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.

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.

Sharing basic algorithms will save innovators from 'reinventing the wheel'

It's been a busy few months for Steve Whalley. Having retired from Intel after 28 years, where his last post was director of sensing, Whalley is now chief strategy officer for the MEMS Industry Group (MIG), where he is leading efforts to prepare the MEMS and sensors ecosystem for what is anticipated to be a decade of explosive growth.

Embedded software development roundtable

Embedded systems development is seeing a number of key changes as the software in devices becomes an increasingly fundamental part of their differentiation. In a roundtable discussion convened by New Electronics, experts pointed to how the rise in software is changing the approaches to development.

IP advice: Is this the end for the patent box?

The patent box was introducted as an incentive for companies to protect their innovations and to profit from them. The opt in scheme would potentially reduce the amount of corporation tax payable on profits earned from patented inventions to as little as 10%, though only a proportion of profits obtained from using patented rights receive the reduced corporation tax level. (For more information, enter 'patent box' in the search engine.

Inter plane stitching for optimum high speed digital signal integrity

With operating speeds running well into the Gigahertz region during the past decade, engineers must be ever more vigilant when it comes routing circuits on PCBs. In this contributed article, Robert Trautman says whether you do your own routing, hand it off to another group within your company or send it out to be done, it is now more important than ever before to fully understand the transmission line effects of the copper traces and how they affect high speed digital signal integrity. To read the complete article, click here.

The importance of thinking thermal early in the design process

Thermal management is often left until pretty near the end of the design engineer's checklist of elements to cover off on a project. There are often reasons offered for this, some being more logical and valid than others. But by building an understanding of heat management techniques and working with experts in what still remains a somewhat mysterious aspect of electronic product design, there are significant performance, cost and reliability benefits to be had. These can prove to be crucial differentiators in the final design specification and be the difference between a compelling, high selling idea and a 'me too' product that may be late to market and taken an inefficient and torturous route to get there.

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