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March 2014: Counterfeiting

March 13, 2014 4:23 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Digital Editions | Comments

Counterfeit components cost the electronics industry billions of dollars each year. They also create dangerous situations and increase the risk of product failure. In this March issue of ECN, we identify the key battlegrounds in the fight against fake components.
• Seeing through the lies explores the idea of using x-ray techniques as a way of identifying counterfeit components, walking readers through the most common indicators of a counterfeit.
• Invisible bar codes offers up a solution to counterfeit components in the form of a covert micro-bar code that are virtually indestructible and invisible to the naked eye.
• Counterfeit mitigation looks at a report by the Semiconductor Industry Association detailing the ideal defensive maneuvers against counterfeit components.

Currently sensible

March 10, 2014 9:47 am | by Joshua Israelsohn, Director, JAS Technical Media | Articles | Comments

Sensing physical phenomena and preserving the fidelity of the resulting, often-tiny, sensor...

UT part of $140 million White House advanced manufacturing initiative

February 28, 2014 1:54 pm | by EurekAlert! | News | Comments

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will be part of a national effort, announced today by...

The microcontroller as metaobject

February 13, 2014 6:28 am | by Joshua Israelsohn, Director, JAS Technical Media | Articles | Comments

Pretty much everyone in our industry is familiar with the long evolution of microcontrollers. So...

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Which way WiFi?

January 20, 2014 3:52 pm | by Joshua Israelsohn, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

WiFi users in densely populated urban locales experience signal interference from nearby unassociated WiFi networks. Additionally, significant growth in the number WiFi-enabled mobile devices has added to user dependency on WiFi channels and to the data traffic those channels carry.

The smart-grid evolution

December 17, 2013 3:54 pm | by Joshua Israelsohn, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

When the vision of a smart grid first appeared over a decade ago, it was revolutionary and broadly recognized as being so. Yet even an informal assessment of the facility and technology development necessary to realize that vision made it clear that smart grids would require a lengthy evolution.

Everything you need to know about picking the right circuit protection

September 11, 2013 3:33 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

When it comes to circuit protection, the first line of resistance is resistance. Resistance limits current flow and resistance, in conjunction with capacitance, slows the rate of increase of voltage, giving other protection measures in the circuit time to act. But, resistance has its drawbacks. If the current through the resistance is significant, it wastes power....


Battery harvesting versus energy harvesting

August 6, 2013 3:06 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Should you use primary batteries or energy harvesting for your low power isolated from the grid application? Are primary batteries better or worse than energy harvesting? Can you use one or the other or do you need both? Neither? It is an interesting question depending on the application, the power required, and the costs involved.

The truth about test and measurement

July 16, 2013 2:41 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Test and measurement starts with standards. You have to have standards for mass, distance, charge, and time (plus a few others) so all standards refer back to those fundamental unit standards. But you don't measure volts in units of amps, kilograms, meters, and seconds, that requires something more convenient (i.e. measuring volts in volts).

Smart Grid: The future of energy

June 12, 2013 11:23 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

The Smart Grid is coming. It is needed in order to raise or lower prices for consumers depending on the time of day. It is needed to control consumer loads to better integrate intermittent alternative energy into the grid (industrial loads are already demand controlled by the grid operator depending on the type of service contract they have).

Resolve signal integrity issues in cloud computing platforms

May 29, 2013 4:10 pm | by Bill Weir, Pericom, | Articles | Comments

While the cloud promises to reduce enterprise network infrastructure and operating costs, the remote execution of applications makes factors such as latency, performance, and reliability critical considerations in the design and deployment of cloud computing platforms. A key factor determining server performance, cloud or not, is maintaining a bit error rate (BER) on the order of 1.E-12 for the overall system.

Design electronics for cold environments

December 17, 2012 4:14 pm | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Engineers at Agilent Technologies found a need for a digital multimeter (DMM) technicians and electricians could use in cold environments. "I went to college in Canada where temperatures often got down to below -20°C," said Boon Juan Tan, R&D manager in Agilent's Basic Instruments Division.


