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.

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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.
 

 

Arm-Based MCU Embeds Dual ADCs and Camera Interface

Nuvoton Technology has announced a new member of its NuMicro M480 series, the M483KGCAE2A with dual ADCs and a camera interface. The M483KGCAE2A MCU is based on an Arm Cortex-M4F core with DSP instructions and FPU. The device runs up to 192 MHz and provides two independent 12-bit, 5 MSPS ADCs for simultaneous data sampling in motor control applications, a camera interface with 1-bit luminance calculation for fast image recognition and three sets of CAN Bus 2.0B interfaces for robust industrial communication. Along with the MCU, Nuvoton has released its NuMaker-M483KG development board (shown) to support development based on the M483KGCAE2A.
The two independent high-speed ADCs offer up to 24 channels with the quadrature encoder interface (QEI) and up to 16-channels of 192 MHz PWM. The M483KGCAE2A is able to obtain position feedback from mechanical devices, which realize the precise control of 3-phase servo moto. Multiple channels of ADC are also applied on multiple data sensing in power system applications including UPS and PDU. The MCU can meet IEC-60730 requirements for Class B security.

The camera interface supports CCIR656 and CCIR601 video transmission and provides hardware 1-bit luminance calculation to reduce the usage of SRAM. With the digital pattern recognition algorithm, M483KGCAE2A can recognize patterns shown in images. This makes it well suited for smart water meter, smart electricity meter or license plate number identification applications. M483KGCAE2A is equipped with three sets of CAN Bus 2.0B interfaces, the robust vehicle bus standard, connecting up to three of same types or different types of CAN devices. M483KGCAE2A works as a CAN bridge and allows a flexible network topology design.

M483KGCAE2A runs up to 192 MHz, providing 256 KB Flash memory and 128 KB SRAM. The embedded flash memory supports an eXecute-Only Memory (XOM) feature for securing the sensitive data or algorithms. The SRAM supports full or partial content retention in standby mode for reducing the power usage. When running at 192 MHz, the dynamic power consumption can be down to 130 μA/MHz; whereas in power-down mode, the power consumption of RTC with independent VBAT can be less than 500 nA.

In terms of system integrity, M483KGCAE2A support Secure Boot feature to protect the content in flash memory from malicious attack. With the Secure Boot functionality, M483KGCAE2A will verify the content of flash memory during every boot-up process. M483KGCAE2A also supports AES-256 and true random number generator for data encryption/decryption. Furthermore, M483KGCAE2A provides up to 6 tamper detection pins for system protection, 96-bit chip unique identification (UID), and 128-bit unique customer identification (UCID).

M483KGCAE2A supports 1.8 V to 3.6V  operating voltage, -40°C to 105°C operating temperature, 5 V-tolerant I/O pins and up to 3 kV ESD. Communication interfaces comprise USB full-speed OTG, 8 sets of 17 Mbps low-power UART, 1 sets of 3.4 MHz Smart Cards, 3 sets of 3.4 Mbps I²C, 2 set of 48 MB/s Quad-SPI, 3 sets of composite SPI/I²S running up to 96 Mbps or 192 kHz/16-bit I²S, 1 set of 192 kHz/32-bit I²S, and 1 set of SDIO. Integrated analog circuits include 12-bit 1 MSPS DAC and two comparators.

NuMaker-M483KG supports Arduino module and provides FreeRTOS and Arm Mbed OS with reference program including interface drivers, libraries, and sample programs. Nuvoton also provides emWin, the GUI software library for an embedded system, to easily and quickly develop and design fluent yet high quality human machine interface.

Nuvoton provides versatile hardware and software development tools, such as Nu-Link/Nu-Link-Pro programmer, which supports advanced debug function, PinConfig software for multi-function pin configuration, PinView software for monitoring pin status in real time, BSP driver and sample codes. IDE supports Keil MDK, IAR EWARM and NuEclipse (GCC), which can debug, trace and analyze your program on the development board. The new NuMicro M480 series provides several packages including QEN33, LQFP48, LQFP64 and LQFP128

Nuvoton Technology | www.nuvoton.com

SEGGER Trace Probes Add Support for Hilscher NetX90 SoCs

SEGGER Microcontroller has added support for the latest Hilscher multiprotocol SoC, netX90, to its J-Trace and J-Link trace probes. Software engineers working with Hilscher’s netX90 can now enjoy the high download speeds of the J-Link and advanced features, such as breakpoints in flash memory, but also the additional features brought to the table by J-Trace-PRO, such as live code profiling and coverage.

