Si-Ware Systems (SWS) has announced its NeoSpectra Micro, a chip-scale, near infra-red (NIR) spectral sensor that analyses materials onsite without the need to send samples to a lab.
Si-Ware Systems (SWS) has introduced the first integrated micro-spectrometer for broad industrial and consumer use. The product, NeoSpectra Micro, is a small, chip-scale, near infra-red (NIR) spectral sensor that quickly analyses materials onsite without the need to send samples to a lab, enabling dramatic time savings and accurate, actionable data in the field or on the plant floor.
The device is small enough and thin enough to be incorporated into a smart phone case or designed into an existing mobile product. Product applications include scanning for food safety, and evaluating soil health, oil and gas composition, and pharmaceutical purity. Delivering the same functionality as conventional “bench-top” spectrometers in labs, the integrated NeoSpectra Micro brings to end-users the ability to immediately quantify composition, detect impurities and ascertain quality, speeding analysis of samples from days to minutes without the need for offsite lab verification.
NeoSpectra Micro builds on the success of the popular and cost-effective NeoSpectra spectral sensing module used by system integrators for development of industry-specific hand-held and inline spectrometer applications. The device is currently in use in agriculture, petrochemical, and healthcare industries.
A Real Spectrometer — at Component Size
NeoSpectra Micro for the first time brings high performance spectroscopy to the size and cost of a sensor component. At 18x18mm and only 4mm thick in a self-contained package, it can now be easily incorporated into consumer electronic products. Until now, spectroscopy and material analysis have been notoriously absent from consumer applications due to size, form factor and cost concerns.
“Now with NeoSpectra Micro, high performance material analysis can be a reality in the consumer electronics world,” said Scott Smyser, executive vice president at Si-Ware Systems. “In the same way that inertial sensors, accelerometers and gyros became small enough and low-cost enough for consumer electronic products — enabling a host of applications for motion sensing — NeoSpectra Micro will open up new and unprecedented applications for material analysis.”
Large Unmet Need for Material Analysis
According to Paris-based market research firm Tematys, market size for compact spectrometers is estimated at $655 million for 2016 and will grow to almost $1B in 2021. The research firm forecasts that consumer applications will see have some of the largest growth at a 54% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2021.
NeoSpectra Micro can be an effective solution for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) targeting the consumer markets, since the integrated device is very similar to components in terms of size and cost. The tiny package includes all the system components: the MEMS interferometer, the photodetector, the light source, and also the electronics chips that perform system control and data processing. This facilitates integration, reduces development risks for system developers, and enables faster testing in different application environments.
Versatility is Key
NeoSpectra Micro not only offers an unprecedented wide spectral range that makes it suitable for many industries, but it is also the only chip-sized solution that operates at higher NIR wave length ranges (higher than 1,150 nm up to 2,500 nm). This extended range enables measurement of more materials with higher accuracy. In addition, it allows measuring samples in different form factors including particles, flat surfaces and even ground samples with no need for sample preparation.
“There is a pressing unmet need for rapid material analysis and actionable data in a broad range of applications, from consumer and wearables to industrial in-line and on-site quality control and scientific applications,” said Bassam Saadany, Optical MEMS business unit manager at SWS. “Developing a tiny spectrometer at a sensor price point, for out-of-the-box use across many sectors, requires a wide spectral range at the higher end of Near InfraRed. This places NeoSpectra above and beyond any other offerings on the market.”
NeoSpectra Micro Enabling Smartphones, Wearables and IoT
Having a low-cost, miniaturized NIR spectral sensor opens the door for a new wave of usage models for NIR spectroscopy. To showcase the potential of NeoSpectra Micro at Photonics West at the end of January, SWS has designed it into an iPhone case and developed a demonstration iPhone app. The demo app will scan and measure food and coffee to accurately detect and quantify such elements as gluten and caffeine levels. The iPhone case was developed by XPNDBLS, and the spectral analysis algorithms were developed by GreenTropism.
“We are excited to add NeoSpectra Micro to our product portfolio. We believe it will change the way we perceive spectroscopy, taking it out of the lab environment and bringing it into consumer hands.” said Smyser. “Unlike other spectral sensor solutions out there, NeoSpectra is the first chip-scale spectral sensor with the high performance and reliability known for FT-IR spectrometers, the de-facto standard of high precision spectroscopy.”
