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.

 

 

Assortment of Tech Solutions Enable the Smart Home

IoT-Leveraged Living Spaces

From preventive maintenance for appliances to voice-controlled lighting, the subsystems that comprise a modern Smart Home continue to evolve. Providing the building blocks for these implementations, IC vendors are keeping pace with specialized MCUs, sensors platforms and embedded software to meet diverse requirements.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

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.

Clearly the market is an attractive one. According to the latest Smart Home Device Database from market research firm IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018 (Figure 1). The report says that the fastest-growing device types in the market include lighting, smart speakers and connected major home appliances.

Figure 1
According to research from IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018.

While it’s impossible to cover all the bases of Smart Home technology in a single article, here we’ll examine the microcontrollers (MCUs), analog ICs and special function chips that MCU vendors are developing to address Smart Home system designs.

Aware Appliances

An important piece of Smart Home technology is the idea of outfitting major home appliances with sophisticated maintenance features. With that in mind, in January Renesas Electronics launched its Failure Detection e-AI Solution for motor-equipped home appliances, featuring the Renesas RX66T 32-bit MCU. This solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The Failure Detection e-AI Solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality.

Property data showing the motor’s current or rotation rate status can be used directly for abnormality detection, making it possible to implement both motor control and e-AI–based abnormality detection with a single MCU. Using the RX66T eliminates the need for additional sensors, thereby reducing a customer’s bill of materials (BOM) cost.

When a home appliance malfunctions, the motor operation typically appears abnormal when running and being monitored for fault detection in real-time. By implementing e-AI-based motor control-based detection, the failure detection results can be applied not only to trigger alarms when a fault occurs, but also for preventive maintenance. For example, e-AI can estimate when repairs and maintenance should be performed, and it can identify the fault locations. This capability provides home appliance manufacturers the means to boost maintenance operations efficiency and improve product safety by adding functionality that predicts faults before they occur in their products.

The solution uses the Renesas Motor Control Evaluation System and an RX66T CPU card. This hardware is combined with a set of sample program files that run on the RX66T MCU as well as a GUI tool that enables collecting and analyzing property data indicating motor states. In order to detect faults, it is necessary to learn the characteristics of the normal state. Using the GUI tool, system engineers can immediately begin developing AI learning and optimized fault detection functionality. Once the AI models are developed, the e-AI development environment (composed of an e-AI Translator, e-AI Checker and e-AI Importer) can be easily used to import the learned AI models into the RX66T. …

Read the full article in the October 351 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3115 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.

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.

 

 

 

Building Automation LON-IP Standard Earns ANSI/CTA Approval

The Consumer Technology Association(CTA) and LonMark International have announced that the ANSI/CTA-709.7 LON IP is now approved as a new American National Standard (ANS) by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The new standard focuses on the interoperability of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and provides a complete model for implementing LON IP device-to-device and device-to-application communication interoperability.
This new standard will provide multiple parties – including users, developers, vendors, integrators and specifiers of open building control systems – a mechanism to develop and deliver a higher level of interoperability using native Ethernet/IP based devices. The new standard describes the complete set of requirements for vendors to develop LON devices with native IP communications, which offers higher speed and better IT integration flexibility. As more building control networks require more data and more IoT application interfaces, this new media type for LON control networks provides all of the benefits and functionality to meet this growing demand.

The ANSI/CTA-709.7 Implementation Guidelines define the application layer requirements for interoperable devices to communicate directly on Ethernet. It defines the addressing requirements for both IPv4 and IPv6. LonMark will offer full interoperability testing of any device utilizing the new channel type. The standard defines all of the timing parameters, configuration, and interface requirements to the full 709.1 protocol stack.

