Top 5 Adaptations in Timing and Synchronization Enabling the IoT | Abracon LLC

Cutting edge, innovative, and exhilarating, the IoT has caught the attention of millions of businesses and consumers around the world. It’s easy to mistake the technologies of the IoT and their profitability as an overnight success; however, it would not be possible without key innovations over decades of work. At the heart of IoT technology is electronic timing. Adaptations in timing and synchronization are being pioneered to address the unique challenges that come with the IoT; these solutions are the unsung heroes that keep our data collection clean and our devices in sync. Below are the top 5 adaptations in timing and synchronization technology enabling the IoT.

1. Quartz crystals with lowest possible plating load capacitance (CL) and equivalent series resistance (ESR).

The most significant trend in IoT is conserving battery power while still boosting overall functionality. Advanced IC subsystems are continuously starved of energy, forcing them to operate with lower power consumption. The direct result of reduced power consumption is a decrease in oscillation gain margin in the Pierce oscillator with industry low gm_critical – a defining metric for strength of the oscillator circuit. gm_critical has been pushed to the lowest limits in a wide variety of IoT optimized chipsets requiring adaptations in quartz crystal technology. One significant adaptation is an ever lower CL and ESR value.

Today’s crystal has evolved to meet the lowest levels of CL combined with the lowest ESR available. Lowering both CL and ESR simultaneously leads to a crystal that is much easier to drive and is capable of being driven using a Pierce oscillator configured with a low gm_critical value. Saving the most amount of power consumption, the leading edge of crystal design is now enabling CL of 3pF or 4pF for a wide variety of frequencies. With such low CL values, designers of energy saving MCUs and RF chipsets can optimize their designs to run on lower power consumption than ever before.

2. Sub 100nA timekeeping current consumption real time clocks (RTC).

Many smart IoT devices are often deployed over a wide perimeter and are expected to operate autonomously for years without routine maintenance. For these devices, power consumption is everything. The last 50nA could mean the difference between sustained operability on a tiny coin cell or sacrificing real estate by installing a larger battery. Previous RTC technology can be up to 10X more power hungry than today’s state of the art. When the RTC in the system is the only heartbeat that remains active in deep sleep, reducing the time keeping current consumption to 22nA translates into a significant extension of battery life. Sub 100nA power consumption RTC’s keep IoT devices running in deep sleep for as long as necessary.

3. Micro-footprint MEMS oscillators.

Size is a considerable design challenge for the IoT and wearable device market. Although MEMS oscillators aren’t the lowest cost solutions and usually less efficient in terms of power consumption, they are the reigning kings of small form factor designs. Available in “chipscale” packages – the size of a single silicon die – MEMS oscillators offer output frequencies from 32.768kHz to >100MHz in miniature footprints as small as 1.5mm x 0.8mm. Micro-footprint MEMS oscillators are the ideal solution for miniaturized IoT devices.

4. Compact advanced TCXOs.

Femtocells, LoRa radios, machine to machine (M2M) devices, GPS tracking and other IoT systems rely heavily on accurate long term timing stability to synchronize their communications and avoid spectral and time division interference. Acquiring a GPS signal from a distant satellite, locking to the signal, and calculating it’s exact coordinates on the surface of the earth requires precise millisecond to millisecond timing. Base transceiver stations (BTS) and other cellular devices, now migrating to 5G, act on precise transmit windows. Blurring these time-based boundaries leads to higher bit error rate, violates standards and specifications and increases unnecessary noise and interference. Today’s compact TCXO devices achieve ±1ppm to ±0.1ppm frequency stability over temperature, ideal for many compact RF and GPS applications that are driving the IoT.

5. < 200-fs ultra-low jitter oscillators.

Without the accessibility of the cloud and the explosive growth in bandwidth capabilities, the IoT would not exist. For instance, increasing bandwidth in servers, storage systems, and network interfaces—both short and long haul—depends directly on the continuous evolution of low noise clocks. Ultra-high speed serial rates that exceed 50 gigabits per second (Gbps) require sub-200 fs (RMS) reference clock phase jitter performance. Higher phase noise would exceed the level required for low bit error rate transmission between SERDES and RF devices. Today’s generation of ultra-low noise & jitter clocks enable the exponential growth in high speed data traffic driving the cloud.

