While any competent electronics designer, whether a garage amateur or a fully-qualified electrical engineer, can solder together interesting devices out of off-the-shelf components, for controlling industrial processes, more specialized hardware is required.
“Industrial electronics is all about using sensors to monitor and measure physical characteristics for use in tracking performance or feedback control,” Lou Frenzel wrote in Electronic Design. Interfacing those sensors to the computers and communications equipment is the engineering challenge.”
One of the major engineering challenges is getting a resistance temperature detector (RTD) to interface with an analog-to-digital converter (ADC (News - Alert)). A high resolution ADC is necessary to get accurate results, and the engineer must compensate for the RTD heating itself, as all electronics tend to do, during the course of its operation.
Since the RTD is mounted where it will directly capture temperature, it requires long cables back to the ADC. Engineers must also compensate for the attenuation when using thin twisted pair cables.
A device like the Maxim Integrated MAX31865 provides all this circuitry built in, including the RTD, ADC and compensation circuitry.
Another engineering challenge is the growth of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. M2M involves connecting devices over cellular networks so that they can communicate with each other, building an “Internet of things.” More importantly, they allow human operators to see exactly what they’re doing. M2M is popular in industrial control and fleet tracking, among other applications.
“When designing an M2M product for different cellular carriers, you have to select the right radio technology to be compatible,” Frenzel wrote. “M2M wireless modules designed to be embedded into industrial products are available for just about any wireless standard. But what do you do if the product must work on multiple yet typically incompatible networks? Or what if you would like one product that could handle any network?”
The Sierra Wireless SL9090 is an ARM-based chip that can handle any standard short of LTE (News - Alert). It gives them access to HSPA+ or EV-DO networks but much more importantly it lets them do it without consuming a lot of power, which is important in mobile devices. It also includes a GPS receiver, as well as ART, USB 2.0, SPI, and GPIO outputs. It also includes dual microphones for noise cancellation,
“If you’re designing an M2M product for the enterprise and need the confidence to ensure long product life in the field despite network changes and upgrades, this module may be your best choice,” Frezel wrote. “It also lets you launch services with one carrier but switch later if your business plans or strategies change.”
Want to learn more about M2M technologies? Don’t miss the M2M Evolution Conference, collocated with ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at M2M Evolution Conference. Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli