Mini Multi-Sensor Module for Wearables & IoT Designs

STMicroelectronics’s miniature SensorTile sensor board of its type comprises an MEMS accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, pressure sensor, and a MEMS microphone. With the on-board low-power STM32L4 microcontroller, the SensorTile can be used as a sensing and connectivity hub for developing products ranging from wearables to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The 13.5 mm × 13.5 mm SensorTile features a Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) transceiver including an onboard miniature single-chip balun, as well as a broad set of system interfaces that support use as a sensor-fusion hub or as a platform for firmware development. You can plug it into a host board. At power-up, it immediately starts streaming inertial, audio, and environmental data to STMicro’s BlueMS free smartphone app.

Software development is simple with an API based on the STM32Cube Hardware Abstraction Layer and middleware components, including the STM32 Open Development Environment. It’s fully compatible with the Open Software eXpansion Libraries (Open.MEMS, Open.RF, and Open.AUDIO), as well as numerous third-party embedded sensing and voice-processing projects. Example programs are available (e.g., software for position sensing, activity recognition, and low-power voice communication).

The complete kit includes a cradle board, which carries the 13.5 mm × 13.5 mm SensorTile core system in standalone or hub mode and can be used as a reference design. This compact yet fully loaded board contains a humidity and temperature sensor, a micro-SD card socket, as well as a lithium-polymer battery (LiPo) charger. The pack also contains a LiPo rechargeable battery and a plastic case that provides a convenient housing for the cradle, SensorTile, and battery combination.

SensorTile kit’s main features, specs, and benefits:

  • Cradle/expansion board with an analog audio output, a micro-USB connector, and an Arduino-like interface that can be plugged into any STM32 Nucleo board to expand developers’ options for system and software development.
  • Programming cable
  • LSM6DSM 3-D accelerometer and 3-D gyroscope
  • LSM303AGR 3-D magnetometer and 3-D accelerometer
  • LPS22HB pressure sensor/barometer
  • MP34DT04 digital MEMS microphone
  • STM32L476 microcontroller
  • BlueNRG-MS network processor with integrated 2.4-GHz radio

Source: STMicroelectronics

New Bluetooth 5-Ready SoC Offers Increased Range, Bandwidth, & Security

Nordic Semiconductor’s new Bluetooth 5-ready nRF52840 SoC is well suited for smart home, advanced wearables, and industrial IoT applications. In addition to supporting 802.15.4, it’s capable of delivering Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wireless connectivity with up to 4× the range or 2× the raw data bandwidth (2 Mbps) compared with the BLE implementation of Bluetooth 4.2Nordic nRF52840

The nRF52840 SoC’s features, specs, and benefits:

  • Features a 64-MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F processor employed on Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC
  • A new radio architecture with on-chip PA boosting output power considerably, and extending the link budget for “whole house” applications, a doubling of flash memory to 1 MB, and a quadrupling of RAM memory to 256 KB
  • Support for Bluetooth 5, 802.15.4, ANT, and proprietary 2.4-GHz wireless technologies
  • A full-speed USB 2.0 controller
  • A host of new peripherals (many with EasyDMA) including a quad-SPI
  • Operates from power supplies above 5 V  (e.g., rechargeable battery power sources)
  • Incorporates the ARM CryptoCell-310 cryptographic accelerator offering best-in-class security for Cortex-M based SoCs. Extensive crypto ciphers and key generation and storage options are also available.

Nordic released the S140 SoftDevice and associated nRF5 SDK with support for Bluetooth 5 longer range and high throughput modes in December 2016. Engineering samples and development kits are now available. Production variants of the nRF52840 will be available in Q4 2017.

Source: Nordic Semiconductor 

Free “Internet of Things For Dummies” E-Book

Qorvo recently launched its latest e-book series, Internet of Things For Dummies, in partnership with John Wiley and Sons. The two-volume series—Internet of Things For Dummies and Internet of Things Applications For Dummies—is available as a free download.

Intended for both technical and nontechnical professionals, the e-books cover the basics of the IoT market, RF challenges, and how it’s being implemented.

