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Eliminating the need for an MCU (and coding) in Highly Efficient AC/DC Power Supplies

ELE Times - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 12:31


Grid power is AC for many good reasons, yet almost every device requires DC power to operate. This means that AC-DC power supplies are used almost everywhere, and, in a time of environmental awareness and rising energy costs, their efficiency is critical to controlling operating costs and using energy wisely.

Simply put, efficiency is the ratio between input power and output power. However, the input power factor (PF) must be considered – this is the ratio between useful (true) power and total (apparent) power in any AC-powered device – including power supplies.

With a purely resistive load, the PF will be 1.00 (‘unity’) but a reactive load will decrease the PF as the apparent power rises, leading to reduced efficiency. A less-than-unity PF results from out-of-phase voltage and current, a significant harmonic content, or a distorted current waveform – common in discontinuous electronic loads such as switched mode power supplies (SMPS).


PF Correction

Given the impact on efficiency that a low PF has, when power levels are above 70W, legislation requires designers to incorporate circuitry that will correct the PF to a value close to unity. Often, active PF correction (PFC) employs a boost converter that converts rectified mains to a high DC level. This rail is then regulated using pulse width modulation (PWM) or other techniques.

This approach generally works and is simple to deploy. However, modern efficiency requirements such as the challenging ‘80+ Titanium standard’ stipulate the efficiency across a wide operating power range, requiring peak efficiencies of 96% at half load. This means the line rectification and PFC stage must achieve 98% as the following PWM DC-DC will lose a further 2%. Achieving this is very challenging due to the losses within the diodes in the bridge rectifier.

Replacing the boost diode with a synchronous rectifier helps and the two line rectifier diodes can be similarly replaced which further enhances efficiency. This topology is referred to as totem pole PFC (TPPFC) and, in theory, with an ideal inductor and perfect switches, efficiency will approach 100%. While silicon MOSFETs offer good performance, wide bandgap (WBG) devices offer far closer to ‘ideal’ performance.

ACDC2Figure 1: Simplified Totem Pole PFC Topology Dealing with Losses

As designers increase frequency to reduce the size of magnetic components, dynamic losses in switching devices will also increase. As these losses can be significant with silicon MOSFETs, designers are turning to WBG materials including silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) – especially for TPPFC applications.

Critical conduction mode (CrM) is generally the preferred approach for TPPFC designs at power levels up to a few hundred watts, balancing efficiency and EMI performance. In kilowatt designs, continuous conduction mode (CCM) further reduces RMS current within switches, reducing conduction loss.

ACDC3Figure 2: Typical PFC Circuits: Conventional boost (left) and Bridgeless Totem Pole (right)

Even CrM, can see an efficiency drop approaching 10% at light loads which is a roadblock to achieving ‘Titanium 80 Plus’. Clamping (‘folding-back’) the maximum frequency forces the circuit into DCM at light loads, thereby significantly reducing peak currents.

Overcoming Design Complexity

With four active devices to be driven synchronously and the need to detect the inductor’s zero current crossing to force CrM, TPPFC design can be far from trivial. Additionally, the circuit must switch in / out of DCM while maintaining a high-power factor and generating a PWM signal to regulate the output – as well as providing circuit protection (such as over current and over voltage).

The obvious way to address these complexities is to deploy a microcontroller (MCU) for the control algorithms. However, this requires the generation and debugging of code, which add significant effort and risk to the design.

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CrM- based TPPFC without Coding

However, time-consuming coding can be avoided by using a fully integrated TPPFC control solution. These devices offer several advantages including high performance, faster design time and reduced design risk as they eliminate the need to implement a MCU and associated code.

A good example of this type of device is onsemi’s NCP1680 mixed-signal TPPFC controller that operates in constant on-time CrM, thereby delivering excellent efficiency across a wide load range. The integrated device features ‘valley switching’ during frequency foldback at light loads to enhance efficiency by switching at a voltage minimum. The digital voltage control loop is internally compensated to optimize performance throughout the load range, while ensuring that the design process remains simple.

The innovative TPPFC controller includes a novel low-loss approach for current sensing and cycle-by-cycle current limiting offers substantial protection without the need for an external Hall-effect sensor, thereby reducing complexity, size and cost.

ACDC5Figure 4: NCP1680 Typical Application Schematic

A full suite of control algorithms is embedded within the IC, giving designers a low-risk, tried-and-tested solution that delivers high performance at a cost-effective price point.

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Factory automation realizes boost from new technologies

ELE Times - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 12:05


Factory automation strategies are reaping benefits now from several technologies and their enabling elements.

Automation has a long history, and it has played an essential role in all industrial markets. Repeatable manufacturing to high quality and in high volume is the essence of industrialization. The cost of the finished product can be directly related to the level of automation in the manufacturing process.

Continuous advancements in automation deliver mechanical excellence. That excellence, in turn, relies on control. Manufacturers must balance technologies used to implement control to this level with commercial considerations. These include the cost of development and deployment – or capital expenditure – and the recurring cost of implementation – or operational expenditure.

New technologies can impact factory automation when manufacturers align capex and opex while accurately assessing total cost of ownership. This article examines some technologies that meet this requirement and some that may influence the direction of automation.

Industrial automation technologies

Several technologies with their corresponding enabling elements are impacting industrial automation right now. The competitive advantage of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will increase as these technologies become more pervasive.

  • Single-pair Ethernet
  • Edge computing
  • Time-sensitive networking
single-pair-ethernet-in-industrial-automationSingle-pair Ethernet is being used in industrial applications to reduce wiring cost and complexity and to provide a common physical interface. Single-pair Ethernet in industrial automation

Wide area networking (WAN) has changed every aspect of modern life. Consumers enjoy internet access anywhere, even on a transatlantic flight. Its use in IIoT means information technology and operational technology are colliding, and the way connectivity is used is still developing. Different parts of the ecosystem are at different stages of their IIoT journey.

The industrial sector is now largely aligned on the use of Ethernet to support an IP architecture. There is also growing momentum behind single-pair Ethernet (IEEE 802.3cg) in industrial automation. The move to single-pair Ethernet (SPE), which the automotive market developed, provides a simplified network at the physical level. It offers both data and power on the same two wires, speeds of 10 Mbps, reaches of 1000 meters, and support for multidrop configuration.

The development of SPE is helping to bring Ethernet into an environment where single-pair connectivity has long been the preferred solution. SPE’s significance will increase as support grows. An example of this is the advanced physical layer (APL) developed by leaders in the industrial sector. Ethernet-APL uses the 10BASE-T1L part of the standard, plus extensions. Ethernet-APL covers physical layer attributes, including power, connectors and cables. The Ethernet-APL layer is also specified for use in hazardous areas.

The Ethernet-APL group comprises OPC Foundation, Profibus, FieldComm Group, and OVDA. The physical layer supports various high-level network protocols, including EtherNet/IP, HART-IP, OPC UA, and Profinet.

Edge computing

The IIoT introduced cloud computing to the factory floor. Cloud platforms play an important role in data aggregation, its analysis and distribution to back-office applications. Edge computing puts the power of the cloud directly on the production line.

An edge computing solution employs high-end processors running cloud-level software on a local device. That device connects directly to the manufacturing equipment. There are several reasons why edge computing is popular.

First, it allows some of, or all, the operational data to stay inside the organization’s walls. There are good security imperatives for taking this approach. A further reason is to simply minimize the cost of moving data around. Another is to avoid the latency associated with processing time-sensitive data in a cloud platform.

Second, edge computing creates a contained environment that enables manufacturers to take greater control over their processes. This work cell approach can support distributed and separate workflows that provide greater flexibility over how assets are deployed. An edge computer can turn a small cluster of machines into a discrete manufacturing process that can operate outside a wider manufacturing environment.

The concept of edge computing goes beyond securing data or minimizing cloud transfers. It supports trends such as micromanufacturing or on-demand manufacturing.

edge-computing-in-industrial-automationIndustrial automation is using IoT to collect data. Edge processing provides the local intelligence to use this data. Further along, the processed data and insights are sent to the cloud. Edge computing in industrial automation Time-sensitive networking

As the IT and OT networks continue to merge, the need for time-sensitive networking (TSN) has increased. The IEEE Standards Association is working on several profiles for time-sensitive networking in various verticals, including industrial automation.

The purpose of the specification is to support time-critical packets on an Ethernet network. It achieves this using three mechanisms. The first is a method to prioritize Ethernet frames that are time critical by delaying frames that are not. Transmission time is one tool used to set priorities. It also looks at the frame length to determine if it can be sent without disrupting higher priority traffic. A further method is to build fault-tolerant networks with multiple paths to avoid latency.

Semiconductor manufacturers are now implementing these features at the chip level. Multi-chip solutions are evolving into single-chip or system-on-chip product offerings. This will continue in parallel with efforts to move to standard application protocols.

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Expect the cost and complexity of implementing TSN to come down quite rapidly. Not all manufacturers will see a benefit or need for TSN, at least not immediately. As IIoT pervades the manufacturing environment, TSN is likely to feature more strongly.

Technologies that will impact factory automation

Industrial equipment has a long operational lifetime. This means change can be slow in comparison to other markets. As an example, wireless mesh networks are still mostly limited to connecting sensors in an industrial environment. Wired connectivity is still dominant for control.

However, there is also more cross-pollination between verticals, encouraged by wide area networking. Many of the technologies that have been created in – or are dependent on – IT are making their way into the OT world. Some of the prominent and most promising technologies include:

  • Digital twins
  • Blockchain
  • Microservices
Digital twins

The idea of operating duplicate systems, or twins, in different environments goes back to NASA’s early days. A twin can be used to replicate and react to operational data happening somewhere else, even off planet. Moving to the digital domain has enabled the concept to be more cost efficient and, potentially, more flexible.

Digital twinning involves modelling an action, rather than simulating it. The difference relies on the twin using real-world data. This is where IoT technologies play a part. Sensors are the primary source of data.

Digital twins in industrial automation digital-twins-in-industrial-automationDigital twins are used in industrial automation to monitor and model real-world assets using data from the asset. This can help generate insights to boost productivity, and the insights can be fed back to the real-world asset.

It becomes feasible to use digital twins as manufacturers deploy more sensors on industrial equipment and couple them with high-speed networking.

Recent developments indicate OEMs are now implementing digital twins at a work cell level. This makes it easier to model part of a system as a function, rather than trying to model an entire factory.

Using multiple digital twins will become more common with the development of edge processing. It follows that the two are closely coupled, as edge processing is effective at a local level. Although edge processing is not dependent on digital twinning, the symbiosis is apparent.


In a manufacturing environment, the term “blockchain” can be closely associated with supply chain. Engineers have discussed the concept of using blockchain technology to authenticate and track the products in the supply chain for several years.

Part of the potential in adopting IoT comes from the commercialization of information. Trust will be an important part of the success. Using blockchain to provide evidence of authenticity could be key.

The move toward providing something as a service is also building momentum. Here, blockchain could be used to validate the hardware platform delivering that service. If the service relies on genuine parts being fitted to a system, blockchain could be the best way of authenticating those parts.


If a theme is emerging in industrial automation’s evolution, perhaps it’s around making work cells more intelligent. Edge computing and soon digital twins are focused on work cells and modular functionality.

Modularity at a software level is one way to describe microservices. The methodology is now common in cloud platforms. A microservice architecture is more agile, more scalable and easier to maintain than large monolithic software structures.

The diversity in industrial automation processes suggests microservices will become more common here, too. Flexibility on the shop floor will mean machines can be repurposed more frequently. Using a microservice approach will support that flexibility.

AI in industrial automation

There is enormous scope for AI to impact industrial automation. Current examples of AI demonstrate that the technology is good at following procedures and adapting within known parameters. Its real strength comes from reacting to the unexpected in a predictable way.

Using AI in this way should improve procedural operations that are handled by programmable logic controllers (PLCs). AI can also now write the ladder logic that configures the PLCs. This scenario uses AI in a mechanical way to augment a function.

Putting AI into human-centric operations may be the next phase. In this scenario, the AI would need to “think” like an operator. It would at first assist and, potentially, in time displace the human in the loop.


