MRAM Momentum Poised to Disrupt Memory Workhorses [Portfolio]

TORONTO — Last year could be described as a tipping point for the magneto-resistive random access memory (MRAM) market. Up until then, Everspin Technologies was the only company shipping commercial MRAM products. But as Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) CEO Barry Hoberman is always quick to acknowledge, Everspin’s success has helped to pave the way for other MRAM players.

The genesis of STT goes back as far as 2001 with technology originally developed from research conducted by New York University Professor Andrew Kent. STT was formed and incubated by Boston-based Allied Minds in 2007. In September 2016, the developer of orthogonal spin transfer MRAM technology (OST-MRAM) announced it had fabricated perpendicular MRAM magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) as small as 20nm at its development fab based at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, Calif.

Since then, STT has delivered samples of its spin transfer torque MRAM to customers in North America and Asia, a milestone that’s significant in that it’s one of several emerging memories considered to be a next-generation candidate to replace DRAM and NAND flash, which face scaling challenges as the industry moves to smaller nodes. STT is one of a handful of firms developing MRAM, so the delivery of samples is an important proof point validating both MRAM in general, and STT’s technology in particular.

EE Times recently spoke with Hoberman about the company’s ramp up, and the opportunities for MRAM as more players go to market, including where it might be a viable replacement for incumbent technologies.

Read the full Q&A on EE Times.

NASA Increases Happy Landings for Drones [Portfolio]

TORONTO – Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel. We don’t worry about airplanes dropping from the sky. But drones are another thing altogether.
If a drone runs into mechanical problems, there’s no Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to land it on the Hudson River. To keep unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from landing on our heads, NASA is trying to make them smarter.

Dubbed Safe2Ditch, the technology is aimed at allowing drones to continuously run self-diagnostics during flight to anticipate problems. If something goes wrong, the system could make changes to how the drone is flying and estimate how much longer it could stay in the air.

Since a drone with mechanical problems would need to set down quickly, Safe2Ditch would immediately begin to search its database for safe landing locations and autonomously land at the closest spot. Safe landing options would include fields, parking lots or parks, said Lou Glaab, assistant branch head for the Aeronautics Systems Engineering Branch at the NASA Langley Research Center. Worst case scenario, a drone might have to land in a dense forest to avoid people, but the goal is to keep avoid damaging the drone in an emergency landing.

Read my full article for EE Times.

Avoidable IoT security vulnerabilities are unacceptable—period [Portfolio]

It seems like just yesterday everyone was gearing up to secure their organization for the anticipated BYOD deluge. Today, IoT security has quickly evolved to become the new front line in our connected world.

In early February, a grey-hat hacker compromised as many as 150,000 printers using an automated script that searches for open printer ports to send out rogue print jobs. He was able to affect printers of all makes and sizes at both large enterprises and small town restaurants. This hacker claimed he didn’t intend to cause harm, according to reports. Instead, he was educating people to the dangers of exposed devices and holes in IoT security. The reality is that the consequences of a single, exposed device can be far worse depending on what networks it’s connected to.

Read my full story on Tektonika.

Are Self-Charging Batteries a Decade Away? [Portfolio]

TORONTO – The onus of improving power efficiency in smartphones has often been placed on other components such as the memory or flash storage, but within the next decade they may have self-charging batteries, thanks to researchers at a Canadian university.

In collaboration with provincial power utility Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ, Montreal’s McGill University may eliminate the frustrating experience of being without use of a phone after forgetting to recharge it. In an interview with EE Times, professor George Demopoulos, the university’s chair of mining and materials engineering, said that while lithium-ion batteries have enabled the proliferation of all kinds of mobile devices, they still require frequent recharging because of their limited energy density.

Read my full story on EE Times.

Faster Networks Push Interface Development [Portfolio]

TORONTO – As Ethernet speeds get faster, Rambus is looking to make sure memory and interfaces can keep up with the recent launch 56G SerDes PHY.

The analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and (DSP) architecture of the 56G SerDes PHY is designed meet the long-reach backplane requirements for the industry transition to 400 GB Ethernet applications, said Mohit Gupta, senior director of product marketing at Rambus. This means it can support scaling to speeds as fast as 112G, which are required in the networking and enterprise segments, such as enterprise server racks that are moving from 100G to 400G.

“Ethernet is moving faster than ever,” Gupta said. “The pace has picked up substantially due to big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other trends putting high demands on communication channels. There is already a forum for 112G SerDes speed which will drive the 800G standard.”

One clear usage case, said Gupta, is data center deployment by the “big four” — Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Read my full article on EE Times.

Wireless Disruptor Distinguishes Itself with Supply Chain Innovation [Portfolio]

The consumer wireless market in in the United States is extremely competitive, but when you’re looking to disrupt business models and also provide e-commerce in crowded market, competition is even fiercer.

For Republic Wireless in Raleigh, North Carolina, product innovation and customer service is how it looks to differentiate itself. It’s one of as  many as 50 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) competing for customers along with the four big wireless carriers. Since launching its services in 2010, supply chain efficiency has been a key component of the company’s success and growth. Read my full article on EBN Online.

Startup ‘Eyes’ Healthier Displays [Portfolio]

Display technology shouldn’t be left to engineers.

That’s what’s driving a Montreal-based startup to develop eye-friendly technology for smartphones, automotive dashboards and virtual reality headsets. The genesis of IRYStec goes back to 2013, when Tara Akhavan, a second-year PhD student attending the Vienna University of Technology, was presenting at a conference around high dynamic range (HDR), where her work caught the eye who would be the company’s first investor, Montreal-based TandemLaunch. Read my full article on EE Times.

Electronic Signature vs Digital Signature: What You Should Know [Portfolio]

What’s in a name?

When it comes to knowing the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature, the distinction is important. And while it’s easy to become cavalier about interchanging them, it’s technically not a choice between one or the other.

Rather, it’s better to look at the concept of e-signatures as a broad category that includes digital signatures. Read more on the OnTask blog.

Micron CEO Durcan to Retire [Portfolio]

Micron Technology Inc. CEO Mark Durcan announced his pending retirement Thursday (Feb. 2). No timeframe has been set for Durcan’s retirement, but he will continue to head the company as CEO for the time being.

Micron (Boise, Idaho) said its board of directors has formed a special committee to oversee the succession process and has initiated a search, with the assistance of an executive search firm, to identify and vet candidates. Durcan has pledged to help with the search process and the transition. Read my full article on EE Times.