Friday, February 3, 2017

uBeam - Still All Sizzle?

An eventful day yesterday on the uBeam front, with Meredith Perry finally giving a demo of uBeam technology and showing it charging a phone at the Upfront Summit - well more precisely showing a big box and then a light on a phone coming on if it was put in front of it. Essentially a slightly more glitzy version of the "All Things D" demo done in 2011, showing what 6 years and $25 million gets you.

From what we see here, in my opinion, is proof that you can take a non-technical audience and baffle them with bullshit - if you want to know that the phone is charging, you need to do more than turn a screen on. Perhaps there is more not seen here, I'm just going on the info that's public, but you need to show voltage, current (at both transmitter and receiver to get efficiency), and the phone sitting in front of that panel for several minutes and see the actual charge level increase over time. But that isn't what they showed - and if it isn't, please enlighten me and tell me what is the difference between what's shown in that video, and what was shown at All Things D 6 years ago.

It seems at least some are not convinced and there are journalists taking a sceptical view, such as Axios (albeit promoted with a tweet that is more sensational than what was shown and the content of the article, and sadly is all that is quoted by most)

This is a science project that is clearly progressing, but not nearly finished yet.

Pretty faint praise after $25 million. There was also this interesting statement:

we're told Perry picked that particular Android for the demo because of its highly-visible charging icon

Why would that be mentioned so specifically by the company, and why does it make me raise an eyebrow?

Now, let's be clear, no-one ever said that transmitting power via ultrasound is impossible, of course it's possible - but is there a way to do so in a safe, efficient, and cost effective manner? That's the challenge, and in any practical sense it had never been shown publicly. In my opinion, it still hasn't. All that has been shown is a screen lighting up.

I'm sure uBeam now have potential funders lining up outside willing to throw money at them, based on this, even though nothing was really shown. And if I'm wrong about that, tell me what was shown that proves it works. What's the charge rate? How long to charge a phone? What is the efficiency? How does this line up with "4 meters, any angle, multiple devices, faster than a wire" touted before? Is it a safe and legal level? (OSHA now seems to have gone back to a 115 dB limit, not the 145 dB from a few years ago, I certainly hope there's no-one in the way of that beam, or there are any grating lobes giving the audience a facefull.)

Now the fact the phone charge indicator comes on proves they are charging at a minimum of 500mW (around 5 volts at 100 mA) needed on the USB port, which is awesome as that's enough to at least trickle charge a phone over about 10 hours. Or does it? Potentially you could access the Qi chipset on the phone to show the charging light when at <500 mW, or other similar bypassing of standard input methods, but in the end there's no way to know without looking at actual charge rate - which isn't shown in any form. If it works so well, I'm surprised those numbers aren't released - "more than 500mW" is a very straightforward statement to make. Or leave the phone in front of the transmitter and see it gaining battery level during the talk. But that would be too easy.

And at what efficiency? At 30% end-to-end it's incredible, at 1% it's very difficult to justify, at <1% it's ridiculous. We don't know those numbers.

How many devices can this charge at a time? What does the system cost? Can it track the phone? What happens at an angle? Was the beam always on, or did it switch on when it saw the phone? What were the safety measures to stop an always on-beam being pointed at someone accidentally? If this is the best case demo today, why were some people saying they had seen a similar working demo years ago? Weren't they moving to production 18 months ago? All questions still unanswered.

I'm really sad, of course, for the senior staff who just left the company over the last couple of months, and what I guess is the closure of the San Jose office (or that's how it appears if you check the LinkedIn profiles). Amazing they would leave just on the verge of a breakthrough like this, but more fool them I guess, what do they know? Passing by on the billions... 

Overall, with a skeptical eye, there's nothing new here. IMO, no significant new information, nothing to show commercial success or capability, and no path to a realistic product. But it won't stop investors from piling in without doing significant due diligence (investors, feel free to call me and prove me wrong), and it won't convince anyone with one iota of technical capability that there's more there than they thought a week ago. More of the same, move along.

