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Michael Fallon: exclusive interview Enterprise minister calls for boost for the UK electronics industry | Pages 8-9 Future

of electronics

The power behind decisions

business-technology.co.uk

JANUARY 2014

A 16-page report on how this vital industry is transforming businesses around the world

The trade association representing • Electronic Systems • Microelectronics • Semiconductors www.nmi.org.uk


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Business Technology January 2014

2 | Future of electronics

Opening shots Shane Richmond

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HE White House blog carries the kind of stories you would expect to come from the office of the leader of the free world. “President Obama holds the first Cabinet meeting of 2014”, reads one headline. Another announces: “President Obama welcomes the 2013 NBA champions the Miami Heat”. Following those is something slightly more arcane – “Wide Bandgap Semiconductors: essential to our technology future”. Wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor-based power electronics offer several advantages over existing technology. Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s Energy Secretary, writes on the White House blog: “For nearly 50 years, silicon chips have been the basis of power electronics. However, as clean energy technologies and the electronics industry has advanced, silicon chips are reaching their limits in power conversion – resulting in wasted heat and higher energy consumption. Power electronics that use WBG semiconductors have the potential to change all this.” The bandgap is the amount of energy needed to make electrons jump from their atoms and conduct electricity through a material. The wider the bandgap, the higher the temperature, frequency and voltage at which the electronic device can operate. The next wave of WBG semiconductors can eliminate up to 90 per cent of the energy loss of current technology and promise chips that are 10 times more powerful.

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Mind the gap: jumping through hoops to win the power game By 2030, the US Department of Energy predicts that power electronics will be responsible for 80 per cent of all electrical energy consumption in America. The need for greater energy efficiency is clear, and WBGs could deliver energy savings in everything from electric cars to military satellites. But it’s not just in those specialised sectors that this development is significant. This is technology that will touch the lives of ordinary consumers every day. We already carry many devices with us that require charging, from laptops to smartphones and tablets, and when you look at consumer technology trends, it is clear that we are going to be carrying more devices in future and require more power. The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, earlier this month, was dominated by wearable technology. There were flurries of fitness trackers and swathes of smartwatches. Their manufacturers were fighting to find ways to set their gadgets apart from the competition, and battery life is a key battleground. Consumers don’t want to charge their watch as often as they charge their smartphone, so most companies aim for at least a week of battery life. However, more battery power leads to a bulkier,

Shane Richmond is joining Business Technology as its regular technology commentator. Shane travels the world advising businesses on changing technologies, and was head of technology (editorial) at Telegraph Media Group Twitter: @ shanerichmond

more expensive device that is less attractive to consumers. Garmin, best known for its GPS devices, announced the Vivofit fitness tracker. Like its rivals, it monitors the activity the wearer takes and tracks their sleep at night but it promises one year of battery life. Unfortunately that requires two disposable coin batteries, which is more wasteful than a rechargable battery. More power-efficient devices will provide the answer. Of course, there’s an “arms race” effect to power consumption improvements. As battery life improves, manufacturers tend to push the capabilities of the device, which requires more power and therefore better battery life. Nevertheless, the promise of WBGs is huge, for consumers and industry alike. The White House blog post was to announce US government investment in a $140million manufacturing innovation institute at North Carolina State University. It might seem like an unusual item sitting among the photos of Barack hobnobbing with basketball players and chairing state meetings, but if there’s one thing the White House knows, it’s the importance of power.


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January 2014

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Future of electronics | 3

Trade body calls for greater “electronics community”

Eben Upton (inset), developer of the Raspberry Pi, is calling for greater emphasis on engineering and electronics in schools

UK faces electronics skills gap, warns Raspberry Pi creator By Dave Baxter

THE FOUNDER of the Raspberr y Pi Foundation warns the UK faces “catastrophe” if it fails to innovate in engineering and electronics. Eben Upton, one of the people behind the Raspberry Pi computer sets which are distributed in schools to interest children in engineering, says Britain can only stay globally competitive through continued innovation. When asked what would happen if British innovation dried up, he answers: “It would be an economically threatening catastrophe. “200 years ago we got to the industrial level before anyone else. Before that, everyone was on a level playing field and your economy was propelled by the size of your population. “We had 60 million people and this grand economy. We have got used to the

idea that this is how the world works, but it’s not how the world works. “Innovation is about trying to keep that ball in the air for another 50 to 100 years.” Upton believes children should be given an opportunity to experiment with engineering, which he says is lacking in many homes. “Often in homes where people do have a PC, it’s seen as a high-value item and a thing you don’t want to screw up. “If the only chance to get mechanical experience was to dismantle your parents’ car, that won’t happen. “But if it’s like a bike, you can probably put it back together.” And he says that while the generation of ‘digital natives’ may be interested in technology, this does not equal an aptitude for engineering. He says: “The term ‘digital native’ implies a level of sophistication. A twoyear-old pinching out on a tablet is a digital native, but that doesn’t translate

into understanding how anything works.” He is keen to give children a chance in life both by giving them the opportunity to experiment with computer sets and teaching them skills such as coding. “We need a focus on coding and algorithmic thinking. If that goes well, a child of age x will be able to talk about simple data structures. “If we can do this, we are making sure everybody will be a potential enthusiast.” He also argues children should be given a chance to study engineering at school – something currently not available. “Engineering has an unusual problem in that it doesn’t get directly studied at school,” he says. “A child will have to do something like physics at school before studying engineering at university. “It’s a surprisingly significant step to dedicate three years of your life and £20,000 of debt to study something you have never done. That’s a lot to ask of an 18 year old.”

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MEMBERS of a trade body representing the electronics industry are calling for greater efforts to bring the sector together. Derek Boyd, CEO at the NMI, says that electronics will only become more important over time as ideas such as the Internet of Things develop. But he believes the UK industry still needs to develop a community which works together. “Even just thinking through the processes from waking up in the morning, you can see electronics is everywhere,” he says. “From your alarm clock going off to an electric toothbrush, the hot water from an electric boiler, your car and your satnav, they are in everything. “There are waves of change that started some time ago but are nowhere near cresting just yet. “Electronics will only get more important. But we are spread across different sectors. We need to continue building the community. “It’s about getting people working together to act cohesively, from toothbrush companies to hoover manufacturers. “We can spread the message through publicity and get it into the public domain, but also through initiatives like ESCO (which began with the Electronic Systems – Challenges and Opportunities report, and led to a council of figures from industry and government).” Alastair McGibbon, the trade body’s director of research, development and innovation policy, says greater supply chain collaboration would be valuable to companies. He says: “There’s a strong supply chain, particularly for power electronics. But we need to make sure people are aware of that so they can work together and take advantage of it.” Boyd adds that greater government support is needed to encourage investment in the industry. “New streams of investment need to be developed,” he says. “Expecting industry investment alone is unfair to the companies and places a big burden on them. “The government needs to find ways of increasing investment from public and private sources.”


