Latest news

Harmonic Chooses Altera Solution for H.265 4Kp60 Video Encoding

Altera's H.265 Enhanced Motion Estimation Engine Paired with Server Software Enables 4Kp60 Performance with Up To 60% Efficiency Gain vs. x.264
Altera Corporation announced that Harmonic, the worldwide leader in video delivery infrastructure, has chosen Altera's new 4Kp60-capable H.265 enhanced motion estimation engine (EME), a server co-processing solution based on the company's Stratix® V FPGAs to dramatically improve efficiency and performance of Harmonic's PURE Compression Engine for the delivery of 4Kp60 content.
Altera's Stratix ... Read more Read more
test

Motor Driver from Microchip is automotive AEC-Q100

Microchip announces the MCP8063 - a highly integrated, cost-effective, automotive AEC-Q100-qualified motor driver that delivers superior performance in a small, 8-pin,
4×4 mm DFN package.
It is also the world’s first to combine all of those features with 1.5A peak phase current for the 180-degree sinusoidal drive of a variety of three-phase brushless DC motor and fan applications. This integration reduces cost and PCB area, and the high sinusoidal-drive performance provides high efficiency, low acoustic noise and low mechanical vibration for energy savings and quiet operation. Additionally, the MCP8063 includes safety features such as thermal shutdown, over-current limiting and lock-up protection.
The designers of a broad range of motor applications in markets such as the automotive, IT, industrial and home-appliances are faced with increasing regulatory and consumer demands for continued reductions in cost, space, noise and power consumption, with better performance and safety. The integrated features of the MCP8063 motor driver solve these problems cost-effectively, while providing a wide operating temperature range of -40 to +125°Celsius. Additionally, it supports the sensorless driving of BLDC motors, which eliminates the cost and space of a Hall sensor.
The compact MCP8063 is a high-performance motor driver which offers high current and a wide temperature range to provide a complete single-chip solution for a wide variety of three-phase, brushless DC applications at attractive price points.
The MCP8063 motor driver works stand-alone or in conjunction with Microchip’s large portfolio of PIC® microcontrollers and dsPIC® digital signal controllers. This offers a high degree of flexibility for everything from simple voltage control to closed-loop motor speed control using high-performance algorithms, such as sinusoidal sensorless drive.

Key Facts:
• Cost-effective MCP8063 is world’s first 1.5A, three-phase brushless DC, sinusoidal motor driver in a 4×4 mm package with the AEC-Q100 quality certification
• Complete single-chip solution for three-phase, brushless DC applications
• High efficiency, low acoustic noise and low mechanical vibration offer energy savings and quiet operation
• Safety features include thermal shutdown, over-current limiting and lock-up protection
To enable development with the new MCP8063 motor driver, Microchip also announced the MCP8063 12V 3-Phase BLDC Sensorless Fan Controller Demo Kit (ADM00575), which is available today, priced at $49.99 each.

Microchip Technology
www.microchip.com/get/JMXV
Read more

Silicon Labs Streamlines iOS Accessory Designs with Comprehensive 32-bit Development Kit

Silicon Labs introduced a new 32-bit hardware and firmware development kit designed to accelerate the design of Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) accessories and help
product manufacturers get to market quickly.
Leveraging Silicon Labs’ ARM® Cortex®-M3-based SiM3U microcontroller (MCU), the MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK development kit supports the all-digital Lightning connector and protocol stack. The new development kit targets a wide range of accessories for iOS devices including entertainment accessories, device-powered dongles, game controllers and docking stations.
Silicon Labs designed the MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK kit as a turnkey solution to help developers simplify their Lightning-based accessory development projects and speed time to market while meeting the MFi program requirements with ease.
Silicon Labs’ 32-bit development kit provides an exceptionally cost-effective and comprehensive solution for accessory developers. The kit includes everything engineers need to begin developing Lightning-based accessories right away, including a hardware development board, firmware libraries and an example iOS App, which supports Appcessory-style communication between the iOS device and development board. By simplifying the development process, the new 32-bit kit enables MFi licensees to focus on what matters most – the accessory application itself.

The MFI-SIM3U1XX-DK kit enables developers to reduce the cost, complexity and power consumption of accessories designed for iOS devices. The SiM3U MCU features fully-specified analog peripherals, an integrated capacitive touch sense controller, an internal 5V regulator and crystal-less USB support, which eliminates the need for discrete crystal oscillators and reduces bill of materials (BOM) cost, component count and board space. Device-powered accessory applications benefit from the SiM3U MCU’s best-in-class power efficiency. The SiM3U MCU offers ultra-low power consumption with full analog operation down to 1.8 V, achieving a 33 percent lower active current than in-class competitors and a 5-100x lower sleep current, while a low-current USB idle mode ensures the viability of device-powered accessories.

Silicon Labs
www.silabs.com/mcu
Read more

IPEmotion 2014 R1 includes several new features fo

The IPETRONIK business division IPEmotion – Software presents a new version of its high-performance configuration and data acquisition software: IPEmotion 2014 R1.
This software version presents new features like CAN traffic analyzer, graphical filling level indication at A2L file import, new table display instrument and audio playback in analysis.


Among all new features, the CAN traffic analyzer is a highlight.
The new table display element supports CAN message display as traffic data (hexadecimal and decimal) besides common signal measurements. In traffic measurement, users can online view and analyze CAN messages (data frames), as well as related CAN bus information like status frames, remote frames, error frames, statistic frames and transmit frames. Relevant information is displayed in a clearly arranged table in the columns relative time (beginning at measurement start), CAN ID, name of message, message type, data length code (DLC), data content. CAN traffic data acquisition is supported by the CAN Acquisition PlugIn V1.05 or the Logger PlugIn V03.52.
Import of A2L files – graphical filling level indication
This function relates to the import of description files at ECU signal measurements. Electronic control units can contain several 10,000 signals. Depending on device performance and design only a defined number of DAQ lists are available for data acquisition. The graphical filling level indication allows users to clearly recognize how much capacity has been used up. Further, IPEmotion features an optimization algorithm filling DAQ lists in an optimal way so that the most possible amount of signals can be collected from the ECU.

Map – database management


The database management function allows users to efficiently manage custom map data (tiles) of particular regions. Instead of having to store map tiles in one large file, users now can store relevant map sections, reload them and share them with colleagues. In this way, data are more easy to handle. Further, information on covered regions and resolution of map tiles in the database are available.

Table display of several channels


The new table display instrument compactly presents many measurement channels in a table. Compared with alphanumeric instruments, the table instrument allows compact display of many clearly arranged channels. The table view is particularly beneficial for test bench systems or climate applications.

Audio playback


The new audio playback function supports integration of data acquisition from vehicle can bus and measuring modules in combination with acoustic measurements. Acoustic signals, i.e. vehicle sounds, are recorded using a microphone either in combination with a data logger or with IPEmotion and the Sound PlugIn on a PC. Recordings are stored as WAV file. These WAV files can be played back by IPEmotion and users can correlate sounds with other measured signals in order to determine the causes. The major advantage of this solution is that acoustic investigations can now be incorporated into the early phases of vehicle development and manufacturers can analyze noise problems much earlier.

IPETRONIK
www.ipetronik.com
Read more

Energy Saving Network Power management (ES-NP)

To meet the European CO2 - emission guidelines, the car manufacturers have investigated all systems with respect to their energy efficiency. Even the smallest load can become a factor in deciding whether a tax of EUR 95 per 1g CO2/km has to be paid or not. Control units not required constantly are now - just like in mobile phones – intended to be put into current saving mode. Two competing network standards are vying for the developer’s attention namely the Pretended Network and the Partial Network. This article analyses each standard in terms of its respective advantages and disadvantages and offers solution approaches.



