Month: January 2022



Our world today is dominated by electrical engineering and digitalisation. The level of development of electronic devices is rising sharply. Whereas 25 years ago very few people had a mobile phone, today almost everyone has a high-tech computer in their pocket. This sharply rising trend in development is constantly generating new innovations and technological advances. Since every German household is equipped with an average of five to ten electronic screens, it is not surprising that research also continues in display technology and many interesting concepts are being developed and made marketable. In addition to conventional LED/LCD displays or displays with TN technology, e-ink displays, i.e. displays with “electronic ink”, have also been available for some time. These are also known as e-ink film or e-paper. What is behind this and how this technology works exactly is discussed in the following article.

How does E-Ink Film work?

The display technology E-Ink Film has been on the market for some time and is finding more and more applications due to its special technology. The technology got its name because it has a strong visual parallel to ink on paper. The most commonly used displays so far, such as LED/LCD or TN, rely on the idea that the surface consists of many individual pixels, each of which can display a single colour.
E-ink film, however, relies on an advanced system with an interesting chemical concept. The E-Ink screen consists of a layer with countless and tiny capsules. Each individual capsule is filled with particles. In black and white screens or greyscale displays, these capsules are filled only with black and white particles. For coloured display surfaces, the capsules are usually filled with particles of the colours magenta, yellow, cyan (turquoise) and white. These particles float in a clear liquid. The capsules are connected to transparent electrodes at the front and back. These individual particles are adjusted so that they can be moved by electrical charge. In this process, each colour has a different setting and the sequences of the coloured particles can be changed by electronic impulses.


In a greyscale display, the particles are set so that the black particles rise when there is a negative charge and the white particles rise when there is a positive charge. Each area of the display can receive different charges. Now, if the surface is to be completely white, then each capsule receives a positive charge. If an area is to display a black dot, then exactly this area receives a negative charge and turns black.
With e-ink films with coloured screens, the concept works the same way, except that the arrangement of the individual colour particles requires several charge states.

The advantages of e-ink film: power consumption

This type of display technology offers many advantages over traditional methods. The concept of displaying e-ink foils consumes much less power. This is because an e-ink display only requires power when a change in colour arrangement is initiated. Conventional LED displays use coloured light throughout. As a result, mobile devices with E-Ink film also have an exorbitant battery life. This characteristic means that there are wall murals with e-ink technology that do not consume any power at all as long as the image displayed on the wall is not changed.

The advantages of E-Ink film: Eye-friendliness

In addition, there are also strong advantages of e-ink displays over conventional display technologies in their interaction with the human eye. E-ink displays are much easier on the eyes. This is because the screen does not flicker, which is common with other display technologies. By reproducing the colour without light, the different capsules enable a static image that has a similar effect on the human eye as a picture on the wall or a written sheet of paper. This is of course an advantage for every user, but especially for people with visual impairments, these displays are a significant improvement.

It is also common knowledge that displays with LCD technology are dazzling in sunlight. In some cases, working in the open sun is simply impossible. When a device with e-ink technology is in use in sunlight, the readability is infinitely better.

Areas of application: E-book readers, information, work, automobiles.

These special features and advantages of e-ink technology have revolutionised some markets and have also created new markets. In principle, the areas of application for e-ink films are limitless, but the technology is gaining ground in some areas in particular.
The e-book reader market in particular has been revolutionised by e-ink. There were already e-book readers before the introduction of the e-ink film. However, these were equipped with LCD technology and were hardly able to achieve any significant breakthroughs. It was not until the middle of the 2010s, after the introduction of the e-ink film, that several new e-book readers appeared on the market. The reason for this was the fact that the new technology was able to make the disadvantages of the previous readers largely disappear and the concept of e-book readers became interesting again for the end consumer.Many display boards are also still operated with conventional display technologies today. These can be advertising boards in city spaces or information boards at airports. The savings in electricity by converting the technology to e-ink film could also revolutionise this market.Furthermore, devices with e-ink technology can also be used excellently for work in addition to reading. Here, too, the focus is on the advantages of e-ink foil. Thanks to the eye-friendly display, work can be done over a long period of time without tiring or straining the eyes.Last but not least, E-Ink Film is also being used more and more in design terms. The car manufacturer BMW presented a new model of the BMW iX at the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas in January 2022. Namely, the BMW iX Flow has a special feature. It can change the colour of the outer skin. In addition, colour gradients and patterns can also be created. BMW has thus succeeded in creating an innovation for luxury cars that sets new standards in design. E-ink foil is also used here. The entire body is covered with it. This allows the colour of the car to be changed at the touch of a button.

