Blog Post: Storage Solution Design
Storage solutions are only as powerful as their component parts and featured technologies. While every storage solution has a finite number of Program/Erase cycles (P/E cycles) that it can perform, the right design combination ensures that no module fails and requires replacing before the expected life span is over. In this blog post, we give you an insider's explanation of how and why we design our Flash products the way we do so that we can guarantee high performance and reliability. Understanding trends & demand To develop any new family of storage solutions, we start by understanding the lay of the land. Questions that we need to have answers to are: What is the market trend? What are customers most concerned with? What are customers looking for that they are not finding? And, what need can we meet with a new product? Once we have settled on the answers to these questions, we will have an idea of what we want the new storage module to be able to do in terms of features and capabilities. Finding the right controller A module's controller determines what features the module will be able to have. We thus work with only the most reputable controller manufacturers to acquire the ones we need for our storage products. Controllers come with firmware, which enables the functions of the hardware, so finding the right controller means getting the right firmware that can guarantee steady performance. Our website has a list of these Flash features and functions. Depending on the firmware, the module can, for instance, ensure stability with the Advanced LDPC ECC Engine and End-to-End Data Protection, or promote longevity with Bad Block Management and Wear Leveling. Using quality, original ICs from major brands A NAND Flash IC, or integrated circuit and often referred to as a chip, is the last core component, besides the controller and the firmware, that makes up the module. Together, the three components allow the module to function properly. This important role ICs play is precisely why we only use original ICs from big brand manufacturers such as Micron and Kioxia. Original ICs are guaranteed to perform the prescribed number of P/E cycles by IC manufacturers, so from the get-go, our modules can deliver on reliability and guarantee endurance. Configuring with necessary technology Our in-house R&D team designs the physical layout and function of the module before assembling it all together with the acquired parts. Once we have assembled the module, we run an EVT (Engineer Verification Test) to make sure that it performs as intended. Whether it is high-performance, reliability, or any sort of protection, we can design the module to be equipped with these features. We continue to run a series of strict tests throughout different stages of development to make sure that our modules can deliver what our customers are looking for before launching them in the market.
Blog Post: Shops of the Future
When Covid is over, all of us are going out. Cooped up in our homes, we are ready for some sun, fresh air, and a lot of human interaction. That's why despite increasing consumer preference for online shopping, the brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay. Post-Covid, going to a retail store will be an excursion, an excuse to spend time outside after probably more than a year of doing almost everything at home. So, what will the post-Covid store look like? Many trend forecasters, real estate experts and retailers are expecting technology to be an integral part, even perhaps the highlight, of the store of the future. In other words, physical stores will focus on retailtainment, a combination of retail and entertainment wherein experiencing and engaging with the product is key. Even before Covid, actually, many retailers had been eyeing retailtainment to boost foot traffic. The use of AR/VR technology, for instance, is a way that consumers can engage with a product like never before without leaving the confines of the store. Other technological applications include AI and emotion-scanning software to make the shopping experience more personalized. In the post-Covid world, where people want to go outside but may still be hesitant of being exposed for too long, brick-and-mortar stores need to offer convenience and speed. Stores can do this if they use technology to gather more information about each customer and present them with exactly what they want. Of course, a valuable lesson we have learned from Covid is that we can do with being more hygienic. Makeup samples and testers, while previously a staple at cosmetic shops and drugstores, are being replaced because of their role in spreading germs and bacteria. This shift could take advantage of the technology of smart mirrors so that customers can see what the product looks like on them without actually trying it on. Other ways in which technology can provide a more convenient, expedient and hygienic shopping experience are contactless payments, self-service checkout, and even autonomous stores, which we at Cervoz have previously written about. As more and more vaccines start rolling out and hopefully more regions get their Covid cases under control, retail businesses are looking to reopen. It seems that the key to a successful reopening is to focus on the experience, making consumers feel both safe and stimulated by what the store can offer that online platforms cannot.
