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18 April 2016

Apple Primed to Launch Cheaper iPhone
When Apple launched the iPhone 6 in 2014, its move to a larger screen yielded the most profitable quarter in US corporate history. Now, as the company faces the prospect that iPhone sales may fall this year for the first time, it is hoping a smaller and cheaper device will provide a much-needed sales boost.

Monday is expected to see Apple reveal a 4-inch iPhone SE, the same size as the 5 series introduced in 2012 but with updated technology, including Apple Pay, a better camera and a faster processor. New iPads with the same keyboard and Pencil accessories that arrived with last year’s Pro version and extra bands for the Apple Watch are also expected.

It is unusual timing for a new iPhone. After the first iPhone was launched in January 2007, the device was updated every June until 2011’s 4S, which began the now-familiar autumn refresh. A fuller update to its flagship smartphone is still expected in September.

Machines That Will Think And Feel
Artificial intelligence is breathing down our necks: Software built by Google startled the field last week by easily defeating the world’s best player of the Asian board game Go in a five-game match. Go resembles chess in the deep, complex problems it poses but is even harder to play and has resisted AI researchers longer. It requires mastery of strategy and tactics while you conceal your own plans and try to read your opponent’s. Mastering Go fits well into the ambitious goals of AI research. It shows us how much has been accomplished and forces us to confront, as never before, AI’s future plans. So what will artificial intelligence accomplish and when?

Endless Mini Review: Just How Good Is A $79 Computer?
One reason the Endless Mini is so cheap is that this grapefruit-sized PC is sold on its own. You supply the keyboard, mouse and display yourself. The computer, built with developing countries in mind, doesn’t just hook into newer, flat-panel screens via HDMI—it also connects to older tube TVs by way of a composite video cable. The Mini runs a Linux-based operating system that looks and works much like a tablet, with a row of app icons laid out in a grid on-screen.

Because Internet access isn’t a given (even in the U.S.), the Mini designed to be useful without a Web connection. Straight out of the box, it has more than 100 apps preinstalled, in your choice of English or Spanish. These apps span from K-12 education, to a free office suite, to games and even recipes.

 

Nike Adds Self-Lacing Shoes to Sneaker Arms Race
Nike Inc. unveiled sneakers with self-lacing technology that it plans to sell later this year as the sportswear company looks to one-up rivals in an increasingly tech-driven market. In place of traditional laces or Velcro straps, the HyperAdapt Trainer 1.0 has a sensor in the heel that adjusts the sneaker’s fit. Two side buttons allow the user to tighten or loosen the grip. Pricing for the shoe, which will be available for the 2016 holiday season, hasn’t been determined, a Nike spokesman said.

 

Australian Company Launches Home Solar Storage Battery to Take On Electronics Giant Tesla
With the number of depleted home solar batteries being thrown away tipped to rise over the coming years, one Australian company is taking on electronic giants such as Tesla and Panasonic with the launch of an easily recyclable power source.

Key points:
Unlike its big competitors, the ZCell does not use lithium. It stores enough energy to keep most homes running for a day or two.
Concerns are being raised about how to dispose of dead home storage batteries
About 8,000 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries are thrown away every year and in the next 20 years that is expected to jump to 150,000 tonnes, partly due to a rise in the use of big home solar batteries, according to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative.

Brisbane company Redflow says it has developed the ZCell battery that, unlike its competitors, does not use lithium and is more recyclable than its competitors.

Nanoscale MEMS Device Claims 100-Fold Power Generation
Scientists from Columbia Engineering, Cornell and Stanford have revealed that heat transfer can be made 100 times stronger than had been previously predicted by theory. They were able to do this by simply bringing two objects to within about 40nm of each other, without touching. Radiative heat transfer by infrared light is usually much smaller than heat transfer by conduction and convection. A team led by Michal Lipson, professor at Columbia, and Shanhui Fan of Stanford have made a mechanical system that transfers heat using light between two parallel wires.

“At separations as small as 40nm, we achieved almost a 100-fold enhancement of heat transfer compared to classical predictions,” said Lipson. He added that his team is the first to reach levels of performance that could be used for energy applications, such as directly converting heat to electricity using photovoltaic cells. This would be done by radiating heat energy exactly at the bandgap frequency of the photovoltaic cell.

Synopsys Researchers Hold High Hopes For Silicon Nanowires
Synopsys researchers have revealed that FinFET is dying, III-V on silicon is dead before its time, and the silicon nanowire transistor will extend Moore’s Law all the way to single atom transistors round about 2043.

Invited speaker Victor Moroz, a Synopsys scientist cited sources claiming that “Moore’s Law won’t end until 2043 when there will be one atom per transistor,” that “FinFETs are fading in importance” and that the nanowire is a much better solution than FinFETs or FD-SOI [fully-deleted silicon-on insulator].

World Economic Round Up
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the increasingly disappointing world economy is facing the threat of a synchronised slowdown and mounting risks including another bout of financial market turmoil and a political backlash against globalisation. They reduced the global growth forecast for 2016 by 0.2 percentage points to 3.2 percent, downgrading its expectations for a wide range of advanced and emerging economies. The IMF said the world economy was increasingly vulnerable to downside risks including further market turmoil in the wake of this year’s China-led downturn as well as the political consequences of lacklustre growth since the 2008 global financialcrisis.

 

The latest economic news by country to include USA, Europe, UK, Japan, China,

Asia Pacific and India can be found each month in our Semiconductor Monthly

Report.

 

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