Latest In Depth Technology News

New Electronics brings you a selection of in depth Technology Articles, covering key issues and innovations within research & development, embedded design, power, communications design, test & measurement, programmable logic, system design and more.

Wireless IoT connectivity: which standards can be used?

Connections to the Internet of Things (IoT) will require an unprecedented level of networking in the future, and wireless networks will be playing a predominant role here. Standardisation is required for interoperability and compatibility reasons. However, a single standard will never be able to cover all use cases due to the enormous variety of applications. Some kind of categorisation is required to keep a clear picture.

A recently developed board format is being targeted at low power, high performance applications

There is no shortage of board formats available to product designers – and it seems there is always room for a new configuration to be introduced. One of the more recent formats to be unveiled is SMARC – short for Smart Mobility Architecture. The format was developed by SGET, the Standardisation Group for Embedded Technology. SGET was launched at Embedded World in 2012, with founding members including Advantech, congatec, Data Modul, Kontron, MSC and SECO.

Could virtual reality help transform the way in which healthcare is delivered in the UK?

With the NHS under unprecedented levels of pressure and struggling to cope with the number of patients coming through its doors, medical technology is being seen as one way of transforming how healthcare can be delivered over the next few years. Significant improvements are expected in the way patients are monitored, diagnosed and treated, but also in the way that clinicians and nurses are trained.

European researchers are working on a host of energy efficient microservers

European research organisations and companies are busy targeting microservers as a potential very large revenue stream for the medium term. At least four groups, funded to a large extent by the EU's 7th Framework Programme, are looking at a variety of often overlapping processor, system and software architecture projects, all scheduled to finish in September 2016.

Connecting to the Internet just got even easier, says the Bluetooth SIG

For the IoT to work as envisioned, devices need to be connected to the Internet. This can be achieved with Bluetooth Smart devices, which can send data to a cloud service, but currently only through hub devices with full OS and supporting drivers running a software stack. For developers, being able to take advantage of direct connectivity to the Internet is a key requirement to take the IoT beyond the hype and create real 'always connected' experiences.

How to ensure your SCM system is fit for purpose in today's electronics design industry

A couple of decades ago, version control – often referred to as software configuration management (SCM) – was largely unheard of outside the software development industry. Then the sheer volume and variety of the different elements which electronics designers have to keep track of began to increase. That pushed the electronics industry to adopt version control, to the point where, today, the approach is pretty much ubiquitous.

CES 2015 didn't disappoint, when it came to delivering the latest gadgets and devices

Last month saw the technology world's annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Despite ongoing questions over its relevance – especially when big technology firms like Apple are able to stage their own huge media events – it managed to play host to more than 3500 exhibitors and 150,000 visitors from around the world, a quarter of whom came from outside the US.

Multi-touch interactivity is helping to redefine the in-store customer experience.

In the face of intense competition retailers are spending more on information technology, data analytics and digital marketing channels. Online shopping, social media platforms and mobile technologies are having a significant impact on the sector, permanently changing the way consumers shop. As a result, retailers need an omni-channel approach or they risk falling into anonymity and the retail graveyard!

RapidIO is being targeted at high performance computing applications as latency becomes a critical factor

The extent to which 'what goes around, comes around' applies to technology. Despite the impression that companies are forging a future based on brand new ideas, that's not always the case. And so it is with RapidIO, the packet switched interconnect technology developed in the early 2000s for use in high performance computing (HPC) applications. Despite this ambition, RapidIO found most success in the wireless infrastructure sector. But the wheel is turning full circle as RapidIO begins to make inroads into today's HPC applications – and data centres in particular.