Blog Post: Smart Cars
The automobile industry has been buzzing with news about smart and autonomous cars in the last couple of months. Big names like Geely and Tesla are making moves to develop the technology to make these automobiles more functional and versatile, especially with the rollout of 5G technology and edge computing. In January alone, leading automaker Geely has announced several partnerships, including one with Tencent to develop smart vehicle cockpits and autonomous driving; one with Baidu to form a smart electric vehicle company; and one with Foxconn to provide contract manufacturing for other car makers. Meanwhile, a South Korean media outlet has reported that Tesla has teamed up with Samsung to produce a new 5nm chip for autonomous driving. All of these news reports have really highlighted the resources multiple tech sectors are devoting or looking to devote to the development of smart cars—and for good reason. As more and more of the world’s population live in cities, transportation and traffic safety will be a primary concern. While many cities may invest in public transportation, automobiles will not be going away anytime soon. Thus, the challenge for our society is to make driving, with many more cars on the road, safer and smoother. Smart cars, which can communicate with each other and assist the driver on the road, is an answer to road safety. Autonomous cars, which are years in the making but are being developed to drive themselves, will be a future answer. For these cars to become a common fixture on our roads, the right ecosystem needs to be in place, involving applications both inside and outside the cars. For instance, Huawei is setting its sights on the broader environment that these cars will operate in. The goal is to create smart roads equipped with sensors that send real-time information to “vehicles, drivers, pedestrians and other road users about traffic, weather conditions and potential hazards.” Similarly, the University of Michigan is spearheading an initiative in Ann Arbor to outfit intersections with “cameras, radar and infrared sensors” to make them smart intersections. These equipment, like the components of Huawei’s smart roads, will be employed to gather information on what is moving in the area as well as the speed and direction of the person or object that is moving. The rationale for this environmental focus, that automobiles do not exist in a vacuum, underlines the importance of a fully operational ecosystem for smart cars to really unleash their full potential. Smart cars need data from all angles to better assist the driver, or themselves in the case of autonomous vehicles, in making navigational decisions. In this IoT age of connectivity, virtually everything is linked, so technological development must take place on both product and the environment to achieve the desired goal.
Blog Post: IoT Security
We are living in a “smart” age. Virtually everything we own is or can be a smart device, from a smartphone in our pockets to a smart TV on our walls and smart cars on the road. Put simply, smart devices, also known as IoT devices, are connected via networks such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and function in conjunction with each other to make life easier for users. At home, this IoT ecosystem enables residents to turn appliances on and off from the comfort of their beds; at work, it makes most operations more efficient and productive. The problem is that whenever things are connected to a network, the threat of hacking surfaces. Whether it is an unsecured device, a vulnerable network or advanced hacking, smart devices are susceptible to ways of hacking that their non-smart counterparts are not. In this smart age, how do we keep our devices and our data protected? We have compiled a list of tips from both our in-house experts and credible, online sources that work for both domestic and industrial IoT devices. 1. Set strong passwords The cardinal rule of IoT security is to set strong passwords and frequently change them. Passwords are the locks to the front door of your devices, so they are the most basic line of protection when it comes to keeping devices safe. 2. Update devices regularly When the front door is locked, hackers will look for other openings—“windows of opportunity”—into the device. Software updates are designed to identify any such loopholes and close them up. As such, it is important that your devices are set to regularly check for updates and to install them in a timely manner. 3. Secure the network Network connectivity, the very thing that makes an IoT device useful, is what makes it susceptible to hacking. This is why securing the network connection is crucial in protecting IoT security. This step includes turning on encryptions, setting up firewalls and being aware of settings that may allow guests or outsiders to access the network. There are even discussions about segmenting networks, which has been suggested to be more appropriate for IIoT devices. 4. Monitor closely for any irregular events Monitoring our devices can mean a number of things. For personal devices, this could be regularly running scans for virus or threats. For industrial machines and systems, there are teams dedicated to attempted attacks. Specific software exist for the purpose of monitoring and protecting industrial machines and systems. At Cervoz, for instance, we have developed an in-house software, the Cervoz FlashMonitor, to go with any of our SSD products so that our customers can detect whenever there are anomalies in data read and accessed. 5. Maintain cyber literacy Keep updated on the cybersecurity threats out there. For companies especially, make sure that employees are educated on the different ways that hackers may try to gain access to sensitive company data.
