November Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The November issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out soon! Energy harvesting technology, panel PCs, analog ICs in industrial systems, drone design, mesh networks, MQTT, current loop devices and more—this 84-page magazine mixes together a tasty spread of embedded electronics articles for your reading pleasure.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of November 2019 Circuit Cellar:

TECH FOR THE IoT AND CONNECTED SYSTEMS

Energy Harvesting Approaches
By Jeff Child
While many edge devices—particularly in IoT applications—-often need to run off of extremely low power, having an ability to harvest their own power is an even better scenario. Long-battery life is one thing, but not having to replace batteries at all is even better. In this article, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at the latest technology and product trends in energy harvesting for the IoT.

MQ Telemetry Transport (Part 2)
By Jeff Bachiochi
In Part 1 Jeff described the MQTT protocol and how it can be used by an MQTT server to keep all of your IoT projects tied together and managed from a centralized server running a program like Mosquitto on a local PC. He presented a simple project connecting two IoT nodes together via communications with the server. In Part, Jeff looks at modifying systems he uses to monitor his neighborhood well system and his weather station for integration into the MQTT server.

Self Organizing Wi-Fi Mesh Network
By Daniel Weber and Michaelangelo Rodriguez
Gone are the days when networking embedded devices was a big deal. Today, such devices can be linked in powerful mesh networks over wireless protocols. In this article, learn how these two Cornell students use Microchip PIC32 MCUs and Espressif’s ESP8266 Wi-Fi module to create a mesh network of wirelessly connected devices. The mesh network is able to configure itself and requires no manual intervention to connect the nodes.

Bluetooth-Enabled ECG Monitor
By Brian Millier
Brian has done project articles in the past using Cypress Semiconductor’s PSoC MCUs, including his most recent story about his variable frequency drive project he built using the SoC5LP MCU. This month he explores the latest offering from this MCU family, the PSoC6 5LP MCU. In this project article, Brian selects the Cypress’s CY8CPROTO-063-BLE to build a Bluetooth-enabled ECG monitor.

INDUSTRIAL SYSTEMS AND PROCESS CONTROL

Analog ICs for Industrial Systems
By Jeff Child
Analog and mixed-signal ICs play important roles in industrial automation and process control applications. These system applications depend heavily on innovations in amplifiers, data converters, sensor solutions and more. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in these areas.

Product Focus: Panel PCs
By Jeff Child
Panel PCs are a category of display systems that are meant to be mounted on a factory wall or on the side of an industrial machine. And rather than simply being a display, panel PCs embed complete single board computing functionality, providing a complete embedded solution. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative panel PCs.

4-20 mA Current Loop Devices and SBCs
By Derek Hildreth
In this article, Technologic Systems’ Derek Hildreth helps you gain deeper understanding of 4-20 mA current loop devices and process control systems. He looks at some history, explains why things are the way they are, looks at simple example components of a process control system (sensor, transmitter, receiver) and works through a practical example with working code.

RESOURCES FOR ENGINEERS

Designing Manufacturing Test Systems
By Nishant Mittal
Manufacturing tests are arguably the most important aspect in any kind of hardware design company, be it small or big. Quality is a factor which no company or individual wants to compromise because quality defines the product and ultimately is the main thing which retains a customer. In this article, Xilinx’s Nishant Mittal discusses various techniques to manage quality, cost and corner case catching scenarios in a manufacturing test environment of a board fabrication house.

Multi-Scale Electronic Flute
By Trisha Ray, Parth Bhatt and Qing Yu
Musical instruments such as the piano allow musicians to play in different scales on the same instrument. In contrast, flutes are designed for one scale only. This means a flute player must own an additional flute for every additional scale they want to play in. Learn how these three Cornell students built an PIC32 MCU-based electronic flute that reduces the need for owning multiple flutes by incorporating two buttons that allow a flute player to change the scale and octave.


… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Embedded System Security: Live from Las Vegas
By Colin O’Flynn
This month, Colin summarizes some interesting presentations from the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, NV—along with an extra bonus event. This will help you keep up-to-date with some of the latest embedded attacks, including execute only memory attacks, fault injection on embedded devices, 4G cellular modems and FPGA bitstream hacking.

Semiconductor Fundamentals (Part 3)
By George Novacek
In Part 2, George discussed devices built with one P-N junction, appropriately named diodes. In this article, he considers devices with more junctions. He starts with two and looks at the ubiquitous, three-terminal bipolar junction transistor, or BJT for short. George looks at the math, science and circuitry of these devices.

 

 

Low Power, Secure Boot MCUs are Designed for IoT Implementations

Nuvoton Technology has launched a new low power, robust security M261/M262/M263 series MCU designed for IoT applications. It is based on an Arm Cortex-M23 secure core for Armv8-M architecture, running up to 64 MHz with 512 KB flash in dual bank mode supporting Over-The-Air (OTA) Firmware update and 96 KB SRAM.

The MCUs’ power consumption in the normal run is down to 45 μA/MHz in DC-DC mode. It implements a secure boot function and hardware crypto acceleration to achieve high security of IoT devices. For IoT connectivity and sensors, the MCU integrates SDHC 2.0, USB 2.0 FS OTG, CAN Bus 2.0B and a 3.76 MSPS ADC for sensing data from sensor devices. Two types of evaluation boards, NuMaker-IoT-M263 (shown) and NuMaker-M263KI, are available for the MCUs.
The M261/M262/M263 series is downward compatible with Nuvoton Arm Cortex-M0 microcontrollers. The low supply voltage ranges from 1.8 V to 3.6 V and operating temperature ranges from -40℃ to 105℃. The MCU series provides multiple power modes for different operating scenarios, integrating RTC with independent VBAT to support low power mode. The power consumption in normal run mode is 97 μA/MHz (LDO mode) and 45 μA/MHz (DC-DC mode). Standby power-down current is down to 2.8 μA and Deep power-down current is less than 2 μA. The low power, low supply voltage, and fast wake-up (9 μs from Fast-wakeup Power-down mode) features make M261/M262/M263 series suitable for battery-powered IoT applications.

The robust security functions include secure boot function to ensure that a device boots using only trusted software through a series of digital signature authentication processes. The M261/M262/M263 series integrates complete hardware crypto engines such as AES 256/192/128, DES/3-DES, SHA, ECC, and True Random Number Generator (TRNG). Furthermore, it provides 4-region programable eXecute-Only-Memory (XOM) to secure critical program codes and up to six tamper detection pins against outer physical attack, which significantly improves the product security.