For those of you with a technical bent, I'm including a more detailed analysis from what I saw in that demo below. Anyone non-technical, you may want to stop now.

Taking a technical look at what's there and bearing in mind this is with a lot of assumptions - the video shows an array that seems to be made up of a (approx) 30 by 30 collection of circular transmitters, and given what I see on stage it's about a 30 by 30 cm panel, so each is a 1 cm diameter cylinder. Very much like the Murata MA40S4S used in car parking sensors and available off the shelf at around $3 each in bulk. Of course they couldn't use them because that would be a $2700 transmitter BOM component right there, but let's use them as a starting point.

Assume 40 kHz, and let's say we can drive much harder because why not, something like 6 times more (120 volts p-p, or approx 16 dB in sound pressure) to be generous so that's 120 + 16 = 136 dB sound pressure level. They are circular, so we lose 2 dB from area, that's 134 dB out, across a 0.09 m2, and at that level that means a peak pressure of 180 Pa and about 37 W/m2 or actual 3.35 W transmitted. Incidentally the capacitance of those devices at 2550 pF means (at P=nCV2f) gives 1.3 kW (900 * 2550e-12 * 120 * 120 * 40e3) so right there is around 0.25% efficient on transmit at best, along with a one bar electric fire. A few million people doing this every day means GW more generation capacity, so I hope I'm wrong or we better start building some power stations. (updated efficiency numbers below - a bit better than here, but still pretty awful).

As a side note, those values of amplitude, if I'm in the right ballpark, may avoid the worst effects of acoustic nonlinearity in the distances shown, but in my opinion (and that of physics), would result in nonlinearity if you tried to increase from there, decreasing efficiency considerably.

Now at 1 to 2 m distance you're probably looking at around 3dB loss in the air (pretty low, yay, but still 50% efficiency), so saying you get all of that power at the phone (about 5 by 10 cm) you'd have an focus gain of around 18 times (25 dB), so now we're at 156 dB (wow, that's loud). Now we convert back to electricity, let's say 30% efficient there (massively higher than the Murata MA40S4S), and around 90% on some awesome conversion electronics, it's about 27% conversion efficiency, and you now get to 450 mW to the battery which is almost enough to charge it. Let's go with that - yay we're charging a phone in about 11 hours. If I'm assuming low numbers, then divide that by about 5 to get a 5% overall rate and 90mW, maybe enough to turn on the charging light (and about 2 days to charge your phone, if you don't move it)

At what efficiency? 0.25% at transmitter (I'm ignoring some losses here, but they're minor in comparison to that capacitive loss), a further 50% in the air, and 27% at the receiver, and you've got 0.034% efficiency. (As noted earlier, not including non-linearity). At 12 c/kWh, that's $2 to charge your phone. Ouch. OK, I'm being mean, let's say it's 10x more efficient, it's 20 cents to charge your phone, only $70 per year done every day, still an ouch. And you can heat your room at the same time with a kW scale transmitter, that costs $7500 because of the high BOM and doesn't make you feel so bad about having spent $1500 on a toaster oven.

As an added note from the original post, I noticed on a Twitter feed that some there indicate that the transmitter seemed to be covered by some form of fabric, which looking again at the video you can see is there. This does not mean that ultrasound can pass through clothing, as was previously claimed, but a thin membrane that is significantly smaller than a wavelength and is of a low enough impedance material will not be 'seen' by the ultrasound, for example a mylar film on the order of 10s microns compared to around 8mm wavelength in air at 40 kHz will likely have a minimal effect. Just as with the membranes or meshes used on car parking sensors like the Murata mentioned above... 