How a motor controller based on a 32bit processor could drive the transition to a new generation of electric motors

We are entering a new era of motor technology, with many of the 10billion electric motors sold each year in line for an upgrade. Innovation in motor control algorithms and the lowering cost of embedded microcontrollers are prompting a new generation of brushless DC (BLDM) and permanent magnet synchronous (PMSM)motors. At the heart of these new motors is an integrated motor controller integrated circuit, containing a 32bit processor core, as well as revamped configurable analogue and power management circuitry. Sophisticated motor control algorithms – such as field oriented control (FOC) – running on the processor core remove the need for external sensors, thereby reducing overall system component count.

How do you keep your IP secure against counterfeiting?

If you have a user installable part, can your system tell whether it is authentic or not? Can you be sure whether a subcontractor is shipping to counterfeiters extra versions of your product? One of the weapons which chip and system builders are using to deal with these problems is to make each part identifiably unique.

Programmable digital resources can be used to overcome the shortcomings of SoC devices

One of the most frustrating elements of embedded system development occurs when, having passed many design milestones, you discover that the embedded device selected doesn't meet current design requirements. Configurability offers designers the flexibility to determine how peripherals such as comparators and operational amplifiers are routed out to pins. These components will not have the same static pin locations as a traditional fixed function microcontroller; using a series of registers on the device, engineers can configure a device to their particular application needs. Additionally, mixed signal SoC devices may contain digital resources that are programmable at different levels – from basic configurable logic to larger PLD resources – and which can be configured using a hardware description language such as Verilog. Using these programmable digital resources, developers can create state machines and other complex circuits, such as the ability to perform an FFT on a digital signal in hardware.

The critical importance of Sicherheit in embedded software

Any system providing an interface to the outside world has the potential to contain security vulnerabilities. In particular, any accessibility via the Internet not only requires a strategy to with a few malicious specialists, but also with a whole world of hackers. In the field of safety critical embedded software, such security concerns are often perceived to be a separate domain from the core business of functional safety. Yet when security researcher Barnaby Jack used a modified antenna and software in 2011 to wirelessly attack and take control of Medtronic's implantable insulin pumps, he demonstrated how such a pump could be commanded to release a fatal dose of insulin. Clearly, this vulnerability puts the safety of dependent diabetics at risk and, in this situation, safety and security are indistinguishable.

When it comes to designing a clock tree, what do you need to take into account?

A clock tree is intended to generate the reference timing required by all the ICs in a PCB design and the challenge for an engineer is to design one with the fewest number of components possible, while at the same time meeting system-level performance requirements. Design engineers need to take into account real estate restrictions – can they simplify complex PCB layouts? – and they have to be clear as to whether the clock generation IC is expected to do jitter attenuation or clock synthesis.

Interconnection opportunities in the rail sector abound as investment booms

Rail is proving to be one of the most attractive and fast growing markets for the electronics industry. Deregulation, new leasing and financing schemes help to support operator demand for additional rail stock and the UK has an active rail market, with major investments in both large infrastructure projects and in rolling stock – HS2 and Crossrail are providing significant opportunities for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers. UK manufacturers are also competing to win business in the Far East in the form of sub systems on the Beijing High Speed network, for example, and in the US with the proposed New York to California high speed rail link planned for delivery in 2020.

Adding value to new product introduction

When the ESCO Report (Electronics Systems: Challenges and Opportunities) was published in 2013, it outlined ambitious aims to grow the UK's electronic systems industry to £120billion by 2020, including the addition of more than 150,000 highly skilled jobs. The report talked of growing the UK's electronics industry by 55%, based on the premise that there would be improvements to supply chains and strategic procurement, the skills pipeline and the industry's ability to identify future growth sectors. What role could the UK's relatively strong EMS/CEM sector play in helping to develop the electronic systems industry?

CMOS technology is set to enable a new range of sensor devices

A pivotal moment in the development of the semiconductor industry came in 1963, when two researchers from Fairchild – CT Shah and Frank Wanlass – presented a conference paper that described logic circuits in which p- and n-channel MOS transistors were combined in a 'complementary' symmetry configuration. The approach, patented by Wanlass, used virtually no power in standby mode and came to be known as CMOS. The rest, as they say, is history.

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