Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar
A next-generation sequential linear LED driver for offline lighting applications is now available from Microchip Technology. The CL88020, an extension of Microchip’s CL88XX family, is designed to drive a long string of low-cost LEDs directly from the 120 VAC line input. The product allows customers to create reliable, cost-effective and compact LED lighting applications by having High Power Factor (PF) without the need for switch-mode power conversion which is typically required for LED lighting design.
The CL88020 was designed to minimize driver circuit component count to allow for a very small and efficient design. The simple design allows for a single-layered Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design. Unlike the conventional AC-DC switch mode power supply, the basic driver circuit consists of the CL88020 IC, two small ceramic capacitors and a bridge rectifier only. High-voltage capacitors, transformer or inductors, electromagnetic interference (EMI) filters or Power Factor Correction (PFC) circuitry are not required. This allows for a smaller solution size and a lower overall bill of material (BOM) cost as compared to traditional LED solutions.
A new-generation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) System-on-Chip from STMicroelectronics is aimed at accelerating the spread of connected smart objects throughout homes, shopping areas, industry, toys and gaming, personal healthcare and infrastructure. ST sees important opportunities for BLE-connected applications that are simple, functionally focused, and can operate on a button cell for months or years. The new BlueNRG-2 chip meets all these needs with its extremely power-efficient programmable processor and low-power features including an ultra-frugal standby mode.
The high RF signal strength saves system power by ensuring reliable wireless communication, and generous on-chip memory for BLE software and application code simplifies system design by saving external memory components. BlueNRG-2 is Bluetooth 5.0-certified, which ensures interoperability with the latest generation of smartphones, and supports enhanced features such as state-of-the-art security, privacy, and extended packet length for faster data transfer.
Cypress Semiconductor and Arrow Electronics have announced a new development platform that enables engineers to quickly bring a broad range of connected IoT products to market.
The new Quicksilver kit features Cypress’ Wireless Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) platform and incorporates the robust connectivity of the Cypress CYW43907 802.11n Wi-Fi microcontroller (MCU). The kit is slated for release in this month (July 2017), and a second Quicksilver kit will deliver high-performance 802.11ac Wi-Fi enabling high-data-rate and media-rich experiences in the IoT in the fourth quarter of 2017.
According to Cypress, development customers are seeking to connect their products to the cloud for the first time to enable compelling IoT features, and they are also looking for fast time to market. The WICED-based Quicksilver kit provides them with the flexibility to build quickly now and streamline design enhancements later. Customers can quickly get to market with a certified module that provides turnkey cloud connectivity software and then migrate to cost or performance-driven production solutions while maintaining hardware and software compatibility.
The first Quicksilver kit will provide users with complete design capabilities to implement the WICED Studio SDK and features Arduino-compatible headers for expansion capability. The kit includes temperature, humidity and three-axis motion sensors to design a complete IoT edge device for a broad range of end markets, including factory automation, lighting, smart irrigation, home appliances and home automation.
Franklin Robotics has launched a Kickstarter to build Tertill: a solar-powered and weatherproof robot that weeds your garden every day. With Tertill, gardeners can now enjoy weed-free vegetable and flower gardens, without the monotony and frustration of weeding. Organic gardeners can breathe easy and enjoy a weed-free, chemical-free garden all season long. Created by roboticist Joe Jones – inventor of the Roomba – Franklin Robotics’ Tertill is designed to live in your garden and take care of the weeding, come rain or shine.
Tertill lives in your garden and prevents weeds from becoming established. Using unique design elements and a variety of sensors, Tertill patrols the garden daily, avoiding plants and obstacles while looking for weeds to eliminate. Tertill has a very simple method of distinguishing weeds from plants: weeds are short, plants are tall. A plant tall enough to touch the front of Tertill’s shell activates a sensor that makes the robot turn away. A plant short enough to pass under Tertill’s shell, though, activates a different sensor that turns on the weed cutter.
Tertill gets its power from the sun. When there is sunlight—even on cloudy days—Tertill’s solar cell converts the light into electricity. The robot stores the energy in a battery. You don’t need to charge or replace Tertill’s battery. Tertill uses its stored power smartly—during cloudy stretches, when less power is available, it patrols for weeds less often. Tertill is more aggressive during periods with more sun. Fortunately, weeds grow more slowly when they have less light.
Circuit Cellar’s ongoing mission is to provide important information to help you make smart choices with your engineering projects—from prototype to production. As part of that effort, we’re now offering themed newsletter content each week that focuses on critical areas of system development.
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Our new enhanced weekly CC Newsletter will switch its theme each week, covering these four areas every month:
Microcontroller Watch. This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.
