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Have you ever been stuck without a hex wrench and resorted to trying to use a flat head screwdriver to fasten a hex bolt? It can work, but wouldn’t you rather have the right tool for the job? Well if you need to synthesize a sinusoidal signal, knowing a little about DDS will help you settle on the optimal solution.

Most engineers are exposed to PLLs during their schooling, but DDS is less universally taught. Seems like something worth blogging about. I wanted to get the ball rolling with a few comments on the comparative advantages – both have a place in your tool chest. The table below is a handy reference:




Frequency Resolution


  Finer resolution allows you to get closer to hitting your desired frequency precisely

Frequency Agility


  Do you need a signal that changes (sweeps or hops) over time?

Phase Resolution & Agility


  Same as above, but applied to the phase of the signal

Amplitude Resolution & Agility


  Same as above, but applied to the amplitude of the signal

Power Consumption






Broad Spectral Purity


  Can you work with an output spectrum that has a lot of low level spurs?

Ancillary circuitry


  How much external circuitry are you willing or able to add?

Freq. Upconversion


  Are you trying to synthesize a frequency higher than the reference you are working with?

I expect a couple of these comparison (Price, Power) terms don’t need any clarification, but the rest are less common.

Frequency Resolution: You are trying to get a signal of a specific frequency out, how close to that exact frequency do you need to be? Greater resolution allows you to get closer to your desired frequency.

Frequency Agility: Many applications only need a constant, stable output frequency, but some need to jump between frequencies and others need to see a slowly changing frequency – these latter applications require an agile frequency synthesizer.

Phase/Amplitude Resolution & Agility: Same as Frequency Resolution and Agility above, just applied to phase or amplitude of your signal.

Broad Spectral Purity: Most easily explained with pictures (below). While not an apples to apples comparison, it shows what I am talking about – the DDS has more (and larger) frequency spurs in its output spectrum than the PLL.  There are things that can be done to mitigate them (for more see ADI AN-823). 



PLL based design example

(from the AD9510 datasheet)

DDS based design example

(Lab data taken using AD9911)

 Ancillary circuitry: How many other components are needed to get to the complete solution? 

Frequency Upconversion (That’s not a word): Both approaches require that you feed in a reference signal of a given frequency, but if the frequency you are trying to synthesize is higher than the frequency of this reference, you are upconverting (That’s not a word either!).

Now to be fair, these are NOT hard and fast rules, almost every line in this table has some nuance that I’ll discuss in my next post 2 posts.

If you’d like to learn more about the guts of a DDS engine, check out the tutorial we put together here; you’ll find some slides with audio content that you can go through at your own pace.

If anything above raises a question - ask it; I’ll try to include answers in my next post as well.

When it comes to the topic of how to properly driver the front end of your SAR ADC, ADI provides quite a bit of guidance on the matter.  For example, you'll often find a list of "Recommended Driver Amplifiers" in the datasheet for a SAR ADC - like this table on page 16 of the AD7980 datasheet:



Also in the datasheet, there is often guidance on a good starting point for the RC filter component values - as shown on page 15 of the AD7980 datasheet:



Other sources of ADC driver guidance can also be found in:


For a deeper dive on this topic, Front-End Amplifier and RC Filter Design for a Precision SAR Analog-to-Digital Converter is an excellent resource.  This article will help you to understand the basic considerations of SAR ADC driving, and will help you to tailor your driver circuit design to better match your specific application.


We've been working to incorporate some of the knowledge and calculations we have across all of these resources into a new web tool - we have a "rough draft" version of this tool available for initial testing and feedback:


We're going to keep working on this tool, making improvements to both the functionality and the look-and-feel.  But the feedback we receive on this early version of the tool is going to be very helpful as we decide which features we're going to work on.  Feedback and discussion on this tool can be provided in the comments section at the bottom of this post, or by clicking "Help us make this tool better" at the top right corner of the tool window.





To use this tool, you begin by providing your circuit design information - selected ADC and sample rate, selected amplifier/driver and circuit information, input signal frequency, and RC filter values.


The tool will generate illustrations/plots for these settings on four tabs.  The "Circuit" tab will illustrate the circuit information that was provided in the input panel.  For example, if we start with the rceommended RC value in the AD7980 datasheet, and use one of the recommended drivers, we'll have input settings and a circuit tab that looks like this:



Note the input values - AD7980 at 1MSPS, ADA4805 non-inverting, gain of one, 10kHz input frequency, RC filter values of 20 Ohms and 2.7nF.


Pro tip: as you're using this tool, the URL will continually update to reflect the configuration you have entered.  If you want to "save" what you're doing in the tool, just copy-and-paste the URL, and use it to reopen the tool where you left off.


Once you have your circuit set up, you can take a look at the other tabs to view the performance.  The "Noise and Distortion" tab will display and estimate of the combined performance of the ADC and driver.  In this early version of the tool, you can see the ADC performance vs. input frequency is green, and the driver performance is blue.  The combined performance is red, and is also summarized in the "Noise Performance" table at the bottom of the tool page.


