Wednesday, 29 February 2012

 The days of having to hang up and start another call to switch from voice to video calls look to be numbered with LG demonstrating seamless switching from voice to video over an LTE network at Mobile World Congress 2012. The system also allows the real-time sharing of videos over an LTE network as they are being recorded, which should prove handy for newshounds.
While the demonstration was based on LG's proprietary technology, the company says its LTE voice-to-video conversion process complies with the industry standard governing the delivery of both voice and video over LTE - the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) Profile for Conversational Video Service, to be exact. LG is hoping that this will help encourage widespread adoption of its technology.
"The LTE sector is advancing at light speed and our voice-to-video conversion technology is in the best position to be adopted industry-wide," said Dr. Jong-seok Park, President and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company.
 The global RF market remains vibrant, with rapid expansion into many vertical markets, including automatic ID and security, asset tracking, automatic toll collection systems, telemetry, oceanographic, animal research, SCADA, utility smart-grid metering, and more.
New applications are emerging continuously as RF communications converges with other technologies such as real-time locating systems (RTLS), Wi-Fi, and wireless sensor networks (WSN). Each successive generation of RF device uses smaller form factors yet demands increased power for greater product functionality, creating inherently contradictory design challenges for developing optimized power management solutions. These challenges are especially acute for remote applications where there is no access to the ac power grid, and where hostile environments hurt battery performance, potentially compromising data integrity and communication capabilities.
Remote applications typically require self-contained battery-powered management systems, with lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCl2) batteries predominantly chosen due to proven long life in key RF applications such as automatic toll tags and automated meter-reading (AMR) devices.
Long life for automated toll tags
When millions of motorists flash their E-ZPass at toll booths each day, they are unaware that the RFID tag is powered by an LiSOCl2 battery capable of delivering years of safe, reliable, and trouble-free performance under the most challenging environmental conditions. LiSOCl2 batteries were chosen due to inherent long-life (self-discharge rate of less than 1% per year) as well as their ability to handle severe temperature cycles, as, according to SAE, a car’s windshield can reach 113°C, followed by rapid cool down. Conversely, in very cold weather, the battery must handle cold soak followed by a rapid temperature rise.
LiSOCl2 batteries were also chosen for the first RFID tag for portable medical equipment that is capable of withstanding the high temperatures associated with autoclave sterilization cycles without requiring the battery to be removed. Use of an extended-temperature battery permits continuous 24/7 monitoring of the location and status of portable medical equipment throughout the hospital.
Powering a utility meter RF device
Virtually all leading AMR/AMI water meter manufacturers specify LiSOCl2 batteries, which offer the highest specific energy (energy per unit weight) and energy density (energy per unit volume) of all existing battery chemistries. One reason for the high energy density is the large electric potential of lithium, which exceeds that of other metals, and which produces the high voltages typical of lithium batteries (2.7 to 3.9 Vdc). Lithium cells also use a nonaqueous electrolyte, which enables certain lithium batteries to operate in extreme temperatures (55° to 125°C).
LiSOCl2 cells are constructed two ways: bobbin-type and spiral-wound. Bobbin cells consist of an outer cylinder made of lithium metal and an inner electrode that is reminiscent of a bobbin of thread. Spiral-wound cells use flat sheets of metal wound around a core, providing a large surface area that can create high currents. The greater number of layers within the spiral-wound cell reduces the volume of electrolyte these batteries can hold, whereas bobbin cells can hold more electrolyte, enabling them to deliver about 30% more energy than spiral cells of equivalent size.
In 1984, Aclara (formerly Hexagram) began powering its first RF-networked AMR meters with bobbin cells. Today, millions of these units remain in operation, the earliest of which are still operating on their original LiSOCl2 battery after 28 years in the field. This proven track record allows today’s AMR/AMI equipment manufacturers to offer longer-term performance contracts that increase the long-term ROI while enhancing customer service, increasing billing accuracy, improving leak detection, and permitting continuous monitoring of usage and demand. 
Batteries for high-current pulse applications
RF devices are becoming increasingly complex and feature-rich, exemplified by “on-demand” two-way RF communications that require high-current pulses for data gathering and transmission. To support high-current pulse applications, Tadiran developed the PulsesPlus battery, which combines a standard bobbin-type LiSOCl2 battery with a patented Hybrid Layer Capacitor. This combination allows a remote wireless device to operate continuously with low background current, periodically draw high-current pulses for data capture and transmission, then return to a low current “sleep” or “standby” state.
The PulsesPlus battery also features a unique voltage curve that allows devices to be programmed to offer low battery status alerts, including a 3.6-V system that indicates when 95% of battery capacity has been exhausted, and a 3.9-V system that indicates when 90% of available battery capacity has been used up.
The value of an end-of-life indication can be enormous. For example, the Water and Sewer Commission of Springfield, MA, installed 44,000 AMR meters, then, after just a few years of operation, found it necessary to begin replacing 4,000 batteries each year at a total projected cost of $9.2 million. Concerned that their labor force would be overwhelmed by a rapid, system-wide battery failure, the water commissioners chose to start replacing perfectly good batteries simply to avoid the potential chaos of a widescale battery failure. Had PulsesPlus batteries been used and the meters programmed to offer low-battery status alerts, such a premature battery replacement program could have been avoided.
