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Taiwan’s TTA Takes Record 82 Startups To CES 2020

For the third year in a row, Taiwan had a significant presence at one of the biggest electronics trade fairs in the world, CES 2020. Leading a delegation of 82 startups presenting in Las Vegas, Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA) said it was their largest delegation ever, winning over US$226 million in business opportunities.

Speaking to EE Times Europe at CES, Dr. Yu-Chin Hsu, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology, commented, “Taiwan has played an important role in the global high-tech ecosystem in the past 30 years. We have 82 startup teams covering three areas: artificial intelligence (AI), smart technologies, and also in healthcare.” Dr. Hsu emphasized the need for Taiwan and its startups to be connected to the global tech ecosystem in all key markets and applications, which is why presence at a major trade fair like CES is important. “We see that in the future in the AI age, there will be a lot of our startups that become important.”

In addition to promoting its leading startups overseas and connecting them to the global tech ecosystem, Taiwan’s government also works hard to ensure strong collaboration between academia and industry, especially since a lot of leading-edge research is carried out at Taiwan’s research institutes. At CES, we spoke to Dr. Chiou Chyou-Huey, Director General, Department of Academia-Industry Collaboration and Science Park Affairs, Ministry of Science and Technology, who commented, “The Ministry of Science and Technology of government highly encourages industry and academia collaboration. We do so by providing incentives, mentors, mature business models and business plans support.”

He added, “We also provide [academics with] some budget for them to take their scientific research to more mature products or services. Taiwan Tech Arena is a good hub to connect to the international market or international resources. Taiwan is very competitive in terms of talent and technology. That’s the reason why we bring a large delegation to attend CES.

A key focus of the TTA delegation was AI, smart technologies and healthcare. TTA supports startups by providing funding and a platform to grow their businesses. This year it gave the opportunity for startups in the healthcare industry to highlight how AI will improve the quality of lives. The startups which presented at CES 2020 are trying to disrupt current markets and push the boundaries of innovation.

Here we highlight some of the companies that we spoke to on the TTA booth at CES 2020, both in healthcare as well as AI and smart technologies in general.

Hipposcreen Neurotech: objective depression diagnosis

Hipposcreen Neurotech has developed a depression diagnosis system to provide an objective indicator of mental health of a patient, using a system it has developed for brain health assessment. The system combines an electroencephalogram (EEG) recording system and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to provide doctors with a way of rapidly measuring key indicators to identify the mental health of a patient. Using eight EEG electrodes to capture brain waves as input signals to an EEG amplifier, it uses an AI algorithm in the cloud to perform feature extraction and data analysis. Doctors can then view the data and assessment via a web portal within around two minutes.

At CES, the company told us, “We built this system to help doctors to carry out depression diagnosis, to save time and the doctor can also use this report to explain to the patient more easily and provide more accurate assessment results.” Its stress EEG assessment (SEA) system addresses a growing prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) and is expected to be used as an indicator of the level of MDD. The SEA system can achieve accuracy of higher than 80% on the EEG datasets collected as a result of collaboration between the department of psychiatry at National Taiwan University Hospital and Harvard Medical School (McLean Hospital).

Enosim Bio-Tech: an electronic “nose” detects disease

Enosim Bio-Tech has developed a real-time monitoring, breath detection and analysis system to identify ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). The core technology is a low power consumption nose-on-a-chip with software, integrated sensors, interface circuits, processors and memory. The breath analysis system uses data from a patient’s breath using the electronic nose to determine known diseases within its dataset. It overcomes environmental interference using a neuromorphic recognition algorithm.

Compared with traditional gas sensing, the e-nose does not use a single sensor, but instead uses multiple sensors to classify a gas. These sensors are combined into an array for odor recognition, and each of the different combinations represents a different odor. Compared with traditional gas analysis instruments, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, the e-nose system is easier to operate and to miniaturize.

The company said, “We are developing new technology to provide fast screening of diseases, by using your breath. If you have cancer or cancer cells, you have bacteria and these have multiple metabolisms, and there will be components existing in your breath. We are trying to detect these molecules.” The development of e-nose still poses many challenges in commercialization, including size and cost. Enosim’s electronic nose technology has been in development for over ten years and is looking to break through the technology bottlenecks.

Ventilator-associated pneumonia refers to a bacterial lung infection in intensive care units (ICU), where patients have been treated with a respirator for more than 48 hours. VAP is the most common nosocomial infection in ICU, and the rate of infection is about 7 to 14%. The mortality rate can reach from 35 to 90%. In ICU, there is an unmet medical need for rapid VAP identification.

RelaJet Tech: allowing people to hear in noisy environments

RelaJet Tech has developed the R1898 DSP, a complete solution for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. The company said it has an AI acoustic fingerprinting engine which carries out edge processing on hearing aids. It said it can extract human voice characteristics within 10 milliseconds and amplify them so that people with hearing difficulties are still able to hear individual people talk in noisy environments. “Our focus of the company is to provide hearing aid solutions. Our key technology is what we call speech separation. We can separate the human voice from environmental noise within a millisecond using our DSP,” said a company spokesperson.

