About embedded systems – in simple terms (2)

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Continuations, beginning No.  1.

Telecommunications

In the telecommunications systems, there are many embedded systems (ES) used to transmit calls and messages from the telephone network to the mobile phones of the addresser.  Computer networks use modems, dedicated routers, and network bridges to ensure targeted distribution of data.

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In this application area, plenty of ESs are used. Provided exponential increase of information transmission speed, a task is raised to increase respectively the bandwidth on ES to ensure safe encoding of the information (especially in Wireless Network Systems). The task is not as simple as it may look as it entails the problems of heat dissipation. Cooling systems are also controlled by ES devices.

Household appliances and other electronic devices

Consumer electronics, including video game consoles, music synthesizers, DVD players, MP3 players, digital cameras, printers, mobile phones, GPS receivers, GPS tracking services (e.g. to control children that are tend to lie to their parents, Figure No. 5.)

ĮS buityje

ES can be found in the majority of household appliances, such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, smart electric meters (Figure No. 5) that communicates to the server of electricity provider and transmits the readings directly. In this application area, ES are installed to ensure control and safety of the devices. ESs allow ensuring the maximum functionality and safety of the devices.

 Energetics

Conventional electric motors (usually found in household appliances) use electricity very inefficiently, especially, when they rotate without any load, i.e. at idle speed, despite the fact that some of the energy is returned to the network. By flowing through network wires, the current heats them, which results in a loss.

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Inverteriai

Using ES-controlled frequency control devices-inverters (Figure No. 7) for controlling rotation and torque of the motor shaft result in significant energy savings in high-power industrial engines.

Similar problems are solved with solar modules when transmitting the excess energy to the network. Moreover, solar batteries need an automatic sun-position following system, and a precise phase synchronisation. In the both cases, the tasks are performed by ES-controlled inverters (Figure No. 8). In addition to that, inverters perform an additional function – compensates for a phase delay (the so-called cosine f) in the external network arising due to inductive devices (transformers, motors).

Despite the fact that solar energy (Figure No. 9) is very expensive due to the costs of silicon elements, the usage of ES systems will allow increasing the functionality of inverters. Moreover, solar power plant is a perfect solution in remote, however, sunny regions where there are no cheaper alternatives.

It might appear that rainy climate of Lithuania is far from suitable for solar power plants. However, lower production costs of solar panels, adoption of a law that encourages investments to solar energy production, and establishment of a silicon production plant in Lithuania would create a potential for the development of this kind of power plants in Lithuania.

Atsinaujinančios energijos elektrinės

Volatile wind energy is easy to combine with solar power plants: it fills the gap of power production during night or overcast days. High-speed ES help solving the problems of uneven power generation (unpredictable wind gusts) by wind farms (Figure No. 9), and their connection to the external network (phase synchronisation). Many specialist in Lithuania devote considerable efforts to use the resources of wind in the coastal area and Central Plains of Lithuania by establishing wind farms. A new trend is observed: development of small vertical axis wind turbines for small towns.

Progress in medicine

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Figure No. 11. Blood pressure and pulse meter.
Taken from omronhealthcare.com

Usage of ES in medical equipment marks resulted in a significant advance: non-invasive monitoring of vital functions, visualisation of internal organs (ultrasound scanning, nuclear magnetic resonance, computed tomography, etc.). ES systems are also used in everyday use medical tools, e.g. electronic stethoscope to amplify sound, blood pressure and pulse meters (Figure No. 11), and thermometers.

In medical institutions, mercury thermometers that are harmful to humans are being replaced by safe electronic thermometers with ES microcontrollers, which show the measurement data in a bright LCD display (Figure No. 12).

Elektroniniai termometrai
Figure No. 12. Electronic medical thermometer
Figure No. 13. Touchless infrared thermometer

The latest thermometers (Figure No. 13) use infrared technology to measure body temperature without touching it. The electronic equipment in the modern ambulances is required to save patient’s life in a few minutes: on the way to the place where the accident occurred, the information concerning medical records of a specific patient, allergic reactions, blood type, etc. There is a possibility for the patients of certain risk groups to purchase an attachment to a mobile phone which would transmit minimal information concerning heart rate. Such device would help medical staff to prepare in advance and make a qualified decision. This would be impossible without ES-controlled communication system and diagnostic equipment, and of course, without the qualified specialists that are able to use all the possibilities offered by advance equipment.

Medicinoje ĮS
Figure No. 14. The latest medical equipment in ambulance car.
Pictures taken from news.stanford.edu

Continuation in the next issue