It's hard to believe that 1947 signaled the beginning of the modern electronics era, when Bardain, Brattain, and Shockley invented the first transistor at Bell Labs. Who back then would have envisioned that more than 330 companies and more than 2,500 exhibitors would unveil their latest electronic technology innovations at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that took place in Las Vegas, NV January 7-10. To the satisfaction of the Bell Labs inventors of yesteryear, all the exhibitors in 2010 share a common thread — they all depend on transistors for their present and future success.
CES spotlight areas covered a variety of technology categories, including high-performance audio, home theater/home systems, digital imaging, wireless world, in-vehicle technology, a gaming showcase with the latest gaming hardware and software, a pavilion, featuring all things iPod®, iPhone® and Mac®, and the latest green technologies such as advances in green building, alternative energy technologies, and smart grid technologies.
This CES also featured 20 market-specific TechZones highlighting the latest trends and emerging markets including:
Top executives from the biggest names in technology and business took the stage at the event to offer keynote addresses about the industry. Additionally, this year's CES featured more than 250 sessions and 800 expert speakers as part of the conference program, which covered a range of topics from social media to safe driving to technology policy.
Safe Driver electronics
CES ROBOTICS TECH ZONE
The CES Robotics TechZone showcased cutting-edge robotics, with daily demonstrations and booth presentations.
Kokoro Company Ltd. featured its I-Fairy Receptionist robot (Fig. 1), in which the “I” in I-Fairy stands for “Intelligent”, “Information”, and “Icon”, and the robot's futuristic design based on the image of a lovely fairy. The I-Fairy is an information robot designed as a communication tool to interact with humans in a friendly manner.
The robot has a sensor to detect human visitors, which will automatically start audio guidance. Targeted for museums, institutions, and amusement parks, users can program the robot's voice on a PC with voice synthesis software, which generates movements such as nods or gestures to express a “conversational rhythm” between the robot and the audience. The robot has an optional voice recognition system for either English or Japanese, and it can also interact with video equipment.
Gamma Two, a Denver-based robotics development company, specializes in autonomous mobile robots using a proprietary ‘Cybernetic Brain’ (a computer-based analog representation of a biological brain). This gives the robots the ability to work in natural environments such as home and office, rather than tightly controlled environments such as factories.
Basil for BSL (Basic Service Level) robots (Fig. 4) provide general mobility assistance around the home or office. While they are not equipped with manipulators, they provide a stable flat surface that can be used to transport everyday items from one room to another.
Gamma Two also produces a Wheelchair Level Mobility Aid (WLMA) robot that provides assistance to individuals in wheelchairs. Positioned at a comfortable working height, the WLMA robots offer all the functionality of the BSL series robots, but at a height that is designed for a seated person.
Like all robots with a Cybernetic Brain, it can also perform tasks such as reminding a person to take their pills, or about an upcoming appointment. These robots will search for the person if they are not in the same room as the robot.
Forager (Fig. 5) is targeted for disaster searching/cleanup, area reforestation, and construction. Forager is an Omni-chassis autonomous robotic vehicle (ARV) from c-Link Systems, Inc.
The Omni-chassis creates the ability to build upon a drive-unified chassis, different end-usage systems. The Forager contains a locomotion system, a power plant, and all the control electronics. The chassis itself is constructed of aircraft aluminum. Locomotion is achieved by six individually-controlled drives for brushless dc motors.
The electronics system comprises a multi-processor core block, which includes all the sensors for autonomous motion — a drive locomotion system, guidance system, payload control system/interface, and communications. The systems are based on Freescale Semiconductor's Tower system, which reduce overall cost and improved integration.
E-BOOK TECH ZONE
Texas Instruments (TI) has partnered with E Ink, using the company's Vizplex® electronic paper display (EPD) to produce an evaluation module for an e-Book design. The Vizplex EPD has charged white-and-black-pigment particles suspended in a fluid that is encased in a microcapsule. With the application of a voltage across the microcapsule and depending on the polarity, either the white or the black particles can be made to rise to the top of the microcapsule. Looking at the capsule from above will show a white or black dot. Several million of these microcapsules make up an EPD, combinations of white and black dots produce text and picture rendering.
