Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

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You’ll get your Analog & Power newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. (12/11) 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. (12/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(12/24) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

AVR Microcontrollers Get MPLAB X IDE Support

Designers who have traditionally used Microchip’s PIC microcontrollers and developed with the MPLAB ecosystem can now easily evaluate and incorporate AVR MCUs into their applications. The majority of AVR MCUs are now beta supported with the release of MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) version 5.05, available now from Microchip Technology. Support for additional AVR MCUs and enhancements will be added in future MPLAB versions. AVR support will continue to be added to Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START for current and future AVR devices.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05 provides a unified development experience that is both cross-platform and scalable with compatibility on Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems, allowing designers to develop with AVR MCUs on their hardware system of choice. The tool chain has been enhanced with support for Microchip’s code configuration tool, MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC), making it easy for developers to configure software components and device settings such as clocks, peripherals and pin layout with the tools’ menu-driven interface. MCC can also generate code for specific development boards, such as Microchip’s Curiosity ATmega4809 Nano (DM320115) development board and existing AVR Xplained development boards.

More compiler choices and debugger/programmer options are also available when compiling and programming AVR MCUs using MPLAB X IDE 5.05. Compiler choices include the AVR MCU GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) or the MPLAB XC8 C Compiler, providing developers with additional advanced software optimization techniques to reduce code size. Designers can also accelerate debugging and programming using MPLAB PICki 4 programmer/debugger tool or the newly released MPLAB Snap programmer/debugger tool.

The majority of development boards available to evaluate and program AVR MCUs are supported by the MPLAB ecosystem and MCC. Xplained development boards are compatible with START and are now compatible with MPLAB X IDE. Xplained development boards are cost-effective, fully integrated MCU development platforms targeted at first-time users, makers, and those seeking a feature-rich rapid prototyping board. The Xplained platform includes an integrated programmer/debugger and requires no additional hardware to get started.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05, MPLAB XC8 C Compiler and AVR MCU GCC are available for free on Microchip’s website. The MPLAB PICkit 4 (PG164140) development tool is available today for $47.95. The MPLAB Snap (PG164100) is available today for $14.95. The ATmega4809 Curiosity Nano board (DM320115) is available today for $10.00.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

MCUs Provide Inductive Sensing Solution

Cypress Semiconductor has announced production availability of the PSoC 4700S series of microcontrollers that use MagSense inductive sensing technology for contactless metal sensing. The series also incorporates Cypress’ industry-leading CapSense capacitive-sensing technology, empowering consumer, industrial, and automotive product developers to create sleek, state-of-the-art designs using metals and other materials. The highly-integrated MCUs enable cost-efficient system designs by reducing bill-of-material costs and provide superior noise immunity for reliable operation, even in extreme environmental conditions.
Cypress also announced availability of the new CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit, a low-cost hardware platform that enables design and debug of the MCUs. The kit includes MagSense inductive-sensing buttons and a proximity sensor, as well as an FPC connector to evaluate various coils, such as a rotary encoder. The PSoC 4700S series is supported in Cypress’ PSoC Creator Integrated Design Environment (IDE), which allows users to drag and drop production-ready hardware blocks, including the MagSense inductive sensing capability, into a design and configure them easily via a simple graphical user interface.

The PSoC 4700S MCUs integrate:

  • A 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ core
  • Up to 32 KB Flash and 4 KB SRAM
  • 36 GPIOs
  • 7 programmable analog blocks
  • 7 programmable digital blocks

Support for up to 16 sensors, enabling implementation of buttons, linear and rotary encoders, and proximity sensing.

The CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit is available for $49 at the Cypress online store and from select distributors.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

Bonus Newsletter: Digital Signage

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter: Digital Signage. Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Also, we’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Digital Signage
newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter switches its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Analog & Power. (11/6) 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.

