Innovation that began at the beginning of the century, digital isolation technology establishes physical security barriers in the intelligent era at the edge

Infineon / Mitsubishi / Fuji / Semikron / Eupec / IXYS

Innovation that began at the beginning of the century, digital isolation technology establishes physical security barriers in the intelligent era at the edge

Posted Date: 2024-01-15

"Oops, it feels like an electric shock!"

In life, people often jokingly call the feeling of love at first sight "electric shock". However, in the real world, apart from the static electricity shocks that are often encountered in winter in the north, there are probably very few people who have actually had the unexpected experience of electric shock, and the feeling is never "wonderful". Fortunately, under various mandatory safety design specifications for electronic products, it is difficult for the public to hear of electric shock incidents in daily life. In fact, this is due to strict safety design specifications for electronic products, especially in recent years such as new energy vehicles supported by high-voltage batteries, ubiquitous charging facilities, industrial environments filled with robots, and high requirements for life safety protection. High-end medical equipment has increasingly higher safety protection requirements based on isolation technology.

On the other hand, due to data privacy, response delay, power consumption, cost and other reasons, edge computing devices are increasingly used. There is a variety of communication required between edge sensing, edge execution and edge processing, and the need for isolation to protect systems and physical security increases. In addition to the security protection of smart edge devices supported by high-speed data communication based on good isolation technology, data reliability is also another "rigid need" for an isolation design. The isolation and protection design of intelligent edge devices is also a key area of ​​focus for ADI, the inventor of global magnetic isolation technology and a provider of high-performance semiconductor technology. Under its vision of activating edge intelligence, digital isolation technology has also become a key area for ADI to empower the edge. An important base for intelligence.

ADI digital isolation technology brings trusted security protection to a variety of smart edge applications

It starts with the "rigorous need" of security and does not end with security. Interpret several dimensions of the isolation requirements of edge smart devices.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the edge intelligence market is expected to grow from US$15.6 billion in 2022 to US$107.47 billion in 2029, with a compound annual growth rate of 31.7%. Taking industrial manufacturing as an example, industrial modernization is gradually accelerating the transformation to intelligent manufacturing, triggering the popularization of edge intelligent devices represented by robots. In modern factory manufacturing environments, it has become the norm for a small number of operators to work closely with various intelligent robots. They have "intimate" contact with these "partners" who rely on high-voltage electricity to work, and have safe designs to avoid electric shock hazards. Especially important, isolation is a design element that cannot be ignored in the technical solutions of these devices.

Digital isolation technology creates a safe boundary between high voltages and people, assets and numbers, and protects data from damaging electromagnetic interference.

On the other hand, the development of edge intelligence has also contributed to the rapid popularization of health and medical equipment. Data from the "Insights on Home-Based Consumption Trends in Diagnosis and Treatment" released by Ali Health Research Institute and Tmall Health show that two-thirds of health e-commerce users have purchased household medical devices. Safety is a top priority for household medical electronic equipment that uses mains power and is in close contact with humans. The absolute safe isolation between high-voltage mains power and user contact surfaces is one of the mandatory requirements for product certification. In many other wider fields, whether it is new energy vehicles, high-voltage charging piles, energy storage or traditional household appliances, strong current isolation safety protection is a necessary requirement for product certification specifications in various industries, including TUV, 3C, CE, UL etc.

As one of the necessary technologies to protect the intelligent edge, ADI's iCoupler digital isolation product line has been tested and certified by various regulatory agencies, including UL, CSA, VDE, TÜV, CQC, ATEX, and IECEx.

The current life safety protection of electronic products is not only limited to avoiding accidents caused by electric shock, but also needs to take into account more aspects of safety, such as electromagnetic radiation. In fact, electromagnetic radiation not only causes potential damage to human health, but may also cause many other problems. For example, the necessary isolation measures for edge smart devices are not limited to user safety protection. They are also a key guarantee for the reliability of smart devices and need to fully meet various electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) standards. Since edge nodes often play a role in detecting, measuring, interpreting and connecting data, electromagnetic radiation may have a significant impact on data accuracy and product reliability.

