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Updated: 23 min 5 sec ago

New metering technology makes every drop count

3 hours 32 min ago

The statistics are alarming: In the United States alone, household leaks waste about 900 billion gallons of water each year. To put that number in perspective, that’s enough water to supply about 11 million homes annually.1 And other countries – from Europe to Asia – face similar challenges. Compounding this problem are anticipated water shortages.2

But help is here. Ultrasonic technology gives water meters installed in smart buildings and smart cities the ability to detect and localize leaks as small as one drop every few seconds. Cities from Austin to Antwerp are installing high-tech smart water meters that give customers the information they need to find leaks and conserve water while helping utilities identify infrastructure leaks in aging pipes and broken water mains.


“The water we have today is the only water we will ever have,” says Holly Holt-Torres, water conservation manager for the City of Dallas Water Utilities. “We have to conserve it. Technology will allow us to do that at an increasingly higher level.”

But this ultrasonic technology has applications that extend beyond water meters. The same technology can be used in meters that measure natural gas flow and even detect the mixture of gas flowing through pipes. It can even help medical professionals regulate oxygen delivery in surgical equipment.

 

Learn more about our ultrasonic sensing MSP430™ microcontrollers.

Going with the flow

Ultrasonic waves, of course, are not new. Bats, for example, use ultrasonic ranging to avoid obstacles and catch insects at night. And in more high-tech applications, it is used in material discernment, collision avoidance in automobiles, and industrial and medical imaging.

Now it’s being used in water meters and other flow meters. Meters traditionally have relied on an electromechanical system with a turning spindle or gear that uses a magnetic element to generate pulses. But – as is the case with thermostats, motors and lots of other everyday devices – electromechanical systems in flow meters are rapidly transitioning to electronic systems.

In these systems, a pair of immersive ultrasonic transducers measures the velocity of acoustic waves in the fluid. The velocity of acoustic wave propagation is a function of the viscosity, flow rate and direction of the fluid flowing through the pipe. Ultrasonic waves travel at different speeds depending on the stiffness of the media they’re traveling through.

The accuracy of the measurement depends on the quality of the transducer, precision analog circuitry and signal processing algorithms. Acoustic or ultrasonic transducers are piezo materials that convert electric signals to mechanical vibrations at a relatively high frequency of hundreds of kilohertz. Typically, a pair of ultrasonic transducers in the range of 1-2 MHz must be well-matched and calibrated in order to measure flow accurately. They make up a significant part of the flow meter’s cost. The sensor system must operate at very low power to ensure a 15-20 year battery life.

Our company’s advanced flow metering chip, the MSP430FR6043, includes a unique analog front end and algorithm, which significantly improves accuracy while reducing overall cost and power consumption. Our flow metering architecture leverages high-performance analog design, advanced algorithms and embedded processing to mitigate the need for an expensive pair of ultrasonic transducers. Analog front end and signal processing algorithms compensate for transducer mismatch.

Making every drop count

A typical ultrasonic flow meter transmits an ultrasonic wave and measures the differential delay at the receiver to estimate the rate of the flow. Delay measurements are usually handled by a time-to-digital-converter circuit that monitors the zero crossing of the received waveform. The challenge with the typical approach is that it is not sensitive enough to detect flow levels with high accuracy.

Our architecture deploys a smart analog front end featuring a high-performance analog-to-digital converter to improve signal-to-noise quality and overcome calibration inaccuracies. This approach has several benefits:  

  • It can achieve higher accuracy by reducing interference and improving signal-to-noise ratio.
  • The architecture can measure a wide dynamic range of flow, from a fire hose to a small leak.
  • By using a lower voltage driver, it significantly saves on power and cost. The average current for one measurement per second is less than 3 microamps. This translates to a battery life of more than 15 years.
  • It can detect turbulence, bubbles and other flow anomalies, which is important for flow analysis and servicing the pipelines.
  • The technology is robust to amplitude variations in the two directions of the flow, which may occur in water and gas at higher flow rates.

Many other TI technologies are critical for a high-performance flow meter. A low-power microcontroller with integrated ultrasonic analog front end, a high-performance clock reference, a low-quiescent current power management and ultra-accurate impedance matching of transmit driver and receive amplifier paths are examples of additional differentiating technologies in these flow meters.

Together, these technologies can help conserve one of our most precious resources.

Learn more about our ultrasonic sensing solution library for ultra-low-power flow metering devices.

Read our Corporate Citizenship Report to learn how our company is committed to conserving water and other resources.


1 Environmental Protection Agency

2 Earth’s Future: Adaptation to Future Water Shortages in the United States Caused by Population Growth and Climate Change.

 

The Spirit of Caring: TI honored for support of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 9:23am

(Please visit the site to view this video)

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas touches the lives of one in five North Texans, and our company was recently recognized for playing a key role for ongoing support of the important work accomplished by the organization. The 2018-19 United Way campaign - which was led by our company's chairman, president and CEO, Rich Templeton, and his wife, Mary - raised more than $61.5 million.

“Philanthropy is alive and well in North Texas,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of the organization. “Together, we have put opportunity in the hands of over 1 million North Texans. TI has been a pivotal and monumental supporter of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas since its inception almost 100 years ago. … TI’s annual contributions to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and to our impact work are unparalleled.”

The United Way's annual campaign raises money to fund programs in education, income and health. Nearly 3,000 employees volunteered for more than 75 United Way projects. Our company’s employee engagement manager, Terri Grosh, received the individual volunteer award for inspiring thousands of TI employees to give their time and skills in our communities.