In this example, you can see that the driver is not degrading the performance of the overall system very much.  The system performance is dominated by the ADC.  You can also compare the tool estimate to the datasheet SINAD plot:



Looking at the "Sine Response" tab, you can see that the sinusoidal error is very small (less than 1/2 LSB) - this means the RC values have been chosen such that the ADC input is able to properly settle after each kickback event, prior to the end of the acquisition cycle.




Taking a look at the "Step Response" tab - this tab simulates the settling behavior of the circuit assuming a multiplexed input, including the slew rate of the driver, and the effect of the RC filter.



With a multiplexed input, the input value can swing greatly between the mux input pins, and we can assume the worst case scenario is that the input voltage will swing the full range of the possible voltages.  Looking at the "Step Response" tab, we can see that out current design isn't going to settle in time for a multiplexed setup.  (See how the voltage is settling right at the end of the conversion cycle, but is not able to recover after the kickback in time for the end of the acquisition cycle?)




With this example, we can see that we don't quite settle from the kickback in time.  If we tinker with the RC value and switch to an 18 ohm and 2.2nF value, the circuit will settle to 1/2 LSB in time.




Were you able to use the tool for your design?  Did you find it helpful?  What could we improve?  

Technologies that just a few years ago still seemed like science fiction, edged closer to the commonplace in 2016.  Pokémon GO brought Augmented Reality into the public vernacular. The launch of PlayStation VR and other devices and apps pushed Virtual Reality into the hands of consumers and businesses alike. Google Home joined Amazon Echo and other apps to push Artificial Intelligence (AI) deeper into our lives. Uber added momentum to the shared economy model and commercialization of autonomous vehicles with the launch of self-driving services in several cities, even as the high-profile crash of an autonomous Tesla raised concerns about the current state of the art. When you combine these events with the continued consolidation of the semiconductor industry, global cyber-security concerns, and impact of the U.S. Presidential election, it’s clear that 2016 was no ordinary year.


Many of the events and trends of 2016 will continue to reverberate and shape 2017. Here are a few that I think will have the greatest impact on business, society, and all of our lives over the coming year and indeed beyond.


Artificial Intelligence Becomes More Human: Deep neural network algorithms that were long forgotten after their original invention in the 1980s have experienced a resurgence in recent years and are making great strides in driving AI in new directions, especially when combined with other sophisticated AI algorithms like reinforcement learning (e.g., the Go-playing “AlphaGo” program developed by Google Deep Mind). There has been a tsunami of research extending neural network algorithms and in 2017 this research will result in radically novel neural network algorithms that are superior to the older algorithms on which the AI community has been relying. For example, new “unsupervised” algorithms will be able to learn by simply observing the world in the field, rather than through “supervised training” algorithms that require large amounts of time and curated data. In 2017, we will see the development of theoretical methods that reduce the footprint of deep neural networks and of new hardware designs to efficiently implement those algorithms in a wide variety of distributed sensor networks.


Driving Intelligence to the Edge of the Internet of Things (IoT): The growth of the Internet of Things will obviously continue to accelerate but as issues of security and efficient rendering of high quality information begin to outweigh mere deployment, we will see a push for greater intelligence at the edge nodes of the IoT. That intelligence will take multiple forms – from algorithms and software at the edge that reduce the amount of data transmission to and analysis in the cloud, to security at the “front line” that reduces the attack surface of the IoT. We will also see the term “IoT” begin to fade from our vocabulary as it simply becomes part of the natural operation of business. As connected homes, enterprises, and cities become the “assumed” state of existence, we will transition from “connection” to “resiliency.”  The “resilient” home, enterprise, and city will be connected but part of IoT-scale intelligence and cybersecurity architectures that enable them to rapidly spot, recognize, and effectively respond to the inevitable challenges and threats they face.


Go Autonomous and Leave the Driving to AI: While the predictions of the ubiquity of autonomous vehicles in the next few years are overly optimistic, it is clear that the future is autonomous and we will make significant strides in 2017. The spread of self-driving delivery and transportation services and the proliferation of autonomous elements such as self-braking and parking in human-driven vehicles will push research into the state of the art forward ever faster. Improving the ability of autonomous vehicles to more accurately and rapidly sense the environment around them will be a key focus in 2017 and RADAR and LIDAR will increasingly become industry standard as their size and cost drop dramatically this year.


The Smart Grid Gets Smarter: Protecting, innovating, and developing the electric grid is becoming increasingly important. The smart grid is in its infancy, but the industry is already starting to look beyond simple automatic meter reading functionality to ways in which increased measurement and connectivity can return value. The role of data analytics to improve efficiencies and reliability is one of the major areas of investment, but also new ideas are appearing on the possibilities of exchanges that address the increasing pressure of diversification and fluctuation of energy sources and loads. Even more exciting is the possibility of the emergence of a new “digital grid” that enables a distributed delivery model that is more efficient and resilient than today’s legacy grids.


From Reactive to Predictive Healthcare:
The growth of our understanding of the human body over the past few years has been truly astounding. The development of extremely accurate computational biology models of our respiratory and metabolic systems is enabling new treatment options that weren’t possible before. The ability to provide clinical-grade sensing and measurement outside the four walls of the hospital or doctor’s office will be critical to those treatments. We will need to provide nearly always-on, secure, accurate sensing and measurement of our health statistics – Fitbit on steroids, if you will. This will enable the move from reactive to predictive and preventative healthcare. It will also create new business models such as outcome-based pricing where healthcare providers are paid for keeping us well rather than healing us when we’re sick.


