How to manage test equipment in R&D?

Since productivity is the new watchword in R&D, the testing phase of a design needs to be done correctly and with all requisite equipment available when needed. Microlease, a new member of DSP Valley, can help you with that.

By Microlease

Today, the semiconductor sector influences more industry sectors than any other aspect of the electronics industry. It permeates just about every electronic device on the market today and is heavily influenced by the need to deliver products to market rapidly, thereby capturing early market share.

Hence productivity is the new watchword in R&D. A recent report by McKinsey and Company also showed there is a very strong connection between small, highly focussed, R&D teams based on a single site and high levels of productivity.

While often the focus of productivity is on the design phase, the design is not market-ready until testing and verification is complete, so this project phase must also be completed efficiently.

More diverse test requirements

Productivity requires the testing phase to be correctly and fully resourced in terms of equipment, with all requisite equipment being available when needed. However in smaller R&D teams there is scant spare resource to manage the planning and sourcing of test equipment without impacting productivity. Likewise, multi-site and larger teams face similar issues where the costs of inefficient test management are higher.

As companies seek greater versatility to enhance their competitiveness, so test requirements become more diverse. For example, the test requirements for a microcontroller are vastly different to those for a sensor device, yet many fabless semiconductor companies could well be required to develop technologies as diverse as this to meet customer demand.

Productivity requires the testing phase to be correctly and fully resourced.

Microlease test equipment

This versatility impacts test equipment requirements significantly. Even though modern simulation tools are highly sophisticated, every project requires detailed hardware testing to verify the simulation and assess parametric spread due to the production process. Teams of all sizes increase productivity with the required equipment being available when and where it is needed and budget holders benefit from greater visibility of available equipment, ensuring duplicate purchases are avoided.

Accuracy needed

Characterising highly complex and dense modern integrated circuits (IC) is challenging, often made more complex by the presence of analogue and digital circuitry within the same device. Many designers have to push design rules to the absolute limit to meet design criteria and / or gain a competitive advantage – this necessitates highly accurate physical layer testing.

Power is critical in many applications as functionality increases and IC size decreases. Understanding power consumption accurately in different operating modes is critical to predicting battery lifetime in modern portable applications. Portable devices increasingly include communications, requiring RF test to be brought into the mix.

Since design rules are pushed to the absolute limit, highly accurate physical layer testing is needed.

Microlease test equipment

This broad-based testing requires a myriad of test equipment that may have a limited lifespan. In fact, the more specialist or niche an instrument is, the greater the likelihood that it will be used for a short time to characterise or verify a new semiconductor and then become redundant, tying up cash and requiring maintenance, storage and insurance – all of which drain the R&D budget.

Microlease as your tester

A simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach of simply purchasing necessary test equipment is, at best, expensive and most likely unsuccessful. Successful, productive, companies are reconsidering the way they manage test equipment and leading semiconductor organisations of all sizes have already benefitted greatly from working with third party test equipment management specialists.

A one size fits all approach is expensive and most likely unsuccessful.

One of the leading specialist test equipment companies is Microlease. With over forty years of experience in supplying expertise and test equipment to a wide variety of companies on a global basis, Microlease clearly understands the needs of the industry. With the ability to offer a wide range of services including sales, leasing, used equipment and asset management, Microlease can provide a flexible, bespoke solution whatever the project needs. Their LEO Asset Management software offers large (and small) teams the ability to track availability and utilisation of equipment, wherever it may be.

Mining data in the transportation sector

Televic Rail, a global technology company with over 30 years of experience, investigates how to collect and present insightful data about train fleets to enable predictive maintenance. By doing so it takes research about mining data in the transportation sector a huge step further.

By Televic

This new research, led by Televic Rail, falls under the imec.icon research program and as always brings together industry players and research groups with different specializations. As each of those projects, it has a duration of two years. This imec.icon research project focuses on designing novel techniques for mining the explosive amounts of collected sensor data on trains. “On-board sensor systems are getting more and more complex”, says Dirk Van Den Wouwer, R&D manager at Televic Rail. “Since it is getting easier and cheaper to produce sensors, more of them are effectively being used: we have gone from 3 or 4 per coach to a good 50.”

