Tag Archives: Tom Van Vu

Are you designing for the latest automotive embedded system?


Eventually, self-driving cars will arrive. But until then, here’s a look at what will drive that progression.


The next arrow of development is set for automotive

We all have seen it. We all have read about it in your front-center technology news outlets. The next forefront for technology will take place in the vehicle. The growing market fitted with the feature deviation trend does not appeal to the vision of customizing more traditional un-connected, oiled and commonly leveraged chassis vehicles of today. Instead, ubiquity in smartphones have curved a design trend, now mature while making way for the connected car platform. The awaiting junction is here for more integration of the automotive software stack.  Opportunities for the connected car market are huge, but multiple challenges still exist. Life-cycles in the development of automotive and the mobile industry are a serious barrier for the future of connected cars. Simply, vehicles take much longer to develop than smartphones other portable gadgetry. More integration from vendors and suppliers are involved with the expertise to seamlessly fit the intended blueprint of the design. In fact, new features such as the operating system are becoming more prevalent, while the demand for sophisticated and centrally operated embedded systems are taking the height of the evolution. This means more dependence on integration of data from various channels, actuators, and sensors — the faculty to operate all the new uses cases such as automatic emergency response systems are functionality requiring more SoC embedded system requirements.

A step toward the connected car - ecall and how it works

What is happening now?

People. Process. Governance. Adoption. Let’s look at the similarities stemmed from change. We are going to witness new safety laws and revised regulations coming through the industry. These new laws will dictate the demand for connectivity. Indeed, drawing importance this 2015 year with the requirement set by 2018, European Parliament voted in favor of eCall regulation. Cars in Europe must be equipped with eCall, a system that automatically contacts emergency services directing them to the vehicle location in the event of an emergency. The automotive and mobile industries have different regional and market objectives. Together, all the participants in both market segments will need to find ways to collaborate in order to satisfy consumer connectivity needs. Case in point, Chrysler has partnered with Nextel to successfully connect cars like their Dodge Viper, while General Motors uses AT&T as its mobile development partner.

General Motors selected AT&T as its mobile partner

What is resonating from the sales floor and customer perspective?

The demand is increasing for more sophistication and integration of software in the cabin of cars. This is happening from the manufacturer to the supplier network then to the integration partners — all are becoming more engaged to achieve the single outcome, pacing toward the movement to the connected car. Stretched as far as the actual retail outlets, auto dealers are shifting their practice to be more tech savvy, too. The advent of the smart  vehicle has already dramatically changed the dealership model, while more transformation awaits the consumer.

On the sales floor as well as the on-boarding experience, sales reps must plan to spend an hour or more teaching customers how to use their car’s advanced technology. But still, these are only a few mentioned scenarios where things have changed in relation to cars and how they are sold and even to the point of how they are distributed, owned, and serviced. One thing for certain, though, is that the design and user trend are intersecting to help shape the demand and experience a driver wants in the connected car. This is further bolstered by the fast paced evolution of smartphones and the marketing experiences now brought forth by the rapid adoption and prolific expansion of the mobile industry tethered by their very seamless and highly evolved experiences drawn from their preferred apps.

Today, customer experiences are becoming more tailored while users, albeit on the screen or engaged with their mobile devices are getting highly acquainted with the expectation of “picking up from where I left off” regardless of what channel, medium, device, or platform.  Seamless experiences are breaking through the market.  We witness Uber, where users initialize their click on their smartphone then follows by telemetry promoted from Uber drivers and back to the users smart phone.  In fact, this happens vis versa, Uber driver’s have information on their console showing customer location and order of priority.  Real life interactions are being further enhanced by real-time data, connecting one device to draw forth another platform to continue the journey.  Transportation is one of the areas where we can see real-time solutions changing our day-to-day engagement.  Some of these are being brought forth by Atmel’s IoT cloud partners such as PubNub where they leverage their stack in devices to offer dispatch, vehicle state, and geo fencing for many vehicle platforms.  Companies like Lixar, LoadSmart, GetTaxi, Sidecar, Uber, Lyft are using real-time technologies as integral workings to their integrated vehicle platforms.

The design trajectory for connected cars continues to follow this arrow forward

Cars are becoming more of a software platform where value chain add-ons tied to an ecosystem are enabled within the software tethered by the cloud where data will continue to enhance the experience. The design trajectory for connected cars follow this software integration arrow.  Today, the demand emphasizes mobility along with required connectivity to customer services and advanced functions like power management for electric vehicles, where firmware/software updates further produce refined outcomes in the driver experience (range of car, battery management, other driver assisted functionalities).

Carmakers and mobile operators are debating the best way to connect the car to the web. Built-in options could provide stronger connections, but some consumers prefer tethering their existing smartphone to the car via Bluetooth or USB cable so they can have full access to their personal contacts and playlists. Connected car services will eventually make its way to the broader car market where embedded connections and embedded systems supporting these connections will begin to leverage various needs to integrate traditional desperate signals into a more centrally managed console.

Proliferation of the stack

The arrow of design for connected cars will demand more development, bolstering the concept that software and embedded systems factored with newly-introduced actuators and sensors will become more prevalent. We’re talking about “software on wheels,” “SoC on wheels,” and “secured mobility.”

Design wise, the cost-effective trend will still remain with performance embedded systems. Many new cars may have extremely broad range of sensor and actuator‑based IoT designs which can be implemented on a single compact certified wireless module.

The arrow for connected cars will demand more development bolstering the concept that software and embedded systems factored with newly introduced actuators & sensors will become more prevalent; “software on wheels”, “SoC on wheels” and “secured mobility”.

Similarly, having fastest startup times by performing the task with a high-performance MCU vs MPU, is economic for a designer. It can not only reduce significant bill of materials cost, development resources, sculpted form factor, custom wireless design capabilities, but also minimize the board footprint. Aside from that, ARM has various IoT device development options, offering partner ecosystems with modules that have open standards. This ensures ease of IoT or connected car connectivity by having type approval certification through restrictive access to the communications stacks.

Drivers will be prompted with new end user applications — demand more deterministic code and processing with chips that support the secure memory capacity to build and house the software stack in these connected car applications.

Feature upon feature, layer upon layer of software combined with characteristics drawn from the events committed by drivers, tires, wheels, steering, location, telemetry, etc. Adapted speed and braking technologies are emerging now into various connected car makes, taking the traditional ABS concept to even higher levels combined with intelligence, along with controlled steering and better GPS systems, which will soon enable interim or cruise hands-free driving and parking.

Connected Car Evolution

Longer term, the technological advances behind the connected car will eventually lead to self-driving vehicles, but that very disruptive concept is still far out.

Where lies innovation and change is disruption

Like every eventual market disruption, there will be the in-between development of this connected car evolution. Innovative apps are everywhere, especially the paradigm where consumers have adopted to the seamless transitional experiences offered by apps and smartphones. Our need for ubiquitous connectivity and mobility, no matter where we are physically, is changing our vehicles into mobile platforms that want us users to seamlessly be connected to the world. This said demand for connectivity increases with the cost and devices involved will become more available. Cars as well as other mobility platforms are increasingly becoming connected packages with intelligent embedded systems. Cars are offering more than just entertainment — beyond providing richer multimedia features and in-car Internet access.  Further integration of secure and trusted vital data and connectivity points (hardware security/processing, crypto memory, and crypto authentication) can enable innovative navigation, safety and predictive maintenance capabilities.

Carmakers are worried about recent hacks,  especially with issues of security and reliability, making it unlikely that they will be open to every kind of app.  They’ll want to maintain some manufactured control framework and secure intrusion thwarting with developers, while also limiting the number of apps available in the car managing what goes or conflicts with the experience and safety measures.  Importantly, we are taking notice even now. Disruption comes fast, and Apple and others have been mentioned to enter this connected car market. This is the new frontier for technological equity scaling and technology brand appeal. Much like what we seen in the earlier models of Blackberry to smartphones, those late in the developmental evolution of their platforms may be forced adrift or implode by the market.

No one is arguing it will happen. Eventually, self-driving cars will arrive.  But for now, it remains a futuristic concept.

What can we do now in the invention, design and development process?

The broader output of manufactured cars will need to continue in leveraging new designs that take in more integration of traditional siloed integration vendors so that the emergence of more unified and centrally managed embedded controls can make its way. Hence, the importance now exists in the DNA of a holistically designed platform fitted with portfolio of processors and security to take on new service models and applications.

This year, we have compiled an interesting mixture of technical articles to support the development and engineering of car access systems, CAN and LIN networks, Ethernet in the car, capacitive interfaces and capacitive proximity measurement.

In parallel to the support of helping map toward the progress and evolution of the connected car, a new era of design exists. One in which the  platform demands embedded controls to evenly match their design characteristics and application use cases. We want to also highlight the highest performing ARM Cortex-M7 based MCU in the market, combining exceptional memory and connectivity options for leading design flexibility. The Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M7 family is ideal for automotive, IoT and industrial connectivity markets. These SAM V/E/S family of microcontrollers are the industry’s highest performing Cortex-M microcontrollers enhancing performance, while keeping cost and power consumption in check.

So are you designing for the latest automotive, IoT, or industrial product? Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Optimized for real-time deterministic code execution and low latency peripheral data access
  • Six-stage dual-issue pipeline delivering 1500 CoreMarks at 300MHz
  • Automotive-qualified ARM Cortex-M7 MCUs with Audio Video Bridging (AVB) over Ethernet and Media LB peripheral support (only device in the market today)
  • M7 provides 32-bit floating point DSP capability as well as faster execution times with greater clock speed, floating point and twice the DSP power of the M4

We are taking the connected car design to the next performance level — having high-speed connectivity, high-density on-chip memory, and a solid ecosystem of design engineering tools. Recently, Atmel’s Timothy Grai added a unveiling point to the DSP story in Cortex-M7 processor fabric. True DSPs don’t do control and logical functions well; they generally lack the breadth of peripherals available on MCUs. “The attraction of the M7 is that it does both — DSP functions and control functions — hence it can be classified as a digital signal controller (DSC).” Grai quoted the example of Atmel’s SAM V70 and SAM V71 microcontrollers are used to connect end-nodes like infotainment audio amplifiers to the emerging Ethernet AVB network. In an audio amplifier, you receive a specific audio format that has to be converted, filtered, and modulated to match the requirement for each specific speaker in the car. Ethernet and DSP capabilities are required at the same time.