Through the agreement between TI and E Ink, eBook manufacturers have access to the world's first PMIC for E Ink's EPDs. Additionally, TI uses a software-based EPD display controller for its OMAP3 processor to drive E Ink's EPDs, which reduces the total silicon footprint and provides savings on overall hardware cost.
E Ink Vizplex® displays enable ultra-low-power, thin, sunlight-readable portable devices that are easy on the eyes, even in ambient light. The TPS65180 integrated PMIC gives product designers a power-efficient, high-performance, small 7- × 7-mm footprint that meets all the power requirements of 5-, 6- 9.7-, or 11-in. E Ink Vizplex® EPDs. TI's comprehensive hardware and software solution includes an OMAP3621 processor and WiLink 6.0 single-chip WLAN and Bluetooth solution, combined with TI audio, power management, and other analog technologies, including the TPS65180.
The TPS6518xEVM evaluation module (Fig. 6) offered by TI enables designers to quickly start working with the TI PMIC. To further ease e-Book designs, TI has created the OMAP eBook development platform, which is a complete hardware and software solution using the OMAP processor, the TPS65180 PMIC, TI's WiLink™ 6.0 solution, and other audio and analog components.
Samsung Electronics America, Inc., unveiled its E6 and E101 (Fig. 7) e-Books that offer 6- and 10-in. screens, respectively. The e-Books enable handwriting directly onto the display, allowing users to annotate their reading selections, calendars, and to-do lists with a built-in electromagnetic resonance (EMR) stylus pen. This dedicated pen prevents mistypes caused by hands and other objects that may graze the screen's surface.
The e-Book displays reflect light naturally and deliver an appearance similar to that of printed paper, allowing people to read more naturally than they would with other backlit electronic paper devices. Because these e-Books are not backlit, power consumption is lower than that of other portable display devices. These e-Books are equipped for wireless connectivity. Wi-Fi 802.11b/g allows users to download content such as books and newspapers from a server wirelessly, as well as to share certain content with other devices. Bluetooth 2.0 is also a built in feature.
On-the-go wireless users need a way to charge their laptops, cell phones, Kindles, and iPods without the hassle of carrying around individual chargers. CES 2010 presented several approaches to recharging batteries.
THE YOGEN GETS PHYSICAL
One of the unique charging systems is Easy Energy'sYogen: a pocket-sized, durable, hand-powered electric charger (Fig. 8) that produces charging power when driven by repeated pulls on a cord, in a manner somewhat similar to the action of a Yo-Yo. The YoGen offers a good ratio of power output to input and its ergonomic design allows extended charging effort with minimal operator fatigue.
When the YoGen's convenient T-handle is repeatedly pulled by the user, an internal alternator spins continuously, generating power to recharge the batteries. The internal alternator produces an ac output that is rectified and filtered to provide the dc output for charging a battery. An LED indicates the actual charging. The electrical output is via mini-USB port.
mCUBE: TWO IN ONE
Innergie provides a different solution for a broad range of chargers with changeable tips for specific types of portable electronic equipment. The mCube Pro (Fig. 9) is a universal adapter that is actually two devices in a single package. An ac adapter that plugs in the wall for home and office use, and a detachable dc adapter charges consumer electronic devices in an automobile or airplane.
The mCube Mini is a small auto/air universal adapter and is said to be the world's smallest auto/air universal adapter that serves the needs of road warriors, delivering the same functionality as the mCube Pro for exclusive use in the air or autos. The mCube Slim is a compact universal adapter, for use at home/office and in the air. Smaller than a mobile phone, the Slim satisfies all charging needs at home or in flight.
The mCube Lite is an ultra-slim, lightweight universal adapter that measures 16-mm thick and weighs 200 g. Designed for home/office and air use, the Lite differs from the Slim only in that it has a voltage support range of 18 to 21 V, compared to 15 to 21 V for the Slim.
The mCube Plus is a universal adapter that supports up to 95 W of continuous power for heavy-duty computing, at-home/office, and in airplanes. With an extra USB port, the Plus allows users to charge standard USB devices two at a time. Like the Lite, it supports laptops and netbooks between 18 and 21 V.
