.” Challenge accepted. Their idea for submission: a new and sustainable home audio speaker system, made from highly recyclable materials and easily repairable. To make it truly innovative, however, the students turned to local Yes!Delft startup Denoize for a unique solution to amplify sound through vibrating glass.

Smart glass

At first glance, the Denoize smart-glass system probably may not seem like a logical fit. The entire premise behind the Delftbased startup is to provide soundproofing by counteracting and eliminating sound waves that vibrate particles in glass – in this case, windows – which are then perceived as noise on the inside. To achieve this, Denoize places piezobased sensors and actuators in the window frame that measure the incoming waves and then uses computer algorithms to precisely counter the vibrations, actively canceling the noise – much in the same way noise-canceling headphones operate. With

this system of measuring and countering the vibrations, Denoize’s smart-glass solution can offer up to a 90 percent noise reduction in low-range frequencies (0 to 1,000 Hz), which account for most of the everyday noise pollution people experience while inside.


By flipping Denoize’s technological innovation around, The TU Delft students wanted instead to generate sound from the vibrating glass. Their solution: Ammos – a home speaker that uses a similar set of actuators

to vibrate a thin pane of glass to amplify sound. With the use of the glass, the speaker can produce mid-to-high frequencies (200-20,000 Hz). By then adding a small subwoofer to Ammos’ base, the home audio system can produce frequencies between 20 and 200 Hz, giving the speaker a full spectrum of sound. For the IDE students, the design was as much the focus as the function. Yes, the novelty of using glass to make sound is cool, but the recyclability and reusability was a key factor in using it for the design. With sustainability in mind, the Ammos team wanted to further adopt green and eco-friendly materials, like bamboo, aluminum and natural rubber, while avoiding the use of rare metals and glues found in other modern electronics. Additionally, to help solve the electronicwaste problem, the design had to focus on ease of use and repairability. To make it useful, the students added Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a USB-C and 3.5 mm audio and power cable support as inputs – appealing to a broad range of potential users. Best yet, instead of throwing out the speaker to buy a new, it was developed to be easily disassembled and repaired using a single screwdriver to remove only six screws. Their efforts in innovation and design, helped by the durability and sustainability of high-quality components and “timeless design,” earned the James Dyson Award judges’ praise and netted a first-place victory for the TU Delft team – crowning them national winners of the innovation award in the Netherlands. 6



EUV needs a couple more years to fully mature Despite having been introduced into volume production, EUV lithography still has some way to go. It will take up to three years before the technology reaches the same maturity level as DUV. Paul van Gerven


Credit: ASML

hen TSMC introduced EUV lithography into high-volume semiconductor manufacturing last year, it did so cautiously. In a bid to reduce the usage of multipatterning, the so-called N7+ process featured up to four EUV-patterned layers. For its successor, the N5 node, that number goes up to a maximum of 14 layers. By mid-2022, when production of the 3nm node (N3) will get into full swing, over 20 layers per chip will be printed with an EUV scanner, ASML CEO Peter Wennink recently told investors (without mentioning TSMC specifically). How is TSMC going to print all those layers? Well, installing a lot of machines is one way to go. Already, the Taiwanese foundry says that it has half of the world’s EUV tools in operation and according to Digitimes, the company just put in an order for 13 more. As fab floor space is extremely expensive, though, TSMC and other leading-edge chipmakers prefer to install as few EUV scanners as possible. They’d rather buy machines that process more wafers per hour, day or week.




This was true a year ago, and it still is today. “Give us more EUV wafers,” is what customers consistently keep asking, Wennink said. Ultimately, chipmakers would like to see the characteristics of EUV systems to match those of their much more mature DUV counterparts, while retaining their superior imaging capabilities, obviously. ASML would be happy to oblige, but, as with any technology transition, this takes time. “The entire industry is climbing the maturity curve and that’s going to be there with us for the next one or two years before it really starts hitting home on maturity levels that we saw with DUV,” Wennink explained. By another metric, it might take a bit longer. In a video interview published on ASML’s website, CFO Roger Dassen said that EUV’s gross margin will start to approach that of DUV in two to three years. Gross margin is a good indicator of maturity because as soon as ASML’s EUV activities are as profitable as the DUV activities, it’s fair to say EUV has reached peak maturity.

Until now, the less-than-desired productivity of EUV scanners meant that ASML has had to content itself with lower-thancompany-average EUV gross margins. Every time a new model is launched, however, it creates more added value for customers, thus increasing profitability of the EUV activity (assuming cost is held in check). Case in point, ASML recently launched a new model, the Twinscan NXE:3600D, which increases productivity by 18 percent to a maximum of 160 wafers per hour. According to Dassen, this and other improvements allow ASML to raise the tool’s selling price by 10-15 percent.


Clearly, though, there’s still some way to go before EUV scanners grind through 275+ wafers per hour like their DUV counterparts do. The same goes for uptime. Whereas DUV tools are routinely operational for 98 or 99 percent of the time, average EUV uptime currently hovers around 90 percent. Incremental improvements in the system’s design will help to improve both throughput and uptime, as they have done before. For example, over the past year, ASML managed to speed up the swapping of the collector (the mirror in the EUV light source, which needs regular cleaning) and the refilling of the tin canister (tin droplets are ‘plasmatized’ to produce EUV light). And soon, it expects to introduce a new generation of pellicles that absorb less precious EUV light, increasing throughput for chipmakers that opt to use these mask-protecting membranes. Additionally, as Wennink said, it’s a learning process, for both ASML and the entire industry. The longer EUV systems are operating in the field, the more opportunities will present themselves to optimize their engineering and utilization.


ASML readies next-gen EUV pellicle for production ASML expects to supply its customers with a new generation pellicle by the end of the year. Raising transmittance from 83 to 90 percent, it will take away some of the pain of having to use one. Paul van Gerven


Canada, and then assembled and qualified in Veldhoven. All the required tooling we had to develop in-house, because obviously it didn’t exist before.”

So, did your pellicle make it into fabs already? Maas: “Indeed it did: we’ve shipped thousands of them over the past two years, to all of our EUV customers. The films are being manufactured by Teledyne Dalsa in

Originally, ASML didn’t think pellicles would be necessary because it predicted the environment inside the scanner would be clean enough. Since chipmakers are currently using pellicles, was that prediction too optimistic? “The inside of the scanner isn’t the only consideration. Reticles are also handled outside the scanner, during which particles can be introduced. In many cases, our customers choose to use a pellicle because they want to protect the reticle all the time, not just inside the scanner.” “That said, while we’ve made great strides with reducing particle density inside the scanner, I can’t say it’s perfect. It’s clean enough for some use cases; this mainly depends on the size of the chip. If the chip is relatively small, the mask pattern takes up only a small percentage of the mask’s surface, meaning the chance of a particle landing on a critical part is relatively small. This

Credit: ASML

ou’d think that anything reducing the amount of precious EUV radiation hitting the wafer in an EUV scanner would get the thumbs-down from semiconductor manufacturers. But they made an exception for the pellicle. Even though the membrane that keeps stray particles away from the EUV photomask will inevitably absorb some EUV radiation, thus decreasing throughput, the idea of having their costly masks open and ‘exposed’ was simply unbearable to chipmakers. They insisted on having a way to protect it. Since there were no takers at the time, ASML was more or less forced to take up pellicle development itself. Four years ago, its efforts reached the industrialization phase. What has happened since then? Raymond Maas, ASML’s product manager for pellicles, fills us in.

is one situation in which our customers may opt to work without a pellicle.” How much light is absorbed by the pellicle? “Our current polysilicon-based pellicle has a transmittance of 83 percent. EUV masks being reflective, light has to pass through it twice, so that represents a considerable loss. Of course, our customers would prefer not to use it, but it’s just not feasible to obtain the level of cleanliness in every aspect of mask handling.” “We expect to introduce a new, metal silicide based pellicle by the end of the year, with which we target 90 percent transmittance. Equally important, however, is that this upgrade supports our roadmap, which eventually will take source power up to 400 watts. The pellicle heats up to 600 degrees Celsius at that power level, which the polysilicon couldn’t withstand.” Now that things are up and running, and other organizations have started pellicle development, shouldn’t ASML be stepping back from this activity? “We’ll keep driving the roadmap until there’s a pellicle with 95+ percent transmittance that fulfills all the other requirements. We feel a responsibility towards our customers to do that. However, we happily support every effort to come up with improved designs. As we found out ourselves, though, going from lab to fab takes a lot of effort and requires large investments.” “Now that volumes are going up – perhaps to as much as 10,000 pellicles per year – we don’t consider ourselves to be ideally suited to keep handling the assembly. As announced last year, Mitsui Chemicals will take over in that department. We expect that Mitsui will start handling pellicle assembly by the end of this year.” 6 11

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THE HEADHUNTER Anton van Rossum

Ask the headhunter T.M. asks: After having spent the last ten years abroad, I’m currently working on a one-year contract with a technology company in the west of the Netherlands in a specialist technical position. Unfortunately, my job isn’t at all as depicted when I signed on. Due to the corona crisis, an important project for which I was hired has been postponed and I don’t expect my contract to be extended. As a precaution, I’m keeping my eyes wide open. I got this job through an English headhunter. I recently got back in touch with them when they called me for a position at another company. They told me it’s exactly the job I’m looking for, even better than what I have now. However, he would only reveal the company’s name if I agreed to an interview in advance. I went along with this on the condition that I would receive the job description and company name before the interview so that I could prepare. To my surprise, he sent a description with a profile that didn’t fit at all. I then canceled the appointment with the company because I felt misled. Shortly afterward, I had a conversation with another agency. Earlier this year, they had introduced me to the same company, but to no avail. Following our conversation, the agency sent me a vacancy that was perfect for me, at the very same company no less! After I agreed to an

exploratory meeting, I was told to be prepared for some critical questions about our previous dealings. That’s the world upside down! Should I apologize for an agency sending me the wrong job description? Actually, I don’t feel like doing that interview at all anymore. Without having spoken to anyone, I already have to defend myself. However, I could really use a new position. What advice can you give me?

altogether. You’re hurting your own cause and making yourself a victim of the situation.

It’s silly if you don’t know which company you apply to

The headhunter answers: Let me start by pointing out that it’s certainly not the fault of this company that the earlier contact went a bit messy. They’re merely looking for a new employee and using a few specialized agencies in the industry for that. They received your résumé and are interested in an introduction. That’s all. If the planned interview is subsequently canceled, this raises questions with them. That’s only normal, I would say. You can be sure that this will be brought up in the interview, which is quite normal, too. You don’t have to apologize, but you can give a simple explanation for what happened. Stay close to the truth, is my advice. You don’t have to be ashamed of the truth because you’re looking for a new job and you want to use your own and other people’s time in a useful way. I don’t think it’s sensible to abandon a conversation

I strongly advise you to be more critical of the agency next time and ask for a clear job description before they introduce you to the potential employer. I also think it’s silly if you don’t know which company you actually apply to. As if that’s completely irrelevant? It will look pretty strange if you have to admit that you unknowingly were introduced to the same company by two different agencies. However, if you did know, this would also raise many questions as to your social skills and integrity.

