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Embedded Systems

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Power line communication goes mini

While most people think of power line communications in the context of home networks or communication over thousands of miles of the electric power grid, embedded systems researchers are applying the technology at the micro level – on an integrated circuit (IC).

“An IC has a mesh of power lines to supply power to underlying circuits,” says Dong Ha, who leads the effort. “These power wires can deliver data as well as power.” The technology could be used for various applications, such as on-line testing, system debugging, fault diagnosis, monitoring transient logic values during a built-in self test, he notes.

Circuit schematics on a computer

Power line communication at the IC level and wireless communications systems face essentially the same challenges, according to Ha. His group is working with methods adopted for wireless communications, such as DS-CDMA (Direct Sequence – Code Division Multiple Access) combined with UWB signaling.

The work has been supported by Intel through the Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) and is currently funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).