Connectors in the Wireless WorldFollow article
Everything seems to be wireless in the modern world. Watches, phones, refrigerators and even curtains (not joking). A product seems hardly complete unless it connects via 5G or Bluetooth. Despite this wireless revolution, the connector remains a vital component in almost every electronic device in the world. In this article, we will look at some of the reasons that connectors will be with us for years to come.
Providing the Power
Wireless charging is not a new idea, but for many years inductive charging has been without many real-world applications – unless you’re looking for a rechargeable toothbrush. Recently, there has been considerable advancement in the field of wireless power transfer.
Most smartphones are now compatible with wireless charging, along with wireless earbuds and other personal technology. However, most of these technologies require the device to be very close to the charging device.
Many developers are pursuing technology that will allow power transfer over a greater distance. Recent advances allow devices to receive a trickle charge of up to 1 Watt of power over a distance of several meters. This is ideal for smartphones and similar devices, but how about larger equipment?
A large number of major automotive manufacturers are working on systems that will allow hybrid and electric vehicles to be charged without the inconvenience of plugging in a large cable. If cars could receive power over a distance of 20 to 30 centimetres, charging pads could be installed underneath parking spaces, allowing cars to automatically receive power as soon as the driver climbed out.
Charging while you drive?
What is the future of the power connector in this world? Despite the dream of a wireless solution, the charge-while-you-park concept is likely to be a slow process. It would be ideal for the 8 hours you are at the office, but less useful for a charging stop during a long journey. In this case, there will still be a place for conventional charging cables and connectorsto provide the energy density required to charge a car battery within a reasonable time period. Even if the charging pad concept can be extended to roads (and there are plans for just that), charging connectors will be a common sight for some time.
In addition, within the car itself, the connection between the battery and the vehicle motors needs to handle high currents, often several hundred Amps. For maintenance, it is necessary for the engineer to be able to disconnect the motors and batteries from the vehicle. Connectors like the AMP+ Manual Service Disconnect from TE Connectivity
Modern cars are now so sophisticated that up to half of their value is invested in the electronic systems that provide navigation, control and entertainment. With the rise of autonomous vehicles, the need for reliable, high-speed connections within the vehicle will continue to grow, and so the conventional wired connector will be with us for many years to come.
Running at High-Speed
The rise of the autonomous vehicle highlights another reason why the conventional connector will continue to have a place in modern designs – speed.
The recent introduction of 5G technology is going to have a major impact on many sectors of our world. It is tempting to think of 5G as simply providing greater speed for our smartphones, but the potential of 5G in other areas could dwarf the mobile phone market. For the first time, 5G is fast enough to replace traditional wired networks in factories and offices. Companies will be able to employ their own, proprietary 5G cell that covers the extent of their facility. This will enable a huge amount of flexibility, as every element of the factory can now form a part of the network, from the machinery that does not move to mobile elements such as robots and even the human operators.
This same network approach will be of vital importance on the roads. Not only will autonomous vehicles contain the technology to detect obstacles themselves, but they will also continuously communicate with the outside world in what is being called V2X (Vehicle-to-X) technology. They will share data with other vehicles, traffic signals and pedestrians to form a network to ensure the safety of all road users. The volume of data being transferred will be quite staggering.
However fast the 5G connection from each element will be, the cellular base stations that provide the hub for this network needs to be capable of handling the data from hundreds or even thousands of users in real-time. This cannot be performed over wireless connections alone.
Connector manufacturers like Samtec are already providing connectors that will provide up to 28 Gigabits per second bandwidth per channel, and are actively working on connectors that will be performing at several times this speed. At these data rates, connectors need to be designed with great care to ensure the signal integrity (SI) of the torrent of data they must carry.
Alongside conventional connectors, precision RF (radio frequency) connectors will use coaxial technology for high-speed signals, and for data over great distances, fibre optics are the ideal choice. All rely on physical connections to provide the reliability that modern telecommunications demand. For the time being, connectors will continue to have a role to play.
With the increasingly connected wireless world, data security is a much-debated topic at the moment. Many of us are happy to use our handheld device to conduct our banking and other tasks, including the use of mobile technology in the healthcare sector. Service providers are always developing new methods to prevent unwanted access to sensitive networks.
However, despite the best encryption, sometimes the best way to ensure the security of a broadcast is not to make one at all. Wired connections do have the potential to be intercepted, as electricity running through cables emit radiation that can be detected. However, this usually requires the snooper to be in close contact with the cable itself. As a result, if an operator wanted to create a secure communications link, a physical connection is an ideal solution.
Physical cables - the path to security?
Secure shielding provides not only protection from outside interference but also helps prevent the emission of radiation from which unauthorised individuals could detect the signals travelling along the cable. When creating connections for secure networks, careful consideration needs to be made of the types of connectors to be employed. Not only does the connector itself need to be fitted with a metal shield, but the method used to terminate the cable needs to provide similar protection. This is where the connector backshell becomes a vital component.
Circular connectors have long been popular for this type of application, with products like the LEMO T-Seriesoffering EMI protection from its integral brass housing. However, many military-qualified circular connectors are not provided with an integral backshell, resulting in the need for a shielded cable adaptor such as those provided by POLAMCO, part of the TE Connectivity range . These are accessories that provide shielded protection to the rear of the connector itself.
The same is true of rectangular connectors. The ever-popular D-subminiature connector, with its tin-plated shell, is ideally suited for secure communication links, but in common with its circular counterparts, it needs a backshell to provide the complete protection required. Once again, the POLAMCO range offers a number of alternatives for all of the popular D-sub connector types.
Here to Stay
Over the coming decade, many of the devices that we take for granted will become part of our networked lives. Household appliances, methods of transportation, and industrial devices will all be connected together as the lines between the producer and the consumer blur. Wireless connectivity will be part of the backbone of these networks.
However, there will be a place for connectors. Whether high-power, high-speed, or high-security, physical connectors will be an integral part of every network. Make sure you consider the widest possible choice before deciding on your solution.