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What’s the right wireless tool for the job?

How to navigate the many wireless options in the market and select the best solution for every application.

By: Jason Tollefson, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

When there is a task to complete around your home, like hanging a picture or tightening a chair leg, you need the right tools to get the job done. After all, you’ll have a poor result if you try to fix a loose chair leg with a hammer. We can look at wireless technologies the same way. Each technology has specific benefits that align well with certain tasks, and rarely does one tool work in every circumstance. So, let’s open your tool box and examine the best use for each of these wireless tools: Bluetooth® Low Energy, Wi-Fi, LoRa® and IEEE 802.15.4.

Open Your Tool Box

Bluetooth Low Energy

Through the use of our smart phones, we have become more familiar with Bluetooth. We use apps to connect to speakers, door locks, exercise equipment and many other products. The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard offers interoperability, low power consumption, an easy-to-use user interface and ranges up to 30-100 meters. That’s why it’s a go-to technology for many products that involve a human user and their phone.

Wi-Fi

If there was one universal wireless technology, it would be Wi-Fi. We find free Wi-Fi in hotels, airports, coffee shops and now in the cars we buy. Wi-Fi is popular because it is fast, secure and great for sending and receiving data across networks. Home Telecom notes that 802.11n speeds for single antenna devices is roughly 25-50 Mbps in real world environments. Compare that to under 2 Mbps for Bluetooth Low Energy 5.

While it has good range, most of us would say it is not good enough.  For Wi-Fi, this is one of its greatest opportunities for improvement. Lifewire states that a typical 802.11n 2.4GHz network range is roughly 46 meters indoors. Not bad, but when you switch to a 5GHz network, that range will be reduced to just 15 meters.

LoRa

LoRa is receiving a lot of buzz around its entry into the wireless market. The term is short for “Long Range,” and it definitely lives up to its name. LoRa networks can communicate up to 10 kilometers, making it the king of long-distance communication for IoT. Another powerful attribute of LoRa is its low power consumption, making it suitable for remote battery powered sensors.

In contrast to Wi-Fi and BLE, LoRa requires a dedicated network infrastructure, much like our mobile phones. You can set up your own network gateways, or lease bandwidth with a network provider. Another contrast is its throughput. LoRa network throughput is measured in kilobits per second, far lower than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but suitable for sensors, simple commands and control.

IEEE 802.15.4

IEEE 802.15.4 is the basis for Zigbee® and MiWi™ protocols. It can support 2.4GHz or Sub-GHz frequencies, each with slight advantages over the other. This wireless technology forms “mesh networks” and was designed to solve key problems in battery powered networks like power consumption, reliability, persistence and range.

Many factors can disturb wireless networks like human movement, changes in the environment, dead batteries and temporary interference. When these disturbances occur, mesh networks based on 802.15.4 can self-heal. This feature dramatically improves the robustness of the network and therefore the reliability of the communication.

Nodes in mesh networks based on 802.15.4 also offer increased persistence. They have the ability to sleep, ceasing transmission for extended periods of time. Unlike network technologies such as Ethernet or Wi-Fi which “age-out” uncommunicative nodes within the network, 802.15.4 networks feature permanent membership.

Throughput for IEEE 802.15.4 networks ranges from 100 Kbps to 1 Mbps depending on configuration and protocol selected. These networks are proprietary and feature little to no interoperability with existing infrastructure. A summary of attributes is shown in Table 1 below.

 

Table 1 – Summary of Wireless Attributes

 

Grab Your Tool and Get to Work

Now that we’ve identified the strengths of each wireless tool, the next step is to determine the best way to interface with these products for optimal operation. Microchip Technology offers four varieties of wireless product interfaces; UART, SPI, SDIO and Standalone. The first three are used with a host, such as an MCU, microprocessor or FPGA. The Standalone device is an “all-in-one” device that combines an MCU and radio into one package or module. Microchip has even created drivers and ASCII interpreters for interface products to help simplify the use of hosted devices. With the Standalone device, the wireless protocol can merge with your own code for a compact, customized solution. Table 2 shows the types of available interfaces for wireless tools.