IoT Technology Focus. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) phenomenon is rich with opportunity. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.
Embedded Boards. This content looks at embedded board-level computers. The focus here is on modules (e.g., Arduino, Raspberry Pi, COM Express, and other small-form-factor modules) that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up production volumes.
Analog & Power. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op-amps, batteries, and more.
SCIDYNE has been designing and manufacturing electronic products for more than two decades. Headquartered in the United States, SCIDYNE serves both domestic and international OEM customers by being a trusted and reliable source of high-quality embedded system products. SCIDYNE’s line of PC/104 peripherals can be found in many diverse and demanding applications (e.g., industrial automation, medical equipment, and aerospace). Recent trends in the embedded market including the growing maker culture, powerful low-cost development platforms, and collaborative development has provided additional opportunities to offer new products designed especially for these segments.
Why Should Circuit Cellar Readers Be Interested?
The XMEM+ plugs onto an ordinary Arduino MEGA2560 and boosts available SRAM to over 512K. By increasing SRAM, the MEGA becomes much more capable in sophisticated applications. The SRAM is organized as 16 banks of 32K each. On-board high-speed logic simplifies bank-switching management. The active 32K bank seamlessly follows the internal 8K SRAM making 40K available at any time. Also included is a fixed 23K expansion bus for prototyping off-board parallel circuitry. Buffered control, data, and address signals are fully accessible. The operating logic level for all buffered signals is configurable as 3.3 or 5 V for proper translation when working with modern mixed voltage circuitry. The XMEM+ operates at the full 16-MHz system clock speed. Additional details are available at: www.scidyne.com/hpb7699.html.
STMicroelectronics’s ultra-low-power STM32L45x microcontrollers (the STM32L451, the STM32L452, and the STM32L462 lines) are supported by a development ecosystem based on the STM32Cube platform. The new microcontroller lines offer a variety of features and benefits:
Integrated Digital Filter for Sigma-Delta Modulators (DFSDM) enables advanced audio capabilities (e.g., noise cancellation or sound localization).
Up to 512 Kbyte on-chip Flash and 160 Kbyte SRAM provide generous code and data storage.
A True Random-Number Generator (TRNG) streamlines development of security-conscious applications
Smart analog peripherals include a 12-bit 5-Msps ADC, internal voltage reference, and ultra-low-power comparators.
Multiple timers, a motor-control channel, a temperature sensor, and a capacitive-sensing interface
Deliver high core performance and exceptional ultra-low-power efficiency
A 36-µA/MHz Active mode current enables a longer runtime on small batteries
The development ecosystem includes the STM32CubeMX initialization-code generator and STM32CubeL4 package comprising:
Nucleo-64 Board-Support Package (BSP)
Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL)
Low-Layer APIs (LLAPIs)
The STM32CubeMX has a power-estimation wizard, as well as other wizards for managing clock signals and pin assignments. The affordable Nucleo-64 board, NUCLEO-L452RE, enables you to test ideas and build prototypes. It integrates the ST-LINK/V2 probe-free debugger/programmer and you can expand it via Arduino-compatible headers.
The devices are currently available in small form-factor packages from QFN-48 to LQFP-100, including a 3.36 mm × 3.66 mm WLCSP. Prices start from $2.77 in 1,000-piece quantities for the STM32L451CCU6 with 256-KB flash memory and 160-KB SRAM in QFN-48. The development boards start at $14 for the legacy-compatible Nucleo-64 board (NUCLEO-L452RE). The NUCLEO-L452RE-P board with external DC/DC converter will be available to distributors in June 2017.
Unlimited opportunity. That’s what comes to mind when I think about the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). And, that is both a blessing and a curse.
As the IoT proliferates, billions of cloud-connected devices are expected to be designed, manufactured, and deployed over the next decade. Our increasingly connected world will become hyper-connected, transforming our lives in ways we likely never thought possible. We will see smarter cities where the commuter is automatically guided, smarter farming where livestock health is individually monitored with on-call veterinary services, smarter healthcare to reduce the spiraling costs, integration between smart white goods and utilities to manage grid loading, and the integration of smart retail and personal assistant AI to provide a “curated” shopping experience. That future is limitless and exciting. But it is also frightening. We have already seen the headlines of how attacks have impacted businesses and people with valuable data being stolen or ransomed. It is widely believed the attacks are just starting.
Devices—not often seen as likely hacking targets—now have the potential to be weaponized. No one wants a device or application that is prone to hacking or theft. Hacks, malware, and IP theft have a significant dollar cost and can destroy corporate brands and reputations. And these devices may have extended lifecycles of decades. And a “secure” connected device does not guarantee a secure system. All too often, security has been an after-thought in the development of systems.
