Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at email@example.com, @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar
The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently announced the availability of the Raspberry Pi 3, which is a $35 credit card-sized computer that is about 50% faster than the Raspberry Pi 2 and has around 10× the performance capabilities of the Raspberry Pi 1.
The Raspberry Pi 3’s specs and features include:
1.2-GHz BCM2837 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
Integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1
USB power supply
Four USB ports
40 GPIO pins
3.5 mm audio jack
Camera interface (CSI) and display interface (DSI)
Push-pull Micro SD card slot
VideoCore IV 3-D graphics core
Support for Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity
Dialog Semiconductor now offers a small, low-power 12 Degrees-of-Freedom (DOF) wireless smart sensor development kit for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, such as wearables, virtual reality, 3-D indoor mapping, and navigation. The DA14583 SmartBond Bluetooth Smart SoC is combined with Bosch Sensortec’s gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and environmental sensors. A 16 mm × 15 mm PCB is supplied as a dongle in a plastic housing. Current consumption is only 1.3 mA (typical) when streaming sensor data; it’s less than 110 µA in advertising mode and under 11 µA in power-save mode.
The complementary software development kit (SDK) includes Dialog’s SmartFusion smart sensor library for data acquisition, auto-calibration, and sensor data fusion. It runs on the DA14583’s embedded Cortex M0 processor. The DA14583 has an ARM Cortex-M0 baseband processor with an integrated ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart radio. The development kit includes the following Bosch sensors: a BMI160 six-axis inertial measurement unit, a BMM150 three-axis geomagnetic field sensor, and a BME280 integrated environmental unit, which measures pressure, temperature, and humidity.
Advances in wireless technologies are driving innovation in virtually every industry, from automobiles to consumer electronics. We recently asked 10 engineers to prognosticate on the future of wireless technology. Eileen Liu, a software engineer at Lockheed Martin, writes:
Wireless technology has become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives. It has become commonplace to look up information on smartphones via invisible networks and to connect to peripheral devices using Bluetooth connections. So what should we expect to see next in the world of wireless technology? One of the major things to keep an eye on is the effort for a global Internet network. Facebook and Google are potentially collaborating, working on drones and high-altitude helium balloons with router-like payloads. These solar-powered payloads make a radio link to a telecommunications network on Earth’s surface and broadcast Internet coverage downwards. Elon Musk and Greg Wyler are both working on a different approach, using flotillas of low-orbiting satellites. With such efforts, high-speed Internet access could become possible for the most remote locations on Earth, bringing access to the 60% of the world’s population that currently do not have access. Another technology to look out for is wireless power transfer. This technology allows multiple devices to charge simultaneously without a tether and without a dependency on directionality. Recent developments have mostly been in the realm of mobile phones and laptops, but this could expand to other electronic devices and automobiles that depend on batteries. A third technology to look out for is car-to-car communications. Several companies have been developing autonomous cars, using sensor systems to detect road conditions and surrounding vehicles. These sensors have shown promise, but have limited range and field-of-view and can easily be obstructed. Car-to-car communications allow vehicles to broadcast position, speed, steering-wheel position, and other data to surrounding vehicles with a range of several hundred meters. By networking cars together wirelessly, we could be one step closer to safe autonomous driving. — Eileen Liu, United States (Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin)
Microstar Laboratories recently released version 3.00 of the Accel32 for Linux software. The software compiles a Loadable Kernel Module (LKM) for the GNU/Linux system, extending capabilities for control of the Data Acquisition Processor (DAP) boards to systems using GNU/Linux operating systems with kernel versions in the 4.xx series.
Real-time acquisition on generic platforms: Accel32 for Linux v.3.0 supports GNU/Linux 4.xx kernels. Penguin: Julien Tromeur/Shutterstock.com
Accel32 for Linux is offered under the BSD license for free download. DAP boards provide an Intel x86-family embedded processor to support operation of the embedded DAPL 2000 system and data acquisition hardware devices. The DAPL 2000 system is part of the DAPtools software, which Microstar Laboratories provides for free for operating the DAP boards. The DAPL 2000 system provides the configuration scripting and the multitasking real-time control of data acquisition hardware devices. A host system must provide PCI or PCI-X (extended) I/O bus slots to host the DAP boards. This software runs under 32-bit versions of the GNU/Linux system, which you can install on 32- or 64-bit hardware platforms.