The SEGGER J-Link / J-Trace family of debug and trace probes is tool chain independent and supports GDB, LLVM/Clang as well as most commercial tool chains. J-Trace PRO works with all currently available Cortex-M devices with ETM trace output. According to SEGGER, the increasing complexity of SoCs makes system verification even more important. The ability to log the program flow over long periods of time can catch even the most elusive bugs.

SEGGER Microcontroller| www.segger.com

 

Dual-Interface Secure MCU Targets Contactless Banking Systems

STMicroelectronics has announced the ST31P450, a dual-interface secure microcontroller designed for contactless applications in banking, identity, transportation and pay-television. It features the latest 40 nm flash process as well as enhanced RF technologies. The ST31P450 is built on the proven 32-bit Arm SecurCore SC000 secure processor and meets ISO 7816 and ISO 14443 Type A smart-card and contactless standards. It supports the full range of MIFARE libraries including MIFARE Classic, MIFARE Plus and MIFARE DESFire.

ST’s 40 nm Flash technology creates an ultra-small die for dual-interface use cases such as banking and, with security-enhancing properties, increases safety and fraud prevention. Upgraded RF performance ensures ultra-reliable wireless connections for faster, easier contactless transactions.
In addition, the ST31P450 features new low-power cryptographic engines that minimize the energy budget and ensure superior product performance at low RF-field strength while executing cryptographic operations. The ST31P450 also comes with optimized loading firmware that makes life easier for card provisioners, offering post-issuance capability.

ST31P450 secure microcontroller, and its associated cryptographic libraries, are expected to achieve Common Criteria EAL5+, as well as EMVCo and CUP (China UnionPay) certifications within the coming months.

The ST31P450, with 450KByte non-volatile memory (NVM) and 10 KB RAM on-chip, is in production now.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

 

Nissan Taps Renesas MCUs and SoCs for New Skyline Car

Nissan Motor has adopted Renesas’ chips for the ProPILOT 2.0 system featured in the new Nissan Skyline unveiled on July 16. The driver assistance system combines navigated highway driving with hands-off, single-lane driving capabilities, employing Renesas’ R-Car automotive SoC and RH850 automotive control MCU to implement core functionality in the electronic control units (ECUs) that handle driving judgment and control.

Designed for on-ramp to off-ramp (ramp-to-ramp) highway driving, ProPILOT 2.0 engages with the vehicle’s navigation system to help maneuver the car according to a predefined route on designated roadways. For the first time, the system also enables hands-off driving while cruising in a single lane.
To achieve this advanced capability, the Renesas R-Car SoC first creates detailed environment maps of the vehicle surroundings by combining information on nearby vehicles and other objects from the cameras and front radar with the high-precision 3D map data preloaded for navigation. The SoC determines the vehicle’s own position from the map data and lane information and, based on this information, determines the vehicle’s action plan.

The RH850 MCU receives the resulting data and sends control commands to the ECUs such as the steering wheel, accelerator, brakes. Combining the R-Car SoC’s high-performance processing with the RH850’s real-time responsiveness and excellent reliability enables judgment and control operations to take place sequentially and accurately. This contributes substantially to the realization of Nissan’s ProPILOT 2.0 driver assistance system.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

 

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Microcontroller Watch newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

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 Microcontroller Watch 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:

IoT Technology Focus. (8/20) 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.(8/27) 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.

