Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tri-mode chips become a thing

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Qualcomm Technologies is launching a System-on-chip (SoC) device for the Internet of Things (IoT) that combine three key wireless technologies -  Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4 ZigBee and Thread.

The tri-mode QCA4020 has a dedicated ARM Cortex M4 processor core for customer applications aongside a low power ARM Cortex M0 core for Bluetooth Low Energy drivers and 802.15.4 control and security functions. It also supports the CSRmesh mesh networking capability which Qualcomm acquired with Cambridge Silicon Radio in 2015.

A smaller dual mode chip, the QCA4024, integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 without the WiFi. 
Both use Qualcomm's Network IoT Connectivity Platform, including  coexistence across technologies with pre-integrated support for HomeKit and the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) specifications, as well as support for AWS IoT software development kit (SDK) and Microsoft Azure Internet-of-Things (IoT) Devices SDK to connect with Azure IoT Hub. 

With the surge of connected devices in the home and public places, implementing security features for IoT device attacks is a challenge felt industry-wide. Qualcomm Technologies has a strong foundation in device security that stems from our experience with mobile platforms and therefore is uniquely positioned to support IoT security based solutions to help address vulnerabilities and provide advanced security features for devices. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 both have hardware-based security with secure boot, trusted execution environment, encrypted storage, key provisioning and wireless protocol security. This gives OEMs the option of replacing external security chips and potential for bill of materials (BOM) savings.

“Qualcomm Technologies is bringing new interoperability for IoT and addressing ecosystem fragmentation by offering multiple radio, standards, protocols and connectivity framework support on a single-chip solution. This is a game-changer for manufacturers and consumers alike,” said Raj Talluri, senior vice president, product management at Qualcomm Technologies. “The addition of our industry-leading hardware security features allows manufacturers and developers to support applications including smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking and home entertainment and offer their customers more advanced security that are cost effective.”

These solutions can be used to integrate Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Wi-Fi and 15.4 connectivity capabilities across the Qualcomm Network range of solutions complementing portions of the product portfolio beyond IoT devices, such as the recently announced IPQ8074 and QCA6290

The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling with select OEMs today and expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2017.

Related stories: 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sequans teams with STMicroelectronics for LTE-M IoT design kit

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Sequans is working with STMicroelectronics to combine the  ST’s STM32 microcontroller platform with Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M chipset platform in a design kit for IoT.

The IoT design kit simplifies device design and speeds time to market for makers of connected IoT devices using narrowband connections. These include wearables, connected healthcare devices, smart city and smart home devices, asset trackers, agriculture and industrial IoT devices, and more.

Monarch is the world’s first purpose-built IoT chip to appear in the market that is compliant with the 3GPP Release 13 LTE-Advanced standard defining narrowband LTE-M and developed to support low power and low data rate applications for the Internet of Things.

It provides full support for LTE-M (Cat M1) and NB-IoT (Cat NB1) power Saving Mode (PSM) and extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) to enable the long battery life needed by many IoT use cases, and it provides the enhanced coverage modes defined in the standard that extend coverage for deep-indoor and remote deployments. Monarch comprises baseband, RF, power management, and RAM, all integrated into a 6.5 x 8.5 mm package. In addition, Monarch supports advanced features such as programmable RF filtering for global band support in a single SKU, and proprietary dynamic power management technology enabling battery life of 10+ years for certain use cases.

“ST’s leadership in low power and IoT-friendly high-performance solutions is an ideal match to our Monarch LTE-M platform,” said Danny Kedar, VP and GM of Sequans’ IoT business unit. “Monarch will enable low power wider area connectivity for many new IoT devices, and the STM32 design kit we’ve created with ST will help makers of those devices get to market quickly.”

“The STM32 processor provides a proven platform ranging from ultra-low power products to the highest performance MCUs, with graphic and advanced connectivity-stack capabilities for IoT applications,” said Michel Buffa, General Manager, Microcontroller Division, STMicroelectronics. “Monarch brings the industry’s most optimized LTE-M solution for IoT connectivity to completes the turnkey design kit that brings the standalone network connectivity that is vital to any IoT device all developers of connected objects.”


