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Q & A With: Actel CEO John East

Actel CEO John East explains how low-power chips can save the world

7 min read

On March 17, Actel Corp., based in Mountain View, Calif., released a new low-power field-programmable gate array (FPGA) that bottoms out at a power consumption of 5 microwatts. Actel is a relatively small David struggling for recognition amid the Goliaths of Xilinx and Altera. When Xilinx and Altera compete for lowest-power FPGA kudos, Actel is always conveniently left out of the discussion, says CEO John East, even though his chip outperforms both his competitors' in terms of low power—by several orders of magnitude. Actel's chips can be found in portable equipment like defibrillators, vehicle engine control modules, and rearview mirrors, elevators, and escalators. But the one market Actel dominates, jokes East, is the ”Martian market.”

East sat down with IEEE Spectrum's Sally Adee to talk about application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and FPGAs and how his low-power FPGAs can help save the world.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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