“The the audio amplifier in infotainment applications is a good example of DSC; a mix of MCU capabilities and peripherals plus DSP capability for audio processing. Most of the time, the main processor does not integrate Ethernet AVB, as the infotainment connectivity is based on Ethernet standard,” Grai said. “Large SoCs, which usually don’t have Ethernet interface, have slow start-up time and high power requirements. Atmel’s SAM V7x MCUs allow fast network start-up and facilitate power moding.”

Atmel has innovative memory technology in its DNA — critical to help fuel connected car and IoT product designers. It allows them to run the multiple communication stacks for applications using the same MCU without adding external memory. Avoiding external memories reduces the PCB footprint, lowers the BOM cost and eliminates the complexity of high-speed PCB design when pushing the performance to a maximum.

Importantly, the Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M7 family achieves a 1500 CoreMark Score, delivering superior connectivity options and unique memory architecture that can accommodate the said evolve of the eventual “SoC on wheels” design path for the connected car.

How to get started

  1. Download this white paper detailing how to run more complex algorithms at higher speeds.
  2. Check out the Atmel Automotive Compilation.
  3. Attend hands-on training onboard the Atmel Tech on Tour trailer. Following these sessions, you will walk away with the Atmel | SMART SAM V71 Xplained Ultra Evaluation Kit.
  4. Design the newest wave of embedded systems using SAM E70, SAM S70, or SAM V70 (ideal for automotive, IoT, smart gateways, industrial automation and drone applications, while the auto-grade SAM V70 and SAM V71 are ideal for telematics, audio amplifiers and advanced media connectivity).

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[Images: European Commission, GSMA]

1:1 interview with Jean Anne Booth of UnaliWear


“What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there’s no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words.” 


In this interview, we feature Jean Anne Booth, a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record in hardware innovation, having previously launched and sold two large and notable companies. Her current project is UnaliWear, a wearable health technology startup that has recently made its Kickstarter debut. She comes with a wealth of experience, and her timing could’t be better as the wearable digital health market continues to unfold. What’s more, Kanega Watch — which we recently featured on Bits & Pieces — is looking to bring a much-needed vision for practical usage to that space.

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Tom Vu: What’s the main driver to going about this once again? Well, considering you did this before as the first person to launch the ARM Cortex-M3 at Luminary Micro?

Jean Anne Booth: Great question! I actually retired for a couple of years after I sold my last company to Texas Instruments. During this period, my mom turned 80, and she had a couple of incidents that made me start looking for a personal emergency response system for her. Many of the assistive devices available are flawed in one aspect of another. Most importantly, there are three reasons, which make them quite hard for seniors to desire to integrate into their lives. First, they are ugly. Secondly, if they have connectivity, the devices usually require some complicated installation of a tethered smart phone or access point. And one of the most overlooked objections, there is a big “HELP” button. This big button is quite visually disturbing. When you see the big “HELP” button made large for usability and functionality, it is so socially stigmatizing. I wanted my mom to live safely while being independent and not being socially stigmatized.

TV: How is the UnaliWear Kanega Watch different from other wearable tech?

JAB: Focus groups have called Kanega Watch a ‘wearable OnStar for seniors’ because we provide discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering in a classically styled watch that uses an easy speech interface rather than buttons. What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there is no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words. The watch brand name “Kanega” is from Cherokee for “speak”.

Unaliwear-Reminders-Alerts-Kanega

TV: Is what you’re creating really going to make our lives better?

JAB: Yes, it’s about being there when it counts. You can wear Kanega Watch on 24×7 basis, so you don’t forget to put it back on, and therefore you’re wearing when you need it. There is a very long battery life, unlike an Apple Watch, Android, or Samsung smartwatch. There is no need for an additional device, either an access point or a smartphone. For seniors, or those who are independent but vulnerable, it can help with issues at night like trips to the bathroom. It’s waterproof, not just water resistant, so you can wear it in the shower/bath (this is where a majority of falls happen), and also in your pool exercises. It works anywhere you go, and those who are vulnerable are not trapped at home. Importantly, there is a convenience to this as you’re wearing everything you need to stay safe.

For instance, here is one of the fundamental characteristics of how the watch works, and why our tagline is “Extending Independence with Dignity.” If the Kanega Watch wants to speak, it will ask permission first. It requests permission to speak by buzzing on the wearer’s wrist like a cellphone on silent, so there’s no visual or audible stigma of wearing an assistive device when socially inappropriate — like at church.

If it detects a potential fall, it will ask if you will need help, because two out of three falls do not require help. In fact, Kanega Watch will continuously monitor you – a kind of continuous welfare check. In a suspected fall, if you don’t respond to the request for permission to speak (for example, if you’re unconscious, unable to move, or unable to speak), then it will begin to escalate and then notify emergency and your contacts for help. There’s practical and smart logic built into the wearable.

Meds

TV: How has your experience in this industry going to help in fulfilling the practical/adoptable use of moving wearable tech toward broader acceptance/use?

JAB: To me, it’s not about advancing a category of technology. It’s about harnessing technology to solve real problems, and in this case, about allowing people to live independently, safely, for as long as possible. It’s been an interesting experience transitioning from semiconductors to healthcare, and has proven to be very rewarding building products that directly make people’s lives better. It’s a fantastic feeling!

TV: What hardware startups do you think are actually doing some really interesting things right now?

JAB: That’s a hard question for me because I’m biased toward products that make a difference and are directly useful. Often what is the most cool and interesting is not at all useful! One thing that our Kickstarter campaign has taught us is that the average person buying things that are cool is not quite in the same category as the people who would buy our wearable for seniors.

TV: How would you describe your team?

JAB: Today, our team consists of a cadre of three founders. Our CTO Marc DeVinney does all the hardware. Brian Kircher, who I’ve worked with for 14 years, does all the software for the Kanega Watch. I do everything else.

TV: Who do you look up to as a mentor now?

JAB: Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers, has been a close friend for years and has always been helpful. Jimmy has been a source of a lot of wisdom. For this particular company, another extremely important mentor is my mother, Joan, who is also our Senior User Experience Advisor. She’s put together a number of focus groups, and has also been a lot of help in detailing the use cases.

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TV: What improvements will your product provide society? Perhaps even help the movement of IoT, connected things and wearables?

JAB: The Internet of Things promises to transform daily life, making it easier to work, shop, merchandise, exercise, travel and stay healthy. Really, thanks to billions of connected devices — from smart toothbrushes and thermostats to commercial drones and robotic companions for the elderly. It also will end up gathering vast amounts of data that could provide insights about our habits, religious beliefs, political leanings, sentiments, consumer interest, sports, and even as far as go to other highly personal aspects of our lives. I think the maturation of IoT and wearables is intertwined together. In some respects, what we are building at UnaliWear is also helping cement together the more meaningful adoption of wearables. In our particular case with the Kanega Watch, we couldn’t solve our user problem unless we could provide a better wearable device that is constantly connected all the time. Ultra-low power is very challenging fundamental backstop for every wearable device, and for most IoT devices as well. Our wearable includes cellular, GPS, and Wi-Fi built into one seamlessly integrated non-obtrusive wearable.

Our design goal for the Kanega Watch is that it must be wearable 24×7. It cannot be in a pocket or have requirements of being tucked into a purse. It also must have enough communications capability so that a senior is not stuck in their home all the time. To meet this goal, we have a unique patent-pending quick swap battery system enabling a user to not have to take the watch off to charge. The wearable can last 2 days for most users, and it comes with four batteries. It’s designed to have two batteries available on the charger and two batteries on the watch at all times. The device eliminates the need to be near a base station or smartphone.

Today, simply using built-in smartphone or app presents a couple of problems. Most seniors today don’t have nor operate a smart phone. Less than 5% of seniors over 80 years in age have a smart phone today. For the few seniors who do have smart phones, there are still problems using a smart phone for falls and reminders, because today’s smart phones still have only about 10 hours of real usage time per day.

TV: By 2050, what are some of your predictions for consumers or users interacting with technology on a day-to-day basis?

JAB: I do think that speech will definitely play a larger part in our interaction paradigm. Remember that popular Star Trek movie scene where they come back in time to save the whales and Scotty goes with Checkov to analyze the strength of the materials being used to make a housing for the whales, and the computer he is given is the original Macintosh. Scotty speaks to the Mac, Checkov reminds him that’s not the interface, and then Scotty picks up the mouse and speaks to the mouse. This seems to show a natural interface into the future as Scotty mistakes the old computer for one he can easily and naturally talk to. Now looking at where we are today – the senior population is the fastest growing population segment in the US, and by 2030 will be 20% of our total population. Today, there are 17 million seniors above the age of 75 who are living independently, yet only 2.2 million of those independent seniors have any kind of monitoring system to get help. Today’s 17 million seniors will burgeon to 27 million seniors by 2030. Natural speech interfaces and connectivity will be control what we’re able to build in the future.

TV: What question might you pose to someone in the middle of making a choice to purchase or carry something that is connected and electronically enabling for a senior in their lives?

