The Weekly Watt

By Alix Paultre, Editor-in-Chief

The wave of acquisitions in the industry is continuing to create buzz while companies consolidate IP and capabilities to address next-generation market demands. To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, “The chief business of the electronics business is business.” This week, Stadium Group, a company involved in wireless connectivity solutions, power products, human machine interfaces, and electronic assemblies, let the industry know that it took over the business and assets of PowerPax. Stadium said that it would add the U.K.-based value-add manufacturer and distributor to their power technology division, Stadium Stontronics, based in Reading, U.K.


This could be seen as infrastructure and supply-chain planning for post-BREXIT uncertainties, or it could just be another merger in a field of them. Until the trade issues are settled, manufacturers in the U.K. will be on uncertain terms with their suppliers and clients, and vice versa. Picking up manufacturing and distribution ability will give Stadium more maneuvering room if the company needs to reposition itself in any way.


When it comes to making the future happen, we need to create the next generation of engineers. That’s why we should all give Microsemi a round of applause, as the company has donated $1.5 million dollars to the University of California, Irvine to help establish the Microsemi Presidential Chair in Electrical Engineering. The contribution will be added to $500,000 in matching funds from the UC Office of the President and will support research and teaching, equipment and laboratory setup, graduate fellowships, and other cool stuff.


On the technology side, everyone knows that I’m a gadget guy at heart, and there’s nothing like a doohickey with a good user interface. Our lust for tools and devices with heft and ergonomics comes from the analog nature of reality. Blunt instruments like hammers must be well-gripped to drive a nail; knives may cut and carve, but usually the user’s fingers if the blade is difficult to control. That fake Breitling looks fantastic until you hold it in your hands.


In the case (no pun intended) of electronic products, it will always be important, albeit now more of a haptic concern (which is arguably the integration of touch and ergonomics). Beyond vision, touch is in a way our primary interface with the physical world. The demand for a useful gadget that is well-constructed with an economy of space (high component density) will still be driven with a mind to fit, finish, and material quality.


That’s why I’m always happy when new touch solutions become widely available. Mouser recently began stocking Silicon Labs’ CPT212B and CPT213B TouchXpress capacitive touch controllers. They enable the designer to avoid time-consuming firmware development, with a turnkey solution for adding touch control to things from home appliances to medical equipment.


The I2C controllers accept 12 or 13 sensor inputs — really useful when you are adding a lot of functionality or ambidextrous access, and they boast ultra-low-power operation (200 µA in optimized active mode and 1 µA in sleep mode). The CPT213B device also adds IEC 60730 Class B safety library support for household appliance safety. An interrupt pin wakes wakes it up after a prox touch detect. Mouser also has the eval boards with a buzzer for touch feedback, touch qualification engine, and an expansion header for connecting to Silicon Labs EFM8 or EFM32 starter kits.


To give you something to do with that great tech, RS Components is supporting the latest Arduino design contest with RS Pro test-bench products. An RS Pro oscilloscope and an RS Pro soldering station will be among the range of competition prizes available. The initial stage of the Arduino competition looks for innovative ideas based on the Sigfox low-power wide-area network standard for IoT. Submit an idea by September 15, 2017, and the top 30 (chosen by the Arduino people) will get a coupon for an Arduino MKR FOX 1200 as well as a two-year subscription to Sigfox services. Unfortunately, the coupons will only be sent to countries covered by Sigfox.


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