The M261/M262/M263 series is equipped with plenty of peripherals such as Timers, Watchdog Timers, RTC, PDMA, External Bus Interface (EBI), LPUART, Universal Serial Control Interface (USCI), Qual SPI (QSPI), SPI/I²S, I2C, Smart Card Interface (ISO-7816-3), GPIOs, and up to 24 channels of PWM. Those peripherals make it highly suitable for connecting comprehensive external modules. It integrates one set of Secure Digital Host Controllers (SDHC) compliant with SD Memory Card Specification Version 2.0, achieving a transfer rate of 200 Mbps at 3.3V and 50 MHz operations.

The SD card for fast data storage is therefore available. For high performance analog front-end circuit blocks, it integrates up to a 16-channel 12-bit 3.76 MSPS SAR ADC, two 12-bit 1 MSPS voltage type DAC, two rail-to-rail analog comparator (ACMP), temperature sensor, low voltage reset (LVR), and brown-out detector (BOD) to enhance product performance and reduce both external components and form factor.

NuMicro M261/ M262 / M263 series consists of three series:

  • NuMicro M261 series – suitable for classic IoT node devices and wireless communication modules applications
  • NuMicro M262 USB 2.0 FS OTG series – integrating 1 set of USB 2.0 FS OTG interface (crystal-less design), suitable for connecting USB host/device for data transfer
  • NuMicro M263 USB/CAN series – integrating 1 set of CAN Bus 2.0B and 1 set of USB 2.0 FS OTG interface (crystal-less design), suitable for industrial and automotive applications requiring CAN Bus for data communication.

The NuMicro M261/M262/M263 series provides 9 product part numbers. The package types include QFN33 (5mm x 5mm), LQFP64 (7mm x 7mm), and LQFP128 (14mm x 14mm). Pin compatibility in the same package makes optimizing product features and performance easy.

Two types of evaluation boards, NuMaker-IoT-M263 and NuMaker-M263KI, are available for selecting the suitable development environment to speed-up product design based on the NuMicro M261/M262/M263 series. NuMaker-IoT-M263 board is a new platform focusing on IoT products design, it integrates 9-axis sensor, environmental sensor, and popular wireless communication modules including Bluetooth module, Wi-Fi module, and LoRa module. A 2G/3G/4G-LTE/NB-IoT module with GPS function is available for purchase. With the IoT software package provided by Nuvoton, connecting the cloud of Arm Pelion, Amazon AWS, and Ali-Cloud is hazard-free. And the development of IoT products can be completed quickly.

The Nu-Link debugger is available for evaluation and product development. Third-Party IDEs such as Keil MDK, IAR EWARM, and NuEclipse IDE with GNU GCC compilers are also supported.

Nuvoton Technology | www.nuvoton.com

Dual-Core Arm Cortex-M-Based Chip Breaks MCU GHz Barrier

NXP Semiconductors has announced the i.MX RT1170 family of crossover MCUs that combines high performance, reliability and high levels of integration for use in industrial, IoT and automotive applications. NXP claims the i.MX RT1170 family is a technology breakthrough with MCUs that run up to 1 GHz while maintaining low-power efficiency. To achieve an optimal balance of power, performance, and cost-effective integration, the solution uses advanced 28 nm FD-SOI technology, making NXP the first company to build MCUs in this advanced technology node.

The i.MX RT1170 MCU features include: a dual-core architecture with the Arm Cortex-M7 core running up to 1 GHz and Cortex-M4 running up to 400 MHz, 2D vector graphics core, NXP’s pixel processing pipeline (PxP) 2D graphics accelerator, and EdgeLock 400A, the Company’s advanced embedded security technology. The MCU s architected to deliver a record-setting 12ns interrupt response time, 6468 CoreMark score and 2974 DMIPS while executing from on-chip memory. The new crossover MCU integrates up to 2 MB of on-chip SRAM, including 512 KB that can be configured as TCM with Error Code Correction (ECC) for Cortex-M7 use, and 256 KB of TCM with ECC for Cortex-M4 use.

The i.MX RT1170 dual-core system pairs a high-performance core and a power-efficient core with independent power domains of operation, enabling developers to run applications in parallel or reduce power consumption by turning off individual cores as necessary. For example, the energy-efficient Cortex-M4 core can be dedicated to time-critical control applications, such as sensor hub and motor control, while the main core runs more complex applications. Additionally, its dual-core system can run ML applications in parallel, such as face recognition with natural language processing to create human-like user interactivity.

For edge compute applications, the GHz Cortex-M7 core significantly enhances performance for ML, edge inference for voice, vision and gesture recognition, natural language understanding, data analytics, and digital signal processing (DSP) functions. The combination of GHz performance and high density of on-chip memory speeds up face recognition inference time by up to 5x compared to the today’s fastest MCUs in the market, in addition to having processing bandwidth to improve accuracy and immunity against spoofing. The GHz core is also exceptionally efficient in executing computationally demanding voice recognition, including audio pre-processing (echo cancellation, noise suppression, beamforming, and barge-in) for improved cognition.

The i.MX RT1170 family incorporates NXP’s EdgeLock 400A embedded security sub-system, that includes High Assurance Boot (HAB) – NXP’s version of secure boot, secure key storage, SRAM-based PUF (physically unclonable function), high performance crypto accelerators for AES-128/256, Elliptical Curve Cryptography, RSA-4096 encryption algorithms, hashing acceleration for SHA-256/512, in addition to tamper detection. The i.MX RT1170 MCU also features in-line encryption engine (IEE) and on-the-fly decryption engines (OTFAD) to address the challenge of protecting the confidentiality of data stored in internal and external memories with no latency impact. The IEE is designed to encrypt and decrypt on-chip SRAM and external SRAM/PSRAM/DRAM, while OTFAD operates on external serial and parallel flash memories.

As the industry’s first MCU to integrate a 2D vector graphics core with support for Open VG 1.1 API, the i.MX RT1170 family enables the development of attractive user interfaces at low power by off-loading intensive graphics rendering to the GPU. The GHz core also brings 720p displays at 60fps refresh and 1080p HD screens at 30fps to create immersive visual experiences. The complementary combination of a GPU and high-performance core can be especially useful for smart home, industrial and automotive cockpit applications.

NXP’s i.MX RT Crossover MCUs are supported by NXP’s MCUXpresso Software and Tools – a common toolkit designed for MCUs to significantly reduce development effort, time and cost by providing high-quality tools that work together seamlessly and in conjunction with the larger Arm Cortex-M ecosystem. Customers can develop machine learning applications for i.MX RT crossover MCUs using NXP’s eIQ machine learning software development environment. 