Hardware, software, communications, and communications protocol, device commissioning, applications layers, and other systems considerations all could impact security of a device and its data. The future of IoT must see security become an integral part of the design and deployment process, not merely an after-thought or add-on.
Delivering security-orientated embedded systems is a major challenge today. It will take a strong ecosystem and the development of a “supply chain of trust” to deliver truly secure product creation, deployment, and lifecycle management for the rapidly evolving IoT marketplace.
Security needs to be architected into devices from the moment of inception. In addition, it needs to be extended across the supply chain, from security-orientated chips through to manufacturing and management for the lifecycle of the product.
To deliver secure manufacturing and ensure no malware can be injected, cold and hard cryptography principles must be relied upon to ensure solutions are secured. Security principles should be embedded in every aspect of the system from the delivery of secure foundations in the silicon device, through to the secure mastering and encryption of the OEM codebase to ensure it is protected. The programming and manufacturing stages may then freely handle the encrypted code base, but the utilization of secure appliances, which integrate high-integrity and high-availability hardware security modules, enables secure enclaves to be integrated into the process to manage and orchestrate all key material. Furthermore, the ability to encrypt applications within the development process and subsequently decrypt the images in place within the device is a critical to securing the intellectual property.
While simple in theory, there are multiple aspects of a system that must be secured, encompassing the device, the mastering of the application, the handling and sharing of the keys, and the loading of the application on to the device. The only real solution is to develop a “zero trust” approach across the supply chain to minimize vulnerabilities and continually authenticate and individualize deliverables as far as possible.
While this integrated approach cannot resolve all aspects of counterfeiting, it does mark a key rallying point for the industry, and finally enables the industry to start to draw a line under the mass counterfeiting and over-production of devices. And all stakeholders in the process—including device platform providers, OEMs, programming centers, contract manufacturers, end users, security experts, and standards bodies—must do their parts to make cyber-secure programming and manufacturing ubiquitous, easy to use, and easily adoptable.
As I said, the future of IoT holds limitless opportunity, and that will drive new solutions. There will be new business models and new ecosystems. The threats are real, and the cost of failure could be astronomical. So, for the future of IoT to be bright, it must start with security.
Haydn Povey is the Founder/CEO of Secure Thingz, a company focused on developing and delivering next-generation security technology into the Internet of Things (IoT) and other connected systems. He also currently sits on the Executive Steering Board of the IoT Security Foundation. Haydn has been in senior management at leading global technology companies for more than 20 years, including 10 years in senior marketing and business development roles at ARM.
Analog Devices has launched the ADF5356, which is a 13.6 GHz next-generation wideband synthesizer with an integrated voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO). The ADF5356 is well-suited for a variety of applications, including wireless infrastructure, microwave point-to-point links, electronic test and measurement, and satellite terminals. The ADF4356 is a complementary synthesizer product that operates to 6.8 GHz and is comparable in performance.
The ADF5356’s and ADF4356’s features, specs, and benefits:
Generate RF outputs from 53.125 MHz to 13.6 GHz without gaps in frequency coverage
Offer superior PLL figures of merit (FOM), ultra-low VCO phase noise, very low integer-boundary and phase-detector spurs, and high phase-comparison frequency.
Feature VCO phase noise (–113 dBc/Hz at 100 kHz offset at 5 GHz) with integrated RMS jitter of just 97 fs (1 kHz to 20 MHz) and integer-channel noise floor of –227 dBc/Hz
Phase detector spurious levels are below –85 dBc (typical), and the phase detector comparison frequency can be as high as 125 MHz.
Fully supported by the ADIsimPLL, which is Analog Devices’s easy-to-use PLL synthesizer design and simulation tool. The synthesizers are pin-compatible with Analog Devices’s existing ADF5355 and ADF4355 devices.
Specified over the –40°C to 85°C range
Operate from nominal 3.3-V analog and digital power supplies as well as 5-V charge-pump and VCO supplies
Features 1.8-V logic-level compatibility
The ADF5356 costs $39.98 in 1,000-unit quantities. The ADF4356 costs $20.36 in 1,000-piece quantities. The EV-ADF5356SD1Z pre-release boards cost $450 each.
The new miniDSP UMA-8 is a high-performance yet low-cost multichannel USB microphone array built around XMOS multicore technology, designed for voice-recognition application development. Seven high-performance MEMS microphones are configured in a circular arrangement to provide high-quality voice capture for a wide range of applications. Leveraging the onboard DSP processing, the UMA-8 supports voice algorithms including beamforming, noise reduction, acoustic echo cancellation, and de-reverb.
