About Circuit Cellar Staff

Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at editorial@circuitcellar.com, @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar

Produced in Spain: Startup for Hardware Security Solutions

When you talk about a startup, you likely envision bearded hipsters drinking fancy coffee at their expensive Macs. But not all startups are cut from the same cloth. Consider the following case. We recently met with a small team of talented long-time engineers in Madrid that is swimming against the tide. After working for many years in the electronics design industry, the engineers now innovating secure hardware products at a startup with big ideas and lofty goals.

Whitepapers: Embedded Software Security Essentials (Sponsor: PRQA)

When it comes to embedded software, security matters. Programming Research Ltd (PRQA) helps its customers to develop high-quality embedded source code—software which is impervious to attack and executes as intended. PRQA solutions are widely adopted by organizations whose products need to perform securely and reliably in mission-critical and safety-critical environments, as well as any other industry where software must behave as intended.

Click here to access the following whitepapers on embedded software security: Addressing Security Vulnerabilities at the Source; How IoT Is Making Security Imperative for All Embedded Software; Developing Secure Embedded Software: Quality Doesn’t Equal Security; and Addressing Security Vulnerabilities in Embedded Applications.

High-Performance Laser Diode Driver

Intersil Corp. recently announced the ISL78365 laser diode driver for automotive heads-up display (HUD) systems. Capable of pulsing four high-intensity lasers up to 750 mA for projecting full-HD color video onto a windshield, the quad-channel ISL78365’s enables HUDs with high resolution, high color-depth, and high frame-rate projections.Intersil ISL78365

The only laser driver with a fourth channel for supporting a wide variety of laser diode configurations, the ISL78365 provides sub-1.5-ns rise and fall times. It also provides 10-bit color and 10-bit scale resolution to support a wide variety of contrast levels for each driver channel. Furthermore, it supports pixel rates up to 15 0 MHz or 1,900 pixels per line.

The ISL78365’s features and specs:

  • Up to 750 mA of peak current output per channel
  • Fast output switching speeds with pulse rise/fall times of 1.5 ns typical for crisp pixels
  • Supports up to 150-MHz maximum output pixel clock
  • Laser voltage sampler with integrated dynamic power optimization controller to conserve system power
  • Flexible data order supports multiple RGB laser diode optomechanical placement
  • Blanking time power reduction reduces laser diode driver current consumption
  • Programmable multi-pulse RTZ for maximum flexibility and speckle reduction
  • Single 3.3-V supply and 1.8-V video interface for low power operation
  • 3-wire serial peripheral interface
  • AEC-Q100 Grade-1 qualified for operation from –40°C to 125°C
  • Wettable flank QFN package enables the optical inspection of solder joints for lower manufacturing cost

You can combine the ISL78365 with the ISL78206 2.5-A synchronous buck regulator, ISL78201 2.5-A synchronous buck/boost regulator, ISL78233 3-A synchronous buck regulator, ISL78302 dual 302-mA LDO, and ISL29125 digital RGB color light sensor to provide a complete power supply system for automotive laser projection HUDs.

The quad-channel ISL78365 laser diode driver is available in a 6 mm × 6 mm 40-lead WFQFN package. It costs $9.82 in 1,000-unit quantities.

Source: Intersil Corp.

Imperas ARMv8 Support Advances Embedded Software Development

Imperas Software recently announced the availability of models and virtual platforms for the Cortex-A72 ARMv8 processors (in addition to the earlier models). Now the Imperas Open Virtual Platforms (OVP) processor model library comprises more than 160 models across a wide range of IP vendors. More than 40 ARM cores—including the Cortex-A, Cortex-R, and Cortex-M families—are supported.

The Imperas Cortex-A72 ARM processor models are available in single-core, multi-core, and multi-cluster configurations enabling high-performance simulations of platforms ranging from simple single cores to many core systems. Imperas also offers a model of the ARM GICv3 interrupt controller.

Also available are Extendable Platform Kits (EPKs)—which are virtual platforms of the target devices—for ARMv8 processor cores running Linux. Available on the OVP website, the EPKs enable you to run high-speed simulations of ARM-based SoCs and platforms on any suitable PC. You can extend and customize the functionality of the virtual platform. The platform and the peripheral models are open source.

Note that OVP models also work with the Imperas advanced tools for multicore software development, analysis, verification, and debugging, including M*SDK advanced software development solutions and key tools for hardware-dependent software development. The tools use the Imperas SlipStreamer patent-pending binary interception technology. SlipStreamer enables the analytical tools to operate without modification or instrumentation of the software source code.