Predictive maintenance

All these sensors collect data about a variety of parameters, such as the temperature of components, vibrations, speed, acceleration and load on the train’s metal structure. Investigating how to collect and present this vital information will help Televic Rail to provide an optimal tool for predictive maintenance. And that is of key importance for train operators. Seeing from a distance what is wrong with a train set, gives them the opportunity to send it to the right repair location immediately. There, the right fitters, parts and tools are available, and as a result, downtime is limited to a minimum.

Your benefit in DSP Valley’s internationalization in MedTech?

personalized medicine

Since June 2017, DSP Valley is participating in a ERDF project on “Internationalisation for BioTech, MedTech and RegMed”, under the lead of the Province of Flemish Brabant. Which are the benefits this initiative is bringing to the DSP Valley cluster?

By DSP Valley

In the DSP Valley cluster, we are actively stimulating innovation partnerships between technology developers from the micro/nano-electronics and other digital technology domains, with system integrators in smart electronic systems. One of the focal domains is smart health. This is not by coincidence: businesses in the DSP Valley cluster have world class competencies in extreme miniaturisation and in ultra-low power electronics, as well as in sensor technologies and RF, both in digital and in analog and mixed signal. Especially these competencies are critical enablers for smart health applications, such as body wearable and body implantable devices, or lab-on-chip solutions for in-vitro diagnostics. This makes Flanders, the home region of the DSP Valley cluster, a hot spot for these types of medical devices.

In the Internationalisation project, it is our aim and ambition to connect Flanders with other hotspots in these MedTech applications. The regions we think about are Switzerland, the region of Baden-Württemberg in Germany, and our neighbouring region of Southern Netherlands (in which DSP Valley is also active). With these regions, we are setting up dedicated seminars or conferences on implantable devices. We also organise dedicated B2B matchmakings, helping you to connect with international players in this domain, both from the technology side and the application side. And we promote our region as the place-to-be for all players in body wearable and body implantable devices, and in lab-on-chip, growing our local ecosystem with international players. And of course, offering more next-door cooperation opportunities for you, partners in the DSP Valley cluster, is also on our list.

Finally, we will go international with participation in specialised medtech conferences and exhibitions. We are currently exploring and preparing a group participation in the Medtech Conference, to be held in September 2018 in Philadelphia.

Are you interested in interacting with our leading cluster members in implantable and wearable devices, and in lab-on-chip devices for in-vitro diagnostics. Or you want to participate in one of these activities? Then don’t hesitate to contact Peter Simkens.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Dekimo and DCI Electronics join forces

By Dekimo

Dekimo and DCI Electronics from the Netherlands (Goes, Zeeland) join forces in their common business. Both Dekimo and DCI have been active in the field of electronics for over 20 years. DCI offers custom solutions in design, production, maintenance and repair. The company will continue its activities under the new name of ‘Dekimo Goes’.

The synergies of this merger will come from the scale-up that Dekimo offers, and the broader international customer base that DCI brings. Dekimo employs more than 250 engineers in its sites in Gent, Leuven, Kortrijk, Turnhout, Louvain-la-Neuve, Erpe-Mere and Delft. DCI will increase this number by more than 20 professionals working at the Goes site.

Dekimo Goes will be the first beachhead for custom solutions in electronics by Dekimo in the Netherlands. With the recent creation of Dekimo Experts Delft as the first consultancy operation in the Netherlands, Dekimo further increases its international presence as a one-stop-shop for electronics services.

Dekimo Goes will be located at the current address of DCI Electronics: Nijverheidsstraat 14 in Eindewege (municipality Goes).

Delivering a Digital Twin

Today’s Industrial Internet of Things unfolds before our eyes as businesses leverage new and rapidly evolving technologies. The latest concept is the digital twin, a solution that is far more than a product: It is the outcome that industry demands.

By Ansys

The Internet of Things (IoT) has leap-frogged from consumer applications that facilitate mere interaction and collaboration. Industry leaders like General Electric (GE) extended this connectivity to operating machines. The resulting Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables commercial organizations to engage with large complex machines — wind and gas turbines, jet engines, locomotives — to improve performance, reduce downtime and accelerate new product development. But it doesn’t stop there. Today’s cost models for sensor technology, internet connectivity, and simulation and analytics enable connectivity to not only highly complex, capital-intensive machinery but to almost every piece of equipment in operation.