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

 

MCU Development Solution Targets Industrial Network Designs

Renesas Electronics has announced its RX72M Industrial Network Solution, designed to accelerate the development of industrial slave equipment using the RX72M Group of 32-bit industrial Ethernet MCUs. The new RX72M solution includes an evaluation board, an operating system, middleware, and a sample software that supports approximately 70 percent of the communications protocols used in industrial network applications.
This enables users to immediately launch slave equipment development, such as motor control blocks for compact industrial robots, PLC (programmable logic controller) devices, and remote I/O systems. The sample software includes: EtherCAT, PROFINET RT, Ethernet/IP, Modbus TCP, and OPC UA, as industrial Ethernet software, and PROFIBUS DP, Modbus, RTU/ASCII, CAN open and DeviceNet, as Field Bus communication software.

Renesas has confirmed conformance testing for the three major protocols—EtherCAT, PROFINET RT, and Ethernet/IP—which represents the global industrial Ethernet market. This allows developers to reduce the overall development time—including development, evaluation, and verification steps—by as much as six months, accelerating their time to market, according to Renesas.

Industrial network protocols differ extensively between countries and regions, and industrial network equipment deploying globally must support a wide range of protocols. The RX72M solution includes major protocols used in each region, allowing users to evaluate industrial network connectivity equipment immediately. Customers can focus on their own application development efforts, while strengthening their competitive edge for global product deployments.

With the new RX72M solution, Renesas provides sample software and will collaborate with partners providing sales and support mass production protocols to support customers’ transition from development to mass production.

The Renesas RX72M Industrial Network Solution provides the following items:

  • Evaluation board, including RX72M MCU
  • RX72M drivers
  • OS (µITRON) and TCP IP middleware sample programs
  • Industrial network protocol sample programs
  • CS+ and e2 studio integrated development environment (IDE)
  • Application notes

Sale and support for OS, middleware, and industrial networks from partner companies

The RX72M Industrial Network Solution will be available for customers in Japan by December 2019 with OS, middleware, industrial networks support from Renesas’ partner companies. Global access will be available by October 2020.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

8-pin Device Brings 32-bit MCUs Capabilities to Simple Applications

STMicroelectronics has announced four STM32 MCUs that now available in an 8-pin package, enabling simple embedded projects to leverage 32-bit performance and flexibility in a compact and cost-effective outline. The four new STM32G0 devices deliver a combination of 8-pin economy with a 64 MHz Arm Cortex-M0+ CPU giving 59 DMIPS, up to 8 KB RAM and 32 KB flash on-chip, and high-performing peripherals including a 2.5 Msps ADC, high-resolution timer and a high-speed SPI.

With flexible mapping of I/O pins and internal MCU functions, designers can upgrade end-product functionality without trading board real-estate or bill-of-materials costs. The stability of the internal oscillator, which is accurate to ±1% over wide temperature and voltage ranges, also saves external clock components.

Benefiting from the low-power design features of the STM32 MCU family, the 8-pin STM32G0 devices can be used in energy-conscious applications governed by battery-capacity limits, eco-design legislation, or market expectations such as appliance energy ratings. The new MCUs also ease future scalability through the features available across the STM32G0 series, which offers up to 100 package pins, up to 512 KB flash, additional high-performance analog peripherals, and cyber-protection features.

The new 8-pin STM32G0 MCUs are available now in 6mm x 4.9mm SO8N, from $0.31 for 1000-piece orders of the STM32G030J6 Value Line MCU. The 8-pin Discovery kit STM32G0316-DISCO, available for $9.90, eases developers’ lives with quick and affordable evaluation. STM32G031J6, STM32G031J4, and STM32G041J6 Access Line MCUs are also available in SO8N, offering additional functionality including a hardware AES acceleration, Securable Memory Area enabling secure boot or firmware update, extra timers and 96-bit unique device ID.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

Reusable Solderless Robotics Kit Features SimpleLink MCU

Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced the newest addition to the TI Robotics System Learning Kit (TI-RSLK) family, the TI-RSLK MAX, a low-cost robotics kit and curriculum that is simple to build, code and test. Designed for the university classroom, the solderless assembly allows students to have their own fully functioning embedded system built in under 15 minutes. Classrooms that may not have access to soldering equipment benefit from the solderless, hands-on kit and curriculum that can be reused year after year.

Designed for the university classroom, the TI-RSLK MAX is a low-cost robotics kit and curriculum that is simple to build, code and test.

TI launched the TI-RSLK series last year to help universities across the globe keep students engaged from their first day of class until graduation with hands-on, customizable options for learning embedded systems design. The TI-RSLK MAX completes all tasks and robotic challenges covered in the previous TI-RSLK Maze Edition kit, such as solving a maze, line following and avoiding obstacles. It also provides a user-friendly assembly of the various sub-systems, speeding up the building and testing of the robot.

The new kit includes TI’s SimpleLink MSP432P401R microcontroller (MCU) LaunchPad Development Kit, easy-to-connect sensors, and a versatile chassis board that turns the robot into a mobile learning platform. Through accompanying core and supplemental curriculum, students learn how to integrate their hardware and software knowledge to build and test a system. For advanced learning, wireless communication and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities can be added to the TI-RSLK MAX to remotely control the robot or even establish robot-to robot communication.

The TI-RSLK MAX is available for purchase for US$109 from the TI Store and includes the SimpleLink MSP432P401R MCU LaunchPad Development Kit, as well as all additional components required for assembly. To expand kit functionality and learning paths, optional accessories are available for purchase. Further information about the TI-RSLK can found at www.ti.com/rslk

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

 

October Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The October issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week! Smart Home technologies, Smart Farming, antenna arrays, rugged SBCs and COMs—this 84-page publication gathers up a great selection of embedded electronics articles for your reading pleasure.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of October 2019 Circuit Cellar:

TECHNOLOGIES FOR A CONNECTED WORLD

Smart Home Technologies
By Jeff Child
The evolution of Smart Homes is about more than pure convenience. Smart Home technologies are leveraging IoT concepts to improve energy efficiency and security, thanks to intelligent, connected devices. The topic encompasses things like power-saving motor control systems, predictive maintenance, cloud-based voice assistance, remote monitoring and more. In this article, Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines the MCU and analog ICs that are serving the needs Smart Home system developers.

