May 15, 2013

An Open Letter to EE Journal Readers

posted by Kevin Morris

Dear EE Journal Readers,

I think the issues raised by Jim Turley in his EE Journal article "Consider the Source" are incredibly important.  I also wrote an EE Journal article "The Death of the Trade Press" that discussed similar trends.

Today, some of the industry's longest-running, most established publications are quietly changing their journalistic ethics behind the scenes.  In addition, a number of industry blogs have sprouted up that appear to be independent, objective information sources - yet they are 100% "pay-for-play" (hired specifically to write favorable content about the companies they cover).  

I posted this as a comment to Jim's recent article, but I thought it deserved an open letter here on our editors' blog as well.

Just to be clear - EE Journal will never be "pay-for-play".

Our editorial will always be the most independent and objective we can make it. Our editorial goal is to serve you, our audience with accurate information, and useful analysis and insight (and the occasional good joke, of course).

Sponsored content on our site will always be clearly marked "Sponsored".

We appreciate and respect our sponsors and advertisers, of course. But, without our loyal audience, we'd have nothing of value to sell. My commitment to you - our audience - is to continue to provide you with unbiased, useful, and critical editorial.

Those who claim that the "media is changing" and that unbiased journalism is no longer possible - are confusing their own failure to adapt from the economics of print to the economics of online with the type of content they produce. We have been 100% "new media" (no print) since we were founded 10 years ago.

It is most definitely possible to run a profitable trade publication online with traditional journalistic ethics.

Thank you for reading EE Journal!

Kevin Morris
Editor-in-chief EEJournal.com
President, Techfocus Media, Inc.

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May 15, 2013

More Fusion Options

posted by Bryon Moyer

Everyone seems to be in on the sensor fusion game. After all, it’s only software; how hard could it be?

You’ve got the sensor makers with their lower-level fusion kits. Then you’ve got the sensor-agnostic folks like Movea, Hillcrest Labs, and Sensor Platforms. And now a microcontroller maker. (OK, they did provide one of the sensors… but I’m getting ahead of myself…)

But for an engineer just starting to use sensors, having ready-to-go software can make an enormous difference in the learning curve, wiping out huge chunks of study that might otherwise be necessary. So access to software can be a big win.

Besides, the software helps sell sensors, and it runs on microcontrollers being used as sensor hubs, so it can help sell them as well. If you happen to make both, like ST and Freescale, then double bonus; you can even integrate them.

In this case, TI has announced their Sensor Hub BoosterPack. It’s more than just software; it’s a daughter card for their Tiva C Series TM4C123G LaunchPad eval board. It has seven sensors, including acceleration, orientation, compass, pressure, humidity, ambient/infrared light, and temperature. It includes a sensor driver library, a fusion API, and several example applications. Good for getting a sense of how this stuff works.

It appears to be something of a community effort, since the sensors on the card come from a variety of players:

  • InvenSense provides the 9-axis IMU
  • Bosch Sensortec provides the pressure sensor
  • Sensirion provides the humidity and ambient temperature sensors
  • Intersil provides the light sensor
  • TI itself has contributed its non-contact infrared temperature sensor

You can find more information in their release.

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May 14, 2013

New Sensor Parameter Standard

posted by Bryon Moyer

Early this year we took a look at MEMS standards (or the need therefor), and one of the active efforts involved unifying sensor parameters and data sheets so that users could compare and combine different sensors from different companies – a challenging task at present.

Well, that effort has now yielded some results. The “Sensor Performance Parameter Definitions” document has been released under the auspices of the MEMS Industry Group (MIG). The effort itself was led by Intel and Qualcomm, with input from a number of different sensor players.

While many such standards documents start with a limited scope and just can’t stop, a quick look at the table of contents suggests that hasn’t happened here. The bulk of the document is simply a set of definitions for parameters for different sensors. It is augmented by helpful lists of terms and acronyms, symbols and equations, and measurement conversions.

The sensors covered by the document are:

  • Accelerometers
  • Magnetometers
  • Gyroscopes
  • Pressure Sensors
  • Humidity Sensors
  • Temperature Sensors
  • Ambient Light Sensors
  • Proximity Sensors

This seems to cover all of the Windows HID-required sensors (since inclinometers and orientation sensors are typically fused versions of the above) except for GPS.

Each sensor type has its own parameters. For example, the following parameters are defined for accelerometers:

  • Full Scale Range
  • Digital Bit Depth
  • Zero-g Offset
  • Zero-g Offset Temperature Coefficient
  • Sensitivity
  • Sensitivity Temperature Coefficient
  • Noise
  • Current Consumption
  • Output Data Rate (ODR)
  • Filter -3dB Cutoff
  • Internal Oscillator Tolerance
  • Cross-Axis Sensitivity
  • Integral Non-Linearity
  • Transition Time
  • Data Ready Delay

For each parameter, the following information is provided:

  • Any aliases or other names for the parameter
  • A definition
  •  Conditions under which the parameter is specified (typically more than one)
  • Distribution (e.g., minimum/typical/maximum)

Various timing diagrams and other graphs are used to illustrate the parameters.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it.  A modest 60 pages (with lots of whitespace, easy to read). As promised, no more, no less.

You can find more on the announcement in their release; the document is available for download on the MIG website (you’ll need to provide your info).

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