Figure 1

Challenge - the CO2 tax


Since 2012 everybody is talking about the European CO2 tax for cars. Every car manufacturer selling cars in the EU whose CO2 emission exceeds the regulation limits must pay penalty taxes. The intention behind this is make the industry and the consumers aware of the costs of climate changes and environmental damages caused by the CO2 emissions through a clear price adder.
The CO2 tax is being discussed in public controversially. Heated debates have ensued over the CO2 tax amount, its effectiveness, or the question whether CO2 tax is justified at all.
Actually, the CO2 tax has triggered a long due discussion over a problem, that is, to face the issues of limited resources and climate changes. Besides the emotional debate though, work is long under way to resolve the problems. The car manufacturers have analysed their car models and evaluated potential improvements already before 2012. In each construction segment like combustion engine, air drag, road resistance right up to electrical loads, potential improvements and corresponding costs have been calculated. From this point of view, the CO2 tax motivates innovation for economical processes and efficient use of energy.

Saving CO2 through control units


This article deals with the role of electronic control units which, assisted by the microcontrollers contribute significantly towards reduction of energy consumption in cars. In a typical premium vehicle up to 100 control units - interconnected in a network - are used to help increase the efficiency.
Some of which are active even when a car is parked (e.g. door control and anti-theft protection). In order to assess the increase in efficiency in this segment, the complete chain of factors impacting the efficiency must be reviewed (refer to figure 1).
One of the biggest loads in a control unit is the microcontroller which is powered by a voltage regulator. The voltage regulator in the control unit is powered by the dynamo, which in turn is driven by the combustion engine. This consumes fuel, exhausting thereby CO2. Therefore, the more current a microcontroller requires, the more fuel is consumed and consequently the vehicle exhausts more CO2.
A premium model with 100 control units has up to now been emitting up to 5g CO2/km purely due to the current consumption of the control electronic, NB without a single other electrical load e.g. the headlights or air conditioner ventilator being on. The CO2 tax envisages levying EUR 95 tax per 1g CO2/km per car if weight specific CO2 emission limit is exceeded. Thus, for an emission of 5g CO2/km, a car manufacturer would therefore have to pay up to EUR 475 CO2 tax.
Such assessments have increased awareness even for the smallest energy load. The development departments have been urged to put the control units in the current saving mode as often as possible or even to shut down completely. This idea has been copied from laptops and mobile phones where the displays are switched off and the CPU frequency is reduced if it is idle. Of course, the reduced current consumption is also always coupled with a reduced functionality and additionally the ramp-up time till full functionality is available again is long - just like in case of laptops. Whereas a trailer-light control unit can be switched off completely without any loss of comfort if no trailer is attached to the car; the situation is different though in case of an air conditioner ventilator. Therefore, the engineers must consider and control precisely as to when a control unit is not required in order to save energy at the expense its functionality.

Figure 2

Network of control units


Since in modern cars all control units communicate with each other via a network, the car manufacturers have created standards which define how much and at which point in time control unit current can be saved. One such Software-Standard-Platform is for example the AUTOSAR. Both approaches, namely the “Partial Network” and the “Pretended Network” were defined here.
Common to both approaches is that 2 current saving levels each have been specified. In Pretended Network the “Level 1” and “Level 2”; in Partial Network the “Standby” and “Sleep”. The higher the current reduction, the longer is the “wake-up” time of a control unit till it regains the full functionality (refer to figure 2).
Pretended Network
The Pretended Network follows the so-called Best Practice approach; the currents here - compared to the Partial Network – are even under extremely reduced use of resources very low, presently below 7mA (future target - below 2mA). The lower limit of the current is determined by the presently used standard transceiver which, with its 5mA has the largest share in the total standby current. Especially the volume producers appreciate the advantage that the new Pretended Network control units can operate together with the older units in the same network. This reduces the development risk considerably and also allows continual introduction of this technology within the next generation model. The wake-up time is considerably shorter than in Partial Network because the microcontroller is never fully powered off and the modern current saving modes of microcontroller can be utilized optimally.

Partial Network


Partial Network is the more radical of the two and is also a more expensive approach. A new type of intelligent network transceiver controls the whole control unit. Hereby, standby currents below 0.5 mA are feasible, but it is not a low cost solution. A complete implementation of this standard requires that all control units of a network must be equipped with the intelligent network-transceivers. Another disadvantage besides the additional costs is that the control unit wake-up time out of the maximum current saving mode is relatively long. This is because for the microcontroller it is almost like a cold-start process which can take up to 10 times as long as a warm-start.

Decision: Revolution or Evolution?


Every car manufacturer must ask himself the question: Revolution or evolution - Partial Network or the Pretended Network - or in other words - how much money and efforts one has to spend to achieve the respective CO2 reduction goal.
Thus, the question to be answered is - wouldn't the resources for an expensive network transceiver, additional efforts needed for converting the software of all network control units, and having to live with the slow reaction of the control unit in the maximum current saving mode – be better spent for something different?

Solution approach: Energy Saving Technologies (EST)


In parallel to the relatively recent debate over current saving due to European CO2 tax, Renesas has developed multiple technologies which reduce the current consumption of microcontrollers.
All in all 5 different solution approaches have been realised thereby:

ES-FT: “Energy Saving - Flash Technology”
ES-NP: “Energy Saving - Network Power Management”
ES-LPS: “Energy Saving - Low Power Sampler”
ES-PM: “Energy Saving - Power Modes”
ES-PS: “Energy Saving - Power Scaling”

The first two of these technologies would be reviewed more closely here for implementation in the “Partial Network" or the “Pretended Network".

Energy Saving Flash Technology (ES-FT)


Renesas has achieved a great success in its current 40 nm technology development for automotive microcontrollers with internal Flash.
Renesas developed indigenous transistor technology for its 32-bit microcontrollers, increasing performance while reducing the current consumption by 50% at the same time. This reduces the current consumption in operation mode itself by half, without one having to consider any functional limitation of the control units. This implies an efficiency growth by a factor of 2, a feat which only a few automotive construction segments might be able to duplicate.

Figure 3
Renesas did this by optimising the smallest unit of a microcontroller - the transistor. The total current consumption of a transistor is the sum of its dynamic and the static currents: The static currents are determined by leakage currents which flow as soon as power is applied to the transistor.
The dynamic current flows during switching of transistors, that is, when it changes its logical state (1 or 0).
These currents are determined by the internal capacities of the transistors.
Renesas has succeeded in reducing both by modifying the physical structure of the transistor. The internal transistor capacity was reduced by alteration of the oxide material, and by adapting the transistor geometry, the leakage current could be reduced by a factor of 10. These changes also resulted in higher operating frequencies.

