Electronic Product Design

Hawkshead Designs' Blog

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015 00:00


Earlier this year computer manufacturer Lenovo caused quite a stir when it emerged their chosen preinstalled ad-support software, Superfish, was actually a rather nasty piece of malware. Lenovo had been bundling Superfish with their computer sales since September 2014, when many users noted its unusual system usage.

Security experts took note, and on the 20th February 2015, the United States Department of Homeland Security officially advised users to uninstall the software. Many of our devices come preloaded with software: see Apple and Android phones and the regular complaints at their ‘bloatware.’

So why did Superfish cause such offence?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 00:00

21-04-15 robotI, Robot

The prospect of robots entering the same society that you and I exist in is slowly becoming a reality. AI (artificial intelligence) isn’t quite sophisticated to replicate human thought patterns – yet – but it can and most likely will happen in the future.

The shift toward robotic workplaces is already well underway. Vast manufacturing factories have long been filled with intricate robotic arms facilitated by automated mechanical systems rendering human input obsolete. Unless of course, you are a robotic engineer, or a programmer. Many business leaders and economists are worried about the rise in automation.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

14-04-15 - crystal ballFinland Leads the Future

Seeing into the future would be fantastic. Winning lottery tickets, play the stock market perfectly, ruin all of the sporting events for the rest of time for yourself, see your own death – the list is long and full of adventure.

However, it isn’t happening anytime soon, so don’t get your hopes up. Finland disagrees. Whilst you cannot predict the future, preparation, consolidation, evaluation and foresight can be just as useful as predicting a series of events. The hope in Finland is that with their rigorous countrywide training programs, the disruption caused by common ICT, financial and infrastructure problems will become less of shock, enabling their development plans to stick consistently to the rails.

Tuesday, 07 April 2015 00:00

smartphone satellite navigation 200How Google Keeps Track of Us

TomToms were once all the rage. One of the first iterations of satellite navigation modules that were truly well known, were actually useful and updated regularly enough to remain useful. It’s now 2015 and I don’t really know anyone who purchases a dedicated sat-nav module anymore. We have Google Maps and Navigation, Waze, Apple Maps, the TomTom app and host of other GPS guided navigation devices. The tech has moved with the data and the smart money was on integration.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:00

ledsNobel Prize for LED Developers Shows Global Importance

Last year the Nobel Prize for Physics went to Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, from Nagoya University, Japan, and Shuji Nakamura, of UC Santa Barbara. Never heard of them? They don’t have the same prestige as previous winners such as Marie Curie or Albert Einstein, or even 2013 recipients François Englert and Peter W. Higgs, whose work at the Large Hadron Collider finally uncovered the supposed ‘god’ particle, the Higgs bosun.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 00:00

intellectual propertyCultural Difference in IP Protection

One of the most important things to check before starting any electronic design project is where your intellectual property (IP) sits within the law. It is also essential to research the IP practices of the business you are working with to ensure that once the project is signed off, the IP transfers directly to you.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

hologramHere Come The Holograms…

I’m sure most of our readers can relate to Red Dwarf in some-way. It has so far spanned ten series, and was back in 2012 following a ten year hiatus, bringing Lister, Rimmer, Kat, Holly and Kryten back to our screens. It’s a cult favourite with a massive following.

It also featured some relatively futuristic ideas for the time of its release, particularly the idea of a hologram – Rimmer - to represent a life already spent. Microsoft have demonstrated a new wearable technology at their recent press announcement, featuring an unprecedented interactive holographic interface. It is somewhat mind-blowing, I must admit!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 00:00

green batteriesLi-Air

Bought a portable device in the past decade? It likely features a lithium-based battery. Lithium cells have become the portable power-source of choice for several reasons: low-cost, high energy density and multiple recharges to name but a few.

The evolution of electric vehicles into a commercially viable transportation method comes with a requirement for a more efficient, more powerful battery. The evolution of the lithium-based battery comes to the precipice of the ‘next big thing:’ Lithium-Air.

It stands to reason that alongside all of these outstanding material resources, our expectations and desires would see us consider printed electronics. Certainly for rapid protyping, small product designs and home-enthusiasts the development of a conductive 3D printer filament will truly begin a manufacturing decentralisation process that could alter our relationships with home electronics.

Tuesday, 03 March 2015 00:00

Smart CityThe Dangers of Making Everything Smart

Or, ‘The issues we will surely be encountering on a wider-scale as more and more devices are brought online through increased embedded computing, higher quality measurable devices and the incremental advance of the Internet of Things’ – but that title isn’t quite as succinct.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015 00:00

OvenDon’t Try This At Home – Seriously!

Hacking around a problem is universally accepted as a means to an end. It gets the job done. The results aren’t always pretty, but sometimes that really just doesn’t matter at all. We approve of it here at Hawkshead Designs.

Still, there are some items that the casual bodge-job-hack doesn’t equate well with. One of those items, at least in my mind, is a MacBook Pro. Nonetheless, a short story emerged last month regarding a heavy MacBook Pro user and a model notorious for overheating, regardless of the surface underneath.

And whilst putting the affected article in the oven seems counter-intuitive, this is exactly what happened.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 00:00

3d-printing 200x2003D Printed Electronics

Our understanding and usage of 3D printing is continually expanding. The range of materials available for 3D printing is astounding. We have already seen 3D printable food, 3D printed living cells, an entire 3D printed castle whilst metals and other exotic materials are featuring in innovative printing designs.