Supporting long-term two-way RF communications
An excellent case study involves Mueller Systems’ Mi.Net Infrastructure Network, which allows water utilities to link meters, distribution sites, and control devices into an integrated and scalable data network.
A key component of the Mi.Net System is the Mi.Node water meter interface unit, which provides full, two-way communications between the Mi.Net System’s Mesh/Fixed AMI system and the smart meter. Data from the meters are temporarily stored within Mi.Node’s internal memory, then transmitted “on-demand” or at specified intervals via an unlicenced radio frequency channel to a Mi.Gate collector, which relays the data to the Mi.Net System’s host server.
Mi.Node interface units are often installed in underground pits, requiring multiple moisture barriers to provide a watertight solution. Robust product construction, combined with Tadiran’s proven 20+ year technology, enables Mueller Systems to offer a 20-year product warranty.
PulsesPlus batteries handle the periodic high-current pulses required for “on-demand” two-way communications, allowing Mi.Node interface units to track hourly water consumption, identify potential tampering, and provide automatic notification, including e-mail alerts, if excessive usage or potential leaks are detected. If a pipe bursts or a faucet or toilet leaks excessively, the customer is alerted automatically, thus reducing monthly water bills and conserving valuable water resources.
Mi.Node interface units also provide automatic notification of low battery status, enabling scheduled battery replacements that can extend the operational life of the Mi.Net System well beyond the 20-year warranty period, which makes an AMR/AMI network installation an even more attractive investment. 

Another key benefit is enhanced employee safety. Instead of having to collect meter readings by entering harsh environments such as basements or subterranean meter boxes, utility employees can use Mi.Net to collect meter readings from the safety and comfort of their office or by driving in close proximity to meters. Also, in the event of a service disconnect or reconnect, two-way “on-demand” communications allows customer service and accounting personnel to handle the entire process remotely, thus protecting employees in the field from potentially hostile encounters with customers.
These examples demonstrate how ongoing enhancements to lithium chemistries and battery manufacturing are addressing the increasingly sophisticated power requirements of emerging RF technologies
 Process automation projects are most often driven by bottom line results, return on investment and an appropriate value position or justification. More and more, systems are expected to: • Provide access to quantitative measurement points of important processes
• Detect and correct problems immediately
• Measure trends
• Pinpoint and eliminate bottlenecks
• Control larger and more complex processes within a large geographic area
• Maintain constant communications and an uninterrupted power source
All of this can be accomplished with the use of a SCADA system within the automation process. However, none of these functions are available if the system is not designed with a reliable power source for the remote panel portion of the SCADA system.
The focus of this article is to address the need to use the latest circuit protection technology available to increase the efficiency of a battery powered remote panel deployed with a SCADA system. Before we can go into the details of the newest circuit breaker technology for SCADA systems, we need to review what a SCADA system is and its function within the automation process.
Introduction to SCADA
Supervisory control and data acquisition, better known as SCADA, is not considered a technology, but rather a type of automation application. SCADA is used in systems where real time data is mandated and is gathered from multiple areas or locations of the automation process located anywhere from a few hundred feet to miles away from a central control panel.
SCADA systems provide sensing and monitoring capabilities, as well as the computational power to track everything relevant to the process and manufacturing operations. This is accomplished with the use four basic component groups:
1. Sensors and instruments: Devices measuring the variables of the process connected to a dedicated controller.
2. Remote telemetry unit (RTU): Small computerized units deployed in the field at specific sites and locations. RTUs serve as local collection points for gathering data from sensors and delivering data & commands to the master unit (See Fig. 1)
3. SCADA master units: Typically an industrial grade PC which displays detailed graphics of all the field devices and has the ability to process multiple communication interfaces and protocols. The graphics represent the actual field devices in the form of a gauges or some type of device status, such as pumps, flow meters, tank levels, temperature gauges, and switch position.
4. Communication networks connect the SCADA master units to the RTUs in the field: There are many communication interfaces and protocols available from very simple to very sophisticated with extremely high speed and large volumes of data. Early SCADA systems used basic serial communication, running at a very slow speed of 1,200 baud (number of times the signal changes in a second) over a radio-based transmitter/receiver. This approach worked fairly well for the amount of data required over radios with relatively short distances. Today, typical systems are operating at 100 Mbits/s over similar radio technology or wireless Ethernet technology, allowing communication now to reach distances of 10 to 20 miles consistently. 
SCADA in automation processes today
SCADA is currently used across multiple industries to gather real-time data and communicate back to system engineers. Table 1 outlines some examples of how SCADA systems are currently being used today. This table barely scratches the surface of the potential uses of SCADA systems. SCADA is incorporated in nearly every industry and public infrastructure project anywhere automation is used to increases efficiency.
SCADA Applications in Various Industries
Oil and gas:-Monitor the flow of raw product from the oil wellheads through the network of pipelines to the refinery plants and end user locations.