Source: Imperas Software

Embedded Couplers for New Close Proximity Wireless Transfer Technology

Antenova M2M is now shipping its first orders for the TransferJet coupler, Zoma (SR4T014). In addition, it is working with Icoteq to build TransferJet designs for customers worldwide.Antenova SR4T014

 

Intended to transfer multimedia data (e.g., photos to a TV screen), TransferJet is a close-proximity wireless transfer technology that radiates very low-power radio waves. It combines the speed of ultra-wide band networking with near-field communications (NFC) and operates over short ranges. TransferJet uses a coupler as opposed to an antenna.

Antenova is working with Icoteq, which developed a sensor board for high-speed data upload using TransferJet. The 50 mm × 40 mm board feature an Atmel SAMS70/SAMV70 microprocessor and Antenova’s TransferJet coupler.

Source: Antenova

The Future of Sensor Technology for the IoT

Sensors are at the heart of many of the most innovative and game-changing Internet of Things (IoT) applications. We asked five engineers to share their thoughts on the future of sensor technology.


ChrisCantrellCommunication will be the fastest growth area in sensor technology. A good wireless link allows sensors to be placed in remote or dynamic environments where physical cables are impractical. Home Internet of Things (IoT) sensors will continue to leverage home Wi-Fi networks, but outdoor and physically-remote sensors will evolve to use cell networks. Cell networks are not just for voice anymore. Just ask your children. Phones are for texting—not for talking. The new 5G mobile service that rolls out in 2017 is designed with the Internet of Things in mind. Picocells and Microcells will better organize our sensors into manageable domains. What is the best cellular data plan for your refrigerator and toaster? I can’t wait for the TV commercials. — Christopher Cantrell (Software Engineer, CGI Federal)


TylerSensors of the future will conglomerate into microprocessor controlled blocks that are accessed over a network. For instance, weather sensors will display temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed, and direction along with latitude, longitude, altitude, and time thrown in for good measure, and all of this will be available across a single I2C link. Wide area network sensor information will be available across the Internet using encrypted links. Configuration and calibration can be done using webpages and all documentation will be stored online on the sensors themselves. Months’ worth of history will be saved to MicroSD drives or something similar. These are all things that we can dream of and implement today. Tomorrow’s sensors will solve tomorrow’s problems and we can really only make out the barest of glimpses of what tomorrow will hold. It will be entertaining to watch the future unfold and see how much we missed. — David C. Tyler (Retired Computer Scientist)



Quo vadis electronics? During the past few decades, electrical engineering has gone through an unprecedented growth. As a result, we see electronics to control just about everything around us. To be sure, what we call electronics today is in fact a symbiosis of hardware and software. At one time every electrical engineer worth his salt had to be able to solder and to write a program. A competent software engineer today may not understand what makes the hardware tick, just as a hardware engineer may not understand software, because it’s often too much for one person to master. In most situations, however, hardware depends on software and vice versa. While current technology enables us to do things we could not even dream about just a few years ago, when it comes to controlling or monitoring physical quantities, we remain limited by what the data sensors can provide. To mimic human intellect and more, we need sensors to convert reality into electrical signal. For that research scientists in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and so forth work hard to discover novel, advanced sensors. Once a new sensor principle has been found, hardware and software engineers will go to work to exploit its detection capabilities in practical use. In my mind, research into new sensors is presently the most important activity for sustaining progress in the field of electronic control. — George Novacek (Engineer, Columnist, Circuit Cellar)


GustafikIt’s hard to imagine the future of sensors going against the general trend of lower power, greater distribution, smaller physical size, and improvements in all of the relevant parameters. With the proliferation of small connected devices beyond industrial and specialized use into homes and to average users (IoT), great advances and price drops are to be expected. Tech similar to that, once reserved for top-end industrial sensor networks, will be readily available. As electrical engineers, we will just have to adjust as always. After years of trying to avoid the realm of RF magic, I now find myself reading up on the best way to integrate a 2.4-GHz antenna onto my PCB. Fortunately, there is an abundance of tools, application notes, and tutorials from both the manufacturers and the community to help us with this next step. And with the amazing advances in computational power, neural networks, and various other data processing, I am eager to see what kind of additional information and predictions we can squeeze out of all those measurements. All in all, I am looking forward to a better, more connected future. And, as always, it’s a great time to be an electrical engineer. — David Gustafik (Hardware Developer, MicroStep-MIS)