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Business Technology January 2014

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4 | Future of electronics – Industry view

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Big data starts with little data

Businesses expecting to benefit from connected devices, reveals new report

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ome 75 per cent of C-suite business leaders are actively researching opportunities created by the Internet of Things (IoT), according to a comprehensive new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, The Internet of Things Business Index: A Quiet Revolution Gathers Pace, sponsored by ARM. The report also reveals that 30 per cent of business leaders expect the Internet of Things to unlock new revenue opportunities, inspire new working practices (29 per cent) and fundamentally impact their operating model (23 per cent). “ARM will play a significant role in the future of IoT,” said ARM CEO Simon Segars. “By

connecting the next 30 billion devices, the ARM ecosystem will transform the lives of people everywhere. The devices will deliver trillions of pieces of information, and from these individual elements of little data we will build the big data picture. This is where you begin to realise the true potential of the Internet of Things, with the connection and management of key city infrastructure, health services, environment, and education systems.” The implementation of common standards will be paramount in enabling communication between billions of connected devices. Cross-industry collaboration

is essential to success, encouraging standards that will avoid the so-called “Internet of Silos” where data is created, but not shared among service providers to benefit the user. Only by removing data silos and establishing common standards will the IoT achieve the scale needed to operate across all markets successfully. The Internet of Things Business Index: A Quiet Revolution Gathers Pace is free to download on the ARM Connected Community at http://j.mp/ARMIoTReport. Simon Segars (above) is CEO, ARM www.arm.com


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Future of electronics | 5

Mobile phones are transforming life in off-grid third-world communities. Dave Baxter reports from Rio de Janeiro on the company that’s fuelling the revolution… HE PL ACE looked like a hideout for an army of tech entrepreneurs. Upstairs in a slightly scruff y office block, I found Daniel Becerra in a forgettable room with a coffee machine, computers and white boards on the walls. But a s I wa l ked i n , people were hunched over desks, fidd ling w it h Powerpoint slides and honing arguments. Many of these entrepreneurs, hungry for capital or partnerships, were nailing down fi nal pitches to deliver to the Brazilian Development Bank, a large investor keen on foreign innovation. The room buzzed with ideas. In the corner of the office, the founder of 21212, a digital business accelerator and our host, evangelised about his vision – to create a Brazilian Silicon Valley. And outside, Rio de Janeiro – first stop on the Clean and Cool trade mission Becerra and I were on – fizzed with energy. That morning, late last year, was just one experience in a packed year for Becerra, which also saw him visit Uganda and India and even address the United Nations. While electronic systems may be everywhere, from planes to alarm clocks, he believes they could be used, in the form of smartphone technology, to help eradicate the worst examples of economic hardship. Buffalo Grid, a UK firm at which Becerra is a partner, aims to lift some of the world’s poorest out of poverty – by helping them charge internet-connected phones, which they can then use to access life-changing services, from communication to trading and even remote medical diagnoses. With the aim of boosting access to the services, Buffalo Grid has created portable, solar-powered hubs which can recharge mobile phone batteries. It plans to deploy these in some of the world’s poorest rural areas, where there is no power grid and energy companies have no incentive to build the necessary infrastructure. Users can pay to use the hubs with the same mobile phone they have recharged – whether by sending a text or using airtime. Speaking to me back in England, Becerra says the company, which started in 2012, began working on power hubs after its founder saw how dramatically mobile phones were changing the lives of African farmers. “The idea started with our founder. He was trading coffee, and travelled to Africa 10 or 20 times a year,” he says. “He

saw how mobile phones were increasing the quality of life for farmers there. “But there was a struggle to charge them. Sometimes you could spend a day trying to get a phone charged.” The fi rm set about trying to tackle the problem, fi rst with the idea of bike-generated power, before turning to solar. But Becerra says selling energy outright to people in poverty was unviable, with small mobile payments providing a better solution. “People are energy-hungry, and dozens and dozens of companies are trying to tackle this problem,” he says. “Most want to sell products to the poorest people on the planet. To them it’s quite challenging even to offer the cheapest price they have. “We identified that there was no point trying to sell these people anything, if 50 companies are doing that and failing. “Looking at that scenario, we thought, let’s mimic what the mobile phone operators have done. How do they manage to be so successful? “When you see 650 million of these [one billion] people have a mobile phone, you realise the operators have done it well. “They have provided infrastructure themselves and a Clockwise from service that everybody wants. It becomes more of a need than a want. So we set up infrastructure ourselves and top right: engineers work on provided a service.” a Hub; the first The company collects payments using mobile operator prototypes were networks – but the methods can vary from country to pedal-powered; country. “We let the users buy a SIM card and pay us as mobiles are hugely popular they go,” Becerra says. in sub-Saharan “We can get them to pay through a text message, for Africa. Above: example, or through their airtime. We have many different a Buffalo Hub

ways to do it. You need to tailor your payment methods to each place. You can’t even have one payment that works for a single nation. The technology is the same, but the payment structure is different. It makes sense, because these places are very remote.” The company has successfully set up five of its power hubs in Uganda, and now plans to focus on India, where it will deploy 50 hubs in 2014. “We have to make a sustainable business in India,” Becerra says. “Out of the 650 million off-grid phones in the world, 300 million are there. “We will be just focusing in India for this year, to try to make the service viable. But we are also keen on getting to sub-Saharan Africa and a joint venture in Brazil.” The company is also receiving support from organisations including the UN, which is monitoring its progress. The challenges at hand are growing. In 2014 the number of people off-grid with smartphones is expected to reach 750 million. But Becerra is bright about the future. “We are very optimistic (about having an impact) and it’s not just us,” he says. “When I spoke to the UN, I was speaking alongside Google. When you provide access to communication and a world of opportunities, through time you can start eradicating poverty. “The UN identifies the mobile phone as the biggest contribution to economic growth in these (poverty-stricken) nations. If in 10 years you can have every single farmer with a smartphone, being able to connect to the internet, we can take a world out of poverty. That’s the dream.”


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Business Technology January 2014

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6 | Future of electronics

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How the NMI is playing its part The UK is well placed to benefit from the evolution of electronics INDUSTRY VIEW

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he UK has a long and impressive pedigree in leading-edge electronics. The roots go back to the 1880s, when the first national electrical, then electronics, companies started to appear. The markets of the day were in electrical engineering, telecommunications, defence, television and radio. Ferranti, GEC, Plessey and Inmos led the way and, while none of these companies exists in the same form today, their legacy lives on. We do not refer to the industry as simply electronics any more but “electronic systems”. This may seem an insignificant tweak but it is not. It encompasses not only the physical forms of technology but the intangibles too – the intellectual property, the rise to prominence of software

and an increasing level of systems knowhow. In 2013 we, the electronic systems industry, determined just how big our activity is in the UK and what it means to our economy. The sector employs more than 850,000 people (2.9 per cent of the workforce) and contributes close to £80billion, or 5.4 per cent of GDP – not bad for an industry that has become increasingly invisible. More generally, as the costs fall and more products become connected, we see the increasing application of electronic systems to provide efficiency improvements, cost savings and new services previously unattainable. To the UK, electronic systems offer significant opportunity for wealth creation and jobs. Transportation is a great example; in the 1980s only 5 per cent of the value of a car was in those electronic systems whereas today it accounts for more than 40 per cent... and soon it will be more than 50 per cent. Indeed, the only thing you can do in a modern car without electronics is open the door – the engine system, the brakes, the windows, the entertainment and so on, only operate by electronic systems. This “hidden magic” of modern-day living extends beyond transport to energy, healthcare, security, consumer, lighting and much more. The UK is recognised as an innovation nation but we’re not alone. Sustaining a leading global position will take a great deal of ingenuity, business acumen, favourable business policy, investment and up-skilling of our workforce to win the commercial, as well as the societal, benefits. The good news is that we are well placed. Having transformed our industry to embrace higher value elements of the global supply chain, the UK is a

mega-centre for the creation and exploitation of intellectual property and specialist manufacturing. The ESCO Report published last year detailed this position and set out some ambitious targets to aim for, such as increasing employment to one million and growing our contribution to £120billion, or 7.1 per cent of GDP, by 2020. The ESCO objectives are backed by industry leaders and ministerial engagement. We know the future is in collaboration – and working together we’re better. The strategy is therefore fuelled by a collaboration of organisations such as NMI – the UK’s trade association for semiconductors, microelectronics and electronic systems – who led the formation of the report. With a number of key supporting programmes already operational, NMI is doing its part to facilitate the technological and commercial development of our industry. John Moor is VP, Design Innovation Systems at NMI 01506 401210 www.nmi.co.uk

