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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Peelable stickers boost the IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia have developed a new fabrication method that makes thin-film electronic circuits peelable from a surface, enabling stickers to add connectivty to the Internet of Things (IoT).

The technique not only eliminates several manufacturing steps and the associated costs, but also allows any object to sense its environment or be controlled through the sticker.

A YouTube video is available at

"We could customize a sensor, stick it onto a drone, and send the drone to dangerous areas to detect gas leaks, for example," said Chi Hwan Lee, Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Lee's transfer printing process cuts down manufacturing costs by using a single wafer to build a nearly infinite number of thin films holding electronic circuits. Instead of high temperatures and chemicals, the film can peel off at room temperature with water.

A ductile metal layer, such as nickel, inserted between the electronic film and the silicon wafer, makes the peeling possible in water. These thin-film electronics can then be trimmed and pasted onto any surface. Putting one of the stickers on a flower pot, for example, made that flower pot capable of sensing temperature changes that could affect the plant's growth.

Lee's lab also demonstrated that the components of electronic integrated circuits work just as well before and after they were made into a thin film peeled from a silicon wafer. The researchers used one film to turn on and off an LED light display.

"We've optimized this process so that we can delaminate electronic films from wafers in a defect-free manner," Lee said.

Telit links to IBM Watson for Industrial IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Telit hs connected its deviceWISE IoT platform to IBM's Watson IoT platform. 

The combination of IBM's Watson IoT platform and Telit's deviceWISE gives manufacturers and other industrial businesses powerful new options for near-instant onboarding of industrial products, systems and assets, and applying advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and application development. deviceWISE streamlines the process of integrating industrial IoT (IIoT) devices and applications by providing a large library of native device drivers and industrial protocols. This eliminates the need for custom coding and other expensive, time-consuming integration tasks, so businesses can add value to their IIoT bottom line and realize competitive benefits even faster. 

The IBM Watson IoT platform, available on the IBM Cloud, brings real-time insights to IoT data and powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based capabilities including Cognitive Analysis, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing.

"This new agreement enables manufacturers and other industrial businesses to leverage the combined strength of the world's two best solutions for IIoT and AI," said Yosi Fait, Telit CEO. "By working together, Telit and IBM are ensuring that IIoT lives up to its full potential for maximizing efficiency, productivity and more."

"AI makes it easier and faster for manufacturers to aggregate, analyze and act on data from multiple sources," said Stephan Biller, Vice President for Offering Management, IBM Watson IoT. "Telit's deviceWISE complements IBM Watson's AI capabilities, making the two solutions a natural fit that benefit manufacturers and other industrial businesses worldwide."

For more information, visit
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Monday, July 16, 2018

Plessey boss steps down suddenly

By Nick Flaherty

The man that revitalised Plessey Semiconductors nearly a decade ago has left the company abruptly in a shock move.

Michael LeGoff used the fab at Plymouth, which had been used by X-Fab, to build LEDs using a gallium nitride of silicon process. That led to interest in migh power micro-LED engines that coul dbe used for augmented reality smart glasses.

He will carry on for a short transition period.

There's an interview I did with him at SEEING THE LIGHT

Related stories:

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty at eeNews Europe
. Hyundai backs Ionic Materials for solid state batteries

. Electric bus to use solid state batteries and fuel cell range extender

. Helix chip in data centre power design win

. 400x boost for graphene in solar cells

. Thermoelectric generator powers IoT nodes from a five degree temperature difference

NEW POWER PRODUCTS . Offline buck converter targets IoT applications

. Modular supply with low acoustic noise has 18 outputs

. 1300W quarter brick DC-DC advanced bus converter can be used as upgrade

Broadcom deal sees return of vertical integration

By Nick Flaherty

The $18bn acquisition of CA Technologies marks a major change for Broadcom and a turning point in the industry.

The deal highlights a move back to vertical integration in the industry. While Amazon and Apple have bought chip designers, now the chip designer is buying a service provider. As the cost of chip design and manufacture increases at 10nm and below, companies are looking to benefit from the margins further rup the value chain, and vertical integration is coming back as a result. This deal marks a signficant move in that trend for electronics companies.