6 13


Photonics startup Mantispectra takes chemical analysis out of the lab Who says chemical analysis needs to be performed in a laboratory, by well-trained personnel? Thanks to a photonic-chip-based spectral sensing system being commercialized by startup Mantispectra, classifying and quantifying material composition will never be easier. Paul van Gerven


here’s only so much a farmer can tell about his crops just by looking at them. A tomato that has turned red, for example, is certainly getting closer to harvest. But when is it optimal to harvest? Dry mass, sugar content or the concentration of other tasty compounds may still be increasing, all of which will be wasted if the fruit is plucked too early. By providing farmers with an extra set of eyes, startup Mantispectra aims to solve this problem. The spinoff from Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) is developing a portable optical sensing system that, in mere seconds, yields a wealth of information about the chemical composition of a tomato. This information wouldn’t only be useful for determining optimal harvest timing but also for optimizing growth conditions and, after harvest, quality control in the distribution chain. Of course, tomato farmers aren’t the only ones that can benefit from such a device. Not only does the technology extend to many other crops, but there are many applications outside of agriculture and food as well, such as in textile recycling, pharmaceutics and healthcare. Even consumer electronics is 14


within the realm of possibilities: imagine people using their smartphone, equipped with Mantispectra’s sensor, to determine if their milk has gone sour or how healthy their skin is. “Taking spectrometers – which normally are bulky and expensive scientific instruments that require trained operators – out of the lab to perform real-time chemical analysis wherever needed opens up a great number of applications in many different markets. I’m sure we haven’t encountered, or even thought of, them all,” says CEO Maurangelo Petruzzella of Mantispectra. “Leveraging the expertise of the publicprivate photonics partnership Photondelta and the infrastructure that the Dutch integrated-photonics industry has already built up, I’m confident we can swiftly scale

up our technology to take advantage of these opportunities.”

A little crazy

The young company’s name refers to the Mantis shrimp, a marine crustacean with one of the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Humans have three types of photoreceptor cells, which are sensitive to red, green and blue light. The Mantis shrimp’s eye contains up to sixteen photoreceptors, which can detect light ranging from the deep ultraviolet to the far red. The core technology of Mantispectra is a tiny chip that also has sixteen ‘photoreceptors’ on board, each detecting a different band of light. Unlike the sea animal, however, the chip only detects bands in the near infrared (near IR), which spans the 820-1680

nanometer range, from which a wealth of chemical information can be obtained. “Our chip, roughly measuring 1 by 1 millimeter, consists of an array of sixteen indium gallium arsenide pixels bonded on silicon. The pixels differ only in the type of filter integrated within them, which is sensitive to a particular near-IR band. The operating principle of our sensing system is to shine broadband near-IR light on the sample and collect the reflected light with our chip. This results in a kind of ‘fingerprint,’ which is our raw information,” explains Petruzzella. For the raw information to become useful, it needs to be plugged into a machine learning-based model, which correlates the measured reflection intensities (or lack thereof) to the chemical composition of the 6 15

IoT calls for fast communication between sensors.

Visualization of the normalized 3D far-field pattern of a slotcoupled microstrip patch antenna array.

Developing the 5G mobile network may not be the only step to a fully functioning Internet of Things, but it is an important one — and it comes with substantial performance requirements. Simulation ensures optimized designs of 5G-compatible technology, like this phased array antenna. The COMSOL MultiphysicsŽ software is used for simulating designs, devices, and processes in all fields of engineering, manufacturing, and scientific research. See how you can apply it to 5G and IoT technology designs.


sample. Drawing up such a model is quite a bit of work, but once done, you’ll never have to do the measurement the old-fashioned and time-consuming way again. For several interesting application cases, Mantispectra will provide a pre-made model that can be directly deployed. At the same time, the company will offer the possibility for the user to build new models to assist them in their creation and validation. As proof of principle, Mantispectra is currently working with partners in the agro-food industry to build such a model. Going forward, the startup intends to provide interested parties – potential end-users, instrument vendors and system integrators – with its technology, so they can try it out for their applications. “To be honest, things are getting a little crazy right now. We’ve been receiving an incredible amount of inquiries from all over the world. With our resources, it’s challenging to comb through all of them and filter out the most promising ones,” says Petruzella. Depending on the specific use case, Mantispectra will market its own products or give out licenses for others to include the spectral technology in their products.

Photondelta’s growth strategy

Mantis shrimp

Scaling up

The detector chip is the heart of Mantispectra’s product, but obviously it isn’t a standalone system. To become fully functional, it needs to be assembled into a module, which contains some basic optics, a light source and electronics to process the measurement and/or transfer the data via

Photondelta was set up in January 2019 to boost the growth of the emerging Dutch integrated-photonics industry. Its mission: to drive growth in terms of turnover (over 1 billion euros), resources (over 4,000 FTE) and number of companies (more than 25) by 2026, leveraging funds made available by public parties. “These goals are challenging considering the double-trouble context, in addition to the relatively limited time frame and resources: a new emerging technology with – long-term – potential in likewise emerging applications and markets,” says Giuseppe Coppola, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer at Photondelta. To face this particular complexity and identify the most relevant growth opportunities, Photondelta, together with its partners, drove a structured approach. First, it performed a thorough analysis of relevant trends, drivers and product opportunities in a wide number of markets. Then, the most attractive opportunities were evaluated versus the industry’s product and technological capabilities. This resulted, at the end of last year, in the identification of four key target markets: medical devices & life sciences, datacom & telecom, infrastructure & transportation and agriculture & food. Soon afterward, dedicated focal area teams, staffed with business and technology experts from companies and knowledge institutes, have been set up and chartered to further sharpen relevant propositions and business/technology roadmaps, in open collaboration with global customers and end-users. These insights have been guiding strategy and execution for further expansion of the portfolio offering, acquisition of new customers and cluster partners, as well as Photondelta investments. The activities of Mantispectra are part of the agriculture & food market and fall under the focal area “NIR spectral sensing modules and components for analysis of fruit and vegetable nutrients, taste and structure insights.”

USB to a computer. Having successfully developed prototypes, Mantispectra recently started production of a batch of fully functional modules for distribution to prospective customers and partners. In parallel, it has started working on industrialization challenges, such as assessing the reproducibility of the chips and modules and compliance with international standards. For the moment, Mantispectra’s chips are fabricated at TUE’s cleanroom facilities. Once the technology gains traction and volumes pick up, however, the production process might be outsourced to local partners. “It’s great to be in this region because there already is a lot of activity in the area of integrated photonics. For us, having access to a local foundry and an assembly facility is invaluable,” says Italian-born Petruzella, who originally came to the Netherlands to carry out his PhD at TUE. The Dutch integrated-photonics ecosystem has united in the public-private partnership Photondelta (see inset “Photondelta’s growth strategy”), aiming to establish a world-leading industry. Photondelta fosters (international) collaboration, promotes knowledge sharing among members, charts roadmaps and supports companies, particularly startups, with business aspects. “Photondelta has been of great assistance, particularly with connecting this technology to early adopters. With all its knowledge and experience, I expect Photondelta will keep playing a key role in scaling up our business over the coming years.” 6 17

Credit: Eindhoven University of Technology


TUE’s testbed centers around the optical fiber network ring around Eindhoven.

TUE puts quantum security to the test For ‘classic’ cryptographic standards, there are authorities to certify system security. But where do you go when you’re using quantum cryptography? Eindhoven University of Technology hopes to become the place to be for quantum cryptography certification. Paul van Gerven


indhoven University of Technology (TUE) is setting up a security test environment for quantum key distribution (QKD) technology in real-world applications. Along with accelerating the adoption of quantum cryptography, TUE aspires to become a worldwide hub for quantum security validation and certification. In QKD, quantum properties of photons such as polarization state and entanglement are used to create cryptographic keys. These keys, in turn, are used to establish safe communication channels. QKD’s strength lies in the fact that anyone attempting to eavesdrop on the key will be caught. This is inherent to the quantum nature of the key: quantum mechanics dictates that any measurement to a quantum system disturbs the system. Hence, any attempt by third parties to reveal the key will lead to detectable anomalies. QKD technology is already quite mature; there are even commercial implementations available. However, there’s no infrastructure available to validate the safety of QKD systems. “For our current cryptographic standards, we have protocols, security and validation tests. There are even



authorities that can certify whether your system is safe. There’s no such thing for QKD,” says Idelfonso Tafur Monroy, TUE professor at the Electro-Optical Communication group and the Center for Quantum Materials and Technology Eindhoven.

Real attacks

This is where TUE steps in. Tafur Monroy is currently building a testbed to ascertain if a QKD system is viable and secure. “It’s not a lab, it’s not a computer, but it’s the closest thing to real-world deployment, with real nodes, real fibers, real systems, and we’re also going to run real attacks to test whether systems are secure.” The first use case is autonomous driving, which obviously has to deal with major security risks: hackers being able to take control of vehicles is clearly something nobody wants. Latching on to existing research projects in the Eindhoven region, QKD will be introduced to secure communication between the 5G link, the cars and the edge-computing nodes. Tafur Monroy: “We expect to have a fully quantumsecured 5G autonomous driving system by the end of next year.”

All elements of the testbed are connected to each other via the existing optical fiber network ring around the city of Eindhoven. This ring also connects the labs on the TUE campus with various test locations in the region, enabling the expansion of the testbed for other applications. Next on the list are robotic communication for industrial inspection and civilian and governmental data in the city of Waalre, near Eindhoven. After that, additional use cases may follow.

Ultimate dream

In parallel, Tafur Monroy will work on miniaturization and cost reduction of QKD components and systems, which will accelerate their adoption. “We have the knowledge and technology in Eindhoven to eventually manufacture QKD in – photonic – chips so that they also fit into a mobile phone,” says Tafur Monroy. His ultimate dream is to play a role in the ‘certification’ of QKD cybersecurity solutions. “This would allow people to come to Eindhoven with their chip or QKD product and we can guarantee that it passes the quantum cryptography test.”



INNOVATION Joachim Burghartz is the director of the Institut für Mikroelektronik Stuttgart (IMS Chips) and the former director of Dimes at Delft University of Technology.

