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Tesla Debuts Electric ‘Beast’ Semi Truck

Fri, 2017-11-17 00:00

At a grand public event before throngs of cheering enthusiasts, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk last night unveiled a sleek new electric semi-truck with a 500-mile range.

The new over-the-road electric truck is said to combine powerful acceleration, driving simplicity, low drag coefficient, low operating costs, and the ability to prevent jack-knifing, along with the 500-mile range.

“Because the vast majority of routes are under 250 miles, it means you can go to your destination and back without recharging,” Musk told the raucous crowd at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, CA.

After months of pre-announcement hype, Tesla Inc. unveiled an electric semi-truck that reportedly has a 500-mile range and an unloaded 0- to 60-mph time of five seconds. (Source: Tesla, Inc.)

The new truck has been a hot topic among Tesla’s devoted followers for months, and last night Musk fanned the flames of their enthusiasm with amazing claims about it. The new semi truck, which he has called a “beast” in tweets, will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds unloaded, and in 20 seconds while pulling an 80,000-lb load, he said. He guaranteed it would not break down for “a million miles,” and would prevent jack-knifing by employing independent electric motors at each wheel.

“It will dynamically adjust the torque at each wheel, so that jack-knifing is impossible,” he declared. Musk added that it is “super easy to drive” because it requires no gear-shifting, and bragged that it has a drag coefficient (0.36) that’s lower than that of a Bugatti Chiron supercar.

During last night’s event, however, Musk offered few technical details, especially with regard to the size, cost, or capacity of the batteries involved.

Industry analysts agreed yesterday that Tesla’s strategy has potential, especially for applications that don’t involve cross-country driving. “Cross-country driving is never going to be battery electric because charging is impractical,” Christopher Robinson, an energy storage analyst at Lux Research Inc., told Design News. “So what we’re really talking about here is trips of a few hundred miles, and there are plenty of trucks that do that now. That area is ripe for innovation.”

Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst for Navigant Research, suggested that Tesla may turn out to be its own best customer for the new technology. The 270-mile drive from Tesla’s Gigafactory to its production plant in Fremont, CA, may be the ideal application for the new truck, he said. “Since they are shipping batteries, imagine if the racks in the front part of the trailer held charged packs that powered the truck,” Abuelsamid wrote in an e-mail to Design News. “That way, you could have enough battery to make the trip, but it’s also payload.”

Analysts expressed concern, however, over the timing of the truck introduction. Recently, the company has struggled with automation issues on its affordable new Model 3 electric car, and Musk himself has described the situation as “production hell.” “Certainly their time would be better spent figuring out the Model 3,” Robinson told us. “That’s what the company’s profitability hinges on – the ability to ramp up and get their automated production lines running.”

Historically, however, Musk has relied on futuristic pronouncements to rally public support and boost stock prices, even as the company has continued to post financial losses. In 2013, he announced his intention to build the Model 3 at a time when Tesla was struggling to roll out the Model X SUV. He has also announced home storage batteries, rooftop solar panels, glass roof tiles, autonomous vehicle technology, and the Gigafactory at key moments during the company’s ongoing business efforts. “I don’t think Musk intentionally does this to distract, but it has that effect,” Mike Ramsey, research director for Gartner, Inc., told Design News. “Still, he ends up having a level of success beyond what other people can achieve.”

Indeed, past announcements have almost always benefitted the company. Earlier this year, Tesla passed both Ford and General Motors in market capitalization, largely based on the strength of its high-tech image. Many analysts view yesterday’s truck introduction as another piece of the company’s master plan.

To be sure, the idea of building an over-the-road electric truck is not unique to Tesla. In August, engine maker Cummins, Inc. unveiled the Aeos 1, a fully-electric heavy duty truck and powertrain. Similarly, Daimler announced that it has an all-electric semi-trailer truck. Showing it off at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, Daimler representatives said the truck would have an 11-ton payload, a 300-kWh battery, and a range of 220 miles.

Last night, however, Musk didn’t express any concerns about competition, either from electric or diesel truck manufacturers. Instead, he told the crowd that the Tesla truck is better than any diesel from a feature standpoint and from an economic standpoint, especially when operating costs are considered.

