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Design of Data Display Boards With Wireless Control

K Ediriweera, J P D S Athuraliya
Abstract: Applications implementing low power RF wireless technology are entering peoples day-to-day life and every corner of society with ever increasing acceptability. Low power wireless systems usually transmit less than 1mW of power and do not require user licenses for operation. These systems operate over short ranges of 5 to 100 meters, depending on the application. Today, the lions share of low power RF wireless systems provides one-way, unidirectional transmission. These systems tend to be control-oriented and are extensively employed in the automotive, home and building automation sectors, where the correct operation is visually or audibly apparent to the operator. This paper presents the design & development of a tennis scoreboard, with low power RF wireless control using unidirectional transmission and the solutions for primary design challenges. The design can be modified or customized for the development of many other types of scoreboards and data display boards. Keywords: Wireless, Scoreboard



operates as a plug and play unit with wireless control. The following sub sections provide a detailed description of each of the two main hardware units. 2.1 Data Display Board

Applications implementing low power RF wireless technology are entering peoples dayto-day life and penetrating into many new areas with ever increasing acceptability. The term low power or short-range wireless (SRW) is intended to cover radio transmitters that have little capability of causing interference to other radio equipment. They usually transmit less than 1mW of power and do not require user licenses for operation. The aim of this project was to design and develop a laboratory scale Wireless Data Display system using low power RF technology. This paper commences with a description of the two units that comprises of the Wireless Data Display system. Then it describes how the system specifications were decided to satisfy the system requirements. The paper then presents the functional description of the system, including the microcontroller-based encoder and decoder. Finally, the paper describes the firmware implementation, followed by the results and the conclusion.

Figure 1 Arrangement of Displays in the Data Display Board The prototype Data Display Board was designed as suitable for a tennis scoreboard. The figure 1 shows the arrangement of LED displays in the prototype. It consists of three, 16-segment alpha-numeric LED displays for each team name, two-digit 7-segment LED displays for game score of each team and single-digit 7-segment LED displays for each of the five sets in each team. The LED displays are


System description

The two main hardware units, which comprise of this system, are the Data Display Board and the Control Console. The wireless link between the two hardware units eliminates any in between cables. The Data Display Board 1

Eng. K Ediriweera, B.Sc. Electronic and Telecom. Eng. (Hons), C.Eng., MIE(SL), Senior Research Engineer, Electronic and Microelectronic Division, Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies(ACCIMT), Katubedda, Sri Lanka. J P D S Athuraliya, B.Sc. Electronic and Telecom. Eng. (Hons), C.Eng., MIEE, Research Engineer, Electronic and Microelectronic Division, Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies(ACCIMT), Katubedda, Sri Lanka.

approximately 6 cm tall and the illumination can be adjusted to eight levels. 2.2 Control Console The Control Console facilitates system setup and data updating, via an AT keyboard. A 16x2 character, alphanumeric Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is provided for visual feedback of current setup information and the data entered. The function keys of the AT keyboard are used as function keys of the control console for, Set Illumination Level, Team Selection, Edit Team Name and selection of Set1 to Set5 for editing score of the particular set. The ENTER key is used as the confirmation key to transmit the entered data to the Data Display Board.

level of security required is dependent on the application and customer demands. For instance, a utility meter reading system may require little or no security features whereas automobile access and home security alarm systems will require more. Since this project is an application where the correct operation is visible to the operator, the system needs no security features such as data encryption. 3.3 Unidirectional Versus Bi-directional Transmission Unidirectional transmission systems require less hardware, but have the disadvantage of lack of feedback, in case of transmission errors or loss of data. However, any transmission errors or loss of data in this system is visually apparent to the operator. Therefore any such errors can be corrected immediately by retransmission of data, making a unidirectional transmission adequate for this application.


