Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Why BECA when we have NavIC ?

 Why BECA when we have NavIC ?

(https://www.rediff.com/news/column/why-beca-when-we-have-navic/20201027.htm )


October 27, 2020 17:25 

Should we celebrate BECA as literal 'manna from the heavens', as the government wants us to believe, or should we be apprehensive?


Today GPS (Global Positioning System) is being used extensively in India and all over the world.

It is used to find your way to a destination using your smart phone maps anywhere in India; it is used by airplanes and ships and even fishing boats to navigate the vast seas and the sky safely and accurately.

What is available freely or at commercial rates is a service provided by satellite systems operated by the US Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and the European Union's Galileo.

The same satellite systems are also used in modern military to guide warships, tanks, missiles and drones.

But the signal for this military use is encrypted and is only available to the owners of these systems and their close allies if the owners choose to do so.

Even among 'allies' there is always the danger that the signal could be corrupted or turned off at a crucial juncture, thereby crippling the 'ally''s military capability.

That is why all major powers develop their own navigational system.

India and the US signed a new defence agreement called BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation) on Tuesday.

The US has been pushing for this agreement along with others for over a decade.

It will make selling US military hardware easier to India.

There has been opposition to signing this agreement from within India for over a decade because while the US is supposed to provide accurate GPS data to India, in return India is supposed to exchange maps, charts and data to the US which can compromise Indian defence to the US military.

Using border tensions with China and dreams of targeting terrorist camps in Pakistan, the agreement has been pushed by the present government in India.

It is noteworthy that India has planned such a Satellite Navigational System since 2010.

The system would give accurate positioning for not only the vast Indian subcontinent, but almost the entire Indian Ocean region from the east coast of Africa to South East Asia.

It is called IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System) or NavIC.

The system was developed partly because access to foreign government-controlled global navigation satellite systems is not guaranteed in hostile situations.

According to reports, it happened to the Indian military in 1999 when the United States denied the Indian request for accurate GPS data for the Kargil region which would have helped the Indian military in the Kargil War.

Thus, the goal of the IRNSS was to not only to serve the commercial market in India and surrounding countries, but also make the Indian military 'Atma Nirbhar' as far as the important object of accurate targeting of weapons.

The government has spent so far over Rs 2,000 crores (Rs 20 billion) on it.

Six satellites of NavIC are already in orbit and functioning and five more are planned to be launched.

The commercial service has already started and the military part of it is being tested.

According to a senior ISRO source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, "The only advantage the US system has over the IRNSS is that US has a long experience of operating such a system and actively using it for targeting its missiles and drones all over the world including our neighbourhood. Whereas we have just started setting it up.

"Other than our lack of experience, the US data would not provide any greater accuracy than what NavIC is capable of."

"Moreover, always such offers have been made to us by other powers only when we have developed our own system independently through our resources."

"The goal seems to be that we do not invest further in our system to make our system more accurate and more reliable or more global in reach."

So should we celebrate this literal manna from the heavens, as the government wants us to believe, or should we be apprehensive?


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Jack Kilby--A Tribute

Business India, November 13-26, 2000
When the chips are up 

Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit, gets his due with the Physics Nobel Prize 2000 - after 42 years

Shivanand Kanavi 

Nearly 42 years after the invention of the integrated circuit (IC) the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences announced on 10th October 2000, the award of Nobel Prize to Jack Kilby, the inventor. 

Naturally, this calls for comment. It is surprising that the Nobel Com­mittee took such a long time to hon­our an invention, which has changed the way we live in the last 40 years and has directly led to a $231 billion industry. 

The committee is still to honour Claude Shannon whose semi­nal contribution to information the­ory is at the heart of all modern communication and is over 50 years old. Similarly, John von Neumann, who laid the foundation of computer science with the theory of finite automata, 50 years back, and who led the team that built the world's first electronic computer ENIAC, at the Institute of Advanced Study, Prince ton, did not receive the Nobel. How­ever, inventors of semiconductor devices like the transistor and Joseph­son junction have been honoured. 

Does the committee have a blind spot? Or should the engineers be left out of the highest scroll of honour because of a very narrow-minded reading of Alfred Nobel's charter? 

Even if the rest of the technology world discussed these issues, Jack Kilby seemed far away from it all, when Business India interviewed him 48 hours after the announcement, in Dallas, Texas. 

Kilby's brevity and humility are astounding. Texas Intsruments (TI), the company where Kilby worked when he invented the IC, made full use of the propaganda value of the prize and rival Intel's executives com­mented - off the record - that the prize should have been shared between Jack Kilby and the late Dr Robert Noyce (one of the founders of Intel). But Kilby, 77, could not be drawn into any controversy. 