Electric utilities:-Detect current flow and line voltage, monitor the operation of circuit breakers, and switch sections of the power grid on or off.
State and municipal water utilities:-Monitor and regulate water flow, reservoir levels, pipe pressure, and other factors.
Facility managers:-Control HVAC, refrigeration units, lighting, and entry systems.
Manufacturing:-Manage parts inventories for just-in-time manufacturing, regulate industrial automation and robots, and to monitor process and quality control.
Transit authorities:-Regulate electricity to subways, trams, and trolley buses; automate traffic signals for rail systems; track and locate trains and buses; and control railroad crossing gates. SCADA regulates traffic lights, controls traffic flow, and detects out-of-order signals.
Shortcoming of SCADA
SCADA systems are using more and more battery based power sources connected to solar power re-charging units for remote field enclosures in order to avoid running expensive AC power lines. Industrial batteries have evolved over the years to provide longer term power than in the past, in most cases up to 36 hours or more.
Along with battery improvements, the RTU, radio communication, and instrument manufactures have reduced the amount of current required to operate these devices to monitor and collect data. These factors have driven SCADA architectures to incorporate battery systems as the primary power source. While there is great deal of value available with this design approach, one area of concern needs to be addressed: short-circuit and overload protection.
Traditionally, automation applications have used fuses or low cost circuit breakers to provide the overload and short circuit protection for components installed in enclosures and in the field. Fuses will quickly detect a fault in any of the components installed and provide disconnection from the power source. Standard circuit breaker technology provides a few options to select from, including: thermal, thermal-magnetic, and magnetic. Similar to a fuse, each of these devices fit a specific type of protection for short circuit and/or over current protection and provide disconnection from the power source.
However, both of these technology approaches have a significant deficiency which SCADA systems have a difficult time dealing with. Once the device trips as a result of a fault, it immediately goes offline and the protection device must be manually reset or replaced to bring the device back online. This requires a field engineer to travel to the panel location and reset the breaker or replace the fuse. The downtime of a SCADA system due to a fault is highly inefficient and very costly.
Additionally, when data is not available to the SCADA master unit it is blind to what is happening in the field and in some cases this information is tied to revenue generation for the end customer. Most of these systems have redundant devices in place to have multiple measuring points feeding the SCADA system, which helps deal with a single device going offline. Not all industries can afford redundancy of devices, and there could be a fair distance between devices, which might cause alarms or errors in how the overall SCADA system reacts to a single point of failure.
Remote reset circuit protection
Let’s now take a look at a new circuit breaker technology based on solid state electronic MOSFET technology with integrated remote reset input. For the first time, circuit protection can be integrated into an RTU as seamlessly as the field devices, providing the convenience of resetting or cycling the power to any of the components connected in the remote panel.
In the event of a fault, the electronic circuit breaker immediately detects and disconnects (in as little as 100 ms at 1.8 times rated current) the faulty load in the circuit and enables a system engineer to reset the circuit breaker remotely with a simple relay, pushbutton, or RTU output via a command from the SCADA master unit over a wireless radio communication network (see Fig. 2). Compared to traditional circuit protection solutions, whether it is a fuse or a traditional circuit breaker, using a remotely resettable electronic circuit breaker will prolong the energy life of the batteries, and deliver more productivity of the entire SCADA system.
To deploy a remote panel in any architecture, whether the distance is 500 feet or miles away, the panel needs to be self sufficient or have the ability to be controlled from a centrally located controller. Serviceability or the lack there of is an extremely important attribute of the remote panel in a SCADA system.
If a remote panel needs to be visited or maintained on a regular interval to deal with any of its components or its overall functionality, then its inefficiency will increase the cost of the entire SCADA system over time. As battery powered solutions become more acceptable in the SCADA application environment, so will the need for the appropriate circuit protection with remote reset functionality.
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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

 Quad-core smartphones are stealing the show at MWC 2012 in Barcelona, Spain this week. We've already seen LG's first model take center stage, with HTC's One X snapping at its heels, and now China's Huawei Device is hoping to trump the competition by launching what is claimed to the be the fastest smartphone in the world - the Huawei Ascend D quad.
Huawei is no stranger to claiming accolades for its products, having claimed the world's thinnest crown for its Ascend P1 S smartphone at CES 2012 and launching the first Android 3.2 product last June. Now the company has crammed its own K3V2 quad-core 1.2 GHz/1.5 GHz processor into a smartphone that's just 8.9 mm thin to give the competition something to think about.
The 129 x 64 x 8.9-mm (5 x 2.5 x 0.35-inch) Huawei Ascend D quad also features a generous 1800 mAh battery that's claimed to be good for at least a full day's use, possibly two if the company's proprietary power management system - that's said to provide up to 30 percent energy savings and helps maintain low chip temperatures for better performance - has anything to say about it. The smartphone runs on Android 4.0 and benefits from a sunlight-friendly, 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 pixel resolution (at 330 ppi) touchscreen display, 8 GB of onboard storage with microSD expansion and 1 GB of system memory.
