Vulkan was introduced as the successor of OpenGL ES in March 2015, promising to take less CPU resources, and support multiple command buffers that can be created in parallel and distributed over several cores, at the cost of slightly more complex application programming since less software work in done inside the GPU drivers themselves with app developers needing to handle memory allocation and thread management.
This was just a standard at the time, so it still needed some time to implement Vulkan, and work is still in program but ARM showcased the power efficiency of Vulkan over OpenGL ES in the video embedded at the end of this post.
The demo has the same graphics details and performance using both OpenGL ES and Vulkan, but since the load on the CPU in that demo can be distributed over several CPU cores with Vulkan against a single core for OpenGL ES, it’s possible to use low power cores (e.g. Cortex A53) operating at a lower frequency and voltage, hence reducing power consumption.
ARM also measured that the complete OpenGL ES demo would use 1270 joules against 1123 Joules for the Vulkan demo, resulting in about 15% energy savings in this “early stage” demo.
In a recent article about Sonoff TH10/TH16 WiFi relays with sensor probes support, we also saw that ITEAD Studio started to have a nice family of home automation products. The company has now added one more item to the Sonoff family with Sonoff Pow support up to 16A/3500W input, and the first to also include power consumption measurements.
Sonoff Pow specifications:
SoC – Espressif ESP8266 Tensila L106 32-bit MCU up to 80/160 MHz with WiFi
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with WPA/WPA2 support
Relay – HF152F-T relay with 90 to 250 VAC input, up to 16A (3500 Watts)
Terminals – 6 terminal for mains and load’s ground, live and neutral signals.
Programming – Unpopulated 4-pin header for flashing external firmware
Misc – LEDs for power and WiFi status, power consumption circuitry with 1% accuracy.
Dimensions – 114 x 52 x 32mm
Temperature range – -40 ℃ to 125 ℃
The wireless relay can be controlled using Ewelink app for Android or iOS. But beside manually turning on and off the device, or settings timer like with all other Sonoff devices, you can also check real-time, daily or monthly power usage.
There’s some limited info on the Wiki, and I could not find any API incase you want to measure the power consumption from your own app or program. But at least they’ve release the schematics showing HLW8012 chip (Datasheet in Chinese) is used to measure power consumption, and is connected to ESP8266 via SCL and PWM1 pins. The 4-pin header would also allow you to flash you own firmware relatively easily on the board.
The company also mentions “this is a customizable product. Based on the original prototype, we can make the customized prototype that meets your requirements”, so if you order in quantities you should be able to get a slightly modified hardware and customized firmware.
ITEAD Studio home automation products used not to have any kind of CE/FCC/UL/TUV/ETL certifications, but the company recently got CE certification for their Sonoff switch, which explains the CE logo on the unit.
There are plenty of WiFi sockets going around such as Broadlink SP2 or Kankun KK-SP3, but in some cases it might be both more convenient and cheaper to get a WiFi power strip, and Broadlink MP1 offers just that with 4 sockets that can be controlled and programmed (timer) independently, and sold for just $19.88 on Banggood.
Broadlink MP1 specifications:
Connectivity – 802.11b/g/n WiFi, controllable over 3G/4G with smartphone
4 multi-standard (EU/US/AU, but not UK) sockets
Power input – 10A/250V (max)
Power output – 10A/250V (max)
Rated power – 2000W Total
Misc – Power button
Dimensions – 254mm x 60mm x 32mm; 50cm sockets spacing; cord Length – 1.5m with AU plug (Adapter provided for other countries)
Weight – 450g
The power strip can be controlled via Broadlink ihc (Intelligent Hone Control) app available for Android and iOS, which lets you independently manually turn on or off or set timers for each sockets. You can also use IFTTT to control the sockets, but it may require Broadlink SC1 “housekeeper”. There does not seem to be an easy way to control the power strip with a computer.
The strip is also sold for around $25 and up on Aliexpress, GeekBuying and GearBest [Update: Now $19.78 promo]. It’s been around for a few months already, but I have not found any hacks yet, and could not find the processor used in the strip. However I know it’s likely not running OpenWrt and there’s no SSH access. Reading further, I did find another model, Broadlink MP2, with 3 power sockets, and 3 USB ports that’s said to be based on a Mediatek solution, and sold for $27.59.