Data and the industrial internet

The IIoT, in practice, is best used to determine or suggest an action: For example, instruct a wind turbine to tilt its rotors for optimum wind exposure. First, sensor data collected from assets are added to all other available digital information. A dashboard combines this information with the equipment’s real-time and expected-performance data to produce descriptive analytics, which can be mined to forecast potential failures and schedule maintenance. The final step is optimization, which considers individual assets in all their configurations along with systems of assets to arrive at multiple solutions. The objective is to optimize a very complex ecosystem around a particular asset. The very rich models describing structure, context and behavior of industrial assets are called digital twins.

There is a cost for this improved performance: The IIoT manages huge amounts of data, extracting information and gaining actionable insights through big data analytics and deep learning. For security, and also to manage the quantity of data, some data is stored and processed locally “at the edge.” Other functions are performed on data in the cloud. This hybrid edge-to-cloud approach helps manage the quantity of data and allows the best computational approach to be taken for different types of objectives while maintaining safety and security of operation and protecting a company’s valuable IP.

Getting started with a digital twin

A digital twin begins with a basic model that describes the asset. For example, a wind turbine model could include PLM system information with details on materials and components, a 3-D geometric model, a simulation model that predicts expected behavior based on physics algorithms, or recommendations from analytics created using machine-learning techniques. The model also can include service logs of maintenance, and defect and solution details, capturing the entire life cycle of the asset.

Initially the digital twin represents a class of assets — in this example, a wind turbine of type x. This generic twin must be individualized for a specific wind turbine on a particular farm. Consider that the machine has operated for five years, enduring weather specific to its location, running among 50 other turbines. So the entire wind farm must be modeled. Each turbine is similar but different based on its position or experience (wind direction, maintenance record, wake effects). In the end, the twin’s rich digital representation contains its past and present condition moment by moment. The future of a specific wind turbine, in this case, is codified in that digital twin.

Digital twins provide accurate operational pictures of assets right now. There is a significant business value in identifying underutilized devices, so analyzing twin information can lead to optimal usage. For example, GE Power leveraged a digital twin to get 5 percent more output from a wind farm without making wholesale changes. The team optimized the turbines to changing wind conditions and orchestrated the interaction of individual twins on-site. One insight seemed counterintuitive: In specific scenarios, shutting down some turbines improved output compared to running all turbines. By predicting potential problems in a fine-grained way, operators can schedule maintenance to minimize service disruption. Once the information is codified across a system of assets, the team can take that knowledge and turn it into actions that will obtain the desired outcomes.

Building a twin model at the outset is the key to creating a rich set of applications that produce asset-related outcomes — not, as some think, just developing a dashboard for equipment operator decision-making.
A full-featured twin makes it easier to develop and deploy applications later. The physics, analytics and simulation information within the model pave the way for machine learning; many digital twins linked together produce a mass of actionable industrial knowledge.

GE Digital leverages ANSYS simulation in its digital-twin use cases, so the two organizations immediately benefit from collaboration

Platforms support the industrial internet

The latest IIoT challenge is how to make such sophisticated technology user-friendly so end-users (who are manufacturers and engineers, but not programmers) can solve business problems.

To that end, GE has developed the Predix® platform to connect industrial equipment, analyze data and deliver real-time insights.
Predix is an aggregation of microservices that are useful in building, deploying and managing industrial internet applications. Customers consult with GE Digital on business problems, such as increasing a wind farm’s output or optimizing a gas turbine that services a variable-power infrastructure. Within a few weeks, these organizations assemble an initial solution to address the problem.

GE also uses the Predix platform internally to optimize its own production processes and build more efficient solutions for customers.