Last night’s salesmanship followed a week in which Musk built public relations momentum for the announcement. On Sunday, he tweeted that the truck “can transform into a robot, fight aliens and make one hell of a latte.” He also wrote that it would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension.”

As he has with so many previous announcements, Musk used last night’s public forum to whip up interest in Tesla’s technology long before the company plans to roll out any actual product. “Production begins in 2019,” he told the cheering audience, which likely included few over-the-road truck drivers. “So if you order now, you can get the truck in 2019.”

Read More Articles on Automotive Technology

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The EV Trend Is Now Irreversible

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

Design of Connected Vehicle Architecture
Join BaekGyu Kim, researcher at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center, as he discusses vehicle connectivity at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Santa Clara, CA from Dec. 5-7, 2017. Using examples, Kim will explain general system architectures for connected vehicles in a session titled, Design of Connected Plug & Play Vehicle Software Architecture

                                  Click here to register today!

   

 

FDA Approves World's First Pill with an Embedded Sensor

Thu, 2017-11-16 14:44

You can prescribe a patient medication, but you can't make them take it. Patient compliance has always been an issue in healthcare and one that digital health technologies such as wearables have tried to address. According to The New England Journal of Medicine an estimated 33 to 69 percent of medication-related hospital admissions in the US are due to poor medication adherence, meaning anywhere from about a third to over half of patients are not taking their medications when or as often as they should.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Proteus Digital Health released an infographic outlining the Abilify MyCite System. (image source: Proteus Digital Health)

This week the FDA approved a new technology geared toward patient compliance in the form of a prescription pill with a digital sensor embedded in it that lets doctors digitally track just how often a patient is taking his or her medication. The sensor was developed by Proteus Digital Health, a technology company centered around developing what it called “digital medicines,” that combine sensor technology and pharmaceuticals to improve patient outcomes.

The pill in question is Abilify MyCite, a variation of Abilify, a popular medication for treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and some cases of depression, manufactured by Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical. “Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients,” Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.”

Inside the Digital Pill

Proteus did not respond for requests for comment on the nature of its current pill sensor, but in previous reports with Design News' sister publication MD+DI , company CEO Andrew Thompson laid out the workings of at least an early version. According to Thompson, Proteus' innovation has come from the miniaturization. If you've ever made a lemon or potato battery as a science project, you've seen the basic principle underlying the IEM sensor.

Proteus' ingestible sensor consists of layers where an integrade circuit is sandwiched between layers of magnesium and copper and modulates the current produced by a electrochemical reaction. (Image source: IEEE/Proteus Digital Health)

According to a study published in 2015 by Proteus engineers and researchers in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Proteus' sensor, the IEM consists of three layers: an active layer, a 1 mm × 0.3 mm CMOS chip, and an insulation skirt layer, meaning the chip is sandwiched between a layer of magnesium on one side and copper on the other. Thompson reported the IEM silicon wafer as measuring 800 × 300-µm.

After it is swallowed, the sensor comes into contact with the patient's stomach fluid, creating an electrochemical reaction that powers the chip until the electrode materials are fully dissolved. The IEEE study estimated the current at about 1.85 V. Proteus engineers looked at other means for powering the device, such as using electrolyte fluids, however they found the magnesium/copper combination was optimal for biocompatibility (meaning it's safe to ingest), power output, cost, and compatibility with the manufacturing process.

In essence, the sensor is not a mini WIFI, Bluetooth, or radio antenna – it's a detectable power source. The electric signal transmits a binary number that represents the medication and its dosage. The code is stored in the integrated circuit, which modulates the current. The device's insulating skirt shapes the electric field produced by the electrochemical reaction and propagates it through the surrounding tissue, where it can be detected by a skin-worn patch (The MyCite Patch), which records the date and time of the ingestion as well some patient vitals it detects on its own, and can store them on the MyCite's accompanying smartphone app. Using the smartphone app patients can choose who has access to their records, allowing family members and doctors access to check in on them if need be. According to the IEEE study, the electric field emitted by the IEM is similar in nature to ones that occur naturally in the body in the brain, heart, and gastrointestinal tract.

Side Effects Include...

Abilify MyCite does come with warnings however. The IEEE study notes that the power and strength of the signal can depend on a number of factors such the amount of food or even other medications in the patient's stomach. According to Proteus it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after Abilify MyCite is ingested for the patch to record a signal. And the company admits it is possible that a signal won't be picked up at all.