Developed with applications in voice-activated control, smart assistants, robotics, conferencing, and more in mind, the UMA-8 pocket-size platform targets both DIYers and the OEM market, and was engineered for flexibility in firmware, software and hardware. For advanced users, full control and configuration of the DSP array processing parameters are available with a real-time GUI. This can be used to fine tune the various algorithms: acoustic echo cancellation, noise reduction, voice activation detect, and so on, dramatically improving voice pickup.
The UMA-8 costs $95. Step-by-step application notes are available for setup and configuration of the UMA-8 with the most common smart assistants currently available, including Amazon Alexa Voice + Raspberry Pi, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri. miniDSP will be expanding those application notes in the future.
Saelig Co. recently announced the availability of Teledyne LeCroy’s BPA low-energy Bluetooth Protocol Analyzer. The portable, USB-powered protocol analyzer is well suited for use in both a lab and the field. The analyzer’s features, benefits, and specs:
Supports mandatory Bluetooth low-energy features through Bluetooth version 4.2
Includes Frontline software
Includes DecoderScript software that enables proprietary data to be fully decoded and displayed in the Frontline software along the other Bluetooth profiles and protocols
Compact size (3.5″ × 1.75″ × 0.71″)
Easy to set up and doesn’t require synchronization to devices
The BPA low energy Bluetooth Protocol Analyzer costs $995.
The RF Solutions high-performance ZETA module was recently updated to include a simple SPI and UART interface. The ZETAPLUS module doesn’t require external components, which means a fast and effective plug-and-play setup.
Available on 433-, 868-, and 915-MHz frequencies, the module is easy to set up and you’ll be sending and receiving data quickly. Furthermore, you’ll find it easy to create networks of ZETAPLUS modules or point-to-point links without the need for time-consuming register configuration.
With an impressive 2-km range, the ZETAPLUS is well-suited for sensor networks, sleepy nodes, and numerous other telemetry, control, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
Review these four Test Your EQ problems that appeared in Circuit Cellar 324. Test your knowledge. Answers appear in issue 325.
Problem 1: In the following circuit, pick a value for Rx that sets the quiescent voltage at the collector to Vcc/2. The hFE (current transfer ratio) of the transistor is 100, and you can use the approximation that the internal emitter resistance re = 25 mV / Ic.
Problem 2: What determines the low-frequency (high-pass) cutoff frequency of this circuit?
Problem 3: What is the high-pass cutoff frequency?
Problem 4: What is the best way to lower the cutoff frequency while at the same time reducing the loading on the signal source?
The Wonderful Material That Will Change
the World of Electronics
The amazing properties of graphene have researchers, students, and inventors dreaming about exciting new applications, from unbreakable touchscreens to fast-charging batteries.
By Wisse Hettinga
Prosthetic hand with graphene electrodes
Graphene gained popularity because of the way it is produced—the “Scotch tape method.” In fact, two scientists, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, received a Nobel Prize in 2004 for their work with the material. Their approach is straightforward. Using Scotch tape, they repeatedly removed small layers of graphite (indeed, the black stuff found in pencils) until there was only one 2-D layer of atoms left—graphene. Up to that point, many scientists understood the promise of this wonderful material, but no one had been able to get obtain a single layer of atoms. After the breakthrough, many universities started looking for graphene-related applications.
Innovative graphene-related research is underway all over the world. Today, many European institutes and universities work together under the Graphene Flagship initiative (http://graphene-flagship.eu), which was launched by the European Union in 2009. The initiative’s aim is to exchange knowledge and collaborate on research projects.
