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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

Pocket IO PLC Development Platform for Industry 4.0 Applications

Maxim Integrated recently announced a new platform provides Industry 4.0 developers with real-time intelligence, adaptive manufacturing, and distributed control. Its Pocket IO programmable logic controller (PLC) development platform enables you to achieve the smallest form factor and highest power efficiency for innovative PLC designs. The platform comprises 30 I/Os, including analog input, analog output, digital input, digital output, IO-link, and motion control featuring robust functionality and diagnostic capabilities. Maxim pocket-io

The Pocket IO PLC development platform’s features, benefits, and specs:

  • Real-time intelligence: Fast data processing provides the necessary data to make intelligent decisions quickly and effectively to optimize yield.
  • Adaptive manufacturing: Manufacturing flexibility allows for real-time changes and adjustments to avoid potential downtime.
  • Distributed control: Ultra-small footprint of less than 10 cubic inches and smart energy consumption brings PLC down to the manufacturing line, re-distributing intelligent control and providing redundancy.
  • 15× space savings with 16 fewer diodes than the previous solution
  • Over 90% power efficiency when compared to its predecessor

The Pocket IO PLC reference design ($499) includes an attach board, IO-link protocol stack, cables, and a power supply. Free schematics, layout files, and firmware are available.

Source: Maxim Integrated 

Intelligent Displays from Riverdi and FTDI Chip (Sponsored)

Riverdi is a company that is solely concentrated on the development and creation of high quality TFT modules, utilising optimal parts from both the European and Asian markets. Collaborating with display manufacturers in China and Taiwan, the complete modules are then assembled in Europe. This allows Riverdi to offer high quality products that can be delivered quickly and still retain competitive pricing in comparison to its associate distributors. The company has invested in new technology from FTDI Chip with its Embedded Video Engine (EVE) series, the FT8xx range of graphics controller ICs, to power its wide range of intelligent TFT modules.FTDI Img

Display Offering

Riverdi offer a number of different display resolutions, providing the engineer with the ability to choose the right one for their project. The user is then able to choose add-ons to modify the functionality of their display as required. The table below provides the full information on the range available:
FTDI Riverdi Table

For each resolution, there are three options with regard to touch screen type. When an application is being created whereby the end user does not need to input any information, the best choice is the version without a touch screen, which makes the project more cost-efficient. In an environment where the end user would use gloves or requires a hard wearing solution (i.e., in an industrial environment) the best choice would be resistive touch. If the engineer is creating an application which requires multi touch (up to 5 points simultaneously) or the project has specific aesthetic demands, the capacitive touch panel should be selected. Riverdi offers a TFT module with PCT (Projected Capacitive Touch), which uses decorative glass in its default version, uxTouch. Additionally, there is an option to customize the cover glass even further when required.

The TFT module evades the need for complicated drivers by utilising the FT8xx graphics controller IC. All that is needed is the proper calibration to allow direct touch coordination from the IC chip register.

All Riverdi’s modules use a FFC 20-pin connector, and feature built-in LED inverters.  Communication is made possible via SPI / I²C interface for those utilising the first generation EVE (FT80x) and SPI/QSPI for the use of second generation EVE (FT81x). Input voltage levels of 3.3V make it possible to use the same FFC for supplying the power and communication to the module. The displays work in a wide temperature range – 20°C to 70°C – and have 70/50/70/70 vison angles. Fast and easy mounting to customers own housing is possible using just four screws.

Riverdi supply ready to use development platforms for utilizing in users own projects. A Hermes board creates the USB connection for the TFT module to work with a PC class controller. Based on FTDI Chip’s FT232HQ, USB can be converted to SPI for fast testing and prototyping applications, without the requirement of any additional hardware. Utilising an Arduino Shield means that a standard board will work directly with the TFT module, allowing the creation of applications in the Arduino IDE. For standalone microcontroller set up, the Riverdi Revelation Board based on the STM32F0 MCU can be used, allowing the engineer to create a project with an optimal structure directly on the ARM processor.FTDI Riverdi 2

Advantage of EVE Touch Controller ICs

The FT8xx series of display controllers are designed to offer access to high quality colour display solutions for a wide range of applications. The devices offer 3 functions – visual display creation (up to 800 x 600 pixel resolution), touch control (resistive or capacitive) and an audio output ideal for providing clicks and beeps in response to human interaction with the devices. As an SPI peripheral to a system MCU, the heavy processing tasks for creating a visual display or calculating a touch point is handled efficiently by the FT8xx, allowing Riverdi displays to be paired with a wide variety of embedded processors: ARM, PIC,  Arduino and many more.

