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One of the unexpected pleasures for the Analog Garage team as we expand our global exploration are the innovative projects we find that are focused on solving local problems.

 

Of course, there are plenty of efforts in every corner of the world with the potential to make a difference on a global scale. But everywhere we go, we always seem to uncover projects with a local flair.

 

It’s more common to come across those in India or China, each with huge domestic market potential. But even in a country like Israel, which is much more globally focused because of its small population, tends to solve problems that hit close to home. We’ve come across some ingenious sensor-to-cloud development, for example, that is aimed at growing more produce with less water, which is a precious resource there.

 

In places like India and the Philippines, where electricity is expensive and unreliable, we invariably meet up with innovators focused on things like low-power design techniques, better battery chemistries and energy harvesting. In the Philippines, where the landscape is freckled with cellular towers, inventors are intent on harvesting spurious radio signals and converting them back into energy.

 

India is also host to a fast-developing healthcare startup community. Much of the innovation there is focused on customizing diagnostic devices to be portable, sealed and very low cost for use in poor, dusty rural areas.

 

In Singapore, where space comes at a premium, inventors gin up ways to solve transportation bottlenecks and better manage waste disposal. Like, for example, a municipal hub system we saw that was designed to streamline shipping delivery by minimizing the time that large, expensive gas-guzzling trucks are on the road.

 

It might seem hard to believe that a place like China, where therapies like acupuncture and massage have been widely used for centuries, is combining its prowess as home to one-fourth of the world’s manufacturing, to create robot masseuses. But it’s true. One startup at an incubator we visited is developing a robot that massages with a plucking action to more closely mimic Chinese technique.

 

 

What innovations have you come across with a decidedly local flair? How might the Analog Garage tailor Analog Devices technology for those innovations? Let us know!

ADI Senior Manager, Raj Senguttuvan just got back from visiting China as part of the Analog Garage’s regional expansion into Asia. He said he “was blown away” by the fertile start-up ecosystem there. Find out why in this short video interview with Raj.

 

Click here to view the video: 

On Location: China’s Vibrant New Start-up Climate - YouTube 

 

Visit the Analog Garage at Analog Garage | Analog Devices 

 

 

When it comes to locking down a network, the security you put in place is only as good as the weakest link. If someone’s given you a password to access their network, then guess what? You are the weakest link!

 

For the Internet of Things, one of the biggest security risks are the countless millions of exposed sensors and actuators used to automate tasks like lighting and climate control. That’s why there’s such a focus on integrating security right into hardware to authenticate machine-to-machine communication, as we discussed last month in our blog post, “A Smart City is a Secure City.”

 

But hardware tampering and theft is not as big a problem for computing networks. Servers and data centers are behind lock and key. And most people keep close tabs on their laptops, smartphones and other connected devices. That’s why only eight percent of computer hacks last year involved physical attacks, according to Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report.

 

But don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. Because although we’re responsible guardians of hardware, we’re terrible at locking down accounts, which are all entry points into valuable data stores for cyber thieves. According to the Verizon report, 81 percent of the breaches in 2016 leveraged stolen and/or weak passwords like “password123.”

 

The most obvious way to defuse our ability to, wittingly or unwittingly, grant access to critical networks is by employing multi-factor authentication, or MFA. As the name implies, MFA means you’ll need more than one method of validating that it’s really you who is requesting access. Most of us have encountered one of the simpler MFA techniques at gas pumps, many of which require a PIN or zip code as well as a credit card before accepting payment.

 

The problem with MFA schemes today is that they require more effort on our part, which is something too many of us are unwilling to endure. If we were, then one in six personal passwords on the Internet wouldn’t be “123456,” would they?

 

If MFA is ever going to neutralize human password management, then it will have to be as painless as it is effective. That’s why the Analog Garage and others are hard at work developing sensor-to-cloud platforms designed to limit access only to authorized account holders. Some of them are built around biometrics, like fingerprints, voice patterns and iris scans.

 

Others are tied to specific personal devices, like smartphones and fitness trackers. Which means that, like IoT nodes, personal devices will need hardened authentication features built right into the silicon.

 

No one authentication option is foolproof. So the best way to lock out unauthorized access is to use a combination of three or more factors, such as the presence of a phone along with a fingerprint scan.

 

Most of all, as people prove over and over, it will have to be painless to use. It’s the only way for the industry to look us in the eye like the host of the old BBC TV show and say, “You are the weakest link. Goodbye.”

