Bringing up Sensor Puck shows semis doing more for less
Bringing up Silicon Labs’ Sensor Puck
Step 1: Turn on Sensor Puck.
Step 2: Download “Silicon Labs Sensor Puck” app.
Step 3: View environmental and biometric readings.
That’s it. I’m free to explore.
This is more than a passing trend, it has become an embedded development de facto. More and more we see vendors like Silicon Labs wrapping their expertise in microcontrollers, analog sensors, multiprotocol radios, and associated communications stacks and processing algorithms into neat little packages that allow app developers to begin adding value after the simple flip of a switch – and doing so at sub $30 price points. Of course, if you’re the hands-on type that wants to modify firmware, source code is typically provided free of charge in these kits and can be accessed through development environments that are available at little or no extra cost (in the case of Sensor Puck, Silicon Labs’ Simplicity Studio can be downloaded from their website, and a Segger 9-pin ARM Cortex debug cable and MCU evaluation board are both available from Mouser). In some cases, vendors even go so far as to set you up with working applications, such as the heart rate monitor based on the Sensor Puck’s integrated optical sensor (Figure 1).(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)
So voila! What once consumed a majority of the product development lifecycle has now been abstracted down to a couple of minutes, most of which is consumed during the mobile app download and install.
More for less
Short of magic (though the heart rate monitor is pretty damn cool), the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing business models and prompting semiconductor suppliers to do more for less. “The next big thing” could come from anywhere, and rather than waiting for it to show up on their doorsteps, silicon vendors are getting proactive by pushing their technology out into the world in the hope that it ships in some high-volume end product. If reducing barriers to entry means assuming a level of risk, so be it.
As Ross Sabolcik, VP and GM of Silicon Labs’ Analog, Power, and Sensors division explained in a meeting at the company’s Austin headquarters, the level of competition in high-volume markets means semicons have to provide a range of IP and offerings that are suitable for multiple applications, and what better way of illustrating these capabilities than through an agnostic development platform that showcases a microcontroller, two sensors, and a power management IC in the same package (Figure 2)? Silicon Labs’ acquisition of wireless connectivity shop Bluegiga earlier this year also allows the addition of in-house connectivity to the Sensor Puck and other dev kits via modules such as the Blue Gecko Bluetooth Smart SoC, meaning the company can tightly integrate and optimize the entire solution so developers don’t have to (Figure 3).(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)
I am not an engineer. But anymore, how much do you really have to be?