Arduino – a PLC buster?

The Arduino UNO

Can the Arduino be used as a PLC?

One of the more common questions found on the forums is whether the Arduino could be used as a PLC? (Programmable Logic Controller).

The simple answer is a yes. However there are criteria to remember – operating temperatures, line noise, safety circuitry and feedback control. Of course you will need to supply this piece of equipment with a compliancy certificate. Unfortunately in most cases we cannot cater for this because the home builder may lack the skill set to produce a product which could operate reliably in an extreme environment. The PLC from Siemens, Schneider and many others can. There is another thing as well – instruction set or as in the case of PLCs, Ladder Logic.

The Arduino UNO
The Arduino UNO – photo credit 1sfoerster

My first ‘big’ attempt at writing a software application allowed the user to select a storage drive, save all the URLs of the music and video tracks which allowed the user to search and play the track of his choice. After 300 lines of code I had this masterpiece up and running. One little bug later I could not trace out where the problem was because it lacked all the bells and whistles that ‘real’ programmers use – comments. I rewrote the entire program, another two days wasted using functions and comments.  50 Lines of code. PLCs originated because of the difficulties the technical people had in rewiring the ‘system’ when changes had to made. Does ENIAC spring to mind? With PLCs it is my way or the highway – Modicon (the original PLC with Dick Morley) designed PLCs to be easy to program and service.

The Arduino can and does everything the PLC can do but it was not only designed to automate machines. So what then?

The Arduino’s strongest virtue is the ability to educate people in microcontrollers – I think, like Turbo Pascal which has it’s own set of merits it has proven to be one of the greatest gift to scholars. Microcontrollers cannot be taught by theory alone – we are not all that clever.  Arduino has a tremendous following as well which makes it all that more popular. Price wise it’s relatively cheap – I would say very much in comparison to Raspberry Pi and not the Intel NUC. Different strokes for different folks? Not at all – I am sure there are many Arduino lovers that have hooked up to the Raspberry Pi. Education goes a long way.

Arduino has a very powerful website which connects with anyone interested in microcontrollers, what you can do, what you cannot, the strengths, the weaknesses. Arduino can do anything your mind wants it to do. The face of the future.

Besides the Arduino website look at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/arduino-technology-explained/

Innovative Companies – The Best Of

Most Innovative Companies - Virgin

The most Innovative Companies of the last 100 years

Most Innovative Companies - Virgin
Sir Richard Branson – Photo by David Shankbone

Philips

Inspired by Elektor (who else of course) we decided to have a look at some of the most innovative companies in the world over the last 100 years – Dutch super-company Philips is definitely amongst them so this is where we start. Bernard Tellegen, the inventor of the pentode tube worked at Philips and was one of their outstanding engineers in the early 1920s. Then the audio cassette, in conjunction with Sony the CD and the rotary head shaver. Looking to mass production Philips were definitely the prime movers of the light bulb and top quality shavers – they were after all the inventor of the rotary head shaver.  Radio valves, transistors and integrated circuits. They have also excelled in the field of medicine. When one looks at their field of experience and head count of highly qualified engineers and skilled workers one may find it surprising that they have not expanded their operation over the years instead of selling off their semiconductor manufacturing business (trading as NXP)? In fact, I think Philips still do the right things at the right time – more so, they have also always maintained their image: Trustworthy, Innovative and World Leaders.  The Cyclotron, X-Rays, Coffee makers, shavers, audio, radio and components. And do not forget lighting! Definitely in the top tweny list of the most innovative companies over the last 100 years. Think Signetics, think 555 IC.

Bosch

There are at least one hundred companies I could list here but Bosch would always find it’s way into the top twenty. In fact Germany possibly control the highest percentage of the most innovative people in the world. We could bounce figures around the whole day but credit goes to Robert Bosch – whom does not own at least one appliance, tool or car part which is not Bosch. Bosch is heavy on patents, in fact one of the world leaders – testament to the power of innovation and having control. Talking about having control – brakes, steering, traction control and diesel fuel injectors. Blaupunkt car audio and the takeover of Junkers. In almost every field Bosch has made it’s mark.