Energy Saving Network Power Management (ES-NP)


In addition, Renesas has optimised the microcontroller digital structure in such a way that maximum current saving modes can be utilised (refer to figure 3), while at the same time the microcontroller can still react to external signals. This is totally taken care of by intelligent IPs (Peripherals) without any CPU interaction. Although in STOP mode the CPU is sleeping, the CAN-IP can participate in the network communication by itself in this configuration. The integrated intelligent message filters wake-up the CPU when a dedicated message type - which is configurable - is detected. Since here the microcontroller is only in STOP mode, it is only a matter of microseconds to execute a warm-start. After wake-up, the CPU can retrieve the message detected by the filter from the CAN-IP and process it.
This configuration is optimal for realising the “Pretended Network Level 2”: Renesas has tested this configuration in a real application and has thereby achieved an average current consumption of 1.58mA. With such a configuration the current consumption of a control unit which previously constantly consumed 105mA, has been reduced to a bare 6.5mA in current saving mode.
This translates into a reduction by 94%. There are no additional costs, no other control unit in network must be renewed and the control units wake-up from their current saving mode in a very short time.
The same configuration, with similar current consumption reduction can also be used to emulate the “Standby Mode” of a Partial Network. Though, in such case, one must live with the disadvantages of a Partial Network described above and that e.g. all network control units which are supposed to support the “Standby Mode” - must be adapted.

Figure 4

Conclusion and Outlook


There are many ways to reduce the current consumption and with that to reduce the CO2 emission. Renesas is of the opinion that an approach combining the latest microcontroller technology with the Pretended Network is the most efficient and the least risky way to reduce the current consumption of control units in cars with reasonable costs (refer to figure 4).
A similar higher demand would also trigger a further development of the last remaining large load; the CAN transceiver with its 5mA accounts for almost 80% of the standby current. With contemporary 0.5mA, control units with standby currents of 2mA in Pretended Network while still retaining all the advantages would then be feasible.
Already today, Renesas automotive series RH850/F1x microcontrollers offer full functionality with 50% less current consumption and the current saving in Pretended- or Partial Network applications is even higher, namely above 90%.

www.renesas.com
Read more

Enabling a New Generation

The latest addition to Microchip’s PIC32 family increases performance, integration and connectivity.



Author: Bill Hutchings,Senior Product Marketing Manager, MCU32, Microchip Technology

If there is one characteristic that all modern devices strive to demonstrate - irrespective of the end-application - it is responsiveness. The ability to react ‘immediately’ is, of course, an illusion, sustained by the speed with which the microprocessor can respond to an event.
Improving the response time of a microprocessor is often closely influenced by the software it executes, however the underlying metric is the theoretical maximum number of instructions that can be executed per second, or MIPS, subsequently improving this figure has long been the driver for microprocessor evolution.
There are a number of recognised techniques for pushing performance up, as measured using the industry-standard unit of Dhrystone MIPS, or DMIPS. The latest member of the PIC32 family of high performance microcontrollers, the PIC32MZ, harnesses the latest MIPS32 core from Imagination Technologies, which successfully combines many of these techniques to deliver a device that increases performance threefold over its predecessor.
The core at the heart of the PIC32MZ is the recently announced MIPS microAptiv™ core, which features DSP extensions and the microMIPS® instruction set architecture, which allows a combination of 32- and 16-bit instructions to run from memory at near-full rate. In addition, the entire device is capable of running at up to 200MHz, which together results in a device that delivers 330 DMIPS; three times the performance of the PIC32MX family.
The microAptiv DSP extensions provide 159 additional instructions providing single-cycle access to the microarchitecture features that accelerate digital signal processing, such as multiply/accumulate. This means DSP algorithms can execute in as much as 75% fewer instruction cycles than the same algorithm executing on the PIC32MX. The PIC32MZ is the first family to use the microAptiv core, which as mentioned also introduces the microMIPS feature of 16-bit instructions, resulting in significantly higher code density; as much as 30% greater density than the PIC32MX.
The PIC32MZ is also capable of running at higher clock rates, up to 200MHz, which is around twice as fast as the PIC32MX. Together, these features deliver a threefold improvement in raw performance, allowing the PIC32MZ to address applications that demand faster response times when running ever-more complex software.

Built for Embedded Connectivity


The PIC32MZ integrates an Ethernet 10/100 MAC and PHY and it also features the highest ever number of serial channels offered in a PIC device. These features, coupled with a high performance core capable of running multiple protocol stacks simultaneously, makes it the most capable 32-bit MCU for applications targeting embedded connectivity. Another first for a PIC® microcontroller is the addition of an integrated Hi-Speed USB MAC/PHY, complemented by dual CAN ports, which further enforces the PIC32MZ’s connectivity credentials.
An important aspect of any connected device today is security and, here, the PIC32MZ offers a number of features designed to make embedded connectivity more secure. A full-featured hardware crypto engine, with a random number generator, provides high-throughput data encryption/decryption and authentication, such as AES, 3DES, SHA, MD5 and HMAC.
Beyond the high performance core and communications-oriented peripheral set, the PIC32MZ also features two further innovations never before offered in a PIC® microcontroller, both of which are intended to address emerging real-world needs of the target applications; both innovations deal with the need for more sophisticated memory systems.
An increasing number of OEMs are finding that the growing complexity of embedded software means in-field upgrades are becoming unavoidable. Instead of dismissing this trend as a development issue, manufacturers like Microchip are addressing the need head-on, by introducing innovative solutions to in-field software upgrades.
The PIC32MZ is at the leading edge of this effort, by integrating Dual-Panel Flash memory that allows a full software update to take place while the device is in service, executing program code at full speed. It achieves this by dividing the embedded Flash in to two physical and logical blocks, or panels. Each panel has its own charge pump and programming circuit, which means one panel is effectively ghost memory right up to the point when it becomes the main memory. As both panels essentially operate independently, one panel continues to operate at full speed while the other is updated in the background, without interrupting program execution.
Once the software update is installed and validated, the device can be reset and start executing memory from the newly programmed panel.
This feature allows a range of software issue to be addressed in the field without a service interruption, while also retaining the last known good software build in one panel at all times. The benefits of this innovation are far reaching; service calls will be minimised, service interruptions could be avoided entirely and software glitches could be resolved in near ‘real time’.
The other innovation intended to improve memory interfacing is the addition of an SQI port. SQI, or Serial Quad Interface, is a high-speed memory interface protocol that uses up to four wires, as opposed to the more common SPI or I2C interfaces which use only one pin for data exchange. The SQI interface uses a multiplexed bus to access 4-bits - or nibble - of memory at a time when accessing SQI-compatible memory devices, while still retaining SPI-compatibility.
The microAptiv core used in the PIC32MZ features an MMU (Memory Management Unit) and instruction and data caches, and up to 2048 KB of on chip flash and up to 512kbyte of SRAM, capable of supporting multiple protocol stacks running simultaneously, as well as buffer space to support audio processing, and frame buffers to support displays up to WQVGA resolution without the need for an external graphics chip.

Design Support


As the new PIC32MZ family is developed for high-end communications-oriented applications that need improved graphics, faster real-time performance and increased security, it is supported by a range of development kits that give full access to its advanced peripherals and crypto engine (for those family members that feature the optional crypto engine). These are further enhanced by a Multimedia Expansion Board II, Starter Kit Adapter and Plug-In Module which supports the Explore 16 Modular Development Board.
The latest addition to Microchip’s 32-bit MCU family drives performance, connectivity and security to new levels in embedded devices. With a threefold increase in raw processor performance, the addition of 159 DSP-specific instructions and innovative memory subsystem the PIC32MZ is well placed to enable a new generation of embedded devices.

www.microchip.com
Read more

ZenWheels Micro Car - Cars and Android Applications

At the very beginning of the last summer I had the opportunity to “play” with a tiny, pretty car, called ZenWheels Micro Car. The car looks rather like a little boy's toy. One can purchase it in many different colors and control it with a free Android or iOS app directly from phone or tablet. Somewhat playing, somewhat doing “my job” (meaning fulfilling the the task I have been assigned at the summer school I have attended) I have written my very own application for my mobile phone, so that I could feel … better when playing with the gadget.



