ESC Silicon Valley

Consumer

Rich Pell
Editor
A resources site and community for engineers involved in the design and development of consumer home or mobile electronics hardware and software.  Find design tips, new product information and discussion on consumer audio, video, multimedia, gaming, communications, computing, and home appliances.

Teardown: Inside a 3G MicroCell

A 3G MicroCell teardown reveals what makes the device work, and how it can detect tampering. Read More...

Portable OLED lantern is versatile, affordable, and downright sexy

My dreams of basking in the silky radiance of my own OLED light may indeed come true if ALKILU Enterprises’ successfully completes its Kickstarter campaign for its TripLitOLED lantern. With a $60 price tag and a 30-hour maximum run time, the TripLit appears to be a versatile unit, equally suitable as a camping light, a utility light, a book light, or for emergency applications. Read More...

Cost-effective surround sound

Some folks' ears are unduly influenced by their wallets, but a good surround sound setup doesn’t need to break the bank. Read More...

Teardown: Apple iPhone 6 Plus battery

A look at Apple's iPhone 6 battery helps nail down the one variable that determines manufacturing cost. Read More...

7 Apple upgrades from WWDC 2015

See what upgrades to operating systems, applications, SDKs, APIs, programming languages, and services Apple announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Read More...

7 ways to shake broadband provider fiscal chains

It makes little to no sense to rent a modem-plus-router combo from your broadband provider, versus buying your own gear outright, so here are some of the best buy-your-own gear candidates. Read More...

Mojo, voodoo & secret sauce: The quest for the perfect guitar tone

Vacuum tubes, which rely on thermionic emissions to control current passing through a vacuum in a sealed (usually glass) container, have been around since 1910. In the first half of the 20th century, they ruled the roost in pretty much every area of electronics. Read More...

Top 7 consumer-tailored IoT devices

IoT got its start in the industrial world, but the bulk of market growth going forward is forecasted to come from consumer-tailored applications. These seven consumer IoT devices provide insights into the current status and potential future of IoT. Read More...

My new home office: Update 4

Water damage, a new monitor, and a new personal laptop make big changes since Update 3 in 2012. Read More...

Teardown: Moto 360’s shape forces design compromises

Ongoing software enhancements are fairly effective in keeping the Moto 360's hardware current, but Motorola's circular form factor decision, while cosmetically preferable to many, also compelled some compromises in the design of the smart watch. Read More...

Laser-like audio with the PAL

A look at the state of audio beaming via ultrasonics. Read More...

Teardown: Chromecast streams must have gotten crossed

An expired Chromecast provides the chance to get a look inside Google's streaming device. Read More...

ams develops MEMS VOC gas sensor

Gas sensing techniques are continually being investigated to improve selectivity and sensitivity of identifying different types of gases. Read More...

Smart connectivity for the wearable revolution

This overview explores how connectivity solutions, including wireless power, antenna, contactless data, and other connectivity, will enable the customer to make wearables happen. Read More...

Apple Watch details begin to emerge

Post-Apple event spokesperson comments and developer leaks often provide useful fodder to fill in any gaps. Here's what we've recently learned about the Apple Watch. Read More...

USB 3.1 testing part 2: Type-C cable assemblies

The USB type-C connector will make life easier for consumers, but will require additional compliance testing for designers. Read More...

Apple's new MacBook: a closer look

In perusing the cyberspace backlash over some of the new Apple MacBook's characteristics, one engineer takes a detailed look and is reminded of the criticisms of the initial iterations of the MacBook Air. Read More...

Apple talks Watch, CarPlay, ResearchKit, and more at Spring Forward

Apple wants to be on your wrist and desk top, in your living room, even in your car and medical monitoring systems, as it announces updates to existing product lines and details on new products like the highly anticipated Apple Watch and its open-source move at its Spring Forward event. Read More...

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Bad-bulb finder fixes Christmas lights

15 years later, here’s a new take on one of our most popular Design Ideas ever! Read More...

Hybrid vacuum tube/solid-state audio power amplifier

An audio power amp design that combines vacuum tube input circuitry with solid-state output and feedback components. Read More...

Low-duty-cycle LED flasher keeps power draw at 4 mW

In situations where a low-duty-cycle blinking indicator provides an adequate indication of the power being turned on, this simple circuit should prove useful. Read More...