A few years prior the ANSI/CTA-709.6 Application Elements built upon the ANSI/CTA-709.5 Implementation Guidelines by providing a catalog of more than 100 common device profiles, with more than 380 specific implementation options. These profiles define the mandatory and optional design requirements for standard data variables, standard configuration properties, enumeration types and standard interface file requirements. This extensive library of device profiles includes definitions for a broad collection of devices for HVAC, indoor and outdoor (roadway) lighting, security, access, metering, energy management, fire and smoke control, gateways, commercial and industrial I/O, gas detection, generators, room automation, renewable energy, utility, automated food service, semiconductor fabrication, transportation, home appliances and others.

LonMark International | www.lonmark.org

 

5 W AC-DC Modules Serve Industry 4.0 and IoT Needs

RECOM has expanded its low power AC/DC portfolio with encapsulated 5 W power supplies, which operate up to +90°C. They accept input voltage lines of up to 305 VAC and offer peak power capability up to 6 W. These modules are well suited for Industry 4.0, IoT and smart household applications requiring features that go beyond the industry standard.

With its RAC05-K/277 series, RECOM introduces 5 W AC/DC converters that support peak power needs and are specially designed for extended input lines and reliable operation at extreme temperatures from -40°C up +90°C. The RAC05-K/277 series are built to operate from extended input lines with mains voltages from 85 VAC up to 305 VAC, are EMC compliant to EN55022 class “B” with a minimum 6 dB margin on both radiated and conducted readings without the need for external components.

At a 1” x 1.25” footprint, these new PCB-mount or wired modules feature fully protected outputs and international safety certifications for industrial, household and ITE for worldwide use. The RAC05-K/277 series is an addition to RECOM’s ultra-compact RAC05-K converters with a 1” x 1” footprint, as well as the recently released RAC05-K/480, an AC/DC module dedicated for phase-to-phase operation up to 528VAC and exclusive only to RECOM. Wired versions of the RAC05-K/277 series are due to be released in October of 2018. Samples of the pin-versions and OEM pricing are available from all authorized distributors or directly from RECOM.

RECOM | www.recom-power.com

Power Supplies Lean Toward an Application Focus

Medical and More

Your choice of power supply can have a major impact on your embedded system’s capabilities. Power supply innovators are smoothing the way with devices designed to match application needs.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Arguably the unsung heroes of any embedded system design, power supplies and converters are critical enablers for meeting today’s needs. As embedded systems pack ever more intelligence into smaller spaces, power has direct implications on the size, cooling and mobility of any system.

To keep pace, power supply vendors continue to roll out more efficient products, new partitioning strategies and more compact solutions. In tandem to those trends, there’s a growing demand to reduce size, weight and power of system electronics. Driving those demands is a desire to fit more functionality in the same space or into a smaller footprint.

If you look at the power supply products released over the last 12 months, there’s been a definite uptick in new products that have some sort of application or industry focus. While this hasn’t diminished the role of general purpose power supplies, the trend has been toward supplies that include either certifications, special performance specs or tailored packaging intended for a specific application area such as medical, industrial, railway or the IoT.

Power Supplies for Medical

An example along those lines in the medical space is the TDK-Lambda brand CUS150M series of AC-DC 150 W rated power supplies announced early this year by TDK (Figure 1). The device has the capability of operating in ambient temperatures of up to 85°C without the need for forced air cooling. Certified to medical and ITE standards for Class I and II (no earth ground connection) operation, the product meets both curve B radiated and conducted emissions. CUS150M target applications include medical, home healthcare, dental, test and measurement, broadcast and industrial equipment.

Figure 1
The CUS150M series of AC-DC 150 W rated power supplies are certified to medical and ITE standards for Class I and II operation. It meets both curve B radiated and conducted emissions.

Output voltage options include 12 V, 15 V, 18 V,  24 V, 28 V and 36 V models. The CUS150M operates from an 85 VAC to 264 VAC input and has operating efficiencies up to 91%. Off-load power consumption is less than 0.5 W and a 10 V to 12 V, 0.5 A fan supply is fitted as standard.

