Daily Briefing: News Snippets

April's showers produce more than May flowers

Semico's most recent report on semiconductor sales indicates a case of revenue turnaround – at least when contrasted with ongoing gloomy forecasts. While industry pundits predict a semiconductor sales decline of 20 to 30 percent for 2009, Semico predicts only a 12 to 13 percent 2009 revenue decline in light of "overall market softness." Semico president Jim Feldhan's rationale is derived from what he describes as a quarterly cyclical trend, where the final month of any quarter produces significant sales surges. This, he says, inevitably relegates the following month to a sharp comparative decline. Situated in this tenuous position, April has historically seen this decline range between 17.2 percent (in 2004) and 34.8 percent (in 2001) in comparison with March sales. The silver lining for April 2009 materialized in the form of a "record" low sales decline: only 7.6 percent in comparison with March 2009. Meanwhile, industry strongholds for 2009 are forecasted to include GPS systems, netbooks, and HDTV, among others.

Figure 1: Semico predicts only a 12 to 13 percent 2009 revenue decline in light of "overall market softness."
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RoboScout to enlist in the German 

The more lives that can be spared on the battlefield by using unmanned technology, the better, as implied by the German Military of Defense's new RoboScout project. Presently in the development stage, prime Base Ten Systems Electronics GmbH (Base10) will incubate the modular Unmanned Ground-based Vehicle (UGV), earmarked to handle multiple roles including reconnaissance, SIGINT, support of satellite and terrestrial/radio data links, and aiding other vehicles' communications by serving as a relay station. To facilitate said communications transmissions while proffering deterministic messaging, high reliability, and real-time low-latency performance, Real-Time Innovations (RTI) will provide its Data Distribution Service middleware. The middleware features a publish-subscribe model and is predicted to ease RoboScout's future expansions and upgrades.

meets the "Terminator"

Some philosophers theorize that life imitates art, but does art imitate – or utilize – technology? Yes, in the case of the recently released "Terminator Salvation" movie, where a triad of Crystal Group Inc.'s real-life military technology wares appear in the movie's command center workstation: the rugged RS47F and RS234T servers, along with the RD2217 rugged display. Crystal Group's immortalized military offerings are tough enough to take on the same extreme environmental threats depicted in celluloid, according to the company, presumably even Skynet's nuclear annihilation. Proving the point is the RD2217, a rugged dual 17" 2U EIA display, which meets MIL-STD-810F's operational temp (0 to +55 °C), storage temp (-55 °C to +85 °C), altitude (12,500 ft operation; 40,000 ft transport), and vibration (5 GRMS, 5-500 Hz, 75 min/axis) requirements (with vibration kit).

software hastens search

When Air France Flight 447 recently fell into the Atlantic Ocean, French authorities knew they needed to recover passengers and crew, flight wreckage, and the aircraft's data recorders as quickly as possible. Assisting in the sobering endeavors was the U.S. Coast Guard, whose efforts were hastened with its Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS) software system. SAROPS predicts a search area by analyzing floating wreckage locations in conjunction with wind, weather, and sea conditions during a specified time period to estimate a plane's likely location. SAROPS – developed collaboratively by Northrop Grumman, Applied Science Associates (ASA), and Metron, Inc. – additionally accesses data from radar, satellites, models, and in-situ observations to allow SAR controllers to rapidly examine probable scenarios. As of press time, Flight 447's precise crash locale is not yet determined and its data recorders are still missing, perhaps laying somewhere within the identified 77,220 square mile (200,000 square km) search area: approximately the size of Nebraska state.

Figure 2: SAROPS search and rescue technology, figure courtesy of Applied Science Associates (ASA).
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Pilots preview their future before it happens – with 100% availability

Many people would love to live in or view their own future before it happens – and without the possibility of any lasting consequences. Though time travel isn't a reality just yet, the F-15E Mission Training Center located in Suffolk, England might be the next best thing. A joint project of prime The Boeing Company and the U.S. Air Force, the center – in operation since April 2008 – recently ascended to the "100 percent availability" milestone. Giving military pilots in training the chance to fight before they actually face the real world, the center contains a duo of high-fi, dual-cockpit F-15E simulators. Each simulator is equipped with a cutting-edge visual system providing realistic 360-degree visuals within a synthetic environment. The simulators' 3-D imagery, rendered by Quantum3D Inc.'s Independence image generator, flies by at 60 Hz. To date, the center has supported 400-plus training missions.

Figure 3: The F-15E Mission Training Center located in Suffolk, England (photo courtesy of Boeing)
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Radar breaks new ground … kind of

Though a recent contract between a U.S. Army agency and Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing's (CWCEC's) 3d-Radar group has been described by company officials as "groundbreaking," ironically CWCEC's summoned Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology works in advance of breaking any ground. Under the agreement, CWCEC will provide its GeoScope and B3231 antenna technologies for the primary purpose of detecting Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs) and other buried objects. The Army's version contains enhancements including the GeoScope's "real-time view," which provides operators the capability to see post-processed GPR data – within mere milliseconds of data's initial acquisition. Detection algorithms from Exponent, Inc. were integrated with the real-time view, and deliveries to the U.S. Army are expected through March 2010.

AMD's Radeon: In less-familiar territory

A prevalent contender in PC markets, AMD is now soaring into the embedded safety-critical avionics industry with its ATI Radeon E4690 GPU – empowered by ALT Software's DO-178B-certifiable 2D/3D OpenGL drivers. The ATI Radeon E4690 renders in excess of 3x the ATI Radeon E2400 embedded graphics accelerator's performance. The ATI Radeon E4690 also provides a PCI-E 2.0 x16 interface, along with 512 MB on-chip memory and a 128-bit memory interface. Meanwhile, ALT Software, Wolf Industrial Systems, and Channel One recently announced their Graphics Solutions (AGS) Group, which aims to develop end-to-end technology tailored around the ATI Radeon E4690 graphics accelerator.

Platform readies C4ISR technologies

Ensuring warfighter success is contingent upon effectively developing, testing, and fielding deployable wares to the battlefield. One proof of concept is Lockheed Martin's Airborne Multi-INT Laboratory (AML), which renders a platform for researching, testing, and demonstrating new C4ISR capabilities, to prepare for future deployment (Figure 4). AML will aid in investigation of emerging Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) methods, in addition to facilitating the development of an operational concept touted to link all echelons' battlefield resources. Anticipated experimentation exercises consist of improving end-to-end intelligence, beginning with the initial concept and proceeding to sensor cross-queing, exact geolocation, and finally, fast transmission to end users. Additionally, AML's Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)-based architecture enables reach-back to other databases and information sources and accommodates cyber security schema integration.

Figure 4: AML photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
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Satellite to provide insight for smartphone-size devices

Space Systems/Loral's (SS/L's) well-traveled TerreStar-1 satellite has come a long way – and is still on the move (Figure 5). First, it was launched from the European Spaceport in French Guiana onboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Next, its first thruster firing transpired in early July, with the goal of propelling TerreStar-1 to its final geostationary orbital locale at 111.0 degrees West longitude. The final goal: The satellite's 18-meter antenna reflector, designed for umbrella-like unfolding once it gets to its orbital slot, will facilitate video, data, and voice transmissions to smartphone-sized mobile devices utilizing a 2 GHz spectrum. The progeny of SS/L's joint effort with Hughes Network Systems, TerreStar-1 includes a Ground-Based Beam Forming (GBBF) system that can direct the satellite's power where it's most needed at any given time. TerreStar-1 can generate spot beams over the continental U.S., its territories, and Canada.

Figure 5: TerreStar-1 photo courtesy of Space Systems/Loral
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