How technology is powering the reality of our EV future

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 5:00am


More than 250 public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are scattered across Dallas,1 in small clusters of two or three at grocery stores, hotels and shopping centers. It’s a patchwork infrastructure of park-and-plug spots in major cities around the United States.  

But we’ll need many, many more as the number of EV drivers in the U.S. and around the world grows over the next decade.

One forecast estimates  40 million chargers will be needed across the U.S., Europe and China — a capital investment of $50 billion — to accommodate 120 million EVs on the road by 2030.2 The U.S. alone, which is home to fewer than 56,000 public and private EV charging outlets today, will need 13 million by then.3

If years for the reign of the internal combustion engine are numbered, we should see more EVs on the road today. But the global market can’t flip the switch quickly. Vehicle charging must become more convenient – with more than just a handful of stations in public parking lots – and carmakers must create production lines for a new kind of car.

“Combustion vehicles won't go away anytime soon," said Nagarajan Sridhar, a marketing manager at our company who works on high-voltage power solutions. “The charging infrastructure EV drivers will need must still be built out. Charging infrastructure solution manufacturers and carmakers must jointly work toward proliferating infrastructure solutions to make EVs pervasive.”

Find solutions that give you the power to electrify.

Until then, carmakers that want to survive the looming paradigm shift are already making gradual changes to vehicle engine design. The transition to EVs — an automotive revolution, really — won't happen overnight, but technology is moving it to the fast lane in stages:

Stage 1: Build better gas-powered cars
Governments worldwide are preparing for the shift to EVs. Automakers who sell in China will be mandated to make at least 7% of their sales electric by 2025.4 Norway adds stiff taxes to the price tags of gas-powered vehicles.5 The U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards are requiring carmakers to increase the number of miles consumers can drive their vehicles per gallon of gas and decrease emissions.

“What's driving the move to electric is the overall need to reduce emissions like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are released by fossil-fuel combustion," said Karl-Heinz Steinmetz, a general manager at our company who specializes in hybrid, electric and powertrain systems. “But improving the efficiency of combustion engines is not sufficient for consumer autos to reach government-backed emissions reduction targets. You need a step change, and clearly that step is electric."

Carmakers are upgrading combustion-fueled powertrains as an interim measure—finding miles-per-gallon improvements through measures such as engine efficiency upgrades and vehicle weight reduction. They’re also deploying more accurate sensors, engine component controllers and exhaust-treatment systems that optimize the combustion engine process to reduce fuel burn and emissions.



Stage 2: Electric-gas hybrids bridge two power sources
As the technology for fully electric powertrains and other vehicle systems matures, mild hybrid vehicles offer consumers a chance to drive cars that use more electricity to offset gas consumption. Belt-driven cooling and fuel pumps and other mechanical systems are being replaced with systems powered by electricity.

“The hybrid car market is growing because it makes the combustion engine more efficient while avoiding the current limitations of all-electric vehicles,” Karl-Heinz said. “Consumers won't get stuck if they go farther than their battery alone can take them.”

For owners who want to travel longer distances without needing to recharge as often, hybrids offer driving ranges of up to 640 miles compared to the current range of about 335 miles for all-electric cars.6

“This approach is a relatively easy way for carmakers to adapt their combustion engines by electrifying only some systems," Karl-Heinz said. “It lets them continue to produce combustion vehicles while still meeting tightening government rules on emissions."

Stage 3: Innovation makes all-electric vehicles the standard
To meet driver expectations on range, charging time and performance, engineers are harnessing the power of silicon carbide – a wide-bandgap semiconductor material that addresses the high voltage and high efficiency needs of EVs – and using innovative isolated gate drivers that monitor and manage power for fast charging and long battery life.

With these improvements, Nagarajan expects to see exponential growth in consumer demand for EVs begin sometime around 2022. At that point, electric power and management technologies will offer improved driving performance, system efficiency and power density.

Over time, vehicle electrification will open new avenues for innovation not available to combustion-based platforms. Future generations of EVs capable of delivering lots of power will create opportunities for new features and applications – such as powering your home at night while parked in your garage.

“When things really start kicking with EVs in the next few years, you're going to have lots of new possibilities," Nagarajan said. “You're going to start seeing the evolution of the smartphone on wheels."

Sources:
1.)    https://chargehub.com/en/countries/united-states/texas/dallas.html?city_id=487
2.)    https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/charging-ahead-electric-vehicle-infrastructure-demand
3.)    https://evadoption.com/ev-charging-stations-statistics/
4.)    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-not-tesla-will-drive-the-electric-car-revolution-2019-05-14
5.)    https://www2.greencarreports.com/news/1123160_why-norway-leads-the-world-in-electric-vehicle-adoption
6.)    https://insideevs.com/reviews/344001/compare-evs/ 

There’s Hope in the race to design your future car

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 5:45am



Hope Bovenzi peered around the classroom at the University of California, Los Angeles, as the guest speaker’s question hung unanswered in the air: “Who has been in an autonomous car?”

Not a single hand went up. Surprised, the outspoken general manager at our company grabbed the teaching moment. “What level of autonomy are you talking about?" she asked. “If you've been in a new car in the past couple of years, you have been in some sort of autonomous car.”