In addition to smartphone-based spectrometers, NeoSpectra Micro can also be designed in to wearable devices, where NIR spectroscopy can non-invasively measure biochemistries in the body including glucose and ethanol/alcohol. NeoSpectra Micro’s size and cost now enables NIR spectroscopy for the next wave of sensing for the human body, or even as smart sensors in Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
How NeoSpectra Works
NeoSpectra products are a built around low-cost, miniaturized, Fourier Transform InfraRed (FT-IR) spectral sensors that are based on MEMS technology. The sensors determine the spectral content of the input light, and generates spectrum data corresponding to the measured light. Today, NeoSpectra sensors operate in the NIR spectral range between 1,100nm and 2,500nm, enabling material composition analysis and identification in a wide range of application areas. NeoSpectra technology allows for operation in the mid infra-red (MIR) and future-generation products will offer sensing in the MIR.
Half of SA mobile phone users avoid data activity
Research shows 87% of South Africans have cellphones, but 50% have data issues and a quarter struggle to find a place to charge them
A Pew Research Center survey of 11 nations has found South Africans second most likely to avoid doing things on their cellphones because of fears of data charges. The 50% of users who report this fear is second only to Lebanon, where 66% avoid data use.
As ownership of mobile phones, especially smartphones, spreads rapidly across the globe, there are still notable numbers of people in emerging economies who do not own – or even use someone else’s – mobile phone, a Pew Research Center survey of 11 nations finds. However, in this department South Africa scores well, with only 13% not having phones – in line with a median of 6% of adults in the countries polled do not use mobile phones at all, and a median of 7% do not own phones but instead borrow them from others.
These mobile divides between have and have-nots are most pronounced in Venezuela, where about a third of adults (32%) do not own or use mobile phones, India (30%) and the Philippines (27%).
At the same time, the new findings show that mobile divides also exist among those who own phones. A median of 46% in these countries say they frequently or occasionally have difficulties getting reliable phone connections, 37% say it can be a challenge to pay for their phones and 33% report finding places to charge their phones is a problem at least occasionally. In addition, a median of 42% report frequently or occasionally avoiding some activities on their phones because they use too much data.
In some countries, mobile owners’ challenges are particularly striking. In Lebanon, for example, 77% of phone owners report having problems getting reliable mobile connections, and about two-thirds (66%) say they avoid doing things with their phones because those activities use too much data. In Jordan, nearly half (48%) report having trouble paying for their phone, while in Tunisia four-in-ten (40%) say it can be a challenge to find places to recharge their phones.
“The spread of mobile phones brings a variety of benefits to users in emerging economies, and they can clearly spell out what appeals to them about the arrival of a phone in their lives,” says Laura Silver, senior researcher at Pew Research Center. “Still, our survey shows that these devices bring new challenges and headaches to users at the same time they open up new divisions in their societies. It turns out that digital divides take several forms in these countries.”
Beyond those concerns, there are other issues that can disrupt life for some phone users and sharers. Around three-quarters or more of mobile phone owners in every country except India report concerns about identity theft, and around nine-in-ten or more in Mexico (95%), Colombia (94%), Tunisia (90%), South Africa (89%) and the Philippines (89%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about the issue.
For mobile sharers, concerns about device security can also play a role in why people choose not to own their own devices. While cost is the primary reason mobile phone sharers give for why they do not personally have a phone (a median of 34% across eight countries reports this), the second most commonly cited reason is that a previous mobile phone was lost, broken or stolen.
Additionally, a median of 29% of mobile owners in these 11 emerging economies report they have frequently or occasionally experienced problems finding information online in their preferred language. This problem ranges from 17% of mobile owners in Jordan to 37% in South Africa – the highest of all countries surveyed.
Other key findings from the survey include:
Nonuse tends to be more common among adults with lower levels of income and education. In the Philippines, for instance, 10% of respondents with more education say they do not use a phone, compared with 38% of those with lower levels of education. This pattern exists in all 11 countries surveyed. Similarly, across most of the nations, older people are more likely than younger people to be non-users.