JAB: I think the message is simple. We show over and over again that if you want to extend the time and quality of someone’s life, then extend their independence. That means you need products that a senior is willing to wear, and that fits into their active lifestyle. At its core, the wearable is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4L Cortex-M4 MCU running FreeRTOS as the real time operating system and also includes the ATWINC1500 SmartConnect device for Wi-Fi. The Kanega Watch includes both Wi-Fi and cellular communications; when you’re at home, it uses your Wi-Fi. When you’re away, it transitions seamlessly to cellular.

unaliwear-prototype-progression

TV: Does the Kanega Watch have initial roots from the Maker Movement?

JAB: Yes, the roots are definitely Maker Movement – and also a lot of rapid prototyping (hardware’s version of the Lean Startup). We built our first industrial design prototypes at the TechShop in Austin, and our very first alpha design used a 3D-printed “box” as the “watch”. We make a lot of prototypes with rapid turn 3D-printing and CNC-machined aluminum. Before we built our own first prototypes, we created a software prototype on the Omate TrueSmart smart watch, which has dual 1.3 GHz ARM Cortex-A8’s running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich.” Our only challenge with this prototype is that the battery life was an unsatisfying 5 hours – which meant that I had a battery pocket in my pocket and kept the watch plugged in with a cord hidden under my shirt when I needed to demonstrate over a long period, such as at a conference like SxSW. I like our current prototypes better!


Interested in learning more or have an elderly family member who could benefit from the Kanega Watch? Head over to UnaliWear’s current Kickstarter campaign here.

1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, Co-Founder of Noisebridge, San Francisco (Part 2)

…Continued from Interview with Mitch Altman (Part 1)

Tom Vu: What is the Hackerspace in Residence Program? Why is this important?

Mitch Altman: Let me start by giving some background…

Over the past decade, thousands of designers, engineers, artists, programmers, crafters, scientists, cooks, musicians, tinkerers, and the otherwise curious, have gathered at hackerspaces (sometimes also called makerspaces) to explore and do what they love — often finding subjects and projects they find meaning in pursuing. This happens because of the supportive community, as well as the tools and other resources found at these unique spaces found all over the globe. People work and play individually and collaboratively. People come from varied and diverse backgrounds, with varied and diverse skills. This mix of people, skills, community, and tools creates synergistic magic.

Each hackerspace is unique, each with their own set of focuses. Yet they all share in this magic. Through the sharing of skills, information, and other resources within community, we can design the worlds we want. The steps in getting there are often challenging. In fact, this is why we need these collaborative spaces, where people of different backgrounds and diverse skills cooperate and help each other.

Researchers are now starting to study the hackerspace movement, asking what these spaces look like, in what ways their practices changes across these sites, what values connect them, in what ways they differ from each other, and how they connect with and influence and help the wider world.

Along these lines, somewhat related programs such as after-school and out-of-school programs, as well as home schooling and unschooling, have been growing steadily in recent years. Students and instructors are still searching for high-interest content combined with hands-on creating that keys into areas of interest without the rigidity and sterility of most current classroom structures. In essence, it’s really about creating and playing and trying things. It is about hands-on, experiential, play-based science, art and learning. We can break things. We can take things apart. We can fool around. We can put things together again in our own ways. This is useful regardless of the topics of interest. This facilitates tinkering and making things, but also helps in learning science, math, and other more conceptual or abstract fields of study.

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Hackers In Residence Program Kickoff event at Tsinghua University | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

We are approaching 2,000 hackerspaces on the planet, and growing fast. Again: each space is unique, each perfect for the people who started it and the people who keep it going. Yet, each space is part of the international hackerspace movement. And, to varying degrees, hackerspaces all help each other.

To facilitate this process of growth and mutual benefit amongst hackerspaces — helping each other and the world — I am putting a lot of energy into the Hackers in Residence Program. For a long time now there have been Artist in Residence programs to support individuals in their art. Artists benefit greatly from this. And since the visiting artists have shared their skills, their knowledge, and their enthusiasms and passions for their art, the hosting communities benefit as well. People in a hosting community can pick up on these priceless gifts and cruise with them in their own ways. The artists also take their experiences and what they learn with them when they leave, further sharing wherever they go.

This Hackers in Residence Program is similar to an artist in residence program, only broader in scope. Not only art, in its many and varied forms, but anything can be shared and supported when someone is a hacker in residence. Not only the visiting hacker and the hosting community benefit, but all hosting organizations (hackerspaces, libraries, museums, art organizations, corporations) — and the world — benefits, since the hacker moves on from their visit, taking their new experiences and/or projects along with them to share, cross-pollinating wherever they go. And the joy spreads.

I have been both an artist in residence and a hacker in residence. These were fantastic experiences for me! They helped me create new projects. I was able to teach people what I love. I shared my enthusiasm. And I was able to take what I learned from the unique spaces and communities that hosted me, and I’ve shared these experiences with other spaces wherever I travel.

Teaching people what I do — at home, and as I travel around the world — my intent is to encourage people to explore and do what they love. On the surface, I teach people the simple skill of soldering, with which anyone, any age, any skill level, can make cool things with electronics. I also teach electronics and microcontrollers (using AVR microcontrollers, since they are so easy to learn and teach, especially with all the cool free and open source tools available for all operating systems — and with the zillions of projects available online). I give talks on many subjects, with the intent of helping and inspiring others to explore and do what they may find meaning in doing.

Many organizations — such as hackerspaces, libraries, museums, art organizations, corporations — can offer people residency opportunities where they can share their skills, work on their projects, explore their subject, learn from others, with mutual benefits and contributions in so many ways.

Early next year we will launch the HackerInResidence.org website, a totally free website where any organization can list themselves, and create pages for Residency opportunities. It will also allow anyone in the world to easily search for Residency opportunities that they can apply for. (We can use another volunteer web-programmer — if you’re interested, please contact me! Mitch AT CornfieldElectronics DOT com)

For example, I have been an advocate in helping solidify Tsinghua University’s Hackers in Residence program. Tsinghua is considered one of the most prestigious universities in China. Their president is wanting education at Tsinghua to be all about learning to live a life each student loves living. Creating a hackerspace at the university is an experiment in education towards this end. By inviting creative hackers from all over the world, including China, to become residents, working on projects, sharing their skills and knowledge and interests and passions, leading events, such as hackathons and exhibitions — by doing these things, and whatever else the resident is moved to do, students will be exposed to a world of diverse creativity, learning in ways people learn at hackerspaces (and, unfortunately, not at most schools), learning in ways that have been proven to work, ways that lead and inspire a lifetime of learning, creativity, and innovation.

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Hackers In Residence Program Kickoff event at Tsinghua University | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

I have become involved in helping some of the budding hackerspaces in China such as Beijing Makerspace, Chaihuo Hackerspace in Shenzhen, and Xinchejian Hackerspace in Shanghai. Some interesting projects have grown out of these hackerspaces that make people a living — and, as with all projects created out of the shear love of doing it, these projects are good for the others in the local community, in this case, local Chinese culture.

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Chaihuo Hackerspace in Shenzhen, China

What if there were a lot more opportunities for people to take advantage of? This could be really good for the individual hackers, the individual students, people in the outlying community, and perhaps, if there are enough opportunities, for all of China. And if it works in China — and all indications show that it probably will — it can work everywhere, as they have at hackerspaces around the world over the last several years.

But we are just at the beginning now.

Hackerspaces are a global phenomena and changing the very fabric of how we can learn, share, interact, and create. Hackerspaces.org (which I helped form at its inception in 2008) is a good informational and networking nexus site that helps people starting and running hackerspaces around the world. This site allowed the early creation and spread of what is now the hackerspace movement.

Since then, the hackerspace movement has grown exponentially, providing opportunities for lots of people! But, we need more. To benefit the world’s 7 billion people, we need a million unique hackerspaces planet wide. I think that the Hackers in Residence program, with its HackerInResidence.org website, can help a lot.

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Kung Fu Hacking at Hackers In Residence Program Kickoff event at Tsinghua University | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

TV: Tell me more about how you started this Hacker in Residence program?

MA: For the past few years I’ve organized an annual Hacker Trip to China, where a bunch of hackers (note to reader, this implies the earlier stated original sentiment of a “hacker”: people who use any available resource to make their projects cooler, and share the results) from around the world to go to China to (amongst other cool things) help transform some portion of education there. After several years, all this organizing is paying off! At the end of last year’s China trip, Tsinghua University officially started a Hackers in Residence Program. The program is still nascent, but there will soon be a constant stream of diverse hackers from around the world staying at Tsinghua to mentor students!

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Hackers In Residence Program Kickoff event at Tsinghua University | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

The culmination of our trip last year was the Hackers in Residence Kickoff event at Tsinghua University. The event was mongo! Including a mongo LED display showing a hacked version of the “Kung Fu Fighting” music video. All of our talks were on top of a huge crane. It was lots of fun. And celebratory. And lots of education bigwigs were there. The Hackers in Residence is now an official, for-credit, ongoing program at Tsinghua. We’re expecting this to continue on, and grow, and eventually spread all over China, and hopefully everywhere. It’s pretty exciting.

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Maker Carnival | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

We also visited Shanghai for Maker Carnival, my manufacturer in Shanghai, XinCheJian hackerspace in Shanghai, HAXLR8R accelerator program in Shenzhen (where I’m a mentor), Chaihuo hackerspace in Shenzhen, and many other cool events and places. In this first half of the year, I have been busying organizing Hackers In Residence Program abroad.  Since my return from last year’s Hacker Trip to China I have been busy furthering the Hackers in Residence Program there, and everywhere. I’ll be leaving with this year’s Hacker Trip to China at the beginning of November, bringing another great group of diverse worldwide hackers who are wanting to share what they can, and learn from all of our experiences, and bring it all back to share at home. Our first stop will be Tsinghua University.

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Hackerspaces in China | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

TV: What does the Hacker In Residence Program provide to the learning participant?

