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Articles from 2004 In July

Prothesis Grows With Young Bone-Cancer Patients

Prothesis Grows With Young Bone-Cancer Patients

The gearmotor enables extension of the prosthesis without surgery.

Frequent hospital stays for young cancer patients with prostheses replacing diseased bone may be a thing of the past, thanks to research done at University College London. They have developed a prosthesis with a small gearbox physicians can use to extend the prosthesis to match the growth of the patient's leg-on an outpatient basis. Up to now, surgeons extended the prosthesis by making a small incision and turning a key in a telescopic mechanism in the prosthesis, a procedure that required anesthesia and a hospital stay.

In the new prosthesis, a stator surrounding the patient's leg produces a rotating magnetic field, which turns a small magnet rotor in the implant at 3,000 rpm. The rotor drives a reduction gearbox to extend the prosthesis 1 mm in about four minutes.

The researchers have licensed the technology to Stanmore Implants, a subsidiary of the University College London.

The device uses an ABB 180-frame-size motor lamination core wound to meet specs of 522 turns of 1.06-mm wire in a star connection. The device also has inverter controls from Danfoss.

Thirteen patients are using the prosthesis now. Stanmore is studying the long-term effects, and plans to eventually market the prosthesis worldwide.

Controller Automates Toll Booth

Controller Automates Toll Booth

Next time you're driving through Orange County in California, try this little trick at an unmanned toll booth: Toss into the basket more than the exact-change amount. Crazy idea? No. Those toll booths outfitted with a new Advanced Toll Payment Machine (ATPM) will figure out how much change you have coming back, and give it to you.

The ATPMs will soon be equipped with the Snap Ultimate I/O, an Ethernet-based controller that can communicate with the lane controllers used at countless toll gates around the country. With that I/O, the ATPM can count your car's axles, determine its vehicle class, calculate the toll, accept cash or credit, dispense change, print receipts, activate toll gates, and allow itself to be remotely monitored over the Internet.

Engineers at Opto 22 ( designed the Snap Ultimate, which employs up to 16 I/O modules, each with four separate sensor channels, to "talk" to the lane controllers, credit card readers, coin counters, currency readers, toll displays, change dispensers, receipt printers, and numerous other I/O devices. Each module incorporates connectors for wiring to I/O devices, and uses an Ethernet connector atop the processor module to provide the communication link.

A Motorola ColdFire 5407 microcontroller in the processor module serves as the ATPM's brain, and enables TCP/IP-based communication over the Internet with state agencies that monitor each toll booth.

The controller turns the toll booth into a smart machine.

Tiny Transmitter

Tiny Transmitter

Ken O's mini radio antenna, at less than one-tenth of an inch on a computer chip, is closer to achieving ultra small radios for military surveillance use.

PRESENT POSITION: Professor of electrical and computer engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville

DEGREES: B.S., M.E., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science, MIT

HOW YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK WHEN AT COCKTAIL PARTIES: I'm trying to build a radio that's really hard to detect both physically and electronically.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO BUILD THIS ULTRASMALL RADIO? We need circuits that work with the on-chip antennas. Our previous work on wireless clock distribution demonstrated an intra-chip 15-GHz wireless link; and when we proposed this about eight years ago, people thought we were crazy since others were struggling with 1-GHz CMOS circuits, and the concept of integrating antennas seemed so difficult. Now, we're working on building a true single-chip radio working at 24 GHz. In two years, we shall have a fully functional radio.

WHAT MAKES THEM HARD TO DETECT? The on-chip antenna makes the system small so that it is difficult to visually detect. And using spread-spectrum techniques, information is carried in a bandwidth of frequency; we are trying to spread the information thin across a large bandwidth so that it can't also be electronically detected.

HOW FAR CAN THE ANTENNAS DETECT COMMUNICATION? Up to 5m comfortably, but we're working to increase it to 10-20m.

WHAT APPLICATIONS ARE THE RADIOS USED FOR? By pairing the radios with sensors, they could be used for military surveillance or border monitoring, as well as infrastructure monitoring and disaster recovery. In the medical field, radios could be mounted on the face of paraplegics to communicate via twitches in the face.

