Hawkshead Designs' Blog
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Considering the industry we are in at Hawkshead Designs – Electronic Product Design, just in case you really were unsure – it stands to reason that product design catches our eye too. After all, what is an exceptional piece of electronics design if the product design cannot move it from the shelves into consumer hands?
Electronic Waste Part III
We arrive at the third segment of the ongoing E-Waste blog series, having previously explored the lack of provision by electronics companies to fix your own devices and a handful of Instructables of how to upcycle your own electronics waste. The sentiment offered in each of these articles is somewhat simple: environmental sustainability is achievable!
From our last outing regarding e-waste there have been several interesting developments to update you with, largely concerning the slow western wake up to the massive environmental issue being created throughout a number of countries. A number of governments throughout Europe, as well as the United States, are realising the unsustainable nature of the current system. Adding to this are several of the major electronics technology producers, also aware of the damage that their products are visiting upon individuals in a number of countries.
Understanding Your Product and its Placement
The build-up before committing to purchasing a new piece of electronics equipment can be difficult, depending on your personality and the desired equipment. Like most things in life we want to ensure that the electronic device we purchase is optimised for our desired usage: we want our smartphones to be smart; our laptops to be portable; our digital camera to capture moments and so on. After a while the expectation is consistent: if you take the time to research your product, you won’t be disappointed.
Back to the Trolls – Success Story Alert!
Way back in the depths of the storms and cold of January, we covered a serious issue affecting electronics designers worldwide. The act of Patent Trolling has been costing small businesses millions of pounds each year through the exploitation of decades old patent laws that still protect defunct patent applications, but are still upheld by many courthouses. Patent Assertion Entities exist only to extort money from businesses, many with little chance of recourse due to the astronomical lawyer’s fees associated with such cases. Finally, the tide may have turned.
Future Generations; Future Tech
A report commissioned by The Royal Academy of Engineering has suggested that the UK education system is failing to engage and nurture the next generation of students, beginning with a lack of active encouragement throughout primary school in critical engineering thought and continuing throughout secondary education where the teaching of engineering is wildly variable.
A Change in Ethos?
Steve Jobs, when walking amongst us mere mortals, swore that Apple would not run a dedicated music streaming service. Jobs’ vision for Apple services never included a direct streaming platform amongst the gadgets, though the evolution of the iTunes store into much more than a simple download front and the plethora of competing streaming services has forced the technology giants to reconsider.
Businesses take many forms. Certainly, the composition of a business can be a muddle of pieces addled together into a somewhat cohesive unit capable of product thought processes. Others are run to a set design from day one. Still others are neither, appearing to have been fashioned from whatever was available at the time. In electronics design the composition of the business and the effect this has on the overall working ethos can have a direct impact on the process you, as a client, will engage with. Ultimately, it will shape the physical product you end up with – for better or worse.
We previously covered some aspects of the societal impact of the evolution of cities into networked multi-layered digital environments, utilising our found data to improve physical infrastructure as well as driving efficiencies throughout the multitude of public services now generating reams of digitised datasets.
The Global Market
The need to transcend local restrictions and entertain the global electronics market is an understandable problem for many bespoke designers. The vast distances between clients, time zones and cultural differences reign supreme, making for a continually morphing market. How is an independent electronics designer meant to compete on the global scale?
In my other existence, I am a market and social research consultant. I love writing for both roles and the variety of information I engage with on a daily basis is second to none. Throughout my time writing for Hawkshead I have expanded my knowledge on electronics design, designers, design process and design technologies. The same can be said for my engagement with market and social research faculties. However, I have noticed that the electronics design community as whole – perhaps excluding the digital behemoths such as Electronic Design or Farnell/Element 14 – is not as lucidly engaging with social media outlets as the market researchers down the hall.
IoT – The Internet of Things
There, we said it. It sounds strange, no?
Ambient intelligence has a common name: The Internet of Things. The interconnected mass of technologies and devices relying on ambient data to enable a central system to make potentially informed decisions. We touched briefly on this throughout one of our previous blog entries exploring the potential of Smart Cities and how their data driven prowess would enable us to live exemplary, clean, efficient lives. Some of this may be true. The arrival of big data, the increase in connectivity and the sheer number of connected devices across the global network has allowed the possibility of The Internet of Things to exist.