Of course, if you feature such impressive image capabilities you also need to cater for the other senses and the Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound and Audience earSmart voice technology (a voice processor that enhances clarity in noisy environments) should tick this particular box. There's an 8 megapixel backside-illuminated AF camera with dual LED flash at the rear capable of 1080p video capture, and a 1.3 megapixel cam at the front.
The Ascend D quad - along with an XL version housing a bigger battery - will be made available in China, Australia, Europe, Asia-Pacific, North and South America, and the Middle East in Q2 2012. A dual-core D1 series cousin is also set for April. Unfortunately, there's been no word on pricing.
 A new iPad is on the horizon. Apple sent out invites today to an event next Wednesday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where it promises to "have something you really have to see. And touch." The event, set to go down at 10am, and is widely speculated to be the announcement of the iPad 3.
The iPad 3 is rumored to have an updated 2048 x 1536 "Retina" display, faster processor , LTE, and an 8-megapixel camera. The invite for the event also seems to imply that the iPad 3 may be button-less, with the photo on the invite showing either a button-free iPad or the tablet in landscape mode.
CNBC reported this morning on Twitter that the device would have a quad-core processor and 4G LTE. However, its source also indicated the announcement of the tablet would go down in NYC, a rumor which has already proven itself false.
 The JetFlow hydration widget is a little bit old school and a little bit new school. It pulls the dirty, moldy, bacteria-ridden hydration bladder out of your backpack and replaces it with a good old-fashioned water bottle you can toss in the recycling bin or dishwasher - but with much of the function of a hydration bladder intact.
Hydration packs are fickle, moody animals. They're super-friendly when you're out on the trail, keeping your whistle moistened and your water accessible wherever you wander. The minute you come home, though, their eyes go black and their demeanor changes. All you have at this point is a rotten cleaning job. And in two weeks, you have a moldy, parasite-infested fung-bag that you avoided washing since your last hike two weeks ago - pure evil. 
JetFlow solves the cleaning dilemma by taking a step backwards. The JetFlow system allows a water bottle to function like a hydration bladder. The simple nozzle screws to the top of your water bottle, holds it upside down and delivers water through tubing. You get the same function of a hydration bladder, only with a water bottle that you can unscrew and recycle, or throw in the dishwasher. Most water bottles are considerably more straightforward to clean than bladders.
At first I wasn't too sold on this solution. It seemed both clunky and unnecessary. Plus several companies like Platypus and Hydrapak offer open-top hydration bladders that are easier to clean, kind of rendering the point moot.
Then I realized something: I have one of those convenient, open-top bladders and it's still a moldy mess hidden in some dank, forgotten corner of my garage. Half the time when I need a hydration pack, I just throw a water bottle in my backpack because my bladder is incapacitated. I'd say this solution makes some sense for those of us that simply hate cleaning out the bladder, or don't really like the taste of cleaning products that you just can't seem to wash out.
The JetFlow manifold, as they like to call it, works with a number of bottled waters and beverages. The system comes with two adapters, each of which is compatible with other sized bottles. Adapter number 2 works with Nalgene bottles and the like, so you don't have to be wasteful to take advantage of the system. One hose lets air in and the other attaches to a bite valve to let water out.
This system will likely be a little clunkier than a hydration bladder. Considering that bladders typically carry between 33 and 100 ounces of water (1 to 3 liters), the JetFlow system will probably cut your capacity. It says it can hold up to a 2-liter bottle, but depending on the size of your pack, that may be awkward or impossible. For those that tend to forget (or just plain avoid) cleaning their bladders, it could be a simple, effective solution. 
The JetFlow system was originally aluminum, but JetFlow now plans to offer it in two separate plastic versions. The $29 Raptor system includes the manifold, both hoses, bite valve, air intake valve, two bottle adapters and the JetFlow bottle. The $39 Hornet kit includes all that and adds a plunger system used to clean the tubing. Both systems will begin shipping this April. A bladder from Camelbak or Platypus would cost about $30 to $35 retail, so this is competitively priced.
 We first covered this story back in August, when news surfaced of an unusual hotel being constructed in the bowels of ex-Russian aircraft carrier the Kiev - the centerpiece of an 80,000 square meter (20 acre) state-supported military theme park in Tianjin, China. Three carriers were purchased from the Russians around 1996, and while one is being fitted out to become China's first real aircraft carrier, the other two have found employment as a casino and - in the case of the Kiev - a novel hotel. Last year the tale could have been dismissed as perhaps a fanciful ambition, but now the ship is on track to offer 148 rooms to the public, and we have some official pictures of the interior.

The best indication that this is a serious project is the addition of a proper restaurant that opened in December and serves mostly Russian fare. There's clearly a propaganda element to all of this - an invitation to gaze upon "the might that communism can achieve." The approximately US$15 million that it took to make the carrier safe and habitable is unlikely to ever be recouped by commercial means. 

In the end, though, the venue will likely provide a fascinating and diverting couple of days should you be touring that part of China. Be warned, no swimming pool or Tourist Board stars here, though the accommodations in the VIP suites look pretty luxurious.