Volume 1 — Internet of Things For Dummies:

  • IoT and smart home market opportunities
  • An overview of different IoT communications standards
  • Tips for leveraging small data and self-learning in the cloud

Volume 2 — Internet of Things Applications For Dummies:

  • Deliver IoT applications with a smart home butler
  • Create consumer lifestyle systems for the smart home
  • Develop IoT applications beyond the smart home

Source: Qorvo

Notable Crowdfunded Projects (Week of 11/21/16)

Here is a roundup of current crowdfunded projects that the Circuit Cellar team finds interesting. Check them out and let us know what you think.


RS-HFIQ 5W Software Defined Radio (SDR) Transceiver

HobbyPCB’s RS-HFIQ is a high-performance software-defined radio (SDR) 5-W transceiver for CW, SSB, AM, FM, and digital modes. As of 11/22/16, this project has nine days remaining.

Not just another SDR – The RS-HFIQ offers real RF performance for serious communications. Covering the 80-10M Amatuer Radio bands with excellent RX performance and 5 watts of TX power, using open-source SDR software for CW, SSB, AM, FM and digital modes, the RS-HFIQ sets a new standard for shortwave SDR communications.

Visit the Project Page.


QuadBot – Real Robotics, Made Accessible

EngiMake’s QuadBot is a 3-D-printable, programmable walking robot intended for DIYers/makers, aspiring roboticists, and experienced hackers. As of 11/22/16, this project has 47 days remaining.

QuadBot can walk, dance, light up and with sensors it can follow you, avoid obstacles, play songs… anything is possible! But the real value is the open-ness of QuadBot. Rather than limit you to only a few behaviours, we’ve opened up the entire code and design so you can hack it to do anything.  That means if you want to learn basic robotics, you can follow our standard guide, but when you’re ready to activate super maker mode, you can break-out and use QuadBot to explore robotics.


Visit the Project Page.


FiPy IoT Dev Board

Pycom’s FiPy is a five-network IoT development board. As of 11/22/16, this project has 30 days remaining.

Simply put, we give you a 5 networks in one simple small, perfectly formed, same-foot-print-as-WiPy-and-LoPy hardware module at a price squeezed right down to €33 (early bird) and €49 after Kickstarter.

Visit the Project Page.

Multi-Protocol Sub-GHz Wireless Transceiver Platform

NXP Semiconductors recently added the OL2385 family sub-GHz wireless transceivers to its low-power microcontroller and 2.4 GHz portfolio for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Based on a PIN-to-PIN compatible, sub-GHz transceiver hardware platform, the OL2385 supports multiple wireless protocols  (e.g., Sigfox, W-MBus powered by Xemex, and ZigBee IEEE 802.15.4).

With a two-way RF channel and common modulation schemes for networking applicatios, the OL2385 transceivers cover a wide range of frequency bands from 160 to 960 MHz. In addition, extended range radio operation is enabled with high sensitivity up to –128 dBm. Operation in congested environments is enhanced with 60 dB at 1 MHz of blocking performance and 60 dB of image rejection.

Platform features include: 14-dBm Tx output power compliant with ETSI limits; typical 29-mA transmit power consumption at full output power; less than 11 mA receive power consumption; excellent phase noise of –127 dBc at 1 MHz in the 868- and 915-MHz band for flexibility with external power amplifiers; and Japanese ARIB T108 standard compliant.

The OL2385 platform samples and development boards with SIGFOX are currently available. Mass production of preprogrammed parts are scheduled for the end of Q4 2017.

Source: NXP Semiconductors

Sensor-to-Cloud Kit for Developing IoT Applications

Interested in developing cloud-connected wireless sensing products? Silicon Labs recently introduced its Thunderboard Sense Kit for developing cloud-connected devices with multiple sensing and connectivity options. The “inspiration kit” provides you with all the hardware and software needed to develop battery-powered wireless sensor nodes for the IoT.

The Thunderboard Sense Kit’s features and benefits:

  • Silicon Labs EFR32 Mighty Gecko multiprotocol wireless SoC with a 2.4-GHz chip antenna
  • ARM Cortex-M4 processor-based
  • Supports Bluetooth low energy, ZigBee, Thread, and proprietary protocols
  • Silicon Labs EFM8 Sleepy Bee microcontroller enabling fine-grained power control
  • Silicon Labs Si7021 relative humidity and temperature sensor
  • Silicon Labs Si1133 UV index and ambient light sensor
  • Bosch Sensortec BMP280 barometric pressure sensor
  • Cambridge CCS811 indoor air quality gas sensor
  • InvenSense ICM-20648 six-axis inertial sensor
  • Knowles SPV1840 MEMS microphone
  • Four high-brightness RGB LEDs
  • On-board SEGGER J-Link debugger for easy programming and debugging
  • USB Micro-B connector with virtual COM port and debug access
  • Mini Simplicity connector to access energy profiling and wireless network debugging
  • 20 breakout pins to connect to external breadboard hardware
  • CR2032 coin cell battery connector and external battery connector
  • Silicon Labs’s Simplicity Studio tools support the Thunderboard Sense