The open frame version is in the industry standard 50.8 mm x 101.6 mm (2″ x 4″) footprint with a height of 31.5 mm. Convection cooled it can deliver 120 W at 40°C, or with forced air cooling 150 W at 50°C, 140 W at 70°C and 75 W at 85°C. With the U-channel construction variant, measuring 64 mm x 116 mm x 38.5 mm, the CUS150M can be conduction cooled via a cold plate to deliver 150 W at 50°C, 100 W at 70°C and
50 W at 80°C. Cover or top fan options are also available.

Input to output isolation is 4 kVAC (2xMoPP (Means of Patient Protection)), input to ground 1.5 kVAC (1xMoPP) and output to ground 1.5 kVAC (1xMoPP) making the series suitable for B and BF rated medical equipment. Touch current is a maximum of 100 µA, with leakage current less than 250 µA. 5,000 m is the maximum operating, transportation and storage altitude.

Encapsulated Converters

Also targeting medical applications, Minmax Technology offers its Minmax MAU01M / MSCU01M series, a range of high performance 1 W medical safety approved DC-DC converters with encapsulated SIP-7 and SMD packages. They are specifically designed for medical applications. The series includes models available for input voltages of 4.5 VDC to 5.5 VDC, 10.8 VDC to 13.2 VDC, and 21.6 to
26.4 VDC. The I/O isolation is specified for 4,000 VAC with reinforced insulation and rated for a 300 VRMS working voltage.

Additional features include short circuit protection, a low leakage current of 2 μA max. and operating ambient temperature range of -40°C to 95°C. This is achieved without de-rating and with a high efficiency of up to 84%. The MAU01M / MSCU01M series conforms to the 4th edition medical EMC standard. It meets 2xMoPP per 3rd edition of IEC/EN 60601-1 and ANSI/AAMI ES60601-1. The MAU01M / MSCU01M series offers an economical solution for demanding medical instrument applications that require a certified supplementary and reinforced insulation system to comply with latest medical
safety approvals under the 2xMoPP requirements.

Meanwhile, CUI’s Power Group added five open frame series products, ranging from
180 W up to 550 W, to its line of internal AC-DC medical power supplies (Figure 2). Certified to the medical 60601-1 edition 3.1 safety standards for 2xMoPP applications and 4th edition EMC requirements, the VMS-180, VMS-225, VMS-275, VMS-350 and VMS-550 series feature high efficiency up to 94% and high-power densities up to 30 W/in3. The devices are housed in 2″ x 4″ (50 mm x 101 mm) and 3″ x 5″ (76 mm x 127 mm) packages with profiles measuring as low as 0.75″ (19 mm), providing a compact, high density solution fokproviding a compact, high density solution for medical diagnostic equipment, medical monitoring devices and dental applications.

Figure 2
The VMS-180, VMS-225, VMS-275, VMS-350 and VMS-550 series power supplies are certified to the medical 60601-1 edition 3.1 safety standards for 2xMoPP applications and 4th edition EMC requirements.

All of these VMS series supplies provide output voltage options from 12 VDC to 58 VDC, feature wide universal input voltage ranges from 80 VAC to 264 VAC and offer no-load power consumption as low as 0.5 W. The 180 W to 550 W models also carry an input to output isolation of 4,200 VAC with leakage current ratings as low as 0.3 mA at 230 VAC. Operating temperatures range at full load from -40°C up to +50°C with forced air cooling, derating to 50% load at +70°C.

Other features include protections for over voltage, over current and short circuit, along with power factor correction and a 12 VDC / 500 mA fan output. These medical power supplies further meet EN 55011 Class B limits for conducted and radiated emissions and achieve an MTBF of 3.37 million hours, calculated per Telcordia SR-332 Issue 3. …

Read the full article in the September 338 issue of Circuit Cellar

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.

