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Thursday, November 09, 2017

TI drives down microcontroller cost to 25 cents for IoT sensors

By Nick Flaherty at

25 functions for 25 cents with new MSP430 microcontroller for sensor designs in the Internet of Things (IoT)

Texas Instruments (TI) has launched a low cost, low power low power microcontroller for sensing applications. Developers can now implement simple sensing solutions through a variety of integrated mixed-signal features in this family of MSP430 value line sensing MCUs, available for as low as US$0.25 in high volumes.

Additions to the family include two new entry-level devices and a new TI LaunchPad development kit for quick and easy evaluation.

Developers now have the flexibility to customise 25 common system-level functions including timers, input/output expanders, system reset controllers, electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) and more, using a library of code examples.

The common core architecture, tools and software ecosystem and extensive documentation including migration guides make it easy for developers to choose the appropriate MSP430 device for their design.

Designers can also scale from the 0.5-KB MSP430FR2000 MCU to the rest of the MSP430 sensing and measurement portfolio for applications that require up to 256 KB of memory, higher performance or more analogue peripherals.

The MSP430FR2000 and MSP430FR2100 MCUs (with 0.5 KB and 1 KB of memory, respectively) and the new development kit join the MSP430 value line sensing family which includes the MSP430FR2111, MSP430FR2311, MSP430FR2033, MSP430FR2433 and MSP430FR4133 microcontroller families and their related development tools and software.

The MSP430FR2433 LaunchPad development kit (MSP-EXP430FR2433) is available from the TI store and distributors for US$9.99, although it is available now for $4.30.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Module simplifies 802.11ac designs in the IoT

By Nick Flaherty at

Skyworks Solutions has launched a family of highly integrated wireless networking solutions for mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystems. 

The SkyOne WiFi suite combines Skyworks' front end radio and 802.11ac technology to provide customers with a comprehensive front-end module in a single placement, compact footprint. Specifically, these new products incorporate all key radio frequency blocks between the Wi-Fi system-on-chip (SOC) and the antenna, avoiding the need for complex RF design challenges, while reducing time to market. 

The SKY85812-11 is dual-band front-end module incorporating a 5 GHz bypass low noise amplifier with single-pole, double-throw transmit/receive switch and a 2.4 GHz bypass low noise amplifier with single-pole, triple-throw switch with Bluetooth port that allows for Wi-Fi antenna sharing. The SKY85812-11 also includes a 2 GHz LTE coexistence filter and diplexer - all designed into a 16-pin 3 x 3 mm package.

The platform significantly improves the Wi-Fi system performance when compared to other standard single chip designs and further mitigates interference with other radios, extending range and increasing throughput to greatly improve the user experience. The SKY85812-11 is currently shipping in flagship platforms globally with a top tier smartphone OEM.
"Today's mobile and IoT devices are now supporting up to 20 bands and require both seamless and robust Wi-Fi functionality to meet growing requirements from carrier offload, voice over IP and other bandwidth-intensive applications," said David Stasey, general manager and vice president of Diversified Analog Solutions at Skyworks. 

According to ABI Research, more than 20 billion Wi-Fi chipsets are expected to be shipped between 2016 and 2021, particularly as Wi-Fi solutions expand beyond their traditional usage applications, frequency bands, device types and performance requirements. They also expect more than 95 percent of devices shipped in 2021 to support 5 GHz Wi-Fi, signifying increased spectrum sharing with cellular technologies.

The SKY85812-11 is currently available for sampling and production. 

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Multiprotocol boost for IoT designs

By Nick Flaherty at

Silicon Labs has developed new dynamic multiprotocol software for its Wireless Gecko system-on-chips (SoC) and modules for simultaneous operation of Zigbee and Bluetooth low energy (LE).

The multiprotocol software adds key capabilities for the Internet of Things (IoT) applications without adding an additional chip, reducing the wireless subsystem bill-of-materials (BOM) cost and size by up to 40 percent.

Dynamic multiprotocol software allows users to commission, update, control and monitor Zigbee mesh networks directly over Bluetooth with smartphone apps. The software also makes it easier to deploy scalable indoor location-based service infrastructure by extending Zigbee-based connected lighting and building automation systems with Bluetooth beacons. By adding Bluetooth LE features to Zigbee mesh networks, developers can create next-generation IoT applications that are easier to deploy, use and update.