Bloomberg Markets caught up with the Analog Garage on-site last week at the Harvard Innovation Lab, just as the university’s program awarded more than $300,000 to incubate new ideas.

 

Bloomberg Market hosts discussed with Maria Tagliaferro, Director of Technology Advocacy, the intersection of the analog and digital worlds, the Analog Garage’s role in furthering the exploration in sensor-to-cloud answers to today’s most pressing problems, how university incubators like the Harvard Innovation Lab fit in the mix and the importance of the Boston area ecosystem.

 

Why the Boston area? “It’s a hub in every sense of the word,” Tagliaferro said. “It’s the hub for Massachusetts, which Bloomberg named the number one innovation state. It’s the hub for medical. It’s the hub for education. And it’s an international hub.”

 

Listen to the Bloomberg Markets interview with Tagliaferro HERE.

image of Maria (right) on air with Bloomberg reporters Carol Massar and Cory Johnson (left) 

The light bulb has become the symbol for an idea. But when ADI’s Doug Gardner sees a light bulb he thinks, “security breach.”

 

Gardner told attendees at EmTech Asia in Singapore earlier this year that the Smart City and the overall Internet of Things can’t realize their full potential without security that is rearchitected for connected things. (The Analog Garage was a sponsor for EmTech Asia, a MIT Technology Review-hosted event).

 

Machine-to-machine communication will drive decision-making by intelligent systems, without human intervention. So each node in the system must be secure.

 

That will be more challenging with connected devices deployed in public buildings and city streets, where hackers can manually tamper with them. In contrast, corporate datacenters are physically out of reach for most cyberthieves. In fact, Verizon just released its annual Data Breach Investigations Report and found that only eight percent of computer hacks last year involved physical attacks such as breaking into a datacenter or stealing a smartphone or laptop.

 

 

The potential for those numbers to be far higher for the Internet of Things is a scary prospect, Gardner said. He pointed out that five million lightbulbs are replaced each day. And as municipalities increasingly turn to smart bulbs to manage lighting more economically, each of those bulbs becomes a potential source of vulnerability.

 

 

Today’s assigned identity security constructs like public key infrastructure, or PKI, are ill-equipped to manage access for Smart Cities, Gardner said. A security framework for the IoT’s systems of systems must begin at the edge, with identity rooted in the silicon. A so-called hardware root of trust sits below applications, drivers and the real-time operating system, monitoring activity. That puts it in a better position to identify rootkits and spot out-of-character activities.

 

And for human interaction – such as for maintenance workers replacing lightbulbs – adopting multi-factor authentication that incorporates biometrics will be critical to controlling access.

 

Multi-factor authentication will be vital for putting a lid on existing cyberattacks by requiring more proof points than simply passwords to gain access to computer networks. According to the Verizon report, 81 percent of the breaches in 2016 leveraged stolen and/or weak passwords.

 

There are many obstacles on the road to the Smart City that must be cleared before we can realize the vision of cleaner, safer and more efficient municipalities. And the Analog Garage is busy clearing the path in many ways, from developing sensors tailored for Smart City applications to exploring new techniques to keep those sensors powered and secured.

 

The most recognizable LIDAR system for the automotive market looks sort of like a salad plate-sized dome that sits atop the roof of the automobile.  The next smallest is about twice the size of a hockey puck. So you might find it hard to believe the Analog Garage is prototyping a LIDAR system for new markets that’s no bigger than a D-size battery? But it’s true.

 

So how did we do it? There is a lot of technological ingenuity that went into developing this system that unfortunately I’m not at liberty to share. But this much I can say: it’s impressive how many design constraints you can shed when you focus on solving a particular problem rather than just shrinking an existing system.

 

Let me give you an example. Drones can be great fun for hobbyists and video enthusiasts. Police use them for recon. Doctors are delivering medicines with UAVs. What they’re not very good at is landing. Which is a problem.

 

At the Analog Garage, we think LIDAR is a promising technology for overcoming drones’ landing difficulties. It’s very precise, works day or night and can operate in all sorts of weather. But traditional LIDAR systems are too big and expensive.

 

Once we took a step back, we realized we could strip away much of a traditional LIDAR system for this application, and make it small enough and cost-effective enough to help drones land. Because we don’t need the three-dimensional map of space that a full LIDAR system can generate. We just have a one-dimensional question that we need to answer here: how far is the drone from the ground below?