Signal-powered switch connects devices

Use a switch to selectively connect a terminal, personal computer, or any other originating device to one of four receivers. Read More...

Send MIDI signals over long distances

A single Category 5 cable links MIDI devices up to 100m away. Read More...

Passive-detector receiver keeps you informed, entertained during flights

Receive HF AM signals without battery power. Read More...

Circuit combines power supply and audio amplifier

This circuit can help if you must transfer DC power and audio over one pair of copper wires. Read More...

Video emitter uses battery power

This hows how to make a cable-free, direct-video system. You can use the small and simple system each time you need to capture image and sound on the run. Read More...

Circuit eliminates PC echoes

Long-distance-telephone services available via the Internet often require the PC user to wear headphones of a headset to prevent echo caused by the microphone's picking up the loudspeaker outputs. The circuit in Figure 1 eliminates the echo while using the existing PC microphone and speakers for a comfortable conversation. Read More...

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$49 Arduino-compatible board features enhanced Cortex M7 MCU, touch-screen LCD, audio, and more

STMicro's Arduino-compatible STM32F7 Discovery Kit is an exciting development for DIY-ers interested in Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications. Although intended primarily for "mainstream" embedded developers, the board and associated development tools make it easy and affordable for the Maker/DIY-er crowd to get their hands on the STM32F7, STM's the latest and highest-performing Cortex-M7 core. Read More...

Wood-fired LED lantern converts waste heat into light & power

Don't let the Stove Lite LED lantern's appearance deceive you. Beneath those old-timey looks, lies a modern thermo-electric generator (TEG), which uses the Seebeck effect to convert the heat of your wood stove into enough energy to run its LED lamp. This rugged wood-powered wonder also doubles as a battery charger for your phone or other mobile device. Read More...

DIY thermo-electric modules make backwoods power from your wood stove

If you've ever wanted to mess with thermo-electric generators (TEGs), there's a great web site which offers all the parts to make your own wood-fired electron pump. TEGs are basically over-sized thermocouples which convert the heat of your stove or other heat source into electricity – and a great way to generate a bit of power when its dark out or lugging around a bunch of solar panels isn't practical. Read More...

Address E-band cost and reliability issues in MMIC packaging

High component cost and low production yield limit E-band usage in applications like 77-GHz collision-avoidance systems to luxury cars; a new approach can change that. Read More...

NFC controller packs firmware, NCI-based interface

Offering full NFC Forum V1.3 compliance, the PN7120 near-field communication controller from NXP Semiconductors includes embedded firmware providing all NFC protocols, a standardized NFC controller interface (NCI), and a small form-factor antenna for contactless communication at 13.56 MHz. Read More...

Portable OLED lantern is versatile, affordable, and downright sexy

My dreams of basking in the silky radiance of my own OLED light may indeed come true if ALKILU Enterprises’ successfully completes its Kickstarter campaign for its TripLitOLED lantern. With a $60 price tag and a 30-hour maximum run time, the TripLit appears to be a versatile unit, equally suitable as a camping light, a utility light, a book light, or for emergency applications. Read More...

Module permits TI DLP Full-HD 1080p chipset evaluation

Complemented by a robust ecosystem, Texas Instruments’ DLP LightCrafter Display 4710 evaluation module allows designers to quickly assess the DLP Pico 0.47-in. TRP Full-HD 1080p display chipset for use in a diverse range of applications, including digital signage, mobile projectors, screenless TVs, control panels, and wearables like head-mounted displays. Read More...

High-performance LEDs aim at halogen spotlight applications with 90 CRI, halide-like R9 values, 140Lm/W

One of the reasons I attended Lightfair last month was to get a firsthand look at Cree's new TrueWhite® LEDs which the company claims are able to rival the light quality of a traditional ceramic metal halide (CMH) bulb. The short answer was that I was tickled at the "near-halogen experience" TrueWhite appears to deliver. There's also a slightly longer answer which I'll get to after a quick review of what Cree says about its devices. Read More...

USB hub controller executes system-level functions

Outfitted with an integrated microcontroller, four downstream USB 3.0/2.0 ports, and a variety of serial communication interfaces, the USB5734 Smart Hub controller from Microchip enables host and device port swapping and I/O bridging. Read More...