MQ Telemetry Transport
By Jeff Bachiochi
Better known by the acronym MQTT, this lightweight messaging protocol is designed to minimize network bandwidth and device resource requirements. In this article, Jeff sets out to use MQTT via a cloud setup that he can do locally. For this, he turns to Eclipse Mosquitto, an open source message broker that implements the MQTT protocol. Jeff steps through the nitty gritty details of his implementation.

LoRa (Part 1)
By Bob Japenga
In this new article series, Bob discusses LoRa—the Long Range spread spectrum modulation technique that promises to solve a number of the key issues in fulfilling the wireless IoT requirements. In Part 1, Bob starts with an introduction to LoRa, looking at what it is, what are its limitations and how those limitations affect how we use this technology.

Smart Farming Device Gives Plants a Voice
By Andrei Florian
Smart Farming has many aspects, and among these the agriculture side. In this project article, Andrei discusses SmartAgro, a device that combines field autonomy with ease of use, allowing farmers to give their plants a “voice.” It lets you visualize the temperature, soil humidity, UV radiation and more wherever you are, in real time and take action when it is most needed—whether that means turning on an irrigation system or preparing for cultivation.

 
RESOURCES FOR ENGINEERS

Product Focus: Rugged SBCs
By Jeff Child
Single board computers are used in such a broad sweep of applications—some that must operate in harsh environmental conditions. Rugged SBCs offer a variety of attributes to serve such needs, including extended temperature range, high shock and vibration resilience and even high humidity protection. This Product Focus section updates readers on this technology trend and provides a product album of representative rugged SBCs.

An Intro to Antenna Arrays
By Robert Lacoste
As an expert in RF technology, Robert has deep knowledge about antennas. And in this era of IoT, his expertise more relevant than ever. That’s because every wireless device has some kind of antenna and these antennas are often the root cause of engineering headaches. With that in mind, in this article Robert discusses the math, technology and design issues that are basic to antenna arrays.

Using Digital Potentiometers
By Stuart Ball
A digital potentiometer probably can’t be considered the most glamorous of electronic components. But it is easy to use and versatile. In this article, Stuart digs into the uses, advantages and disadvantages of the digital potentiometer, including how they contrast to mechanical potentiometers.

Semiconductor Fundamentals (Part 2)
By George Novacek
In Part 1 George examined the basic structures that make semiconductors work. But a lot more needs to be said about diodes, which are a key element of semiconductors. In Part 2, George dives deeper, this time looking at the current flow, depletion layer and electron physics that are involved in diode operations. He covers various types of diodes and the details of their operations.

A Hardware Random Number Generator
By Devlin Gualtieri
Men first walked on the Moon fifty years ago. On the same week as that historic event, Dev divided his time between watching the event on television and building a unique desktop novelty circuit, a random digit generator. This circuit used a Nixie tube for display and a handful of TTL integrated circuits to implement a linear feedback shift register. In this article, Dev updates his original design using the CMOS digital circuits available today and a 7-segment LED display. He also presents an improved version that uses a Microchip PIC MCU.


MICRCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

Application-Specific MCUs
By Jeff Child
In contrast to microprocessors, microcontrollers tend to be used for specific applications. But even among MCUs, there’s distinct difference between general purpose MCUs and MCUs that are designed for very specific application segments, or even sub-segments. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines this class of MCUs that target everything from factory automation to appliance control.

The Laser Harp
By Alex Hatzis
Normally, you’d think that taking the strings out of a harp would be a downgrade. But in this article, Cornell student Alex Hatzis presents a system that does just that—replacing the harp strings with red lasers. Phototransistors are used to detect when the beams are intercepted by a person’s hand playing the harp, and some convincing real-time sound synthesis helps to create a new, high tech instrument.

 

 

 

September Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The September issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week! This 84-page publication stitches together a fine tapestry of fascinating embedded electronics articles crafted for your reading pleasure.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of September 2019 Circuit Cellar:

TECHNOLOGY FOR SECURITY, SENSORS & THE IoT

Security Solutions for IoT
By Jeff Child
In this IoT era of connected devices, microcontrollers have begun taking on new roles and gaining new capabilities revolving around embedded security. MCUs are embedding ever-more sophisticated security features into their devices-both on their own and via partnerships with security specialists. Here, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at the latest technology and trends in MCU security.

Electromagnetic Fault Injection: A Closer Look
By Colin O’Flynn
Electromagnetic Fault Injection (EMFI) is a powerful method of inserting faults into embedded devices, but what does this give us? In this article, Colin dives into a little more detail of what sort of effects EMFI has on real devices, and expands upon a few previous articles to demonstrate some attacks on new devices.
 
Product Focus: IoT Gateways
By Jeff Child
IoT gateways are a smart choice to facilitate bidirectional communication between IoT field devices and the cloud. Gateways also provide local processing and storage capabilities for offline services as well as near real-time management and control of edge devices. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative IoT gateways.
 
Comparing Color Sensor ICs
By Kevin Jensen
Driven by demands from mobile phone, display and specialty lighting equipment manufacturers, the need for sophisticated and accurate chip-scale color and spectral sensors has become stronger than ever. In this article, ams’ Kevin Jensen describes the types of optical sensors and detectors. He also provides ideas on evaluating the suitability of each type for specific applications.

PC-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
 
Mini-ITX, Pico-ITX and Nano-ITX Boards
By Jeff Child
Products based on the various small-sized versions of the ITX form factor—Mini-ITX, Pico-ITX and Nano—ITX-provide system developers with complete PC-functionality and advanced graphics. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in these three ITX architectures.
 
Using Small PCs in New Ways
By Wolfgang Matthes
Even simple MCU-based projects often require some sort of front panel interface. Traditionally such systems had to rely on LEDs and switches for such simple interfaces. These days however, you can buy small, inexpensive computing devices such as mini-PCs and notebook computers and adapt them to fill those interfacing roles. In this article, Wolfgang steps you through the options and issues involved in connecting such PC-based devices to an MCU-based environment.



FOCUS ON MICROCONTROLLERS
 
Guitar Game Uses PIC32 MCU
By Brian Dempsey, Katarina Martucci and Liam Patterson
Guitar Hero has been an extremely popular game for decades. Many college kids today who played it when they were kids still enjoy playing it today. These three Cornell students are just such fans. Learn how they used Microchip’s microcontroller and 12-bit DAC to craft their own version that lets them play any song they wish by using MIDI files.
 
Offloading Intelligence
By Jeff Bachiochi
While some embedded systems do just fine with a single microcontroller, there are situations when offloading some processing into a second processing unit, such as a second MCU, offers a lot of advantages. In this article, Jeff explores this question in the context of a robotic system project that uses Arduino and an external motor driver.
 