These trends will have significant impact on nearly every facet of our world in 2017. As we reflect upon them and explore their opportunities, it becomes increasingly clear to me that the future lies not with a handful of technology companies, but within an ever expanding innovation ecosystem where a vast partner network collaborates to realize these and other societal benefits.


You know what we should ask for this holiday season? Technology. I don’t mean a cool gizmo gift like wireless earbuds or a voice-activated personal assistant. I mean honest-to-goodness, for-the-person-who-has-everything, smart technology.


If the Internet of Things is supposed to make our lives better, let’s start with the holidays. And you can’t spell “holidays” without “ADI.”


You Can’t Park Here.

Why is it that 4,000 other people have all found spots at the mall, but you’re always in a low-earth orbit stalking overburdened shoppers looking for their cars? Here’s one solution. A mall in Paramus, New Jersey, offers a reserved and gated parking space for $10 per four hours. You just download the app. Looking forward to Christmases Yet to Come, smart technology from ADI that can detect and notify you when a spot opens might be part of your holiday cheer, as we demonstrated last month at Electronica.


 This Is Delicious. What’s In It?

 The holidays mean holiday parties, and holiday parties mean lots of holiday food.  On top of the formal gatherings, there are the homemade goodies your neighbors leave on your doorstep and co-workers leave in the break room. It’s both difficult and Scrooge-like to deny ourselves all of this largess, but perhaps we could be a bit more strategic in our consumption. The SCiO pocket molecular sensor, created in collaboration with ADI, could let you quickly and easily scan the buffet table to measure fat content, sugar content, and maybe just how much bourbon is in the eggnog.


Our Brightest Christmas Symbol

According to new data from Nielsen Research, approximately 21.6 million real trees will be purchased by U.S. households this Christmas season. Bringing a fragrant conifer into your home is a great way to make the season bright. It’s also a great way make a mess. Most of that comes from a lack of water that results in dry, needle-shedding trees. An answer may lie in Smart Agriculture technology, such as that developed by Analog Devices to improve tomato harvests. A sensor-to-cloud solution could let us know when to water our trees much sooner than when the tree’s natural smart programming kicks in and it drops 20 percent of its needles on the living room floor.


 And Suddenly, There Arose Such a Clatter

 You would think the rooftop arrival of eight reindeer and an overloaded sleigh would not go unnoticed at your house, but I always seem to miss the event. Not this year. Our SMARTopolis demo at Electronica showed how carefully placed sensors and an accelerometer can detect and measure vibrations. A few of these on the roof and I’ll get a handy smartphone alert when my North Pole visitors make their stop.



  It’s Just What I Wanted, Unless It Isn’t

 A story in Newsweek cites research that shows shoppers return nearly $70 billion worth of purchases during the holiday season. And that doesn’t even account for the items that get re-gifted. We barely recover from the ordeal of buying gifts (see Parking above) and we have to jump right back into the fire to exchange them. Time for another smart technology solution. What if we could just discreetly leave the stuff out on the porch and use an app to summon a fleet of drones that’ll whisk it all away while we figure out how to apply all that merchandise credit to something we really want? Like those wireless ear buds or a voice-activated personal assistant.




Images:, Inspirational Quotes And Short Funny Stuff,, clipart panda,,


Click to TWEET: I'm dreaming of a Smart Christmas. #ADIahead #EngineerZone


Flat in Cork. Elated in Munich.

Posted by bdaly Employee Nov 22, 2016

The journey to Munich from Cork involves a 200 mile drive to Dublin airport Saturday night. Not exactly a great start to be greeted with a flat tire in my driveway before setting out. Luckily, I had time to get it repaired. I collected Michal Raninec and we were on our way. We stopped in a pub on the way to Dublin, for a massive steak and to watch Ireland beat New Zealand in rugby for the first time in 111 years of trying—just the fuel we needed for our long ride.


We arrived at the show in Munich on Sunday morning around 11 am. The convention centre in Munich is huge, it takes about 45 minutes to walk from one end of the place to the other. It even has 2 subway stops. So a lot of walking was needed just to get to the ADI booth, and then more walking to locate our precious boxes of LEGO.


The unboxing was a tense affair, literally a make or break moment. But the LEGO survived the long trek to Germany in remarkable condition. Michal and I were happy bunnies as we unboxed building after building, with only very minor damage to repair. The temperature was barely above freezing, as all the hangar doors were open to allow trucks and forklifts into the exhibition hall. ADI parkas are sadly not supplied. Despite the solid state of the LEGO city it still took us two full days to set up the demos and debug the few installation issues. We did all this while surrounded by a large construction crew, busily building the booth. There was plenty of swearing at us in Polish as we peppered the crew with requests, including replacing some damaged HDMI cables they had installed. (They had no idea that Michal understood what they were saying). Colourful language aside, we were ready to see if the demo would work as we intended.


It’s Showtime!

The show started Tuesday morning at 9 am. The reaction to the demo was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the demo was so successful, many people didn’t even realize we had tons of technology integrated, they just wanted to take selfies of themselves with SMARTopolis. Not that the competition was all that stiff, especially if you just came from 200,000 sq. ft. of power supplies on display in the next exhibit hall. I’ve worked on power supplies in the past. Winding transformers is about as sexy as it gets.