System Parameter Selection

3.1 Selection of Frequency Band The enormous popularity of wireless communication is a direct consequence of international agreements to designate certain regions of the radio spectrum as ISM bands, since widespread use of wireless connectivity would otherwise never have been possible. ISM stands for Industrial, Scientific & Medical, which means radio services in these fields. The ISM bands can be used without a license, and they are subject to relatively little regulation. The main restrictions are related to the maximum transmitted power and (naturally) the bandwidth, which must be kept within certain limits [7]. Besides the traditional 27-MHz ISM band (used for CB radio), there are now ISM bands in the 433 MHz, 868 MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz regions. For systems that require both wider range and lower power, the sub-1-GHz bands remain compelling due to reduced co-existence issues and greater transmission range, as both of these affect power consumption. The 433 MHz band is one option for global usage. Even though, less than 2 MHz of bandwidth is available, applications such as voice, video, audio and continuous data transmission are typically not allowed in this band [7], thus restricting its use. As a result, it is more commonly used for keyless entry systems and basic telecontrol. Thus the 433 MHz band was selected for this telecontrol application also. 3.2 System Security Requirements In many of the applications using low power RF, different levels of security are required. The 2


Functional Description

Figure 2 illustrates the functional block diagram of the Wireless Data Display system.
Data Display Board

Control Console Figure 2 - Functional Block Diagram

4.1 Control Console The PIC16F876 [1] microcontroller of the Control Console interfaces the AT keyboard, LCD display and the wireless subsystem. The microcontroller wakes up from sleep state whenever a key is pressed and performs the routine corresponding to the pressed key. It sends the processed data to the Hitachi 44780 based LCD controller in 4-bit mode using a 6wire interface. It encodes the data confirmed by the operator and sends to the wireless subsystem as a data stream of approximately 1 kHz rate. The wireless subsystem consisting of a telecontrolli RT4-433.92 RF Transmitter module (with SAW Resonator) [5] and a whip antenna [8] made as a trace on PCB, transmits the Amplitude Shift Key (ASK) modulated data to the Data Display Board at a stable resonant frequency of 433.92 MHz. 4.1.1 Microcontroller-Based Encoder The encoder uses a transmission format without any encryption of data. As the maximum data rate of the Radio transmitter module is 2 kHz, a data rate of 1 kHz was selected for this application. Transmission format: Figure 3 illustrates the transmission format of the microcontroller-based encoder and the PWM format of a bit.

(ii) A code word, which is a string of 32 Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) bits, each bit consisting of three elements. The first element is high, the second (shaded element in figure 3) contains the data transmitted and is either high or low, and the third element is always low. The elemental period for a data rate of 1 kHz is approximately 330 ms. (iii) A guard period, which is a time gap kept between transmissions. 32-bit code word organization: Figure 4 illustrates the organization of the code word. Serial number 8 bits Information bits - Function code - Status - Parity Data -

5 bits 1 bit 2 bits 16 bits

Figure 4 Code Word Organization The units serial number is transmitted with every transmission and serves to identify the transmitting unit to the receiving unit. The function code gives an indication of the type of data. The status bit indicates whether the transmission contains new data or repeated data. LOGIC 1 LOGIC 0 4.2 Data Display Board The core of the Data Display Board unit is a PIC16F876 [1] microcontroller with 8kB of programmable Flash memory, internal data EEPROM and the synchronous serial port required for interfacing the display drivers. The microcontroller interfaces 01 no. MAX6954 [2] alphanumeric display driver and 02 nos. MAX7219 [3] seven-segment display drivers in SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) mode. The microcontrollers external interrupt pin is used

TE - Basic pulse element width TBP - PWM bit pulse width

Figure 3 - Transmission Format The transmission format has three main parts: (i) A preamble, consisting of alternate on and off periods, each lasting as long as a single elemental period. 3

to interface the telecontrolli RR3-433.92 [4] Super Regenerative RF Receiver module. The microcontroller wakes up from sleep state whenever a valid low to high is received from the wireless subsystem. It decodes the 32-bit code word, checks validity of code word and sends data to the display driver relevant to the function code. 4.2.1 Microcontroller-Based Decoder The decoder routine samples the input line from the wireless subsystem based on an algorithm to match the 1 kHz data rate employed by the encoder. Elemental periods outside the capture range of the algorithm (either too long or too short) are rejected since they would be due either to noise or interference.


