Monthly Archives: December 2013

Guest Blog: New Sensor Expansion Boards for Freescale Freedom Development Platform

Originally posted by Michael E Stanley in The Embedded Beat on Dec 6, 2013

I am really excited because Freescale recently released a family of new sensor expansion boards designed to work with the FRDM-KL25Z and FRDM-K20D50M Freescale Freedom development platforms.  All three of the new expansion boards are based upon the same PCB design, and differ only in terms of how they are populated.  I’ve been using prototypes of these for months as a development platform for sensor fusion (more on that to come).  If I had to come up with a one word descriptor, it would be “SWEET!”

I refer to this design as our “kitchen sink” board, as it includes many of the sensors that Freescale introduced in 2013.  Because it pairs with two popular Freedom boards, it makes an ideal platform for product prototyping.  If low power and cost are your prime concerns, the KL25Z, built around a Kinetis KL25 MCU with ARM® Cortex®-M0+ processor, should be your base board of choice.  If you need more processing power, upgrade to the K20D50M, which is enabled with a K20 device built around an ARM Cortex-M4 processor.  Both Freedom development platforms support the popular Arduino R3 expansion board interface, which is also used for the new sensor expansion boards.

Prior to joining Freescale’s sensors team 4 years ago, I worked in the MCU side of the business.  I was really jazzed when my old division introduced the Freedom series of boards.  They are extremely flexible, easy to use and the cost cannot be beat.  Nice job!

The table below summarizes feature sets for each of the new sensor boards.  The two “MULTI” board options include redundant capability for rmeasuring acceleration and magnetic fields.  The intent is to provide multiple sensor options for you to experiment with.

Feature FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B FRDM-FXS-
MULTI
FRDM-FXS-
9AXIS
Expansion Board Photo 30615-IND-FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B_top_LR.jpg 30936-IND-FRDM2-FXS-MULTI_top_LR.jpg 30939-IND-FRDM-FXS-9AXIS-top_LR.jpg
Compatible Freedom Development Hardware (not included) FRDM-
KL25ZFRDM-KL20D50M
FRDM-
KL25ZFRDM-KL20D50M
FRDM-
KL25ZFRDM-KL20D50M
Arduino R3-compatible board
FXAS21000 Gyroscope
FXOS8700CQ Accelerometer / Magnetometer Combination Sensor
MMA8652FC Accelerometer
MPL3115A2 Altimeter/Barometer Sensor
FXLS8471 Accelerometer
MMA9553L Pedometer
MAG3110 Magnetometer
Bluetooth Module and Battery
Price USD (Dec. 2013) $125 $50 $30

In a prior posting (Free Android app teaches sensor fusion basics) I introduced the Xtrinsic Sensor Fusion Toolbox for Android, with the promise that it would communicate with future Freescale development boards.  The FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B IS that board.  Freescale will be posting downloadable binaries for the fusion app shortly.  You can expect to see an evaluation version of the Xtrinsic Sensor Fusion Library for Kinetis MCUs soon also.  I’ll be posting separately on that topic.

Because it includes a rechargeable Li-Ion battery (simply plug it into a USB port to charge) and 3rd party Bluetooth module (BR-LE4.0-D2A), your FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B application can be completely untethered.   The wireless module includes its own software stack for wireless encode/decode, which means that communications to/from the Freedom hardware could not be easier.  Simply read and write using a standard UART interface.

The FRDM-FXS-MULTI  has exactly the same sensor complement as the FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B, but omits the Bluetooth module and battery.  This has the benefit of lowing the per board cost by about 60%.  For those of you who really only need a basic 9-axis MARG (Magnetic-Angular Rate-Gravity) module, the FRDM-FXS-9AXIS board is just the ticket at only $30 USD.

