While we are on the subject of cellphone performance
enhancing devices, these two femtocells take the miniature cell tower form
factor from a 2" cube (see
LightRadio cubes), down to that of a USB stick in the case
of PicoChip, and a small cell phone in the case of Ubiquisys. Both use a nearby
wireless Internet connection to relay the signal between your cellphone and the
tower. By doing so, international roaming charges are avoided. PicoChip's dongle
is contry-specific, but Ubiquisys' slightly larger femtocell can figure out what
country it is in and configure its broadcast to comply with local spectrum usage
regulations. In some cases, the allowable power is so low that the phone needs to
be placed on top of it. In Japan, law requires a licensed engineer to accompany
the installation and configuration of every cell tower - no matter the size - so
neither of these devices are legal there.
Featured Product Archive
The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their
uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough
to warrant an appearance.
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For some reason this just struck me as kind
of funny. There have been a lot of headlines recently about the military adopting
smartphones as part of the battlefield stratagem. Here is an iPhone app that helps
train soldiers how to fire Patriot Missiles. C² Technologies says this is the first
segment in a series of seven iPhone mobile applications the company is developing
to train Patriot Missile crews for the U.S. Army. Eventually, the apps will train
in launch station, radar maintenance, antenna mast group, electrical power plant,
and missile reload march order and emplacement. I'm betting the CIA has embedded
code to execute an actual launch.
I seem to be on a book theme this week, so
here is another one for you. In spite of, or maybe because of, the overwhelming
amount of e-books and e-readers and e-everything else, something of a renaissance
is underway for printed material. Fortunately for the buyer, prices are low. That
includes the option to publish your own book, even a hard cover version, for not
Inc magazine featured a company called
blurb, which will bind
and print any quantity (including just one) for you at a price along the lines of
with what you might pay at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. A standard size book
(8x10") with up to 160 pages costs $50 for just one. Volume pricing is offered for
Lulu is another option among many.
FUNcube was launched by AMSAT-UK
to foster interest in school kids for space, physics, electronics, and radio. The
transponder uplink is 435.080 – 435.060 MHz, and the downlink is 145.960 – 145.980
MHz with beacons on 145.955 MHz CW and BPSK. In order to facilitate participation,
a software defined radio device has been designed - the
FUNcube Dongle. It can
be tuned anywhere from 64-1,700 MHz, with a BW of up to 80 kHz. Since it is SDR,
any modulation scheme that fits within 80 kHz is doable. There are two versions.
The Base model is frequency restricted and designed as an entry level minimal cost
device, targeted for educational outreach. The Pro model is unrestricted in its
frequency coverage. Only the Pro model is currently available, at a cost of £99
($162) + 20% VAT (EC only) and shipping. There are PCB and spectrum images on the
What do vintage grain mills, your lawn sprinkler,
and Hoover Dam have in common with Ecodigital's new
H2O FM radio? They all run on water power. According to their
website, the H2O is the world's first water pressure powered shower radio. It is
installed inline between the shower supply pipe and the shower head. The water flow
powers a patented, integrated turbine generator which creates energy to power the
radio. The H2O Shower Power Radio is a patented innovative product which uses the
latest technology of miniature water turbines to create energy. A built-in rechargeable
battery allows you to take the radio with you for listening elsewhere - maybe in
a good rain downpour!
Mudflaps -- They're not just for stopping
rocks and mud anymore. That's right, why bother even having a mudflap if it can't
double as an antenna? GreenWave
Scientific must have asked that question when developing a method for embedding
an antenna in otherwise ordinary mudflaps. Their
Mudflap Antennas operate in the VHF/UHF bands, covering 20-500
MHz. "The antenna consists of a radiating element embedded in industrial grade rubber
forming a mudflap antenna for retrofit installation on numerous military and commercial
truck types. Various installation and mounting hardware options are available."
Its stealthy form factor keeps it from advertising your
equipment to lurking thieves, and provides RF coverage equivalent to a roof mounted
whip. Trick up your semi or F-250 today!
