White Paper: Cut the Cord with Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Providing AC power to each device individually is an extra cost especially for organizations when installing IP cameras, VoIP phones or network access switches and routers in the facilities. To help in this way some modern protocols, like USB and Ethernet, provide the power over the same data cable. However, USB is not designed for networking and long distance network applications. Besides that, the 900 mA at 5V in USB 3.0 is suitable for low-power devices like external hard disks but can’t provide enough power for high-power devices like switches and other network instruments. For these reasons, PoE (Power over Ethernet) can be the best choice.

CAT-5/5e twisted-pair Ethernet cable. Image courtesy of: CableOrganizer

PoE can provide power up to 30W beside data connectivity on any standard CAT-5/5e twisted-pair Ethernet cable, and supports 10Base-T, 100Base-T, 100Base-TX, and 1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

The LEX Computech 3I390NX Series

As an example of an SCB (Single Computer Board) that provides PoE on its ports is a board called 3I390NX from LEX COMPUTECH which is based on the latest Intel Pentium Processor N4200/ N3350/E3950 Apollo Lake processor family. The Ethernet ports are provided by the Intel Ethernet controller i1211-AT.

3I390NX SCB features are:

  • Intel Apollo Lake N4200/N3350/E3950 CPU/chipset.
  • On Board 4GB DDR3L.
  • Display: HDMI, DP, VGA & eDP.
  • 5 x GbE (4 x PoE) LAN.
  • 2 x Mini PCIe.
  • 6 x USB.
  • HD Audio.
  • 2 x COM (1 x RS232 / 422 / 485 port (external), 1 x RS232 / 422 / 485 port (internal)).
  • Hardware digital Input & Output, 8 x DI / 8 x DO.

To know more about this SCB you can preview the full white paper published on IEEE Spectrum, or download it directly from here.

Renesas Electronics Achieves Lowest Embedded SRAM Power of 13.7 nW/Mbit

Renesas Electronics Corporation announced the successful development of a new low-power SRAM circuit technology that achieves a record ultra-low power consumption of 13.7 nW/Mbit in standby mode. The prototype SRAM also achieves a high-speed readout time of 1.8 ns during active operation. Renesas Electronics applied its 65nm node silicon on thin buried oxide (SOTB) process to develop this record-creating SRAM prototype.

Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure
Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure

This new low-power SRAM circuit technology can be embedded in application specific standard products (ASSPs) for Internet of Things (IoT), home electronics, and healthcare applications. The fast growth of IoT is requiring all the devices be connected to a wireless network all the time. Hence, products must consume less power to prolong battery life. With this new technology applied, much longer battery life can be achieved enabling maintenance-free applications.

One essential part of the development of IoT applications is the miniaturization of end products. This can be achieved by lowering battery capacity requirement of ASSPs. As an effort to reduce the power consumption in ASSPs for the IoT, there is a technique in which the application is operated in the standby mode and only goes to the active mode when data processing is required.

Now, the conventional way of saving power is to store all important data to an internal/external non-volatile memory and cut off the power supply to the circuit. If the wait time is long enough, this method is effective. But in most of the cases, the device has to switch between standby mode and active mode very quickly causing data-saving and restarting process extremely inefficient. There are even cases where, inversely, this increases power consumption.

In contrary to above, the new technology by Renesas Electronics uses a method where power consumption in standby mode is reduced a lot enabling switching operation to be performed frequently without leading to increased power consumption. Hence, it’s no more required to save data to non-volatile memory. This improves the efficiency further.

The low-power embedded SRAM which is fabricated using the 65 nm SOTB process, achieves both the low standby mode power consumption and increased operating speed.  Such features were difficult to achieve with the continuing progress of the semiconductor process miniaturization.  Renesas plans to support both energy harvesting operation and development of maintenance free IoT applications that do not require battery replacement by enabling ASSPs that adopt the embedded SRAM with SOTB structure.

To learn about all the complex technical information which is not covered in the scope of this article, visit the press release page of Renesas Electronics.

Quantum Internet Is Coming!

Secure and unhackable Internet is a goal of many researchers around the world. This is possible using an invisible quantum physical connections as networking links known as “quantum entanglement“. The main challenge is building  large networks that share entangled links with many particles and network nodes, because adding a node will weak the entanglement.

Researchers from Delft and Oxford have successfully found a way to form a strong entangled link. Their solution relays on merging multiple weaker quantum links into one to build a trustworthy quantum network between several quantum nodes.

