What Advances in Dual Sensor Smartphone Technology Mean for 3D Imaging

What Advances in Dual Sensor Smartphone Technology Mean for 3D Imaging
From Samsung to Apple, device manufacturers are striving to optimize security and functionality with dual sensor cameras.
3D sensing has long been used in smartphones for things like biometric scanning, gesture sensing, 3D modeling, and to enhance photos. And, while inarguably cool, they’re far from perfect, creating missteps in security they’d hope to solve—for example, a photograph of a person can sometimes be used to fool facial recognition programs.
As a new generation of smartphones work their way into the market, they promise the ability to do plenty more—things like 3D scans of rooms that can be used in virtual reality applications.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is set to release on September 15, an attempt to win back customers after theexploding battery fiasco that overshadowed the last model.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Image courtesy of Samsung

While the phone has some cool new features, the camera seems to be what’s garnering the lion’s share of the attention. This isn’t specific to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8—we’ve long been infatuated with smartphone cameras, especially as we move toward more dual camera setups that promise advances in security and capability.

How Dual Sensors Work

The Independent explains the various ways in which dual cameras can be implemented on smartphones. On the Nokia 8, there are two 13-megapixel sensors, one of which is monochrome and sucks in light at a more rapid pace than the one that is color. Together, both sensors work together to capture images that are sharper, still giving the photographer the option to choose one or the other.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera uses a pair of 12-megapixel sensors on the rear to provide telephoto zoom, one of which is wide-angle and the other telephoto. The iPhone 7 Plus operates in the same way—both work to overcome limitations related to optical zoom in the devices. If you choose to shoot with both sensors, it creates a bokeh effect, which is where the subject is in focus and the background is blurred.

An example of the bokeh effect. Image courtesy of Daniel Timm [CC-BY 2.0]

Some mirrorless cameras also operate in this way, simulating a background that isn’t focused by utilizing a second camera or shot to provide information about where objects are relative to the subject and blurring the background via an algorithm (as opposed to optically, like you’d see in a mirrored camera).  
While improved zoom is cool, dual camera setups can also work to create 3D images by capturing additional detail only available via a longer lens. And, though the dual camera setup is somewhat new, detachable lenseshave offered similar capabilities since the iPhone 4.

Camera specs for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Image courtesy of Samsung.

What This Means for the Future of 3D Images

Sony, Samsung, and Apple are just a few of the industry leaders rumored to be working on devices with actual 3D sensors, which will lead to an expansion of the ways a smartphone can be used. Apple is rumored to be working on a rear-facing laser system that would allow facial recognition and augmented reality features, as well as the capability to take 3D selfies and even the chance to put a 3D version of your head on a character in a video game.
Sony subsidiary SoftKinetic demoed a 3D sensor on a Sony Xperia smartphone using facial recognition software from a Swiss company. The sensor, located on the front-facing camera, isn’t as simple as the face unlock from previous versions of smartphones. Instead, it uses 3D facial recognition to provide a security system that is much less hackable than its predecessors.
Of course, users who’d rather cover the front-facing lens may find a future in which 3D, front-facing cameras are the norm a little unsettling from a privacy standpoint. Still, this technology offers an undoubtedly more secure way of protecting your device.

A Look at SpaceX’s Systems for Launching and Landing Falcon 9 Rockets

A Look at SpaceX’s Systems for Launching and Landing Falcon 9 Rockets
How do SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets use sensor systems to land vertically?
SpaceX successfully launched and landed another Falcon 9 rocket on August 24th and have plenty more missions in the works.
The Falcon 9 rockets are reusable and can land the rockets, themselves, vertically. In fact, SpaceX celebrated the world’s first re-flight of an orbital class rocket back in March 2013. You can watch a Falcon 9 rocket successfully land in the video below.

How did they accomplish this vertical landing technology? And why is it so important for the future of space exploration?

