November Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

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

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

TECH FOR THE IoT AND CONNECTED SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

INDUSTRIAL SYSTEMS AND PROCESS CONTROL

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

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

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

RESOURCES FOR ENGINEERS

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

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


… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

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

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

 

 

October Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

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

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

 

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

TECHNOLOGIES FOR A CONNECTED WORLD

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

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

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

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

 
RESOURCES FOR ENGINEERS

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

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

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

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

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


MICRCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

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

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

 

 

 

September Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

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

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

 

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

TECHNOLOGY FOR SECURITY, SENSORS & THE IoT

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

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

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



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


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

 

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