The devices simplify construction of display data through the placing of objects on a display list including the most basic elements when conducting a list: what to draw, where to draw and the size and colour of each object. It is then processed by the FT8xx for driving the display line by line, with no frame grabbing required.  Additional algorithms such as alpha blending and anti-aliasing all help to improve the image quality, while the FT812 and FT813 variants found within the FT81x second generation EVE range offer true 24 bit colour depth.

As all items displayed are treated as individual objects, the FT8xx devices are also able to simplify coding of touch events by ensuring each object returns a unique ”tag” value if a touch point is detected within the area of the object. This simplifies an end users application code as there is no need to calculate whether a touched point is within a specific display area or not.

While the FT80x variants are best suited to menu style displays or simple animations, the FT81x variants enhance this capability by adding video playback and the ability to rotate a display, thus ensuring that the Riverdi solution will work well in both portrait or landscape designs.FTDI Riverdi Table2


Riverdi is among the first manufactures to take advantage of the ground breaking technologies found within the EVE display controller series, and is proud to have created the first complete module utilising the FT81x. By specializing in the creation of premium TFT modules, and providing high quality, ready to use solutions, the benefits of EVE technology from FTDI Chip is realised. Additionally, Riverdi is pleased to be able to strengthen its offering with a wide range of development tools to assist in the development of new project in the chosen IDE.

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About Riverdi

Riverdi is an innovative company which uses cutting-edge technologies to provide solutions which meet today’s end user demands. Within its first few years on the market, the company  developed its’s own process of TFT module production in Shenzhen and Poland, allowing for guaranteed high quality and cost efficiency.

All of Riverdi’s products use industrial grade materials and components, thus they can be used in both consumer and industrial projects. Riverdi guarantee that each and every product has been produced and shipped in line with its maintained quality procedures.

Riverdi keeps a permanent stock of basic products, and are thus able to offer a competitive delivery time of a few days as maximum. For more information please visit www.riverdi.com.

About FTDI Chip

FTDI Chip develops innovative silicon solutions that enhance interaction with today’s technology. To meet its ‘USB Solutions Specialist’ status, the company works to support engineers with highly sophisticated, feature-rich, robust and simple-to-use product platforms. These enable creation of electronic designs with higher performance, fewer peripheral components, lower power budgets and diminished board real estate.

FTDI Chip’s long-established, continuously expanding Universal Serial Bus (USB) product line boasts such universally recognised product brands as the ubiquitous R-Chip, X-Chip, Vinculum and H Series.

FTDI Chip is a fab-less semiconductor company partnered with the world’s leading foundries. The company is headquartered in Glasgow, UK with research and development facilities located in Glasgow, Singapore and Taipei (Taiwan) plus regional sales and technical support sites in Glasgow, Taipei, Portland (Oregon, USA) and Shanghair (China).For more information please visit www.ftdichip.com.

Fully Integrated DDR Memory Power Solution

Texas Instruments recently launched a fully integrated power management solution for double date rate DDR2, DDR3, and DDR3L memory subsystems. Intended for use in automotive (e.g., infotainment and driver assistance systems) and industrial (e.g., measurement and automation) applications, the TPS54116-Q1 DC/DC buck converter is a 2.95-to 6-V input, 4-A synchronous step-down converter with a 1-A peak sink/source DDR termination and buffered reference. TPS54116-Q1 Press Photo

Used with WEBENCH online design tools, the TPS54116-Q1 buck converter simplifies power conversion and speeds up the power-supply design process. It provides up to 2.5-MHz switching frequency and minimizes solution size by integrating the MOSFETs and reducing inductor size. The switching frequency can be set above the medium-wave radio band for noise-sensitive applications. Furthermore, it is synchronizable to an external clock.

The converter is packaged in a thermally enhanced 24-pin, 4 mm × 4 mm × 0.75 mm very thin quad flat no-lead (WQFN) package. It costs $2.50 in 1,000-unit quantities.

Source: Texas Instruments

Silicon Labs Acquires Micrium

Silicon Labs recently announced its acquisition of of Micrium, an RTOS software supplier. The strategic acquisition it intended to strengthen Silicon Labs’s position in the IoT market.