Microcontroller Watch. (11/13) 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. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards. (11/27) This newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Firms Team to Teach Implementing Power Supplies on STM32 MCUs

STMicroelectronics and Biricha Digital Power, an industrial training and consultancy company focused on switched power design and EMC, have developed a workshop to show power-supply engineers why and how to quickly move to a digital implementation. The workshop, aimed at analog PSU (Power Supply Unit) designers and embedded-system engineers who need to build high-performance, stable digital power supplies and Digital PFCs (Power Factor Corrections), will be based on a complementary portfolio of tailored hardware, software, tools, labs and detailed training documentation.

This includes the STM32F334 product line (with its high-resolution timer – 217 ps), a member of ST’s STM32 family of more than 800 MCUs covering the full spectrum from ultra-low power to high performance and supporting ecosystem, combined with Biricha’s Power Supply and PFC design software.

Key sessions will demonstrate how to quickly design digital power supplies and power factor correction from scratch, and how to design stable digital control loops for both voltage and current mode DC/DC and PFC applications. Workshop participants will get a chance to design, code, implement, and test several digital power supplies. The first workshop, an all-inclusive 4-day course hosted by Future Electronics, is scheduled for November 27-30, 2018 in Munich, Germany.

Biricha Digital Power | www.biricha.com

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

MCU-Based Project Enhances Dance Game

Using Wavelet Transform

Microcontrollers are perfect for systems that need to process analog signals such as audio and do real-time digital control in conjunction with those signals. Along just those lines, learn how these two Cornell students recreated the classic arcade game “Dance Dance Revolution” using a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Their version performs wavelet transforms to detect beats from an audio signal to synthesize dance move instructions in real time without preprocessing.

By Michael Solomentsev and Drew Dunne

We designed a version of the traditional arcade game, “Dance Dance Revolution,” that synthesizes dance instructions from any audio source using the PIC32 MCU. Unlike the original game, in which users must choose from a pre-selected list of songs, our system allows users to plug in their audio device and play songs of their choice. The dance move instructions are then generated in real time by buffering the audio and processing it, using the discrete wavelet transform.

We were inspired by a mutual desire to work on a music-related project, and both of us had fond memories of playing this kind of game. We also wanted to add some sort of novel, interesting component, so we brainstormed the idea of allowing the player to play whatever song he or she wanted. The game is much more fun when the song playing is your favorite tune. All versions of the commercial game have pre-programmed song libraries, so replay value is limited. Our version has no such limitation. The discrete wavelet transform was selected as a processing method because we needed both time and frequency resolution. We also needed a computationally efficient algorithm.

The system requires two kinds of user input: an audio source and button presses from the dance mat floor tiles. The audio input must be processed, so it needs to be delayed or buffered until the processing is complete. Another reason for the delay of the audio output is to give ample time for the user to react to the instructions created from processing the audio. In contrast, the user input needs to be in real time. We use two PIC32s to do the input processing—one detects beats and reads the dance mat input, while the other buffers audio. We use a macOS application to display the beats and handle scoring.

Figure 1
Overview of our entire “Dance Dance Evolution” project fully set up

We built a custom dance mat for the game, consisting of five individual tiles that could each detect when players put their weight on it (Figure 1). They needed to be both durable and sensitive to pressure. To achieve this, we used force sensitive resistors wired in parallel. These were polled at approximately 20 Hz for changes in resistance. These resistors were placed directly between the tiles—which were made out of canvas covered boards—and the supports that raised them off the ground.

Hardware Design

We used a PIC32 development board designed by Sean Carroll, with an DAC socket and GPIO pins brought out, to provide flexibility for development [1]. We also used a second PIC32 on a smaller development board, with connections to the floor tiles and the Serial to USB cable. The floor tiles were wired underneath to a protoboard, and all-important signals were fed up to our main protoboard using a ribbon cable. Figure 2 shows the schematic of the system, incorporating Sean Carroll’s full-size and small PIC32 development boards.

Figure 2
Shown here is the schematic of the system, incorporating Sean Carroll’s full-size and small PIC32 development boards.