The FDA has stated, and noted on Abilify MyCite’s labeling, that the product has not been shown to improve patient compliance. Because of the long time delay in picking up a signal, the FDA also states that Abilify MyCite should not be used for real-time tracking or during emergencies. The FDA also warns of side effects associated with the drug itself, including warnings that its effectiveness and safety has not be established with pediatric patients (in most cases symptoms schizophrenia emerge between the ages of 16 and 30).

FDA rejected prior requests for approval from Otsuka Pharmaceutical in 2016 when it sent the company a response letter requesting addition information, including data regarding the performance of Abilify MyCite as well as further human factors testing to ensure that patients could use the pill and its associated devices safely and effectively.

A concept of Proteus' digital pill system consisting of pills with embedded sensors, a skin-worn patch, and a smartphone app. (Image source: Proteus Digital Health)

While the Abilify MyCite system is a closed loop (pill, patch, and smartphone app) one has to wonder about the implications of opening up the technology to the wider IoT space. It's not difficult to imagine an in-home network in which you receive reminders to take your medication via some devices in your smart home and then the pill system then letting your home network know you've taken your medication.

The the idea of ingesting a pill that can track you certainly raises some ethical concerns, particularly if the technology advances beyond the binary approach taken by Proteus' engineers. However, the idea of ingestible medical sensors has been around for decades. In the 1980s NASA developed an ingestible thermometer in pill form to help monitor astronauts. A 1991 study in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics tested an ingestible temperature sensor for use in treating hypothermia. And in 2015 researchers from MIT published a study describing a proof of concept of an ingestible device that uses tiny microphones to record and transmit sounds from inside the gastrointestinal tract to measure vital signs.

Otsuka is currently doing on a limited roll out of Abilify MyCite. The company said this is a deliberate move to allow it to focus on learning more about patients' experiences with the pill and to allow for ongoing feedback before a larger market release. Proteus did not respond to requests for comment about other drugs that may be candidates for its sensor, but if Abilify MyCite shows good outcomes and is embraced by patients, we can likely expect to see more medications for chronic illnesses getting a digital upgrade as well.  

ESC Silicon Valley is Back!
The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is back in Silicon Valley and it’s bigger than ever. Over three days, Dec. 5-7, 2017, receive in-depth education geared to drive a year’s worth of work. Uncover software design innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos, and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project.                                   Click here to register today!

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at Design News, covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics. 

The Best DIY Gadgets For Securing Your Home

Wed, 2017-11-15 17:00

 

ESC Silicon Valley is Back!
The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is back in Silicon Valley and it’s bigger than ever. Over three days, Dec. 5-7, 2017, receive in-depth education geared to drive a year’s worth of work. Uncover software design innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos, and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project.                                   Click here to register today!

*Design News, its staff, and parent company make no claim to the effectiveness of these devices in preventing robbery, theft, or physical harm. Use at your own risk.

[Main image source: Pixabay]

Three IoT Predictions for 2018: Fog Computing, Security, and Smarter Decisions

Wed, 2017-11-15 14:02

As companies shift to digital systems on the factory floor the first step is often preventive maintenance. In previous years, highly experienced factory hands would go around and listen to the motors and drives. They could hear the health of the machines. They could smell it. Those folks are retiring, and they’re being replaced with sensors and alarms tied into IoT systems.

This is changing the nature of the factory floor, said Saar Yoskovitz, CEO of Augury, a predictive maintenance company. He offers three predictions for manufacturing facilities during the coming year. For one, he sees a big future in fog computing as floods of data choke cloud storage and processing. He sees growth in the awareness of security and risk. Finally, he expects facility managers will make smarter decisions as they process greater data from their machines.

One of the changes Yoskovitz has recently observed in the manufacturing market is that smaller companies are now implementing predictive maintenance. “Predictive maintenance has been done for more than 30 years, but it’s been in the high-end market,” Yoskovitz told Design News. “We bring predictive maintenance to all markets. We attach sensors to chillers, auxiliary equipment, pumps, compression and send it to the cloud for analysis. Then we tell the user when something is wrong and what needs to be done to fix the machine.”