The Thunderboard Sense kit (SLTB001A) costs $36. All hardware schematics, open-source design files, mobile apps, and cloud software are included for free.

Source: Silicon Labs

Human Vision Image-Sensing System Provides 10× Faster Recognition

Mouser Electronics is now offering Omron Electronic Components’s fully integrated B5T HVC-P2 face detection sensor modules. The Human Vision Component (HVC) plug-in modules are based on Omron’s OKAO Vision Image Sensing Technology, which is used to quickly and accurately detect human bodies and faces.Omron Image Sensors

Well suite for a variety of IoT applications, the face detection sensor modules comprise a camera and a separate main board that are connected via a flexible flat cable, which enables you to install it on the edge of a flat display unit. The boards feature UART and USB interfaces to control the module and send the data output (as no image output, 160 × 120 pixels, or 320 × 240 pixels) to an external system.

Available in both wide-angle (90-degree lens) and long-distance lenses (50-degree lens), the B5T HVC-P2 modules can detect a human body up to four times per second. The long-distance module can detect and presume attributes (e.g., gender and age, sight line, and facial expression) from a maximum distance of 3 m. The wide-angle module can cover an area 100 cm × 75 cm from a distance of 50 cm.

Source: Mouser Electronics

New ARM Technologies for Secure IoT Applications

ARM recently released a new product suite of technologies for designers of secure Internet of Things (IoT) applications.The product suite comprises procesors, cloud-based services platform, radio technology, subsystems, and comprehensive security.

Cortex-M Processors Integrated with TrustZone

The ARM Cortex-M23 and Cortex-M33 are built on the ARMv8-M architecture featuring ARM TrustZone security and digital signal processing. TrustZone CryptoCell-312 offers security features that protect the authenticity, integrity, and confidentiality of code and data. The Cortex-M23 is a compact, energy-efficient processor well-suited for constrained embedded applications. The highly configurable Cortex-M33 features a variety options including a coprocessor interface, digital signal processing and floating-point computation. Both new Cortex-M processors are backwards compatible with ARMv6-M and ARMv7-M architectures.

ARM System IP Optimized for Cortex-M Processors

ARM CoreLink SIE-200 is already licensed by ARM silicon partners and provides the interconnects and controllers that extend TrustZone to the system. The ARM CoreLink SSE-200 IoT subsystem reduces time to market by integrating Cortex-M33, CryptoCell, and Cordio radio along with software drivers, secure libraries, protocol stack, and the mbed OS.

IoT Connectivity

Connectivity is enhanced by next-generation ARM Cordio radio IP with Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4-based standards ZigBee and Thread. Developers can choose from a standard radio implementation across a range of process nodes from multiple foundries. The Cordio architecture supports ARM and third-party RF.

Cloud-Based SaaS for Secure IoT Device Management

The ARM mbed IoT Device Platform has been expanded to include mbed Cloud, a new standards and cloud-based SaaS solution for secure IoT device management. Through mbed Cloud, OEMs can:

Simplify connection, provisioning, updating and securing of devices across complex networks
Enable faster scaling, productivity and time to market, allowing developers to use any device on any cloud
Enhance device-side capabilities with mbed OS 5, supported by a global community of 200,000 developers and more than 1 million device builds per month.

Implementation with IoT POP on TSMC 40ULP

Designers can quicken the development of SoCs featuring the latest Cortex-M processors with Artisan IoT POP IP now available for TSMC 40ULP process technology. ARM Artisan IoT POP IP enables low-power designs and optimizing for IoT applications.

