obniz is a hardware platform specially built for IoT

In the last few years, we have seen a proliferation of hardware that are designed to serve as our interface to the Internet of Things. We have seen boards like the Arduino, Raspberry, Particle, ESP32, and several others. These hardware have made developing and scaling for the Internet of Things quite easy for developers and product managers. Despite the fact, these hardware are meant for the cloud-based applications (IoT Applications) most of them don’t get developed with web-based programming but traditional programming languages. obniz is a hardware for the internet of things that is designed with the Web in mind.

obinz

obniz brings a different ball game to the hardware industry especially for applications in the Internet of Things space. obniz is an IoT gateway but doesn’t stop there. obniz can be thought of as a complete IoT development platform because it doesn’t just give you the hardware to build, it also provides the enabling platform to connect your devices to the web. obniz not only lets you program your product but also allow you control it from your own apps, your own website, your smartphone and anything that can accept API or supports javascript. obniz is a product of the Japanese based Cambrian Robotics company.

obniz speaks the language of the web; it means if you understand the likes of Javascript (obniz have an SDK for javascript based on nodejs) and HTML it shouldn’t take you less than 5 minutes to build a powerful IoT device and setting up obniz takes less than 30 secs. obniz is designed for beginners in mind, it provides support for Block programming, a drag-and-drop programming that is based on pre-defined functions and comes with beginners lesson.

obniz Block Programming

The obniz hardware is made up of 12 IOs, each IO can handle up to 1A making it easy to connect at least 1 motor to all pins at the same time. It supports WiFi 802.22 b/g/n and Bluetooth Low Energy which is made possible by the onboard ESP WROOM 32, a 128 by 64 px OLED screen for display applications, a switchable 5V or 3V on each I/O.

One major benefit of using obniz is the nature of its IO pins. All 12 pins can be used for A/D (Analog and Digital Processing), UART, SPI and others. There are no specialized pins, they all have the same capabilities. Although there is a limit to the total number of UART pins that can be used, but A/D and others can be used on all 12 pins at the same time. Just like Arduino, it is short protected.

 

obniz is connected to the obniz Cloud using the WiFi Module, and from the obniz cloud, it is easy to control the IOs through the REST API or WebSocket API. The obniz team have released a javascript parts library for the browser using Nodejs.

Getting started with obniz is easy with these 3 steps:

  1. Connect obniz to Wifi
  2. Connect motors sensors to your obniz
  3. Scan a QR code on your obniz that will direct a user to a program page.

obniz is available for purchase for about $59 on Amazon, Tindie, and obniz store.

Google Unveils USB Type-C Version Of It’s Edge TPU AI Chip

Google has come up with its Edge TPU machine learning chip announcement by also revealing a USB Type-C based device that can be plugged into any Linux or Android Things computer, including a Raspberry Pi. The company announced a USB stick computer version of Edge TPU that can work with any Linux or Android Things computer. It also published more details on the upcoming, NXP-based Edge TPU development kit, including its SoC NXP i.MX8M.

Two views of the Edge TPU dev kit
Google’s Edge TPU dev kit

The Edge TPU Accelerator uses the same mini-scaled Edge TPU neural network coprocessor that is built into the upcoming dev kit. It has a USB Type-C port to connect with any Debian Linux or Android Things computer to accelerate machine learning (ML) inferencing for local edge analytics. The 65 x 30mm device has mounting holes for host boards such as a Raspberry Pi Zero.

Same as the Edge TPU development kit, the Edge TPU Accelerator enables the processing of machine learning (ML) inference data directly on-device. This local ML accelerator increases privacy, removes the need for persistent connections, reduces latency, and allows for high performance using less power.

The Edge TPU Accelerator starts competing with products like Intel’s Neural Compute Stick, previously referred to as the Fathom. The USB-equipped Neural Compute Stick is equipped with the Movidius Myriad 2 VPU and neural network accelerator.