HAS THIS RESEARCH BEEN DONE BEFORE? There is work going on at UC Berkeley, called the Smartdust Project (, but they've been using light to communicate; we are using radio frequency (microwave).

For Ken O's paper on on-chip antennas, go to Contact Ken O at [email protected].

Vision Cost Goes Beyond Price

Vision Cost Goes Beyond Price

Machine vision systems for product identification, measurement, and inspection and robot guidance are declining in price and improving in performance. Vision capabilities of competing categories of systems at the low end of the price spectrum are overlapping (see "Technology Up" sidebar)-but engineers who pick a system based on initial price could end up paying a higher overall cost of ownership.

Vision Options

Cost drivers depend on what type of vision system is chosen. There are two main types of vision systems. Smart cameras have image-processing circuitry (DSPs, FPGAs, or microprocessors) and software within them. They cost in the range of a few thousand dollars and are generally compact and easy to program and set up. But their small size limits space for processing power and memory, which restricts flexibility.

In contrast, embedded processor or PC-based systems link several cameras for central processing and synchronization of image data. These systems have more space for memory and processing tasks such as image acquisition and data buffering on high-throughput, frame-grabber cards. Programming these systems is more complex, but it allows for scaling up the system and updates in handling different tasks or imaging different objects. Depending on the application, however, software costs for the same system can vary widely, say from $2k to $10k.

But the lines between smart cameras and centralized vision systems are beginning to blur. Recently Eden Prairie, MN-based PPT Vision announced a hybrid system. Their engineers embedded a 1,000 MIPS IBM PowerPC(R) chip within a smart camera (see "New in Viewing" sidebar on page 92).

Keeping Overall Cost Down

Several factors can drive up overall cost that engineers need to take into consideration. They include:

  • Changes in position and orientation of objects viewed. Remedies include fixing object location and orientation on a production line or software tools that can accommodate expected variations. Mechanically, side rails on a line and bowl feeders that align parts can do the job, but these wear and require maintenance. Such an arrangement may not be flexible enough to handle different parts.
    Using software, a basic blob (binary large object) tool could handle imaging if the parts are simple and their orientation is fairly consistent. But imaging complex, shiny parts in highly variable positions on a belt that is no longer uniformly clean could require more complex, and costly, geometric pattern-matching software. A simpler solution may be found in adjusting the speed of the line to provide more time between imaging parts. The more processing time available, the greater success in finding the object.

  • Lighting. More costly, uniform lighting yields consistent imaging results. Non-uniform illumination can produce visual variations as a result of the finish on the object. Al-though LED lights may have higher initial costs with lifetimes on the order of 50k hours, they can actually provide savings by eliminating maintenance and line shutdowns every few thousand hours to replace fluorescent or incandescent lamps. But even with good lighting, when objects have little change in contrast, engineers should make sure the system they select has good image-processing filter software.

  • Image blur. Motion of an object and focusing on "deep" objects having a large variation in distance from the lens produce blur. Engineers can cut the motion effect with a camera with a quick enough electronic shutter or by strobe lighting the part. Flashing strobes can, however, present a risk of seizures to humans nearby and could increase work-men's compensation costs.
    Proper lens size can provide adequate depth of field to remove 3D focus blurring. For objects of great depth, a telecentric lens may be needed to eliminate perspective distortion-the effect of closer features on an object appearing proportionally larger than those more distant, even with both in focus.

In addition, engineers should select a system with a range of tools and flexibility, rather than opting for the least expensive system that just meets requirements, advises John Salls, consultant and president of Applied Vision Systems, which helps set up and program vision equipment. This approach allows for what he calls Vision Creep-permitting a system designed for one application to be adapted to another economically.

A Grip on Costs: Parts handling is a popular application for vision-based robot guidance. Benefits to the user include higher throughput and reduced workmen's compensation claims, cutting total cost of ownership. In this vision system, developed by Shafi Inc. for Daimler-Chrysler, six smart cameras mounted above a robotic station inspec racks containing 18 truck-bed parts. Robots place the racks onto a large turntable that rotates 180 degrees. Camera software uses histogram (pixel grayscale) and edge detection tools to determine the presence of a securing bar and to ensure that the correct part is placed in the designated rack position.