Digital twins can be practically applied in almost every industry

Simulation and the digital twin

For decades, GE has gathered data on many assets, such as jet engines. Combining such data with statistical models predicts what is likely to happen and when — but it falls short of determining why and how it happens. Adding in physics-based simulation is the final step to gleaning this additional insight. GE’s Predix can overlay data with simulation in an industrial context that operates as a common data model. Simulations can be run on-site or in the cloud at scale — pushing models to the edge then bringing insights they create back to the cloud. Complete integration requires connecting to the customer’s PLM system, linking in CAD data and other valuable information recorded in enterprise systems.
A digital twin that centers on a common model and incorporates many information sources enriches knowledge.

GE Digital leverages ANSYS simulation in its digital twin use cases, so the two organizations immediately benefit from collaboration. ANSYS software’s greatest value is in bringing together different aspects of simulation, so it helps designers completely think through their designs. Because a simulation model demonstrates how the assets should work, the twin approach shows exactly when operation is amiss. Digital twins take simulation results out of the design studio and into real life to provide immediate feedback on one asset or many. Soon the technology will enable optimizing an individual asset in the field; furthermore, it could be deployed throughout an asset’s entire life cycle.

The future

Digital twins can be practically applied in almost every industry: transportation, energy, manufacturing, aviation and more. Companies already are saving millions of dollars by bringing together data, simulation, platform, cloud-based functions and machine learning. Organizations can only imagine the future benefits as the digital twin concept grows more prevalent.

Smart Systems – past, present and future by our new CEO

On Monday October 16, one day before SSIS 2017, our biggest event of the year, Dieter Therssen started his first working day as the new CEO of DSP Valley. A curriculum vitae does not tell us much, so it became a pleasant conversation about the past, the present and the future of the Smart Systems industry.

By DSP Valley

Bringing relevant innovation to the market, that is my main professional drive. Not very original, I know, but as an engineer – that is what you do, “Dieter smiles relaxed. “You look around you at what is not smoothly running yet and search for solutions. I think it’s just our natural tendency.”

So what brings him then to DSP Valley?

The challenge of ‘Designing Smart Products’ is to bring a diversity of technologies together in products and services that are relevant to people – consumers. Sensors and actuators, layered computing power, connectivity … To do this efficiently, for example in healthcare, autonomous vehicles or smart factory lines, not only individual innovations, but also collaborations between ever different combinations of companies are required. Especially in a region where small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the economy. Everyone brings his own skills, his own piece of the puzzle. Everyone must also understand the context and needs of the other to work together efficiently. That added value is the challenge for DSP Valley. DSP Valley brings together innovative companies that want to work together. I find the creation of the necessary conditions and the continuation of cooperation very interesting and valuable. On top of that, for me personally DSP Valley is a return in the heart of micro and nanotechnology, a subject that has fascinated me since my studies. Lastly, DSP Valley has a strong team, with a valuable track record in recent years. It is a pleasure to work with these professionals to continue building on that road.

Your DSP Valley team: f.l.t.r. Annelies Vandamme, Peter Simkens, Dieter Therssen, Johan Lecocq, Mark De Colvenaer, Guus Dhaeze, Vera Geboers, Bjorn Van de Vondel.
What are your most important professional achievements so far?

In the beginning of my career I was active in a collaboration between the freshly started imec and Philips. I participated in the system design and chip implementation of the first one-chip car radio (SAA 7706). The collaboration between the two companies aimed to achieve greater productivity in the design of cost-effective digital chips. At the time Philips Semiconductors was not really at the top in process technology. Nevertheless, with this product, and not in the least thanks to the design methodology used, an entire market was captured and analogue car radios disappeared in a short time. NXP Semiconductors still being a market leader in automotive today, is partly indebted to that success.A second realization is in active acoustics for vehicles. Nowadays cars drive pleasantly and quietly thanks to passive measures such as sound-insulating plates, absorbent upholstery and counterweights. As a result, the cars are heavier than necessary and have a higher CO2 emission. Because Europe – and other authorities – will impose considerable penalties on brands with emissions that are too high, they are looking for smart solutions. The use of active acoustics, with anti-noise, is one of them.The step towards active acoustics is not evident on both technological and financial level. At Premium Sound Solutions, a medium-sized company that develops and produces in our region, we set up a collaboration with KU Leuven and Vlaio (then IWT). This not only produced a successful proof of concept, it also resulted in traction in the market.Both realizations illustrate the possibilities in our region. There is talent and there are ideas. They also show that cooperation for the development and successful commercial roll-out of ‘smart systems’ is a must.