SpaceX’s Design Philosophy

Space exploration is expensive. NASA mission costs can traditionally be measured in billions of dollars.
But SpaceX’s goal of making reusable rockets to drastically cut down the costs of space flight is coming to fruition.
“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.  A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”  -Elon Musk

The launch and landing trajectory of a Falcon 9 rocket. Diagram courtesy of zsladesign. Jon Ross, the site’s owner makes space flight infographics.

Impressively, SpaceX has delivered on many of their goals. What I find most interesting is that these advances weren’t accomplished by finding some new metal alloy or element to make a fuel compound from (like always happens in the movies). Instead, the Falcon 9 rockets rely on complex systems for things like fuel distribution and navigation through mechanical and electrical engineering. The development may not be sexy like a sci-fi movie, but SpaceX engineers are cutting the costs of space travel by tweaking and improving existing technologies.
The rocket engines that SpaceX has developed, like the Merlin rocket engines used in Falcon 9 rockets, have many aspects of their design built around reducing the overall number of points of failure that can cause rocket malfunctions to occur. These are things like electrical connections, joints in fuel lines, and points where separate capsules meet one another.
Although these systems are incredibly complex, it seems that SpaceX engineers’ ultimate goal is simplicity. As they say in electronics, a device can be fast, cheap, or dependable—but not all three. SpaceX has put their eggs in the “cheap” and “dependable” baskets.

How Do the Falcon 9 Rockets Land Vertically?

Obviously, SpaceX can’t give away all their secrets, but—between the information released by SpaceX and some work from internet sleuths—we can get a basic understanding of how these rockets do what was once thought to be impossible.
There is a system diagram for the Falcon 9 rockets that is being constantly updated to by enthusiasts online.

A section of the Falcon 9 system diagram (there are many more). A big thanks to /u/wclark07 on Reddit for putting these together.

You probably already know that the landing systems are automated, but it requires a lot of sensors in different compartments to make all of this happen. At a basic level, the rocket has gimbaled thrusters, which adjust the angle of the gimbal based on torque and the rocket’s center of gravity. Although gimballed thrusters have been around for a while, they have traditionally used for take off, not landing.​
Before the gimballed thrusters come into place for landing, the rockets use Attitude Control Systems, which are a system of spouts that expel high-pressure gasses at different points around the capsule to reorient the rocket while in space so it can begin its descent with the thrusters facing downward.
It also uses grid fins, which are little flaps that deploy when the rocket is closer to its landing point, operating similar to the flaps on airplane wings. This, of course, requires a ton of math to be computed by the rocket’s systems based on the data collected from its sensors in order to release pressure, divert fuel, and open various flaps and chambers.
I counted 16 different sensor systems for things like AHARS, detaching modules, GPS, fuel pressure, inertia, and likely many more that can probably be flushed out as people make updates to the layout. I am by no means a rocket scientist, so please let us know in the comments if you would like to elaborate on the Falcon 9s’ sensors or electronic systems!

Featured image used courtesy of SpaceX.

Teardown of Schneider Electric’s Altivar Process ATV630U15M3

Teardown of Schneider Electric’s Altivar Process ATV630U15M3
In this teardown, take a look inside Schneider Electric's Altival Process ATV630U15M3.
The Schneider Electric Altivar Process ATV600 class of variable speed drives (VSDs) offers sector-specific options for commercial equipment, HVAC, high-performance machinery, utility and processing environments. Compatible with 3-phase synchronous, asynchronous and special motors, the Altivar line delivers a high level of efficiency by capturing and processing data in real-time. These robust units are earmarked by their user-friendly interfaces and frugal energy consumption.
Altivar models are available with power ranges from 0.37 to 315KW and Drive Systems capable of delivering up to 1.5MW. Input voltage range starts at 200VAC and caps at 690VAC, for the line. PI21 to IP55 casings offer protection for the most extreme of operating conditions.


Model: ATV630U15M3 1.5kW/2HP Variable Speed Drive (Standard Version)

External and Enclosure

  • Size 144mm x 320mm x 203mm and weight 4.3kg.
  • IP21 protection with Modus Serial, Ethernet and Modbus TCP communication port.