Through just 3-5 seconds of a recording, Relajet said it can label a specific voice, divide it and enhance it in real-time. It can also cancel certain sounds or noises and remove them in real-time. Finally, it can covert 2D sound into 3D – it does so by analyzing sound and environment, and then simulating 3D surround with its engine so that the user can ‘hear the space.’

Taiwan User-Friendly Sensor & Technology: food allergy detection

Existing point of care devices for food allergy detection can only detect gluten over 20 ppm, and hence lack the ability to quantify smaller concentrations. Taiwan User-Friendly Sensor & Technology has developed a point-of-care device based on connected electrochemical sensors, which can quantify targets below 10ppm for multiple proteins simultaneously. With its rapid extraction techniques, the device can readout data in less than two minutes, and costs just a few dollars per test, compared to the thousands of dollars and a few hours to carry out the gold standard ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) tests for food allergy detection.

The company’s co-founder and CTO, Dr. Hsing-Yi Lin said, “Our company is providing a food allergy detection device, which provides very quick detection of allergy. Currently in the lab, detection time takes four hours, but using our technology we can quickly detect allergies within two minutes.”

The company’s device consists of a handheld product which can extract allergens from food, and an electronic keychain reader for sensing allergens, connecting wirelessly to a smartphone to communicate the results.

SWR Technology: wireless power for 5G devices

SWR Technology delivers 65W of wireless power through windows, enabling faster deployment of 5G connected smart devices within homes and buildings in the AIoT world.

In one application, its system solution with RF IC provider MaxLinear can deliver more than 1Gbps symmetrical data rate and up to 35W wireless power through triple-silver-coated low-emissivity (low-e) glass windows up to 35mm thick. The design allows 5G fixed wireless broadband (FWB) service providers to deploy gigabit broadband speeds using mmWave spectrum.  With the solution, consumers can self-install small indoor/outdoor devices in the corner of a window, without drilling holes, without running new cables, and without needing a professional installation. The small, low-profile form factor enables aesthetically pleasing designs that will not obstruct views through the window. SWR Technology’s wireless power module uses a proprietary high tolerance resonance transfer technology to transmit 20 Watts of power through standard or triple-silver-coated low-e glass up to 35mm thick.

Shengming Shan, CEO of SWR Technology CEO, told us, “SWR Technology is a mid-distance wireless power technology company. At CES, we are looking to find a lot of great partners that could enlarge and change people’s expectations and user experience with wireless power.”

Mindtronic AI: embedded systems for automotive cockpit DMS

Mindtronic AI is an AI startup with a focus on human machine interaction, designing ultra-light embedded computer vision algorithms serving a wide range of applications. At CES, the company demonstrated its expertise in automotive AI solutions with its cockpit driver monitoring system (DMS) and interaction platform, the DMX.  This utilizes high quality biometric technology for a luxury user interface, plus a DMS to assess a driver’s cognition and connect this to the vehicle’s ADAS systems.

The company offers a standalone DMS module board for direct integration with a vehicle’s dashboard system, as well as a software SDK for integrating into any embedded hardware system. Mindtronic AI’s solution is already validated in a vehicle use case. Its’ adaptive algorithm guarantees high-quality image acquisition in adverse lighting conditions, and the algorithms work in concert with the adaptive NIR array and allow the DMS to deliver constant, noise resistant, quality output to the car system. The acquisition speed and quality are enabled by a high performance ultra-lightweight deep learning framework design for low power embedded systems.

Lixel: 3D images without special headsets

Addressing the opportunities for presenting 3D visual images without the need for any special glasses or headsets, Lixel has developed a technology called 3D floating image with interaction. This is based on a light field and Lixel’s patent-designed flat display which can be viewed with the naked eye and features oblique viewing and interaction.

It is based on the founders’ collective expertise in light field technology, and aims to make images more natural, intelligent and responsive than before. Its technology and product can be integrated into products to provide more natural vision and intuitive interaction experiences.

Potential uses include virtual assistants and communication, infotainment applications within cars (floating buttons to enhance safety and navigation), gaming and entertainment, online advertisement, online shopping. Lixel’s technology can be used in everything from general displays to consumer electronics and professional displays, such as in laptops, smartphones, and games consoles.

A spokesperson for Lixel told EE Times, “We develop new technologies beyond 2D: vision and touch technology. We bring the 3D floating image into action. The main purpose to come to CES is to introduce our 3D technology to the world. Because CES is a very important show in entire world. This year we will push ourselves to develop and release our product. We are still developing this market, and of course we will work very closely with our partners to develop new applications.”

Nestech: smart access control systems

Nestech combines edge computing and AI to develop smart access control systems. At CES, the company was showing its smart building control system and ACM smart hazard detection system to enable both management and safety for the hospitality and property management industries. Nestech provides complete turnkey solutions for various industries, ranging from intelligent city, hotel automation, smart home, intelligent office and other potential uses of smart connected devices. It specializes in system integration for internet of things (IoT) device and system development, as well as artificial intelligence IoT (AIoT) systems.