Verizon Certifies Several Telit LTE Modules

Telit has announced that Verizon has certified several of its LTE products. The seven modules are part of Telit’s portfolio of LTE Cat M1, Cat 1, Cat 4 and Cat 11 products, with the LE910-SV V2 and LE910B1-NA modules that also supports Verizon’s Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology. The modules are now available for operation on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. The following modules are included: ME910C1-NV LTE Cat M1 module, LE910-NA V2 LTE Cat 4 module, LE910-SV V2 LTE Cat 4 VoLTE module, LE910B1-NA LTE Cat 1 VoLTE module, ME866A1-NV LTE Cat M1 module, LE866-SV1 LTE Cat 1 module and LM940 LTE Cat 11 mini PCIe module.
The ME910C1-NV, LE910-SV V2 and LE910-NA V2 modules are members of Telit’s xE910 family (shown). And the LE866-SV1, one its xE866 family, is one of the smallest cellular modules in the market.  Any of the modules can be applied as drop-in replacements in existing devices based on the families’ modules for 2G, 3G and the various categories of LTE. With Telit’s design-once-use-anywhere philosophy, developers can cut costs and development time by simply designing for the xE910 or xE866 LGA common form factors, giving them the freedom to deploy technologies best suited for the application’s environment.

Integrators and providers looking for lower costs, more security and extended product lifecycles now have more options with Telit’s Verizon-certified LTE and VoLTE modules. Telit’s certified modules may be used by its customers in segments like telematics, home and business security, person and asset tracking, wellness monitoring for the elderly and convalescent, smart home and smart buildings.

The LM940 module boasts a power-efficient platform and is the ideal solution for commercial and enterprise applications in the network appliance and router industry, such as branch office connectivity, LTE failover, digital signage, kiosks, pop-up stores, vehicle routers, construction sites and more. This module includes Linux and Windows driver support.

Telit | www.telit.com

Class-D Audio Amplifiers Target the Smart Home

Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced three new digital-input Class-D audio amplifiers that enable engineers to deliver high-resolution audio in more smart-home and voice-enabled applications. By combining first-of-its-kind integration, real-time protection and new modulation schemes, TI’s new audio devices allow designers to reduce board space and overall bill of material (BOM) cost. These new amplifiers are designed for personal electronics applications with any power level, including smart speakers, sound bars, TVs, notebooks, projectors and Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications.

TAS2770 15-W audio amplifier: Claimed by TI to be the first wide-supply I/V sense amplifier, the TAS2770 (shown) offers state-of-the art, real-time speaker protection when paired with TI Smart Amp algorithms. The amplifier monitors loudspeaker behavior and increases loudness while improving audio quality in applications requiring small speakers. The TAS2770 is an audio front end (AFE) that combines a digital microphone input with a powerful I/V sense amplifier. The device captures voice and ambient acoustic information for echo cancellation or noise reduction in voice-enabled applications. The TAS2770 monitors battery voltage and automatically decreases gain when audio signals exceed a set threshold, helping designers avoid clipping and extend playback time through end-of-charge battery conditions without degrading sound quality.

TAS5825M audio amplifier: Designers can achieve high-resolution audio with minimal engineering effort due to the device’s 192-kHz input sampling frequency and flexible, integrated processing flows. Additionally, the TAS5825M provides bass enhancement and thermal protection for the speaker. The TAS5825M’s dedicated serial audio interface data output provides ambient sound information to the applications processor. Engineers can reduce idle-power losses and thermal dissipation without degrading sound quality with the TAS5825M’s proprietary hybrid-mode modulation scheme.

TAS3251 audio amplifier: TI says the TAS3251 is the first integrated digital-input solution to support the highest output power and performance at 2x 175 W, all in one single package. You can enable up to 96-kHz flexible processing and self-protection features including cycle-by-cycle current limit and DC speaker protection with the TAS3251.

Designers can use TI’s PurePath Console software to easily configure the TAS2770, TAS5825M and TAS3251 Class-D audio amplifiers. Engineers can jump-start their design with the TAS2770 Stereo Audio Subsystem Reference Design. Additional resources and reference designs are available to help engineers with their smart speaker designs.