 For the past 150 years, ophthalmologists have used the Snellen chart - with its rows of letters in descending sizes - to check patients' vision. While it has done the job reasonably well, PediaVision CEO David Melnik believes that his Spot device offers some distinct advantages. Most importantly, instead of being required to read and recite letters, patients simply look into the device as it takes some pictures. Based on those images, it will proceed to notify clinicians if it detects potential vision problems.
Patients simply sit down and look into the front of the device, focusing their vision on its blinking red, amber and blue lights - a "chirping bird" auditory cue can also be used, to attract the attention of young children. It then takes a series of photos of the patients' eyes using infrared light, all within no more than one second.
By analyzing those images, it is able to determine if their vision is "in range" or "out of range." Should a patient fall into the "out" category, a screen on the device will instantaneously display the name of the likely problem, and advise that a more complete eye exam be performed. Conditions that Spot can identify include near- and far-sightedness, unequal refractive power, eye structure problems, pupil size deviations, and eye misalignment.
That data is stored in pdf format and can be transmitted via Wi-Fi or stored on a USB flash drive, for use by an ophthalmologist. 
According to the company, Spot is superior to the Snellen chart in that patients don't need to be able to read or speak, so it could be used with pre-verbal children or patients with a different native language than the clinician. It also assesses their vision in its regular state, instead of as they're unnaturally straining to read letters.
Spot was introduced in the U.S. last September. A somewhat similar system, DOES, is currently in development at the University of Tennessee.
 Sony Sony has chosen this year's Mobile World Congress to announce two new Android-powered additions to its Xperia NXT line: the Xperia P and Xperia U. The new devices slot in below the Xperia S announced at CES 2012 in Sony's NXT series, which is designed to allow easy connection to other devices, allowing the viewing of content from your phone on not only the smartphone's screen, but also a TV, laptop, or tablet.
The Xperia P has an aluminum unibody design, is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and sports a 4-inch qHD (960 x 540) display incorporating Sony's "WhiteMagic" technology that adds that a white pixel to the standard red-green-blue (RGB) pixels. Sony claims this improves the brightness of the display while reducing power consumption of the backlight. The phone also has an 8-megapixel built-in camera with the ability to capture high-definition video and both 2D and 3D panoramic images. The handset also has NFC capabilities, and both HDMI and DLNA connectivity options.
A SmartDock will also be offered for the Xperia P that is designed to turn the phone into an entertainment hub. It allows users to connect the phone to a HDTV and navigate media stored on the phone using a TV remote control. It can also be used with a wireless keyboard and mouse to browse the Web, compose emails and watch online videos on a HDTV.
The Xperia P measures 122 x 59.5 x 10.5 mm (4.8 x 2.3 x 0.4 in) and weighs 120 g (4.2 oz).
The Xperia U is Sony's entry-level Xperia NXT handset and comes with a 3.5-inch 854 x 480 pixel display, 1 GHz dual-core processor, and a 5-megapixel camera capable of capturing high-definition video and 2D and 3D panoramic pictures. It also includes DLNA connectivity. The handset will be available in both white and black, with exchangeable colored caps for the bottom of the phone in pink and yellow.
The Xperia U measures 112 x 54 x 12 mm (4.8 x 2.1 x 0.5 in) and weighs 110 g (3.9 oz).
Both the Xperia P and Xperia U will launch globally in the second quarter of 2012 running Android 2.3 Gingerbread that will then be upgradable to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
 Those looking for a little more screen real estate to scribble on than offered by the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note now have the Galaxy Note 10.1. Unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and is a little more powerful than Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 thanks to a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor vs the Tab's 1 GHz. It also has a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2-megapixel forward-facing camera to the Tab 2's VGA snapper, and tops out storage-wise at 64 GB - double that of the Tab 2's maximum 32 GB storage capacity. It is also both slightly thinner and lighter than the newest Galaxy Tab. 
Although it is sold separately, the S Pen is the Note's real stand-out feature. It is optimized to work along with the device's built-in applications including S Planner Calendar and S Planner Notes, as well as the Android version of Adobe's Photoshop Touch app, which comes bundled with the tablet as well. The pen was redesigned to work with the Note 10.1, and the tablet is more pressure-sensitive than its pint-sized brother and now features a virtual eraser, allowing users to do a little more with it than they can on the smaller Note. Samsung is looking to address the lack of third-party apps with S Pen support through the release of an official SDK.
Another stand-out feature of the Note 10.1 is its split-screen view, a feature that allows users some true multitasking with the ability to view two applications on the tablet's 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 pixel display at once. For instance, you could have a video streaming on one side of the screen while taking notes in S Note on the other. 
Pricing and release information for the Galaxy Note 10.1 is yet to be announced.
 A new approach to stroke treatment initially developed by Dr. Jeffrey Saver's group at the UCLA Stroke Center combines the ability to restore circulation and remove clots using only a single device ... and it's showing significant promise in trials. In a study comparing the Covidien Solitaire FR Revascularization Device with the FDA-approved Merci Retriever, the device successfully and safely treated roughly 60 percent of stroke patients, compared to roughly 30 percent when the Merci Retriever was used.