 

Our prototype system can answer that question. It can scan up to 40 meters, and is accurate to within 5 cm. Which drone designers tell us will give them the soft landing they are trying to achieve.

 

What other problems can a tailored LIDAR system solve? Share your thoughts below!

Once the stuff of science fiction, handheld chemical labs are now fast becoming a reality. Advancements in opto-electronics performance and miniaturization are opening possibilities for the well-established science of material analysis using wavelength dispersion. Imaginative scientists, researchers and engineers are laser-focused on advancing the technology and exploring a wide swath of uses, everything from the fields of psychiatry and medicine to agriculture, industrial and consumer protection.

 

The technology behind the portable chemical analysis is called near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS. NIRS shoots beams of light into objects and then discerns chemical makeup by tracking which photons bounce back. A handheld sensor-to-cloud NIRS device trumps traditional chemical lab analysis because it is quick, portable, inexpensive and non-destructive.

 

What would you unearth with the power of an instant chemlab in your pocket? Who might benefit? What are the business opportunities?

 

There are many challenges to overcome before all the possibilities of spectroscopy can be realized, including widening the spectrum used for analysis and boosting the power and sophistication to detect and measure more and more compounds in lower concentrations and ever more challenging conditions.

 

Analog Devices, with its expertise in precisely measuring physical phenomena, is hard at work turning the vision of NIRS into a reality.

 

Through the Analog Garage, Analog Devices is making connections at the leading edge in fields like healthcare, agriculture, chemistry, and biology to help ensure that engineering development is aligned with what researchers are trying to achieve with the technology. It’s one of the big reasons, for example, that the Analog Garage is a founding partner of Pulse@MassChallenge, an incubator focused on digital health. 

 

There is so much possibility and so much activity in NIRS that it can be difficult to keep up. Researchers at Keio University in Tokyo, for example, just reported that they identified a specific channel in the brain in which the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin varies with dosage levels of antidepressants. The discovery could lead to new and better treatments for depression.

 

And researchers in China are dialing in the best method for assessing leaf nitrogen in pear orchards, something that is urgently needed to improve quality and yields. Of course, Analog Devices’ own Internet of Tomatoes project is leveraging NIRS to help farmers grow better-tasting tomatoes.

 

To be sure, applications for spectroscopy are sprouting. Consider that:

 

  • NASA says the Mars 2020 rover will be armed with SuperCam, a device equipped with three different spectroscopy technologies to give it broader capabilities to analyze the elements.

 

  • The beverage industry is exploring different ways to apply ultraviolet and visible light spectroscopy to make beverages look and taste better. Brewers, for example, are beginning to leverage the technology to manage the bitterness of IPA beers.

 

  • In India, where an estimated two-thirds of people drink adulterated milk, researchers are putting NIRS to work spotting unwanted contaminants – including additives like urea and antibiotics and lead from paint chips.

 

One day, consumers will have in their pocket, likely built right into their smartphones - like the Changhong H2 – the ability to quickly assess alcohol content of a drink or detect the presence of a date-rape drug, assess dosage levels in generic drugs, gluten and sugar levels in foods and much more.

 

Indeed, the possibilities are seemingly endless for NIRS. And the Analog Garage is at the center, helping to connect entrepreneurs with ideas for how to apply it with leading-edge technology from Analog Devices.

 

Do you have ideas for how to apply NIRS to a real-world problem? Heard of any interesting applications? Share your comments below!

As the massive Mobile World Congress event began to wind down, the Master Mechanic caught up with Alain Guery, the Analog Garage Director of Emerging Business, at the Barcelona show. Our conversation turned quickly to what we saw at the Israeli Pavilion on the show floor.

 

Alain Guery

Taken as a group, the 62 startups inside the Pavilion were a microcosm of the show itself: other than a few glitzy smartphones, wearables, VR gear and smart home tech, most companies were focused on critical – if far less sexy – tasks of building secure and capable networks and cloud frameworks to support the onslaught of new devices.  A third of the startups, for example, focused on security while only a dozen featured projects in VR or wearables.

 

Israel has certainly earned its Startup Nation nickname. The startup scene in Israel is surprisingly large and active for such a small country. And as a measure of its success, only the US and China have more companies on the tech-centric NASDAQ stock exchange than Israel.

 

In his role at the Analog Garage, Guery spends a lot of time tapping into Analog Devices’ Israeli innovation network. So we decided to take the opportunity to tap into his expertise.