The biggest accomplishment and sense of achievement was that we were able to display many different aspects of the ADI story with one demo. We were able to demonstrate how ADI is moving beyond silicon, with systems and modules in hardware, algorithms and the ADConnect cloud offering. We were able to highlight ADI’s focus areas within Industrial Sensing, Smart Cities, Buildings, Agriculture and Structural Health. Many people commented on it being their favourite demo at the entire show, both in terms of the visual impact, concept and execution. Fortunately, my boss was one of these. At least that is what he told me, he probably said the same to his other guys at the show.


A personal highlight was when a LEGO employee showed up. (And I thought I had the best job in the world). We spent the bones of an hour discussing many things, and I now have an open invitation to tour the Denmark LEGO factory (if I ever get up there). His role is developing the electronics for all LEGO products, from motors to sensors. Unfortunately for ADI, their requirements are not high speed/precision/accuracy, so we don’t do very much business with them.




To keep the LEGO theme going, we filled a traditional German beer glass, MaBkrug with LEGO studs, and had a competition where people had to guess how many pieces were inside. Amazingly the guy from LEGO guessed the closest. He estimated the volume of the glass, and divided it by the size of the stud (which he knew the dimensions of). Even more impressive was that he did this in less than 5 seconds. Earlier that day I watched three guys from our Analog Garage team spend an hour trying just to estimate the volume of the glass. Pi*r2*h isn’t easy to do in your head. The answer was 4876 pieces. The guy from LEGO guessed 4800.




It’s a Wrap.

Friday at 5 pm was a bittersweet moment. The end of a tiring week, and a long journey which began months ago, in the basement at home playing LEGO with my kids. The LEGO train had completed a total of 73km (46 miles). The Ferris wheel made 11,667 rotations. Everything was still working great at the end, although the cheese from the Smart Ag demo station was beginning to go off. I was extremely lucky to have such a brilliant team around me, which made it all come together.


Big thanks to:

  •     Mike Byrne and Mike Britchfield. Their trust to allow me take a big risk at such an important event.
  •     Melanie Huber and Bernhard Siegel, the show and booth coordinators in Munich.
  •     Tyler Schmitt for putting a superb structural health demo together.
  •     Michal Raninec for making my life very easy.
  •     Shane Clifford for the efforts on the ADConnect ThingWorx Mashups.
  •     Maithil Pachchigar, Erick Olsen, John Curtin, Antoine Descazot, Grainne Murphy, Mike Hennessy, Sudong Shu, Frederik Dostal & Shane Clifford for helping out on the demo all week.


It took us only 90 minutes to pack everything up. I immediately switched focus to my next task, heading to Vienna the next day to watch Ireland play Austria in a soccer World Cup qualifier.


That result was as successful as the demo; a victory for Ireland.



Click to Tweet:"Flat in Cork. Elated in Munich. A victory for Ireland. #ADIahead"

Greetings from Electronica.  As always, the event is filled with amazing new technologies. If you’re at all involved with ATE and ETM applications, there’s something I believe you really should see. Analog Devices has brought a revolutionary new MEMS switch technology to Electronica. It’s a true alternative to cumbersome, conventional relay approaches.


Anyone designing ATE and ETM application will know the tradeoffs when needing switches in their designs. Bandwidth limitations, linearity, operation at 0Hz/dc, package size, actuation lifetimes and reliability, to name but a few. There are some nice relay switching solutions out there today but none tick all the performance and ease of use boxes.  Increased performance in smaller form factors is also a constant focus for test and measurement equipment now more than ever. A perfect small form factor switching solution is key to driving new architectures and staying ahead in the industry.  This is where ADI’s new MEMS switch technology delivers an ideal overarching solution. 


Here are just a few of the benefits of this new MEMS switch technology:

 Smaller, more flexible and higher reliability test and measurement equipment – greatly reducing size, component count, and cost.

  • Reduced test time and time to market as a key component in multi-platform, multi-standard test systems
  • Platform simplification with integrated driver IC and multiplexer configurations for fan-out applications
  • Lowest and flattest insertion loss across the frequency band – maximizing platform sensitivity and increasing test accuracy.
  • Widest variety of test challenges from a single platform while delivering the highest performance measurements – making testing more cost-effective.


We will be demonstrating this new MEMS switch technology all during Electronica. It’s a great way to see for yourself how ADI can give you a competitive edge in ATE and ETM, aerospace and defense, healthcare, communications, and other key markets.


Here’s some ways to can learn more:

  • Talk with our experts at the ADI booth.
  • See Eric Carty’s presentation at the Embedded Platforms Conference — Nov. 10. (16:00)
  • Reserve your place for the joint presentations with Advantest on Nov. 10 (10:30, 12:00, 14:30). Space is limited, so contact us right away. Send an email to:


I look forward to seeing you during the show


You can find out more about what Analog Devices is doing at Electronica here.

 From making our mobile devices better and faster, to making possible innovations such as self-driving cars, smart cities and virtual emergency and operating rooms, the promise of 5G is intoxicating. What is much more sobering, however, are the evolutionary and revolutionary challenges facing device makers and network providers.