The Edge TPU dev kit details

The Edge TPU Accelerator is going to ship in October this year along with the Edge TPU chip and development kit. It was informed that the computer-on-module that features the Edge TPU will run either Debian Linux or Android Things on NXP’s i.MX8M. The 1.5GHz, Cortex-A53 based i.MX8M integrates a Vivante GC7000Lite GPU and VPU, as well as a 266MHz Cortex-M4 MCU.

The yet unnamed, 48 x 40mm module will ship with 1GB LPDDR4, 8GB eMMC, dual-band WiFi-ac, and Bluetooth 4.1. The baseboard of the dev kit will add a microSD slot, as well as single USB Type-C OTG, Type-C power (5V input), USB 3.0 host, and micro-USB serial console ports.

The Edge TPU development kit baseboard is further provided with GbE and HDMI 2.0a ports, as well as a 39-pin FPC connector for 4-lane MIPI-DSI and a 24-pin FPC for 4-lane MIPI-CSI2. There’s also a 40-pin expansion connector, but with no claims for Raspberry Pi compatibility. The 85 x 56mm board also provides an audio jack, a digital mic, and a 4-pin terminal for stereo speakers.

More information may be found in the Edge TPU Accelerator announcement, as well as the original Edge TPU announcement.

Adlink Launches A New Apollo Based Fan-less Panel Computer Series

Adlink, a provider for embedded and computer solutions has launched a new panel computer to the market. Adlink has been known for providing different types of panel computers for the different markets from the general industry, consumer market and to the health sector. Adlink’s new panel computer has been tagged as smart panel that offers rapid human-machine interaction device development.

The new Adlink panel computer is a rugged and customizable Intel Atom-based panel PC series called SP-AL with IP65-protected 7- to 25-inch capacitive or resistive screens. The Smart Panel is an embedded panel computer that should easily integrate into a wide variety of form factors and configurations. The Smart Panel will easily find applications in many sectors, products, services and industries with its exceptional range of display sizes, inputs, touch types, I/O interface, heat sink, temperature, and coupled with Adlink’s unique Function Module (FM) design enables it to fulfil a wide range of requirements.

ADLINK SP-AL Panel Computer

At the core of the panel, is the Apollo Lake SoCIntel Atom® x5-E3930 running at about 1.3 to 1.8GHz with a 6.5W TDP. An optional Intel Atom® x7-E3950 is also available for ordering running at about 1.6 to 1.8GHz at 12W TDP. The display size ranges from 7-inch, 1024 x 600 to 21.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 models. The full sizes range is – 7”, 10.1”, 12.1”, 15.6”, 18.5”, and 21.5”.

Adlink’s SP-AL series of all-in-one open frame panel computers range from 7-inch, 1024 x 600 to 21.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 models with a choice of 5-point capacitive or 5-wire resistive touchscreens. The rugged systems are equipped with a choice of two Apollo Lake SoCs: the Intel Atom x5-E3930 (1.3/1.8GHz, 6.5W TDP) or Atom x7-E3950 (1.6/2.0GHz, 12W TDP).

The device can run Windows 10, Ubuntu 16.04 and Android though Android support is expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2018. ADLINK’s Smart Panel can be embedded in a wide variety of installations. With 4K immersive graphics and media performance, fast video acceleration, support for 3 independent 4K Ultra HD displays, up to 15 simultaneous 1080p30 decode streams, extensive media codec library, and advanced security; the SP can offer self-service in retail kiosks, secure digital transactions for ticketing machines, smooth 3D image rendering for CNC machines, streamline medical examination processes, and serve at poker tables in casinos.

The Smart Panel supports many I/O interfaces, including the likes of USB 2.0, I2C, 32 Function keys, audio control, power control, display ports, and connectivity options. Power supply supports 12V and 9-36V and is available through external isolated power modules or uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems.