The TAS2770 Class-D audio amplifier is now available in volume quantities through the TI store and authorized distributors. Additionally, preproduction samples of the TAS5825M are now available through the TI store. The TAS3251EVM evaluation module is available today through the TI store and authorized distributors, and production quantities of the TAS3251 amplifier will be available in 2Q 2018.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

1 W AC-DC Supplies Feature Ultra-Compact Packages

CUI’s Power Group today has announced the addition of two models to its PBO family of ultra-compact AC-DC power supplies. Outputting 1 W of continuous power, the open frame PBO-1 and PBO-1-B series are housed in vertical and right-angle SIP packages, respectively. The vertical PBO-1 series measures as small as 35 mm x 11 mm x 18 mm (1.38″ x 0.43″ x 0.71″), while the low profile, right-angle PBO-1-B series measures as small as 35 mm x 18 mm x 11 mm (1.38″ x 0.71″ x 0.43″), making them well-suited for industrial systems, automation equipment, security, telecommunications and smart home devices where limited board real-estate is a factor.
These high density power supplies feature wide input voltage ranges from 85 to 305 Vac or 70 VDC to 430 VDC for high voltage DC-DC applications. The PBO-1 and PBO-1-B come available with single output voltages of 5 V, 9 V, 12 V, 15 V, and 24 V DC and offer 3,000 VAC input to output isolation. Both series also offer a wide operating temperature range from -40°C to +85°C at full load as well as over current and continuous short circuit protections with auto recovery.

All models further feature class II construction, carry UL 60950-1 safety approvals, and bear the CE safety mark. The PBO-1 and PBO-1-B series are available immediately with prices starting at $4.74 per unit at 100 pieces through distribution.

CUI | www.cui.com

Wi-Fi MCU Platform Update Targets Smart Home

Cypress Semiconductor has announced an updated version of its turnkey development platform for the IoT that simplifies the integration of wireless connectivity into smart home applications. The Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) Studio platform now adds iCloud remote access support for Wi-Fi-based accessories that support Apple HomeKit. Developers can leverage iCloud support in the WICED software Cypress WICED IoT Development Kit_0development kit (SDK) and Cypress’ CYW43907 Wi-Fi MCU to create hub-independent platforms that connect directly to Siri voice control and the Apple Home app remotely. Developers can access the WICED Studio platform, ecosystem and community at www.cypress.com/wicedcommunity.

Using Cypress’ WICED development platform and ultra-low power CYW20719 Bluetooth/BLE MCU, developers can integrate HomeKit support into products such as smart lighting devices, leverage Siri voice control and connect to the Apple Home app seamlessly. WICED Studio provides a single development environment for multiple wireless technologies, including Cypress’ world-class Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and combo solutions, with an easy-to-use application programming interface in the world’s most integrated and interoperable wireless SDK. The kit includes broadly deployed and rigorously tested Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocol stacks, and it offers simplified application programming interfaces that free developers from needing to learn about complex wireless technologies. The SDK also supports Cypress’ high-performance 802.11ac Wi-Fi solutions that use high-speed transmissions to enable IoT devices with faster downloads and better range, as well as lower power consumption by quickly exploiting deep sleep modes.

The Cypress CYW43907 SoC integrates dual-band IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi with a 320-MHz ARM Cortex-R4 RISC processor and 2 MB of SRAM to run applications and manage IoT protocols. The SoC’s power management unit simplifies power topologies and optimizing energy consumption. The WICED SDK provides code examples, tools and development support for the CYW43907.

 WICED Studio IoT Development Platform

The WICED platform supports a broad range of other popular cloud services and eliminates the need for developers to implement the various protocols to connect to them, reducing development time and costs. The WICED Studio SDK enables cloud connectivity in minutes with its robust libraries that uniquely integrate popular cloud services such as iCloud, Amazon Web Services, IBM Bluemix, Alibaba Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, along with services from private cloud partners and China’s Weibo social media platform.

