Multi-Channel RF Converter ICs Meet Wireless Carrier Needs

Analog Devices has introduced a mixed-signal front-end (MxFE) RF data converter platform designed to meet the performance needs for a range of wireless equipment such as 4G LTE and 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) radios. ADI’s new AD9081/2 MxFE platform allows system developers to install multiband radios in the same footprint as single-band radios, which as much as triples call capacity available in today’s 4G LTE base stations. With a 1.2 GHz channel bandwidth, the new MxFE platform also enables wireless carriers that are adding more antennas to their cell towers to meet the higher radio density and data-rate requirements of emerging mmWave 5G.

The AD9081 and AD9082 MxFE devices integrate eight and six RF data converters, respectively, which are manufactured using 28 nm CMOS process technology. Both MxFE options achieve the industry’s widest instantaneous signal bandwidth (up to 2.4 GHz), which simplifies hardware design by reducing the number of frequency translation stages and relaxing filter requirements. This new level of integration addresses the space constraints of wireless device designers by lowering chip count and yielding a 60 percent reduction in printed-circuit-board (PCB) area compared to alternative devices.

By shifting more of the frequency translation and filtering from the analog to the digital domain, the AD9081/2 provides designers with the software configurability to customize their radios. The new multi-channel MxFE platform meets the needs of other wide-bandwidth applications in 5G test and measurement equipment, broadband cable video streaming, multi-antenna phased array radar systems and low-earth-orbit satellite networks.

The MxFE platform processes more of the RF spectrum band and embeds DSP functions on-chip to enable the user to configure the programmable filters and digital up and down conversion blocks to meet specific radio signal bandwidth requirements. This results in a 10X power reduction compared to architectures that perform RF conversion and filtering on the FPGA, while freeing up valuable processor resources or allowing designers to use a more cost-effective FPGA.

The AD9081 is priced at $1,487 (1,000s) and the AD9082 at $1,500. Both will be available for sampling in September 2019.

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

mmWave Chipset Solution Eases 5G System Design

Analog Devices has introduced a new solution for millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G featuring high-integrations for next gen cellular network infrastructure. The solution combines ADI’s advanced beamformer IC, up/down frequency conversion (UDC) and additional mixed signal circuitry. ADI is calling this an optimized “Beams to Bits” signal chain.

The new mmWave 5G chipset includes the 16-channel ADMV4821 dual/single polarization beamformer IC, 16-channel ADMV4801 (shown) single-polarization beamformer IC and the ADMV1017 mmWave UDC. The 24- to 30-GHz beamforming + UDC solution forms a 3GPP 5G NR compliant mmWave front-end to address the n261, n257 and n258 bands.

The high channel density, coupled with the ability to support both single- and dual-polarization deployments, greatly increases system flexibility and reconfigurability for multiple 5G use cases while best-in-class equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) extends radio range and density. According to ADI, the company’s experience in mmWave enables system designers to take advantage of world class applications and system design to optimize complete lineups for thermal, RF, power and routing considerations.

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

 

RF-Sampling Transceivers Embed Four ADCs and Four DACs

Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced two new RF-sampling transceivers that integrate four analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and four digital-to-analog converters (DACs) in a single chip. TI says the device offers the industry’s widest frequency range, highest instantaneous bandwidth and 75% smaller design footprint than a discrete solution. The quad-channel AFE7444 (shown) and dual-channel AFE7422 transceivers help engineers more easily achieve multiantenna, direct RF sampling for radar, software defined radio and wireless 5G applications.

Offering the highest IBW among radio frequency (RF)-sampling transceivers according to TI, the AFE7444 and AFE7422 enable engineers to achieve up to 600% more data throughput. While sampling up to 9 Gsamples per second (GSPS) per DAC and up to 3 GSPS per ADC, the AFE7444 receives and transmits up to 800 MHz of information from each of the four antennae, and the AFE7422 receives and transmits 1.2 GHz from each of the two antennae. The new RF-sampling wideband transceivers give engineers flexibility to design applications covering any frequency from 10 MHz to 6 GHz.