Analog & Power. (9/3) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

IC Solutions Rev Up for Next Gen Auto Designs

MCUs, Analog ICs and More

Automotive electronics are evolving to facilitate the shift from driver assisted vehicle controls to full autonomous driving—but that’s only part of all that’s happening. To meet a variety of design challenges, MCU and analog IC vendors are developing innovative solutions for automotive systems.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

There’s perhaps no more vivid example of the impact of embedded electronics than the continuing advances in automotive technologies. Today, those advances are set within an era of great innovation in the industry as car makers evolve their driver assistance technologies in parallel with their autonomous vehicle solutions, while at the same time improving the performance of full electric and hybrid electric vehicles. On top of all that, car infotainment systems are moving to an entirely new level.

To meet these system design changings automotive IC makers, continue to roll out chip, development system and software solutions aimed at next-gen automotive designs. Over the past 12 months, chip vendors, primarily microcontroller (MCU) and analog IC vendors, have announced a variety of powerful System-on-Chip (SoC), MCU and analog ICs solving all kinds of problems. Leveraging their long histories of serving the automotive market, the leading MCU vendors have taken the lead facilitating driverless car systems with not just chips, but also sophisticated development platform solutions for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), battery management and other automotive subsystems.

Flash for Virtualization

Some of the advances in automotive electronics over the past 12 months have revolved around embedded flash solutions aimed directly at automotive system designs. In an example along those lines, in February, Renesas Electronics announced what it claims as the world’s first MCU with embedded flash that integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function while maintaining the fast, real-time performance of the RH850 products.

Figure 1
The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to four 400 MHz CPU cores in a dual core lock-step structure. Each CPU core integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function.

This hardware-based virtualization assist technology can support up to ASIL D level of functional safety, providing greater levels of system integration. The RH850/U2A MCU (Figure 1) is the first member of Renesas’ cross-domain MCUs, a new generation of automotive-control devices, designed to address the growing need to integrate multiple applications into a single chip to realize a unified electronic control units (ECUs) for the evolving electrical-electronic architecture (E/E architecture).

Based on 28 nm process technology, the 32-bit RH850/U2A MCU builds on key functions from Renesas’ RH850/Px Series for chassis control and RH850/Fx Series for body control to deliver improved performance and implement a virtualization-assisted function to support operation in chassis/safety, body, domain control and low-end/mid-range gateway applications. The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to four 400 MHz CPU cores in a dual core lock-step structure. Each CPU core integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function, while maintaining the same fast real-time performance provided by the RH850. To support ASIL D, the MCU includes self-diagnostic SR-BIST (Standby-Resume BIST) functions with minimized current fluctuation rate.

The hardware-based virtualization-assisted function allows multiple software systems with varying ISO 26262 functional safety levels to operate independently without interference during high performance. It also reduces the virtualization overhead to maintain real-time execution. This enables users to integrate multiple ECU functions into a single ECU while maintaining safety, security and real-time operation requirements.
The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to 16 MB of built-in flash ROM and 3.6 MB of SRAM, offering users the flexibility for future function expansion. The MCU includes security functions that support Evita Light up through Evita Full for enhanced protection against cyber-attacks, enabling the device to support safe and rapid Full No-Wait Over-the-Air (OTA) software updates as security requirements evolve.

Fail-Safe Storage

In other automotive flash technology news, in April Cypress Semiconductor announced that automotive supplier DENSO selected Cypress’ Semper fail-safe storage for its next-generation digital automotive cockpit applications with advanced graphics. Based on an embedded Arm Cortex-M0 processing core, the Semper family is purpose-built for automotive environments.

The Cypress Semper family offers high density serial NOR flash memory up to 4 Gb and leverages the company’s proprietary MirrorBit process technology. The family also features EnduraFlex architecture, which achieves greater reliability and endurance. Semper fail-safe storage devices were the first in the industry to achieve the ISO 26262 automotive functional safety standard and are ASIL-B compliant, says Cypress. According to Cypress, the Semper fail-safe storage products exceed automotive quality and functional safety requirements with ASIL-B compliance and are ready for use in ASIL-D systems. Cypress’ 512 Mb, 1 Gb and 2 Gb Semper devices are currently sampling.