In line with the IoT trend toward dual-mode connectivity, the kit supports Cypress’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combination solutions and its low-power Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) combination solutions. The SDK features a single installer package for multiple wireless technologies with an Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that runs on multiple operating systems, including Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Cypress’ WICED Studio connectivity suite is microcontroller (MCU)-agnostic and provides ready support for a variety of third-party MCUs to address the needs of complex IoT applications. The platform also enables cost efficient solutions for simple IoT applications by integrating MCU functionality into the connectivity device. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocol stacks can run transparently on a host MCU or in embedded mode, allowing for flexible platform architectures with common firmware.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

Arrow Electronics and Conexant Systems Collaborate on Development of Amazon Alexa-Enabled Smart Home Products

Arrow Electronics recently agreed to distribute and source components and provide technical design support for Conexant’s AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit for Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS). Conexant recently announced a collaboration with Amazon on an AVS-approved AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit. Featuring the Conexant AudioSmart CX20921 high-performance hands-free Voice Input Processor and “Alexa” wake word technology, the Conexant AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit will help developers and manufacturers quickly and easily build Alexa-enabled products that provide users with an ideal voice experience.Arrow Conexant - kit

The Conexant AVS-approved AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit is designed to be easily integrated into any third-party AVS system prototype based on the Raspberry Pi. Its dual-microphone voice processing capability recognizes the “Alexa” wake word and delivers speech requests from anywhere in a room—even in noisy, real-world conditions. It also enables voice barge-in capabilities, allowing users to interrupt their Alexa device when it is playing music or other types of sound.

Source: Conexant

Free “Internet of Things For Dummies” E-Book

Qorvo recently launched its latest e-book series, Internet of Things For Dummies, in partnership with John Wiley and Sons. The two-volume series—Internet of Things For Dummies and Internet of Things Applications For Dummies—is available as a free download.

Intended for both technical and nontechnical professionals, the e-books cover the basics of the IoT market, RF challenges, and how it’s being implemented.

Volume 1 — Internet of Things For Dummies:

  • IoT and smart home market opportunities
  • An overview of different IoT communications standards
  • Tips for leveraging small data and self-learning in the cloud

Volume 2 — Internet of Things Applications For Dummies:

  • Deliver IoT applications with a smart home butler
  • Create consumer lifestyle systems for the smart home
  • Develop IoT applications beyond the smart home

Source: Qorvo

Q&A: Teaching, CAD Research, and VLSI Innovation

Shiyan Hu is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University. We discussed his research in the fields of computer-aided design (CAD), very-large-scale integration (VSLI), smart home monitoring, and biochip design.—Nan Price, Associate Editor

 

Shiyan Hu

Shiyan Hu

NAN: How long have you been at Michigan Technological University? What courses do you currently teach and what do you enjoy most about instructing?

SHIYAN: I have been with Michigan Tech for six years as an assistant professor. Effective September 2014, I will be an associate professor.

I have recently taught the graduate-level “Advanced Embedded System for Smart Infrastructure,” the graduate-level “Advanced Very-Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) Computer-Aided Design (CAD),” and the undergraduate-level “VLSI Design” courses.
The most exciting part about teaching is the interactions with students. For example, questions from students—although sometimes challenging—can be intriguing and it is fun to observe diversified thoughts. In addition, students taking graduate-level courses need to discuss their course projects with me. During the discussions, I can clearly see how excited they feel about their progress, which makes the teaching very enjoyable.

NAN: What “hot topics” currently interest your students?

SHIYAN: Students are very interested in embedded system designs for smart homes, including FPGA design and embedded programming for the scheduling of various smart home appliances to improve convenience and reduce the cost of electricity bills. I also frequently have meetings with students who are interested in portable or wearable electronics targeting health-care applications.

Shiyan and a team of students he advises developed this sensor-based smart video monitoring system (left) and a 3-D mouse (right).

Photo 1: Shiyan and a team of students he advises developed this sensor-based smart video monitoring system.