Intersil Corp. recently expanded its suite of radiation-tolerant multiplexers with two new, single-supply, 5-V devices—the 16-channel ISL71830SEH and 32-channel ISL71831SEH. The new multiplexers provide data acquisition systems quality ESD protection and signal processing performance. In addition, the 5-V multiplexers also offer faster propagation delays, which improve signal processing response time. The enhanced 5-kV ESD protection feature makes it unnecessary to use costly external protection diodes on the input pins. In addition, both multiplexers have reduced RON of 120 Ω and propagation delays of less than 100 ns to increase the overall performance and accuracy of telemetry signals processed and multiplexed into an analog-to-digital converter’s (ADC) input.
Features and specifications:
3 to 5.5 V single supply operation with adjustable logic threshold control
Delivers 5-kV human body model ESD protection
Rail-to-rail switch input provides wide dynamic range for extra design flexibility
Over-voltage shutoff protects upstream/downstream devices when a switch goes 1 to 2 V past the rails
Cold sparing and analog overvoltage range from –0.4 to 7 V
Switch input off leakage of 120 nA and low RON of 120 Ω reduces power consumption, and improves signal integrity
Single event transient (SET) performance of 10 µs maximum transient duration and 75 mV maximum transient magnitude at 60 MeV.cm2/mg and at 5.5 V supplies eliminates the need for output filtering to achieve optimal performance
Low dose rate (0.01 rad(Si)/s) radiation tolerance of 75 krad(Si)
WIN Enterprises recently launched the MB-73430 COM Express module, which features Type 6 pin-outs and supports Intel’s 6th Generation Core i7/i5/i3 SoC processors. Intended for systems designed for future upgrades, the COM Express modules are well suited for medical, industrial automation, and gaming applications. The MB-73434 offers up to 32-GB dual-channel DDR4 memory. In addition, it enables a variety of voltage inputs for mobile, embedded, counter top, and desktop environments.
The MB-73434 delivers enhanced HD graphics. Featuring three DDI channels and a LVDS, it supports up to three independent displays and Intel Gen9 HD Graphics with HEVC (H.265). It can be used for high-density streaming applications and optimized 4K video conferencing with HEVC (8-bit), VP8, VP9, and VDENC encoding, decoding, and transcoding.
Exclusive for Circuit Cellar readers: $50 off when you buy two Vyper single-channel motor controllers. Normally $500, get a pair for only $450 – a 10% discount! Contact Chris at Robot Power and mention the Circuit Cellar offer. This offer expires March 31, 2016.
The Robot Power Vyper is a powerful compact single channel motor control. Featuring low-resistance MOSFETs and up to 42 V operating voltage, the Vyper can handle 120 A of continuous current with peaks over 250 A. The Vyper features RC servo and voltage/pot inputs for flexible control. Unlike most competing units the Vyper is safe to use with bench power supplies and will not over discharge Lithium batteries.
The MegaMoto line of motor controllers for Arduino stack neatly on top of an Arduino Uno, Mega or compatible to provide high current motor control to the Arduino developer. The MegaMoto family consists of three units with current capacity ranging from 12 A to 65 A peak and a 28-V operating maximum. The MegaMoto and MegaMoto Plus allow up to three units to be stacked on a single Arduino Uno while the MegaMoto GT offers 35 A continuous current capability and includes a cooling fan.
Robot Power products allow you to control motors much larger than the “toy”-sized motors driven by most hobby and educational controllers. We allow you to complete “human scale” projects for transportation, robotics and whatever you can dream up. The Vyper controller was used by many of the competitors (including the champion) in the 2015 ABC TV show BattleBots. We also offer consulting services to customize the exact motor driver you need to complete your project or product. Give us a call or email to discuss your latest world changing invention. All Robot Power motor controls are proudly made in the USA.