Such treatment is intended to minimize brain damage due to lack of oxygen and/or glucose in patients presenting with blockage of large intracranial blood vessels - particularly those for whom the use of clot-dissolving drugs is not advisable.
Roughly speaking, there are four main steps in the operation:
1. Poke a hole in the clot with a microcatheter (roughly 2.5 mm/0.1-inch in diameter).
2. Slide the Solitaire device through the microcatheter until it extends on either side of the clot.
3. Slide the microcatheter back so that the Solitaire device expands and traps the clot.
4. Pull the Solitaire device back to the end of the microcatheter, and use suction to remove the clot from the blood vessel.

The Solitaire With the Intention For Thrombectomy (SWIFT) study was designed to compare the results of using the Solitaire on acute stroke patients with the FDA-approved Merci Retriever. The Merci Retriever functions like a corkscrew that snares and removes a clot, but has a tendency to uncoil and lose the clot.
The SWIFT study was ended prematurely because of the remarkable effectiveness of the Solitaire device. One hundred and forty-four patients with acute ischemic stroke who either were not candidates for clot-busting drugs or in whom they had been ineffective were chosen for the study. Patients were a mixed lot, but both treatment groups were very similar. The patients were randomly assigned to be treated with the Solitaire or with the Merci devices.
The results:
Reestablishment of blood flow occurred in 83% of the Solitaire treatments versus 48.1% of the Merci treatments
Reestablishment of blood flow without symptoms due to intracranial hemorrhage occurred in 60.7% of the Solitaire treatments versus 24.1% of the Merci group The Solitaire group had lower mortality at 3 months: 17.2% versus 38.2% for the Merci treated patients
Good mental/motor functioning was restored within 90 days in 58.2% of Solitaire patients as compared to 33.3% of Merci patients
"Initial treatment with Solitaire rather than Merci is associated with more frequent reperfusion, less symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, reduced mortality, and increased good neurologic outcomes," says Dr. Saver. More simply put, the Solitaire device does its job more effectively and causes fewer problems while doing it. 
The Solitaire is now approved for use in the Interventional Management of Stroke trial study. This is a stage III clinical trial, started in 2006, whose purpose is to examine if a combination of clot-busting drugs and intra-arterial therapy is more effective than clot-busting drugs alone. Among the intra-arterial therapies is the Merci Retriever. Even though over 675 of the 900 patients participating in the trial have already been studied, it has been expanded to include the Solitaire as an intra-arterial treatment for the remainder of the study.
Inclusion in the IMS clinical trial study reflects the enthusiastic response of the neurological medical community for the results of the SWIFT study. Hopefully the FDA will put Solitaire on the fast track as well.

Monday, 27 February 2012

 Adobe Photoshop Touch is now available for the iPad 2. Adobe made the image-editing app official at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and the app is already available to be downloaded from Apple's App Store.
The photo editing app contains some of Photoshop's core features, as well as a few unique features designed for creating content and sharing it from a tablet. As you might expect, users can apply effects to photos they have taken, touch up photos, as well as combine several photos into a layered image. 
A "Scribble Selection Tool" within the app also allows users to erase objects with a scribbling gesture, exploiting Photoshop's "Refine Edge technology" to identify fiddly areas of images. The app also has both Facebook and Google image search, to help users find images quickly and share images they create with others.
In addition to Photoshop Touch, Adobe expects to release several other touch apps for the iPad in the coming months: Adobe Collage for mood boards, Adobe Debut for presenting and reviewing creative work, Adobe Ideas for sketching, Adobe Kuler for exploring color themes, and Adobe Proto for website and mobile app prototyping. 
Adobe Photoshop Touch is available now from the App Store for US$9.99. Adobe has also made available a number of tutorials for the app to help you get started editing on your tablet.
 LG arrived at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year with a number of new and updated Android smartphones. The company's new L-Style series kicks off with three handsets ranging from the 3.2-inch L3, through the 4-inch L5, to the flagship 4.3-inch L7. Meanwhile the Optimus 3D gets an update in the form of the Optimus 3D Max, while the new Optimus Vu with its 5-inch display pits itself against Samsung's Galaxy Note. The show also sees the debut of the company's first quad-core powered smartphone, the LG Optimus 4X HD.
Looking to satisfy users who don't necessarily need the latest and greatest in terms of specs, the L-Style series starts with the entry level L3 that measures 11.7 mm (0.46-in) thin, sports a 3.2-inch QVGA display, and comes running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It is powered by an 800 MHz processor and packs a fixed-focus 3-megapixel camera.
Next step up in the range is the L5, which is also powered by an 800 MHz processor, but ups the screen size to 4-inches (HVGA), gets a custom skinned Android 4.0 and is a bit thinner than the L3 at 9.68 mm (0.38-in). It also includes a 5-megapixel camera and NFC support.