The research group in known for its effort on implementing quantum entanglement to realize networking links. Now, they are working to pave the way for constructing the first quantum internet. They used photons to reach up to one kilometer macroscopic distance of quantum information link. They also show that this type of link is safe because the entanglement is invisible to intermediate parties, and the information is safe against eavesdropping.

We could now entangle electrons in additional quantum nodes such that we can extend the number of networking links towards a first real quantum network. Scientifically, a whole new world opens up. In five years we will connect four Dutch cities in a rudimentary quantum network.
– Ronald Hanson, The research group leader

This video demonstrates the new method and how it works:

The research paper was published in Science magazine, you can read it for more information.

Sources: TUDelft, elektor.

Next-generation Bluetooth Low Energy SoC from ST

Graham Prophet @ eedesignnewseurope.com introduces BlueNRG-2, the latest BLE solution from ST. He writes:
Introducing its latest-generation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) System-on-Chip, ST Microelectronics highlights low power, small size, and high performance to enable widespread deployment of energy-conscious, space-constrained applications with BLE connectivity. The device provides state-of-the-art security and is Bluetooth 5.0-certified
Next-generation Bluetooth Low Energy SoC from ST – [Link]

High Voltage-Current Half Bridge Driver Using IR2153 & IGBT

IGBT based half bridge board has been designed for multiple applications, like induction heater driver, tesla coil driver, DC-DC converters, SMPS etc. High current and high voltage IGBTs are used to serve high power requirements.

IGBT NGTB40N120FL2WG from ON semi and IR2153 from Infineon semiconductor are important parts of the circuit, IR2153 is a gate driver IC including inbuilt oscillator, 40A/1200V IGBT can handle large current. Gate driver circuit works with 15V DC and load supply 60V DC to 400V DC.

High Voltage-Current Half Bridge Driver Using IR2153 & IGBT – [Link]

Bluey, BLE Development Board Supports NFC

Development boards are assistant tools that help engineers and enthusiasts to become familiarized with hardware development. They simplify the process of controlling and programming hardware, such as microcontrollers and microprocessors.

Electronut Labs, an embedded systems consulting company, had produced its new BLE development board “Bluey” with a set of useful sensors and NFC support.

Bluey is an open source board that features the Nordic nRF52832 SoC which supports BLE and other proprietary wireless protocols. Bluey has built-in sensors that include temperature, humidity, ambient light and accelerometer sensors. Also, it supports NFC and comes with a built-in NFC PCB antenna.

The nRF52832 SoC is a powerful, ultra-low power multiprotocol SoC suited for Bluetooth Low Energy, ANT and 2.4GHz ultra low-power wireless applications. It is built around a 32-bit ARM Cortex™-M4F CPU with 512kB + 64kB RAM.

Bluey Specifications:

  • Nordic nRF52832 QFAA BLE SoC (512k Flash / 64k RAM)
  • TI HDC1010 Temperature/Humidity sensor
  • APDS-9300-020 ambient light sensor
  • ST Micro LSM6DS3 accelerometer
  • CREE RGB LED
  • CP2104 USB interface
  • 2 push buttons
  • Coin cell holder
  • Micro SD slot
  • 2.4 GHz PCB antenna
  • NFC PCB antenna

Bluey can be programmed using the Nordic nRF5 SDK. You can upload the code with an external programmer such as the Nordic nRF52-DK, or the Black Magic Probe firmware on STM32F103 breakout. But, within the built-in OTA (over the air) bootloader, you can upload the code directly using a PC or a phone.

The sensors on the board require a minimum of 2.7 volts to function properly, and the maximum power is 6 volts. Bluey’s design offers three different ways to power it, all of them have a polarity protection:

  1. Using the 5V micro USB connector (which also gives you the option to print debug messages via UART).
  2. The + / – power supply pins which can take regular 2.54 mm header pins, a JST connector for a 3.7 V LiPo battery, or a 3.5 mm terminal block.
  3. A CR2032 coin cell for low power applications.

You can use Bluey for a wide range of projects. The BLE part is ideal for IoT projects, or if you want to control something with your phone. The nRF52832 SoC has a powerful ARM Cortex-M4F CPU, so you can use this board for general purpose microcontroller projects as well.