MA: It can be different at different organizations, depending on what the organization has to offer, and what they require of the Resident. At Tsinghua, they want to provide their students a constant stream of diverse hackers from hackerspaces around the world, overlapping with other Residents staying there. As well as providing travel expenses, food, an apartment, access to way awesome tools, and space to work on their own projects, each Resident collaborates with students to come up with their own cool projects that they will show off at the end of the semester. They also make themselves available as mentors for the students. Most importantly, it’s all about the Residents and the students having an amazing experience of a lifetime.

The last point is very important. These hackers in residence can perform peer-to-peer interaction, providing encouragement and inspiration, as well as help with skills and knowledge. They can help guide students’ ideas, help bolster a student’s curiosity and interest, supplemented with pathways drawn from the student’s own hands on experience.

Since Tsinghua University is so well respected in China, the program will probably be spreading to universities and schools all over China. And hopefully, spreading throughout the world.

The Hackers in Residence program is needed. It is needed because education today is too far behind the curve, focusing on standardized tests rather than learning what a given person wants and needs to the life they want to live. It is needed because it will be so cool to have Residency opportunities for people everywhere to take advantage of, and to share of themselves, and help the hosting organizations and communities. Everybody wins.

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Hackerspace in Residence Program| Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

The Hackers in Residence program offers people a chance at real, live, actual learning opportunities (at universities, schools, hackerspaces, libraries, corporations, museums, art spaces and all of the places it will exist).  The resident will collaborate with students to choose projects they will work on in small groups. In turn, they will also be available as a mentor for students and help assist in local hack-a-thons. Most importantly, it’s all about having an amazing time and doing work in cool projects that can be shared so new opportunities and potential residents in the future can gain from these interactions just as well.

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Kung Fu Hacking Tsingchua Style with Hacker in Residence Program

TV: How does this dove tail into something larger? Such as in priming for the next industrial movement or even development of applications around the Wearable Tech, Internet of Things, or 3D Printing? Perhaps reinforcing the Maker Movement?

MA: The way I see it: community is very scarce at the moment in our modern world — and it is very much needed. At the same time, people are often too afraid to be creative. Yet, we need to express our creativity to thrive in our lives. The era of good little workers for factories and massive industry is past — the pendulum is swinging toward a new paradigm of meaningful and sustainable innovation. The old production paradigm does not make for a healthy human spirit; it does not provide a world full of people feeling their lives are way worthwhile. We can help transform workers and vocational and professional training to encourage people to take more vital roles in contributing to fulfillment in their lives — this is what can lead to a well-balanced global ecosystem, fueling innovation, creativity, opportunity, and community. With more people having the opportunity to experience community that supports our creativity, all areas of human endeavor can be enhanced.


TV:
Does “hacking” need to be part of DNA for the inception of great Product Ideas?

MA: Need? No. Desirable? Yes.

Many of the products available for purchase today are things we don’t necessarily want or need — they were created primarily to maximize profit. Of course, we need money to buy food, shelter, and many other necessities. We also need some money to buy resources we want so that we can live lives we find way worthwhile. But how much money do we need? The concept of enough is an important one to consider. The howling engines of Marketing manipulate us through our hopes and desires and fears with the goal of maximizing profit — we’re needed to buy things to feed this engine. Sadly, the choice to maximize profit is often chosen over making our lives and our world better. Sadly, some of us choose to maximize profits even when it is known that the consequences are likely to make the world a less safe or less good place… Does it really need to be this way?

Hackerspaces along with its core methodology helps foster things that people really love. Participants become passionate around their creations. This creates a higher chance that these ideas, woven with much imagination and passion, are good for those that create them, as well as for the surrounding community. If you create something you love, chances are that others will love it, too. And when people love what you do, they may even pay you to do it. If it is a product or service that others love, these may actually be helpful and relevant in their lives. If this is the case, then the world is actually becoming a better place. This is the result of more people working and playing with what they love, what they find meaning in doing. That, rather than maximizing profit, can be the primary factor in why we do what we do. The net result is that more people feel they are living lives that are way worthwhile. This is the way I see things.

Let me talk a bit about China again. One of the big economic games there now involves Western corporations manufacture their goods there. For a while now, it has been more profitable to take advantage of the differing economies, despite the costs to ship the products half way around the planet after production. This game is changing, however, for three reasons. First, the Chinese economy is improving, causing labor costs to go up (as they should). Secondly, the exchange rates for Chinese to Western currencies are going in the wrong direction to be advantageous to the West. And thirdly, shipping costs are continuing to go up. Sometime soon, it will be cheaper to manufacture elsewhere in the world. And China needs to adapt so that Chinese people are directing their creativity and innovation towards goods and services that are good for China.

If culture in China can change so that even a significant minority of people explore and do what they love doing, then chances are they are coming up with goods and services that are good for the local community in their part of China. This leads to vibrant local economy that works for their part of China. If enough people make enough money to live lives they want to live, this is good for China. Which means that it is good for one seventh of the world’s population. So this would be good for the world. And I can’t help but add that hackerspaces are great places for people to explore and do what they love — places that can help encourage peoples’ creativity and innovation.

This same process can also work in other parts of the world.

I have friends involved in setting up hackerspaces in Egypt where they help organize communities and witness people there making a living with small projects. The economy is such that not much money is needed to do a lot there. People create, grow, and sustain themselves and others in this way.

Things are somewhat similar in Detroit, which has been economically depressed for quite some time. There are many resources left behind from its heyday as an industrial center, including inexpensive space, and cheap materials, making it a wonderful place for creation. Creative people have been moving to Detroit to take advantage of this. There are a few hackerspaces there where people come together and support each other in making all sorts of way cool projects, some of which make a living for many people.

Let’s create more opportunities for people everywhere to be part of supportive community where people can create.

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Regional Hackerspaces provide opportunity to create and help local innovation in the culture

TV: What is hacking? Can we make this a positive orientation for our youth and innovation?

MA: The origin term for “hacking” has been warped by the mainstream media. Historically, the term was coined by the model railroaders at MIT in the early 1950s. They used all sorts of things as resources to make awesome model railroads — it didn’t matter what those resources were originally intended for. They made awesome model railroads. They saw what worked, and what didn’t work so well, and they shared it with each other, and with other model railroaders. This is the ethos of hacking that we still use today at hackerspaces. It is a way of life — do what you love, make it more awesome with whatever resources are available, and share it!

When computers started to become available, the model railroaders at MIT made use of them. Over time hacking become more about computers. But it was never limited to only computers.

In the 1980s, as computers were just beginning to become more of a household item, the mainstream media used the word to describe a small number of people who used their computer skills to do some questionable or outright illegal activities, often doing things merely for profit or power. Let’s not pay too much attention to that definition.

At hackespaces, people are doing things and making stuff because they really love it. The world is full of resources. We can make use of anything in the world as resources for our projects, to make our projects cooler. We can see what works well and what doesn’t work so well, and we can share the results. This is hacking. And anything can be hacked: electronics, art, food, science, craft, ourselves, our communities, society, the planet! Everything can be improved. Hacking in this way makes our lives better. It makes the world better. We can all benefit from the hacking ethos and mindset. People of all ages, youth on up. Innovation is an obvious result.

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Hacker in Residence Program Panel hosted by Patrick Schmidt

TV: Hack? Does this personify someone who is learning and growing? Sharing? Building?

MA: Yes! Next question. Really. These are elements of what the hackerspace movement is bringing forth. To be ideal and optimistic, we can potentially expand this hackerspace notion. More and more hackerspaces can potentially usher us into another Renaissance era similar to artist and painters sharing and meeting together back in that age. With my previously stated 1 million hackerspaces spread all over the globe, a huge number of people can simply walk to the closest one, like the parks we have today in some communities. All of us can push toward the positive and come together in our own domain, each playing our part.

If we are wanting to learn, then we will. What transpires in our lives is the result of the choices we make. We make choices, big and small. We have no control over the consequences of our choices. But we can learn from them. And then make new choices. If we choose to, we can make choices on what we believe will make our lives (and those around us) a little bit better, a little bit cooler. Then, it seems to me, there is good chance our lives (and the lives of those around us) will get better over time. And if enough of us are doing this, the world gets better. This is hacking. Hacking ourselves. Worth a try? If you think so, then why wait — make a new cool choice today! And if you’d like some support, visit a hackerspace.

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TV: How do people from different walks of life engage with Embedded designs?

MA: Phones and microwave ovens, cars, thermostats — all these devices and more use microcontrollers. They are all embedded devices. I think it is important to have at least some understanding of the devices we use all the time in our day-to-day lives. This is one reason why I teach how to make cool things with microcontrollers. Anyone can learn the basics. It isn’t really hard. I have led workshops teaching people ages 10 on up how to play with microcontrollers. They are simply small computers. They have electronic parts connected to their pins. They run a computer program running that controls those parts to do something cool. That’s all there is to it!

There are people all over the world teaching this stuff. It’s fun.

The more hackerspaces there are, the more people can learn this, and other things they want to learn.

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TV: How about people who don’t live near a hackerspace?

MA: Start one! This is the way all hackerspaces happen.

But, there is also the internet. It’s not a substitute for actual community, but it is a great resource. The internet provides us with so much information and choice at our fingertips. The UN now considers access to the internet a basic human right. A while back, more opportunities were available to those who had access to universities. It is the case now that people with internet access have more opportunities than people without. Just about anything you want to learn is available to some extent (probably quite a lot!) on the internet.

And if you can become part of (or create) a supportive community for learning (such as a hackerspace), then it is even more powerful. Anything is possible. The hackerspace movement itself is one result. The huge DIY 3D printer industry is another.


TV:
Does this mean that technology is a signature of who we are? Tech adds definition to what we build together?