MittalMiniature IoT, sensor, and embedded technologies are the future. Today, IoT technology is a favorite focus among many electronics startups and even big corporations. In my opinion, sensor-based medical applications are going to be very important in our day-to-day lives in the not-so-distant future. BioMEMS sensors integrated on a chip have already made an impact in industry with devices like glucometers and alcohol detectors. These types of BioMEMS sensors, if integrated inside mobile phones for many medical applications, can address many human needs. Another interesting area is wireless charging. Imagine if you could charge all your devices wirelessly as soon as you walk into your home. Wouldn’t that be a great innovation that would make your life easier? So, technology has a very good future provided it can bring out solutions which can really solve human needs. — Nishant Mittal (Master’s Student, IIT Bombay, Mumbai)

Ultra-Small SWIFT Step-Down Converter

Texas Instruments (TI) recently introduced the industry’s first 12-V, 10-A, 10-MHz series-capacitor buck converter that achieves more than 50 A/cm3 in current density, which is 4× higher than any other 12-V power management component or solution on the market. The TPS54A20 SWIFT synchronous DC/DC converter’s topology enables high-frequency operation at up to 5 MHz per phase without special magnetics or compound semiconductors, which you can use for 8-to-14-V input and 10-A output applications. By using the step-down converter together with TI’s WEBENCH Power Design tool, you can get your space- and height-constrained point-of-load (POL) telecom and networking power-supply designs to market faster.TI TPS54A20

TPS54A20 key features and benefits:

  • Two-phase, series-capacitor DC/DC buck topology that merges a switched-capacitor circuit with a multiphase buck converter
  • Small HotRod quad flat no-lead (QFN) packaging
  • Inexpensive, tiny 2- to 5-MHz inductors enable a 131-mm2 solution size that consumes 50% less area than similar 500-kHz DC/DC converter designs.
  • At under 2 mm tall, the reduced size, weight, and bill of materials (BOM) allows for the placement of tiny 10-A voltage regulators on the back side of a PCB
  • A 14-ns minimum on-time allows for 4-/7-/10-MHz operation without compromising efficiency or EMI performance.

The new DC/DC converter is available in volume.  The TPS54A20 costs $3.25 in 1,000-unit quantities. Order the 4-MHz, 10-ATPS54A20EVM-770 synchronous dual-phase converter evaluation module and download the PSpice transient models.

Source: Texas Instruments

WLAN Measurement Suite Solution for 802.11ax High-Efficiency Wireless

National Instruments (NI) recently announced an early access version of the WLAN Measurement Suite with support for the IEEE 802.11ax (draft 0.1) high-efficiency wireless draft standard. Combined with NI’s RF vector signal transceiver (VST), the WLAN Measurement Suite enables you to measure the performance of their 802.11ax designs confidently in the presence of significant new changes to the 802.11 physical layer specification.National Inst WLAN MeasSuite

Aso called High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW), the 802.11ax is intended to improve the average throughput per user by a factor of at least 4× in dense user environments. This new standard focuses on implementing mechanisms to serve more users a consistent and reliable stream of data (average throughput) in the presence of many other users.

The WLAN Measurement Suite offers the power and flexibility to generate and analyze a wide range of 802.11 waveforms, such as 802.11a/b/g/n/j/p/ac/ah/af. Now, with the measurement suite’s latest update targeting 802.11ax, you can speed up development work on 802.11ax devices. The software supports key features of 802.11ax, including narrower subcarrier spacing, 1024-QAM, and multi-user orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA). The updated measurement suite also includes LabVIEW system design software example code to help engineers automate WLAN measurements quickly and easily.

NI’s platform-based approach helps ensure you can update their existing PXI RF test systems to support 802.11ax device testing with a simple software update and continue to do so as the 802.11ax standardization process evolves. You can take advantage of this smarter approach to RF test to help lower the cost of testing and better prepare for future connectivity and cellular standardization initiatives, such as 5G.

Source: National Instruments

Cross-Platform, Dual-Band Spectrum Analyzer for Wireless Pros

Oscium recently announced the WiPry 5x, a dual-band spectrum analyzer solution that visualizes all spectral activity on 2.4 and 5 GHz on both iOS and Android devices.  A hardware plug-in accessory, the WiPry 5x makes possible to identify and avoid interferences and optimize wireless connectivity from a smartphone or tablet. The portable WiPry 5x is an excellent tool for field technicians, wireless professionals, and home audio enthusiasts who need to set up wireless audio networks.Oscium - WiPry5x

Oscium currently offers the LogiScope (logic analyzer), iMSO-204L and iMSO-104 (mixed-signal oscilloscopes), WiPry-Pro Combo (combination spectrum analyzer and dynamic power meter), WiPry-Pro (2.4-GHz spectrum analyzer), and now the new WiPry 5x Dual Band Spectrum Analyzer (2.4 and 5 GHz) with cross platform support. By adding coverage to the Android market and supporting 5 GHz, Oscium has expanded its customer base and made some significant improvements in direct response to market’s demands.

