Highlights this week: 👾 cryptographic semiconductor fingerprints, 🚙 automakers + custom silicon, 🥽 and chimpanzees in virtual reality.

👩🔧 Featured job: Perceptive is hiring a Radar DSP Engineer. See more roles in the Interesting Jobs section below!

🔗 Last week’s most-clicked link: A link to purchase the Hardware Hacking Handbook.

Automakers = hardware co’s? Custom silicon + manufacturing

What’s happening: Until recently, many auto components could easily be controlled by more “generic” electronics. This is no longer the case, as manufacturers add increasingly complex features such as battery monitoring and advanced driver-assistance systems. Now their plan is to design their own hardware, consolidate many of the functions onto custom chips, and work directly with semiconductor manufacturers to ensure supply and quality.

Some background: In recent years, U.S. automakers have hired thousands of software developers and programmers. Ford and GM are now looking to bring on chip designers as well, as they expect the number of chips used in automobiles to double over the next few years.

Automakers have historically relied on an intermediary group of so-called Tier 1 companies that buy chips to design modules to handle particular functions in cars, such as controlling engines and transmissions. This is changing as automakers need more stability in supply, and their differentiation in the market is much more dependent on features controlled by semiconductors.

GM, for example, is now working directly with chip companies to develop three types of microprocessors to handle almost all of its computing needs. These three new microcontroller families will reduce the number of unique chips by as much as 95 percent. This consolidation and robustness in design should help increase chip supply while cutting costs significantly. Suppliers GM is working with to develop this custom silicon include Qualcomm, STM, TSMC, Renesas, ON Semi, NXP, and Infineon.

Ford also signed a nonbinding agreement with GlobalFoundries to collaborate on developing chips for Ford vehicles and expand domestic chip production.

Analog Insights: Where to look for an EE job

Interesting Links 🔗:

Physically Uncloneable Function’s (PUF) are a “secure silicon fingerprint” often based on unique physical variations at the transistor level. An example is the SRAM PUF -- at power-on, inherent differences between transistors in the circuit will result in a definitive 1 or 0, that chained together results in an ID that is unique to that device and impossible to replicate. There are issues with bit flipping and other errors induced by the environment, and there is still vulnerability to attack. A good breakdown here.

A really great breakdown on the history of the Omicron variant and what we know now about the variant, including that it’s detectable by a PCR test, we’re catching it early, and that we’ll be able to quickly generate a new mRNA vaccine for this variant should we need to.

Chimpanzees can apparently thrive in virtual reality, as shown by experimental data from a zoo where this experiment was ran.

Might it be possible to harness the visual system to carry out artificial computations, somewhat akin to how DNA has been harnessed to carry out computation? I provide the beginnings of a research programme attempting to do this. In particular, new techniques are described for building `visual circuits' (or `visual software') using wire, NOT, OR, and AND gates in a visual modality such that our visual system acts as `visual hardware' computing the circuit, and generating a resultant perception which is the output.

From Ethan Mollick, big companies often buy startups for talent… but this new paper examining 30M resumes shows this may not work out as well as acquirers think. Not only are employees who were acquired more likely to leave than others but more senior & educated people are the most likely to leave.

The common goldfish is the only fish that can see in both infrared and ultraviolet (in addition to the visible spectrum). Interesting fact from a deep-dive into all things color vision by Clive (Max) Maxfield — everything from the EM spectrum through color vision, color blindness, and more.

Interesting Jobs 👩🔧:

One Interesting Picture 📸: From Archillect, an AI created to discover/share stimulating content

One Interesting Tweet 🐦: Walking stimulates 💆♂️