MA: Technology is an outgrowth of who we are, sure. It can add to who we are. It can also get in the way. It is up to each of us what we choose to do, what technology we create, what technology we make use of, and how we make use of it. These choices, along with the other choices in our lives, define who we are. And since technology is such a powerful force in our lives, the choices we make regarding technology has a very large effect on who we are.


TV:
Where would you like to see the hackerspace movement lead?

MA: I would love to see more people living lives they feel are way worthwhile. My definition of success: living a life doing what you love, and in so doing what you love, make enough of what you need to keep doing what you love! What if you lived that life? What if a huge number of people in your neighborhood lived that life? What if a significant number of the 7 billion people on the planet lived that life?

Perhaps hackerspaces can lead towards that ideal. I think it’s worth going for.

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TV:
Why are AVR chips so pervasively used as the microcontrollers of choice in many hackerspaces?

MA: They are an easy-to-learn microcontroller. They have really good datasheets compared to many others — they are actually readable! Because of this they are easy to teach with. AVR chips are used in the super-popular Arduino platform (and Arduino clones), which make it even easier to learn and to teach microcontrollers. Atmel was very smart to support free and open source development tools for the AVR chips. There is a large online community of people helping and supporting each other. There are hundreds of thousands of projects online, many free and open source, that make use of these chips.

I’m seeing these chips used in numerous crowdfunded embedded projects, including solutions for wearables and connected devices. Because Arduino (with AVR chips) makes microcontrollers so accessible, developing microcontroller projects is open to lots of people who wouldn’t otherwise have made use of them. Even very complex projects are possible, such as 3D Printers. The early ones started by using Arduinos (with AVR microcontrollers).

I’m comfortable using lots of different microcontrollers. But I really like using AVR microcontrollers since they are so easy to learn and to teach with. I lead frequent workshops teaching how anyone can make cool things with embedded microcontrollers. These workshops can range from making a simple kit to learning the ins and outs of how embedded devices work. Certainly, Arduino makes it less intimidating, yet super powerful.

For beginners and the highly advanced, the AVR framework and devices are very accommodating. Atmel has done well in doing their part for the community, promoting free and open source dev tools. There are packages for Windows, Mac OS X, and tools for Linux, all using the C++ compiler, and GNU Compiler tool chains (GCC). (Me and my friend Jeff Keyzer created an easy-to-follow cookbook approach for anyone to follow for installing the AVR toolchain on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.) Again, this was a really good choice on Atmel’s part. Because of this, people in the early days of the Maker Movement adopted Atmel chips over others. Because of this, the Arduino people chose to use Atmel chips. Arduino boards are available all over the place (online, and even at Fry’s and Radio Shack), and there are probably hundreds of people making Arduino clones, with at least a hundred thousand projects available to download for free online. All of this is part of what helped the Maker Movement as we see it today.

AVR chips have been used even in emergency response disasters such as Japan for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Many DIY/Maker radiation Giegier counters were quickly put together. SafeCast is an international hackerspace project that helped people collect data across the region.

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TV: How do hackerspaces relate to crowdsource funding?

MA: Hackerspaces make things inexpensive and accessible. When we pool our resources, we can do a lot with very little. At hackerspaces we can create things that people love. But if we want to turn our project into a product, and make a lot of them so that others can benefit from it, we may need some money for manufacturing it, or otherwise put it out into the world.

Until recently, it used to be that people would seek funding from banks or from Venture Capitalists. This is changing now with the advent and success of crowdsource funding. Now anyone with internet access can fund projects via Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and other crowdsource funding sites. And this can be done almost anywhere in the world.

You don’t need to give your project (or fledgling company) away to your funding sources! With crowdsource funding, you enlist the help of lots of people who invest in you and your project because they are truly enthusiastic about it! If it your funding campaign succeeds, you know that you have something that people want, that there is a market for what you have to offer.

Right now, we can see on many crowdsource funding sites, projects for home automation, gardening, water quality, energy production, and many other imaginable and unimaginable things. There are so many things are being explored and most of all, this is just the beginning. People are really exploring now. It is way too early now to see how this plays out. Some ideas and products will eventually become fads. On the other hand, some will likely take off and cause a disruption to how we’re used to doing things.

 

TV: Another option is to join a hardware accelerator.

MA: Yes. There are a several hardware accelerators starting now, helping to build out not only phone apps, but actual physical hardware products.

There’s Highway 1 here in San Francisco. I am a mentor at HAXLR8R, in Shenzhen, China. These are both places where someone with a cool hardware idea can go from having a proof-of-concept prototype to having a manufactured product, ready to sell, in as quickly as 3 months. It’s kind of amazing. This was unheard of even a few years ago.

At these hardware accelerators, financial support is available, typically about $50,000, in exchange for a few percent of equity in the startup company. The funding is packaged with mentors and training, and connections to contract manufacturers in China, where people can choose to manufacture their product.

I like making myself available as a mentor to those who are making hardware projects that they really love. I am a mentor at Noisebridge (a non-profit Hackerspace in San Francisco that I co-founded) and at HAXLR8R in Shenzhen, China. There are others, too. They all have a bunch of people really focused on creating the projects of their dreams, and turning them into products for others.

For the 3-month program at HAXLR8R, everyone starts out living in Shenzhen, where every day everyone is surrounded by the other groups working on their projects, supporting each other. Experts in their field are there to help, with mentors available to help as needed. There is also access to lots of great fab tools, such as laser cutters, CNC mills, 3D printers, pick & place machines, and other equipment for making high quality prototypes. The program ends with a Demo Day in San Francisco, where people show off their projects to media and potential funders (though many choose to use crowdsource funding only).

There have been several projects that have turned into successful products as a result of these hardware accelerators.

It is now possible for entrepreneurs to do a lot with very little. My TV-B-Gone universal remote control project, for instance (a keychain that turns off TVs in public places), cost only $2,000 in development costs to create the first prototype.

People with cool projects can raise enough money in a crowdsource funding campaign to complete hardware prototypes and do an initial run of manufacturing. Kickstarter has really taken off! Kickstarter has the advantage of being one of the biggest and most popular platform. Since its inception in 2009, the crowdfunding platform has raised more than $1.14 billion for 63,056 successfully funded projects. Pretty amazing.

On average, about 43 percent of campaigns are successful. Some of these get courted by Venture Capitalists, but after their successes, they do not need to give up much of their company. One of the famous popular successes was Pebble. Another is Oculus Rift, which raised $2.4 million in 2012 on Kickstarter for its virtual reality goggles. It went on to be acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Crazy! Clearly, Kickstarter gave Oculus Rift the visibility it needed. But even for smaller scale projects, crowdsource funding can be a very good indicator of the market and demand for a product.

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TV: Are hackerspaces important for enterprise?

MA: They can be. Lots of cool projects have been created at hackerspaces, which later went on to become products launched by startup companies. Lots of 3D printer companies, for example, have grown from hackerspaces.

People at corporations, large and small, have started using hackerspaces’ websites and IRC channels, as well as peoples’ github, to find people to hire. They also recruit for hack-a-thons, which are also used for recruiting for hiring. There has even been many field trips to Noisebridge from well-known companies. Companies are also trying to learn from what works at hackerspaces, and wanting to re-create the creativity-spawning process that hackerspaces promote, and add that to their corporate culture. Some have even added hackerspaces in their companies. Ford, for instance, has a hackerspace. This allows everyone at Ford, even people who don’t normally design cars, to come together and play, sometimes coming up with ideas that are later incorporated into Ford’s cars’ designs.

Companies can benefit if their employees have opportunities toward growth and education. This can happen at hackerspace, and it can happen at companies, too. If companies become places where employees actually want to be, that helps the employees, and can only benefit the company. It’s great to have people in all sorts of realms creatively converged on a mission. They are very much missions with open ended curiosity, energy, and ingenuity.

I’ll add that many schools, universities, museums, and libraries are also starting to incorporate hackerspaces into their missions, making it a part of their cultures. (And if they also incorporate a Hacker in Residency program, even more will benefit.)

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TV: What does the future of embedded and hacker spaces have for the culture of tech.

MA: The future is entangled and threaded into the fabric of the choices we make — including what we choose to do with our time, and what we choose to make. In so many ways, that’s who we really are: how we use our creativity, what we make and what we do. People have always made tools in our attempts to make our lives better. Everything we make is Tech. Culture is Tech. Tech is Culture. Culture defines Innovation. Culture sets the context for how things we make are used. Hackerspaces, incubators, accelerators, startups are some examples of early adopters of this transfusion in making more of culture blend with technology and art. I hope we can make the results positive for more people to live fulfilling lives. I’ll be doing what I can towards this end.

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TV: Last question, well really not a question… Please consider us friends. 🙂

MA: Off course, let’s go out and do more cool stuff!

 

Haven’t checked out the first portion of this interview? You can find it here.

Hackerspaces: A prelude to the Maker Movement and today’s Maker culture

So, what exactly is the Maker Movement? Do you remember that ever so distant yet memorable quote by Michelangelo? “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” 

Now, to further set this, [white fuzz] the channel just switched, we are tuned. Things will change right? They have changed. We have the Internet; we will have one layer more, eventually the arrow of technology will continue. There is one congruent dataset, which manifests all things to a new exponent. It’s the pulses and signals resulting from the exterior world meshed with the existing datasets of infrastructure, enterprise, and the consumer. Let’s speak of this layer. It will be filled with sensors, microcontrollers, and code. Already, we learned this from the app revolution and we are not going to remain in just this stage right? The code will be leaner and smarter. Coupled by the signal readings from millions of device upon device, node to nodes, nodes to node, the true power of distribution and networks will again marry now with other application recorded data in a mosaic of diversified integrations resulting from the intersection of data easily bridged from the cloud apps. Yes, the ones we are already familiar today touching from screen to screen to anticipate the next arriving notification.