Industrial automation is constantly developing. New technologies, often from other market verticals, provide the momentum for improvement. Caution is always used, but the pace of change seems to be increasing.

Studies show a widening productivity gap between large OEMs that can afford to implement new technologies more aggressively than smaller enterprises. As access to these technologies improves and the total cost of ownership softens, this gap may once again close.

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5 Tips to Deploy Cobots Effectively

ELE Times - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 10:56

Businesses can effectively deploy cobots in manufacturing by leveraging the flexibility of cobots to maximize the ROI of human-robot collaboration. A thorough planning process is central to the success of any cobot implementation. Businesses have to ensure they are taking steps to prepare employees and protect their safety at work. What other tips can businesses use to ensure they maximize the potential of their cobots?

1. Perform a Risk Assessment

The first step to effectively deploy cobots in manufacturing is understanding the potential risks they pose. Modern robots are typically designed with high safety standards in mind. However, any new piece of machinery in the workplace can pose risks to employees and property.

Conducting a thorough risk assessment will allow businesses to understand their unique risk factors. This process involves analyzing the area where the robot is going to be installed as well as the job it is going to perform. It is best to do a risk assessment in a team, since different people may think of different possible risks.

For example, ideally every employee on site is wearing their PPE, but the risk assessment team can’t count on this. They have to consider every possibility, including potential safety hazards resulting from accidents or negligent behavior. The same applies to the cobots. To effectively deploy cobots, businesses have to be prepared for mechanical malfunctions.

Identify as many risks as possible and rank them numerically based on the degree of risk. Factors like potential injury severity or repair costs can contribute to a risk’s numerical ranking.

2. Identify the Right Applications

One of the most common speed bumps when attempting to effectively deploy cobots is finding the right application. Businesses have to keep in mind that cobots have unique advantages compared to conventional robots. They need to be integrated in a highly strategic manner to maximize the ROI they deliver.

One of the top benefits of cobots is their high level of adaptability and flexibility. They are able to perform a greater variety of tasks compared to conventional robots. They can also do this in close proximity to humans without posing a high degree of risk. Businesses can factor this into their planning for their new robot integration to identify ideal applications.

For example, a cobot is perfect for streamlining assembly lines or packing processes. The cobots can automate simple, repetitive steps in the packing process, such as applying plastic straps to boxes. Due to the human-focused nature of cobots, they are able to do this alongside humans working on more complex tasks in the same assembly line.

One of the most important steps to effectively deploy cobots in manufacturing is looking for applications like this. Find opportunities to leverage the flexibility and safety features of cobots so they can augment the skills of human coworkers.

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3. Ensure Employees Are Prepared

A common stumbling block in robot integrations is lack of employee preparedness. Businesses may be so focused on the robot side of things that they forget the role employees play in a successful robot integration.

Employees need the skills and knowledge to understand the new robots well so they can confidently work alongside them. This goes for all employees, not just those who will be directly operating or interacting with the robots. Thorough cobot training is crucial for minimizing safety risks and preventing robot-related accidents.

Cobot training is also crucial for ensuring effective collaboration between robots and employees. Surveys estimate that 29 to 47% of jobs have been “taken over” by robots. People who had already been displaced by robots estimated this number to be higher, indicating possible resentment or fear surrounding the role of robots in the workplace.

Businesses need to be aware of employees’ concerns about their job security any time a new robot enters the workplace. Cobots are designed to work with humans, not replace. Effective cobot training can instill confidence in employees and relieve fears that they are being replaced. This will ensure that employees help the new robot integration go as smoothly as possible.

4. Make Safety a Top Priority

In addition to completing a risk assessment, businesses also need to act on the known risks associated with a cobot integration. Making safety a top priority is critical in order to effectively deploy cobots. It’s a two-way street, as well – cobots can improve employee safety when integrated well. Businesses can apply cobots to high-risk tasks, freeing up employees to concentrate on safer roles.

There are many steps businesses can take to ensure cobot safety. However, cobots don’t usually require the extensive safety measures needed for conventional robots. For instance, cobots don’t need large safety cages to keep employees away.

Examples of common cobot safety measures include sensors and emergency stop controls. Most cobots come with some safety features built in, as well. Businesses can use proximity sensors to allow the cobot to sense when people or objects are nearby.

These sensors can be used to program in auto-stop functions any time a person or objects gets within a certain radius of the robot. Make sure to factor in the full range of any robotic appendages, such as claws or arms.

5. Monitor and Analyze Performance

Planning and preparation are vital to success with robotics. However, what happens after the integration is installed is just as important in order to effectively deploy cobots. Businesses need to monitor and analyze the performance of their cobots to maximize their ROI.

Effective performance monitoring allows businesses to make adjustments to their cobot setup, optimizing it for better efficiency or safety. Having clear, measurable benchmarks and goals in mind is vital for this process to be successful. Businesses should have a clear idea of what they are hoping their cobots will achieve.

For example, a business might install cobots to improve productivity on a box packing assembly line. They might measure how many boxes pass through the assembly line in a certain amount of time or track how long each step of the packing process takes. By comparing these numbers to performance metrics before the cobot was installed, the business can tell how the cobot is performing.

Continuously monitor cobot performance and look for ways to improve the integration. Sometimes this may involve repurposing the cobot to a new application where it could be more effective. Don’t be afraid to consider new ideas and applications if the first one is not showing a good ROI even after optimization attempts.

How to Effectively Deploy Cobots In Manufacturing

Businesses can effectively deploy cobots by combining plenty of preparation with a strong performance monitoring strategy. Cobots are much safer and more adaptable than conventional robots, offering many possible applications for businesses.

Remember to make employees a central part of the process of adopting a cobot. The collaboration between cobots and employees is vital to a successful integration. Safety, training and risk awareness are also key to achieving a good ROI on any new cobot.

EMILY NEWTON | RevolutionizedEMILY NEWTON | Revolutionized

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STMicroelectronics – ZF multi-year supply agreement for SiC technology will help drive increased efficiency, performance, and reliability in sustainable energy applications

ELE Times - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 10:33

Silicon Carbide technology is widely used in semiconductor material which are easy to fabricate and provides good general electrical and mechanical properties. However, it can also be used to create advanced microprocessors but in simple diodes. By using silicon carbide subtracts in semiconductor fabs, STMicroelectronics is signed multiyear supply agreement with ZF for Silicon Carbide devices.

STMicroelectronics is a leading global semiconductor company that are serving the customers across the spectrum of electronics applications. The company creates innovative technologies that brings an important contribution in Silicon Carbide devices.

To talk about more on Silicon Carbide devices coming up with the collaboration of ZF and STMicroelectronics, Sakshi Jain, Sr. Sub Editor-ELE Times had an opportunity to interact with Gianfranco Di Marco, Marketing Communication Manager – Power Transistor Sub-Group, STMicroelectronics- Excerpts.

ELE Times: Enumerate the terms and details of the deal between technology group ZF and STMicroelectronics for purchase of silicon carbide devices from ST.

Gianfranco Di Marco: STMicroelectronics and ZF have signed a significant, multi-year, supply agreement for ST to supply ZF in the order of tens of millions of silicon carbide (SiC) devices from 2025. These devices will be third generation ST 1200V SiC MOSFETs in the STPAK package.

(STPAK is a high-creepage package by ST that allows mounting on heatsinks through a silver sintering process. It enables higher power delivery, easier scaling, and better long-term reliability).

ELE Times: How important is the deal for STMicroelectronics with ZF signing multi-year-supply-agreement for silicon carbide devices?

Gianfranco Di Marco: ST pioneered the first automotive grade SiC MOSFETs in 2016, and today we lead the market with an estimated market share above 50% and more than 5 million passenger cars implementing ST SiC devices. In addition to enabling greater range in e-mobility applications, ST third generation SiC technology is driving increased efficiency, performance, and reliability in sustainable energy applications like solar inverters and energy storage, as well as in industrial motor drives and power supplies. The key to success in electric vehicle technology is greater scalability and modularity with increased efficiency, peak power, and affordability. Our STPAK equipped with our silicon carbide technologies deliver these benefits and we are proud to work with ZF, a leading automotive supplier for electrification, to help them differentiate and optimize the performance of their inverters.

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ELE Times: List the technology and technical specifications of silicon carbide technology and devices to be integrated in ZF’s new modular inverter architecture.

Gianfranco Di Marco: In ST, ZF found a supplier with the necessary manufacturing capabilities and capacities to produce exceptionally high-quality silicon carbide devices in the required quantities thanks to our investments in building a fully integrated supply chain complemented by long-term wafer-supply agreements. ZF will integrate the modules from STMicroelectronics into its new modular inverter architecture, which will commence series production from 2025. With these devices, ZF will be able to interconnect a varying number of ST modules in their inverters according performance requirements, without changing the intrinsic design of the inverter.

ELE Times: Mention ST’s capability and USP of manufacturing silicon carbide and packaging of the chips. Also mention about the manufacturing facilities.

Gianfranco Di Marco: ST high-volume STPOWER SiC products are manufactured in front-end fabs in Italy and Singapore, with back-end fabs in Morocco and China. Our SiC ecosystem also includes substrate research, development, and manufacturing in Italy and Sweden. In October, ST announced the expansion of our wide-bandgap manufacturing capacity with a new integrated SiC substrate manufacturing facility in Catania (Italy). The new facility is the first of its kind in Europe and is integral to our objective of achieving 40% internal substrate sourcing by 2024. ST is working on industrializing 200mm substrates, leveraging both engineering in Norrköping (Sweden) and the 200mm production line for SiC devices in Catania (Italy). ST is also cooperating with a technology partner, Soitec [Bernin (France)], to ensure a second qualified source of 200mm SmartSiC substrates, in addition to ensuring a robust internal supply. The collaboration with Soitec and their SmartSiC technology aims to advance SiC substrate technology and develop significant performance improvements that ST can deploy in high volume manufacturing. A final supply agreement will be subject to the qualification phase of the technology by ST and Soitec.

ELE Times: How do you list the benefits of using silicon carbide technologies across automotive and industrial sectors?

Gianfranco Di Marco: Power devices based on silicon carbide offer higher voltage and frequency capabilities than conventional silicon devices, allowing greater system efficiency, faster switching, lower losses, and better thermal management. In final applications, these advantages translate into smaller and lighter power designs featuring higher power density. SiC-based power devices can operate at up to 200°C junction temperature (limited only by the package), which reduces cooling requirements and allows more compact, more reliable, and more robust solutions. Existing designs can incorporate the performance and efficiency benefits of SiC devices without major changes, allowing fast development turnaround while keeping the BOM to a minimum.

SiC for automotive sector. SiC power devices find application in critical power systems inside electric vehicles, including traction inverters, on-board chargers, and in DC-DC conversion stages. They also provide significant efficiency gains in charging stations. SiC devices offer the following advantages over silicon for automotive and eMobility applications in general:

  • 6-10% greater driving range in an average electric vehicle
  • 150 to 200 kg less weight in an average electric vehicle
  • Double the energy from charging stations.
  • Longer battery lifetime

SiC for industrial sector. SiC devices benefit industrial motors, robots, and various other factory automation systems, as well as power supplies for servers and solar energy conversion systems. For industrial contexts, SiC devices can deliver the following advantages:

  • Major power loss reduction, even up to 50%
  • Ability to run at up to five times greater frequencies.
  • Significant system size and weight reduction, as high as 50%
  • Total cost of ownership reduction, as high as 20%
Marketing Communication Manager – Power Transistor Sub-Group

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Exploring the endless applications of SuperSpeed USB

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 15:01

By Jimmychou95 | Infineon

Have you ever wondered how machines are able to “see” and understand the world around them? It’s all thanks to a fascinating field called machine vision. While machine vision has traditionally been used for industrial automation, its potential applications extend far beyond that.

Today, I am thrilled to share with you a deeper understanding of the remarkable SuperSpeed USB applications in the context of machine vision. However, before we dive in, let me take a moment to give you a brief overview on USB3 Vision:


One bandwidth-hungry application that can benefit from SuperSpeed USB, or USB 3.0, is machine vision. Machine vision essentially gives machines the ability to see by using cameras; it relies on image sensors and specialized optics to acquire images so that computer hardware and software can process and analyze various characteristics of the captured images for decision-making. As image sensors are becoming more advanced, with higher resolution, higher frame rate, and deeper color, the amount of data generated for a captured image has grown exponentially. SuperSpeed USB with available bandwidth up to 20 Gbps is naturally an interface of consideration for machine vision cameras. To help the diffusion of SuperSpeed USB´s usage in machine vision, an industry standard called USB3 Vision was born.