On 12th October, Business India was privy to a very private celebration at the famous Kilby Centre at Dallas, Texas. The $ 150-million cutting edge R&D centre, the pride of TI , hosts state­of-the-art, 0.1 micron chip fabrica­tion facilities. In the cafeteria of Kilby centre, about 300 TI engineers were gathered to honour an icon. The atmosphere was bordering on the rev­erential, as aging Jack Kilby slowly walked into the hall escorted by K. Bala, senior VP at TI. While Bala, a chip veteran for the last 31 years at TI, and the senior-most executive of Indian origin in TI, gave a two-minute speech congratulating Jack on behalf of TI and the staff of the Kilby Centre, the man at the centre was even more brief. True to the culture of micro­miniaturisation, Kilby only said two words: "Thank you". 

Besides dozens of other honours, Kilby received the National Medal of Science, in 1970, at the White House. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, tak­ing his place alongside Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers in the annals of American innovation. However, there is noth­ing like being bestowed with the Nobel. 

When asked why it was that the inventors of transistor were given the Nobel several years ago, he com­mented candidly that their contribu­tion was more basic to semiconductor physics, than his. 

Kilby is an institution at TI, even though he stopped doing active work in the company more than 20 years back. "We have a regular Friday lunch with him every week and find interact­ing with him very useful even now,” says Bala. 

The unassuming Kilby is a typical engineer, who wants to solve problems. In his own words, his inter­est in electronics was kindled when he was a kid growing up in Kansas. “My dad was running a small power com­pany scattered across the western part of Kansas. They had a big ice storm that took down all the telephones and many of the power lines, so he began to work with amateur radio operators to provide some communications and that was the beginning of my interest in electronics," he recalls. 

When he joined TI in the summer of 1958, the company was working on a defence project to miniaturise elec­tronics. Jack, however, had different ideas. Fortunately, he got the chance to check out his ideas, for, soon after he joined, most of the team went on a vacation for which he, being the junior-most member of the team, was not eligible. Kilby spent his time searching for an alternative to the official model. 

"I realised that semiconductors were all that were really required - that resistors and capacitors (passive devices), in par­ticular, could be made from the same material as the active devices (transis­tors). I also realised that, since all of the components could be made of a single material, they could also be made in situ and interconnected to form a com­plete circuit," Kilby wrote in a 1976 article titled Invention of the IC. "I then quickly sketched a pro­posed design for a flip-flop using these components. Resistors were provided by bulk effect in the silicon, and capacitors by p-n junctions. My col­leagues were sceptical and asked for some proof that circuits made entirely of semiconductors would work. I therefore built up a circuit using dis­crete silicon elements. Packaged grown-junction transistors were used. Resistors were formed by cutting small bars of silicon and etching to value. Capacitors were cut from dif­fused silicon power transistor wafers, metallised on both sides. This unit was assembled and demonstrated on 28 August 1958," he elaborated. 

By September, Kilby was ready to demonstrate a working integrated cir­cuit built on a piece of semiconductor material. Several executives, includ­ing former TI chairman Mark Shep­herd, gathered for the event on 12 September 1958. What they saw was a sliver of germanium, with protruding wires, glued to a glass slide. It was a rough device, but when Kilby pressed the switch, an unending sine curve undulated across the oscilloscope screen. His invention worked - he had solved the problem. 

But at the time, did Kilby realise its significance? "I thought it would be important for electronics as we knew it then, but that was a much simpler business. Electronics was mostly radio and television and the first comput­ers. What we did not appreciate was how lower costs would expand the field of electronics beyond imagina­tion. It still surprises me today. The real story has been in the cost reduc­tion which has been much greater than anyone could have anticipated. And it has tremendously broadened the field of electronics. 

In 1958, a sin­gle silicon transistor that was not very good, sold for about $10. Today, $10 will buy over 20 million transistors, an equal number of passive compo­nents, and all of the interconnections to make them a useful memory chip. So, the cost decrease has been factors of millions to one. And I'm sure that no one anticipated that". 

The main contribution to lowering costs and increasing transistor densi­ties in ICS has, of course, come from the innovation that Robert Noyce was responsible for, while working at Fairchild Semiconductors, before he went on to found Intel. Noyce devel­oped the planar technology of deposit­ing layer upon layer of semiconductors with different doping elements to cre­ate a really compact IC in 1959. 

Clearly, both Kilby and Noyce are responsible for the IC revolution. Kilby graciously admits as much. The first Ie made by Kilby had a single transistor, 1.5 mm x 10.5 mm in size. Today, such chips carry millions of transistors. The reso­lution of etching has already reached 0.1 micron (micron = thousandth of a milli metre). 

The inventions of Kilby and Noyce have led to two giants now straddling the IC empire: Texas Instruments, the king of digital signal processors that go into every cellphone and communica­tion device, and Intel which is practi­cally inside every PC. 

Unlike most inventors, Kilby today has the rare advantage of seeing his work create enormous wealth and in fact changing human life. In his own life time.