Explorer is billed by designer Ariel Rocholl as, "an affordable handheld spectrum
analyzer designed from scratch to be a sort of Swiss army knife for the specific
needs of ISM band digital communication." Depending on which module you use (433,
868, 915 MHz or 2.4 GHz), RF Explorer will detect and measure the power using the
spectrum analyzer mode (peak max, normal and averaging modes ) for signals from
-110 to 0 dBm, or use it as an RF generator with a 0 to +10 dBm output. Resolution
BW adujsts automatically for 2.6 to 80 kHz. A backlit LCD is provided, or use the
miniUSB port to connect to a PC and get higher resolution. Up to 5 screen shots
can be stored. RF Explorer is 113x70x25 mm and weighs just 185 g. The price is $95
Ewww... Who would want a cellphone shaped
like this? Elfoid is a miniature anthropomorphic robot-shaped phone that "is designed
to transmit not only voice but also 'human presence.'" It registers your own body
motion and voice tones with motion sensors, a camera, and microphone to cause the
blob to react similarly. I don't know if it cries when you are sad, but maybe at
least the butt cheeks clench (see video) when it detects
that you are in a threatening situation (did I just write
that?). Elfoid was developed by famous Japanese roboticist
Ishiguro, the guy who builds incredibly life-like robots that look like himself.
Just as in the PC world the quality and sophistication
of software applets evolved over time from crude, text-based user interfaces and
zero input error checking, apps for smartphones have improved considerably since
early versions. Even relatively simple functions are now enhanced with increased
options and helpful graphical interfaces. The resistor identifier app shown here
not only presents a realistic looking component, but also allows the user to cursor
over the bands to either read off values or the change the colors. Another app lets
you enter digital inputs to common logic gates and see the result at the output.
Need resonant frequency for an LC tank circuit? There's an app for that. Agilent
has a nice RF coupler parameter calculator. Most cost no more than a new ring tone.
2-18-2011 No matter what the cost, those evil Edison
light bulbs will be banished from the face of the Earth. Even if we have to replace
harmless tungsten with a highly toxic element like mercury
(which incidentally we removed from light switches 50 years
ago because it causes brain damage) then by Jupiter that's what we'll do.
Even if the energy used to produce, package, distribute, and then properly dispose
of the Hg-filled CFL bulbs proves to be greater than with Edison's invention, they
simply must go. Even if to make CFLs acceptable we have to add complexity like imbedding
a halogen bulb in the middle of a CFL (packaged so that it
looks like an incandescent bulb) to make it bright when first switched on
and then turn off after the CFL warms up, we'll do that, too. Silly, you say? GE
has done so with their new Energy Smart Soft White bulb. Can you imagine what it
cost to design and produce the circuit and components for that beast? Suggest name
for the bulb: The Rube Goldberg. Expected sale price will be $6-$10 each.
Alcatel-Lucent has developed a LightRadio
cube that allows a distributed approach to cell phone towers. These Rubik's Cube-sized
devices reportedly perform all the functions of a cell tower at a small fraction
of the power requirement. The idea is to locate the cubes anywhere and everywhere
- bus stops, coffee shops, malls, schools, sports stadiums. Smart software allows
the cubes to coordinate communications between themselves and the distant towers.
Lower radiated power levels in both directions is one of the benefits, along with
offloading data congestion from towers. LightRadios can even be configured in arrays
that form steerable phased arrays so that power can be directed toward users. It's
a slick idea. The problem I see is an opportunity for some nefarious person - or
government - to replace cubes with look-alikes that hijack data and maybe embed
Trojans into users' phones.
Technology often melds many disciplines to
service nearly every aspect of life. Hobby and sports gear are rarely anymore a
simple application of raw materials and baseline technology. The
iBike Dash cycling computer is a prime example of one high tech
device leveraging capabilities of another. A wireless link with your iPhone allows
the Dash to combine GPS and communications functions from the phone with its own
software to perform a pretty amazing set of calculations and displays. For instance,
using optional heart rate and cadence sensors, it can calculate the rider's power
output in calories based on GPS position and elevation change data. Recall that
fundamentally work = force x distance, and calories are units of work. The Dash
will also display a moving route map, weather map, and much more. Of course, this
kind of technology sharing has been around a long time. Who among us in the 1970s
didn't own one of those
adapters that plugged into your 8-track player?
I swear, though, that I never did disco!