Blog Post: Sustainability in Production
Industrial activity is up there among the top contributors of greenhouse emissions, which cause climate change. According to the U.N. Panel on Climate Change, we, as global community, must reduce our emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 in order to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and subsequently avoid the worse impacts to our planet. To do so, the industrial sector must find ways to be more environmentally sustainable with its use of resources, emission of pollutants, and production of waste This is an area where our industry, with our industrial-grade technology and applications, can help improve and make production processes more sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Automation can conserve resources Automation in the industrial sector has, in recent years, been an investment many are making for increased productivity and long-term cost reduction. Moreover, many have pointed to how automation can conserve energy and natural resources, which as a result would reduce the amount of carbon emissions industrial activities release into the environment. Namely, automating certain processes with better monitoring, control and execution can avoid any waste of resources by detecting and preventing mistakes in the production process. While many have championed automation’s role in promoting sustainability, some critics have pointed out that automation and the resulting efficiency and productivity could in fact lead to overproduction and thus more waste. This concern is legitimate. We can see in fashion how sewing robots have accelerated the pace of fast fashion, making manufacturing more expedient and thus allowing brands to produce new collections faster. The downside of this is that the waste produced, for which fast fashion is infamous, grows as a result. AI can prevent overproduction Since technology is the one creating this problem, it is fitting that technology can offer a solution. In the case of fast fashion, many are advocating the use of artificial intelligence and big data to predict trends, anticipate consumer behavior and avoid unnecessary production of clothes that will not sell. Other sectors that put out consumer products can adopt the same approach. Microsoft News highlighted how Dutch whey protein producer, DVNutrition, implemented the use of AI in its production process to avoid any waste. According to the report, DVNutrition used data-driven insights and predictive analytics to inform decisions to “slow down and even stop production just as its storage tanks fill up” so that it would not overproduce. Such technological applications require both software and hardware technology to be of a certain standard to be effective in conserving resources used. This is where we in the industrial PC market come in. Smart robotics, a prime example of factory automation and AI, shows how software and hardware go hand-in-hand for a high-functioning application. The software may allow the robot to engage in deep learning and know how to make decisions, but the hardware, especially the data storage and processing modules, ensures that these processes happen without any lags or glitches. The precision that many robotic applications have come to possess are a direct result of advancements in both software and hardware.
Blog Post: Digital Infrastructure
Digital infrastructure is made up of the hardware and software that create an ecosystem of connected and communicating machines and devices. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for solid digital infrastructure is more apparent than ever. Whether it is monitoring, tracking or responding to detected coronavirus cases, governments rely on their digital infrastructure, as much as their health care professionals, to contain the pandemic in these dire times. The basics of digital infrastructure When we think of infrastructure, the first things that come to mind are likely roads and bridges. This is actually a good way to understand digital infrastructure—thinking of it as the connectors of the digital world. After all, so much of technology is about the transmission of data from one place to another and then using the data in applications to solve problems. Some of the basic, physical structures that are essential components of digital infrastructure are telecom towers, data centers, and even end-user devices. Meanwhile, the Internet, the Cloud and networks make up the non-physical aspects of this ecosystem. A digital line of defense In what has been dubbed the “digital age,” we all know how important digital infrastructure is to our lives. Everything from the GPS system in our cars to online shopping is an example or a result of the presence of digital infrastructure. In the context of COVID-19, digital infrastructure can act as a digital line of defense against the spread of the virus. With a good monitoring and reporting system set up, a few key countries have been able to keep their COVID cases and deaths to a minimum. Take Taiwan for example, where Cervoz is headquartered. Taiwan has gone over 200 days without a locally transmitted case, and the government has credited what it calls the “Taiwan Model” for this success. A key component of the model is, as outlined on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website, the use of technology to build a “multilayered epidemic containment network. Briefly put, Taiwan is using QR codes to facilitate the filling out of traveler information, phone signals to monitor those in quarantine, and AI and big data to assist physicians with diagnosing the disease. With these tech applications, Taiwan is a prime example of how good digital infrastructure can make meeting such an unexpected challenge more effective. Of course, Taiwan is not the only place where such a digital line of defense has been implemented to successful results. All around the world actually governments are turning to apps as a means for tracking and reporting of potential cases of the virus. Both China and South Korean have used app-reporting systems to much success. This is just the beginning Moving forward, governments and corporations should invest heavily in digital infrastructure in order to make the most of what technology has to offer, especially with 5G technology rolling out. Whether it’s COVID-19 containment, traffic control, virtual schooling, or AR/VR entertainment, all of these possibilities rely on steady and stable digital infrastructure. At this point, to not invest in digital infrastructure would be like not investing in roads and bridges—it just doesn’t make sense.