Hope, who had been working on a master’s degree in business administration after working hours, is quick to point out the various levels of vehicle autonomy. It starts with driver assistance – think of adaptive cruise control – and recently graduated to conditional automation that uses advanced sensors to monitor the car’s environment so it can autonomously steer or accelerate, for example.


Learn how to create smaller, faster and more efficient V2X designs.

In the race toward autonomy, carmakers are dreaming about possibilities for the car-turned-computer. But many questions remain: When will cars drive themselves? What will it be like to ride as a passenger? How will they talk to traffic systems?  Hope is among the innovators and problem-solvers paving the road for answers, and helping carmakers determine how technology can make their dreams reality. In particular, she’s helping determine how the car will connect to the world around it.

“We used to build computers within cars, and now we build the car around a computer,” she said. “And it’s our job to dream of the future.”

Ever the big-picture thinker, Hope takes a holistic approach to the task at hand – whether she’s helping our customers advance their automotive systems, serving as our company’s point person for the Women’s Initiative in the San Francisco Bay Area or recruiting prospective TIers at area colleges. “You wonder how she gets any sleep,” said Mike Claassen, an engineer at our company. “But she’s very good at getting like-minded people invested to move big things forward.

“At our company, she’s taking over the charter of how the cockpit will evolve.”

Hope, at age 4, exploring a replica of an early space shuttle cockpit.

Solving for the cockpit

Four-year-old Hope poked around the replica cockpit of a Space Transportation System (STS) shuttle – a U.S. pioneer space vehicle – during one of her many trips to Johnson Space Center in Houston. Her father, Jim Bovenzi, worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and made sure that science and electronics were childhood staples. He later worked as an engineer at our company from 1982 – 1986.

“My dad would build computers over and over, pulling out the parts and laying them all out on our kitchen table,” Hope said. “I couldn’t help but watch him. I didn’t realize until much later how much that influenced me.”

Computers still fascinate her. She describes her job as defining the personal electronics of the automotive world – the interface between human and machine. Much like the STS shuttle, Hope is in uncharted territory.
“Hope is focused on innovation yet to be defined within the automotive industry,” Mike said. “There are a lot of visions about what should or could be done. She brings a strong awareness of what our company’s products can help our customers achieve outside the automotive market – such as industrial communication and high-speed wireless communication – and helps carmakers answer a key question: Can this be realized in vehicles?”

Cars will continue to become more self-aware as vehicle autonomy evolves and pairs with systems that connect to the Internet over long distances. Think of a car as a device that talks to everything around it – including other cars, infrastructure and even lampposts that can signal an open parking space. This is called vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.

“Once we get to level 3 autonomy, when our eyes are off the road more often, V2X communication will become much more important,” Hope said. “Your car will have a predictive feature with intelligent reactions like slowing down in response to construction you can’t see up ahead.”

All the vast new information collected by the car could overwhelm the driver. Part of Hope’s job is to help carmakers decide how and where it should be displayed.

“The cockpit screen will span the entire dashboard, which could stream the camera view from your side mirror, or the rear camera view as you drive forward,” Hope said. “But should the driver have that information? Who knows? We’ll have to weigh these decisions as we optimize future systems to be interactive and not distractive to the driver.”

That means we’ll need something very different and revolutionary in the cockpit.

“Hope is up for the task,” Mike said. “She’s always looking for the next big challenge.”



A start-up for STEM equality

When she’s not challenging herself at work, Hope is busy recruiting leaders in Silicon Valley for High Tech High Heels, a non-profit organization founded by TIers that’s focused on closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

After six months of boots-on-the-ground coffee chats and networking, Hope built a leadership team of five women to kick off the organization’s newest chapter. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to her heart, since her journey to an engineering career included multiple STEM touch points, including encouragement from teachers and her father.

“You need a holistic approach to get girls into STEM, because they start to lose confidence in math and science as early as fourth grade,” Hope said. “You can’t change the environment or the mindset with just one touch point. And there’s a business case for it – if your company is lacking diversity, you’re missing out on great ideas.”

Hope’s big-picture mentality and drive have made her successful in the workplace and beyond, but she’s remained grounded, approachable and authentic, said Hannes Estl, an engineer and general manager at our company.

“Hope is a powerhouse,” he said. “She’s actively driving the direction we’re going in telematics, and helping our customers push the limits of what’s possible.”

To learn more about how TIers like Hope contribute to our communities, read our Corporate Citizenship Report.

Thank you to Bill Berg for allowing us to photograph his car.

3 smart factory trends that will boost productivity

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 4:46am


When a system fails on the factory floor, each second of downtime equals dollars down the drain – about $22,0001 per minute for some automobile manufacturers.

With those stakes, advances in smart factory technology that enable efficiency, advanced machine-to-machine connectivity and high-speed communication – down to the microsecond – can't come fast enough.

Imagine:

  • A beverage factory that uses the same assembly line to fill bottles with different drinks.
  • An auto manufacturer with a modular production cell that can build different types of cars on the same line with near-zero downtime.
  • Alerts that tell technicians about potential part and system failures before they happen.
  • Machines that can sense objects and avoid collisions work collaboratively with humans.

“The factory of the future will be highly efficient and highly connected," said Thomas Leyrer, a system architect at our company. “Some of the latest innovations drastically improve communication while addressing increasing bandwidth requirements.”


