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Monday, September 17, 2018

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Embedded drives microcontroller growth

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Sales of microcontrollers will be driven to a record high by the spread of embedded control in systems, more sensors, and the rush to connect end-use applications to the Internet of Things (IoT), according to a new report by IC Insights.

The market for microcontrollers is expected to continue hitting record-high annual revenues through 2022 after worldwide sales dropped 6% in 2016. After reducing inventories in 2016, systems manufacturers stepped up purchases of microcontrollers in 2017 with unit shipments surging 22% and strong growth continuing in 2018. IC insights has raised its projection for MCU shipments to 18% in 2018 with the unit volume reaching nearly 30.6 billion and revenues are forecast to rise 11% in 2018 to an all-time high of $18.6 billion, followed by 9% growth in 2019 to about $20.4 billion (Figure 1).



Figure 1

The Mid-Year Update also raised the five-year growth projection of MCU sales to a CAGR of 7.2%, reaching nearly $23.9 billion in 2022, with unit shipments increasing by a compound annual growth rate of 11.1% to about 43.8 billion in the final forecast year.

Prices dropping 
The average selling price (ASP) for microcontrollers fell to the lowest point ever in 2017 and prices are continuing to drop at about the same rate in 2018. However, the annual rate of decline has eased in the last five years compared to earlier this decade. The new forecast for MCU ASP shows the average selling price falling by a CAGR of -3.5% in the 2017-2022 period, much slower than the -5.8% decline seen during the 2012-2017 period and the 20-year CAGR of -6.3% between 1997 and 2017.

A key factor in the 2017 recovery of MCU sales from the decline in 2016 was a turnaround in the smartcard microcontroller segment. About 40% of total MCU shipments are currently for smartcard applications, but that is down from about half early in this decade. 

Excluding smartcard MCUs, sales of “general” microcontrollers for embedded systems, automated control, sensing applications, and IoT-connected things are forecast to grow 11% in 2018 to $16.4 billion after rising 14% in 2017. Shipments of general MCUs are projected to climb 25% in 2018 to 18.9 billion units after rising 21% in 2017. General microcontrollers now represent a little over 60% of MCU unit shipments and are forecast to reach 68% of the total in 2022. Currently, general MCUs generate about 88% of total microcontroller revenues, and they are expected to reach 90% of the entire market value in 2022.

Across nearly all MCU applications, strong growth in 32-bit microcontrollers has reshaped the market as suppliers aggressively promote more powerful designs that are cost competitive with 8-bit and 16-bit devices, which have typically been used in consumer products and other high-volume systems. In some cases new 32-bit MCUs are being priced below the cost of 8-bit microcontrollers. On average, 32-bit MCUs were selling for about twice the amount of the ASP for all microcontrollers in 2012 ($1.76 for 32-bit versus $0.88 for total MCUs). In 2018, the ASP for 32-bit MCUs is expected to be just $0.09 higher than the ASP for all MCUs, and by 2022, the difference is forecast to shrink to $0.05 ($0.60 for 32-bit versus an average of $0.55 for total MCUs).

www.icinsights.com



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Rugged COM Express Type 10 Module with Intel Apollo Lake-I processor

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk


MEN Mikro Elektronik has launched a low-power rugged COM Express module that uses the Intel Atom E3900 series of processors. The low power consumption, virtualization support and safe board  management controller mean the robust module is aimed at embedded designs in harsh environments and safety-critical applications.

The CM50C is an ultra-rugged COM Express Mini module that is compatible with the Type 10 Pin-Out and conforms to the VITA 59 standard which specifies the mechanics to ensure reliable operation in harsh environmental conditions.

The E3900 CPU series has a power dissipation envelope of 7 to 16 W with 4 cores and integrated quality graphics as well as Intel VT-x virtualization support. This allows a hypervisor to run multiple applications on a single hardware platform, saving physical hardware and costs.

The board management controller provides enhanced reliability, reduced downtime and is certifiable up to SIL 2. A Trusted Platform Module and the secure/ measured booting means fast cryptographic execution is supported and the module supports interfaces such as Digital Display Interfaces, HD Audio, PCI Express and Gigabit Ethernet. 