History of E-Ink Film

E-Ink has become the popular name for this technology. However, behind the name is actually the company that developed the film. The E-Ink Corporation was founded in 1997 by some researchers after the technology was developed by some scientists and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1996. With this patented technology, the E-Ink Corporation was able to enter the mainstream through the e-book reader boom in 2006 and was even inducted into the Hall of Fame for National Inventors in the US in 2016. Since then, E-Ink has improved and overhauled its technology many times. E-Ink now also equips devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones.

Source:E Ink 
Photo by @felipepelaquim on Unsplash
What is a data center – and why are they becoming relevant right now?

What is a data center – and why are they becoming relevant right now?

Data center is the name given to a facility that provides shared access to data and applications via a complex computing, storage and network structure. To ensure that the data is secure and highly available, there are industry standards that are also helpful for planning and maintaining data centers.

What is a data center?

In one form or another, data centers, also known as data centers, have been around since the advent of computers. In the days of room-sized behemoths, a data center might have consisted of a supercomputer. As the equipment got smaller and cheaper and requirements increased, more and more vendors began networking multiple servers together. This greatly increased processing power.

Today, these servers are connected to communications networks so that people can remotely access the information stored there. One room, one building, or several buildings often house multiple clustered servers with associated infrastructure. Modern data centers have hundreds or thousands of servers running around the clock. That’s why Europe’s largest data center investors are also very interested in the technologies.

Due to the high concentration of servers stacked in rows, these data centers are also called server farms. Data centers offer important such as:

+ data storage
+ Backup and recovery
+ networking
+ data management
+ network services

Data centers store and deliver entire websites. Servers provide services such as e-commerce, cloud storage, email, Instand messaging, online gaming, financial services and other applications.

Just about every company, organization, government agency or scientific research institution either needs its own data center or must rely on the services of a third-party provider. Some use a dedicated building for this purpose or use public cloud-based services, such as those offered by Amazon, Google or Microsoft. The data centers of large companies are often distributed around the world to ensure constant access to data.

Why we need data centers

Even as computer hardware gets smaller and more powerful, the need for computing power and storage of data continues to grow. Above a certain size, every business, government agency, research institution, social network, and organization requires tremendous computing power. A lack of fast and reliable data can result in the inability to deliver critical services and the loss of customer satisfaction and revenue.

All this data needs to be stored somewhere. That’s why more and more data is moving to the cloud so it doesn’t have to be stored on work computers. This data is then accessed via host servers, which is why many companies are also moving their professional applications to the cloud. This in turn reduces the cost of running their own servers and networks.

Types of data centers

Data centers vary in size. They range from small server rooms to centers geographically dispersed around the globe. Modern data centers have evolved from a local infrastructure. Today, local systems are connected to cloud infrastructures where networks, applications and workloads are virtualized in multiple private and public clouds. The following types of data centers are distinguished:

+ Co-location data centers – space and resources are provided by a provider to a customer. Administration is the responsibility of the customer.

+ Enterprise data centers – These data centers are used by individual companies for internal purposes.

+ Managed Service Data Centers – Services such as data storage, computing and other services are performed here directly for the customer.

+ Cloud data centers – These centers are globally distributed and are often offered to the customer with the help of an external managed service provider.

Scaling and design

When we think of a data center, we often imagine huge halls full of server racks blinking away. Miles of cables connect servers to routers, switches or other equipment. However, data centers come in all sizes and configurations. They range from a few servers in one room, to tens of thousands of servers in huge halls. Some are so large that employees use bicycles or electric scooters to get around.

Server configuration, network topology, and supporting infrastructure can vary widely depending on the company, purpose, location, growth rate, and initial data center design concept. The layout of a data center can greatly affect the efficiency of data flow and environmental conditions within the center. Some sites may group their servers by function, such as Web servers, database servers, or application servers and database servers. For others, each server may perform multiple tasks. There are no set rules or standards for this.

How data centers work

A basic physical unit of data centers are servers connected into clusters. Often these are of the same type, to be stacked in open or closed cabinets. However, sometimes there are different types, sizes or ages of servers. For example, modern, flat servers exist alongside old Unix computers and huge mainframes.

Each server is a high-performance computer, with memory, storage, a processor or processors, and input/output capability. Sort of like a personal computer, but with a faster and more powerful processor and much more memory. Monitors, keyboards, or other peripherals are located in a central location or in a separate control room from where the devices are monitored.

Networks, software and infrastructure

Networking and communications devices are necessary in a data center to maintain a high-bandwidth network for communication with the outside world and between servers and other devices within the data center. This includes components such as routers, switches, the servers’ network interface controllers (NICs) and potentially miles of cable. Cabling comes in several forms, including twisted pair (copper), coaxial (also copper ) and fiber (glass or plastic). Cable types and their various subtypes affect the speed at which information flows through the data center.