Written by: Juan Conchas, Director of Marketing, Abracon

Original post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-5-adaptations-timing-synchronization-enabling-iot-juan-conchas/

About Abracon, LLC
Founded in 1992, and headquartered in Spicewood, Texas, Abracon is a leading global manufacturer of passive and electromechanical timing, synchronization, power, connectivity and RF solutions. Abracon offers a wide selection of quartz timing crystals and oscillators, MEMS oscillators, real time clocks (RTC), Bluetooth modules, ceramic resonators, SAW filters and resonators, power and RF inductors, transformers, circuit protection components and RF antennas and wireless charging coils. The company is ISO9001-2008 certified with design & application engineering resources in Texas and sales offices in Texas, California, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Scotland, Israel, Hungary, UK, and Germany. Abracon’s products are offered through its global distribution network. For more information about Abracon, visit www.abracon.com.

Why is Abracon The Heartbeat of the IoT™?

It was the summer of 2012 when a frantic scramble occurred deep within a lab in Silicon Valley. At a time when wearables and other IoT markets were just starting to ramp, a show stopping problem was discovered. With wearables shipments in the low millions for the first time, this problem had to be solved. Panicked, highly skilled engineers on multiple coasts and across continents attempted to solve the problem. The quartz crystal on the MCU would not reliably start.

How can that be? It’s just a quartz device, ancient technology—if it can be called technology. Almost a hundred years of development of quartz manufacturing means that there should be no surprises. What happened? Neither the silicon companies nor the end system hardware designers were prepared for this. The solution rested with the engineers that developed the crystal itself.

With over a hundred million IoT and wearables shipments behind us, the root cause is now well known. In order to conserve power, IC designers reduced the transconductance (gm) of the Pierce oscillator that drives the 32.768kHz quartz crystal. By reducing the gm, the drive of the circuit was inevitably weakened. The Pierce oscillator would eventually experience trouble driving conventionally plated crystals that present a heavier capacitive load. New low power MCU’s can run into trouble driving just a couple extra picoFarads of capacitance. The extra load limits the amount of margin in the design, especially when considering all process corners and full operating temperature range.

In 2012, most 32.768kHz quartz crystals were plated to present a CL of about 9pF. Traditionally, the gm of Pierce oscillator circuits could overcome this plating load and sustain oscillation, but that all changed. MCU’s now required crystals with plating load far lower than ever conceived. The solution was to jump to new plating designs that achieved CL of 6pF—a 33% reduction.

The combination of equivalent series resistance (ESR) and shunt capacitance (C0) also affected the loading that the Pierce oscillators perceived. The ESR and C0 had to be simultaneously lowered along with CL. Considering that ESR and CL are exclusively optimizable parameters in quartz plating design, executing new low loading levels required advanced engineering and world class manufacturing. The strenuous requirements forced many suppliers to avoid the change or risk failure. The wearables industry was about to experience a crunch due to the mismatch between the crystal and the MCU’s Pierce oscillator—it was very clear that existing crystals were not optimized for IoT applications.

Fortunately, engineers with extensive timing applications experience and advanced proprietary tools that accurately measure the operating point of Pierce oscillators addressed this challenge. Abracon’s engineers developed the industry’s first 6pF tuning fork crystals that simultaneously holds a maximum 60kΩ ESR. Problem solved. IoT devices could ship using this newly engineered crystal; a crystal engineered for the IoT.

Realizing that the IoT would incessantly pressure IC designers to continuously reduce power consumption, Abracon’s engineers continued to innovate. Within 2 years, a 32.768kHz tuning fork crystal with 4pF plating load optimized for IoT applications was introduced. The additional 33% reduction in load capacitance is now enabling the next wave of hardware designs powered by energy saving MCUs.

Keeping on pace with market requirements, Abracon announced the recent availability of a broad family of IoT optimized crystals with 3pF tuning forks.