Source: ARM 

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

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

u-blox and Wirepas Partnership Focused on Scalable IoT Solutions

u-blox and Wirepas recently announced a partnership to offer an advanced decentralized radio communications solution for industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Comparable with advanced mesh technology, the solution is intended to make large-scale, decentralized industrial IoT networks easy to deploy.UB059 ublox

Certified for use in several countries, NINA-B1 is a compact, stand-alone Bluetooth low energy (BLE) module intended for a variety of applications, including as connected buildings and telematics. With Wirepas Connectivity software, the NINA-B1 enables you to develop easy-to-install, large scale, industrial IoT applications.

Source: u-blox

The Hunt for Power Remote Sensing

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), the need for ultra-low power passive remote sensing is on the rise for battery-powered technologies. Always-on motion-sensing technologies are a great option to turn to. Digital cameras have come light years from where they were a decade ago, but low power they are not. When low-power technologies need always-on remote sensing, infrared motion sensors are a great option to turn to.

Passive infrared (PIR) sensors and passive infrared detectors (PIDs) are electronic devices that detect infrared light emitted from objects within their field of view. These devices typically don’t measure light per se; rather, they measure the delta of a system’s latent energy. This change generates a very small potential across a crystalline material (gallium nitride, cesium nitrate, among others), which can be amplified to create a usable signal.

Infrared technology was built on a foundation of older motion-sensing technologies that came before. Motion sensing was first utilized in the early 1940s, primarily for military purposes nearing the end of World War II. Radar and ultrasonic detectors were the progenitors of motion-sensing technologies seen today, relying on reflecting sound waves to determine the location of objects in a detection environment. Though effective for its purpose, its use was limited to military applications and was not a reasonable option for commercial users.

This essay appears in Circuit Cellar 314 (September 2016).

 
The viability of motion detection tools began to change as infrared-sensing options entered development. The birth of modern PIR sensors began towards the end of the sixties, when companies began to seek alternatives to the already available motion technologies that were fast becoming outdated.

The modern versions of these infrared motion sensors have taken root in many industries due to the affordability and flexibility of their use. The future of motion sensors is PID, and it has several advantages over its counterparts:

  • Saving Energy—PIDs are energy efficient. The electricity required to operate PIDs is minimal, with most units actually reducing the user’s energy consumption when compared to other commercial motion-sensing devices.
  • Inexpensive—Cost isn’t a barrier to entry for those wanting to deploy IR motion sensing technology. This sensor technology makes each individual unit affordable, allowing users to deploy multiple sensors for maximum coverage without breaking the bank.
  • Durability—It’s hard to match the ruggedness of PIDs. Most units don’t employ delicate circuitry that is easily jarred or disrupted; PIDs are routinely used outdoors and in adverse environments that would potentially damage other styles of detectors.
  • Simple and Small—The small size of PIDs work to their advantage. Innocuous sensors are ideal for security solutions that aren’t obtrusive or easily noticeable. This simplicity makes PIDs desirable for commercial security, when businesses want to avoid installing obvious security infrastructure throughout their buildings.
  • Wide Lens Range—The wide field of vision that PIDs have allow for comprehensive coverage of each location in which they are placed. PIDs easily form a “grid” of infrared detection that is ideal for detecting people, animals, or any other type of disruption that falls within the lens range.
  • Easy to Interface With—PIDs are flexible. The compact and simple nature of PIDs lets the easily integrate with other technologies, including public motion detectors for businesses and appliances like remote controls.

With the wealth of advantages PIDs have over other forms of motion-sensing technology, it stands to reason that PIR sensors and PIDs will have a place in the future of motion sensor development. Though other options are available, PIDs operate with simplicity, energy-efficiency, and a level of durability that other technologies can’t match. Though there are some exciting new developments in the field of motion-sensing technology, including peripherals for virtual reality and 3-D motion control, the reliability of infrared motion technology will have a definite role in the evolution of motion sensing technology in the years to come.

As the Head Hardware Engineer at Cyndr (www.cyndr.co), Kyle Engstrom is the company’s lead electron wrangler and firmware designer. He specializes in analog electronics and power systems. Kyle has bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and geology. His life as a rock hound lasted all of six months before he found his true calling in engineering. Kyle has worked three years in the aerospace industry designing cutting-edge avionics.

