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Semiconductor Highlight: Standards for Embedded Microcontrollers

January 20, 2009 6:00 am | by Reinhard Keil, ARM | Articles | Comments

Typically, industries use standards to improve product quality and enable component sharing across projects. In practice, such standards achieve wide acceptance since the synergistic effects provide significant benefits to the user community. The hardware and software industry is full of such standards, but there is an exception

Industry Focus: Automotive Electronics

January 20, 2009 5:14 am | by Akio Nezu, Fujitsu Microelectronics America | Articles | Comments

Despite recent economic challenges facing the auto industry, many leaders are moving forward with new and innovative systems for in-vehicle entertainment, and sophisticated audio-video capabilities.  Industry analysts such as iSuppli Corporation have cited significant consumer demand for audio-video connectivity and networking in the vehicle, noting that the industry is at a point where A/V connectivity clearly influences sales.

Energizer to Release OEM Version of Zinc/Air Battery

January 14, 2009 10:14 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

The history of portable electronics is one of decreasing size, both for the devices themselves and the batteries to power them. A while back, I reported on the Quad A battery—specifically, Energizer’s push to make the Quad A more commercially available. The Quad A was commercially available (though not prevalent) since 1989. Similarly, the technology behind Energizer’s latest offering, the Zinc Air Prismatic Battery (or ZAP for short), has been around since 1991.

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Mini-E is Highway Legal Pure Electric Vehicle

December 31, 2008 9:23 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Hipsters of the world rejoice! Mini has announced the greatest thing since arthouse theater—an electric version of the Mini Cooper. Unveiled at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Mini-E is the first highway legal all-electric vehicle. Amazingly, the Mini-E is heavier than its internal combustion engine (ICE) counterpart (curb weight of 3,230 vs. 2,546 for the ICE). This will satisfy those who feel greater mass equals greater safety. Despite its added bulk, the Mini-E has even greater front/rear weight balance than the ICE.

Sensor Zone: January 2009

December 23, 2008 11:59 am | by Valerie Rothermel-Nelson, Honeywell Sensing & Control | Articles | Comments

When considering a relative humidity sensor for one’s application, the selection process involves a series of choices to meet application requirements and key parameters while, at the same time, insuring that the product selected delivers the lowest total cost solution. Despite the diversity in humidity sensor applications and specifications, the desire

Embedded Systems: Ethernet Modules Act Like SBCs

December 23, 2008 8:45 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Manufacturers offer a variety of small modules that let engineers easily add an Ethernet port to a design. They may need only a UART or I2C port in a main system to communicate with and control one of these modules. But if engineers stop there they will miss many other capabilities offered by these modules--actually single-board computers (SBCs).

Industry Focus: Planning for End-of-Life in Mil-Aero Markets

December 23, 2008 6:06 am | by George Karalias, Rochester Electronics, LLC | Articles | Comments

Although the ramifications of end of life (EOL) announcements have long been an issue for OEMs in the mil/aero marketplace, many still fail to put a workable plan in place to face this reality. As a result of the increase in end-product programs for these industries, long-term support requirements can sometimes extend for decades, leaving customers in a difficult position as they source components for ongoing production, maintenance and repair.

FPGAs Offer More Flexible, Affordable Embedded System Solutions

December 23, 2008 5:51 am | by Stephen Cunha, MEN Micro, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Potential solutions for providing application-specific functionality in embedded systems typically come with trade-offs in terms of cost and time to market. With few projects having the lead-time, budget or high-volume payback potential to tool-up for custom chip or hardware production runs, the best answers often revolve around "modular" solutions.

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Semiconductor Highlight: ZigBee Radios and ICs Gain Momentum in Industrial Control Applications

December 23, 2008 4:52 am | by Rich Howell, California Eastern Laboratories | Articles | Comments

Riding an elevator is typically a mundane exercise - you push a button, you wait, you get off at your floor. Few give any thought to the workings outside the metal box you’re riding. But behind the scenes a lot of technical communication takes place between the elevator car, the controller at the top of the elevator shaft, and the call button you’re patiently pushing in the lobby. Today that communication is typically conducted over high-grade RS-485 twisted pair serial cable.

Design Talk: Batteries

December 22, 2008 11:34 am | Articles | Comments

Portable electronics are evolving so quickly that one can barely keep up with the new devices available to end-users. Regardless of the system, consumers expect more functionality in a smaller device that operates for a longer period of time between charges.

Brainstorm: Advanced Technology Vehicles

December 22, 2008 9:08 am | Articles | Comments

How can Advanced Technology Vehicles penetrate the mainstream automotive market?

European Union to Phase Out Incandescent Bulbs by 2012

December 11, 2008 4:42 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

In a move sure to ignite debate on this side of the Atlantic, the European Union approved the phasing out of incandescent bulbs by 2012. Here in the US, we’re debating which technologies should be allowed to earn a label (Energy Star). Over in Europe, they’ve ended the discussion with multinational governmental action. By following the commission’s proposal, EU citizens will save close to 40 TWh per year, and emissions will go down by 15 million tons of CO2 (according to the European Commission). But there’s a larger issue at hand: should government have such control of industry?

Semiconductor Highlight: Power Management for Low-Power IP Phones and VoIP Devices

December 8, 2008 9:19 am | by Rich Nowakowski and T.Y. Chan, Texas Instruments | Articles | Comments

Now that power via media-dependent interface (MDI) was added to the IEEE 802.3af Standard, data terminal equipment (DTE) can receive power over existing data transmission cables. The IEEE 802.3af Standard defines the requirements associated with providing and receiving power over the existing cabling. The power sourcing equipment (PSE) provides the power on the cable, and the powered device (PD) receives the power.