The following statement from Daniel Cooley, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Silicon Labs’s IoT products, was presented in a release:

IoT products are increasingly defined by software. Explosive growth of memory/processor capabilities in low-end embedded products is driving a greater need for RTOS software in connected device applications… The acquisition of Micrium means that connected device makers will have easier access to a proven embedded RTOS geared toward multiprotocol silicon, software and solutions from Silicon Labs.

Source: Silicon Labs

RMS Power Detector Offers High Accuracy Measurement

Linear Technology recently introduced the LTC5596, which is a high-frequency, wideband RMS power detector that provides accurate power measurement of RF and microwave signals independent of modulation and waveforms. It responds in an easy-to-use log-linear 29 mV/dB scale to signal levels from –37 to –2 dBm with accuracy better than ±1 dB error over the full operating temperature range and RF frequency range from 200 MHz to an unprecedented 30 GHz.Linear LTC5596

The LTC5596’s features and specs:

  • An extraordinarily wide bandwidth enables the detector to work seamlessly across multiple frequency bands using a common design with minimum calibration.
  • Operates from a single 3.3-V supply, drawing a nominal supply current of 30 mA.
  • Built-in improved ESD protection.
  • Two temperature grades: an I grade is designed for operation from –40° to 105°C case. A high-temperature H-grade has rated temperature from –40° to 125°C case.
  • Both temperature versions are available in a 2 mm × 2 mm plastic eight-lead DFN package.

The LTC5596 I-grade starts at $12.50 each in 1,000-piece quantities. The H-grade starts at $16.95 each. Both versions are available in production quantities.

Source: Linear Technology

October Code Challenge (Sponsor: Programming Research)

Ready to put your programming skills to the test? Take the new Electrical Engineering Challenge (sponsored by Programming Research). Find the error in the code for a shot to win prizes, such as an Amazon Gift Card, a Circuit Cellar magazine digital subscription, or a discount to the Circuit Cellar webshop.

The following program will compile with no errors. It runs and completes with no errors.

Click to enlarge. Find the error and submit your answer via the online submission form below. Submission deadline: 2 PM EST, October 20.

Take the challenge now!

Flowcode 7: Simplifying Microcontroller Programming (Sponsor: Matrix)

These days the most commonly used device in electronic systems is the microcontroller: it is hard to find a piece of electronics without one, and you use thousands of them a day. In this article, John Dobson, managing director at Matrix TSL, introduces Flowcode 7 and explains how you can use it for your next microcontroller-based design. Download the free article.

Click to download the article

Click to download the article

The Future of Biomedical Signal Analysis Technology

Biomedical signals obtained from the human body can be beneficial in a variety of scenarios in a healthcare setting. For example, physicians can use the noninvasive sensing, recording, and processing of a heart’s electrical activity in the form of electrocardiograms (ECGs) to help make informed decisions about a patient’s cardiovascular health. A typical biomedical signal acquisition system will consist of sensors, preamplifiers, filters, analog-to-digital conversion, processing and analysis using computers, and the visual display of the outputs. Given the digital nature of these signals, intelligent methods and computer algorithms can be developed for analysis of the signals. Such processing and analysis of signals might involve the removal of instrumentation noise, power line interference, and any artifacts that act as interference to the signal of interest. The analysis can be further enhanced into a computer-aided decision-making tool by incorporating digital signal processing methods and algorithms for feature extraction and pattern analysis. In many cases, the pattern analysis module is developed to reveal hidden parameters of clinical interest, and thereby improve the diagnostic and monitoring of clinical events.Figure1

The methods used for biomedical signal processing can be categorized into five generations. In the first generation, the techniques developed in the 1970s and 1980s were based on time-domain approaches for event analysis (e.g., using time-domain correlation approaches to detect arrhythmic events from ECGs). In the second generation, with the implementation of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) technique, many spectral domain approaches were developed to get a better representation of the biomedical signals for analysis. For example, the coherence analysis of the spectra of brain waves also known as electroencephalogram (EEG) signals have provided an enhanced understanding of certain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy. During the 1980s and 1990s, the third generation of techniques was developed to handle the time-varying dynamical behavior of biomedical signals (e.g., the characteristics of polysomnographic (PSG) signals recorded during sleep possess time-varying properties reflecting the subject’s different sleep stages). In these cases, Fourier-based techniques cannot be optimally used because by definition Fourier provides only the spectral information and doesn’t provide a time-varying representation of signals. Therefore, the third-generation algorithms were developed to process the biomedical signals to provide a time-varying representation, and   clinical events can be temporally localized for many practical applications.