1.) Fog and Cloud Computing Will Bring Light to Manufacturing Facilities

According to Yoskovitz, the future of the industrial IoT will be a combination of cloud and fog computing: a hybrid solution where some computing happens on the edge – on the devices in the field (or fog computing) – and some computing happens in the cloud. Sensors will collect data from machines and monitor it for system health. The data will then be analyzed to determine options for improvement as well as predicting potential problems – before they happen.

The idea behind fog computing is that not all digital decisions and alarms need to go up to the cloud for analysis. “When you keep the algorithm at the machine level, you only send data to the cloud for updates. You don’t send all of it to the cloud,” said Yoskovitz. “You want the machine to respond quickly. Also, with fog computing, you can still work, since you don’t need the cloud to keep on working. How do the two systems – cloud and fog – work together? The analogy is that you bring the cloud down to the asset.”

2.) Awareness of Security and Risk Will Grow

With greater connectivity, you increase the risk, since you’re adding additional points of contact. Yet the IoT doesn’t necessarily present more risk, according to Yoskovitz. Instead, it presents a different kind of risk. “Facilities that implement devices connected to the IoT need to think about communication and the security protocols between devices: sensor-to-sensor communication, sensor-to-gateway communication,” said Yoskovitz. “This involves updating and maintaining all on-premise equipment to better secure the data.”

Yoskovitz noted that security is continually improving, which is reducing the risk of connectivity. “Having the right guards in place lets us use the system without putting ourselves at risk. There has been a lot of security innovation in the past five years,” said Yoskovitz. “You can protect the sensors with encryption chips on the hardware. You can use a communication protocol to make sure all the data that goes to the cloud is secure. You can use artificial intelligence to analyze the data that goes from the sensor to the cloud. You analyze it to detect anomalous behavior, so you can detect intrusion as it happens.”

3.) Facility Managers Will Make Smarter Decisions

Yoskovitz believes facilities managers will make more informed decisions about manufacturing operations during 2018. “As more facilities implement the necessary elements of connectivity, people will make smarter decisions,” said Yoskovitz. “First, facility managers will adopt more SaaS technologies and solutions to begin this process. They will then leverage computers and mobile phones for machine-to-machine communication via sensors to remotely run a critical facility.”

The promise of predictive maintenance is the ability to determine when to order spare parts and whether you need to shut down immediately. This is a shift from scheduled maintenance to condition-based maintenance. When you replace something, it’s not just because it’s scheduled. You know at any given movement what the condition of the equipment is. This changes how machines are run and operated.

To implement this, you add sensors to the equipment and analyze the data to determine condition. You need specific data – not necessarily tons of data. “The first wave of IoT was connecting as many devices as possible. Facility managers were overwhelmed by the onslaught of raw data. Connecting for connectivity sake is a flawed idea,” said Yoskovitz. “It’s about making better decisions based on actionable insight. For that, you need just the right data.”

ESC Silicon Valley is Back!
The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is back in Silicon Valley and it’s bigger than ever. Over three days, Dec. 5-7, 2017, receive in-depth education geared to drive a year’s worth of work. Uncover software design innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos, and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project.                                   Click here to register today!

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper

Photo courtesy of Augury.

NXP's New Automotive Computing Platform Targets Scalable Software Development

Wed, 2017-11-15 11:17

A new computing platform from NXP Semiconductors promises to simplify software development and speed creation of innovative electronic features for next-generation vehicles.

Known as NXP S32, the new platform is targeted at software-intensive automotive applications, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment, and safety. It simplifies development of those systems by providing a standardized way of working across domains, thereby making it possible for engineers to reuse much of a vehicle’s existing software. “It’s going to allow people to do things they couldn’t do before,” Matt Johnson, general manager for product lines and software at NXP told Design News. “Automakers will be able to bring next-generation vehicles to market faster, and suppliers will be able to provide capabilities that they couldn’t have provided up to now.”

NXP Semiconductors’ S32 processing platform is targeted at software-intensive automotive applications, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment, and safety. (Source: NXP Semiconductors)

NXP engineers say the S32 platform can do that because it offers a unified architecture of microcontrollers and microprocessors. It includes devices based on the ARM Cortex-M, ARM Cortex-R and ARM Cortex-A cores, and offers an identical software development environment across all devices. As a result, they say, it allows 90% software reuse within application domains, and 40% across varying domains.