IBM teams with distributor Avnet on joint Watson IoT development lab

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Distributor Avnet has teamed up with IBM to set up an Internet-of-Things (IoT) Joint Lab powered by the Watson supercomputer. The lab will be within IBM’s newly opened global Watson IoT Center in Munich, Germany. Avnet will use this to showcase, demonstrate, develop and sell IoT solutions from its product lines.

    “With almost 20 billion connected devices in the world today, the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming the biggest source of data on the planet,” said Harriet Green, global head of Watson IoT and a former chief executive of distributor Premier Farnell which Avnet acquired in October 2016 for £690m. 

    “There is no limit to how IoT can be used to improve the world. We’re already seeing tremendous potential in new IoT applications that we’re developing with our customers, which range from protecting our children to preventing Legionnaires’ disease,” said Patrick Zammit, global president of Avnet Technology Solutions. “Avnet’s latest collaboration with IBM will accelerate our ability to provide customers with the foundation they need to rapidly develop marketable IoT solutions.”
    It often takes 10 or more partners to create a single IoT solution, and it can be a challenging and time-consuming task to find the right partners,” said Mark Martin, Avnet’s vice president, IBM global supplier executive. 

    “We’re taking the guesswork out of this for our partners by continually building a solid ecosystem of known companies they can work with to develop their IoT solutions," he said. "The new joint lab will be a key place for customers and partners to come together to collaborate with experts to quickly advance their solution design, and it is a vital resource that will be a key asset of the Technology Solutions portfolio over the long term.”

    At the lab, clients from around the world will be able to engage with Avnet and IBM IoT experts to create working prototypes and solutions that draw on the business benefits of Watson IoT and the power of cognitive computing. They can also enhance their IoT technical expertise through hands-on, on-the-job learning in the lab. Additionally, Avnet and IBM will engage with clients on joint business opportunities.

    “With Watson cognitive computing, we have the opportunity to convert that data into meaningful insight to transform companies, industries and society," said Green. "With this agreement, we are pooling our shared deep history and expertise to deliver on the potential of the Internet of Things.”

    The joint lab will help enable new business models and explore innovative approaches to industry challenges. One way Avnet will achieve this is through Premier Farnell, which will use the lab to develop proof-of-concept electronic boards embedded with IBM’s Watson IoT and Bluemix services at the device level. The aim is to create a seamless experience for customers, allowing them to rapidly exploit new use cases for customers.

    “Our focus is on helping businesses to bring their ideas to market – proof-of-concepts are a critical aspect of that,” said Richard Curtin, senior director of strategic alliances for Premier Farnell. “In the lab, we will develop new electronic boards with enhanced cloud and software capabilities, giving our customers a huge boost in building smarter IoT solutions that can positively impact our world.”

    In addition to the lab, Avnet and IBM are actively collaborating to build IoT offerings to accelerate solution development with the IBM Watson IoT and IBM Bluemix platforms. This includes IoT starter kits from Avnet’s Electronics Marketing and Premier Farnell businesses. Clients will gain access to an extensive catalog of over 150 IBM Bluemix cloud services, including the IBM Watson IoT platform, DevOps, mobile and analytics services through the Avnet Cloud Marketplace. Additionally, clients will have access to in-depth technical training on the IBM Bluemix and IBM Watson IoT Platform through Avnet’s training and education services.

    Related stories on the Embedded blog:
    Microsoft Azure signs up another global IoT network...
    Shop windows to become screens - video
    Picowatt switch slashes standby power
    Flexible solid state battery just 0.25mm thick
    Telit buys GainSpan for $8m IoT boost
    Arrow invests in Swindon for Artesyn configurable power supplies
    congatec backs Windows 10 IoT on compute modules

    STM32 evaluaton boards for long-range IoT connections

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    STMicroelectronics has launched two ready-to-use prototype boards to evaluate LoRaWAN and other Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies including 6LoWPAN for long range connection sin the Internet of Things. 