Enabling the 5G Evolution

The evolutionary path to 5G consists of incremental enhancements to 4G with Massive MIMO techniques providing significant improvements in spectral efficiency and  extending cellular operation up to emerging bands in the 3-GHz to 6-GHz range. There are opportunities for improvements in high frequency operation, bandwidth, reliability, power, size/weight, and cost, brought forth in enabling this radio form factor. We believe a system approach, such as the  RadioVerse development platform and ecosystem, will be essential to quickly and efficiently realizing true gains in these areas.



The Coming Revolution.

Getting more from the current state is a welcomed development as spectrum is seen as the lifeblood of the cellular industry. However, even with an expansion into the sub-6 GHz bands, 5G cannot support the exponentially growing demand, such data traffic increasing 10,000 fold within the next 20 years.


It’s that demand that’s fostering the coming revolution: the move to millimeter wave. While the sub 6-GHz range offers cellular bands in the hundreds of megahertz, the amount of potential spectrum above 20 GHz is in the tens of gigahertz. A promised land indeed, but one that must be tamed to fully realize the vision of 5G.


The cm/mmwave spectrum has been in use for communications for many years, primarily in aerospace and defense applications. Adapting it for use in commercial markets is where many of the challenges appear.


One of the major hurdles is overcoming the unfavorable propagation characteristics. Radio propagation at these frequencies is highly affected by atmospheric attenuation, rain, blockage (buildings, people, foliage), and reflections. Point-to-point links, are generally stationary, line-of-sight systems whereas the mobility requirements for 5G bring new challenges.


It is well known in the industry that beamforming will be required at high frequencies to overcome the path loss. The most cost effective method today is to use a hybrid system that combines analog RF beamforming and MIMO.  Along with beamforming, there are other significant considerations, including architecture and radio challenges. It is critical to design systems with power, size, and cost in mind from the start to bring these systems to reality.


As is often the case, challenges create opportunities. There is no shortage of either with 5G. Making the most of the opportunities ahead will require a rigorous systems engineering approach to leverage the best technologies throughout the signal chain. That includes expertise in a variety of processes and materials development, such GaAs, SiGe and CMOS. There is also much work to be done with design techniques and modeling, and high-frequency testing and manufacturing.


Committed to Bringing the Revolution Forward.

With continued RF technology advances and a rich history in radio systems engineering, Analog Devices brings a strong contribution to the 5G microwave effort. We believe our experience in aerospace and defense, as well as consumer-focused markets, provides the insight needed to develop viable 5G solutions. Our unique bits to microwave capability present a truly different choice for customers. One that can help our customers pioneer new solutions that both drive the evolution and lead the revolution in 5G.


Click Here to Tweet: ADI paves the evolutionary path to 5G #EngineerZone @Adi_News

I didn’t grow up in the handiest of households. I think my dad had a 16 ounce hammer and a flat blade screwdriver – that’s about it. With these tools I could do a lot. In fact I could do most anything an 8 year old would want to do. But as I got older, I realized that sometimes those tools didn’t quite fit the application and I needed to force them to accomplish the job. A couple of years ago, I needed to replace my kitchen sink and realized I couldn’t get access to the bolts holding it to the counter top.  After trying to squeeze my arm and a pair of pliers between the cabinet base and the sink wall, I eventually gave up. It never occurred to me that I needed a basin wrench; but I did. I went out and bought one and in 2 minutes the job was done. 


In school I had a friend who professed her dad was a genius. She claimed he could design a radio “MacGyver” style with a light bulb, some wire and a speaker. I don’t know if he actually could, but I do know that if he did, it wasn’t the most eloquent design or the most efficient. Electronic design is no different than carpentry when it comes to strategy (or debug for that matter). The right components and tools can make all of the difference between a good design and a great design. A good design is one that gets the job done while a great design is one that meets or exceeds performance with simplicity and efficiency.


While there are many options when it comes to radio design, products like the AD9361 and AD9371 offer a great combination of flexibility, performance and efficiency. In my recent article “Where Zero IF Wins: 50% smaller PCB Footprint at 1/3 the Cost”, I share some of the benefits these integrated transceivers offer and how new wireless designs can benefit from these devices. The AD9361 and AD9371 meet the significant challenge of delivering high performance with optimized power and space requirements. Just like using a screwdriver as a chisel will get the job done, other options are available to design a radio but likely involve a compromise in either performance or efficiency. The elegance and efficiency of the AD9361 and AD9371 offer a unique value proposition when both performance and effectiveness are important to your application. 


Please click to the right to Tweet: Don't MacGyver your radio design ADI's RadioVerse has the solution #EngineerZone 


Handle With Care

Posted by bdaly Employee Oct 18, 2016

I had somehow been granted permission and a good-sized budget to create a demo with LEGO® bricks.

Now I had to do it.


Within an hour of asking around, I had 20 volunteers. The LEGOs arrived, and we got the 20 employees and their kids gathered in one large conference room for a Brick-a-thon. We made a time-lapse video of the whole thing. Each kid (and their parent) was given a section of the city to build. Once each section was complete, it was added to the city. It was a huge success on all fronts. The kids got to be part of a unique day, and I got the LEGO city built in one sitting.


