Get Your Wireless Demo Boards at Gadget Freak Workshop

Charles Murray

February 2, 2015

3 Min Read
Get Your Wireless Demo Boards at Gadget Freak Workshop

Followers of Design News’ Gadget Freak blogs will have the opportunity next week to take home a wireless remote demo package that can be used to build garage door openers, tire pressure monitors, keyless entry systems, and much more.

The demo package, which includes an 8-bit microcontroller board and wireless daughter card, will be available to attendees at the Gadget Freak Workshop during the Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show in Anaheim, Calif. The workshop will be held at the Center Stage area of the show on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Anaheim Convention Center.

Sponsored by Allied Electronics, the Gadget Freak Workshop will also include hands-on construction of special wireless show badges that incorporate both circuit boards. The badges will be capable of flashing their blue LEDs at other wireless badges on the show floor.


Allied, a long-time sponsor of Gadget Freak, saw the “smart badges” idea as a way to demonstrate the power of wireless electronics. “We’ve got a lot of customers who do really incredible things with these products,” said Gabriel Reichman, director of customer marketing at Allied Electronics. “This is our chance see the parts go from the manufacturer to the customer, and then get made into a product right on the show floor.”

Designed by Microchip Technology Inc., the badges include a PIC16F1459 8-bit microcontroller on a printed circuit board, and a Semtech SX1231 RF transceiver on a PICtail wireless transceiver daughter board. The onboard electronics enable the badges to perform bi-directional unit-to-unit communication with other nearby badges, ultimately lighting up one of four blue LEDs on the receiving badges. They are also endowed with the company’s MCS3142 Dual KeeLoq Encoder, which provides security for the send-receive process.

”There’s a lot going on behind the scenes inside the badge,” said Brian Bailey, a Microchip senior applications engineer who designed the badges. “It encrypts a wireless packet and sends it. Another badge recognizes the encrypted packet, decrypts it, and checks the message.”

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Bailey wrote the software for the application using the MPLab Code Configurator, a Microchip product that enables engineers to create simple C code for embedded applications. He told Design News that he also integrated a USB boot loader onto the MCU to enable firmware to be easily loaded onto it. “People are going to take these boards home and they’ll want to know what they can do with them,” he said. “We integrated a boot loader so that once they compile their projects, they just open a special GUI, plug their board into their computer, and build their own app.”

Attendees who want to build wireless applications with the boards can create garage door openers, automotive alarms, remote key pads, security systems, and general remote controls, among many another projects. “A lot of people don’t realize how much they can do with a small, 8-bit microcontroller,” Bailey told us.

In all, 150 of the remote demo packages will be handed out to Gadget Freak Workshop attendees -- 75 on Tuesday and 75 more on Wednesday.

Design engineers and professionals, the West Coast’s most important design, innovation, and manufacturing event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, is taking place in Anaheim, Feb. 10-12, 2015. A Design News event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on access to the latest technologies, be informed from a world-class conference program, and expand your network. (You might even meet a Design News editor.) Learn more about Pacific Design & Manufacturing here.

About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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