I'll add to this as I have time to do so, and check my calcs for any mistakes. Comments welcome on why I'm wrong, and just a disgruntled former employee :)

Edit: Just an update to some of my numbers here. Looking at the Murata data sheet is seems that SPL was measured at 30cm, not at the source, so some modification needed to the calcs. Using Murata's published factors, a further ~10dB needs applied for the diffraction and absorption (BTW that's quite a good document on how those transducers work), so they could be producing as much as 130 dB at source, so I can reduce the applied voltage by a factor of around 3 to around 40 volts, and does reduce the capacitive loss to around 130 W for 3.35 W acoustic transmitted, meaning 2.5% efficiency in that portion of the calculation, so it's overall 0.34% efficient at best, not 0.034%. Yes, that means the sound field could be of greater intensity and higher power, however that would start to push it into the nonlinear regime, and also you'd then be beaming very high sound levels at that cameraman and of course they totally considered safety in this demo...

Interestingly, this means those Murata's can put out over the 115dB level mandated by OSHA, however I'd note that a) the Murata operate at a duty cycle of about 0.4% or less (20 cycle bursts until return signal at up to around 2 m, another good link on car parking sensors), and b) there is a single transmitter, that is as loud as it will get, and decay rapidly after that - unlike a phased array for power which operates at a 100% duty cycle and uses antenna gain to amplify the sound by a factor of several hundred.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Right vs Wrong

It's not about Right vs Left anymore.

It's about Right vs Wrong.

Old labels, old enmities over the trivial that we could afford when times were easy, don't apply anymore.

Everyone who knows right from wrong has to work together no matter what tribe we used to think we belonged to. 

We can't be divided, we have to stand up for the weakest and easiest targets, no exceptions.

Support those who stand for what's right, condemn those who promote and enable what's wrong. 

There's no hiding anymore, no more abdication of responsibility. This is where we learn who we really are. Don't disappoint your children.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Do These Keep Becoming Things?

Two weeks ago the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gave its yearly insight into the tech we'll all be getting to buy in the coming months and years. Companies reveal major products like cool new TVs with more pixels and better colours, the latest phones, new processors and things we actually use - and then there are the more bizarre things which continue to show that for every joke idea an engineer can come up with, there's a marketing manager who is dumb enough to run with it.

This year had a high bar to try to beat the previous competition, with the likes of Juicero and the June Oven, but the tech world rose to the challenge and brought us toothbrushes with AI, mirrors to tell you that you are not the fairest of them all, and my favorite being the smart hairbrush to help you brush better. All these paled in my reaction, however, to the incredible wonder that was forwarded to me today - Moodo, the smart home fragrance box.


Moodo is an electronic air freshener, programmable with a variety of scents, and you can even create your own scent with it and then share with others. Who wouldn't want to create their own 'Gardens of Isphahan' or 'Cozzzy' scents and share them? It's an amazing package, and only took three years from concept to delivery (well, promised delivery), where you just pop your Keurig style pods in (yay for the consumable business model!), and use the wifi connection to your smartphone app (of course) to dial in the aroma of your dreams from anywhere! Who wouldn't want one?

Now, at least they aren't asking for $700 or $1500 for it, the Indiegogo campaign seems to have it listed around $230 retail for each unit (only moderately outrageous but still pretty expensive for an air freshener), but only $140 or so if you are an Indiegogo 'early bird'. It's the $20 per set of four fragrances for the consumables where the money likely is, following the printer model of giving the printer itself away at cost or small profit, but charging heavily for the ink. Except a printer is actually useful.

Normally I'd say I can see the pitch to the VCs, who really weren't paying attention to the product but saw the consumable sales, the hockey stick revenue growth, and the smartphone/wifi/app nature of it and the cheque was written - but in this case it may not be so ridiculous. The parent company seems to be Agan Aroma/ADAMA Agricultural Solutions which produce chemicals and components for the fragrance industry, and so if they can sell their products direct to consumers at whatever x000% markup compared to industrial purchasers then it's a good deal. So this is something that really seems like a pointless product, but you can understand why the company pursued it. What I can't understand though, is why a company that supposedly has between 1000 and 5000 employees (according to LinkedIn) would use an Indiegogo campaign to get $50,000 of funding to promote it? Seems an odd mix of approaches, and I don't follow the combination of bootstrapping and larger company product promoter. I'll keep following the Indiegogo numbers, as of now 44 people have put in $8,726, let's see if it hits the goal by the end of the month.