What do you think are the challenges for industry in the development of future smart technologies?

With the Internet of Things, the development of artificial intelligence and other smart technologies, the possibilities are virtually infinite. The art will be to develop relevant, meaningful products and services. Possibilities will no longer be limited by technology, but by man. If we don’t follow, those smart developments don’t make sense. Therefore, we need to be aware of the ‘human factor’ in the implementation and deployment of new technologies and applications.Another evolution I follow with great interest is the increasing automation and its impact on our jobs. In the coming years, the content of many jobs will change significantly. Jobs will disappear and new ones will arise. It is not inconceivable that Industry 4.0 creates a world in which the work to be done becomes more interesting, but the underlying automation scales down manual labor opportunities. That carries a social problem. Addressing that evolution in the right way becomes a challenge.

What do you want to realize with DSP Valley?

The micro- and nanotechnology enabling ‘smart systems’ created a significant industry that is heavily consolidating today. When there is consolidation at that level, the action for a network organization such as DSP Valley shifts, in this case to the application level. For DSP Valley, this means we are evolving from a network focused on technology enablers to a network that innovates in the applications made possible with it. We are moving up to a network of value chains. We do this around 4 topics: Smart Health, Smart Cities, Smart Vehicles and Smart Industry. Here is where I want to stimulate cooperation between DSP Valley-members even more and help them realize more innovative projects. That stimulation must be proactive. In order to remain competitive in our region, DSP Valley must provide for these evolutions and create links before the need arises. For me, this means that our activities must be broader than organizing conferences, events or sending out newsletters. And so, I am back at what drives me professionally, which is standing at the cradle of new innovative and meaningful products and services!

SSIS 2017: high quality lectures, starter pitches and a lot of networking

On October 17, 2017 the Lamot Center once more was the scene for an entire day of Smart Electronic Systems. The fifth edition of the Smart Systems Industry Summit had a compelling programme to attract key players in the field of Smart Systems.

By DSP Valley

As in preceding years, the event revolved around the four application themes of DSP Valley: Smart Health, Smart Vehicles, Smart Cities and Smart Industry. Next to the traditional keynotes and presentations, there was also room for novelties. There was an academic track: 8 PhD students presented their research in a poster session on the exhibition floor as well as with a pitch. Next to that DSP Valley provided an opportunity for start-up companies to present themselves in a separate Starters Track.

All things combined, the SSIS 2017 proved to be a recipe for a savory day full of information, insights and networking. Some impressions…

Cooperating with others to create new software

New as an exhibitor at SSIS 2017 is Verum. The company provides engineering tools for software controlled systems and is a recent addition to DSP Valley. Verum is based close to Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Why they became a member? “We have some major clients in our own country but want to orient our business also to Belgium. Therefore DSP Valley and SSIS seem an obvious choice”, said Jos Hegge, Product Manager of Verum.

The company develops Dezyne, a new generation of a model-driven software engineering tool that enables software engineers to create, explore and formally verify component based designs for embedded and technical software systems. Dezyne ensures that hidden defects and design errors are discovered using an automated formal verification. The results reported by their customers include a 50% reduction in development costs, 20% decrease in time to market and a 25% reduction in the cost of field defects.

Unique about the tool is that Dezyne provides the power of rigorous, formal verification technology in a form that is easy to use, applicable to a wide range of general software challenges and scalable across entire systems and organisations. It provides solutions for building verifiably complete and correct software components; understanding the architecture and design of sophisticated embedded or technical software systems; communicating, reviewing and documenting the behavior of software components and (sub) systems; ensuring the ongoing, long term integrity, re-usability and maintainability of software assets. Dezyne is used in a large customer base in different markets, such as industrial systems, medical devices, robotics and financial systems.

We see multiple options where a partnership could bring mutual benefits

Is Verum interested in partnerships with other members? “Cooperating with other software developers to generate new software applications always interests us! We are active in European projects and always open to embark on new ones. We have close relationships with universities where we help in the educational program on Model Driven technologies and do research together. Since we are continuously looking for opportunities to integrate our tools with environments from others, we see multiple options where a partnership could bring benefits for both partners”, says Jos Hegge.