The AFE7444 and AFE7422 enable engineers to support up to eight antennae and 16 RF bands with only one device. The AFE7444 and AFE7422 also allow engineers to directly sample input frequencies into C-band without the need for additional frequency conversion stages, eliminating local oscillators, mixers, amplifiers and filters in designs. Additionally, the two transceivers’ architecture allows for greater programmability than traditional RF solutions, and flexible decimation options enable optimization of data bandwidth. With four ADCs and four DACs in one chip, the AFE7444 and AFE7422 help engineers significantly reduce design cycles that are associated with the manufacturing and testing phases required when designing with discrete components.

Measuring 17 mm by 17 mm, TI’s RF-sampling transceivers help save engineers 75% of board space when compared to using discrete RF-sampling data converters. The integration and small size of the AFE7444 and AFE7422 enable engineers to optimize transceiver proximity to the antenna, enabling digital beam forming in high-frequency and high-density antenna arrays.

The AFE7444EVM and AFE7422EVM evaluation modules, available today from the TI store and authorized distributors. The evaluation modules are priced at $2,499 and $1,999 respectively. Pricing for the AFE7444 quad-channel, wideband RF-sampling transceiver in 100-unit quantities starts at $1,749.90. That’s for a 17-mm-by-17-mm, FCBGA package. Pricing for the AFE7422 dual-channel, wideband RF-sampling transceiver in a 17-mm-by-17-mm FCBGA package starts at $1,249.90 for 100 units.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

 

 

Control and Comms Solutions Enhance Drone Designs

Synched in the Sky

There’s no slowing down the pace of commercial drone innovation. Helping system developers keep pace, technology vendors provide a wide range of communications and control products to improve the capabilities of both drone designs and the infrastructure supporting drones.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Commercial drones continue be among the most dynamic segments of embedded system design today. The sophistication of commercial/civilian drone technologies are advancing faster than most people could have imagined just a few years ago. Feeding those needs, chip, module and software vendors of all sizes have been creating new solutions to help drone system developers create new drone products and get to market quickly.

While drone technology encompasses several areas—from processing to video to power—here we’re focusing on communication and control solutions for drone system designs. Commercial drones rely on advanced wireless communications technologies for both control and for streaming captured video from drone-based cameras. Meanwhile, a variety of solutions have emerged for aspects of drone control, such as autonomous flight management and IoT-style integration of drones into powerful IoT networks.

Small Size, Long Range

Datalink modules are an important technology for drone communication. It’s a tricky mix to be able to provide long-range communication with a drone, and still keep it to a small solution that’s easy to embed on a commercial drone. With just that in mind, Airborne Innovations offers its Picoradio OEM, the company’s latest miniature OEM product based on the pDDL (Digital Data Link) from Microhard Systems. The board is a full-featured pico-miniature advanced datalink module geared at demanding miniature long range drone applications (Figure 1).

Figure 1
The Picoradio OEM board is a full-featured pico-miniature advanced datalink module geared for demanding miniature, long-range drone applications.

With the Picoradio advanced single link system, you can perform three functions in one: HD video capable data rates, autopilot command/control and manual control with the company’s add-on SBUS passthrough module. Delivering a high-power, long-range broadband COFDM link, the board provides a variety of features in a tiny 17.6 g board that measures 40 mm × 40 mm × 10 mm.

Picoradio OEM’s 1 W COFDM RF output has a typical range of 5 miles with very basic antennas—much longer range is possible using high gain antennas, RF amplifiers, tracking antennas and so on. Output power is software selectable from 7 dBm to 30 dBm in 1 dBm steps. The dual Ethernet ports can be used as Ethernet bridge ports or separate LAN segments. Two transparent serial ports are provided—one is switchable RS-232/3.3V TTL, one is TTL only.

The board features wide input range efficient buck-boost operation. Inputs of 8  V to 58 V is supported at full output power, and 5 V to 58 V with limitations. Auxiliary power output is 12 V at 2 A typical or up to 12 V at 5 A (with input voltage limitations). These specs make it capable of powering cameras, gimbals and so on from wide input range battery power. Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) is possible using separate power and data lines.

According to the company, the first revision of this board was highly successful and functional. The new version uses the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band at up to 1 W RF output. This is not a Wi-Fi radio, but rather uses a superior Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (COFDM) modulation which is optimized for drone use. The default version has no encryption, and it can be exported outside the US. 128-bit encryption is available for some customers but has export restrictions. 256-bit encryption is available to domestic users.