Startling Views from CES

By David Benjamin

LAS VEGAS — Negotiating the CES show floor, bumping along among throngs of convention-goers, and weaving between display booths large and small is no walk in the park. But it rewards the visitor with sights, sounds, and the occasional human encounter that can be mystifying, gratifying, amusing. For a photographer more interested in startling images than in the minutiae of technology, this hectic stroll can be fun. Here’s a collection of shots derived from an hour or so among several exhibition halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Quantum computing comes to CES

IBM chose CES to unveil IBM Q System One. IBM calls its Q System One “the world’s first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system.”

But here’s the thing: How do you explain quantum computing to the CES crowd? After all, the system is designed for scientific and commercial use.

The Big Blue did its best to describe quantum computing in the context of future applications. The potential use cases listed by IBM include: “finding new ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors to make better investments, or finding the optimal path across global systems for ultra-efficient logistics and optimizing fleet operations for deliveries.”

Next page: Le Mans comes to CES

Multi-Finger Authentication Strengthens Smartphone Security

By Anne-Françoise Pelé

Fingerprint biometrics have become a standard security feature on smartphones, but consumers demand more from technology to securely make online shopping, banking transactions, and bill payments. For France-based Isorg SA, multi-finger authentication is the next phase in smartphone identity recognition.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Isorg is demonstrating a full-screen fingerprint-on-display sensor module for multi-finger smartphone authentication. It supports up to four fingers simultaneously touching a smartphone display.

More fingers, more secure
A spin-off from the CEA-Liten research institute in 2010, Isorg has developed the organic photodetector (OPD) technology, which integrates printed photodiodes on different substrates to enable large-area image sensors. It is compatible with plastic or glass substrates using TFT technology or CMOS image sensors.

(Image: Isorg)

In response to OEMs’ and end-users’ demand for a higher level of smartphone security and privacy, Isorg designed a fingerprint-on-display (FoD) module that supports one- to four-finger authentication across the entire dimensions of the 6-inch smartphone display, or even larger. Such multi-finger authentication capability aims to strengthen security for mobile banking and payments, personal health monitoring, and remote home control applications.

Why four fingers, and not five? “The logic behind ‘more fingers, more secure’ lies in the fact that the more fingers, the more fingerprint data to be matched, making it more complex to crack,” Jean-Yves Gomez, Isorg’s CEO and co-founder, told EE Times. Five-finger authentication is possible; however, “we promote four fingers instead of five because it is more user-friendly. It is easier to enroll your index to small fingers at the same time; while adding your thumb, you have to adjust your hand position.”

Flexible and foldable displays
Isorg’s FoD module is compatible with flexible and foldable displays for smartphones and wearables. “It supports curved-edged phone displays with flexible polyimide-substrate sensors, and this slim fingerprint module is thinner than 300 µm,” Gomez confirmed. “These advantages made it easily integrated into slim smartphone and foldable displays.”

Isorg’s module can be used both for indoor and outdoor environments, as it demonstrates “robust performance under various conditions, including sunlight, web, and dry fingers as required by smartphone OEMs in different test conditions,” he said.

Designed for smartphones, the full-screen FoD module could be extended to other applications such as wearables, tablets, and other similar under-display applications. The technology can also find applications in the biometrics industry (e.g., access control, border control).

The French startup said it will be sampling its FoD module to smartphone OEMs in spring 2020. Asked when we should expect to see the first smartphones implementing this module available on the market, Gomez said, “Our lead customers who are developing new smartphones are aiming to launch their products soonest. The exact new product launch will be decided by the customers based on their marketing strategy.”

Mass production in 2020
“2019 marked an important revolution for Isorg,” said Gomez. “We integrated other skills because the company has developed its own optics components and ICs for sensors. The journey we embarked on has brought us to where we wanted.”

Back in 2018, Isorg raised $26.6M (€24M) in Series C financing to conduct the different qualification steps of its production site based in Limoges. Two years later, “we are delighted to announce that the company is fully ready for mass production of our solution within 2020. We have had our products ready for commercialization and market expansion.” On the Limoges site, Isorg has a Gen 3.5 (780 × 650 mm) manufacturing line for image sensor production with supply of TFT backplane.

Headquartered in Grenoble, Isorg has a pilot line and a dedicated application team at the CEA-Liten institute. The startup also runs a small R&D line, compatible with 8-inch silicon wafers in Bordeaux, as well as sales and application offices in Hong Kong.

Isorg owns more than 60 patents and employs 70 people.

How 5G Will (Eventually) Change Your Life

5G is here, according to Qualcomm Inc. President Cristiano Amon. At least the technology is.

“2020 will be the year that 5G scales,” Amon told an assembly at CES 2020. “We are very happy to see that the industry has progressed so that today – even if you want to use it with 4G while waiting for base stations to be built—the best 4G phone on the market today is 5G.”