Looking Ahead

Engineers will face even greater choices in vision systems in the future, says Himanshu Shah, senior analyst at Dedham, MA-based ARC Advisory Group, a manufacturing consultancy and analysis firm. Specifically he notes, lower costs will allow vision with greater processing functions to compete with presence/absence sensors in some applications.

Nello Zuech, president of Vision Systems International consultancy, predicts that vision technology will find its way into non-industrial applications such as automotive. He mentions one system today that uses a truck-cab-mounted camera to detect lane markers and signal the driver when the vehicle crosses over them and the turn signal is not on.

Vision in the form of biometric imaging may also make its way into security systems including identity verification, access control, and keyless home entry. Zuech even sees systems being consolidated onto a single ASIC.

New in Viewing: Rugged and Intelligent
Here's a sampling of some of the newest vision products.
System Features Price
Smart camera In-Sight 5400 - Metal housing Industry experts estimate starting in the $3k ballpark
- M12 connectors allow meeting IECshock and vibration specs
- IP67 (NEMA 6) rating for dust and wash-down protection
National Instruments CVS-1455 - Twice the processing power (1,436 MIPS) and four times the data storage (128 Mbytes) of previous version $3,995 and up
- FireWire link
- Vision Builder software eases configuration
- LabVIEW available for custom applications
- Passive cooling in temps up to 55C
Hybrid PPT Vision Impact TM T10 - Camera embedded with 1,000 MIPS IBM PowerPC(R) chip &$6k, For camera, lenses, cable, power supply, basic illumination, and software
- Reported 3-6X throughput of previous smart cameras
- Company's C Series vision system uses 2,000-MIPS central processor and cable to connect dumb cameras
Web Resources
Check out these links for more vision systems information
Trade group, consultancies, and analysts:
Automated Imaging Association:
Applied Vision Systems:
ARC Advisory Group:
Vision Systems International:
Cameras, central vision systems, software, and frame grabbers:
Data Translation:
National Instruments:
Omron Electronics:
PPT Vision:
PULNiX America:
Vision sensors:
Banner Engineering:
Tri-Tronics Co.:




Color coded

Designed as an alternative for standard plug-in blade fuses in vehicles with 12 or 24V electrical systems, the 1610 Series circuit reportedly decreases the downtime caused by blown fuses. The color-coding, corresponding to the blade fuse colors of DIN 72581 and SAE J1284 standards, aims to simplify maintenance. The circuit is available in current ratings from 6 to 30A up to 32V dc. E-T-A Circuit Breakers


Extends battery life

IPrima Mobile is an application-optimized semiconductor IP platform, designed to minimize and manage power dissipation without performance losses. The IP platform brings together memory, logic, and I/O technologies, enabling power management techniques to control static and dynamic power expenditures. By reducing static and dynamic power dissipation, IPrima Mobile reportedly provides longer battery life and lower electromagnetic interference emissions. Virage Logic


High Accuracy

Claiming a 0.3-percent accuracy rate for measurements of inductance, capacitance, resistance, and impedance, the Model Z-8200 LCR Meter features read-outs of Component Value, Absolute Delta, and Percent Delta on a five-digit display. The meter also provides auto-ranging with data hold, open short circuit calibration, and a pass/fail binning alarm. The product is offered in 100-Hz, 120-Hz, or 1-kHz test frequencies. Protek Test and Measurement


Avoids bacteria and residue build-up

Designed to meet the demands of the food and beverage processing and packaging industries, the connectivity products' design utilizes stainless steel hardware, PVC inserts, and cable jackets with overmolding. The products' smooth surfaces reportedly avoid build-up of residue and bacteria. The product line consists of passive and active distribution boxes, single or double-ended cord sets, field attachable connectors, and receptacles. Lumberg Inc.