Design what’s next for Industry 4.0

Here are three trends adding intelligence to Industry 4.0:

1. Advanced industrial communication enables predictive maintenance

If the smart factory has a calling card, it's the level to which it has pushed machine-to-machine connectivity and communication – enabling a host of other capabilities.

While gigabit Ethernet time-sensitive networks (TSN) increase connectivity and the speed of data pinging between manufacturing devices, technologies like IO-Link and Sitara™ AM6x processors can harness that data from the factory floor and decipher it in real-time. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) related applications allow technicians to anticipate part and system failures before they happen and improve subsequent generations of product development.

“If a certain type of machine is deployed in 50 different locations, for instance, technicians can now compare their performance and control for variables like humidity, power supply and other environmental data,” Thomas said. “When one parameter for an individual machine goes out of limit, it triggers an alert signal to do predictive maintenance—remotely in the case of a software upgrade and onsite in the case of part repairs or replacements.”

 
2. Machine vision and human-machine interaction increase quality

Cobots – or collaborative robots designed to work alongside humans – represent one of the fastest-growing market segments in robotics, projected to reach nearly $9 billion by 20252. “These sophisticated machines can detect the proximity, speed and location of people or objects in defined zones through TI mmWave radar, giving robotic arms “vision” to safely help workers load machines or pick components out of bins, for example.

Machine vision can also enable greater product quality by testing tolerance, dimensions and other material attributes. “Now you can integrate quality assurance, which is typically done at end of the production cycle, as an integral part of the production process," Thomas said. “When you put machine vision into a TSN, it increases efficiency with identifying badly produced products early."

3. Edge analytics promotes efficiency

On the factory floor, some critical movements can’t wait for machine learning in the cloud. Instead, they demand insights and decisions closer to action – such as a robotic arm that needs to maneuver around workers to do its job. Edge analytics puts intelligence and decision-making capability right into the robot arm.

“Edge analytics can improve overall efficiency in real-time, allowing technicians to measure and analyze the power consumption of each individual device and adjust it when it’s not operating,” Thomas said. “Edge devices also give users access to data that enables continuous monitoring of the efficiency and functionality of production cells remotely.”

Most modern factories are already benefiting from smart technology and IIoT to some degree. In the factory of the future, smart technology will add flexibility and modularity to even the most efficient single production line.

“With predictive maintenance alone, you can increase up-time from 80% to 95%," Thomas said. "That's a big deal."

Sources:
1.    https://iiot-world.com/connected-industry/the-cost-of-one-minute-downtime-in-manufacturing/
2.    https://www.assemblymag.com/articles/94462-global-cobots-market-could-be-worth-9-billion-by-2025

TI has selected Richardson, Texas as the location for our next 300mm analog wafer fab

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 6:15am


We are pleased to announce TI has selected Richardson, Texas as the location for our next 300mm analog wafer fab. The decision to build a second fab in Richardson furthers our ongoing commitment to North Texas and is an important step in our strategy to invest in more 300mm manufacturing capacity, which is a competitive advantage for our company.

Our first Richardson fab, RFAB, was the world’s first 300mm analog fab when it opened in 2009, and has been instrumental in enabling us to support our customers through an exciting period of industry growth, particularly in markets such as automotive and industrial. A new 300mm factory will enable us to continue to support our customers well into the future by delivering products with both competitive lead times and cost, since larger 300mm wafers produce more than two times the number of analog chips compared to 200mm wafers.

This is exciting news for our employees and a testament to the North Texas communities where so many of us live and work. We selected Richardson because of some unique advantages the city provides including access to talent, an existing supplier base and multiple airports, as well as operational efficiencies due to the close proximity of the new fab to our existing RFAB.

We plan to begin construction of a new parking garage on our Richardson campus soon to support the growing number of employees at that location. We anticipate starting construction in the next few years, but exact timing of factory construction, tool installation and the addition of several hundred jobs to support the new factory will be influenced by market demand and other factors. When completed, this state-of-the-art 300mm analog wafer fab will provide the additional capacity we require to manufacture the innovative products our customers need for decades to come.

Kyle Flessner is senior vice president, Technology and Manufacturing Group.

How technology is taking health care beyond the doctor’s office

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 8:00am


A doctor treats a patient in a remote village.

On a recent trip to China, Yiannis Papantonopoulos got a glimpse of the future of medicine—and it was inside a suitcase.

The suitcase contained a series of gadgets—including an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor that can detect anomalies in the heart's electrical signals, a pulse oximeter to detect low blood oxygen sometimes related with heart or lung disease, a blood-glucose monitor to spot abnormal levels of sugar in the blood common with diabetes, an automatic blood pressure monitor and an electronic thermometer.

Thanks to that suitcase, one person can easily hold with one hand the electronic diagnostic equipment needed to provide a clinical-quality medical exam, miniaturized and battery-powered, and ready to be carried into rural areas far from the nearest doctor's office.

"The clinician can run a set of tests on the spot and process the results right there, so they can immediately prescribe any needed treatment," said Yiannis, a manager at our company who specializes in medical device engineering. "A few years ago that would have been absolutely impossible."

 

Learn how we’re enabling next-generation healthcare designs

Medicine is undergoing a major transformation in the U.S. and around the world. Much of that change is based around the growing availability of wireless, ever-smaller devices capable of monitoring, imaging and diagnosing patients wherever they happen to be. The results are extending health care beyond the doctor's office and hospital, improving the patient experience while making it more accessible and less costly.