Each day, wireless technology becomes more pervasive as new electronics systems hit the market and connect to the Internet. We recently asked 10 engineers to prognosticate on the future of wireless technology. Penn State Professor Chris Coulston writes:
With the Internet of Things still the big thing, we should expect exciting developments in embedded wireless in 2016 and beyond. Incremental advances in speed and power consumption will allow manufactures to brag about having the latest and greatest chip. However, all this potential is lost unless you can deploy it easily. The Futurelec FT-232 serial-to-USB bridge is a success because it trades off some of the functionality of a complex protocol for a more familiar, less burdensome, protocol. The demand for simplified protocols should drive manufacturers to develop solutions making complex protocols more accessible. Cutting the cord means different things to different people. While Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has allowed a wide swath of gadgets to go wireless, these devices still require the presence of some intermediary (like a smart phone) to manage data transfer to the cloud. Expect to see the development of intermediate technologies enabling BLE to “cut the cord” to smart phones. Security of wireless communication will continue to be an important element of any conversation involving new wireless technology. Fortunately, the theoretical tools need to secure communication are well understood. Expect to see these tools trickle down as standard subsystems in embedded processors. The automotive industry is set to transform itself with self-driving cars. This revolution in transportation must be accompanied by wireless technologies allowing our cars to talk to our devices, each other and perhaps the roadways. This is an area that is ripe for some surprising and exciting developments enabling developers to innovate in this new domain. We live in interesting times with embedded systems playing a large role in consumer and industrial systems. With better and more accessible technology in your grasp, I hope that you have great and innovative 2016! — Chris Coulston, United States (Associate Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Penn State Erie)
Silicon Labs recently launched a family of isolated gate drivers that solves a critical need for modern power supply designs. Offering high noise immunity, the Si827x ISOdriver family is intended for power supplies, solar power inverters, chargers for electric vehicles, and more.
The Si827x family offers single- and dual-isolated drivers with either two independent input controls or a single input for power converter applications. The drivers operate from 2.5 to 5.5 V input VDD and a maximum drive supply voltage of 30 V. The lower VDDI voltage capability of 2.5 V enables you to design systems with a low-voltage power supply that consumes less power and is compatible with low-power microcontrollers.
Operate down to 2.5 V VDD to reduce power consumption
30 ns delay with 10× shorter propagation delay and 20× lower skew than competing gate drivers
EN pin (instead of DIS pin)
Accurate timing including dead-time control to maximize system efficiency and safety
Stable operation over a long lifetime (up to 60 years or 10× longer than opto-based solutions)
Samples and production quantities of the Si827x isolated gate drivers are available in narrow-body SOIC and compact 5 mm × 5 mm LGA packages. Si827x family pricing in 10,000-unit quantities starts at $1.19. Evaluation kits ($29) are also available: Si8273ISO-KIT, Si8274ISO-KIT, and Si8275ISO-KIT.
With Maxim’s MAX14853/MAX14855 and MAX14943/MAX14949 highly integrated RS-485 transceivers, engineers can easily design efficient industrial automation equipment, programmable logic controllers, HVAC, and power meter applications. The integration of the transceivers with transformer drivers and an LDO regulator simplifies power- and data-isolated designs. The MAX14943 isolated RS-485/PROFIBUS DP transceiver and the MAX14949 transceiver offer up to 80% efficiency at 150 mA load. Available in full- or half-duplex isolated RS-485 transceivers, the family supports up to 5 kVRMS and allows for robust communication up to 25 Mbps.
The transceivers are available in a 16-pin W-SOIC package (11 mm × 11 mm). They are specified over the –40°C to 105°C temperature range. Evaluation kits are currently available:
For many young innovators, getting a blinking LED on a Arduino is the ultimate success. For others that is clearly not enough. Take Henrik Forsten, a graduate student studying electrical engineering in Espoo, Finland. He is pushing himself to do some hard stuff by making his own radars and doing experiments on circuit design with evolutionary algorithms. Now we are talking!
Keysight Technologies now offers a variety of different software control options for its B2900A Series Precision Source/Measure Units (SMUs). With the low-cost or free software options, you can access a variety of capabilities to support basic voltage and current sourcing up through full characterization of devices and materials using an intuitive GUI.
With a B2900A software control option, useyou don’t need to create a software measurement environment. This reduces development and evaluation times, making the B2900A SMUs well suited university educators, circuit designers, and R&D engineers.
The software control options for the B2900A SMUs include:
EasyEXPERT group+, which provides powerful IV parametric characterization for a wide range of devices and materials. The software is currently utilized in Keysight’s high-end precision current-voltage analyzer products (e.g., the B1500A, B1505A and E5270B/E526xA).
