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.

Programmable matter could make evolutionary hardware a reality

First realised 20 years ago, evolutionary hardware design continues to fascinate a small group of researchers. The attraction is not difficult to understand; instead of trying to design behaviour or structure into a system manually, you let the system determine for itself how it should work. Just like biology – only you need it to happen in less than a few million years.

What to know when selecting a CMOS image sensor for a home automation device

Sensors are at the heart of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution and most applications will deploy multiple sensors including an image sensor. The more compelling home automation products tend to deploy cameras which are commonly based around a CMOS image sensor and this, coupled with sophisticated computer vision algorithms, look set to become the ‘brains’ of the smart home.

Wi-Fi and unlicensed LTE groups are finding it hard to coexist as mobile phone technology develops

Although relatively young, the mobile communications sector seems to have an uncanny propensity to generate major controversies. The latest spat manages to pit one technology – Wi-Fi – against cellular; two networks that have avoided treading on each other’s toes for more than two decades. During this time, each camp has seen huge innovation and enormous growth, with many components and infrastructure suppliers relying on them for their own success.

1D to 3D HMI solutions

Just a few years ago Touch revolutionised input: mechanical buttons, keyboards and sliders were replaced by static plastic or metal surfaces. It meant that operator interfaces could be incorporated into a device, and unobtrusive and modern design became increasingly common on the factory floor. Capacitive touch is based on a capacitor whereby the human finger acts as the actuator for the capacitor. Ingenious designs also enable proximity switches to be implemented as well. In this case the control system is only active shortly before it is activated, reducing energy consumption. This is known as ‘1D’ input.

Minimising costs for wire-to-board connections

Wire-to-board connections incur high costs when handling large quantities in mass markets. However, using the right connection technology this expense can be prevented. It's often worth considering the use of tried-and-tested technologies that enable cables and circuit boards to be connected at little cost.

Designing precision guidance systems for agricultural applications

The use of satellite navigation systems has become a familiar part of our daily life. Whether it is in our vehicles to help us find our way to our destination, navigate us around traffic delays or to locate us within an unfamiliar city, GPS-based navigation saves us an immense amount of time and makes the experience a lot less stressful. In most cases the degree of accuracy reported by the GPS is adequate for our purposes. However, as the numbers of potential applications grow so does the need, in some cases, for a lot more accuracy and repeatability in the location information provided. One such example is for agricultural applications, specifically for use in sowing, fertilizing and harvesting crops.

Could Industry 4.0 change forever the way in which manufacturers operate?

Industry 4.0 – or the Industrial Internet of Things – is on the verge of radically changing the way in which manufacturers operate. The approach is expected to pave the way towards a future in which smart factories, intelligent machines and networked processes are brought together to encourage greater manufacturing productivity, flexibility and profitability.

Redefining automotive HMIs using advanced optoelectronics

There are a vast number of multimedia, communication, air conditioning, telematics and navigation utilities now being built into in the average car. All of these, of course, need efficient control mechanisms. Automobile manufacturers have, in recent years, placed far greater importance on the implementation of highly intuitive human machine interfaces (HMIs) that can address the expanding scope of functionality that drivers need to deal with, while ensuring that they are still able to concentrate fully on the road ahead. As a result interest is growing in HMIs that are capable of supporting touch-less operation.

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.

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