Photo 2: A 3-D mouse developed by Shayin and his team.

Photo 2: A 3-D mouse developed by Shiyan and his team.

NAN: Describe your role as director of Michigan Tech’s VLSI CAD research lab.

SHIYAN: I have been advising a team of PhD and MS students who conduct research in the area of VLSI CAD in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department. A main research focus of our lab is VLSI physical design including buffer insertion, layer assignment, routing, gate sizing, and so forth. In addition, we have developed some embedded system prototypes such as sensor-based video monitoring and a 3-D mouse (see Photos 1 and 2).

There is also growing collaboration between our lab and the power system lab on the research of a CAD technique for smart-grid systems. The collaboration has led to an innovative optimization technique for an automatic feeder remote terminal unit that addresses cybersecurity attacks to smart power distribution networks. Further, there is an ongoing joint project on an FPGA-based embedded system for power quality prediction.

Although most of my time as the research lab director is spent on student mentoring and project management, our lab also contributes considerably to education in our department. For example, instructional and lab materials for the undergraduate “VLSI Design” course are produced by our lab.

NAN: Tell us more about your smart home research and the technique you developed to address cybersecurity problems.

SHIYAN: My smart home research emphasizes embedded systems that handle scheduling and cybersecurity issues. Figure 1 shows a typical smart home system, which consists of various components such as household appliances, energy storage, photovoltaic (PV) arrays, and a plug-in hybrid electrical vehicle (PHEV) charger. Smart meters are installed at the customer side and connected to the smart power distribution system.

The smart meter can periodically receive updated pricing information from utility companies. The smart meter also has a scheduling unit that automatically determines the operation of each household appliance (e.g., the starting time and working power level), targeting the minimization of the monetary expense of each residential customer. This technology is called “smart home scheduling.”

In the real-time pricing model, utility pricing is determined by the load while the load is influenced by the pricing, forming a feedback loop. In this process, the pricing information is transmitted from the utility to the smart meters through some communication network, which could be wireless or wired. Cyber attackers can hack some access points in the transmission or just directly hack the smart meters. Those impacted smart meters would receive fake pricing information and generate the undesired scheduling solutions. Cyber attackers can take advantage of this by scheduling their own energy-consuming tasks during the inexpensive hours, which would be expensive without a cyber attack. This is an interesting topic I am working on.

This smart home system architecture includes HVAC and several home appliances.

Figure 1: This smart home system architecture includes HVAC and several home appliances.

NAN: Describe your VSLI research.

SHIYAN: Modern ICs and chips are ubiquitous. Their applications include smartphones, modern home appliances, PCs, and laptops, as well as the powerful servers for big data storage and processing. In VLSI and system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, the layout design (a.k.a., physical design) often involves billions of transistors and is therefore enormously complex. Handling such a complex problem requires high-performance software automation tools (i.e., physical design automation tools) to achieve design objectives within a reasonable time frame. VLSI physical design is a key part of my research area.

NAN: Are you involved in any other areas of research?

SHIYAN: I also work on microfluidic biochip design. The traditional clinical diagnosis procedure includes collecting blood from patients and then sending it to laboratories, which require space and are labor-intensive and expensive, yet sometimes inaccurate.

The invention of the lab on a chip (a.k.a., biochip) technology offers some relief. The expensive laboratory procedures can be simply performed within a small chip, which provides much higher sensitivity and detection accuracy in blood sample analysis and disease diagnosis. Some point-of-care versions of these have already become popular in the market.

A major weakness of the prevailing biochip technology is that such a chip often has very limited functionality in terms of the quantities it can measure. The reason is that currently only up to thousands of biochemical reactions can be handled in a single biochip. Since the prevailing biochips are always manually designed, this seems to be the best one can achieve. If a single biochip could simultaneously execute a few biological assays corresponding to related diseases, then the clinical diagnosis would be much less expensive and more convenient to conduct. This is also the case when utilizing biochips for biochemical research and drug discovery.

