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.

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.”

Communicating data in the IoT

The Internet of Things is evolving to provide greater intelligence at the node, converting raw data into smart information. With less data to communicate, it becomes more cost-effective to integrate low power RF transceivers into the node module. Certification to wireless protocol standards ensures interoperability and the emergence of open tools will make support for these standards less onerous to developers.

Enabling robust data communications within a high voltage BMS

The primary purpose of the battery management system (BMS) is achieving reliability, performance and longevity of battery packs. As part of this, the battery management electronics measures each cell voltage and transmits this information to a central processor. For high voltage battery strings – such as is typical for automotive drivetrains –a modular distributed pack is an attractive choice. Battery modules can serve as the basic building block for multiple pack designs. Modules also allow for optimal weight distribution and maximum use of available space. The biggest challenge is the datalink required to operate the pack as a single unit.

New technologies widen touchscreen opportunities

A quiet revolution is taking place in the projected capacitive touchscreen market. Rapid industry developments are delivering touchscreens which are thinner, higher performance, more reliable and lower cost. The impetus behind many of these developments is the fact that indium tin oxide (ITO), the long standing conductive material of choice for phone and tablet touchscreens, has limitations and consequently is being superseded by alternative materials. ITO has never been widely used in large format AV and kiosk applications, but some of the technologies that are being developed to replace it could.

Data centre interconnect drives optical module advances

The huge growth in demand for video, cloud services and social networking is changing almost everything about the way the networks are built and used, not least the interconnect technologies within data centres and the ‘top of rack’ network switches that shift packets between the optical internet boxes – or Data Centre Interconnect (DCI) – and the servers that store and process the data.

Irish company pioneers the development of 94GHz RF circuits for a range of applications

It wasn’t too long ago that GHz frequencies were regarded as exotic; few applications took advantage of that part of the spectrum as technology was not only difficult, but also expensive. That meant that military dominated the few applications there were. The Brimstone missile is believed to use 94GHz technology for targeting purposes, rather than the lasers used in previous missiles.

RF tests are the basis for V2X

Wireless technologies are being used to connect vehicles, but in order to ensure that messages are received accurately, developers need to adhere to minimum standards.

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