Trends in sensors seem to either gravitate toward the newest digital models or to completely abandon their analog counterparts. The newest reveal from Microchip, a company out of Arizona that focuses on microcontroller, mixed-signal, analog, and Flash-IP solutions, is a happy medium between the two formats. The PAC1921 is the world's first current sensor that features both a digital output and a configurable analog output. The 2-Wire digital bus maximizes data and diagnostic reporting but the analog output minimizes data latency.
"The ability to output power measurements in both the digital and analog domains provides designers with a unique level of flexibility," said Bryan J. Liddiard, marketing vice president of Microchip's Analog and Interface Products Division. "The PAC1921 accomplishes this by combining a digital current sensor to maximize data and diagnostic reporting, together with an analog current sensor to minimize data latency."
The new sensor seems like a great option in situations where latency is simply not allowable, and it can handle both heavy and light system-load power measurements from 0V to 32V. Most high-side current sensors are 100% analog; finally there's an option for a digital interface.
It's heartening to see analog and digital models playing nicely together, especially when their configuration makes for the kind of flexibility needed in the ee world. The analog output is also highly adjustable, making it usable with 3V, 2V, 1.5V, or 1V microcontroller inputs, and it can be used in everything from networking to computing scenarios.