The arrival of this integration of data will help filter and augment the world before us. Let’s reset to the modern era, thread modern computing to this notion, [for technology’s sake] we have also seen the Gartner quote by Jim Tully stating, “By 2018, 50% of the Internet of Things solutions will be provided by startups which are less than 3 years old”.

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The Digital Renaissance and the Maker Movement

Together with the accessibility and progress of open source and availability of community and embedded development boards [specifically wider use of Arduino Maker class boards], the times have certainly changed. A great deal of the complexities of these development boards are relaxed with onboard abstraction layers to loosen the programmatic rigidness of “hardware,” combined with the collective tuning of the community toward its development software.

Arduino IDE is now quite anchored into well-received feedback/contribution loops supported by the open source model — crowdsource progress and joint development roadmaps. Let’s not forget all the risky and obviously passionate Makers out there doing and bringing ideas to the forefront. The timing is right — found in the appetite to feed the market, the maturing cloud, the developed community, parity in prototyping, and the global production.

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Globalization of Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As a whole, and to its sum of its parts, all community members are participants in the evolution of the ecosystem and community effort of “Making” with ease. At all aspects of the innovation engine cycle, the open source community couples quite well with hackerspaces, where one can congregate to surface ideas and mature them to fruition.

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Open Source Community and Hackerspaces | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

This is especially true where it applies to the mere process of creating a product. In fact, it’s now true to building things that 10 years ago you needed to be in a big company to make innovating things, but now it truly possible from an individual. Made possible to said horizon, there are the hackerspaces. It’s a place that shows signs of innovation and development, infusing wider spread of technology and community across all economic classes or cultures. In these facilities, these are technical and creative social clubs facilitating activities that include tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing, coding, open source, collaboration, and sharing. Some hackerspaces market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of “maker space”. More bluntly, this is really drawing attention as private incubators such as hardware accelerators fueling entrepreneurship and startups [an emulation of an innovation success formula taken from the original hackerspaces.

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There is something about hackerspaces that brings people together that are made of some pretty awesome stuff. Call it “Voltron” if you will, why not? With drones rising and Maker Faires (or similar) blooming all around us, it all seems like the perfect unison of having people interlock together. As the notion of building robots continued to unwind, one fellow by the name of Chris Anderson saw that it would be much easier to have robots fly first than walk bipedal. More simply, it just felt and saw it to be much easier. Perhaps, something even more achievable and widespread adopted as the next step to bring about the age of drones.

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But still, wait, there’s even more to how this started. We also owe the spawning of drones to a unique origin where a group of people, hive together pursuing one ultimate quest.

Call it social science and synergy if you will. Something happens when a group gets “too large” and suddenly it all transforms from a conversation into a cacophony and a team into a mob then something incorporated too soon begins may wield the ugly cues of politics. Yet, going it alone is usually impossible if the task at hand is at all sometimes complicated [maybe the next best thing for technology]. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably best done as an individual, but things like raising a family, having a stand-up meeting, or shipping a meaningful product is definitely a team sport…

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For hackerspaces, one of these unique values is in having opportunities to meet different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Combined in a common pursuit of sharing and making, there is a common thread of being willing to be giving their time and talents to others. Note, it was in what’s said as “giving” as the common notion in hackerspaces are the more you give, the more you get back, helping to change the course of things to come [individual pairing of ideas to the intellectual hackerspace benefit of networking ingenuity]. It’s all about the community. This is the hallmark of the Internet. The Internet started as a community in its deeper past with ARPANET. We are all reaping those originally rooted benefits today [first operational packet switching networks implementing TCP/IP] creating layer upon layer new industries, service models, and ecosystems (ie Apps, Cloud, M2M, IoT, etc). Now what we are seeing today sprout from city to city are hackerspaces. In fact, we may begin to see every community in a city drawing upon good reason to incubate and nest new hackerspaces. Perhaps, it’s a progenitor to something more in the next trend of innovation.

The digital life now is a result of the collision of software and hardware. Technology is fashion. Fashion is Technology. Both are now intertwined together in the speed and making of culture. Have you ever tried leaving your home without the mobile touch screen device or everyone has out grown to wearing the old flip analog/cdma phones of the past. Digital influence upon culture and self move along prevalently—the desire for hackerspaces are becoming more acquainted in many metropolitans.

There’s a secret sauce to the structure of the hackerspaces. Unravel this structure. From within, it reveals a true community based packed with peer-to-peer involvements. People with skills converge in distinct trades upon others with other skills. Combined, they make this union, transforming their once ideate policy of making, broadening their abilities coupled by a giving and sharing of others to expand the design envelope of possibilities.

Surely, one may see it as a digital and hardware renaissance, comparatively from the distant spark of the past. The foundries of artistry in Florence and Rome once prevailed, urging communities of artist to congregate and make creative expression toward emulating realism via sculpture, oil and canvas. Well, now it’s about achieving a more meaningful product. The canvas has changed, coalescing digital and hardware. Giving rise to an idea where the ideas mature into a minimal valuable product that is mapped to some form of developed connectivity. This some form of developed connectivity is what we call the Internet of Things or many of the products sprouting from emergent crowdfunding rooted by makerspaces or hackerspaces.

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A common construct. Make Ideas, Make Genuis, and Make Things | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Now, let us imagine a place where people get together without a common construct or preconceived established code, they then converse, and collaborate. It is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs and inventors of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world or at least convinced to usher an adoption to things making what we usually do more easier or enhanced.

Many of them are on laptops or standalone computers frantically typing business plans or hacking out code; others are making phone calls while trying to set up connections wherever they can.

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Hackerspaces have an environmental core that keep ideas flowing | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As all the chaos goes about, one can see that in this space is an environmental core that keeps the magic flowing around innovation. It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place.

Next up, read the 1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, co-founder of Noisebridge San Francisco as we dive deeper into hackerspaces, the Maker Movement and more

 

 

1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, Co-Founder of Noisebridge, San Francisco (Part 1)

In this feature of Bits & Pieces, I interview one of the original forefathers of hackerspaces. Mitch is one of the original co-founders of the infamous spaces named Noisebridge in San Francisco — which later became a exemplary model for others around the world. Mitch exemplifies the persona of a hardware hacker, who not only knows a great deal about embedded programming, but has even built powerful remotes capable of turning off every TV his general vicinity.

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Mitch Altman at Hackerspace Noisebridge

Crafty and creative beyond belief, he has made a name for himself through a series of innovations, like the Brain Machine, one of MAKE Magazine’s most popular DIY projects. Mitch has been leading workshops around the world, teaching people to turn “innovative” ideas into “cool” things with microcontrollers.

Aside from his revolutionary projects, one of his greatest contributions to the Maker Movement is the co-founding of Noisebridge. This is one of the original and renowned hackerspaces located in the Bay Area, which has also been voted best hacker hangout and best open source playpen, even with roots in Hackerspace Shanghai, Spacebridge.

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Mitch Altman at TedX Brussels

Noisebridge members have been involved with a number of major award-winning research projects, receiving accolades from top-tier academic conferences such as Usenix Security Conference and CRYTPO.

So, who are some of the names that have been in this place and aspired to some stem of their development and design pathway to Noisebridge? Puzzlebox’s Steve Castellotti and ootsidebox’s Jean Noel are among many others who have fused ideas and shared roots at the hackerspace.

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Mitch Altman and the Brain Machine

TV: Tell me about the uniqueness found in hackerspaces.

MA: Yes, in a constantly changing world of technology, there is always the demand for a place where one can go to learn. Develop hands-on experience with technology. Energize raw intent and unique thinking by doing. Members of hackerspaces can learn by simply being ones own self — unlocking creative opportunities to exercise ideas, just like we do today in gyms to run with the common thread in a desire to be fit and conform to health. Here, we all want to make something. Make a difference and answer the appetite for creativity and ingenuity.

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5MoF: Five minutes of Fame Guest Speaker at Noisebridge in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Imagine an open space, a dominion where people get together, hang out, converse, and collaborate. It is filled with anxious or latent inventors and entrepreneurs of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world or even change their state of how they want technology to evolve. Many of them are on laptop or using 3D printers eagerly typing business plans, performing logical aerobic, collaborative acrobats with peers, or simply hacking out code. While others, simply chat on the best route to a problem, share their expertise, make assumptions and some decisions based on a number of others feedback. Like some of the chaos in quantum physics, within all multi directional movement and buzzing about, there is a collision of “out of the box” thinking and production. To speak of it’s core, one can see a reaction happening in this space [hackerspace] with a unique setting — compounded by human interaction that keeps the magic flowing with innovation.

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Noisebridge Class-a-Thon | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

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Noisebridge Class-a-Thon | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place after that. What’s said is the gem of hackerspaces.

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Noisebridge Class-a-Thon | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

TV: What is your vision of education and hackerspace fusion into the working sector?

Tim Berners-Lee once said, “A hacker to me is someone creative who does wonderful things.” This is the true and original meaning of a hacker. Though, that’s changed over time with all the compromises in security and loosely used terminology of “hacker.” Education has gotten far worse in the past many years; right now we are seeing people pull this in the positive direction. More and more bureaucracies are turning up in all areas of education. Education should and could be something to parallel the goals to what we are living to strive toward, fulfill more worthy lives. In the current system, I think it doesn’t have to be that way. With so much progress in the Internet and access to information, we can learn to live the way we really want, conduct it more differently to sustain our lives. Our upbringing has a lot of influence around this idea. As for education, I had a few really good teachers that saved my life. When I was a lot younger, I remember being brutally abused in education settings, while some teachers stood by. Reflecting, it really was horrible. Most importantly, a very special teacher really took me under the wing and got me interested in all sorts of geeky things. It was quite timely and in this intervention, things set pace for something entirely different moving forward. This newfound interest got me through the day. It uncoiled hidden or latent talents, which were shielded by other complicated things of the emotion and growing up. It opened up possibilities for interest. It is in this deeper individual passion of what I loved that served as the fuel for what’s to come. By the time I got to the university, I eventually found things and embarked on a common thread — engaged in the true value of education. I found the searchlight.