BenchVue, which enables benchtop integration of B2900A SMUs (as voltage/current sources) with a wide variety of other Keysight instruments, such as oscilloscopes and meters.
B2900A Quick I/V Measurement software, which permits easy measurement setup and execution on a Windows-based PC via a user-friendly GUI. This control option supports all B2900 precision instrument family products, including SMUs, low-noise sources and electrometers, and works on multiple interfaces (LAN, USB and GPIB).
Graphical Web Interface, which allows any Java-enabled web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) to control B2900A SMUs over the LAN. Because special software is not required, this control option enables quick measurements on the fly.
The new control options for the B2900A SMUs are now available. The basic one-channel precision SMU model for the benchtop (B2901A) starts at $5,000.
STMicroelectronics recently announced volume production of its ultra-energy-efficient ARM Cortex-M0+ STM32L0 microcontrollers, which are well suited for applications including wearables, medical monitors, industrial sensors, and smart-living devices. Three new product lines are:
STM32L0x1 Access Line
STM32L0x2 USB Line with crystal-less USB2.0 Full Speed
HMI-ready STM32L0x3 USB/LCD Line
The memory densities range from 8- to 192-KB flash memory, up to 20-KB SRAM, and up to 6-KB true EEPROM. The devices’ energy-saving features include:
Low-power ADC that draws only 41 µA at 12-bit resolution and 10 kilosamples per second
Energy-saving modes including 340-nA Stop with full RAM retention and auto wake-up
Low-power pulse counter (16-bit timer) that remains available in ultra-low power mode
3.5-µs wake-up from Stop
An interconnect matrix allows data handling to continue while the CPU is idle
Software development is supported by STM32CubeMX and the STM32CubeL0 middleware and firmware suite. The former’s initialization code generator and MCU configurator has easy-to-use wizards, including a power-consumption calculator. STM32CubeL0 includes a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) that simplifies porting to other devices within the pin- and code-compatible STM32 family. STM32Snippets provides optimized code samples. STM32Cube provides over 200 free code examples. All STM32Cube tools are available free of charge, as are the ST-Link debugger and the DfuSe and Flash Loader tools that simplify using and testing the ROM bootloader.
Pricing for the STM32L0 series starts at $0.37 for the STM32L011 with 8-KB flash memory, 2-KB SRAM, and 512 bytes of true EEPROM for high-volume orders.
Toradex recently announced the availability of a technical preview of the Windows 10 IoT Core on an ARM-based System on Module (SOM). The technical preview enables embedded developers to evaluate the new features of Windows 10 IoT Core on an industrial-grade embedded computing platform. According to Toradex, a starter kit—available for a limited time at a promotional price—is available with a Colibri T30 SOM and Iris carrier board with required accessories.
The technical preview is based on Colibri T30 powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 ARM Cortex-A9 Quad Core embedded processor. Part of the Azure IoT Certified Program, the Colibri T30 supports accelerated DirectX graphics and provides low-level hardware access.
Although the technical preview’s has a limited number of features, Toradex announced that it intends to gather customer feedback and later extend features and add Windows 10 IoT Core support for its other ARM-based SOMs.
To decrease thermal deszsign time for design engineers, Laird recently improved the AZTEC thermoelectric module (TEM) simulation program algorithms. The AZTEC product selection tool enables you to specify input variables based on application attributes and the software analysis outputs. Now you can select the best TEM by easily comparing TEM datasheets. In addition, the software includes an analysis worksheet for simulating TEM device functionality.
The AZTEC product selection tool—which is available at Lairdtech.com—uses a variety of input variables (i.e., heat load, ambient and control temperatures, input voltage requirement and thermal resistance of hot side heat exchangers) to recommend appropriate TEMs to meet your application’s needs. Laird updated the software with its newest TEM product offerings.
The Analysis Worksheet Tool simulates expected thermoelectric output parameters based on a given set of thermal and electrical operating points. The included output parameters are:
the hot and cold side temperatures of the TEM
heat pumped at the cold surface of the TEM
coefficient of performance (COP)
input power requirements
The total hot side heat dissipation is also calculated.
The included Qc Estimating Worksheet calculates an estimate on the heat load for device (spot) or chamber (volume) cooling applications. Computations are made based on the input (e.g., temperature requirements, volumetric dimensions, insulation thickness, material properties, and active heat load) you provide.