December 2008

Texas Instruments Developer Conference

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The Silicon Valley of India hosted in early November an august gathering of researchers and developers of cutting edge technology at the 11th edition of Texas Instruments Developer Conference (TIDC).

The venue of the conference was as grand as the gathering itself. The Leela Palace in Bengaluru lent an entire floor for this conference a multi-track event, reinforced by a very relevant exhibition of partners of Texas Instruments (TI) from India and abroad.

Texas Instruments is a global semiconductor company, which has been innovating through manufacturing, design and sales in more than 25 countries. The TIDC India 2008 showcased the unique applications of TI’s breakthrough analog and signal processing technologies.

Sham Banerjee, Director-Corporate Business (India), Texas Instruments, in his welcome address put TI’s future prospects in a nutshell when he mentioned how semiconductors are becoming important to key sectors such as medical technology, low power and open source.

Dr. Biswadip Mitra (Bobby), Managing Director, TI too drew our attention to the fact that analog chips get into each and every equipment, and every technology is moving towards an ultra low power future. He said that the OMAP family is very important to TI and he is himself is very excited about it going into the broad market especially to the small and medium sized customers. “The India market is different but very important, with many small customers. And we are developing a pan India presence, with key interest in Imaging, Portable and Implantable technology,” he said.

TIDC India is one of the largest semiconductor ecosystem events in the Asia-Pacific region, both in terms of the number of participants and representation across the semiconductor ecosystem from developers to academia. This year the key focus of TIDC was the Medical Solutions track, which brought together two divergent sets of professionals technologists and medical practitioners.

The keynote sessions laid special emphasis on demos of technology as currently being put in to practice, such as a ‘tiny piece of magic’ named Bionic Vision – a key attraction at the inaugural session. The bionic eye implant is meant for the visually challenged whose light receiving cells of the retinas are damaged. The prosthetic device functions as a cornea, directing the light into the interior of the eye.

Dr. Rajat Aggarwal, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and co-director of Intraocular Implants, University of Southern California introduced the groundbreaking research project that is on with support from TI. Creating artificial retina to give back vision to patients suffering from night blindness and macular degeneration.

The research started with 16 electrodes; now in the second-generation device, they are working with 60 electrodes and with time hope to be able to develop a 1000 electrode device. Vision will still not be the like we know it but it will be close.

What they expect from the developers of semiconductor is again low-power/longer-lasting power for these implantable devices.

The trials are expected to take off in India in 2009 end and leading ophthalmology care hospitals could probably undertake the human studies, added Dr Agrawal.

World Health Organisation estimates around 37 million globally have lost all sight and 124 million suffer from some kind of visual impairment. It is also estimated that without proper intervention, this numberis likely to increase to 75 million by 2020.

Other interesting demos included Total Telepresence from Tandberg, which enables the ultimate face-to-face meeting experience – ideal for telehealth consultation where a common complaint is that the interaction with an unclear screen showing the doctor makes patients uncomfortable. Tandberg representatives connected to their headquarters in Oslo during the demo to showcase the life-like experience. Telemedicine they claimed is a big area of application. Post 9/11 many flights to and from the US were grounded and most diagnosis in the Hawaiian Islands were done using Tandberg products including ultrasound of foetus.

The underlying theme itself of the TIDC was aimed at a complete attempt at making the Earth a better place to live in- greener, connected, secure, healthier, and more fun! The event stood out as an ideal platform to understand more about the latest technological developments from Texas Instruments and its partners in areas of energy, security and surveillance and medical/healthcare.

TIDC 2008 attracted over 600 participants comprising R&D staff, academia, senior and middle-level managers. The event brought together technology experts from IT and semiconductor industries as well as ecosystem partners and provided incredible networking opportunities.

A University Track provided an exposure to exciting research happenings in academic institutions. Over 30 technical exhibits and demos of TI technologies and applications provided delegates with a glimpse of the infinite possibilities that technology provides to improve quality of life.

In 2007 the medical market for semiconductor was USD 2.7 billion globally and this growth is projected to reach USD 4.5 5 billion by 2013-14.

As Gene Frantz, Principal Fellow, TI, put it “We need to think differently and innovatively – why not drive power through body heat.” There is also need to conserve power within medical devices- when not in use run it on lower voltage when possible / scavenge power from the environment / buffer the power scavenged to use when required.

The technical tracks on the second day saw a presentation from Srikanth Gurrapu, Marketing Manager, TI who spoke of the OMAP 35xxTM processors for low power portable medical applications, especially required for telemedicine applications in remote parts of developing countries, where power is hardly available and in implants where, one can do away with unnecessary incisive procedures for replacement of batteries. OMAP chips help make large bulky patient monitoring systems smaller, more handy and mobile. The evolution he said was similar to cell phones.

Dr. Rajini Battu, Consultant, Vitreoretinal Services at the Narayana Nethralaya put into perspective the scope of telemedicine in India, quoting the successful example of Narayana Hrudayalaya, under the leadership of Dr. Devi Shetty. She also quoted a staggering statistic – about 90% of blindness is found in the developing world and 80% of this, she said is avoidable. Diabetes is taking on an epidemic scale – what with the new sedate lifestyles people are increasingly adopting.

One easy solution is having a self-operating device placed in a kiosk, that can take a picture of the eye that can be sent to the ophthalmology department of an institute – this can help the diabetic patients to keep a check on any probable loss of vision.

Other participants threw up interesting and insightful thoughts about taking advantage of the opportunity available in the developing countries, such as India, where one does not have legacy issues to deal with, unlike in the so called ‘developed’ countries. Or even how one does not need to develop more technology but just apply available technology in practical ways more useful for mass consumption.

Luckily, we have a new surge in such innovation with the support of companies such as Texas Instruments.

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