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5MoF: Five minutes of Fame guest speaker at Noisebridge in San Francisco with Ken Haggerty | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

I really had access to this inner drive. While so many teachers do want to do good, it’s in the unintended bureaucracies that force stagnation or cloud the true arrow of education. Instead, many educational settings are forced into things where teachers are molded to increase standardized test scores for funding, etc.

We now know from many disadvantaged kids in these poor neighborhoods where education and know-how is certainly the best thing they are looking forward to in exiting their current situation. We arrived on this abundant planet, and there are infinite possibilities but then they are narrowed down to working at Burger King.

I love to see and help create more opportunities. Today, there are 7 billion on the planet. There are 1,500 hackerspaces, which are helping nourish and mature the creative thoughts to opportunities. We need more of these intellectual YMCAs where technology and creativity [access to development boards, broadband connectivity, open source code, 3D printers, etc.] can be the setting to help aspire and cultivate passion.

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5MoF: Five minutes of Fame guest speaker at Noisebridge in San Francisco with Ken Haggerty | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

But still, there are not enough hackerspaces… In fact when crunching the numbers, in an ideal provision, we would need somewhere between 1 million hackerspaces. Give workshops and motivate forces of people in supportive environments and communities, advocate and nurture the exploration to do what they love and learn.

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5MoF: Five minutes of Fame guest speaker at Noisebridge in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

The love and learning go hand in hand. People come to hackerspaces and commit lots of time here because they not only love teaching but love what they do in sharing and building… The stem to these roots are not rested on people standing in rolls and columns responding to bells or authorities at the front giving orders and instruction. Instead, the pendulum of learning is more weighted on sharing [more of the availability of hardware, resources and motivation] on learning what they want to learn and share what they want to do its through play, experience, the innate drive to go for it!

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5MoF: Five minutes of Fame guest speaker at Noisebridge in San Francisco with Lee Felsenstein | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

TV: What sort of workbench or set of dimensions of aptitude do hackerspaces bring forth to an individual?

MA: To describe them simply, hackerspaces are community centers with tools. Hackerspaces combine manufacturing equipment (e.g. 3D printers, CNC, etc.), community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works from end to end that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united by a common thread and interest in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.

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Noisebridge in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Hackerspaces represent the democratization of ideas, sharing, giving, design, engineering, fabrication and education. These spaces are a fairly new phenomenon, but are beginning to produce projects with significant local, regional, and national impact across the globe.

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Noisebridge in San Francisco with Mitch Altman | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

TV: Do hackerspaces respond to the gifted individuals? Said individuals who are very eager to learn while also creative but technically starved. Are these the passionate community dwellers of hackerspaces?

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Hackerspaces in China | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

MA: I can certainly say this helps open up the reach into addressing some of the obstacles in education and building. There are number of more resources mentioned previously that can be overcome with the availability to a local hackerspace. Knowledge and information can be transparently shared at hackerspaces. There is really not much competitiveness; instead, it is overruled by a common thread of learning and grasping with the tools available here. The token to the hackerspaces is learning by making as opposed to a learning by information fed to be absorbed then provided on a test as a validation.

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Noisebridge in San Francisco | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

For the real world of today’s market and work force, this is more analogous to the markets today. More so today, “work” is now perceived and overshadowed by “make and talent.” At hackerspaces, there is not a lot of theory nor standardized constructs of how or why something should be a certain shape, form, or function. Hackerspaces can do without these preconceived notions. Personally, I found out earlier that playing at labs and universities had drawn stronger importance. The need to learn through this atmosphere was very important.

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Noisebridge in San Francisco with Mitch in soldering instruction | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

The ecosystem via interaction with classroom and teachers were an interruption. The peer-to-peer motivation of the lab or hackerspaces can remove this. Now there exist integral workflows which are not interrupted, each fused by desire, passion, and making. I started to learn pragmatically to pair the various realms of quantum physics, electrical, tooling, and coding fueled the continued interest. Keep going. What I used my degree from education was important, but more of an abstraction. The hackerspace labs today have an abstraction to so many way too cool out-of-the-box thinking people. People come together to genuinely share. 

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Hackerspaces in China | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

 

View the part 2 in this interview series with Mitch Altman.

The Microcosm of IoT and connected cars in Formula 1 (Part 2)

…Continued from The Microcosm of IoT in Formula 1 (Part 1)

The typical F1 racing car embodies the sophisticated engineering — designed to win and only but win. The racing platform itself (both team, driver, and car) executes every deductive decision vetted against one pillar called “performance.”

Here’s the quantified car and driver. At 1.5 gigabytes of data wirelessly transmitted per connected car during a race, the ECU (electronic control unit) generates 2-4 megabytes per second of data from the F1 cars’ 120+ various sensors, which also include the drivers’ heartbeat and vitals.  Now let’s add the upgraded network fiber deployed across each race of the year set forth to ensure every turn and tunnel can stream and broadcast this telemetry and data.

Source: ESPN Formula 1 News

Source: ESPN Formula 1 News Computers, Software, and BI [Visualization and Data]

These embedded systems comprise of technology not limited to neither automotive nor Formula 1; embedded systems are used in the aero industry, marine, medical, emergency, industrial, and in the larger home entertainment industry. Therefore, advanced technology, little by little take place in the devices that we use every day. There are many useful products that are used in the industry — even though they first surfaced — as an application in F1 racing [the proven, moving lab].

F1 electronic devices used may be generally regarded in groups [using embedded systems] by the following:

Steering Wheel Display, Interface Unit, Create a Message, Electronic Control, Telemetry, Speed, Interface Unit, EV, Regenerative Power, Ignition Coil, Management System, Access to Pitstop, Power Source, Gryro Stabilizer, Humidty, Triggering Device, Acceleration, Rainy Lights, Air Resistance, Linear Movement, Angular positions, Lambda probe, Liquid pressure, Tire pressure, Temperature, Torque, Signaling, Server, Computer, Display Data (BI), Software

igure 4: Steering Wheel of Sauber F1 Source - nph / Dieter Mathis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Source – nph / Dieter Mathis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Here is an example Formula 1 steering wheel. It’s the embedded electronic enchilada, serving information [resulting from actuators and sensors] to a driver [on a need to know basis]. The driver coincides his race style and plan [tire management, performance plan, passing maneuvers, aggressive tactic] to every bit of data and resulted in a formatted display. These are literally at his fingers.

What are some of the F1 connected car implications?

Drivers in Formula 1 have access to functionality through their race platforms, which helps improve speed and increase passing opportunities. The DRS (Drag Reduction System) helps control and manage moveable rear wing. For a driver, in conjunction with Pirelli tires and KERS, it has proven successful in its pursuit of increasing overtaking which is all good for the fan base and competitive sport. The DRS moves an aerodynamic wing on a Formula 1 race car. When activated via the driver’s steering wheel, the DRS system alters the wing profile shape and direction, greatly reducing the drag on the wing by minimizing down force [flattening of the wing and reduce drag by 23%.]. Well, now coupled with the reduction in drag, this enables faster acceleration and a higher top speed while also changes variably the driving characteristics and style for over-taking. These are called driver and protocol adjustable body works.

How it works? Like all movable components of an F1 pure breed, the system relies on hydraulic lines tied to embedded control units, and actuators to control the flap. Managed by a cluster of servo valves manufactured by Moog, the Moog valves are interfaced via an electronic unit receiving a secure signal from the cockpit. Of course, this all happens under certain circumstances. When two or more cars pass over timing loops in the surface of the track, if a following car is measured at less than one second behind a leading car it will be sent a secure signal [encrypted then transmitted via RF] that will allow its driver to deploy the car’s active rear wing. Since the timing loops will be sited after corners, drivers will only be able to deploy the active rear wing as a car goes down a specific straight paths in many tracks.  In essence, the modern day Formula 1 car is a connected platform dynamically enabled to produce a stronger driver, appealing more to both driver performance and fan engagement.

Moveable aerodynamic components are nothing new. But still, for an Airbus A320 or even a modern UAV or fighter jet, there is a huge amount of space to work in. On a grand prix car, it’s quite different. This is also achieved in a very hyper fast, mobile, and logistically drained environment of Formula 1, where performance, equipment, and configuration are a demanded at all times. Next we’ll summarize how this relates to the broader connected car concept…

F1 showcases the finer elements of connected cars, making it possible

Just discussed, cars in general are going to become literally the larger mobile device. They will be connected to all sorts of use-cases and applications. Most importantly, we are the drivers, and we will become connected drivers. Both driver and connected car will become more seamless.

The next phase where smart mobility is going to change how we do and behave after we before or after we reach our destination. In Wired Magazine’s column named Forget the Internet of Things: Here Comes the ‘Internet of Cars’, Thilo Koslowski discusses the improvements and why connected cars are inevitably near. Thilo, a leading expert on the evolution of the automotive industry and the connected vehicle says, ““Connected vehicles” are cars that access, consume, create, enrich, direct, and share digital information between businesses, people, organizations, infrastructures, and things. Those ‘things’ include other vehicles, which is where the Internet of Things becomes the Internet of Cars.”

Yes, for the connected car, there still exist a number of technology challenges and legislative issues to build out a successful broader impact. Like Formula 1, we attribute many of its tech surfacing into main stream markets [previously discussed in part 1]. This next automotive revolution stems on current and related industry trends such as the convergence of digital lifestyles, the emergence of new mobility solutions, demographic shifts, and the rise of smartphones and the mobile internet.Thilo further claims “As these vehicles become increasingly connected, they become self-aware, contextual, and eventually, autonomous. Those of you reading this will probably experience self-driving cars in your lifetime — though maybe not all three of its evolutionary phases: from automated to autonomous to unmanned.”