Blog Post: Automated Retail Stores
Something as mundane as grocery shopping has become a rare occurrence for many of us in recent months. In countries that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, shopping for food may be the only time a week people venture outside their homes. Once inside the grocery store, shoppers race against the clock to grab what they need and get out. The fewer the human interactions the better. Nowadays, no one really wants to be outside, if they don’t have to. Already during this pandemic, many at-risk groups of people who cannot travel outside are getting their groceries from driverless cars where available. Even once shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted, people may still enjoy the in-store shopping experience, but they may demand a faster check-out process. Post-COVID, it is likely that retail shopping will never be the same. This is a change that demands a lot from us in the industrial PC market. A failed attempt in 2017 Unmanned stores, to some extent, have been in existent since as early as 2017 in China. The problem back then was that there were glitches, and the unsatisfactory customer experience deterred businesses from further investing in them. The overall consensus was that the technology was not there to make these stores a real “just-walk-out” experience. Since 2017, however, more R&D and experimentation have gone into these stores, and it is safe to say that the technology for these stores has significantly evolved. Now, as the global situation highlights the importance of automated stores, they are once again popping up—this time all around the world. To ensure that these stores avoid a second failure to launch, our industry has a lot of work to do. The storage and memory solutions for off-the-shelf sensors and computer vision camera are typical solutions for identifying customers and their purchases. What may be an improvement this time is a number of services such as a live bot connected to a remote customer-service team to make the experience more human and thus familiar. Implications for the IPC market Regardless of how automated and unmanned these stores end up being, they need to operate in a way that delivers on the promise of convenience—or there’s no point in switching from the traditional ones. To do so, the network connections, information transmission and data analysis capabilities all need to be present to make the store of the future a reality. Research on these new stores in China seems promising: the autonomous retail business in China is forecast to have a CAGR of 110% between 2017 and 2022. Nonetheless, only time will tell if autonomous stores will trend globally and become a mainstay. As an industry, what we can do is continue to invest in R&D that makes the in-store experience smoother. Advancements like 3D NAND technology can store more data and speed up transmission. Mini PCIe expansion cards can strengthen the networks needed for any in-store communication amongst robots and any external, remote communication with staff. A variety of form factors and interfaces will also be helpful in making machines more compact and the store not overcrowded by machinery. We may not be the businesses rolling out these stores (the Amazons and Alibabas of the world), but as the component manufacturers, our contribution will determine whether this time autonomous stores are successful or not.
Blog Post: Automated Guided Vehicles
November is the month of sales in the calendar year. Consumers get their pick of promotional events and discounted goods with Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The latest numbers from Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales just last week showed a 26% y-o-y increase, something that is very much in line with the observed trend of an increase in online shopping during the pandemic. During what has been a difficult time for most businesses, it certainly appears e-commerce giants have been prepared for the virus and are reaping the profits as a result. How did they do it? It is probably impossible to credit one strategic decision as the only reason that e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba have turned the pandemic from a challenge into an opportunity. Logistically, however, the use of AGVs (automated guided vehicles) definitely played an important part. AGVs are portable robots used in warehouses and logistics centers to move inventory and other materials around. They have been around since the 1950s, and for good reason: AGVs cut labor costs and increase efficiency. Advancements in AGVs, which we have witnessed in conjunction with the rise of e-commerce, have made them more intelligent and therefore more productive. Alibaba, for instance, has reportedly been able to increase production rate by 300 percent since incorporating AGVs into its workflow. The bots can haul up to 500 kgs in shelves and packages, and travel about 5 feet per second. What’s more relevant in the time of social distancing is that operators can communicate remotely with the AGVs via a wireless network and give them instructions without stepping foot into the warehouse. During the pandemic, this technology allows warehouses to implement social distancing policies while still operating normally and meeting delivery schedules. How AGVs have evolved As previously mentioned, AGVs are not a new addition to warehouses. However, they used to be a costly investment with rigid limitations that smaller operations couldn’t really afford or justify. Such is no longer the case. The technology that AGVs now feature have made them a “must-have” in the logistics industry. These include better sensors, longer-lasting batteries, and more powerful software for machine-to-machine communication and navigation. One example we like to use at Cervoz is that of the solid-state drive (SSD). Previously, AGVs used hard disk drives (HDD) for storage. As operational needs have grown to include more tasks and better performance, SSDs soon replaced HDDs as the storage of choice. SSDs have a number of features, including higher IOPS and shock and vibration resistance, that have allowed AGVs to communicate faster within their networks and work better. This is very much just the beginning of the increasing sophistication of AGV technology. The future of AGV technology Research from Gartner points to the power of 5G technology to further revolutionize AGVs and improve their capabilities. 5G promises more connectivity and data processing prowess, both of which are crucial components that keep an AGV network running. In fact, industry experts are predicting that strengthening the AGV network will be amongst the prioritized first wave of 5G technology applications. In a recent interview with CNBC, Alvin Liu, president of Tmall Import and Export (a part of the Alibaba Group) underscored the importance of its logistic infrastructure in facilitating the company’s growth and penetration into previously untapped markets. Liu’s comments reflect a common understanding amongst those in e-commerce that logistic capabilities could be the deciding factor in this increasingly competitive market. As warehouse automation continues to grow, the AGV market will undoubtedly grow with it. To stay competitive, e-commerce companies, big and small, need to consider how to further implement AGV technology into their logistic infrastructure and which suppliers to partner with.