Below are some of the device core features:

  • Intel Atom® x5-E3930/x7-E3950 processor
  • 5 points capacitive or 1 point 5-wire resistive touchscreens
  • External I/O: 1x DisplayPort, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 2x GbE ports, 2x COM port (RS232/422/485)
  • Internal I/O: 1x mPCIe slot, 1x USIM slot, 1x USB 2.0, 2x I2C, 1x 8 GPIO
  • Expansion I/O: Customized specifically by FM board
  • Storage options: 1x eMMC, 1x SATA, 1x M.22x 2W speaker, 1x Mic in /Line out
  • 2x 2W speaker, 1x Mic in /Line out
  • Front side IP65 protection

Modularization is one of the main priorities of the Smart panel, and the high level of modularization in the panel design provides optimal flexibility allowing users to choose from a range of options like CPU choice, I/O interface and display sizes depending on the users need. The SP-AL series appears to be available now, but no information about the pricing. More information may be found on Adlink’s SP-AL product page.

Vehicle Battery monitor on a automotive relay form factor

Jesus Echavarria has tipped us with his latest project. A car battery monitor in a Relay form Factor. Unfortunately only hardware details are given and no details on software. He writes:

Hi all! I’m really busy this year so I can’t post all the projects where I’m involved. Here’s one of the design I do last year for a client. He wants to measure the voltage of a car battery and set a couple of alarms when voltage falls below a defined values. Also, he wants to put the device in the relay box of the car, so the design needs to have a relay form factor to easy integration. So, after a couple of iterations, here’s the final design of the battery monitor.

The project start around a year ago. The client wants a device to integrate in the relay box of some vehicles to monitor the voltage of the battery (12V nominal value). He wants two alarms at two different voltages. The alarm output will activate other external relays for advertising the low level of the battery, so I use a couple of small SSR for this outputs. Also he wants to configure the time to enable / disable alarms: once the device detect a voltage lower or higher than configurated values, the device needs to wait some time (configurable) before actívate or desactivate the alarms.

Vehicle Battery monitor on a automotive relay form factor – [Link]

uStepper – Controlling Stepper Motor with ease

But what is uStepper?

In short, uStepper is a product, improving performance of a motor type called “stepper motors”. Stepper motors are used in a wide range of applications where you have to move something, a certain distance, precisely! For example, they are used in your inkjet printer for moving the ink cartridge back and forth over the paper. Stepper motors are precise and really cheap compared to the alternative, Servo motors.

There are one drawback of the steppers though – you actually can’t tell if they move to the position you tell it. If you try to block the path of the ink-jet head, while your printer is printing, it will not recover from this. The printer is rather dependent on the stepper operating with high precision so that you get something readable on your paper!

The same happens in most of the applications using stepper motors, including 3D printers where the type of steppers, which uStepper is designed for, are primarily used. What uStepper does, is that it removes this drawback by continuously monitoring where it is, and where it should be. Thus, uStepper can compensate if anything goes wrong – this is what we call operating with feedback.

uStepper both has the ability to drive the stepper motor, monitor position and has an onboard programmable microcontroller with a wide range of available inputs and outputs. All this is packed into a very small printed circuit board that fits right on the back of those small stepper motors (which are referred to as NEMA 17).

To make uStepper accessible for both professionals, hobbyists and students, it is compatible with the Arduino IDE. Here you can easily program your uStepper to do exactly what you need it to do!

Who is the target audience for uStepper?

As mentioned previously uStepper is Arduino based and addresses both students, hobbyists and the technician/engineer making for example a test-setups. We focus a lot on the educational sector and have made a product which we believe makes learning with Arduino a lot more fun! Besides the uStepper board, we have made an application example – the uStepper Robot Arm, which gives uStepper a new dimension and addresses the more advanced users. We have sold the uStepper and the uStepper Robot Arm to several Universities around the world, including Aalborg university where we still have a close bond to the professors and employees.

Where is uStepper today?

We started the company behind uStepper, ON Development, back in August 2015 and have since then sold around 2500 uStepper boards. During that time, we have continuously developed the code and applications for the product, and recently expanded our team by hiring an electronics engineering student from Aalborg University. Since 2015 a lot has happened on the market for electronic components, and we have therefore decided to launch a new line of uStepper boards which we will finance by the use of crowdfunding. The line of products will of course offer a uStepper board with improved performance on all parameters, a cheaper “lite” version and potentially a large and powerful version if we reach stretch goals in our campaign. The exact details of the new product line specifications will be disclosed at campaign launch !