Broadcom has always grown by acquisition, driven originally by Henry Nicholas and Henry Samueli, and later after it was itself acquired by Avago after a series of scandals. But the deals have always been at the component or embedded technology level.

The CA deal is much more about mainframes and enterprise software and services, and Broadcom is a mojor supplier of networking devices and systems for data centres. The deal is also about protection after the ambitious bid to acquire Qualcomm. Failing to create a chip giant leaves Broadcom vulnerable to other players in the market, which CEO Hock Tan knows all too well.

There is more on this at

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Friday, July 13, 2018

First COM Express Type 6 board to support 6 core Intel processors

By Nick Flaherty

ADLINK has launched a COM Express Type 6 module that it claims is the first to support both the Xeon and high end Core i7 processors. Back inApril congatec launched the first type 6 board to support the 6-core Cofee Lake Core processors.
 The Express-CF modules use the Intel Xeon and 8th generation Intel Core processors (formerly Coffee Lake H) with up to 6 cores (Hexa) and up to 48GB memory capacity for applications such as image processing and analysis, 4K high speed video encoding and streaming, medical ultra sound and predictive traffic analysis.

The Express-CF modules are the first to support both the 8th generation Intel Core processor family and Intel Xeon processor E-2100M family. The 6-core Core i7 processors support up to 12 threads and a frequency boost of up to 4.4 GHz. Compared to earlier mobile quad-core Xeon and Core i7 CPUs, the additional two cores of the new Hexa-core CPUs results in more than 25% performance boost at no significant cost increase.

ADLINK’s Express-CF provides standard support for up to 48GB non-ECC DDR4 in three SO-DIMMs (two on the top side, one on the bottom), while still fully complying with PICMG COM.0
mechanical specifications. Modules equipped with the Xeon Hexa-core processor support both ECC and non-ECC SODIMMs.

With integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630, the Express-CF supports up to three independent 4K displays via DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and LVDS. ADLINK also offers either eDP or analog VGA as build options by customer request. Additionally, the Express-CF supports Intel's Optane memory and NVMe SSDs through high speed PCIe x4 Gen3 interfaces, allowing applications access to the highest speed storage solutions on the market today.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

ST targets IoT with value line microcontrollers

By Nick Flaherty

ST Microelectronics has launched new 'value' low cost microcontrollers aimed at at real time Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The H7x0 Value Line of microcontrollers trim embedded Flash to the essential, still allowing secure boot, sensitive code and real-time routines to run safely on-chip, leveraging access times over 25 times faster than for external Flash (for cache miss). If needed, applications can scale-up either by adding off-chip serial or parallel (up to 32-bit) memories and leveraging the MCUs’ broad external interfaces and eXecute in Place (XiP) capability, or by porting to other pin-to-pin compatible STM32F7 or STM32H7 MCU lines, with up to 2Mbyte Flash and up to 1Mbyte RAM, supported by the same ecosystem with the same easy-to-use tools.

The Value Lines include existing peripherals, hardware accelerators, and the real-time architecture with ultra-fast internal buses, short interrupt latency, and fast (~1ms) boot-up. The MCUs are also energy efficient, with flexible power modes, gated power domains, and on-chip power management that simplify design and reduce BOM cost.

With execution performance up to 2020 CoreMark the devices are aimed as the entry point to IoT innovation in medical, industrial, and consumer applications. With up to 125°C as the maximum junction temperature, developers can leverage the full core and peripherals performance even when ambient temperature increases.

The entry-level STM32F730 delivers 1082 CoreMark performance running at 216MHz aided by ST’s unique ART Accelerator™ for zero-wait-state execution from Flash. Features include cryptographic hardware acceleration, a USB 2.0 High Speed port with PHY, and a CAN interface. There is a 64Kbyte Flash, 8KByte Instruction and data caches for high-performance execution from internal or external memories, 256KB of system RAM and 16kB+64KB of Tightly Coupled Memory (TCM) for the most critical routines and data.

