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Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

Is MODU, an Israeli startup, pioneering change in modular cellular connectivity?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 10, 2008

Before I even start talking about MODU, I should first explain why this modular cellular connectivity interests me in the first place. It’s all about customization delivered through personalized device adaptation. The concept of modular phones is that there will be a bare minimum radio device with basic functionalities like keypad, speaker, and LCD. Once these components make the UI, the basic need of the phone is delivered through two way communication. However, the device unfolds to a genie when you snap the small modular phone into bigger devices with added functional attributes. That’s what interests me. The ability to build non-cellular objects over a cellular backbone (handset) that can flip in and out whenever needed.

Now let’s see how MODU, an Israeli startup led by Dev Moran (the guy who sold USB flash drive to SANDISK for $1.6B), plans to change the landscape through it’s modular phones. MODU has come up with this device that weighs 1.3 oz and has all the basic items of a cellular phone. What gives this phone a competitive value is the ability to slide it in jackets that have different functional components and deliverables beyond just a phone. MODU has already partnered with three major cell service providers in Europe and eying into the US market pretty soon. As claimed by the market analysts, MODU has the potential of changing the nature of the game. Just think about it – as of today cell phone OEMs are coming with more and more electronic capabilities in their phones – camera, media player, scanner, video. On the other hand, if the modular phone takes off, it can dissociate the need for all those fancy abilities from the fundamental nature of a phone. And that’s what opens the horizon for non-phone makers. Consider Gucci coming up with a very very fashion sleek jacket that can ride on MODU and change into a cellular phone. On the other hand, MODU can slide behind a GE Microwave and provide the ability to call the microwave and start heating food. Ofcourse, you would need a OEM standardization of operational uniformity through IEEE or some other body. Read about MODU [here].

Recently, I have been analyzing new market entries from the perspective of disruptive innovation (Clayton M. Christensen). Christensen distinguishes between “low-end disruption” which targets customers who do not need the full performance valued by customers at the high-end of the market and “new-market disruption” which targets customers who have needs that were previously unserved by existing incumbents. Now, MODU kind of satisfies the pointers of low-end disruption. Nevertheless, the disruptive technology comes with a potential of putting existing business models on their head as new market entrants can use this platform. Just think about it this way – when broadband became ubiquitous (in relative term) the VOIP players who are non-traditional service providers, got into the game and wrecked havoc on the telecom incumbents. May be MODU is going to alter the image in a similar manner? How about if MODU runs it’s plan well and every connected device comes with a logo MODU-Enabled? Just the same way DOLBY became the de facto standard for high end digital sound. Now, that will entirely depend upon how MODU approaches the market, builds the partnerships, creates a robust leverage with economy of scale, and executes with finesse.


Posted in Communication, hardware, Innovation, wireless | 1 Comment »

A New Dimension in INKJET Printing

Posted by evolvingwheel on September 21, 2007

I am fanatically inclined towards technologies or scientific ideas that try to change an existing concept from inside out. Even thought it might not sound that revolutionary, but the change in the way of thinking through a process is remarkably reflected in the development of nanoscale inkjet printing. John Rogers, a professor of engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, has come up with a concept of inkjet printing that is capable of printing dots of materials just 250 nanometers in diameter. The possible applications of this technology will be in nanomaterial printing for plastic electronics and biomedical sensors. Recently, revolutionary developments are taking place in the nanomaterial domain. Any mass scale printing ability for these nano small compounds on films, ceramic sheets, and plastics will positively be a market winner.

The coolest part of this invention is the way the small droplets are extracted from the nozzle and laid out on the terget substrate. In regular inkjet printers, droplets of the order of micrometers are either pushed out by pressure or by heat from the nozzle. However, in nanoscale engineering, static forces and hydrodynamics of fluids come into play and distort the accuracy of printing. The inventors replaced the concept of PUSH with PULL. An electric field from the bottom (substrate) generates enough force to draw the fluid from the nozzle and make a cone tip. This helps to steer the material towards the exact target spot – a great innovation.