The new USB Type-C standard is great, as cables are reversible so it does not matter if you connect them up or down, it can handle USB 3.1 data speed, as well as carrying video and up to 100W power thanks to USB-C power delivery. In theory all is great, but in practice, many USB-C cables are not compliant, and Benson Leung, a Google employee, has found that many USB-C cable sold on Amazon were not compliant, with even one damaging his Pixel 2 laptop and two USB PD analyzers.
Key characteristics of the USB Type-C Authentication solution include:
A standard protocol for authenticating certified USB Type-C chargers, devices, cables and power sources
Support for authenticating over either USB data bus or USB Power Delivery communications channels
Products that use the authentication protocol retain control over the security policies to be implemented and enforced
Relies on 128-bit security for all cryptographic methods
Specification references existing internationally-accepted cryptographic methods for certificate format, digital signing, hash and random number generation
Authentication will check the capabilities and certification status, before transferring user data and power. This will also prevent malicious embedded software or hardware to exploit a connection.
At least that’s the plan. I understand existing devices with USB-C port will be able to get a firmware update to support USB-C authentication, but obviously many devices will never be updated, so in the meantime you’ll have to be cautious, and one way to protect your devices from bad USB-C cables or adapters is to purchase one from Benson Leung Amazon list, which he has personally tested.
If you ever wanted to played around with an electric car that’s a bit better than an RC toy, but don’t quite have the cash for a full-size Tesla model, Henes has designed an electric card for you your younger kids that’s controlled by an Android tablet and allows both manual and remote driving. Henes Broon T870 specifications:
Tablet – 7″ Android 4.4.2 tablet PC smart system with HD resolution display, micro SD, HDMI and audio output
ARM Cortex-M3 based main control system
Bluetooth remote control
Built-in stereo speakers
Functioning hood & doors
4 wheel drive with high density urethane tires
Spring suspension & shock absorbers
Leather bucket seat and seat belt
Foot pedal accelerator
Bright Headlight / Aux Light / Turn Signal Light / Tail/Brake/BackUp Lights
Motors – Dual 24V driving motors
Battery – Rechargeable 24V 7Ah battery pack for a little over 2 hours drive, or up to 20 km.
Dimensions – 134 x 73 x 63.5 cm
The car can reach up to 8 km/h, with a maximum sit capacity of 35 kilograms. The company recommends parents to use the remote control for kids between 1.5 and 3 years old, and let them drive themselves up to 5 year old or more (subject to height & weight).
The tablet shows a dashboard like on “adult’s cars” with a tachometer, and a better level indicator. You can also adjust the lights, brake modes, adjust the speed level, play music, set remote control mode, and more. The promo video does not show much about the tablet, but shows a little how the car can be used.
Sigrok open source signal analysis software suite had a major release last week-end with libsigrok 0.4.0, libsigrokdecode 0.4.0, sigrok-cli 0.6.0, and PulseView 0.3.0. The new version added numerous bug fixes for supported hardware such as UNI-T UT61E digital multimeter or USBee AX Pro logic analyzer, and added support for several logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, multimeters, programmable power supplies, an electronic load, an LCR meter, a scale, and one BeagleBone Black cape, namely BayLibre ACME.
Click to Enlarge
The ACME initiative was launched in order to get rid of the limitations of proprietary solutions, and provide an open source hardware and software multi-channel power and temperature measurements solution to the community.
BayLibre ACME cape supports up to 8 probes to measure VBUS (0 to +36V), VSHUNT ( 2.5uV up to 81.92mV), CURRENT AND POWER. Three current / power probes have been developed with all featuring TI INA226 for the ADC conversion:
ACME HE10 Power Probe
6-pin HE10 header with up to 6A max current, 13mΩ contact resistance
3 possible current ranges:
0.005Ω for 1.5A < Current < 10A
0.05Ω for 150mA < Current < 1.5A
0.5Ω for 0 < Current < 150mA
USB Power Probe
Power Control – Power switching capability through TPS22929
High precision resistor – 0.08Ω for Current up to 1A
Jack Power Probe
Power Control – Power switching capability through TPS22929; 6A current limitation;20.5V transil for voltage protection
High precision resistor – 0.01Ω for Current up to 6A
A custom Buildroot BBB Linux distribution is available with upstream ACME HW drivers, Sigrok software Suite, and low-level hardware interface interface. You can check the measured data on the command line, or a graphical user interface (PulseView) via HDMI or vncviewer. The solution also works with Xoscope digital oscilloscope application. You can find more technical details on BayLibre ACME Wiki and Sigrok Wiki.
