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.

Revolutionising networking technology

The networking world has largely been defined by the development of fixed function chips. While these devices have been one of the means by which data rates have increased, this has been achieved at the expense of configurability.

Farming embraces the IoT

The farm is perhaps the last place where you would look for advanced technology. But pressures on food production make agriculture a prime candidate for harnessing the potential of automation and the IoT. Real-time data collection is the key to improving yields and making the most of precious resources.

The choices involved in adding IP support to embedded systems

The tentacles of the internet are reaching further into the domain of deeply embedded systems that used, at most, to be attached to simple fieldbuses. Although the internet may stop short of ‘smart’ light bulbs that use Zigbee or Bluetooth to communicate, more organisations are looking at supporting the Internet Protocol (IP) directly in sensor nodes and smart actuators.

Interconnector and cabling system to address design challenges

The growth in connectivity, with billions of devices now connected around the globe, means the pressure is growing exponentially on the infrastructure that supports the collection and dissemination of data. Whatever the technical pressures, customers expect a seamless level of service.

Measuring RF power in the field

The output power of an RF or microwave system is a key determinant of its performance. For this reason, signal power is measured at every stage – from design and prototyping to maintenance in the field.

Bright future for fibre optical networks

In the last 30 years or so, the rate at which data can be sent down core fibre has increased by an amazing 10million times. And the UK has a long and enviable track record in this remarkable progress, with research groups and companies continuing to influence and drive the industry.

Tracksure sensor system to transform rail networks

Monitoring the rail network is a costly and time consuming endeavour, but the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) has developed a new sensor system that could transform the way in which networks are maintained by turning rail vehicles into track monitors.

Technology to improve firefighter safety

Building fires are, by their very nature, inhospitable environments. The combination of heat, a potentially toxic atmosphere, poor visibility and an unstable building can have fatal consequences, so it’s no surprise to find out that technology is being brought to bear in an attempt to improve safety, particularly when it comes to communication with and location of firefighters committed to a building.

Choosing between PCAP and resistive touchscreen technologies

Resistive touchscreens are typically found in retail electronic point of sale (EPOS) devices and companies have traditionally used them in industry. These have several layers, including two thin transparent, electrically resistive layers, separated by a thin space. When an object such as a fingertip or stylus tip presses down on the outer surface, the two layers touch to become connected. These touchscreens simply need enough pressure for the touch to be sensed and can be used while wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Developments in low cost VNAs to find new applications

As test equipment has evolved, there has been a drive to provide unique and identifiable differentiations in feature sets and capabilities, suggesting to customers they will have an advantage over their competitors by providing tighter specification thresholds. For most modern Vector Network Analysers (VNAs), this trend has led to their capabilities becoming complex, resulting in an increased cost of ownership for the user, not just in terms of capital equipment costs, and calibration and support costs, but also in the time required for user understanding and training, as well as for any control software control or drivers to be written.

Affordable next generation clusters

Sophisticated graphics displays in the instrument cluster are a proven way for makers of premium vehicles to add consumer appeal and cachet to new high-end models of car. Audi has won rave reviews for its ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster in the 2016 TT roadster.

Advances in technology to meet frequency mixing needs

Frequency mixing is one of the most critical sections of the signal chain and, in the past, many applications were limited by the performance of a mixer – frequency range, conversion loss and linearity defined whether a mixer could be used for the application or not. Designs for frequencies of more than 30GHz were difficult and packaging the devices at those frequencies was even harder.

CEMs engage in communication technology

The demand for better communications systems has grown exponentially in recent years and wireless communication technology is now truly pervasive, but the pace of the technology’s continual development presents Original Electronics Manufacturers (OEMs) with challenges.

The rise of the hyperscale data centre

The modern data centre is becoming more complex as it attempts to handle the proliferation in mobile devices and billions of newly connected devices, all of which are increasing the pressure on data infrastructure. Customer expectations have never been higher and they will expect a seamless level of service, even as the demand for data increases exponentially.

Focusing light on industry’s problems

One of the longest established such centres in the UK, the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde is working in optogenetics and neurophotonics, as well as more traditional areas such as solid state lasers.

Connector to combat passive inter modulation on mobile networks

Passive inter modulation – PIM – is ‘unwanted interference’ which tends to occur when two or more interacting signals either interfere with one another or are affected by outside interference. While PIM is not new, the development of Long Term Evolution (LTE), 4G and 5G generation networks means that it has become more important as an issue. These networks have proven to be far more vulnerable to the effects of PIM, as well as to other signalling problems.

LTE for the IoT: Not one standard but many

Analysts are falling over themselves predicting just how big the IoT is going to be – and it will be big. What is less certain is what will be connecting all these devices. Some companies, such as Sigfox and those in the LoRa Alliance, are rolling out dedicated networks in cities around the world. However, these have the drawback that a new network does need to be deployed and that in most cases the coverage is somewhat limited.

Fighting fibre with G.Fast broadband

Offering really high speed fixed broadband to all who need it would seem to mandate rolling out optical fibre to the customers’ premises, according to the industry and a number of operators and equipment manufacturers are trying to show this is true - but only up to a point. They point to a bewildering array of technology and economic options for upgrading broadband networks, with emerging standards and technologies targeting legacy ‘last mile’ copper connections.

Maximising the potential of fibre optic communications

The Electronic and Electrical Engineering department at University College London (UCL) has been linked almost inextricably with the development of the communications industry. Professor Polina Bayvel, head of UCL’s Optical Networks Group (ONG), pictured below, explained: “It’s a special department; the first electronic and electrical engineering department in any UK university.”

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