Digital Data Link

Aside from the one used in Airborne Innovations’ board, Microhard Systems offers a variety of DDL solutions. Among its newest of these products is its pMDDL5824 module, a dual-frequency 5.8 GHz and 2.4 GHz MIMO(2X2) digital data link. The module is a miniature OEM, high power, 2X2 MIMO wireless OEM solution (Figure 2). This dual- frequency solution allows software selectable operation in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency bands. The DDL uses maximal ratio combining (MRC), maximal likelihood (ML) decoding and low-density parity check (LDPC) to achieve robust RF performance.

Figure 2
The pMDDL5824 module is a dual- frequency 5.8 GHz and 2.4 GHz MIMO(2X2) digital data link in a miniature, wireless OEM module solution.

According to the company, the miniature, lightweight and robust design allows the pMDDL5824 to be well suited for size sensitive applications like commercial drones. The high-speed, long-range capabilities of the pMDDL5824 allow for high-quality wireless video and telemetry communications. The device provides up to 25 Mbps IPERF throughput at 8 MHz channel (-78 dBm) and up to 2 Mbps IPERF throughput at 8 MHz channel ( -102 dBm). It provides dual 10/100 Ethernet Ports (LAN/WAN) and supports point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and mesh (future) networks. It has Master, Remote and Relay operating modes and an adjustable total transmit power (up to 1 W). Interfacing to the unit can be done through local console, telnet and by web browser.

Video Modem for Drones

It goes without saying that one the most common forms of data that drones need to transmit is video captured by the drone. The company Amimon has solutions to provide here. As a developer and provider of ICs and complete solutions for the wireless High-Definition audio-video market, they target markets beyond just drones, but its technology is very well suited for drones.

According to the company, its video modem solution utilizes both MIMO and OFDM technologies, combined with Joint Source Channel Coding (JSCC) capability to transmit Full-HD 1080p60 video resolution over a bandwidth of 40 MHz or 20 MHz. Amimon’s latest 3rd generation baseband ICs allow for the delivery of 4K wireless video in high quality, while still maintaining zero latency (<1 ms) capabilities.

The multiple inputs and multiple outputs, or MIMO, is the term used for multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication bandwidth and performance. MIMO technology offers a significant increase in data throughput and link robustness without additional bandwidth or increased transmit power. It achieves this by spreading the same total transmit power over the antennas to achieve an array gain that improves the spectral efficiency—more bits per second per hertz of bandwidth—or to achieve a diversity gain that improves the link reliability (reduced fading). Because of these properties, MIMO is an important part of modern wireless communication standards, such as 4G, 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX.

Traditional wireless video compression systems use source-channel separation method, which leads to modular system design allowing independent optimization of source and channel coders. For its part, Amimon uses Joint-Source-Channel-Coding or JSCC approach. This approach enables a far better utilization of the channel capacity and handles better channel interference. Traditional systems transmit packetized information at a rate that is below the worst-case channel capacity to avoid high bit error rate (BER) and frequent retry operations. The traditional communication methods using H.264 or H.265 compression are prone to errors and thus uses buffering to ensure retransition of data when the BER exceed a certain level. They also use error correction overhead equality applied to all the transmitted bits unrelated to their visual importance. The use of JSCC eliminates these limitations.

Figure 3
Amimon’s CONNEX product line includes a variety of wireless link products. Shown here is CONNEX Mini.

Amimon productizes its video modem technology in several ways, including its CONNEX line of wireless video modems for the drone market (Figure 3). Its embedded solution is called CONNEX Embedded, designed to enable drome system designers to embed a wireless HD link into their systems with simple integration effort. The CONNEX Embedded provides a small-size, low-weight transmitter that can reach varied ranges and can be configured based on application needs. The unit is available in different configurations enabling uncompressed HD video with zero delay, Data Down/Uplink for control, standard HDMI output interfaces, SDK for controlling the link parameters and software management tools for users and operators.

Drone Control App

Just as the computing inside drones has grown more sophisticated, so too have the methods used to remote control commercial drones. An example along those lines is the Pilot app made by DroneSense. Pilot lets users control their drone using a tablet. Users can download ground control station software directly onto a tablet and then plug the tablet into the drone remote and begin flying manually, or pre-plan autonomous flights for an upcoming mission.

Users can use Pliot’s autonomous flight planning functions to create a low-altitude orbit or undertake 2D/3D mapping (Figure 4). The can fly the drone fly manually to achieve a variety of tactical objectives, all while having a complete view of telemetry, video feeds and other relevant flight data. The app’s mapping engine enables drone pilots to clearly visualize all drones collaborating in an operation, helping to prevent redundancies or collisions. They can use chat functionality to enhance communications. It lets users view multiple live video feeds of various types, including thermal.