Those of you interested in demonstrating your skills at application design can participate in the Dezyne Challenge (1st of December 2017 – 31th of January 2018).

Each year, there is someone we can do business with!
Smart Nodes participates for the fourth time at SSIS.

For SmartNodes, SSIS 2017 was the 4th edition they participated. The company offers its clients smart lighting modules that reverse the modalities of public lighting! Instead of illuminating everywhere at full power during the whole night, lamps are kept to a minimal output level, except when road users are present. This means a drastic decrease of consumed power, light pollution and ecological footprint of the lighting system. Moreover, this is achieved while maintaining the visual comfort and safety of each person present in the public space.
SmartNodes realizes this thanks to modules equipped with sensors communicating between each other.

The proposed technology fits also right into the context of Smart Cities. SmartNodes solution is a good entry point for mobility and security applications. It opens the way to many applications by feeding road occupancy information’s, in a secure way, to traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and traffic and warning signs. Through the Smart Lighting communication network, the infrastructure equipped with extra sensors can transport additional public space information like parking occupancy, noise level, air quality, etc.
Today, SmartNodes modules are deployed in about 30 sites, including in Wavre, Liège, Rotterdam and Den Haag.

Partnering is important for the growth of our company

Why Smart Nodes is for the fourth time present at SSIS? “SSIS is an important event for us because of the interesting contacts we make here. Each year there is someone we can do business with or that can partner us with the development of a new technology” says Jean Beka, CEO of SmartNodes. “And that is of course important for the growth of our company.”

And the winner of our first PhD pitching contest is …

During the Summit 2017, a number of enthusiastic PhD students proudly presented their research work by means of a poster and a pitch. For the Summit they had to prepare a 7-minute pitch on their research project, to be showcased in a special and dedicated PhD-track.

Most of the pitches focused on healthcare subjects – clearly a field where a lot is happening this moment. This included epileptic seizures, neural diseases, sleep apnea, disease prediction models, different approaches to rehabilitation. The non-medical topics focused on vision technology.

A jury of four evaluated and rated the pitches along different criteria such as quality of the pitch and industrial relevance. All presentations were of high quality, which made the task of the jury quite challenging.  Eventually, it was concluded that one stood out: Simon Van Eyndhoven from the KU Leuven was praised for his pitching qualities as well as for the quality of his research. His pitch on “Diagnosing neurological diseases by fusing multi modal functional brain data” was proclaimed to be the best of the track.


Simon Van Eyndhoven (left), winner of the first PhD-pitch with Joan Ceuterick from Ansem, sponsor of the PhD track.

Congratulations Simon, we at DSP Valley wish you all the success in your professional career!

No company covers it all

On June 08, 2017, Jakajima organized the 7th edition of the annual Internet of Things Event at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. DSP Valley participated as an event partner because the Jakajima-event focused on themes such as Big Data and Security – key items for Smart Systems.

By DSP Valley

We organized the Smart Systems parallel-track in the afternoon. The numbers speak for themselves: 120 speakers and attendees participated and shared their views and opinions. Over 60 people attended our presentation, nicely filling up every seat in the meeting room.

IoT causes Industry 4.0

Peter Simkens kicked off the afternoon with a presentation on ‘How to make IoT-solutions come true’. He introduced IoT as a multidisciplinary challenge. It not only covers the sensor/actuator node, but also the back-end solutions for data analysis and data storing. For application platforms with data reporting and presentation IoT also offers solutions. The conclusion: there is no single company that covers all aspects of an IoT-solution, so there is a need for co-operation and co-development. Which is exactly what the Smart Systems ecosystem aims to achieve.

Advanced manufacturing will require a network centric approach.

The first keynote speaker was Prof. Dr. Ben van Lier, Director Strategy and Innovation at Centric BV. He explained how IoT causes the Fourth Industrial Revolution (also referred to as: Industry 4.0), where advanced manufacturing will require a network centric approach by the industry.