The dynamic multiprotocol software is powered by highly optimized wireless protocol stacks and an advanced radio scheduler running on Micrium OS. The software development kit (SDK) is available in Simplicity Studio and includes a connected lighting demo supported on selected Wireless Gecko starter kits and mobile app reference designs.
"Multiprotocol technology is the future of wireless connectivity for the IoT. Silicon Labs' multiprotocol software and Wireless Gecko SoCs enable Schneider Electric to create products that support Bluetooth LE and a variety of mesh wireless standards," said Nico Jonkers, Senior Vice President of the SmartSpace line of business at Schneider Electric. "This flexibility lets consumers and installers use familiar tools like smartphones and tablets to interact with connected devices for installation and updates while maintaining the integrity of Zigbee mesh networks. Our smart home offering, Wiser, takes full advantage of this flexibility to deliver simple installation and a robust mesh network."

In residential lighting, consumers can use smartphone apps to simplify  device installation/setup, while commercial lighting systems based on Zigbee can be extended to transmit Bluetooth beacons to enable indoor location services or asset tracking. Installers and maintenance teams can commission Zigbee devices, update software or perform diagnostics on a specific device via a Bluetooth smartphone or tablet. End users can use smartphones to control a group of lights and receive beacons to assist with indoor navigation.
IoT products in the smart home can connect to popular home automation platforms and voice assistants that support Zigbee while also supporting direct connectivity to smartphones for simple setup and local control and monitoring. For example, a connected door lock can be remotely accessed via the mesh network and unlocked locally via a smartphone app. Bluetooth beacons that include location can be used to enhance smartphone apps and provide additional context for automation applications.

Commercial building automation systems powered by Zigbee can be extended, enabling employee interaction using Bluetooth enabled smartphones, tablets or smart tags. For example, connected HVAC systems can automatically adjust based on occupancy or user preferences set in employee profiles. Silicon Labs' multiprotocol wireless technology simplifies the implementation of beacon infrastructure and transforms buildings into connected, intelligent spaces.

"Leveraging our Wireless Gecko SoCs and modules with dynamic multiprotocol software, developers can transform connected devices into intelligent, multifunction applications that drive automation, accelerate smart device adoption and deliver next-generation capabilities for the IoT," said Daniel Cooley, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs. "Providing multiprotocol Zigbee and Bluetooth connectivity on a single chip also reduces design costs, simplifies software development, improves life-cycle management and accelerates time to market."

The multiprotocol software is available now to customers using Silicon Labs' EFR32MG12 and EFR32MG13 Wireless Gecko SoCs and associated modules. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Top stories on the Embedded blog in October

By Nick Flaherty at

October has seen a reduction in the hype on artificial intelligence in embedded systems (although the Qualcomm purchase below is interesting), perhaps as the funding season is coming to an end. But there was significant interest in the expansion of the open source MIPS replacement RISC-V, with SiFive adding Linux support. We've covered Foghorn earlier, so it was good to see a successful round of $30m for rolling out its analytics tech into the IoT.  Security continues to be a big challenge for IoT and embedded designs, generating lots of interest with Intel looking to automate the security chain (around its architecture, of course).


Monday, October 30, 2017

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty at

. Siemens-backed fuel cell datacentre lab opens in Seattle
. Apple buys TI-based modular wireless charging designer
. Bristol takes crown as UK's leading smart city

TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH . German researchers look at DC residential power grid
. Immersion cooling boost for x86 cluster
. New microchannel design drives 3D chip cooling to new record

NEW POWER PRODUCTS . 6W radiation hardened DC-DC converters for space designs
. Single supply bipolar stepper motor driver eliminates external LDO
 . Full SiC module boosts efficiency

New standards group for fog computing

By Nick Flaherty at

The OpenFog Reference Architecture will serve as the basis for a new working group formed by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) to accelerate the creation and adoption of industry standards for fog computing and networking. The future standards will serve as a significant catalyst for advanced Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and embedded artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Fog computing and networking is an advanced distributed architecture that brings computing, storage, control, and networking functions closer to the data-producing sources in the cloud. Applicable across industry sectors, fog computing effectively addresses issues related to security, cognition, agility, latency and efficiency (SCALE).