Domain Controllers

For its part, STMicroelectronics (ST) also rolled out a new automotive-focused MCU offering back in February. Called the Stellar automotive MCU family, these devices support next-generation car architectures, which rely on broad “domain controllers” for areas such as the drivetrain, the chassis, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These domain controllers enable the transition toward software- and data-oriented architectures by providing data fusion from connected sensors while reducing harness complexity

Figure 2
The Stellar MCUs feature six Arm Cortex-R52 cores clocked at 400 MHz, 16 MB of Phase-Change Memory (PCM) and 8 MB of RAM, all in a BGA516 package.

Built on a 28 nm FD-SOI process, major applications for Stellar MCUs include smart control for hybrid powertrain, the broad electrification of car systems with on-board chargers, battery-management systems and DC-DC controllers, as well as smart gateways, ADAS and enhanced Vehicle Stability Controls. The MCUs feature six Arm Cortex-R52 cores clocked at 400 MHz, 16 MB of Phase-Change Memory (PCM) and 8 MB of RAM, all in a BGA516 package (Figure 2). Stellar-based control units are currently undergoing road tests with lead customers. …

Read the full article in the August 349 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3207 words; Figure count: 8 Figures.)

Vendor list:

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com
Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
Momenta | www.momenta.ai
NXP Semiconductor | www.nxp.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com
Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

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: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox on Tuesday: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AC-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. (8/13) 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. (8/20) 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.(8/27) 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.

Build an RGB LED Controller

Using Parallel FET Dimming

There are a lot of fun and interesting things you can do with LEDs and the 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 lighting 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.

By Dirceu R. Rodrigues, Jr.

Nowadays, applications involving advanced processors like Arm and Espressif ESP-32 are commonplace. But I thought it would be cool to test some fun lighting sequences that are controlled by an 8-bit microcontroller (MCU) programmed using an ancient language: BASIC. Although using pulse-width modulation (PWM) to dim LEDs with MCUs is a long-established idea and there’s a plethora of such products on the market, my approach differs from others regarding the drive method used. The benefit will be a relatively shorter BOM, but is also of particular interest to embedded system designers involved with LEDs because it will be possible to experiment with alternative configurations for the control stage.

LEDs are inherently nonlinear devices. Their brightness depends primarily on the current flowing through them, even though the voltage on terminals don’t vary that much. To achieve a constant LED current, there are two approaches: linear or switched current regulation. A linear regulator is preferred in situations where the noise due to commutation would be unacceptable—or for example, in high-precision measurement equipment. When efficiency is the main concern, a switched regulator or driver usually is chosen.

A commercially available driver usually operates above 1 MHz, providing hysteretic regulation for the LED current. To implement the required dimming, a common solution is to apply a PWM signal to an enable pin of the regulator. Because the entire component is switched continuously, the delay due to the soft start function must be taken into account. The disadvantage of this mode is, therefore, the limitation at low frequencies, usually 100 Hz. Other drivers, such as the ZXLD1350 from Diodes Inc. (used here), have a similar input named ADJ, capable of accepting a PWM signal up to 1 kHz.

Figure 1
Shown here is the basic idea for the design.

As outlined in Figure 1, my application takes a different approach. Rather than applying PWM pulses to a dedicated regulator pin, these signals are used to “short-circuit” the LED. So, when a switch is closed, the corresponding LED is off. This technique—known as parallel FET dimming—does not pose a problem itself, since the driver is based on a current source. Regardless of the state of each LED, the same current always flows through the entire circuit. For an independent control of three RGB LEDs, traditionally three drivers are employed, each with its own inductor, Schottky diode and sensor resistor, as shown in Figure 2a.

Figure 2
(left) shows a traditional configuration for driving 3 LEDs. (right) shows my alternative configuration, which reduces the number of components by connecting the three LEDs in series.

My alternative configuration to reduce the number of components is to connect the three LEDs in series, each with its own switch driven by PWM (Figure 2b). Note that, in this case, the ADJ pin from the single ZXLD1350 stays floating, and the three PWM signals are moved to the gate of MOSFETs. Therefore, it is possible to control three LEDs using only one set, consisting of driver, sense resistor, flyback diode and inductor. …

Read the full article in the August 349 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 2287 words; Figure count: 9 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.