Graphene was a hot topic at the 2017 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. This article covers a select number of applications talked about at the show. But for the complete coverage, check out the video here:
WEARABLE SENSORS FOR PROSTHETICS
The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genova, Italy, recently developed a sensor from a cellulose and graphene composite. The sensor can be made in the form of a bracelet that fits around the arm in order to pick up the small signals associated with muscle movement. The signals are processed and used to drive a robotic prosthetic hand. Once the comfortable bracelet is placed on the wrist, it transduces the movement of the hand into electrical signals that are used to move the artificial hand in a spectacular way. More information: www.iit.it
GRAPHENE & CONVENTIONAL CMOS TECHNOLOGIES
The Scotch tape method used by the Nobel Prize winners inspired a lot of companies around the world to start producing graphene. Today, a wide variety of methods can be used depending on the actual application of the material. Graphenea (San Sebastian, Spain) is using different processes for the production of graphene products. One of them is Chemical Vapor Deposition. With this method, it is possible to create graphene on thin foil, silicon based or in form of oxide. They source many universities and research institutes that do R&D for new components such as supercapacitors, solar, batteries, and many more applications. The big challenge is to develop an industrial process that will combine graphene material with the conventional CMOS technology. In this way, the characteristics of graphene can enhance today’s components to make them useful for new applications. A good example is optical datatransfer. More information: www.graphenea.com
Transfer graphene on top of a silicon device to add more functionality
T5G DATA COMMUNICATION
High-speed data communication comes in all sizes and infrastructures. But on the small scale, there are many challenges. Graphene enables new optical communication on the chip level. A consortium of CNIT, Ericsson, Nokia, and IMEC have developed graphene photonics integration for high-speed transmission systems. At MWC, they showcased a packaged graphene-based modulator operating over several optical telecommunications bands. I saw the first package transmitters with optical modulators based on graphene. The modulator is only one-tenth of a millimeter. The transfer capacity is 10 Gbps, but the aim is to bring that to 100 Gbps in a year’s time. The applications will be able to play a key role in the development of 5G technology. More information: www.cnit.it/en/.
Optical modulator based on graphene technology
THE ART OF HEATING
FGV Cambridge Nanosystems recently developed a novel “spray-on” graphene heating system that provides uniform, large-area heating. The material can be applied to paintings or walls and turned into a ‘heating’ area that can be wirelessly controlled via a mobile app. The same methodology can also double as a temperature sensor, where you can control light intensity by sensing body temperature. More information: www.cambridgenanosystems.com
FOAM SENSOR FOR SHOES
Atheletes can benefit from light, strong, sensor-based shoes that that can monitor their status. To make this happen, the University of Cambridge developed a 3-D printed shoe with embedded graphene foam sensors that can monitor the pressure applied. They combine complicated structural design with accurate sensing function. The graphene foam sensor can be used for measuring the number of steps and the weight of the person. More information: www.cam.ac.uk
Graphene pressure sensors embedded in shoes
FLEXIBLE WI-FI RECEIVER
More wireless fidelity can be expected when graphene-based receivers come into play. The receivers based on graphene are small and flexible and can be used for integration into clothes and other textile applications. AMO GmbH and RWTH Aachen University are developing the first flexible Wi-Fi receiver. The underlying graphene MMIC process enables the fabrication of the Wi-Fi receiver on both flexible and rigid substrates. This flexible Wi-Fi receiver is the first graphene-based front-end receiver for any type of modulated signal. The research shows that this technology can be used up to 90 GHz, which opens it up to new applications in IoT and mobile phones. More information: www.amo.de
Using graphene in flexible Wi-Fi receiver
5″ DISPLAY WITH UP TO 12K RESOLUTION
Santiago Cartamil-Bueno, a PhD student at TU Delft, was the first to observe a change in colors of small graphene “balloons.” These balloons appear when pressure is applied in a double layer of graphene. When this graphene is placed over silicon with small indents, the balloons can move in and out the silicon dents. If the graphene layer is closer to the silicon, they turn blue. If it is farther away from the silicon, they will turn red. Santiago observed this effect first and is researching the possibilities to turn this effect into high-resolution display. It uses the light from the environment and turns it into a very low-power consumption process. The resolution is very high; a typical 5″ display would be able to show images with 8K to 12K resolution. More information: www.delta.tudelft.nl/artikel/ballooning-graphene-may-be-used-as-pixel/32619
Analog Devices recently introduced a real-time Ethernet, multi-protocol (REM) switch chip Ethernet connectivity solution for intelligent factory applications. Well suited for a variety of connected motion applications, you can use the “TSN-ready” (time sensitive networking) fido5000 with any processor, any protocol, and any stack.
The fido5000 two-port embedded Ethernet switch’s features, specs, and benefits include:
Reduces board size and power consumption while improving Ethernet performance at the node under any network load condition.
Attaches to Analog’s ADSP-SC58x, ADSP-2158x, and ADSP-CM40x motion control processors
Supports PROFINET RT/IRT, EtherNet/IP with beacon-based DLR, ModbusTCP, EtherCAT, SERCOS, and POWERLINK.
Achieves cycle times below 125 µs
Includes drivers for simple integration with any Industrial Ethernet protocol stack
The fido5100 is scheduled for full production in September 2017 and will cost $6 each in 1,000-piece quantities. The fido5200 (EtherCAT Capable) is also scheduled for full production in September 2017 and will cost $8 each in 1,000-piece quantities.