Top potential applications of machine vision

Machine vision can be used to improve the quality, accuracy and efficiency of many different types of applications, and it becomes especially powerful when combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning. This combination enables fast and autonomous decision-making, which is the essence of any type of automation. Let´s take an example: a defect inspection system in a factory could use an inspection camera to take a high-resolution picture of each product on the production line, the machine vision software would then analyze the image and issue a pass or fail response based on some predetermined acceptance criteria.

jimmychou95_1-1685435510590 Machine Vision Technology in Medicine

Machine vision and machine learning are being used increasingly in the medical field, for tasks like detection, monitoring, and training. Machine vision is especially good at motion analysis, and can be used to detect neurological and musculoskeletal problems by tracking a person’s movement. This technology can also be used for things like home-based rehabilitation and remote patient monitoring, which could be especially beneficial for elderly patients.


Machine Vision Technology in Agriculture

In recent years, the agricultural industry has witnessed a significant rise in the adoption of machine vision technology , showing a lot of promise for reducing production costs and boosting productivity. Machine vision can be used for additional activities like livestock management, plant health monitoring, harvest prediction, and weather analysis. By automating these processes, we can create a smart food supply chain that doesn’t require as much human supervision. Machine vision’s biggest advantage is in  being able to automate decision-making through non-invasive, low-cost methods that collect data and perform analytics. In plant farming, for example, yield estimation is a critical preharvest process, and by improving its accuracy farmers could better allocate transportation, labor, and supplies.


Machine Vision Technology in Transportation

For a long time, computer-aided vision has been used to help with vehicle classification in transportation, but as the technology has rapidly evolved, we can now do things such as large-scale traffic analysis and vehicle identification. Using the latest smart cameras, we can achieve accurate vehicle classification and identification: this can improve things like traffic congestion, safety monitoring, toll collection, and law enforcement. In fact, the proliferation of traffic cameras has essentially eliminated the need for such a large police force, as they can operate 24/7 to catch moving violations at any time. With further advancements in machine learning, image analytics can now be applied to traffic cameras: this can help direct traffic flow, monitor street safety, and reduce congestion for an entire city — saving time, fuel and resources on a large scale.


Machine Vision Technology in Retail

Machine vision is a useful tool for retailers who want to improve the customer experience and increase sales: by training machine learning algorithms with data examples, retailers can anonymously track customers in their store to collect data about foot traffic, waiting times, queueing time, etc. This data can then be used to optimize store layouts, reduce crowding, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction. To prevent impatient customers from waiting in long lines, retailers are also using machine vision to detect queues and manage them more efficiently.


Machine Vision Technology in Sports

Technology is increasingly being used to help athletes perform better in sports. From computer-generated analysis to cognitive coaching, from injury prevention to automated refereeing, technology is now playing a major role in almost every aspect of sports. One area that has seen a particular growth in recent years is the use of machine vision and AI in training, coaching, and injury prevention: it’s all about using smart cameras to track and analyze the movement of an athlete. The system monitors various ranges of motion, analyzes them in real-time and provides instant feedback. In recent years, smart cameras have become so sophisticated that even the smallest body movement can be tracked precisely down to limbs and joints.

By fully embracing USB 3.0-enabled machine vision, factories around the world are quickly and reliably automating and solving complex manufacturing issues. The same benefits are also shared with a wide range of other industries including health care, agriculture, transportation, retail, sports, and many more. Together with leading machine vision manufacturers in the world, Infineon is accelerating the automation revolution with EZ-USB FX3 based cameras scanners and video capturing systems. Additionally, the exciting news is that Infineon is looking forward to enable new applications and empower new customers with our next generation of 5 and 10 Gbps solutions coming by the end of 2023.

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How do robots see? Robotic vision systems

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 14:38

Jeremy Cook | Arrow

The short answer to the question, “How do robots see?” is via machine vision or industrial vision systems. The details are much more involved. In this article, we’ll frame the question around physical robots that accomplish a real-world task, rather than software-only applications used for filtering visual materials on the internet.

Machine vision systems capture images with a digital camera (or multiple cameras), processing this data on a frame-by-frame basis. The robot uses this interpreted data to interact with the physical world via a robotic arm, mobile agricultural system, automated security setup, or any number of other applications.

Computer vision became prominent in the latter part of the twentieth century, using a range of hard-coded criteria to determine simple facts about captured visual data. Text recognition is one such basic application. Inspection for the presence of component x or the size of hole y in an industrial assembly application are others. Today, computer vision applications have expanded dramatically by incorporating AI and machine learning.

Importance of machine vision

While vision systems based on specific criteria are still in use, machine vision is now capable of much more, thanks to AI-based processing. In this paradigm, robot vision systems are no longer programmed explicitly to recognize conditions like a collection of pixels (a so-called “blob”) in the correct position. A robot vision system can instead be trained with a dataset of bad and good parts, conditions, or scenarios to allow it to generate its own rules. So equipped, it can manage tasks like unlocking a door for humans and not animals, watering plants that look dry, or moving an autonomous vehicle when the stoplight is green.

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While we can use cloud-based computing to train an AI model, for real-time decision-making, edge processing is typically preferable. Processing robotic vision tasks locally can reduce latency and means that you are not dependent on cloud infrastructure for critical tasks. Autonomous vehicles provide a great example of why this is important, as a half-second machine vision delay can lead to an accident. Additionally, no one wants to stop driving when network resources are unavailable.

Cutting-edge robotic vision technologies: multi-camera, 3D, AI techniques

While one camera allows the capture of 2D visual information, two cameras working together enable depth perception. For example, the NXP i.MX 8 family of processors can use two cameras at a 1080P resolution for stereo input. With the proper hardware, multiple cameras and camera systems can be integrated via video stitching and other techniques. Other sensor types, such as LIDAR, IMU, and sound, can be incorporated, giving a picture of a robot’s surroundings in 3D space and beyond.

The same class of technology that allows a robot to interpret captured images also allows a computer to generate new images and 3D models. One application of combining these two sides of the robotics vision coin is the field of augmented reality. Here, the visual camera and other inputs are interpreted, and the results are displayed for human consumption.

How to get started with machine vision

We now have a wide range of options for getting started with machine vision. From a software standpoint, OpenCV is a great place to start. It is available for free, and it can work with rules-based machine vision, as well as newer deep learning models. You can get started with your computer and webcam, but specialized industrial vision system equipment like the Jetson Nano Developer Kit or the Google Coral line of products are well suited to vision and machine learning. The NVIDIA Jetson Orin NX 16GB offers 100 TOPS of AI performance in the familiar Jetson form factor.

Companies like NVIDIA have a range of software assets available, including training datasets. If you would like to implement an AI application but would rather not source the needed pictures of people, cars, or other objects, this can give you a massive head start. Look for datasets to improve in the future, with cutting-edge AI techniques like attention and vision transformers enhancing how we use them.

Robot vision algorithms

Robots see via the constant interpretation of a stream of images, processing that data via human-coded algorithms or interpretation via an AI-generated ruleset. Of course, on a philosophical level, one might flip the question and ask, “How do robots see themselves?” Given our ability to peer inside the code—as convoluted as an AI model maybe—it could be a more straightforward question than how we see ourselves!

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Best e-Rickshaw in the USA

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 14:35

In the quest for sustainable urban transportation solutions, electric rickshaws, or e-rickshaws, have emerged as a promising alternative. These innovative vehicles combine eco-friendliness, efficiency, and convenience, making them an ideal choice for short-range urban travel. In this article, we will explore some of the best e-rickshaw models available in the USA that are revolutionizing the way we think about urban commuting.

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  1. Mahindra Treo Sft

The 2023 Mahindra Treo represents a remarkable achievement in India’s pursuit of environmentally friendly urban transportation. This e-rickshaw boasts a groundbreaking electric powertrain, a design that emphasizes sustainability, and a range of intelligent features. By addressing urban mobility challenges and setting new standards for electric three-wheelers, the Mahindra Treo is at the forefront of the e-rickshaw revolution.

  1. Bajaj Re Rickshaw

The 2023 Bajaj RE Rickshaw Electric model embodies Bajaj Auto’s commitment to eco-consciousness and durability. As an electric version of the renowned Bajaj RE Rickshaw, this model offers an affordable and environmentally responsible solution for urban and short-distance travel. With an electric motor, a respectable range, and a comfortable cabin, it provides a sustainable alternative to traditional rickshaws.

  1. Piaggio Ape E City

Hailing from the distinguished Italian automotive manufacturer Piaggio, the 2023 Piaggio Ape E-City Electric vehicle stands out as a flexible and environmentally-conscious three-wheeler. This electric trike showcases Piaggio’s dedication to sustainability and effective urban transportation. Boasting a cutting-edge electric power system, commendable driving range, comfortable interior, and a strong safety focus, the Electric 2023 Piaggio Ape E-City emerges as a practical and eco-conscious answer to urban mobility needs.

  1. Mahindra E Alfa Mini

The 2023 Mahindra e-Alfa Mini Electric is a prime example of a sustainable and high-performing electric rickshaw crafted by Mahindra, a prominent name in the Indian automotive industry. With advanced electric power technology, a respectable range, a comfortable interior, and a strong safety commitment, the Electric 2023 Mahindra e-Alfa Mini offers a reliable and eco-friendly choice for city commuters and businesses alike.

  1. Kinetic Green Safar Smart E Auto

Championing innovation, the Kinetic Safar Smart Electric Auto forgoes the traditional internal combustion engine for a progressive electric powertrain. Powered by a high-capacity battery pack, it heralds an era of zero emissions, reduced noise, and enhanced energy efficiency. Positioned as a green alternative to conventional auto-rickshaws, the 2023 Electric Kinetic Safar Smart Auto is a financially viable, sustainable, and efficient option suitable for both urban and rural settings.

  1. Jezza Motors J1000 Electric Rickshaw

Crafted by the notable electric mobility entity Jezza Motors, the Electric 2023 Jezza Motors J1000 Electric Rickshaw stands as an inventive electric vehicle. Jezza Motors has established itself as a major player in the electric vehicle arena, focusing on advancing electric cars and providing sustainable transportation options for urban travellers. With a state-of-the-art electric power system, considerable range, performance capabilities, comfort features, safety protocols, and affordability, the Electric 2023 Jezza Motors J1000 offers a well-rounded and efficient choice tailored for urban commuting needs.

  1. Citylife Butterfly Super Deluxe XV850 E Rickshaw

Introducing the 2023 City Life Butterfly Super Deluxe, a pinnacle of electric rickshaw design dedicated to luxurious and convenient urban travel. Through refined aesthetics, cutting-edge attributes, and environmentally conscious functionality, the Butterfly Super Deluxe aims to redefine the conventional perception of rickshaw commutes. With its sophisticated design, advanced features, and eco-friendly operation, the 2023 City Life Butterfly Super Deluxe embodies opulent and sustainable urban transportation, providing a deluxe travel experience tailored for those seeking both comfort and style.

In a world where sustainable urban transportation is gaining paramount importance, these e-rickshaw models pave the way for a greener, more efficient, and more comfortable way of getting around in urban environments. As these electric vehicles continue to evolve, they offer a glimpse into a future where eco-friendly mobility is the norm.

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Enabling EV Charging Infrastructure in India

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 14:18

Courtesy: Delta

The world is becoming sensitive towards climate change and adapting technologies and solutions that can accelerate resolutions to avoid further disruption to climate. Needless to say, the electric vehicle is one such solution. Around 57% of all global passenger vehicle sales and over 30% of the passenger vehicle fleet will be electric by 2040, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The BNEF Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019 expects annual passenger EV sales to rise to 10 million in 2025, 28 million in 2030, and 56 million by 2040.

