Increasingly, digital signal controllers (DSCs) are offering a boost to embedded sensor-based applications hungering for greater intelligence. By serving as a source of intelligence — either remotely or on-board — such devices enable industrial applications to achieve higher energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Makers of DSCs claim they offer advantages over the time-tested method of applying a microcontroller and an analog signal conditioning technique. Using DSCs, they say they can more efficiently filter sensor signal noise, improve signal-to-noise ratio, compensate for sensor degradation over time and deal with sensor-to-sensor variability. That opens applications in radar systems, RFID readers and barcode scanners, as well as in pressure-, torque-, inertial- and capacitive-sensing measurement systems.
“We want to process the signals delivered by the sensors in a smarter fashion than we ever have before,” says Steve Marsh, manager of strategic marketing for Microchip Technology Inc.'s Digital Signal Controller Div. “Most, if not all, embedded applications are driven by sensors and DSCs can provide intelligence to sensors.”
Here, we display two DSCs that rolled out this summer, from Microchip and Texas Instruments. Both offer ways to add intelligence to embedded applications.
Microchip DSC Enables Smart Sensors
Microchip's dsPIC33FJ12GP family of digital signal controllers is designed to enable a new class of “smart sensor” applications. Said to be the world's smallest DSCs (18- and 28-pin packages as small as 6 x 6 mm), they can be moved closer to sensors, thus eliminating lead noise and off-loading work from the central processor. Microchip claims using libraries and filter design tools, the new DSCs can replace analog filters in noise reduction. The family's on-chip analog-to-digital converters offer 1.1 Msps, thus permitting signal oversampling to improve signal-to-noise ratios. The new device family also features Peripheral Pin Select, a feature that allows designers to re-map digital I/O to optimize board layout.
Ti's Floating Point DSC Enables Greener Industrial Applications
Texas Instruments' TMS320F2833x is designed to increase energy efficiency through higher performance for digital power, intelligent sensing and motor control applications. Said to be the first floating point digital signal controller, the TMS320F2833x device provides 300 million floating point operations/sec (MFLOPS) performance at 150 MHz. Its performance, combined with simplified software development common to floating point processors, allows solar power inverters to more efficiently convert energy from photovoltaic panels and improve power efficiency and performance for variable speed ac drives.