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]

Solr: Digital Wrist Watch Calculates time from Sun Position

Time can be calculated using the azimuth of the sun (aka solar time). Based on this idea, Tinkerman has built an unusual project called Solr. The concept is to translate the position of the sun into time presented on a vintage display. This new digital watch is freak enough to work only with a battery and the sun. The battery is needed to power the electronic parts and the sun is needed to calibrate the shadow of a screw with a reference line to calculate the time digitally using a digital compass.

Solr watch in action

The PCB has a white line and all you have to do is to align the shadow of the screw to it. The science behind this project rely on the fact that a change of 1 degree in longitude equals to 4 minutes. So, as the day is passing the orientation you need to follow to make the shadow align with the white line increases and therefore the time can be calculated. HMC5883L ( 3-axis digital magnetometer) is used to determine the orientation. This chunk of code in Solr’s repo makes the method used to calculate the time very clear.

The firmware (written in Arduino C) behind this project has three main tasks:

  1. Calibrating the HMC5883L, and the calibration procedure is explained in the HMC5883L datasheet.
  2. Calculate the time according to the bearing of the circuit.
  3. Display on HP QDSP-6064 display.

HP QDSP-6064 display

The PCB is assembled using the assembling service (PCBA) from Seeedstudio and designed using Eagle CAD. You can download the source files from here.

 

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XBEE X V2 FPV Racing Drone Kit

XBEE, the FPV racing drones manufacturer, had produced recently its new racing frame “XBEE X V2” for $75. It is a follow-up to the previous model “The XB-X Mk2” and it is a quad drone frame with a camera on its body. X V2 is designed with Wheelbase 220mm size guide.

First-person view (FPV) is also known as video piloting. Using this technique you can control a radio-controlled vehicle from the driver or pilot’s view point. The vehicle is either driven or piloted remotely from a first-person perspective via an onboard camera, fed wirelessly to video FPV goggles or a video monitor.

V2 Features:

  • Full Carbon Fiber.
  • 2mm Bottom Plate, 2mm Top Plate and 4mm arms
  • Matek PDB include(PDB-XPW W/ CURRENT SENSOR 140A & DUAL BEC)
  • Black steel screws(option titanium screws)
  • Transmitter mount include
  • weight : 79g

To build a full drone with the V2 frame you will need these parts with a total budget of about $450:

This video by X-FramesFPV will show you how to build XBEE X V2:

You can also follow this guide for detailed instructions of a full build of V2.

YouTube channel IoT view counter

Kenneth Finnegan built this YouTube channel IoT view counter. He writes:

I’ve wanted an Internet connected read-out for some time now, inspired by the awesome shadow box IoT projects Becky Stern has been doing (weather, YouTube subscribers). I’m certainly not to the same level of packaging as her yet, but I’ve got a functional display working with a Hazzah and an eBay seven segment display module.

YouTube channel IoT view counter – [Link]