Internet of Things sparks innovation with new options in connectivity INDUSTRY VIEW

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he floodgates have opened for today’s design engineers as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes the next frontier for technology innovation and new product development. IoT is being lauded as one of the top 10 tech trends of 2014, with industry analysts estimating a potential market size of 26 billion installed units by 2020, driven largely by low-cost sensors. The RFID development community initially coined term the Internet of Things (IoT) in 1999. The phrase has recently moved onto the radar of industry influencers and visionaries because of the proliferation of mobile devices, advanced embedded technologies, and the adoption of cloud computing. Today’s accepted definition refers to the connectivity of everyday objects that can be recognised, located and/ or controlled via the internet. For both consumers and businesses, IoT presents many new opportunities for innovations that leverage real-time data and data-sharing. With access to relevant data via everyday devices connected to the internet, people will be able to make better decisions based on health and fitness monitoring, more

efficient transportation routes, remote medical diagnostics and tracking of agriculture or food products. In anticipation of the inevitable explosion of IoT activity, electronic component manufacturers and distributors are ramping up new product introductions around key technologies – sensor, wireless and processor – used to support new connectivity solutions. The market opportunity will impact end-users across many distinct vertical markets, such as consumer electronics, medical, transportation, military and aerospace. “Innovative suppliers are eyeing new opportunities for new product development strategies, creative partnerships that leverage this disruptive technology to improve how people live and work in a more connected environment,” said Mark Zack, global VP of semiconductor product for Digi-Key. “At Digi-Key, our support of this trend provides a significant opportunity for professional engineers to design and develop innovative new products that can quickly enter the market as timely IoT solutions.” Experts predict that, from cars to mobile devices to wearable clothing, literally billions of things will be

connected to the internet within the next couple of years. This spike in connectivity means product manufacturers will have a lower barrier to entry and new options for innovation, in response to increasing demand from consumers for higher tech solutions. At the core of IoT products is the integration of tiny micromechanical (MEMS) sensors that can be programmed and equipped with microcontrollers, batteries and radio chips to send data via the internet. As miniature, high-efficiency sensor technology becomes more pervasive, it has also become more affordable and easy to use. Engineers have access to low-cost, all-in-one units that incorporate sensors, signal processing,

batteries and transmitters, forming the foundation of networked devices across a wide range of applications. As technology continues to evolve and grow, the shift toward advanced wireless communications and M2M connectivity will clearly drive significant and exciting changes for component manufacturers and design engineers who understand the ever-changing IoT landscape and its immense impact on how we work, how we play, and how we live in today’s highly connected world. Ian Wallace is sales director, UK & Ireland, Digi-Key Corporation +44 (0) 1344 204002 (UK Office) ian.wallace@digikey.com


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Future of electronics | 7

The inner geek

Obama launches new US tech fund initiative

Moz & Bradders

The electric car needs an image upgrade to catch on… By Dave Baxter MOTORISTS will have to overcome “social and psychological” issues if they are to accept electric cars, a specialist claims. Paul Nieuwenhuis, who works as a senior lecturer in logistics and operations management at Cardiff University, as well as a co-director at its Centre for Automotive Industry Research, believes electric cars are much closer to entering the mainstream than they were just five years ago. In recent years the cars have become much more sophisticated. The BMW i3, which was released late last year, shows advanced design, including a light, aluminium chassis and a carbon fibre body structure, in order to offset the weight of its battery pack. Nieuwenhuis says: “They [BMW] have got some cash washing about and it shows. They are taking a longer-term view of this. “I think in the next few years they will make a lot of money from this.” He believes electric cars have made big progress in terms of improving the user experience. He notes that companies like Tesla have focused on achieving a sophisticated design to help their vehicles stand out from mainstream vehicles. “Elon Musk [Tesla’s CEO] said the electric car costs more, but it gives you extra things in terms of how it’s very smooth and quite relaxing to drive,” he says. “It also has a design like Apple, and even gives you software updates. With a normal car, if there’s software updates you would have to take it to the dealer. That’s if the company makes you aware of the updates, which they usually don’t.” He says other companies, from Mitsubishi to Renault, are working on sophisticated electric cars with which to lure consumers. But he believes that certain barriers will always stand in the way of them being taken up on a mainstream basis. “We are much closer to electric cars being taken up than five years ago,” he says. “Even five yea rs ago, we just had a few niche products. Now we have products from mainstream manufacturers, and we

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Above: CEO Elon Musk unveils the Tesla Roadster; below: the BMW i3; bottom right: Cardiff University’s Paul Nieuwenhuis

have a reasonably successful specialised electric maker in Tesla. “But from an absolute perspective, it’s all very expensive, so that alienates the mainstream car-buyer.” And although he claims electric cars will never be able to compete with diesel, for example, in terms of price, he thinks the key to making them successful lies in changing how they are perceived. He also notes that they are still plagued by concerns around battery life. “We still don’t know if the battery’s going to last. That makes it very hard for companies to adopt the technology,” he notes. “With the Toyota Prius, most of the batteries last as long as the car, and batteries will have a second life and be used for energy storage.” He stresses the need to market electric cars as a more enjoyable product than their counterparts, rather than pushing them as part of a green agenda. “Diesels are energy-efficient, but once you put people in an electric car, they notice the harshness

and vibration is gone,” he says. “The problem historically has been that electric cars have been seen as a puritanical thing, with the environmental movement saying, ‘We have to get these.’ “Electric vehicles have been cast in that image, saying ‘This will get you from A to B.’ “What [Elon] Musk has done is moved it the other way. There is now the message saying, ‘You are getting more for your money.’ “They are now moving the car into a different product category in that sense.” Electric cars may not be taking off yet, but Nieuwenhuis believes they could do if public attitudes begin to change. “At the moment, a lot of the problem is social and psychological,” he says. “The technologies can be delivered, but it’s more about public attitudes and perceptions. That needs to be addressed. “The focus in the debate is currently on the technology. But we now need to move away from that to the image of electric cars.”

A NEW manufacturing hub to help stimulate innovation in American electronics has been set up by President Barack Obama. The White House has chosen North Carolina State University to lead a manufacturing innovation institute to work on the power electronics of the future. The organisation will be a public-private venture, and looks to bring together more than 25 firms, states and universities. The institute, backed by a $70 million investment from the Department of Energy, will focus on power electronics using wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors. It will provide shared facilities, equipment and testing and modelling capabilities to companies from the power electronics industry, with a focus on small and medium-sized manufacturers. The aim is to help invent, design and make new semiconductor chips and devices. WBG semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have better durability and reliability at high voltages and frequencies, meaning better performance using less electricity. They can be used in a range of different areas, from electric vehicles to consumer electronics and power generation. The government will be matched through a combination of funds from the companies and other organisations involved. The state of North Carolina is expected to contribute at least $10million. The investment is also an attempt to reinvigorate employment in North Carolina, as well as to help focus on manufacturing as a potential source of economic growth in America.