 

Table 2 – Interfaces Available for Wireless Products

 

A Job Well Done

Whether it’s leveraging a sleek mobile phone user interface with Bluetooth Low Energy or achieving high data throughput with Wi-Fi and an SDIO/MPU host, selecting the best tool for your application is key. Applying the right tool to the task helps save precious design time, accelerate time to market and increase revenue. For more information, visit microchip.com/wireless.

 

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Taking formal methods mainstream

In academia, we refer to computing science. In industry, we refer to software engineering. An engineer is a skilled technician who develops and applies scientific knowledge to solve technological problems. Too often in practice software people must resort to skillful tinkering as opposed to sound engineering. That’s why at Verum, we’ve dedicated ourselves to the development and application of scientific knowledge to solve the technological problems underlying this phenomenon. To meet these challenges head on, we’re developing a language that enables building reactive systems at industrial scale. The language offers built-in verification and allows for reasoning about both the problem and the solution. It’s complemented by tooling that automates every development aspect from specification, construction, and documentation to verification and validation. In this talk, we’ll present what we’ve achieved and what will come tomorrow, when we stop tinkering in software development.
Rutger van Beusekom holds an MSc in mechanical engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology. From 1999-2005, he worked as a software engineer at Philips CFT. From 2005-2007, he was a software engineer and team lead at Philips Research. Since 2007, he’s been at Verum, in the roles of consultant, software engineer, team shepherd, architect and CTO, working together with and at ASML, Ericsson, FEI, Philips and other customers.
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Developing for safety and security

Software systems have exploded in complexity, leading to an enormous increase in the number of vulnerabilities available for exploitation by bad players. This effects safety as safety and security are inexorably linked. Cars today have one hundred million lines of code, but should we be proud or ashamed? Developing systems that need to be safe and secure will require a shift in thinking away from huge monolithic to minimalistic, component-based that enables components to be fully validated and tested, to eliminate vulnerabilities. This talk explains how we need to change software development to make security and safety the main criteria.
Chris Tubbs is an industry veteran with 46 years’ experience in the avionics, simulation, medical, automotive and software industries. After 15 years in the aerospace industry managing safety-critical systems, he co- founded companies in the simulation and medical-imaging markets in the roles of commercial and managing director. He then spent eight Years in the automotive industry in Germany and the Netherlands as a development and business development manager, after which he joined Green Hills Software in 2008. He was promoted to Director of Business Development EMEA in 2012, since when he has specialized in safety and security.
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Remodeling legacy software

Have you ever considered remodeling your kitchen, while continuing to cook in it? It may not sound obvious, but that’s exactly what this talk is about. Within Kulicke & Soffa, high-tech pick & place machines are developed for the semiconductor industry. For the development of these machines, a software stack is used, the development of which started more than a decade ago. Over the course of years, different machine types were developed from this codebase, which led to a situation where alternative flows are implemented in various areas of the code base. Therefore, the decision was made to group product-type-specific code. Constrained by feature development, that should continue in the same code base. Remodeling while cooking! This talk will take you through the remodeling and the challenges that come with it.
Corné van de Pol is a software architect and trainer at Alten Nederland. This gave him the opportunity to work for a range of companies, including Philips, Vanderlande, ASML and Kulicke & Soffa. He enjoys learning and helping others and with over 10 years of experience as a professional software engineer, he got specialized in agile software development and object-oriented design and clean code.
Erik Onstenk is lead software architect at Kulicke & Soffa Netherlands. He joined Kulicke & Soffa (formerly Assembléon) in 2007. Over the years, he worked on the control software of the entire machine portfolio. His current focus is redefining the reference architecture to better suite recent developments and facilitate future expansions.
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Why high process compliance is no guarantee for good software quality

In the automotive industry, Aspice is used for measuring an organization’s capability to develop high-quality software. Companies supplying software to automotive manufacturers  are required to have a minimum maturity level to ensure that they deliver that high quality. Still, having high-quality processes in place and complying with them is no guarantee. To see why that is and what else is needed to assure high quality software, we first need to understand the many different aspects of software quality and the influence they have. In this talk, Ger Cloudt will present a holistic view on software quality using the 1+3 SQM approach, addressing the consequences of high or low quality for each of the four defined quality types.