3D Printing for Cancer?
Every month that passes sees 3D printing linked with a society changing claim, and not a month goes by without this blog updating the latest and greatest in 3D printing tech. This month’s 3D printing evolution, if true, is surely set to surpass all previous entries with the notion that 3D printing will be able to assist entirely with research into cancer treatment in the near future.
With a process that could potentially diminish the timescale from initial research project to clinical trials in humans, the length of time required to move potential preventative drugs is currently restricted by the initial testing phase which is still conducted in Petri dishes.
The overall User Experience (UX) we derive from our interactions throughout the day shape our relationships with the world around us. The primary driver for UX is our mobile. As our primary interactive device (in many cases) the UX design holds special significance in directing our contextual relationships with our mobile, social and digital worlds. On one hand we have our shiny playful devices; on the other, UX is serious business. You only have to Google ‘bad UX design’ to enter the world of detrimental engagement – but what affect does that really have on overall engagement, especially in electronics design?
3D Printing – Mass Scale
If you believe what you read in technology news, 3D printing is going to revolutionise our entire lives, from top to bottom, from the plates we eat from, the cutlery we use, to the houses we live in. That’s right – houses. The next level of 3D printing is set to be the development of printed housing structures through a variety of printing formats.
Big Data in Electronics
It seems the catchall phrase ‘big data’ is currently everywhere. And that would certainly make sense, given that as a society we are producing and capturing more information than ever, through a larger number of devices and sensors, being analysed by more and more analysts (at least more jobs are being created somewhere). The ‘need’ for big data is in some cases, clear. We have undeniably progressed considerably as a technologically enhanced species over the past few decades and throughout that time – all the time – we have been producing digital data that is available for analysis. And it is not just the digital data being analysed. As projects are underway to digitise all analogue material we unearth data that was presumed lost, destroyed, or just plain didn’t know about.
Games, Gaming, Gamification and Electronics
You have probably recently read something like this:
‘Video Games cause under 9’s to violently sharpen rulers to decapitate Minecraft hating teacher’
‘Driven to kill by relentless shooting rampages in online world – preteens murder family members in ritualistic patterns sweeping the nation’
‘Gaming domination has proven to me that I am the Son of God’
Perhaps the final ‘headline’ is a little outlandish but I am sure if you dig deep enough, there will be an article detailing the majestic transformative powers of video games - to be read with a pinch of salt, of course. The former headlines, whilst hashed together for effect are strongly reminiscent of countless pieces of anti-gaming copy alluding to the detrimental effects games have on anyone who engages. Well, I will say it now: it’s not true.
Automation or Personality?
We have previously covered the depersonalisation of electronics design and manufacturing that is continually eroding the relationship between product and designer. Mass produced electronics demand processes that reduce cost, improve efficiency and increase output – but what is the cost of this continual push for productivity?
Crowdfunding an Electronics Future
I am quite a fan of the crowd-funding platforms. Even outside of electronics and technology they are offering a substantial number of startups the opportunity to attract global investors in a wealth of projects that in so many cases may have been missed and never have seen the light of day. That Cornwall has its own crowd funding platform, Crowdfund Cornwall only sweetens the deal. You can find all variety of Cornish startup funding projects located here and there are some worthwhile causes ranging from the county wide beach clean after the January storms to funding a Cornish Language Radio Website to promote Kernewek (the Cornish language) throughout the county and hopefully, further afield.
The article that appeared in February detailing the attack on a young writer in a San Francisco bar truly highlights growing public concern toward wearable tech, though specifically Google Glass at the current time. That a young lady in a San Francisco bar, home of Google, home of supposedly libertarian US politics and ideals can suddenly appear distant from a trend – albeit growing slowly – is somewhat surprising. It does highlight a major issue with the development of wearable tech, its slow distribution and a lack of common understanding about device capabilities, uses and general function.