5G, CES 2020,
Molly Wood, senior editor for Marketplace Tech, interviews Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon

Consumers can be forgiven if they haven’t noticed the change. The infrastructure that delivers long-awaited gigabit speeds, low latency and unlimited data hasn’t been built yet.

The transition is starting to happen — operators are deploying small-scale 5G networks the U.S., China, Korea, Japan and Australia. “The network is moving from pilots to initial launches in metropolitan areas,” Amon said. “I think it’s fair to say in 2020 you are going to see 5G in most major cities in the U.S. We are now the process of building coverage.”

Qualcomm’s San Diego campus and its surrounding neighborhood has 5G, he noted.

“What’s really happening – what’s pacing the scale of coverage – is 5G requires more sites and more towers,” Amon explained. “The situation, especially in the United States, is operators have to negotiate municipality by municipality – sometimes neighborhood by neighborhood — how to get new sites. It takes a very short time to deploy a base station – it takes a very long time to get new sites.”

Ironically, the same public that’s impatient for 5G doesn’t like sprawling towers and power-sucking industrial buildings in their backyard. 5G requires a dense infrastructure.

“On one hand, people say they want 5G and ‘where is my 5G, but I don’t want sites in my neighborhood,’” Amon said. “The two things are not compatible.”

Local politics aside, the 5G build-out is taking place alongside 4G. The change will be gradual.

“The first thing [consumers] are going to see is you have much higher speeds – an order of magnitude increase – and lower latency,” said Amon. “Some of the services you use every day will be much better.” Similar to 4G’s impact on streaming music, video will be the game changer – literally — for 5G.

5G will be the main platform for video distribution, Amon explained. “You will have a reliable connection to view news and sports and [5G] will finally deliver on user-content generation. Everyone will become a broadcaster because you have the speed to upload high-quality video to the cloud.” Microsoft and Google are predicting mainstream gaming will move away from consoles and on to smart phones. “Gaming will become a thing of the mobile industry,” Amon said.

Phones will remain 5G’s preferred delivery system. Qualcomm foresees companion devices springing up for a wide range of applications. “Today we know, even with some of the chips we are making, the limitation is the size of the screen. We have the processing power, and with the power of the hyperscale cloud, you can do almost anything. The only limitation is still the size of the screen.”

Wearable technology bridges those gaps. Device makers envision eyeglass-sized screens containing cameras, AR and facial-recognition capability. “I like to describe it as, you walk into a meeting and with facial recognition, you go immediately to the cloud and scan social media networks to get information on all the people you’re going to meet,” Amon said.

The automotive industry will see the biggest transformation with the advent of 5G. “This will range from upgrading your fundamental navigation system and ADAS as the car is connected to other cars and pedestrians and the cloud,” Amon explained. “You can populate a map with the location of all these things and how they move or how fast they move and use AI to make predictions. This is going to significantly upgrade ADAS and autonomy.”

Consumer demand – and investment – will accelerate the infrastructure  build-out, Amon suggested.  “The elevator pitch on what 5G  does –  connecting whatever device you have, phone to cars to the IoT —is based on technology that has a very wide pipeline that connects to the cloud 100%  of the time. No matter what devices you have, you can connect two systems and have unlimited storage and unlimited data.”

5G is no longer the exclusive technology of the mobile industry, he concluded. “It’s part of the automotive conversation, it’s part of the IoT conversation, it’s part of the computing conversation. We have to count on all those companies sharing those visions. We are just at the beginning of this great transition.”

Future of Technology in Racing: A Formula 1 Driver’s Perspective

By Nitin Dahad

LAS VEGAS — As my colleagues have written from CES 2020, automotive technology has somewhat dominated the conference here in Las Vegas. While there’s no doubt that advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) have come a long way and there are still roadmaps to go even further to improve driving experiences and safety, the question in my mind is: How far do we go with fully autonomous vehicles?

Even in the age of digital native youngsters, the camp is divided. On the one hand, there are 20-something-year-olds who stick to their belief that they will never need to drive cars, as everything will be autonomous, and in the age of Uber and Lyft, why would they ever need to drive a car? And then there are still driving enthusiasts.

We managed to catch up at CES with someone from the latter camp, 20-year-old Formula 1 driver for McLaren, Lando Norris, a strong driving enthusiast right from his early school years. Clearly, technology is an important part of the engineering of modern racing cars, almost to the same levels of advanced electronics and communications systems as in modern commercial aircraft.

Lando Norris explained how technology, and particularly live real-time data on all aspects of his drive, is a vital part of modern racing. As a top-tier racing driver, everything evolves around the technology.

He told EE Times, “One of the biggest things that helps me to drive is to be able to compare data. So we have live data while driving on track, which is relaying back to the engineers and the whole team, which they can then relay back to me, telling me where I need to go better and when I’m not doing good enough.” As a result, this helps him to improve constantly.

And in a race environment, one of the most useful parts of his technology arsenal is the radio — where he can talk constantly to the team to change things on the fly as he drives.