Why is Abracon the Heartbeat of the IoT™? Put simply, Abracon addressed a major challenge when no one else would. The IoT did not start in 2012. In fact, the IoT has existed for decades. Yet, the recent explosion and next level of market dominance requires a new level of power savings design in energy saving MCU’s and RF chipsets. With those designs follows a need for IoT optimized crystal technology. Abracon has been at the forefront of this paradigm shift, triggered in the last 5 years. Coupled with other IoT centric products and technologies such as antennas, compact inductors, 22nA RTCs, and wireless charging coils, Abracon advocates for and executes on the unique challenges of IoT designs.

Pictured above (left to right): Brooke Cushman, Associate Engineer; Chen Li, Product Engineer; Syed Raza, VP of Engineering; Ying Huang, Director of Procurement

About Abracon, LLC
Founded in 1992, and headquartered in Spicewood, Texas, Abracon is a leading global manufacturer of passive and electromechanical timing, synchronization, power, connectivity and RF solutions. Abracon offers a wide selection of quartz timing crystals and oscillators, MEMS oscillators, real time clocks (RTC), Bluetooth modules, ceramic resonators, SAW filters and resonators, power and RF inductors, transformers, circuit protection components and RF antennas and wireless charging coils. The company is ISO9001-2008 certified with design & application engineering resources in Texas and sales offices in Texas, California, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Scotland, Israel, Hungary, UK, and Germany. Abracon’s products are offered through its global distribution network. For more information about Abracon, visit www.abracon.com.

Abracon partners with leading distributors Arrow, Digi-Key, and Mouser to stock small footprint automotive and industrial grade crystals supporting high temperature requirements

Austin, TX -Abracon, LLC extends its quartz crystal product offering by supplying a broad stocking of the ABS07AIG, ABM8AIG, ABM10AIG and ABM11AIG family of quartz crystals designed to meet the durability and wide operating temperature requirements of automotive and industrial applications. With footprints as small as 2.0×1.6mm, the product line offers standard operating temperature ranges of -40°C to 85°C, -40°C to 105°C, -40°C to 125°C in all package and frequency options.

Manufactured on TS16949 certified production lines, this family of crystals are AEC-Q200 qualified.

ABS07AIG solution for 32.768kHz applications is available in 3.2mm x1.5mm footprint with a variety of plating capacitances down to 6pF.

ABM11AIG series saves the most space with a 2.0mm x 1.6mm footprint, with available standard and custom frequencies in the range of 16MHz to 50MHz.  ABM10AIG offers carrier frequencies between 12MHz to 62.5MHz in a 2.0mm x 2.5mm package, while ABM8AIG is available over 12MHz to 54MHz in a 3.2mm x 2.5mm package.   These solutions can be further optimized to service custom frequency and set-tolerance requirements, as tight as ±10 ppm; with a variety of plating loads – down to 6pF.

“By making these crystals available off-the-shelf, Abracon directly addresses the requirements of next generation automotive applications such as advanced navigation, infotainment, connectivity, camera and body electronics,”commented Juan Conchas, Director for Marketing for Abracon.

“Additionally, this addresses the growing need for connectivity and other advanced electronics within industrial applications such as industrial IoT, process control, automation, metering and sensing in general.”

Standard frequencies such as 32.768kHz, 12MHz, 12.288Mhz, 13.00MHz, 13.56MHz, 14.7456MHz, 16.00MHz, 16.384MHz, 18.432MHz, 19.6608MHz, 20.00Mhz, 24.576MHz, 25.00MHz, 26.00MHz, 27.00MHz, 30.00MHz, 40.00MHz addressing real time clock, CAN bus & MCU clocking, USB, NFC, Bluetooth, BLE, WiFi and asynchronous serial/UART applications are in stock and are immediately available.  Custom configurations including carrier frequency & plating load are available with 8 to 10 week lead time.


About Abracon
Abracon was established in 1992 with the vision of becoming a top tier global manufacturer of Frequency Control, Signal Conditioning, Clock Distribution and Magnetic Components with local design and technical support. Abracon provides its customers with high quality products, competitive pricing, timely delivery, reliable engineering and technical support, plus production flexibility worldwide. For more information, visit www.abracon.com