WattUp – RF based Wireless Charging at a Distance

WattUp Far Field Transmitter

Recently, many big companies such as Samsung have developed wireless chargers which work by induction. These chargers usually consist of a station which needs to be in contact with the device in order to charge. The station defeats the purpose of being able to move and walk while still charging the device. Energeous, a global leader in RF- based wireless charging, created the award-winning device WattUp in order to give mobile power to everyone.

The WattUp transmitter converts electricity into radio frequencies, then beams the energy to nearby devices that have the right receiving equipment. This system has proved to be more practical than induction since it can work from up to 3 feet away. Energeous wants to make a wire free charging ecosystem by taking into advantage the fact that the transmitter can charge multiple devices at a time, and as WIFI it would be able to charge your phone even if you are Samsung and the transmitter is Apple. All kind of devices can be charged using WattUp including (but not limited to) cameras, smartphones, tablets, wearables, and toys.

The receiver uses multiples antennas to collect the micro energy beams created by the transmitter (which makes it safe because power is received in small amounts). There is also an application available in which you can control the devices that are receiving power, how much power for each one, and even what times you want it charging. For example, you can prioritize cellphone charging in peak hours of use and leave other electronics to charge at night just with the click of a button.

The WattUp has already been FCC (federal communications commission) approved, and Energeous offers a variety of prices depending on the range of the transmitter, but it is still not available in the market. The company will be in CES 2018 showing their product, this event will take place on January 9th– 12th in Las Vegas.

Wireless charging not only benefits consumers, but also offers real benefits in terms of efficiency, productivity, and safety in industrial applications. Moreover, cables require maintenance and are easily damaged which makes them unreliable and expensive to maintain. In hospitals there is a constant need for big equipment that uses battery packs or cables, but to maintain a sterile environment WattUp could be a good alternative. Furthermore, in the future this technology could be used to power electric cars avoiding the need for charging every 10 to 40 miles.

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Cars getting into the customizable IOT game with AutoPi

AutoPi.io Dongle

Automotive industry has noticed the growing trend of internet of things and used it as a business opportunity for connecting their cars. By 2020, 381 million cars are expected to be on the road. Even when you can buy a IOT car there are few or none customization opportunities which is what differentiates AutoPi from other systems. A group of software developers created a device called AutoPi dongle based on Raspberry Pi which allows the user to fully customize their car which could change the way you drive.

Autopi is built on RSA and AES encryption to ensure total security and efficiency. The infrastructure is based on SaltSack and the device is based on the Raspberry Pi. The AutoPi dongle has WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth, HDMI out, 3G/4G connectivity, USB, accelerometer and much more. Additionally, they created the AutoPi cloud which allows remote monitoring, alerts, triggers etc.

Any external device can be connected to the AutoPi dongle to achieve much more. Some projects that have already been implemented include crash detection, collision prevent assistant, theft detection, parental control and video evidence recording. With the GPS and the historic trip widget included in the software you can know where your car was at any time.

It’s a perfect device for young new drivers and their worried parents who want to keep track of their kid’s speed, use of seatbelt etc. using a variety of sensors, all this information could be accessed remotely. Also, during summer the is nothing worse than getting into a car that has been left out in the sun. Hot weather can also shorten your battery’s usable life, and it’s a hazard for pets left in the car. Heat monitoring can detect the temperature and lower the windows slightly to prevent the temperature from rising too high, or during winter the car could be heated before you arrive. You can trigger an internal system, an external system, and an externally connected system in order to bring your projects to life.

For 94,5 € you can get the DIY edition, for 189 € the WIFI only edition, and 4G for 247,5 €. In the webpage you can also get the Raspberry Pi 3 adapter. The price is still a bit too high for a car accessory, but when you think about the possibilities and the improvement in your car and your lifestyle it is not that expensive.

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Arduino Nokia 5110 Tutorial #2- Displaying Customized Graphics

In one of our previous tutorials we did an introduction on how to use the Nokia 5110 LCD  with the Arduino, the tutorial covered displaying texts with different fonts etc. For this tutorial, we are taking things a little bit further and will be working through the display of customized graphics on the Nokia 5110 LCD display. This tutorial will particularly be useful for those who want to display their brand logo or any other kind of image on the LCD asides ordinary texts.