Building bridges


e all know the Gartner hype cycle. From the technology trigger by academic research upwards, there are plenty of funding instruments to keep the train moving. In Germany, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) supports fundamental to applied research at universities while the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) brings together industry and academic partners with the aim of transferring research results to applications and economic turnaround – similar to missions of FOM and NWO in the Netherlands. For mature companies and technologies, there’s support from the Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi) and big European programs and projects like Horizon 2020 and ECSEL. Since 2018, the microelectronics industry is funded also through the IPCEI program. This shows that there’s ample support within the hype cycle up until the peak of inflated expectations and following the plateau of productivity. In between, the trough of disillusionment causes these two phases of innovation transfer to be disconnected. BMBF projects are set up for about three years, which is too short to push innovative ideas out of universities into industrial applications. Companies are expected to move into development and manufacturing when projects end, but that seldom happens. Therefore, a lot of academic value gets stuck. With that in mind, the BMBF recently introduced the Clusters 4 Future program, which has a scope of three times three years. It consists of three consecutive BMBF projects, with increasing industrial participa-

tion of 20, 35 and 50 percent. The aim is to start early and push innovative fundamental research concepts at universities towards industrial products. The Clusters 4 Future seem to be a merger of the concepts of Clusters of Excellence (Bits&Chips column December 2008) and the Research Campus (Bits&Chips column May 2010), in which regional and local clustering of industry and academia was or is supported. The idea behind Clusters 4 Future is to bridge the hype cycle’s trough of disillusionment. The first round of proposals is in evaluation. Out of 137 submissions, 16 proposals made it to the second round, of which in the end, up to 7 clusters will be funded with up to 45 million euros each, starting in 2021. One of the finalists is Qsens, focusing on quantum sensing, with partners from the universities of Stuttgart and Ulm, research institutes including IMS Chips, and companies including Bosch and Infineon. There are several keys to success according to the Qsens steering team. It will be important not to oversell the potential of quantum sensing, but instead, ensure proper benchmarking against conventional high-volume sensor products. Quantum sensing approaches that can substitute the conventional ones with better performance but with similar form factor and economics need to be identified. This can, technologically, best be achieved by a step-by-step approach starting from hybrid to micro-hybrid and monolithic integration. Moreover, one has to deal with strategic issues. The nine-year path is very long for companies, which tend to plan in shorter terms. The

Qsens team, therefore, not only proposes typical BMBF projects related to Qsens topics but also universitydriven projects that allow companies to step in at a low budget to ‘look over the fence’ and get acquainted with

A lot of academic value gets stuck the new topics. Educational training, dissemination of results, open innovation with shared IP and a startup highway are further key elements of the Qsens proposal. However, the true key to success is that the experts in fundamental science and product engineering will be eager to learn each other’s language and to pull together. Those challenges aren’t new. They’ve been addressed by setting up interdisciplinary research institutes like Dimes at in Delft (now turned into a process facility called Else Kooi Lab), of which many have vanished, mostly due to lack of that kind of respect and willingness to collaborate. It will be interesting to see if and how Qsens and other Clusters 4 Future projects can cope with those different challenges.

6 19


“TESTING IS TATTOOED ON MY FOREHEAD” When he was a student, he didn’t have the slightest interest in chips, let alone in testing them. Now, Erik Jan Marinissen is an authority in the IC test and design-for-test arena and even teaches on the subject. Paul van Gerven


ast year, when Erik Jan Marinissen heard that his papers at the IEEE International Test Conference (ITC) had made him the most-cited ITC author over the last 25 years, he didn’t believe it. “I had skipped a plenary lunch session to set up a presentation that I would give later that day when passers-by started congratulating me. For what, I asked them. They explained that it had just been announced that I’m the most-cited ITC author over the past 25 years. Well, I thought, that can’t be right. Of course, I had presented a couple of successful papers over the years, but surely the demigods of the test discipline – the people I look up to – would be miles ahead of me,” tells Marinissen. Back at home, Marinissen got to work. He wrote a piece of software that sifted through the conference data to produce a ‘hit parade’ of authors and papers. The outcome was clear: not only was he the most-cited author, but his lead over his idols was also actually quite substantial. ITC being the most prominent scientific forum in his field, there was no question about it: Marinissen is an authority in the test and designfor-test (DfT) disciplines (see inset “What’s design-for-test?”). Once he was certain there had been no mistake, Marinissen felt “extremely proud. I’ve won some best-paper 20


awards over the years, but they typically reflect the fashion of the moment. What’s popular one year, may not be anymore the next. My analysis confirms this, actually: not all awarded papers end up with a high citation score. Being the most-cited author shows that my work has survived the test of time; it’s like a lifetime achievement award.”

Diverse and interesting

Verifying the calculations that entitled him to a prestigious award might be considered an instinct for someone

who has dedicated his life to checking whether things work correctly, but Marinissen and testing weren’t exactly love at first sight. “As a computer science student at Eindhoven University of Technology, I didn’t have much affinity with chips or electrical engineering. We CS students used to look down on electrical engineers, actually. Electrical engineers are only useful for fixing bike lights, we used to joke. I’m sure they felt similarly about us, though,” Marinissen laughs. Testing seemed even less appealing to Marinissen, for reasons he thinks

What’s design-for-test? A modern chip consists of millions or even billions of components, and even a single one malfunctioning can ruin the entire chip. This is why every component needs to be tested before the chip can be sold. It’s turned on and off, and it needs to be verified that it changed state. The hard part is: you can’t exactly multimeter every transistor as you’d do with, say, a PCB. In fact, the only way to ‘reach’ them is through the I/O, and a chip has far fewer I/O pins than internal components. Indeed, the main challenge of testing is to find a path to every component, using that limited number of pins. This task is impossible without adding features to the chip that facilitate testing. Typically, 5-10 percent of a chip’s silicon area is there just to make testing possible: adding shift-register access to all functional flip-flops, decompression of test stimuli and compression of test responses, on-chip generation of test stimuli and corresponding expected test responses for embedded memories. Design-for-test (DfT), in its narrow definition, refers to the on-chip design features that are integrated into the IC design to facilitate test access. Colloquially, however, the term DfT is also used to indicate all test development activities. This includes generating the test stimulus vectors that are applied in consecutive clock cycles on the chip’s input pins and the expected test response vectors against which the test equipment compares the actual test responses coming out of the chip’s output pins. Chip manufacturers run these programs on automatic test equipment in or near their fabs.

Credit: Imec

are still true today. “If you don’t know much about the field, it may seem like testers are the ones cleaning up other people’s messes. That’s just not very sexy. For IC design or process technology development, it’s much easier to grasp the creative and innovative aspects involved. Even today, I very rarely encounter students who have the ambition to make a career in testing from the moment they set foot in the university.” It took a particular turn of events for Marinissen to end up in testing. “I wanted to do my graduation work with professor Martin Rem because I liked him in general and because he worked part-time at the Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium, which allowed him to arrange graduation projects there. Like most scientists in those days, I wanted to work at Philips’s famous research lab. But, to my disappointment, professor Rem

only had a project in testing available. I reluctantly accepted, but only because I wanted to work with the professor at the Natlab.” “I soon realized how wrong I was about testing. It’s actually a diverse and interesting field! You need to know about design aspects to be able to implement DfT hardware, about manufacturing to know what kind of defects you’ll be encountering and about algorithms to generate effective test patterns. It’s funny, really. Initially, I couldn’t be any less enthusiastic about testing, but by now, it has been tattooed on my forehead.”

Stacking dies

After finishing his internship at the Natlab in 1990, Marinissen briefly considered working at Shell Research but decided that it made more sense to work for a company whose core business is electronics. He applied at

the Natlab, got hired but took a twoyear post-academic design course first. Having completed this, Marinissen’s career started in earnest in 1992. “At Philips, my most prominent work was in testing systems-on-chip containing embedded cores. A SoC combines multiple cores, such as Arm and DSP microprocessor cores, and this increases testing complexity. I helped develop the DfT for that, which is now incorporated in the IEEE 1500 standard for embedded core test. When the standard was approved in 2005, many people said it was too late. They thought that companies would already be set in their ways. That wasn’t the case. Slowly but surely, IEEE 1500 has become the industry default.” Marinissen is confident the same will eventually happen with another standard he’s helped set up. He worked on this after transferring 6 21





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from Philips, whose semiconductor division by then had been divested as NXP, to Imec in Leuven in 2008. He actually took the initiative for the IEEE 1838 standard for test access architecture for three-dimensional stacked integrated circuits himself. He chaired the working group that developed the standard for years until he reached his maximum term and someone else took the helm. The standard was approved last year. “Stacking dies was a hot topic when I was hired at Imec. Conceptually, 3D chips aren’t dissimilar from SoCs: multiple components are combined and need to work together. By 2010, I’d figured out what the standard should look like, I’d published a paper about it and I thought: let’s quickly put that standard together. These things always take much longer than you want,” Marinissen sighs. His hard work paid off, though. Even before the standard got its final approval, the scientific director at Imec received the IEEE Standards Association Emerging Technology

Award 2017 “for his passion and initiative supporting the creation of a 3D test standard.”

Flipping through the slides

As many researchers do, Marinissen also enjoys teaching. He accepted a position as a visiting researcher at TUE to mentor students who – unlike himself when he was their age – take an interest in DfT. At an early stage, he also got involved with the test and DfT course at Philips’ internal training center, the Centre for Technical Training (CTT). “Initially, most of the course was taught by Ben Bennetts, an external teacher, but I took over when he retired in 2006. I remember having taught one course while still at NXP, but not a single one for years after that – even though Imec allowed me to. There just wasn’t a demand for it.” “Then, in 2015, all of a sudden, I was asked to teach it twice in one year. Since then, there has been a course about once a year.” By then, the training “Test and design-for-test for digital

integrated circuits” had become part of the offerings of the independent High Tech Institute, although, unsurprisingly, many of the course participants work at companies that originate from Philips Semiconductors. “Many participants have a background in analog design or test and increasingly have to deal with digital components. I suppose that’s understandable, given the extensive mixed-signal expertise in the Brainport region.” “I might be the teacher, but it’s great to be in a room with so much cumulative semiconductor experience. Interesting and intelligent questions pop up all the time – often ones I need to sleep on a bit before I have a good answer. It’s quite challenging, but I enjoy it a lot. As, I imagine, do the students. I’m sure they prefer challenging interactions over me flipping through my Powerpoint slides.” From begrudgingly accepting a graduation assignment to sharing his authoritative DfT expertise in class – the young Erik Jan Marinissen would never have believed it. 6 23


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he Edge is a 40,000 m2 office building in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district. One of its distinctive features is a smart lighting system, installed by Signify, formerly Philips Lighting. Nearly 6,500 connected LED luminaires create a digital lighting infrastructure throughout the 15-story building. Integrated sensors in the luminaires collect data on occupancy and light. This data allows facility managers to maximize The Edge’s operational efficiency and optimize office space, as well as reduce the building’s CO2 footprint. The result: a 3.6 million euro savings in space utilization and an annual reduction of 100,000 euros in energy costs. Creating such a large, distributed system is no small feat, Signify’s Peter Fitski points out. “The luminaires each have their own controller, receiving a host of inputs from light switches and light and occupancy sensors. All these controllers talk to each other, share information via a lossy wireless network and act on it in a coordinated fashion. Our engineers develop the 24


required functionality, lighting specialists design the desired environment and installation technicians make it work.” Until recently, programming the individual building blocks, gluing them together and maintaining the resulting system were largely manual tasks, labor intensive and error prone. Together with ESI, the high-tech embedded systems joint innovation center of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Signify started the public-private Prisma project to shine a light on the problem. This has resulted in tooling to streamline the development and deployment, which the Eindhoven company is now incorporating into its engineering process. Meanwhile, ESI is extending the solution to internet-of-things (IoT) applications in general.