 

Q: Just how vibrant is Israel’s startup activity?

A: Israel is a full-on startup country. There are something like 4,000 active startups, which is about one startup for every 2,700 inhabitants. No other country has that many startups per capita.

 

Q: Every country’s startup culture is a little different. What makes the Israeli scene unique?

A: First of all, the Israeli market isn’t large enough to support many new innovations by itself. So entrepreneurs there think globally – far more so than innovators in large markets like India.

 

Another thing I’ve seen is that Israeli startups are very focused on solving specific technical problems. Startups in Silicon Valley and the US tend to have more of a big vision, a grand plan. In that sense, the two startup cultures are very complementary, because many times you’ll see an Israeli startup working on an answer to a technical problem that a Silicon Valley company will need to achieve their vision. We really gravitate to that kind of thinking at the Analog Garage. Solving specific technical problems is what ADI was founded on.

 

Q: Why do you think Israel’s startup scene has blossomed as it has?

A: They have a culture that is very tolerant of risk. I believe the mandatory civil service requirement trains them in how to manage risk. They all have to put three years into the Army. They also receive a very strong technology grounding and learn leadership skills.

 

Q: How would a startup in Israel connect with the Analog Garage?

A: We work a lot with investors there, so that’s a good network to connect through.  And MassChallenge, one of our incubator partners has a very successful program in Israel. As a matter of fact, MassChallenge is now taking applications from eligible Israel startups through March 28th.  Applying now through MassChallenge may lead to great opportunities for some startups.

 

Follow the Analog Garage blog to stay up to date with technology trends and what Analog Devices is doing to remain Ahead of What's Possible.

For Singapore, smart city is more than a vision, according to Ron Cellini of the Analog Garage. It’s a work in progress. Cellini should know. Part of the team that’s helping to expand the Analog Garage’s footprint in Asia, he’s focused mostly on Singapore and the Philippines.

 

He says that the government in Singapore has been very proactive, booting up a string of incubators to help put great ideas from university research programs to work. And smart cities is a primary area of focus.

 

“In Singapore, the government is like a laboratory,” Cellini said. “The fear of failure is very low.”

 

By employing smart technology, Singapore is looking to ease problems unique to the island city-state, like transportation bottlenecks, space and debris management. All of that requires smart, secure sensor-to-cloud technology.

 

With the Analog Garage expansion into Asia, Analog Devices this year decided to sponsor EmTech Asia for the first time. Held last month in Singapore, the MIT Technology Review-hosted event brought together more than 700 scientists, technology executives, and investors from more than 20 countries to talk about how to solve problems like the ones Singapore is facing.

 

Doug Gardner, CTO of the Secure Technology Group at Analog Devices, was among the presenters at EmTech Asia. Check out A Smart City is a Secure City blog post for more information on his talk.

 

Ron Cellini recently recorded a video where he discussed more about EmTech Asia. Click on the link here.

 

Stay tuned for more from the Analog Garage as we begin to ratchet up our activity in Asia and other regions around the world!

Baseball, as sports pioneer Branch Rickey famously said, is a game of inches.

 

Now, more than a half-century later, we still know that to be true – and not just for baseball, but for every sport. Increasingly, though, we’re also coming to understand that how those inches are won or lost comes down to metrics that are far more delicate, intricate, personal and precise than that singular imperial measure.

 

Despite the explosion of sensor-to-cloud systems, the ultimate system for the quantified athlete remains elusive. There are still myriad challenges, like understanding which metrics to record, when to record them and how to leverage them to elevate athletes to the pinnacle of their abilities at precisely the right time. Oh yes, and how to convince athletes to trust the system.

 

What better place to tackle the complex problem of the quantified athlete than the Boston area, which boasts the best of healthcare, technology, and research? And, oh yes, fabled sports teams – like the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics – that have claimed more than their share of inches in competition over the years, including the 2017 Super Bowl.

 

Joyce Wu, a member of the Analog Garage’s Emerging Business team, is laser-focused on solving the problem of the quantified athlete. She just attended two Boston-area forums on the topic, the Rise of the Quantified Athlete at Harvard Innovation Labs, and MIT Sloan’s Sports Analytics Conference. So the Master Mechanic thought it was the perfect time to tap into her insights.

 

Q: The quantified athlete is potentially a very lucrative market, and it has attracted a lot of entrants. How do elite athletes, team and sports organizations view what they have to offer?