We asked his thoughts on what might be next for motor sports and technology. He said, “It’s going to advance a lot.” He jokingly added, “I don’t want it to advance too much that it puts me out of a job.

“Things will advance, but you don’t want to be changing what Formula 1 is. It still has the characteristic of someone, a human being, driving around a racing car as fast as they can. You don’t want anything to be too automated. Everything will improve, efficiencies will improve, data will improve, but I still want to be able to drive a racing car, in control of brake, throttle, steering, sliding the car around and having fun. In every aspect, it’s going to get better and move forward, but Formula 1 and my passion is driving a car as fast as I can.”

To me, that says a lot. There are some people that like driving, like Lando Norris. And there are others who can’t wait for fully autonomous vehicles, whenever that might arrive.

But it also leads to the question about what we automate and how far we can go, as well as the limitations of technology. In motor racing, you can have all the driver assistance you want. But the human can still control the destiny and the difference between winning and losing.

Last year, I had visited Oulu in Finland, and part of my program involved looking in on a global drone-racing competition. It had all the razzamatazz of Formula 1, with drones whizzing around the stadium at breakneck speeds and crashing into each other and into the side netting. But they were still being controlled by human “drivers” from the sidelines.

Maybe they could have gone fully autonomous with sensors to ensure that they don’t crash into other drones or the sides. But the problem at those speeds is likely that the response times in the electronics and sensors are not fast enough.

And in the world of motor racing, while Lando Norrris clearly has a passion for driving really fast, it may still be some time before the huge amounts of processing and the sensor-actuator response times are fast enough to cope with reacting at speeds of over 200 mph.

Panel: Global Leadership in AI Depends on Gaining Public Trust

By Sally Ward-Foxton

The support of the public is paramount to any country or region’s successful global leadership in transforming businesses, markets and economies using the technology, a panel discussion at CES concluded.

To start, the panelists, which included representatives from industry, trade associations, politics and government, were in agreement that leadership in AI is not a simple win-lose conundrum.

“I would not agree with the idea that it’s a zero-sum game, that one nation is leading and that it’s a race and someday you declare a victory, and then everybody else is a loser… I think everyone can benefit from the advantages of artificial intelligence,” said Lynne Parker, deputy CTO for the United States, from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Parker’s definition for a nation that leads in the field of AI is one with a lot of companies leading in terms of innovation, one with many leading universities in that field with cutting-edge ideas, and one with a strong innovation ecosystem which works closely with academia and the industry to foster innovation. The US is leading, according to those metrics, she argued.

“There will be winners, but maybe it’ll be first place, second place, third place, fourth place, and not winner take all,” said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association. “From the companies standpoint, certainly [leadership] will come from innovation and the ability to put in place transparency and safeguards to ensure there’s not bias or discrimination through artificial intelligence, and ensuring that ethics are set up in a way that meets our common goals and standards… and from the government standpoint, making sure that policies are in place that both encourage and allow for innovation.”

These policies must ensure there are safeguards for both government and private sector use of AI, Beckerman said, pointing out that some of the riskier potential applications in terms of public trust are for government applications of the technology.

The panelists also agreed that consumer trust was of paramount importance, in a way that hasn’t been seen with other technology trends in the past.

“For both private sector and public sector use, you can’t truly win or succeed with AI deployments, with scaling AI, unless you have consumer and citizen trust,” said Adelina Cooke, North American AI policy lead at Accenture. “Any [leadership] race is going to need to engender trust among the population. When we are thinking about scaling [up AI applications], it’s not just feasibility and innovation, it’s making sure that you have the proper governance and responsible oversight within an organization [that’s important].”

Government Role
Panelists took different views on the role governments should play in increasing AI leadership in their countries.

The White House’s Lynne Parker described the US government’s hands-off approach to regulation of the use of AI technology.

“Certainly, I think at the beginning, the role of the federal government is not to get in the way,” she said. “We want to foster innovation and make sure it’s being used in ways we can all benefit from, but… there are many areas in which we need to have more oversight.”

AI presents a unique challenge, she said, in that there are many existing laws that protect Americans from things like discrimination, and the country has a robust legal system to help enforce these laws. If these laws are enforced at the state and local government level, companies have to deal with a patchwork of laws and regulations, which hampers innovation in every locale.

“At some point, the federal government needs to step up and say, okay, we’re actually hampering innovation by not having regulatory oversight or a process for it, or having any consistency,” she said.

The White House released a draft memo earlier this week which will establish consistent guidelines for regulatory agencies, which should help protect the public and also help the innovation ecosystem by providing companies with some predictability in terms of regulatory approach, she said.

Italian member of parliament Mattia Fantinati detailed both the European Commission’s approach and the approach in Italy.

The European Commission’s strategy for AI leadership is based several key ideas. These include boosting technological and industrial capacity, uptake of AI across the economy with private-public partnerships, being prepared for the socioeconomic changes which will happen quickly, and ensuring a legal and ethical framework for innovation to flourish within.

Italian initiatives for adoption of AI are focused on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), reflecting the country’s economy, he said.

