Electronica 2014 Roundup

An Internet-of-Things gateway with Intel’s Quark technology was on show by Aaeon. The AIOT-X1000 was announced at Computex earlier this year. It runs on an SoC with a 32-bit single-core, single-thread Pentium instruction set architecture-compatible CPU. This device operates at speeds up to 400MHz.

Hermann Holz of Aditech talked about the difference in TN and TFT displays, for signage (mainly for transport hubs). He said that countries in southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain, use LED displays, while central and eastern Europe tend to use TN models. TFT will begin to replace the installed base of TN displays within two or three years, he feels – when TFT displays can replicate the performance of TN in extreme temperatures.

Clover Displays was promoting its Enhanced Black TN displays. These are available in multiple sizes and are mainly for automotive use.

Crystal Display Systems was highlighting its partnerships. It is using Baanto’s Shadowsense touch technology on several displays now, mainly for industrial and medical use. Additionally, the company is working with Estecom, which provides very reliable interface boards with a high level of support. Although there no ‘new’ products, MD Chris Bartram told us that there will be some at ISE in February.

We discussed the difference between TN and TFT displays with Display Elektronik, a producer of TN units for industrial use. Due to the popularity of smartphones there is a growing demand for TFT displays, but customers do not realise how complicated these are compared to simple monochrome models – especially with touch added. The spokesperson we talked to said that there is no point in putting special features on industrial displays, as demand here comes down entirely to cost-benefit analysis – and features like touch, colour and high resolution are “nice to have but not necessary”.

While we are used to dealing with Epson in terms of projectors, the company’s component division was at Electronica. It was showing several electrophoretic display controllers, which it is working on with E Ink. One of these is a microcontroller on a credit card, driving a tiny E Ink display; this could, for example, show account transactions or a bank balance (although we wonder about the safety of such an application). The display is charged wirelessly, only changing when it can draw power from an NFC field when the card is used for payment.

The newest units at Korea’s Innodisplay were curved and UltraHD models. The company showed the same 21.5″ convex open-frame unit (from AUO) as Data Modul, as well as a 42″ concave display from LG. The latter display had a 2,500mm bend radius, with 500 cd/m² of brightness and 1920 x 1080 resolution. An LG panel (LM238WR1-SLA1) was also used on one of the UltraHD displays: a 23.8″ closed-frame model with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs. The panel connects through LVDS. Innodisplay’s other UltraHD display was a closed-frame monitor with Innolux’s 28″ panel, which connects through V-by-One.

Sunlight-readable displays are the focus of Litemax Technologies. The company was demonstrating an UltraHD unit, although this was really just a demonstration model to gather feedback, New products were 28″ and 38″ bar-type displays (1,500:1 contrast ratio and 2,000 cd/m² of brightness) and a 27″ dual-sided unit. Additionally, the company was showing a new system that can test and balance contrast levels between daisy-chained displays.

Several semiconductor solutions were shown by NXP, but the one of most interest to us was a microcontroller (MCU) series for always-on sensor processing: the LPC54100. We heard it described as the industry’s most power-efficient MCU series, requiring as little as 3µA to run and saving up to 20% power compared to other devices. Both single- (Cortex-M4F) and dual-core (Cortex-M0+ and Cortex-M4F) versions are available.

Taiwan’s Powertip is an OEM, creating liquid crystal modules. It also produces its own touch panels. The company was focusing on one glass and glass-glass solutions, which are available in 1.7″ – 12.1″ sizes.

Back in July, Renesas put out a technology announcement about the development of new touch IP. It is a capacitive touch technology for human-machine interface applications, said to possess five times the touch sensitivity of the existing R8C/3xT microcontrollers, as well as high noise immunity. We met with senior principal engineer Graeme Clark, and asked him about the IP. Unfortunately there was no news to share – although the official announcement will hopefully be released this year.

Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) using TN LCDs were on show by Samsung Electro-Mechanics. In addition to the regular seven-segment ESL displays, units with NFC technology and coloured screens were on show. All of these are already available.

While we didn’t manage to reach Schott‘s stand in our single day at the show, the company was exhibiting large-format and ultra-thin glass. The Conturan glass product is for large-format touch applications in public areas. It has a durable, anti-reflective and anti-smear coating. The company also had its Xensation glass, which is designed to have a high-impact bending strength. It is designed for mobile and in-vehicle displays as well as interior aircraft glazing. Xensation was used earlier this year (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 18) as cover glass in a shatter-proof vehicle display. Schott was also showing its HermeS glass substrates, which enable air-tight enclosures for MEMS devices.

Japan’s Stanley produces TN LCD displays for automotive use. The company has no interest in developing other types, such as TFTs (we did ask!). The company is relying on two factors to to raise its own market share: its loyal Japanese customers (who like to buy from other Japanese companies); and filling the gaps left by its competitors as they move to different display types.

Toshiba showed the TZ1021MBG application processor, which is designed for wearables. The device includes a processor (ARM Cortex-M4F) and flash memory, but lacks the Bluetooth LE and accelerometer used in the previous model (TZ1001MBG). Analogue-to-digital converters are also built in; these can measure weak biomedical signals, such as pulse rate. Additionally, the TZ1001MBG is being refreshed with the addition of a gyroscope (TZ1031MBG) and gyroscope and magnetometer (TZ1011MBG).

Ultratronik is a distributor for Mitsubishi and Kyocera. It was showing procap and in-cell touch display modules from Kyocera, for industrial use.