Thursday, 26 February 2015

Intel's Advancements Raising Bar On Chip Manufacturing Processes

| Thursday, February 26, 2015 | | | | | Be first to comment!


The industry hasn’t yet had enough of the 20nm Snapdragon 810 and there are already talks of processors getting the 14nm treatment. But for now this process is concentrated for developing the SOC’s for the laptops and desktop devices. Yet, such advancements are creating a lot of interest all around. Intel is planning to bring presentations on several internal advancements and plans at this years International Solid-State Circuits Conference(ISSCC). These presentations would circle around the theme of ‘Silicon Systems - Small Chips For Big Data’. The topics to be covered are 14nm chip features, developments in the previous 22nm processes and future plans to achieve the 10nm and even 7nm milestone.

One of those intriguing features imparted for 14nm is its data transfer capabilities. Intel will be displaying a 14nm CMOS transmitter capable of 40Gb/s with methods including Non-Return Zero (NRZ) and Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) having 4 levels.


Intel is also set to showcase a complete serial link in 14nm Tri-Gate CMOS, which is the first of its kind. It has also developed a semiconductor which consumes 59mW power within an area of 0.065mm^2 for providing 10Gb/s link.



And the most exciting feature concerning the 14nm developments is on the memory front. Intel gives out a 0.6V operated 84Mb SRAM design running at 1.5GHz. It uses the smallest SRAM bitcell of 0.05um^2.


Intel has delayed its 14nm Broadwell chips for few months claiming it to be a manufacturing and testing issue. To this issue, M. Bohr, Intel executive said that Intel underestimated the learning rate as this 14nm technology has brought many masks which requires lots of experiments in fabrication. Intel will address this issue in detail in the upcoming ISSCC.

One of the chip for 22nm process is integrated with an adaptive and resilient domino register file. This chip is capable of adapting to timing synchronizations as well as detecting errors for recovery. This will consider the external parameters like die variation, voltage droop, temperature and aging. Imparting these features has enabled it to perform 21 percent faster and 67% more power efficient.



Another chip on 22nm process, showcases the 22nm graphics execution core enabled with autonomous dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS). This has used a LDO (Low Dropout Regulator) and a Switched Capacitor Voltage Regulator (SCVR) which will cover the low voltage and high voltage regulation enabling the chip to manage the voltage drop resulting in savings in power consumption. To explain in simpler terms, dynamic voltage scaling is a power management technique in computer architecture, where the voltage provided to a component is stepped up or down depending on circumstances viz to save power or to increase the computer performance.

Intel is confident about the schedule for its 10nm based chips. It has claimed that the pilot for 10nm process manufacturing line is running 50 percent faster than that of 14nm chips. These 10nm chips are speculated to be available for the consumers by 2017. On switching from 10nm to a challenging yet intriguing 7nm process, experts speculate that the processes have to be switched to other materials of III-V semiconductors like Indium-Gallium-Arsenide (InGaAs) rather than Silicon. Intel is yet to comment on the same. Along with these basic challenges, Intel is also set to address the issues on integration methodology related to 2.5D having separated dies on same baseboard and 3D which has a stacked die concept.


For now the chips manufactured using these processes would only relate to SOCs on laptops and desktops. But all these process advancements can be said to have positive effects on the smartphone and wearable devices industry. Sooner or later when such processes are used for mobile devices, users will have gadgets which will be more power efficient and yet running high on performance parameters like never before.

Guest Post by Ronak Totla

Ronak is an Electronics and Telecommunication Engineer and has worked on Embedded Systems and Robotics. He likes to keep himself updated with the latest technology loves to travel in his free time.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Five Platforms To Make Yourself Digitally Accessible

| Wednesday, February 25, 2015 | | | Be first to comment!


Every other day, I see a new ad on TV about a new messaging app. From WeChat to Line to Hike, all these apps have tried different strategies like free recharges to cute stickers in an attempt to entice customers to download their app. Instant Messengers (IM’s) have been in the limelight after FaceBook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for a whopping 19 billion dollars, showing that there is big money out there for these. The same goes for Social Networking Sites (SNS), as many new ones keep coming up, with Ello being the latest. Do you need to be on all of them? No, but there are few that you just cannot afford to not be on, even if you are more of a calling or text person. Read on to know which.


WhatsApp

This one is a no brainer. I know a lot of people who diss WhatsApp because of its groups but still end up using it as the primary mode of communication. Although the groups can get annoying, but come to think of it, that would happen on any other social network which all your friends are on. I remember an old joke where someone wrote that he loves Google Plus because it is so peaceful as no one he knows was active on it.

Jokes aside, WhatsApp is a must-have because it directly syncs with your phonebook rather than asking you to make an account. Because of this ease, everybody you know are on it. Second — it’s reliable. Instead of bombarding the user with too many features, WhatsApp built such a level of dependability, that there are probably as many or even more WhatsApp messages sent in the world than SMSs. It also works on slow 2G networks, which is remarkable considering almost every other app today is almost non-functional with the lack of high-speed internet.

WhatsApp works on most number of mobile platforms, including a lot of feature phones too. It is also a very popular medium to reach out to business contacts and several SMBs use them extensively for business purpose!

Facebook

However annoying those memes and cat pics may get, Facebook remains to be one of the best social networks to stay connected with your family and friends. The best benefit is that almost every person you know will be on it. Friend suggestions helps you meet those whom you may have forgotten to add. Like, my mother has connected with her old neighbours and school friends on Facebook after probably thirty odd years.