I was exhausted by the end of it, as were the crew of helpers I had, and the kids too. The ADI Cork office was too small for the Brick-a-thon crew, so we had the event in a hotel. But that meant we had to dismantle things slightly, drive everything back to the ADI office, and reconstruct it there.




Next step in the process was to integrate the different Smart City demos into the scale model, which had come to be known as SMARTopolis. We used a pole in each part of the city where we had a demo. This way, visitors could immediately go to their specific area of interest, reducing the burden on the booth staff. It also helped with the occupancy sensing and parking guidance demos where we needed to mount BLIP cameras over the scene. That only left one big question:  how do we get it to Munich?


We needed to MacGyver a solution so we could ship the LEGO city without it falling into a soup of different blocks that would take weeks to reassemble. We had to ensure the LEGO buildings would survive shipment to Munich. So we did a trial run. We had a courier that went between our Cork and Limerick office. We wrapped one building, shipped it to Limerick, got it shipped back, and checked how intact it was after the journey. Michael and I hoped that the buildings would be relatively intact when we got to Munich, and that we’d have only to layout the city and do minimal repairs. Take a look at this video to see how well our LEGO building survived the round trip between Cork to Limerick.


Cork to Limerick is one thing, Cork to Munich is another; stay tuned...


Please Tweet: ADI stays Ahead of What's Possible, brick by brick #IoT #EngineerZone


Like Getting Hit by a Brick

Posted by bdaly Employee Oct 11, 2016

After another day of fruitless searching for a cool demo idea that checked all the boxes Mike laid out for me, I was at home building LEGOS with my kids. And the answer was right in front of me, LEGOs! We could build a scale model city with LEGO® bricks and integrate several demos into it. The scale model would let us demonstrate Occupancy Sensing, Parking Guidance, Structural Health Monitoring and Smart Agriculture in a way that positions each demo as a piece of the bigger “industrial” picture that ADI wants to present. We could feed the information from each demo into one large, integrated dashboard to further emphasize a “single, integrated solution.”


It was all starting to come together. We’d be showcasing algorithms, cloud services, connectivity. In other words, more than just components and technology. We’d be demonstrating a different philosophy, how we view ourselves and our ability to help customers.


There were other equally important aspects to this, too. LEGOs are fun! People just about everywhere love them - this will definitely attract a crowd to the booth. Plus, LEGOs make for interactive demos. I’m a firm believer in these intangible aspects to customer engagements, whether they are customer visits or trade shows. I care about the user experience as much as whether the data that is being displayed is 18 bits or 20 bits of resolution. I guess that means I belong more in Sales and Marketing than in Applications. 


The Pitch

So I called up Mike to make this potentially career ending request. “Hi Mike, I want to play with LEGOs for the next few months.” I have a long history at ADI of potentially career ending requests, and this did not rank in the top five, so I was confident of at least holding onto my job.


No worries, though. Mike and the organizing committee liked the idea. It reminded me of a scene from the classic Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles that was ingrained in my brain from childhood. There’s a line in the movie, “The fool’s going to do it.” That’s kind of how I felt. I just got approval to play with LEGOs as a high priority. They were actually going to let me do it.  


The Fool Has To Do It

After negotiating a LEGO budget of $2500, I went about designing the layout for the city, and how the demos would be integrated. $2500 worth of LEGOs is a lot; more than 20,000 bricks. So rather than asking my kids to spend 12 hours a day of their entire summer vacation building LEGOs until their fingers bled, I figured we could make it a family fun day here in the ADI Cork office. Maybe we could get employees to bring in their kids, and build the whole thing in one afternoon. There seemed to be a lot of interest when I asked people around the office. After several more conversations persuading ADI’s HR people that this was not child labor, we made the arrangements for our Brick-a-thon.



For the record, my kids would have happily slaved away all summer building the sets on their own. But I didn’t want them to miss out on our amazing Irish summer, where temperatures can get as high as 70° F, and the sun can be seen on an almost weekly basis.


The journey to Electronica continues next week with the Brick-a-thon in Handle With Care  


Click to Tweet: “The fool’s going to do it.” One engineer's wild idea that’s just crazy enough to work. #EngineerZone #IoT


The Really, Really Big Ask

Posted by bdaly Employee Oct 4, 2016

A few months ago, my boss, Mike Byrne, asked me to come up with a trade show demo. OK, sure. Then he said it had to somehow be interactive, eye-catching, fun and impressive. Oh, it also had to showcase several different IoT technologies. And while I’m at it, make sure it reflects ADI’s move from silicon to solutions.


On top of all that, the trade show is Electronica. The show is in Munich, the center of Europe’s industrial giants. It’s a ludicrously big show: 1.3 million square feet of exhibition space, 4 days, 75,000 engineers. That’s a lot of check shirts, sandals, and pocket protectors. ADI takes Electronica very seriously. It’s a big deal. Especially for our industrial customers.



The ADI booth is a two-level suite, with demo space, a café, and a dozen meeting rooms booked solid. Scanning through the schedule, you see the who’s who of ADI’s most important customers. No pressure. No pressure at all. And that’s what I kept telling myself every day as I searched for a big idea. I'll tell you more about it in my next blog: Like Getting Hit by a Brick


Building Toward Electronica

Posted by EdGrasso Employee Sep 27, 2016

We’re building an innovative IoT demo for Electronica. Brick by brick.