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Business Technology January 2014

8 | Future of electronics

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The big interview Michael Fallon MP By Dave Baxter

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T’S NOT exactly clear how Michael Fallon finds the time. While many MPs aspire to just the one ministerial position, he has no fewer than three. The Conservative MP appears to be a whirlwind of activity. To begin with, he has demanding roles in two separate departments: Business, Skills and Innovation (BIS), as well as Energy and Climate Change. It has even been joked that, serving in these separate roles, Fallon once wrote letters to himself. There’s also his constituency of Sevenoaks to look after, where he has served since 1997. And on the day I interview Fallon, he has been handed a third government role, of Minister for Portsmouth. This tasks him with promoting growth and employment in the city, after Navy shipbuilding moved to Scotland, costing Portsmouth hundreds of jobs. This isn’t all. Fallon is also known, at least among some journalists and politicians, for his frequent appearances on current affairs shows such as Newsnight, often to defend the government’s position on controversial issues. Earlier in the week of our interview, he has been across the airwaves defending the government’s moves to encourage fracking in the UK, in a debate which showed no sign of dying down quickly. So it’s no surprise that when I meet Fallon in the BIS offices, he is busy poring over a heft y stack of notes. This morning we are talking about the electronics industry, an area in which

“We need to make sure the careers and industries are there for young people” Fallon has become intimate in his role as a business minister. The sector is rising in importance as gadgets become more widespread and technology more sophisticated. But it pervades different industries, to a point where its parts can become disparate and unconnected. Many fi rms may deal with electronics, but regard themselves as part of a different sector. And in the UK, electronics appears to be both a source of pride and terror. While Britain has a record of coming up with useful new ideas and thriving from this in the field, it also faces the threat from countries such as China, where labour costs are low and items can made and sold much more cheaply. Fallon, who serves as a co-chair on the ESCO

Council, which brings together figures from the industry, seems unruffled by this. When I ask him about the challenges facing the UK, he is upbeat about the strengths of British electronics. “Other countries do have cheap labour costs and larger scale, but we have long had a strong record of innovation, which is a key enabler of growth,” he answers. “There is a huge opportunity for electronics to grow as manufacturing increases.” Fallon is keen to bang the drum for the industry. He argues that this involves working at a number of different levels, such as getting industry to work together and encouraging innovation. He believes Britain has already performed well in terms of engineering and electronics and has good future prospects.

He points to sectors such as car-making and aerospace technology as areas which have strong growth potential in future, and more generally sees electronics as an “enabler” for economic growth. He refers warmly to videogames as one of the UK’s recent success stories. And when I ask whether younger generations

Pure power processing INDUSTRY VIEW

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emand for smaller, lighter, faster and more powerful products is increasing across the range of applications where electronic technology is applied. Size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements are driving developments within technology sectors; meanwhile, consumers depend upon efficiencies from the products they buy – PCs, cars, electricity and fuel. Underlying these efficiencies is one silent common denominator – power management. For more than 30 years, Raytheon Power & Control has been designing and producing semiconductors for the defence, transportation, automotive, life sciences and industrial sectors. As increasing power consumption demands greater efficiencies, the need to process new materials and manufacture new devices increases exponentially. Raytheon’s silicon wafer processing capability is complemented with the unique processing capability of the high-performing semiconductor material, silicon carbide (SiC). SiC semiconductors address the needs of

power, harsh environments and high-temperature electronics, where silicon cannot perform. Raytheon’s 10 year history of processing SiC semiconductors has resulted in the ability to process CMOS technology on SiC substrates, empowering designers to apply existing CMOS design skills to higher performance products. As a result, customers can now produce their SiC semiconductor devices cost-effectively, and eliminate the associated learning curve of processing SiC, leading to reduced system integration times and faster routes to market for highly efficient systems and assemblies. As the only SiC foundry in the UK, our New Product Introduction (NPI), and engineering expertise, combined with our end-to-end foundry capability, makes Raytheon an ideal supply-chain partner, for SiC power semiconductor manufacturers and fabless designers alike. In addition, by complementing our flexible process approach with our advances in the innovative area of SiC and CMOS on SiC research, we are able to position ourselves as a strategic technology partner, providing competitive advantages over silicon in the marketplace. With a flexible process approach and partnership

focus, Raytheon continues to support Si customers with ASIC/ASSP design, manufacturing and foundry services, while addressing volume customers’ foundry needs where SiC solutions provide a competitive advantages over silicon in power, harsh environment and high-temperature electronics. 01592 754311 semiconductors@raytheon.co.uk www.raytheon.co.uk/semiconductors


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Future of electronics | 9

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Catching up with the electric car revolution VIEW By Keil Hubert

care about electronics, he is quick to put any argument to bed. “I think young people are pretty skilled at electronics,” he says. “It comes pretty naturally to the young people, but we need to make sure the careers and industries are there for them.” At the same time, he is adamant that younger generations should be trained in the relevant areas, to create a new wave of budding engineers and protect the industry from a looming skills shortage. This involves focusing on the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). When I ask about projects such as Raspberry Pi, which allows youngsters to experiment with computer sets, Fallon argues that though these schemes are good, education itself is key.

Far left: Michael Fallon wants electronics and engineering to be more of a focus in education; left: the aerospace industry is one that could benefit; above: London’s Old Street area, known as “Silicon Roundabout” or “Tech City” for its concentration of tech startups

“It’s important people are seeing modern engineering for themselves, to get away from the idea that it’s all about rags and oil” – Michael Fallon But he is also keen on the merits of first-hand experience in manufacturing and other areas. “Informal experience (in engineering) is important in training individuals, but it depends on getting people into the core subjects of maths and science,” he says. “You hope this will lead to more people getting involved. “It’s also important people are seeing manufacturing and modern engineering for themselves, to get away from the idea that it’s all about rags and oil, and it is high-tech. “That’s key, not just for school-leavers, but for their parents.” He sees this focus – on core subjects in schools, but also on making manufacturing and engineering more glamorous for bright young things – as part of getting the industry, which he describes as “neglected”, back on track. “It was neglected because of an emphasis on financial services, and other service sectors,” he

explains. “But we have always had a very strong, innovative manufacturing business. “We have historic strengths and success in electronic engineering and the government has put a lot of time and money into keeping that going.” Away from the subject of the City of London and its dominant financial services, Fallon is keen to talk about companies he has visited around the country, which have impressed him with their work and creativity. He doesn’t fail to complement Tech City and similar hubs, saying: “We have already seen an advantage from having clusters like these. “We have seen places like Tech City and Cambridge Science Park making a difference. Some of the companies in these are very small, so it is helpful to have these clusters.” From China to Silicon Valley, other economies have produced winning manufacturers. Does Fallon imagine Britain coming out with the next manufacturing household name? He does. “But,” he adds wryly, “It’s not Godgiven that we can have that.” When it comes to the existing electronics industry, some worry that electronics has become too disparate to work together effectively. But Fallon argues that things are going in the right direction. “There are a huge number of trade associations and different bodies,” he says. “We have brought them together, and are now focusing the industry on how to support the other sectors. “The electronics sector is very important – it’s a potential source of growth,” he says. “We are putting money into it, and working to reduce the burden of regulation and encourage business to grow. “We are also working to make the industry more streamlined.” Fallon’s energy is evident, but so are his duties. He answers my questions in a matter-of-fact manner, with his head resting back against his hands and his notes open. It takes him 15 minutes to cover an entire industry. As I head out of the BIS, he is back to the notes. The minister with three roles has much more to do.