Author: Georgiana Diana Ciocîrdel - georgiana_diana.ciocirdel@cti.pub.ro

The ZenWheels car has no more than a 2-inch length and almost 1-inch height. I am attaching this article a picture that shows the inner “organs” of the car. We use a LiPo battery to power the car and thus, for a 30 minutes charging, via a micro USB cable, we can play intensively with the car for approximately another 30 minutes. Oh, and what a play! Besides the regular straight front- and backwards driving, left-right steering, and endless attempts of back side parking (not that I can do it better in real life, I have to admit that), the car is also equipped with headlights (both high and low beam), siren with three different tunes, blinking lights on each side and … oh yeah, it horns ! I know this article may sound like a commercial (purely off topic, the car only costs 89.99$, such a bargain, huh?), I should also add some technical details, shouldn't I?
One can control the car using Bluetooth commands. As you can see in the “X-ray” above, the Bluetooth module is RN42N-APL and it is provided by Microchip. You can easily use any device to communicate with the car, on condition that is also features a Bluetooth module. The communication is serial. Each action performed by the car can be translated into a 4-byte code, transmitted and received with the help of the Bluetooth modules. The codes are further interpreted by the PIC24H micro-controller also provided by Microchip.
My Android application is written in Java. As a model I have used an example provided in the Android Development Kit (Bluetooth Chat). The minimum API level of the Android device required to use the application is 8.

The application work flow:
0) In order to transfer any data from the device to the car, the phone/tablet must be Bluetooth paired with the car.
1) On startup, the application identifies the default Bluetooth module of the current device. The Java code actually instantiates a Bluetooth Adapter object, which will be further used in the program. Should the Bluetooth module of the device be switched off, the code fixes the problem, i.e. it asks for the user's permission to turn it on.
2) The next step to establish the communication between the devices is to open a Bluetooth socket between the two, your phone/tablet and the car, by using the latter's UUID. UUID means Universally Unique Identifier and it is a 128-bit identifier with high chances of being unique in the Bluetooth transmission area. This guarantees that the 4-byte message that we send to the car will be received and interpreted only by our car. For data exchange we use the RFCOMM protocol, which is a protocol that provides serial data transfer.
3) Once we managed to open the socket, everything should be perfect. We can now start to actually transmit data.
It's time I gave some details about these codes I have previously mentioned.
The car can basically do a lot of cool stuff - steer, horn, accelerate and decelerate, and so on, depending on what I tell “her” to do through the socket. Say I wanted to go forth. The car provides 64 different speeds, with hexadecimal codes between 0x8200 and 0x823F. By sending one of these codes through the socket, the car will move forward with that certain speed. Moving backwards means using another 64 codes, the horn has its unique code and so on.
There are quite some differences between my application and the original one from Plantraco: I am using the “tilting method” in order to determine the movement of the car. I have used the TYPE_ACCELEROMETER sensors of the device (provided it has some). Depending on how I choose to hold the device, I can use it's accelerometer to obtain the three Cartesian components (gx, gy, gz) that correspond to the gravitational acceleration (g). After a few
tests, I have decided to assign the values obtained on the Ox axis to the 128 possible velocities the car can have (I have decided to consider both the 64 forward velocities and the 64 backwards velocities as a single array of values) and those obtained on the Oy axis for steering (just like the speed, the steering also uses 128 possible values). While playing, the phone should be kept in a horizontal (landscape) position (I thought this would be the normal position for games like these).
They say some code lines are worth a thousand words, so I will show you some code snippets I have used to move the care back and front:

if(- INIT_Y + yValue > 0) {
steer = (int) Math.min((- INIT_Y + yValue) *
12.4, codes.STEER_RIGHT.length - 1);
byte[] send = ByteBuffer.allocate(4).putInt (codes.STEER_RIGHT[steer]).array();
mBtSS.write(send);
}
else {
steer = (int) Math.min(Math.abs(- INIT_Y + yValue) * 12.4, codes.STEER_LEFT.length - 1);
byte[] send = ByteBuffer.allocate(4).putInt (codes.STEER_LEFT[steer]).array();
mBtSS.write(send);
}

In the same manner as stated above, you can transmit other codes and make the car horn, turn on the headlights or use the warning lights. I should tell you, though, that if you want to “signal your intention to steer” or use them warning lights, it is imperative that you create a new Thread in your application, so as not to interfere with the user interface and the main Activity. In the Runnable assigned to this new Thread you can, for example, send the codes that turn on/off the front
LEDs of the car at every 0.4 seconds. Not that hard, don't you think?
What I find quite “marveilleux”, so to say, is the fact that the car can actually be controlled with any kind of device that features a Bluetooth module and applications such as mine or the original can be written in any language that implements a Bluetooth stack. For example, I have also experimented a little bit with Python and Qt framework for the GUI directly on my laptop and it all went “formidable”. The steps I followed for building the app were identical: the car's and laptop's Bluetooth module must be paired, then a RFCOMM socket must be opened, the hexadecimal messages are transmitted to the car, and a new Thread is always created when executing something in the background (like signaling). The horn is the most amusing, however.
If you want to write this on Android, or further improve the existing applications or simply make your very own app, I recommend you yet again the BluetoothChat example from the Android SDK. However, should you find this whole building-an-application thing rather boring, you could merely use the car for playing? The car comes with 10 cones and a magnetic chip that makes it horn happily each time it crosses over.

Bibliography:
http://zenwheels.com/zenwheels-micro-car-22/zenwheels-micro-car-green.html
http://www.microchip.com/stellent/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&nodeId=1406&dDocName=en560432
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1781802
Google Images
Read more

New Trends in Medical Portable Systems and Telehealth

With an aging population, the rise of chronic diseases and the need to develop a healthcare infrastructure in emerging countries, there is a strong need to transform the care that we receive today.



Authors:
Adi Shieber, Yan Vainter, Freescale Semiconductor

Moving from a treatment based system to a prevention approach.


In our current healthcare system the patient is not asked to take an active role. Most of us have no knowledge about the human body or about the early signs of a disease. Take for example, you can ask people about the balance of their bank account but most of them will not be able to tell you what their blood pressure or heart rate is. The outcome is that people usually react too late and when they finally go to their doctor and have a diagnosis and potentially the prescribed treatment is more expensive and has more physiological impact than if the disease had been detected earlier.
The first step toward a prevention based system is to educate people about their own
health and to provide them with the tools which allow them to take ownership of their health such as measurement devices to simply assess their vital signs and thus detect the early signs of a disease or use treatment devices like auto-injectors to self-administrate their drugs. To make this possible, medical device manufacturers need to bring professional equipment into peoples’ houses and this brings with it several challenges. Such devices would have to be cost effective to make them accessible to the broadest audience possible plus these devices will also have to be portable which dictates that they are battery operated and naturally they will have to communicate via wireless.
These devices must also be easy to use as the target audience will no longer be the professionals so development of advanced user interfaces, safety, security and high levels of automated operation will be the key to success.