    The boards are based on the smallest and lowest-power LoRaWAN modules that exist on the market today, with a footprint not larger than 13x12mm and current consumption of 1.2µA in standby mode.
    The B-L072Z-LRWAN1 STM32 LoRa Discovery kit ($46.50) builds on the all-in-one open module from Murata that integrates a STM32L072CZ microcontroller (MCU) and Semtech SX1276 transceivers. The module features a LoRa modem that provides ultra-long-range spread-spectrum communication and high interference immunity whilst minimizing current consumption.

    Since the module is open, developers have access to the STM32L072 MCU and its peripherals such as ADC, 16-bit timer, LP-UART, I2C, SPI and USB 2.0 FS (supporting BCD and LPM). Applications use the STM32L0 HAL and LL embedded software libraries, and designers can further extend the board’s functionality choosing from expansion boards within the STM32 Nucleo ecosystem or Arduino expansion boards.

    The B-L072Z-LRWAN1 kit includes an on-board debugger, a 64-pin STM32 Nucleo morpho connector, an Arduino-compatible connector, and a battery socket. It also comes with access to a completely free development ecosystem that includes the MDK-ARM Integrated Development Environment (IDE), STM32CubeMX configurator and software tools, and ST’s LoRaWAN protocol stack (I-CUBE-LRWAN).

    The I-NUCLEO-LRWAN1 ($25.00) is an expansion board for STM32 Nucleo or Arduino boards that can be simply plugged in to quickly start work developing a full LoRa-based and/or FSK/OOK (Frequency-Shift Keying/On-Off Keying) connectivity applications. The board features a LoRaWAN module from USI together with an STM32L052T8 MCU and Semtech SX1272 transceivers.

    The USI module comes pre-loaded with an AT command stack that helps streamline development and saves programming. The I-CUBE-LRWAN stack is available free of charge. As an extra bonus, to aid development of Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications, the I-NUCLEO-LRWAN1 board is also equipped with ST’s LIS2DS12 3-axis accelerometer, LPS22HB MEMS pressure sensor, and HTS221 humidity-and-temperature sensor.

    Both boards are LoRaWAN-certified and fully compliant with wireless regulations in the US, EU, Russia, India, and other countries using the 860-930MHz frequency bands. In addition to the industry-standard protocols, they also support proprietary LPWAN protocols for long-range connection of IoT devices like smart meters, alarm systems, tracking devices, positioning devices, environmental sensors, and activity sensors.

    The B-L072Z-LRWAN1 Discovery kit and I-NUCLEO-LRWAN1 are ready for distributors to order now, and will be available via st.com by the end of this month.

    Details: www.st.com/stm32-lrwan

    Related stories on the Embedded Blog:

    Friday, February 17, 2017

    Microsoft Azure signs up another global IoT network

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    Microsoft has picked up another potentially large Internet of Things (IoT) deployment for its Azure cloud service in a deal with Ingenue.

    Ingenue will use the Azure IoT Hub for its end-to-end IoT networks using its Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) low power network technology. This uses globally available spectrum for M2Mand IoT long range links. It enables devices to connect more efficiently and cost-effectively in both the uplink and downlink and requires less towers to provide coverage to large areas (1:10 to 1:30 radio towers for RPMA vs. cellular) and has been used in 38 networks so far.
    Azure IoT Hub supports a broad set of operating systems and protocols, giving IoT solution developers the ability to quickly connect, monitor and manage IoT assets. Ingenu’s Intellect RPMA device management platform, will integrate with the Azure IoT Hub to provide secure bi-directional communication between RPMA-enabled devices and web applications. The solution will further enhance the processing of collected IoT data using Azure services such as Stream Analytics, SQL Database, Event Hubs, App Service, and Power BI Embedded.

    “The inherent characteristics of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform spurred the seamless development of this innovative solution,” said Joshua Builta, vice president, product management at Ingenu. “The Microsoft and Ingenu application teams collaborated to create an extremely simple and useful tool which extends the capabilities of the Intellect platform.”

    “This integration enables complete network visibility and an end-to-end robust data management solution,” said Sam George, Director, Microsoft Azure IoT at Microsoft.

