22 September 2006

That special touch

Radio alarm features novel interface technology.

When the alarm clock wakes you up in the morning, the first instinct is to throw the intrusive device as far as possible. Then consciousness kicks in and you realise that it needs to be turned off. How better to do this than through touch technology?
Oregon Scientific is a leading manufacturer of clock radios and enhances its product offerings with a range of functions, including home weather stations and atomic clock control. The company has used Cypress Semiconductor’s CapSense capacitive touch sensing solution in one of its latest introductions. The BARM699A is a radio alarm clock with weather station and atomic controlled accuracy. And CapSense allows the device to be controlled via a touch panel interface.
BARM699A is a self setting device which is one of the best selling products of its kind in the Target range of stores in the US. Not only does it use the US Atomic Clock to maintain accuracy, it also corrects the time for Daylight Saving. With sleek design and an electroluminescent backlight, the alarm provides indoor and outdoor temperatures, as well as am/fm radio stations.
The touchscreen interface is enabled by Cypress’ Programmable System on Chip (PSoC) mixed signal array, along with CapSense technology. One PSoC chip allows the CapSense based interface to replace mechanical switches or buttons. And, because PSoC is flash based, companies can make changes late in the design cycle, speeding time to market and keeping costs as low as possible.
“As the leader in timing and weather products, we are always looking for innovative ways to differentiate our products, and the attractive touch interface enabled by Cypress’ CapSense technology is an excellent differentiator,” said David Fuhriman, Oregon Scientific’s senior product manager.
“This new radio alarm clock is another excellent implementation of the CapSense solution in the home electronics market,” said George Saul, vice president of Cypress’ PSoC Business Unit. “The clock delivers added functionality which consumers can access through an aesthetically pleasing interface, while taking full advantage of the design benefits that CapSense offers.”
Capacitive sensing is fast becoming the solution of choice for front panel display and media control applications, according to Cypress. Amongst a number of benefits, CapSense brings increased durability, a decreased bill of materials and a cleaner appearance to a wide range of designs.
CapSense works by forming an electrical connection between a finger on the product’s interface and embedded sensors. This information is passed to the PSoC device, which translates data about the finger’s position into various system control functions. Cypress claims one PSoC can replace dozens of mechanical switches and controls with simple, touch sensitive controls.
CapSense also offers system designers a number of advantages compared to capacitive touch sensor products built around modules and sub-assemblies. These include increased flexibility, reduced board space and lower cost. Because of the PSoC architecture, designers can integrate multiple functions – including led drivers and lcds -- alongside touch sensing.
The PSoC CapSense solution also delivers benefits such as easy serial communications using either i2c or SPI interfaces, the ability to implement touchpad (x-y matrix) and linear slider applications with the same device, and the ability to make quick design changes through the flash based PSoC architecture.
One PSoC can integrate up to 100 peripheral functions with a microcontroller, saving design time, board space and reducing power consumption. Easy to use development tools enable designers to select configurable library elements to provide a range of analogue functions.

Graham Pitcher

Supporting Information



Cypress Semiconductor UK Ltd

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