Graphical illustration of EMC/reliability performance of ADI iCoupler family devices.

The rapid growth of edge intelligence has also driven signal and data transmission to play a key role in more and more systems. These terminal devices not only require stable infrastructure, but also require safe, fast, high-precision, interference-free, and high-bandwidth transmission path. Transmission paths can be required to withstand extremely harsh environmental conditions, and adding isolation to high-speed link interfaces can improve performance in these harsh environments, but this has never been a simple task. Data rates above 250 Mbps exceed the bandwidth of most isolators, including optocouplers, forcing system designers to adopt more complex techniques.

ADI iCoupler technology supports serial data and protocol isolation up to 2.5Gbps

In addition, many edge smart device application areas are sensitive to specifications such as cost, size, and power consumption, and these forced performance trade-offs are often regrettable. For years, design engineers made do with these shortcomings using optocouplers or capacitive isolators. In a large number of critical edge intelligence applications, any compromise on security, reliability, and accuracy is unacceptable. The unique performance advantages of ADI’s digital isolator iCoupler can avoid these adverse performance trade-offs and utilize digital isolators. Enable smaller, more energy-efficient, and more cost-effective designs.

Interpret the new isolation requirements under the edge intelligence trend from three key application areas

Personal safety is always the first requirement in the reliability design of any system, and those mission-critical systems also have high requirements for reliability. For example, factory shutdown monitoring systems require robust integrity of quality data measurements. Costly data errors will eventually lead to unplanned maintenance, greatly reducing efficiency, and even having to disable the entire system. Intelligence starts at the edge, and the old adage applies here: if garbage comes in, garbage comes out. In addition to safety, the main function of isolators is to isolate noise to ensure accurate data transmission. It is also one of the key requirements.

Camera machine vision and robotics involving Ethernet, USB or Camera Link interfaces

Edge intelligence is widely used in various robotic equipment in the industrial field. Among them, guided robots based on machine vision play an important role in providing higher flexibility and higher production reliability in high-value manufacturing environments. With machine vision, robots can perform more intelligent tasks. There are several ways to interface to machine vision cameras, including USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Camera Link, or Gigabit Ethernet. In addition to industrial Ethernet, including USB ports commonly used in industrial controllers, measures are generally needed to improve EMC. For example, the LVDS physical layer improves EMC through electromagnetic isolation. In addition, on these smart devices, human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are often used to display data from programmable logic controllers through human-readable visual representations, and integrated reinforced isolation is also required to protect operators from electrical hazards.

Block diagram of a typical solar system with energy storage system

A large number of isolators are used in solar systems. If you open the inverter controller casing of a typical solar system, you can find digital isolation products in many places, including the isolation of gate drive signals and the voltage control loop. Isolation of digital feedback, etc. In addition, the application of various monitoring, monitoring and communication functions is turning solar energy and energy storage systems into intelligent edge terminals in a sense. Due to the increasing power density in solar inverters and the need for balanced energy storage, this generation of solar power requires extensive monitoring of all elements of the solar system. For solar applications such as energy storage, communication is critical as it reports generation and consumption activities in solar installations to users to implement multiple system strategies such as bill management, PV self-consumption, reduced demand charges and backup power. For these solar PV applications, RS-485 or CAN communication interfaces often run over long cables in electrically noisy environments. Adding iCoupler isolation can further improve noise immunity, and the enhanced EMC robustness can shorten the design and testing time of the interface circuit, thus speeding up the time to market of solar photovoltaic networks.