For field and laboratory

Designed for field or laboratory use, the Model 476-0 Digital Manometer measures positive and negative pressure from -20 to +20 inches w.c. with plus or minus 1.5 percent full scale accuracy. The Model 476-0 sets gas supply pressures, adjusts regulators, verifies pressure switch operation, and checks pneumatic systems and computer peripherals. After five minutes, an automatic power-off feature helps to conserve battery life. Dwyer Instruments


Low noise and distortion

Featuring low levels of distortion and noise, as well as a wide dynamic range, both the model AD8139 and AD8137 differential amplifiers are suited for driving high-speed, analog-to-digital converters. The products also address requirements to drive 12-to 18-bit ADCs used in communications, high-bandwidth instrumentation, and military and industrial applications. Both models are rated from -40 to 125C. Analog Devices


Available in three types

Supplied with either rigid vinyl or rigid fiber base construction, the Premium Model incorporates insulation and spring steel with nickel-plated, snap-on connectors. The Economy Model, available in T or I configurations, features full insulation, as well as brass- and nickel-plated contacts with a vinyl covering. The third type, the Dual Model, connects 9V batteries in parallel or in series, and is manufactured with fiber bases containing nickel and steel-plated contacts. Keystone Electronics Corp.


Digital video features

The company enhanced its VideoProbe XL PRO Plus System with CompactFlash removable storage media, an over two-hour DVD playback, and a USB streaming digital video port. The borescope features the capacity to record digital still images and allows one-handed operation of the joystick for menu control. The XL PRO Plus is offered in 3.9-, 5.0-, 6.1-, 7.3-, and 8.4-mm probe diameters. Everest VIT Inc.


Barrel body style

The durable housing of this new barrel style, ultrasonic sensor makes it ideal for OEM and packaging applications, including food and beverage. Running on 12 to 24V dc, the sensor offers either a sourcing or sinking output. The dust, humidity, and acid-resistant Virtu18 offers sensing ranges from 50 to 510 mm. Hyde Park Electronics Inc.



The XENPAK module claims to reduce cost per port by offering a low-cost copper solution that supports VSR parallel optics through a single port. The module reportedly delivers 10-Gigabit-per-sec Ethernet data over 15m of high-speed copper cable at a lower cost than current fiber optic modules. The total power consumption of the module is less than 3W. Fujitsu


Manages direct current power

Made with silicon-on-insulator technology, the Model TPS2375 controller can reportedly withstand transients up to 100V and operate in temperatures ranging from -40 to 85C. The controller also features an internal 0.6-ohm FET to minimize heat, a 450-mA operating current limit, and thermal shutdown. By utilizing a small, external resistor to program in-rush current limit, the controller operates with IEEE 802.3af-compliant and pre-802.3af-legacy power source equipment. Texas Instruments


Reference guide and tutorial

The UV Luminescence Sensor Application Handbook , created to help guide engineers in selecting sensors appropriate for their projects, serves as both a reference guide and tutorial. The handbook offers a list of UV luminescent marker and additive suppliers, as well as examples of improved processes through sensor use. EMX Industries


High density

Designed for elevated board stacking, the four-row interconnects can reportedly carry 27A at 80C over four banks of four power pins each. To maximize power capacity, 3.5-mm separates power banks from the nearest signal pin. Standard connectors for board spacing range from 10 to 20 mm. Samtec Inc.


High contrast and clarity

Designed for compact electronic devices requiring the display of graphics, text, or moving images in tight locations, this LCD display offers a high-contrast, 13.9- x 10.6-mm viewing area with a 36- x 24-pixel resolution. The product works with 1U rack mount units and in applications where 7-segment displays and LED matrices do not give sufficient data. The LCD display is offered with straight PC terminals, and features multicolor LED backlighting. NKK Switches


Fast sampling

The DI-158 module series is comprised of three modules varying in interface type and input voltage range. The DI-158-U offers gain ranges per channel of 1, 2, 4, and 8, with a range of plus or minus 10V. The DI-158-UP and DI-158-EP provide plus or minus 64V and ten option ranges of per-channel selectable gain factors. All modules reportedly feature a built-in channel gain scan list, two digital-to-analog outputs, computer interface via USB or Ethernet, and sampling rates of 14,000 to 28,800 samples/sec. Dataq Instruments


Featuring DSP technology

With the addition of DSP technology, the Intelligent Scanner XS is reportedly three to eight times faster than previous readers, claiming to be capable of executing more than 100 data matrix reads per second. The scanner reportedly reads all seven RSS codes, USS 128 composite, UPC/EAN composite, planet, micro PDF, and PDF truncated codes. DVT Corporation


High resolution and low distortion

Designed for machine vision applications, telecentric lenses allow precise measurements to be taken from images. These lenses provide less than 0.2-degree telecentricity when used in working distance range. The company offers the lenses in 0.08, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0X magnifications. Edmund Industrial Optics


Flash program memory

The Flash memory update in the Baseline Microcontrollers allows customers to reprogram design during development, production, and field installation. The memory update reportedly speeds time-to-market and cuts production and development costs. Other additions to the microcontrollers include: an internal oscillator, operating voltage of 2 to 5.5V, reset functionality, and smaller packaging. Arizona Microchip Technology Ltd.


