$6 Maker UNO: Simplifying Arduino for Education

Simplified Arduino board targets Education. The project is live at kickstarter and has 22 days to go.

Students can skip the hassle of constructing the basic electronic circuit which is boring and time consuming. Although it is equally important for them to learn about basic electronics, it can always come later after they have experienced how easy it is to create awesome project. Start with fun and excitement. Start coding right away and see your board lights up and plays melody with the press of a button.

With the conventional Arduino boards, students also face another common problem – difficulty in troubleshooting their circuit. This is because when it doesn’t work, we do not know whether the problem is due to wire connection or coding.

$6 Maker UNO: Simplifying Arduino for Education – [Link]

Air Quality Analyzer

This is a project that analyses home air quality and records the values in a SD card.

The quality of the air that we breathe, is very important to our health. This device analyses the air quality inside our homes, and records the values in a SD card. By analyzing the stored values, we know how the evolution of the parameters thru time was.

I will use temperature, humidity and air quality sensors that are cheap enough to use in this kind of project, without sacrificing too much the precision. The main idea behind this project is to know if the air is breathable or not.

Air Quality Analyzer – [Link]

Google Bristlecone, The Race To Quantum Supremacy

On Monday, March 05, 2018, research scientists from the Google Quantum Al lab whose goal is to build a quantum computer that can be used to solve real-world problems, presented their latest quantum processor called Bristlecone at the annual American Physical Society meeting in Los Angeles.

Qubits or quantum bits are merely the quantum analogue of classical binary bits. Two of the most critical challenges researchers face in their journey to achieve quantum supremacies are error rules and subsequent scalability, this is because qubits are unstable and can be unfavorably affected by noise and can only maintain one state for less for one hundred of microseconds.

Researchers from Google have calculated that a system with 49 quantum bits, a circuit depth exceeding 40 and a two-qubit error below 0.5 percent can “comfortably demonstrate” quantum supremacy. Quantum supremacy is the point where quantum computers can run certain algorithms faster than a classical computer ever could. This has been the dream of many major tech startups and companies including Microsoft, IBM, and Intel.

Bristlecone is Google’s newest quantum processor

Every Bristlecone chip has 72 qubits which might significantly reduce the error rates associated with qubits; however, Google believes quantum computing is not all about qubits. The research team further backed this belief with what they wrote in a blog post:

Operating a device such as a Bristlecone at low system error requires harmony between a full stack of technology ranging from software and control electronics to the processor itself.

The guiding design principle for Bristlecone is to preserve the underlying physics of Google’s previous 9-qubit linear array technology which demonstrated low error rates for readout single-qubit gates to 0.1 percent and most importantly two-qubit gates to 0.6 percent as its best result. This device uses the same scheme for coupling, control, and readout, but is now scaled to a square array of 72 qubits. Therefore they chose a device of moderate size to be able to demonstrate quantum supremacy in the future, first investigate and secondly order error-correction using the surface code to facilitate quantum algorithm development on actual hardware (quantum computers).

Right now, Bristlecone has crowned Google – King of Quantum Computing, a title which previously belonged to IBM because of their 50 qubits chip. However Bristlecone did not just crown Google, it also shortened the race for quantum supremacy as we know it, which Google is “cautiously optimistic” about winning. Despite Google leading the race in Quantum Computing, the ultimate goal of Quantum Supremacy is still far off and might not be surprised if companies like IBM pull something up in the near future.

Ultra96 Zynq UltraScale+ Development Board

Ultra96™ is an Arm-based, Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+™ MPSoC development board based on the Linaro 96Boards specification. The 96Boards’ specifications are open and define a standard board layout for development platforms that can be used by software application, hardware device, kernel, and other system software developers. Ultra96 represents a unique position in the 96Boards community with a wide range of potential peripherals and acceleration engines in the programmable logic that is not available from other offerings.

Ultra96 boots from the provided Delkin 16 GB MicroSD card, pre-loaded with PetaLinux. Engineers have options of connecting to Ultra96 through a Webserver using integrated wireless access point capability or to use the provided PetaLinux desktop environment which can be viewed on the integrated Mini DisplayPort video output. Multiple application examples and on-board development options are provided as examples.

Ultra96 provides four user-controllable LEDs. Engineers may also interact with the board through the 96Boards-compatible low-speed and high-speed expansion connectors by adding peripheral accessories such as those included in Seeed Studio’s Grove Starter Kit for 96Boards.

Micron LPDDR4 memory provides 2 GB of RAM in a 512M x 32 configuration. Wireless options include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 (provides both Bluetooth Classic and Low Energy (BLE)). UARTs are accessible on a header as well as through the expansion connector. JTAG is available through a header (external USB-JTAG required). I2C is available through the expansion connector.