Isolation has wide application in medical equipment

The expanded use of edge intelligence in medical equipment has allowed more medical equipment to go out of hospitals and into ordinary people's homes, and safety has always been the basic design starting point for such home medical equipment. This is the case for ECG equipment, for example, where designers must guard against surges or overvoltages from the AC power supply, as well as any current paths through the ECG electrodes that could exceed the recommended limit of 10 μA rms and affect the patient or operator. In addition, hazardous voltages or currents may occur in the event of a failure of the ECG subsystem itself or other medical equipment connected to the patient or operator, and it is imperative that the ECG design ensures that patients and operators are safe from such voltages or currents. . ADI iCouper-based digital isolators enable the development of reliable, compact, and easy-to-design patient monitoring devices. USB connectivity for electrocardiogram devices can be enhanced through the use of iCoupler-integrated USB isolators. ADI iCoupler combines patient safety and video accuracy in medical imaging applications including ultrasound and endoscopic systems. And iCoupler's inherent high-speed isolation capability (Gigabit isolation) simplifies the construction of ultra-high-resolution embedded secure medical imaging systems (which must now increasingly support the latest >4K displays), which helps to do faster diagnose and improve diagnostic accuracy).

Three consecutive performance improvements and new skills added, on twenty years of self-cultivation in isolation of "top students"

The indispensable importance of isolation technology has attracted many semiconductor companies around the world to increase investment in research and development. The current route is almost concentrated in the three categories of traditional optocoupler, capacitive isolation and electromagnetic isolation. Whether it is speed, power consumption, or integration, the latter two have significantly outperformed traditional optocoupler isolation, and the shortcomings of optocoupler performance declining over time are "deeply rooted in the hearts of the people." Magnetic isolation technology has great advantages in pressure resistance and surge resistance. And in terms of common-mode transient immunity (CMTI), it is better than capacitive isolation. With the integration of automotive, medical, industrial automation and other industries with edge computing, the requirements for reliability and security continue to increase. Technology based on magnetic isolation is gaining more and more application favor. ADI iCoupler has received more than 20 years since its launch. 5 billion channel applications.

Continuous innovation keeps ADI the leader in digital isolator technology, with ADI iCoupler gaining 5 billion channel applications.

To date, ADI iCoupler technology has achieved three generations of product iterations, and the product functions and performance of digital isolation technology have also been continuously upgraded: from single-channel to multi-channel data isolators to integrated signal/data and power isolation, ADC, etc., from supporting gigabit data isolation to Supporting data speeds of 2.5Gbps or even higher, functions and performance are constantly improving. Behind this, for example, the second-generation iCoupler technology uses OOK technology to replace pulse encoding and decoding to achieve low propagation delay, high reliability and high speed. The transmission rate of the third-generation magnetic isolation is further improved, and with converters, amplifiers, power supplies The integration of other products enables a more compact solution, which provides important technical support for edge intelligence applications that require small size, high integration, and higher transmission rates.

The rich technology and product portfolio provides isolation solutions that meet the needs of more market segments.

It is worth mentioning that the successful acquisition of Maxim, a leading semiconductor company, allows ADI to further provide a richer product portfolio. iCoupler digital isolation has higher security and reliability, and capacitive isolation technology can meet the ultra-low power consumption characteristics at rates up to 10Mbps. and meet higher requirements for clock jitter. The integrated isolation technology R&D team is realizing the synergy effect of 1+1>2. In the latest digital isolator MAX2242x/MAX2282x/MAX2244x series, industry-leading high-speed micro-power isolation has been achieved while taking into account reliability and stability. The solution achieves a comprehensive performance upgrade iteration compared to ADI’s previous generation products ADuM144x/ADuM124x.

ADI's latest digital isolators extend the intrinsic safety of micropower/ultra-low power isolators to 10Mbps.

ADI's iCoupler digital isolation technology was born in the early 2000s. iCoupler has been continuously upgraded and iterated along with application innovation. Today's edge smart devices require higher levels of security and data integrity, high performance and sensitive electronics than ever before. There are also more and more systems, and the application of digital isolation must be considered in every design. In the future, isolation will continue to develop towards higher voltage resistance, faster transmission speed, and higher integration. ADI continues to embed iCoupler technology into highly integrated solutions that combine and simplify the signal chain for highly complex edge intelligence applications.

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