We soldered our audio circuitry on a protoboard to make it easier to debug and to reduce noise. Our audio input jack fed into a 500 µF capacitor to cut out any DC component, then we fed it into an offset circuit, such that the ADCs could read it with no clipping. The DAC output was fed directly to an audio jack and speakers.

Another PIC32 MCU handled audio buffering, because SPI communication with both a 128 KB serial SRAM and DAC took too many cycles to perform the necessary signal processing simultaneously. We used our professor Bruce Land’s code for the SRAM chip for reading and writing to the SRAM and writing to the DAC [2]. His code included some read/write methods, and handled the SPI setup and mode changes. We had to add code to read from the ADC in a timer interrupt at 40 kHz, write to a location in the SRAM, and finally read from a different location and write that value to the DAC. The locations written to and read from were incremented each time, to create a loop around the SRAM memory locations. To change how long we wanted to buffer the audio, we just needed to change the values of MAX_ADDR and MIN_ADDR. The closer together they were, the smaller the range of the SRAM we used. This was important, because using the entire SRAM gave us a buffer of about 3.3 seconds, and we wanted only about 2.5 seconds.

The major consideration that affected our tile construction was a desire for resiliency. Because users would probably stomp on each of the tiles fairly hard, we wanted to make sure that our press detection system could withstand a lot of force. We also wanted a simple, easy solution to mock-up and build.

Initially we looked into using strain gauges, but they would require mounting to a base plate and the tile to be pushed. Traditional buttons did not seem like a robust enough option. Instead, we decided to use force sensitive resistors (FSRs). Initial testing revealed that the unpressed FSRs had resistance of approximately 6 MΩ. When pressed, it was approximately 1 kΩ. This huge discrepancy made it easy to probe it for a press. We thank Interlink Electronics, who were gracious enough to donate 10 FSR402s for use in our project. ..

Read the full article in the November 340 issue of Circuit Cellar

Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!

Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

IAR Updates Dev Tools for Renesas Automotive MCUs

IAR Systems has announced a major update of its development tools for Renesas automotive-focused RH850 microcontrollers. The latest version of the complete C/C++ compiler and debugger toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 offers boosted user experience and extended capabilities through a number of new features.

IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 incorporates a compiler, a debugger, an assembler and a linker in one integrated development environment. It is available in several editions to suit different company needs, including a functional safety edition certified by TÜV SÜD according to IEC 61508, ISO 26262 and EN 50128. Renesas Electronics’ RH850 automotive MCU family includes rich functional safety and embedded security features needed for advanced automotive applications.
Version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 adds compliance with the latest C language standard ISO/IEC 9899:2011 and the latest C++ standard ISO/IEC 14882:2014, ensuring high-quality, future-proof code. Renowned for producing very efficient code, the IAR C/C++ Compiler™ in IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 now supports stack protection and stack usage analysis functionality. Available as an add-on for the toolchain is the static analysis tool C-STAT, which is now updated with a number of new checks. With these additions, developers building RH850-based applications are able to further strengthen code quality, stability and reliability in their embedded applications.

Automotive embedded applications are growing in complexity, which means it can be challenging to make a correct setup of peripherals from scratch. The Renesas Smart Configurator is a tool for combining software, automatically generating control programs for peripheral modules, and pin setting from the GUI with built-in cross-checks to avoid potential contention with multiplexed functions. In version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850, automated code generation from Renesas Smart Configurator is made possible through the straight-forward project connection functionality.

IAR Systems | www.iar.com

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your
Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Analog & Power. (11/6) 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.

Microcontroller Watch (11/13) 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. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Fog-Detection Audio Project

Using Arduino UNO

Fog reduces visibility, sometimes down to a few feet. That’s why fog horns are so important. In this article, Jeff embarks on a project that makes use of humidity sensors to detect fog, and automatically plays an audio response when fog is detected. Aside from the sensors, his project also makes use of Arduino hardware and software.

