New chip: thinks for itself, share what it knows, fits into almost anything

By Control Engineering Staff November 3, 2005

Echelon Corp’s FT chip is the first implementation of its new, Pyxos, embedded-control networking platform. Designed to be built into the sensors and actuators embedded inside a machine, Pyxos FT chips extract information from the devices, relay control commands between devices, and make the machine’s control network status available to remote service centers and applications.

FT chips use twisted-pair wiring to send high-speed network data and power to sensors, actuators, devices, and even building materials into which they have been embedded. Sending power and data on two wires reduces installation complexity and lowers cost of the end product and installation. FT networks consists of up to 32 Pyxos Points—embedded inside sensors and actuators—and a Pyxos Pilot that interfaces with the outside world. The network operates above 250 kilobits per second, using a deterministic signaling method by which all Pyxos Points are scanned every 25 milliseconds. This high speed allows FT networks to be used for closed-loop controls in process and industrial applications, as well as sensing and control applications that require fast response time, such as vehicular controls, fault monitors, propulsion controls, elevator cab and floor call controls, security and fire/life safety devices, burner and boiler controls, lighting systems, HVAC systems, and office automation equipment.

Unlike mesh network radios, which don’t work inside machines or in close proximity to metal, the FT chip provides the reliability of twisted-pair communications at an attractive price. The ultra-miniature, low-cost integrated circuit is only 5 x 5 mm, small enough to fit into almost anything.

FT chips can supervise digital sensors and actuators, or, through their serial peripheral interface port, they can be integrated with most host processors for use with analog devices. When Pyxos-embedded control networks need to be incorporated into larger control networks–such as one might find in smart buildings, utilities, vehicles, or factories–the Pyxos platform can interface with PLCs (programmable logic controllers), data gathering panels, LonWorks networks, and the Internet.

FT networks incorporate a breakthrough “self-organizing” feature whereby devices can dynamically and autonomously assemble themselves into fully functioning networks without human intervention.

FT samples are expected to be available at the end of first-quarter 2006 with product pricing roughly $2-3 in quantity.

— Richard Phelps, senior editor, Control Engineering