The majority of modern electronic applications are considered to be digital. The word ‘digital’ is so trendy that when typed in the Google Search, there are over 13.610 E9 hits. And there’s a good reason for that: digital information is easy to work with, due to its idealistic nature. Therefore, most of the industry’s effort goes in the direction of the digital domain. This is especially true for some of the most recent innovative solutions, such as IoT enabled devices. But there’s a lot more to it than just plain – digital.
IoT offers a lot of freedom when it comes to its implementation. It can be implemented in many different ways, from a cluster of small edge nodes that simply perform some measurements and send data packets to the cloud for further analysis, up to powerful semi-autonomous edge computing nodes, equipped with artificial intelligence, that use the IoT network for object-based data transfer. Obviously, there are no strict rules about the end-node design. This opens the doors for many possibilities – but also for failures.
First analog, then digital
Thinking digitally, especially when edge computing is involved, is simply – the wrong approach. Failing to understand this correctly can lead to a lot of frustration for an IoT system designer. The focus should shift from analog to digital and not vice-versa. This ensures that less time is wasted for application tuning and tweaking just to end up with mediocre results. Having a firm analog basis from the start ensures success and shorter time to market.
Starting with the power supplies, going over the data acquisition by various sensors, and finally, the communication, all these segments have a strong foothold in the analog domain. For example, the quality of some air conditioning node mostly depends on the quality of the used gas sensor. However, proper signal conditioning is also very important. The faint signal from the sensor needs to be amplified before it can be properly digitized. In addition, properties of the signal have to be preserved during the amplification: no offset or distortion should be introduced. This means that instead of a commonly used off-the-shelf OpAmp, a more sophisticated instrumentation amplifier would be a much better solution.
This is just a simple illustration of how important it is to pick the right components before switching to the digital domain. Investing additional time in proper analog signal conditioning certainly pays off later, when working within the digital domain. However, a system designer doesn’t have to do all the footwork by himself – precious time can be saved here as well: a selection of high-performance instrumentation amplifiers, voltage references, LDOs, sensors, and other analog components are available from an extensive Microchip’s portfolio of components, following the same concept: analog made easy. By offering excellent analog performances while keeping the design complexity at a minimum, these components allow engineers to achieve excellent performances with their devices, without ever having to delve too deep into the analog world.
Microchip is a company well-known by its line of PIC microcontrollers. Having very extensive experience with digital electronics, they were able to create a wide and competitive portfolio of mixed-signal, linear, interface, and power-related products, having digital designers in mind. These components are very easy to work with, they simplify the design, reduce the BOM, and ultimately – they cut time to market.
Simulation to minimize risk
For those who want to dig deeper into how their analog circuit will perform, Microchip offers MPLAB® Mindi™, an analog simulation tool which allows evaluation of the analog circuit in the early phase of its design, prior to hardware prototyping. Mindi™ software reduces the risk of failure related to hardware prototyping, allowing for faster design-in and rapid development. You can find more about the MPLAB® Mindi™ Analog Simulator here.
As a Microchip partner of choice in the EMEA region, EBV Elektronik is ready to support all your analog design needs. We offer a wide range of evaluation boards, reference designs, online design support centers, webinars, and broad technical support. Backing you up with everything you might ever need to design analog while thinking digital, we hope to become your partner of choice as well. There is no excuse for a mediocre performance of your IoT anymore!
Ready to go from thinking analog to designing analog? Then view our guide on the most critical areas of analog for designing in the IoT.