"Physical exams in a clinical setting are still critically important," Yiannis said, "but now we're seeing the capability for health care professionals to continually monitor their patients and extract meaningful information they can act on remotely."

Helping patients at home

Health care based on getting patients to the exam room or hospital bed means care providers have limited visibility into how patients are actually doing in their day-to-day lives.

What's making the difference is the rapid increase in access to a range of highly portable health monitors that can track multiple modalities remotely, such as a miniaturized ECG monitor or pulse oximeter, similar to what you'd see in a clinic.

"Collecting patient information through remote monitoring is creating a real revolution in medicine," said Christopher Almario, a physician and research scientist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Calif., who helps direct the hospital's digital-health efforts.

Doctors have begun enlisting wearable or other wireless devices capable of capturing vital signs right in the home on an ongoing basis. By wearing a wrist device the size of a watch that measures heart rhythm, a fully automated blood-pressure monitor or a pulse oximeter, patients avoid the need to stay wired up in a hospital bed, away from family and the other comforts of home. The data can be regularly transmitted to doctors or service providers who can nip a potential health crisis in the bud.

"Being able to track patients' hypertension, blood-sugar level and other data is already having a big impact on how we deal with chronic disease," Dr. Almario said. "We're using remote monitoring to try to predict the risk of cardiac events and other acute conditions."

Shrinking tools that impact lives

It's not just routine health-data monitoring that's extending beyond the hospital and doctor's office. Even some of the most sophisticated imaging and diagnostic tools are becoming available in portable form. As an example, Yiannis points to ultrasound scanners, which have traditionally been cart-mounted in clinics. Now, thanks to component advances that reduce power and size while maintaining signal quality, ultrasound devices are shrinking down to hand-held smart probes that can run on batteries.

Carried by first responders in the field or in ambulances, smart probes can produce sharp, real-time images of internal organs, often revealing details critical to immediate treatment. For patients in remote areas of less-developed countries where fully equipped clinics may be few and far between, a smart probe in the hands of a health worker can mean the difference between a healthy and unhealthy birth, or catching a heart attack before it happens.

"The lack of accurate but affordable diagnostic tools created a real divide in the availability of good health care," Yiannis said. "But now new technology is making the tools accessible everywhere."

Yiannis Papantonopoulos specializes in medical device engineering.

Better data for better health

If health care outside the hospital continues to advance, medicine will depend on ever-more-capable portable health devices. That's raising the bar increasingly higher on the semiconductor technology behind this equipment.

"Data accuracy and resolution are essential," Yiannis said. "The components need to be capable of detecting fine, nuanced signals in the human body, which is a noisy environment."

At the same time, the size of these devices needs to keep shrinking—along with their power consumption, given that the tools will often have to rely on batteries. That places enormous requirements on the performance of the components.

Meanwhile, health care systems have some of the toughest data-security standards around, which is a real challenge when dealing with vast networks of wireless devices handling patient data outside the clinical environment. The data has to be safeguarded at the highest levels.

But Yiannis insists that engineers are up to the challenge, given what's at stake. "This is technology that touches human lives around the world," he said. "This is a goal that everyone can rally around."

How technology is taking health care beyond the doctor’s office

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 8:00am


A doctor treats a patient in a remote village.

On a recent trip to China, Yiannis Papantonopoulos got a glimpse of the future of medicine—and it was inside a suitcase.

The suitcase contained a series of gadgets—including an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor that can detect anomalies in the heart's electrical signals, a pulse oximeter to detect low blood oxygen sometimes related with heart or lung disease, a blood-glucose monitor to spot abnormal levels of sugar in the blood common with diabetes, an automatic blood pressure monitor and an electronic thermometer.

Thanks to that suitcase, one person can easily hold with one hand the electronic diagnostic equipment needed to provide a clinical-quality medical exam, miniaturized and battery-powered, and ready to be carried into rural areas far from the nearest doctor's office.

"The clinician can run a set of tests on the spot and process the results right there, so they can immediately prescribe any needed treatment," said Yiannis, a manager at our company who specializes in medical device engineering. "A few years ago that would have been absolutely impossible."

 

Learn how we’re enabling next-generation healthcare designs

Medicine is undergoing a major transformation in the U.S. and around the world. Much of that change is based around the growing availability of wireless, ever-smaller devices capable of monitoring, imaging and diagnosing patients wherever they happen to be. The results are extending health care beyond the doctor's office and hospital, improving the patient experience while making it more accessible and less costly.

"Physical exams in a clinical setting are still critically important," Yiannis said, "but now we're seeing the capability for health care professionals to continually monitor their patients and extract meaningful information they can act on remotely."

Helping patients at home

Health care based on getting patients to the exam room or hospital bed means care providers have limited visibility into how patients are actually doing in their day-to-day lives.

What's making the difference is the rapid increase in access to a range of highly portable health monitors that can track multiple modalities remotely, such as a miniaturized ECG monitor or pulse oximeter, similar to what you'd see in a clinic.

"Collecting patient information through remote monitoring is creating a real revolution in medicine," said Christopher Almario, a physician and research scientist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Calif., who helps direct the hospital's digital-health efforts.

Doctors have begun enlisting wearable or other wireless devices capable of capturing vital signs right in the home on an ongoing basis. By wearing a wrist device the size of a watch that measures heart rhythm, a fully automated blood-pressure monitor or a pulse oximeter, patients avoid the need to stay wired up in a hospital bed, away from family and the other comforts of home. The data can be regularly transmitted to doctors or service providers who can nip a potential health crisis in the bud.