A: They certainly are excited by the prospects of getting an edge by monitoring their progress in new and exciting ways. And they see the data as a potential tool they could use to improve their performance and market themselves.

 

Q: What is Analog Devices doing for the market?

A: Our customers are designing a variety of highly accurate wearable health monitoring devices using ADI’s optical, bio-impedance, ECG and motion sensor technologies and signal conditioning expertise.

 

Q: What are some of the challenges in this market that companies are working on solving?

A: There are plenty of challenges that come along with the opportunities. Privacy and security are critical for most all sensor-to-cloud systems, and the quantified athlete is no different. They want to be sure that any platform they buy into will have the security to protect their data, and let them control who gets to see what.

 

Athletes, coaches, and trainers can be overloaded with data. In order to be successful, you have to streamline the data flow and analysis so that their job is no harder – and hopefully easier.

 

The flip side is that startup companies are pitching their one metric, and coaches don’t know if they can trust that. These companies really have to understand their metric inside and out, how it affects performance by themselves and in combination with other metrics. And most importantly, they have to be accurate and reliable.

 

Q: What’s hot in this space right now?

A: No question, it’s sleep and recovery. Because peak performance is not just about training. Rest, stress and recovery are also critical. I’d say that heart rate variability, or HRV, is becoming a critical metric because it can tell you so much about stress and fitness.

 

 

Follow the Analog Garage blog to stay up to date with technology trends and what Analog Devices is doing to remain Ahead of What's Possible.

Is the India startup scene getting ready to pop? I’m starting to think so.

 

I just got back from a fact-finding tour to Bangalore for the Analog Garage, and I have to say that I was impressed by what I found. The startup climate around universities, where the Analog Garage likes to focus, seemed healthy – and far more active than it was even five years ago.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to see the culture changing to be more entrepreneurial. Not long ago, most engineering graduates hoped to land jobs at large, well-established tech companies. At the top schools we visited, like the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, we saw a lot more engineering students who hope to start their own company after graduation.  Part of that, I think, has to do with the success of Indian startups like Ola, Flipkart and Snapdeal. Those have really helped fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in India. There are over 100 startup incubators and accelerators in India with 20+ just in Bangalore, often called the Silicon Valley of India.

 

A lot of the startup activity I saw during my tour focused on uniquely Indian problems. Like medical devices that are designed to be very low cost so that smaller, more remote hospitals can afford them. And testing equipment that takes into account dusty environments and unreliable power distribution.

 

We also saw opportunities to leverage innovations that the Analog Garage is shepherding in other regions. With 1.2 billion people, India has great potential to expand the market for those innovations.

 

Stay tuned for more from the Analog Garage as we begin to ratchet up our activity in India and other regions around the world!  And please feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/raj-senguttuvan-a949858

The auto industry is on a path to offer self-driving cars within the next several years. And with all the headlines about the rapidly advancing technology, automakers’ grand plans, and on-the-street pilot programs, it’s starting to sound as though they soon will become a reality. But a lot still needs to happen before you can pick one up at a local dealership.

 

 

 

Indeed, at least three developments must occur for the automakers to make good on their sensor-to-cloud vision for 

autonomous vehicles. Specifically, self-driving technology must:

  • become several times more reliable on the open road than humans,
  • be small enough to be integrated into the car design, out of sight, and
  • cost a small fraction of what they do today.

 

 

In one way or another, advancing the state-of-the-art in LIDAR laser detection systems will go a long way toward overcoming all three hurdles. Which is exactly what the risk-taking innovators at Analog Devices have set out to do. Through key discoveries from our team and targeted acquisitions – combined with an existing stable of core competencies in critical areas – Analog Devices is poised to get LIDAR to fit in the car. Further, LIDAR systems will enable autonomous machines in a host of other areas, like robots and drone delivery services to cargo ships and combines.  And unimaginable 3D gaming and new user interfaces with precision gesture recognition.

 

Along with RADAR and camera, LIDAR rounds out the key automotive object recognition technologies. The laser detection technology fills a critical gap in the capabilities between the other two, which is why most self-driving pilot programs feature it. Due in large part to the auto industry, in fact, the market for LIDAR sensor systems is forecasted to mushroom to $944.3 million in 2020, more than three times the size of the 2015 market, which stood at $309.8 million (Grand View Research).