In accordance with the Rugged COM Express standard, the CM50C is embedded in a solid aluminium frame that protects the electronics from environmental influences such as humidity, dust, vibrations or EMC radiation and also enables operation in the extended temperature range from -40 to +85°C via Conduction Cooling. The processor's 15 years long-term availability ensures an extended product life and future-safety for a wide range of applications.

For less demanding applications, a standard COM Express variant without frame is also available.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Toolset accelerates the development of low power location trackers

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

u‑blox has launched a rapid-prototyping platform that lets product designers test and optimise the position accuracy and power consumption of wireless location tracking applications that use LTE-M and NB‑IoT cellular networks, as well as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology.

The toolset combines the u-track software and the C030-R410M application board for product engineers working on battery powered applications such as sport, people and asset trackers. 

An increasing number of battery powered consumer and industrial products feature integrated GNSS receivers. These products include virtual reality headsets, smart watches, and devices to track elderly people, containers or parcels. With the ongoing roll-out of low power wide area cellular networks (LPWAN) such as LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies around the world and the extremely low power consumption they enable, the range of use cases for wireless location trackers is expected to expand further.

“With today's technology, product designers can now include optimised battery life in their applications,” said Florian Bousquet, Product Manager, Product Centre Positioning, at u‑blox. “We developed this toolset to give customers a quick and easy way to test the accuracy and the power consumption of their product ideas using the latest generation of our technology,” he says. “In many cases, they can replicate their applications and start testing the performance of different device configurations in under 15 minutes.”

“The toolset offers access to the very latest technologies, from LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular communication to our proprietary Super-E ( https://www.u-blox.com/en/super-e-technology) mode that delivers the best balance between power consumption and GNSS positioning performance,” he adds.

The u‑track software runs from embedded firmware on the new u‑blox C030-R410M application board. The board, specifically designed to rapidly prototype applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), includes an ultra-small, low power u‑blox ZOE-M8B ( https://www.u-blox.com/en/product/zoe-m8b-module ) GNSS receiver and a size-optimized SARA-R410M ( https://www.u-blox.com/en/product/sara-r4n4-series ) LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular communication module.
u-track also includes a PC software application. Its user-friendly dashboard lets users log, retrieve, and visualize power consumption, accuracy, and other important values, such as the time it takes the GNSS receiver to calculate a position (Time-To-First-Fix, TTFF).

www.u-blox.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Renesas aims for global chip powerhouse with IDT buy

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Japanese chip giant Renesas Electronics is to buy IDT of the US for $6.7bn, boosting its position in embedded, networking and telecoms markets.

“The combination of Integrated Device Technology’s analogue mixed-signal leadership with Renesas’ world-leading microcontroller and automotive/industrial franchise creates a new global powerhouse,” said Greg Waters, President and CEO of IDT. “The combined company will possess the key capabilities that customers in the modern data economy demand.”
The deal follows the acquisition of Intersil in February 2017, and Renesas is aiming at the automotive segment, which is expected to see tremendous growth with autonomous driving and EV/HEV; industrial and infrastructure segments, which are expected to advance with Industry 4.0 and 5G (fifth-generation) wireless communications, as well as the fast-growing IoT segment. 

Since 2016, Renesas has been executing its growth strategy to thrive in the global marketplace and become a global leading embedded solution provider, says the company. As part of this initiative, Renesas is working to expand its analogue capabilities and strengthen its kit solution offerings that combine its microcontrollers (MCUs), system-on-chips (SoCs) and analogue products. 

The acquisition will provide Renesas with access to a vast array of robust analogue mixed-signal capabilities in embedded systems, including RF, advanced timing, memory interface & power management, optical interconnect, wireless power, and smart sensors. The combination of these product lines with Renesas MCUs and SoCs and power management ICs enables Renesas to offer comprehensive solutions that support the increasing demand of high data processing performance. 

IDT’s analogue mixed-signal products for data sensing, storage and interconnect are key devices that support the growth of data economy. Acquisition of these products enables Renesas to extend its reach to fast-growing data economy-related applications including data centre and communication infrastructure, and to strengthen its presence in the industrial and automotive segments.