The STM32F750 adds a TFT-LCD controller with ST’s proprietary Chrom-ART Graphics Accelerator. It has hardware acceleration for hash algorithms, two CAN interfaces, an Ethernet MAC, camera interface, and two USB 2.0 interfaces with Full Speed PHY. There are 64Kbytes of Flash, 4Kbyte instruction and 4Kbyte data caches, 320KB of system RAM, and 16kB+64KB TCM.

The high-end STM32H750 delivers 2020 CoreMark performance at 400MHz and adds a hardware JPEG coder/decoder to the TFT controller and Chrom-ART Accelerator for even faster GUI performance. There is also a CANFD port and additional CANFD with time-trigger capability and best-in-class operational amplifiers and 16-bit ADCs running at up to 3.6Msample/s. The 128KByte Flash, 16KByte instruction and data caches, 864KByte system RAM and the 64kB+128KB of TCM all feature ECC (Error Correction Code) for safe execution from internal or external memory.

The STM32F730, STM32F750, and STM32H750 Value Line MCUs are in production, in various LQFP and BGA package options from 64-pin to 240-pin. Prices start from $1.64 for the STM32F730, $2.39 for the STM32F750, and $2.69 for the STM32H750 for orders of 1000 pieces.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Two clear winners for IoT networking says report

By Nick Flaherty

Over the last two years, the LPWA market has evolved from a chaotic rivalry between 15 wireless formats into a clear market with winners and losers. In their latest report, Mobile Experts lays out the two major market areas that are emerging: LoRa and NB-IoT. This will drive shipments to 700m by 2022.

"The most important distinction between different LPWA formats is not the technology. The business model has emerged as the most important way to segment the market," said Principal Analyst Joe Madden. "RF performance aside, some enterprises insist on control over their own networks. This is extremely beneficial to LoRa, along with a few other unlicensed technologies. LTE-M and NB-IoT benefit from basic choice to use an operator-based network. For customers that are willing to use a widespread network, the superior link budget of NB-IoT comes into play."

Source: Mobile Experts

The report compares LPWA wireless formats in deep technical detail, comparing the main formats with regard to range, capacity, density of connections, battery life, and cost. Key vertical applications are:
  • Smart Meters
  • Industrial IoT
  • Asset Tracking
  • Building Automation
  • Smart Cities
  • Automotive IoT
  • Consumer White Goods
The report also looks at how 5G IoT will come into play with LPWA applications, and forecasts the prospects for 5G IoT devices to add value where NB-IoT and LoRa devices are already entrenched.

"A few years ago, people began latching on to the idea of an interconnected society, referring to it as the 'Internet of Everything' in which a single network allows very diverse sensors and devices to interact with each other. In fact, we don't see that happening. Many smart applications have emerged, but they are using different networks, because customers are making independent decisions on network technology and devices—meaning the markets are growing more vertically instead of horizontally," said Madden.

See the LPWA 2018 report

Similarly researchers IDtechEX are also predicting a compund growth of 46% in low power networks to 2025, growing to 2.7 billion LPWAN IoT connections in 2029

IoT Low Power Wireless Networks and 5G 2019-2029.

To determine the number of IoT connections based on these protocols, now and forecast, one must look beyond the ‘smoke and mirror’ marketing of all these choices, with inconsistent and often inflated numbers of connections loosely given by proponents. This is due to each of the proponents being acutely aware that they need to be seen as the communication protocol of choice before potential adopters sniff loss of confidence and momentum, leading to an inevitable shake-out of some of these options.

The study looks at LPWAN and related technologies – including wireless local area networks and 5G as comparisons. By volume, licensed communication technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE will have more connections than unlicensed versions (such asLoRa and Sigfox) by 2021, despite entering the sector later.

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ST buys Draupner Graphics for GUI tech in the 'HMI of Things'

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has bought software specialist Draupner Graphics, the developer and supplier of TouchGFX, a software framework offering outstanding graphics and smooth animations for embedded graphical user interfaces (GUI) with minimal resource requirements and power consumption. 