 

When it comes to sensing obstacles and hazards on the road, no one object recognition technology can do it all. With robust algorithms, cameras are unmatched for spotting and characterizing objects. With enough contrast and light, they can detect and feed analytics platforms a wealth of visual detail to fuel better decision-making. But cameras cannot accurately determine the distance to objects and are highly impacted by weather and driving conditions.

RADAR is great for assessing motion and distance to targets. It can detect objects in any light and in any weather. But current systems don’t offer up much detail about the objects they spot. RADAR, in fact, may not be able to distinguish between a tree and a pedestrian standing next to it. That’s an important distinction because unless it’s Treebeard from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy world, there’s no danger the tree will step off the curb. The pedestrian on the other hand....

 

(ADI’s upcoming 77/79 GHz Automotive RADAR will help distinguish between objects, but more detail will still be necessary.)

 

Like RADAR, LIDAR works in the dark and in most weather conditions. Unlike camera systems, scanning lasers can offer up a very accurate picture of the size and shape of objects on the road. But LIDAR systems are currently expensive, power-hungry and generate lots of data. And they’re big and unsightly.

 

Indeed, most self-driving cars on the road are easy to spot because of the clunky-looking LIDAR systems perched atop the roof. Even without that visual cue, their sticker would be easy to spot at a dealership, as well: many automotive LIDAR today costs more than twice the average selling price of cars.

 

A big part of the problem is that most LIDAR systems were designed for autopilot systems in airplanes, and for experimental projects. The systems must be re-architected for the needs of the automobile industry.

 

Enter Analog Garage Innovations in LIDAR

 

This is just the sort of problem that the Analog Garage was designed to tackle. Analog Devices established the corporate incubator program to give entrepreneurs from inside and outside the company the help to explore new technologies, applications and business models for sensor-to-cloud systems.

 

Analog Devices’ LIDAR effort began with an idea from an inside innovator. The team has been hard at work for several years developing sensor-to-cloud LIDAR systems for the automotive market. The goal was simple: make LIDAR systems so that they are good enough to sense and detect objects when cameras and RADAR can’t – but compact and inexpensive enough to make them practical for commercial automobiles. We currently have working prototypes and working on ways to further enhance performance and reduce size. 

 

Analog Devices recently acquired Vescent Photonics, a company that had developed a solid-state laser-beam steering technology. This acquisition will help Analog Devices shrink the size and cost of LIDAR systems by eliminating bulky mechanical steering while improving performance and reliability.

 

Analog Devices has pioneered solutions for automotive airbag, stability, and rollover systems for more than 20 years since the company introduced the first-ever commercial MEMS motion sensors.  Accordingly, ADI MEMS sensors are found in one-quarter of vehicle airbag systems today. A 15-year history in 24GHz and 77GHz Automotive Radar has led to ADI technology in half of Automotive Radar modules in recent development. As well, Analog Devices has key technologies that make it uniquely qualified to develop and manufacture difficult-to-make LIDAR components in high volume.

 

LIDAR is a key pillar of Analog Devices’ Drive360 autonomous driving solutions. Safe, autonomous driving relies on technologies which continuously provide redundant and reliable information. Drive360 LIDAR, RADAR and Inertial MEMS will work harmoniously and form a 360-degree safety shield around the car which provides multiple data points for vehicle positioning and object recognition. In this way, autonomous vehicles will drastically reduce traffic accidents in all cases and weather scenarios. 

 

Analog Devices is the world leader in high-speed amplifiers and data acquisition – a key technology required for LIDAR in addition to digital signal processing vital to piecing the torrent of data produced by the LIDAR system into an intelligible 3d view of the world around the car. Exactly the space where Analog Devices has been innovating for more than 50 years.

The rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating the growth of the Industrial and Factory Automation Market, which is forecasted to reach $221.17 Billion by 2021 (Industry Arch). Since its inception, Analog Devices has been helping industrial customers automate. So, it should come as no surprise that we are keenly aware of this vast opportunity, and are challenging the status quo by bringing to life cutting-edge, cloud-connected solutions to drive Industrial Revolution 4.0.

 

Analog Devices understands the needs of the factory of the future. And through the Analog Garage, our corporate venture program, we are incubating new ideas to make factories and buildings safer, greener and smarter. Like Sentinel, an Analog Garage original industrial equipment monitoring platform. The Analog Garage has been demonstrating Sentinel at industry events for the past several months and is signing on strategic partners to begin beta-testing the platform.

