Texas Instruments is rolling out a new microcontroller (MCU) that could make the design of sensor networks and data logging systems simpler and less costly.
Known as the RF430F5978, the new product combines a 16-bit MCU with a sub-1GHz RF transceiver, a low-frequency wake-up trigger, and a transponder. The device is said to be the first to integrate all those parts into a single-chip solution for wireless applications such as data logging, container tracking, and asset management.
”This enables those applications to use smaller modules,” Diwakar Bansal, manager of safety and security MCUs for Texas Instruments, told Design News. “And having smaller modules is critical, because it reduces the BOM [bill of materials] cost.”
TI engineers believe the new technology is especially well suited for use with temperature and humidity sensors in food tracking applications. There, the MCU would log data from the sensors, then work with the wakeup trigger and transponder to send data to automated readers as it passes through shipping stations. The device could use the low-frequency interface to operate passively (without a battery) at short ranges, or with the sub-GHz transceiver to send the data across a range of as much as 6 meters. Either way, it would serve as a simple way to monitor the temperature of fresh foods, such as packaged fruits and vegetables, during shipping.
Wireless solutions for such applications have existed in the past, but typically consisted of three or even four discrete electronics parts, including separate microcontrollers, transceivers, wakeup triggers, and transponders. ”You would have needed multiple components to do this because no one had ever put all these interfaces together,” Bansal told us.
Texas Instruments says it is also offering an evaluation module to help jumpstart development of such systems. Known as the RF430F5978EVM, the evaluation module includes an MCU evaluation board and a USB-based plug-in low-frequency trigger module.
@Warren60: I agree, the title is a bit misleading, but if you think about it, food tracking (and also the conditions of the environment in which it is being shipped) will help food from being spoiled. Manufacturers can thus know under what conditions food get spoiled while transporting and can make changes so as to improve the environment.
Most food items have the shipping problem and it is not possible to know whether the shipped food is good or bad because in some cases, even in the right conditions the food appears spoilt and the company has to rethink their transporting strategy. This food tracking will be a hit as food vendors would now be able to determine how long the food will last.
Hmmm...I have to agree with Charles on this one, but then, it is all in your perspective.
As a big fan of microcontrollers, it has been amazing to me to see their evolution. More and more tasks that were once devoted to separate chips are coming onboard. It is very convenient to be able to define what tasks you want to accomplish and then look at the microcontroller specs to find one that will do just about everything you need without adding additional chips to your design along with additional circuitry for the interface. I love the development kits that manufacturers often provide - we didn't have them in the old days and often made our own prototyping boards. I wonder if young engineers today realize how much easier they have it - I wonder if any of them ever burned an EPROM?
As an engineer that has been responsible for producing a package which would keep products cool for several days, I opened this article hoping to see new technology that would actually aid in keeping food fresh... maybe hydrated, cool or have some other environmental impact.
But, the title was misleading and talks about monitoring electronics that will identify environmental changes the monitor is subject to.
So, it really doesn't do anything in the way of being an active participant in keeping food fresh.
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