Figure 4
The Pilot app lets users control their drone using a tablet. Users can use the app’s autonomous flight planning functions to create a low-altitude orbit or undertake 2D/3D mapping.

Another feature of Pilot is that it is drone agnostic. Users can train once on the Pilot app, and use it on whatever drone is best-suited to each mission. Whether it is a fixed-wing or a quadcopter, the pilot interface remains the same—no additional training is required for different types or brands of drones. Users can just pick the drone and sensor required to accomplish their goals and fly. No hardware configuration required.
Users of the Pilot app can upload customized checklists from DroneSense’s AirBase software into the Pilot app, ensuring pilots follow established pre-flight procedures.

Users can create and implement post-flight checklists, such as proper handling of any captured media. It allows you to enforce compliance with user policies and procedures, thereby minimizing risk and making sure assets are always handled properly. The Pilot app lets users bring in feeds from various sensor packages, such as a thermal imager, and see the output directly in the app. They can collect and view the data in the Pilot app (and DroneSense’s OpsCenter) from numerous sources for even greater situational awareness. The app’s flexible architecture allows for integration with third-party systems that may exist in a user’s organization.

Drones as IOT Edge Nodes

In many ways a commercial drone can be thought of as an IoT device. IoT implementations are comprised of edge devices with sensors, a cloud infrastructure and some sort of network or gateway linkng the edge with the cloud. SlantRange, a specialist in remote sensing and analytics systems for agriculture, made just such a drone-IoT connection in October with a new partnership with Microsoft. The deal combines Microsoft’s latest IoT connectivity and cloud analytics with SlantRange’s edge-computing capabilities into an integrated product offering for implementation developers operating large-scale drone programs in agriculture.

SlantRange has patented technologies for aerial crop inspections and introduced analytical methods that deliver valuable agronomic data within minutes of collection, anywhere in the world, using low-power edge-computing devices. Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge is a fully managed service that delivers cloud intelligence locally by deploying and running artificial intelligence (AI), Azure services and custom logic directly on cross-platform IoT devices.

Figure 5
Through the addition of Azure IoT Edge, SlantRange’s platform provides a secure, scalable and fully integrated solution to deploy new cloud computing capabilities on top of SlantRange’s existing edge-computing architecture.

SlantRange’s current products can do data analytics conducted completely offline, without the need for an Internet connection. Through the addition of Azure IoT Edge, the new platform provides a secure, scalable and fully integrated solution to deploy new cloud-computing capabilities on top of SlantRange’s existing edge-computing architecture (Figure 5). Their edge-based solutions can now be complimented by cloud-based services to seamlessly ingest, manage and analyze data from large networks of distributed sensors. Custom analytics as well as automated machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms can be deployed both in the cloud and at the edge to create new data insights for a variety of stakeholders within an agriculture enterprise.

SDK for Drone Control

The giant chip manufacturer Qualcomm has a foothold in the drone market on both the developer side and the end product side. For drone control, the company offers its Qualcomm Navigator software development kit (SDK). Qualcomm Navigator is an autonomous, vision-supported flight controller SDK with related modules and tools. It features multiple different flight modes with varying levels of sophistication, it is engineered to provide stable and aggressive flight for a host of applications. It includes several built-in sensor calibration procedures as well as automatic flight logging and real-time introspection tools along with post-processing, log parsing capabilities.

The SDK supports various flight modes, from manual (for expert pilots) to assisted modes (for novice pilots). The tool fuses the machine vision SDK’s VISLAM for stable flight and DFS for visual obstacle avoidance. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi-based flight control can be done using the drone controller app. The SDK enables C API’s to get telemetry and control the flight path.

Navigator is comprised of multiple libraries, executables and configuration files. The core flight controller runs on the aDSP, and other components run on the applications processor and GPU. Navigator provides a low-level C API for applications to interact with the flight controller. Supported interactions include accessing telemetry data such as battery voltage, status of sensors and current flight mode. It also supports sending remote control (RC)-style or velocity-style commands to the flight controller. With Navigator you can also send RPM or PWM commands directly to the ESCs and initiate sensor calibration procedures.