MCU tools help estimate and minimize power use

December 12, 2012 9:58 am | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Silicon Laboratories Inc. | Articles | Comments

Josh Norem, an application engineer at Silicon Laboratories, gave me a demonstration of the company's Power Estimator tool available within the larger, free AppBuilder software. The Power Estimator tool now covers the SIM3L1XX Device, although Silicon Labs plans to add sleep-mode power conditions and other MCUs soon.

Kits for Kids

October 4, 2012 3:46 pm | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Electronics, computer, and science kits can help kindle technical interests in kids of all ages. Each year the holidays seem to arrive sooner than expected and parents of young people interested in science and technology search for gift ideas. This column provides some suggestions. Some projects require adult help or supervision.

Audio-signal processing without code headaches

September 18, 2012 11:18 am | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Graphical approaches to processing audio information lets designers concentrate on how their products sound rather than on DSP and programming chores. It seems few people lack an audio device, which can include an MP3 player and small sound bar up to a custom HiFi sound system in a home theatre.

Careful designers get the most from brushless DC motors

August 20, 2012 10:10 am | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

A brushed-DC motor comprises external permanent magnets and electromagnets wound on a rotating core. Brushes manufactured from graphite and other materials switch, or commutate, electricity to the coils as they rotate to sustain motion. A brushless-DC (BLDC) motor turns this construction inside out and places

Near-field communications

July 18, 2012 9:29 am | by Jon Titus, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

Near-field communications, which arose from earlier RFID applications, have gained in popularity as manufacturers added NFC capabilities to smart-phone and tablet-computer and as merchants have installed NFC payment devices. So instead of carrying a wallet full of credit and debit cards, consumers can use their smart phones as a mobile-payment "account"...


Design West update

April 11, 2012 10:53 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Design West remained true to its embedded-systems roots and companies offered a cornucopia of new products for engineers. This year, the Embedded Systems Conference occurred as part of the larger Design West conference and exhibition, but clearly the emphasis remained on embedded systems...

Tips Help Engineers Write Well -- Part 2

March 21, 2012 1:26 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

A conclusion at the start of a report and the active voice improve engineers' written communications.

Tips Help Engineers Write Well -- Part 1

February 24, 2012 6:45 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Many engineers see engineering and writing as mutually exclusive skills. They think people can do one or the other, but not both. Engineers can write well, although it takes some practice.

Jim Williams Remembered

February 1, 2012 7:36 am | by Jon Titus, senior technical editor | Articles | Comments

Analog guru Jim Williams died in mid 2011, but his work lives on in circuits, magazine articles, books and photographs. Part of his lab lives on, too, in the exhibit, "An Analog Life: Remembering Jim Williams," at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

Forth Works with Embedded Systems

January 30, 2012 10:06 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

In late 2011 I wrote about the GA144 "multi-computer" integrated circuit from GreenArrays that provides 144 cores on one chip. Engineers and programmers use the company's arrayForth tools to create

Was Lead-Free Solder Worth the Effort?

December 28, 2011 7:28 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Lead-free solder has yet to yield documented benefits.

Eight Tips for Alternate-Energy Users

November 23, 2011 9:57 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

When you evaluate alternate-energy sources look at your entire system to find ways to reduce power use.

Apply Security Standards to Wireless Problems

November 16, 2011 3:59 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

You need not roll your own wireless security protocols. Many standards already include them.

Kits for Kids

September 28, 2011 1:30 pm | Articles | Comments

Arduino MCU electronic kits and projects make good gifts during the holidays.

Simulation Enhances Embedded Systems

September 7, 2011 7:20 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

You might wonder whether engineers who design embedded systems can benefit from using simulation software. "If you plan to control something like a nuclear reactor or a large piece of machinery, where you'd pay a high price for creating a bad controller...

Remote Controls Go Wireless RF

July 20, 2011 9:56 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

About two years ago, the Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE) Consortium joined with the ZigBee Alliance to create a wireless protocol specifically for consumer-electronic products. Manufacturers and consumers have tired of handheld infrared (IR) controls...

Get Started with Android

July 18, 2011 7:27 am | by Colin Walls, Mentor Graphics | Articles | Comments

You might think of Android only as an operating system (OS) for high-end mobile phones, but it extends beyond that type of device.

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