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Actually, a consumer shift is happening. Consumers now expect to access relevant information ranging from geo location, integration of social data, way points, destination, sites of interest, recommendations, ones digital foot print integrated into the “connected car” experience. The driver will become connected with all the various other touch points in his/her digital life. Moreover, this will happen wherever they go including in the automobile. Thilo even goes to as far as claiming, “At the same time, these technologies are making new mobility solutions – such as peer-to-peer car sharing – more widespread and attractive. This is especially important since vehicle ownership in urban areas is expensive and consumers, especially younger ones, don’t show the same desire for vehicle ownership as older generations do.

To be successful, connected vehicles will draw on the leading technologies in sensors, displays, on-board and off-board computing, in-vehicle operating systems, wireless and in-vehicle data communication, machine learning, analytics, speech recognition, and content management. (That’s just to name a few.) “

All together, the build out of the connected car, [aspects proven in F1], contributes considerable business benefits and opportunities:

  •  Lowered emissions & extended utility of EVs — remote Battery swap stations, cars as (Internet as a service), peer to peer car sharing, cars with payment capabilities, subscription of energy, vehicles as power plants back to the grid, KERS, and other alternative fuel savings displaced with electrical motors and emerging consumer conscience accountability to clean energy
  • New entertainment options — countless integration opportunities with mobile (M2M and IoT) ecosystem of value added connected Apps and mobile services (i.e. Uber disrupted an old traditional market)
  • New marketing and commerce experiences — countless use-cases in increasing the engagement and point of arrival offerings
  • Reduced accident rates — albeit found in crash avoidance systems, location based services, driver monitoring, emergency response automation, early warning automation, telemetry to lower insurance cost, or advanced assisted driving
  • Increased productivity — gains achieved via efficiencies/time management towards more sustainable commutes
  • Improved traffic flow — efficient system merging various datasets to advance navigation to minimize and balance capacity or re-route traffic

Sensors-connected-IoT-Car

Personalization-connected-driver Like all technology, old ideas will progress, evolve to newer platforms to bring new functionality that can adapt to the latest popular ecosystem [simply being mobile & connected]. Connected cars will expand automotive business models augmenting new services and products to many industries — retail, financial services, media, IT, and consumer electronics. The traditional automotive business model can be significantly transformed for the betterment of the consumer experience. Today, emphasis is placed much purely on the  output, sale, and maintenance of a vehicles.  Later on, once connected cars reach market maturity with wide adoption, companies will focus on the sum of business opportunities [value add chain ecosystem] leveraged from the connected vehicles and the connected driver.

Are you a product maestro or someone with domain expertise for your company seeking to improve processes or developing value added services to build IoT enabled products? Perhaps, you are in a vertical intended to accelerate business and customer satisfaction? With all this business creation stirring up, it’s quite clear the connected car platform will open new customer connected services or product enhanced offerings.

That all being said, we are already in this moment of the future with Formula 1. Connected cars will eventually come. It’s just a matter of time…

(Interested in reading more? Don’t forget to check out Part 1.)

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The Microcosm of IoT and connected cars in Formula 1 (Part 1)

Aerodynamics has always been a primary factor in decision-making and competitiveness in motor sports. For a racer, understanding the car platforms racing characteristics helps tune a competitive racing plan, yielding the advantages and disadvantages to the competitive car. The racer delivers the maximum window of opportunity to gain advantage in a fierce duel [passing], managing wheel tactics, or sharpening telemetry to aggressive drive fitted to the contours of each unique track characteristics.

Figure 1 Source- Yas Marina Circuit Abu Dhabi

Source: Yas Marina Circuit Abu Dhabi

The cutting-edge, technology-showcase-of-sports scene found in Formula 1 has dubbed the apex-racing category for motor sports. Inside the renowned world of Formula 1, this motor sport generates worldwide acclaim and accolade for their engineering prowess and technical astute packaged into these aggressively fast-engineered machines. Smartly made machines — but dependent — not to mention keen athletic training and talents bestowed in these rare class of trim, zippy, and binocular vision drivers.

Figure 2- Source - Red Bull Racing Forum

Source: Red Bull Racing Forum

It’s really a wrestle between man and machine. Though, a racer learns early on not to wrestle with the machine, he loses time. Instead, it’s a careful calculative balance of split decisions and engineering, combined with whim. Cut slices toward the fractions of time — take on technology — trigger the right moments to enhance split second timing and on-demand performance. Accumulate these gains over the duration of the race. Enhance these car-passing opportunities with certain speed and handling enhancing technology.

Figure 2: Source - Red Bull Racing Forum

Source: Formula 1 Mclaren Racing

Looking across the grid, there is talent laden in all areas and discipline found across each team, coupled with engineers from all categories including aerodynamic specialist to embedded designers and systems engineers. Quite arguably, some even conjure the idea that the top performers in Formula 1 are overweighed by the countless engineering feats and advantage any team may have between each other. Ideally, it’s really a competitive game of the team’s engineering diligence and driver configuration cleverness that brings about the result of any race (70-80 laps) to the finish. Like in many sports these days, there’s technology all intertwined and designed to ensure maximum results and increase the capacity for performance, achieve the end goal.

In fact, drawn forth purely by engineering or design perspective, one can find parallels to how the Spitfire engines helped win the battle of Britain when the successor aspirating Rolls Royce dual supercharged engines had stronger performance at high altitudes as well as inclined accent and descent during the Battle of Britain where the air defense weighed the tipping point to the turnout of the war countering swarms of ME109s in this western theatre. In every aspect of Formula 1, there is a lot of computing involved. The computing casts are inter-dependent—serve different purposes—but also combined in a beautiful orchestration of “man-machine-driver-media-fans.”

On the one hand, there’s the horsepower required to compute different airspeed dynamics and telemetry over the car’s form, while on the other hand there are massive parallel computing used to analyze the streams of data transmitted by the cars in real time. No doubt, look no further, Formula 1 is thrives with tech and talent, ranging from electronics, electric motors, gas, passion, and atheletic know-how… Even to the point of real-time broadcast, there are the vast amounts of profiled data and video selectively transmitted to individual, teams, and media [airlifted via special 747s from race to race].

MCUs and MPUs help process, decide on game changing speed

Well, let’s fast forward through the world of the F-A-S-T and furious Formula 1. Not only in the motor racing sports, but automotive industry is captivating a growing share of embedded (electronic) devices encompassing a wide range of localized computing, sensors, actuators, and connected devices for telemetry. The sensors streamline real-time—in the case of Formula 1, data to the team’s pit crew garage—transmit to the computer/remote computer—which in turn is primarily based on the received data managed by mechanical or digital processes through actuators. In today’s market, more newly unveiled cars are moving closer to adopting electronic and connected capabilities; ranging from self parking, guidance sensors, auto radar, advance collision avoidance, hybrid powertrain (ERS), advance assisted drive, telemetry reporting, navigation, emergency, recharging, HUDs, brake by wire, skid control, safety, KERS, instant power assist systems, electric drive system, electronic shifters, air induction, turbo, ABS, etc… In fact, many of these are originally given birth in race engineering, evolved out from these pinnacle circuits to mainstream consumer application and vehicle platforms.

The concept of actuators and their influence in IoT nodes

In the embedded world, actuators are like sensors. An actuator is the mechanism, a control system that acts upon an environment. The control system can be simple, a fixed mechanical or electronic system, software-based (e.g. a 3D printer driver, robot control system, security system, electric [EV] motors, manufacturing line automation, medical linear applications), a human, or any other input. Now, let’s think of them in the language of Industrial Internet or Internet of Things — actuators can be digital — labeled as presence sensors, augmented HMI sensors, or filter reality sensors measuring certain keynotes to the external world (accelerometers, magnetometers, gravimeters, gyroscope, tilt, environment, force, thermal, chemical, gases, flow, gravimeter, etc). The computer has become an essential part of the modern car, which certainly makes a huge improvement, but it also requires trained personnel for their service. Of course, this is all coming along now with the next era of the connected car as things move closer to this reality. Let’s consider how we got there: historically to cars today to cars tomorrow — where could we possibly go?

Can the typical family car be perceived as a transformative vehicle platform?

It’s all driving this direction. Very soon, the connected car may very well be the most advance platform for any household.  The connected car is a highly efficient vehicle platform, connected to the grid and cloud, while also acting as an energy generating platform, as discussed by James O’Brien. “An industry standard for cars will do the same for autos as the USB cable has done for the computer world,” claims Jake Sigal, CEO at Livio, a company acquired by Ford Motors to help position the automobile platform to facilitate the connected car. Even now, there is much anticipation and support from Formula 1 drivers voicing their support for the connected car. Formula 1 drivers Nico Rosberg, Giedo van der Garde, Timo Glock and Jérôme d’Ambrosio offer their support for connected car technologies. They call it eCall and eco-driving. This common camaraderie demands maturation of this automotive trajectory supports alignment of safe, efficient and connected mobility.

Formula One drivers voice support for the connected car

Source: FIA Region @Vimeo Formula One drivers voice support for the connected car

Automotive computing is different. The embedded systems themselves must be adequately protected from extreme vibrations, energy, dust, heat, water, ice, and moisture (all types). Hence, they are truly different inheriting environments that are not even close to the typical personal computer. Embedded computing devices built into the cars must be technologically advanced at high levels and tough standards. Still there are more sophisticated ways to use embedded devices in the car. This sophistication is most evident in the design and construction of racing cars, most notably witnessed in Formula 1

(Continued in Part 2)