But for India, vision is already set for 2030 with maximum dependency on electric vehicles, especially for public transportation where the government in transformation at high speed. India is highly adaptive to new technology, and when it is about EV adoption, we can understand with current launches of electric vehicles how it is streaming up more. The government recently shared its view to have that in the next three years, one can experience the EV charging station every 3 km. As a recent report suggested, India has the potential to become the largest electric vehicle (EV) market in the world, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Ola Electric institute. But being hungry doesn’t solve the food problem. Having electric vehicles also means to have charging stations and infrastructure that can meet the growing demand. The best thing about EV charging is that it can be done at home as well. And the future will see the maximum dependency on AC chargers only, which can be done at both commercial and residential places. So the coming time is gearing up to have more electrification of electric vehicle and strengthen up then the ecosystem of EV charging.

Currently, EV is the trend in India, with the automobile industry becoming absorbed about electric vehicles. But the priority is not to only provide but adapt. The big question is why should customers consider electric vehicle as their priority means of transportation? This can only be channelized when we have a perfect balance of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure that convinces the people that there are less or no hurdles in driving a vehicle, which reduces the carbon emission. This year there were multiple launches of electric cars in Auto Expo 2020. To some extent, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the theme of Auto Expo was going electric with major automobile brands showcasing how they will contribute to the EV infrastructure.

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And subsequently, the government and companies are doing their part in making the path of EV established with strengthening the infrastructure. With GOI’s vision to have an EV charging station every 3 km in the next 3 years, it can be perceived that everyone is playing their role in making EV a future of tomorrow’s automobile sector. The government is setting a platform with various measures that will benefit the EV ecosystem, like reducing GST on EV Chargers from 18% to 5%.

The growth for the more electric vehicle on roads can only be done with a stable atmosphere that requires encouragement for sustainability by prioritizing the growth of the EV ecosystem. This can be done by creating a well-connected charging infrastructure on the Pan-India level.

But the market needs a lot more in terms of infrastructure and value. For example, an acute shortage of Cobalt, which is the major raw material for lithium-ion batteries, can become a significant concern for the adoption of EV. But we are confident that the automotive industry is resilient enough to come up with alternate materials for manufacturing EV batteries.

Apart from fiscal benefit, the government should introduce non-fiscal incentives that can convince customers to explore electric cars as their first choice. Like waving off Road-tax and RC for EV vehicles can be a high turning point for people to consider electric vehicles as a prime option. Also, small initiatives like free parking in the malls, special zones with only EV vehicles like Connaught Place in Delhi, which will also reduce the carbon emission, can be a great contributor.

Once the path has been smoothened, the EV sector can witness its next adaptation, which is about vehicle-grid technology that will also revolutionize the electricity infrastructure. Imagine having a car that not only solves the transportation problem but also can be utilized to provide electricity to the home. That is the solution future is holding for EV infrastructure.

As a leading player, we are uniquely positioned to offer complete end-to-end solutions with both on-board and off-board chargers. Our energy-efficient, compact, and extremely robust solutions for onboard chargers (DC-DC Converters & Powertrain) give us a distinctive advantage because of our global expertise. We have been consistent in developing technologies and solutions that strengthen the EV charging infrastructure and showcase our support in partnering with GOI’s ‘E-Mobility Mission.’

We have been partnering with leading OEMs and automobile brands to provide our EV Charging solutions and have already installed more than 700 chargers. We have both AC and DC chargers to ensure that the market has end-to-end solutions from our energy-efficient products that will enhance the growth of EV in India.

But like discussed earlier, the major challenge is not just supplying but also to provide the knowledge in implementing smooth execution. Taking the same faith ahead, we recently launched the E-Mobility Tech Experience Center conceptualized to provide an industry platform that will support all types of ratings and configurations and be an enabler when it comes to an understanding of the ecosystem of EV charging solutions. The aim is to encourage more and more partners and associates to familiarize themselves with the technology which is being initiated by providing knowledge and practical experience with a different type of charging solutions for all kinds of electric vehicles under one roof. We have various range of energy-efficient AC & DC EV chargers such as GB/T, CCS, ChadeMO along with OCA certified Testing Tools, Charging Process Simulators, Load Simulators, and Charge Point Operator software platform. That will help the future to be more precise with perfect knowledge of the process.

Being a green company with a vision to power green India for us EV Charging is one of the key businesses which rightly projects our vision to provide clean energy. Thus our R&D lab is continuously working to ensure that we have the technology with us that can always support the EV charging ecosystem and reduce the hurdles in achieving it.

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Enabling a sovereign cloud using a multi-cloud foundation

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 14:10

The adoption of multiple clouds by European business and public agencies continues to increase due to the need for competitive differentiation and growth through speed, quality and the delivery of great customer experiences. To achieve these goals, IT and business executives must manage challenges across data governance, security and compliance to protect sensitive customer, citizen and country data using privacy, access and security controls.

Data has become both a business and national asset. The ability of enterprises and governments to control data and run workloads while operating within legal jurisdiction, complying with multi-jurisdictional regulations, and protecting against unauthorized access requires a critical set of sovereign capabilities which are essential for customer trust and business growth.

Given this transformational journey, sovereign clouds should be included as part of a multi-cloud strategy. Using common sovereign tenants and principles is becoming increasingly necessary while at the same time supporting capabilities that deliver efficiency, reduce complexity and enable standardization. This approach provides a foundation from which IT and business teams can ensure that the necessary solutions are in place to control, secure, and store data in compliance with relevant regional, national, and (where applicable) international laws and guidelines. A multi-cloud architecture can provide layers to meet local and national regulations, and thereby give organizations greater choices and flexibility across multiple sovereign cloud environments. Fundamentally, a multi-cloud approach to sovereign cloud is about unlocking and supporting emerging data economies with as little complexity and uncertainty as possible. This approach empowers enterprises to focus more on serving their stakeholders through innovation and growth. Additionally, a multi-cloud approach to a sovereign cloud enables legacy application and back-end infrastructure modernization.

Technology executives must understand that establishing a sovereign cloud is complex and difficult, especially without assistance from a partner or vendor with deep expertise. There are various complex dimensions spanning data security and data protection, understanding regulations and their impact on technology needs, and the complexity of driving standardization and controls across multiple clouds. In addition, data classification for a sovereign cloud is essential for its success. This complexity requires technology leaders to build expertise with strategic partners who have the depth and bench strength to deploy a sovereign cloud. As part of a sovereign cloud foundation, multi-cloud tools enable organizations to tailor infrastructure to their specific needs and respond in an agile way to data privacy, security and geopolitical disruptions.

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When it comes to vendor and partner support, customers should not expect to create a sovereign cloud on their own because of the required complexity and expertise. Let’s take two examples of sovereign cloud deployments using large global professional service partners, VMware and Broadcom. VMware’s technology has been a critical foundation for driving innovation and scale for governments and public agencies in Europe for many years. With a set of tools that can position customers to work across multiple clouds, VMware can enable the critical foundational requirements for a sovereign cloud, and has been an instrumental partner in the process of driving innovation for governments and public agencies in Europe. After its pending acquisition by Broadcom, VMware will be supported by Broadcom’s lengthy track record of significant R&D investments, an innovation-focused culture, and commitment to customers. Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware creates opportunities for the new, combined organization to offer customers a more complete set of sovereign cloud capabilities. Such a set of capabilities could help accelerate digital transformation across Europe while also furthering the needs and objectives of sovereign clouds.

Digging deeper into multi-cloud technology capabilities, enterprises must consider how to manage the necessary controls, security and data transparency required for a sovereign cloud. Without the right technology foundation that empowers these capabilities, the successful deployment of a sovereign cloud is simply not possible. Additional key areas customers must consider enabling a sovereign cloud include:

  • Basing the technology architecture on a resilient and scalable architecture that takes advantage of process automation across application, service and operational tasks and capabilities
  • Taking a focus on data and security policies that deliver layers of digital protection and sovereignty across the software development pipeline and service operations
  • Enabling processes that empower jurisdictional controls, and an ability to adjust to geo-political dynamics, enabling business and IT teams to manage and control confidential data via advanced methods and practices
  • Enabling an organization to adopt country-specific regulatory, compliance, and data requirements, (regardless of the underlying cloud platforms) with data control points and reporting mechanisms

Multi-cloud solutions like those offered by VMware provide European enterprises and the public sector with a flexible, consistent digital foundation to build, run, manage, connect and protect their most important and complex workloads. Once Broadcom completes its pending acquisition of VMware, the combined company can make new and significant R&D investments, develop a stronger and broader set of innovations, and foster larger professional service partnerships focused on multi-cloud capabilities to power and enable sovereign cloud.

Stephen Elliot | BroadcomStephen Elliot | Broadcom

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Amazon Sidewalk network is getting silicon traction

EDN Network - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 14:02

New silicon solutions are emerging for Amazon Sidewalk network, and these chips come alongside developer tools providing step-by-step direction and expert advice for Amazon Sidewalk device development.

At its fourth annual Works With Developers Conference, Silicon Labs unveiled two system-on-chips (SoCs) optimized for Amazon Sidewalk: SG23 and SG28. These chips complement the Silicon Labs Pro Kit for Amazon Sidewalk previously announced by the Austin, Texas-based semiconductor supplier.

Figure 1 Amazon Sidewalk is built on an architecture comprising a radio, network, and application layers. Source: Silicon Labs

The always-on, community-driven Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo, Ring security cameras, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. It uses three different radios: Bluetooth LE for device provisioning and nearby device connectivity, sub-GHz FSK for connectivity up to one mile, and a proprietary CSS radio for extreme long-range.

Most Amazon Sidewalk end-devices will support Bluetooth LE and one of the two long-range protocols: FSK or CSS operating at 900 MHz frequencies to cover longer distances. So, SG28 includes two dual-band SoCs with radios for sub-GHz FSK as well as Bluetooth LE. That allows device makers to simplify designs and reduce costs by having the two most used radios on Sidewalk end-devices in one package. On the other hand, SG23 provides security and a robust sub-GHz link budget for long-range, end-node devices.

Figure 2 The two SoCs are optimized for Amazon Sidewalk with extensive developer support. Source: Silicon Labs

Amazon Sidewalk is one of the exciting developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) space since it was launched in 2019. It pushes connectivity beyond the walls of the smart home while employing smart home devices like cameras and speakers as gateways for supporting long-range use cases. According to Amazon, it’s a community network built by the community for the community.

A neighborhood network

Silicon Labs CTO Daniel Cooley calls Amazon Sidewalk a neighborhood network. “While Bluetooth gives users an easy way to provision and deploy new devices onto the network, the sub-Ghz band is designed to support device communications over one mile, allowing for new edge applications in areas like smart agriculture and smart cities.”

Figure 3 Amazon Sidewalk Bridges will pick up the message from the compatible device and route it through the AWS cloud to the user with multiple layers of security. Source: Silicon Labs

Besides chips like SG23 and SG28, Silicon Labs has launched a design kit that supports the development of wireless IoT-based devices on Bluetooth and sub-GHz wireless protocols for Amazon Sidewalk. The Wireless Pro Kit is built around a KG100S radio board that provides a complete reference design to support Bluetooth, FSK, and CSS protocols used in Amazon Sidewalk.

The kit also includes a BG24 radio board and FSK/CSS adapter board for developers who want a discrete design. Its mainboard contains an onboard J-Link debugger with a packet trace interface and a virtual COM port, enabling application development and debugging of the attached radio board as well as external hardware through an expansion header.

Figure 4 The Pro Kit for Amazon Sidewalk provides the necessary tools for developing high-volume, scalable IoT applications. Source: Silicon Labs

Silicon Labs has been working closely with Amazon to navigate the Amazon Sidewalk development process. After all, it’s a new network, and developers need to be educated on how to best create Amazon Sidewalk devices. Recognizing this need, Silicon Labs has joined hands with Amazon to create the Amazon Sidewalk Developer’s Journey with Silicon Labs.

Amazon Sidewalk was opened for developers on 28 March 2023.