“It’s bringing levels of software reuse that have never existed before in our industry,” Johnson told us.

Reuse is important in today’s automotive industry because automakers and Tier One suppliers make huge capital investments in the development of new software. When the software can’t be reused on new generations of products, those investments are largely lost.

The S32 platform could offer a solution to such dilemmas by allowing automakers to reuse software, even across disparate applications, such as automotive radar and infotainment. In such cases, approximately 40% of the software could still be reused, according to NXP.

If true, that would be a huge step forward for automotive developers, not only in terms of development time but cost, as well. “There’s a huge need for software platforms that you can use when you move from one generation to another,” noted Luca De Ambroggi, senior principal analyst for London-based analyst firm IHS Markit. “If you can reuse it, you benefit in terms of time and cost because you don’t have to re-qualify and re-develop software.”

NXP said the platform also aims to enhance automotive quality and reliability. It offers ASIL D (Automotive Safety Integrity Level) support on Cortex -M, -R, and –A cores, reportedly being the first to do all three. The company also said the new platform offers ten times the performance of predecessors in functional safety applications.

NXP told Design News that eight of the top 15 automotive OEMs have already adopted the S32 platform. The company expects that number to grow in the near future.

De Ambroggi said the NXP strategy “conforms to the direction” of the auto industry. Given ongoing developments in autonomous cars and functional safety requirements, the industry is in need of a scalable hardware and software platform, he said. “The key is that NXP is offering a broad portfolio that limits the (OEM’s) development cost,” he told us. “And development cost is a problem that everyone in the industry is facing right now.”

De Ambroggi added NXP’s strategy is unique for now, but hinted that could soon change. “We’re expecting others with similar approaches in the next few months,” he said.

Design of Connected Vehicle Architecture
Join BaekGyu Kim, researcher at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center, as he discusses vehicle connectivity at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Santa Clara, CA from Dec. 5-7, 2017. Using examples, Kim will explain general system architectures for connected vehicles in a session titled, Design of Connected Plug & Play Vehicle Software Architecture

                                  Click here to register today!

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

Read More Articles on Automotive Technology

Uber Open-Sources Its AI Programming Language, Encourages Autonomous Car Development

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10 of History's Greatest American Pickup Trucks

12 Vehicle Infotainment Systems That Distract Drivers

The EV Trend Is Now Irreversible

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023

Uber Open-Sources Its AI Programming Language, Encourages Autonomous Car Development

Tue, 2017-11-14 14:28

Uber's self-driving car ambitions have been an open secret surrounding the company for some time now. If the ride share company's ambitions are met, someday when you hail a ride using its app it'll be an autonomous car that shows instead of a human looking to supplement his income. The company has been actively recruiting engineering talent toward its autonomous car program – even running into some legal trouble with Google along the way over accusations of poaching talent and technology. 

By making Pyro open souce Uber is hoping to encourage the wider engineering community to explore AI research, including autonomous car development. (Image source: Uber). 

Uber is so serious about artificial intelligence that it even established its own AI team (Uber AI Labs) and developed its own programming language, Pyro. And now it has made Pyro open source in an attempt to leverage the wider engineering community towards improving its ride sharing app as well as its development of algorithms to assist with self-driving cars.

“Achieving Uber’s goal of bringing reliable transportation to everyone requires effortless prediction and optimization at every turn. Opportunities range from matching riders to drivers, to suggesting optimal routes, finding sensible pool combinations, and even creating the next generation of intelligent vehicles,” Noah Goodman a researcher at Uber AI Labs wrote in a release statement. “...By open sourcing Pyro, we hope to encourage the scientific world to collaborate on making AI tools more flexible, open, and easy-to-use.” 

Pyro is a probabilistic programming language that combines deep learning with Bayesian modeling, which expresses statistics based on degrees of belief. Few things can be as unpredictable as the flow of traffic in busy cities and probabilistic modeling offers a solution to help AI get a handle on all of the chaos.

With Pyro engineers can develop AI capable of making decisions based on models of probability as well as prior knowledge while also being able to adapt based on new knowledge and data. Essentially, Pyro is designed to create algorithms that can best predict solutions to the problems Uber is most concerned with, things like demand for rides, finding the best routes, and traffic conditions.