Building a Portable Game Console
By Juan Joel Albrecht and Leandro Dorta Duque
32-bit MCUs can do so much these days—even providing all the needed control functionality for a gaming console. Along just those lines, learn how these three Cornell students built a portable game console that combines a Microchip PIC32 MCU embedded in a custom-designed 3D-printed case, printed circuit board and in-house gameplay graphics. The device includes a 320 x 240 TFT color display.
 


… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS
 
Variable Frequency Drive Part 2
By Brian Millier
In Part 1 Brian started to describe the process he used to convert a 3-phase motor and OEM Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) controller—salvaged from his defunct clothes washer—into a variable speed drive for his bandsaw. In this article, he completes the discussion this tim,e covering the Cypress Semi PSoC5LP SoC he used, the software design and more.
 
Semiconductor Fundamentals Part 1
By George Novacek
Embedded systems—or even modern electronics in general—couldn’t exist without semiconductor technology. In this new article series, George delves into the fundamentals of semiconductors. In Part 1 George examines the math, chemistry and materials science that are fundamental to semiconductors with a look at the basic structures that make them work.
 

 

August Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The August issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week! This 84-page publication rustles up a powerful herd of compelling embedded electronics articles prepared for your reading pleasure.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of August 2019 Circuit Cellar:

MCU AND EMBEDDED SYSTEM TECHNOLOGIES

MCUs for Driverless Cars
By Jeff Child
Driverless cars are steadily advancing toward becoming a mainstream phenomenon. Building toward that goal, chip vendors are evolving their driver assistance technologies into complete driver replacement solutions. These solutions make use of powerful microcontroller solutions to analyze a car’s surroundings, process the information and employ control functionality to steer cars safely. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines the MCU technology and product trends that are key to driverless vehicle evolution.

Product Focus: Small and Tiny Embedded Boards
By Jeff Child
An amazing amount of computing functionality can be squeezed on to a small form factor board these days. These small—and even tiny—board-level products meet the needs of applications where extremely low SWaP (size, weight and power) beats all other demands. This Product Focus section updates readers on this technology trend and provides a product album of representative small and tiny embedded boards.

Portable Digital Synthesizer
By T.J. Hurd and Ben Roberge
Gone are the days when even a basic music synthesizer was a bulky system requiring highly specialized design knowledge. These two Cornell students developed a portable musical synthesizer using a Microchip PIC32 MCU. The portable system performs digital audio synthesis on the fly and produces sounds that range from simple sine waves to heavily modulated waveforms.

Displays for Embedded Systems
By Jeff Child
Thanks to advances in displays and innovations in graphics ICs, embedded systems can now routinely feature sophisticated graphical user interfaces. What used to require a dedicated board-level graphics/video board, now can be integrated into a chip or just a part of a chip. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in displays for embedded systems.

Building a Twitter Emote Robot
By Ian Kranz, Nikhil Dhawan and Sofya Calvin
Social media is so pervasive these days that it’s hard to image life without it. But digital interactions can be isolating because the physical feedback component gets lost. Using PIC32 MCU technology, these three Cornell students built an emotionally expressive robot which physically reacts to tweets in a live setting. Users can tweet to the robot’s Twitter account and receive near instant feedback as the robot shares its feelings about the tweet via physical means such as sounds, facial expressions and more.

Understanding the Role of Inference Engines in AI
By Geoff Tate, Flex Logix
Artificial Intelligence offers huge benefits for embedded systems. But implementing AI well requires making smart technology choices, especially when it comes to selected a neural inferencing engine. In this article, Flex Logix CEO Geoff Tate explains what inferencing is, how it plays into AI and how embedded system designers can make sure they are using the right solution for their AI processing.


FUN WITH LIGHT AND HEAT

Watt’s Up with LEDs?
By Jeff Bachiochi
When Jeff puts his mind to a technology topic, he goes in deep. In this article, he explores all aspects of LED lighting—including the history, math, science and technology of LEDs. He discusses everything from temperature issues to powering LEDs. After purchasing some LEDs, Jeff embarks on a series of tests and shares his results and insights.

Automating the Art of Toast
By Michael Xiao and Katie Bradford
The emergence of culinary robotics and automation has already begun to revolutionize the way we prepare our meals. In this article, learn how these two Cornell undergraduates designed an advanced toaster that’s able to toast any pattern—image, text or even today’s weather—onto a piece of bread. The project makes use of Microchip’s MIC32 MCU and a Raspberry Pi Zero W board.

Build an RGB LED Controller
By Dirceu R. Rodrigues Jr.
There are a lot of fun and interesting things you can do with LEDs and different ways to control them. In this article, Dirceu describes an alternative approach to control RGB LEDs using the parallel FET dimming technique. He steps through his efforts to design and build an alternative lightning system based on power RGB LEDs. To control them he goes very old school and uses an 8-bit MCU and the BASIC programming language.


… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Energy Monitoring Part 3
By George Novacek
This is the final installment of George’s energy monitoring article series. He discussed the solar power supply in Part 1 and the utility power data acquisition in Part 2. In Part 3, he wraps up the series by looking at the remaining modules that comprise his home energy monitoring setup, including the sensors, the natural gas monitor and the real-time clock.

The Fundamentals of Fuseology
By Robert Lacoste
Just because an electronic device is simple you shouldn’t relegate it to an afterthought in your embedded system design. Such is the case with fuses. Robert explores the fundamentals of this seemingly simple device. In this article, he dives into the history, key specifications and technology of fuses. He also steps you through an experiment to analyze the performance of fuses and shares his results.

Bluetooth Mesh (Part 4)
By Bob Japenga
In this next part of his article series on Bluetooth mesh, Bob looks at how models are defined in the Bluetooth Mesh specification and how practical it is to use them. He looks at the models defined by the Bluetooth SIG and discusses creating your own models for Bluetooth Mesh.

 

 

 

MCU Family Adds EtherCAT, Ethernet and CAN FD Capabilities

Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced new communications capabilities on its C2000 MCUs. C2000 F2838x 32-bit MCUs enable designers to use a single chip to implement connectivity, including EtherCAT, Ethernet and Controller Area Network with Flexible Data Rate (CAN FD), in AC servo drives and other industrial systems.

Systems with communication interfaces often require an external application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) or dedicated host control microprocessor, which limits the flexibility of the design architecture, adds complexity and takes up space on the board. The new C2000 F2838x MCUs do not require an external ASIC, therefore reducing overall solution size and bill of materials.