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When Electronics Go Green, Everybody Wins

December 8, 2008 6:25 am | by Jeff Ittel, senior vice president of semiconductors, Avnet Electronics Marketing | Articles | Comments

For members of the electronics supply chain, going “green” is not just a short-term marketing scheme rife with buzzwords but short on substance. Granted, the tech sector has jumped on its share of bandwagons, but this movement is different. It’s not just about pioneering technologies, building a positive public image, padding the bottom line or even “doing the right thing.” It’s all of the above. When state-of-the-art electronic products are energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and cost effective, everyone wins.

Embedded Systems: A Legacy and a Bright Future for the VMEbus

December 5, 2008 11:05 am | by Ray Alderman, Executive Director, VITA | Articles | Comments

In October of 1981, three semiconductor companies announced the open-architecture VMEbus, spawned by the introduction of the Motorola 68000 microprocessor. After 27 years, the VMEbus still holds the largest market share of all buses and boards. Today's bus technologies have lives measured in months, so why has the VMEbus survived and prospered while other buses have rapidly gone by the wayside? (Engineers use the terms VMEbus and VME interchangeably.)

Industry Focus: When Electronics Go Green, Everybody Wins

December 4, 2008 11:45 am | by Jeff Ittel, senior vice president of semiconductors, Avnet Electronics Marketing | Articles | Comments

For members of the electronics supply chain, going “green” is not just a short-term marketing scheme rife with buzzwords but short on substance. Granted, the tech sector has jumped on its share of bandwagons, but this movement is different. It’s not just about pioneering technologies, building a positive public image, padding the bottom line or even “doing the right thing.” It’s all of the above. When state-of-the-art electronic products are energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and cost effective, everyone wins.

Wind Turbine Design Reduces Blade Size, Saves Money

December 3, 2008 11:10 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Betz’ Law (culled from its namesake, Albert Betz) is a theory for flow machines. From this theory we derive the Betz Limit, that is, “the maximum possible energythat may be derived by means of an infinitely thin rotor from a fluid flowing at a certain speed.” In windmills, this equates to how much electricity can be harvested from the wind energy. Current technology allows turbines to capture a maximum of 59 percent of the energy in wind

White OLED Illuminator Achieves Energy-Star Color Rating for Solid-State Lighting

November 29, 2008 7:04 am | Osram Opto Semiconductors | Product Releases | Comments

This achievement not only speeds us forward in the development of real-world solid-state lighting, it demonstrates that LED-based tech is not the only game in town.Delivering a light yield of over 60 lumens/watt, an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) white light emitter from BASF and Osram Opto Semiconductors also meets international Energy Star SSL Standard with regard to color requirements.

Brainstorm: New Year Tech

November 24, 2008 9:34 am | by Edited by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

What technology will have the biggest impact in 2009?

Industry Focus: Eliminating Medical Device RF Interference

November 19, 2008 9:44 am | by Christopher Keuling, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

Wireless RF interference found in medical devices causes tainted results and misdiagnoses. Medical professionals and patients rely on these results to pursue the correct course of action for a given illness. There are several companies and collaborations looking into solutions of how to reduce and/or remove interference in the medical field. This month, we take a look at some of the causes of wireless interference and answers that are being worked on now in today’s medical devices, as well as future devices.

Embedded Systems: C and C++ Tools Reduce Code Errors

November 19, 2008 8:44 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Programmers now have many tools that help reduce or eliminate problems. Unfortunately, they might not know these tools exist. "In 1998, the UK's Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA) published their standard for the C language to promote 'safe C' in the UK automotive industry," explained Chris Tapp, a field-applications engineer at LDRA. "The software industry has seen MISRA-C as a way to encourage good programming practice, focus on coding rules, and ensure well designed and tested safe code."

Semiconductor Highlight: Leadless Packages Empower Your Design

November 19, 2008 6:15 am | by Ian Moulding, Business Manager, Diodes Incorporated | Articles | Comments

Semiconductor packaging has evolved from the through-hole packages of the 1970’s, through  surface mount leaded packaging in the 1990’s to leadless package technologies of today such as quad/dual flat no leads (QFN/DFN), ball grid arrays (BGA) and chip scale packaging (CSP). It can be argued that it is semiconductor package innovations such as these that have allowed the industry to exploit the successive IC process shrinks and achieve product performances that were previously unobtainable.

Semiconductor Highlight: Solutions for Complex DC/DC Power Conversion Needs

November 17, 2008 6:03 am | by Ingrid Kugler & Alfred Hesener, Fairchild Semiconductor | Articles | Comments

In embedded DC-DC converters in industrial applications like test and measurement equipment or embedded computing, the system architecture can be quite complex, with many different output voltage and current, ripple, EMI and power sequencing requirements. This article will explore the impact of the choice of the converter power stages in DC-DC applications.

Brainstorm: Holiday Wish List

November 13, 2008 6:15 am | by Edited by Jason Lomberg | Articles | Comments

As the holidays approach, what product or technology is on your wish list?

Issues and Answers

November 11, 2008 11:37 am | Articles | Comments

Compliance and compatibility are critical factors in the design of medical electronics equipment. The following are responses to questions posed by ECN regarding how vendors address certification issues and what types of testing are required.

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