Low-Power BLE Sensor Node for IoT Applications

Microchip Technology recently released a demonstration platform for the lowest-power Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensor node. The platform features an ultra-low-power BTLC1000-certified module, a SMART SAM L21 Cortex-M0+ MCU, Bosch sensor technology, and a complete software solution. The BLE demonstration platform includes source code, hardware design files, a user guide, and Android application source code.Microchip BLE Demo Platform

Features, benefits, and specs:

  • An integrated BTLC1000-MR110CA BLE module, delivering at least 30% more power savings compared to existing solutions.
  • An ultra-tiny 2.2 mm × 2.1 mm Wafer Level Chipscale Package (WLCP).
  • A SAM L21 that achieves a ULPBench score of 185, with power consumption down to 35 µA/MHz in active mode and 200 nA in sleep mode.
  • Bosch six-axis motion (BHI160) and environment (BME280) sensors that can be used for a wide variety of sensing applications.

The Ultra-Low-Power Connected Demonstrator Platform costs $39.

Source: Microchip Technology

The Future of IoT Security: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Security is one of the hot topics today in the Internet of Things (IoT). There have been well-publicized security breaches of consumer devices that include hijacked video from wireless baby monitors being posted on the Internet and home automation systems that reveal whether a home is occupied or not. A number of systems have been breached just to demonstrate their vulnerabilities. Less well publicized are security breaches of industrial equipment with much more severe consequences. These are rarely made public for obvious reasons.

At first glance, it would seem that the existing security mechanism for the Internet and corporate networks would be an easy solution for IoT security. There are several problems with this. First, IoT applications only require security that is “good enough” for the specific application. Just like you don’t need razor wire and guard towers to keep your dog in the yard and don’t want to rely on a four foot yard fence to keep the prisoners in a maximum security prison, the level of security for an IoT product needs to be based on the needs of the application (often basic privacy rather than real security).

Consider data encryption for network transfers as an example of why existing security mechanisms generally do not work well for the IoT. Encryption standards typically target applications that require extremely high levels of security such as financial transactions and military or national security communications. These encryption standards are severe overkill for most IoT applications and present significant problems for small, battery-powered IoT devices. An encryption algorithm may require upwards of 4 KB of code space, which is as much or more than many otherwise suitable microcontrollers might have. Many encryption standards rely on multiple rounds of encryption. The time it takes to perform the encryption could be several times longer on a small micro than the time it takes the micro to perform its main tasks. Most common encryption standards rely on 16- to 32-byte keys to help ensure data security. For many IoT devices, these key lengths could increase the length of their network messages by a factor of 4× to 8× or more. The execution time and added network traffic can quickly chew-up precious battery capacity, increasing the size and cost of a product. The extremely high level of security provided by these encryption algorithms is what drives the large code size, long execution times, and high message overhead that makes them inappropriate for most IoT applications. Hardware encryption addresses the code size and execution time issues but still suffers from high message overhead.

 

The other major problem with using existing security mechanisms is IoT developers typically don’t have network security experience. There is a certain mindset and expertise required to develop IoT products and a completely different mindset and expertise required to be a security expert. The time required to develop these security mechanisms in-house could take several times longer than the basic product development. Several companies have recognized this problem and have recently introduced security framework products to be incorporated into IoT devices. True end-to-end security requires much more than just passwords and data encryption, and these framework products address other needs like key management and protection against common network attacks. These security frameworks may well be the future of IoT security, but to be widely adopted, they have to be right-sized for IoT devices.

When selecting the wireless technology to use in an IoT product, things like distance, bandwidth, cost, and physical size have to be considered. Words and phrases like “streamlined” and “light weight” need to be kept in mind when assessing security solutions for IoT products. A feature-rich security framework product might be appealing, but many IoT devices provide simple functions and don’t need a plethora of features. They also can’t afford the memory space and execution time overhead (and power consumption) imposed by these unneeded features. Whether future IoT products are based on a security framework or in-house developed security, there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Security for successful IoT products will be right-sized for the hardware resources available and the needs of the application.

Mike Lease is a hardware/firmware engineer with more than 30 years of product development experience, mostly in embedded products. He developed a number of battery-powered, wirelessly connected devices before “IoT” became a common buzzword, and several more since then. Mike enjoys taking on tough challenges and has recently developed a fascination with generating random numbers. In 2013 he founded CMicrotek (www.cmicrotek.com) to develop a family of ultra-low current measurement products primarily for developers of battery-powered products. Mike recently launched LSE Technologies, a provider of lightweight stream encryption software for M2M and IoT applications.