The WiPry 5x visualizes all wireless activity on both the 2.4 and  5 GHz hands. Measurement settings include 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.15.4 (ZigBee). Also available is SSID-specific activity, which is ideal for troubleshooting home security, home automation, and home audio wireless installations.

The WiPry 5x costs approximately $499. WiPry software is free both in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Although initial support will only include iOS version 7.0 or higher and Android version 4.0.3 and higher, the hardware can support other platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. Compatible devices include Apple’s iPod touch (5th generation), iPhone 5 to 6S Plus models, and all iPads from the third generation forward, including the iPad Pro. All Android devices with USB On-The-Go are compatible.

Source: Oscium

79-GHz CMOS Radar Sensor Chips for Automotive Applications

Infineon Technologies recently announced at the Imec Technology Forum in Brussels (ITF Brussels 2016) it is cooperating with Imec to develop integrated CMOS-based, 79-GHz sensor chips for automotive radar applications. According to the announcement, Infineon and Imec expect functional samples to be available in Q3 2016. A complete radar system demonstrator is slated for early 2017.

There are usually up to three radar systems built into vehicles equipped with driver assistance functions. In the future, fully automated cars will be equipped with up to 10 radar systems and 10 additional sensor systems using camera or lidar technologies.

Source: Infineon Technologies

New Plug-and-Play FPC Antennas for the 3G, 4G, and LTE Bands

Antenova recently announced three new flexible printed circuit antennas—Mitis (SRFL026), Moseni (SRFL029), and Zhengi (SRFC015)—to cover the 3G, 4G, and LTE bands. The flexible antennas—which belong to Antenova’s flexiiANT range of antennas—offer options for all of the world’s 4G and LTE bands. You also have a choice of antenna shape and size. You can fold the flexible FPC antennas to fit inside small electronic devices. You can position them vertically, horizontally, or co-planar to the PCB. and are ideal for use in applications where there may not be room for an SMD antenna.Antenova Mitis Antenna

The Mitis and Moseni antennas were developed for 4G and LTE applications, including MIMO. The Zhengi covers all of the 3G and 4G LTE bands B7 (2,500–2,690 MHz) and B30, B40 (2,300–2,400 GHz), including LTE Bands B7, B30, B38, B40, and B41.

The antennas come with an IPEX MHF (UFL) cable in a choice of three lengths for easy connection to a wireless module, making them effectively plug-and-play antennas, particularly as they can be integrated without matching. Each one has a peel-back self-adhesive backing that enables you to position it in a variety of  designs.

The Mitis, Moseni and Zhengi antennas are designed for a wide variety of applications, such as smart meters, remote monitoring, M2M, and IoT devices.

Source: Antenova M2M

OEM Controller for Fiber Optic Emergency Stop and Signaling Sensors

Micronor’s MR380-0 OEM Controller provides a low-cost, turn-key solution for OEM manufacturers and control system providers integrating any of the Micronor MR38X series ZapFREE Fiber Optic Signaling Sensors into their design. The sensor range includes Emergency Stop, E-Actuator, U-Beam, Key Switch, Push Button, Foot Switch, and Microswitch sensors.MICRONOR_MICROSWITCH_1500X1000P

The OEM Controller contains a stable transmitter and a sensitive optical receiver that operates over a Duplex LC multimode fiber optic link. The transmitter sends a constant light level via the transmit fiber that is interrupted when the fiber optic switch activates or the sensor beam is broken. The system is compatible with either OM1 (62.5 µm/125 µm) or OM2/OM3 (50 µm/125 µm) multimode fiber to distances up to 1.5 km. The Controller operates over a wide 5 to 24 VDC range and provides a Digital Logic as well as Open-Collector Output for activating external relays.

The MR380 ZapFREE Signaling Sensor System outperform electromechanical and electronics-based switches and sensors, specifically where EMI immunity, high voltage isolation, inherent safety, MRI compatibility, or operation over long distance is required. Applications include medical and MRI, transportation, and more.