Before I leave this topic, there's an update to the Juicero story from the first "How is this a Thing?" Fortune reports that Juicero's new CEO has slashed the price on their product from $700 to $400, after he remembered his Economics 101 class where someone said that you sell slightly more of a useless thing at $400 than at $700. Or was it that you take a loss on each but then make it up in volume? Still, I laughed at the report saying:

Dunn and his team made the decision to cut the cost now after running a test on Black Friday. They priced the machine for less than $400 and doubled their current number of users in one day.

Great, you went from 1 unit sold to 2, (though maybe that was the new CEO's granny feeling sorry for him). Still, you have to wonder about the journalist who didn't follow up on this obvious statement and ask "How many have you sold in total then?". Even if they got a "Can't release sales figures" answer, it takes it from a marketing piece to something more akin to journalism. Come on reporters, how can you build credibility if you can't even take a swing at softballs like that?

Consider the Lily

Once again there's a ton to write about - Brexit, Theranos, Energous, Erin Griffith's article on Ethics in Silicon Valley, and recent developments with uBeam, but a combination of work plus, hunting for a house, buying a house, getting contractors in, and moving, are eating up all my time. Hopefully next month things will be a little more settled and I'll be back to writing more like a post a week.

In the meantime, I wanted to cover the startup story of the moment, Lily Robotics. Lily is a drone company, promising a simple to use drone (throw it in the air, that's it), that follows you and uses a superb camera to take great videos and stills without a controller - ideal for sports enthusiasts to create videos of themselves doing cool stuff. It looks fantastic, with great demo videos and a strong demand. They raised $1 million in seed funding in mid-2014, and then in mid-2015 started taking pre-orders following some amazing videos and marketing - its pre-order list reached 60,000, at over $500 each, for around $34 million in pre-sales. At the end of 2015 they then raised a further $14 million in VC (no surprises - who wouldn't invest with pre-orders like that!)


Units were supposed to ship to customers in Feb 2016, but that was delayed until summer 2016 - no surprises as hardware is hard, give the newbies a break. Then it was delayed again, this time until December 2016 (time-to-carrot of around 6 months), but once again that date came and went, until suddenly last week they simply closed down with a message to their pre-customers that they were sorry, they couldn't manage to make it, but refunds were on offer. A sad tale, a startup that bit off more than it could chew, and ultimately had to close but sought to return the money to the customers and make them right. Sad until it became public that the same day they shut down, they were sued by the San Francisco DA for misleading business practices and false advertising.

I'll leave the other details to The Register, sUAS News, and the EEV Blog, and hone in on a couple of the most interesting points in this case. Remember that one of the key parts of fundraising is to get VCs to think that there are huge numbers of customers out there for your product, and so once you have 'traction', that they want to invest (de-risked is a term used, others simply wonder why you need a VC once you have customers and profits). If you plan on 'hacking' the system to get the VC money, then you aim to get customers - but what if you have no product to sell? Then go with pre-orders! Show the customer an imaginary future product you plan to make, play up the 'plucky little startup' card, and before you know it you've got $34m in sales and VC's knocking down your door, giving you all the money and time you need to make the product and get it to your customer.

That would be the (mostly) legal way to do it, tell pre-customers it's a planned product, tell them what you are showing them is "hoped for" or "aspirational" and do your best to hit it. Or you could simply show them a faked demo and video and hope you've got time to make it a reality by the date delivery is due - 'fake it til you make it' - and this is what the SFDA is claiming Lily did. In effect, it's a variation on what it appears Theranos and others did, except faking the demos to customers, not to investors (who are still likely defrauded, if this is true).