Ultra96 provides one upstream (device) and two downstream (host) USB 3.0 connections. A USB 2.0 downstream (host) interface is provided on the high speed expansion bus. Two Microchip USB3320 USB 2.0 ULPI Transceivers and one Microchip USB5744 4-Port SS/HS USB Controller Hub are specified.

The integrated power supply generates all on-board voltages from an external 12V supply (available as an accessory).

[source]

i.MX8 Powered Nitrogen8m Single Board Computer

Boundary Devices is the company who launched the i.MX6 based Nitrogen6 in 2012, a globally adopted i.MX 6 SABRE Lite development board (now BD-SL-i.MX6). The company has recently announced the availability of its new Nitrogen8M SBC (Single Board Computer) that runs Linux or Android on a quad-core i.MX8M processor. The NItrogen8M will be the first commercially designed and tested i.MX 8M based SBC solution to be available to the embedded market.
Nitrogen8M

The i.MX 8M family of application processors from NXP is based on Arm® Cortex®-A53 and Cortex-M4 cores which provide industry-leading audio, voice and video processing capabilities. They offer support for video quality with full 4K UltraHD resolution and HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG), DSD512 audio capability, flexible memory options as demonstrated in the Nitrogen8, and many other features.

The NXP’s latest i.MX 8M Quad processor powers the Nitrogen8M, an upgrade from the i.MX7 based Nitrogen7. The i.MX 8MQ features 4 Cortex-A53 (1.5GHz) and 1 Cortex-M4F (266MHz) cores. The Nitrogen8M will come standard with 2GB of LPDDR4 of RAM with a 4GB version also available. It features a microSD Card slot, an optional 8GB eMMC version expandable to 128GB,  USB 3.0 for high-speed data communication and of course adhering to the industry latest trend. At 136.7 x 87mm, the Nitrogen8M is slightly larger than the i.MX7 based Nitrogen7 and the earlier i.MX6-based Nitrogen6.

Nitrogen8M includes the latest in network connectivity options to serve IoT applications that employ edge, cloud, and fog computing. The SBC comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as the BD-SDMAC, a pre-certified WiFi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.1 module based on the QCA9377.  It also includes HDMI (4K@60fps) and 4-lane MIPI-DSI (1080p) display connections; two, 4-lane MIPI-CSI; headphone, microphone, and amplifier interfaces. Nitrogen8M will quickly find applications in the areas of smart-home, smart-speaker, industry, display applications, and many more.

The following are the specification of the Nitrogen8m SBC:

  • CPU — i.MX 8M Quad Core (x4 Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz; Cortex-M4 @ 266MHz)
  • RAM — 2GB LPDDR4 (4GB Optional)
  • Storage — micro SD slot or 8GB eMMC (upgradeable to 128GB)
  • NOR — 16MB (QSPI)
  • GPU — Vivante GC7000Lite
  • Camera — x2 4-lane MIPI-CSI
  • Display —
    • HDMI (w/CEC)
    • MIPI DSI
  • Wireless —
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 ac
    •  Bluetooth 4.1 BD-SDMAC Module (QCA9377)
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O –
    • 3x USB 3.0 Host ports
    • 1x USB 3.0 OTG port
    • 3x I2C
    • 1x SPI
    • 3x RS-232
    • 1x SD/MMC
    • 1x RTC + battery
    • 2x PCIe (1 Mini-PCI-E connector, one on expansion connector)
    • 1x JTAG
  • Power — 5V DC input
  • Operating Temperature — 0 to 70°C (Industrial Optional)

The Nitrogen8M is available now for pre-order, with boards beginning to ship in Spring 2018. Boundary Devices is offering the following three options:

Though the Nitrogen8M is launching with the i.MX 8M Quad processor, an i.MX 8M Dual and QuadLite versions are available on request. More information including a full list of specifications and availability can be found on the Nitrogen8M product page.

Imec and Cadence Tape Out Industry’s First 3nm Processor Chip

Nanoelectronics research institute IMEC and Cadence Design Systems have worked together to produce a tape-out for the industry’s first 64bit processor core as a test chip to be built in a nominal 3nm node. The tape-out project, geared toward advancing 3nm chip design, was completed using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and 193 immersion (193i) lithography-oriented design rules and Cadence tools.

Cadence and Imec have created and validated GDS files using a modified Cadence tool flow. It is based on a metal stack using a 21-nm routing pitch and a 42-nm contacted poly pitch created with data from a metal layer made in an earlier experiment. The Cadence tools used include the Innovus implementation system that makes use of massively parallel computation for the physical implementation system to achieve power, performance, and area (PPA) targets. The Genus synthesis tool provides RTL synthesis that addresses FinFET process node requirements.

IMEC utilized a standard industry’s 64-bit CPU for the design with a custom 3nm standard cell library. For the project, EUV and 193i lithography rules were tested to provide the required resolution, while providing PPA comparison under two different patterning assumptions.