“Most developed countries have adopted an AI strategy that reflects their social and political system,” he said, noting that Italy is home to many SMEs in manufacturing and handicrafts. “My role is to… create a collaboration between the masters of handicraft and artificial intelligence. It’s not easy, but we have to do it, because the European strategy is focused on the SME.”

The European Commission’s strategy includes using public funding to stimulate private investment, particularly with early-stage startups.

USA vs. China
Asked by an audience member about Kai Fu Lee’s 2018 book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order” in which he details China’s strengths in this arena, Parker again referenced the importance of public trust.

She mentioned Lee’s postulation that China is very good at taking existing ideas and implementing them.

“At the same time, I think we, as the free world, also care about exactly how these technologies are used,” she said. “We want to make sure that we don’t use the technologies in ways that are inconsistent with the values of our nations.”

Silicon Labs’s CEO on AI and UWB

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — “We are still in the early days of market adoption of IoT,” Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs, told EE Times at the company’s booth during CES.

But wait, hasn’t the electronics industry been talking about the internet of things (IoT) for more than two decades? Trace back to the time when RFID tags began to be touted as a must-have in supply chains. (Kevin Ashton, the then-director of the Auto-ID Center, is widely known for having coined the phrase “IoT” back then.)

Besides, the industry supposedly has all the necessary building blocks for IoT: a low-energy microcontroller, wireless connectivity, sensors, and maybe antennas in an IoT module. At this point, isn’t IoT essentially a “bing-bang-boom”?

Not necessarily. Tuttle maintains that IoT is a market that takes decades to unfold. Consider the IoT attach rate for commercial lighting systems, he said. “We are probably at 10% to 15% … It’s still low.”

Selling into the future
In Tuttle’s mind, transitions this big are never done and never enough. Furthermore, the technologies applied to IoT are constantly advancing.

As IoT continues to look for design wins in the industrial market, Tuttle said that the chip supplier’s job is never done at the time of sales. He said, “We are selling our chips into the future.”

In other words, “Our products must be able to support new software, protocol updates, and applications — all that — over the next 10 to 15 years.” That’s a long-haul business.

IoT users in the industrial market are also looking for IoT devices that are contextually aware. Location is one important element.

Silicon Labs’s new Bluetooth SoC, EFR32BG22

Silicon Labs just announced this week the company’s new Bluetooth SoCs, capable of asset tracking. The new low-energy device takes advantage of Bluetooth Angle of Arrival and Angle of Departure capabilities, thus offering sub-1-m location accuracy, according to the company.

Location, however, is just one element that can make IoT aware of its context. Others, such as light, sound, voice, and vision, can make IoT devices “a lot more aware of the environment they are operating in,” Tuttle explained.

The next logical step is to add AI to the IoT module. Tuttle promised that Silicon Labs will deliver in 2020 an IoT solution integrated with AI acceleration. By making IoT devices “trainable, actionable, and capable of extracting information and learning from the environment,” they become a lot more contextually aware, he explained.

Of course, Silicon Labs isn’t alone as it looks to add machine learning on end nodes. But rather than forcing inference jobs to run on current devices, Silicon Labs plans to add an AI acceleration feature to the company’s Wireless Gecko Series 2 platform.

Unlike competing AI edge devices plugged into the wall, Tuttle said, “Our goal is to get this [IoT devices with multiple sensors and AI features] hooked up with wireless network or connected smartphones. The name of the game is to enable machine learning on a very low-power, always-on device with a limited memory budget.”

Armed with its Gecko MCUs known for its low-energy sensor interface and interconnect features such as Peripheral Reflex System, Silicon Labs believes it has an edge in the race to add machine-learning features to IoT solutions.

The low-energy sensor interface, for example, can connect to duty-cycling inductive, capacitive, and resistive sensors while autonomously operating in Deep Sleep mode. With Gecko MCUs, the peripherals also connect directly to one another, allowing them to communicate without waking up a CPU or seeking its intervention.

“These are all great features unique to our Gecko MCUs, and some people even say that this is enough,” said Tuttle. But the company is taking more steps to optimize AI functions on IoT devices.

Tuttle wouldn’t disclose details and timelines for the new AI products. However, he implied that they will be ready when Silicon Labs holds its own “Works With Smart Home Conference” in September. “We will bring Google, Amazon, and others onto the stage,” said Tuttle.

How about UWB?
With the introduction of the Bluetooth 5.1 spec, Bluetooth can now do fine-grained positioning. Accuracy of positioning is accomplished by an Angle of Arrival mechanism. Undoubtedly, this will become essential to context-/location-based IoT applications.

But if positioning is so critical, how about using ultra-wideband (UWB)?

Tuttle said, “Absolutely. We are interested. Things are getting more interesting as UWB becomes a part of iPhones and Samsung’s phones.” But he added, “Just to be clear, that is not to say that Silicon Labs is going to do UWB.”

In the past, when UWB was gunning for wireless streaming, positioning itself to compete with Wi-Fi, Tuttle said, “We — at Silicon Labs — never chased that market then.”