Complete Drone Solution

Most of the leading microcontroller vendors market their technologies toward drone designs in some way or another. Among the more direct of these efforts is from Infineon Technologies, offering development kits and design resources. The company provides a complete system solution that includes all essential semiconductors for drones. These Infineon products include its AURIX and XMC controllers, its iMotion motor controller, its IMU (inertial measurement units) and its XENSIV sensors line that includes pressure, radar, magnetic sensors and more.

Figure 6
This complete multicopter XMC4500 demoboard is built around an Infineon XMC4500 Arm CortexM4 32-bit MCU. IR2301 drivers, low-voltage MOSFETs and the MPU9250 Invensense IMU provide the additional units that make up the drone’s electronic powertrain, motor control and flight sensing functional blocks.

Among Infineon’s drone design offerings is a complete multicopter XMC4500 demoboard (Figure 6). At the heart of the board is the flight controller, which is built around an Infineon XMC4500 Arm CortexM4 32-bit MCU. IR2301 drivers, low-voltage MOSFETs and the MPU9250 Invensense IMU provide the additional units that make up the electronic powertrain, motor control and flight sensing functional blocks.

There’s no doubt that today’s quad-copter- style commercial drones wouldn’t be possible without today’s high levels of chip integration. But even as developers push for more autonomous operations and AI aboard drones, they will also be need to send and receive control and video data to and from drones. Embedded control and communication technologies will continue to play a major role is these efforts. Later this year, in July, Circuit Cellar will take a closer look at the video and embedded camera sides of drone system design.

Airborne Innovations | www.airborneinnovations.com

Amimon | www.amimon.com

DroneSense | www.dronesense.com

Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com

SlantRange | www.slantrange.com

Qualcomm Technologies | www.qualcomm.com

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PLL/VCO Solution Serves Next-Gen RF and Microwave Needs

Analog Devices has announced a synthesizer consisting of a phase-locked loop (PLL) with fully integrated voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) as well as integrated low dropout regulators (LDOs) and integrated tracking filter technology. The new ADF4371 supports RF/microwave system designs that must meet the most exacting next-generation requirements across multiple markets, including aerospace and defense, test/measurement, communications infrastructure, as well as high-speed converter clocking.

According to ADI, the ADF4371 is the highest frequency synthesizer on the market today and offers the widest continuous RF output range of 62 MHz to 32 GHz. Together with ultra-low PLL FOM (-234 dBc/Hz), ultra-low spurious (-100 dBc typ.), low VCO phase noise (-134 dBc/Hz at1 MHz offset at 8GHz), and with built-in tracking filter technology, this device leads the way for performance and adaptability. Its feature-rich, highly configurable architecture means that designers can now choose a single, ultra-compact, synthesizer solution to cover almost any LO/clock requirement within these frequency ranges, thereby reducing development costs, risk and time to market.

The ADF4371 facilitates implementation of high resolution (39-bit) fractional-N or integer-N PLL frequency synthesizers when used with an external loop filter and an external reference source. The wideband microwave VCO design allows frequencies from 62.5 MHz to 32 GHz to be generated. The device features the industry’s lowest jitter (36 fs at 10 GHz) and reference spurious (-100 dBc typ.), together with operation to 105°C without loss of lock.

For applications requiring very small compact footprints, the ADF4371 supports integrated power supply decoupling, integrated LDOs and integrated harmonic tracking filters. The tracking filter technology facilitates at least 30dB harmonic and sub-harmonic rejection across the entire VCO range. This hugely reduces the total solution footprint, particularly in the case where fixed range filters are required to meet these rejections across octave bandwidths. For applications that do not require the full frequency range capability of the ADF4371 (up to 32 GHz), ADI also offers the ADF4372 with operation up to 16 GHz.

The ADF4371 and ADF4372 are supported within ADI’s popular ADIsimPLL™ circuit design and evaluation tool that assists users in evaluating, designing and troubleshooting RF and microwave systems.

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

Chipsets Provide Low Power LoRa Solutions

Semtech has announced its next generation LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency (RF) technology (LoRa Technology) chipsets enabling innovative LPWAN use cases for consumers with its advanced technology. Addressing the need for cost-effective and reliable sensor-to-cloud connectivity in any type of RF environment, the new features and capabilities will significantly improve the performance and capability of IoT sensor applications that demand ultra-low power, small form factor and long range wireless connectivity with a shortened product development cycle.