This will trigger more sophisticated interfaces on embedded sytems such as smart home and building automation systems, appliances, wearables, and audio and video systems, says ST, creating what it is calling the 'HMI of Things' for Human Machine Interfaces (HMI). We suspect this phrase won't catch on! 

However, the move is signiccant as several of the STM32 ARM Cortex-M microcontroller product lines already support TouchGFX.

“Draupner’s TouchGFX software is a highly advanced and optimized graphic user interface solution for microcontrollers. We have been working closely with the team for 5 years and regularly see the value TouchGFX is already delivering on STM32 MCUs in different consumer, appliances, industrial, and medical applications, said Daniel Colonna, Microcontroller Marketing Director, STMicroelectronics. “The acquisition of Draupner Graphics will accelerate both TouchGFX and STM32 roadmaps to offer embedded developers and their customers more advanced features, raising the bar of human-machine interfaces across all of the devices that people interact with every day.”

“As a leading software vendor on the global market, joining the leading supplier of 32-bit embedded MCUs will give us early access to roadmaps and plans that will speed feature integration and increase adoption of our tools and STM32 MCUs,” said Jorgen Mygind, Business Development Manager, Draupner.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Intel Quark gateway chosen for first Japanese tyre IoT service

By Nick Flaherty

An intelligent, industrial gateway from ADLINK Technology has  been selected for the Nihon Michelin-Softbank IoT tire control system. 

Interestingly the gateway is based on Intel's Quark SoC X1021 and Wind River Intelligent Device Platform XT 3.1. While the part is still shipping, the Quark family has been discontinued for industrial applications, and Wind River is now a separate copany from Intel.

The Michelin Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Cloud Service is the first IoT tire monitoring system in Japan by a tire maker and provides improved safety and efficiency, as well as cost savings benefits, for industries such as fleet management and construction.

The TPMS system contains sensors that measure a tire’s air pressure and temperature, sending out alerts when these deviate from their standard levels. ADLINK’s compact fanless industrial IoT gateway, the MXE-110i serve as the vehicle-mounted communications device while Softbank provides the IoT platform within the Michelin infrastructure and overall system. The TPMS handles vehicles of all classes, including camper vans, light trucks, heavy vehicles, trailers and buses.

When factors within the tire are outside of normal tolerance levels, the ADLINK MXE-110i will send an email over-the-cloud to the end customer’s operations manager and the Michelin tire vendor. An alert will also go out automatically to the Michelin Rescue Network, which can dispatch a vehicle to provide assistance.

“The beauty of this system is that both the driver of the vehicle and the operations manager can monitor all of the vehicle’s data right on a smartphone, tablet, or personal computer,” said Vincent Tseng, general manager of ADLINK’s Asia Pacific region. “This information is invaluable for preventing blowouts and other problems. It increases safety and saves both human and monetary resources ”

“Japan faces societal issues such as reduction in the working population and the aging of society. Particularly serious is the lack of staffing in the transportation, construction and agriculture industries. The improvement of productivity and reduction of workload are matters of great urgency,” said Paul Perriniaux, Managing & Representative Director of Nihon Michelin Tire Co., Ltd. “At Michelin we believe it our duty to contribute through our tire and related services, such as our TPMS.”

SoftBank anticipates business growth not just in communications infrastructure and services but also in the IoT field for mobility such as ride-sharing and automatic driving.

“In facing the coming future of 5G and IoT, we support the development of new services for our customers as an IoT service platform for the further ‘value-fication’ of data,” said Yasuyuki Imai, representative director & COO of SoftBank Corp.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Top stories in June on the Embedded blog

By Nick Flaherty

This month sees a great mix of stories on the embedded blog, from Microsoft's push to monetise its Azure cloud service and embedded versions of Windows 10 and AI. But there is also focus on the new R52 real time ARM core and the M23 core with embedded TrustZone, so we had a deep dive into the technology of these.

Some interesting tech with solid state steerable phase array antennas that can make 5G more cost effective for IoT applications and new proposolas for standards have also been popular.