Follow the story in the coming weeks at






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I've always been more of a Star Wars person (I know I know, Trekkies vs Star Wars Fans, but can't we all just get along?), but that doesn't mean I don't love and appreciate Star Trek. Clearly as evidenced by the work I do in the space group at ADI, I've always had a love and passion for space and the possibility of discovering what's out there. Who would have thought 10 years ago that we'd be able to send a space probe next to Jupiter in the thick of the worst radiation belts in the entire solar system and perhaps once and for all discover what makes the earth's magnetic field tick? (I wrote a blog about this on The Engineering Mind if you'd like to read more about Juno.) I think humanity has always been fascinated by the idea that we are not alone in this universe, that maybe there's some other sentient species out there trying to survive just like we are, wondering the same thing.


Many people seem to believe that the wonders of science-fiction past are still the science fiction of today. When will we ever have space travel for the masses? Where's today's Starship Enterprise? Will we ever put humans on Mars and actually grow potatoes??? Wait, that's a different movie...


The thing is, much of the technology used in the Star Trek TV series is around today and we don't even bat an eye at it. That flip phone (which I would argue that contrary to the meme below didn't become mainstream until the 90's)? Star Trek had them in 1966. iPads? Star Trek had those too. Video conferencing? Surprise! That was 80's science fiction. And who could forget Geordi La Forge and his VISOR? While slightly different in purpose, it does look very similar to Google Glass. Though, that never really caught on as much as I'd hoped it would. Imagine playing Pokémon Go with Google Glass, it would be the ultimate augmented reality experience! But I digress.





But just how close are we to other memorable pieces of Trek Tech, will we ever get to say "Beam me up Scotty" and actually mean it? Maybe so. There have been a few successful experiments with teleportation, although all scientists have managed to teleport have been photons and laser beams. Still, this is miles ahead of where we've come from.


Perhaps the phaser is the Trek Tech that is the most memorable to me. Probably because when going into movie theaters my dad would always say "phones on stun" (silence your phones kids!) to get my brother and I to put our cell phone "communicators" away. Phasers might also be the tech we are closest to completing. With multiple scientists and companies working on high power laser weapons, science fiction may soon become science fact.


So when you are in the theaters this weekend enjoying the new Star Trek Beyond movie, think about this: If you could pick any Star Trek Tech to make a reality right now, what would it be?

Captain’s blog. Stardate 72216.8

I’ve received an urgent request to mark the premiere of Star Trek Beyond with some thoughts about how ADI technology could have played a role aboard the original USS Enterprise. The idea is, as a certain crew member of the NCC-1701 might have said, “Fascinating.”


Live long and prosper. At least just a bit more.

Watch enough Star Trek episodes, and even a casual viewer will notice that crew members in red shirts seem to die a lot. Had those red shirts come from Hexoskin, ADI technology could have helped gather location and environmental data, beamed them to the cloud for analysis, and relayed a text to the wearer’s communicator to get him the heck out of danger.


I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!

For all the matter/anti-matter horsepower of the Enterprise’s warp drive engines, poor Montgomery Scott, the ship’s chief engineer, was always being berated by Captain Kirk because there was never enough power to get out of whatever situation had been written into the script. Engineering can be a thankless job.


If only Scotty had access to our very own EngineerZone. Instead of screaming through the intercom, he could have calmly posted a question about dilithium crystals and had a wealth of solutions pop up right there on his Android or iOS communicator.


Are you out of your Vulcan mind?

When it came to bedside manner, Leonard McCoy, the Enterprise’s cantankerous chief medical officer was no Hawkeye Pierce or Derek Shepherd. You got the feeling he didn’t really want to see patients and they didn’t want to see him. If only they had the remote monitoring capabilities offered by ADI and LifeQ. Non-invasive body monitoring devices would capture essential physiological data and advanced bio mathematical algorithms would combine to help manage and maintain the crew’s health and wellbeing. Plus, it would be great to hear McCoy snarl, “I’m a doctor, not a micro-electro-mechanical-bio-mathematical engineer.”


Captain’s blog. Supplemental

It’s hard to improve on something as unique and special as Star Trek. Yet, for all its visionary technology and innovation, I still think a little help from ADI might have made it even better. And the Enterprise and her crew might have not only boldly gone where no man had gone before, they might have also gone Ahead of What’s Possible.


Trekkie or Trekker? Whichever you call yourself, you probably have your own ideas about how to use ADI technology in the 23rd century? And you don't have to wait 200 years share them. Comment here today.


Click to Tweet: Doomed Redshirts, balky warp drives & cranky Dr. McCoy. See how ADI technology could help on the USS Enterprise.


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I’m a doctor not a blogger! Oh wait - I am a blogger.

In 1966 Gene Roddenberry let his creativity run wild and brought his vision of the 23rd century to life. He assembled a mixed race crew aboard the USS Enterprise for a five-year space mission. Their mission is well known to us, “to explore new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” And they went. The crew of the Star Trek took us on many adventures and expanded the limits of our imaginations. Fast forward to 2016 and Star Trek is a phenomenon. Multiple television series and movies, conventions and let’s not forget the countless catch-phrases.


