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.
 

 

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

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