As the flagship of the L-Style line, the L7 sports a 4.3-inch display, is powered by a 1 GHz processor and comes with Android 4.0 preinstalled. It also boasts a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash. Like the L3 and L5, the L7 will feature what LG calls a "floating mass display" that LG says allows for a slimmer look.
The L3 is due to launch in Europe in March, with the L5 and L7 due out before mid year.
Optimus 3D Max
 A year after displaying the Optimus 3D at MWC 2011, LG has unveiled its sequel, the Optimus 3D Max (aka Cube). While it shares much with its predecessor - 4.3-inch glasses-free 3D display, dual 5-mp cameras for shooting 3D stills and video, 8 GB internal storage, HDMI port, DLNA - the Max gets a faster 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, Android 2.3 (with an Android 4.0 update shortly after launch), 1,520 mAh battery and HSPA+ 21 Mbps and NFC (Near Field Communications) support. The redesigned Max is also slightly thinner at 9.89 mm (0.39-in). It is due out in Korea in March, with other markets to follow starting with Europe.
Optimus Vu
 Like Samsung's Galaxy Note, the Vu is a super-sized smartphone that fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet. It features a 5-inch, 1024 x 768, 4:3 aspect ratio IPS display and is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor and 1 GB of RAM. It will initially come running Android 2.3, but LG has promised an update to Android 4.0 shortly after launch. It features LTE support and comes with 32 GB of internal memory and a 2,080 mAh battery.
Optimus 4X HD
 The biggest news from LG at MWC 2012 is the Optimus 4X HD, which is the company's first quad-core powered smartphone thanks to a 1.5 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, which is assisted by 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. It comes running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and boasts a 4.7-inch 1280 x 720 True HD IPS display. There's an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera along with a 2,150 mAh battery packed inside an 8.9 mm (0.35-in) thin body. It is due to launch in Europe before mid year.
LG is yet to release pricing details for the new handsets.

 At Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, HTC announced its new flagship handset, the HTC One X. Like the Optimus 4X HD from LG also unveiled at MWC 2012, the phone will be HTC's first quad-core handset.
The 4.3-inch One X comes sporting a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a 4.3-inch 1,280 x 720 HD display. With an 8-megapixel rear-facing and 1.3-megapixel forward-facing camera, the phone is capable of capturing high-resolution still photos simultaneously while shooting 1080p video that can also be edited directly on the smartphone.
Much like other HTC handsets of late (such as the HTC Sensation XE and HTC Rezound), the HTC One X comes with built-in Beats Audio, offering the phone a bit of a sound advantage over some of its competition. The phone will also ship running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and will offer 25GB of free DropBox storage in place of expandable memory.
The global version of the HTC One X is rumored to be released on April 5 2012 and priced at around US$650. A dual-core LTE version of the One X is set to come to AT&T in the U.S. later this year.
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 Samsung has officially unveiled an updated version of the Galaxy Beam, a smartphone with its own built-in pico projector. The biggest feature of the phone as you might guess is its ability to project pictures, video, and other media onto walls, ceilings or any other flat surface via a 15 lumens projector that Samsung says can display images up to 50-inches wide.
Samsung originally showed off the Galaxy Beam at Mobile World Congress in 2010. At the time, the Android handset was only slated to make an appearance in Singapore. This year's announcement brings an updated version of the handset sporting Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and while release details have yet to be announced, the phone will likely be available in a few additional countries. 
The 2010 version of the Beam came running Android v2.1, had a 3.7-inch screen, and a 9 lumens projector. The updated 2012 version shown off at Mobile World Congress 2011 comes running Android v2.3, has a 4-inch screen, and comes rocking a much more powerful 15 lumens projector.
The projector is the stand-out feature of the phone. Beyond that, you're looking at your standard run-of-the-mill Android handset. The phone has a 5-megapixel built-in camera, and has a 1GHz dual-core processor, 8GB of internal memory, and a 2000mAh battery. 
Samsung has yet to announce pricing or availability for the 2012 Galaxy Beam.
 Finetech will donate a high-accuracy die bonder in a drawing this summer that is open to U.S. and Canadian qualified universities and colleges. Th with 5 micron placement accuracy is valued at $100,000.
n conjunction with the company’s 20th anniversary this year, Finetech is celebrating the university R&D segment of its business. With a wide installed base of systems at some of the most prestigious institutions, FINEPLACER die bonders provide an ideal solution with precision and repeatability in a platform that is perfect for advanced technology environments utilizing diverse applications.
The FINEPLACER Pico MA is an “all-in-one” modular platform for advanced packaging and assembly applications — such as flip chip, optoelectronics, 3-D, wafer-level integration, micro-optics assembly, sensor packaging and precise die bonding.
For more information or to register for the drawing, visit
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 The half-pitch TDA series DIP switch features bifurcated contacts that is claimed to provide increased electrical reliability when compared to other contact technologies. In addition, the series is process-sealed for both surface-mount soldering and washable-processing, making them ideal for hand-held electronics devices, portable computer devices, and instrumentations and controls.