"Being able to track patients' hypertension, blood-sugar level and other data is already having a big impact on how we deal with chronic disease," Dr. Almario said. "We're using remote monitoring to try to predict the risk of cardiac events and other acute conditions."

Shrinking tools that impact lives

It's not just routine health-data monitoring that's extending beyond the hospital and doctor's office. Even some of the most sophisticated imaging and diagnostic tools are becoming available in portable form. As an example, Yiannis points to ultrasound scanners, which have traditionally been cart-mounted in clinics. Now, thanks to component advances that reduce power and size while maintaining signal quality, ultrasound devices are shrinking down to hand-held smart probes that can run on batteries.

Carried by first responders in the field or in ambulances, smart probes can produce sharp, real-time images of internal organs, often revealing details critical to immediate treatment. For patients in remote areas of less-developed countries where fully equipped clinics may be few and far between, a smart probe in the hands of a health worker can mean the difference between a healthy and unhealthy birth, or catching a heart attack before it happens.

"The lack of accurate but affordable diagnostic tools created a real divide in the availability of good health care," Yiannis said. "But now new technology is making the tools accessible everywhere."

Yiannis Papantonopoulos specializes in medical device engineering.

Better data for better health

If health care outside the hospital continues to advance, medicine will depend on ever-more-capable portable health devices. That's raising the bar increasingly higher on the semiconductor technology behind this equipment.

"Data accuracy and resolution are essential," Yiannis said. "The components need to be capable of detecting fine, nuanced signals in the human body, which is a noisy environment."

At the same time, the size of these devices needs to keep shrinking—along with their power consumption, given that the tools will often have to rely on batteries. That places enormous requirements on the performance of the components.

Meanwhile, health care systems have some of the toughest data-security standards around, which is a real challenge when dealing with vast networks of wireless devices handling patient data outside the clinical environment. The data has to be safeguarded at the highest levels.

But Yiannis insists that engineers are up to the challenge, given what's at stake. "This is technology that touches human lives around the world," he said. "This is a goal that everyone can rally around."

Young innovator finds purpose at the heartbeat of electronics and in the ‘soul of the music’

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 5:00am

The hands of the young innovator move with precision as he draws his bow across the strings and presses each note along the fingerboard of his violin.

The concert hall resonates with beautiful, moving passages from Niccolo Paganini's Caprice No. 24, each note in lockstep with the melody in Ernest’s mind, the movement of his bow and the quickness of his fingers.

While he plays, he thinks of his left hand as the engineer, his right hand as the “soul of the music.”

To Ernest, the violin has been many things: A chore. An instrument to awaken his competitive spirit. A motivator for big goals. And finally, a resonator that would open his eyes to the underlying physics of a technology innovation he would someday develop.

Ernest’s fingers learned their quickness from playing the violin – and the restless movement of his fingers helped lead him to his day job – as a micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologist in Kilby Labs, our company’s applied research center.


Ernest has developed a new application for bulk-acoustic wave (BAW) resonators, devices much like his violin, only at 100 microns wide, our new TI BAW technology is smaller than the diameter of a human hair and oscillates at much higher, inaudible frequencies.

These tiny timekeepers have the potential to become the sturdy heartbeat of electronic systems that will accelerate next-generation connectivity, enabling big data and unlocking the potential for smart cities, smart factories, smart homes and a host of other applications.

Standing mid-stage in the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Ernest remembers the last time he was here. At 13, he sat within 5 feet of where he is standing now, playing with the Taiwan youth orchestra. By that point, he had long since fallen in love with music.
(Please visit the site to view this video)

Today, Ernest is a concert violinist by night, MEMS researcher by day. Recruited by our company from the doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley, he is an expert on MEMS resonator technology. He has been working for six years with colleagues around the world to develop products in which these tiny bulk-acoustic wave resonators function like electronic heartbeats – or clock signals – that tell each electronic component when to perform its part in perfect harmony and synchronization.

 

Learn more about TI BAW technology.

Chief Technology Officer Ahmad Bahai explains how TI BAW technology accelerates big data on the information superhighway.

It all began with the music

Rewind to the mid-1980s. Ernest is 5 years old, living with his family in the countryside in central Taiwan. His grandparents are farmers. Music education is a Taiwanese staple, and so at the urging of his parents, he began learning to play the violin, though most of his classmates played the piano.

Working each day on his fingering and bowing techniques felt like a chore. At the time, Ernest was more interested in science and sports.

“I played basketball until I knew I wasn’t tall enough,” he says.

Ernest and his younger brother also loved to use LEGO® kits to build robot arms and other contraptions.

“The toys were very expensive, so we would buy one kit, and we would start to follow the instructions. And then we would start to build other things,” he says.

While he was in elementary school, Ernest built tiny mechanized elevators for his bunk bed so he could send drinks and other items down to his brother.

Then, in fourth grade, Ernest performed in his first national violin competition. It changed everything.

Though he didn’t win, the competition introduced him to his critics, to his audience and to his competitors. After the event, Ernest told his teacher and his parents that he did not plan to take the high-school placement test for his region. Instead, he wanted to take the most difficult high-school entrance exam in Taiwan, which he hoped would allow him to go to a school in Taipei, where the musical education was more advanced.

When it came time to take the entrance exam, Ernest made the grade.