While UWB has its limitations, especially at distance, it offers more accurate location than other technologies. UWB will be great for a set of applications, said Tuttle, such as payments at point of sale. “But we will wait and see.”

For its IoT business, Silicon Labs sees itself focusing on local rather than wide-area networks such as LTE and LoRa. The same could apply to UWB. “In our business, what we decide not to do is just as important,” said Tuttle.

Chao Vows ‘Mystery Drone’ Solution

By David Benjamin

LAS VEGAS — It was just a tad ironic.

Only five days after her boss, President Trump, had ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao promised a standing-room-only audience Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that she will be cracking down on the unregulated use of drones in U.S. airspace.

In a keynote address at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Secretary Chao made specific reference to the “mystery drones” that have been spotted recently cruising the night skies over Nebraska and Colorado. She said that these flights, which have disturbed residents of those areas, demonstrate the Wild West character of the currently unregulated drone phenomenon.

She noted that today, there are more than 1.5 million drones in private or corporate ownership, flown by 160,000 registered remote pilots, “a job category that didn’t even exist five years ago.” But there are many more drones and pilots that are neither counted nor certified. The Department of Transportation (DOT) currently has little power over who flies drones and where they fly.

She said her department is making plans to initiate drone testing for safety and airworthiness, manage drone air space, set up rules for identifying drones remotely, and registering drones and their pilots.

On the latter point, she said that, according to rules now being written, any drone heavier than eight ounces will be either registered with the government or it will be illegal. This registration would enable all federal, state, and local agencies to identify drones operating in their air space and help them manage the exploding population of these suddenly popular devices.

Chao noted that a 60-day period for public comment about the proposed drone regulations will end on March 20.

Touching on a topic dear to the hearts of CES convention-goers, Chao announced also that her department has just promulgated a document called AV 4.0, formulating updated policies on the development of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles (AVs). While offering familiar bromides on the promise of greater road safety and reduced traffic fatalities with automated vehicles, Chao hinted that the government, at this stage, remains reluctant to intervene in the development of a heavily invested technology that has recently faltered. Carmakers and technology companies are struggling with the challenge of establishing uniform AV safety standards.

Fatal accidents involving autonomous vehicles made by Uber and Tesla have exacerbated public misgivings about AVs and sent AV designers and safety experts back to the drawing board.

Suggesting a hands-off approach by the DOT’s safety agencies, Chao defined her department’s role as “promoting efficient markets.” She said, “It’s not the role of federal government to pick winners and losers.” She said that the DOT will “remain technologically neutral … and encourage innovation by protecting intellectual property.”

“Innovation,” in an expansion of its dictionary meaning, has become a sort of mantra for technology corporations to justify their opposition to regulatory scrutiny by government agencies. It pops up often in speeches delivered at CES.

Chao vowed to “modernize all these regulations” related to automotive safety in light of the emergence of self-driving technology. Regulations are important, she said, but those that are “obsolete, irrelevant, and outdated need to be changed.” She offered no specifics but promised a “consistent government approach” to the facilitation of autonomous vehicle technology as fast as possible.

Michael Kratsios, the White House’s Chief Technology Officer, followed Chao’s keynote by emphasizing the president’s commitment to artificial intelligence (AI) development — a key element in self-driving vehicles — as expressed in an executive order, issued last year on “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.”

Kratsios said that “the United States is leading the world” in AI research and development, a claim difficult to verify, and that the president’s involvement ensures this continued leadership. He said the administration is committed to “policies that generate trust in government and with building the applicability of artificial intelligence.”

Why CES 2020 Cares About the Supply Chain

By Barbara Jorgensen

The supply chain is one of those things that nobody cares about until something goes wrong. Then it’s everybody’s problem.

Remember the iPhone 8? Production was delayed because of problems with OLED screens, which weren’t even manufactured by Apple. Consumers were incensed, Apple was red-faced, and the supply chain took center stage.

Unfortunately, disaster is the main driver of supply-chain innovation. Resilience — the ability to shift all or part of a supply chain as needed— is mitigating disruption. Many of the technologies showcased at CES 2020 are key enablers of resilience, an expert panel told the audience.

For example, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which provides supply-chain assistance to disaster relief organizations, uses simulation to prepare for catastrophes, said executive director Kathy Fulton. High-risk areas such as Puerto Rico are plotted on networks as digital twins. Simulated hurricanes or earthquakes then strike the region. If a virtual aid station is destroyed by the event, alternative locations are immediately identified.

“There’s no such thing as shipping something from Point A to Point B,” said Fulton. “The supply chain is now a network.” Organizations should anticipate the loss of a supplier or a physical facility and have alternative plans in the works.

(Source: CES 2020)

The supply chain’s sphere of influence ranges from individual package delivery to materials flow into factories. But customer-facing organizations are on the front line when something goes wrong.

“We face mini-disasters every day,” said Robin Hensley, vice president for operations technology at UPS. “We call it weather.”

