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.

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.

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.

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