By integrating three industrial communication protocols, the F2838x MCUs give designers the ability to tailor one MCU to the unique needs of each system. A key component in achieving this is a new connectivity manager, an Arm Cortex-M4-based subsystem, which offloads processing-intensive communications and optimizes connectivity. In addition to these capabilities, C2000 F2838x MCUs offer enhanced real-time control performance and higher flexibility than previous C2000 series MCUs.

For electrically isolated architectures, the new MCUs use a fast serial interface with eight receiving channels to facilitate chip-to-chip communication at up to 200 Mbps using minimal pins. Designers can build on this high level of integration in CAN FD designs and quickly increase the number of available CAN FD ports by pairing the F2838x with a TI system basis chip (SBC), such as the TCAN4550 SBC with integrated CAN FD controller and transceiver.

With a 64-bit floating-point unit and fast integer division hardware, the C28x central processing unit-based control allows for differentiated capability and high-precision designs. For servo drive applications, the fast current-loop technology processes field-oriented control in less than 500 ns to enable more precise position control.

The C2000 F2838x series also integrates a single-ended 16-bit analog-to-digital converter, which doubles the number of available channels compared to previous C2000 MCUs to minimize external components, minimize system latency and maximize control-loop accuracy. An expanded configurable logic block enables designers to customize peripherals and removes or reduces the need for a field-programmable gate array.

Pre-production samples of the C2000 TMS320F28388D are now available through the TI store in a 337 ball-grid-array package. Pricing starts at US$14.00 in 1,000-unit quantities. Developers can get started with the C2000 TMDSCNCD28388D development kit, available through the TI store for $249.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

 

EOG-Controlled Video Game

Eyes as Interface

There’s much be to learned about how electronics can interact with biological signals—not only to record, but also to see how they can be used as inputs for control applications. With ongoing research in fields such as virtual reality and prosthetics, new systems are being developed to interpret different types of signals for practical applications. Learn how these three Cornell graduates use electrooculography (EOG) to control a simple video game by measuring eye movements.

By Eric Cole, Evan Mok and Alex Huang

The human eye naturally acts as a dipole, in which the retina at the back of the eye is negatively charged, and the cornea at the front of the eye is positively charged. EOG is a recording technique that measures this potential difference, and can be used to

Figure 1
Electrode placement for recording. An Ag-AgCl (silver-silver chloride) electrode was placed at each of the labeled points. Points A and B record the EOG signal for the right and left eyes, and point C provides a ground reference.

quantify eye movement [1]. A typical electrode placement pattern for EOG is shown in Figure 1. Each of the electrodes A and B records a voltage related to eye movement, and an electrode at point C serves as a ground reference.

When a user looks left, the cornea is close to electrode B and it records a positive voltage, while the retina is closer to electrode A, yielding a negative voltage. Similarly, looking right produces a negative voltage at B and a positive voltage at A. The difference between VB and VA relative to ground at C changes monotonically with gaze direction, and can be reliably used to model horizontal eye movement.

System Overview

The system we designed uses eye movements to play a video game on a display screen. Electrodes are placed on a player’s head to record only the horizontal EOG signal as shown in Figure 2. This signal is then filtered and amplified via an analog circuit and sent to an ADC on a Microchip Technology PIC32 microcontroller (MCU) (Figure 3). The PIC32 MCU stores the reading as a digital value and uses it to control a cursor on an LCD display screen. A program on the PIC32 continually displays obstacles that move across the screen, and the player moves his or her eyes to control the cursor and avoid obstacles.

Figure 2
Characterization of EOG signal. An example signal output is shown for a gain of approximately 885.

Figure 3
System overview. “Eye recording” is accomplished with the raw electrode signal.

This system is entirely powered without connection to an AC power source, instead using a 9 V battery to provide power for amplification and a chargeable power source to power the PIC32. This choice of a power source was important, because it enforces necessary safety considerations for biomedical recording. Connecting a high voltage source to a human user and accidentally completing a circuit path to AC ground could result in serious injury, so great care was taken to use battery power for this project.

A secondary oscilloscope program was also necessarily designed to satisfy a key safety need: The ability to view the recorded EOG signal and test the recording hardware while the circuit is isolated. A normal oscilloscope cannot be used for this purpose for the reasons stated earlier. Care was also taken to apply and fasten the electrodes properly before every session.

Recording and Application

Three Ag-AgCl (silver-silver chloride) electrodes are placed around the eyes using a skin-safe adhesive gel—one beside each eye, and one on the forehead as a ground reference—at points A, B, and C respectively, in Figure 1. These electrodes provide the gateway between the biological signal and the digital world, detecting the voltage generated by ions at the skin surface and transducing it into an equivalent electron-based signal.

This voltage is generated directly at the eye, and has some attenuation through the skin surface. A typical magnitude of the raw EOG signal is several millivolts. The voltage readings from the two eye electrodes are sent to a Texas Instruments (TI) INA121 differential amplifier, which amplifies the difference between the two input signals. This yields a negative or positive voltage based on direction of eye movement. The INA121 provides low noise, a high common-mode rejection ratio, and is suitable for the high-input impedance requirement associated with recording biological signals. Figure 4 shows the full schematic of the implementation.

A second amplification stage using a TI LM358-based balanced subtractor configuration provides further amplification. This stage reduces the DC voltage component output from the differential amplifier, while further amplifying the difference to a range of 0 to 3.3 V—the scale allowed by the PIC32 MCU’s on-chip ADC. The resulting signal is a voltage centered at approximately 1.6 V when the user looks straight, with about a 1 V increase or decrease when the user looks left or right, respectively. …

Read the full article in the July 348 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3023 words; Figure count: 6 Figures.)

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.

July Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The July issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week! This 84-page publication will make a satisfying thud sound when it lands on your desk and it’s crammed full of excellent embedded electronics articles prepared for you.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of July 2019 Circuit Cellar:

CONNECTED SYSTEMS IN ACTION

Embedded Computing
in Railway Systems
Railway systems keep getting more advanced. On both the control side and passenger entertainment side, embedded computers and power supplies play critical roles. Railway systems need sophisticated networking, data collection and real-time control, all while meeting safety standards. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest technology trends and products relevant to railway applications.

Product Focus:
IoT Interface Modules
The fast growing IoT phenomenon is driving demand for highly integrated modules designed for the IoT edge. Feeding those needs, a new crop of IoT modules have emerged that offer pre-certified solutions that are ready to use. This Product Focus section updates readers on this technology trend and provides a product album of representative IoT modules.