The customers were led to believe the company had more than it did through their promotional video of the Lily in action, however all was not what it seemed. From the SFDA complaint:

Lily Robotics did not have a single Lily Camera prototype that had all of the features advertised in the Promotional Video. Instead, its co-founders Balaresque and Bradlow, who were present during the filming, brought several prototypes to use during the filming. Some, which looked good on the outside but were not fully functional, were used only for “beauty shots.” Others had some functionality but did not look like the product being advertised. Some were able to film video but even those were merely Lily Camera prototypes with GoPro-branded cameras mounted on them.

This is an important point as it highlights something I've seen happen and I think is more prevalent than most want to believe - showing mockups as working devices, claiming many features and achievements in the product, yet not revealing that not only are they not currently available simultaneously in the same product, but that they may even be mutually exclusive. The analogy would be to claim that your company's new aircraft can fly at 90,000 feet, at Mach 1, with a range of 5000 miles, carrying a 100,000 lb load and leading people to believe it can do all at the same time, when that is impossible. It can be done to investors, though they should have the resources and experience to vet such claims, so let's do it to consumers instead - they're gullible and good natured, let's fleece them! 

Of course, I'm being cruel to Lily here, founders never think like that. They're all starry-eyed idealists just looking to follow their dreams and change the world, at worst you can say they are true-believers who wanted to make it all happen, but their reach exceeded their grasp. Let's forgive them, they tried and failed, but at least they tried. 

And then you read excerpts of emails from a Lily founder talking about their demo video:

Are you sure that the GoPro lens does not create a unique deformation/pattern on the image? I am worried that a lens geek could study our images up close and detect the unique GoPro lens footprint. But I am just speculating here: I don’t know much about lenses but I think we should be extremely careful if we decide to lie publicly.

The founder was worried that smart people would find out the demo was faked, and explicitly and in writing admits that they know they are lying. It's the equivalent of being found at the murder scene, covered in blood and carrying an axe, with a signed letter about how you have to be careful if you decide to kill someone with an axe. Despite knowing it was lying and fraudulent, they decided to go ahead with it anyway. Why? Because the funding 'game' is structured to incentivize exaggeration, fabrication, and lying, and to punish honesty. Honesty doesn't get you funded, lying does. When there's millions of dollars at stake (amounts that people kill for), why wouldn't someone tell a few lies, especially when if they succeed, no-one will ever know? And that part is critical - they didn't think they'd get caught, and why would they? How many startup founders have you heard of going to jail for this kind of thing?

A further question that springs to mind is why the VC firm that invested after the pre-sales didn't spot this during their due diligence. Surely they learned that the promo video didn't match what was shown? If they didn't, they were either lied to and also defrauded, or it smacks of incompetence if they missed it. If they did find it, then it's even worse, because they're then complicit in the deception. Faced with being labelled incompetent, fraudsters, or themselves defrauded, I wonder how long before the VC in question joins in the complaint against Lily and sues.

Which then brings the next question - who gets paid back first? Normally in liquidation the VCs get pain off first (preferred stock), but if there is debt then that has to be paid first. In suing to get back their $15m the VCs will have to wait behind the customers' $34m of refunds (who themselves are behind a $4m bank loan) - thus surprising the investors that for once, they aren't at the front of the line. This is something I expect we'll see more of later this year, from companies where debt and convertible debt are sitting ahead of the institutional investors. It will be interesting to see how the VC community reacts to these new circumstances, and how they explain it to their LPs.

As for the customers and their refunds? Apparently there is over $25m in the company accounts, with the accounts now frozen other than to pay employees and debts, so once there is at least a chance customers will get some money back. Glad to see consumer protections working, while we still have them that is...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Quick guide to spotting non-existent tech