Main Controller Board

  • Precise PWM motor control, communication & on chip over-current/voltage protection : TI F28M36x ConcertoTM Microcontrollers. Industry standard 32-bit ARM Cortec-M3 CPU features a wide variety of communication peripherals, including
  • Ethernet 1588, USB OTG with PHY, Controller Area Network (CAN), UART, SSI, I2C, and an external interface.
  • Logic-based signal filtering: Lattice MachX02 4000HC. Bridging & Expansion FPGAs.

Power Electronics Board

  • Rectifier & Inverter: Infineon FP50R06W2E3. 600V/50A Easy PIMTM module with Trench/Fieldstop IGBT3. PIM 3 phase input rectifier configuration.

  • Isolation: Broadcom (Avago Technologies)
    • ACPL-332J (6pcs). 2.5 An IGBT gate drive optocoupler with integrated (VCE) desaturation detection, fault status feedback, and active Miller clamping.
    • ACPL-798J (5pcs). Optically Isolated Sigma-Delta modulator with LVDS Interface, external clock.
    • ACPL-W611 (2pcs). High Speed, 10MBd, High CMR TTL compatible optocoupler
  • Shunt Current Sensing: TT Electronics R305F (6pcs). 35mΩ Shunt Resistors.
  • Isolated switching power supply:
    • Customized Transformer.
    • STMicroelectronics ST6N95K5. 950V/9A N-channel Power MOSFET
  • Inrush-current Limiter:
    • Panasonic AJQ8341F. 12V/10A small power relays
    • Micron (2pcs). 39Ω/7W power resistors

Ethernet Communication Board

  • Ethernet interface controller: TI AM3352, Sitara Microprocessor. ARM Cortex-A8 processor with industrial interface options, including EtherCAT and PROFIBUS.
  • Ethernet magnetic transformer: Halo Electronics TG110 SMD single port 10/100Base TX transformer.


With its durable case design, minuscule energy demands, real-time processing and straightforward operation, the ATV600s are a savvy solution for most any VSD deployment. Just as importantly, users can count on a very long service cycle, owing to robust construction externally and quality components internally.
You can learn more about this Schneider Product here.

Teardown: Solar Powered Ultrasonic Dog Repellent

Teardown: Solar Powered Ultrasonic Dog Repellent
In this teardown, we examine the innards of the solar-powered ultrasonic dog repellent, complete with solar panel and PIR sensor.

A Cursory Look

The Instecho's solar-powered ultrasonic dog repellent is designed to use ultrasonic signals to repel animals away from yards and outdoor spaces without bothering nearby humans. The device is triggered via PIR sensor and has a solar panel attached.
It's a rather small unit, measuring only 5.9(W) x 3.3(D) x 14.5(H) inches, and has the following advertised features:
  • Power supply: rechargeable batteries with solar panel
  • PIR sensor
  • Ultrasonic frequency: 18-40 KHz
  • Low power consumption:
    • Standby = 0.8mAh
    • Working = 15mAh
  • Coverage area: 2425 square feet (@ 30 feet)
  • Weatherproof: works all year round
  • Will not harm humans or animals

Instecho's solar-powered ultrasonic dog repellent. Image courtesy of Amazon.

First Impressions

Four small screws hold the two plastic halves together, and the plastic halves definitely don't provide a "weatherproof" seal—weather "resistant" would be a more accurate term. Nonetheless, once the plastic assembly was opened up, I was very surprised to see the simplicity of the electronics system. 

First look inside the assembly.

The solar panel—which generates ~9.5V in bright sunlight—is glued to the top plastic half.

Solar panel glued to the top of the assembly.