TECHNOLOGIES AND TECHNIQUES FOR ENGINEERS

FPGA Signal Processing
Offering the dual benefits of powerful signal processing and system-level integration, FPGAs have become a key technology for embedded system developers. Makers of chip and board-level FPGA products are providing complete solutions to enable developers to meet their application needs. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in FPGA signal processing.

Macros for AVR Assembler Programming
The AVR microcontroller instruction set provides a simplicity that makes it good for learning the root principles of machine programming. There’s also a rich set of macros available for the AVR that ease assembler-level programming. In this article, Wolfgang Matthes steps you through these principles, with the goal of helping programmers “think low-level, write high-level” when they approach embedded systems software development.

Inrush Current Limiters in Action
At the moment a high-power system is switched on, high loads can result in serious damage—even when the extra load is only for short time. Inrush current limiters (ICLs) can help prevent these issues. In this article, TDK Electronics’ Matt Reynolds examines ICLs based on NTC and PTC thermistors, discussing the underlying technology and the device options.

A Look at Cores with TrustZone-M
It’s not so easy to keep up with all the new security features on the latest and greatest embedded processors—especially while you’re busy focusing on the more fundamental and unique aspects of your design. In this article, Colin O’Flynn helps out by examining the new processor cores using TrustZone-M, a feature that helps you secure even low-cost and lower power system designs.

PROJECTS THAT REUSE & RECYCLE

Energy Monitoring Part 2
In Part 1 of this article series, George Novacek began describing an MCU-based system he built to monitor his household energy. Here, he continues that discussion, this time focusing on the electrical power tracking module. As the story shows, he stuck to a design challenge of building the system with as many components he already had in his component bins.

Variable Frequency Drive Part 1
Modern appliances claim to be more efficient, but they’re certainly not designed to last as long as older models. In this project article, Brian Millier describes how he reused subsystems from a defunct modern washing machine to power his bandsaw. The effort provides valuable insights on how to make use of the complete 3-phase Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) borrowed from the washing machine.

FUN PROJECT ARTICLES WITH ALL THE DETAILS

Windless Wind Chimes (Part 2)
In part 1 of this article series, Jeff Bachiochi built a system to simulate breezes randomly playing the sounds of suspended wind chimes. In part 2 the effort evolves into a less random, more orchestrated project. Jeff decided this time to craft a string of chromatically tuned chimes, similar to what an orchestra might use so the project could be used to play music. The project relies on MIDI, an industry standard music technology protocol designed to create and share music and artistic works.

Building a Smart Frying Pan
There’s almost no limit to what an MCU can be used for—-including objects that previously had no electronics at all. In this article, learn how Cornell University graduate Joseph Dwyer build a Microchip PIC32 MCU-based system that wirelessly measures and controls the temperature of a pan on a stove. The system improves both the safety and reliability of cooking on the stove, and has potentially interesting commercial applications.

EOG-Controlled Video Game
There’s much be to learned about how electronics can interact with biological signals—not only to record, but also to see how they can be used as inputs for control applications. With ongoing research in fields such as virtual reality and prosthetics, new systems are being developed to interpret different types of signals for practical applications. Learn how Cornell graduates  Eric Cole, Evan Mok and Alex Huang use electrooculography (EOG) to control a simple video game by measuring eye movement.

Infineon Technologies to Acquire Cypress Semiconductor

Infineon Technologies and Cypress Semiconductor have announced that the companies have signed a definitive agreement under which Infineon will acquire Cypress for US $23.85 per share in cash, corresponding to an enterprise value of €9.0 billion.

With the addition of Cypress, Infineon expects to strengthen its focus on structural growth drivers and serve a broader range of applications. This will accelerate the company’s path of profitable growth of recent years. Cypress has a differentiated portfolio of microcontrollers as well as software and connectivity components that are highly complementary to Infineon’s leading power semiconductors, sensors and security solutions.

According to their joint press release, combining these technology assets will enable comprehensive advanced solutions for high-growth applications such as electric drives, battery-powered devices and power supplies. The combination of Infineon’s security expertise and Cypress’s connectivity know-how will accelerate entry into new IoT applications in the industrial and consumer segments. In automotive semiconductors, the expanded portfolio of microcontrollers and NOR flash memories will offer great potential, especially in light of their growing importance for advanced driver assistance systems and new electronic architectures in vehicles.

Under the terms of the agreement, Infineon will offer US$23.85 in cash for all outstanding shares of Cypress. This corresponds to a fully diluted enterprise value for Cypress of €9.0 billion. The offer price represents a 46 percent premium to Cypress’s unaffected 30-day volume-weighted average price during the period from 15 April to 28 May 2019, the last trading day prior to media reports regarding a potential sale of Cypress.

Cypress expects to continue its quarterly cash dividend payments until the transaction closes. This includes Cypress’s previously announced quarterly cash dividend of US$0.11 per share, payable on July 18, 2019 to holders of record of Cypress’s common stock at the close of business on June 27, 2019.

The funding of the acquisition is fully underwritten by a consortium of banks. Infineon is committed to retaining a solid investment grade rating and, consequently, Infineon intends to ultimately finance approximately 30 percent of the total transaction value with equity and the remainder with debt as well as cash on hand. The financial policy to preserve a strategic cash reserve remains in place.

The acquisition is subject to approval by Cypress’s shareholders and the relevant regulatory bodies as well as other customary conditions. The closing is expected by the end of calendar year 2019 or early 2020.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com

June Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The June issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week!. We’ve been tending our technology crops to bring you a rich harvest of in-depth embedded electronics articles. We’ll have this 84-page magazine brought to your table very soon..

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of June 2019 Circuit Cellar:

TOOLS AND CONCEPTS FOR ENGINEERS

Integrated PCB Design Tools
After decades of evolving their PCB design tool software packages, the leading tool vendors have the basics of PCB design nailed down. In recent years, these companies have continued to come up with new enhancements to their tool suites, addressing a myriad of issues related to not just the PCB design itself, but the whole process surrounding it. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest integrated PCB design tool solutions.

dB for Dummies: Decibels Demystified
Understanding decibels—or dB for short—may seem intimidating. Frequent readers of this column know that Robert uses dB terms quite often—particularly when talking about wireless systems or filters. In this article, Robert Lacoste discusses the math underlying decibels using basic concepts. The article also covers how they are used to express values in electronics and even includes a quiz to help you hone your decibel expertise.

Understanding PID
As a means for implementing feedback control systems, PID is an important concept in electronics engineering. In this article, Stuart Ball explains how PID can be applied and explains the concept by focusing on a simple circuit design.