It stands to reason that alongside all of these outstanding material resources, our expectations and desires would see us consider printed electronics. Certainly for rapid protyping, small product designs and home-enthusiasts the development of a conductive 3D printer filament will truly begin a manufacturing decentralisation process that could alter our relationships with home electronics.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 00:00

electronic wasteE-Waste Updates

There have been several interesting e-waste developments since our last article in early November and as ever, we strive to keep you updated with the global e-waste situation. Global e-waste is a massive economic driver if only by the sheer weight of potential raw material loss whilst simultaneously eroding the safety of the individuals having to trawl hazardous dumping grounds to locate potentially toxic, recyclable materials.

Tuesday, 03 February 2015 00:00

14-10-14 Smartphone 200I Gave In At Last…

…And bought a flashy, massive, 4G enabled smartphone. We talked a while ago on smartphone design informed by the requirements of the networks and how our dependence on networking, social media contact and general societal interconnectedness has pushed smartphones, our trusty mobile devices, back into the massive proportions from where they began – albeit with vastly trimmed down figures.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015 00:00

solar panelsBringing Solar to the Table

The world’s largest solar thermal plant, Topaz, has reached fully functioning commercial levels since coming online in 2013. Situated on 9.5 miles of the Carrizo Plain, 9-million photovoltaic panels soak up the scorching Californian sun, converting the solar energy into a massive 500MW/550MW output. It is currently the largest operational solar farm – though there are several projects throughout China that will wrest that crown from the Californian plains.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 00:00

internet of thingsAre We IoT Ready?

Well, are we?

The Internet of Things is a network of interconnected, uniquely identifiable computing devices, communicating using existing internet infrastructure. Internet of Things integration is expected to allow vastly expanded automation of devices, manufacturing processes, government systems and vital infrastructure such as Smart Grids.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:00

13-01-15 child coding on laptopCoding Kids

Our approach to coding for children/young adults has substantially changed through the past decade. As our exposure to computing, networking and the web has exploded so has our desire to master the domain.

In 2011 Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt widely criticised the UK education system, suggesting a transition toward humanities subjects had devalued the innovation of the UK engineering and science sectors. There were mixed responses to his argument. Importantly, many people sat-up and took note of his musing, including the government, the Royal Society and a host of other electronics, coding and web focused businesses and education facilities.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 00:00

01-07-14 Driverless Car 200Self-Driving Cars will Undermine UK Rail Investments

Few will have missed last month’s major announcement concerning the potential multi-billion pound UK railway investment and the emergence of increasingly sophisticated driverless cars. The big question for the nation is whether there is still inherent value in the potential high-speed rail project – HS2 and now, HS3 – or should we focus our efforts into driverless car R&D in a move that would appease many of the voting public?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

Raspberry PiRaspberry Pi enhances UK coding

Continuing with the theme of coding, improving efficiency and encouraging more children to become involved with the hands on side of electronics, we couldn’t skip over the various iterations of the Raspberry Pi.

Since its February 2012 release date around 2.5 million boards have been sold around the world, ending up in the hands of programming experts, novices and children alike. Cheap enough to play around with, to push to its limits, but powerful enough to enable programs to run (and be tinkered with), the Raspberry Pi’s appeal certainly lies in its universal functionality.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:00

circuit boardSemiconductors and Coding

Persistent innovation throughout the electronics manufacturing landscape has led to the consistent rollout of newer, smaller, faster and more efficient semi-conductors for several years now. Unfortunately we have reached the practical limit of what can be achieved within the current scope of available technologies and without serious global investment the semiconductor market is at risk of stagnating.

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

electronic wasteElectronic Waste Part IV(ish)

As we continue with our e-waste series of blogs we can begin to further explore the role of product and electronic design in the role of e-waste reduction and the potential positive effects this may have around the globe. Our previous blog post featured the somewhat futuristic idea of meteoroid mining in the quest to refine and expand our global (and interstellar) resource network in order to continue production whilst reducing the strain on the planet’s remaining natural resources.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 00:00

circuit board fisheye 200Those First Moments

For an area of continued growth, exploration and of some excitement for future generations of electrical engineers, look no further than the humble Arduino. Comprised of a single-board microcontroller, the Arduino project was breathed into life as a 2005 project for several students at the Interaction Design Insitute Ivrea, Italy. Initial units cost around $100 to manufacture, an outlay deemed too expensive for students.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 00:00

14-10-14 Smartphone 2004G Informing Smartphone Requirements

Smartphone designs are evolving all the time. We may not notice all the subtle changes and indeed, some of the major changes are ‘under-the-hood,’ but this does not mean that our smartphones are not increasingly being built with us – the consumer – in mind.


Tuesday, 07 October 2014 00:00

Windows 10 Arriving Soon

September 30th 2014 heralded the official preview date of Windows 10, the latest iteration in the Microsoft line of operating systems. Not content with releasing a new operating system, Microsoft has also seen fit to jump the numerical progression we (seemingly with common sense) had been following, skipping the potential Windows 9 iteration and heading straight for the heading high-ground of the #10.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 00:00

30-09-14 electronic componentsCounterfeit Curse

We have all encountered knock-off goods, or perhaps manufactured them in your own home. That time you made five copies of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? Yes, that was counterfeiting a DVD you bought for your own usage. How about when you let your neighbour copy each season from your 24 box-set? Something similar, I’m sure. How about the chap at the club-house with a boot full of Samsong Blu-ray players, looking suspiciously like the real deal? Counterfeiting is everywhere and whilst it is certainly illegal, the practice is as old as written history.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014 00:00

electronic waste Resources - The Next Generation

The fourth link in our E-Waste series carries a different title. Production of increasingly complex electronic devices is certain to continue. Production of ‘standard’ issue consumer electronics is also unlikely to stop. We have covered several issues with waste: where it goes; where it comes from; who generates it; how to alter the problem; but there is another aspect of this issue that we haven’t touched upon: resource depletion.

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