Changing How Electronics Are Done

July 18, 2018

I read “DARPA Plans a Major Remake of US Electronics.” The write up reports that the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding activities to “radically alter how electronics are made.” The idea is to make an engineer skilled in the anticipated art to become more productive. If the funding generates innovation and applied research deliverables, “the effect could be to make small groups of engineers capable of feats that take 100 engineers to achieve today.”

There are some interesting observations presented in the write up. These are attributed to Bill Chappell, who is the DARPA directors for this initiative. The write up is important because the stated objectives are one that will allow some technical and process roadblocks to be removed; for example, acceleration of innovation, increasing productivity, and stepping up activity for open source hardware.

However, there are several ideas percolating in the statements in my opinion.

First, the US is not producing what we call in Harrod’s Creek “home grown electronics engineers.” In part, the initiative is to increase US activity. China and Russia, two cite two nation states, are creating more technical professionals. Now the US has to do more with less.

Second, big picture problems are not what some US projects accomplish. The way innovation works is to make incremental advances within often quite specific scopes of interest. This new initiative is more big picture and less improving the efficiency of an advertising server’s predictive matching in silicon or some equally narrow focus.

Third, the program suggests to me that some insightful US government professionals are concerned about the US electronics industry. The idea that technology from another nation state could create an unknown vulnerability is sufficiently troubling to warrant this big picture program.

In short, the failures of the US electronics sector have become a concern. One hopes that this project will address, in part, this significant issue. In my DarkCyber video news program to be released on July 24, 2018, I comment about the forthcoming Chinese made blockchain phone. I ask one question, “Does this device have the capability to phone home to the manufacturer? Could the device be monitored by an entity in the country of origin?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2018

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