Robbert Kelder, responsible for Lead Innovation & Business Development IoT at KPN Consulting, was the second speaker. He spoke about a number of different successful eHealth projects. Part of the success was based on the use of the Wide Area Network (WAN) technologies that KPN provisions. Robbert emphasized KPN’s belief in open-innovation and co-creation. This perfectly fits with our objectives for the DSP Valley Smart Systems ecosystem.

There is a need for co-operation and co-development, which is exactly what the Smart Systems ecosystem aims to achieve

Jeroen Langendam, VP Marketing & Business Development at ItoM, one of the initial participants in the Smart Systems project, spoke about the ‘The art of connecting to the IoT. He explained the differences in design methodologies between hardware and software developers and how to overcome the pitfalls.

The last presentation ‘Fast and Industrial Prototyping of key modules for Smart Systems’ was co-presented by Sieger Swaving, Project Manager at Philips Innovation Services, and Jan Mink, Director at VTEC Engineering BV. They presented DX-lab of VTEC and the Greenhouse Micro-assembly factory of Philips Innovation Services. They both have the infrastructure and expertise to provide fast prototyping, not as an isolated activity, but as a first step towards new product introduction and volume manufacturing.

Interactive workshop, interesting exhibitors
The workshop gave a good insight in the disciplines lacking in our ecosystem.

The afternoon program was concluded with an interactive workshop. The attendees discussed where, with their products and services, they would fit in the Smart Systems value chain. These discussions gave us a good insight in the disciplines still lacking in our ecosystem. We also developed a better insight in which companies could be interested in joining our Smart Systems project.

During the breaks, there was opportunity for the attendees to visit the exhibition at the event. On the DSP Valley-booth a prototype of a small industrial robot for assembly and industrial applications from Vincitech caught quite a lot of interest. In addition the eHealth Vest from Maastricht University demonstrated how IoT can be successfully applied in healthcare.

Overall conclusion

This Smart Systems event was a success. Everybody shared their view on the latest updates and developments in Smart Systems, Cloud Computing, Big Data and Security. An inspiring experience, only possible thanks to the speakers and the attendees. We look forward to meeting you again in one of our upcoming Smart Systems events.

We are proud to announce that our new website for the Smart Systems project has become live. Please visit for more information on the project.

Caeleste presents image sensor with in-pixel very high linear dynamic range

From May 30 until June 2, Caeleste participated in the International Image Sensor Workshop (IISW), organized by the International Image Sensor Society. The workshop was held in Hiroshima. Caeleste presented an image sensor with an in-pixel very high linear dynamic range.

By Caeleste

A method to increase DR using column-level automatic gain selection

Image sensors have to cope with a very high dynamic range of the captured scenes. Objects in the shadow during a noon summer day in summer, can have quite often an intensity, which is 100 000 less than the brightest parts. In night vision automotive applications, the difference can be even larger: the signal of a pedestrian behind the high beams of a car can be 10 million times less than the lights of the car or the street lights. Also in spectroscopy for medical and remote sensing, the dynamic range can be very large as the spectrum of a lamp or the sun varies greatly as a function of wavelengths. Also in stimulated emission imaging as Raman or fluorescence the signal levels can vary with several orders.

As most analog systems, image sensors have a dynamic range in the order of 60 to 80 dB.  Several methods exist to increase this dynamic range as eg the capture of a sequence of pictures with different integration times of sensitivities; these images can then be combined in software to yield a high Dynamic range image.

But for fast moving objects it is very important that the utilized method does not introduce motion induced artefacts as can be the case in the above example. In the IISW workshop Gaozhan Cai, Senior Design Engineer at Caeleste presented an image sensor with an in-pixel very high linear dynamic range (HDR) that is obtained by a unique method where in the pixel a three level transfer gate is used combined with a dual or triple gain charge storage and where a column-level automatic gain selection (AGS) is implemented. The AGS picks one out of three linear ranges each having a largely different conversion gain. The data rate remains the same as without high dynamic range, thus preserving the maximal frame rate.

For fast moving objects it is very important that the utilized method does not introduce motion induced artefacts

An example of high dynamic range image processing is shown below: The raw image (in medium gain setting) is shown over the left. Some parts of the image are clearly over illuminated while others are under illuminated. In the middle part the segmented image is shown, where the gain setting for each of the image is indicated; the rightmost image is the HDR images where the different gain images are combined and the image content compressed to fit in the display range.