Non-users are divided over whether they would like to own a mobile phone in the future. Venezuelan non-users stand out for their keen interest in acquiring a mobile phone; 86% of mobile phone non-users in Venezuela say they would like to get a phone in the future. Elsewhere, these numbers vary markedly, from around half or more desiring a mobile phone in South Africa (65%), Colombia (61%) and Tunisia (52%), to fewer than half in Mexico (41%), the Philippines (35%), India (31%) and Lebanon (9%).
In some countries, issues of technological literacy are particularly pronounced. For example, around a quarter of Indians (26%) say the primary reason they share a phone is because it is too complicated to use, followed by Mexicans (11%) and Filipinos (10%).
MUST you buy into Black Friday? The pros and cons
Black Friday, once only a North American marketing frenzy, has become a critical entry in the calendars of South African retail business owners.
Research published by Stats SA says that historically, the most important month of the year for retail trade is December, when many consumers are on holiday and go Christmas shopping. But December 2018 was a tough month for retail in South Africa with the volume of sales falling by 1,4% year-on-year.
The poor performance of retailers in December followed a fruitful November, when Black Friday boosted sales to 2,9% year-on-year.
Dov Girnun, CEO of Merchant Capital, an innovative fintech funder that provides working capital to retail SME’s across the country, says Black Friday presents a moment in time in the sales cycle, and business owners still need to consider whether the concept will make sense for their business’s growth.
“Small business growth is a delicate balance between doing what works and taking advantage of the right opportunities. Retail business owners should carefully weigh up the pros and cons before being swept away by the Black Friday wave,” says Girnun.
Girnun outlines the following pro’s and con’s that retailers should consider before jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon.
Pro: Savvy customers look forward to a good bargain. They actually plan their year-end spending around this one retail event. They believe that they will enjoy savings and great deals which will often prompt larger spending and additional ‘treats’ for themselves.
Con: There was a time when festive season shopping mainly occurred in December. Black Friday has changed this. What was normally a very good festive season trade, can now mean rapidly reduced December turnover. Retailers need to work this new spending habit into their projections and stock flow.
Pro: If you can deliver agile marketing messaging and have a tactical social and email marketing campaign behind you, you may well be able to fight the clutter and up your sales in a meaningful way.
Girnun says: “In our experience, small businesses use the funds we lend them for anything that will be additive to the growth of their business: to hire more employees; buy new equipment; refurbish their store; buy more stock – and even for marketing – they don’t necessarily have to be elaborate plans, but each funding step is crucial to the next.”
Con: As a small business you are up against the big guys: large retailers with huge marketing campaigns behind them. Certain larger retailers will even offer loss-leaders to draw in customers.
Shed old stock for small business growth
Pro: Small business growth is often the difference between sitting with old stock or shedding your load. Black Friday is a great way to encourage take-up of old redundant inventory. Making way for the new.
Con: On this day, over any other, customers are price-sensitive. They expect a good deal otherwise will gladly shop elsewhere. Heavy discounts might be the only way to win that sale over your competitor. But this is often a discount that isn’t worth the sale.
Scaling up for traffic
Pro: Black Friday is a marketing vehicle to assist in scaling up your customer traffic. It is a unique opportunity to attract new customers and satisfy existing ones. Just make sure that your store has the capability to restock quickly and check customers out efficiently.
Con: Sub-par in-store or online service can have a negative knock-on effect on your brand. So make sure you employ more staff and security on the day and upgrade your online systems so that they can carry an abnormal load should it arise.
Realising retailers’ eleventh-hour cash needs and taking the rapid evolution of technology into account, funders like Merchant Capital have the capability of assessing and approving a loan in just 24 – 48 hours, offering retailers an opportunity to scale up if need be at lower risk.
What are your competitors doing?
Pro: If your competitors are in the space, this may mean it’s good for your vertical. Simply being there may be a good way to claim your stake in some way.
Con: If you aren’t in the game, you can almost guarantee it will be a bad sales day. But FOMO alone (Fear Of Missing Out), is a dangerous hill to climb. So think clearly and make decisions that are right for your business!
Girnun says: “The jury is out as to whether Black Friday makes sense for all small businesses. But what is very clear is that retailers need to think long and hard about capacity, strategy, bottom-line, and long-term impact before committing to partake in Black Friday.”