Arduino Nokia 5110 Tutorial #2- Displaying Customized Graphics – [Link]

Improving Wearables with Flexible and Rechargable Battery

The stretchable batteries were printed on fabric for this demonstration. They make up the word NANO on the shirt and are powering a green LED that is lit in this picture. (Image courtesy of Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego.)

Nowadays, there is a lot of technology that implements wearables in fashion, medicine, worker safety, accessories and much more. Many wearables are coupled with uncomfortable charging cables that are irritating for users to handle, some even have big batteries that make wearables a burden instead of an advantage. Statistics show that people tend to abandon this devices after only 6 months of buying them, and battery life and portability is one of the issues. Addressing portability, the nanoengineers at the university of California San Diego have developed a new material that allows the creation of flexible, stretchable, and rechargeable batteries which can be printed into clothes.

This material named SIS can be expanded twice its size in any direction without any damage. SIS is made from a hyper elastic polymer material made from isoprene and polystyrene. The ink used to print the batteries is made with Zinc silver oxide with bismuth (to make it rechargeable). The whole flexible battery is made from both SIS and the ink.  When zinc battery runs out, their electrodes react with the liquid electrolyte inside the battery which eventually shorts circuits the battery, bismuth prevents this from happening and ensures battery durability.

The prototype has 1/5 the capacity of a hearing aid rechargeable battery and it´s 1/10 as thick. It costs only $0.5 USD to produce and uses commercially available materials which makes it cheaper and smaller, but not as efficient as a common wearable battery. Two of these batteries are needed to power a 3 v LED, so a lot of them would be needed to power a bigger device.

The engineers are working towards improving performance to make them a good choice for wearable developers. They also want to extend their work towards lithium ion batteries, supercapacitor, and photovoltaic cells. Commercially, the short-term objective is to replace coin batteries for printable batteries which have a competitive price.

When performance is improved these batteries could power all kind of wearables for medical purposes such as shirts that can detects fever, or glucose sensor in diabetic patients. Also, for recreational purposes such as a sweatshirt with LEDs to run during night, or a shirts that detects movement and helps you with your movements while playing golf. Engineers for this project should consider implementing wireless charging to make it even more comfortable for the user by ending the need of cables and small connectors which are a nightmare for most of the people.

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Pressure Sensor of the Future, Today

Flexible and transparent pressure sensor

Pressure sensors are used today in many fields, such as automotive industry, touch screen devices, aviation and biomedical instrumentation, many of these applications require precise and accurate measures. Many times, this can not be achieved because of the limitations of the sensors such as the inability to measure on round surfaces (if they are twisted or wrinkled). To solve this problem a transparent and bendable nanofiber sensor was developed.

The sensor contains organic transistors and electronic switches which are made from carbon and oxygen based materials, this makes the sensor capable of bending over a radius of 80 millimeters, measuring in 144 locations simultaneously. It is only around 8 micrometers thick, and it’s not sensitive to distortion.

Additionally, the pressure sensor is transparent and small, so it can be incorporated in wearables and implants. Wearables have been developed to shorten hospitals visits, to keep track of chronic diseases and for older citizens who do not want to live in assisted living facilities. Wearable technologies are capable of sensing different parameters of various diseases and transfer the data to a health center or directly to the patient, so they can take actions regarding their health. This technology improves the life quality of many patients, and can stay on for really long periods of time. Also, the main objective of wearables is to go unnoticed by both the patient and other people which is why the developed pressure sensor needs to be capable of bending, and adapting to a person´s constant moves.

Many applications have arisen from this project. For example, this device could allow breast tumor detection avoiding uncomfortable mammographs, and invasive biopsies. Also, it can be used to detect pressure and speed of blood allowing easy and superficial examination and diagnosis. Woman could now be cancer tested from home, and people who suffer from cardiac or blood pressure diseases could now be monitored away from the hospital.

The flexible nanofiber was created by combining carbon nanotubes, graphene and elastic polymers which makes the sensor really accurate even when stretched and deformed. Many companies are developing sensors with the same capabilities, but this is the first one which is not sensitive to distortion. Even though the researchers are only looking toward improving biomedical industry, the applications for this pressure sensor could be expanded to many industries. There is still a long way to go to achieve this objective, but this sensor is the first step, and health industry its a great place to start.