Fluxgate sensor permits closed-loop current sensing

The DRV421 magnetic-sensing IC from Texas Instruments integrates a fluxgate sensor and compensation coil driver, along with all the required signal-conditioning circuitry, in a 4x4-mm WQFN PowerPad package for performing closed-loop current sensing. Read More...

Vesper Piezoelectric MEMS Microphone with 68 dB SNR

Usually, when an architecture has reached its limits of performance, some radical new game-changing idea needs to be implemented. Read More...

Application processors improve security, power efficiency

Freescale Semiconductor has added three application processors to its i.MX 6 ARM multicore series, offering higher levels of security, performance, and power management for consumer, industrial, and automotive markets. Read More...

Samsung's Mid-Power flip-chip LEDs foreshadow a larger battle ahead

Samsung's recently announced family of flip-chip mid-power LEDs and aggressive roadmap for its chip scale packaging technology are both signs that the Korean electronics giant intends to defend its market share against growing competition. Read More...

LDO regulator squeezes into wearables

Housed in a tiny 1.6x1.2-mm, 0.6-mm thin package suitable for wearable electronics and other space-constrained battery-operated applications, the SC563 low-dropout regulator from Semtech provides two regulated outputs at up to 300 mA each, while its fixed output voltages eliminate the need for external resistor divider networks. Read More...

NFC interface chip harvests energy from RF emissions

In addition to providing a contactless bridge between an NFC reader and any microcontroller, the AS3955 NFC interface tag IC from ams also acts as a power supply for the host device, harvesting as much as 5 mA at 4.5 V from the RF energy radiated by an NFC reader. Read More...

USB MCU simply sips power

Intended for energy-harvesting and battery applications, the Happy Gecko MCU provides USB at ultra-low energy. Read More...

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Teardown: Inside a 3G MicroCell

A 3G MicroCell teardown reveals what makes the device work, and how it can detect tampering. Read More...

Teardown: Moto 360’s shape forces design compromises

Ongoing software enhancements are fairly effective in keeping the Moto 360's hardware current, but Motorola's circular form factor decision, while cosmetically preferable to many, also compelled some compromises in the design of the smart watch. Read More...

Teardown: Chromecast streams must have gotten crossed

An expired Chromecast provides the chance to get a look inside Google's streaming device. Read More...

Teardown: Xbox wireless controller

See how a third-party wireless Xbox controller takes control. Read More...

Teardown: Wireless weather sensor transmitters

Out-of-box failure and a residence transition provided the analysis subjects for the last article in this series of weather station teardowns. Read More...

Teardown: Under-the-weather weather station's temperature sensor

Did a deep discharge of this solar-powered temperature sensor's embedded rechargeable batteries render them unable to store electrons any longer? Read More...

Teardown: Dissecting an under-the-weather weather station

Keeping a solar-powered temperature sensor in the dark puts it to sleep for good. What better way to find out why than to take it apart? Read More...

Teardown: Looking under the cover of a LCD computer monitor

When a dusty LCD monitor stops working it becomes a perfectly acceptable teardown-surgery patient. Read More...

Teardown: Exposing the ASUS EA-N66 potential-versus-reality gaps

The EA-N66 has no shortage of claimed feature set promise, but the implementation is flawed in several regards. Read More...

Teardown: Can pseudo-3D be accomplished cost-effectively?

See if the components inside the IOGEAR GHDSSW4 "3D Complete+" peripheral justify the price tag. Read More...

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Sensors combinations make for more intelligent mobile devices

Smartphones can be remarkably dumb. Learn how sensor combinations can bring about more intelligent mobile devices. Read More...

Smart connectivity for the wearable revolution

This overview explores how connectivity solutions, including wireless power, antenna, contactless data, and other connectivity, will enable the customer to make wearables happen. Read More...

Constant-voltage topology and intelligent dimming drives LEDs efficiently

LEDs as light sources in luminaires seem an ideal match due to their high efficiency, small size, and greatly improved color quality, but incompatibilities between long-established TRIAC dimmers and the LED drivers has been a problem. New ICs with innovative topologies overcome these issues. Read More...

Designing a feedback ANC headset using AS3435

This article describes the development steps necessary to design a feedback ANC headset based on the AS3435 chipset. Read More...

