Thomas Tzscheetzsch, technical director of Analog Devices for Europe, talks to Nick Flaherty on embedded trends, from quantum and 6G to digital healthcare and microwave cable replacements
Analog Devices is looking to develop specific devices to support the emerging global market for quantum computing. “We want a part not just for 5G but quantum computing and instrumentation and ultra low power,” he said.
“With our high speed DACs and ADCs, RF mixers, attenuators and amplifiers we have everything in the signal chain to connect to a standard Intel processor and PCIexpress, which is a very good opportunity for us. Now we want to consolidate the needs as we see there is not the ideal part on the market today.”
This has different requirements from the wideband gigasample ADCs that are used for direct RF sampling, taking the data from a quantum computer and linking to a classical machine. Here latency is the key, rather than bandwidth.
“This is more to insert the right information, not controlling the qubits. Controlling the qubit needs a 24 to 28bit DAC with very low latency. Companies would like to use the Gigasample DAC but the latency is not low enough. They don’t need the high bandwidth and use the parts with LVDS instead of the later serial link as this adds overhead and latency.”
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The drive to commercial quantum computers also raises the issue of security. These can potentially crack todays asymmetric encryption algorithms such as AES in a matter of hours. This is driving the development of post-quantum algorithms, soon to be standardised by NIST in the US, as well as new techniques to protect keys.
“It’s always a race between the hacker and security,” says Tzscheetzsch. As the bit length for AES increases to 512, ADI is also developing new techniques to protect the keys as far down the signal chain as the transceivers to protect data.
“There is no key available to the outside you just need public keys and the chip generates its own random number with a physically unclonable function (PUF). We can put it in transceivers for example. If you open the device it’s dead and you cannot access the key.”
This is also part of the development of technologies for the next generation 6G radio systems.
“We have also built the capability for manufacturers to test 6G, so it’s a question of when the mobile providers will move to 6G – its not too difficult for us as we can use the next generation of transceiver chips for 6G. We are looking at the next generation devices, we have roadmaps.
Those roadmaps cover the next five years under its Horizon 2 programme, and Horizon 3 for the the next ten years. “Our analog garage [research lab] is designing things for Horizon 3. For example we have a demo of 3D scanner with 3D time of flight (ToF). There is also the gigabit serial multimedia link (GSML) which is mainly for automotive with 12Gbit/s interconnect.”
Another, more immediate area is digital healthcare and this is changing the way ADI goes to market.
“We see a big trend in after hospital care, replacing the doctor with intelligent electronics for monitoring heart rate and breathing. For example these can monitor these from under a mattress with a wireless connection. This battery powered wireless vital sign monitoring is based on low power Bluetooth and a low noise accelerometer,” he said. “We see a lot of interest in this technology for example to detect panic attacks. We plan to showcase this at electronica later this year – its currently in the FDA approval process and we plan to offer a solution by the end of year to license to customers.”
While ADI has developed reference designs to demonstrate its components, it is looking to license complete solutions with software and sensing algorithms to customers. “We want to go up the stack – to label or license to customers,” he said.
Another up and coming area is using millimetre wave radio as a cable replacement for harsh industrial environment. The short distance links can operate through materials to avoid having to drill holes in containers to get signals out, or to use with high speed motors. These are now highly integrated with real time Ethernet connectivity.
“We have 60GHz real time ethernet with power up to 48W which includes an on chip antenna as a ready made module on a laminate with an interface board in PCIe format,” said Tzscheetzsch. “This can be used as a 10cm cable replacement to replace rotary joints running at speeds of up to 10K rpm.”
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