I covered this earlier in a different post, but I wanted to highlight this list from an article in The Register, as a "Quick guide to spotting non-existent tech". Read the company press then go through this checklist when questioning their claims and whether there's more sizzle than steak.
  • Refusing to give a launch date.
  • Refusing to talk about the tech, claiming confidentiality or trade secrets.
  • Using news of investments or hires as evidence of technological progress.
  • Promoting itself on a big stage rather than in a small room.
  • Offering a well-crafted message and vision but becoming immediately vague when pushed on actual details.
  • Offering "exclusive access" – with restrictions.
  • Confusing working hard with making progress.
What's interesting in this is how many of these points require a compliant press, many of whom prefer publishing hagiographies rather than investigative pieces - after all it's quicker, easier, and doesn't end up making enemies among some rich and well connected people. Look at the months and years of work it took for John Carreyrou to uncover what was happening at Theranos, all the lawsuit threats and denials by the company. Isn't it much easier to do a puff piece on Elizabeth Holmes and how she just wanted to save the world? Garrett Reim of the LA Business Journal tweeted a comment on this yesterday following an article on the Unethical Side of Silicon Valley by Erin Griffith (which I'll comment on in a separate post).
This hits the nail on the head, though I think he may be being a little kind - and don't know which of the terms "enabling", "willfully ignorant", or "complicit" is more apt. That may sound harsh, but remember that the press is part of an ecosystem, and it's clear the incentives now reward them more for page views than accuracy or in depth reporting. They're supposed to be watchmen, but some are making money while choosing to look the other way.

How to improve this situation? All I can suggest is to follow the work of the good journalists, and ignore the 'work' of stenographers posing as reporters. Subscribe to the publications that do the hard work, and deny the others the benefit of claiming page views. In the end, money talks.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Medical Ultrasound Systems Pt III, Where I Talk About Some of the Interesting Portable Devices That Are Now Available

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Having taken a couple of days off, there were some questions that came in on the two previous posts I wanted to answer and give some decent answers to, mostly regarding the newer portable devices that are available. I have not personally used these devices so can only go by what I have read online and can estimate based upon images, specs etc, and am neither endorsing nor criticising. This is also not an exhaustive list.

First of all, new products testing out the new parts of the market are great, and I'm really glad to see them. For those of you who think that the "Cabal of Wicked Ultrasound Engineers" is trying to protect their vast and profitable market from cannibalisation, I can just say that there are so many imaging modalities and opportunities still to be exploited within ultrasound that as premium features migrate to lower cost systems, I have no doubt that the premium systems will add new features and still provide value at the high end. This will result in a larger market for ultrasound that is split into multiple segments and price points, which I think benefits patients as well as the entire industry and all the people in it.

So onto the products. First, Lumify. This is a handheld device from Philips for use with tablets, here's a basic review of one. They currently have three transducers, which look to be one each for cardiac, abdominal, and vascular. Both power and data use a micro-USB cable to the tablet, which seems to be Android only, I'm going to guess that Apple taking 30% of the price via the app-store is a product killer. Given they charge $199/mnth and up, I'm assuming (given a 36 month period which is usual) that purchase price is between $7000 and $10,000 but have no hard data one way or another on that. At that price, it would be cheaper to buy a tablet, pre-install the software, and sell it than pay the 30% Apple tax. As an aside, I'm surprised Apple don't have a program for hardware and larger companies to pay a smaller percentage or fixed fee in order to open up this type of market for their products.


It looks to use the standard micro-USB B connector, which means up to 480 Mbps data and depending on what they use for power can supply between 2.5 and 10W at 5 Volts from my reading of the spec. All power is supplied from the tablet/phone, which will limit the total usage time since a phone has around a 5Wh battery, and tablets maybe 30 Wh. Both tablet and phone will be using power as well for some computation, graphics, and display, all of which are big power draws. I posted a link to the Verasonics system specs in a previous thread, which noted between 8 and 100W supply, so you can imagine that use time will be severely limited between charges. Also note that the Verasonics system supplies up to 190V signals, so at 5V supply there's going to need to be some electronics to step up the drive signal.

Looking at the probe images, the handles are large, there may be not just electronics in there but perhaps also a small battery to extend use time. It would be interesting to know what a sonographer thinks using it, as I expect it to be heavy, as well as potentially awkward to hold especially if a fair amount of force has to be applied for a good acoustic window, but it does have the advantage of a very thin and light cable.