The RoHS-compliant switch series is available in two termination styles, S-termination (Gullwing) and J-termination (Bend). The single pole, single throw (SPST) DIP switch is available in multiple positions, including 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 positions. Features include a contact rating of 24 Vdc, 25 mA (switching state) and 50 V dc, 100 mA (steady state). The TDA series provides a maximum contact resistance of 100 mΩ. Operating temperature ranges from -40° to 85°C. The TDA series switches are available in tape and reel or tube packaging

Sunday, 26 February 2012

 Soon, you may never have to play Russian roulette with potato salad again. Instead of just hoping that E. coli bacteria aren't present in your foods or drinks, you could instead use your mobile phone to find out for sure. That phone would have to be equipped with a bacteria-detecting scanner, which researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science recently created - in a prototype version, for now.
The device attaches to the phone's camera and incorporates semiconducting quantum dots, combined with a grouping of glass capillary tubes that contain antibodies. When E. coli bacteria from liquid samples are placed within the scanner, they are captured on the capillary surface, where they get "excited" by the light from built-in LED bulbs.
This reaction causes the quantum dots to emit florescent light, which is magnified by a lens located beneath the capillaries, and then captured by the phone's camera - essentially, the device scanner serves as an inexpensive miniature florescent microscope. The specific concentration of E. coli is determined by quantifying the amount of light being emitted within each tube.
So far, there's no word on when or if a commercial version of the device might be available.
 Former multiple world champion Max "the Roman Emperor" Biaggi took his Aprilia RSV4 to victory in the first race of the 2012 World Superbike season at Australia's Phillip Island today.
Starting from second on the grid behind Tom Sykes on the Kawasaki ZX10R and in front of reigning champion Carlos Checa riding his #7 Ducati, Biaggi rode a dominant race after an early incident saw early race-leader Checa retire after a dramatic high-side while exiting the blindingly fast turn 12, fortunately walking away unhurt.
After a tragic race incident yesterday which saw 17 year old Oscar McInyre succumb to his injuries after crashing and colliding with two other riders during the Superstock 600cc Championship race, superpole was cancelled and the WSBK grid was decided after averaging the practice times from the previous two sessions. The fastest rider during practice, Tom Sykes, was awarded pole and he led into the first corner but was then soon overtaken by Checa with Biaggi in hot contention.
Biaggi eventually won by over 8 seconds from fellow Italian Marco Melandri who had an impressive race on his BMW S1000RR to take second podium position from 13th on the grid, with Sylvain Guintoli, the only Ducati to score a podium, coming in third.
We noticed that Carlos Checa had a slight limp in the pits after the race and we hope he is able to be at full strength for the second race.
We also extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Oscar McIntyre.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

 Current World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa piloted his Ducati 1098R to an emphatic 5.7sec victory in the second and final race of the opening round of the season at Phillip Island in Australia.
In hot, blustery conditions which saw wind assisted top speeds of 202 mph (325 km/h) by Biaggi's Aprilia, Checa led from the early part of the race and extended his lead as Rea (Honda) and Sykes (Kawasaki) fought out the minor places.
While Checa's ride may have dominated the race, it was Biaggi's everyone was watching. After running wide on the very first corner he left the track and then managed to keep it upright to rejoin the race. From then on it was a slow grind to make up ground from dead last position and, to the crowd's continued delight, he did. Relentlessly.
With only a handful of laps left Biaggi had got up into 4th position but was still 8 seconds behind the front group. In a masterful display of guts and determination he reeled in Sykes to take 3rd and then swallowed Rea for 2nd. He was even whittling down Checa's lead when he just ran out of laps so, between them both, we can see there's a lot of life left in the old dogs yet!
But it was thrilling right to the end as Sykes' Kawasaki was all over Rea's Honda like a coat of paint and Rea bravely held him off until a small mistake on the final corner allowed the Kawasaki through to take 3rd. 
Stay tuned for Gizmag's in-depth interview with Pirelli Racing Director Giorgio Barbier and development technician Fabio Meni who talk about the way Pirelli go about making racing tires. As far as technology goes, no single engineering development has as much impact on the speed, handling and performance of a racing machine than the tires it rides on, so make sure you check it out.
 Six months after the model first hit showrooms, Range Rover is to show an Evoque Convertible Concept based on the Evoque Coupe at the Geneva Motor Show in March, designed to gauge the market potential for a premium convertible four-seat SUV.
Land Rover Design Director, Gerry McGovern, has already achieved the most difficult part of the new model in successfully reproducing the lines of the Evoque without its roof and now it's up to the public to decide if the potentially new category is viable.
"The Evoque lends itself beautifully to the idea of a convertible", said McGovern.
"This study is not a traditional convertible design execution - instead we have worked with the balance of the Evoque's lines to retain its distinctive shape and create something that is unique and, we believe, highly desirable." 
 Traditional automotive categories are of course, the constructs of the motoring industry - market segmentation is what you do to understand the battleground of every marketplace.
Automotive manufacturing is going into a renaissance as new thought and processes enable a more customised product and we'll see more and more of these oft-termed "category busters" in the future.
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