The next generation LoRa radios extends Semtech’s industry leading link budget by 20% with a 50% reduction in receiver current (4.5 mA) and a high power +22 dBm option. This extends battery life of LoRa-based sensors up to 30%, which reduces the frequency of battery replacement. The extended connectivity range, with the ability to reach deep indoor and outdoor sensor locations, will create new markets as different types of verticals integrate LoRa Technology in their IoT applications including healthcare and pharmaceuticals, media and advertising, logistics/shipping and asset tracking.

The new platform has a command interface that simplifies radio configuration and shortens the development cycle, needing only 10 lines of code to transmit or receive a packet, which will allow users to focus on applications. The small footprint, 45% less than the current generation, is highly configurable to meet different application requirements utilizing the global LoRaWAN open standard. The chipsets also supports FSK modulation to allow compatibility with legacy protocols that are migrating to the LoRaWAN open protocol for all the performance benefits LoRa Technology provides.

Three new devices, SX1262 (+22dBm), SX1261 (+15dBm) and SX1268 (+22dBm, China frequency bands) are currently sampling to lead customers and partners and will be available in full production in late Q1 2018. Development kits for various regions and associated software will also be available at that time.

LoRa Technology New Features:

  • 50% less power in receive mode
  • 20% more extended range
  • +22 dBm transmit power
  • A 45% reduction in size: 4mm by 4mm
  • Global continuous frequency coverage: 150-960MHz
  • Simplified user interface with implementation of commands
  • New spreading factor of SF5 to support dense networks
  • Protocol compatible with existing deployed LoRaWAN networks

 

Semtech | www.semtech.com/iot

Technology and Test Solutions for 5G

Next-Gen Communications

As carriers worldwide prepare for 5G communications, chip suppliers and test equipment vendors are evolving their products to meet the challenges of the 5G era.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

The technologies that are enabling 5G communications are creating new challenges for embedded system developers. Faster mobile broadband data rates, massive amounts of machine-to-machine network interfacing and daunting low latency constraints all add to the complexity of 5G system design. Feeding those needs, chip vendors over the past 12 months have been releasing building blocks like modem chips and wideband mixers supporting 5G. And test equipment vendors are keeping pace with test gear designed to work with 5G technology.

With standards expected to reach finalization around 2020, 5G isn’t here yet, But efforts worldwide are laying the groundwork to deploy it. For its part, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) released a report in October 2017 entitled “Evolution from LTE to 5G.” According to the report, there is a frenzy of testing of 5G technology and concepts worldwide. The GSA has identified 103 operators in 49 countries that are investing in 5G technology in the form of demos, lab trials or field tests that are either under way or planned. Operators are sharing their intentions in terms of launch timetables for 5G, or prestandards 5G. The earliest launch dates currently planned are by operators in Italy and the US. Those early launches are necessarily limited in scope to either specific applications, or in limited geographic areas where they will function as extended commercial trials. Figure 1 shows the countries and the current planned dates for the earliest 5G launches in those countries.

FIGURE 1
Here is a map of pre-standards and standards-based 5G network plans announced. It shows the countries and current planned dates for the earliest 5G launches in those countries. (Source: Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)).

THE BIG PLAYERS

Intel and Qualcomm have been the big players to watch for 5G enabling technologies. In October 2017, Qualcomm Technologies, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, hit a significant milestone successfully achieving a 5G data connection on a 5G modem chipset for mobile devices. The Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset achieved speeds and a data connection in the 28 GHz mmWave radio frequency band. The solution is expected to accelerate the delivery of 5G new radio (5G NR) enabled mobile devices to consumers. Along with the chip set demo Qualcomm Technologies previewed its first 5G smartphone reference design for the testing and optimization of 5G technology within the power and form-factor constraints of a smartphone.

The 5G data connection demonstration showed the chip set achieving Gigabit/s download speeds, using several 100 MHz 5G carriers and demonstrated a data connection in the 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. In addition to the Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset, the demonstration also used the SDR051 mmWave RF transceiver IC. The demonstration made use of Keysight Technologies’ new 5G Protocol R&D Toolset and UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform. Qualcomm Technologies was the first company to announce a 5G modem chipset in 2016. The Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem family is expected to support commercial launches of 5G smartphones and networks in the first half of 2019. …

Read the full article in the January 330 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Flexible Printed Batteries Target IoT Devices

Semtech and Imprint Energy have announced a collaboration to accelerate the widespread deployment of IoT devices. Imprint Energy will design and produce ultrathin, flexible printed batteries that are especially designed to power IoT devices integrated with Semtech’s LoRa devices and wireless RF technology (LoRa Technology). LoRa Technology, with its long-range, low-power capabilities, is regarded by many as the defacto platform for building low-power wide area networks (LPWAN).

