Five EE Innovations Highlighted by the 2020 Edison Awards

April 15, 2020 by Kayla Matthews

These Edison Award-winning chips show how EEs are surging innovation forward.

The electrical engineering sector is never short on innovation, and the Edison Awards is one venue to recognize those innovations.

The official website for the Edison Awards explains, "Being recognized with an Edison Award is one of the highest accolades a company can receive in the name of innovation and business success. The Edison Awards honor excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design, and innovation."

Winners for the Edison Awards get selected annually. The organizers announce winners from different categories—ranging from Transportation and Logistics to Consumer Electronics and Information Technology—in waves, rather than all at once. 

Here, we'll examine five relevant electrical engineering product feats called out during the 2020 Edison Awards. While our selections don't always align with the Edison Awards' gold, silver, and bronze winners, we felt these particular products would be most interesting to working designers.


1. Arbe's 4D Imaging Radar Chipset

This chipset promises to push automotive image capture and processing forward, paving the way for smart cars to more quickly collect sharper images from their environment. This innovation uses a frequency-modulated, continuous-wave radar to actively avoid and mitigate chirp transmitter interference from surrounding vehicles equipped with similar technologies. 

Arbe says this radar chipset provides a physical resolution between two and ten times higher than the synthetic or statistical resolution enhancement methods competitors use. Plus, the radar chipset offers real-time management of 48 receive and 48 transmit channels in real-time, generating 30 frames per second of full 4D images while maintaining an equivalent processing throughput of three terabits per second.


The 4D imaging radar chipset

The 4D imaging radar chipset. Image used courtesy of Arbe

Also, Arbe claims that the combination of channel separation and advanced post-processing significantly reduces false alarm instances. Such progress could factor into future circuit board designs for applications where accuracy is of paramount importance. 


2. Maxim Integrated's MAX98390 Smart Amplifier

This Maxim Integrated product is a Class D amplifier, or switching amplifier. The manufacturer's specifications note that this amplifier suits applications ranging from IoT devices to smartphones and tablets.

One of the standout features of this product is the maximum boost converter. It offers a programmable voltage output ranging from 6.5 V to 10 V. Moreover, a user can adjust it in 0.125 increments from a battery voltage of 2.65 V and higher. 



The MAX98390 digital boosted DSM smart amplifier. Image used courtesy of Mouser

Besides offering that flexibility, the maximum boost converter supports bypass mode for lower quiescent current and improved mid-power efficiency. It provides envelope tracking compatibility, too. That capability, when enabled, automatically adjusts the output voltage for maximum efficiency. 

Electrical engineers frequently take steps to minimize electromagnetic interference or EMI. This thoughtfully designed amplifier makes EMI less of a concern. It includes a patented active-emissions, limiting edge rate, along with circuitry for overshoot control. Both of those features reduce EMI and eliminate the output filtering that traditional Class D devices require. 


3. Littelfuse's setP Digital Temperature Indicator

This temperature indicator was a gold winner at the 2020 Edison Awards. Measuring at a compact 2.0 mm x 1.2 mm, it protects USB-C devices from getting too hot. The product even does the job for USB-C devices delivering 100 W or more of power. 

A video embedded within the product description mentions that, by 2020, an estimated 5 billion devices will have USB-C connections. That statistic strongly suggests an abundant and ongoing demand for this innovation. 


setP temperature indicators for USB Type-C

setP temperature indicators for USB Type-C. Image used courtesy of Littelfuse

It also mentions that the pins on USB connections are closer together than other types. Debris can get caught between them, causing a resistive fault from power to ground. If that happens, the combination of a dangerous increase in temperature and the high power delivered to the device can melt plugs, damage devices, and start fires. 

Electrical engineers know how crucial it is to factor temperature control into all their efforts. Overlooking it could make sensitive components malfunction or fail. This indicator installs on the configuration channel line. It activates by increasing resistance when a USB-C device reaches 100°C and turning off its power supply.


4. Goodix's GH610/611 2-in-1 Capacitive In-Ear Detection and Touch Control Chip

This new chip from Goodix promises to further advance audio accessories. A sensing algorithm developed in house by the brand has a super-high signal-to-noise ratio, and it detects the operation status of the device. For example, if embedded into a pair of earbuds, this chip could tell when a person inserts the bulb-shaped piece into their ear and immediately start playing a track. 


System block diagram of GH610/611

System block diagram of GH610/611. Image used courtesy of Goodix

The chip provides 3.5 KB of SRAM memory. It also supports a 1.7 V to 5.5 V voltage power supply. Furthermore, the touch control element of this chip supports multiple gestures. It recognizes the swipes, long presses, and single or double taps a person makes to do things like start and stop the current track, fast-forward or rewind the content, and skip to different sections of an audiobook or tracklist.


5. mmh Labs/KAUST's Bluefin Tagging Technology

Muhammad M. Hussain Labs—more commonly seen in media coverage as mmh Labs—concerns a series of projects from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology or KAUST. The people working there have a vision for the future of electronics wherein the gadgets are affordable, readily available, simple to use, stretchable, and reconfigurable. 

The lab's Bluefin tagging technology caught the attention of the Edison Awards judges. This innovation shows a real-life application of flexible electronics. The Bluefin tagging technology is a wearable for fish that measures water temperature, pressure, depth, and pH levels at a proven depth of up to two kilometers. The tag weighs only 2.4 grams and functions for a full year after someone attaches it to a marine animal. 


The Bluefin wearable

The Bluefin wearable. Image used courtesy of mmh Labs and Consumer Technology Association


The team at mmh Labs came up with two designs made for different sizes of animals. The tag version works for smaller animals, while a polymeric belt design ties around larger ones. This tracking option is the first of its kind that does not restrict movement. Both designs depend on iridium-based chips for data transmission, while non-toxic, flexible batteries provide power. 

This achievement could encourage electrical engineers to broaden their expectations about the future of flexible electronics—for tracking or otherwise. The KAUST team is also experimenting with other flexible designs that could impact health care, for example.


A Demonstration of Leading-Edge Designs

This sampling of winners from the 2020 Edison Awards demonstrates the rapid pace of leading-edge designs within electrical engineering. What are some past designs you're particularly proud of? How did you think outside the box for it? 

Share your experiences in the comments below.


Featured image depicts the 2019 Edison Awards gala. Image used courtesy of the Edison Awards