The developers are now working on enhancing the speed of printing. With perseverance and further engineering manipulations, this process can reach industry level efficiency in the near future. Could this be a replacement for the silicon fabrication technology in the coming future?

Read the [article] here.

Click [here] for John Rogers nanoresearch.

Picture Courtesy: UIUC

Posted in hardware, Innovation, materials, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Powering your electronic gadget wirelessly?

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 6, 2007

Scientists in Japan have come up with a plastic sheet which can power nearby electronic devices wirelessly! Now that is something very interesting. Actually, there are three points of interest. First, that power transmission happening wirelessly, then the charging of devices by proximity to the sheet accurately, and finally the development flexible or organic electronics. The news has been out for few months, but managed to catch my attention recently.

Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo has highlighted on several aspects of organic power generating sheet and its usability. His plastic sheets are dual layered with one layer identifying the location of the receiver device (cell phone, laptop, etc.)  and the other sheet driving the power towards the exact location and generating the electromagnetic induction. This development has numerous implications – both from organic electronics and easy accessibility to wireless power in substantial quantity. I feel that the development will promote several business ecosystem drivers that are currently in nascent states. For example, wireless power generation and Someya’s vision of having power generating drivers as infrastructure. 070423-11.jpg

If you could have office desks having organic power generating sheets embedded, then the usage of power outlets and power chords will fall dramatically. Now, there has to be large scale acceptance, usability advantages, and 100% accuracy and reliability to adapt this infrastructure mode. Besides, this mode requires the receiving device to have a specialized coil and a power-harvesting circuitry. If big promoters want to implement this technology in large scale to consumer devices, then there has to be a tie up both in research and commercialization. This tie up will address the reliability and mass scale production, licensing of the technology to gadget producers, and capital investment for infrastructure level implementation of the organic charger sheets.

[Read The Article]

Picture: A lamp powered by a table top made of the plastic. Courtesy – Gizmodo

P.S. There was a nice comment thread in the article that I responded to. May be a good point to consider:

Guest: I really think they should interweave a layer of some form of data transfer into this system so essentially you could move a monitor around and be able to get power and data at the same time… among millions of other things. You can already transfer data over electrical lines, so it might even be easier than that. This type of transferring system has massive potential. I think it was what they had in mind in Minority Report with the MagLev systems seen in this link. –> http://uplink.space.com/attachments/514680-Maglev2cb.JPG

Evolvingwheel: The proposition of data transfer along with power sounds promising.. however any innovation is controlled by demand, implementation ease, cost benefit, and competitive environment. There is enormous amount of data being transfered (or in the research level) wirelessly. Huge amount of capital investments are in place for 4G wireless and etc etc. Gigabit level transfer is hitting over the air.. through cell phones, wi-fi etc. Besides, gadgets are already now equipped with the facilities and there are industry standards in place. So getting data through a pad which is being developed with a electrical purpose will not be a easy sell.. So ideas are often not feasible in the context of market commercialization.

Posted in Energy, hardware, Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Portable fetal monitoring device for home use

Posted by evolvingwheel on April 27, 2007

Even few years back expected mothers wouldn’t have imagined a mobile phone size device that could be used at home to monitor the heartbeat and the position of the unborn child. When my wife went through her first pregnancy last year, I was a part of that daily anxiety when she couldn’t feel any kick for days. And I always wished that I could have such a device! Finally, scientists from the University of Nottingham have developed a portable and affordable instrument, which can detect the fetal heartbeat and the unborn’s position at any time of the day… and the best part is – you do not need to go to the hospital.

What motivates me are the implications that any invention and its entry to the market have on the overall business ecosystem around it – locally, remotely, over a short span of time, and eventually over a long haul. The article talks about a venture capital funded effort to commercialize the device. The instrument will be capable of preventing still births and other pregnancy related emergencies. Here are my 2 cents on it:

1.      The device will enhance preventive care, which means that the insurance companies would love it. Less often will expecting mothers get panicked and end up in the ER in the middle of the night.