Formal character

The Prisma tooling is based on so-called domain-specific languages (DSLs). These can be used by specialists, in this case

Credit: Signify

Credit: Signify

Credit: Signify

from the lighting domain, to specify a system using their own jargon, from which software can then be automatically generated. “With Signify, we identified three types of stakeholders: the installation technician, the lighting designer and the system de-


Within the Prisma project, ESI (TNO) and Signify aimed to reduce the effort for the full product lifecycle of distributed control systems: specification, development, validation, installation, commissioning and maintenance. The focus was on the lighting domain, with an extension to IoT applications in general. ESI participation was co-funded by Holland High Tech, Top Sector HTSM, with a public-private partnership grant for research and innovation.

veloper,” says ESI’s Jack Sleuters. “For each, we defined a separate DSL.” The so-called building DSL lets the installation technicians write down what devices go where, in terms of luminaires, sensors, switches, groupings, rooms and such. Using the template DSL, the system developers can describe how the devices have to behave, independently of their number or location. The control DSL links the two, allowing the lighting designers to map the behavior to the physical space by indicating how the lighting changes, why, when and where. The big advantage of DSLs is their formal character. “We used to write down the behavior in plain English, also to align with our not-

so-technical colleagues,” illustrates Fitski. “But sometimes you make implicit assumptions or otherwise forget to include things. That became apparent when ESI looked at the documents and started asking questions like: ‘How does this work exactly?’ and ‘What happens in this case?’. The formal notation of a DSL forces you to be really precise about system behavior – it leaves no room for ambiguities.” Plus, it talks the talk of the domain specialists. Worded in jargon, the specifications are clear to all stakeholders. “We’ve formalized the lighting domain, so to say,” clarifies Fitski. Sleuters adds: “And by staying on a relatively general level, you can talk about office behavior without having to know the details, so both an engineer and a marketeer can understand it – and each other.”

Zigbee and PoE

The Prisma project ran from 2015 to 2018. In the past two years, Signify has integrated the results into its way of working, with a primary focus on the template DSL to express behavior – the development side. “There, we felt the need the most,” notes Fitski. “We dove in deep. We started using the language and, step by step, developed it into something that can be easily applied in practice. One of the 6 25

“One essential tool to keep my team sharp: training and personal development.” According to Johan Knol, manager Failure Analysis, at least in his department, engineers are having to go well beyond their areas of focus and broaden their understanding of NXP’s entire production chain, especially as chip complexity continues to explode. Besides, eff iciency being key in an environment like this means every day you’re being challenged to do more in your daily efforts. For semiconductor giant NXP’s failure analysis department, training employees and broadening its knowledge base is instrumental in holding the leading. NXP had a shift from truly analog design to embedding digital more and more: mixed-signal designs.

things we did is create an automated translation from the high-level DSL to the low-level lighting controls.” Signify engineers now have a toolchain at their disposal to automatically generate luminaire configurations. Fitski: “Based on the opensource Eclipse framework, we’ve built an editor with extensive error checking, in which we can specify lighting behavior using the template DSL. With the push of a button, the specifications are converted into configurations that can be sent to the luminaires. We’ve also added a graphical extension to visualize the programmed behavior.” The luminaire configurations combine into recipes for complete lighting systems. “We’ve predefined a couple of recipes. They offer set behaviors with some configurability,” Fitski explains. “Once selected, a recipe is automatically transformed into the constituent configurations.” Currently, the tooling supports two product lines: the luminaires that communicate wirelessly using the Zigbee protocol and those that are connected using Power over Ethernet (PoE) wires. “Starting from one and the same DSL instance, we can apply two transformations: one for the Zigbee implementation and one for the PoE implementation,” outlines Fitski. “Both are completely hardware independent. Within our Zigbee and PoE families, we have different controller types, but the generated implementations work on all of them.”

Broadening the scope

ESI, meanwhile, has also successfully built on the Prisma results. “You can do much more with the DSL framework,” states Sleuters. “We’re using it to create so-called virtual prototypes, for example. Once you’ve got a DSL description of your lighting system, you can simulate the complete behavior in a building. You can then walk customers through it at an early stage. By adding occupancy information, you can also make estimations about power consumption and optimize these by tweaking your model.”

Credit: Signify


Signify engineers can use the Prisma tooling to specify a lighting system in their own jargon, after which luminaire configurations can be generated automatically.

From a virtual prototype, it’s a relatively small step to a so-called digital twin – a digital copy that can be fed actual operational data from the real system. Sleuters: “If your model is correct, this should give you exactly the behavior you want. If not, you’ve uncovered an error and you can go and fix it.” Which is easier and cheaper to do in a digital-only system than when the hardware has already been set up. More in the research realm, ESI has enhanced the Prisma framework with an even more powerful way to check for errors. “We’ve added a language to describe the system requirements on a high level,” says Sleuters. “From this description, a so-called model checker tool can determine whether a sequence of inputs and triggers exists that causes bad behavior. If it can’t find one, the system is guaranteed to work properly.” Next to these developments, which are equally interesting for Signify to adopt, ESI is also taking Prisma out

High tech highlights

A series of public-private success stories by Bits&Chips

of lighting. As Sleuters and his colleagues have found the approach to be very useful for other connected large-scale distributed systems as well, they’ve broadened the scope to the IoT domain. “We’ve transformed the Prisma languages into a general IoT DSL. We’ve shown that it still works for the Signify case and we’re now looking to apply it to other areas, eg warehouse logistics – replacing luminaires and rooms with shuttles and conveyor belts.”

Practical use

The public-private collaboration has brought Signify valuable knowledge about DSLs. “This rather scientific world of formal languages and tooling is quite difficult to grasp,” Fitski finds. “Within our organization, we had some scattered experience in this area, but with the know-how of ESI and its network of partners, we’ve been able to put the technology to practical use.” ESI’s Sleuters values the opportunity to do research in parallel to regular product development. “This industry-as-a-lab approach, as we call it, was picked up really well by Signify. There was broad support, from all levels in the organization.” 6 27


5G WILL SWING UP THE NUMBER OF IOT APPLICATIONS All providers are about to introduce their 5G infrastructure. This super-fast network opens up a wealth of new possibilities, which all need electronic device support. More and more, NCAB’s James Wenzel sees electronic assemblies being built into applications that were never connected before. James Wenzel


hen the world wide web was introduced in the early nineties, the only device connected was a single personal computer. It took ten years before a couple of billion PCs were talking to each other over the internet. Still, communication and data entry were wholly dependent on human beings. It took another ten years before the Internet of Things (IoT) evolved into a system using multiple technologies, ranging from the internet to wireless communication and from microelectromechanical systems to embedded systems. The traditional fields of automation, wireless sensor networks, GPS, control systems and others all support the IoT. A key improvement was the switch to IPv6 as the address limitations of previous internet protocols would have certainly blocked development. With IPv6, an almost unlimited amount of devices can be connected without any interference in the machine-to-machine communication. The “smart device” was born and it became quickly and quietly an important tool in our social and business environment. IoT devices can now not only connect to regular 2G and 3G networks but also to Lorawan and LTE (4G). The various network characteristics define which option is best suited for the application. A gold transport truck, for example, requires real-time tracking for security, so LTE would be the network of choice. A GPS tracker on a sea container, on the other hand, only needs to provide its location once a day, so a connection



to a Lorawan network would suffice. Another nice Lorawan example is the tracking of black rhinos in the Liwondo National Parks in Malawi.

A new era

The introduction of 5G opens up a completely new package of possibilities. Thanks to the low network latency, reliable real-time monitoring and control become feasible. Within milliseconds, the device that sent measurement data to the network receives instructions on what to do. We work very closely with several OEMs and EMS companies that provide the electronics for IoT devices. Delivering the PCBs for these devices, we’ve noticed a steady growth in 5G applications. In the automotive industry, ultrareliable low-latency communication could support self-steering and accident-avoiding systems but also real-time traffic control. Tests of 5G-based speed regulation have proven to be very successful, reducing the

number of traffic jams. Thanks to the real-time interaction between the various devices used in traffic control connected to the multimedia systems in the car, we’re on the eve of a new era. Likewise, we see the rise of smart agriculture solutions and smart medical monitoring, where patients outside the hospital receive feedback on the medicine they’ve taken, as well as more and more 5G-based industrial IoT applications, eg for managing power distributions networks and harbor automation. Take a smart electricity grid with a highly variable energy production output, from sources including windmills and solar fields, which calls for real-time control and automation of the feeder line system. All these applications require ultrareliable low-latency communication. James Wenzel is the CTO at NCAB Group Flatfield. Edited by Nieke Roos



TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE IOT Aad Vredenbregt owns and runs Valoli.

Challenges put by the ubiquity of IoT devices


ore than 16 years after the term’s first appearance, it’s still hard to find a comprehensive definition of the term “Internet of Things.” Around 2010, it started to gain popularity, replacing or supplementing “machine-to-machine” (M2M) communication. That year, McKinsey wrote: “The physical world itself is becoming a type of information system. In what’s called the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects – from roadways to pacemakers – are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol that connects the Internet.” In that same period, market research company Gartner included “the Internet of Things” in its annual hype cycle for emerging technologies for the first time. Still, the IoT didn’t get widespread attention for some time and the concept only got public recognition by January 2014, when the IoT was a major theme at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Only by 2016 had the IoT become one of the most widely used concepts among tech communities, startup owners, as well as business tycoons. An important facilitator in developing a functional IoT was IPv6’s step to increase address space. In addition, multilayer technologies were developed to manage and automate connected devices, so-called IoT platforms. They help bring physical objects online and contain a mixture of functions like sensors and controllers, a gateway device, a communication network, data analyzing and translating software and endapplication services.

Although the Internet of Things was initially associated with wearables, the number of applications has risen exponentially thanks to the convergence of cloud computing, mobile computing, embedded systems, big data, low-priced hardware and technological advances. Now, the IoT covers factories, retail environments and logistics, offices, home automation, smart cities and (autonomous)

Today’s influx of IoT devices has the effect of a digital tsunami vehicles. It provides an endless supply of opportunities to interconnect devices and equipment. Thus, the IoT is forcing existing companies into new business models and facilitating startups around the world. It offers enormous business opportunities, while at the same time creating potential security problems, as well as (asset) management challenges by its sheer numbers. The ubiquity of IoT devices in public and private environments has contributed to the aggregation and analysis of enormous amounts of data. How will we manage the explosion of IoT devices that sit all over the place, and the never-ending data streams that flow from those endpoints into the cloud? Today’s influx of IoT devices, fueled by AI, blockchain and 5G technologies, has the effect of a digital

tsunami. As the numbers keep growing, we should manage and secure each of these devices and the data they generate. If we don’t know what’s being connected to the digital environment, then we simply can’t manage those things. If we don’t know devices exist or don’t know their specifications, we won’t be able to bring them under control for monitoring and protection. Last January, a hacker published on a forum a massive list of Telnet credentials for more than 515,000 Internet of Things devices. The list included each device’s IP address, along with a username and password for the Telnet service. The list was compiled by simply scanning the entire internet for devices that were exposing their Telnet port. The hacker then tried factory-set usernames and passwords or easy-to-guess password combinations. There’s heterogeneous usage of IoT devices. While there may be little or no information available about device ownership, we need proper administration on status, functionality and location of each device. And not only within the enterprise domain. Just think about all devices installed in public spaces in the Netherlands: traffic surveillance, air quality measurement, safety cameras and so on. The IoT world needs rigid asset management programs. As more and more devices become connected through digital supplements, we should develop the capability to effectively manage, deploy and secure them. Whether the device is a smart vending machine, a safety device, a doorbell cam, a smoke alarm or a sensor in a production machine. 6 29


Credit: Neways


The gateway combines the most common wired and wireless interfaces with an on-board processing unit and expansion possibilities.