ImprintTo help accelerate a next generation of battery technology, Semtech has invested in Imprint Energy. The companies are working closely to target applications that have the potential to create entirely new markets. The Imprint Energy battery enables new applications which have a thin and small form factor and due to the integrated manufacturing process, the batteries are low cost to produce, making high volume deployments feasible.

A key benefit of the Imprint Energy battery technology is the ability to be printed using multiple types of conventional high-volume printing equipment; this enables quick integration by traditional electronic manufacturers in their existing production lines. Test production runs are currently being processed and the resulting batteries are being used in applications prototypes to validate assumptions and engage early adopters.

Imprint Energy | www.imprintenergy.com

Semtech | www.semtech.com

Wideband Mixer Has 3 mm x 2 mm Package

Analog Devices announced the LTC5552, a double balanced mixer that features best-in-class wideband matching from 3 GHz to 20 GHz. The mixer can be used as an up- or down-converter. The LTC5552 is especially useful in up-conversion applications with its Analog Devices LTC5552DC capable differential IF port that enables the LO to be close in frequency to the RF. Its low LO to RF leakage of less than –25dBm greatly eases the burden on the external filter. Additionally, the mixer delivers excellent linearity of 20.1dBm IIP3 at 14 GHz, and 18.3dBm at 17 GHz. The device integrates a broadband LO buffer, requiring only 0dBm drive and effectively eliminating an external high power LO amplifier circuit. Moreover, the LTC5552 integrates a wideband balun transformer in its RF port, allowing single-ended 50Ω matched operation over its specified frequency range. All these features result in minimum external components, simplified design and a very small solution size.

The LTC5552’s exceptionally wide bandwidth and performance is ideal for a broad range of applications, including 5G broadband wireless access, microwave backhaul, satellite broadband radios, radar systems, active antenna arrays, X, Ku and Ka band transceivers, RF test equipment, spectrum analysis and satellite communications. The LTC5552 is offered in a tiny 12-lead, 3mm x 2mm plastic QFN package. The device is rated from –40°C to 105°C case temperature to support extended environmental operating temperatures. The mixer is powered from a single 3.3 V supply and typically consumes 132 mA supply current. Additionally, the LTC5552 can be shut down via an enable pin. When deactivated, the device draws only 100 μA maximum standby current. The enable pin can also be driven directly to turn the device on and off rapidly in less than 0.2μs, supporting time-division duplex (TDD) or burst mode type transmitters and receivers. The LTC5552 is priced starting at $22.00 each in 1,000-piece quantities.

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

High-Performing, Intelligent Wireless Transceiver Module

The RF Solutions high-performance ZETA module was recently updated to include a simple SPI and UART interface. The ZETAPLUS module doesn’t require external components, which means a fast and effective plug-and-play setup.

ZETAPLUS

Available on 433-, 868-, and 915-MHz frequencies, the module is easy to set up and you’ll be sending and receiving data quickly. Furthermore, you’ll find it easy to create networks of ZETAPLUS modules or point-to-point links without the need for time-consuming register configuration.

With an impressive 2-km range, the ZETAPLUS is well-suited for sensor networks, sleepy nodes, and numerous other telemetry, control, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

RF Solutions | www.rfsolutions.co.uk

FCC-Certified AMB2621 Bluetooth Smart Module

AMBER Wireless’s AMB2621 Bluetooth Smart module is certified for the United States and Canadian markets (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Telecommunication Part 15 – Radio Frequency Devices). Manufacturers that use the wireless module in their products can gain time and cost benefits as a result because they don’t have to have them specifically certified with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Amber Wireless

The certifications for the AMB2621 module demonstrate the following: personal safety isn’t at risk, there’s good immunity against electromagnetic interference, and the radio spectrum is used efficiently. As a result, manufacturers can bring their devices to market quicker and without their own FCC certification. A simple reference on the device label is sufficient (i.e., FCC-ID R7TAMB2621 is integrated).