Environmentally friendly

The lead-free FQ1200 MK5 front-end modules offer multi-standard TV system coverage, with reportedly higher performance than the MK3 family. The MK5 consists of an enhanced high-performance version, with both models claiming a best-in-class noise figure of less than 5 dB, as well as a visible enhancement of picture quality. Philips RF Solutions


More efficient

Designed for use in isolated dc-to-dc converters in telecommunications systems, the IRF7842 40V MOSFET claims to enhance reliability in secondary-side synchronous rectification circuits for telecom and datacom systems. The IRF7842 is reportedly 0.5 percent more efficient when compared to standard 40V devices in the same dc-dc bus converter. The IRF7842 claims to achieve 95.2 percent efficiency at 150W full load, when used for secondary-side synchronous rectification. International Rectifier


Optimize battery run time

Designed to optimize battery life in single-cell Li-Ion, multi-cell alkaline, or NiMH battery-powered applications, the model LTC3443 buck-boost converter reportedly delivers up to 1.2A of output current, at as high as 95 percent efficiency. The buck-boost technology permits the converter to operate below, above, and equal to the output voltage with a single inductor. The LTC3443 is intended for use in cellular phones, PDAs, wireless and DSL modems, and digital cameras. Linear Technology


High accuracy measurements

The frequency-offset mode (FOM) option for the company's RF network offers vector and scalar mixer calibration capabilities in a single instrument without an external PC. Available in two mixer-calibration techniques, the FOM claims to characterize frequency-translating devices more accurately. According to the company, it also provides frequency offset sweep, external signal source, and enables engineers to perform nonlinear measurements. Agilent Technologies


Versatility, durability

Featuring a compact design and durable construction, the 740 series halogen lamp is made for working with electronic and medical equipment. The lamp features an optional 12V power adaptor, gooseneck arm, and quick disconnect lamp head. The energy-efficient, 20W bulb provides bright, white light and longer bulb life. The company offers several filters, including a UV lens, heat absorbent lens, and a red lens for night vision. Sunnex Inc.



The Model VXI Enclosure is suitable for airborne, shipboard, or ground mobile applications. It features a large patch panel for I/O, two side handles for easy lifting, and power supplies for 750 to 1,000W. Designed to endure the military environment, honeycomb filters, braided gasketing, and metal impregnated sheets seal off all external seams. Various model options include: rope-coil isolators, air springs, and elastomeric isolators. Elma Electronic Inc.


16-bit ADC

The precision mixed-signal microcontrollers integrate a 25 MIPS 8051 MCU with dual 16-bit, MSample/sec analog-to-digital converters. The microcontrollers are designed for applications requiring high-speed data acquisition, high accuracy, low noise, and low power consumption. Featuring in-system debugging, the microcontrollers have single stepping, breakpoints and modifying registers, and memory. Silicon Laboratories


Covers temperature measurement

The tutorial is designed to offer insight into the techniques of measuring temperature, as well as choosing the best method for particular applications. Featuring an interactive selector guide, the program has the user match the proper instrument to its specific application. The CD also provides tips, techniques, FAQs, and a glossary. Keithley Instruments


Continuous sampling

P-Series power meters and sensors offer measurement frequencies of up to 40 GHz with continuous sampling, calibration-free measurements, and backward compatibility. The wide video bandwidth-30 MHz-reportedly allows engineers to capture single-shot events and obtain repeatedly accurate peak power measurements. The P-Series features a maximum sampling rate of 100 Msamples/sec. Agilent Technologies

Video Streaming Boosts Data Acquisition Boards

Video Streaming Boosts Data Acquisition Boards

The XH Series High Speed Data Acquisition board line and the XM series Multifunction Analog I/O board line for the PXI platform from Exacq Technologies provides users with a board designed for glitch-free capture and playback of analog signals. Both the XM and XH series use a 143-MHz 32-bit digital signal processor, PCI bus mastering, and 16 Mbytes of onboard memory. The price of the XM Series ranges between $795 and $1,295 and the price of the XH Series ranges between $1,395 and $1,995.