: Receives the scan codes bit by bit from AT keyboard. Implemented as the Interrupt Service Routine. DcodeKeyData module : Decodes the scan codes received from AT keyboard. Main module : Processes the function keys and data received from the keyboard. Calls the Encoder and LcdWrite modules appropriately. TxEncoder module : Prepares the 32 bit code word. LcdWrite module : Updates the current mode settings and/ or displays the data entered from the keyboard which are to be transmitted 5.2 Data Display Board The firmware of the Data Display Board is implemented using several modules. The functions of main firmware modules are described below. Initialisation modules : Initialise the system settings and peripherals. There are 04 modules related to initialisation of peripherals: SPI mode, 02 types of display drivers and displays. Main module : Processes the function code and carries out the display updating and illumination control functions. DisplUpdate7Seg : Updates the relevant 7-segment displays with the new data values DisplUpdate16Seg : Updates the relevant 16-segment displays with the new data values PicE2Write : Updates the display data saved in PIC EEPROM PicE2Read : Reads the last display data saved in PIC EEPROM RxDecoder module : Samples and captures the bit values and 4

Figure 5 Sampling Points Used in Decoder Algorithm Figure 5 illustrates the sampling points used in the decoder algorithm. Three samples after the first rising edge following the preamble are taken. The first sample is taken half an elemental period after the rising edge, the second, one elemental period later and the third, another one elemental period later, while the in between change of states are also monitored for synchronising the elemental periods. If either the first or the third sample is not as expected, the attempt at capturing a transmission is abandoned. If all 32 bits have been captured in the above manner, and the parity bits are valid, the transmission is assumed correct.


Firmware Modules

5.1 Control Console The Control Console firmware is implemented using several modules. The functions of main firmware modules are described below. Initialisation module : Initialise the system settings and peripherals


PulseVal CalParity


decodes the code words. Implemented as the Interrupt Service Routine and uses the following modules for its implementation: : Samples and captures the bit values of preamble and checks for validity. : Samples and captures the bit values : Calculates the parity of the received code word. : Compares the calculated parity bit with the transmitted parity bit for data validity


Maxim Integrated Products, MAX6954 Data Sheet, California, USA, 2005, Rev. 2. Maxim Integrated Products, MAX7219/ MAX7221 Data Sheet, California, USA, 2003, Rev. 4. Telecontrolli S.r.l., RR3-XXX Data Sheet, Italy. Telecontrolli S.r.l., RT4-XXX Data Sheet, Italy. Embedded Control Handbook, Microchip Technology Inc., Document # DS00661A, 1997. Maxim Integrated Products, Where to Go for Regulations Concerning Short-Range Devices (SRD), Application Note 1772, California, USA , Oct 2002. Telecontrolli S.r.l., Antenna Design Considerations, Application Note, Italy.









The correct functionality of the wireless subsystems was tested using a temporary hardware set up on breadboard, 7-segment LED displays and the completed firmware modules related to the data encoding in the Control Console, and the data decoding in the Data Display Board. The firmware modules for interfacing of AT keyboard, LCD, 16-segment alphanumeric display drivers and 7-segment display drivers were tested separately. Hardware circuits for driving large sized 16segment displays were tested using the corresponding firmware.



The system described above is one of the many applications using low power RF wireless technology. The design can be modified or customized for the development of scoreboards for different types of sports and many other types of data display boards. Further, the wireless subsystem designed can be used for the development of other telecontrol and automation systems locally.

1. Microchip Technology Inc, PIC16F87X Data Sheet, California, USA, 2001.