UPS has developed automated sorting centers that can be moved in the event of fires, floods, or other disruption. These centers can be programmed to sort for a specific zip code regardless of location. The process is largely transparent to customers, Hensley said.

Data analytics is the underpinning of many resilience efforts, panelists said. “We have lots of data that is meaningless unless it is used for insight,” Fulton said. “So we use it to improve efficiency, plan routes, or move people and equipment. We can make decisions before a disaster strikes.”

Then there are the gadgets. UPS is already using delivery drones, said Hensley — some of which are FAA-certified. “We are mostly using them on massive campuses, where it could take a half-hour to drive to your destination,” she explained. Drones deliver medical samples that need to be turned around quickly. UPS is also partnering with CVS to deliver medication to individuals.

Tracking technology has become so precise that ALAN uses RFID, electronic barcodes, and other types of tags to ensure that medicine, water, and other aid reaches intended destinations. These supplies are often “hijacked” after they arrive at a distribution hub, Fulton explained. ALAN can pinpoint whether or not medication reaches the right individual. The frequency of lost shipments has been reduced and problematic distribution centers identified.

Even wayward deliveries are improving UPS’s supply chain, Hensley said. UPS uses digital package twins to follow a delivery’s movement. Sometimes, packages head in the wrong direction or even backtrack on their delivery routes.

“We want to know what the heck is happening with those packages,” Hensley said. “So we collect data, analyze it, and plot the best route for delivery. It cuts a lot of time and waste out of the process.”

Consumer items themselves are part of supply-chain resilience efforts. During power outages, Fulton said, phone services are unavailable, but texting services are available. “We use that to get the word out — warning people of impending danger or letting them know where aid services are available,” she said, adding that cities are increasingly moving to 911 text alerts.

UPS has created “pop up” sorting centers that are used during holidays and disasters. Workers use small scanners in these temporary hubs while an earpiece feeds them sorting instructions.

Resilient supply chains anticipate disruption no matter the cause, according to panelists. “Ultimately, the destination is human,” said Hensley.

Shapiro Quizzes Activist FTC Chief

By David Benjamin

LAS VEGAS — Consumer Technology Association chief Gary Shapiro, an avid opponent of government regulation, didn’t quite know what to expect Tuesday in a cordial onstage interview with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairman Joseph Simons, who is one of the Trump administration’s least-noticed administrators.

What Shapiro got was a mixed bag of free-market support and pro-consumer activism, with a tendency toward consumer protection.

Perhaps the most emphatic sign of Simons’s preference for using government power to help ordinary people came toward the end of the interview, when Shapiro asked about one law that Simons would like to see passed while he serves in the FTC. Simons said he would encourage Congress to clarify Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, a 1973 measure that empowers the FTC to punish companies for deceptive practices that harm consumers.

Simons noted that in a federal Seventh Circuit appeals court decision, the FTC was stripped of its power to impose financial penalties on violators of the FTC Act. He said that this decision, which reversed a previous Seventh Circuit judgment, “does huge damage to our fraud program,” denying vital redress to consumers who’ve been tricked, often with significant financial loss, by credit companies, drug firms, and others. Without being able to levy financial pain on these offenders, said Simons, the FTC cannot do the sort of vigorous enforcement that is his agency’s mission.

Simons urged Congress to address this issue, restoring his agency’s power to fine violators.

Earlier in the interview with Shapiro, Simons offered an example of the power of taking money from offenders, citing FTC settlements last year — for privacy violations by Facebook and Google’s YouTube division — of, respectively, $5 billion and $170 million.

The YouTube violation was especially sensitive because it involved the collection of personal information from children without obtaining consent from their parents.

Noting that the FTC settlements against these two internet juggernauts were greater than the law requires, Simons warned, “Facebook and Google know that we’re paying attention. If they continue to do what they’ve done in the past and continue to violate privacy laws, they can expect the repercussions to be more severe.”

FTC chairman Joseph Simons was both charming and combative in his CES “fireside chat” with CTA president Gary Shapiro, arguing forcefully for consumer protections that do not punish powerful internet companies like Google “just because they’re big.”

Simons made it clear, however, that his FTC feels no urgency to preemptively impose anti-trust sanctions on dominant platforms like Google and Facebook, as has been done in Europe through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed by the European Commission to regulate data transfer among EU nations.

“Data is the bloodstream for AI [artificial intelligence],” said Simons. “We want to do it right. we don’t want to mess it up.”

Urged by Shapiro to denounce the “chilling” effect of the GDPR, Simons spoke carefully about domestic regulation policy: “We don’t go after big companies just because they’re big and successful … We shouldn’t turn on them and penalize them for success. You have to commit an anti-competitive act. You have to harm consumers. We can’t just break up companies just because they’re big.”

Shapiro tried to lead Simons into a direct critique of Europe’s regulatory regime, suggesting that passage of the GDPR is “not a good innovation strategy.” Simons responded with a finely tuned note of diplomacy.

“People characterize it that way,” he said with a smile.

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