If you’re among those of us with immediate plans for a PCB or parts order from China, watch out – Shenzhen just recently got put on a week-long lockdown. Factories, non-essential stores and public places are closed, and people are required to spend time at home – for a city that makes hardware thrive, this sounds like a harsh restriction. Work moves to remote where possible, but some PCB fabs and component warehouses might not be at our service for at least a week.
It might be puzzling to hear that the amount of cases resulting in closures is as low as 121, for a city of 12.6 million people. The zero-tolerance policy towards COVID has been highly effective for the city, with regular testing, adhered-to masking requirements and vaccinations – which is how we’ve been free to order any kinds of boards and components we needed throughout the past two years. In fact, 121 cases in one day is an unprecedented number for Shenzhen, and given their track record and swift reaction, it is reasonable to expect the case count dropping back to the regular (under 10 cases per day) levels soon.
Not all manufacturing facilities are located in Shenzhen, either. Despite what certain headlines might have you believe, supply chain shortages aren’t a certainty from here. A lot of the usual suspects like PCBWay and JLCPCB are merely reporting increased lead times as they reallocate resources, and while some projects are delayed for now, a lot of fabs you’d use continue operating with minor delays at most. SeeedStudio has its operations impacted more severely, and your Aliexpress orders might get shipped a bit later than usual – but don’t go around calling this a Chinese New Year v2 just yet. For those who want to keep a closer eye on the situation and numbers, the [Shenzhen Pages] Twitter account provides from-the-ground updates on the situation.
Wondering how your supply chain might be affected? We’ve talked about this way back in February 2020, addressing then-warranted worries that Chinese New Year would grow into a longer disruption than planned due to COVID becoming into a factor to manage. If you’re yet to discover the significance of Shenzhen, books have been written on this marvellous city, where you can build a successful hardware company in a week’s time. We’ve even had a meetup there once!
Header image: Charlie fong, CC BY-SA 4.0.
A team at the Wireless Bioelectronics Lab at the National University of Singapore led by [Dr John Ho] announced the results of their new Wireless Sensing (WiSe) smart sutures program last month. Their system consists of a specially prepared patch of polymer gel (the sensor) which is sewn into the wound using a silk suture coated with a conductive polymer. An external reader scans the sensor to monitor the status of the wound.
The concept is not unlike a NFC public transportation card, although with simplified electronics. There is no microcontroller or digital data being transferred. Rather, the sensor behaves like a tuned tank. The gel on the sensor was designed to degrade if the wound becomes infected, changing capacitance of the sensor structure and thus shifting its resonant frequency.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune to experience surgery, no doubt the surgeon and nurses drove home the importance of diligent monitoring of the wound for early signs of infection. These smart sutures allow detection of wound infection even before symptoms can seen or felt. They can be used on internal stitches up to 50 mm inside the body. More details can be read in this paper, and we covered another type of smart sensor back in 2016.
In whichever hemisphere you dwell, winter is the time of year when viruses come into their own. Cold weather forces people indoors, crowding them together in buildings and creating a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of viruses. Everything from the common cold to influenza spread quickly during the cold months, spreading misery and debilitation far and wide.
In addition to the usual cocktail of bugs making their annual appearance, this year a new virus appeared. Novel coronavirus 2019, or 2019-nCoV, cropped up first in the city of Wuhan in east-central China. From a family of viruses known to cause everything from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in humans, 2019-nCoV tends toward the more virulent side of the spectrum, causing 600 deaths out of 28,000 infections reported so far, according to official numbers at the time of this writing.
(For scale: the influenzas hit tens of millions of people, resulting in around four million severe illnesses and 500,000 deaths per season, worldwide.)
With China’s unique position in the global economy, 2019-nCoV has the potential to seriously disrupt manufacturing. It may seem crass to worry about something as trivial as this when people are suffering, and of course our hearts go out to the people who are directly affected by this virus and its aftermath. But just like businesses have plans for contingencies such as this, so too should the hacking community know what impact something like 2019-nCoV will have on supply chains that we’ve come to depend on.
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Coronavirus Supply Chain Exposure?” →
Of all the lessons that life hands us, one of the toughest is that you can be right about something but still come up holding the smelly end of the stick. Typically this is learned early in life, but far too many of us avoid this harsh truth well into adulthood. And in those cases where being right is literally a matter of life or death, it’s even more difficult to learn that lesson.
For Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician-scientist in the mid-19th century, failure to learn that being right is attended by certain responsibilities had a very high cost. Ironically it would also save the lives of countless women with a revolutionary discovery that seems so simple today as to be self-obvious: that a doctor should wash his hands before seeing patients.
Continue reading “Publish Or Perish: The Sad Genius Of Ignaz Semmelweis” →
Diabetes is a disease that, among other things, has significant effects on the feet due to a combination of neuropathy, vascular issues, and other factors. You may have seen special diabetes socks with features like non-elasticated cuffs for better circulation and a lack of seams to prevent the formation of blisters. Taking care of your feet is essential in diabetes to prevent injury and infection. Ebers is a project that seeks to help in just this area.
Ebers monitors plantar pressure, temperature, and humidity in the sole of the shoe. It then feeds this data back to a smartphone for analysis over Bluetooth. The brain of the project is an Arduino Pro Mini which is tasked with interfacing with the various sensors.
The project relies on 3D printed insoles which fit inside the shoe of the wearer. This is a particularly useful application of 3D printing, as it means the insole can be customised to fit the individual, rather than relying on a smaller selection of pre-sized forms. This has the additional benefit of allowing the insole to be designed to minimise pressure on the foot in the first place, further reducing the likelihood of injury and infection. The pressure sensing is actually built into the insole itself, and can measure pressure at several different areas of the foot.
Overall, it’s a project with huge potential health benefits for those with diabetes. We look forward to seeing where this project goes in future, and how it can bring improvements to the quality of life for people the world over.
Silverleaf Medical products has created an electric wound dressing that staves off infection by killing microbes in an open wound and preventing other germs from getting in.
They call it the CMB Antimicrobial Wound Dressing, and it is made of polyester fabric woven with a proprietary material called Prosit. When the bandage is moistened, the Prosit generates a low voltage, killing germs in the wound. One of these bandages can be worn for 3 days at a time, and their clinical trials indicate that they are highly effective in treating infected wounds. Take a look at their brochure (PDF file) for some informative and stomach-turning before and after photos.
StopBadware.org has released their May 2008 Infected Sites Report(PDF). They took their current list of 213K active badware websites and resolved the IP addresses. These addresses were used to determine the network block owner and country. The results could be skewed to networks Google scans more often, but they should give a decent overall picture. China hosts 52% of all the badware sites while the U.S. has 21%. There weren’t any other countries maintaining over 4% of the total. They also calculated the number of infected sites per capita, which China also led. Last year’s report resulted in several AS block maintainers cleaning up to the point that they don’t even make the top 250 this year.