The AMB2621’s features, specs, and benefits:

  • 2.4 GHz BLE radio module
  • 11 × 8 × 1.8 mm size
  • Compliant with the Bluetooth Smart 4.2 Standard
  • Offered with or without an integrated antenna
  • Expands existing products with a BLE interface without having to be adapted in advance..

AMBER Wireless | www.amber-wireless.de

New Range of RF Building Blocks

CML Microcircuits recently released a new range of RF power amplifiers. The CMX901 is a three-stage wideband, high-gain, high-efficiency RF power amplifier IC operating over 130 to 950 MHz. The device is ideally suited for use in VHF/UHF radio applications such as data modules, marine VHF communications, and RFID readers/writers used in Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) systems. High power added efficiency supports battery-powered applications.CML CMX901

The amplifier’s first and second stages operate in a class-A and class-AB mode, respectively. The third stage operates in class-C mode for maximum efficiency. Input and output matched circuits are implemented via external components. They can be adjusted to obtain maximum power and efficiency at the desired operating frequency.

The CMX901 is available in a small footprint 5 mm × 5 mm low thermal resistance 28-pin WQFN package, which makes it ideal for small form factor applications.

Source: CML Microcircuits

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Nordic Semiconductor 

Multi-Protocol Sub-GHz Wireless Transceiver Platform

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

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

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

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

Source: NXP Semiconductors

Analog Tips & Tricks

Are you looking for ways to improve your analog and RF circuitry? Engineer Ed Nisley provides a few tips for getting started. He shows you how easy it is to take your PCB wiring skills to the next level. Who knows, your digital projects just might improve too.

Circuit Cellar has always attracted readers who enjoy building gizmos, both at work and for their own use. My December 2004 column, “Building Boxes,” prompted enough comments and suggestions regarding additional techniques that I decided a follow-up was in order.

Although these tricks are designed to improve your analog and RF circuitry, even your digital projects will benefit, because digital is just analog with the gain cranked way up. You’re sure to find at least one technique that will make your next project work better.

I wire most of my projects on PCBs built in my basement shop, using a process that produces both circuit documentation and reasonably high-quality hardware without too much effort. I’ve come up with some tricks that should help you get good results too.

I use CadSoft’s EAGLE schematic capture and board layout software, which runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X (www.cadsoftusa.com). The free version can handle most of the circuits in this column, and the Standard version is reasonably priced. EAGLE is perfectly stable on my SuSE Linux 9.2 desktop system. The board layout program can produce output files in nearly any format, including the Gerber files used in board production shops. I save the output for each layer as a Postscript file, and then import the files into the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) image-editing program at 600 dpi.

The top image is the top copper layer from an EAGLE board design. The bare board shows several flaws, but the one on the bottom came out fine. The ruler scales are 0.050″ vertically and 1 mm horizontally. The board has extremely small features!

The top image is the top copper layer from an EAGLE board design. The bare board shows several flaws, but the one on the bottom came out fine. The ruler scales are 0.050″ vertically and 1 mm horizontally. The board has extremely small features!

The top image in Photo 1 shows the copper plane pattern for the charge pump LED power supply I described in my April 2005 column. I panelize them with the GIMP to produce a single image with multiple patterns in a rectangular grid. Because all this happens digitally, there’s no loss of resolution and no smudges. I then print the image through an HP LaserJet 1200 on a sheet of toner-transfer film from either Pulsar (www.pulsar.gs) or Techniks (www.techniks.com). It turns out that toner contains a thermoplastic that both adheres to bare copper and resists the etching chemical solution.

Because most of my boards are extremely small, they don’t fill a complete sheet of the toner-transfer film even after I panelize them. I print a sheet of paper, tape a square of film that’s approximately 1″ larger than the patterns atop them, and then run the paper through the printer again. The adhesive on cheaper tapes tends to melt at laser printer temperatures, so use good tape and monitor your results. Put a single strip on the leading edge of the toner-transfer film to allow the paper and film to shift slightly as they pass through the fuser rollers.

This article first appeared in Circuit Cellar 181. You can read the entire article here.

Ed Nisley is an electrical engineer, author, and long-time Circuit Cellar columnist living in Poughkeepsie, NY. His column “Above the Ground Plane” appears in Circuit Cellar every other month. You can contact him at [email protected] com. Write “Circuit Cellar” in the subject line to avoid spam filters.