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3 Reasons Why IO-Link is Changing Smart Factory Decision Making

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 13:25

Brian Condell and Michael Jackson | Analog Devices

Industry 4.0 is about gathering data from the very edge of the factory floor to provide factory controllers with the valuable insights they need to make better informed or ‘smarter’ decisions. It also allows manufacturers to customize products quickly and easily without incurring substantial costs in reconfiguring their manufacturing processes. This opens the door to ‘batch-of-one’ manufacturing processes, which reduce waste and makes factory production more sustainable. IO-Link has a significant role to play in making Industry 4.0 real, not only for new factories but also by making it easy to upgrade existing brownfield facilities. The number of IO-Link nodes has been growing exponentially in recent years and this growth trajectory is projected to continue. This blog looks at the three key benefits that IO-Link delivers for manufacturers who want to be smarter about how they run their processes. Figure 1 below shows IO-Link growth rate.

pastedimage1683641293117v4.png-752x282Figure 1. Growing number of installed IO-Link nodes IO-Link Brings Intelligence to the Edge

IO-Link provides sensors and actuators at the very edge of the factory floor with a bidirectional, digital data communications interface up to 230kbps. This enables them to measure, monitor, and influence potentially every stage of the production line. More decision-making at the edge means less data requires transferring to a PLC in the control room, saving time and energy. For example, by using pin 2 (I/Q) in the IO-Link interface as a digital output (DO), in addition to the C/Q data line, a sensor can read the input signal from a binary sensor and simultaneously drive an LED to flag that a threshold has been exceeded with no requirement for user input in making this decision. Figure 1 below shows the block diagram of a typical IO-Link Sensor.

pastedimage1683641283892v3.png-670x310Figure 2. Building Blocks of an IO-Link Sensor IO-Link Simplifies Installation

IO-Link uses a standardized interface that replaces traditional analog, binary, and serial interfaces with a convenient M12 connector already commonly in use in industrial environments. Additionally, upgrading a facility to use IO-Link is low-cost because it uses standard unshielded cabling installations like the 3-core, unshielded IO-Link cable with M12 connectors shown in Figure 3. IO-Link is also backward-compatible with serial input/output (SIO) binary signaling, meaning IO-Link capable sensors can communicate with existing PLCs using a standard digital input communication channel. Once a PLC module has been upgraded to connect with an IO-Link master, the C/Q line on an IO-Link channel enables bidirectional communication to take place with devices on the factory floor. IO-Link is also fieldbus agnostic meaning it can be used seamlessly in a variety of industrial networking architectures.

pastedimage1683641273126v2.png-640x480Figure 3. IO-Link cable IO-Link Reduces Maintenance and Increases Uptime

IO-Link enables the flow of real-time diagnostic information that allows engineers to identify and quickly address problems before they cause a process to go down and allowing technicians to replace faulty sensors quickly. Self-commissioning devices and automatic parameter setting is a feature of IO-Link capable devices which makes this task even easier. In many cases, technicians no longer need to visit the factory floor at all, as configuration updates can be performed remotely from the control room. For example, when a production line needs to be adjusted for a different product, process parameters can be reconfigured in real-time, minimizing downtime, and allowing a speedier return to full production. Figure 4 below shows a reference design for a distance sensor like those used to measure the size of objects on a conveyor belt. However, unlike conventional sensors, the measurement distance for this IO-Link sensor can be modified remotely from the process control if the tolerance for the object size required changing.

pastedimage1683641262629v1.png-640x480Figure 4. MAXREFDES174: IO-Link Distance Sensor


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How can smart charging steer electric vehicle uptake in India?

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 13:02
Electric vehicles can support renewable energy integration under the right policies

The government of India announced ambitious energy transition plans at COP26, saying it will deploy 500 GW of renewable electricity generation capacity by 2030 and sign up to the global EV30@30 campaign.

The renewables plan would triple India’s renewables capacity and the campaign calls for electric vehicles to make up at least 30% of new vehicle sales by 2030.

These two ambitious targets are closely connected. Shifting the country’s vehicle fleet from internal combustion engines to electric motors will further trim emissions if accompanied by an accelerated decarbonisation of India’s power sector. At the same time, electrifying road transport will unleash a tremendous number of distributed energy sources, which – if properly piloted and managed – could help absorb surplus solar and wind generation, reduce costs for consumers and utilities, and further incentivise EV adoption.

Beyond spurring EV sales, policy support for charging infrastructure and incentives for grid-friendly charging are essential to realise this potential, in particular to encourage daytime charging to absorb abundant solar output during the day.

The Indian policy landscape gives EVs the green light

EV uptake in India rose sharply in 2022, with electric car sales quadrupling to 48 000 vehicles from 12 000 in 2021. The two-wheeler sales share reached 7% while electric three-wheelers were 55% of new sales at 450 000 vehicles, ahead of China’s 350 000. One of the world’s largest two- and three-wheeler factories is being built in Tamil Nadu.

The government of India supports EV deployment through the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and EV (FAME) II scheme, aiming to reduce primary oil consumption and pollution in cities as well as creating battery and EV manufacturing capacity at global scale. Phase one of the scheme was launched in 2015 with an allocation of INR 5.3 billion (USD 65 million1). FAME’s second phase began in April 2019, with funding boosted to INR 100 billion (USD 1.2 billion), and around 85% of the funding allocated to EV purchasing incentives. The scale up also added a component for charging infrastructure deployment, amounting to 10% of the funding allocation. In 2021 the scheme was extended to 2024.

Government think-tank NITI Aayog released Version 1 of its Handbook to Guide EV Charging Infrastructure in India in August 2021, further focusing attention on charging infrastructure. The handbook aims to guide authorities in planning and realising charging infrastructure and is set to be updated over time. India’s Ministry of Power also released revised guidelines and standards for charging infrastructure in 2022. Public charging infrastructure has jumped up in the last year from 900 publicly accessible chargers in 2021 to nearly 11 000 in 2022.

The rate of EV deployment varies across the country with the highest shares of EV sales in Delhi, Tripura, Assam and Karnataka where state-level policies are supportive. Delhi, for example, targets EVs to reach 25% of new vehicle sales by 2024. It has restrictions on polluting vehicles and exempts EVs from registration fees and road taxes.



EVs and solar can benefit each other

Scaling up solar PV and EVs presents potential challenges and opportunities for power systems. Large amounts of PV capacity can lead to excess generation availability during the day, resulting in curtailment.

At the same time, the natural tendency to recharge cars after returning home from work can add significantly to evening peak loads just as the sun is setting, stressing grid capacities and boosting required generating capacity, which may be met by fossil fuel generators.

On the other hand, these two technologies can complement each other if EVs can be charged during daylight hours with cheaper, cleaner electricity, at the same time helping integrate solar generation

Timing is everything

Time of use tariffs are currently one of the main measures to incentivise system-friendly EV charging patterns. In today’s India, time of use tariffs incentivise night-time charging, there by reducing peak loads. However, as solar generation plays an increasingly large role in the power mix, the key will be to shift charging to the daytime when solar output is high.

In order to illustrate the impacts of different charging strategies in a future Indian power system, we modelled several different charging cases in the context of the World Energy Outlook’s Announced Pledges Scenario in India for 2030 using the IEA’s India Regional Power System Model. The Announced Pledges Scenario includes all recent major national announcements as of September 2022 for 2030 targets and longer-term net zero and other pledges.

For this assessment, 80% of plug-in light duty vehicles and 2-to-3 wheelers are assumed to follow one of four different charging patterns: baseline, night, day, and dynamic (optimised) charging. This evaluation aims to illustrate the potential benefit of specific charging approaches if adopted by most eligible vehicles, with 20% of the fleet remaining on the baseline pattern to account for limitations in the availability of vehicles for charging. Commercial vehicles and trucks are excluded because of their tighter time constraints for charging, especially during the workday.

We look at three types of impact that EVs can have on the system: increased peak electricity demand costs, operational costs (e.g. power plant fuel consumption) and CO2 emissions associated with charging. The first finding is that while night charging in this scenario can substantially reduce the peak electricity demand impact of EV charging, it has only a small benefit for operating costs and even less for emissions. This is because increased night-time demand is met primarily by coal, so while it avoids the need for increased capacity it still entails similar operating costs and emissions.

Percentage change in peak and operating costs, and emissons due to EV charging relative to baseline charging scenario due to different charging regimes, Announced Pledges Scenario, 2030
Charging regime Peak costs Operating Emissions
Night time -80 -5 -1
Day time -80 -29 -10
Dynamic (optimised) -80 -30 -11

Note: Percentage reductions are calculated relative to a baseline case with predominantly unmanaged charging and refer to costs and emissions relating to EV charging only, e.g. an 80% reduction in the peak costs associated with electric vehicles. All cases are based on the IEA’s India Regional Model in the Announced Pledges Scenario in 2030. Operating costs consist of the costs for fuel, generation ramping and generator startups and shutdowns.

By contrast, a fixed charging pattern with EV load concentrated during the daytime results in the same reduction in peak costs accompanied by a much larger reduction in operating costs and a substantial reduction in the emissions associated with EV charging. If the benefit were entirely passed on to EV users, this would translate in a reduction in energy component of the charging cost from 0.41 to 0.29 USD per kWh. This illustrates that even a fixed time of use tariff structure could deliver large benefits, but the key will be to ensure that the timing is aligned to hours of high solar production rather than focusing only on peak load reduction. There is also the need with time of use tariffs to manage the risk of creating new load peaks due to coincident charging, where a specific tariff encourages too many users to charge EVs at the same time.

Dynamic charging has more relevance at the distribution level

Optimizing the EV charging pattern, which represents real-time load adjustment that might be achieved by dynamic tariffs, reduces operating costs by 29% and CO2 emissions by 11%. The similar benefit in terms of operating cost savings between fixed and dynamic daytime charging indicates that even if non-dynamic approaches do not account for daily weather variations, the bulk of system-level benefits of shifting EV load into the daytime can still be captured.

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Dynamic charging may have larger benefits at the distribution level, where it can manage local peaks in demand or renewables supply. Time of use tariffs can cause charging demand to exceed supply, e.g., during the daytime on a cloudy day, which can be avoided by dynamic tariffs. This effect may be more pronounced locally than at the system level where geographical smoothing applies for both load and renewables supply.

The synergies between EV and PV are also important at the local level. When possible, co-locating rooftop solar generation and electric vehicle charging provides an opportunity to mitigate the impacts of both technologies on the local grid. Where solar generation and EV demand are more physically distant, dynamic charging can come into play to help avoid grid congestion, and it may be necessary to consider grid strengthening.

EVs could ultimately contribute to peak supply

Further improvements in managing the EV fleet and ensuring their active participation in system balancing and emissions reduction can be achieved through vehicle-to-grid approaches. Vehicle-to-grid allows for both managed charging and discharging of EVs and, with the right tariff structure, can contribute to both balancing the power system as well as reducing EV owners’ charging bills.

EVs with vehicle-to-grid capabilities could potentially provide a large contribution to the power system. The services they can provide encompass both the ability to meet peak demand and an improved ability to provide ancillary services since each vehicle’s battery can both charge and discharge to smooth fluctuations in demand or supply, in effect acting as distributed storage.

Enabling vehicle-to-grid EVs in India faces similar challenges to smart charging, as well as additional barriers. These include complex value chains, the need for strong communication networks and protocols for linking with the grid, consumer acceptability and a need for mechanisms to reward providing ancillary services.

Policy support has an essential role in both EV uptake and smart charging

Policy has a key role in paving the way for increased EV uptake as well as ensuring system-friendly deployment. The IEA has recently published a framework that can be used to prioritise policy actions according to EV and variable renewables uptake. A number of key findings from a Clean Energy Ministerial accelerator on EV deployment are relevant to promoting system-friendly electric vehicles in India. In particular, the need for active engagement of stakeholders at many levels, the importance of taking into account mobility needs as well as grid assets, and the central role of infrastructure planning.

Policy supports for EVs in India so far have focused on alleviating the purchase cost of vehicles. This remains an important focus area in the shorter term, until EV prices fall to a level where they are competitive with conventional vehicles. Support for new business models such as “energy as a service” approaches, where vehicle owners lease rather than own batteries, can also enable faster uptake.