Ger Cloudt studied electronics at the University of Applied Sciences in Venlo (the Netherlands). At companies like Philips, NXP and Bosch, he has gained more than 35 years of experience in in-product software development across different industries, including industrial automation, healthcare, automotive, semiconductors, security and building technologies. After having developed software for over 15 years, he became a software development manager, leading numerous engineering teams. During all these years, he developed a vision on what really matters in software development, which he has encapsulates in his book “What is software quality?”.
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Opportunities and challenges of high-throughput 3D metrology equipment for semiconductor process control

With the shipment of its first system to a high-end chip manufacturer, Nearfield Instruments proves that the semiconductor market is very much open to innovative solutions for advanced process control metrology. This first product, Quadra, can measure in-line and in great detail (ångstroms) the on-surface high-aspect-ratio (10:1) features of integrated circuits. The company is now scaling up to deliver dozens of its scanning probe metrology systems per year.

Nearfield founder Hamed Sadeghian foresees the Quadra metrology platform to be the basis for several products and product lines. All of them will solve different problems the semiconductor industry is facing to follow Moore’s Law with its ever smaller and 3D features. Nearfield is expecting to deliver its second product line based on the Quadra platform next year. This system will be able to image, non-destructively, subsurface structures with nano-precision.

In this talk, Hamed Sadeghian will highlight the major requirements for developing non-destructive 3D high-volume manufacturing metrology equipment in the semiconductor industry, the architecture of Quadra (including software) and the challenges faced and overcome. He will also address the impact of the system architecture on the outsourcing strategy to the high-tech supply chain.

Hamed Sadeghian received his PhD (cum laude) in 2010 from Delft University of Technology. Four years later, he obtained an MBA degree from the Vlerick Business School in Belgium. He is the founder (2001) of Jahesh Poulad Co., a manufacturer of mechanical equipment.

Hamed was a principal scientist and Kruyt member of TNO and led a team of thirty researchers in nano-optomechatronic instrumentation at TNO in Delft from 2011 to 2018. In 2016, he co-founded Nearfield Instruments and is currently CEO/CTO at this scale-up that recently shipped its first in-line metrology system to a high-end chip manufacturer.

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Mastering the edge: critical factors to enabling edge computing

There’s no denying that cloud computing has been a top technology over the past two decades. So many of us working from home since the start of the pandemic would have been impossible not that long ago. Even though the cloud is key for today, it can’t handle the technologies of the future. Self-driving cars are a perfect example. They need to make ultra-fast, perfectly accurate decisions. There’s no time to wait for data to be processed in a data center. This is where edge computing comes in. Edge computing cuts across the IoT – from home and work to the most complex of all, the vehicle. Coupled with the rising digitalization that leads to everything connected, high-performance edge compute platforms are transforming ecosystems and the development landscape. In this talk, Maarten Dirkzwager will share why mastering edge computing with the right level of safety and security is critical to enabling next-generation technologies.

Maarten Dirkzwager NXP

Maarten Dirkzwager is responsible for corporate strategy and chief of staff to the NXP management team. He joined the company in 1996 at Philips. After several roles in central engineering, he moved to Philips Semiconductors in Hong Kong in 2005, where he was responsible for the innovation, efficiency and strategy of the discrete back-end factories. In 2009, he moved to the corporate strategy team in the Netherlands where he was involved in the transition of NXP to a profitable high-performance mixed-signal player. In 2015, he played a leading role in NXP’s acquisition and integration of Freescale, which resulted in creating one of the leading semiconductor companies and a leader in automotive semiconductors. In 2017 and 2018, he worked as head of strategy for ASML and AMS, after which he returned to NXP in early 2019.