Labelled.jpg

The photo above shows key components on the FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B board.  Did I mention the SD card slot for data logging?  Or the prototype area on the left of the board?  You might want to plan on using Processor Expert software to abstract base board dependencies out of your project.  That’s what we did for our fusion code, with the result that we’re able to easily target both Freedom boards with essentially the same application.

Just click the “BUY” button on the web page associated with each board to place your order.  Don’t forget to also order a main Freescale Freedom development platform if you don’t already have one.

 

References:

  1. Freescale Freedom Development Platform
  2. FRDM-KL25Z
  3. FRDM-K20D50M
  4. FRDM-FXS-9AXIS
  5. FRDM-FXS-MULTI
  6. FRDM-FXS-MULTI-B
  7. Processor Expert software
  8. Blue Radios Bluetooth module BR-LE4.0-D2A

Michael Stanley is a systems engineer at Freescale.

MEMS: An Enabler of the Next Internet Revolution

Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensor fusion will play a critical role in enabling a more intelligent and intuitive Internet of Things (IoT)—one that will revolutionize the consumer space forever. The MEMS and sensor technology is here today and now is the time to harness it for your products and position yourself for this exciting future. I encourage you to read on and learn about some great examples of MEMS enabling IoT.

-Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group


MEMS: An Enabler of the Next Internet Revolution

Written by: Howard Wisniowski, President of HW Marketing Group.

The next internet revolution is shaping up and MEMS is poised to play an important role. Commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) or Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, this revolution consists primarily of machines talking to one another, with computer-connected humans observing, analyzing and acting upon the resulting ‘big data’ explosion it produces. While the first internet/web revolution changed the world profoundly, the disruptive nature of MEMS, M2M and the Internet of Things has the potential to change it even more as the big data machine will no longer be dependent on human data entry. The internet traffic will be automatically generated by millions of ‘things’ from which we can retool large parts of the world for better efficiency, security and environmental responsibility.

The enabling qualities of MEMS sensors quickly come to mind since they are increasingly becoming cheap, plentiful and can communicate, either directly with the internet or with internet-connected devices. Almost anything to which you can attach a sensor — a football helmet, an automobile, a smartphone, a cow in a field, a container on a cargo vessel, the air-conditioning unit in your office, a lamppost in the street — can become a node in the Internet of Things. Be it on location, altitude, velocity, temperature, illumination, motion, power, humidity, blood sugar, air quality, soil moisture… you name it, MEMS-based sensors will play an important role in gathering and/or disseminating data from millions of devices.

Deeper into the signal chain, however, is another class of MEMS devices that is evolving and will have a profound impact. At the heart of all the “connected” devices will be a component that provides the timing that enables all communication to occur.

In the past, timing components have typically been manufactured from quartz crystals, a nearly century-old technology unsuitable for integration into small, low power connectivity ICs. In contrast, a new generation of MEMS timing devices are appearing and are offered by companies such as Sand 9Silicon Labs, IDT, and SiTime. Major advantages of MEMS timing devices include vibration immunity, shock resistance, power supply noise immunity, small package dimensions, and reliable operation at high sustained temperatures. Additionally, sourcing MEMS timing devices is significantly easier that quartz. Leadtimes are shorter, the ability to react to sudden upside is much faster, and the ability to leverage semiconductor batch manufacturing enables cost benefits as volumes scale.

For the IoT market, small size is a key factor. New timing devices are now available in ultra-small WLCSPs and can be co-packaged with Bluetooth Smart ICs. An example of this is Sand 9’s MEMS resonators. Rugged, simplified Bluetooth Smart SiPs with the smallest dimensions and lowest power requirements are one of the factors driving Bluetooth adoption and IoT growth by enabling applications such as new industrial designs for wearable devices and tags.  With an ever increasing number of Bluetooth devices able to connect wirelessly, both the ecosystem and each device in it will increase in value and usefulness.

Speaking of smaller size, zero operate power, and higher performance, another MEMS technology is emerging that will also impact product designs serving the IoT trends. MEMS switches are now being introduced that require no power to switch while robust enough to  handle 300mW of ‘carry power’ performing as a sensor, high carry current switch or both. Announced earlier this year, Coto Technology’s RedRock™ MEMS-based magnetic reed switch is the latest example and is currently the world’s smallest single-pole, single throw (SPST) switch at only 2-by-1 millimeter (with an even smaller one on the way). It is activated or closed by a magnetic field of less than 25 milliTeslas while being highly directional, making it virtually immune to stray magnetic fields. Applications that benefit include ultra-small hearing aids, implantable insulin pumps, capsule endoscopes in-a-pill, and even devices that track birds, land animals and sharks off the coast of Chatham Massachusetts, all products connected for data logging and programming.

There’s many exciting market possibilities for MEMS-based products in the emerging world of the Internet of Things as products become smaller, increase in capability and machine-to-machine communication grows in importance. I’ve only touched the surface and I’m sure there are many more examples in this continually evolving landscape as suppliers continue to roll out products with greater capabilities and enable applications that were not possible before.

Who is next?  Share your thoughts.

MEMS Gains Momentum in China

Written by: Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group
first appeared on DesignNews, December 5, 2013

China has become a global powerhouse for manufacturing every imaginable kind of product — from motherboards, smartphones, and PCs to textiles and toys. But what of MEMS in China?

I recently traveled to Shanghai, and did my level best to explore that question while taking a closer peek into the Chinese MEMS industry. I was definitely impressed. Though the current MEMS industry in China is at a nascent stage — and there are only a few players on the field (including SMIC and MEMSIC) — the seeds are being planted for a fruitful future.

What struck me the most when I went to Shanghai is the energy of entrepreneurism. I saw it everywhere: There are the vendors in the French Concession where you can find competitors selling hand-painted scarves just doors away from each other. Competitive differentiation came in the form of each seller showcasing their advantage/uniqueness either in price or in quality. I could see the wheels churning as sellers realized that folks (in this case, foreign as well as domestic tourists) were willing to pay big money for high quality.

Soon the same will be true for MEMS in China. There are several initiatives currently underway in China to catapult the current MEMS industry into the world arena. While we now have the dominance of ST and Bosch as they battle for the number one spot in MEMS, it’s just like in any horse race: You gotta look out for the competitor who is sneaking up from the outside. Bosch and ST have benefitted from a mature supply chain that they have honed and refined to leverage each of their advantages. This fierce competition has driven down the price of MEMS so that revenue-per-device is minimal, compelling suppliers to make profit in the margins.

What I see happening in China is that there is and will continue to be a huge influx of government dollars into initiatives focused on the Internet of Things (IoT). And since MEMS is a cornerstone of IoT, China is now heavily investing in MEMS and especially, into its supply chain. China is investing in MEMS to build up its industrial capabilities, to build a domestic supply base for domestic demand, and to maintain its competitiveness on the worldwide stage. The lessons of the past five years (they’ve been watching and learning from all of our mistakes) has taught the Chinese that you can’t just take IC fabs and magically turn them into MEMS. For MEMS, the knowledge base (and learning curve) is different, the expertise is different, and the path from idea to volume production is different. China is now turning its attention to the infrastructure pieces that are vital to a healthy industry, and this is what gives so much weight to their efforts.

I did a full-bunny-suit tour of a MEMS manufacturer in China and was blown away by the masses of people in their 100,000-sq-ft fab. And not just tons of people (seemingly), but lots of IC and MEMS equipment nestled up against each other, competing for space. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

What will this mean for MEMS? Clearly it means a continued uptick in its current double-digit growth. It also means that with China’s plan to invest billions of dollars in MEMS, advanced sensors, new materials, green tech, and IoT (through organizations like SIMIT) — the rest of the world better pay attention. They are investing in the people and the infrastructure that will make the Chinese MEMS industry competitive in the world economy. And yes — with hopes of being the best.

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