This essay appears in Circuit Cellar 315, October 2016. Subscribe to Circuit Cellar to read project articles, essays, interviews, and tutorials every month!

These algorithms were essentially developed for speech signals for telecommunications applications, and they were adapted and modified for biomedical applications. The nearby figure illustrates an example of knee vibration signal obtained from two different knee joints, their spectra, and joint time-frequency representations. With the advancement in computing technologies, for the past 15 years, many algorithms have been developed for machine learning and building intelligent systems. Therefore, the fourth generation of biomedical signal analysis involved the automatic quantification, classification, and recognition of time-varying biomedical signals by using advanced signal-processing concepts from time-frequency theory, neural networks, and nonlinear theory.

During the last five years, we’ve witnessed advancements in sensor technologies, wireless technologies, and material science. The development of wearable and ingestible electronic sensors mark the fifth generation of biomedical signal analysis. And as the Internet of Things (IoT) framework develops further, new opportunities will open up in the healthcare domain. For instance, the continuous and long-term monitoring of biomedical signals will soon become a reality. In addition, Internet-connected health applications will impact healthcare delivery in many positive ways. For example, it will become increasingly effective and advantageous to monitor elderly and chronically ill patients in their homes rather than hospitals.

These technological innovations will provide great opportunities for engineers to design devices from a systems perspective by taking into account patient safety, low power requirements, interoperability, and performance requirements. It will also provide computer and data scientists with a huge amount of data with variable characteristics.

The future of biomedical signal analysis looks very promising. We can expect  innovative healthcare solutions that will improve everyone’s quality of life.

Sridhar (Sri) Krishnan earned a BE degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering at Anna University in Madras, India. He earned MSc and PhD degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Sri is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he holds the Canada Research Chair position in Biomedical Signal Analysis. Since July 2011, Sri has been an Associate Dean (Research and Development) for the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science. He is also the Founding Co-Director of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBEST). He is an Affiliate Scientist at the Keenan Research Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

SuperFET III Family of 650-V N-channel MOSFETs

Fairchild Semiconductor recently introduced the SuperFET III family of 650-V N-channel MOSFETs, which are well suited for telecom equipment, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, solar products, and more. The SuperFET III MOSFET family combines reliability, low EMI, high efficiency, and superior thermal performance. Furthermore, its various package options give you greater flexibility when dealing with space-constrained designs.

The SuperFET III has the lowest Rdson in any easy drive version of a Super Junction MOSFET. It is has 3× better single pulse Avalanche Energy (EAS) performance than its closest competitor. Such advantages make it useful for industrial applications such as solar inverters and EV chargers.

The SuperFET III MOSFET family is now available in multiple package and parametric options.

Source: Fairchild Semiconductor

40-VIN, 2.1-A Rail-to-Rail LDO+ Available in High-Temperature, 150°C H-Grade in TSSOP Package

Linear Technology Corp. recently unveiled a new higher temperature “H-grade” version of the LT3086 in the TSSOP package. The 40-V, 2.1-A low dropout linear regulator (LDO) includes current monitoring with externally settable current limit and temperature monitoring with external control of thermal limit temperature. It comprises a programmable power good status flag, cable drop compensation, and easy paralleling. The current reference provides regulation independent of output voltage.LTC3086 image


The LT3086’s features and specifications include:

  • –40°C to 150°C (H-Grade TSSOP Only) Operating Junction Temperature Range
  • 1.4 to 40 V Input Voltage Range
  • One Resistor Sets Output Voltage: 0.4 to 32 V
  • Output Current: 2.1 A
  • ±2% Tolerance Over Line, Load and Temperature
  • Output Current Monitor: IMON = IOUT/1000
  • Temperature Monitor with Programmable Thermal Limit
  • Programmable Current Limit
  • Programmable Cable Drop Compensation
  • Parallel Multiple Devices for Higher Current
  • Dropout Voltage: 330 mV
  • One Capacitor Soft-Starts Output and Decreases Noise
  • Low Output Noise: 40 μVRMS (10 Hz to 100 kHz)
  • Precision, Programmable External Current Limit
  • Power Good Flag with Programmable Threshold
  • Ceramic Output Capacitors: 10 μF Minimum
  • Quiescent Current in Shutdown: less than 1 μA
  • Reverse-Battery, Reverse-Current Protection
  • Available in 4 mm × 5 mm 16-Lead DFN, 16-Lead TSSOP, Seven-Lead DD-PAK and Seven-Lead TO-220 Packages

