sharadsinha

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Case For Electrical and Eelectronic Measurement

In Design Methodologies, Education, Embedded Systems on October 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM

Perhaps one of the least emphasized part of university education in electrical, electronics or computer engineering is related to the field of electrical and electronic measurements. Electrical measurements generally involve measuring current, voltage and resistance. In an embedded systems that has sensors, such measurements can play a critical role. The output of these sensors are converted to either current or voltage before further processing in software or hardware. Not only to test such a system but also to design it properly, it is important to understand the basic concepts of measurement like accuracy, repeatability, resolution, instrument error, instrument noise, capacitance of cables, probe resistance, instrument calibration etc. I had my first real experience with some really tough measurements to be done on an OC192 board for a telecommunication application while trying to debug some issues. I must say that while we place a lot of emphasis on software and hardware design issues, it is also important to consider the measurement side of the story in order to test if  the software and the hardware are working properly. Measurement concepts like instrument calibration, sensitivity and timing are very important in a test set-up. Sometimes, we miss out these things resulting in a mismatch between requirements and implementation.  Keithley’s Getting back to the Basics of Electrical Measurements is  good for introduction as well as for refreshing one’s basic knowledge.

Software, Patents, Innovation, Ideas: A Curious Mix

In Education, Intellectual Property, Interdisciplinary Science on October 8, 2012 at 6:13 PM

Filing a patent is a big thing these days, especially in the academia. It has been there for quite a long time in the industry though. Earlier, it would suffice to publish in top quality journals or conferences, but now patents are the real icing on the cake. Filing a patent is a costly process and it is far more costlier to prosecute it till its allowed lifetime after it has been granted. One needs not only really deep pockets to engage in patent litigation but also an elaborate infrastructure to find out instances of patent infringement.

While a lot of the patents in earlier days would describe an invention/innovation in terms of its parts that make it work with detailed diagrams of parts etc., a lot of patents these days are filed based just on ideas. It is ideas which are getting patented and this is something that many people are concerned about, especially in the software industry. History shows us that similar ideas have been developed by different people independent of each other at different times and it is no different in modern times. Do we really have to patent ideas? Are they patentable? Don’t they stifle flights of fancy and imagination which have helped people in coming up with brilliant inventions and technologies? Where is the tradeoff between protecting intellectual property and protecting flights of imagination? I think that protecting both of these are important.  However, the dimension of “time” that patents add to an idea/invention can have an impact as one man’s flight of imagination at time “x” prohibits another man’s flight, even if independent, at  time “y” where x > y. It is a curious mix and definitely an important issue to be discussed and debated. You might be interested in reading ” The Patent, Used as a Sword” published by the International Herald Tribune.