“This represents a giant step forward for fog computing and for the industry, which will soon have the specifications for use in developing industrial strength fog-based hardware, software and services,” said John Zao, Chair, IEEE Standards Working Group on Fog Computing and Networking Architecture Framework. “The objective from the beginning was that the OpenFog Reference Architecture would serve as the high-level basis for industry standards, and the IEEE is looking forward to the collaboration in this effort.”

The inaugural meeting of the IEEE Standards Working Group on Fog Computing and Networking Architecture Framework is scheduled for November 2017, with its work expected to be complete by April 2018. 

The OpenFog Reference Architecture is a universal technical framework designed to enable the data-intensive requirements of IoT, 5G and AI applications. It is a structural and functional prescription of an open, interoperable, horizontal system architecture for distributing computing, storage, control and networking functions closer to the users along a cloud-to-thing continuum. The framework encompasses various approaches to disperse information technology (IT), communication technology (CT) and operational technology (OT) services through an information messaging infrastructure as well as legacy and emerging multi-access networking technologies.

“The standards work produced by this new working group will be crucial in the continued growth of fog computing innovation and things-to-cloud systems,” said Dr. Mehmet Ulema, Director, Standards Development, IEEE Communications Society, and Professor, Manhattan College, New York. “This also is an outstanding example of the strategic alliance between IEEE and OpenFog to co-create and co-promote fog networking concepts and architectures.”

“The mandate for fog computing is growing stronger, driven by the recognition that traditional architectures can’t deliver on the operational challenges for today’s advanced digital applications,” said Helder Antunes, chairman of the OpenFog Consortium and Senior Director, Cisco. “On behalf of the members of the OpenFog technical community, I’m pleased to see the recognized value of the OpenFog Reference Architecture and IEEE’s commitment to fog computing and networking via the formation of this new working group.”

The OpenFog Consortium was founded in November 2015 and represents the leading researchers and innovators in fog computing. 

Microsoft adds Cray supercomputers to Azure in machine learning boost

By Nick Flaherty at

Microsoft has added Cray supercomputers alongside its Azure cloud offering in certain datacentres.

This will broaden the availability of supercomputing to new markets and new customers, says Cray, which will jointly engage with customers to offer dedicated supercomputing systems to run AI, advanced analytics, and modelling and simulation workloads seamlessly connected to the Azure cloud.
The deal brings the advantages of Cray’s tightly coupled system architecture and Aries interconnect to a new set of customers who were previously unable to purchase or maintain an on-premise Cray system. This will allow researchers, analysts, and scientists with the ability to train AI deep learning models in fields such as medical imaging and autonomous vehicles in a fraction of the time. 

Automotive and aerospace product engineers can now conduct crash simulation, computational fluid dynamic simulations, or build digital twins for rapid and precise product development and optimised maintenance. Geophysicists in energy companies can accelerate oil field analysis and reduce exploration risk with improved seismic imaging analysis performed in days and minutes, not months and weeks.

“Our partnership with Microsoft will introduce Cray supercomputers to a whole new class of customers that need the most advanced computing resources to expand their problem-solving capabilities, but want this new capability available to them in the cloud,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “Dedicated Cray supercomputers in Azure not only give customers all of the breadth of features and services from the leader in enterprise cloud, but also the advantages of running a wide array of workloads on a true supercomputer, the ability to scale applications to unprecedented levels, and the performance and capabilities previously only found in the largest on-premise supercomputing centres. The Cray and Microsoft partnership is expanding the accessibility of Cray supercomputers and gives customers the cloud-based supercomputing capabilities they need to increase their competitive advantage.”

“Using the enterprise-proven power of Microsoft Azure, customers are running their most strategic workloads in our cloud,” said Jason Zander, corporate vice president, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Corp. “By working with Cray to provide dedicated supercomputers in Azure, we are offering customers uncompromising performance and scalability that enables a host of new previously unimaginable scenarios in the public cloud. More importantly, we’re moving customers into a new era by empowering them to use HPC and AI to drive breakthrough advances in science, engineering and health.”

As part of the partnership agreement, the Cray XC and Cray CS supercomputers with attached Cray ClusterStor storage systems will be available for customer-specific provisioning in select Microsoft Azure datacentres, directly connected to the Microsoft Azure network. The Cray systems easily integrate with Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Data Lake storage, the Microsoft AI platform, and Azure Machine Learning services. Customers can also use the Cray Urika-XC analytics software suite and CycleCloud for hybrid HPC management.
More details and sign up (although not the particular datacentres) is at Cray in Azure page.