Monday, May 20, 2013

TI Tech Day 2013

Texas Instruments held their fifth annual Technology Days 2013 in Cleveland this past Thursday [May/16/2013]. According to Jackie Filby, Technical Sales Rep for TI that covers my area 264 people attended this year, the largest crowed ever. If you did not make it check the TI calender for the Tech Days that may be in your area this fall.

The day had six parallel tracks running for during the day, two classes in the morning with a half hour between the classes to explore the exibits, and three sessions after a very good lunch. This years tracks were:

  1. Industrial and Sensing
  2. Signal Chain Design
  3. Power Supply Considerations
  4. Wireless Connectivity
  5. Embedded Microcontrollers
  6. ARM® Processors

The Cleveland presentations are available here. Just reading the presentations online lacks the interaction with the other participants and TI instructors. For example I got to discuss gas sensors research with someone I just meet, and discussed how to design a gas gauge for Alkaline Batteries with TI's Analog Field Applications Engineer Keith Keller.

Keith did a good job of condensing the vast area of battery charger design in to the hour of time he had available, especially concentrating on the safety aspects. Using a simple resistor to charge a battery like in the days of NiCads and Lead Acid are long gone. The other area Keith concentrated on was measuring the battery capacity. In the old days you could simply measure the batteries voltage to tell how long it was until it would no longer support a load, not so any more. Some modern Lithium chemistry's a 1 mV change in battery voltage can represent a 10% change in battery capacity. TI has brought to market Gas Gagues that measure the batteries impedance, which rises as the battery discharges, to give a true indication of remaining battery capacity. For completeness I want to point out the late Jim Williams of Linear Technology describes a battery test system based on impedance measurements in Application Note Power Conversion, Measurement and Pulse Circuits.

Art Kay, of Operational Amplifier Noise: Techniques and Tips for Analyzing and Reducing Noise fame present the courses Ten Little Analog Lessons and Parasitics in Precision PCB layout. After the session Art and I got in to a discussion on how to make noise rather than get rid of it. For example out of band 'noise' injected, in the form of Dither, into a A/D can improve the Spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR).

If you have not attended events such as these in the past, make a point of getting out of the cubical, as sometimes the people in you run into at lunch and in the hallways adds to the excitement of the day. For example I ran in to Andrew Girson president of the Barr Group, Michael Barr's new company (Mike is well known in the Embedded Space from his books, training and time as editor of Embedded Systems Magazine). Members of the Barr Group were teaching the Android Introduction class on the TI Sitara™ platform.

The other reason that will motivate you to go next year is the coupon at the TI EStore for any item on their selected tool list of about 50 items for $10. Note that is not $10 off, rather you get the tool regardless of its list price for $10. I picked up the $475 TMDSSOLARCEXPKIT - Concerto-based Solar Explorer Development Kit.

The only disappointment I had this year was that in the past there was a gymnasium sized exhibit area, with TI showing many of their products and independent supporting vendors, inductor suppliers as an example. This year the demos were a few tables in one of the hallways. Jackie said that they downsized this year and last due to budget constraints but was hopping to be back at full force next year. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

DHS Study of Critical Infrastructure Risks from GPS Disruptions

I've blogged about how we are to reliant on GPS, for example see: Are we to reliant on GPS/GNSS? Royal Academy of Engineering says we are. Now the Department of Homeland Security is saying the same thing in the report:

National Protection and Programs Directorate Department of Homeland Security
National Risk Estimate: Risks to U.S. Critical Infrastructure from Global Positioning System Disruptions
The Office of Infrastructure Protection

Bottom Line: U.S. critical infrastructure sectors are increasingly at risk from a growing dependency on GPS for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services. Such dependencies are not always apparent

"Human skills for using manual techniques could erode due to lack of training and practice as GPS becomes more ubiquitous", means that just because we have calculators and computers does not mean we should not teach and learn to do math with paper and pencil, and how to use a sextant. Also few understand how the banking and stock market have become dependent on timing synchronized transactions, at the nano-second or better levels of accuracy and precision.

For more information visit,, today. The day-after-tomorrow may be to late. Space Weather is reporting that sunspot AR1748 may release more X-Class flares this week, this time directed toward Earth. See Geomagnetic Storms: An Evaluation of Risks and Risk Assessments, 2011.

See also, The National Infrastructure Advisory Council Final Report and Recommendations on the insider threat to critical infrastructures, 2008 and Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council 2012 annual update.