We will launch the campaign on 15th of August 2018 – precisely 3 years after we founded ON Development IVS. We (both founders) graduated at Aalborg University one year ago and have alongside uStepper full time jobs as developers within hardware and embedded software.

Why crowdfunding again?

Crowdfunding is a funny thing where success is not necessarily coming to those that have the smartest product, but depends heavily on the publicity you get and the graphic material you provide on the campaign page. Non-the less, it’s a way which provides a good indicator of market potential and also makes it possible to finance the production of the first batches by pre-orders. The value of publicity provided by crowdfunding alone should not be underestimated either, and is exactly for these reasons that we chose to do yet another crowdfunding campaign.

If you want to know more about uStepper and maybe even support our campaign, visit www.ustepper.com where there will also be a link to the campaign page shortly!

Femtosecond Electronics With Plasmonic Hot Electron Nano-emitters

A team led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) physicists Alexander Holleitner and Reinhard Kienberger has found success for the first time in generating ultrashort electric pulses on a chip. They made this possible by using asymmetric metal antennas only a few nanometers in dimension, then running the signals a few millimeters above the surface and receiving them in a controlled way.

Traditional electronics allow frequencies up to around 100 GHz. Optoelectronics can produce electric pulses at 10 THz range by applying electromagnetic phenomenon. The range in between them is referred as the terahertz gap, since components for signal generation, conversion, and detection have been remarkably difficult to achieve.

The TUM physicists succeeded in generating electric pulses in the frequency range up to 10 THz using tiny, so-called plasmonic antennas and run them over a chip. Researchers call the antennas plasmonic because of their shape, they amplify the light intensity at the metal surfaces. The shape of these plasmonic antennas is very important. They are asymmetrical in shape. One side of the nanometer-sized metal structures is more pointed than the other. When a lens-focused laser pulse excites the antennas, they emit more electrons on their pointed side than on the opposite flat ones. An electric current flows between the contacts — but only as long as the antennas are excited with the laser light.

Femtosecond near-field coupling of NIR pulses to THz stripline modes
Femtosecond near-field coupling of NIR pulses to THz stripline modes

In photoemission, the light pulse causes electrons to be emitted from the metal into the vacuum,

explains Christoph Karnetzky, lead author of the Nature paper.

All the lighting effects are stronger on the sharp side, including the photoemission that we use to generate a small amount of current. The light pulses were present in only a few femtoseconds.

Correspondingly short were the electrical pulses in the antennas.  In this way, a femtosecond laser pulse with a frequency of 200 THz could generate an ultra-short THz signal with a frequency of up to 10 THz in the circuits on the chip, according to Karnetzky.

The researchers chose sapphire as the chip material, because it cannot be excited optically and, thus, causes no interference. With an eye on future applications, they used 1.5-micron wavelength lasers deployed in traditional internet fiber-optic cables. Holleitner and his colleagues also made yet another amazing observation that both the electrical and the THz pulses were non-linearly dependent on the excitation power of the laser used. This means that the photoemission in the antennas is triggered by the absorption of multiple photons per light pulse.

Alexander Holleitner said,

Such fast, nonlinear on-chip pulses did not exist hitherto

Utilizing this effect he hopes to discover even faster tunnel emission effects in the antennas and to use them for chip applications.

ATmega32U4-Based Synchronous MPPT Buck Solar Charger

You want to maximize the power output of your solar panel? Then you need a maximum power point tracking charge controller! Source files here.