Source: Linear Technology

Isolated FET Driver for Industrial Relay Replacement Applications

Silicon Labs recently introduced a new CMOS-based isolated field effect transistor (FET) driver family for industrial and automotive applications. The family enables you to use your preferred application-specific, high-volume FETs to replace old electromechanical relays (EMRs) and optocoupler-based, solid-state relays (SSRs).Si875x Silicon Labs

The new Si875x family features the industry’s first isolated FET drivers designed to transfer power across an integrated CMOS isolation barrier. When paired with a discrete FET, the Si875x drivers provide a superb EMR/SSR replacement solution for motor and valve controllers, HVAC relays, battery monitoring, and a variety of other applications.

The Si875x isolated FET driver family’s features and specs:

  • Industry’s first CMOS isolation-based SSR solution, supporting application-specific FETs
  • Best-in-class noise immunity, high reliability and 2.5 kVRMS isolation rating
  • Long lifetimes under high-voltage conditions (100 years at 1000 V)
  • Efficient switching: 10.3 V at the gate with only 1 mA of input current
  • Wide input voltage of 2.25 to 5.5 V enables power savings
  • Unique pin feature optimizes power consumption/switching time trade-off
  • Miller clamping prevents unintended turn on of external FET
  • Small SOIC-8 package integrates isolation and power capacitors for low-power applications
  • AEC-Q100-qualified automotive-grade device options

The Si875x devices come in a small SOIC-8 package. They are available in both industrial (–40°C to 105°C) or automotive (–40°C to 125°C) ambient temperature operating range options. Pricing in 10,000-unit quantities begins at $0.96 for industrial versions and $1.20 for automotive temperature options.

Evaluation kits are available. The Si8751-KIT (digital input) and Si8752-KIT (LED emulator input) evaluation kits cost $39.99 each.

Source: Silicon Labs

ON Semiconductor Acquires Fairchild Semiconductor

ON Semiconductor recently acquired Fairchild Semiconductor for $2.4 billion. Fairchild develops semiconductor solutions for mobile and power designs.

“The acquisition of Fairchild is a transformative step in our quest to become the premier supplier of power management and analog semiconductor solutions for a wide range of applications and end-markets,” said Keith Jackson, president and CEO of ON Semiconductor, in a press statement. “Fairchild provides us a plat-form to aggressively expand our profitability in a highly fragmented industry. With the addition of Fairchild, our industry leading cost structure has further improved in a significant manner and we are now well positioned to generate substantial shareholder value as we integrate operations of the two companies.”

Source: ON Semiconductor

Boldport Club: Behind the Scenes

We first met London-based engineer Saar Drimer in December 2015. At that time, his was running Boldport—a hardware and prototyping consultancy that specializes in circuit boards—from a workspace was in one of the characteristic arches underneath London Bridge Station. A lot has changed since then. Today, Drimer has a new workspace and he is running Boldport Club, which is a monthly electronics hardware subscription service. We recently met up with him to discuss his work and newest endeavors.

“The big change is the club I started early this year,” Drimer explained. “I posted my initial ideas online and the response was very promising, around 170 members signed up in the first month.”

Ultra-Compact Bluetooth 4.2 + NFC Module

Rigado’s new BMD-350 Bluetooth 4.2 + NFC module is intended for use in Internet of Things (IoT) applications. With  8.6 × 6.4 × 1.5 mm footprint and based on the Nordic Semiconductors nRF52 series SoC, the BMD-350 gives IoT innovators a “plug-and-play” connectivity solution perfectly suited for high-performance, low-power wearables and portable devices. The Nordic Semiconductors nRF52 series brings on-chip NFC capability for new modes in IoT pairing. Both the BMD-350 and the BMD-350 evaluation kit are now available.

Source: Rigado

IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM Supports IoT-Targeted MCUs

IAR Systems recently announced that IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM now supports microcontrollers based on ARM Cortex-M3/M4 and ARM Cortex-A15 that are targeted for connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT).

IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM is a complete C/C++ compiler and debugger toolchain for developing embedded applications. The toolchain generates efficient code, which makes it well suited for developing energy-efficient, time-critical IoT applications.

Because the IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM toolchain is continuously updated with new microcontroller support, you are free from having to consider the choice of software in your selection of a microcontroller. Instead of using different tools for different microcontrollers, you can use the same toolchain from start to finish. IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM is available in several versions, including a product package for the ARM Cortex-M core family.

Source: IAR Systems