By Jeff Bachiochi

Pea soup. Not one of my favorite dishes. I just can’t see green soup. All that said, as a consistency descriptor, “pea soup” is spot on for describing fog. You don’t have to live in San Francisco to appreciate the alien qualities of the scene in Figure 1. This phenomenon is commonplace to those who reside in London, Seattle, on any lake or in any valley. All we need is the right combination of temperature and humidity, and the clouds of heaven will visit us here on Earth.

Fog consists of visible water droplets suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface. This moisture is often generated locally from a nearby body of water, and forms when the difference between air temperature and dew point is less than about 4°F. The dew point is the temperature at which the water vapor in air (at constant barometric pressure) condenses into liquid water on tiny particles in the air, at the same rate at which it evaporates—forming fog. A change in temperature affects the relative humidity. As the dew point goes up, so does the relative humidity, creating a smaller differential between actual temperature and dew point temperature until fog forms.

The maximum amount of water vapor that can be held in a given volume of air (saturation) varies greatly by temperature. Cold air can hold less mass of water per unit volume than hot air. Relative humidity is the percentage of water found relative to the maximum possible, at a particular temperature.

Most of us have experienced the relationship between temperature and relative humidity firsthand. When the air temperature is high, our bodies use the evaporation of sweat to cool down. The cooling effect is directly related to how fast the perspiration evaporates. The rate of evaporation depends on how much moisture is already in the air and how much moisture the air can hold. If the air is already saturated with moisture (high humidity) perspiration will not evaporate, and we remain hot and uncomfortable. Discomfort can also exist when the humidity is low. The drier air can cause our skin to crack and tends to dry out the airways.

Measuring Relative Humidity

A hygrometer is an instrument used for measuring the humidity and water vapor content of the atmosphere, the soil and confined spaces. An instrument that measures humidity usually relies on the detection of some other quantity—such as temperature, pressure, mass or a mechanical or electrical change in a substance as moisture is absorbed. Today we use the electrical change of capacitance or resistance to calculate humidity.

Humidity measurement is among the more difficult problems in basic meteorology. Most hygrometers sense relative humidity rather than the absolute amount of water present. Because relative humidity is a function of both temperature and absolute moisture content, a small temperature change will translate into a change in relative humidity.

Some materials’ properties allow humidity levels to be determined based on a change in their capacitance, resistance, thermal conductivity or mass. Many humidity sensors include a temperature sensor, which allows them to approach 2-3% accuracy in a changing temperature environment. Table 1 shows several common humidity sensors. Many of them are available on some tiny PCB modules for easy interfacing.

Table 1
These are some popular humidity sensors with similar specifications.

I’ve used both the Honeywell HIH-5031 (with a Texas Instruments TMP102 temperature sensor) and a Silicon Labs Si7021 for measuring humidity in this project. The The Honeywell sensor has analog output, whereas the TI temperature sensor and Silicon Labs humidity/temperature sensor both use I2C to communicate. If you feel uneasy writing a function to perform the process, Arduino libraries are available for many sensors. This is an advantage for newbies, because you can get a program working with a library and often a sample program to get you started. Then you can go back and write the function yourself as a learning experience.

I don’t want to base the project totally on humidity, so I have added an ultrasonic distance measuring device to the project. Because fog forms as the air becomes supersaturated with water, this should mean that the humidity has reached 100% and water droplets in the air should begin to look solid. I’m hoping ultrasonics will be reflected by the droplets and cause a normal non-returned ping to be received. The combination of these two sensors exceeding some predetermined limits will satisfy my conditions to determine the presence of “fog.”

Avast, Ye Landlubber!

In a previous article (March 2011, Circuit Cellar 248), I presented the Microchip Technology (formerly Supertex) SR10, an inductorless switching power supply controller intended for operation directly from a rectified 120/240 VAC line. This was presented in support of creating a 5 V supply for a lighthouse fixture designed using LEDs. This month’s project will build upon that 5 V light, and will add audio to protect and guide boaters who find themsleves out on a lake under foggy conditions.

Figure 2
The schematic shows the connections made between the Arduino Uno headers and the sensor/module connectors mounted on an Arduino prototyping board. The finished board is shown in Figure 4.

