Archive for April, 2007

Apr24th

This week has seen the annual announcement of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise - often dubbed the UK’s “industrial Oscars”

This week has seen the annual announcement of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise - often dubbed the UK’s “industrial Oscars”. And while the awards may not have the full-blown cachet of “royal appointment”, which in bygone times was certainly a major marketing tool for businesses ranging from department stores to tobacco manufacturers, the recognition bestowed by a Queen’s Award still carries weight - both in the UK and internationally.

Not surprisingly, the electronics sector has its fair share of recipients in both the International Trade and Innovation categories, with companies such as Cambridge Silicon Radio, Photonic Products and RFI Global Services among the record 145 award winners in 2007.

But special mention has to go to Southampton-based optical fibre innovator Fibercore, which is the sole electronics industry recipient of an award in the Sustainable Development category - surely recognition to which all companies should aspire.

The week has also seen an anniversary worthy of note in that Monday marked 25 years since the launch of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum - a device quite correctly credited with starting the home computing revolution in the UK.

Sir Clive Sinclair’s finest creation lacked the dedicated screen of the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh that it preceded - and in that respect it can also be considered a forerunner of the modern games console. Indeed, in early 1980s Britain, the Spectrum was probably responsible for more arguments over use of the family TV (the national average was still less then two per household) than any programme conflicts between the then three national TV channels.

That many of today’s innovators in the UK’s computer industry took their first steps on the Spectrum’s rubber keyboard will ensure its fame for many years to come.

And finally (to complete the hat-trick, if you will) we are celebrating our own particular milestone here on Electronicstalk as the site has gone through the 40,000-story barrier during the week. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to our success over the past few years.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

Apr17th

The UK Government’s proposal to let every household apply for a free energy monitor is an astute policy that is worthy of praise

The UK Government’s proposal to let every household apply for a free energy monitor is an astute policy that is worthy of praise.

The scheme, which is part of a forthcoming Energy White Paper, would provide every household in the country with a handheld energy monitor, wirelessly linked to the electricity supply, giving householders immediate visual evidence of the effects of switching off any domestic load - whether it be a TV on standby, a bar on an electric fires or even a single lamp.

Critics of the proposal will say that it does not go far enough. Here surely is an opportunity to introduce full-blown smart metering across the country. However, the graphical nature of the proposed energy monitors is sure to appeal to the energy conscious householder, whereas the full benefits of smart metering are more on the side of the supplier.

The notion that the monitors are “free” will certainly be popular. Although - as we well know - the scheme will have to be funded from somewhere, whether it be from electricity revenues or from the exchequer.

Nevertheless the potential savings - for both the householder and the country - are colossal, bearing in mind that households in the UK are responsible for about one third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Lets hope (assuming the proposal comes to fruition) that the energy monitors in question are designed and manufactured in the UK.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

Apr10th

Perhaps the “green” message really is starting to hit home

Perhaps the “green” message really is starting to hit home. With RoHS and WEEE legislation spreading around the globe and initiatives like StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem) gaining both commercial and governmental support, just maybe there is some hope for the sustainability of our industry.

One of the standard bearers of conservation (for my generation at least) has been Greenpeace. And this week the old rainbow warrior came out with its third quarterly Guide to greener electronics - see (Link) for a summary and a link to download the full document.

The report, which once again ranks global leaders in mobile comms and computing on their RoHS and WEEE policies, would surely be expected to show improvements all round in the light of recent and pending legislation. But, as might be expected, the criteria used by Greenpeace go far beyond any current or pending legislation on both hazardous substance elimination and waste take-back, and so differences in local legislation do not necessarily provide the explanation for the various companies’ performance.

However, with the arrival of China’s own RoHS legislation, it is interesting to see that Lenovo (the Chinese owned PC maker born out of the old IBM PC operation) has leap-frogged the former top performers Nokia and Sony/Ericsson to head the list as the world’s most eco-friendly electronics company.

At the other end of the scale, the least eco-friendly remains Apple Computer, which is yet to set a timescale for removing certain toxic chemicals from its production processes.

For the record, Greenpeace awarded Lenovo 8 out of 10 in the latest survey, followed by Nokia (7.3), Sony/Ericsson and Dell (both 7), Samsung and Motorola (both 6.3), Fujitsu/Siemens (6), Hewlett-Packard (5.6), Acer (5.3), Toshiba (4.3), Sony (4), LG Electronics and Panasonic (both 3.60) and Apple (2.7).
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

Apr3rd

If any reader ever had any doubt as to the absolute necessity for recycling

If any reader ever had any doubt as to the absolute necessity for recycling, then look no further than the current state of world commodities markets. And on this occasion, it is not the exotic end of the spectrum that is causing the problem, but something as mundane as tin.

It seems that a global shortfall in tin supply has caused the price of tin to reach 19 year highs on the London Metals Exchange and the Kuala Lumpur Tin Market. Tin has moved from a trading range of US $6000 to $9000 per tonne during much of 2006, to its current level at more than US $14,000 per tonne.

That this should happen at a time when the electronics industry is increasing its use of tin in lead-free solder formulations is unfortunate, to say the least. And solder manufacturers Cookson and Indium have already announced surcharges on their tin-bearing solder pastes. (Perhaps we can draw a crumb of comfort from the fact that the price rises have been described as surcharges - at least that implies that the solder prices will revert to normal if and when the tin market price returns to normal levels.)

Ironically, the tin in solder is one commodity that is never likely to be recycled. However, the lesson is there to be learned: all commodities are scarce to a greater or lesser extent. Properly structured recycling schemes - in the electronics industry and industry at large - offer our only hope of augmenting the planet’s finite supplies of raw materials.

On a completely different subject, it’s time to welcome a new member to our community of websites. And while our latest arrival doesn’t follow the engineering strand of our other “Talk” sites, it will certainly be of interest to any reader whose job description includes a marketing responsibility.

Marketingservicestalk, edited by Richenda Wilson, looks set to be the place to go for news on products and services to support the marketing function, ranging from promotional give-aways and sponsorships to venues, exhibitions and market research.

Check it out at (Link)
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

About the Author

Electronicstalk and this Editor's Blog are edited by Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini began his career in the electronics press with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1980, cutting his teeth on a variety of learned and member publications, ranging from IEE Proceedings to Electronics and Power. He moved on to join the launch team of the innovative weekly Electronics Express in 1986, and became Editor just 18 months later. Sadly, Electronics Express lasted just four and a half years, wound up by the infamous Robert Maxwell. However, Laurence had already jumped ship and joined the world of electronics PR with the agency of the 1990s, Smith and Jones Communications. It seemed Laurence was lost to the world of journalism. But after 11 years we managed to lure him back as launch editor of Electronicstalk. Laurence is married to Sally and has a young son, Alexander.

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