A defining moment

In his hometown, Ernest had been ranked first among thousands of students. But when he went to the most-sought-after all-boys high school in Taiwan, he realized he would have to redefine himself as something other than the first or the best.

“When I went to Taipei, I wasn’t the best anymore,” he says. “Everyone there was the best of the best. I realized that I would never be first all the time. So I had to find something, because winning was not the thing that could define me anymore.”

So he turned to the community of musicians.

“I found out that I like to work with people,” he says. “When you come together with friends to play chamber music, everyone contributes a little bit. Each person does well at one thing to make the larger thing great. And it’s really fun.”

After high school, Ernest attended a university in Taipei that's known for its science and engineering programs. Although he was still passionate about playing the violin and had won two major music competitions during college, he decided to pursue a career in engineering.

One day, when Ernest was a freshman, he was sitting with several seniors, and his hands were fidgeting.

“One of them told me, ‘Hey, your hands cannot stop. Maybe you should try to do MEMS research.’’’

For 18 months between college and graduate school, Ernest performed his compulsory military service, during which time he cultivated his love of music and played for high-profile audiences that included leaders in Taiwan.

“Maker of resonators”


While studying to earn his doctorate in micro-electromechanical systems engineering at Berkeley, Ernest began focusing on radio frequency MEMS and became known on campus as a student who devoted long hours to his education. He started his day at dawn in the MEMS lab and often stayed all through the day and night. He took weekly lessons from members of the San Francisco Symphony and practiced his violin from midnight to 2 a.m. every morning. He did not want to sacrifice his proficiency or lose touch with his music.

It was during this time that Ernest realized that the underlying physics of how his violin produces sound and how MEMS resonators create a precision beat are the same.

“Everything is physics,” Ernest says.

“His impact will be huge”

Today, Ernest works in research and development at Kilby Labs. He collaborates closely with other technologists to develop products such as our most recent TI BAW-based devices.

The technology can be used in any electronic system that requires a timing function, Ernest says.

“Almost any electronic system needs a clock,” he says. “For example, your smart phone, your projector – pretty much any electronic system, wired or wireless, depends on a precise clock in order to synchronize the transfer of signals or data. They all have to be synchronized so they know when and how to function.”

For decades, quartz crystals have been used for the timing function within electronic systems. But when these bulky components start to wear down, they jitter, or jump, which can impact their accuracy over time. One of the technologies Ernest helped develop can be used in concert with a quartz crystal to remove this jitter to create a more precise signal. The other technology integrates our TI BAW resonator into a microcontroller, eliminating the need for quartz crystals and creating more space on the circuit board for design engineers to innovate.

With the advent of more advanced communications networks and the age of big data, high-precision clocking is essential as increasingly massive amounts of data speed between systems around the world, connecting doctors to patients, farmers to livestock, and buildings to cars.

Our new TI BAW-based products promise to radically improve the performance of internal clocks and accelerate applications ranging from building automation to virtual health, personal electronics and more.

On the horizon

Ernest has found the same sense of community with his colleagues in the lab as he found through his music. The community of problem-solvers – each with unique skills – works together through daunting challenges toward common goals.

Ernest’s colleagues know him as a steady voice who never doubts the team’s ability to succeed.

“During the process of innovation, there are many ups and downs, and it can get emotional,” says Xiaolin Lu, a TI Fellow and a leader in the development of our BAW resonator technology. “When things don’t go as people think they should, people can get discouraged. Or when things go well, they may get too excited. Not Ernest. I’ve never seen a single time he hesitated. He never had a single minute he showed that he doesn’t believe in this.

“He believed even when many people didn’t. In the end he was proved right. That kind of character is unique. His impact will be huge.”

Ernest is already on to his next challenge. His vision for the future? To continue working on the heartbeat of electronics – and to always embrace the soul of the music.

Young innovator finds purpose at the heartbeat of electronics and in the ‘soul of the music’

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 5:00am

The hands of the young innovator move with precision as he draws his bow across the strings and presses each note along the fingerboard of his violin.

The concert hall resonates with beautiful, moving passages from Niccolo Paganini's Caprice No. 24, each note in lockstep with the melody in Ernest’s mind, the movement of his bow and the quickness of his fingers.

While he plays, he thinks of his left hand as the engineer, his right hand as the “soul of the music.”

To Ernest, the violin has been many things: A chore. An instrument to awaken his competitive spirit. A motivator for big goals. And finally, a resonator that would open his eyes to the underlying physics of a technology innovation he would someday develop.
(Please visit the site to view this video)

Ernest’s fingers learned their quickness from playing the violin – and the restless movement of his fingers helped lead him to his day job – as a micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologist in Kilby Labs, our company’s applied research center.

Ernest has developed a new application for bulk-acoustic wave (BAW) resonators, devices much like his violin, only at 100 microns wide, our new TI BAW technology is smaller than the diameter of a human hair and oscillates at much higher, inaudible frequencies.

These tiny timekeepers have the potential to become the sturdy heartbeat of electronic systems that will accelerate next-generation connectivity, enabling big data and unlocking the potential for smart cities, smart factories, smart homes and a host of other applications.

Standing mid-stage in the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Ernest remembers the last time he was here. At 13, he sat within 5 feet of where he is standing now, playing with the Taiwan youth orchestra. By that point, he had long since fallen in love with music.