New technology for cost effective, portable and connected medical devices


Those new requirements for medical device designers, cost effective, easy to use, portable and wireless connectivity were until recently unattainable goals due to many technological challenges, but recent advances from semiconductors suppliers like Freescale using ARM® low power processors to design advanced Kinetis® MCUs that use Cortex™-M4 and M0+ processor cores are making this a reality today. The performances that these systems can deliver make the requirements discussed above achievable.
A perfect example is the blood glucose monitor. This device usually has 5 or 6 different modes of operation: standby while in your pocket/bag, wake-up and wait for a blood drop to be applied on the test strip, measurement of the electrochemical reaction, processing of the samples, logging of the results, display of the data.
To run all of these steps older processor technology would have to be working at its maximum performance operating point for the entire measurement cycle, except when in standby, which would be a massive drain on a battery and therefore would not have met the requirements for a portable device. Today however with the latest microcontroller devices that integrates that processing system on a single chip resulting in low power systems can more than half the energy used by the device and therefore can double the period of time between battery replacements or recharge cycles.
Helping to ensure a high level of safety and making the certification process easier are also key advantages of an integrated solution as the number of components in the system is reduced and the interaction between the different features are clearly documented.
One of the one the biggest concerns for medical device companies is the product certification process and to ensure that a component selected, used and certified in a product does not cease to be manufactured during the product lifetime. Freescale offers a formal 15 year longevity program to its medical customers, preventing an expensive re-certification of the product if a component goes out of production by a supplier. For Terms and Conditions and to obtain a list of available products please see: www.Freescale.com/productlongevity.

Case Study


A current and impressive example of what this advanced technology is enabling is the
Omnipod® from Insulet, a revolutionary tubeless insulin pump. Conventional pump therapy includes an insulin pump, reservoir, an infusion set and tubing that connect the insulin pump to the infusion set—keeping the patient tethered to the pump 24/7. The revolutionary OmniPod® design has only two parts: a wearable pod that delivers the insulin and a PDA-type device called a Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM).
The pod is worn for three days and then replaced with another pod. It holds 200 units of rapid-acting insulin, which covers the requirements of almost 95% of Type 1 diabetes patients.
When it came time to find a silicon provider for their design, Insulet searched for a partner who could do a custom chip. Insulet saw that Freescale had the right microcontrollers to control size and cost for the disposable pods, and RF connectivity for the PDM and pod to communicate wirelessly.
Freescale worked with Insulet to design a custom ASIC through a close collaboration. The customized microcontroller design consumes very little power and enables communication between the PDM and the pod using an integrated 13.56 MHz radio. Through this technology alliance, a product was developed that meets the cost and reimbursement structure for the marketplace, in a small, wireless full-featured device.
The next phase in utilising technology to reduce healthcare costs is to move from a hospital/doctor centric system to a decentralized approach in which people measure their vital signs by themselves.
To address this issue we must first get all these medical devices, both measurement and treatment, connected so the information can reach the doctor through secured databases without the need for the patient to be physically present.
Smart connected homes are the basis of this future decentralized system where patients can transmit vital health data from their home to the physician’s office and in turn receive personalized health coaching tips from the practitioner or smart knowledge based information systems based in server hubs that are collectively referred to as ‘the cloud.’ Furthermore, in smart connected homes networked devices and Telehealth systems can act in pre-programmed ways if a medical problem were to occur within the home of a patient, for example a family member or the care centre, depending pre-set automatic alert levels will automatically be alerted should the situation warrant it. Home Telehealth systems are expected to become ubiquitous in smart connected homes and will generally consist of a central health hub managing multiple biometrics devices as well as security and assisted living sensors. This will allow people with illnesses or disabilities to live within the comfort of their homes while retaining a high quality of life. There is compelling evidence to support the value of remote monitoring for individuals with chronic conditions, including:

• 35-56% reduction in mortality
• 47% reduction in risk of hospitalization
• 6 days reduction in length of hospital admission
• 65% reduction in office visits
• 40-64% reduction in physician time for checks and
• 63% reduction in transport costs

(Cleland et al 2005; Lee R, Goldberg et al, 2003; Scalvini S et al., 2001; Elsner et al, 2006; Van Ginneken et al 2006)

The next phase in introducing Telehealth is effective delivery of a careplan to patients suffering from chronic disease, home Telehealth devices should focus on users and services and make the underlying electronic technology used in patient centred devices as unobtrusive as possible. Patients have to be comfortable and confident that they can trust the devices delivering their healthcare. The platform technologies should be flexible enough to accommodate for device personalization based on diagnosis and patient-led requirements and have a user interface that is simple and understandable. The technology described above allows device manufacturers to develop such user interfaces and make their final products as user friendly as possible using a reference platform. For connectivity the platform features ethernet and WiFi™ to ease internet connectivity to the cloud and USB, Bluetooth® and ZigBee® to guarantee interoperability with biometric device connectivity that is compliant to the Continua alliance guidelines.
Advanced security features are also provided by the reference platform like authenticated startup, and hardware-based encryption that will allow designers to implement data privacy schemes and governed levels of medical data access. These embedded security features will also allow for simplified integration of Telehealth platforms into medical health networks. For example the Home Health Hub Reference Platform is being pre-integrated with Microsoft’s Healthvault cloud service where authenticated and encrypted home based medical measurement results can be transmitted and then monitored by a triage centre that would be alerted in real-time if a vital statistic moves outside previously set limits.
Future areas for improvements that can help deliver an efficient and cost effective healthcare is the diagnosis of the patient’s illness. Today this process has already changed in some hospitals where nurses can use instruments to perform diagnostic analysis at the bed side saving time, money and making the patient’s life more comfortable. The next step will be to deploy those devices at local clinics and the finally in people’s homes so they can do a self-screening. The first of its kind in homes has been around for years: pregnancy tests. The second is changing the life of millions of diabetics: the blood glucose monitor. What’s coming next? The Freescale medical team driven by Dr.Fernandez (neurosurgeon and EE) is working on a new generation of biochemical sensors. This technology is based on Ion Sensitive Field Effect Transistors (IsFETs) and these sensors are then used to create Immunological sensitive FETs ImFETs, which can be used to detect not only pH, but also to detect antigens and antibodies of specific pathogens that cause a wide array of infectious diseases.

Future Possibilities


Wearable devices like smart plasters to collect body temperature, respiration, ECG, are getting really close but their size, weight, power consumption and price still need to be lowered to bring more comfort to the patients at an acceptable price. The latest advances with highly integrated system on a chip microcontroller and many types of connectivity are moving medical electronics forward at a rapid pace. Another exciting innovation is in energy harvesting from the heat of the body or from movement to deliver the power needed to run these portable healthcare devices continuously without any need for bulky batteries and this will move the size and weight of such products into unobtrusive, wearable accessories.
The industry we anticipate will be able to deliver such solutions in the next 5 years.