I’m centering this project around the Arduino UNO. While I built the prototype interface (Figure 2) using the Arduino MEGA, it only uses the pins native to the UNO. The sensors/modules that are interfaced in this project are shown in Table 2.

Table 2
Each sensor/module will add some current draw to the project. Although current can be minimized in some cases while it is not active, this all becomes important if the project will run on batteries.

Because the UNO has only a single hardware serial port, I set up two additional software serial ports—one to talk with the DRPlayer and one to the optional LCD (output only). The main port and optional LCD don’t have to be used in the final project, but there is code written to display progress on each of these devices for seeing debugging information.  .  …

Read the full article in the October 339 issue of Circuit Cellar

Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!

Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s IoT Technology Focus newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your IoT Technology Focus newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Embedded Boards.(10/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Analog & Power. (11/6) 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.

Microcontroller Watch (11/13) 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.

November Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The November issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. Clear your decks for a new stack of in-depth embedded electronics articles prepared for you to enjoy.

Not a Circuit Cellar subscriber?  Don’t be left out! Sign up today:

 

Here’s a sneak preview of November 2018 Circuit Cellar:

SOLUTIONS FOR SYSTEM DESIGNS

3D Printing for Embedded Systems
Although 3D printing for prototyping has existed for decades, it’s only in recent years that it’s become a mainstream tool for embedded systems development. Today the ease of use of these systems has reached new levels and the types of materials that can be used continues to expand. This article by Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child looks at the technology and products available today that enable 3D printing for embedded systems.

Add GPS to Your Embedded System
We certainly depend on GPS technology a lot these days, and technology advances have brought fairly powerful GPS functionally into our pockets. Today’s miniaturization of GPS receivers enables you to purchase an inexpensive but capable GPS module that you can add to your embedded system designs. In this article, Stuart Ball shows how to do this and take advantage of the GPS functionality.

FCL for Servo Drives
Servo drives are a key part of many factory automation systems. Improving their precision and speed requires attention to fast-current loops and related functions. In his article, Texas Instruments’ Ramesh Ramamoorthy gives an overview of the functional behavior of the servo loops using fast current loop algorithms in terms of bandwidth and phase margin.

FOCUS ON ANALOG AND POWER

Analog and Mixed-Signal ICs
Analog and mixed-signal ICs play important roles in a variety of applications. These applications depend heavily on all kinds of interfacing between real-world analog signals and the digital realm of processing and control. Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in analog and mixed-signal chips.

Sleeping Electronics
Many of today’s electronic devices are never truly “off.” Even when a device is in sleep mode, it draws some amount of power—and drains batteries. Could this power drain be reduced? In this project article, Jeff Bachiochi addresses this question by looking at more efficient ways to for a system to “play dead” and regulate power.

BUILDING CONNECTED SYSTEMS FOR THE IoT EDGE

Easing into the IoT Cloud (Part 1)
There’s a lot of advantages for the control/monitoring of devices to communicate indirectly with the user interface for those devices—using some form of “always-on” server. When this server is something beyond one in your home, it’s called the “cloud.” Today it’s not that difficult to use an external cloud service to act as the “middleman” in your system design. In this article, Brian Millier looks at the technologies and services available today enabling you to ease in to the IoT cloud.

Sensors at the Intelligent IoT Edge
A new breed of intelligent sensors has emerged aimed squarely at IoT edge subsystems. In this article, Mentor Graphics’ Greg Lebsack explores what defines a sensor as intelligent and steps through the unique design flow issues that surround these kinds of devices.

FUN AND INTERESTING PROJECT ARTICLES

MCU-Based Project Enhances Dance Game
Microcontrollers are perfect for systems that need to process analog signals such as audio and do real-time digital control in conjunction with those signals. Along just those lines, learn how two Cornell students Michael Solomentsev and Drew Dunne recreated the classic arcade game “Dance Dance Revolution” using a Microchip Technology PIC32 MCU. Their version performs wavelet transforms to detect beats from an audio signal to synthesize dance move instructions in real-time without preprocessing.