I SPOTTED what I suspect was our fi rst Tesla Roadster in Texas this month. It was breathtaking. I made an abrupt U-turn just so I could watch it glide. I’ve seen plenty of Teslas in San Francisco, but not here. In Texas you’ll see 10,000 rugged and fuel-thirsty F-250 pickups before you ever see an electric car. My friends all say that they’d love to switch over to electric cars, but it’s sadly unrealistic. It’s not a matter of cost, and certainly not a matter of will. For years, I’ve heard pundits say that the electric car won’t take off in the USA because the recharging infrastructure doesn’t exist yet. Build a comprehensive network of charging stations, pundits claim, and people will gleefully switch over. I don’t buy it. I suspect that the adoption problem is exacerbated by a lack of charging stations, but it isn’t caused by it. Infrastructure is crippling the public’s acceptance of electric cars, but it’s not a problem of electronics… it’s our roads. I’ve driven a thousand miles on British and German motorways. The absolute worst day that I spent driving in Europe was on a rainy winter’s day on the M11 after a Ford Ka overturned and caught fire. Traffic slowed to a crawl… for a few minutes. It was, at most, a mild inconvenience. Contrast that with my drive home from Dallas every single day: I always get caught in motorway merges where a dozen lanes collapse and intertwine, snarling traffic. On average, I’ll come to a dead stop because of major accidents at least three times a day, and that’s before I hit the inescapable five-mile long construction corridor. Last Wednesday, it took me 45 minutes to cover four miles on suburban thoroughfares thanks to a single ice-choked intersection. Our roads are overcrowded, and most are in terrible shape. Many major motor w ay s a r e u nder con s t a nt construction. There are often no safe shoulders to flee to after a breakdown, and collisions are as common as red lights. Every freeze creates wheel-warping potholes. Every rainstorm floods low-lying roads. Construction zones are littered with tyre-shredding debris. In addition, many parts of the USA feature extreme weather challenges. Getting stuck on a Texas overpass three

stories off the ground for a half-hour is painful enough on a pleasant spring day. When it’s 45°C and the sun is shining directly into the driver’s window, turning off the aircon to spare your car’s range is insane. Come winter, all our bridges become ice rinks. Our major traffic arteries are treacherous, overcrowded, and dangerous. This is why it’s largely impractical to switch over to an electric car for the vast majority of American drivers. It may be practical to drive an electric car in a dense, organised, and well-maintained urban core where you always have the option to safely pull over and walk when you run out of charge. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us in the USA live 25 or more miles from our workplaces. We rarely ever have trains or buses linking home to work. So, we all drive.

“Our earliest adopters will likely be years behind Europe. Your roads are simply better” There’s little question that we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and that electric autos are a compelling tactic to work towards that objective. All of the new breakthroughs in rangeextended motors and better batteries and faster chargers are exciting, and I can’t wait to see them flourish. Unfortunately for us in Texas, we’ll probably be among the last to get on board. Dense urban areas like Washington DC and New York City will likely get there first. Even then, our earliest adopters will likely be years behind Europe. Your roads are simply better – smoother, better maintained, and better engineered. That will allow you to focus on the charging infrastructure problem, solving it for the rest of us. We’re simply not ready. Until we can modernize our roadways, it’s simply not realistic to expect our commuters to trade in their petrol burners. I’d dearly love to drive a BMW i8 to work, but the odds of breaking down on the way are simply too high, and the range of electric autos is just too unpredictable. Call us when y’all figure it out…


an independent report from lyonsdown, distributed with the sunday telegraph

Business Technology January 2014

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10 | Future of electronics

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Collaboration is key to data innovation Organisations large and small should make the most of each others’ strengths INDUSTRY VIEW

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ith a renewed government focus on increasing the UK’s data capability, it has never been more vital for the different skillsets in the digital sector to pull together. Neil Crockett, CEO of the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, a national centre that aims to rapidly advance UK digital ideas to market, discusses why collaboration is the key to success.

New digital innovation is multi-disciplined The digital economy is connected – things don’t sit in silos anymore. Any new innovation is going to be multi-disciplined and it is going to require as much user design as it does technology. To achieve this, there needs to be a real fusion of creative and technical – that’s really where the frontline of innovation is going to be. The challenge is to bring the right people together, businesses large and small, as well as the research and academic community.

Helping small businesses to accelerate their ideas SMEs are often very skilled and have an idea

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or talent, but in terms of having a multi-skilled discipline they might not have the time or money to bring more people on board. The way to get skills is to reach out, but it can be very difficult for them to find who to work with, or who to go to next. If we can help that collaboration between them, and large businesses or universities, to happen it means that time and money expense can be cut out.

Data and diversity The real value in the digital economy comes from not just looking at the same data or only your own, but from collecting diverse data, which gives the real insight. If businesses and other organisations collaborate on their data and share and mash it together, then the opportunities for new products and services are boundless.

Large players want to collaborate too They have their own research and development (R&D) resources, but they are always curious to find ways of getting insights into what the trends are and the movers and shakers. Working with smaller companies on projects or by seconding their employees is one way of extending an open innovation element to your overall R&D work if you’re a big corporate.

Linking the best digital ideas in the UK There are some incredible innovation clusters around the UK, but quite often they are working

in isolation and might not be able to link up. It’s about providing a programme or a project to help tackle this issue. We’re opening our innovation centre in London later this year, which we hope will help provide this link. cde.catapult.org.uk/projects info@cde.catapult.org.uk

The challenge areas in the digital economy that the catapult is focusing on • Building diverse data and content sets Many small businesses are unable to realise the full potential of data due to a lack of resources to gather and curate even openly available data. • Reducing licensing friction Existing copyright licensing practices serve the needs of major deals between established players, but are not always best suited to the needs of a new wave of creative innovation based on the reuse of content.

We are working with the Copyright Hub to create a service that allows copyright holders to offer their content for reuse under a variety of licences through an easy-to-use online marketplace. • Personal data trust and privacy How can information owners and technologists be brought together to share, combine and experiment with personal, proprietary and confidential data without compromising intellectual property, privacy and security. • Building labs and demonstrators Within each of our challenge areas, we will build labs and demonstrators that provide easy access for UK innovators to emerging technology and services.

Transistor advances: mind the gap Going back to basics has led to huge energy efficiency gains for Yorkshire chip start-up INDUSTRY VIEW

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he last decade has seen an explosion in the range of electronic devices and, be it a tablet, a smartphone or a satnav, two things underpin this revolution – processing power and memory. Modern chips – known in the industry as SoCs (systems on chip) – contain five million transistor switches per square mm – each just 28nm (or 250 atoms) long and can have as much as 50 per cent of their silicon area occupied by static random access memory (SRAM). As the functionality on these devices increases so does the need for memory. But, as we shrink the transistor’s size, we reach a point where electrons can jump the switch. This problem, called variability, is making it harder to both design and manufacture SoCs with such large memories. One company working to overcome these issues is the Yorkshire-based start-up sureCore. Its CEO, Paul Wells (left) explains: “This challenge is threating the underlying economics of

the semiconductor industry. For chip manufacturers, capital investments of between $5 and $10billion per year are now the norm in order to develop and bring to market the next smallest process node. For the first time in 30 years, this colossal investment will not bring the expected benefits and this is proving something of a challenge.” According to Wells, the industry has developed two main solutions to variability: FinFET, which is backed by Intel for its sub-28nm (22nm and below) chips, and FD-SOI. “A FinFET transistor adds a 3D fin to extend the gap electrons need to jump whilst FD-SOI uses a technique to more accurately control the number of atoms per transistor and improve the repeatability,” he explains. “But power is still a key issue; while SRAM is fast, it is also very power-hungry – a big problem for battery powered products.” It is this issue of power that sureCore’s research is focused on, Wells explains: “We’ve analysed contemporary SRAM design from first principles, taking variability effects on power consumption into account. From this we’ve been able to optimise the metal interconnect lengths and reduce voltage swings. In fact, simulations show power savings of about

50 per cent versus existing solutions.” This potentially offers considerable savings, given analyst Gartner’s prediction that 2.5 billion PCs, tablets and mobile handsets will ship in 2014 This is vital for manufacturers such as Apple or Samsung, with market research from JD Power suggesting the number of people who would buy the same brand of smartphone drops by half (from 25 per cent to 13 per cent) if battery life satisfaction drops from a perfect score of 10, to merely better than average. sureCore’s technology has significant industry support, with a

panel of industry experts declaring it the most important electronics innovation of 2013 at the European electronic industry awards, Elektra. A demonstrator chip in FDSOI technology is currently being manufactured, but as Wells points out, “Our techniques are equally applicable to other transistor types”. As they await its arrival, sureCore is developing the infrastructure to support customers and plans to sign its first licence deal in 2014. enquiries@sure-core.com www.sure-core.com


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layer of carbon atoms and has great advantages in conducting electricity as efficiently as copper and outperforming other materials in heat conduction. In 2004, a breakthrough in graphene research opened the door to new innovations using the material. The two University of Manchester researchers behind this work were even awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010. Now other researchers have discovered what serves as a 3D version of the material, bringing a range of potential new advances in electronics.