Sony

I am not a big advocate of Asian innovation but they certainly know how to make ‘things’ better. With the exception of Sony – they are innovators without being cheesy. Transistorised TV, the Trinitron, the Walkman, Diskman, OLED TV, the Betamax and consumer to professional level video cameras. The Betamax was just simply better but could not compete with VHS. Playstations and Cell Phones. In collaboration with Philips they brought out the compact disk. Sony is losing business and the only way they can restore this is by doing what Philips did – stop competing for mass appeal and stick to their core: innovation. Sony is good with home theater (Sonus) and better than most when it comes to video reproduction. They messed up with Aiwa in my opinion but I don’t know what their strategy was. An innovative company – right!

Kitronik Ltd

admin 2014-01-10 07:04:00
admin

Company/Business Kitronik Ltd
Website http://www.kitronik.co.uk
Business Type eCommerce
Category/Genre Electronics – Kits
Posted By
admin

Core Business Electronic Design and Technology for Students
Address 1 Units 3a
Address 2 Shipstones Business Centre
Suburb North Gate
Town/City Nottingham
Region East Midlands
Country England
Zip/Postal Code NG7 7FN
Telephone (+44) 845 8380781
Details/Additional

Kitronik supply schools and hobbyists with a range of products that are focused on ‘Design and Technology’. We have specialist skills in the electronics aspects of design and technology, and we have developed a number of our own products. Formed in 2005, we have a small but friendly team with over 10 years of electronics design experience who will be happy to support you in your needs.


HobbyTronics Ltd

admin 2014-01-10 07:04:00
admin

Company/Business HobbyTronics Ltd
Website http://www.hobbytronics.co.uk
Business Type eCommerce
Category/Genre Electronics – Kits
Posted By
admin

Core Business Specialist supplier of electronic components
Address 1 29 Beckside
Address 2
Suburb Wilberfoss
Town/City York
Region East Riding of Yorkshire
Country England
Zip/Postal Code YO41 5NS
Telephone 0844 487 4145
Details/Additional

The UK electronic components supplier for your electronics hobby needs. Specialist supplier of electronic components such as sensors, robotics, breakout boards, Arduino, prototyping to the hobby and educational electronics market in the UK and worldwide. We supply the components you need and have a range of helpful tutorials.
Orders must be done online.


Engine Den

admin 2014-01-22 16:46:00
admin

Company/Business Engine Den
Website http://www.engineden.co.za
Business Type Reseller
Category/Genre Auto – Engine Parts
Posted By
admin

Core Business Import and Export New and Used Engines and Parts
Address 1 311 Stephenson Road
Address 2
Suburb Pretoria West
Town/City Pretoria
Region Gauteng
Country South Africa
Zip/Postal Code 0183
Telephone +27 12 386 2786
Details/Additional

Engine Den has been in in existence since 1985. Has been able to sustain as a private and independently-owned company throughout the years by offering the best products at the best possible prices. The goal of Engine Den was to provide a convenient source of automotive aftermarket products for the DIYer and local auto mechanics and installers.

Now, as times have changed and continue to change, we service a much broader market, including international consumers, as well as, many government agencies and municipalities. While many of our competitors have disappeared over the years, we have not only maintained, but have seen remarkable growth. Our enduring success in the marketplace is due in great part to the efficiency of our skilled and knowledgeable staff, who strive to provide superior service to every customer.

Throughout the years, Engine Den has lead the industry in parts availability, price, and customer service. But more than anything, the company has valued the hard work, dedication, and commitment of its staff.

ENGINE DEN has production lines in china that only manufactures new motor parts under our house brand FAMARU POWER.

Engine Den is committed to delivering exceptional service, from the minute you enter our Store or Web site, throughout the life of your vehicle and beyond. We look forward to seeing you in our Store, and we hope the information on our Web site will help you get to know us better.


