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Smart home demo on show at Embedded Technology

16th November 2016
Alice Matthews

With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the embedded systems that constitute the IoT nodes are growing in diversity. STMicroelectronics is showcasing its solutions for embedded systems, including a Smart Home demonstration that benefits from a rich IoT development ecosystems at Embedded Technology 2016.

In its Smart Home demonstration, ST highlights technologies that lead to greater security, comfort, and energy efficiency in the home. The ST smart home components include biometric authentication based on face-authentication modules, object and people-presence detection through Time of Flight (ToF) sensors, temperature, humidity, and luminance detection through environmental sensors, and accelerometer-based vibration detection combined with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and LoRa connectivity ICs that enable remote management for each node.

These technologies will make homes smarter by enabling the presence detection of people in rooms, the detection of food in containers, storage and access to medicines and valuables, automated control of air conditioning and lighting, and detection of environmental conditions inside and outside the home. They are expected to trigger new services, including supervision services for seniors, protection against swallowing or misusing objects by children, and remote management of outdoor facilities.

According to ST, the Smart-Home demonstration is built around one of the industry's richest IoT development ecosystems. The ST booth at Embedded Technology 2016 features a special corner allowing engineers to experience this development ecosystem. Visitors will get hands-on access to two types of STM32 MCU Nucleo boards, and 8 types of X-Nucleo expansion boards equipped with a BLE-compatible network processor, drivers for brushless/brush/stepper motors, NFC tags, motion and environmental sensors, MEMS microphones, and proximity sensors. Visitors can run a sample program built with the integrated development environment for each application.

The main building blocks of IoT devices and other embedded systems perform human functions, much as the brain, senses, nerves, muscles, and the immune system. ST addresses all of these with a broad portfolio of products.

In the IoT 'brain' section, ST showcases its STM32H7 32-bit microcontroller (MCU) that exhibits high performance in the ARM Cortex-M class. Running at 400MHz, the ARM Cortex-M7 MCU combines ST's proprietary 40nm manufacturing process with an advanced design architecture. The MCU delivers real-time performance and graphics/audio capabilities that will find use in applications like 'connected' smart factories and human machine interfaces. The STM32H7 fast processing capabilities are shown in a demo in which the MCU handles simultaneous video replay on four screens with minimal CPU overhead.

Sensors play the role of 'sensory organs' in embedded systems. In an IoT world, countless sensors are embedded in a variety of objects and locations. A demonstration that adjusts the size of a text according to the distance between the PC screen and the user's face uses ST’s proximity sensor, which employs the Company’s patented ToF technology. Compared with existing products, this sensor measures longer distances with greater speed and accuracy, opening up new possibilities for motion control in robots, hovering control for drones, and human interfaces for wearable devices. In addition, ST demonstrates high-precision gesture recognition using a development kit for wearable devices equipped with a 6-axis sensor module (accelerometer and gyroscope), 3-axis magnetic sensor, and pressure/barometric sensor to show more accurate altitude detection for high-precision indoor navigation in the future.

ST’s connectivity ICs for short- and long-distance communication play the role of 'nerves' in IoT devices. For long-distance transfers, ST will demonstrate wireless data transmission from temperature and humidity detecting nodes, combining a LoRa communication IC from Semtech with a 32-bit microcontroller from ST. LoRa can communicate up to 10km, making the technology suited to the construction of large-scale networks, including smart meters, cargo tracking, animal management, and volcano-zone data collection. In short-distance communications, ST will demonstrate wireless control of a tablet by voice using a board equipped with ST's BLE IC and a MEMS microphone. ST's BLE IC delivers clear and stable communication with optimal efficiency, making it useful for IoT devices that require short-distance wireless connectivity.

Motor drives form the 'muscles' of embedded systems. ST will demonstrate vector control of a brushless DC motor using ST’s latest System in Package (SiP) for motor control. The SiP integrates an MCU and a gate driver in a 7x7mm package, combining compact size with high performance and flexibility. Target applications include robots, drones, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, and other embedded systems that need high-performance motors. Addressing battery-powered portable devices, ST will also introduce a multi-function motor-driver IC, which cuts standby power consumption to less than 80nA. The ST booth will also host demonstrations of drone prototypes and motive propeller sections that integrate ST's 32-bit MCUs with motor-driver ICs.

With the proliferation of the IoT, network-connected embedded systems are prone to threats of cyber-attacks, including falsification, spoofing, data theft, and device misuse. To support the IoT 'immune system' that counters such threats, ST has developed the STSAFE-A100 secure MCU, which boasts the Common Criteria EAL5+ security certification. At the booth, ST demonstrates prevention of unauthorised access to sensor-equipped IoT systems by a spoofed device. ST offers a development ecosystem that simplifies the implementation of security functions in IoT devices, removing the need for support by security experts in system development.

In addition, ST is showing demos and boards for wireless chargers, digital power-supply control, NFC tags and thin-film batteries.

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