www.freescale.com
Read more

Microchip expands Arduino™ compatible chipKIT™ eco

Microchip announces the expansion of its Arduino™ compatible chipKIT™ ecosystem, with two new development tools from Digilent, Inc., and an embedded cloud software framework. Digilent’s chipKIT WF32 board minimises the need for users to purchase additional hardware or shields, by
integrating Microchip’s 32-bit PIC32MX695F512L MCU with Full Speed USB 2.0 Host/Device/OTG, its agency-certified MRF24WG0MA Wi-Fi® module and an energy-saving switch-mode power supply that employs Microchip’s MCP16301 DC-DC converter, in addition to a microSD card - all while maintaining an Arduino hardware-compatible form factor. Digilent’s chipKIT Motor Control Shield enables the development of applications using a wide variety of motor types, including servos, steppers and DCs, while allowing users to take advantage of the extra I/O pins found on many of the chipKIT development boards. This additional I/O provides added connectivity and more features than traditional, lower pin-count Arduino shields.
On the software side, an embedded cloud software framework enables designers to easily create “Internet of Things” (IoT) applications with the chipKIT WF32. Additionally, Digilent facilitates the rapid development of wireless HTTP server applications, via its comprehensive sample application that supports static pages loaded from the chipKIT WF32’s microSD card, as well as dynamically generated Web pages.
The combination of Digilent’s chipKIT WF32 base board and its HTTP server example application provides hobbyists, students and academics with an easy way to add wireless connectivity to
their Arduino projects.
This board also provides professional engineers with a rapid method for evaluating Wi-Fi in their embedded designs, and for creating embedded cloud computing services using Exosite. Additionally, as with all chipKIT base boards, the chipKIT WF32 can be connected to Microchip’s PICkit™ 3 programmer/debugger, allowing users to seamlessly move into Microchip’s professional MPLAB® X IDE and XC32 C and C++ compilers.
Robotics applications are particularly popular with hobbyists, students and academics, and their robots are driven by the motor types that the chipKIT Motor Control Shield is designed to support.
Microchip’s PIC32 MCUs enable a high level of integrated features and capabilities onto a single board, reducing development costs and complexity for hobbyists, academics and professional engineers.
Digilent’s chipKIT WF32 (TDGL021) priced at $69.99, and chipKIT Motor Shield (TDGL020) priced at $29.95, are both available today.

Microchip Technology
www.microchip.com/get/2T2W
Read more

An A to Z of components for industrial PCs

Whether for use in the open air, in machinery which experiences powerful vibrations or for continuous operation – PCs for industrial applications must satisfy requirements which differ from those for the consumer market. This is frequently a problem, particularly with respect to their memory components.



Author: Frank Bittigkoffer, Director Storage, Displays & Boards at Rutronik Elektronische Bauelemente GmbH

The majority of memory manufacturers produce their products for the end-user market, as this is considerably larger and less fragmented than the industrial market. The prevailing price pressure here, especially on hard disks and flash memory, ensures that memory is cheaper, but also that there is a steady decline in quality and ever shorter product life cycles with sudden product discontinuations.
Therefore, for all its components for industrial PCs, Rutronik relies exclusively on partners and products which explicitly address the industrial market. In this way, the customer can be sure of receiving components with long-term availability, sufficient strength and durability. If necessary, they can be supplemented by an expanded temperature range, 24x7 continuous operation, protection against aggressive gases or others. All Rutronik partners have comprehensive, clearly defined PCN (Product Change Notification) and EOL (End of Life) processes and universal RMA (Return Material Authorisation) handling.
The industrial memories are available in all technologies and sizes, offering the perfect solution for every application. Hard disks are still a preferred medium on which to store data safely and for long periods of time. An interesting portfolio of products with high shock and vibration tolerances, an expanded temperature range, 24x7 operation and long data preservation is available from Toshiba, for instance.
Flash-based memory solutions are the first choice for applications which are exposed to stronger vibrations or shocks. However, intensive, knowledgeable advice is essential when considering these. For in able to remain competitive, the manufacturers must continuously lower their product costs. They use die shrinks and new flash technology to do this. However, these have a negative effect on the quality and longevity of the memory. For instance, TLC (Triple Level Cell) chips are increasingly being used in flash cards and USB sticks. It is only possible for data to be deleted from or written to these a maximum of 500 times. In comparison, MLC (Multi Level Cell) chips are able to accommodate 1000 to 10,000 write/delete cycles and SLC (Single Level Cell) chips approximately 100,000 cycles. There are also serious differences with respect to data preservation: While TLCs do not even store data reliably for one year, MLCs do so for a maximum of one year and SLC solutions for up to ten years. Even in industrial applications, customers frequently do not know exactly how large the data volumes are which are written to the card. However, the duration of the data preservation depends on this. Because corrupted data or even the failure of a memory may have fatal consequences, it is better to use at least an MLC-based or, even better, an SLC-based flash memory.

Firmware changes often bring unwanted surprises


The die shrinks also have another negative effect: Usually the shrinkage means that another controller must be used in the flash memory. This firmware change may have a major impact on the customer application. The memory may unexpectedly no longer function correctly or fail completely. According to manufacturer specifications, the new models are indeed frequently backward compatible, but this statement is based primarily on tests using boards from the major manufacturers and standard software. Customer using their own board or software should not rely on such statements.
However, the Rutronik manufacturers Apacer, Swissbit, Toshiba and Transcend do not just guarantee long-term availability of several years for their products but also a fixed bill of materials (BOM). This means that all flash memories are identical to the sample and each other. In the event of necessary changes to the firmware, the distributor receives a PCN, enabling it to inform all customers which are using the affected memory model. This gives the customer sufficient time to carry out tests using a sample of the changed component or the successor model to determine whether it will function correctly in its application. If this is not the case, the customer can reorder the outgoing component and evaluate alternatives in the meantime. Should the customer not find a replacement model, some manufacturers will even go so far as to test the relevant component in the customer application and adapt the firmware to it.

Individual kit solutions for industrial PCs


The Rutronik portfolio does not just include all industry-quality memory solutions but also all other components required for an industrial PC: Mainboards, displays, controllers, inverters, connection solutions, adapters, cables and power supplies. From these, the broadliner is able to put together individual kits to meet specific customer requirements within a short time.
The selection of boards ranges from industrial mainboards and single board computers, computer on modules (COM), PC104, blade computers, PICMG and backplanes, IPC and servers to box and panel PCs and HMI applications from manufacturers Advantech, DFI, emtrion, F&S, Fujitsu and Supermicro. Rutronik also has TFT displays and passive LCDs from Alpha Display, Displaytech, NLT Technologies, Sharp, Tianma and U.R.T. in its portfolio as well as touch surfaces from DMC and Hantouch. They also fulfil all the more stringent requirements of the industrial market.
There are no generally applicable rules for the selection, the applications are much too specific. The distributor provides comprehensive, manufacturer-neutral support here, contributing its experience gained from many customer projects. Initially, the selection focuses primarily on the available space, which determines the size of the board and display. When selecting the board, the required performance is also crucial. In addition, specific interfaces are available and other factors must be taken into account such as whether the PC must withstand very high or low temperatures or vibrations and whether it is designed for outside use.

Optimising cost and quality


The more requirements the component must fulfil, the more expensive it becomes. The objective here is to achieve the optimum compromise of costs and quality for the customer.
For instance, sometimes it is evident that the requirements of the board are not as high as specified and a more cost-effective alternative will be sufficient. Or that by utilising a slightly more expensive component, it is possible to do away with another completely, thereby reducing the overall costs.
As Rutronik stocks all components itself, the distributor can completely build and test the customer-specific system.
To this end, Rutronik keeps small quantities of around 90% of components in stock. Depending on customer requirements, the customer’s software is used in the tests or the hardware is tested at operating system level. Based on the test results, Rutronik is able to make any necessary alterations to the design. Consequently, the customer can be sure that the solution will function smoothly in practice, simultaneously saving a great deal of development time.

www.rutronik.com
Read more

Freescale i.MX 6Quad Processor Enables Breakthrough OrCam Eyeglass-Mounted Device for the Visually Impaired

Designing with Freescale seminar in Israel includes product demonstration and keynote by OrCam co-founder, professor Amnon Shashua.



Freescale Semiconductor is powering a compelling new application from Israeli startup, OrCam, that helps people with visual impairments interact more easily with the world around them. The OrCam solution is a compact, eyeglass-mounted device that employs sophisticated computer vision algorithms running on Freescale’s high-performance, energy-efficient i.MX 6Quad applications processor to interpret visual inputs and communicate their meaning in real time to the person wearing the device.
Freescale’s i.MX 6Quad processor provides the OrCam product with the processing power required to execute highly advanced computer vision algorithms. The processor’s integrated camera interface reduces the end-product form factor by eliminating the need for additional components, and the chip’s advanced power management capabilities provide exceptional power efficiency for long battery life.
“The i.MX 6Quad processor delivered outstanding performance well within the power envelope we needed to design a wearable, affordable and intuitive solution for people whose visual impairments prevent them from easily interacting with the world around them,” said Amnon Shashua, co-founder of OrCam and the Sachs professor of computer science at the Hebrew University. “With Freescale’s highly advanced i.MX 6Quad device, OrCam is able to help compensate for lost vision and dramatically improve quality of life for the visually impaired.”

OrCam device powered by i.MX technology from Freescale. (Photo: Business Wire)
The OrCam product is comprised of a small unit mounted on the wearer’s eyeglasses and includes a small camera, microphone and bone conduction headphone. Designed with an intuitive user interface, the wearer simply points at an object or text with his or her finger, and the device then interprets and reads it.
The i.MX 6Quad processor integrates four ARM® Cortex™-A9 cores running up to 1.2 GHz, delivering the processing performance to handle the massive amounts of data captured by the OrCam product’s visual sensor. This performance allows execution of all processing algorithms and software speech codecs on a single chip. i.MX 6Quad processors support computer vision algorithms that allow OrCam to recognize a broad range of inputs, from the faces of friends who walk into a room, to text in newspapers and books, to transit signs, traffic signals and everyday objects of all sorts.
“This design win underscores Freescale’s role as a premier provider of embedded intelligence for the fast-growing wearables and intelligent healthcare markets,” said Shmuel Barkan, joint general manager and director of Sales and Marketing for Freescale Israel. “The i.MX 6Quad applications processor is fueling new categories of applications and, in this instance, is providing the processing power to enable a novel and extremely compelling product that is profoundly transforming the lives of people with visual impairments.”

Freescale Semiconductor
www.freescale.com
Read more

MEMS sensors for industrial applications

Developers of mobile applications, as well as gaming and automotive applications were the first to know the options for utilizing the MEMS sensors.
The sensors also open an abundance of options for application in industry, medicine and home appliances sphere.



Especially attractive for many applications are the 3-axis acceleration sensors. With costs of significantly less than one Euro and a multitude of features, they provide a first class price/performance ratio. Included in the actual highlight products are the 3-axis MEMS acceleration sensors LIS3DH from STMicroelectronics and BMA250E from Bosch Sensortec.
Both are extremely low consumption and small and, therefore, are also recommended for applications mobile appliances. Due to Low Power mode, the power consumption of the ST model LIS3DH can be reduced to only 2μA, the sensor from Bosch requires less than 5μA. With the aid of their “Wake-up on Motion Function”, the power consumption for a complete application can be significantly reduced and the service life of the battery increased. The application is set to a form of “Sleep mode”, when the MEMS sensor registers motion it is “awakened” (Smart Power Management). The dimensions of 3×3×1mm (LIS3DH) and 2×2×0.95mm (BMA250E) of the sensor housing are ideal for applications where space is critical. Both models provide accurate values across programmable measurement ranges of ±2g, ±4g, ±8g and ±16g with a sensitivity of 1mg/digit for the LIS3DH and 256LSB/g for the BMA250E in the 2g range. They have a digital resolution of 12 Bit and 10 Bit, the typical zero-g offset over the complete service life is ±40mg for the ST and ±80mg for the Bosch model.

Many features open countless options for application


Both acceleration sensors provide “Freefall Detection”, which at present is primarily utilized in hard drives of laptops. Here, the write and read head is placed in a safe position as soon as the sensor registers the freefall. This principle can also place machines, e.g. chain saws or remote crane control, in a safe condition by freefall using emergency shutdown.

The acceleration sensor LIS3DH from ST has a power consumption of only 2 μA in the Ultra Low-Power mode.

The acceleration sensor BMA250E from Bosch Sensortec is minimal in power consumption and dimensionally.
Due to the recording of the most minimum of motion and vibrations, as well as changes in position, the acceleration sensors are also suitable for protection against vandalism or theft, for example for oil or gas pipelines, machines or valuable objects. Registration of vibrations can serve to check the correct function of a machine and, in the event of a malfunction, quick shutdown.
HMI applications can be provided utilizing the sensors with new features and, thus, enhanced. With the aid of the so-called “display profile switching”, alignment of the screen can be adapted to portable control units with displays if the display is rotated through 90° - similar to digital cameras.
Their Flat Detection allows by detection of the position for example disabling the sound (Smartphone) or the shutdown of an appliance if there are vibrations.
In many applications, the acceleration sensors provide tap and double tap control. Thereby, there is no requirement for mechanical buttons and, thus, easy control is provided.
The step counter function is attractive for mobile fitness or health monitoring, as well as the Activity Monitoring that can be realized by the 3-axis acceleration sensors. Motion patterns of the carrier are recorded and, thus, conclusions made of the route covered and the calorie consumption. In the event of a fall, e.g., whilst mountain climbing, the sensor detects the freefall and, if the body no longer moves can initiate an emergency call.
For initial tests using the MEMS sensors, the STMicroelectronics and Bosch Sensortec provide software and hardware tools with a user-friendly graphic user interface. Thus, developers can vividly carry out different adjustments and tests and later transfer this to the application one-to-one. For this, both manufacturers provide programmable boards, Application Programming Interface (API) and Low-Level drivers.

Abundance of sensor types


In addition to the acceleration sensors, there is a wide range of other types of MEMS sensor on the market. Thus, MEMS microphones combine a high quality of sound and robustness with the smallest dimensions for applications of speech recognition and control. In contrast to conventional classic electric microphones (ECM), the MEMS models are more reliable and robust and have better characteristics over the temperature curve. At present, they are hardly more expensive than the conventional microphones; shortly they will be available for the same price or less.
They are not only suitable for HMI applications in industry, but also for navigation systems, hands-free systems or conference systems. STMicroelectronics offers digital (MP34DT/DB01 / MP45DT02) and analogue (MP33AB01/B01H) models with a SNR of up to 63dB at a very flat frequency response (20Hz to 20kHz).

For example, gyroscopes contribute to more safety in drills.
They record the rotation of the drill (or concurrent rotation) after the drill has engaged in the concrete and provides emergency shutdown. Barometric MEMS pressure sensors measure the air pressure and, from the value, calculates the height to within an accuracy of 25cm. Thus the pressure sensors open up new application scenarios for indoor navigation in stores or car parks. This could even assist the fire service and police to save life, whereby they indicate the location of persons who have had an accident. In navigation systems, they depict the exact position of the vehicle, also on multi-level roads.
With the combination of multiple sensors, the options expand practically indefinitely.
For example, in a washing machine: here, the pressure sensors could measure the fill level whilst the acceleration sensors determine the load and optical sensors check the degree of contamination of the water, so that the wash/drying program can be optimally adapted.

Sensor combinations


The manufacturers have also recognized the advantages of combining different types of sensor and already provide these united in a module, e.g. in the LSM330D from STMicroelectronics.