My aim for this biochip research project is to largely improve the integration complexity of miniaturized components in a biochip to provide many more functionalities. The growing design complexity has mandated a shift from the manual design process toward a CAD process.

Basically, in the microfluidic biochip CAD methodology, those miniaturized components, which correspond to fundamental biochemical operations (e.g., mix and split), are automatically placed and routed using computer algorithms. This methodology targets minimizing the overall completion time of all biochemical operations, limiting the sizes of biochips, and improving the yield in the biochip fabrication. In fact, some results from our work were recently featured on the front cover of IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience (Volume 13, No. 1, 2014), a premier nanobioscience and engineering journal. In the future, we will consider inserting on-chip optical sensors to provide real-time monitoring of the biological assay execution, finding possible errors during execution, and dynamically reconfiguring the biochip for error recovery.

NAN: You’ve earned several distinctions and awards over the last few years. How do these acknowledgments help your research?

SHIYAN: Those awards and funding certainly help me a lot in pursuing the research of fascinating topics. For example, I am a 2014 recipient of the NSF CAREER award, which is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious honors for up-and-coming researchers in science and engineering.

My five-year NSF CAREER project will focus on carbon nanotube interconnect-based circuit design. In the prevailing 22-nm technology node, wires are made from coppers and such a thin copper wire has a very small cross-section area. This results in large wire resistance and large interconnect delay. In fact, the interconnect delay has become the limiting factor for chip timing. Due to the fundamental physical limits of copper wires, novel on-chip interconnect materials (e.g., carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoribbons) are more desirable due to their many salient features (e.g., superior conductivity and resilience to electromigration).

To judiciously integrate the benefits from both nanotechnology interconnects and copper interconnects, my NSF CAREER project will develop a groundbreaking physical layout codesign methodology for next-generation ICs. It will also develop various physical design automation techniques as well as a variation-aware codesign technique for the new methodology. This project aims to integrate the pioneering nanotechnologies into the practical circuit design and it has the potential to contribute to revolutionizing the prevailing circuit design paradigm.

NAN: Give us some background information. When did you first become interested in computer engineering?

SHIYAN: I started to work on computer engineering when I entered Texas A&M University conducting research with professor Jiang Hu, a leading expert in the field of VLSI physical design. I learned a lot about VLSI CAD from him and I did several interesting research projects including buffer insertion, gate sizing, design for manufacturability, and post silicon tuning. Through his introduction, I also got the chance to collaborate with leading experts from IBM Research on an important project called “slew buffering.”

NAN: Tell us more about your work at IBM Research.

SHIYAN: As VLSI technology scales beyond the 32-nm node, more devices can fit onto a chip, which implies continued growth of design size. The increased wire delay dominance due to finer wire widths makes design closure an increasingly challenging problem.
Buffer insertion, which improves an IC’s timing performance by inserting non-inverting buffers or inverting buffers (a.k.a., inverters), has proven to be indispensable in interconnect optimization. It has been well documented that typically more than 25% of gates are buffers in IBM ASIC designs.

Together with my collaborators at IBM Research, I proposed a new slew buffering-driven dynamic programming technique. The testing with IBM ASIC designs demonstrated that our technique achieves a more than 100× speed increase compared to the classical buffering technique while still saving buffers. Therefore, the slew buffering-driven technique has been implemented and deployed into the IBM physical design flow as a default option.

IBM researchers have witnessed that the slew buffering technique contributes to a great reduction in the turnaround time of the physical synthesis flow. In addition, more extensive deployment of buffering techniques leads to superior design quality. Such an extensive buffer deployment-based interconnect synthesis was not possible prior to this work, due to the inefficiency of the previous buffering techniques.

After the publication of this work, various extensions to the slew buffering-driven technique were developed by other experts in the field. In summer 2010, I was invited by the group again to take a visiting professorship working on physical design, which resulted in a US patent being granted.