Further increases in availability of charging infrastructure will be a key priority going forward. The benefits of daytime charging places an important emphasis on the availability of charging at workplaces or parking lots, where vehicles are likely to be stationed during the day. This is already receiving attention in some states, with for example a workplace charging guidebook for corporates in Delhi released by the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi and World Resources Institute, India in November 2021. An increased focus on enabling work charging stations throughout India can have the dual benefit of increasing access to charging infrastructure and enabling daytime charging.

Increased availability of tariffs that can incentivise system-friendly charging will also be important. Most Indian states have some time of use tariffs available, but these are mostly limited to commercial and industrial users and current cost-recovery frameworks in India and do not incentivise distribution companies to pursue more advanced tariff offerings. At the same time, many states have already issued specific EV charging tariffs across India, and the open access minimum load requirement has been reduced to enable wheeling of renewable power directly to charging stations that have a load of more than 100 kW. Improving the regulatory incentives for distribution companies is a key policy measure to further advance smart charging in India, e.g., through performance-based regulation.

Given the rapid trajectory of EV sales in India, these policy measures need to be developed and implemented so that EVs and their capacity become an asset rather than an additional burden for India’s power sector.


Zoe-Hungerford-2Zoe-Hungerford – Energy Analyst
International Energy Agency

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LCDs: Evolutions, innovations, and differentiations stave off irrelevance

EDN Network - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 12:52

It seems like just yesterday…but in reality, it was nearly 20 years ago. What am I talking about? My first substantive coverage of direct-view displays appeared in EDN on March 5, 2005, and I’m feeling déjà vu as I read back over it. Cathode ray tube (CRT) based displays were at the time dominant for both television and (desktop) computer applications, with plasma displays restricted to ultra-large screen applications and videophiles, the latter valuing their black levels and other image quality attributes. And liquid crystal displays (LCDs)? They were in laptops, of course, albeit with much lower quality (not to mention higher cost) than is the case today.

Speaking of cost, although LCD technology had also begun penetrating the standalone computer display market in 2005, this quote from an AnandTech writeup of the era tells the tale (bracketed additions for clarification are mine):

People on a budget might still prefer a good 19″ CRT, which can save about $100 on the cost of the [equivalent 19” liquid crystal] display.

And at the time, the pricing disparity between CRTs and LCDs further (exponentially so) grew as screen size increased. Conversely, today it’s getting increasingly difficult to even find a 19” LCD computer monitor, with the bulk of the market moving to 22” and larger units. And LCD TVs in 2005? Virtually nonexistent, although that year ended up being the knee of the upward curve.

Five-plus years later, in my follow-up feature article, the display market had notably evolved, a situation reflected in the writeup’s “Display-technology advancements: Change is the only constant” title. Here’s how I launched into it:

Repeatedly predicted and repeatedly delayed on many occasions, the transition from CRTs to LCDs has finally occurred, even in cost-sensitive emerging markets and across dominant application segments: computer monitors and televisions.

And as LCDs were maturing, next-generation display technologies such as OLED (which received little more than passing mention in my piece a half-decade earlier) were coming to the fore:

Some [editor note: LCD] developers focus their efforts on making incremental improvements to a “vanilla” LCD foundation. Other cases warrant a more revolutionary transition—to OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) for an ultra-svelte consumer-electronics device, for example, or to an “electronic-paper” display fora digital reader.

Fast forward to today, and it’s OLED that’s ascendent, increasingly at LCDs’ expense. By virtue of its self-illumination characteristics, negating the need for a bulky, rigid, and power-hungry separate backlight (historically cold cathode fluorescent lamp—CCFL—based, now near-exclusively LCD-derived), OLEDs find use in all but the most cost-sensitive smartphones, and are essential for emerging unified-display foldable phones. They haven’t quite made it to larger-screen devices—specifically Apple’s iPads—yet, although persistent rumor suggests it’s a matter of when, not if, and Android-based OLED-equipped tablet alternatives are already in the market. OLEDs are, for perhaps obvious reasons, already pervasive in smaller-screen smart watches. For computer monitors, some pundits believe this is the year that OLED-based displays will finally go mainstream. And while it’s less clear (at least to me) that OLED will end up in volume televisions, several emerging alternatives are also vying to be LCD’s successor, as I discussed in March 2019: specifically, QLED and microLED.

If you’re an LCD supplier, where does this ongoing impermanence leave you? To some degree, the answer depends on whether you’re also an OLED, QLED and/or microLED supplier, although given that LCD technology is more mature, its manufacturing yields are still likely higher and its costs are subsequently lower, enabling you to price LCDs more aggressively than alternatives and trade off per-unit profit margin for higher unit sales. But clearly, if you’ve sunk a lot of money into developing LCD supply capacity and don’t have a ready-for-production technology alternative in your hip pocket, you’re definitely going to want to “milk” the LCD market as long as possible to recoup your investment (and more) as much as possible.

Fundamental spec improvements are one key means of accomplishing this market-life-extension objective. Boosting the peak refresh rate is one popular example. Although I’m admittedly skeptical about the reality behind the hype (upfront disclosure: I’m not a gamer, so consider my lack of eyes-on experience when assessing my cynicism), it does seem to be effective both in spurring new (and replacement) display sales and in differentiating display companies from their competitors. Take, for example, ASUS’ VA229HR 21.5” LCD computer monitor, based on in-phase switching (IPS) technology and touting 75 Hz refresh, two of which I bought last fall. Intended for the computers that I periodically build and donate to local charities, they were both used—one was from Amazon’s Warehouse, the other an Amazon Refreshed unit—therefore costing me only ~$75 each. But their brand-new equivalents, if memory serves me, were selling for ~$125 at the time, versus ~$100 for conventional 60 Hz refresh equivalents.

Admittedly, those conventional equivalents probably sold in higher volumes, albeit with lower per-unit profit margins. And the conventional-unit competitive environment was also likely much more crowded. To that latter point, nowadays “high refresh” typically translates to “120 Hz or more” versus my more modest last-year uptick. And to my earlier-admitted skepticism about the concept, reflective of dubiousness as to whether such spec improvements are meaningfully perceptible in reality (analogies to audiophile gear and content are apt), I’m conversely enthusiastic about the ability to dynamically throttle refresh rate downward if content characteristics allow, as a means of maximizing overall system battery life. Microsoft apparently agrees, judging from upcoming enhancements it’s making to Windows 11.

Note, too, that the ASUS VA229HR is also an IPS LCD monitor, seemingly belying its low price and high refresh rate. Both attributes were historically strengths of the alternative twisted-nematic (TN) LCD approach, along with that of a third technology—vertical alignment (VA)—which I neglected to mention back in 2019. But IPS’ “improved viewing angles, deeper black levels, and other enhancements”, to quote my earlier article, won out, with refresh rates also boosted over time and price addressed by volume cost efficiencies.

More generally, a steady stream of image quality improvements is key to actualizing LCD suppliers’ aspirations to keep their preferred display technology relevant in the face of upstart options. Other improvement focus areas include response time, deeper black levels and associated wider contrast ratios, along with wide viewing angles, expanded color gamuts, and higher resolutions (both in general and at a given panel size), all implemented via schemes like:

  • Finer-pitch pixels (and subpixels)
  • Backlights with zone-based local dimming, and implemented using multicolor LCDs, and
  • A variety of “glass” coating approaches

not to mention the high-bandwidth interfaces on which many LCD improvements also depend.

As an admittedly somewhat extreme example of the lengths that LCD suppliers have gone to remain germane, look at Apple’s 32” Pro Display XDR, which was announced back in mid-2019:

Here are some choice excerpts from the press release that publicly introduced it:

  • 6016 x 3384 Retina 6K resolution with more than 20 million pixels
  • P3 wide color gamut and true 10-bit color for over 1 billion colors
  • The industry’s best polarizer technology, delivering a superwide, color-accurate, off-axis viewing angle.
  • To manage reflected light, Pro Display XDR has an industry-leading anti-reflective coating and offers an innovative new matte option called nano-texture, with glass etched at the nanometer level for low reflectivity and less glare.
  • A direct backlighting system with a large array of LEDs that produce 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness [editor note: 1,000 nits sustained]
  • With a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, Pro Display XDR connects seamlessly to the Mac product line, including the new Mac Pro, which supports up to six displays for a breathtaking 120 million pixels.

Sounds great, right? Here’s the reality check:

Pro Display XDR starts at $4,999, the Pro Stand is $999 and the VESA Mount Adapter is $199.

In fairness, last March Apple subsequently unveiled a more modestly priced (comparatively, at least) LCD, the 27” 5K Studio Display, alongside its first-generation Mac Studio computers:

Studio Display is $1,599 (US), and $1,499 (US) for education. Additional technical specifications, including nano-texture glass and a choice of stand options, are available at apple.com/store.

Its peak brightness and other specs are more modest (while still quite impressive, mind you), which in combination with its smaller panel size and associated lower resolution, all assist with the comparative-to-Pro Display XDR price decrease. And speaking of specs, curiously neither Apple display seemingly documents the oft-important response time metric.

Despite its lower price, the Studio Display adds some features that I more generally wanted to highlight as an integration trend that other LCD suppliers are also adopting:

  • A 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage, a feature that automatically keeps users centered in the frame as they move around.
  • Studio Display also includes a studio-quality, three-microphone array with an especially low noise floor for crystal-clear calls and voice recordings.
  • A high-fidelity six-speaker sound system, the best ever created for Mac, delivering an unbelievable listening experience.

Integrated KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switching is another increasingly common inclusion in modern displays.

And beyond conventional computer display, television and mobile device markets, LCD suppliers are also partnering with their system-development customers to cultivate demand in additional new markets, such as baby and security monitors and smart displays. Take, for example, the portable monitor, the G-STORY GST56 shown below, I personally own and regularly use (again, I’m not a gamer, so overlook the stock photo’s screen):

It doesn’t contain its own battery; instead, it’s fueled by an external USB-C (or USB-A, via adapter) power source, which can (assuming sufficient current output) include the laptop computer its video input is simultaneously tethered to. G-STORY includes an array of bundled cables, along with a cover that doubles as the stand; I later added a sleeve to the mix. And check out the specs, keeping in mind that the GST56 only cost me $127.99 (on sale) in January:

  • 165 Hz peak refresh rate
  • 1 ms response time
  • 6-inch IPS screen
  • 1920×1080 pixel resolution
  • 350cd/m² peak brightness
  • 800:1 contrast ratio
  • Built-in speakers plus headphone audio output jack

Here it is in action at Starbucks (I blurred both screens’ content post-photo capture for privacy):

Some other manufacturers’ conceptually similar displays, often referred to as monitor extenders, literally attach the supplemental LCD(s) to the laptop and its primary screen:

And then there are so-called “field monitors”, which HDMI or SD-tether to a still or video camera and provide a larger-screen supplement to the integrated analog or digital viewfinder and/or LCD screen. Sometimes, as with this example unit, the Ninja V from Atomos, a popular premium supplier, they even include an SSD or at least memory card slot(s), to provide a higher-capacity video recording alternative to the camera’s integrated storage:

In a recent writeup, a teardown of a LED light bulb with an integrated backup battery, I back-referenced an earlier post which had noted that as LED light bulb technology matured, manufacturers were variously differentiating their products in search of competitive isolation and profits. That writeup had similarly back-referenced an earlier piece on the evolution of Bluetooth-based peripherals, which contains this quote:

Such diversity within what’s seemingly a mature and “vanilla” product category is what prompted me to put cyber-pen to cyber-paper for this particular post. The surprising variety I encountered even during my brief period of research is reflective of the creativity inherent to you, the engineers who design these and countless other products. Kudos to you all!

That quote applies not only to Bluetooth audio adapters but also to LED light bulbs. And as this writeup hopefully gets across, to LCDs, too. Kudos, display developers! Let me know in the comments any additional cool LCD-derived products you’ve come across, or anything else LCD-related that you’d like to share.

Brian Dipert is the Editor-in-Chief of the Edge AI and Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.

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Best of both worlds: Combining NFC and Qi for wireless charging in cars

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 12:45

The past years have seen user experience become increasingly integral to innovations around and inside cars. One key aspect included in this trend is the charging of mobile phones. Although this feature has been present for some time, it just got a much-needed makeover with the integration of Qi wireless charging and Near Field Communication (NFC).