2.      The device is currently going through clinical trials for safety and electronic intervention, and has a wireless capability. The commercialization can trigger software development to visualize different diagnostic data right in one’s nearby desktop computers – however, this development is low-key and less impactful.

3.      The technology registers very low voltages, and may be the group can patent the technology, which could definitely be used in multiple signature recognition related devices in medical industry?4.      Easily accessible device accessibility should be considered for coverage by insurance companies. So the price tag on the device should be affordable.

Here’s a link to the [article]

Posted in hardware, Innovation, Medicine | Leave a Comment »

Sugar powered battery – Will Minteer’s innovation find its way to mainstream consumers?

Posted by evolvingwheel on April 7, 2007

My good friend Mark forwareded to me this news article. The news published in Saint Louis University‘s website talks about one of their research scientists, Shelley Minteer, who presented a sugar powered biodegradable battery at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical society. The technology’s most promising aspect is its source of energy. The battery runs on renewable fuel sources such as sugar solution, soda, glucose, and tree sap. power-your-laptop-by-sugar-based-battery_9

Minteer claims that her version of the battery is superior to other similar new devices in terms of power and longevity. The technology mimics the operational model of our body. The human body unleashes energy from glucose and does that very efficiently. The sugar powered battery has similar enzymes that extracts juice out of glucose solutions. Minteer is foreseeing her invention to find its use in cell phone rechargers. The device will come with cartridges pre-filled with sugar solutions and she expects that people will use the recharger for juicing up on-the-go.

However, I would like to ask few questions regarding commercializing the invention for mainstream use:

§         How big will this cartridge pack be? What is the size-to-power yield ratio? An average consumer will not like to have a device that takes too much space in his/her briefcase or pockets.

§         The product definitely can’t be the best looking, sleek accessory for everyday use. Sugar solution is a liquid that needs some form of container – as it appears from the cartridge offering. And furthermore dipping a device in solutions or pouring solutions into it can be a cumbersome alternative – unless the refill takes place once in a month. Considering the proposition of pre-packed cartridges, which will be a recurring source of revenue, how long will these cartridges last? Usability in today’s consumer electronics is mandatory.

§         How will this product compete with current conventional alternatives? Metallic batteries are evolving too fast and inventions are trying to unleash the power of nano-materials. Inventors are also finding recycle methods that can break down the batteries into recyclable if not biodegradable components after processing.

Nevertheless, the product can find its usage in bigger and heavy duty applications like that in military and factory components. May be the researcher should focus more on such areas rather than miniature consumer applications… or may be she has all these questions addressed by now and the realization process will be a no-brainer![Read Article]

Posted in Energy, Environment, hardware, Innovation, materials, Medicine | 1 Comment »

Cognitive Radio And Intelligent Algorithm

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 2, 2007

Currently wireless communication channels are fixed. The station transmits on a fixed spectrum and the receiving device tunes to the pre-programmed channel to communicate across. How about a intelligent device that can hop across different spectrum. The idea is noble. The device will be intelligent enough to jump across different bands and figure out which one is less bottle-necked and then communicate across that channel.

Current research in cognitive radios, cell phones, and other wireless instruments are focusing on artificially intelligent algorithms which will decide on the basis of usage. The algorithm will locate the bands its passing through, then figure the time of the day, look around other bands to see the density of information being carried across, and then decide which channel to hop into. But doing so will not only require a super sophisticated program to handle the processing but also the hardware enabling the processing in super speed. Cognitive radio can open up new research areas in artificial intelligence (it is already doing so).

One interesting point mentioned in the article is “In the not too distant future, cognitive radio technology will share the available spectrum optimally without instructions from a controlling network, which could eventually liberate the user from user contracts and fees.” – Now that will definitely produce jitter among the cellular carriers. And that would be a paradigm shift in wireless business! A new revenue model? A new outlook!