In the last decade, a wide variety of Internet-of-Things technologies and applications has emerged, producing an ever-increasing stream of data. Neways is chipping in to create common IoT ground and control the floodgates. Nieke Roos




part of an interoperable IoT platform. In parallel, it has embarked on a new European initiative, Assist-IoT. In November, this project has started work on a novel architectural approach for the next-generation IoT.

Building blocks

Continuously expanding its IoT capabilities, Neways has developed its IoT gateway to serve both as a technology Credit: Neways

ccording to a recent study by Juniper Research, the global number of industrial connections to the Internet of Things will increase from 17.7 billion in 2020 to 36.8 billion in 2025. Smart manufacturing is identified as a key growth factor. As many of these industrial IoT systems use their own platforms, interoperability already is an issue, and with the ever-expanding network, it will only become a bigger challenge. There’s no global reference standard and none is foreseen soon. Recognizing the need for an integrated approach, Neways Electronics International participated in the European Inter-IoT project, which ran from 2016 to 2019. This has resulted in a framework enabling interoperability among different IoT platforms, including a gateway for device-level support. Neways has taken it upon itself to further develop and market the hardware and software for this gateway, as

The generic sensor/actuator board serves as the basis for a motion sensor using a 3-axis accelerometer and an ultrasonic distance sensor.

showcase and as a prototyping platform with which it can quickly react to customer wishes. The gateway implements the most common wired and wireless interfaces. These are combined with an on-board processing unit and expansion possibilities. “At the moment, Ethernet, 868 MHz RF and Lora are supported,” says Dennis Engbers, team leader and senior software engineer at Neways in Enschede. “Work is ongoing to expand this with interfaces such as Bluetooth, 4G LTE, NB-IoT and Wi-Fi.” The gateway stack is protocol agnostic, Engbers points out. “The stack abstracts away from the sensor and actuator protocols. At one end, it has a strict interface that the IoT devices need to implement and at the other, it has an interface to implement for connection to the middleware running in the cloud.” As an electronics, embedded software and firmware developer, Neways

Credit: Neways

focuses on the IoT device layer, from the sensors and actuators up to and including the gateway. For this, it’s providing the building blocks ready for use in customer projects. “Think of such a building block as a board schematic and layout, plus the software drivers and the gateway stack,” clarifies Engbers. “For demonstration purposes, we’ve programmed our own Java middleware on top of this, but that’s not our core business. For commercial applications, we have specialist partners providing the layers from the middleware upwards.”

Smart office

As part of Inter-IoT, Neways has built a smart office demonstrator, incorporating the gateway prototype. It showcases how multiple IoT technologies work together using the framework developed in the project. “The demonstrator features a touchscreen with a card reader where flex workers can sign in and reserve a desk,” illustrates Engbers. “The desk chairs contain motion sensors to monitor their ergonomic use. Level sensors in the trash cans indicate when they need to be emptied. We also measure the room temperature and humidity and the soil moisture of the office plants. All this data is combined and displayed in a dashboard.” For this demonstrator, Neways developed a soil sensor, a generic sensor/actuator board and a shield board. The latter interfaces with a single-board computer acting as a device gateway. The sensor/actuator board serves as the basis for a motion sensor using a 3-axis accelerometer and an ultrasonic distance sensor. The original demonstrator includes multiple gateways to capture the data

The smart office demonstrator showcases how different IoT technologies can be made to work together.

For the smart office demonstrator, Neways also developed a sensor to measure the soil moisture of plants.

and relay it to the dashboard. They each run a different IoT solution, but they talk to the same Inter-IoT middleware through Inter-IoT APIs. A new demonstrator is currently in development that uses a single gateway to connect to all sensors and actuators and send their outputs to the middleware in the cloud. Neways’ IoT gateway – acknowledged by the European Commission’s Innovation Radar as “market ready with a high potential of market creation with the innovation” – has also found its way to a first customer project. Here, Lora sensors are used to monitor the water quality in remote areas, which are frequently out of operators’ sight. Multiple gateway devices collect the measurement data and send it to the customer’s dashboard. The Lora functionality developed in this project has been incorporated as a building block in the gateway offering.

Decentralized approach

Credit: Neways

With its membership of the Assist-IoT consortium, which kicked off on 12 November and will run for three years, Neways is further expanding its IoT expertise. Engbers, explaining his company’s involvement: “IoT devices are now flooding the internet with data. They just pump everything into the cloud for analysis – without closer inspection. Assist-IoT is going to look at ways to make smarter decisions already at the edge, using machine learning and other artificial in-

telligence techniques to filter the data before it’s being sent over the network. Local analysis is faster because you don’t have to go to the cloud and back, and it saves bandwidth and cloud storage because you’re sending a lot less data.” Assist-IoT will run three pilots. “In the Malta Freeport terminal, we aim to automate container logistics, using a decentralized edge approach and looking at the automated alignment of cargo-handling equipment, yard fleet assets location, augmented reality and tactile internet HMIs for fleet yard drivers and remote equipment control,” details Engbers. “With Ford, we’re going to dive into decentralized powertrain and vehicle condition monitoring. And on Polish construction sites, we’re looking to make the workplace safer and healthier by using smart IoT devices to control access to restricted zones, monitor the workers’ health parameters and identify suspicious and undesirable behavior.” Although the project has just taken off, Neways already sees several applications for its results. “Take equipment manufacturers,” Engbers names a promising one. “They’re collecting loads and loads of data from their machines, sending everything over the internet for the purpose of health monitoring and preventive and predictive maintenance. By doing more at the edge, we can make these processes more efficient.” 6 31


How Simple and Secure Wi-Fi® IoT Nodes will Impact IIoT 4.0 Trends and Innovation By Jacob Lunn Lassen, Sr. Marketing Manager for IoT and Functional Safety, Microchip Technology What are (or will be) the issues of the Industry IoT market in 2021 in Microchip’s opinion?

One of the great challenges of industrial IoT (IIoT) 4.0 is to identify the “right application” and the “next big thing.” IIoT 4.0 is often talked about in general terms and for many industrial companies it is abstract – abstract in a way that makes it difficult to innovate. Often, conversations within the industry turn in the direction of “well, you can make connected sensors that measure ‘any’ kind of data in your facility.” This broad association to the technological marvel that is IIoT, hinders today’s customers from identifying the innovative and game-changing solutions that will help drive their productivity and quality - and competitiveness - to new levels. So, how can we open up the conversation to help better identify and advance a customer’s IoT needs? Start small and iterate! Ask questions like, “what is the biggest head-ache with this part of the production line?” For example, if their answer is belt slippage that causes an unsteady flow of units, then the IIoT provider can offer specific sensors that check when slippage starts to occur. This would allow the customer to run the belt at the intended speed all the time, making adjustments as soon as the issue emerges. Planned maintenance and real-time adjustments are always less costly than unexpected line-down situations.

In Microchip’s opinion, what MCU function in the future will be required from Industrial automation market?

Sure … “just put together a couple of sensors!” It may sound simple, but it’s not. The reality is that rapid prototyping is necessary for rapid innovation, and the right building blocks are already available today, helping providers better identify their customer’s needs and customers better understand what providers and IIoT 4.0 have to offer for the efficiency of their facility.

What features and advantages do Microchip’s MCU have?

Microchip Technology’s AVR-IoT and PICIoT WG development boards have overcome the main obstacles that have, till now, limited the possibilities to accelerate prototyping and innovation in the IIoT environment. With Wi-Fi connectivity, security and cloud connectivity, the AVR-IoT and PIC-IoT boards are a perfect starting point when connecting a variety of applications—ranging from wireless sensor nodes to intelligent lighting systems— to the cloud for remote command or control. With their combination of a powerful, yet simple, AVR® or PIC® microcontroller (MCU), a CryptoAuthentication™ secure element and a fully certified Wi-Fi network controller module, these plug-and-play boards make it easy to connect embedded applications to the Google Cloud. The Click™ connector makes them ideal for sensor prototyping, using existing Click modules or by adding the sensor type required to solve the engineering challenge at hand. When using Microchip’s boards, the main connectivity and security obstacles are eliminated. Now developers can quickly design and evaluate new IIoT 4.0 concepts on a small scale in collaboration with industrial partners. This enables rapid learning and fast iterations, quickly and easily turning ideas and concepts into solutions. Rapid IIoT 4.0 prototyping optimizes a customer’s cost and efficiency greatly, with the potential to create a novel breakthrough in the way the industrial industry operates. For design houses to be successful in driving the IIoT 4.0 innovation, it is important to partner with the right developers. Cloud and cloud processing require skilled software and web developers. And, as data goes from small to big, data analysts and AI experts will also be required. IIoT providers and industrial companies that do not adopt rapid prototyping to develop advanced automation and monitoring solutions are likely


PIC-IoT WG to struggle in today’s competitive marketplace. Very few companies have the skills, time and money to create the secure WiFi solutions required to accelerate prototyping and IIoT 4.0 innovation. Therefore, adopting the building blocks, like Microchip’s AVR-IoT and PICIoT development boards, and harnessing the knowhow offered by the right developers, can greatly benefit those companies looking to excel in the industrial market.



TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE IOT Cees Links is a Wi-Fi pioneer and the founder and CEO of Greenpeak Technologies and currently General Manager of Qorvo’s Wireless Connectivity business unit.


Wi-Fi 6 and CHIP: the ideal indoor couple?

he pandemic has more people working from home, and this has accelerated the adoption of WiFi 6. Consumers are upgrading home networks with this new, higher-speed standard and they’re enjoying the additional key benefits of its distributed architecture – ease of setup and high capacity that serves the needs of all family members – from video conferencing in the home office, to binge watching a favorite show in the living room, to hours of online gaming in an upstairs bedroom. Wi-Fi 6’s distributed architecture brings a router and a set of satellites, or “pods,” which can be strategically positioned in the home. These pods connect themselves automatically to the main router, the one that connects to the outdoor internet, via a protocol called Wi-Fi Easymesh. The result is high-speed Wi-Fi through the whole house. Gone are the days when proximity to the router is crucial for performance and repeaters and/or powerline adapters are needed to cover the dead zones. Although the term “pod” sounds rather simple, it could be a quite sophisticated device that can simultaneously do many other things. In fact, every non-mobile Wi-Fi device could function as a pod. A TV, a wireless speaker or smart assistants like Amazon’s Echo Dot or Google Home can simultaneously execute their own function and serve as a pod for other Wi-Fi devices. This is all on the drawing boards. For a truly smart home, however, there’s another hurdle to overcome. Today, the IoT is serviced by multiple competing standards, represent-

ing different ecosystems, including Zigbee, BLE, Thread, Apple Homekit, Samsung’s Smart Things and Google’s Nest. This fragmentation has kept the IoT from living up to its potential as consumers wait for one overarching concept. Without one, the smart home is just a set of incoherent, stand-alone, special-purpose applications, unable to use each other’s data or availability. The good news is called Connected Home over the Internet Protocol (CHIP). It’s more like a new aggregation standard than a new networking standard. Essentially, CHIP brings to-

