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Top 10 technical articles and tutorials of 2014

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PCIe? iPhone 6? Ethernet? TCP/IP stack? IoT?

We, the editors of EE Times Asia, searched for and compiled the most read technical articles and tutorials of the year.

When Apple launched iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in September, consumers all over the world joined the hype and anticipated the release of the new products in their respective locations. As can be expected, a teardown of the gadget is inevitable. Our top TA for the year looked inside the iPhone 6 Plus and found that the 'phablet' packs a lot of hardware for such a limited space.

Meanwhile, Bluetooth gets an upgrade with the Bluetooth Low Energy (now called Bluetooth Smart). This innovation is seen by many as a potential driving force for the Internet of Things, which finally gained traction this year.

Then we also have a burgeoning battle between PCIe and Ethernet. While the two interconnect technologies have clear-cut boundaries, the former is showing its growing demand for space that was once the territory of Ethernet.

Here are the top 10 technical articles of 2014:

1. iPhone 6 Plus teardown: Lots of hardware in small space

There is no question that the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are now the apples of many tech lovers' eyes, what with the Cupertino-based company having already broken its record for online pre-orders of the new smartphones. In this teardown, we focus on Apple's flagship, the larger "phablet" 6 Plus.

The phone comes in three colours, including silver, gold, and "space grey" instead of the typical dirt-absorbent white of the earlier models. It's interesting to note that iFixit gave the new line-up an improved repairability score of 6/7 out of a possible 10, because of the phone now has an easily removable battery and the fingerprint cable no longer rips off when opening the case.

2. How Bluetooth LE drives IoT designs

The latest versions of Bluetooth are pointing to an interesting evolution of the technology. Bluetooth Low Energy (now called Bluetooth Smart) defines very low power modes for wireless links and is gaining traction in the portable market for point-to-point connections, but the latest additions to the specification are providing key advantages in medical, industrial and home markets as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

With the increasing focus on wearable computing, the current version 4.0 of Bluetooth LE is enabling a wide range of new devices and form factors, from the Fitbit and Nike Fuelband fitness systems even to a 'smart' basketball.

3. Can PCIe compete and win against Ethernet?

The boundaries between PCI Express (PCIe) and Ethernet remain clearly definedPCIe as a chip-to-chip interconnect and Ethernet as a system-to-system technology. There are very good reasons (and a few less so) why these boundaries have endured.

Regardless, these two technologies have definitely co-existed. While nothing is on the horizon that will change this fundamentally, PCIe is showing every sign of growing and competing with Ethernet for space once the domain solely of Ethernetspecifically, within the rack. Can it really compete and win against Ethernet?

4. Implement compact wireless battery charging

Batteries provide power to many different applications across a wide range of industries. In many of these applications, a charging connector is difficult or impossible to use. Wireless charging adds value, reliability and robustness in these and other applications.

Some products require sealed enclosures to protect sensitive electronics from harsh environments and to allow for convenient cleaning or sterilisation. Other products may simply be too small to include a connector, and in products where the battery-powered application includes movement or rotation, then charging with wires is even less feasible.

5. Porting TCP/IP stack to embedded IoT devices

Developers generally believe that since a communication protocol stack is called a TCP/IP stack, porting it to an embedded target provides the target with all TCP/IP functionalities and performance. This is far from true.

A TCP/IP stack requires such resources as sockets and buffers to achieve its goal. These resources, however, consume RAMa scarce resource on an embedded target. Deprived of sufficient resources, a TCP/IP stack will not work better than a RS-232 connection.

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