Uber says that Pyro is a universal language (it's backend is based in Python) that is also scalable, minimal, and flexible. And it hopes the engineering community will embrace it and apply it toward AI research.

Pyro is only in alpha currently and early applications will likely be toward applications like predicting ride supply and better assisting human drivers. But it's not difficult to see where the road leads. If one looks at Pyro as a means of creating AI that can act predictively, adding an additional layer such as reinforcement learning on top of this could point the way toward optimizing AI for self-driving cars. Using virtual training and simulation an AI could be taught the best routes around a city, how to predict traffic conditions and adjust accordingly, and even how to be where it will be needed most. Imagine following a major sporting event a fleet of Uber vehicles deployed to pick up passengers and each vehicle was able to navigate the best route to its passengers' homes and even adjust to traffic conditions and emergencies in real time.

Uber has already established a GitHub repository for Pyro as well as full documentation for anyone interesting in installing and experimenting with it.

"Want a Real R2D2? A New AI Approach is Forming" Though deep learning is highly successful in many applications, it is fundamentally incapable of bringing artificial beings like R2D2 from fiction to reality. Deep learning cannot provide the flexibility and personality required to provide the appearance of sentience. Biology, however, has already solved the fundamental problems that are keeping R2D2 from becoming real.
In this keynote presentation at ESC Silicon Valley, taking place Dec. 5-7, 2017, Gunnar Newquist, Founder & CEO of Brain2Bot Inc., explores how the next revolution in AI will come from an understanding of natural intelligence. Click here for more information on Gunnar's talk.                      Click here to register for the event today!

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at Design News, covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics. 

Expert Tells Robot Makers to Focus on the ‘Good’ of AI

Mon, 2017-11-13 16:11

Engineers should concentrate on building "ethical robots," and not get too hung up on the potential threats of artificial intelligence, a robotics expert told attendees at ATX Minneapolis last week.

Maria Gini, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, said that the key to the success of intelligent machines is for their makers to use their imaginations in ways that benefit society. “Are robots going to take over the world and are we going to be slaves?” Gini asked. “Who knows? But if we focus on the bad things, we’ll never do anything. We need to focus on the good things we can do.”

“If we focus on the bad things, we’ll never do anything,” warned Maria Gini, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. “We need to focus on the good things we can do.” (Source: Design News/Jennifer Campbell)

In a speech that examined a wide range of ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence, Gini cited numerous examples of intelligent technologies offering the potential to make life better for humans. Those included a therapeutic robot baby seal known as Paro, a programmable humanoid robot called Nao, and a four-legged running robot called BigDog, as well as Siri, Alexa, Google Home and autonomous cars. To call attention to that potential, she brought a Nao robot, which stood up and danced to the song, You Should Be Dancing, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd of approximately 100 engineers.

Gini emphasized that solutions for the greater good can often be very simple. She cited an example of women in Africa who use GPS-based cell phones to connect to women in other villages, enabling them to walk together in groups, instead of walking alone in the dark.

“You don’t need to come up with anything very complicated,” Gini said. “Think about Paro, the baby seal robot. It’s simple to do. Does it make anyone rich? Probably not. Does it make some people happy? I’d say so.” To drive home the point, Gini showed a video of nursing home patients smiling and communicating after a visit from Paro.

Gini acknowledged that robots have the potential to take jobs, particularly in industrial and agricultural settings. Robots, she said, can pick apples, oranges and strawberries, drawing jobs away from willing workers. “Some people will be upset,” she said. “But some of those aren’t very good jobs. We need to get people trained to do different jobs.”

The key to using artificial intelligence for the greater good is to understand what it means for robots to be ethical, Gini said. She cited examples of technology companies – including IBM, Google, and Amazon – that are studying and defining what it means for machines to operate ethically. From those studies, roboticists have learned that ethics vary from person to person and culture to culture. That’s why transparency is important, she said.  “We have to make our algorithms more open, more self-explanatory,” she told Design News. “That’s a good first step – ensuring that there are no biases hidden in the decisions.”

Gini added that such efforts don’t guarantee that the technology won’t be used in harmful ways. But doing nothing, for fear of social threats, would also be wrong, she said.

“A lot of the solutions are very simple,” Gini concluded. “And because we are all experts in technology, we should be asking, ‘What can I do to help the world?’”