Other important data center equipment includes storage devices (such as hard disk drives, SSD drives and robotic tape drives), uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), backup batteries, backup generators and other power-related devices.

And, of course, software is needed to run all this hardware, including the various operating systems and applications that run on the servers, clustering framework software such as Google’s MapReduce or Hadoop to distribute work across hundreds or more machines, Internet socket programs control networks, system monitoring applications and virtualization software such as VMware to reduce the number of physical servers.

Virtual data centers

A virtual data center provides the capabilities of a traditional data center, but uses cloud-based resources instead of physical resources. It offers an organization the ability to provision additional infrastructure resources as needed without having to purchase, provision, configure and maintain physical appliances. In this way, enterprises can take advantage of the flexibility, scalability and cost savings of cloud computing.

Data center security

In addition to the building security systems that support a data center facility, communications networks require a thorough zero-trust analysis. Data center firewalls , data access controls, IPS , WAF and their modern equivalent Web Application & API Protection (WAAP) systems must be properly specified to ensure they scale as needed to meet data center network requirements.

Why data centers are becoming relevant

Data centers are the backbone of modern computing. They are the lifeline that keeps our digital world running. Data centers are far more secure than storing data on traditional hardware. Virtual data centers in the cloud offer better security protection through effective firewalls and similar devices, in addition to backup services.

Source: DataCenter 
Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash
What is the new DeepMind language model Gopher?

What is the new DeepMind language model Gopher?

Language models that learn through artificial intelligence (AI) are the talk of the town. Usually, the performance and quality of these language models goes hand in hand with their size. The larger the model, the better the performance. However, larger models are more opaque. This is viewed critically by ethicists, since models become increasingly opaque with increasing model size and biases become increasingly difficult to detect. This leads to considerable ethical concerns. Gopher is a comparatively small language model that can look up information in a database and obtain its information from there. Gopher has been trained to be friendly and to conduct dialogue in a similar way to a human. Users can ask Gopher concrete questions and receive concrete answers, which are composed of information from the database. This allows Gopher, despite its smaller size, to keep up with the large models on the market while remaining flexible. Gopher’s knowledge can also be refreshed by updating the database without the need to re-train Gopher.

The developer company of Gopher, Deepmind, is not unknown in this context. The company was founded in 2010 and bought by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, in 2014. The company, which has its headquarters in London, has further centres in Canada, France and the United States. With Gopher, Deepmind has set a new milestone in the field of language models.

With 280 billion parameters, Gopher is not the largest language model, but it brings with it enormous potential through its linkage to the database. In the paper published by Deepmind, which is over 118 pages long, the company explains everything worth knowing about the language model and gives example conversations that describe the interactions between Gopher and the user. Users can ask the language model questions on any topic imaginable. It doesn’t matter whether users want to know about dinosaurs, the theory of relativity or the capital of the Czech Republic. Gopher has an answer for every question.

Gopher, like all larger language models, is a transformer. This means that Gopher learns itself (machine learning) and translates a sequence of characters into another sequence of characters. The model is trained to do this using sample data and thus learns how to work. Gopher was trained on 300 billion characters, but can draw on much larger amounts of knowledge because of the database. In total, the amount of data comprises 2.3 trillion characters and is thus many times larger than the amount of data used to train Gopher.

Gopher can be used for different areas and was tested and compared in 152 tasks by Deepmind after its development. The tasks ranged from fact checking to language modelling to answering various questions from users. In about 80 per cent of the tasks, Gopher was able to prevail over the competing language models compared, which included the well-known GPT-3 model.

The Deepmind model came out on top, especially in conversation, where it showed a high degree of consistency. Natural conversation is often a problem with language models that rely on artificial intelligence. Although the models are able to form individual, grammatically correct sentences, they have difficulty establishing a context over an entire section or text. This is important for a fluent conversation, however, and is one of the major challenges in the development of artificial language models.

One reason for Gopher’s good performance is its connection to the database. Here, Gopher’s database is used like a kind of cheat sheet or reference book. This database is used by Gopher to search for passages with similar language, which thus increases the prediction and accuracy of the model. Deepmind calls the technology of the model “Retro” (Retrieval-Enhanced Transformer). Translated into German, this means something like a transformer enhanced by lookup capabilities. Through this technology, Gopher is able to compete with language models that are 25 times larger.

Although Gopher is convincing in many areas and leaves its competitors behind, this AI, just like other language models, has to struggle with the similar ethical issues. However, due to the link with the database, Gopher is to be evaluated differently from an ethical point of view than comparable language models without a database. Gopher makes transparent which sections of the database were used for the predictions. This can help to explain the results and at the same time leads to the fact that Gopher is not a pure black box. Furthermore, distorting influences (bias) can be changed directly in the database and thus eliminated.

