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

Electrical Engineering Crossword (Issue 308)

The answers to Circuit Cellar’s March 2016 electrical engineering crossword puzzle are now available.

Across

  1. PEERTOPEER—P2P
  2. MICROMETER—Device for measuring a small object’s thickness
  3. TRACE—Conductive line
  4. VHF—Between 30 and 300 MHz
  5. TERA—10 to the 12
  6. APERIODIC—Irregular
  7. ATARI—Company Bushnell founded in 1972
  8. SHORT—Messaging service
  9. NODE—Circuit junction
  10. GENERATOR—Electromechanical transducing device that uses rotational energy to produce electricity

Down

  1. PISO—74HC166
  2. BOM—List of sources
  3. SOCKET—ZIF
  4. RECTIFIER—Passes current one way
  5. DECIBEL—The smallest perceptible volume change to the average person
  6. NONVOLATILE—Stores data without an external power source
  7. FLOWRATE—Fluid velocity
  8. NTSC—Analog TV
  9. DELTA—Temperature difference
  10. PERIOD—“T” in T = 1/f

Temperature Logger for Long Duration Sessions

Maxim’s new DS1925 iButton data logger makes it possible to monitor cold chain and other temperature-sensitive products or processes for longer duration sessions. Temperature-sensitive products and processes can be damaged when exposed to overly high or low temperatures. The DS1925 provides longer monitoring sessions due to its 122 KB data log memory. In addition, it offers high accuracy over a wide temperature range and measures battery life. It also retains measurements even if the battery life ends before the logger is replaced.Maxim DS1925 iButton

The DS1925’s advantages and characteristics:

  • Largest storage capacity: 122-KB data log memory (compared to 16 KB)
  • Better accuracy over widest temperature range: ±0.5°C over –40°C to 85°C
  • Stainless steel enclosure
  • Small size (17.35 mm × 5.89 mm)

Evaluation kits are now available with hardware, software, host system source code, accessory products, and system solution references. Pricing starts at $45.25 in quantities of 1,000 or more.

Source: Maxim Integrated

Compact COM Express Module with Intel Celeron N3xxx Processors

WIN Enterprises recently launched the compact MB-73450 COM Express module with Type 6 pinouts. The module supports a variety of dual- and quad-core SoC processors, including Intel Celeron and Pentium N3000 product families (4–10 W). In addition the unit supports the cost-efficient Intel Atom quad-core x5-E8000. Turbo-boost frequencies range from 2 up to 2.56 GHz across the various processor options for MB-73450.WinEnt MB-73450

Notable features and characteristics:

  • Supports Intel Celeron N3x processor family
  • Up to 8-GB non-ECC dual-channel DDR3L
  • Two DDI channels, one LVDS, up to three independent displays
  • GbE, 2× SATA 6 Gbps, 4× USB 3.0 and 8× USB 2.0
  • Five PCIe ×1 (Gen2)
  • Supports TPM 1.2/2.0
  • Wide-range voltage input 8.5 to 20 V
  • Wide range operating temperature: –40°C to 85°C (optional)
  • A maximum of up to 8-GB DDR3L memory.

The MB-73450 processor options featured robust turbo burst frequencies for IoT applications where processors must serve functions incremental to their primary application function, such as encryption/deencryption and virus protection. MB-73450 supports Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for more secure communications.

Source: WIN Enterprises

Complete USB Type-C Reference Design

Silicon Labs recently announced a complete USB reference design for developing cables and cable adapters based on the USB Type-C specification. The USB Type-C reference design features EFM8 microcontrollers, USB Power Delivery (PD) protocol stacks certified by the USB-IF, and USB Billboard Device source code.Silicon Labs USB CDue to the rapid adoption of USB Type-C (USB-C), demand is increasing for dongles and adapters to connect with legacy and existing products. The Silicon Labs reference design provides a complete solution for a USB Type-C to DisplayPort (DP) adapter, making it easy to communicate with legacy products.

 

Qualified developers can access the reference design for free. In addition to schematics, it includes software libraries and stacks, source code, code examples, and access to Simplicity Studio development tools.

Silicon Labs USB Type-C solution highlights:

  • Comprehensive hardware/software reference design based on ultra-low-power EFM8 8-bit microcontrollers
  • Complete software solution, including a USB PD stack library, billboard device source code, and sample code for USB-C to DP applications available in Simplicity Studio library format
  • USB-IF certified USB Power Delivery silicon
  • Complete reference design solution for USB Type-C to DisplayPort adapters
  • Support for USB-C video adapter dongle and USB PD controller functions including attach/detach detection, power contract negotiation, and Alternate mode detection/selection
  • Billboard device support communicating Alternate Mode failure to host

The Silicon Labs USB Type-C reference design deliverables (schematics, PD stack library, billboard device source code and sample code) are available to qualified developers for free.

Source: Silicon Labs

June Engineering Challenge: Find the Schematic Error

 

Find the error.

Find the error in this  schematic. Submit your answer via the online form by the 20th of the month.

The June Electrical Engineering Challenge (sponsored by Technologic Systems) is now live! Review the schematic on the challenge webpage and find the error for a chance to win prizes, such as a TS-7250-V2 High-Performance Embedded Computer or a Circuit Cellar Digital Subscription.

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER

Circuit Cellar’s technical editors purposely inserted an error in the schematic diagram. It could be a design error, symbol-related error, value error (e.g., 10k vs 100k), incorrect part usage, or some other problem that negatively affects the electronics. Find the error and submit your answer via the online form by the deadline (2 PM EST on the 20th of the month).

TS7250-V2

TS7250-V2

Circuit Cellar will randomly select winners from the pool of respondents who submit the correct answer. For more information, read the Rules, Terms, & Conditions.

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