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Android App for Automation and Control Systems Wins First Place Award

At ISA ExpoControl 2012 in Mexico City, industrial automation manufacturer Opto 22 was in the winner’s circle. Opto aPAC, the company’s Android application for monitoring and managing the company’s SNAP PAC System, received the ISA exhibition’s first place award in the category of New Innovations. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

Opto aPAC provides real-time control system access and information to authorized automation professionals equipped with wireless, Android-based smartphones or tablets. Control engineers, maintenance personnel, instrumentation technicians and panel builders can use Opto aPAC to discover SNAP PAC controllers and I/O systems and then view, debug and fine-tune them, saving time and money during commissioning and ongoing maintenance.

Opto aPAC is the first Android-based mobile app for automation and control that requires no initial configuration. Unlike mobile HMI apps where it’s necessary to first build an operator interface for the mobile device, Opto aPAC retrieves all information as soon as it is connected to a SNAP PAC control system. Opto 22 wireless controllers and I/O are not required. The Opto aPAC app is available for download now from the Android Market (


4DSP to Commercialize NASA Fiber Optic Technology

4DSP has announced that it is officially launching live industry demonstrations of licensed NASA fiber optic sensing and 3D shape rendering technology that could help radically improve efficiencies, safety and performance in a wide variety of industries. 

4DSP licensed the fiber optic sensing technology in June 2011 and was granted licensing rights to NASA’s 3D shape rendering technology on July 21, 2012. Vulliez notes that NASA-licensed technology could represent a quantum leap forward for industries as diverse as automotive, aerospace, oil & gas, nuclear energy, medical devices and wind energy. Past fiber optic sensing solutions have been limited by both processing speed and high deployment costs. 4DSP’s fiber optic sensing and 3D shape rendering technology will enable product designers in more industries to create highly scalable fiber optic sensing solutions capable of monitoring tens of thousands of sensors up to 100 times per second. 

Components of the technology were initially developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center, and NASA Dryden then matured and added components to the technology making it what it is today. According to the company, the NASA fiber optic sensing and 3D shape rendering technology has the potential to save industries and consumers millions, if not billions, of dollars. From commercial aircraft manufacturing design to surgical endoscopes, the applications of the NASA fiber optic sensing technology are potential game-changers.


Super Long-Life Tritium Battery to be Commercially Available

City Labs has announced that it has created a commercial version of a tritium battery called the NanoTritium, which can deliver power in the nanowatt/microwatt range at extreme temperatures for twenty years and more. It appears to have the distinction that it can be delivered to the end user without any specialized radiological training or regulatory documentation. 

Tritium batteries use an isotope of Tritium produced as a by-product in certain nuclear reactors in a technology called betavoltaics because the beta (electron) emitting radiation is used to produce electricity. Since Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, only half its fuel will be consumed in the first 12 years. Tritium is often described as one of the most “benign” radioisotopes and is used within the battery in solid form. Still, the price won’t be cheap and is initially estimated in the multi-thousand dollar range. Of course, one can expect that to come down as more are produced and find their way into specialized applications.

These would include things like pacemakers and medical instruments that are implanted in the body, remote sensors for numerous uses such as deep water drilling and observation, security devices, sensors for structural integrity and many more where the savings for alternative shorter-life batteries and their maintenance will justify the cost.


Machinery Production Slows: Stepper Sales Boosted by Medical and Commercial Markets

According to IMS Research, recently acquired by HIS, the market for stepper systems is expected to feel the cooling trend observed in machinery production output, with stepper systems sales forecast to slow from 4.3 percent growth in 2012 to 3.8 percent in 2013. Bucking this trend, stepper sales to the medical equipment and commercial markets are gaining momentum with 2013 expectations set to outpace current performance.

Industrial machinery represents the largest user of stepper systems, accounting for nearly 70 percent of stepper sales in 2011, according to IMS. Thus the steppers market is closely tied to machinery production output, which rebounded strongly after the recession. While machinery production grew 16.7 percent in 2010 and 12.4 percent 2011, the economic crisis in Europe and China’s cooling economy is slowing industrial output, and growth in this stepper systems market is forecast at 3.5 percent in 2013.