Consumers are waiting for one overarching concept gether the existing IoT standards. It’s a cooperation of the Zigbee Alliance and the Thread Alliance with Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, aggregating Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in one overarching standard. CHIP will enable end-devices, the “things” of the IoT, to talk to the “pods” of the Wi-Fi 6 network – and via these pods, to the internet. The sensor endnode data can go where needed. This concept makes Wi-Fi 6 and CHIP an ideal couple for indoor connectivity. Each Wi-Fi 6 pod will be equipped with a Zigbee radio, or better yet, a standard IEEE 802.15.4 (IoT) radio, next to the Wi-Fi radio. This allows all smart home devices (motion sensors,

temperature sensors, open/close sensors) to connect to the Wi-Fi network and to the internet. With the popularity of Wi-Fi connectivity, there are already pods in many homes. Extending these with an IoT radio makes a lot of sense, and Wi-Fi 6 Easymesh automatically takes care of the rest. Some Wi-Fi router companies are already including CHIP radios (IEEE 802.15.4) in their products. This configuration will go mainstream when CHIP is formally announced. And here’s more good news: CHIP end-devices themselves do not need to support meshing capabilities. With the full coverage Wi-Fi 6 provides, end-devices are always in range of a Wi-Fi pod. This means that CHIP end-devices will use significantly less power and enable smaller, longer-life batteries. The cost and design complexity of end-devices will be significantly reduced. So where does this leave Bluetooth and BLE Mesh? That has yet to be seen. One could argue that Wi-Fi pods can just as easily be equipped with a BLE radio instead of an 802.15.4 radio. While that’s technically true, it’s not the most practical solution because Bluetooth itself is more a connectivity technology than for networking. Look for an explosion of CHIP devices for Wi-Fi 6 on the market. In the perception of the consumer, everything in the home will be “Wi-Fi connected.” This will happen through Wi-Fi 6 Easymesh, and end-devices will talk to the Wi-Fi 6 network directly through a Wi-Fi radio (those end-devices with a keyboard and a screen) or via a smartphone setup and an IEEE 802.15.4 radio. 6 33


IOT AND PC-BASED CONTROL TO UTILIZE MANUFACTURING AND MACHINE DATA Machines, devices and plants produce more and more data as they become smarter and more networked. Smart industry promises to turn these huge amounts of data into valuable information. Beckhoff and Mathworks show how this challenge can be tackled. Fabian Bause Rainer MĂźmmler


mart industry will transform familiar paradigms, such as the shape of the automation pyramid, which is now about a quarter-century old. As a model for automation in factories, the pyramid can be understood in several different ways. One of them is how data is exchanged and processed in automated environments. The automation pyramid comprises five layers, which can be divided into two sections. In the bottom section, we find the production process with sensors, actuators, drives, motors and tools in layer 0 doing the actual work and PLCs in layer 1 controlling the process. The top section forms the business management level, made up of Scada (layer 2), MES (layer 3) and the ERP system (layer 4).

From shop floor to business level

The pyramidal shape was chosen not only for hierarchical reasons but also because information travels horizontally and vertically. At the bottom, the amount of data produced is highest. The components in layer 0 communicate vertically in hard real time from different parts of the machine with the control layer at sample rates of up to some kilohertz, requiring field buses to transfer these enormous data streams. The buses used here include Ethercat, Profinet and Ethernet/IP. 34


The PLCs situated on layer 1 make sure that the intended process is executed with the right steps at the right time within the tolerances required. Horizontally, the controllers may communicate with each other either in real time, using Ethercat Automation Protocol (EAP) or UDP, or in non-real time, employing OPC-UA, ADS, TCP/IP and other protocols. Moving up from the shop floor, business-to-machine communication starts. This communication usually isn’t real-time, since it typically relies on switches, routers, firewalls and other infrastructure devices that cause latencies. Traditionally, decisions are made more slowly toward the top of the pyramid and are based on increasingly condensed data. A current trend in smart industry is to directly connect the MES and even the ERP to PLCs. These top layers now not only acquire data from the layers directly below them, where it has been reduced and analyzed, but may also send recipe data directly to PLCs and get status reports in return, paving the way for the flexibility and response times smart industry will require.

Taking automation to the business level

Future production and maintenance environments will have to cope with more and more plants being dis-

tributed across different sites, and machine builders will want to assess equipment running worldwide and offer maintenance contracts based on remote functionality. Establishing automated processes in layers 2 and 3 and interconnecting remote plants is therefore the future of automation. Production businesses and machine builders need to be able to do this efficiently and securely, ie without jeopardizing safe operation, network integrity and valuable confidential data. A good entry point for engineers, production planning and machine builders is the Scada level (layer 2), where all the relevant production The automation pyramid.

data arrives already reduced and is subsequently analyzed. A simple way to connect to external networks, and to add computing power, is to insert an edge device. By doing this at the Scada level, businesses will be able to concentrate their MES and ERP efforts at fewer sites or even a single site, where it’s easy to grant machine builders access to data from the shop floor and PLC levels but not to business and company data. One approach to establishing secure connections between distributed factories is to employ VPNs, but setting up and maintaining them comes with several challenges. An alternative is to rely on cloud-based solutions that offer the advantages of secure data transport (like VPN) and minimize the disadvantages when it comes to maintaining the network connection.

Connecting a Thingspeak server to the automation pyramid.

making it easy to deploy for numerous applications and devices. Once channel data is in Thingspeak, it can be stored in the cloud or immediately processed and visualized. The platform includes the ability to run Matlab code without the need for any further license. More than a dozen Matlab toolboxes provide functionality for statistics, analysis, signal processing, machine learning and more. Matlab scripts can be scheduled to run, enabling updated calculations and visualizations at fixed times. Scripts can be inserted into Thingspeak by a simple copy-and-paste of Matlab code, which can – for ease of use, as well as for testing – be written on any desktop or laptop PC with a Matlab license. So Thingspeak becomes a natural cloud extension of the Matlab desktop.

Using Thingspeak

Thingspeak alone of course doesn’t guarantee a successful IoT environment, but it fits into one quite straightforwardly. To understand this, we need to take another look at data acquisition and processing in the pyramid. On the factory floor, live data is processed locally on the controller in real time. This requires enormous bandwidth and therefore field buses with data rates of up to some gigabits per second, which Beckhoff offers by using port multipliers with standard 100 Mb/s Ethercat or by using Ethercat G with a 1 Gb/s data rate. The algorithms required can, for example, be developed in Matlab and Simulink and then integrated on the PLC using Matlab Coder and Simulink Coder,

Thingspeak communication is based on easily configurable channels. These have read/write API keys and can be made public or private. Each channel contains eight fields to store eight streams of data, such as sensor readings, electrical signals or temperatures. The maximum update rate is once per second. Each field of each channel is provided with a default visualization that updates automatically as new data arrives. To acquire data for these channels, Thingspeak offers Rest and MQTT APIs and specific hardware support. While the Rest API is platform specific, the MQTT API is general. MQTT’s only prerequisite is that the user specifies the correct payload format,

Introducing Thingspeak

Cloud-based data communication often uses transport layer security (TLS). Traditionally, solutions of this kind work on a client/server basis. If an engineer wants to communicate with a PLC at a remote site, the PLC offering the data acts as the server and the user’s machine takes the role of a client, establishing a direct connection with the PLC. Securing this connection using TLS is no problem, but a port would need to be opened in the firewall for this kind of communication, which most IT admins will simply refuse. The Thingspeak platform from Mathworks uses a publisher/ subscriber model to eliminate these limitations while offering additional benefits to the user. The Thingspeak

server can be placed in a secure network and act as a message broker so that any data published to it is sent through an outgoing connection only. Any subscriber will send its requests through an outgoing connection too, receiving data as a TCP reply (like a web browser). This approach has advantages. Any parties to this communication only need to know the IP address of the message broker. There’s no need to disclose IP information of participants beyond the individual connection to the Thingspeak server. Adding new publishers and subscribers is straightforward, making the application flexible and scalable. Because any connection to the server is essentially an outgoing one, there are no additional firewall requirements, making it easy to integrate with existing IT infrastructures while at the same time keeping them secure.

The pyramid revisited

Using the MQTT protocol to acquire data.

6 35

THEME TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE IOT together with the target for Matlab/ Simulink for seamless integration into the automation software Twincat 3 from Beckhoff. This approach guarantees fast processing with deterministic response times and latencies in the range of sub-milliseconds required for real-time controlled processes. Applications for this kind of data processing are state monitoring, energy monitoring, vision applications and information compression. The disadvantages of confining data processing to the PLC layer are that only one specific process can be monitored and controlled (without knowledge of adjacent processes, machines or equipment) and that only live data is used (no data histories). For this reason, data provided by more than one controller is often further processed at the Scada layer. This can be implemented on an edge device – for example, an industrial PC – that forms the link to Thingspeak. Such a structure enables stream processing, as well as comparison with stored data, which is quite different from the PLC layer, where data just streams along with virtually no storage. Data processing on an edge device can combine high computing power and memory with high-bandwidth Gigabit LAN. However, it cannot produce deterministic response times and therefore cannot serve to control processes in real time. Again, the required code can be written in Matlab or generated from Simulink models. Deployment on the edge device (with Using Thingspeak to monitor multiple plants and machines.

Matlab Compiler) guarantees fast execution of runtime applications. Using the Twincat 3 interface for Matlab/ Simulink, fast communication can be established between the PLC layer and the Matlab Runtime on an edge device. The latter includes the possibility to represent functions written in Matlab as a callable function out of the PLC. Typical applications are cross-process statistics, model-based optimization, anomaly detection and again information compression. All data processing described up to this point takes place locally in one closed network. Although this approach can give a comprehensive overview of one plant or site, it doesn’t allow for monitoring or control of processes distributed across various locations. This is a capability offered by Thingspeak.