High dynamic range scene
High dynamic range scene
 How to hand-calculate MTE in frontside and backside illuminated image sensors

The spatial resolution of a camera and in general an imaging system is one of the key performance parameters apart from the temporal pixel noise. It determines which small objects can still be separated by the system. Not only the lens is limiting the spatial resolution, also the image sensor is limiting the image resolution. The macroscopic crosstalk, which is at the basis of the resolution reduction, has several components, which require complicated modeling taking into account the pixel geometry and the material properties. Prior models for this resolution or MTF prediction were based on ‘brute force’ solving the diffusion equations in a finite elements mesh detailing the pixel’s geometry.

Bart has now proposed a closed-form analytical MTF-nyquist model, being suitable for integration in a spreadsheet-like calculator, enabling thus quick surveys and design parameter trade-offs in the presence of many other image sensor parameters. The method yields an analytical expression for the Line Spread Function as intermediate result. In this way much faster system optimizations can be made.



Idealized pixel cross section as used in the model, and the analytical expression for the distribution of electrons as arriving at the collection photodiodes.


Low cost and ultra-low power monitoring of soil moisture

cluster organizations

Within the TETRA project LoCo, aiming to make the commissioning and deployment of sensor networks a lot easier, the TELEMIC research group at KU Leuven has developed a low cost low entry and ultra-low power LoRa network — “uLoRa”. uLoRa sensor nodes come with a moisture sensor that keeps in touch with your plants.

By KU Leuven, departement Elektrotechniek (ESAT)

LoRa technology

Wireless technologies penetrate all layers of our daily lives and have revolutionized the way our society works. Particularly, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is rising as new communication paradigm embedding tiny wireless transceivers into anything. Compared with other available technologies for IoT, such as Sigfox, NB-IoT and LTE-M, LoRa offers a very compelling mix of features: long range, low power, reasonable number of transmissions and an open-source LoRaWAN (LoRa wide area network) network-server. LoRa operates on the 868MHz free ISM band in Europe, making it a convenient choice for large and small companies and private users as well. A LoRa gateway can cover an urban city with a radius around 5 Km. LoRa is designed by Semtech who now builds the LoRa technology into chipsets.

Telemic LoRa solution

While LoRa networks are rolled out, the availability of applications and very cheap and low power sensors is still not yet at scale. TELEMIC new implementation –uLoRa can be deployed at scale because of the low cost, low power consumption and over the air activation, while taking advantage of The Things Network or alternatively by using a self-deployed LoRa database. The Things Network is a global community building a global Internet of Things data network based on LoRaWANuLoRa node with moisture sensor

uLoRa node with moisture sensor

The uLoRa node is designed to be low cost and ultra-low power, aiming to be suitable for massive deployment. The hardware of the uLoRa node can be divided into three parts: the processor, the RF front-end, and moisture sensor. Now by planting the uLoRa node with the embedded moisture sensor into the soil of your plants, you can have a real-time monitoring on the water level of your plants and subsequently know when you have to water them.

uLoRa prototype



A LoRaWAN gateway consists of a LoRaWAN mCard 868MHz from MultiTech, a USB to Mini PCIe converter and an embedded Linux pc. The software for driving the gateway and handling all the received messages is written by Semtech. Subsequently, we run the message forwarder code on the embedded Linux pc in order to make them accessible from the own database or from The Things Network.


Telemic gateway



In addition to moisture sensors that keeps in touch with your plants, uLoRa also has the following advantages:

  • Ultra-low power: uLoRa is built around ARM processor from STM32L0 which is known as the best family in terms of power consumption. Moreover, the software has been optimized to minimize both RF transceiver and processor power consumption.
  • Low cost: the cost of hardware of a uLoRa node is only about 13 euros (including the battery), making it much cheaper than other LoRa nodes available on market.
  • Open-Source: both the hardware and software designs and implementations of the uLoRa platform are open to the research society (Please visit our repository on Github).

For more information about our deployment please check our repository on Github or contact the project coordinators: Jean Pierre Goemaere, Sofie Pollin or Lieven De Strycker.