Both Qi and NFC operate using inductive coupling. In this new setup in cars, Qi enables the charging of mobile phones and NFC, wireless communication over a short distance. You just have to put your phone down onto the charger and it immediately establishes connectivity to exchange data via NFC and to charge via Qi.

All the Convenience and Efficiency in One Spot

Qi charging and NFC complement each other to address a new generation of automotive use cases. Thus, it was expected at some point that both would share the same location in the middle console of cars. The benefits of having them in one spot are quite obvious. It is all about the user convenience, driver comfort and safety of NFC cards.

The smartphone needs to be placed in one spot to perform authorization for engine start via NFC, according to the CCC scheme, and to be charged via the Qi subsystem. In addition, the NFC is there to detect smart cards, tags and key fobs—and prevent their destruction by the active Qi field. The risk of such an unwanted event increased in recent years due to the Qi standard moving from 5W to 15W+ charging power.

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With a combined Qi and NFC solution, there is no need to place the phone in two different locations in the car. Just one electronic control unit (ECU) manages combined Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth®, saving space and integration efforts in the car. Since Bluetooth and Wi-fi require authentication to connect phones to car electronics, Wi-Fi can also automatically connect the phone via out-of-band pairing to the car’s Wi-fi and Bluetooth networks. This is possible without going through any specific configuration process.

Top-Notch RF Performance for Seamless Integration in the Middle Console

NFC and Qi charging require inductive antennas and coils to transfer data and sufficient energy using the same surface or volume, given the changes the new Qi2 standard with magnetic alignment is bringing. This definitively presents some technical hurdles in their integration due to the extra complexity from materials and limited space, which gives no room for communication or charging blind spots.

NFC devices that offer top-notch radio frequency (RF) performance are crucial to overcoming those integration challenges and ensuring reliable communication with the phones and detuned cards across full-charging surfaces. It is important to distinguish between the phones emulating cards and the cards themselves. If the phone emulates only a Type A or B technology, it is indistinguishable on the protocol level from a card of the same type. For this reason, there is a clear need for extra capabilities to extend the protocol-based distinguishing, with measurements of analog properties of the cards and the phones.

NXP is Providing the Right Enablement

The NCx3321 and MWCT2xxx family are the latest products from NXP offering excellent RF capabilities and a unique feature set optimized for optimal performance in the middle console applications. By offering high-RF output power combined with dynamic power control and excellent sensitivity, NCx3321 is the right choice for automotive customers requesting extended operating volume. The innovative Analog Sense feature for distinguishing smart cards from smartphones is a real game changer in enabling effective card protection for Qi chargers.

On top of the very compelling hardware, NXP also offers the Automotive NFC Library with asynchronous API and a full feature set according to the NFC Forum CR13/CCC specification. This software is also available as AUTOSAR Complex Device Driver to speed up the development of automotive NFC applications. These unique features and the complete hardware and software offering, make NCx3321 suitable for use in a wide range of automotive applications involving security (car access), safety (NFC card protection) and convenience (Bluetooth LE / Wi-Fi Pairing).


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Environmental Sensors Are at the Core of Evolving Indoor Air Quality Standards

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 12:36

An unintended consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic was that people trapped indoors for long periods of time became increasingly interested in the quality of the air they breathe. For good reason. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued late last year, toxic indoor air was traced to more than three million deaths in 2020 caused by cardiac arrest, pulmonary disease, and stroke and lung cancer. While the problem disproportionately affects poor countries with insufficient access to clean cooking fuels, it is prevalent in more affluent economies in the form of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and formaldehyde to name just a few.

Interest in this global health crisis has been growing steadily in recent years to the point where environmental air sensors are among the fastest-growing vertical segments of the semiconductor market across residential, municipal, commercial, and industrial applications. Renesas Electronics launched a significant R&D program in 2014 that is now bearing fruit in the form of multiple sensor modalities that detect a range of compounds to provide homeowners, building managers, and factory floor operators with the actionable intelligence they can use to inform remediation efforts.

Budding interest in managing indoor (and outdoor) air quality has revealed a significant challenge, however. We are in what I call the Wild West era of environmental sensing in that standards are popping up across the global landscape but with no single, cohesive body working toward a common blueprint.

That is beginning to change, with two significant air quality developments this month alone. The first was updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that sets improved ventilation targets to help prevent respiratory illnesses from spreading in indoor spaces. The second was a set of draft requirements for HVAC systems issued by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for reducing indoor, airborne viral transmissions, including Covid-19 and influenza.

For our part, Renesas collaborates around the world with numerous agencies dedicated to detecting and improving air quality. These include RESET, a Shanghai-based international organization that promotes data collection and continuous monitoring for buildings through standardization; UBA, Germany’s central environmental authority dedicated to early detection of environmental risks and threats; as well as various industry-standards bodies in the U.S. We also address our efforts in this area as part of the recently released Renesas 2022 Sustainability Report.

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An AI-based Approach to System-Level Air Quality Detection

As technology providers, policymakers and industry organizations coalesce around a shared set of air quality criteria, Renesas is leveraging its nearly 10 years of research to equip customers with a set of flexible, configurable digital gas sensing systems that enable them to measure air quality independent of a universal standard. These new and emerging systems combine a MEMS-based analog sensor with a microcontroller and communications stack to detect, interpret and share real-time air quality data.

Our artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and hardware and firmware platforms allow customers to easily comply with various building air quality standards. And new developments through our acquisition of Reality AI are taking this to a higher level, focused on sensor fusion of complete systems. Schools and other public buildings around the world, for example, are beginning to bring air quality metrics online. Using our embedded AI algorithms, a school in China can use the same hardware as one in the U.S. or Europe and simply update the AI-enabled firmware for their particular needs regardless of country.

At the same time, the sensor systems use AI to distinguish between different types of gas and organic compounds, predict when HVAC filters must be replaced and incorporate a bank of embedded “compensation engines” that autonomously adjust for changes in the environment, such as temperature, humidity, and untargeted interferent gases that can have a dramatic effect on indoor air quality measurements. Moreover, these sensors can be incorporated into a “system of systems” that customers can distribute across large indoor installations, including HVAC systems, thermostats, smart appliances and smoke detectors.

In short, our approach to air quality sensing obviates the need for customers to source, prototype, test, validate, build and calibrate at the component level and frees them up to further differentiate their products. As public funds for air quality standards become available – and until indoor air quality standards mature – we renew our commitment to making our customers’ lives easier, perhaps nowhere more importantly than by protecting the health of people around the world at work, home and play.

dk-singhDK SINGH, VP, Technical System & Solutions
Marketing, Global Sales & Marketing Unit, Renesas

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VIAVI Introduces NTN and HAPs Network Testing for 5G and 6G Satellite Communication

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 12:10

Viavi Solutions today announced the availability of base station and end-to-end testing supporting Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) and High Altitude Platforms (HAPs). Wireless technologies are increasingly augmenting traditional terrestrial communication networks, with satellite communications helping to provide near-complete coverage. The VIAVI TM500 and TeraVM test platforms validate the conformance, performance and reliability of gNodeBs and entire networks under the unique service link conditions of NTN and HAPs networks.

3GPP Release 17 specifications formally introduced support and guidelines for NTNs, with subsequent releases expected to continue to refine the standards. These specifications will help improve the performance of NTNs, allow them to converge with terrestrial telecoms networks and enable support across existing 5G mobile handsets and chipsets. A VIAVI analysis estimated that the growth in satellite communications will result in approximately 30,000 new satellites orbiting the Earth, significantly expanding the potential of NTNs to provide universal coverage.

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Satellite communication in 5G brings another level of complexity for testing. NTNs need to be reliable to cope with the distance, speed and mobility of both satellite, HAPs and User Equipment (UE), while still delivering on performance. Test solutions are not only required to emulate different UE mobility and fading profiles, but they must also take the large doppler shifts from fast-moving satellites and airborne platforms into consideration.

To validate the base station prior to non-terrestrial deployment, the TM500 can emulate a high volume of devices, new mobility patterns, signal propagation delays, and other conditions unique to NTN while TeraVM emulates the core network. This test scenario is ideal for early functional tests such as 3GPP protocol testing and can be applied to both regenerative and transparent architectures. Further test scenarios are focused on testing and optimizing the network end-to-end, using a real core to validate the performance and reliability of the entire network.

“NTNs offer new opportunities and partnerships for mobile and satellite operators and the exciting potential to offer connectivity to both underserved and over-populated areas as well as support mission-critical applications,” said Ian Langley, Senior Vice President, Wireless Business Unit, VIAVI. “However, amidst the growing interest and race to deploy these networks, it’s vital that reliability, stability, and performance testing are done to ensure success.”

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Revolutionary 3D wind turbulence simulation with real world data from LIDAR system

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 10:04

Flagship digitizer card by Spectrum helps to optimize new skyscrapers

A common way of designing a new large building is to make a scale model and test it in a wind tunnel. This has been a recognised test for over 50 years but it is known to underestimate the peak loads, so correction factors are applied to provide a safety margin. Another drawback is that the wind just comes from one direction at a time whereas in the real world, gusts and the large eddies can fluctuate from many different directions at once. A Danish company, Vind-Vind, is developing a new turbulence model to capture the effects of wind on a building in natural conditions. This modelling uses real world data to enhance its accuracy, gathered with a LIDAR system using 10 ns pulses. Particles in the air reflect the laser, the changes in the returned light due to the Doppler effect are analysed using the latest flagship product of Spectrum Instrumentation, the ultrafast M5i.3321 digitizer card.  


Per Jørgensen, CEO of Vind-Vind, explained: “At present, there are two ways to measure wind movement, either low resolution at a long distance of several kilometres or high resolution over a short distance of a few hundred meters. We created a new LIDAR-based instrument to measure long distances at a high resolution. Key to this is the ability of the Spectrum digitizer card to capture the data at its very high sampling rate of 3.2 GigaSamples per second with 12 bit resolution. This is actually more than we need but it gives us the margin to allow for ‘noisy’ conditions and weak signals. The extra bandwidth also means that we can immediately identify and filter out high frequency noise leaving only low frequency noise to be eliminated later when processing the data.”

As can be imagined, keeping track of a vast number of dust particles moving in the wind generates a huge amount of data. Vind-Vind was initially going to use an FPGA platform but rejected this approach as being too complex to programme and not having enough compute power to handle the large amount of data being created every second. The data problem was solved by using Spectrum’s SCAPP drivers (Spectrum’s CUDA access for parallel processing). In this solution, the M5i digitizer with its 16-lane PCIe interface sends the collected data with up to 12.8 GigaByte per second directly to a CUDA-based graphics card instead of the PC CPU. The graphic card, in this case a Nvidia Quadro A4000 including a GPU with 6,144 cores, is processing the data much faster than the CPU of the PC with only 6 or 8 cores.

Vind-Vind’s initial goal for its computer modelling is to assess how the turbulence compares to the measured turbulence over an urban environment. After that, turbulence modelling will be improved to include the effects of a higher section of the atmosphere with wind gusts from different directions. Accurate data gathered in the real world can then be used to verify and validate the predictions of the 3D computer simulation. “With proven accuracy, our 3D wind modelling can be used to provide greater levels of safety and wind comfort as it will predict the complex nature of the real world, and not the constrained version of the wind tunnel” added Jorgensen. “Eventually it will mean that the considerable over specification that architects have to build in because of the inaccuracy of wind tunnel models can be reduced. This means improving sustainability and saving costs by cutting down on the unnecessary use of materials.”

Pic2_Digitizer-M5i.3321_(web)Fig. 2: The M5i.3321-x16 digitizer card offers 3.2 GS/s sampling speed, 12 bit resolution and 1 GHz bandwidth on each of the two channels. The M5i.33xx family has 5 different models with 10 GS/s top speed and over 3 GHz as highest bandwidth.

The company envisages that its 3D wind modelling will prove invaluable for the many situations where typical wind tunnels cannot provide useful results such as the complex wind interactions of atmospheric turbulence with urban environments, clusters of wind turbines, bridges or airports.