Features:

  • Programmable with Arduino IDE
  • Input voltage: 15 – 22V
  • Output voltage: 1 – 14.4V
  • Simple MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar charge controller for 18V solar panels
  • Proper buck converter topology, which increases the current on the output side, not just PWM
  • SparkFun Pro Micro 5V, 16MHz or 3.3V, 8MHz (3.3V recommended, more efficient)
  • ACS712 current sensor (5A version) on the output side
  • Voltage dividers for voltage measurement on panel and output side
  • Two N-channel MOSFETs, driven by IR2104 half bridge driver, inductor (synchronous buck converter)
  • Supplied by the panel voltage, so it can’t drain your battery during the night
  • Working frequency 31.5kHz
  • WARNING! This device is not intended to drive 5V USB devices directly. Do it at your own risk!
  • Always use a regulated 5V USB adapter on the output! Otherwise, voltage glichtes may damage your USB device!
  • This controller is COMMON NEGATIVE
  • Three operation modes: MPPT, CV, CC
  • SD card data logger for time, voltage and current. You can import the txt files in Excel
  • WARNING! Always adjust output voltage and output current limits according to your battery type!!
  • Efficiency between 84% and 92% (excluding board supply current of about 75mA)

ATmega32U4-Based Synchronous MPPT Buck Solar Charger – [Link]

RELATED POSTS

Microchip’s MCP1640 – Super-Effective Battery Power

Designers working on line-powered systems are in luck…

Designers working on line-powered systems are in luck; whilst wasting power is always bad, a few mA of waste don’t really matter. When working on battery powered systems, every bit of energy helps – an efficient switching regulator can be helpful in various ways.

First of all, the holy grail of battery powered systems is connecting your electronics directly to the battery. Controllers with a wide input range can “float” around the battery voltage, thereby eliminating switching losses completely. Sadly, this is not always possible – LCD modules and various other elements demand fixed voltages or tight voltage ranges.

In this case, a highly efficient voltage regulator can be valuable. Microchip’s MCP1640 boasts with a 96% conversion rate, and furthermore it comes with a power-saving shutdown mode as shown in figure A.

Due to the high switching frequency – the PWM modules work at 500KhZ – the inductors required are small; their weight is comparable with that of SMD resistors, thereby ensuring “minimal grief” when used in surface-mount form factors. […continue reading]

UDOO BOLT, A Supercomputer with twice the Power of a MacBook Pro 13

One thing technology has taught us in the last few years, is the so-called powerful devices of yesterday, will not match the devices of today or tomorrow and this is something that is transcending in the hardware industry. Maker’s board have seen a drastic improvement ever since the first Arduino and the Rasberry Pi Single Board Computer were launched. Startups, makers, engineers and even the big corporations like Intel and Nvidia have all joined in improving the maker’s ecosystem with the launch of their own boards.

UDOO Bolt

Improvements will always keep coming and one board that is going to redefine the maker’s ecosystem is the newly crowdfunded UDOO Bolt. We have seen boards like the Pi 3, Asus TinkerBoard, Nvidia Jetson and other high-performance boards, but the UDOO Bolt brings a new authority to this space. A maker board that carries an exceptional punch – A supercomputer in a maker footprint.

UDOO, an Indie developer company has released a new maker board after the UDOO x86 Ultra, and the new board reached its funding target on Kickstarter within fours hours after launch. This does not come as a shock considering the specifications of the board. The 12cm by the 12cm board which is called UDDO BOLT is almost twice as powerful as the board used on a MacBook 13 pro. The UDOO BOLT is a quantum leap compared to current maker boards: a portable, breakthrough supercomputer that goes up to 3.6 GHz thanks to the brand-new AMD Ryzen™ Embedded V1000 SoC, a top-notch, multicore CPU with a mobile GPU on par with GTX 950M and an integrated Arduino™-compatible platform, all wrapped into one.

The first and most amazing feature considering the size of the board is the type of SoC (System on Chip) that comes with the board. The tiny maker PC comes with an AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000B SoC which has an integrated ‘Radeon Vega’ graphics processing unit on the chip. The GPU is super impressive for it supports triple A (AAA) video game experience, High dynamic range (HDR) that helps the camera to capture greater detail from both bright and dark areas of a photo, Radeon FreeSync 2 and you can stream videos at 4K resolution with a running rate at 60 frames per seconds (fps) on four screens simultaneously.