    Related stories: 

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Shop windows to become screens - video

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    Panasonic will start shipping its high image contrast transparent screen that enables the use of glass, such as shop windows, as digital signage next month.

    The system includes a unique glass (XC-CSG01G) with a high contrast light control film placed in between two sheets of glass, which when voltage is applied changes from the screen mode to the transparent mode, as well as the XC-CSC01G-A1 control box. 

    Images are projected (from the rear) onto the glass during the screen mode. The control box will synchronously operate the projector and the screen per the image content, and change the screen from transparent mode to screen mode. During the transparent mode, it will serve as a shop window showcasing products and exhibits, and during the screen mode it can reproduce high resolution images on the glass to introduce information about new products or about various campaigns during the sale season, helping transform the show window into an even more captivating environment. Multiple screens may be combined to create one large screen to create 

    Traditionally, images have been projected onto cloudy white, electric switchable glass, but this type of glass was incapable of displaying high contrast images due to image degradation caused by external light.

    Panasonic has combined glass with a high contrast light control film, which is comprised of a transparent-cloudy white switching layer containing special polymers and capsules and a color hue control layer. The color hue control layer will absorb a great deal of external light in screen mode, thereby significantly reducing image degradation and bringing to life high contrast images on par with digital signage, even in brightly lit environments.

    By adjusting the colour hue control layer's permeability depending on the level of lighting in the installation environment, the screen can maintain the same level of high contrast in environments of varying brightness. In brightly lit spaces, it can reproduce images with rich blacks, and in dark environments, it can reproduce high contrast images even with a compact projector.

    Numerous screens may be combined horizontally, so for example, a 221-inch (16:9) screen measuring 4.9m wide and 2.75m tall can be created. The control box will switch between transparent and screen modes, control the projector, and turn ON/OFF the lighting in the exhibition space behind the glass.

    The company has been working on this type of technology for several years:  Panasonic gives 3D gesture control to outdoor signs and industrial apps - video

    Picowatt switch slashes standby power

    Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed an ultra-low power switch that operates from a few picowatts, allowing sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT) to save power and cut standby power to zero.

    The voltage detector chip uses five picojoules of energy and requires only around half a volt to operate, which can be delivered directly from a sensor such as a photodetector. This would cut standby power to zero.

    Gartner predicts 8.4bn connected devices in the IoT in 2017
    Four trends driving IoT in 2017

    The research group are providing samples of their chip to companies to use, and the team have demonstrated a TV with no continuous draw of power during standby by using a voltage detector that is powered up at a distance, directly from the infrared signal of a standard TV controller.

    “The ultra-low power UB20M voltage detector provides sensing that is continuous and free," said Dr Stark, Reader in Electrical & Electronic Engineering in the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. "This is because it is able to respond to minute quantities of power from unpowered sensors. No battery or other power is needed for the device to stay alive and listening, and battery maintenance is therefore reduced or not needed.  We are now actively seeking commercial partners to use the voltage detector chip in their product, and would welcome companies to get in touch."

    From: Ultra-low power switch slashes standby power | EETE Power Management:

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    Other IoT stories:

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Flexible solid state battery just 0.25mm thick opens up embedded design options

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    A $1.5m collaborative project is set to develop and produce a flexible, solid-state lithium battery that is just 0.25mm thick. By integrating an ultra-thin flexible ceramic substrate, more embedded design options open up.

    The FlexTech consortium, set up by the SEMI semiconductor industry association, is working with ITN Energy Systems of Colorado on the 15 month project to produce a 500mAh cell no larger than 50 x 27 mm and just 0.25mm thick, says Brian Berland, chief science officer at ITN. The ceramic substrate is produced by ENrG of Buffalo, NY,  which licenses the technology from Corning.
    “This work will break new ground in flexible battery development and address the many challenges associated with this area,” said Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, chief technology officer for FlexTech | SEMI.  “This technology is one of the most promising for multi-cell packages and infinitely-expandable battery components.”
    An important part of the project is selecting a sealing material based on compatibility with the assembly process and the ultimate performance of the battery. “This new approach to flexible power supplies promises up to 10x the capacity with one-half the thickness of products currently in the market,” said Berland. “Once completed, we believe that rapid market adoption of this product is highly likely, since power availability and management is a significant bottleneck to many innovative FHE products.”

