There has been a lot of attention paid to the RF and logic systems in the burgeoning IoT marketplace. This focus is quite understandable, as deploying wireless intelligent systems is the very definition of the Internet of Things. This pressure has only intensified with the growth of Edge Computing, placing as much processing power at the point of application as possible.
However, this explosive growth is also directly linked to the availability of advanced sensor solutions. No matter how smart the processor is, and how powerful, efficient, and secure the wireless infrastructure, without a sensor suite to inform the device of its surroundings and the application at hand, any given product is useless. There is no precision without feedback, and you need good sensors to provide it.
Recently the European electronics industry came together in Nuremberg for the 2019 Sensor+Test conference and exhibition, showing the dynamism and importance of the sensor and T&M industry. The sensor industry must present products that are state of the art, addressing the very real and growing needs of the remote IoT device community.
On the other side of the coin, the test industry is under the gun because any test device must be able to operate more precisely, faster, and with more memory than the system under test, or it can’t measure it. The lines on your ruler have to be closer together than the features of the object you are measuring, or it will only be an approximation of reality.
This year’s Sensor+Test emphasized practical solutions for everyday applications, bringing higher levels of precision and performance to operating systems. There were quite a few live demonstrators and static displays of the latest in sensor technologies. Embedded Computing Design was there, and we took videos of some of the more interesting demonstrations at the show.
Active Technologies’ Arbitrary Waveform Generator
In this video, Michele Ramponi, COO of Active Technologies, talks about their new arbitrary waveform generator at the Teledyne LeCroy booth. The joint-venture T3AWG3358 is a 1.2 GS/s 16-bit 350 MHz device that has up to 1 GS of memory per four or eight channels, depending on the model.
The novel architecture of the device enables it to generate and/or add 8, 16 or 32 channel digital patterns (respectively on 2,4 or 8 analog channels) and to operate all models in true arbitrary mode or Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) mode. All models have 16 bits of vertical resolution, an output voltage window of up to ±24 V and waveform memory length up to 1 GS/channel. The 8 channel models offer the intra chassis synchronization system in order to build multi channel waveform generator systems.
Gantner’s 4 Mhz Sampling Solution
In this video, Benedict from Gantner Instruments demonstrates their Q.boost A101 high-speed module, with 4 Mhz sampling rate. Presented as the most accurate amplifier available, the system has a 24bit resolution with a low signal-to-noise ratio, targeting the measurement of signals from DC to 1.7MHz. Q.bloxx modules can be selected based on individual sensor measurement requirements, such as acquisition rate (from 100 Hz to 100 kHz per channel), and input/output type (dedicated, universal, multifunction, ICP and IEPE sensor support, TEDS support, etc.).
Although the live demonstration did not go as planned, the functionality of the solution can be determined. (We left the glitch in, as it doesn’t detract from the performance of the system, and shows we don’t hide what we find from our audience.) Data exchange between the measurement modules, the controller, and the automation system can be accomplished in a number of different ways from a serial interface, Ethernet TCP/IP or UDP, or a number of industrial fieldbus systems (EtherCAT, Profi bus DP, CANopen).
LUNA’s Fiber-Based Strain-Measurement
In this video, Andreas Stern from LUNA talks about a couple of the company's strain measurement solutions at the Polytec booth. Using a novel DeLorean car model as the subject, one of the systems is based on fiber bragg grating technology, and the other is their ODiSI 6000 Series sensing platform, which can integrate into test management platforms collecting both strain and temperature data.
Features of the GUI-driven ODiSl 6000 Series include the ability to stream measurements in real-time at the maximum measurement rate, or via TCP-IP to another computer, IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol synchronization, and continuous automatic optical alignment without user intervention. Optical frequencies are validated at every acquisition for accurate measurements.
CAE Software and Systems' Sound Camera
In this video, Tim from CAE Software and Systems explains the operation of their Sound Camera, which can pinpoint the location of any sound. Sound source localization is done with acoustic beamforming methods, and the results are presented as a colored acoustic picture or movie. The Sound Camera can make acoustic optimization for sound design as well as failure diagnosis such as gear or leakage detection on engines.
The SoundCam consists of 64 microphones and an optical camera with a display and control unit with touchscreen and hardware buttons, displaying high-resolution results in real time. The Noise Inspector is a unique modular system that makes it possible to expand the acoustic camera with an additional microphone array to open up other applications. Real-time software Smart Vision can capture up to 100 acoustic pictures a second.
Alldaq’s Data Acquisition Solution
In this video, Chris Stacey from Alldaq walks us through the various data-acquisition solutions at their booth. ALLDAQ specializes in high-quality isolated data acquisition and control boards for CompactPCI, CompactPCI Serial and PCI-Express. The boards serve applications such as automatic testing in production, industrial control, and high-speed data-logging.
For example, their ADQ-250 board offers eight isolated, full differential voltage inputs, with an isolation voltage of 700V (chan. to chan. / chan. to PC), with 16 or 18 bit ADC per channel for synchronous sampling up to 2 MS/s (depending on model). The input voltage range is ±10V, ±24V, and optional ±102V, or ±4V ("E" versions). There is also a digital I/O port (8 bit) via HDMI connector, and two isolated trigger inputs for the A/D section.
Infineon’s Robot Foot
In this video, Julian from Infineon explains their robot foot ground-sensing solution at their booth. Made in conjunction with the Technical University of Munich, the robotic foot has an Infineon radar chip that determines the spectral signature of the ground to determine the nature of the surface the robot is walking on. The live demonstration shows how the system accurately determines the difference between wood, carpet and metal, for example.
In addition, Julian shows us the ROBOY, Infineon’s humanoid robot demonstrator. Similar to the human body in terms of agility, cognition and sensitivity, ROBOY is part of Infineon’s work with researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) who are exploring artificial intelligence in robots. The current generation, ROBOY 2.0, can move smoothly, recognize people and hold conversations.
Trinamix's Fiber-Based Laser Distance Measurement
In this video, Chris from Trinamics demonstrates the company's fiber-based distance measuring system. The system ignores color and texture, and has a 3kH sampling frequency, enabling it to determine rapidly-varying movement in real time. Based on a BASF discovery made in 2011 over a unique behavior of organic solar cells, the process captures 3D data in a way that enables instantaneous depth measurement through a monocular system.
The XperYenZ (from the x, y and z axis) product family provides a monocular 3D location solution determining distance from specific beam profiles. In the live demonstration, the sensor shows how it can operate regardless of target color, using a simple card painted black on one side and white on the other. Another active demonstrator uses a speaker diaphragm in motion to demonstrate the accuracy and speed of the system.
The sensor industry is in a positive mode, with a lot of advanced development going on without a lot of the displacement disruption going on in some of the other embedded spaces. Due to the migratory aspect of the sensor industry, there isn’t the great competition between “old” and “new” technologies found in other engineering spaces. This means that in most cases, the next generation of a familiar sensing product will incorporate the latest tech in it in an evolutionary process.
This evolutionary development has resulted in smarter, more accurate, faster, and more efficient sensing systems. These new enablers will provide the foundation of the next generation of advanced IoT systems going forward, bringing new levels of performance and functionality to the marketplace.