Building an Autopilot Robot (Part 2)
In part 1 of this two-part article series, Pedro Bertoleti laid the groundwork for his autopiloted four-wheeled robot project by exploring the concept of speed estimation and speed control. In part 2, he dives into the actual building of the robot. The project provides insight to the control and sensing functions of autonomous electrical vehicles.

… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Embedded System Security: Live from Las Vegas
This month Colin O’Flynn summarizes a few interesting presentations from the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. He walks you through some attacks on bitcoin wallets, x86 backdoors and side channel analysis work—these and other interesting presentations from Black Hat.

Highly Accelerated Product Testing
It’s a fact of life that every electronic system eventually fails. Manufacturers use various methods to weed out most of the initial failures before shipping their product. In this article, George Novacek discusses engineering attempts to bring some predictability into the reliability and life expectancy of electronic systems. In particular, he focuses on Highly Accelerated Lifetime Testing (HALT) and Highly Accelerated Stress Screening (HASS).

NXP i.MX RT1060 Crossover Processors Released

First announced in February at Embedded World 2018, NXP Semiconductors has released its i.MX RT1060 Crossover processor, with the company claiming a mere ten months from concept to market launch.

The i.MX RT1060 is the latest addition to what NXP calls a crossover processor series and expands the i.MX RT series to three scalable families. The i.MX RT1060 doubles the On-Chip SRAM to 1 MB while keeping pin-to-pin compatibility with i.MX RT1050. This new series introduces additional features ideal for real-time applications such as High-Speed GPIO, CAN-FD, and synchronous parallel NAND/NOR/PSRAM controller. The i.MX RT1060 runs on the Arm Cortex-M7 core at 600 MHz.

This device is fully supported by NXP’s MCUXpresso Software and Tools, a comprehensive and cohesive set of free software development tools for Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT microcontrollers. MCUXpresso SDK also includes project files for Keil MDK and IAR EWARM.

The i.MX RT crossover are designed to bridge the gap between high-performance and integration while minimizing costs to meet today’s need for high performance embedded processing at the edge node. According to NXP the series were designed to combine high performance MCU processing with the functionality of applications processors, at reduced costs, thereby enabling advanced computation and machine learning capabilities in millions of connected edge devices. The i.MX RT1060 is available now, and is priced at $3.48 (10,000s).

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

Security Takes Center Stage for MCUs

Enabling Secure IoT

Embedded systems face security challenges unlike those in the IT realm. To meet those needs, microcontroller vendors continue to add ever-more sophisticated security features to their devices—both on their own and via partnerships with security specialists.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

For embedded systems, there is no one piece of technology that can take on all the security responsibilities of a system on their own. Indeed, everything from application software to firmware to data storage has a role to play in security. That said, microcontollers have been trending toward assuming a central role in embedded security. One driving factor for this is the Internet-of-Things (IoT). As the IoT era moves into full gear, all kinds of devices are getting more connected. And because MCUs are a key component in those connected systems, MCUs have evolved in recent years to include more robust security features on chip.

That trend has continued over the last 12 months, with the leading MCU vendors ramping up those embedded security capabilities in a variety of ways—some on their own and some by teaming up with hardware and software security specialists.

Built for IoT Security

Exemplifying these trends, Microchip Technology in June released its SAM L10 and SAM L11 MCU families (Figure 1). The devices were designed to address the increasing risks of exposing intellectual property (IP) and sensitive information in IoT-based embedded systems. The MCU families are based on the Arm Cortex-M23 core, with the SAM L11 featuring Arm TrustZone for Armv8-M, a programmable environment that provides hardware isolation between certified libraries, IP and application code. Security features on the MCUs include tamper resistance, secure boot and secure key storage. These, combined with TrustZone technology, protect applications from both remote and physical attacks.

Figure 1
The SAM L10 and SAM L11 MCU families provide TrustZone for Armv8-M hardware isolation between certified libraries, IP and application code. The MCUs also feature tamper resistance, secure boot and secure key storage.