Ellies – Cape Town

admin 2013-12-27 10:03:29
admin

Company/Business Ellies – Cape Town
Website http://www.ellies.co.za/
Business Type Reseller
Category/Genre Electronics – DIY
Posted By
admin

Core Business Electronics – Manufacturer, Wholesaler, Distribution – Elsat
Address 1 47 Morningside Road
Address 2
Suburb Ndabeni
Town/City Cape Town
Region Western Cape
Country South Africa
Zip/Postal Code 7450
Telephone +27 (21) 532 8400
Details/Additional

See Ellies under head office


Ellies – Gaberone

admin 2013-12-27 10:03:29
admin

Company/Business Ellies – Gaberone
Website http://www.ellies.co.za/
Business Type Reseller
Category/Genre Electronics – DIY
Posted By
admin

Core Business Electronics – Manufacturer, Wholesaler, Distribution – Elsat
Address 1 Plot 43169
Address 2
Suburb Phakalane
Town/City Gaberone
Region Gaberone
Country Botswana
Zip/Postal Code No Codes
Telephone +267 390 8807
Details/Additional

See under Ellies Head Office in Johannesburg


Ellies – Pretoria

admin 2013-12-27 10:03:29
admin

Company/Business Ellies – Pretoria
Website http://www.ellies.co.za/
Business Type Reseller
Category/Genre Electronics – DIY
Posted By
admin

Core Business Electronics – Manufacturer, Wholesaler, Distribution – Elsat
Address 1 373 Proes Street
Address 2
Suburb Pretoria Central
Town/City Pretoria
Region Gauteng
Country South Africa
Zip/Postal Code 001
Telephone +27 12 328 6327
Details/Additional

See under Ellies head office in Johannesburg


Ellies – Johannesburg – HQ

admin 2013-12-27 10:03:29
admin

Company/Business Ellies – Johannesburg – HQ
Website http://www.ellies.co.za/
Business Type Reseller
Category/Genre Electronics – DIY
Posted By
admin

Core Business Electronics – Manufacturer, Wholesaler, Distribution – Elsat
Address 1 94 Eloff Street
Address 2
Suburb Village Deep
Town/City Johannesburg
Region Gauteng
Country South Africa
Zip/Postal Code 2137
Telephone +27 (11) 490 3800
Details/Additional

Ellies is one of the oldest electronic suppliers in South Africa – they now also have branches in Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique.

Over three decades, Ellies has become a leading Southern African manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of electronic products related to television reception, including satellite and terrestrial aerial ranges. The group is also a market leader in domestic electrical and industrial audio products, and a major importer of associated products.

Between inception in 1979 and the early 1990s, Ellies focused largely on TV aerials, accessories and spare components, and then broadened its range to include remote controls and other related accessories, expanding its customer base in the process.

In 1995, with the advent of satellite TV in the South African market, the group founded the ElSat business. ElSat pioneered the pre-paid installation voucher system, which has become the national industry benchmark —a seamless process from point of sale to installation in a consumer’s home, facilitated by the Ellies call centres.

While the product range has broadened exponentially over the years, the focus remains unchanged: providing a single, convenient and efficient source of supply for its customers —from leading retailers to independent outlets and installers.

Ellies has trading divisions in all major centres throughout South Africa as well as Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland.

’Ellies’ and ’ElSat’ have become household brands and the group continues to expand its product range which now includes audio, telephone and electrical accessories. The Group’s revenue is derived from the manufacture, import and distribution of TV and video equipment-related products under the ’Ellies’ brand and from the manufacture, import and distribution of satellite and associated equipment under the ’ElSat’ brand.

Megatron Federal, the infrastructural power division of Ellies, is based in Johannesburg and operating from 5 production facilities in Chloorkop (10 000sqm), the company specialises in the fields of power generation, transmission and distribution.

Ellies listed on the Alternative Exchange of the JSE Limited on 5 September 2007. As the dominant distributor of TV aerials and installation equipment to the retail, furniture, hardware and independent market, Ellies is ideally positioned to capitalise on ever increasing demand for these products in South Africa and to introduce new offerings to its extensive and diversified customer base.


2014 Technology – A Look at what technology we have for the year ahead

2014 Technology - 3D Printer at Maker's Party

2014 Technology – The Year Ahead

Brushless DC Motors, 3D printers, lathes, milling machines and of course robotics.