The mMini AC is an ultra-small USB charger, turning every wall outlet into a USB power port for portable devices, suitable for home, office, and the air. The company's free tip support program ensures the widest laptop coverage available: it will provide compatible tips free to any customer who cannot use the standard laptop tips that come packaged with the product.
bqTESLA'S CONTACTLESS CHARGING
Contactless charging was another CES 2010 introduction. An evaluation kit from TI, the bqTESLA™ is a high-performance, easy-to-use development kit for the design of contactless charging solutions.
Consisting of a single-channel transmitter, a direct-charge receiver, and associated magnetics, the kit enables designers to speed development of their end applications. With no additional software development required, bqTESLA allows true plug-and-play functionality. A reference guide for coil recommendations allows customization of the receiver-side solutions. The evaluation kit is designed for compatibility with a future standard. Key components of the bqTESLA Contactless Charging Evaluation Kit include:
- Transmitter evaluation module (EVM)
- Receiver evaluation module (EVM)
- Transmitter coil, shielding, and magnet
- Receiver coil, shielding, and magnet
- Technical documentation
SMART POWER CONTROL
An Australian company, Embertec, demonstrated its standby-power monitoring and control system at CES 2010. The Embertec system controls two types of standby power: passive, in which appliances are not in use, but are still connected to the power source. This is also called “phantom” or “vampire” energy.
The other is active standby, in which appliances are left on or in a high state of readiness, but are not actually being used for their prime purpose. Embertec (Fig. 10) employs digital microprocessor technology to perform the following:
- Monitor: measures a wide range of human interaction and electrical parameters
- Interpret: dynamically analyses the information to determine a specific appliance state, and therefore user requirement
- Control: Turns appliances on or off at exactly the right time to reduce 99% of power wastage
Embertec-powered products intuitively and automatically learn the behavior of connected appliances, and then provide power only when it is needed. For audio/video (AV) appliances, when the user switches appliances off, standby power is shut completely after a short period. In addition, when users are not using A/V appliances, but they have been left on (e.g. children leaving the room), power will be removed from those appliances after a certain period of time. On returning to the A/V environment, appliances can be re-activated in the normal way.
For PC appliances, whenever the computer goes into standby, hibernates, or goes off, power is removed from all connected peripherals. Power is immediately and automatically restored when the user returns to the peripherals when the computer is reactivated in the normal way.
CHEVROLET VOLT OWNERS MONITOR VEHICLE PERFORMANCE
Chevrolet and OnStar unveiled the auto industry's first working smart-phone application that gives Chevy Volt owners around-the-clock connection and control of vehicle functions (Fig. 11). It operates with OnStar, General Motors' in-vehicle monitoring system. OnStar's Mobile Application allows drivers to communicate with their Volt from Droid by Motorola, Apple iPhone, and Blackberry Storm smart phones. This application:
- Displays charge status — plugged in or not — as well as voltage (120 or 240 V)
- Provides flexibility to “charge now” or schedule charge timing
- Displays percentage of battery-charge level, electric and total ranges
- Allows owner to manually set grid-friendly charge mode for off-peak times, when electricity rates are lowest
- Sends text or e-mail notifications for charge reminders, interruptions, and full charge
- Displays miles per gallon, electric-only miles, and odometer readings
- Shows miles per gallon, EV miles, and miles driven for last trip and lifetime
- Remotely starts the vehicle to pre-condition the interior temperature
NOT SO SIMPLE SIMON
A bicycle, called SIMON (Fig. 12), under development by Analog Devices and Cannondale, can be programmed to perform nearly any desired suspension response. The ultra-rigid Lefty chassis and needle-bearing technology doesn't flex under load — eliminating the false readings that would cause fork malfunctions with bushing-equipped designs.
Riders can switch to a new setting whenever they need. If no change is desired, on-board processors continuously adjust suspension based upon the bicycle's fork feedback.
Programmable, electronic damping gives riders access to more than 10,000 terrain-response settings for the best possible damper control. An on-the-fly interface and intuitive rider-control system is instantly switchable to new mapping or to lockout mode.