Imec is starting work on the masks and lithography, initially aiming to use double-patterning EUV and self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQP) immersion processes. Over time, Imec hopes to optimize the process to use a single pass in the EUV scanner. Ultimately, fabs may migrate to a planned high-numerical-aperture version of today’s EUV systems to make 3-nm chips.

Besides the finer features, the first two layers of 3-nm chips may use different metalization techniques and metals such as cobalt, said Ryoung-Han Kim, an R&D group manager at Imec. The node is also expected to use new transistor designs such as nanowires or nanosheets rather than the FinFETs utilized in today’s 16-nm and finer processes.

As process dimensions reduce to the 3nm node, interconnect variation becomes much more significant,” said An Steegen, executive vice president for semiconductor technology and systems at Imec. “Our work on the test chip has enabled interconnect variation to be measured and improved and the 3nm manufacturing process to be validated. Also, the Cadence digital solutions offered everything needed for this 3nm implementation. Due to Cadence’s well-integrated flow, the solutions were easy to use, which helped our engineering team stay productive when developing the 3nm rule set.

Imex and Cadence are achieving new milestones together with this new 3nm tape-out, which can transform the future of mobile designs at advanced nodes. For more information on EUV technology and 193i technology, see the article about it here.

Using the ST7735 1.8″ Color TFT Display with Arduino

1.8″ Colored TFT Display

Hi guys, welcome to today’s tutorial. Today, we will look on how to use the 1.8″ ST7735  colored TFT display with Arduino. The past few tutorials have been focused on how to use the Nokia 5110 LCD display extensively but there will be a time when we will need to use a colored display or something bigger with additional features, that’s where the 1.8″ ST7735 TFT display comes in.

The ST7735 TFT display is a 1.8″ display with a resolution of 128×160 pixels and can display a wide range of colors ( full 18-bit color, 262,144 shades!). The display uses the SPI protocol for communication and has its own pixel-addressable frame buffer which means it can be used with all kinds of microcontroller and you only need 4 i/o pins. To complement the display, it also comes with an SD card slot on which colored bitmaps can be loaded and easily displayed on the screen.

Using the ST7735 1.8″ Color TFT Display with Arduino – [Link]

Laser Beam Wireless Smartphone Chargers: The Next Big Thing

Cellphone chargers have been in existence for years and have grown from one stage to another. It started with the mobile phone traditional charger which had a USB interface, a DC converter, and a charging plug and now has expanded to a close-range inductive wireless charging. The commonly used inductive wireless charging is nice but limited, it still requires close contact with the charging pad making it offer little or no advantage to cable-based chargers. We have seen some potential long-range wireless chargers especially those from the PowerSpot, which in theory could charge up to 80 feet away. Among those technologies, charging with a laser beam is a possibility the research team from the University of Washington is evaluating.

Researchers from the UW’s (University of Washington), Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, have designed a laser system that can remotely charge your smartphones as quickly as a standard USB cable. They have embedded essential safety features which include a metal, flat-plate heat sink on the smartphone to dissipate excess heat from the laser, as well as a reflector based system to turn off the laser if a person tries to get in the way of the charging beam.

Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering said “We have designed, constructed and tested this laser-based charging system with a rapid-response safety mechanism, which ensures that the laser emitter will terminate the charging beam before a person comes into the path of the laser”. (more…)

IBM just unveiled the ‘world’s smallest computer’

by @ theverge.com

The computer is 1mm x 1mm, smaller than a grain of fancy salt, and apparently costs less than ten cents to manufacture. To be clear, the picture above is a set of 64 motherboards, each of which hold two of this tiny computer.

IBM claims the computer has the power of an x86 chip from 1990. That puts it exactly on the edge of enough power to run the original Doom (the original README.TXT for Doom says a 386 processor and 4MB of RAM is the minimum). Hopefully IBM will be more forthcoming with benchmarks in the next five years, and I’m looking forward to repurposing this chip’s LED as a one pixel display.

Introducing Project Fin: a board for fleet owners

Introducing Project Fin, a carrier board designed for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite.

It’s a carrier board that can run all the software that the Raspberry Pi can run, hardened for field deployment use cases, and adding some of the things we’ve seen our users needing the most. It includes 8/16/32/64 GB of on-board eMMC depending on the model, has dual-band connectivity for both 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi networks, can take an external antenna for WiFi and Bluetooth, and can accept power input from 6v to 30v (or 5v if you power through the HAT) via industrial power connectors.

It also comes with two special features. The first is a microcontroller that has its own Bluetooth radio and can operate without the Compute Module being turned on. This enables the Fin to perform well in real-time and low-power scenarios. The Compute Module, along with its interfaces, can be programmatically shut down and spawned back up via the microcontroller, which can access the RTC chip when the Compute Module is OFF for time-based operations. In addition, the Fin has a mini PCI express slot, which can be used to connect peripherals such as cellular modems. The Fin also has a SIM card slot to make it even easier to connect a cellular modem.

[source]