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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Domotic Wars Arden Henderson
Houses are getting smarter. Intelligent houses are called "domotics," a name created in 1984 by journalist Bruno Latour. Lots of smart interconnected things are now rapidly appearing in houses, and interconnected on the internet, the so-called Internet of Things. IPv6 will finally become routine as IPv4 runs out of IP addresses. (What? Your ISP doesn't provide IPv6 yet? Check out Hurricane Electric's IPv6 tunnelbroker site; reference below.)

High School Robotics and the FIRST Program Grant Imahara
Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany Mouser Electronics to the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis, MO. FIRST (which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) is an international robotics competition for high school students. They spend six weeks designing and building a robot that will perform some task; like scooping up soccer balls and putting them into a goal. The game changes every year, so you always have to start from scratch.

Still Great Reasons to Become a Microwave Designer Barry Manz
When I first started writing about RF and microwave technology back in the 1980s, one of the first things I heard was that the industry suffered from a shortage of RF and microwave engineers and that the situation was becoming increasingly dire. As the story went, engineering students avoided the discipline because it was perceived as more difficult than others, that universities were not encouraging students to pursue it (and few even offered it), and that the “real money-making engineering opportunities” lay elsewhere. I still hear this story today from company presidents and engineering managers, so a quarter-century later I would assume that the situation would have risen from dire to catastrophic.

It's The Little Things: Searching for the Home Automation “Killer App” Mike Parks
Our pursuit of modern home automation can be readily observed if one looks at the archives from the various World Fairs dating as far back as the 1930s. While tantalizing possibilities have captured our imaginations, in practice the mass adoption of home automation technologies has yet to really take-off. Costs and lack of a common, interconnected protocol are often attributed as the root cause for the failure of home automation to launch. Perhaps though, home automation just hasn’t found it’s “killer app” yet. What might be needed is one must-have product that, while it stands alone in its first iteration, will drive people to adopt then demand more devices that interact with each other.

Lights, Camera, Traffic? Justin Risedorf
The proliferation of vehicle ownership has led to overcrowded roadways and drivers who needed much more than common sense and courtesy to keep everyone safe and accident-free. Along the way, traffic lights became a very important tool for increasing safety on the roads.

A Tale of Two Automation Strategies Mike Parks
Much has been written about the trials and tribulations associated with the adoption of home automation technologies. The lack of mass consumer appeal is often attributed to high costs and lack of a simple, universal protocol. For the technically savvy, the idea of giving in to “vendor lock” by adopting a single company's product line has been too much to bear. However, for more affluent consumers this idea is not a problem as most of the time they rely on 3rd party installers to install and maintain their systems. This has left the DIY crowd to resort to more “hackable,” although way more complicated solutions, such as X10 products. In the end we have grown an ecosystem unsuitable for mass adoption. The niche market of affluent consumers is just lucrative enough for companies to continue to peddle proprietary solutions. The equally niche Maker- and DIY-market has been strong enough to attract those with the skills to homebrew a custom solution. Neither are good enough for the mass market.

Watch the Feedback: An Introduction to Operational Amplifiers Mike Parks
Operational amplifiers (op amps for short) are one of the workhorse components of circuit design. They can be used in wonderfully simple but also incredibly complex ways, including audio pre-amplifiers, small signal sensor amplification, filters, and digital-to-analog converters (DAC) to name a few. Notice that these are all analog signal examples, not digital signals (i.e., not a stream of 0s and 1s.) analog signals are real-world, continuous signals that have, theoretically an infinite resolution.

Tesla PowerWall: A Backdoor for the Mass Adoption of Home Automation? Mike Parks
On April 30, 2015, Elon Musk announced to the world the Tesla PowerWall. In its first week alone, Tesla brought in $800 million dollars for their new PowerWall. Powerwall is a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack that will store energy for when you need it, or to use as a backup power supply during an outage. Unlike a generator, it doesn’t require fuel and creates no noise. What’s interesting is that the backlog of customer orders is already winding itself well into the second half of 2016. This is a sign that demonstrates there is a market demand for rethinking how we power our homes both from the perspective of lead-shifting and backup power. With a little speculation, it is also a product that just might serve as a backdoor to the mass adoption of smarter, more automated homes.

From Roomba to Rosie: Getting Closer To the Chore-Free Home of the Future Justin Risedorf
Current household robots are largely one trick ponies. Sure it’s nice to have a dog bowl on wheels quietly move around the room, sucking up whatever the kids brought in on their shoes, but what else can it do? The market is flooded with robots that can vacuum the carpet, mow the lawn or remember to water your plants. Recently, I came across a robot to change your cat litter which would be useless… unless you made the mistake of owning a cat in the first place. Relax… I’m kidding! But I know what you’re thinking, “How long until I get to turn on a humanoid protocol droid that can handle complex tasks, speak my language, and help out around the ole’ moisture farm?” The good news is, sooner than you thought.

Home Automation – In the Beginning and Beyond! Rudy Ramos
Home automation has come a long way since The Clapper was first introduced back in 1986. Today you can find a plethora of home automation products to augment all of the creature comforts already found in most American homes.

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