The on-board high-speed computer uses a digital network to communicate with the distributed processors on SIMON. This includes the fluid-control transducer, ride-control joystick module, and all of the sensors in the optical sensor array. Using a handlebar-mounted joystick (the joystick position/mapping selection is displayed via LCD screen), cyclists select ride preferences.
The microcomputer then compares terrain input and fork feedback 500 times per second. The computer calculates this information and manages the fluid control system, effectively changing the fork performance to optimize the ride in any given terrain.
Unlike traditional hydraulic dampers with fixed settings and manual adjustments, the computer is actively changing fluid flow rates every 2 ms. SIMON can sense high-impact loads and self-determine when maximum suspension response is needed.
Using advanced algorithms, fluid flow rates are calculated to achieve optimal ride quality. This calculation drives a linear-force motor and magnetic flux conduit to proportionally control the fluid aperture with 1/1000-mm accuracy.
Reliability, precision, and parts longevity are achieved via high-tolerance machining to within 5 µm, and use of a specialized surface treatment. This also aids in damper lock-out sealing.
CONSUMER ELECTRONIC (CE) SPOTLIGHT AREAS COVERED A VARIETY OF TECHNOLOGY CATEGORIES, INCLUDING:
- A pavilion, featuring all things iPod®, iPhone® and Mac® related
- High performance audio
- Home theater/home systems
- Digital imaging
- Wireless world
- The latest green technologies including advances in green building, alternative energy technologies and smart grid technologies
- In-vehicle technology
- A Gaming Showcase with the latest gaming hardware and software.
AMONG THE CES TECHZONES THAT WERE DEVOTED TO SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES, INCLUDED:
- 3D TV
- Lifestyle Gadgets
- Digital health
- Mobile DTV
- Home Plug
- Safe Driver electronics
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY IS GROWING
The consumer electronics (CE) industry will generate more than $165 billion in U.S. shipment revenues this year, a slight increase from 2009, according to the semi-annual industry forecast released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro announced the forecast in his opening remarks at the 2010 International CES, the world's largest consumer technology trade show.
“2009 is a year none of us wish to repeat and now we look forward to 2010. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it is the bright light of innovation,” said Shapiro. “We are seeing more innovation at this show than at any show in our history. There are a record number of new exhibitors, more than 330, among the 2,500 companies showcasing the next generation of technology.”
The CE industry will see positive revenue growth in 2010 after a revenue decline in 2009. Total industry shipment revenues fell an estimated 7.8% in 2009, although unit volume increased nearly 10% for the year as consumers bought electronics at a value, limiting industry revenues. As the economy begins its slow recovery from the recession, the CE industry will lead the way as popular product categories are poised for growth in 2010.
The wireless handset category is expected to have a strong 2010, becoming the primary revenue driver for the industry. Smart phones continue to lead the way, generating nearly $17 billion in shipment revenue and more than 52 million unit sales in 2010. Smart phones comprise more than 30% of total wireless phone shipments, with that number increasing in the years ahead.
Sales of computers are also expected to be a bright spot in 2010 as the category continues to be driven by the popularity of netbooks. Netbook sales more than doubled in 2009 as the computer category showed stronger sales than previous forecasts predicted. In 2010, more than 30 million notebooks are projected to be sold, generating more than $14 billion in revenue.
“Smart phones and netbooks are primed for strong growth as consumers continue to seek efficient, portable devices,” said Steve Koenig, CEA's director of industry analysis. “With more consumers seeking content anywhere, anytime, the demand for products facilitating these experiences will drive purchases going forward.”
Blu-ray players will continue to grow after a strong 2009. Blu-ray unit sales rose 155% in 2009 with more than seven million units being sold, generating more than $1 billion in revenue. The trend will continue in 2010, with unit sales projected to top 11.5 million and revenues to increase to $1.4 billion.
The television market has been one of the primary revenue drivers the past several years as consumers made the transition to high-definition, flat-panel sets. Unit sales will climb to more than 37 million in 2010 but price drops will cause display revenue to decline slightly to $22 billion. Innovation in TV displays, such as 3D, Internet connectivity, and OLED technology will continue to grow and help maintain revenue in the display category. CEA projects sales of more than 4 million 3D television sets in 2010.