Vind-Vind consists of two sister companies: PJ Science ApS has its focus on producing and selling the innovative LIDAR systems, and Vind-Vind ApS is the consulting company doing wind analysis for the construction industry. More info: www.vindvind.com

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The STM32Wx microcontrollers: Ideal fit for RF designers looking for more than a simple radio device

ELE Times - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 08:43

The STM32Wx microcontrollers enable wireless connectivity supporting the sub-GHz band and the 2.4 GHz frequency range. STM32 Wireless MCUs are highly integrated and reliable as they address a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. STM32Wx solutions are compatible with multiple protocols, from point-to-point and mesh to wide-area networks. They are power efficient and offer built-in security features.

During the presentation, Mohit Arora, Wireless Marketing Manager, South Asia and India Region, STMicroelectronics, and Olivier Lardy, Senior Marketing Manager, Wireless Connectivity, Asia Pacific region, STMicroelectronics presented before the media on STM32 wireless ecosystem and how it enables IoT and connectivity with STM32 wireless solutions.

The presentation discusses ST’s ambition to become a leading company in wireless solutions by way of growing STM32 wireless portfolio covering entry-level to high-end products, combined with a wide support ecosystem along with full-featured and robust radio IP with state-of-the-art low power consumption and built-in security as security is part of ST’s DNA and embedded in all products as well as ST’s strong involvement in the key alliances shaping the next connectivity standards.

Rashi Bajpai, Sub Editor, ELE Times, probe further on STMicroelectronics STM32 Wireless MCU Series. Excerpt.

ELE Times: Where does STMicroelectronics stand in the wireless and IoT segment, also brief us on your latest developments in the STM32 wireless MCU series.

STMicroelectronics: Wireless technologies have been here for decades now and there are multiple technologies available. We are all used to this now. Our mission is to help our customers easily leverage wireless connectivity across a wide range of applications today and in the future.

This relies on five key pillars.

  1. Many wireless protocols need to be supported. We support many technologies – especially in the sub-Gig area and the BLE area with committed investments to add more in the near future.
  2. Extensive hardware offering. Flexibility is key for our customers so offering them products with different flavors to allow them to get the right product fitting their needs is very important.
  3. Seamless software migration.STM32 wireless is STM32 which means that users benefit from the already massively adopted STM32 Cube ecosystem.
  4. STM32 family is extremely strong and well-recognized in the general-purpose area. As an example, STMicroelectronics is a board member of the CSA alliance which is shaping the Matter specification/ecosystem. This alliance is also taking care of the ZigBeeR standard. We are also a board member of the FIRA alliance covering UWB technology.
  5. Security is crucial in the coming years. Adding wireless connectivity to a design can potentially expose it to attacks as adding wireless connectivity is like opening a door. Doors can be used by attackers and this needs to be prevented. We are adding multiple features to help customers combat security issues.

Now, coming to our STM32 wireless MCU product families. Right now, we have three product families available. The first one is the STM32WL family. The products in this family address what we call the sub-gigahertz market, and they are multi-protocol capable meaning that they can support different types of protocols like LoRa, SigFox, or Wireless M-Bus. Users can also develop their custom protocols on these products. These products also come with single-core and dual-core versions where the dual-core version will bring additional security to our customers so that they can improve the system’s security.

Read more- https://blog.st.com/stm32wl/

The second family is the STM32WB. B stands for Bluetooth low energy, but it also supports 802.15.4 protocols like ZigBee, Thread, or Matter. The STM32WB is also a dual-core platform, multiprotocol capable of delivering strong performance. It is based on Cortex M4 and Cortex M0+. The latest family that we introduced in March this year is the STM32WBA family. This family is focused on BLE and brings a lot of innovation. We are transitioning from Cortex M4 to Cortex M33 for higher performance and increased security.

ELE Times: Tell us about STMicroelectronics’ development approach for its STM32WL segment, the underlying technology, and the overall software and tools ecosystem.

STMicroelectronics: STM32WL is the world’s first LoRaR – enabled System-on-Chip solution. How we created the STM32WL is simple. We have a lot of STM32 general-purpose MCUs able to deal with low-power applications. In this case, we took the STM32L4 platform, removed some peripherals, integrated the radio IP interface on the same die, and came out with STM32WL. This brings a lot of advantages because the peripherals are similar in L4 and WL. Customers can have a seamless transition from L4 to WL. It limits the risks in terms of development on their side. Right now, our real star is STM32WL5x, and this device supports LoRa, a very famous protocol. With this, we support GFSK. With GFSK one can do modulations like wireless MBus, WiSUN, etc. We support Sigfox, Mioty, Zeta, and the implementation of proprietary. We also support GMSK which is used in a lot of applications like coastal monitoring. Then there is support for BPSK which is famous for Sigfox, and a new technology here is the Kineis which is connectivity for satellites where one can send direct messages using the STM32WL node to the satellite.

Overall if we look into the ecosystem of STM32WL, we offer software, and pre-certified libraries integrated with example applications. As for the LoRaWAN, we have the stack integrated with the basic examples to help users directly connect to the standard LoRaWAN ecosystems. So, the whole stack, libraries, drivers, and examples are well integrated into the package. The package is also pre-validated for customers to get started. Similarly, for Sigfox we offer the cube package called X-CUBE-SFOX with a similar offering.

In most cases, one may not have to write any specific code to connect to their ecosystem. Our variety of example codes will be sufficient for PoC and form a base to get started with on-end application development. All these packages are integrated with the STM32 CubeMX where one can configure the packages, extract them, integrate multiple packages in the same application/project, and port across our MCUs and SoCs.

ELE Times: Brief us on the STM32WBA Bluetooth low Energy 5.3 platform, how the ecosystem handles simplification of the user’s design journey, and steps taken to tackle security breaches.

STMicroelectronics: STM32WBA leverages our 40nanometer technology platform, which is a platform on which most of our latest products will be introduced. For STM32WBA, we are leveraging the STM32U5 platform with the same approach as the one explained previously for the STM32WL. We removed some peripherals and integrated the IP for the BLE. The result is the STM32WBA. Likewise, customers moving from U5 to WBA will be very comfortable because the IPs are similar, and the architecture is the same. We have included the Trust Zone, the reason we moved from dual core to single core is because the Trust Zone brings the capability for code isolation. Also, an important highlight is that the product is targeting SESIP L3 certification and L3 certification again for ARM’s driven PSA Alliance.

Within STMicroelectronics, we have invested in security for quite a long time, so it’s already present on the STM32 products. We now have active tampers. For example, if someone tries to access some part of the device, it will trigger an alert and be considered an attack, and any attack detection can trigger automatic functions as well as a dedicated code to minimize the attack footprint. One can lock the debug port with different regressions which enables advanced debugging and offers complete locking to avoid anyone accessing the device afterward. Side channel attack protection is also available.

Know more- https://blog.st.com/stm32wba/

ELE Times: What is the role of Reference designs in the evolution of the STM32 wireless MCU series and tell us about the Cube framework?

STMicroelectronics: On top of chips and evaluation kits, we also have reference designs. We have created multiple reference design platforms, leveraging, again, on all our multiple products, which are offered with complete software packages. Our customers can then play with it. They can quickly develop some proof of concept and can replicate it if they need to. They can also remove some parts, if not required. And obviously, there are detailed documents all in the public domain. It also helps us go higher in the value chain and to better understand their requirements in terms of application.

Another important element in the ecosystem is what we call the Cube framework. The idea here is that we want to take our customers through the whole journey. When they start working on STM32 they will find several tools to help them. First is the Finder to help them select the right device. Then to develop their project they can use CubeMX to configure their project, and CubeIDE to develop their code. Customers will get access to the Cube Programmer to load their target as well as some monitoring tools to ensure that the behavior of the device is the one expected. In the end, STM32 wireless products are STM32 which means that our customers benefit from the existing STM32 ecosystem.

ELE Times: What are the go-to features of STEVAL-ASTRA 1B? 

STMicroelectronics: STEVAL-ASTRA1B is our multi-connectivity Asset Tracking Reference design where we integrate multiple communication technologies like Bluetooth, LoRaWAN, NFC, and GPS wireless functionalities in reference design and offer a complimentary SDK (which is maintained regularly) with supporting mobile apps and cloud integration. All these are integrated with several sensors, power management, and batteries to offer developers a ready-to-use hardware platform for rapid prototyping. For the ASTRA platform, the hardware is open and pre-certified by us, and all the design documentation for the hardware is available at https://www.st.com/. We also offer a mobile app platform. This app is offered with the code on GitHub. The app is used to configure the device and can be used with NFC or Bluetooth.

On top of this, we also offer a cloud dashboard which is an ST-managed cloud dashboard for evaluation purposes – DSH ASSETRACKING, which can be used for tracking and monitoring the device. One can register their device to this cloud, and send the data from nodes directly via the LoRa wan gateway host pushing data to ST Dashboard. One can look at the device on the global map, locate where it is, and see the logs stored for the device, giving the user an experience of a functional prototype. The user can put this ASTRA device readily for a PoC test case by mounting it onto something and tracking it on the globe with the LoRaWAN network.

ELE Times: You have reference designs and modules on offer, are these certified for the required standards?

STMicroelectronics: Yes, all reference designs, including STEVAL-ASTRA1B, EVAL boards, and modules offered by ST are certified to meet the required regional and protocol standards, including Bluetooth and LPWANs.

ELE Times: For MCU customers, can they reuse the code written on STM32 on STM32W families or do they need to write it again?

STMicroelectronics: The STM32 firmware ecosystem is based on our coding standard defined under STM32Cube. Therefore, code developed per the STM32Cube standard can easily be ported to our different products, including wireless MCUs.

ELE Times: Can you explain your 10-year longevity commitment?

STMicroelectronics: ST offers an assurance that all products in the STM32 Wireless series will be available for 10 years. This means that we will make available the part or provide a pin equivalent for 10 years from the date of the announcement, more details can be found at https://www.st.com/content/st_com/en/about/quality-and-reliability/product-longevity.html#10-year-longevity

This commitment is valid for any STM32 whether it is wireless or not.

ELE Times: How can customers use the anti-tamper features of STM32WBA?

STMicroelectronics: The STM32WBA implements various security features that include anti-tamper detection. With this feature, the MCUs can detect events like transient perturbations and erase secret data in case of attack, save a calendar timestamp of the tamper event, and detect pins for opens/shorts. All tamper events can trigger a hardware action or a software call defined by the user.

ELE Times: How is Matter different from Bluetooth mesh and Zigbee?

STMicroelectronics: Matter has been architected using IPV6 as its base layer. So, all connectivity options supporting IPV6 today and in the future should be usable with Matter. This is a major differentiation for matter.

IPV6 allows Matter to solve the issue of interoperability between different communication media on which many consortiums have struggled. Offering a means to connect all of the various physical layers for communication in a home attracted a lot of developers who might have been providing their solutions on incompatible technologies. This unification layer was definitely needed and will deliver a boost to the entire smart home market.

ELE Times: Where do you see STMicroelectronics leadership in wireless MCU in the next two years?

STMicroelectronics: ST’s leadership in MCUs and our strong portfolio of wireless technologies, including BLE/2.4GHz and sub-GHz, is helping us grow in wireless MCUs. We are bringing lots of innovation and have a deep pipeline of new products coming to help customers sustain *their* innovation. That approach will help ST maintain its leadership in MCUs and grow its position in wireless MCUs.

ELE Times: How do you differentiate in your offerings vs. what is available from other suppliers?

STMicroelectronics: At ST, we’ve developed a successful recipe with general-purpose MCUs and our wireless MCUs will benefit from the same recipe. The recipe combines a very strong product offering with multiple application-based reference designs, software packages, and an exceptional ecosystem that we continuously enrich along with committed lead times and deliveries.

ELE Times: How would existing customers of STM32 MCUs benefit from your wireless offerings?

STMicroelectronics: Wireless STM32 MCUs are built on the foundation of the STM32! This means that the STM32 ecosystem is the same offering we give to existing customers that assures a very easy way to move into the wireless field. The wireless STM32 MCUs share the same DNA and ecosystem, so customers developing with any STM32 will find it really easy to develop applications on STM32 wireless MCUs.

The post The STM32Wx microcontrollers: Ideal fit for RF designers looking for more than a simple radio device appeared first on ELE Times.


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