A Different Type of Pitch
We're very used to pitching our solutions to potential clients, but here Peter writes about a different type of pitch entirely - propeller pitch and how he put his problem solving skills to the test, diagnosing and treating issues with his yacht Zena's engine.
This blog post is the matching piece to an article appearing in the June 2014 issue of Practical Boat Owner.
And when we say personalised, we do not mean the beautiful iPod inscription that transformed your £200 hardware into a true piece of sentiment; a family heirloom in the making (if you can keep the battery running for long enough, that is). We are talking about the development of throwaway technology that has become ubiquitous with the self, self-image and our social projections.
Electronic Waste Part II
We wrote recently concerning the growing issue of e-waste and the lack of genuine recycling facilities available throughout most of the western world. A significant amount of waste generated in this country makes its way to unlicensed African ‘decommissioning sites’ where hundreds of individuals are exposed to potentially harmful materials and chemicals. The 1.4 million tonnes of e-waste generated in the UK should at least have some positive recourse for the manufacturers, owners and lastly, protecting those exposed to the failings of the e-waste production/removal chain.
Choosing Your Designer
Keeping in tune with our previous post, how do you choose an electronic designer? Is it the one that gets you past the post first? Is it the company that offers the outrageously low price? Or another that somehow combines the two? Where design is concerned these are both extremely legitimate concerns. As taken from an article I will reference in this posting, we all want to ‘spend less and earn more'.
When considering your electronics design project there is a set list of very tangible ideas one must consider before the project even begins.
You are sat at the desk with a seemingly outstanding idea just brimming to fruition when you realise that outside of a rough idea of what you want the final products appearance and functionality to be, articulating this to a very techy individual heading up a project for an electronic design company could be a different kettle of fish altogether. But concepts do not remain confined to the mind, especially when there is desire to progress and succeed from all parties involved in the process: conceiver and designer.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that Google is seriously considering entering the computer chip market. Whilst the internet giant dominates swathes of our online lives it is somewhat surprising that alongside their expanding hardware options – the Nexus line of smartphones and tablets, as well as the collaboration with Samsung and Acer (also now HP and Lenovo) that has delivered the Chromebook, and not forgetting Google Glass – that we are yet to see Google developing their own processors. For a company utilising an estimated 900,000 servers spread over the entire globe, shifting internal development toward their own processing power could prove beneficial in multiple operations.
Following on from our blog post on wearable technology emerges the latest player on the scene – the Oculus Rift. This head mounted visual display offers a fully immersed 3D virtual reality experience and is primarily market toward the gaming market – which grows year on year. The Oculus Rift is still a relatively unknown offering; developer versions are only just shipping and consumer versions are likely to be some time but the current level of hype surrounding this eyepiece is understandable.
As our understanding of networking grows and the rate of national connectivity rises it is reasonable to expect that our cities will continue to be redefined by our own actions, breaking traditional paradigms for city planning with smart design buildings, transport networks and social programs. As demands grow on power, housing, food and water it will become imperative for electronically devised ICT systems to assist where possible creating enhanced efficient network solutions through the mountains of data we produce every day. In some cases, it is already happening.
Graphene is a carbon composite isolated in 2004 and is widely hailed as a 21st Century wonder material due to its extensive conductive properties. Graphene is formed of a two-dimensional honeycomb hexagonal structure which provides its excellent heat and electrical conductivity and as such could see it utilised in a host of sectors. Particularly of interest is its use in the next evolution of optical communications systems where the sensitivity of the material can be manipulated to allow for high speed data transmissions, modifying an imperative aspect of the connection process: interpretation and retransmitting.
2013 has been a technology gift in many ways. We have rising broadband speeds, the prospect of graphene optical lines to come, smartphones more powerful than desktops and a culture in which portability is recognised as a standardised feature. 2013 has also seen the advent of serious wearable technology, coming most recognisably in the form of Google Glass and recently, Samsung Galaxy Gear – ‘benefitting (sic) consumers by integrating smart device technology into their everyday life’. And this is exactly what wearable technology is all about – further assimilation, further integration into our device dependent lifestyles to smooth our transitions from place to place, device to device.