    The story is at Project aims for flexible solid state battery just 0.25mm thick | EETE Power Management:

    Wednesday, February 08, 2017

    Gartner predicts 8.4bn connected devices in the IoT in 2017

    By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

    Market researcher Gartner is predicting that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017. 
    Regionally, Greater China, North America and Western Europe are driving the use of connected things and the three regions together will represent 67 percent of the overall Internet of Things (IoT) installed base in 2017.
    Consumer Applications to Represent 63 Percent of Total IoT Applications in 2017
    The consumer segment is the largest user of connected things with 5.2 billion units in 2017, which represents 63 percent of the overall number of applications in use (see Table 1). Businesses are on pace to employ 3.1 billion connected things in 2017. "Aside from automotive systems, the applications that will be most in use by consumers will be smart TVs and digital set-top boxes, while smart electric meters and commercial security cameras will be most in use by businesses," said Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner.
    Related IoT stories: 

              Table 1: IoT Units Installed Base by Category (Millions of Units)
              Business: Cross-Industry
              Business: Vertical-Specific
              Grand Total
              Source: Gartner (January 2017)
              In addition to smart meters, applications tailored to specific industry verticals (including manufacturing field devices, process sensors for electrical generating plants and real-time location devices for healthcare) will drive the use of connected things among businesses through 2017, with 1.6 billion units deployed. However, from 2018 onwards, cross-industry devices, such as those targeted at smart buildings (including LED lighting, HVAC and physical security systems) will take the lead as connectivity is driven into higher-volume, lower cost devices. In 2020, cross-industry devices will reach 4.4 billion units, while vertical-specific devices will amount to 3.2 billion units.
              Business IoT Spending to Represent 57 Percent of Overall IoT Spending in 2017
              While consumers purchase more devices, businesses spend more. In 2017, in terms of hardware spending, the use of connected things among businesses will drive $964 billion (see Table 2). Consumer applications will amount to $725 billion in 2017. By 2020, hardware spending from both segments will reach almost $3 trillion.
              Table 2: IoT Endpoint Spending by Category (Billions of Dollars)
              Business: Cross-Industry
              Business: Vertical-Specific
              Grand Total
              Source: Gartner (January 2017)
              Total IoT services spending (professional, consumer and connectivity services) is on pace to reach $273 billion in 2017. These are dominated by the professional IoT-operational technology category in which providers assist businesses in designing, implementing and operating IoT systems. However, connectivity services and consumer services will grow at a faster pace. Consumer IoT services are newer and growing off a small base. Similarly, connectivity services are growing robustly as costs drop, and new applications emerge.

              Tuesday, February 07, 2017

              Embedded sensors use stomach acid for power

              Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US have developed a small voltaic cell that is powered by acid in the stomach.

              By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

              The 'pill' was developed with backing from chip maker Texas Instruments and generates enough power to run a temperature sensor and wireless link for several days. This could offer a safer and lower-cost alternative to the traditional batteries, as these can cause burns when swallowed.

              The researchers attached zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of their ingestible sensor. The zinc emits ions into the acid in the stomach to power the voltaic circuit, generating enough energy to power a commercial temperature sensor and a 912MHz transmitter.
              In tests in pigs, the devices took an average of six days to travel through the digestive tract. While in the stomach, the voltaic cell produced enough energy to power a temperature sensor and to wirelessly transmit the data to a base station located 2 meters away, with a signal sent every 12 seconds.
              The current prototype of the device is a cylinder about 40 millimeters long and 12 millimeters in diameter, but the researchers anticipate that they could make the capsule about one-third that size by building a customized ASIC with the energy harvester, transmitter, and a small microprocessor.

              See more at Stomach acid powers sensors | EETE Power Management

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                          Thursday, February 02, 2017

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