Archive for April, 2013


Passionate, articulate designers talking about sensors in health

April 30, 2013

Last Wednesday, I was on a panel at Design West (the embedded systems conference). The panel was about using sensors in health applications. It was called Sensors Saving Lives and it was in the Expo Theater, right on the show floor, so there were lots of people walking by (and a good number sitting down, watching the panel).

We had some technical difficulties with mikes squealing at the very high range of hearing (it is always a bad sign when your audience is holding their ears). But that got fixed. And then things went well.

Our panel consisted of:

  • Christine Brumback, Director of Product Management at Fitbit, talking about their new Flex wrist based step-tracker (it will also track swimming and sleep).
  • Alissa Fitzgerald, CEO of AM Fitzgerald, a company that makes custom MEMS sensors (can you imagine your own sensor, sensing something new?), describing tiny (tiny!) pressure sensors for blood and cranial pressure.
  • Shena Park, Director of Product Development at iRhythm Technologies, discussing the challenges of ECG monitoring device intended for long-term wear.
  • Me! I was talking about a project I worked on about 18 months back: SpotOn, a non-invasive body temperature monitoring system for use in surgery and ICUs that recently made it thought clinical trials.
  • Jen Costillo, founder of RebelBot, was our moderator, making sure we stayed on topic and kept us going. (Jen was also my coconspirator in making this happen.)

Yeah, we had a panel at the embedded systems conference that consisted entirely of women. The attendance (and speakers) at the conference are primarily men so this is pretty odd.

We didn't get any negative comments. None. We did get lots of “neat topic” and “good information” comments.

Let's be really, annoyingly clear: it wasn't a panel about being women in technology. Those have their place (but I'm completely bored of the topic). It was a panel of women in technology talking about their tech and how awesome it is. Our post-panel questions were about health related embedded systems and about our particular areas of expertise. It rocked.

Every once in awhile I think “This! This is what I want to grow up to be!” This panel was one of those magical times.




Embedded systems podcast?

April 23, 2013

At the embedded systems conference, Star Simpson, Jen Costillo, and I did a talk called Start Tinkering. The goal was to get people interested in doing hobby projects: why we do it and how to get into it. We did a radio show, I announced at the inaugural podcast.

But if it is the inaugural, that indicates there would be more podcasts. So what would we do podcasts about?

This one was very high level, an introduction to getting involved. I think I'd want to do a deeper dive into technical things, but still with a hobbyist bent.

I'd like to have a podcast that was just Jen and me, getting a box from Amazon that contains an Arduino and maybe one other board (accelerometer? ThingM LED?). We'd chat and open the box and download the software to make Arduino work. We'd do the normal Hello World to make the LED on the board work (that code is included when you install the compiler), and then change it so the LED blinks at a different rate and all the stuff we'd want to do to get started. Then we'd make the other board (accelerometer? LED?) work to show a few more things. Then, I think we'd rip the Arduino part off and treat it like an Atmel processor. Jen and I would chat over all of this, talking about what we were doing, talking about why we'd do this instead of that, mentioning AVR Freaks and other helpful communities.

I suppose we could do this with Raspberry Pi as well. Oh, MBED, XPresso and MSP430's cheapest board as well. It could be a segment “box to xyz”

And I'd like to do an interview with Jeri Ellsworth, asking her about what she's done and what's she planning. Actually, I'd like to interview all my friends first- Phil over at Weekend Engineering would have a lot of interesting things to say, especially about designing for consumer products. My husband could talk about FDA and UIs and embedded systems. Star could come on and talk about TacoCopter (she's locationally challenged so having her be a regular part might be difficult).

Maybe we could do a radio show of teaching someone to solder. Or talking about software design.

We'll need theme music, I think. And editing software. And good mics. And time. Lots of time. That may be the most difficult part.


Embedded Systems Conference, April 22-25 in SJ

April 11, 2013
The embedded systems conference is coming! Now called DesignWEST, it is at the San Jose convention center from April 22-25.

The Expo is where you can see all the new dev kits and hear about the new chips/parts/etc. The Expo pass is free. It is worth a couple hours of strolling the exhibit hall, particularly if you want a few free dev kits or take a class from a vendor.

Here are the Expo hours:
Tues. April 23    11:30am – 7:00pm
Wed. April 24    11:30am – 5:30pm
Thurs. April 25    11:30am – 4:00pm

But wait, there is more!

I’m excited about the Expo pass because I’m part of two sessions and chairing a track of talks… all that is free to Expo pass holders.

Tuesday’s talk is Start Tinkering, a radio show style talk with Jen Costillo and Star Simpson… we’re going to talk about the hows, whys, and wheres of working on technical projects that aren’t work projects. This one is likely to be more fun than is reasonable to have. And I suspect we’ll give away dev kits and books and advice. 9:30-10:15am Tuesday. (Oh! Time for post talk coffee before the Expo starts, let me know…)

Wednesday’s talk Sensors Saving Lives, 1pm in the Expo Theater, right on the Expo floor. This is a panel discussing 4 different sensors, how they work in systems, and how they make a difference in the world. If you’ve ever wanted to ask about the difference between FDA manufacturing and large scale consumer, here’s the place. Or there are about 200 other questions I could feed you if you want. Or, more likely, you’ll have some of your own once you hear about the incredibly nifty systems the panel will be describing. Since this is in the Expo hall, you can pop in to rest your legs and then wander off, no offense taken.  But do say hello if you are around.

My track is Hello World and it is on Tuesday. Supposedly, it is about starting projects- things to know when you get started with something new. Really, it is all the sessions that I personally wanted to attend. Everybody’s got some criteria and I was just looking for neato-ness. I suspect I’ll be around the session most of the day, making sure it is running smoothly. If you are looking for me (to say hello!), I’ll be there (210 GH but maybe just look for the Hello World track location).

As if that wasn’t enough! There is talk of a book signing on the Expo floor Wed at 3pm. All your favorite embedded systems authors will be there (snicker, all four of us?). Feel free to bring your copy of my book (O’Reilly’s Making Embedded Systems) for signing. Or I may have a few to sell there.  I’m torn between amusement and embarrassment. If you are around Wednesday afternoon, please come to the UBM to tell me jokes so the former wins out.

My track:

Start Tinkering:

Sensors Saving Lives:

My book: (or use coupon AUTHD on the O’Reilly site for a pretty bit discount:

Finally, last but not least, if you are looking at Android for anything, check out Jen Costillo’s talk about adding new sensors to Android ( Wed at 3pm.

Oh! And the keynote on Wednesday is Mayim Bialik, the neuroscientist/actress from Big Bang theory.
That looks like fun. Anyone want to sit in the back and pass notes like twelve year-olds?

Sorry for the spam but I’m excited and I really do hope to see you there. I also have coupons to get a discount if you want to sign up for an expensive ESC pass… email if you want that.

PS Please send forward this to everybody.