Bluey is available for $29 for international customers from Tindie store. Indian customers can purchase it from Instamojo store. There are also discounts for bulk purchases. For more information about the board visit its github repository, where you will find a full guide to start and a bunch of demo projects.

Cell Phone Can Make Calls Without a Battery

Vamsi Talla at the University of Washington in Seattle build a mobile phone that can rely only on energy that it could harvest from its surroundings. Imagine if you can send SMS or make a call when you are out of battery. That’s what’s the team trying to achieve.

Ambient light can be turned into a trickle of electricity with solar panels or photodiodes. Radio-frequency TV and Wi-Fi broadcasts can be converted into energy using an antenna. A hybrid system using both technologies might generate a few tens of microwatts.

Cell Phone Can Make Calls Without a Battery – [Link]

Are Today’s MCUs Overdesigned? A Research Team Has The Answer

MCUs are called microcontrollers because they embed a CPU, memory and I/O units in one package. Apparently, today’s MCUs are full of peripherals and in most cases they are not used in the application, and from an engineering point of view this is a waste of money and energy, but on the other hand, for developers and consumers it’s about programmability and flexibility.

Rakesh Kumar a University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor and John Sartori a University of Minnesota assistant professor tried to prove that processors are overdesigned for most applications.

Kumar and his colleagues did 15 ordinary MCU applications using openMSP430 microcontroller with bare metal and RTOS approach (both are tested in their study). Surprisingly, the results showed that all of these applications needed no more than 60 percent of the gates. Therefore, smaller MCUs can be used (cheaper and less power consuming). As stated by Sartori, “a lot of logic that can be completely eliminated, and the software still works perfectly”.

Bespoke Processor research results
Image courtesy by: University of Illinois/ACM

In the image above the analysis of unused gates for two applications: Interpolation FIR filter and Scrambled Interpolation FIR. The red dots are the used gates and gray ones are the not used ones.

The research team called the optimum MCU the “Bespoke Processor”, and described the process “like a black box. Input the app, and it outputs the processor design.” says Kumar.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Banana Pi BPI-M2 Berry, A Quad Core Single-Board Computer

Raspberry Pi is a powerful on-board computer series launched few years ago. Many similar boards appeared providing cheaper price or more features. The Chinese company “SinoVoIP” is manufacturing its own board “Banana Pi“, and recently they unveiled a new board that is similar to Raspberry Pi 3 and called “BPI-M2 Berry“.

The BPi Berry features the Allwinner R40 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU giving it the same power of Raspberry Pi 2 version 1.0. It is similar to the BPi M2 Ultra that was released a few months back, but with 1 GB DDR3 SRAM instead of 2 GB and without eMMC Flash Memory. BPi Berry has a different size of other BPi boards, making it the first RPi size-compatible BPi with the same size and connector placement as the RPi3.

Banana Pi BPI-M2 Berry specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner V40 quad Core ARM Cortex A7 processor with ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1G DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – micro SD slot, SATA interface
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212 module)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 port up to 1080p60, 4-lane MIPI DSI display connector
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, built-in microphone
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – CSI camera connector
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with GPIOs, I2C, SPI, UART, ID EEPROM, 5V, 3.3V, GND signals.
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART for serial console
  • Misc – Reset, power, and u-boot buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port; AXP221s PMIC
  • Dimensions – 85mm x 56mm

Compared with RPi3, BPi Berry adds a SATA port that allows the connection of an external hard disk or DVD/CDROM drive, which is convenient for applications that require lots of storage or faster throughput compared to USB memory sticks. Also there are differences in camera and display connectors, they are in the same place but with different sizes and the SD card slot is wider too.

BPi M2 Berry is available for about $45. For more details about the board visit the official announcement and take a look at this review on elektor.

How to Route Differential Pairs

Sam Sattel @ autodesk.com discuss about the benefits of differential signals and how to route them in Eagle.

If you’re designing a high speed PCB, then chances are you’re working with the latest and most powerful technologies, like HDMI, USB3.0, Ethernet, or DDR. But with great power comes great responsibility! As a result, you’ll likely be dealing with issues like electromagnetic interference (EMI) and noise.

So what do you do about these problems? When you’ve got a bunch of noisy signals on your board and you need a way to protect the transmission of your data then you need to be using differential pairs. In this blog we’ll be looking at all of the great benefits for using differential pairs in your high speed design project, and how to route them in Autodesk EAGLE.

How to Route Differential Pairs – [Link]