"This acquisition will bring us complementary, market-leading analog mixed-signal assets and an incredibly talented group of professionals to help us boost our embedded solution capabilities," said Bunsei Kure, Representative Director, President and CEO of Renesas. “IDT’s products combined with our MCUs, SoCs and power management ICs will enable Renesas to widen its product offerings as well as to expand its reach into areas such as the growing data economy-related space.”
Related stories:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

. Ballard sells off power management business

. World's largest offshore wind farm opens in UK

. The battle for lithium

POWER TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH
. Black silicon reduces solar panel costs


. Tandem perovskite CIGS solar cell tops 22 percent efficiency


. Spherical wind turbine wins UK Dyson innovation award

NEW POWER PRODUCTS
. 65W desktop AC-DC supplies have medical and industrial approvals


. 200V half-bridge gate driver in SOIC-8 package for reliable start-up operation


. 700W supply targets GaN amplifiers

TECHNICAL PAPERS
. Pickering Electronics: Concise Technical Guide to Reed Relays


. Spark: Low power, low latency wireless for IoT

Wireless LED kills cancer cells

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk



Researchers from Waseda University in Japan and the Japan Science and Technology Agency developed a new bioadhesive, wirelessly-powered light-emitting device which could better treat cancers in delicate organs.

Conventional photodynamic therapy induces cancer cell death by using photosensitizing agents, which localize in tumors and activate with exposure to a specific wavelength of light. In recent years, low-dose and long-term photodynamic therapy (metronomic photodynamic therapy, mPDT) has shown promise in treating cancers in internal organs. The problem with mPDT is, however, is that because the light intensity is extremely low (1/1000 of the conventional method), the antitumor effect cannot be obtained if the light source shifts even slightly away from the tumor, making the illumination insufficient.

"To address this issue, we have developed a wirelessly-powered optoelectronic device that stably fixes itself onto the inner surface of an animal tissue like a sticker with bioadhesive and elastic nanosheets, enabling a continuous, local light delivery to the tumor," says Toshinori Fujie, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Waseda University. The nanosheets are modified with a protein-inspired adhesive polymer called polydopamine, which can stabilise the device for more than 2 weeks without surgical suturing or medical glue. The light-emitting diode chips in the device are wirelessly powered by near-field-communication technology.

To test its effectiveness, tumor-bearing mice implanted with the device were injected with a photosensitizing agent (photofrin) and exposed to red and green light, approximately 1,000-fold intensity lower than the conventional PDT approaches, for 10 consecutive days. The experiment showed that the tumor growth was significantly reduced overall. Especially under green light, the tumor in some mice was completely eradicated.

Associate Professor Fujie points out, "This device may facilitate treatment for hard-to-detect microtumors and deeply located lesions that are hard to reach with standard phototherapy, without having to worry about the risk of damaging healthy tissues by overheating. Furthermore, because the device does not require surgical suturing, it is suitable for treating cancer near major nerves and blood vessels, as well as for organs that are fragile, that change their shape, or that actively move, such as the brain, liver, and pancreas."

Flexible circuit can be produced on a home printer

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk
Students from Canada has developed a technique to produce flexible electronic circuits on an unmodified home printer in under 3 minutes, writes eeNews Europe.

Perumal Varun Chadalavada and Gowtham Ramachandran from the University of Toronto were frustrated by the week-long wait between sending a printed circuit board (PCB) design for fabrication and receiving a prototype to test.

So they developed the Printem Film, a multilayer stack of different photosensitive materials that fits into a home printer to create the final copper circuit patter. Printing the circuitboard pattern on the Printem Film with a normal office printer creates a photo-mask that, when exposed to light from a laptop or phone, initiates a reaction that selectively "sticks" the copper to the substrate. When the user peels back the layers, the copper 'tears' in exactly the right pattern to create the final circuit, all in under three minutes and for US$15 to $20.

See more of the story at www.eenewseurope.com/news/flexible-substrate-produces-circuitboards-home-printer

New security for LoRa IoT networks

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Engineering firm Occam Technology Group has joined Syniverse’s recently launched Innovation Lab, which provides companies with a secure environment to test new technologies and business models for the internet of things (IoT), 5G, blockchain and artificial intelligence.

As part of this, Occam has created a new smart parking lot at Syniverse’s headquarters in Florida to demonstrate and test secure non-cellular IoT connectivity across a LoRa narrowband network. Sensors in the car park identify empty parking spaces and communicate the status of each space back to the Innovation Lab across a secure connection to the Syniverse Secure Global Access network.