The world is ours to make: The impact of the maker movement

The maker movement is bringing engineering into the mainstream. Innovations happen in home garages and collaborative workspaces with their peers, and are openly shared to inspire other makers. Is this the beginning of the next industrial revolution? Read More...

Voice as an interface in the smart home: Can you hear me now?

New voice processing technologies can enable excellent far-field speech recognition with only two microphones. Read More...

Secure commissioning for ZigBee home automation using NFC

As connected devices start to become ubiquitous within the home and industry, and wireless networking is used to link them with the Internet, the security and integrity of the networks is becoming of the highest importance. Read More...

IoT not ready for ‘iPhone moment’

CES has a lot of connected hardware but where is the 'oh, that's really easy' surprise? Read More...

CES sampler: selfie drones, mobile health, and more

There's no place like the International CES to discover a wonderland of devices, services, goodies, and toys fit for every tech lover. Read More...

IoT: Collaborate or else, says Samsung CEO

Samsung Electronics CEO Boo-Keun Yoon made a passionate pitch to “unlock the infinite possibilities of the Internet of Things,” in his CES 2015 keynote. Read More...

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Goodbye DALI? Can LEDs end male pattern baldness? Have we found the ultimate party bulb?

This week's Semi-Coherent Emissions blog takes a serious look at the future of the venerable Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) before looking at the lighter side of CE Week. As usual, this year's mid-annum consumer electronics extravaganza turned up a few unusual lumen-related items which were too strange to ignore. Read More...

Top Ten Challenges for Solid-State Lighting: Flicker

Take a closer look at flicker, a hot-button topic these days, and one where LEDs tend to struggle. Read More...

Cost-effective surround sound

Some folks' ears are unduly influenced by their wallets, but a good surround sound setup doesn’t need to break the bank. Read More...

OLEDs & on-shoring, LED streetlights: marvel or menace? LED-lit artificial skies

America's only OLED lighting fab adds 100 jobs, TI's DLP dev kit makes it easier than ever to develop LED-powered screenless TVs, interactive displays, and wearables, and Coelux's digital sky products top of the list of must-have accessories for any Billionaire's dream house (or their worst-case scenario underground bunker). All this and more rumor, innuendo and Lumen Lust in this week's Semi-Coherent Emissions. Read More...

7 Apple upgrades from WWDC 2015

See what upgrades to operating systems, applications, SDKs, APIs, programming languages, and services Apple announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Read More...

7 ways to shake broadband provider fiscal chains

It makes little to no sense to rent a modem-plus-router combo from your broadband provider, versus buying your own gear outright, so here are some of the best buy-your-own gear candidates. Read More...

Weighing the costs: BOM versus NRE

Which is more important, development cost or product BOM? The answer depends on volume. Read More...

Top 7 consumer-tailored IoT devices

IoT got its start in the industrial world, but the bulk of market growth going forward is forecasted to come from consumer-tailored applications. These seven consumer IoT devices provide insights into the current status and potential future of IoT. Read More...

My new home office: Update 4

Water damage, a new monitor, and a new personal laptop make big changes since Update 3 in 2012. Read More...

New house brings electric woes

A move to a new old house means mastering new systems, and, FIXING THE ELECTRICS BEFORE WE ALL DIE! Read More...

Beware: Llama dung

A cautionary tale of trying to solve the wrong problem. Read More...

DesignCon 2016 opens call for papers

It’s time to sharpen your virtual pencils and submit your ideas for next year’s DesignCon. If your work concerns signal integrity, power integrity, or the interference between the two in high-speed designs, then DesignCon is the conference for you to show your work and get the feedback of your peers. Read More...

The Hat at Maker Faire - Day 1

The Hat's had a busy time at the first day of the Maker Faire. Between watching high-powered kiddie car races, performing for visitors, and helping build mini-Smart Hats, there was barely enough time to get out of the booth to see a few sights. And wondrous sights they were indeed! Read More...

7 lessons for embedded developers from ESC Boston 2015

Back from ESC Boston, Jacob reflects on seven key lessons gleaned from the conference. Read More...

Laser-like audio with the PAL

A look at the state of audio beaming via ultrasonics. Read More...

Dean Kamen says tech needs superstars

In a keynote address at MassMEDIC this week, the renowned inventor and founder of FIRST commented on the US educational system and highlighted some new and famous inventions. Read More...

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