Design of Connected Vehicle Architecture
Join BaekGyu Kim, researcher at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center, as he discusses vehicle connectivity at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Santa Clara, CA from Dec. 5-7, 2017. Using examples, Kim will explain general system architectures for connected vehicles in a session titled, Design of Connected Plug & Play Vehicle Software Architecture                                  Click here to register today!

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

 

The 10 Least Reliable Automotive Brands

Mon, 2017-11-13 05:30

 

 

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10 of History's Greatest American Pickup Trucks

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

 

Design of Connected Vehicle Architecture
Join BaekGyu Kim, researcher at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center, as he discusses vehicle connectivity at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Santa Clara, CA from Dec. 5-7, 2017. Using examples, Kim will explain general system architectures for connected vehicles in a session titled, Design of Connected Plug & Play Vehicle Software Architecture. Click here to register today!

   

 

Smart Fabric Uses Magnetic Fields to Store, Transmit Data Without Electronics

Mon, 2017-11-13 04:16

One limitation to wearable technology is the need for electronics and wiring that make so-called “smart” clothing not so comfortable to wear.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found a way to make clothes smarter without on-board electronics using a new type of data-storing fabric that leverages technology already found in smartphones.

The fabric eliminates one of the key reasons wearable technology and smart clothing hasn’t quite caught on yet, said Justin Chan, a doctoral student at UW who worked on the project.

“One thing preventing the adoption of smart fabrics is the fact that they typically require an electronic chip or microcontroller to be attached to your clothing,” he explained to Design News. “This can be cumbersome as they require charging. By taking an electronic-free approach, we can create smart fabrics that are highly durable and waterproof against rainwater and laundry cycles.”

 

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found a way to make clothes smarter without on-board electronics using a new type of data-storing fabric that can communicate with mobile devices using magnetic fields. The photo shows a tie the team created out of the magnetized fabric. (Source: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)

 

The fabric and accessories created from the fabric can store data--such as security codes and identification tags--without sensors or electronics by using previously unexplored magnetic properties of off-the-shelf conductive thread, he said. An instrument embedded in existing smartphones that enables navigation applications can read the data.

“Conductive threads are typically used in smart-fabric designs as a wire to carry electricity from one point to another,” Chan explained. “What we discovered was that we could magnetize these threads using a magnet like a fridge magnet. We could then sense the thread's presence or absence using a magnetometer, a sensor used to measure magnetic fields.”

Smartphones already all have magnetometers because they are used in navigation apps like GPS to determine direction, he said. Researchers leveraged this existing technology to sense whether conductive thread is nearby.

“We can encode data onto these magnetized fabrics in the same way that data is stored on the magnetic hard drive on your computer,” Chan explained.

Using conventional sewing machines, the team embroidered these conductive threads into regular textiles, and then polarized each cell with a north or south pole to embed a 0 or 1, he said. Specifically, they took a thin 5-millimeter strip of conductive fabric, divided it up into 2-centimeter long cells, and embedded a bit onto each cell, Chan explained.

“We can easily encode data like serial numbers, or 2D images with a unique pattern like miniature QR codes,” he said.

The UW team created prototype fashion accessories out of the magnetized fabric, including a tie, belt, necklace, and wristband. In one instance to test the material, they stored the passcode to an electronic door lock on a patch of conductive fabric sewn to a shirt cuff, then unlocked the door by waving the cuff in front of an array of magnetometers.

Chan said the team envisions two key applications for their work. One is for invisible tags to be sewn into clothing sold at department stores to help prevent theft and make it easy for employees to scan purchased clothes, he said.

“With our approach, all clothes can be unobtrusively tagged with a unique identifier that is embedded into the fabric,” Chan said. “Furthermore, all of our tags can be read with an everyday smartphone.”

Another application for the technology would be for employees who need to use RFID keycards to access authorized employer facilities, he said.

“What we envision is for uniformed employees like doctors, or hotel or mall employees to have our specialized fabrics embedded in their uniforms,” Chan said. “So instead of scanning an RFID keycard to get to work everyday, these employees can instead scan the cuff of their shirt against a reader and easily access authorized areas.”

The team plans to continue their work to increase the density of information that can be stored in the fabrics, Chan said. “Doing this would require developing our own customized threads, as well as an automatic and precise method of embedding and retrieving the data,” he said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.