This brings us to the next feature; one can view videos on four screens due to the presence of two HDMI 2.0 ports and two USB C ports. Other ports include two USB 3.1 Type-A, a single audio jack, a Gigabyte Ethernet Jack, a 19V DC power input and the Arduino compatible pinout.

You must be wondering why there is an Arduino port, this is only because the board has the same pin functionality of Arduino Uno and is even better since it has up to 12 analog inputs instead of 6, 7 PWM pins and the internal USB connection can implement other functions than serial UART like MIDI or Keyboard. Building IOT tools just got easier for all robotic engineers with its Arduino-compatible platform, which has a complete IOs for the CPU and Arduino onboard. The best part is that one can work with sensors using the Arduino platform without soldering because the board comes with grove connectors.

The UDOO BOLT supports two different types of operating systems; it supports Linux and Windows which means a person can run any application or software using the board. Also, the board can be classified into two different types based on the GPU, one comes with an AMD Radeon Vega 3, and the other has AMD Radeon Vega 8. The starting price is $229, and shipping begins in December.

The UDOO Bolt should comfortably outswing the likes of the Nvidia Jetson TX2 in areas of computer vision and deep learning and the fact it supports Windows will also give it more leverage but this won’t be an easy fight though. A worthy comparison will be between the UDOO Bolt and the new NVIDIA Jetson Xavier.

If there is any board you want to buy now, then the UDOO bolt is a board you should go for.

CortexProg is a Cortex-M Programmer and Debugger

The ARM Cortex family of 32-bit RISC-based processors has emerged as the leading processor core in embedded designs due to its efficient architecture, robust and scalable instruction set, and extensive base of development tools and software. Cortex-M MCUs has been one of the most used microcontrollers for embedded systems and they have seen applications in various hardware products from wearables to IoT applications. The ARM Cortex-M series offers a range of scalable and compatible core options, from the ultra-low-power Cortex-M0+ to the top-of-the-range, high-performance Cortex-M7.

One significant advantage of the Cortex-M series over the other 32-bit microcontrollers or the 8-bit microcontroller like the Atmega 328P is it’s low cost and low power requirement. Despite their awesomeness, they still face some challenges especially in the aspect of development tools. Developers and engineers tend to use different tools for microcontroller flashing and also debugging which not only increase the cost of development but also waste valuable time.

The CortexProg

Using different ARM chips from some different manufacturers, users will tend to have different programmers because of the different programming by manufactures. Dmitry Grinberg wants to solve this with the CortexProg, a universal programmer of the Arm Cortex-M series.

CortexProg is meant to be a debugger for all Cortex-M microcontrollers. When users are looking into the possibility of reverse-engineering a device, creating new designs, debugging embedded and cortex-m microcontrollers, programming individual boards or on a production line, and other makers exploits, CortexProg might just come in very handy unlike using several tools for those purposes.

The quest of building the CortexProg is not something that just started from this year according to Dmitry. Dmitry wanted to create a generic Cortex-M debugger out of everyday components a maker can find around. The first prototype was based around an AVR ATTiny85 using the ModulaR bootloader. It provided support for an HID-based communications protocol to a PC and firmware updates. It could only debug 3.3V targets, and rather slowly at that.

First working CortexProg

The first prototype based around a V-USB setup is actually open-source for anyone interested in building one. Of course, don’t expect the same performance as the current version and it comes with an upload speed of about 800 bytes per second.

CortexProg can read data from a microcontroller, write data into it, program flash, provide live tracing for printf-style debugging (ZeroWireTrace), and even allow complete GDB debugging. The PC-side tool uses the HID transport to not need any drivers on any of the supported OSs: Linux, Windows, MacOS. The tool source is also available, so you can build yourself a copy for whatever other esoteric environments you might desire to run it on. CortexProg is the complete solution for all your ARM Cortex-M debuggng and programming needs.

Dmitry is currently running a crowdfunding campaign for the device on Kickstarter. Backing the crowdfunding campaign at the $25 level will get you a CortexProg board. It is estimated the boards will be ready for shipment starting at November.