One year earlier, in 1965, Ray Stata followed his vision and co-founded Analog Devices. What started as an op amp-based company in Cambridge, evolved into an integrated circuit industry first thought leader and is now a highly successful, global organization. ADI products merged into the consumer market in the 80’s with the popular devices of the time: Sony disc players. On the heels of our 50th year celebration, our products take flight regularly and soar through space to capture photos of “new worlds”.


This Friday, Star Trek will celebrate fifty years of success with the premiere of the new movie,

Star Trek Beyond. Seeing the similarities between our own ADI story and Star Trek, I asked employees to share their thoughts on two topics: If Star Trek were conceptualized today, what ADI technology would you use or re-imagine to build the USS Enterprise? OR Are you are Trekkie? Did Star Trek inspire you in any way with your decision to become an engineer?


Over the next three days we will share our thoughts with you, starting with this blog. Without further ado I bring you the minds of the ADI crew, as they continue their mission of staying “Ahead of What’s Possible”.


Mark Cantrell Product Applications Engineer, offers a few improvements for the Enterprise.

"The world of Star Trek is a dangerous place.  And it is not just the Romulans and Klingons shooting at you that can cause grievous bodily harm.  The Enterprise itself handles enough energy to flip the massive star ship past light speed with an ominous whirr.  Every panel in engineering controls lethal power and every Jeffries tube has access to raw antimatter.  All this raw energy means that the need for personnel safety in controlling the ship has to advance as fast warp technology itself.


ADI’s isolated control and communication technology is in its infancy right now at ADI with the iCoupler digital isolators.  These devices will be essential to safely control the ships systems, and isolate sections of the ship in case of a severe hull breach.  At the rate that ADI is innovating its safety devices, they will be more than a match for the awesome power of a star ship, so Captain Kirk does not run out of engineers before he gets to the final battle.

Next time you want to stick a pointy tool into the antimatter stream and flip the polarity, the great-great grandson of iCoupler will be in that pointy tool to keep you from getting vaporized."



Julie Barbeau,Sr. Product Development Engineer, answers the call, are you a Trekkie?

"Are  you kidding me? I love Star Trek! Note the present tense.  I got the original series on DVD for Mother’s day this year.  I’ve introduced my children to Star Trek and they love it too.


Gene Roddenberry was a visionary.  In the 1960’s he foresaw hand held communication devices and today we have cell phones.  Handheld scanning equipment for medical diagnosis is now a reality.  Star Trek has allowed engineers to dream of what might be and then go and invent it.  The tricorder hasn’t been invented yet and we can’t transport people or things by reducing them to molecule and reassembling them in a new location.  But thanks to Star Trek, we think about these and other seemingly impossible things.


I wish I had more time to write about this.  For now, it will have to suffice to say that it was a major influence on me and my little brother who also became an engineer."


David Kress, Director of Applications talks about future opportunities for ADI products on the Enterprise. 

"By Stardate 2450, Analog was producing a variety of products that were useful on the voyages of the Enterprise -- some of these were visible, some not.



Communications -- One might wonder how the Enterprise could communicate so rapidly with Starfleet over light-years of distance. The physics of quantum entanglement was well-established that enabled particle pairs to communicate their state instantaneously over great distances. The ADI Isolator group had extended isolation technology to include the quantum entangle-o-meter with up to 8 bi-directional channels able to encode and decode spin direction changes at over 1 GHz -- with isolation distances reaching beyond 100 light-years. Relay stations could extend that range indefinitely.


Food -- Although many have postulated that human bodies might be modified so as to obtain sufficient nourishment with just a couple daily pills, the need for energy and calories is difficult to deny. The Analog technologies that were used to grow the perfect tomato in 2016 were greatly extended to grow organic items with minimal resources and no net waste. Since the Enterprise, including its occupants, was a closed system, all waste, from exhaled CO2 to dead skin, was captured and recycled. The advanced ADI sensors could detect trace elements and re-use them where needed to produce replenished foodstuffs. Probably not a gourmet meal, but it kept everyone more than healthy.


The Enterprise -- Analog Devices was one of the key contributors to the development of the warp drive system used in the Enterprise. This grew out of Analog's participation in the LIGO gravitational wave observatory. LIGO continued to develop more and more sensitive equipment, with our help. One of the key premises of sensors is that any sensor can also be an actuator (think photodiode and LED). So, as the LIGO and its successors advanced, the technology, which could sense gravity waves, was eventually able to create them. This was combined with the concept of the Alcubierre Warp Drive (look it up), which relies on the manipulation of gravity. These theoretical concepts were developed in the 21st century but had to wait for ADI to begin making the sensor/actuator chips from dark matter to realize the necessary energy levels. The primary work was done at the Analog Space Garage, the latest extension of our ventures that take you Ahead of What's Possible."


Are you a Trekkie? I already have my ticket for Friday. How about you? Share your ideas about how ADI technology can improve the Star Trek universe in the comments and be sure to check back tomorrow for Ed Grasso's EngineerZone Spotlight blog: Where No Semiconductor Has Gone Before.


Click to Tweet: “Forget seat belts, let’s put in a warp drive.” ADI engineers go under the hood of the USS Enterprise.


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