Communications Technology

Connectivity is a key feature of modern embedded products. There’s a wide range of communications modes that can be used, but which is the best for your design? Should you use a wireless technology such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and, if so, which one should that be? Or would wired communication, such as Ethernet, be the best way forward?

In this section, New Electronics reviews the latest communications technologies and brings visitors to the website information on how these technologies are being applied.

Product differentiation

The Mobile World Congress usually represents a forum for all of the major technology companies to display their latest offerings to the world of mobile communications. However, having visited the various stands at this year's congress – which took place in Barcelona during March 2015 –one was struck by the fact that the smartphones produced by each of the manufacturers seems increasingly to be converging towards the same design, form factor and features.

Simplifying design while increasing bandwidth

In modern communications systems, the more bandwidth that is available, the more information that can be transmitted. As bandwidth requirements increase, the need for faster and higher linearity A/D converters and amplifiers also increases.

How plateauing clock speeds and increased data rates are changing test and measurement

A large misconception is that test data is purely pass/fail, but in reality this could not be further from the truth. The approach of traditional, fixed-functionality instruments is to send only the results back to the host PC of a test system. This results in much of the signal processing being hidden from the user within the box of the instrumentation. The speed of this signal processing is determined by the speed of the processor on board the instrument.

Verification of RF performance using simple tools and test setups

Buzzwords like Industry 4.0, the IoT, Mobile Computing, and Cloud Computing can be found in many headlines in magazines. The common theme throughout is the development and rapid expansion of modern communication technologies rooted in RF communication. Wireless connectivity is everywhere you look: in the warehouse, the office, the car, at home, at sporting events, and in medical technology.

The benefits of exploiting M2M connectivity?

Over the years, a number of different methods have been used for establishing remote connections between industrial systems and sensors, including fixed connections, low power radio links, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. But most are only feasible over relatively short distances or where existing connections, such as a telephone line, fibre optic cable, or dedicated point to point link, are already installed. A new technology using 'white space' spectrum has also been proposed, but this would involve commissioning a whole new network.

High speed rail services pose wireless connectivity problems

Railway operators around the world are embracing wireless technology to help improve levels of security, raise levels of reliability, boost operating efficiency and enhance the consumer experience, whether that's by providing on board Wi-Fi access, better passenger information services or location based travel announcements.

Flexibility for the future

Operating a data centre requires a range of conflicting requirements to be balanced. At the top of the list is the ability to deliver extreme computational performance, but other factors include flexibility, the efficient use of power and keeping costs as low as possible.

Managing cell edge issues

Heterogeneous networks (HetNets) are now being deployed along with Self-Organising Networks (SON) to address the need for increased network capacity. A HetNet comprises a combination of macrocells or eNodeBs with small cells (microcells, picocells and femtocells) relay eNodeBs and remote radio heads (RRH).

Pushing towards the limits

It might seem like submarine communication is a relatively new fangled idea, but no; the first cable to link the UK and the US came into operation around 1860, carrying telegraphy.

How to make sure the IoT is as secure as it should be

Attacks on Sony and Target suggest current enterprise security, in many companies, is not fit for purpose. The Internet of Things means that almost anything can now be connected to the Internet, but that also means that anything connected to the Internet can be hacked. Most of the information isn't transmitted securely and many apps have vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by anyone with the necessary skills.

Could 'Supercomputing at the Edge' provide a scalable platform for new mobile services?

Imagine a future in which every mobile base station is capable of instantly processing data as it is being uploaded or downloaded; where some types of data may be hugely valuable for just a matter of seconds, but which don't have to be stored in or sent to the cloud; or of a computing platform, located at the very edge of the network, where data is collected and the caching of content is done locally. All of these ideas are at the heart of the 'Supercomputing at the Edge' concept. For its proponents, it heralds a new age in big data management capable of supporting many new services and applications.

Integrated photonic systems are expected to drive the development of new applications, including Ultra HD broadcast

Photonics is turning out to be big business – and the technology holds the prospect of being even more important in the future. A market that was valued at something like $350billion in 2005 has grown to be worth around $1trillion in 2015, driven by the increasing use of displays. Not bad for a technology that only saw the light of day in the early 1960s.

Terahertz technology is set to enter the mainstream, enabling better performance in a wide range of applications

Developing sources and detectors of electromagnetic radiation has been fundamental to scientific progress. But such devices have been lacking in one part of the spectrum – the so called 'terahertz gap'. This area, in which practical technologies for generating and detecting the radiation do not exist, lies between the microwave and infrared, covering frequencies from 0.1 to 10THz.

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.

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.

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