The fact that the language model, although a rather small model, usually outperformed its competitors in the tests raises the question of how good large language models with a connection to a database could be. However, these are not currently on the market and would have to be tested from an ethical perspective, in addition to development.

At the moment, however, Gopher is the most efficient language model, judging by Deepmind’s data, which can learn through changes in the database without having to be completely retrained.

Source: Deepmind
Wood hybrid construction: Definition, examples, advantages

Wood hybrid construction: Definition, examples, advantages

Wood as a building material has been used by humans for house construction since the beginning of time. Wood is easy to work with and lives with its conditions. Wooden houses have an incomparable charm and are sought-after residential properties. However, pure timber construction is limited in its permissible dimensions, up to five storeys are approved. Anything higher becomes problematic for timber construction. The reasons for this lie in the fire protection regulations and in the statics. Since 2008, however, there has been an intelligent and innovative solution for new buildings with six or more storeys. The hybrid construction method combines wood with different materials such as steel, concrete, aluminium and gypsum fibre boards. Long live “cooperation”, even among materials!

Good reasons for the material mix

However, the legal approval for a building is not the only reason for the preferred hybrid construction method. It is the economic advantages in the construction of the house that convince builders and architects. Wood is a popular building material that is very easy to work with. In combination with reinforced concrete, it can become even more load-bearing. The structural engineer still recommends the use of concrete for the ceilings and the foundation, but in the future he will be able to resort more and more to mixtures of materials, since top technical achievements in the development of prefabricated timber elements make new constructions possible. But it is not only the mixture of wood and concrete that has given rise to ultra-modern buildings in recent years; the innovative production of the wood-processing industry also helps to make wood stable at heights. The material then bears names such as cross laminated timber or solid structural timber. It is characterised by special material properties. Another advantage of the combined construction method is the time factor. The construction phase is shortened by prefabrication. However, it must be fairly noted that the planning group requires more time in advance. In any case, hybrid building with wood is environmentally conscious. After all, the use of this material saves sand as a valuable raw material. In terms of the required sound insulation values and a precision in the manufacture of certain components, the timber hybrid construction method is also advantageous. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has already been proven. Finally, the indoor climate and the feel-good aspect should be mentioned, important criteria for the occupants.

Living examples

The timber hybrid construction method now has a large number of living examples. They can be found all over the world. For example, in Vienna, 24 storeys high means just under 85 metres, in Norway, one and a half metres higher than in Vienna and this is also considered the tallest timber hybrid building in the world. It was opened in 2019. In the same year, the residential buildings in Berlin-Adlershof were completed. Three years earlier there was already a successful project in Canada, a student residence made of wooden elements, and in 2021 Pforzheim stands with its proud 45 metres. The timber hybrid construction is not only an innovative alternative to conventional styles, but this form of construction is reminiscent of a natural way of life, gives the residents a positive feeling with regard to the future, as sustainable management is practised and the conscience is in harmony with the experience. Living with wood corresponds to the ideas of the environmentally conscious citizen, as this building material consumes far less energy for its production than steel does. That is why many project developers in Germany are also looking at this new type of living concept.

Mixture – but how?

The wood is usually used for the building envelope, the concrete gives stability to the ceilings and the lift shaft. In some projects, wood-concrete composite ceilings are also used. The load-bearing wooden parts are stiffened with steel or clad with gypsum fibreboard. Sometimes the façade is supported with rock wool and the staircase is made of reinforced concrete. Concrete is also used for the technical lines and the entire supply core, making this sensitive area fireproof. The basement and the garage are mostly made of concrete. Since wooden cladding is chosen for the façade, the observer has the impression that the structure is purely a wooden house. And the appearance of the interiors is also reminiscent of pure timber construction. Which building material is used where in a building is not specified by building law; it is up to the expertise of the architect and the imagination and wallet of the builder.

Economical – but why?

Carbon dioxide is saved by the ton, on the one hand during production, but also because wood itself stores carbon dioxide. Cost savings through precise pre-construction, improved air-conditioning technology and fast production make this construction method promising for the future. A shortened construction phase means relief for everyone involved. A number of buildings constructed using timber hybrid construction methods count as energy-efficient houses and may be eligible for bank subsidies. Building with wood and concrete or aluminium also has another positive effect. Because there is less dust and noise during the construction phase, this construction method is becoming more and more popular. The low dead weight of wood means that a lot of heavy machinery is no longer needed, and flexibility in the way it works allows for changes in plans and construction. Wood-concrete composite ceilings, for example, can be deconstructed. Savings through timber frame constructions lead to a larger gross floor area and, on balance, this often means one more flat. And the flats created by timber hybrid construction remain affordable for all residents.

Source: BaustoffWissen  

Photo by Linus Mimietz on Unsplash