Bonus Newsletter: PCB Design Tools

We have a BONUS newsletter for you this week: PCB Design Tools! The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

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:

Analog & Power. (8/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (8/13) 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. (8/20) 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.(8/27) 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

Tool Simplifies STM32 MCU Programming and Protects IP

STMicroelectronics has released the latest version of the STM32CubeProgrammer software tool for STM32 microcontroller (MCU) and microprocessor (MPU) users. STM32CubeProgrammer lets users program their devices through any convenient connection, choosing from the MCU’s JTAG or single-wire debug (SWD) pins, a UART, or USB, SPI, I2C or CAN interfaces.

The new multi-OS software replaces several tools including ST Visual Programmer (STVP), DFuSe USB Device Firmware Upgrade programmer, Windows-only STM32 Flash loader and software utilities for use with ST-Link. It is designed to deliver maximum flexibility with the benefits of a consistent unified environment. From now on, new STM32 products will be supported only by STM32CubeProgrammer.

Built-in features include the STM32 Trusted Package Creator, which protects OEMs’ intellectual property by encrypting firmware using an AES-GCM key and working with the STM32HSM-V1 companion Hardware Security Module (HSM). The HSM manages authentication and licensing, with counter-limited Secure Firmware Install (SFI) allowing OEMs to restrict the number of devices that can be programmed. The first STM32HSM with maximum programming count of 300 units for prototyping will be available at the end of July 2019.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

 

Processing-In-Memory Technology Targets Next-Gen AI Chips

Renesas Electronics announced it has developed an AI accelerator that performs CNN (convolutional neural network) processing at high speeds and low power to move towards the next generation of Renesas embedded AI (e-AI), which will accelerate increased intelligence of endpoint devices. A Renesas test chip featuring this accelerator has achieved the power efficiency of 8.8 TOPS/W, which the company claims is the industry’s highest class of power efficiency. The Renesas accelerator is based on the processing-in-memory (PIM) architecture, an increasingly popular approach for AI technology, in which multiply-and-accumulate operations are performed in the memory circuit as data is read out from that memory.

To create the new AI accelerator, Renesas developed the following three technologies. The first is a ternary-valued (-1, 0, 1) SRAM structure PIM technology that can perform large-scale CNN computations. The second is an SRAM circuit to be applied with comparators that can read out memory data at low power. The third is a technology that prevents calculation errors due to process variations in the manufacturing.

Together, these technologies achieve both a reduction in the memory access time in deep learning processing and a reduction in the power required for the multiply-and-accumulate operations. As a result, the new accelerator achieves the industry’s highest class of power efficiency while maintaining an accuracy ratio more than 99% when evaluated in a handwritten character recognition test (MNIST).

Renesas presented these results on June 13, at the 2019 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Kyoto, Japan, June 9-14, 2019. Renesas also demonstrated real-time image recognition using a prototype AI module in which this test chip, powered by a small battery, was connected with a microcontroller, a camera, other peripheral devices and development tools at the demonstration session.

Until now, the PIM architecture was unable to achieve an adequate accuracy level for large-scale CNN computations with single-bit calculations since the binary (0,1) SRAM structure was only able to handle data with values 0 or 1. Furthermore, process variations in the manufacturing resulted in a reduction in the reliability of these calculations, and workarounds were required. Renesas has now developed technologies that resolve these issues and will be applying these, as a leading-edge technology that can implement revolutionary AI chips of the future, to the next generation of e-AI solutions for applications such as wearable equipment and robots that require both performance and power efficiency.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.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:

July has a 5th Tuesday . That’s means we’re giving you an extra Newsletter: PCB Design! (7/30) The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

Analog & Power. (8/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (8/13) 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. (8/20) 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.

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

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

Embedded Boards.(7/23) 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.

Analog & Power. (8/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

July has a 5th Tuesday . That’s means we’re giving you an extra Newsletter: PCB Design! (7/30) The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

Microcontroller Watch (8/13) 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.

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.

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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.