2014 Technology - 3D Printer at Maker's Party
3D Printer at Maker’s Party – source – thanks to  Subhashish Panigrahi

Like most readers of technological magazines we equip ourselves with amazing gadgetry, audio which never sounds right, cars that always fail and a non-deserved flair for arrogance. 2014 is going to be tough, say the economists. No matter how tough, we will always find those that find the money to buy the latest audio, cars and fashion. Whether it’s the banks money, a friend’s or a parent – who really cares? Technology is king and will remain so for many years to come.

What’s trendy and what’s not in 2014 Technology

I come from the computer era, I am also a big electronics geek (or I like to think so).  Technology is certainly changing the way in which we think and do things. 80% is not for the better. Spellcheckers are great for the beginner but really, look back 50 years and you’ll find your parents did not have those marvels at their fingertips – they had to do things right, first time. Spelling was just one of those things.  One day, trust me, spelling will be a subject at school. Do you remember that story (Asimov) where a space ship had a young cadet on board that could add. subtract, multiply and divide without the use of a calculator – these were single digit numbers by the way. He was classified as boy genius. Technology is making us lazy and ummm, pretty stupid. Read the book: “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond.

Bob Dylan’s “The Times are a Changing”.

Not really – no matter how some things change they don’t really. Well let’s get to the point then, I think I am in a fair position to say that although technology is changing it’s making us poorer – poorer in vision, things we do and in our social skills. To keep up with the Jones’s we want the latest cellular device and have become brilliant users. The more gadgets the more we want. App writers are making millions and for many, deservedly so. For many also, they are supplying us with rubbish. There’s duplication upon duplication upon duplication – we have too little time on planet earth to check all the apps so lets just start by giving us something that really works. I had a spyro-gyro set when I was young. I also had a little ‘TV’ set which displayed an 8mm film onto a small screen. These two ‘play-things I will never forget. It expanded my own dreams. Try this with the latest technology and I can promise you it’s only the very bright and the very daring that will take this technology to the next level. There’s worse to come – money.

2014 Technology – From archives to Now or How to steal technology and get away with it!

We are really a sucker for punishment. What may seem like a wondrous invention in 2013 may in fact have been on the cards in 1910. I kid you not. Are you really aware that flash boilers have been around for over a century. We adapt because of the environment – energy stakes are high so we look for alternative fuels. The man or woman that invents a car that can run off water will win first prize. The man or woman that discovers a cure for diabetes wins second prize.

Apple is just such a wondrous company with a great flair for innovation. Steve Jobs gets a posthumous Grammy but while he was alive he was often treated like a schmuck. This is how I see it in any event. Yes, perhaps he was a difficult man to work with but so do I believe was Albert Einstein. This is how it is working with genius. Then we copy the works – like we all know Steve did as well. There is a difference however, Steve just made it better.

As much as technology changes it doesn’t change that much. Marketing is much stronger than 50 years back because of the power of the internet so of course it has a much larger audience or spectatorship. Much of what is being brought out today is really not all that exciting. Much of what is being brought out today is just an improvement on old design. I see three big jumps in the last 20 years:

  • The computer – used as a multitasking device.
  • The Internet – marketing, education and media content.
  • Wireless and home media (I connect these two, excuse the pun)

I am over simplifying. There are many things I can add but I see the most significant jumps in these three from a technological standpoint. Of course I could add cell phones. I won’t though because like the TV receiver has been proven to be the demise of many an intelligent kid, I abhor the fact that in a room full of people, 90% of them are looking at their cell phone, waiting for something or someone to spring out and wave a wand. I do give it 90% though for making communication simple and life-saving. The AM transceiver still beats it hands down in performance. Yes, you may argue about skips, hops and jumps – whatever (I studied radio so yes, I do know about the Kennely-Heaviside and Appleton layers etc, etc – but you don’t need all the expensive mumbo jumbo which goes with modern technology). I do see that where the cell phone beats any other technology hands down is in making money. So sorry, I haven’t included cell phone technology in my 2014 round up. Neither a TV that changes channels when you talk to it, a car that can drive on three wheels, self inflating tyres and a bucketload of gadgets and gizmos.