DESIGNING CONNECTED SYSTEMS

Sensor Connectivity Trends
While sensors have always played a key role in embedded systems, the exploding Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon has pushed sensor technology to the forefront. Any IoT implementation depends on an array of sensors that relay input back to the cloud. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in sensors with an emphasis on their connectivity aspects.

Bluetooth Mesh (Part 3)
In this next part of his article series on Bluetooth mesh, Bob Japenga looks at how to create secure provisioning for a Bluetooth Mesh network without requiring user intervention. He takes a special look at an attack which Bluetooth’s asymmetric key encryption is vulnerable to called Man-in-the-Middle.

PONDERING POWER AND ENERGY

Product Focus: AC-DC Converters
To their peril, embedded system developers often treat their choice of power supply as an afterthought. But choosing the right AC-DC converter is critical to the ensuring your system delivers power efficiently to all parts of your system. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative AC-DC converter products.

Energy Monitoring (Part 1)
The efficient use of energy is a topic moving ever more front and center these days as climate change and energy costs begin to affect our daily lives. Curious to discover how efficient his own energy consumption was, George Novacek built an MCU-based system to monitor his household energy. And, in order to make sure this new device wasn’t adding more energy use, he chose to make the energy monitoring system solar-powered.

Building a PoE Power Subsystem
Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) allows a single cable to provide both data interconnection and power to devices. In this article, Maxim Integrated’s  and Maxim Integrated’s Thong Huynh and Suhei Dhanani explore the key issues involved in implementing rugged PoE systems. Topics covered include standards compliance, interface controller selection, DC-DC converter choices and more.

Taming Your Wind Turbine
While you can buy off-the-shelf wind power generators these days, they tend to get bad reviews from users. The problem is that harnessing wind energy takes some “taming” of the downstream electronics. In this article, Alexander Pozhitkov discusses his characterization project for a small wind turbine. This provides a guide for designing your own wind energy harvesting system.

MORE PROJECT ARTICLES WITH ALL THE DETAILS

Windless Wind Chimes (Part 1)
Wind chimes make a pleasant sound during the warm months when windows are open. But wouldn’t it be nice to simulate those sounds during the winter months when your windows are shut? In part 1 of this project article, Jeff Bachiochi builds a device that simulates a breeze randomly playing suspended wind chimes. Limited to the standard 5-note pentatonic chimes, this device is based on a Microchip PIC18 low power microcontroller.

GPS Guides Robotic Car
In this project article, Raul Alvarez-Torrico builds a robotic car that navigates to a series of GPS waypoints. Using the Arduino UNO for a controller, the design is aimed at robotics beginners that want to step things up a notch. In the article, Raul discusses the math, programing and electronics hardware choices that went into this project design.

Haptic Feedback Electronic Travel Aid
Time-of-flight sensors have become small and affordable in the last couple years. In this article, learn how Cornell graduates Aaheli Chattopadhyay, Naomi Hess and Jun Ko detail creating a travel aid for the visually impaired with a few time-of-flight sensors, coin vibration motors, an Arduino Pro Mini, a Microchip PIC32 MCU, a flashlight and a sock.

May Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The May issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week!. We’ve been hard at work laying the foundation and nailing the beams together with a sturdy selection of  embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll soon be inviting you inside this 84-page magazine.

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

 

Here’s a sneak preview of May 2019 Circuit Cellar:

EMBEDDED COMPUTING AT WORK

Technologies for 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. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

PC/104 and PC/104 Family Boards
PC/104 has come a long way since its inception over 25 ago. With its roots in ISA-bus PC technology, PC/104 evolved through the era of PCI and PCI Express by spinning off its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative PC/104 and PC/104-family boards.

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES FOR EMBEDDED ENGINEERING

Code Analysis Tools
Today it’s not uncommon for embedded devices to have millions of lines of software code. Code analysis tools have kept pace with these demands making it easier for embedded developers to analyze, debug and verify complex embedded software. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in code analysis tools.

Transistor Basics
In this day and age of highly integrated ICs, what is the relevance of the lone, discrete transistor? It’s true that most embedded systems can be solved by chip level solutions. But electronic component vendors do still make and sell individual transistors because there’s still a market for them. In this article, Stuart Ball reviews some important basics about transistors and how you can use them in your embedded system design.

Pressure Sensors
Over the years, George Novacek has done articles examining numerous types of sensors that measure various physical aspects of our world. But one measurement type he’s not yet discussed in the past is pressure. Here, George looks at pressure sensors in the context of using them in an electronic monitoring or control system. The story looks at the math, physics and technology associated with pressure sensors.

MICROCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

Robotic Arm Plays Beer Pong
Simulating human body motion is a key concept in robotics development. With that in mind, learn how these Cornell graduates Daniel Fayad, Justin Choi and Harrison Hyundong Chang accurately simulate the movement of a human arm on a small-sized robotic arm. The Microchip PIC32 MCU-based system enables the motion-controlled, 3-DoF robotic arm to take a user’s throwing motion as a reference to its own throw. In this way, they created a robotic arm that can throw a ping pong ball and thus play beer pong.

Fancy Filtering with the Teensy 3.6
Signal filtering entails some tricky tradeoffs. A fast MCU that provides hardware-based floating-point capability eases some of those tradeoffs. In the past, Brian Millier has used the Arm-based Teensy MCU modules to serve meet those needs. In this article, Brian taps the Teensy 3.6 Arm MCU module to perform real-time audio FFT-convolution filtering.

Real-Time Stock Monitoring Using an MCU
With today’s technology, even very simple microcontroller-based devices can fetch and display data from the Internet. Learn how Cornell graduates David Valley and Saelig Khatta built a system using that can track stock prices in real-time and display them conveniently on an LCD screen. For the design, they used an Espressif Systems ESP8266 Wi-Fi module controlled by a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Our fun little device fetches chosen stock prices in real-time and displays them on a screen.

… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Attacking USB Gear with EMFI
Many products use USB, but have you ever considered there may be a critical security vulnerability lurking in your USB stack? In this article, Colin O’Flynn walks you through on example product that could be broken using electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) to perform this attack without even removing the device enclosure.

An Itty Bitty Education
There’s no doubt that we’re living in a golden age when it comes to easily available and affordable development kits for fun and education. With that in mind, Jeff Bachiochi shares his experiences programming and playing with the Itty Bitty Buggy from Microduino. Using the product, you can build combine LEGO-compatible building blocks into mobile robots controlled via Bluetooth using your cellphone.