Growth in the medical equipment and commercial markets will help to buoy the stepper systems market as machinery cools. Although the stronger growth of steppers in medical equipment forecast at 6 percent for 2012 is expected to continue in 2013, this market only represents 16 percent of the total steppers market in 2011.

IMS Research Analyst Michelle Figgs explains, “Stepper systems are sold into a variety of applications and the forecasted market growth reflects this. As machinery production slows with the worldwide economy, the steppers market will be negatively impacted, but this will be partially offset by the strength of the medical equipment and commercial markets. Therefore, the total stepper market is forecast to slow, but to a lesser extent than machinery production output.”


Kontron and Polaris Networks Demonstrate End-to-End LTE EPC Platform 

Kontron showcased its technical collaboration with Polaris Networks on an LTE Evolved Packet Core platform solution that is suitable for deployment in Tier 2 and Public Safety LTE networks, at the AdvancedTCA Summit held in September. The joint demonstration combined a Kontron carrier grade MicroTCA platform (OM60601) and its various storage and multicore processor AMC modules with the Polaris Networks LTE NetEPC Solution. The Polaris NetEPC combines the functionality of the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) including the Mobile Management Entity (MME), the Serving Gateway (S-GW), the Packet Data Network Gateway (PDN-GW) and the Home Subscriber Server (HSS) as per 3GPP standards, making it suitable for Tier II-III deployments by Operators & Public Safety Departments. The Kontron 1U OM6061 MicroTCA platform features six AMC bays populated with three AM4020 processor AMC modules designed with the third generation Intel Core i7 processor. 

Lab validation and benchmark testing shows that the joint Kontron-Polaris solution is able to handle up to 128,000 simultaneous users, including support for all signaling procedures, such as UE Attach, Detach, Default and Dedicated Bearer Establishment, Modification and Termination, Paging and Service Requests, Handovers, Roaming, Multiple PDN Connectivity, and Trace among others.

Green Hills MULTI Tool Chain Certified as a Functional Safety Support Tool

Green Hills Software has announced that its Multi tool chain has been certified to meet the highest levels of tool qualification specified in the IEC 61508:2010 (Industrial), EN 50128:2011 (Railway) and ISO 26262:2011 (Automotive) functional safety standards. Green Hills has received certificates from both TÜV Nord and exida, making the Green Hills Multi IDE the only commercially available toolchain certified to satisfy both SIL 4 (Safety Integrity Level) and ASIL D (Automotive Safety Integrity Level) tool qualification requirements.

The rising complexity of embedded software is requiring many markets and government agencies to demand product certification to proven standards for functional safety,” commented Dr. William M. Goble, president of exida. “To address this demand, Green Hills Software has worked together with exida to complete the first ever commercially available tools certification for its Multi tools offering, thereby significantly reducing the time and cost for end customers to certify their product offerings.” 

The availability of qualified Multi tools delivers customers significant product development cost savings by lowering cost and time-to-certification, reducing product time-to-market and reducing certification maintenance after product release. These combine to enable customers to assign their critical internal resources to unique added product value and development instead of ancillary tools efforts.


Eurotech in $60M Contract to Power Positive Train Location System

Eurotech has announced they have received a contract from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for a total estimated value of 60 million USD over a 3-year period to supply the Eurotech system as the embedded platform for a Positive Train Location (PTL) system. The first few units will be delivered during the second half of 2012, and deliveries will ramp up to full operational pace in 2013.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the North American railroad industry have been developing various elements for a Positive Train Control (PTC) system. The industry is now focusing on train length data accuracy and positive determination of train location through PTL projects.

The first phase of the project uses the ISIS ICE, a rugged subsystem based on the low-power, high-performance ISIS single board computer, which was certified last year as one of two hardware reference designs for PTC applications. The ISIS ICE offers fanless diskless operation, combined with wireless communications, GPS options and flexible PC/104 I/O and communications expansion. The ongoing deliveries for this SAIC contract consist of the Eurotech computer on module, Catalyst TC, with custom board set and enclosure.