Given it's USB, there have to be ADC's in the transducer taking it to digital, and you can see with a limit of 480 Mbps, that if you assume 100 channels that's basically 5 Mbps per channel, for a multi-MHz probe. It's clear that some form of compression, early beamforming etc is going on. Where those compromises are made I can't say, as I have no images etc to evaluate it on beyond marketing.

There's more than just basic b-mode imaging (an explanation of imaging modes is here) in these probes according to the website, which is good to see and more than I expected. I can't evaluate anything on image quality, and have to expect that a lot of compromises have been made in order to create them within a very limited power and computation budget. Other reviews of similar products seem to indicate that as a basic imaging device it performs well, though certain more precise or complex imaging needs (such as needle location) are not well supported. To expect such a system to do everything that a full cart does is, of course, ridiculous, and it's a question of whether the team created a product that's useful enough to serve a function.

These products have been out on the market for over a year, nearly 2 now, and I've yet to hear a huge buzz regarding them, though I think the general consensus is an appreciation for the work that went into them and that a good job was done. Is it enough? Over time the market will tell - perhaps a further generation or two of development is needed to really have them take off.

Note that all these type of products still require FDA clearance to be sold as medical devices, so it seems that regulatory compliance is definitively not what is stopping ultrasound at a lower price point. The existence of these devices is a pretty good proof point that the regulation-as-the-bad-guy argument is not appropriate. Further, despite the claims that sub $3,000 systems surely can be made on this blog and others, note that even with all the compromises made, and the screen/computation cost externalised, the price point is still estimated to be $7,000 to $10,000.


Another similar product just out is from Vancouver based Clarius, having also just been FDA approved (go regulation). This is an entirely wireless device, though if you look at the pictures the handle is enormous and has to be held in a very non-traditional manner, as what I assume is the large battery pack and vents for air cooling (or maybe not, I just saw a picture of one underwater) take up the majority of the device. Specs say it weighs 1.2 lbs, which is pretty heavy, and claims ~45 minutes usage. I'd really like to hear a sonographer's take on using this for extended periods - though extended use may not be the target use case. Online prices seem to also be in the $7,000 to $10,000 range. It uses wireless-N so has similar bandwidth limits to the Lumify, and so most if not all the processing will have to be done in the handle. It seems to support fewer imaging modes than the Lumify, but does use iPads, so would be interesting to know how that economic model works (transducers and software sold separately, with most cost in the hardware side?). Hard to say more, but it looks like a first generation device that's made compromises to achieve some very specific goals (like all good engineering does!), I'll be interested to see how it does in the market.


Just as another point, I wonder how the support for these devices works when it's connected to a standard, general use, tablet/phone? Having supported commercial software on multiple OS's, it's a support nightmare when you have to deal with OS versions, drivers, firmware, and all the other variations that a non-dedicated hardware platform brings. I might be tempted to simply sell the tablet with the transducer as a dedicated device that's locked down and save myself the support headache.

There are also some very low cost devices I see on Alibaba, such as here, claiming to be $200 to $1,500 for a wireless transducer. To include the transducer, the electronics, the battery, the wifi, the software at that price (esp $200!), I simply don't believe it, you just can't even buy the parts for that, let alone pay for labor or make a profit, even under the most generous assumptions. The devices covered above will meet a need and deliver performance, this no-name thing, just no. You'll get what you pay for here, but feel free to go buy one if you want to prove me wrong!

So in summary - and remembering I've not used these devices myself and am only going by what's online - they look to be interesting devices that serve a limited function, and have made compromises to meet the lower cost and portability goals. It's low cost, no frills, and great that this part of the market is being tested - and the market will respond. If they meet a need, at the right price, they'll be bought, and companies will move more resources toward it, and over time as electronics and battery tech improves, they'll get smaller, lighter, and higher performing. I don't, however, know if there is pressure for the premium systems coming down in price range, just more and better capabilities added, and the overall market growing.