MRAM Momentum Poised to Disrupt Memory Workhorses [Portfolio]

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

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

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

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

Read the full Q&A on EE Times.

NASA Increases Happy Landings for Drones [Portfolio]

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

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

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

Read my full article for EE Times.

Avoidable IoT security vulnerabilities are unacceptable—period [Portfolio]

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

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

Read my full story on Tektonika.

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

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

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

Read my full story on EE Times.

Faster Networks Push Interface Development [Portfolio]

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

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

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

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

Read my full article on EE Times.

Canadian CIOs value gamer grads

I’m not a gamer, unless you count the hours lost playing Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri on my PC or video pinball on my Atari Flashback. But if I were working in IT as opposed to just writing about it, new research suggests it would behoove me to play more video games.

A new survey by Robert Half Technology of more than 270 Canadian CIOs suggest they may value the time spent on gaming by entry-level IT job seekers as well as hackathons and website development. Technology leaders also see backgrounds outside of IT as beneficial to professionals in the field, including math, psychology, and business and marketing.

Web site and app development was the top stand-out skill for IT grads cited by respondents at 72 per cent, followed by hackathons at 46 per cent. Video game playing and development came in at 28 per cent. These interests as well as non-IT backgrounds are indicators that to CIOs that IT grads still have the drive and skills to succeed even if their relevant work experience is limited.

By highlighting a range of interests and abilities can help new grads stand out as being versatile and interested in developing their careers. Robert Half Technology recommends that hiring managers consider more than just work experience and academic achievements when evaluating IT grads for entry-level roles.
Meanwhile, grads should be sure to draw parallels between their pastimes and how they will add value as an employee. Managers are drawn to professionals who are naturally curious and want to learn, according to Robert Half Technology, so these traits should be emphasized in job interviews. They should also showcase their soft skills as hiring managers look for people with exceptional interpersonal abilities, such as problem solving and communication.
Turns out playing Tetris is not only good for improving dishwasher stacking skills.

4 Reasons Retailers Love NaaS [Portfolio]

Just as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has made inroads into retail as a means of shifting IT responsibilities for applications to a third party, a similar model for networking is gaining popularity. The Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) paradigm reflects the reality that deploying a network in a store, regardless of size, adds complexity to IT — both in terms of installation and ongoing management.

Not only does NaaS support scalability and flexibility for businesses prone to seasonal fluctuations, but it also provides a platform to capture customer insights that drive revenue growth.

Read my blog post for Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions.

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Ribs [Recipe]

I was initially wary of this recipe because it said to place the ribs up against the wall of the slow cooker, and I thought that would lead to the sauce not sticking to the meat well enough.

I was wrong. These are the best ribs I’ve ever made in a slow cooker. I cooked mine for four hours on high and occasionally spooned the sauce over the ribs.

Servings: 3–4

Ingredients:

1 (2½–3 lb) rack of pork ribs, halved
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
10 cloves garlic, minced

Preparation

1. Season ribs evenly with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Rub in on all sides.
2. Add honey, soy sauce, and garlic to a large slow cooker.
3. Transfer the ribs to slow cooker and turn them over in sauce until coated. Position the ribs so they are standing up, with the meatier side down, and so the meat side is against the walls of the slow cooker, with the bone sides facing in.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 7 – 8 hours. Check after the allotted time, you want to make sure the meat is cooked through and tender.
5. Remove the ribs and transfer to cutting board.
6. Cut between the bones to separate into individual ribs.
7. Serve with additional sauce from the slow cooker, as needed.

Honey Balsamic Chicken Breasts [Recipes]

I’m a big fan of spice rubs for meat and fish, even when I’m not fully embracing the Paleo Diet, as it allows me to reduce calories and the amount of processed food I eat.

I recently came across this recipe for marinated chicken that I thought would make a nice change. It turned out well. I only cooked the chicken for 30 minutes; any longer and I think it would have dried out. Also, I think setting aside a little marinade may be a good idea as I anticipate the leftovers may be a little dry. Finally, I substituted cherry tomatoes with grape tomatoes and the green beans with asparagus that I wanted to finish up.

Ingredients

For the marinade:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¾ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds chicken breasts (4 each), trimmed
1­½ pounds baby red potatoes, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pound green beans, trimmed

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

In a medium bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, a tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Stir well to mix.

Place the chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the top. Seal and toss the chicken to evenly coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

While the chicken marinates, place the potatoes and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and toss the green beans with the potatoes and tomatoes.

Remove the marinated chicken breasts from the plastic bag, reserving the remaining marinade in the bag. Place the marinated chicken, evenly spaced, on top of the vegetables. Pour the marinade from the bag over the top of the chicken and vegetables.

Return the sheet pan to the oven. Bake for 30 to ­40 minutes, periodically basting the chicken breasts with the pan juices, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).

Allow the chicken to rest for 5 to ­10 minutes. Spoon the pan juices over the top of each chicken breast before serving.