For ATEX applications and hazardous locations, the Signaling Sensors are classified simple mechanical devices and can be installed in any manner of explosive atmosphere—mines, gas and dust. The Controller outputs inherently safe, optical radiation and is approved for EPL Mb/Gb/Gc/Db/Dc applications.

For Functional Safety applications, depending on sensor type, the controller defaults to the emergency state when: the optical path is blocked, in case of a broken fiber, a fiber is disconnected, or loss of power to the controller link.

In small quantities, the MR380-0 OEM Controller is $250 and MR38X Sensors can range $350 to $495, with a typical lead time of stock to two weeks. Discounts are available for OEM applications. Special engineered versions are available for MRI applications, radiation, and vacuum environments.

Source: Micronor

Arduino Primo Features Nordic Semiconductor SoC

Nordic Semiconductor recently announced that Arduino’s new Arduino Primo features its nRF52832 Bluetooth low energy SoC. The IoT-targeted Arduino Primo PCB features native Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity and includes Near Field Communication (NFC), Wi-Fi, and infrared (IR) technologies. In addition to being able to wirelessly connect to a wide array of Bluetooth low energy sensors, the Arduino Primo uses the nRF52832 SoC’s integrated NFC for secure authentication and Touch-to-Pair (a simple BLE pairing function requiring no user interaction), and has embedded IR for traditional remote control. Nordic_Arduino_Primo_PRINT

The Nordic nRF52832 SoC’s ARM processor has ample computational overhead to manage the Arduino Primo’s on-board accelerometer, temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors. The Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832’s features and specs include:

  • 64-MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4F processor
  • 2.4-GHz multiprotocol radio that’s fully compatible with the Bluetooth 4.2 specification and features –96-dB RX sensitivity and 5.5-mA peak RX/TX currents
  • 512-KB flash memory and 64-KB RAM, and a fully-automatic power management system to optimize power consumption.

You can program via the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) programming interface. If you want to access the Arduino Prio’s most advanced features and functionality, you can use any Nordic nRF52 Series-compatible Software Development Kit (SDK) or programming tools. For example, the nRF5 SDK for IoT enables you to develop IPv6 over Bluetooth low energy applications on the nRF52832 SoC.

Source: Nordic Semiconductor

Upcoming Webinar: Design Tips to Optimize Stepper Motor Designs

STMicroelectronics will run 1-hour webinar on May 19 for designers interested  in optimizing stepper motor control designs. You’ll receive an overview of STMicro’s Integrated Driver ICs for stepper motors with specific focus on the digital motion engine approach, an innovative architecture to ease the design and control of motors with high-level SPI commands.

You will learn how the digital motion engine core enables users to select motion profiles with acceleration, deceleration, speed, or target position via an SPI and a dedicated register set. You’ll also learn how to distinguish between various stepper motor driver product features along with their advantages/disadvantages. Experts will also provide tips for testing and improving various system-level characteristics.

Agenda:

  • 12:00 PM – 12:45 PM CDT
    • Introduction, review agenda
    • Digital motion engine advantages and benefits
    • Tips for selecting the right digital motion engine driver
    • Tools from STMicroelectronics for getting started on your next design
  • 12:45 PM – 1:00 PM CDT
    • Q&A session

Click here for more information and to register.

Source: STMicroelectronics

65-V Micro-Power Buck Converters for Automation

Texas Instruments recently introduced two 65-V, 150-mA synchronous DC/DC buck converters for powering factory automation and automotive sensor applications. Featuring 10.5-µA quiescent current (IQ), the converters are intended for applications requiring high efficiency. The LM5165 (industrial-grade) and LM5165-Q1 (automotive-grade) micro-power step-down regulators feature a wide input voltage (VIN) range and dual control modes for optimizing efficiency and PCB area.TI UltraLow Buck

Features and benefits

  • Low 10.5-uA standby IQ (operating with no load) enables 90% conversion efficiency at 1-to-10-mA loads to extend battery life in “always on” applications.
  • 100% duty cycle enables low-dropout operation, while a P-channel high-side MOSFET eliminates the bootstrap diode and capacitor.
  • Dual-mode operation: a pulse frequency modulation (PFM) control mode enables the highest efficiency power supply design, while a constant on-time (COT) control mode provides higher output current and better EMI performance.
  • Fixed 3.3- and 5-V options eliminate external feedback resistor dividers to lower BOM.
  • Programmable current limit optimizes inductor size and cost.

The industrial-grade LM5165 costs $1.35 in 1,000-unit quantities. The automotive-grade LM5165-Q1 costs $1.58.

Source: Texas Instruments