 

In a recent question & answer session with Analog Garage team member Igor Chernyy, we spoke about the Sentinel platform and what it means to the market.

 

Q: What kind of interest have you been getting from the industrial equipment monitoring platform?
A: There’s been a lot of interest in sensor-to-cloud capabilities for industrial equipment monitoring. I think that companies grasp the promise of continuous monitoring – safety, efficiency, productivity. When we demonstrate Sentinel, it seems to make it real for them. It’s also helped them see Analog Devices in a different light, more than a semiconductor manufacturer, and much more of a problem solver. We demonstrated our complete system that captures thermal images sends them to the cloud for analysis by our machine learning algorithms and sends alerts and notifications to a plant manager.

 

Q: Can you describe the mechanics of the demonstration?
A: Our system includes infrared imaging sensors inside power distribution boxes that monitor continuously to detect hotspots. The system can generate real-time alerts before problems occur. Reliable power is critical to modern society, but especially so in factory floor operation where the value of the equipment – millions to billions of dollars – and the loss of revenue due to downtime can be catastrophic. To demonstrate the system, we mounted a circuit breaker box inside a clear case and power it using a PC power supply. The Sentinel camera points at the circuit breakers and our cloud-hosted algorithms perform image analysis to detect hot spots.

 

Q: How did this project come about in the Analog Garage?
A: This idea started with an employee who works in one of ADI’s wafer fabs. He helped us understand the problem more deeply. We wanted to show manufacturers how, with sensor-to-cloud platforms, they could have much finer control over preventive maintenance. You can send technicians out, and they can periodically check power boxes to ensure they’re working OK but it’s costly and time-consuming. And you do it, knowing you’re not always checking the right box at the right time. We decided to apply our hardware, cloud software, and machine learning algorithms expertise to solve this human factors problem. We thought we could help plant managers to rest easier knowing that an autonomous system would take care of monitoring their assets and simply notify them when a problem arose.

 

Q: How portable is what you demonstrated? What are some of the other applications besides on the factory floor?
A: It’s very applicable to other problems. Just about anything you can think of that requires maintenance and repair can be handled with more precision and reliability by adding sensor-to-cloud capabilities. We’ve developed a complete system using an infrared camera as the sensor. We can easily add capabilities to monitor entire factories and commercial buildings with vibration sensing, flow monitoring, or electrical power measurement. Our long-term goal is to have a comprehensive solution to monitor your factory.

 

Q: Are systems like this in place now? When do you think sensor-to-cloud implementations like this will be widespread?
A: There are some, yes. We’re seeing systems monitor very expensive oil drilling equipment, for example. And remote patient monitoring is starting to improve healthcare. But in many ways, these are still the early days. A lot of capabilities are coming into play all at once. In 10 years, I believe preventive maintenance monitoring systems will be pretty much standard on new assets and far more widespread than they are today for existing assets.

 

Q: What do you think this will mean for companies in terms of man-hours expended, money saved, improved productivity?
A: Well, it means they can save time and money. Downtime is the enemy. Avoiding downtime is a big money saver. And equipment will last longer because you’re not operating it unless it’s in tip-top shape. So more profits. Which means they can invest in new products. And build more factories.

At Analog Devices, we never stop asking “What if?” It’s what led us to invest in the Internet of Tomatoes and in SCiO spectroscopy technology. And then we asked, “What if we applied one to the other?” The question is leading to some very palatable answers.

 

The Analog Garage isn’t just about scouting around for innovations. Sometimes it’s also about making new discoveries by applying one innovation to another.

 

Take, for example, the Analog Garage’s collaboration with start-up Consumer Physics. The start-up’s SCiO spectroscopy technology uses near-infrared lasers and cloud-based analytics to determine the composition of liquid and solid materials. ADI is helping Consumer Physics to scale the solution and miniaturize it into a module small enough to embed in smartphones.

 

Mentors for ADI’s corporate incubator, together with an internal Analog Devices development team, recently found that if it could apply the sensor-to-cloud material-sensing innovation to the team’s Internet of Tomatoes project, it could not only help farmers improve yields and cut costs. It could also help them grow tomatoes that taste better.

 

The Analog Garage is always searching for tough problems whose solutions are linked to the connection between the physical world and digital.  The science of spectroscopy is well known, but the opto-electronic systems are expensive and cumbersome. New technology like handheld spectroscopes applied to the Internet of Tomatoes platform revealed a compelling use case with great potential for the precision agriculture market, which is forecasted to mushroom to nearly $5 billion by 2020.