ACME cape and the probes are said to be available now, but for some reasons you need to contact them via the form at the end of BayLibre ACME page in order to purchase them.
Usually, if I buy a high power electric appliance, I like to double check it power consumption either with a Kill-a-watt when possible, and when not, e.g. cable directly hooked to the device or current intensity is too high, I use a digital electric clamp meter. Both methods are quite convenient as you don’t need to cut any wire to measure the current and determine the power consumption, but they don’t allow for data gathering since they don’t connect to the network. Earlier this week, I’ve come across a projects using ESP8266 for a mains energy monitor for a solar panel setup, and measuring mains current, electric meter, and gas meter. They use a photosensor to measure power consumption on their electric meter, which works, but may be problematic if the meter is on the street, and iSnail current sensor, using hall effect just like clamp meter, but instead of showing the current on a display the sensor output 0 to 5V, meaning you can connect it to a micro-controller to handle the data however your like. That’s nice, but while a clamp meter costs about $10, the 25A version of iSnail goes for $40, so I looked for alternatives. I wanted to find an always-on connected hall effect current sensor that either harvest energy or works of a fews with a battery, but did not find any, an instead discovered cheap current sensor modules based on Allegro Systems ACS712 supporting either 5A, 20A or 30A , working easily with analog inputs of Arduino boards, and selling for as low as $1 shipped on eBay for the 5A, while the 20A & 30A versions usually sell for less than $2.
The hardware specifications are pretty basic:
ACS712 Hall-Effect-Based Linear Current Sensor IC (Datasheet)
2-pole terminal for DC or AC load
3-pin header with VCC (5V), GND and OUT pins
Input Current and Sensitivity (measurement scale)
-/+ 5A – 185 mV/A
-/+ 20A – 100 mV/A
-/+ 30 A – 66 mv/A
Dimensions – 31 x 13mm
Since the IC can measure in both direction, OUT pin outputs VCC/2 (2.5v) when there’s no current, and other values which may be lower and greater than VCC/2 depending on current direction to report the actual current.
Measuring DC current is very easily as you just need to take one measurement, subtract VCC/2, and divide this by the sensitivity. Alternative current is only a little more complicated as you have to take many measurement to find the RMS value as explained on Henry’s bench website. If you are playing with high voltage (110V/220V) be very careful, and using non-invasive current sensor might be a better idea, especially if you are a beginner.
Since the board had been available for a few years, there’s plenty of documentation on the web for Arduino. One person (Julian) did a pretty good video showing how it works.
ACS712 current sensor can also be interfaced with ESP8266, but since the wireless chip’s analog input only takes 0 to 1V, ACS712 output must be reduced leading to a lower accuracy, unless used via an external ADC chip. ESP32 won’t have this problem however as the analog input supports up to 0 to 4V range, although I understand ESP32 may has some built-in functions for energy monitoring.
USB 3.0 and greater specifications not only promise higher speeds, up to 10Gbps for USB 3.1, but also the ability to deliver up to 100W over USB to power your laptop, display, and printer via equipment, usually a USB hub, that supports USB Power Delivery, or USB PD, via a USB Type C connector. So far very few products appear to support it, and I could only find the Macbook and ChromeBook Pixel, and a few USB PD chargers on Amazon.
So basically in the future, the need for power supplies should decrease sharply, simplifying connections, and decreasing the cost of products and shipping since devices will only need a USB port that’s compatible with USB PD, meaning your computer, printer, and display won’t need an extra power supply as long as they consume less than 100 watts combined.
The reasons I’m writing about this today, is that completely forgot about this until I saw a video by Renesas that explains USB PD in a way easy to understand with 4 main advantages:
One cable achieves both data communication and charging
Simple design for the interconnections between boards
Beside Renesas, many other companies also provide solutions for USB PD including Microchip, Cypress, NXP, TI, and more, so I assume it’s just a question of time before more devices support USB Power Delivery.