Outside the traditional pyramid

Because Thingspeak is connected to the edge device through an external network, data reduction is often necessary for bandwidth reasons. This reduction can be performed by algorithms readily integrated into the runtime application created by Matlab Compiler. Thingspeak can store or immediately process the incoming data stream. Information reduction can also be performed inside the PLC with integrated Matlab functionalities and a direct connection from the PLC to Thingspeak can be established. Due to latencies, as well as bandwidth limits, Thingspeak cannot

Processing data at the Scada layer (level 2, Twincat 3 Runtime) or on the edge device (Twincat 3 Runtime/ Matlab Compiler Runtime).

provide deterministic response times and real-time control. Nonetheless, the benefits are huge. Integrating different processes is easy. The user only needs to specify the corresponding channels to start collecting data. This way, an arbitrary number of facilities can be connected to Thingspeak. Additionally, the storage capacity is much higher, allowing data histories to be saved to support maintenance and business decisions over long periods. This is interesting not only for production industries but also for equipment manufacturers, who can now monitor machines across the globe, offer maintenance contracts and compare performance based on environmental conditions, all from a single location. Thingspeak also provides a serverless architecture. Though the Thingspeak cloud includes servers, they operate without any need for users to maintain or update them. The platform also comes with integrated Matlab and several toolboxes. The use of Matlab, in turn, enables users to extend their activities in Thingspeak to the desktop for algorithm and code development or deployment of real-time and runtime applications. This makes Thingspeak an effective link between a comprehensive modeling and design platform and industrial and scientific field applications, while at the same time enabling companies to leverage its capabilities for business uses. Fabian Bause is a Twincat product manager at Beckhoff Automation. Rainer Mümmler is a principal application engineer at Mathworks. Edited by Nieke Roos



Credit: Photos Hobby on Unsplash

B a c kg r o u n d

Industrial automation

Getting the data out Angelo Hulshout has taken up the challenge to bring the benefits of production agility to the market and set up a new business around that. The first challenge: getting the data out of the factory. Angelo Hulshout


ast time, I wrote about my plans to set up a business around using data from factories to improve production and logistics processes. I also described the system needed to realize the idea. At the bottom of this system, we find the actual production equipment. These are the

machines and devices that form the actual physical production line. They’re controlled by PLCs, soft PLCs or industrial controllers. The manufacturing execution system (MES) determines when and how the production line should run. Here, the entire factory process, from material intake up to release

of the final product, is controlled on a factory level. On top of the MES, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are used to plan production and logistic needs. Depending on the size of the manufacturing company and the industry branch, this is either done per factory or across factories. 6 37

B a c kg r o u n d

Industrial automation

On top of all this, I want to put something I identify for now as ERP+, visualized as a layer going across factories. It uses the combination of data from equipment control, the MES and the ERP to allow for analysis and improvement of processes. This can be done by humans, in real time via mobile apps, or on a planning basis through dashboards. It can also be automated, by connecting to other systems and adding machine learning facilities.

Core problem

At the core of my solution is data from the production line. This data is available in the system but not always accessible automatically. Some of it is kept in spreadsheets and notes by operators, some of it is available in logs and databases and quite a bit is only collected when solving specific production issues. This makes it hard to determine where the relevant data is. One aspect of collecting this data will need to be tackled regardless of that ‘relevant data’: getting it out of the equipment control layer. Depending on the age of a system, and the way data was considered at the time it was built, more or less data will be available in a processable form. In older factories – say before 2005, to set a date – a lot of equipment-level data isn’t available directly because it never leaves the equipment control layer. What does that mean? On the MES level, production data and material logistics data will be available as they’re collected as part of the production process. Here, we’ll find data about running and past produc38


tion orders, errors that occurred during production and were corrected, orders that were aborted or canceled, and also the time needed to execute production orders. What we often don’t find is the equipment-level information about why things took shorter or longer and why they succeeded or failed. When a problem occurs, some information is sent ‘upwards’ towards the MES and the factory operator, but only just enough to solve the issue, after which the data is discarded or hidden somewhere in a log file.

Opening up

So, the first technical challenge is getting the data out and into our ERP+. To open up the data in the factory, we’ll hook up the equipment control layer, the MES and the ERP to what we call an internet gateway, which will bridge the world inside the factory with the outside world. The big challenge there is to connect the equipment control layer. Most PLCs or industrial controllers can be connected to a network. However, some work needs to be done to open them up to the outside world. A lot of these controllers run software that communicates with the actual hardware using low-level I/O signals and receives commands from the MES. They don’t always keep track of when these signals are set and what their values are. To get access to this data (and later transform it into something useful), we aim to do two things. First, since MES software is often more open to change or data access, we try to capture the commands from the MES lay-

er – either by using the already existing logging and stored history or by adding the necessary data collection. Worst case, we’ll have to capture the commands on the physical (network or serial) connection to the controller and store them from there. Second, on the PLC itself, we can either add software to notify the MES (or a capture module we put in between) when a signal changes or capture the signal from the actual I/O signal. The latter we try to avoid, as it may affect the actual equipment operation. Adding this functionality in a non-invasive way isn’t easy, but as we’re working on this, the patterns to apply become clear.

Next steps

The next step is building a first solution. Currently, we’re drawing up the concept for a first customer, where we’ll have to focus on getting the data out. Subsequently, we’ll put a dashboard on top to allow human analysis and monitoring and define what this customer needs to do after that. Angelo Hulshout is an experienced independent software craftsman and a member of the Brainport High Tech Software Cluster. This is the second article in a series that’s going to follow his idea from inception, through startup to what he aims to make a successful company. In future contributions, he’ll dive deeper into defining what the ‘right’ data is, the role of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and machine learning in this concept and which technologies to use for that. Edited by Nieke Roos



SOFTWARE ENGINEERING Robert Howe is an independent management consultant.

Executives don’t understand software and that’s a problem


or the last years, I’ve been testing out the postulate that the higher you look inside an organization, the less understanding there is of software. In that time, I’ve encountered a fair amount of confirmation, but mostly based on anecdotes or opinion. Recently, I was involved in a project at a non-Dutch multinational that has provided me with first-hand evidence, not only of the reality of the postulate, but also of its rather shocking scope. Before we get into the details, it’s probably worth discussing why a lack of understanding of software at executive level is an issue. Simply put, as hardware has become increasingly powerful, cheap and commoditized, it’s software that’s becoming the more significant creator of value. And the thing with software is that it changes the business game. Perhaps the simplest-to-explain example of how software is changing business is the shift from the right-to-own a product to the right-to-use it. Owning a product is a capital expense that implies investment and risk. Using it is an operating cost that comes out of the bottom line. Guess which one most businesses would prefer and, if you guessed rightly, you’ll understand why servitization business models are the next hot potato. What we’re talking about here, of course, is digitalization in general and Industry 4.0 in particular. You only need to read McKinsey, Deloitte or any of the other manic street preachers of business to realize that every company needs to be playing the digitalization game or they won’t be a company for much longer. But

here’s the thing: software is the medium through which digitalization is expressed. If you don’t understand software, you have no hope of coming up with a decent digitalization strategy. And who is it that sets strategy for an organization? Indeed, executive management. The multinational-who-shall-notbe-named, to which I referred earlier, had got this message, which is a very good thing. They realized that a lack of understanding of software

If you don’t understand software, you have no hope of coming up with a decent digitalization strategy was getting in the way of business. Therefore, they instructed their training department to come up with a course aimed at educating their top 150 executives in software. In keeping with their national stereotype, the training department came up with a course that addressed everything about software and software engineering. I got involved because, together with two colleagues familiar to you from the pages of Bits&Chips, I was asked to review the course. For

two days, twelve different instructors presented summaries of the material that they had included in the course, hundreds of slides in fact. I can tell you that, even though little of the material was new to me, at the conclusion of the review my head was fit to burst. Our advice to them was straightforward: way too much information, way too much detail. Having paid for this advice, they took it and drastically simplified the content, to a degree that they felt that they’d left out essential information. Then they ran a pilot course for selected executives. In the words of the head of training, the results were disastrous: most of the executives very quickly got lost. When I spoke to him afterwards, he was disconsolate. He kept repeating that he couldn’t believe how little the target audience understood about software and how huge the gap is between what his audience actually knows and what they need to know. From a Brainport perspective, I take some consolation from the belief that our executives are more au fait with software. But not so much that we’re in a stronger position to lead the way in digitalization. We need to find ways to help our business leaders better understand the nature of the medium of digitalization. If we can, our industry will go from strength to strength.

6 39

B a c kg r o u n d


Where the hack is my mobile robot going? The Fontys research group High Tech Embedded Software has analyzed several industrial SME environments and found multiple cybersecurity vulnerabilities. One of the case studies concerns an AGV. Second-year ICT & Cybersecurity students have shown how lacking authentication and encryption allow them to take over navigation control. Casper Schellekens Teade Punter Ron Mélotte Tom Broumels Lake Lakeman

Overview of vulnerabilities in AGVs.


ith the digital transformation towards Smart Industry, cybersecurity becomes much more important in industrial environments. Many threats and attacks are imaginable. Think of malware, ransomware, targeted attacks by cybercriminals or state-sponsored hackers, script kiddies exposing system vulnerabilities or denial-of-service attacks. Logistical robots are increasingly applied in industrial settings. Second-year Fontys ICT & Cybersecurity students have, under the supervision of a teacher, set up and performed a security vulnerability analysis on an automated guided vehicle (AGV). They uncovered several serious problems.


An AGV is a logistical robot that’s controlled by so-called fleet manager software. This fleet manager sends transport orders to the robot, ie the coordinates for a mission. The AGV can navigate with the help of maps stored in its memory. It has safety systems such as contact bumpers and lidar to prevent it from running into obstacles or humans on the way. 40


One of the students’ findings was that the communication between the fleet manager software and the AGV was unencrypted and without any authentication mechanism. This allows for man-in-the-middle attacks and injection of coordinates. As a result, the robot could be sent to arbitrary locations. After some guessing, the students found the control messages to be composed of an X and Y coordinate and a rotation, stored as hexadecimally formatted 64-bit double values. Using simple scripts, the AGV could be fully controlled in an automated way.

With this, the logistical process in a Smart Industry setting could be compromised, or the AGV could be stolen. Other attacks were also possible, such as adapting or removing map information or adding missions to the vehicle consisting of several destinations that are stored and then executed independently. There was authentication to access the fleet manager software, but this was sent over the network in plain text. An attacker listening in on the network could capture the password and get into the fleet manager soft-

Unencrypted authentication of the fleet manager software.

ware, enabling him to control the settings and management of the whole AGV fleet. The operating system and configuration of the AGV system also suffered from security weaknesses. Access to the system was allowed through SSH, Telnet and FTP. However, the last two communication protocols are both insecure because of lacking encryption and authentication. Using password attacks, the students could obtain Telnet and FTP access. With FTP access, the stored maps could be compromised, allowing attackers to give the AGV a false understanding of its environment. There were also unused services running on the system, such as a web server with a couple of web pages. This web functionality wasn’t listed in the system documentation and didn’t seem to serve any purpose. Unneeded system services increase the attack surface and the risk of exploitable software vulnerabilities.

All found vulnerabilities were communicated to the developer of the AGV, who has taken action to improve security. The wireless router on the mobile robot has been configured to block unneeded ports and guidelines have been added to the user manual, including advice on the use of strong passwords and network segregation. This doesn’t fix the unencrypted communication itself but does lower the probability that an attacker can get access to the network and the AGV. The software and component suppliers were also contacted with the request to improve communication and system security.

Security improvement

The growing use of robots in industrial and logistical settings causes new cybersecurityrelated requirements and challenges. Smart Industry developments, in general, impose more and more requirements on internet

An encoded but unencrypted message from the fleet manager to the AGV.

connectivity and data protection. Industry is used to work with formal safety management to prevent physical damage, environmental damage and human injury, but if security cannot be guaranteed, safety can also be compromised. Therefore, standard IT security principles, security processes and security controls must be applied in these operational technology (OT) environments, from authentication and strong password policies to firewall protection and secure remote management. It is noted that available options and solutions to security threats are different in OT and IT environments. In OT, realtime performance is important, maintenance windows are often small and scarce, and software updates and update processes are much more uncommon. With these limitations, security relies more on additional security controls such as network segregation with strict firewall filtering between IT and OT networks. Security monitoring and intrusion detection will also help to protect, even without interfering with real-time performance, but starting this from scratch takes time and effort. Key components of security improvement are security awareness in all organization layers, regular penetration testing, risk analysis, incident registration and a plan-docheck-act security management cycle. This security analysis also shows that it’s a combined responsibility of component suppliers, system integrators and the operational organization using the AGVs. Security vulnerabilities were found, but with this input, actions were also taken to improve security. Casper Schellekens, Teade Punter, Ron Mélotte, Tom Broumels and Lake Lakeman are part of the High Tech Embedded Software research group at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven.