Is there anywhere consumers can feel safe from hackers? Not, it seems, in the kitchen. Security concerns about a le r t ! the Internet of Things, the concept of a network of co n t a in s smart, connected devices from cars to toasters, are spam! already rife, with experts warning the devices could be prone to cyber attacks. These worries were highlighted recently, when a web attack used more than 100,000 devices to conduct a spam email campaign. The devices, which fell victim to malware attacks, ranged from laptops to smart TVs and kitchen appliances. Even a fridge was sending out spam emails. David Knight of Poorpoint, the firm that spotted the attack, said many of these devices are “poorly protected at best”. What next? A toaster on the loose?

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The group of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory claim the material could be used to develop faster transistors and more compact hard drives. Yulin Chen, a University of Oxford physicist who led the study, said the new material could “provide a significant improvement in efficiency in many applications because of its 3D volume”. Electronics is already an industry going through great changes. This could speed some of those up.

Google Glass is drumming up hype even before its full release. But the tech giant is going a step further with its wearables. Google has announced tests on a smart contact lens, with the aim of measuring glucose levels in tears using a wireless chip and miniaturised sensor embedded in the lens. The device is at a very early stage, but the company appears optimistic about its potential to help people deal with diabetes. A post from the official Google blog reads: “It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”

By Matt Smith, web editor

u Editor’s pick Gizmodo gizmodo.com From gaming to gadgets and cameras to tablets, Gizmodo is perfect for keeping up with technology gossip. The Gawker Media blog covers a wide spectrum, with articles ranging from tongue-in-cheek news stories to insightful opinion pieces about new technologies and their effects on the world.

Gear Live

Vac to the future James Dyson, a man set on reinventing the vacuum cleaner, is at it again. His company recently announced a new device that ditches filters, which users must in theory clean to keep up performance. The new Dyson vacuum cleaner uses cones with flexible tips inside the cylinder. The airflow inside the cleaner causes these tips to move back and forth, preventing dust from sticking to the inside of the device. Dyson has allegedly spent £7.5million

Business Technology

Future of electronics | 11

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Inspector Dogberry Newshounds like Dogberry are all about discoveries, whether this means breaking news or digging up gossip. But in the world of electronics, a different kind of discovery could be of huge importance to the industry. Graphene, a two-dimensional material, consists of a single

January 2014

and several years on the technology, which it hopes will save hassle and attract customers. Punters may be less than thrilled by the idea of a new vacuum. But this could make cleaning the living room a tad simpler.

Digital Dialogue

www.gearlive.com

www.ce.org/blog

Smartwatches, curved screens, privacy scares… There’s a lot to keep up with in the world of technology and electronics. Luckily, Gear Live helps you to do just that. It’s also a great place to find industry news, including acquisitions, innovations, and new product announcements.

As the official blog of the Consumer Electronics Association, Digital Dialogue provides news and insights on all things technological, including coverage of the recent Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas. Check this blog for events, industry developments, and public policy news.

Raspberry Pi www.raspberrypi.org

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Manage and monitor the status of your Raspberry Pi projects with your Android phone using this free app from Lukasz Skalski.

Keep up with the latest tech news from sites including Ars Technica, The Next Web, and The Verge with this free app.

Need inspiration for your next Raspberry Pi project, or just not sure where to start? The official blog offers a mix of posts about the ideas behind the project, details of updates and developments, and plenty of suggestions and how-tos describing the amazing things Raspberry Pi users get up to.

Making the Internet of Things a reality Impressive products that are built to last INDUSTRY VIEW

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he Internet is moving beyond smartphones and tablets and is now helping to power billions of everyday devices, from parking meters and home thermostats to heart rate monitors and glasses. Technology is moving from just connecting people through the Internet to connecting almost everything. This represents massive opportunities for the electronics industry in not just hardware, but also in software, devices and services. The core problem though is that there are so many solutions and industries that exist within the sphere of ‘IoT’. This could prove disastrous if not managed properly or made scalable. The market is extremely fragmented and it is difficult to predict which sector is going to explode next. The domain of wearable and personal devices which we call ‘Internet of My Things’ is

growing very fast and many other sectors such as smart building (both for residential and commercial properties) and smart retail are also picking up momentum. CSR is solving this issue by looking beyond the many varied vertical markets and building very scalable and horizontal architecture solutions from the chip level,

to the system level, to the network level and finally, to the cloud level. This way we are creating one common architectural framework from which many services and products, across several up and coming markets, can be easily created, developed, managed and provisioned. CSR is keen to see connectivity brought to devices, and our approach is centred on helping customers differentiate their products through a unique combination of silicon, software and services; integrated cost-effective platforms that reduce the complexity of designing impressive products that are built to last. By extending CSR‘s core technology services and building on our strong heritage in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, voice and music, location and imaging technologies, we are able to create a set of common tools, middleware platforms and APIs to make entering the age of the IoT a much more plausible reality. Hamid Ahmadi is chief innovation officer at CSR 01223 692 000 www.csr.com


an independent report from lyonsdown, distributed with the sunday telegraph

Business Technology January 2014

12 | Future of electronics

Find us online: business-technology.co.uk

Business World

South Korea

South Korean tech giant Samsung has predicted a fall in its profits for the final quarter of 2014. The firm forecasts an operating profit of 8.3 trillion Won (£4.8bn) for the quarter from October to December – a 6 per cent dip compared with the same period in 2013. Samsung is the world’s biggest maker of smartphones and works on other technology, from cameras and tablets to smart TVs. But its dominance in the smartphone market is coming under threat and profits could also suffer because of its involvement in China, where companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi are offering budget smartphones.

China

ExpertInsight

China’s vast gaming market has opened up to outsiders, after authorities suspended a 14-year ban on the sale of foreign consoles. Chinese authorities introduced the ban in 2000, citing the harmful effects of violent games on users’ mental health. A trial will now see the ban lifted in the country’s Shanghai free trade

zone, an experiment aimed at freeing up a tightly controlled financial sector, which opened in September. China has the world’s third biggest gaming industry in terms of total revenues. But foreign companies will have difficulty penetrating the market, due to unfamiliarity, low wages and the fac that many popular games are currently free.

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Watching over “I think software never dies – it’s one of those things” – Leo Zancani, CTO, Ontology Systems

Wearable technology and the so-called Internet of Things generated hype at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The event showcased the latest gadgets earlier this month, from 360-degree camcorders to self-driving cars. The 2014 show reflected an interest in wearable, connected devices, including fitness trackers, smartwatches and Google Glass. With Google Glass yet to be given a mainstream release, smaller firms were given the chance to exhibit their goods. This includes GlassUp, whose glasses show smartphone alerts and updates, Instabeat’s heart rate monitor and Veristride’s shoe insole sensor that provides feedback on the wearer’s movements. On a less positive note, there are already concerns about the security implications of such devices.

