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Electronic Design

Try Wireless Controls And E-Paper In Your Next Green Design

The standard way to wire a house is to figure out where to put the switches and then wire them to the outlets or lights. This requires extra wire to connect the switches to the plugs or devices and locks in the position of the switches.

An alternative is to look at the problem from a wireless perspective using technologies like Zwave or ZigBee. In this case, the switch is simply a plate with a button. The wireless microcontroller can easily be hidden in the plate, which is simply pasted on the wall. It can have any number of buttons that can control any number of devices.

The obvious disadvantage is cost, at least for now. Some advantages are obvious, such as the ability to place the switch anywhere or to change it in the future. Likewise, installing more than one switch control is a trivial exercise.

Once this type of control system is in place, monitoring and remote management become possible. Power reductions occur automatically, as you can turn multiple lights in multiple rooms on and off with a single button. Likewise, this environment makes it possible to control devices in conjunction with each other, such as dimming or turning off lights when turning on an HDTV. The ideas are endless, but it all starts from a change in fundamentals.

If you’re trying to come up with the next Kindle, then electronic paper (e-paper) technology will likely be part of the design because of its high quality and low power requirements. Available e-paper technology is grey scale at this point, with color versions in the works.

Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader e-book readers utilize Active Matrix Electronic Paper Display (EPD) e-paper from E-ink. The e-books use a raster display with small pixels, but this isn’t the only way to take advantage of e-paper displays.

The other is segmented e-paper. Dialog Semiconductor’s EDP Evaluation Kit includes a sample of this type of segmented display (see the figure). The kit includes the E-ink display and a board with Dialog Semiconductor’s controller chip, plus a USB interface.

The USB interface is great for testing, though the advantages of the segmented display will show up when it’s time to interface to single-chip microcontrollers. This is an ideal combination because of e-paper’s low power requirements and static operation. For example, a ZigBeebased system may periodically power up and check for messages. It can then change the e-paper display and go back to sleep since the e-paper retains the display when it’s unpowered.

E-paper provides a more robust display than LEDs or LCDs, which must be powered continuously. E-paper is also flexible and shatterproof. It has excellent viewing and contrast characteristics as well. So, going green isn’t hard. But it may just make sense to look at the problem from a new perspective.

Do you have an idea on how to take advantage of Dialog Semiconductor’s EDP Evaluation Kit? Drop me an e-mail with a project description, and the top three suggestions will get to try out their design.



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