UK Technology and Innovation Business News #23 Jan 2013
The high tech industry is facing two divergent challenges when it comes to product lifecycle. Consumer products are being upgraded and replaced faster than ever before. At the same time, high-end, high-value equipment is increasingly being designed for—and used—for the long-haul. These dynamics put the high-tech supply chain in a unique position to provide an additional level of service and support to the electronics ecosystem.
GRAPHENE George Osborne has pledged more funding to help British universities conduct graphene research. The British government is to provide further funding for research into the wonder-material that is known as graphene. It has been reported that the Chancellor George Osborne will invest an extra £21.5 million in funding to some of the leading universities in the UK, in order to develop commercial uses for graphene.
Funding Breakdown The extra funding will however be combined with the government’s previous funding investment of £50m into the technology back in October 2011. It seems that the new funding will be made up of £12m from that 2011 funding, coupled with £10m from the science research council EPSRC. The new total of £21.5m will be allocated to specific universities in the UK. And it has been reported that these universities, alongside their industrial partners, will also commit £14m. Most of the £21.5m funding will go to Cambridge University, which was awarded £12m for research into graphene flexible electronics and opto-electronics (think touchscreens and electronics). London’s Imperial College meanwhile will receive over £4.5 million to investigate the possible aerospace applications of graphene. Funding will also go to projects at Durham University, the University of Manchester, the University of Exeter and Royal Holloway. All of these universities will be working with their respective industrial partners including Airbus, Nokia, BAE Systems, Procter & Gamble, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Dyson, Sharp and Philips Research.
Wonder-Material With its superior performance, high tensile strength and lightweight characteristics, carbon fibre has proven to be a popular material for use in manufactured goods.
The utilisation of carbon fibre by car companies such as McLaren and aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing have improved improve production methods but carbon fibre is not without its problems. The material remains relatively expensive and time consuming to produce, it is difficult to recycle and it is neither biodegradable nor photo-degradable, so effective disposal is notoriously difficult. To help solve some of the issues associated with carbon fibre, aircraft manufacturer Boeing has partnered with carmaker BMW to research automating the production of ultra-light carbon fibre and how best to recycle the material. The graphene funding comes after a host of big names backed a petition to get the government to spend the £4 billion it gets from the Ofcom-run 4G auction at the end of the year on science and technology. The government has previously faced criticism for its lack of tech funding in these austere times.
Cambridge is to step into the heart of the increasingly heated battle for graphene dominance by launching a £24m multi-million pound development centre that will use an open innovation model to take the material beyond early research to a position where products, jobs and an industry can be created.
Smart Infrastructure News
In 2012, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Automated Driving and connected vehicles dominated the headlines in the automotive electronics industry. Nevertheless, the engineers - you, our readers - preferred more in-depth information to seemingly unimposing topics: Batteries, electric drivetrains etc ...
In 2012 there was estimated to be 308,000 patients remotely monitored by their healthcare provider for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions worldwide. The majority of these were post-acute patients who have been hospitalised and discharged. As healthcare providers seek to reduce readmission rates and track disease progression, telehealth is projected to reach 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017.
Ofcom says that the UK is using 20 petabytes of mobile data a month, up from 9 petabytes this time last year. Ofcom expects the amount to grow 80x by 2030.
Leading industry representatives from lighting companies across Europe have formalized and launched a governing body, LightingEurope. The mission of the new organization is to give a voice to lighting companies of all sizes and to promote efficient lighting practices.
LightingEurope replaces two existing organizations, the European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC) and the Federation of National Manufacturers Organization for Luminaires and Electrotechnical Components for Luminaires in the European Union (CELMA). According to a press release at the opportunity of the merger, LightingEurope regards itself as a platform to unify the strengths of the industry to meet the challenges and opportunities created by the current "unprecedented change in lighting technology" caused by the ascent of LED lighting.
In the area of digital management and system communications, the electronic power-system industry is in the process of the largest technology integration since the introduction of the linear power supply. Ultra-low-power processors are critical to enabling the proliferation of what could well be called the “clutter” around the cloud.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has revealed that seven companies had qualified to bid for the new airwaves needed to roll out superfast 4G mobile broadband across Britain. Fixed lines provider BT, managed networks firm MLL Telecom and Hong Kong's PCCW Limited would enter the auction, Ofcom said, as well as all of the existing mobile network operators - EE, Vodafone, O2 owner Telefonica and Hutchison, which is behind Three. Bidders will be competing for spectrum in two separate bands - 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz, it said. The lower frequency 800 MHz band was freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off. EE, a joint venture between France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, has already launched 4G services in major British cities by reallocating its existing airwaves. The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today. Both bands are being packaged into smaller lots for the auction.
This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres, says Ofcom. For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks will be at least 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks.
5G will use the 700MHz frequency band – the band currently used for digital terrestrial broadcasting – with the broadcasters moving to 600MHz. 700MHz may become the world standard for 5G. Continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa are going that way. If the whole world follows, as expected, it makes the cost of equipment less. Talks on getting 700MHz adopted as the world standard are going on at the moment.
5G is not expected in the UK until around 2020. Following a UK group's claim to be developing '5G' technology, a European consortium is pursuing similar goals. Like the new UK research center, which is led by Huawei, Samsung and Telefonica, the EU-backed METIS initiative is investigating how the wireless world can move beyond 4G. It has a broad scope at the start, and will investigate all kinds of options including super-dense small cell networks, advanced beamforming and smart antenna techniques, and virtualized cloud RANs. All these are concepts which are important to LTE, of course, but researchers believe can be pushed to far higher limits. The first recommendations will come in mid-2015, by which time the industry may be starting to think about next generation platforms (though, no doubt, many firms will already have begun to use '5G' as a marketing term by then). The group believes any technology it comes up with will be relevant to networks being rolled out from 2020. One of the important areas of research is the super-dense network, a step onwards from current small cell ideas which would place cells in every room, car and potentially on human beings. METIS (officially the Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the 20:20 Information Society) will get a grant of €16m ($21.1m) from the European Union, as it looks to protect the traditionally strong role of Europe's vendors and universities in defining wireless standards. The effort is headed up by Ericsson, still the world's largest wireless infrastructure supplier and one of the biggest patent holders. METIS will tap into various existing research projects in academic institutions like Aalborg University in Denmark and Poznan University of Technology in Poland. As well as Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia and Telefonica are leading members, along with less traditional players such as carmaker BMW.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has outlined plans to auction off some of its radio spectrum by 2014 for services including 4G, becoming the first government department to do so. The MoD says that 200 MHz of its spectrum usage rights will be up for grabs, all below 15GHz, which is regarded as the most useful and valuable part of the radio spectrum because of the wide range of applications it can be used for. The auction will start at the end of next year and will be completed by the middle of 2014. Prior to the auction, the MoD will produce a brochure and host an industry day early next summer. Almost half of all bandwidth below 15GHz is held by the public sector and is used for services such as defence, emergency services and transport. The government’s 2010 spending revenue stated that 500MHz of the public spectrum below 5GHz should be released by 2020 for other uses. The MoD currently holds around three quarters of all publicly held spectrum and one third of the spectrum below 15 GHz. It lent some of its bandwidth to Ofcom during the 2012 Olympic Games in London in order to cope with the exceptional demand.