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the previous measurement. In order to execute a new measurement, the microcontroller enables the signal conditioning, waits for the stabilization of the amplifier and sets the multiplexer to route the signals towards the first channel. After waiting the sensor stabilization time, an ADC measurement is taken, and the multiplexer is configured to route the second channel. This process is repeated to read the four channels. Afterwards, the signal conditioning is disabled again to minimize power consumption. RFID sensor tags for M2M communication The four voltage detector UHF RFID tag can be used for voltage dependent sensors – such as strain gages, load cells or thermocouples – and for monitoring the power supply characteristics in electric and electronic circuits. As an example, the QVMeter can be used to manufacture weight monitoring pallets. For granulated, fluids and bulk products that are stored in bags, drums or barrels, Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are often larger than Shop Floor Orders (SFOs). This creates an issue in controlling the existing stock as you can see the containers but can’t control the volume inside. By using a solution with the QVMeter and four load cells, an intelligent pallet can be built so that the user automatically retrieves both the pallet ID and weight by just approaching the pallet with an RFID reader. Figure 2 shows an implementation of a weight monitoring tag with the QVMeter and four load cells. Sensing range is 0Kg to 150Kg and the graph shows the average error and the maximum error for the selected range. Voltage ranges and resolutions can be customized for different applications by adjusting the electronics of the tag. Bluetooth beacons nowhere precise enough, says BeSpoon By Julien Happich About a year after it demonstrated ultra-precise real-time location accurate to within a few centimetres based on its Impulse Radio Ultra-Wide Band (IR-UWB) ICs, French company BeSpoon is now pushing its technology to the mass market with three turnkey systemlevel development packages. The packages consist of hardware and software building blocks that allow system engineers to rapidly prove a design concept before integrating the 3D real-time location system (RTLS) technology into industrial and consumer products. For one, the Precise Inverted 3D design package comes with a SpoonPhone (featuring an Android API to access the location data) and the Inverted 3D software. With minimal hardware configuration, the software is capable of computing its 3D location based on the positions of six fixed tags. The Precise Indoor GPS package enables additional Spoon- Phones to locate themselves just by listening to the tags. This also allows the deployment of an unlimited number of self-locating devices. Last, but not least, the Precise Location RTLS package tracks in real time a set of tags whose locations are made available through a simple server connection. With these capabilities, BeSpoon aims its technology at both single devices and server-centric solutions tracking multiple items. In a device-centric application, a moving device constantly computes its location and orientation within a 3D space. In a servercentric solution, a central infrastructure tracks locations of many individual items. EETimes Europe has caught up with Jean-Marie André, BeSpoon’s CEO, to learn more about the company’s current prospects and market goals. “Far beyond our initial technology breakthrough last year when we geo-located tags at distances over 800 meters while following IR-UWB’s standard regulation, with these tools we want to send a strong signal to the market that it is really easy to build your own RTLS with our turnkey solutions”, told us André. “The SpoonPhone comes with plenty of bells and whistles, with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and many different sensors, our IR-UWB IC being one more”. “Together with a few RTLS-enabled tags, it allows our customers to explore different use cases and check for themselves what the technology can do for them, before they go to the next level which is integrating our chips into their products”, André added. The tags could be used for simple collision-avoidance, but BeSpoon shows many versatile assettracking or geo-fencing applications on its website, and most consumer-oriented use cases would require the Be- Spoon chip to be integrated into the users’ smartphones (giving them precise distance and orientation relative to fixed tags). “With a few base stations to cover a shop, able to accurately locate shoppers’ smartphones relative to fixed tags in a showroom, you could create virtual beacons and send timely and appropriate marketing material” told us André, “this would be much more precise and much cheaper than installing Bluetooth beacons”. “Typically, this is what companies try to do with WiFi and Bluetooth signals through triangulation and proximity sensing. But for many applications it is too unreliable to be useful, only with a 50% chance of the person or object to be where the computations say it ought to be”, commented André. “For geolocation, our solution is very cost competitive with Bluetooth and WiFi, much cheaper to implement because we have integrated everything into a piece of silicon. It is difficult to make cost comparisons as it depends on the application environment. Where thousands of square meters may be covered with a few of our base stations in a shopping mall, an industrial site with a lot of metal and water pipes may require more base stations”, André explained. The pace of distance notifications can be set from 4 per second to one every 10 seconds, so depending on usage, by managing the sleep modes well, BeSpoon’s CEO is confident that they could have simple tags running for several months on a single coin battery. André knows well that the mass adoption of BeSpoon’s RTL solution will only truly take-off with smartphones. “We are in contact with all smartphone vendors, and it is only a matter of time before our technology makes its way into smartphones” said André, adding that it will certainly take another few months before they get such design-wins. “We see more and more gadgets that are connected and for which location matters, such as autonomous hardware, these could be robots or drones. For the type of distance precision we offer, within 5cm, we’ve had several requests from drone manufacturers. With two chips integrated across a drone’s wingspan and the user’s smartphone, they get even more precise about the drone’s location and orientation in space relative to the pilot, much more than with today’s GPS and inertial sensors and compasses, especially indoor.” André concluded. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe November 2014 27


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