What also works for Facebook is that it has so many features. You can update statuses, tell the world of your activities with photos and videos, check in to places, invite people for events and what not. Facebook has separated their chat service on the mobile by making users download the Messenger app. It’s a pretty good app to have — among other things because when you’re replying to messages on the desktop, notifications won't buzz on your phone.

And while that’s not ideal, you do know that a lot of professional contacts would be closer to you on Facebook, rather than LinkedIN. Facebook eventually would try to replace some of the other communication channels and may be they will have better ideas to deal with group chats or try to make inroads into the workplace, you would do better by waiting till they gain traction.


Skype

Even today most people associate video calling with Skype. You generally hear people say “Let’s Skype”, never “Let’s OoVoo” or something like that. The good part is that Skype also has mobile apps which makes it easier to use on the go. Skype also has the facility to have a conference call with many people and even share screens (that can come in handy while providing tech support). This is great when you want to connect with a group of friends over video. Certain companies even conduct meetings/interviews on Skype.

Viber

At my home, Viber is the only app that is used to make calls to people overseas. It has become synonymous with internet calling because it brought the simplicity of WhatsApp in the VOIP space. Like WhatsApp, there is no need to create an account or sign in; just install the app and call other Viber users that are in your phonebook. This is why even though you can make audio-only calls with Skype, people tend to use Viber. Viber is also an Instant Messenger as you can also send text, photos, videos, stickers etc. But with WhatsApp planning to bring voice calling next year, Viber’s trump card feature may be marginalised.


Hangouts

Hangouts used to be known as Google Talk earlier and was extremely popular. People slowly moved from MSN & Yahoo Messenger to Gtalk, as it brought a simple, no-frills app that help people communicate without the use of animated emoticons and avatars etc. As Google integrated Hangouts in Gmail itself, it makes total sense to use it. Nine out of 10 people I know use Gmail as the primary mail, so the moment they log into their Gmail, they’re logged into Hangouts. Hangouts has an app on both Android and iOS. Just like Facebook, conversations get synced and different devices will not send out repetitive notifications (with their alert dings) too.


There are tonnes of communication & messaging  apps out there and most of them can be joined for free. But you can’t possibly be active on *all of them*. A PriceBaba survey suggests that about 70% respondents said that they are accommodating to other peoples’ mode of communication. In my opinion, the above five platforms should keep you connected to almost all the people you know.


Guest Post by Criselle Lobo

Criselle Lobo is a technology enthusiast based out of Mumbai.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Battery Saver Mode on Android Explained

| Sunday, February 01, 2015 | | | | Be first to comment!


The latest version of Android i.e v5.0 Lollipop is full of new features and bugs. While Google is fixing the buggy part we thought of explaining the features to the masses. Lollipop is full of tiny little updates all over with a few new features that really stand out. After covering the priority notifications feature a few days back we thought of explaining the power saver mode on Android Lollipop.


One of the major issue with Android phones is the mediocre battery life. While a lot of people complain about it, the only fix that really worked was buying a phone with a bigger battery. This solution didn’t work for everyone though, phones with bigger batteries were heavy, bulky and had uninspiring design. Some of them had average specifications, keeping people away from buying such phones. The ones that did really everything well — like the Samsung Note series — had a hefty price tag. One of the methods to save the battery on the Android Phone is to tweak the software on it. On Android Lollipop they have done it with the implementation of Project Volta, which will only show improvement once app developers start implementing it.. But something that works very well even now is the inbuilt Power Saver mode in Lollipop.


The main purpose of the Power Saver mode is to save the battery when it is really required. The mode is automated and can activate from 2 points — When the battery reaches 15% and when it reaches 5%. Users can choose the from these two based on their preference. Along with  the automated setting, the mode can also be activated manually at any given point of time by going to Settings>Battery> Clicking Icon on the Top Right corner and switching it on. This should be done when you are away from a charger for a really long time to save the battery from draining out.


How Does Power Saver Work?



You might be curious as to how a minor software tweak can help the battery last longer. The answer lies in the way the mode works, when it is activated it switches off one or more cores of the processor, switches off animations and reduces background data. While this does affect the overall performance of the device, it manages to save the battery in the process. The data connection is still active for you to use but apps cannot access the internet unless you are using it. This reduces the data transfer between the apps and the internet, reducing the load on the already starving processor.


Does it really work?



My first doubt was if it would work as promised, so I switched it on with around noon with 94% battery still left on my Nexus 5. The system notifies that the power saver mode is on and changes the colour of the Status Bar and the Lower System buttons to Orange. There was a noticeable lag in the performance of the device, it took longer to open apps and games. Networking apps like WhatsApp and Facebook stopped showing notifications; in fact they only refreshed when the app was launched.



The main reason for the power saver mode is to get you through your day when you cannot charge your phone, which it manages to do well. We have seen Sony use something similar to extend the battery life on their smart phones where it completely disconnects the data 15 minutes after the screen switches off. I switched it on my Nexus 5 with the battery at 94% and the phone was at 77% after 7 hours of use. Generally my phone would have dropped down to 30-40% but it seems Power Saver was doing the job rather well. With the mode being a part of Android Lollipop we can expect it on upcoming smartphones soon. But if you ask if it works when its required the most the answer is a big YES!