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Nano Pi Fire supports Android and Linux

Nano Pi Fire2A

A bunch of interesting Single-Board Computers (SBCs) have been designed to be a RaspberryPi alternative, but these nice NanoPi SBC’s are equipped to operate with Debian 8.1 and Android 5.1. They are based on Samsung ARM (Advanced Risk Machine) processors, or more clearly they are entire computers built on small piece of board using Samsung SoC (system of a chip).

These guys are the NanoPi Fire2A and the NanoPi Fire3, open-source projects released by FriendlyElect. The Fire2A uses a QuadCore processor running at 1.4Ghz accompanied with 512MB DDR3 memory Ram and the NanoPi Fire3 comes with a OctaCore processor also running at 1.4Ghz but with 1Gb Ram.

Nano Pi Fire3

Altought, the Fire3 version has a better RAM memory and processor than the NanoPi Fire2A, they share the same design and features including the new Ubuntu Core-based FriendlyCore distro to work with.

The two new boards ship with schematics, and offer the same community support provided by all NanoPi boards. Debian images are available for both systems, and although the NanoPi Fire2A wiki mentions Android compatibility, an Android image is available only for the NanoPi Fire3, probably due to the NanoPi Fire2A’s limited 512MB of RAM.

Fire3 supports Android 5.1

Features.

  • Processor:
    • NanoPi Fire2A — Samsung S5P4418 (4x Cortex-A9 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz); 3D GPU
    • NanoPi Fire3 — Samsung S5P6818 (8x Cortex-A53 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz); Mali-400 MP GPU
  • Memory/storage — 512MB (Fire2A) or 1GB (Fire3) DDR3; microSD slot
  • Display/multimedia:
    • Micro-HDMI 1.4a port
    • LCD interface with full-color RGB 8-8-8
    • DVP camera interface (includes ITU-R BT 601/656 8-bit, I2C, and I/O
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211E)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 port
    • Micro-USB port with data and power support
    • Debug/serial interface
    • 40-pin RPi-compatible expansion interface with UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, I/O etc.
  • Other features — RTC with battery backup; 2x LEDs; power and reset buttons; optional heatsink, capacitive touchscreens, and camera
  • Power — 5V/2A via micro-USB; PMIC (Cortex-M0 MCU)
  • Dimensions — 75 x 40mm
  • Operating system — Debian; Android (image only for Fire3); FriendlyCore (based on Ubuntu Core 16.04)

The NanoPi Fire2A and the NanoPi Fire2A give LCD and DVP camera interfaces, a debug/serial interface, and a Raspberry Pi compatible 40-pin expansion interface. The 5V board also provides a power management chip with dynamic voltage control and an RTC (Real Time Clock) with battery backup. The heatsink, camera module, and touchscreens are optional.

Further Information. 

NanoPi Fire2A is available for $28, and the NanoPi Fire3 is available for $35, plus shipping. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Fire2A product page and wiki and NanoPi Fire3 product page and wiki, as well as the FriendlyARM GitHub page.

Flexipower – A portable, Controllable, Dual Channel Power Supply

Hobbyists, makers, students and pretty much everyone who works with electronics has encountered the same issue, not having a handy power supply to test their projects. Usually, controllable power supplies are big, expensive and for some people difficult to access, and most small power supplies are not controllable. As a result, Roberto Lo Giacco created Flexipower, a small, portable, flexible, and remotely controllable dual channel power supply.

Flexipower is controlled via a mobile application and its battery operated. It can work up to a voltage of 20 V and a current of 1 A (per channel). Power supply is powered by two cell Li-Ion or Li-Poly batteries which provide 8.4 v when fully charged, to reach higher voltages the battery is fed into a voltage step up circuit, and to get lower voltages the battery is fed into a high current linear voltage regulator. Also, a simple voltage divider along with the 10-bit ADC is used to measure the produced voltage, and adjust accordingly.