How the UK can deliver innovation on a world stage INDUSTRY VIEW

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echnology has real potential to change lives for the better. However, when designing something new, it is always important to take into account that these technologies must end up in real products which consumers are compelled to buy, and find their lives enriched as a result. Imagination Technologies, a leading UK-based designer of intellectual property (IP) used in multimedia, processor and communications chips, is run on a philosophy that spurring innovation is about looking for discontinuities and spotting trends across multiple markets. This involves a deep understanding of what drives markets and how technology must be designed to address that. Sir Hossein Yassaie (below), CEO, Imagination Technologies says: “The consumer market enables everyone in the supply chain to thrive, provided they are truly end-user focused. This growth can only be sustained through ensuring the best possible user experiences and original, exciting product offerings that make a real difference to consumers. The entire industry must be increasingly aware of what consumers want and need, and focus their engineering towards fulfilling those needs.” Mobile is perhaps the best example of this; when the first smartphones were

launched, even industry insiders were wondering whether there was any future for these devices in the context of portable electronics. Since then, smartphones have become everyone’s main computing device – in part due to the powerful but low-power PowerVR graphics technologies that Imagination has pioneered. Everything will need to be smart, so most devices will need a CPU with low power credentials for the next wave of wearable devices. Imagination’s latest MIPS processors, for example, are designed to be extremely small and efficient, enabling products that do amazing things, yet can run for weeks or even months without recharging the battery. However the only way to optimise the power, performance and cost of a product is to integrate everything on the same chip. Imagination was a pioneer of this everything-on-the-SoC trend many years ago, when most were convinced graphics would never end up on the same chip as the CPU. The result: making smartphones possible. So their latest Ensigma RPU (radio processing unit) technology is set to ruffle a few more feathers. For years, including key functions such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the SoC (system-on-chip) has been a hot topic among silicon design engineers. By incorporating an RPU into the SoC, future generations of devices can deliver a compelling combination of ubiquitous connectivity as well as world TV and radio reception if needed – ideal for the myriad low-cost, battery-powered

products that will define the Internet of Things. Continues Yassaie: “Two out of the top three silicon IP companies are UK-based. The rest of the UK tech sector should capitalise on these innovative home-grown chip technologies and the software and applications built on top of them, all designed and implemented here in the UK. There is still great opportunity and potential for UK companies to be successful on a global stage if we do the right things and have the right policies implemented.” Imagination strongly believes the UK needs to ensure that we have a technology and industrial strategy that takes the current environment, industry trends, and expertise and skillsets into account – and actively steers the UK towards a strong and vital position for the future. “There are positive signs but all these efforts need to be part of a larger strategy co-ordinated between industry and government,” concludes Yassaie, “and we need this happening yesterday.” 01923 260 511 www.imgtec.com


an independent report from lyonsdown, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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January 2014

Business Technology

Future of electronics | 13

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the electro-revolution… From 8-bit coder to technology guru, Leo Zancani has seen the industry from its beginnings

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EO Zancani divides his time between overseeing the technical functions of his company and musing about a new world awash with data, including all the “moving parts” this involves. But Zancani, who serves as chief technology officer (CTO) at Ontology Systems, a company which links different kinds of data from the world of enterprise, mainly for telecoms and financial services companies, entered the world of computing at a more rudimentary level. “I first got involved with computers quite early,” he says. “I was in that whole 8-bit computer scene that seems to be coming back and being fashionable now. “I trained as a physicist, and that involves a fair bit of computing. My first job was at a company making high-resolution, long-format photography equipment that’s computer-controlled. They needed someone who understood optics and soft ware. Zancani went from writing soft ware in this job to Orchestream, a “tiny start-up” that specialised in soft ware and became one of the UK’s early technology successes. “I was recruited to what was then a tiny start-up,” he says. “There were four or five of us at the time. But it was quite a big success

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story in the UK, in the first internet wave of the mid-1990s. “I was there for a while and ended up running the engineering department. We had an Initial Public Offering (IPO) which was quite successful.” Orchestream was later acquired by another company, which was in turn bought by technology giant Oracle. Zancani says he still comes across old Orchestream soft ware from time to time. “Occasionally with clients, you get into an operations centre and see something that we wrote (at Orchestream) in 1998. I think soft ware never dies – it’s one of those things.” In 2005 he and another former Orchestream employee noticed early issues around data, and founded Ontology Systems to fill the niche. “My co-founder was the CTO of Orchestream. We spotted a lot of problems, mostly with data,” he says. “What was going on in telecoms was an industry that had started out doing their own equipment and writing their own soft ware. “But gradually the pieces of them that made equipment got split off, and in the late 1980s or early 1990s, there was this explosion of equipment and soft ware vendors. “That brought in lots of moving parts, and there was a great deal more data and a lot more different types of data involved in the process of making a call, knowing who made that call and how to bill it. “It caused problems in the network, so we worked on getting that data to link up.” As CTO, Zancani focuses partly on overseeing the technical functions within the company and delivering products to customers. But he also looks

C-Suite spot

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at strategy, which has him thinking about the new explosion of data and its effect on both consumers and the technology industry. “What we have seen since founding the company is that data has exploded beyond anyone’s imagination. That data growth we were seeing in telecoms has now exploded into the public domain,” he says. “There’s more and more data. People now realise they have a data footprint which increases every time they use a bank card or make a phone call. “There’s a combination of more things generating data. If you look at consumers, we went from smartphones to smartwatches to health-monitoring devices.” And while he thinks the growth of data offers opportunities for companies like his, Zancani also believes it has put strain on the technology industry. “As a buzzword, I think ‘big data’ has come and hit the tech industry really hard and really fast,” he says. “There’s a knee-jerk reaction (from companies) to do something about big data. “People call up saying ‘My boss has told me I need to do something about big data.’ It’s interesting, because a lot of industries have always dealt with big data.” He now believes that, in order to use data in a ‘smart’ way, more people are needed who can properly understand it. “I think there’s something of a knee-jerk reaction going on, but there’s also a shortage of people who understand data,” he says. “And there are problems when you have people who don’t understand data and want to do something about it. “The term ‘data scientist’ is being bandied around, but we need more people who can actually interpret the data. Once we manage that, we can start doing more smart things with the results.”

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14.01.14 11:34 Uhr


an independent report from lyonsdown, distributed with the sunday telegraph

Business Technology January 2014

BizTech Zone

14 | Future of electronics – Industry view

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Follow us on Twitter: @biztechreport

The future

Addressing skills shortages Universities must have state-of-the-art electronic systems design flows to prepare graduates for future challenges

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niversities have a vital role to play in the support and growth of the UK economy by supplying high calibre graduates and conducting industry-relevant research. This is especially true for the electronics sector where highly skilled graduates are the essential lifeblood of the UK electronic-systems design industry. The Science & Technology Facilities Council’s Microelectronics Support Centre at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has been actively supporting UK academia in this key endeavour for more than 30 years. The modern electronic-systems design industry depends heavily on design flows which are built upon a large number of high-spec commercial design tools that are constantly evolving to meet the challenges of increasing system complexity. These design flows are difficult to configure and costly to maintain, in part because of the high cost of individual design tools, but mostly due to the design flow complexity, significant on-going management requirements and the training needed to use them effectively

Universities using electronic systems design training services from STFC

STFC is supporting universities to nurture electronic systems design skills

within a properly configured design flow.

Enabling the future The Microelectronics Support Centre provides advanced training and direct technical support of these complex design flows. The training offered by the centre is structured so as to efficiently introduce postgraduates, academic staff and researchers to the best design methodologies and design tool use on a wide range of electronic-systems design topics including high-level design, integrated circuit design, programmable and embedded system design, advanced verification and computer modelling of semiconductor and micro-electronicmechanical devices. Through the centre’s Europractice scheme the design tool cost of ownership and management is also solved. Design tools from leading companies such as Cadence Design Systems, Mentor Graphics and Synopsys, to name only three, are available to universities with the centre selecting, configuring and providing access to these tools for research and large-scale classroom teaching at affordable prices. Thanks to the services of the Microelectronics Support Centre, 75 universities and research facilities across the UK – and a further 600 academic institutions across Europe supported by the centre on a pay-as-you-use basis – are able to use the same design methodologies and design tools as the largest multi-national corporations. The long-standing nature and the widespread use of the services mean that virtually all postgraduate students entering industry after undertaking electronic-systems or microelectronics design orientated research have used and benefited from the technical support, configured design flows or training provided by the Microelectronics Support Centre. Supported by the

Microelectronics Support Centre, the universities are fully enabled to produce the highly skilled electronic-systems design engineers of tomorrow.