Coordinates in a remote control message to the AGV.

Edited by Nieke Roos

6 41


If 2020 has made us realize anything, it’s how much of life’s purpose and pleasure comes from relationships and human connections. We need people around us; it’s just the way we’re built. The buzz, the joy, the community, those we love. Close by and far away. Technology in many ways enables this. And therefore life! Especially in this disorienting year, it’s important to celebrate that we’re all connected. But the famous Glow light art festival in the city of Eindhoven was canceled, like so much else...


onnecting the dots This year, Glow created something unforgettable: a gigantic artwork for all citizens of the world. An artwork that came to people and connected them without anyone having to leave their homes. “Connecting the dots” was a city-wide project and worldwide livestream with three central elements. The first was a spectacular blue night sky – a blue dome projection by Finnish light artist Kari Kola. An uplifting warm-blue blanket that wrapped around and embraced the city. Second, a sea of beautiful red dots floating throughout the city – 1,000 LED-powered balloons, designed by light artist Ivo Schoofs, spreading light inside and out. From (the children of) Eindhoven to the world 20,000 special “Glow Dot” lamps made by children completed the masterpiece. A project of 20,000 artists, led by artist Hugo Vrijdag and

the Inventors team of the Discovery Factory. The result was a beautiful blue sky speckled with fixed and floating red dots, lighting up the city to create an unforgettable, moving experience for everyone to enjoy. Children’s passion for technology The art festival was the perfect inspiration for children to create their own tech-based products. With the soldering and coding workshops of The Inventors, they contributed to this large and beautiful work of art, which they’ll never forget. Meanwhile, they learned about their own passion and talents for tech. And exactly that’s The Inventors’ mission. Therefore, a large thank you on behalf of all children goes out to Glow Eindhoven, ASML and Signify, sponsors of this immense project. Text:

The Inventors programs are there to inspire youngsters for a future in design and technology. Projects are supported by tech companies such as ASML, Brainport Industries, Daf Trucks, Frencken Europe, Hager, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, NTS Group, Philips, Prodrive, Stam en De Koning and VDL Group, and by Bits&Chips as the media partner.


TUE PDENG ANSWERS THE CALL TO DRIVE THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRY The link between industry and academia is crucial for preparing the workforce of tomorrow. As industrial leaders look to TUs for advanced engineers to fill leadership roles, TUE’s PDEng program answers the call by infusing personal and professional development into students with training. Collin Arocho


he Professional Doctorate in Engineering degree (PDEng) isn’t your typical advanced degree. In fact, the program is relatively unique to the Netherlands, with only a few other countries offering similar programs. PDEng’s Dutch roots go back several decades, but in 2003 the professional doctorate got its new name and was recognized by the Bologna Declaration as a third-cycle (doctorate-level) program. Different to a PhD, the curriculum doesn’t require years of research and a lengthy dissertation, rather it’s a two-year post-master’s program aimed at elevating systems knowledge and enabling the next generation of developers by gaining valuable hands-on experience and first-hand access to industry. Each year, Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) accepts 100-120 PDEng trainees across its various programs, spanning the fields of chemical, mechanical, electrical, software and medical engineering. “We have a very stringent selection process to ensure that our programs maintain an incredibly high level,” describes Peter Heuberger, the recently retired program manager for the Mechatronics and Automotive PDEng groups at TUE. “Just to give you an idea, each of my groups has only eight people. Those 16 spots were filled out of a pool 44


of more than 200 applications that we received from all over the world.”


As technology becomes exponentially more complex, success in technical development relies heavily on teams of multidisciplined engineers working together, each doing their part to contribute. A challenge, however, is that by nature, engineers tend to focus on one area and fail to see the big picture

Riske Meijer: “You’ve got to look beyond one task and one solution, at the job as a whole. That’s what it takes to be a successful system architect in industry.”

of the whole system. “Typically, if you give an engineer a problem, they’ll jump right in and start to unscrew bolts and take things apart, focused on finding their own solution to the problem,” illustrates Heuberger. “But we’re looking to build advanced engineers that will take a few steps back and adopt a helicopter view of the problem. Not just where the problem lies, but for whom is it a problem? Will it still be a problem next year? What

Peter Heuberger: “We’re looking to build advanced engineers that will take a few steps back and adopt a helicopter view of the problem.”

are the costs involved? What’s the lifetime of the product?” So, how do TUE’s Mechatronics and Automotive PDEng programs encourage their engineers to adopt this big-picture systems approach? They turn to training – especially in the first year. “A few years ago, while we were organizing system engineering courses at the university, it became clear that we didn’t have the resources or manpower to do all the necessary training in house,” explains Heuberger. “That’s when we reached out to High Tech Institute for help in providing training courses. Not only are they located in the neighborhood, but their extensive pool of industry-experienced engineers and experts greatly complimented our goal of getting our trainees as close to industry as possible.” “After the first week of introductions, we have the trainees jump right into the Systems Thinking course. This is where many of the trainees get

TUE’s PDEng programs

Eindhoven University of Technology’s PDEng programs provide collaborative opportunities between businesses and the engineers of tomorrow. The programs are continuously looking for industrial partners to provide both individual and team assignments for their trainees to tackle.

their first introduction and exposure to industry, the demands of the industrial plight and specific methodologies with which to approach system engineering,” says Heuberger. After the initial training, trainees spend the next several periods honing the methods and skills they’ve learned as they train their own system-engineering approach. “For this, we take on several sample projects, given to us by industrial partners like ASML, DAF, Philips and Punch Powertrain, where trainees take on different roles, ranging from project manager and team leader to communications, configurations or test managers. These exercises add more practical tools to the training and give trainees a better grasp of the bigger picture as they gain new perspective in the essence of their work.”


As the Mechatronics and Automotive PDEng trainees shift into the final module of the first year, TUE again reaches out to High Tech Institute to give a training on Mechatronics System Design. “This is a really high point for our trainees nearing the end of their first year, especially those interested in mechatronics. At this stage, they learn about advanced control theory from Mechatronics Academy experts like Adrian Rankers,” depicts Heuberger. “Something that

really seems to stick with them is that you don’t always need very sophisticated control theory. You need to get the job done. When looking at a problem from a smart perspective, sometimes the most basic control theory is the best fit. But of course, it might be due to the control application or to the hardware setup, for example. This is the point where it all seems to click, and they really see the big picture.” “This is precisely one of the most important aspects of training, the gained awareness and perspective,” adds Riske Meijer, incoming director of the Mechatronics and Automotive PDEng programs. “The awareness that when you’re starting any job, you’ve got to look beyond one task and one solution, at the job as a whole. That’s what it takes to be a successful system architect in industry.”

Answering the call

Heuberger and Meijer will be the first to tell you, the TUE PDEng program doesn’t produce system architects but more of a system engineer. After all, there’s a big difference between leading groups of 3-5 people at university compared to leading groups of 30-50 in today’s workplace. To get to the level of a real system architect, it takes somewhere around 20 years of experience and development in the industry. However, by giving young engineers enhanced tools and real, hands-on industrial experience, TUE provides them a head start. Of course, not all trainees go on to become system architects, as not everyone is built the same. Many of them go on to find their place in other leadership roles like project management, people management or technical leads. “Industrial partners have called on us to help produce advanced engineers beyond the master’s-degree level. They’re looking for young talent that will be able to step up as team leaders and in other leadership roles to advance the industry,” suggests Heuberger. “So that’s what we aim to do, we’re answering the call of industry and preparing future engineers, team leaders, project managers and system architects to fill those needs.” 6 45



Effective communication skills for technology professionals – part 1

Modern optics for optical designers – Part 1

14 – 16 December 2020 (3 days + 1 evening)

How to be successful in the Dutch high tech work culture 13 January 2021 (1 day)

Leadership skills for architects and other technical leaders Starts 25 January 2021 (2 times 2 days, incl. 2 evening sessions)

Time management in innovation

Starts 4 February 2021 (1,5 day incl. coaching)


Neurodiversity @work: coping with autistic characteristics in the technical world 25 February 2021 (1 half day)

Present your technical story 15 April 2021 (1 day)

Consultative selling for technology professionals 15 & 16 April 2021 (2 consecutive days)

Benefit from autism in your R&D team 20 April 2021 (1 day)

Creative thinking – full course

18 & 19 May 2021 (2 consecutive days)

Effective communication skills for technology professionals – part 2

Starts 31 May 2021 (3 days + 1 evening)



Expected January 2021 (15 weekly morning sessions)

Modern optics for optical designers – Part 2

Expected January 2021 (15 weekly morning sessions)

Applied optics

Expected February 2021 (15 weekly afternoons)

SOFTWARE Object-oriented analysis & design – fast track Starts 8 February 2021 (4 consecutive days)

Object-oriented analysis & design – blended learning

Starts 15 March 2021 (4 days virtual class + hands-on supervision)

Introduction to deep learning 25 March 2021 (1 day)

Good software architecture

Starts 30 March 2021 (2 x 2 consecutive days)

Modern C++

Starts 7 April 2021 (4 days in 2 weeks)

Secure coding in C and C++

12 – 14 April 2021 (3 consecutive days)

Software engineering for non-software engineers Starts 15 April 2021 (2 evening sessions)


Advanced thermal management of electronics

System architect(ing) in Eindhoven

Design of analog electronics – analog IC design

Introduction to SysML

Design of analog electronics – analog electronics 1

Design for manufacturing

Solid State generated RF & applications

System architect(ing) in Zwolle

Power integrity for product designers

System modelling with SysML

8 – 11 December 2020 (4 morning sessions)

Starts 1 February 2021 (11 days in 18 weeks) Starts 1 March 2021 (9 days in 16 weeks) 3 – 5 March 2021 (3 consecutive days)

Starts 17 May 2021 (2 consecutive days)

MECHATRONICS Dynamics and modelling

7 – 9 December 2020 (3 consecutive days)

Starts 1 March 2021 (5 consecutive days) 4 March 2021 (1 day)

Starts 8 April 2021 (3 days + assurance session) Starts 12 April 2021 (5 consecutive days) 12 – 15 April 2021 (4 consecutive days)

Value-cost ratio improvement by value engineering 20 & 21 May 2021 (2 consecutive days)

System requirements engineering improvement 27 – 28 May 2021 (2 consecutive days)

Mechatronics system design – part 1 12 – 16 April 2021 (5 consecutive days)

Motion control tuning

Starts 14 June 2021 (5 consecutive days)

Advanced feedforward and learning control Starts 23 June 2021 (3 consecutive days)

Actuation and power electronics

Starts 29 June 2021 (3 consecutive days)

Experimental techniques in mechatronics Starts 5 July 2021 (3 consecutive days)


Mobility Career and leadership Chip design System architecting High-performance computing Healthcare Software engineering Smart industry RF/wireless Semicon Artificial intelligence/machine learning Let us know about which trends we should write next year at

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