 

Thus far, the Internet of Tomatoes initiative has helped New England farmers inject precision into their processes by planting sensors amidst rows of tomatoes to collect temperature, humidity, and ambient light measurements. Solar-powered gateways send the data up to the cloud for analysis. Farmers view insights from the system on their smartphones.

 

Precision Payoff

First, the IoT (that’s tomatoes) tackled pest management, helping farmers pinpoint the best time to treat the crops to combat specific insects. More recently, the initiative has been putting the in-field sensors to work on reducing damage from mold.

 

Historically, farmers would rely on online weather data to help decide how much to water. They now know, thanks to the Internet of Tomatoes, that the online data doesn’t correlate very well with actual plant-by-plant moisture levels. Armed with precise insights from the sensor-to-cloud system, the farmers knew to water less this past summer because the analytics revealed that, despite an extended drought, their fields were getting moisture from unusually high humidity.

 

The successes are generating interest from a growing group of farmers who now see the potential for the Internet of Tomatoes to better their businesses. So the team is beginning to develop business models to take the service to market.

 

In the meantime, the Internet of Tomatoes team is exploring new market potential by adding insight gleaned from the handheld Consumer Physics SCiO spectrometer devices. Consumer Physics plugged into the Analog Garage via MassChallenge, one of the Analog Garage’s incubator partners. (For its part, the Internet of Tomatoes sprang from an internal Analog Devices project.)

 

The Quest for Taste

The team is finding that, with their cloud analytics, they can “teach” the handheld devices to identify the tastiest tomatoes. That’s an exciting prospect for New England farmers because tomatoes suitable for the produce aisle command a tenfold premium over those destined for ketchup bottles and sauce cans, where much of  New England’s crop ends up.

 

First, the team built a quality database in the cloud. They asked three chefs to taste-test 40 tomatoes, and then they tested them destructively and recorded the results. Then late this summer, they put the system to the test at the Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest in Boston.

 

Ahead of the tasting, the team nondestructively scanned over 400 entrants and sent their water, glucose and salt content to the cloud for analysis. After the judges’ scorecards were tabulated, it turned out that Version 1.0 of the Internet of Tomatoes’ new Taste-o-meter accurately predicted the top four tomatoes in the Cherry category, five of the top ten in the Heirloom category and the actual winner in the Field category.

 

The team is already at work to improve the system’s predictive prowess. It had better. In addition to the farmers, chefs familiar with the test are asking to buy the devices. If they had a tool that could pick tomatoes as well as they could, it would mean they could save time by sending helpers to buy produce at the market rather than doing it themselves.

 

Which just goes to show you that, sometimes, two Analog Garage projects are better than one!

The Analog Garage’s network of incubators is crucial to bringing a steady stream of discoveries to its attention. And for finding answers to the world’s energy and environmental challenges, Greentown Labs has emerged as a vital channel for Analog Devices’ venture program.

 

The Analog Garage has been working with Greentown Labs since the inception of its corporate incubator program. Pat O’Doherty, Vice President of the Emerging Business Group, sat on Greentown Lab’s advisory board up until this year.  As we entered 2017, Pat’s board seat transferred into a business unit at ADI and is now supported by Ian Lawee, GM for Energy Group at ADI.  We view this as a positive step and validation that ideas coming from cleantech startups are entering the market and changing the energy ecosystem in a great way.

 

On January 19th, Greentown Labs, the world’s largest cleantech incubator, hosted more than 80 people for the Analog Devices Startup Day, which gave startups and partners in the Greentown Labs Partner Network a chance to meet, interact and share ideas.   

 

On hand at the Startup Day were innovators working on new ways to generate, store and distribute energy to power the connected world efficiently and sustainably. Start-ups on hand included: Sense, SparkPlug Power, Multisensor Scientific, Voxel8, TagUp, and NewGrid.

 

As well, the Analog Garage displayed several demos all aimed at showcasing Analog Devices’ sensor-to-cloud capabilities for monitoring.

 

Two such demos were Sentinel, a platform that watches for hotspots in power distribution boxes to head off failures before they occur in factories and commercial buildings, and mSure for utilities to continuously monitor power meters for accuracy and tampering.

 

Watch this space for more about the latest discoveries at the Analog Garage!