I see possibility.. and I see opportunity. Now how the cognitive radio gets commercialized, sponsored, and marketed, or even for that sake if it ever makes to the market within next 5 years will be worth following.

Scientific American: Cognitive Radio [ INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ]

Posted in Communication, hardware, Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Is Zink Defining A New Era?

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 1, 2007

ZinkAre the dye crystals the new gateways to inkless printing or a paradigm change down the road?  When I read about Zink’s presentation at DEMO-07 (an influential technology show in Palm Desert, CA), my mind suddenly started flying. The first thing that came to my mind is the influence this implementation will have on our present day perceptions.

The concept of inkless printing has been made possible by taking the equation of ink cartridges out of the system. The onus shifts to the paper – special 3 dye crystal layers embedded in a printable paper. By varying heat pulses of different intensities (temperatures), colors emerge from the layers of the dye crystals. The entire process is controlled by a device roughly the size of a deck of cards. How portable! The only constraint is the specialized paper. Zink is trying to bring the price of the papers to a reasonable level. The whole concept is derived from a Polaroid. What makes this thing quite different is not the technology but its positioning in today’s market.

Innovation is not just creativity, but its commercialization and eventual acceptance in the market. If executed properly, Zink has the potential to deliver not only an innovative product but also a new realm of knowledge and understanding. This will not only touch the digitial camera printing domain but also industrial printing, security, and healthcare industry. The real innovation here is a restructuring of the process. [Click here for the news article]

Posted in hardware, Innovation, materials, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

Will InPhase’s holographic storage fly?

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 18, 2007

Attention grabber: An IEEE Spectrum article on holographic storage published in Jan 2007 issue link to article. Will InPhase fly with its path-breaking technology of next generation data-storage? What are possible market segments and feasibility factors associated with the acceptance of the concept across the storage industry

As I read through the article, the numbers just looked awfully mouth watering. The 5.31 inch storage drive will be able to store 300 GB of data which will eventually scale above 1 TB. The data transfer rates could be in the range of 10s to 100s of Mbytes/second. Wow! That just opens the lockgates of storage capabilities. Now the immediate question arises if the technology will be accepted by the market in different levels both vertically and laterally. I am not yet aware of the performance during stress tests in different possible scenarios. May be the big guns from Bell Labs have run the concept through all possible technological constraints and limitations. I went to InPhase’s website and looked at their contribution to the already existing holographic imaging technology. They invented new multiplexing methods. It appears that with the advent of high density media storage and optical utilities (DVD players, Blue-Ray Discs, digital cameras) commercially over the last decade, the earlier bottlenecks should be gone. Now the question is how fast will their product penetrate the market? How long will this product take to wipe out the flash drive market?

Storage is the keyword nowadays. Media storage is competing with the conventional computing data storage market. iPODS, DVDs, DVR boxes are current. In the near horizon are the prospects of real time movie downloads from big banners to home media centers. If the company has a good marketing strategy supported by a program of fast implementation of the technology to mass consumer (individual shoppers) platform then the limits are boundless. The target blocks could be anywhere from rocket science (NASA, DOD) to average music lovers. It now depends on the management to focus on a solid delivery channel, continued funding, competitive marketing, continuous innovation, cheaper manufacturing cost and fast assembly line, and ergonomics of the device. I personally feel that if taken in the right direction, this product should cover a lot of distance.

Cons: Other market giants might follow through. However, the patented technology might trickle legal issues with other competitors who will try to come up with their versions of the recording medium and multiplexing? We have to observe how InPhase tackles these questions. Strategic partnership will be a key component.

Footnote: I was reading somewhere earlier that cable companies in upscale markets or big cities might create big data (media) hubs in front of the last mile to push HD VODs to individual home fast. Holographic media storage will then come real handy…….

Posted in hardware, Innovation, optics | 1 Comment »