Current measuring is done through a 1 Ohm shunt resistor network made by ten 10 Ohm resistors in parallel which results in 1 mV voltage drop per mA. In the case of currents lower than 320mA, the integrated circuit INA219 is used to obtain a very precise reading. When the supplied current goes above the capacity of the INA219 the shunt resistor voltage drop is measured using the 10 bit ADC.

As mentioned before, Flexipower uses 2 rechargeable batteries that are charged via a barrel jack connecting a 12 V source capable of around 1 A. An RGB LED is used to inform the user about the status of the device (power on, battery warning, connection status etc.). The LED is also used to indicate the battery status. Additionally, each channel has a green/red LED to indicate if it is enabled (green), or over current (yellow).

Furthermore, the device can create “Flexipower SSID”, an access point for people to connect and control the power supply. The app was created to avoid using a big LCD screen with limited data logging capabilities. The app allows control, unlimited data logging and visualization just with the use of a smartphone.

For complete specifications, list of materials used, schematics and app download go to official website. The creator always tried to minimize components costs while still providing a lot of capabilities. It still can be improved, but it’s a project that could make the life of people easier. Its important to clarify that this device is not a replacement for benchtop power supplies, but for portability is a great option.

Chirp Microsystem Made The Smallest And Most Accurate Ultrasonic Time-of-Flight Sensors

Recently Californian startup Chirp Microsystems officially announced two discrete ultrasonic Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors, the CH-101 and CH-201, with maximum sensing ranges of 1m and 5m, respectively. Both chips have a 3.5×3.5mm package and they are powered by same ASIC or application-specific integrated circuit for signal processing. To achieve different sensing ranges, the Piezoelectric Micro-machined Ultrasonic Transducers (PMUT), the MEMS parts of the sensors are tuned and built differently.

Chirp Microsystem designed smallest and most accurate ultrasonic Time-of-Flight sensors

Chirp Microsystems was founded in 2013 and the CH-101 is their 2nd generation design while the CH-201 is an upgraded third generation design. Their 4th generation design of chips is under development and prototypes are being tested recently. Chirp Microsystems declares that with each design so far, they’ve improved their transmitter and receiver performance by 4 times. David Horsley, Chirp Microsystems’ CTO, told,

In fact, we have been sampling the CH101 for two years now and we realized we had never made a product announcement for it.

According to Chirp Microsystems, the chips are the first commercially available MEMS-based ultrasonic ToF sensors and can beat all other ToF solutions on the small size and low power consumption. The “Sonars on a chip” draw 100 times less power and are a thousand times smaller than the conventional ultrasonic rangefinders used in today’s industrial automotive applications. Unlike infrared based ToF sensors, these new MEMS sensors do not rely on optical path clearance. So, it’s now easier for engineers to design bezel-free smartphones with precise gesture recognition.

The CH-101 and CH-201 include an interrupt pin and a GIO pin. That pin is used in hardware trigger mode to connect several transducers on the same I2C bus so they can operate in a synchronous fashion. For Virtual Reality applications, data from multiple chips are mixed to detect the position of user’s hand in 3D space.

Previously the California based startup also made monolithic linear arrays that had ten transducers in a row. Using that design, one can perform beamforming and identify both range and position of an object. Though they stayed away from commercializing it. “We didn’t want to bite too much at a time” – said the CTO of the startup. Rather they decided to focus on solving various manufacturing and packaging issues first. Horsley, the CTO of the Chirp Microsystems, also added,

We are pioneers in this area, and we are not close to the optimum yet, we still have a lot of design space to improve the specs.

MATRIX Voice: Open-Source Voice Recognition

MATRIX Voice is a”Voice Recognition” development board, designed for the Raspberry Pi or Stand-alone with ESP32 (WiFi/BT/MCU)

MATRIX Voice is an open-source VOICE RECOGNITION platform consisting of a 3.14-inches in diameter dev board, with a radial array of 7 MEMS microphones connected to a Xilinx Spartan6 FPGA & 64 Mbit SDRAM with 18 RGBW LED’s & 64 GPIO pins. Providing developers the opportunity to integrate custom voice & hardware-accelerated machine learning technology right onto the silicon. An ESP32 Wi-Fi / BT enabled 32 bit microcontroller version is available. It’s for makers, industrial and home IoT engineers.

The project is already funded on indiegogo.com and shipping begins next week.