“LoRa connectivity is often used in devices that are stationary in nature and rely on lower amounts of battery usage over an extended time span. Traditionally, while these connections have used minimal power, they have been vulnerable from a security perspective, so we are solving that challenge via our work with Occam,” said Michael O’Brien, Syniverse Group Vice President, Corporate Development and Strategy. “As the world’s most connected company, Syniverse offers an Innovation Lab that serves as a collaboration centre for service providers, cloud enablers and other businesses to develop IoT strategies and business models that are backed by secure connectivity.”

Occam designs and develops IoT solutions using multiple communication protocols with special expertise in non-cellular IoT LoRa connectivity for low-power, wide-area networks. The company incorporates radio transceivers into IoT devices and adds its gateway software to connect those devices into Syniverse’s Innovation lab across a secure connection to Syniverse Secure Global Access that mitigates the risks of cyberattacks by operating independently from the public internet.

LoRa technology enables wide signal coverage with low power usage that results in sensor batteries that only need to be maintained every five to 10 years, on average. This flexibility is proving increasingly important in scenarios with large volumes of fixed sensors, like monitoring agricultural crop production or for sensors located deep inside a building to monitor electricity or parking usage. In these cases, the sensors are not easily accessible and need to span larger geographic areas, so they must have long battery life with minimal required maintenance. At the same time, they cannot afford to risk exposure to cyberattack.

“IoT devices that connect via non-cellular LoRa networks are missing a security layer of protection, representing significant potential risk,” said Raymond Carr, Occam Technology Group’s Chief Technology Officer and founder. “Our collaboration with Syniverse is critical in providing the missing security component, so we can help businesses grow and maintain a hardened IoT infrastructure at scale.”
www.occamtechgroup.com

Monday, September 03, 2018

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

. Solid state transformers targets microgrid charging of electric cars

. BMZ starts shipping battery systems for 1000 e-buses in Germany

. Murata develops transformerless power chip for 65W AC-DC converters

POWER TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH
. Researchers 3D print complete battery with solid electrolyte


. Blue dye in wastewater could be used for batteries


. Two projects commercialise lightweight perovskite solar cells for flight


NEW POWER PRODUCTS


. Power meter provides twice the accuracy of energy standards


. High speed SerDes cabling handles 28G at 3.5W


. Narrow 120W and 240W DIN rail supplies are 93% efficient


TECHNICAL PAPERS

. Spark: Low power, low latency wireless for IoT


. Pickering Electronics: Concise Technical Guide to Reed Relays


. National Instruments: Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing for Power Electronics Systems

Top posts in August on the Embedded blog

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

August tends to be a quieter month, but the popular posts show a wide range of interests. More support for the open source RISC-V MIPS alternative is the most popular post, but the ability to incorporate optical fibres easily into fabrics for wearable designs has also caught the imagination of readers. And Intel's 32Tbyte ruler-format solid state disk drive for 1Pbyte in a rack is also of key interest.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Calibration errors in fab equipment cost chipmakers millions of dollars

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

A study from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has uncovered a source of error in an industry-standard calibration method that could lead chip makers to lose a million dollars or more in a single wafer run.

The error occurs when measuring very small flows of exotic gas mixtures in the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and plasma etching. The exact amount of gas injected into the chamber is critically important to these processes and is regulated by a mass flow controller (MFC).

"Flow inaccuracies cause nonuniformities in critical features in wafers, directly causing yield reduction," said Mohamed Saleem, Chief Technology Officer at Brooks Instrument, a US MFC maker. "Factoring in the cost of running cleanrooms, the loss on a batch of wafers scrapped due to flow irregularities can run around $500,000 to $1,000,000. Add to that cost the process tool downtime required for troubleshooting, and it becomes prohibitively expensive."

Modern fabs rely on accurate gas flows controlled by MFCs which as typically calibrated using the "rate of rise" (RoR) method, which makes a series of pressure and temperature measurements over time as gas fills a collection tank through the MFC.

"Concerns about the accuracy of that technique came to our attention recently when a major manufacturer of chip-fabrication equipment found that they were getting inconsistent results for flow rate from their instruments when they were calibrated on different RoR systems," said John Wright of NIST's Fluid Metrology Group which conducted the error analysis.