Data of the pressure sensor BMP180 from Bosch Sensortec whilst travelling in a lift


Schematic structure of fill level measurement using a MEMS Pressure Sensor LPS331AP from STMicroelectronics

The 3-axis acceleration sensor LIS3DH and the 3-axis gyroscope L3GD20 are located in a housing only 3×5.5×1mm in size. The latter provides the full measurement scale from ±250dps to ±2000dps and has a programmable interrupt. The same combination of 3-axis acceleration sensor (BMA255) and 3-axis gyroscope (BMG160) is provided by Bosch Sensortec, with the BMI055. With the dimensions of 3×4.5×0.95mm, it is the smallest Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) available on the market at present. Its six (6DoF, Degrees of Freedom) and low power consumption of only 5.15mA in full operation mode makes it ideal for demanding applications in the consumer electronics, e.g. for gaming applications for play consoles, Smartphones and tablet PCs. Its high resolution of 16 Bit (gyroscope) and 12 Bit (acceleration sensor) provides accurate, reliable measurement results. In addition, the BMI055 has an excellent signal/noise ratio. Its measurement scale enables it to be programmed, from ±125dps to ±2000dps for the gyroscope and ±2g to ±16g for the acceleration sensor. Moreover, the latter distinguishes itself by a low Zero-g-Offset of typically only 70 mg. The digital I2C and SPI interfaces provide flexible options for data communication.
The types of xDoF MEMS sensors and modules not only enable gaming applications, but also remote monitoring of patients or older people without restricting their freedom of movement. Thus, the sensor can, e.g. “detect” a fall and initiate an alarm to the careers. Also mentally confused persons who have strayed can be found. Ergotherapy, training for sports persons and medication information can be accurately determined for the individual movement profile and, thus, can be applied more effectively. The sensor can check the position of the arm in blood measurement appliances at home and, thus, ensure correct measurement. In livestock breeding, with the aid of such a MEMS sensor, the quantity of concentrate can be individually determined to the movement of the animal.

All in one


Sensor modules that combine a greater number of sensor types have even more freedom of movement.
STMicroelectronics has recently introduced such a Multi-Sensor module to the market with new degrees of freedom: the iNEMO M1 (System on Board) unites a 6-axis
geomagnetic sensor LSM 303DLHC (3-axis acceleration sensor + 3-axis magnetic sensor), a 3-axis gyroscope L3GD20, as well as the 32-Bit micro-controller STM32 and a specific Sensor Fusion Software – and that with dimensions of just 13×13×2mm. Thus, the iNEMO M1 has nearly all perceptions of the human sense and that partly exceed this. Thus, it records linear accelerations, angular speeds and the earth's magnetic field, with which the position, movements and their directions can be accurately determined. The software gathers the output signals of all sensors. Contortions and inaccuracies of the measurements are automatically corrected by prediction and filter algorithms. The gyroscope L3GD20 registers roll, pitching and pivoting movements on an arbitrarily selectable scale of between ±250°/s, ±500°/s and ±2000°/s. The geomagnetic sensor LSM303DLHC has an arbitrarily programmable measurement scale of ±2g, ±4g, ±8g and ±16g for the acceleration sensor and ±1.3 Gauss to ±8.1 Gauss for the magnetic sensor, as well as an I2C output. With these features, the iNEMO introduces more
reality into gaming and virtual and augmented reality applications, human-machine interfaces, robots and portable navigation appliances, as well as for monitoring patients.

Development support


The abundance of different types of MEMS sensors with different levels of integration spoils the developer for choice. Frequently it is initially difficult to say with which type of sensor the objective of a development can be best attained. Rutronik has an incomparably wide and broad portfolio of the most different, innovative types of MEMS sensors of its franchise manufacturer. Thereby, the distributor not only covers the sensors, but also the sensor signal processing. From this wide range, a suitable solution can be realized for every requirement and the developer must not already determine at the beginning of the development. They obtain knowledgeable support from the Rutronik product and application engineers. For an overview of the portfolio, refer to the Website www.rutronik.com/sensors.


Author: Martin Grimmer, Senior Marketing Manager Analog & Sensors at Rutronik Elektronische Bauelemente GmbH

www.rutronik.com
Read more

Why choose when you can have both?

The latest mixed-signal controllers combine the best of both the analogue and digital power-conversion worlds, explains Stephen Stella, of Microchip Technology Inc.



Since the introduction of digital power conversion designers have had a clear choice between using analogue or digital for their designs. Each approach has its own distinct benefits as well as drawbacks, but the development of mixed-signal or hybrid controllers is making it possible for designers to combine the best of both power-conversion worlds.

Analogue for performance


The advantage of analogue power conversion is that it offers very efficient control, whilst the down-side is that it gives designers very little flexibility. Once the performance tradeoffs have been evaluated for each design, the chosen optimisation path is applied across the whole load profile and across the full power-conversion operating range.
Using this single level of optimisation across a design’s full power-conversion spectrum has been the industry standard for many years because, whilst it is inherently inflexible, it does deliver efficient control. However, recent government regulations, and the increasing expectations of end-users, are driving designers to achieve greater efficiency. This is pushing analogue power conversion to the limit of its efficiency and persuading many designers to make the change to digital power conversion.

Digital for flexibility


The main benefit of digital power conversion is that it offers the flexibility that analogue conversion lacks. It replaces one level of power-conversion optimisation with multi-point optimisation. It also provides the ability to communicate with the system, enabling power conversion to become part of the overall optimisation of the system’s long-term performance.
The disadvantage of digital power conversion is that this flexibility comes at the price. The digital approach increases system complexity because the analogue feedback from the system needs to be digitised before it can be used for power management. This means adding an analogue-to-digital converter, and also a high-speed microcontroller or digital signal processor to provide the processing power to achieve digital control.
The speed of the A/D conversion and the computational speed of the MCU/DSP determines the bandwidth of the digital control loop. So, if a design needs more bandwidth, it needs faster and more costly ADCs and MCUs.
Another factor is that digital-control techniques are very different to the techniques needed for analogue control. Making the switch from analogue to digital requires significant investment in the skills, resources, tools and processes required for digital design and software engineering. This investment can be a significant barrier to some companies.

The combined strength of hybrid controllers


Component manufacturers have addressed this dilemma by eliminating the choice between analogue and digital design with mixed-signal, or hybrid, controllers. Combining the strengths of both analogue and digital power conversion, hybrid controllers offset the weaknesses which are inherent in each approach. This enables designers to achieve the

Figure 1: Block diagram of the MCP19111 hybrid controller.
flexibility of a digital solution with the efficiency, load regulation and transient response of analogue power conversion. It also eliminates the need for designers to learn specialised skills or invest in new design resources and processes. Figure 1 shows the block diagram of Microchip’s MCP19111. This hybrid controller integrates a peak current-mode analogue controller with a small, 8-bit microcontroller. By performing power regulation in the analogue domain, the MCP19111’s integrated 8-bit microcontroller provides enough processing power to monitor and adjust the performance of the analogue controller.
Also on-board the MCP19111 are on-chip power MOSFET drivers and a mid-voltage LDO. This high level of integration enables the MCP19111 to significantly reduce the number of external components that are needed for power conversion whilst introducing a degree of flexibility that is not possible with analogue-only power conversion. A very wide operating voltage range of 4.5 to 32V operating range provides even more flexibility for the designer.
The introduction of hybrid or mixed-signal power conversion controllers offers designers the combination of the performance of analogue conversion, with the flexibility of digital control, at a cost that makes it accessible to a very wide range of applications. Whilst some designers will continue to make the choice and accept the limitations of analogue-only or digital-only power conversion, others will combine the best of both worlds by choosing the performance and flexibility of hybrid controllers.
www.microchip.com
Read more