"The DSP technology used in both series was originally developed for video acquisition," says Tom Buckley, director of sales and marketing at Exacq, a company that has a background in the video marketplace. "Now we are just streaming large amounts of data onto a PC instead of video," says Buckley. "There is very little difference between capturing video and capturing data signals."

Exacq also includes a large amount of free software with its products. With the XH and XM Series, users can take advantage of at least four free programs. Exacq Bench(TM) gives users many measurement tools; Exacq SDK(TM) provides users with different types of source code; Exacq XL(TM) puts data into Microsoft Excel; and Exacq Control Center(TM) is a configuration utility for all Exacq programs.

"The software that comes with it is great," says Harry Delaney of Geotest Inc. (Irvine, CA). He has used the product and describes the data acquisition boards as "flexible," and was also fond of the manual included with the boards. "In the write-up, they go through the mathematical calculations on the use of the Fast Fourier Transforms," says Delaney. "I haven't seen anything where a vendor shows how they capture and use signal processing. They are very well-documented."

The XH Series has 12 different products, all of which have dual analog inputs offering simultaneous 20 million samples/sec/ channel or up to 25 million samples/sec for each single input. The output offers simultaneous 20 million samples/sec/output or 40 million samples/sec on a single ouput.

The XM Series has 16 different products, each offering up to 32 digital I/Os synchronous with analog I/O, up to 1 million samples/sec maximum sampling rate, and 16-bit A/D resolution.

Exacq Technologies

Ask the Search Engineer

Ask the Search Engineer

Dear Search Engineer: I'm looking for a method to bond Tivar together. Right now, we currently wrap the edges of each piece of Tivar with angle iron, but are searching for glue or another compound to bond Tivar together using butt joints. -D.L., WI

Dear D.L.: The most common method used to join Tivar 1000 UHMW Sheet is by welding. The material is chemically resistant and resists solvents and adhesives. UHMW is available in thicknesses of 0.125 inch and thinner, and comes with an adhesive applied to one side. Tivar 1000 UHMW can also be produced on a custom basis with a canvas or rubber backing applied during manufacture. The canvas or rubber then becomes your bondable surface. In addition, there are a couple companies that offer adhesives including 3M's Scotch Weld, which can be heat or solvent activated. Dielectric Polymers ( manufactures unsupported pressure sensitive transfer adhesives that may be effective for bonding Tivar.

D. Kirby asks: I'm developing a sealed data storage chassis that weighs about 75 lbs. I'm looking for a way to mount the chassis inside an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) onto a composite mounting plate, from under the UAV. In other words, the unit must be mounted in the Z axis relative to the vehicle, and remain secure under extreme flight conditions (i.e., temperature, vibration, shock). It would be advantageous if some sort of guide system and locking mechanism were employed to assist the one-man installation. Any pointers?-D.K., NM

Dear D.K.: Take a look at Loctite H8000 (for composite-composite bonding) or H4500 (for metal-composite building). To find out more technical information about these adhesives, go to and type in H8000 or H3151 under the "Technical Data" section of the website.

Dear Senor Search Engineer: I'm looking for a small footprint sensing device that would detect rotational movement of a .25-inch shaft as it is turned by a 5-inch hand wheel on one side. The output has to be a variable resistance or pulse so that a hot air blower's cfm can be controlled by it. The blower cfm is directly proportional to the speed at which the hand wheel is rotated with zero output when the shaft is stationary. -C.C. in PR

Hola C.C.: The measurement of rotational movement of shaft can be done with the help of photoelectric sensors connected to programmable logic controllers. Programming can be done in the PLC according to your needs. The retroreflective sensor can serve your purpose since some sort of reflective device is to be fitted on the shaft. On the rotational movement of shaft the sensor will give pulses, which can be calculated by PLCs and the blower can be controlled by the same PLC. You can also consider an off-the-shelf solution, such as motor speed controllers that you could configure to respond to pulse frequency. The pulse generator would be connected to the hand crank and would transmit a pulse frequency proportional to the shaft rotation speed.