At the forefront The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of the United Kingdom’s research councils, delivering world-class science, developing innovative technologies and maximizing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange and strategic partnerships. STFC manages and operates three internationally renowned laboratories, including Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Daresbury Laboratory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre. It is also the responsible body for the UK’s strategic links with many high profile international collaborations and agencies. Dr John McLean is head of the Microelectronics Support Centre 01235 445276 www.stfc.ac.uk

In focus: Putting more life in your battery Micky Hart, drummer

When the Grateful Dead needed a quality sound system to deliver our sonic payload, I learned electronics and speaker design

N

ujira is the world leader in Envelope Tracking (ET), a disruptive new power supply technology which is transforming the performance of 4G smartphones. Today’s smartphones squeeze ever increasing amounts of computing power into our pocket. But one thing which hasn’t improved is battery life – charging up your phone is now an important daily ritual. As wireless networks evolve to faster 4G and 5G standards, a hidden downside is that the transmitter in your phone is becoming far less efficient, wasting up to 90 per cent of the energy as heat. Nujira’s ET chips solve this problem by improving the energy efficiency of the wireless transmitter – extending battery life, boosting data rates, and improving signal strength. A classic Cambridge start-up, Nujira was started by Tim Haynes

in his garage in 2002. Today the venture-backed company employs 60 people, has more than 200 patents, and is recognised as the modern pioneer of ET technology. Originally developed in the 1930s, the principles of Envelope Tracking lay forgotten for 70 years. Nujira rediscovered the technology and set about the task of commercialising it for 3G and 4G. When integrated into a smartphone, Nujira’s tiny Coolteq chip can boost battery life by 25 per cent or more. With ET set to be universally adopted by the smartphone industry, and a potential market of four billion units a year, Nujira is working with major industry players to bring the benefits of ET to every smartphone. +44 (0)1223 597900 www.nujira.com


an independent report from lyonsdown, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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January 2014

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Business Technology

Future of electronics – Industry view | 15

The debate

What is the future of electronics? John Moor VP, Design Innovation System NMI

Alexander Duesener Vice president, EMEA Cadence Design Systems

Frank Mackel Managing director, Rohde & Schwarz UK Ltd

Rod Oldfield Managing director, GarField Microelectronics and Matrics Ltd

Geoff Haynes Managing director GaN Systems Ltd

The future is electronic Electronic technologies and the industry have been transforming our world for decades and will continue to do so. Smaller, faster and cheaper translates into an ever-expanding opportunity for new applications. “Smart, connected and sensing” are recent trends fuelling ideas for new products and services, driving change across markets. Digital is ubiquitous, computing is about living Wearable devices are here already and the “quiet revolution” that is promised by the Internet of Things will make industry more efficient, public services more accessible and dwellings more convenient. Hybrid and electric vehicles will be accompanied by connected and autonomous transport. Navigation will be available in buildings, feeding emergency services critical information and consumers right-time experiences. The unpredictable is magical Innovation is not a linear process and the enabling magic built from electronic systems provides entrepreneurs with a rich opportunity to delight customers.

For the last few years user experience has been driving the electronics industry. Users are forcing companies to come out with increasingly innovative products, and at the core of these gadgets are specialised semiconductors. As a result semiconductor companies are facing challenges like never before. In 2014 and beyond, mobility, video, application-driven design and cloud will continue to be the big drivers of the electronics, automotive and semiconductor industries. Added to all this is a new element – the Internet of Things. Estimates forecast that the IoT will include 50 billion devices by 2020, up from 10 billion today. All these drivers – mobility, video, IoT, etc – have significant business and technology impact on the semiconductor industry. In order to help our customers be successful in this challenging environment, Cadence is offering more cohesive and comprehensive design environments, IP and services to add more value for their customers’ success to overcome challenging design tasks.

Rohde & Schwarz provides wireless test equipment to many of the world’s leading electronics companies, giving us an interesting insight into future trends. We expect continued growth in smartphones and their ability to communicate with a myriad of things. The “Internet of Things” is already reality and will grow as everything that can be wireless becomes wireless. Alleviation of stretched network capacity will introduce heterogeneous networks, small cells and future 5G air interfaces. A “thing” of key interest is the car. The UK automotive industry is a real success story and consumers expect home-based technologies to migrate into cars. Roadmaps are in place for cars to communicate with other cars, the road network and the internet. We see current demands for technologies such as 802.11p and eCall to realise this. To continue to grow, the car industry will share the same challenge as the UK electronics industry, to find the resources required with the right skill set.

Over the next three to five years we will see a significant growth of complex mixed-signal (containing both analogue and digital circuitry) devices being introduced into an increasingly diverse range of products and markets. While the market can offer a wide range of off-the-shelf devices, companies are now striving to gain the extra advantage that gives them a unique feature. Custom system-on-chip (SoC) designs can in many cases give a company the “extra” that is needed by combining available IP with bespoke innovation. The demand to produce “green” devices in many markets is becoming a key feature for the custom silicon design supplier. The home medical market (eg noninvasive blood sugar testing for diabetics) has been the Holy Grail for years. We are confident ongoing work will see the introduction of commercially viable products within the next few years and, of course, the number of apps available for home medical advice and support will continue with the prospect of an “app doctor” already in our sights.

Become an electronic engineer and change the world! In just a decade wireless and the internet have remodelled society. Business and transport would come to a halt without GPS. What’s next? Global warming and the energy crisis demand more efficient generation, distribution, control and use of electrical energy. Electronics has the solutions. The UK industry’s initiatives ESCO and PowerelectronicsUK are spearheading this revolution by harnessing government funds, driving legislation, defining standards and, above all, stimulating and accelerating the application of academic research. The next challenge is to attract youngsters with the talent to drive the next 50 years of the adventure. Physicists, chemists, mathematicians, computer scientists and more have to be inspired. Even a very talented sculptor is now at the heart of innovation at GaN Systems. It’s now my generation’s task to recruit the future explorers to the adventure. Look out for the “SpARK initiative” fuelled by my other passions Inqb8r.TV and Ad-Ventiure, and watch out for more information at www.inspiritmedia.tv.

0845 1244656 john.moor@nmi.org.uk

0049 894 5630 www.cadence.com

01252 818 881 www.rohde-schwarz.co.uk

01453 872 922 www.gfmicro.com

0118 324 0063 ghaynes@gansystems.com

The directory Electronic Components Supply Network ams develops and manufactures highperformance analogue semiconductors that solve its customers’ most challenging problems with innovative solutions. The ams product range includes sensors, sensor interfaces, power management ICs and wireless ICs for the consumer, industrial, medical, mobile communications and automotive markets. Headquartered in Austria, ams employs more than 1,300 people and serves top OEMs worldwide. sales-europe@ams.com www.ams.com

Now in its 43rd year, the Electronic Components Supply Network is a member-managed, not-for-profit trade association linking near market research, components manufacturers, channel partners, systems integrators and re-use/end of life of electronic components. The ECSN promotes positive collaboration throughout the Electronic Components Supply Network to benefit members and the economy. www.ecsn-uk.org

International Rectifier (NYSE: IRF) is a world leader in power-management technology, from analogue and mixedsignal ICs to advanced circuit devices, integrated power systems and components. Leading manufacturers of computers, energy efficient appliances, lighting, automobiles, satellites, aircraft and defense systems rely on IR’s solutions to power their next-generation products. 01633 810 121 www.irf.com

CSR is a global technology pioneer. It develops innovative silicon, software and services that enable its customers to win in the consumer electronics market. The company has a specific focus on connectivity, audio, document imaging, automotive and location technologies that enable brands to differentiate their end products. 01223 692 000 www.csr.com


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