In addition to TrustZone technology, the SAM L11 security features include an on-board cryptographic module supporting Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Galois Counter Mode (GCM) and Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA). The secure boot and secure key storage with tamper detection capabilities establish a hardware root of trust. It also offers a secure bootloader for secure firmware upgrades.

Microchip has partnered with Trustonic, a member of Microchip’s Security Design Partner Program, to offer a comprehensive security solution framework that simplifies implementation of security and enables customers to introduce end products faster. Microchip has also partnered with Secure Thingz and Data I/O Corporation to offer secure provisioning services for SAM L11 customers that have a proven security framework.

Wireless MCU

Likewise focusing on IoT security, NXP Semiconductor in February announced its K32W0x wireless MCU platform. According to NXP, it’s the first single-chip device with a dual-core architecture and embedded multi-protocol radio. It provides a solution for miniaturizing sophisticated applications that typically require a larger, more costly two-chip solution. Examples include consumer devices such as wearables, smart door locks, thermostats and other smart home devices.

The K32W0x embeds a dual-core architecture comprised of an Arm Cortex-M4 core for high performance application processing and a Cortex-M0+ core for low-power connectivity and sensor processing. Memory on chip includes 1.25 MB of flash and 384 KB of SRAM. Its multi-protocol radio supports Bluetooth 5 and IEEE 802.15.4 including the Thread IP-based mesh networking stack and the Zigbee 3.0 mesh networking stack.

Figure 2
Security features of the K32W0x MCU include a cryptographic sub-system that has a dedicated core, dedicated instruction and data memory for encryption, signing and hashing algorithms including AES, DES, SHA, RSA and ECC.

Features of the K32W0x’s security system include a cryptographic sub-system that has a dedicated core, dedicated instruction and data memory for encryption, signing and hashing algorithms including AES, DES, SHA, RSA and ECC. Secure key management is provided for storing and protecting sensitive security keys (Figure 2). Support is enabled for erasing the cryptographic sub-system memory, including security keys, upon sensing a security breach or physical tamper event. The device has a Resource Domain Controller for access control, system memory protection and peripheral isolation. Built-in secure boot and secure over-the-air programming is supported to assure only authorized and authenticated code runs in the device.

To extend the on-chip security features of the K32W0x MCU platform, NXP has collaborated with B-Secur, an expert in biometric authentication, to develop a system that uses an individual’s unique heart pattern (electrocardiogram/ECG) to validate identity, making systems more secure than using an individual’s fingerprint or voice.

IP Boosts Security

For its part, Renesas Electronics addressed the IoT security challenge late last year when it expanded its RX65N/RX651 Group MCU lineup.  …

Read the full article in the October 339 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. (10/9) 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. (10/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(10/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

ST and TomTom Team Up for Geolocation Tool Solution

STMicroelectronics and TomTom, a location technology specialist, have  announced a package of development tools in the STM32 Open Development Environment that connect directly to TomTom Maps APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for location, tracking and mapping data services. It is aimed at accelerating product development and reducing time-to-market and development costs for developers.

This development package consists of an STM32 Discovery host board for 2G/3G cellular-to-cloud connectivity (shown), a GNSS expansion board based on ST’s Teseo satellite navigation technology, and a software Function Pack that connects your Internet-of-Things (IoT) node via a cellular network to a range of TomTom Maps APIs. With this hardware and software package and a TomTom developer account, developers can quickly add location-based services to their IoT and Smart City applications. Among these services are the translation of GPS coordinates into a street address inside a map (Reverse Geocoding), retrieval of nearby point of interests, and the production of accurate navigation directions.

In addition to the STM32 family of Arm Cortex-M core microcontrollers, the development tools leverage ST’s multi-constellation Teseo positioning-receiver technology to perform all positioning operations including tracking, acquisition, navigation and data output.

For mapping data and services, technology companies, geographical information systems (GIS) providers, government bodies, and traffic-management institutions across the globe rely on TomTom to deliver industry-leading mapping products that create location-enabled applications.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com