Today, Ernest is a concert violinist by night, MEMS researcher by day. Recruited by our company from the doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley, he is an expert on MEMS resonator technology. He has been working for six years with colleagues around the world to develop products in which these tiny bulk-acoustic wave resonators function like electronic heartbeats – or clock signals – that tell each electronic component when to perform its part in perfect harmony and synchronization.

 

Learn more about TI BAW technology.

Chief Technology Officer Ahmad Bahai explains how TI BAW technology accelerates big data on the information superhighway.

It all began with the music

Rewind to the mid-1980s. Ernest is 5 years old, living with his family in the countryside in central Taiwan. His grandparents are farmers. Music education is a Taiwanese staple, and so at the urging of his parents, he began learning to play the violin, though most of his classmates played the piano.

Working each day on his fingering and bowing techniques felt like a chore. At the time, Ernest was more interested in science and sports.

“I played basketball until I knew I wasn’t tall enough,” he says.

Ernest and his younger brother also loved to use LEGO® kits to build robot arms and other contraptions.

“The toys were very expensive, so we would buy one kit, and we would start to follow the instructions. And then we would start to build other things,” he says.

While he was in elementary school, Ernest built tiny mechanized elevators for his bunk bed so he could send drinks and other items down to his brother.

Then, in fourth grade, Ernest performed in his first national violin competition. It changed everything.

Though he didn’t win, the competition introduced him to his critics, to his audience and to his competitors. After the event, Ernest told his teacher and his parents that he did not plan to take the high-school placement test for his region. Instead, he wanted to take the most difficult high-school entrance exam in Taiwan, which he hoped would allow him to go to a school in Taipei, where the musical education was more advanced.

When it came time to take the entrance exam, Ernest made the grade.

A defining moment

In his hometown, Ernest had been ranked first among thousands of students. But when he went to the most-sought-after all-boys high school in Taiwan, he realized he would have to redefine himself as something other than the first or the best.

“When I went to Taipei, I wasn’t the best anymore,” he says. “Everyone there was the best of the best. I realized that I would never be first all the time. So I had to find something, because winning was not the thing that could define me anymore.”

So he turned to the community of musicians.

“I found out that I like to work with people,” he says. “When you come together with friends to play chamber music, everyone contributes a little bit. Each person does well at one thing to make the larger thing great. And it’s really fun.”

After high school, Ernest attended a university in Taipei that's known for its science and engineering programs. Although he was still passionate about playing the violin and had won two major music competitions during college, he decided to pursue a career in engineering.

One day, when Ernest was a freshman, he was sitting with several seniors, and his hands were fidgeting.

“One of them told me, ‘Hey, your hands cannot stop. Maybe you should try to do MEMS research.’’’

For 18 months between college and graduate school, Ernest performed his compulsory military service, during which time he cultivated his love of music and played for high-profile audiences that included leaders in Taiwan.

“Maker of resonators”

While studying to earn his doctorate in micro-electromechanical systems engineering at Berkeley, Ernest began focusing on radio frequency MEMS and became known on campus as a student who devoted long hours to his education. He started his day at dawn in the MEMS lab and often stayed all through the day and night. He took weekly lessons from members of the San Francisco Symphony and practiced his violin from midnight to 2 a.m. every morning. He did not want to sacrifice his proficiency or lose touch with his music.


It was during this time that Ernest realized that the underlying physics of how his violin produces sound and how MEMS resonators create a precision beat are the same.

“Everything is physics,” Ernest says.

“His impact will be huge”

Today, Ernest works in research and development at Kilby Labs. He collaborates closely with other technologists to develop products such as our most recent TI BAW-based devices.

The technology can be used in any electronic system that requires a timing function, Ernest says.

“Almost any electronic system needs a clock,” he says. “For example, your smart phone, your projector – pretty much any electronic system, wired or wireless, depends on a precise clock in order to synchronize the transfer of signals or data. They all have to be synchronized so they know when and how to function.”

For decades, quartz crystals have been used for the timing function within electronic systems. But when these bulky components start to wear down, they jitter, or jump, which can impact their accuracy over time. One of the technologies Ernest helped develop can be used in concert with a quartz crystal to remove this jitter to create a more precise signal. The other technology integrates our TI BAW resonator into a microcontroller, eliminating the need for quartz crystals and creating more space on the circuit board for design engineers to innovate.

With the advent of more advanced communications networks and the age of big data, high-precision clocking is essential as increasingly massive amounts of data speed between systems around the world, connecting doctors to patients, farmers to livestock, and buildings to cars.

Our new TI BAW-based products promise to radically improve the performance of internal clocks and accelerate applications ranging from building automation to virtual health, personal electronics and more.

On the horizon

Ernest has found the same sense of community with his colleagues in the lab as he found through his music. The community of problem-solvers – each with unique skills – works together through daunting challenges toward common goals.

Ernest’s colleagues know him as a steady voice who never doubts the team’s ability to succeed.

“During the process of innovation, there are many ups and downs, and it can get emotional,” says Xiaolin Lu, a TI Fellow and a leader in the development of our BAW resonator technology. “When things don’t go as people think they should, people can get discouraged. Or when things go well, they may get too excited. Not Ernest. I’ve never seen a single time he hesitated. He never had a single minute he showed that he doesn’t believe in this.

“He believed even when many people didn’t. In the end he was proved right. That kind of character is unique. His impact will be huge.”

Ernest is already on to his next challenge. His vision for the future? To continue working on the heartbeat of electronics – and to always embrace the soul of the music.