Judging by the internal assembly the manufacturer placed an emphasis on cost reduction—perhaps that's the reason for this unit's low price of $20-30 (at time of purchase).
The image below displays how both the LED lens and the speaker are "welded" to the plastic enclosure by way of, as a guess, a soldering iron. It appears an iron was used to simply, and quickly, melt the plastic pieces together.
Although this welding method seems to be successful, it's not aesthetically pleasing and it makes servicing these components very difficult, if not impossible. Then again, at its price tag, probably no one is going to service this unit.

Speaker and LED lens are cheaply welded to the plastic enclosure.

Finally, Amazon's reviews are clearly cut and dry: buyers either really like this unit or really dislike it; there aren't too many reviews in between these extremes.

The Innards

The internal components consist of:
  • Two PCBs:
    • The main PCB contains all the system's intelligence
    • The second PCB is a very simple PCB used solely for the fastening of the three white LEDs
  • Speaker: This is the advertised ultrasonic frequency speaker, and appears to be extremely cost effective (AKA cheap)
  • White LED protection lens/holder
  • Ni-MH rechargeable battery pack
  • Cable assembly to the solar panel
All the internal components (aside from the white LED lens and the solar panel because it's glued in place) were removed from the plastic assembly and are shown in the image below.

Internal electrical components.

The PCBs

As previously mentioned, the white LED PCB is very basic. In fact, it contains no components besides the three LEDs. Therefore, it makes sense that this PCB should be made as inexpensive as is reasonably possible.

PCB for the three white LEDs.

The other PCB, the one that contains all the smarts of this ultrasonic dog repellent system, is still a rather simple design concept:

Main PCB (bottom side).

The main PCB looks like an average basic design: it's a double-sided design, meaning there are no internal layers—this is an ideal approach for reducing costs.
Although there's nothing too exceptional about this PCB, I did notice that EMI countermeasures are absent. This is a bit surprising, especially given the fact that a microcontroller is utilized in the design. On the other hand, the plastic assembly contains no FCC compliance or other EMC marking labels, which suggests that EMC testing was not completed on this design (not good) meaning EMI countermeasures were never considered.
The components on this board include:
  • LDO Voltage Regulator (3.3V): Advanced Monolithic Systems AMS1117. This device is available in either voltage-adjustable or fixed-voltage variants. This design uses the 3.3V fixed-voltage version and provides all the necessary power required for this board. The regulator is powered from the battery pack and/or solar panel.
  • Microcontroller: Microchip's PIC12F510 8-pin, 8-bit Flash MCU provides the "brains" of this design. When this microcontroller detects a signal from the PIR device (discussed below), the three white LEDs are flashed on and off and the ultrasonic speaker is activated.
  • Schottky Diode: This SS14 Schottky diode allows current to flow only from the solar panel to the battery pack/voltage LDO regulator.
  • NPN Transistors: These two transistors, both driven by the microcontroller, serve as the "switches" for turning on and off the speaker and the LEDs.

Flipping over the main PCB (shown below) allows us to inspect the following components on the opposite side:
  • Electrolytic Capacitors: These are garden variety electrolytic capacitors ranging from 10uF to 22uF. All three are rated at 25V.
  • Inductor: There's not much to report on this component. Only unintelligent markings are listed on this passive part.
  • PIR Sensor: This AS412 PIR (passive infrared) sensor is referred to, by its manufacturer, as a type of intelligent PIR due to its integrated "digital control circuitry and body sensitive element in one electromagnetic shielding" device. More so, its delay timing parameters are controlled from externally-placed resistors. Given these features, it appears this PIR sensor is extremely simple to incorporate and to use in one's design.

Main PCB (top side)


As I mentioned before, this solar-powered ultrasonic dog repellent system is extremely simple in design—it's much more elementary than I imagined it would be. And although neither robustness nor quality appears to be near the top of the priority list, cost reduction seems to be right at the top. This system gives the impression that it's worth the (low) asking price.
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Hi, I`m Sostenes, Electrical Technician and PLC`S Programmer.
Everyday I`m exploring the world of Electrical to find better solution for Automation. I believe everyday can become a Electrician with the right learning materials.
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