Electronic Shelf Labeling

Electronic Shelf Labeling

Zarlink Semiconductor has manufactured a chip for Pricer AB designed to aid its Electronic Shelf Labeling (ESL) system. This system lets retailers easily change the price of an item by transmitting the information to a central pricing controller via Zarlink's ultra low-powered wireless device and then letting cash registers and electronic labels know of the price change. A Pricer ESL system can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of electronic shelf labels, each carrying a Zarlink ultra low-power wireless SoC (system-on-chip). For more info go to

Distributors Benefit from Aiding Developers

Distributors Benefit from Aiding Developers

The burgeoning shift to contract manufacturing has limited the ability of distribution companies that want to provide increasing amounts of design help, because they aren't sure they'll be compensated if manufacturing moves offshore. Royal Philips Electronics recently moved to assure that financial rewards go to distributors, which could encourage those distributors to expand their design service offerings.

Philips lately began what it calls the Global Design Win program (, which uses the RosettaNet standard to track shipments for systems, regardless of where they're manufactured. It addresses the growing problem that arises when products designed with the aid of distributors move offshore for manufacturing. The revenue stream often shifts to the manufacturer, leaving distributors with little or no compensation for their efforts.

Track down and reward

"If we don't find ways to track business in a better manner and provide the proper rewards, companies may walk away from business in a region like the U.S., which would not be good for anyone," says Pascal Langlois, Philips' senior vice president for channel management and multimarket semiconductors. The Philips program began with Arrow Electronics Inc. of Melville, NY and Avnet Inc. of Phoenix, but will soon be expanded to other distributors. Other companies, including Intel and connector-maker Molex, have begun similar programs, but Philips is the broadest supplier to offer such a program, as well as a leader in semiconductor sales through distributors, observers say.

There's a fair chance that the new program will spur increased design assistance efforts from distributors. "Distribution definitely benefits a lot from initiatives of this type, as does the supplier," says Lalit Wadhwa, director of worldwide business migration at Avnet (

Vinay Asgekar, research director at AMR Research ( feels distributors will soon be able to provide more design assistance for time-strapped engineers. "This kind of arrangement provides more incentive for distributors to support field application engineers. They can get into design services with confidence they'll get paid for their efforts," he says.

Because component makers typically provide payment for successful programs built around their parts, reward programs like this aren't expected to impact the cost of components. "This should be revenue neutral, and should be beneficial because it will help us capture new business and increase volumes," Langlois says.

While dramatic shifts in global marketing prompted the change in the financial stream, it's the emergence of technical standards for communicating via the Internet that make it possible to track design wins throughout their lifetime. The RosettaNet standard that began seeing use at the start of the decade makes it simple to give a project a unique number that stays with it throughout the product's lifetime.

That means that a successful design will bring a commensurate level of payment for the distributor that helped create it in the first place. "Systemic connectivity is important, and RosettaNet is the vehicle that provides systemic connectivity," Wadhwa says.

Two Chips for Three Jobs

Two Chips for Three Jobs

Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) is combining Blackfin and Fusiv families to meet the growing demand for video, voice, and data over broadband networks. The integrated package employs the latest version of the Fusiv line of DSPs, which now house accelerators that help meet networking needs.

This Blackfin Fusiv platform is aimed at applications such as data and media gateways, which handle a convergence of data types. "As we see a change in devices in the home, as the set-top box and voice-over IP aggregate together, it brings in a new set of requirements," says Sanjeev Challa, product line director of ADI's Broadband Platform Group (

The Fusiv processor has been augmented with five acceleration processors that help make it as much as 31 times faster than its nearest competitor in some benchmarks, Challa says. These 16-bit microcoded engines each have their own program memory, assuring that the programs will run there without delays for downloading. They run common aspects of this class of applications, freeing the processor for other tasks. The application processors can be programmed to handle specific tasks if developers want to change the standard data flow.

Groupe Sagem, a Paris-based telecom supplier, recently picked the chipset for its residential modems and gateways, which provide video voice and data over broadband ( A number of systems based on the chipset will come out this year, including a WiFi router and three gateways.

Speed Up: Five acceleration processors (blue) have their own program memory to give ADI's Fusiv chip much more speed.