Ionocom Communications Inc


Ionocom has worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from military battery systems to guitar pre-amplifiers. Shown below is a selection of representative projects.

Consumer - Mice, Keyboards, iPod Accessories

This keyboard encoder was designed for a miniature keyboard for use with Palm and PocketPC PDAs, using an IrDA infrared link between keyboard and PDA. Important characteristics are small size, very low power consumption for long term operation from a single AA cell, and low manufacturing cost. Ionocom designed the electronics and worked closely with other companies providing industrial design and software development. This consumer product was manufactured offshore in very high volumes.

This printed circuit assembly incorporates a laser-based motion sensor and a 2.4GHz wireless link to form the basis of a laser wireless USB computer mouse. Ionocom designed the hardware and wrote the firmware. The design achieves good wireless range with a low-cost printed circuit antenna, and achieves good battery life despite the demands of the laser sensor.

This FM transmitter operates in the 88-108MHz broadcast band and allows audio from an iPod to be received by a domestic or car radio. A novel feature of the design is the use of the display of the iPod itself to provide the user interface, avoiding the need for a separate LCD. This, and the compact PCB layout, provided the client with the smallest device on the market, perfectly complementing the iPod nano. This consumer product was designed for low-cost, high volume offshore manufacture.

This FM transmitter operates in the 88-108MHz broadcast band and allows audio from an iPod to be received by a car radio. It includes a power supply to allow the iPod to be charged from the vehicle's cigarette lighter socket. The design provided the client with a great-sounding, competitive unit that also includes a first-to-market feature that sends artist and song information to RDS-equipped radios.

This FM transmitter allows audio from an iPod to be received by a car radio, transmits song information via RDS and provides for iPod charging. It also includes a custom backlit LCD. The design can be configured in various different ways allowing the client to produce a family of products with different feature sets.

Ionocom designed enhancements to an existing iPod speaker/dock product to add an FM radio tuner, user interface features on the display of the iPod itself, and an infrared remote control (the printed circuit board for the remote control is shown here). Ionocom designed the circuit additions and wrote the firmware. The enhancements allowed to client to refresh the product with valuable new features whilst keeping costs low.

Professional - Audio

This pre-amplifier for a new electric guitar pickup was developed to provide new blending and switching features. The design solved several electrical and mechanical problems, allowing the client to expand his product range with a unit attractive to top musicians. Ionocom's analog design experience produced a design that "sounds good" whilst keeping complexity down.

This hexaphonic pre-amplifier for piezo-electric guitar pickups provides six independent outputs, one for each string, and allows the guitar to be connected to an external MIDI converter or a sophisticated sound processor. The unit also provides blending & switching features and integrates with the client's existing pre-amplifier, producing a solution that is significantly cheaper than competitive units.

Whereas the two previous piezo-electric guitar pickup pre-amplifier boards were designed for a retail application, these printed circuit assemblies were designed to incorporate the same functionality in a form-factor suitable for use in a factory-fit application. This allowed Ionocom's client to sell to both retail and OEM customers.

Using custom stacked pots this parametric tone control for piezo-electric guitar pickups provides bass, treble and sweepable mid-range controls in addition to volume adjustment for analog and MIDI signals.

Professional - Radio Communications

This miniature transmitter was designed for an asset tracking application. The unit includes a fully synthesised transmitter and a microcontroller. Transmitting into a built-in loop antenna the unit operates on two channels around 433MHz, and was designed to meet both FCC and European regulatory standards. Important characteristics for the client were long battery life and small size.

This ultra-miniature 433MHz receiver was designed to fit inside the battery pack of a consumer cell-phone, to add proprietary features without enlarging the form-factor. It measures just 40mm x 50mm and is less than 3mm thick, including the antenna and screening can. Designed to meet FCC and European standards, the board consumes minimal current and interfaces with custom software running in the phone.

This miniature 433MHz, dual channel receiver was designed to meet both FCC and European regulatory standards. Using one-third the current and occupying significantly less volume than a previous single channel product, the dual channel receiver doubles the probability of receiving a transmission.

This printed circuit assembly is the heart of a microprocessor-based desktop unit that includes a radio receiver, large amounts of Flash memory for storage of events, a telephone modem for communication with a central office, provision for connection of an internal cellular modem, and both mains and battery power supplies. The design also included a display and keypad board (not shown). The unit achieves a battery run-time more than three times longer than the client's previous design. The unit was designed to meet international safety standards.

This printed circuit assembly incorporates an off-the-shelf cellular modem module together with a custom switched-mode power supply and a tri-band (900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz) antenna. The unit provides communications over CDMA or GSM cellular networks. Ionocom selected the modem module and antenna, designed the power supply electronics, and optimised the antenna matching through careful positioning in the enclosure.

This interface board allowed an Iridium satellite communications module to be added to a desktop communications unit that had previously only supported PSTN and cellular phone communications. To meet the client's tight deadline Ionocom took this product from requirement to working prototype in just two weeks.

This handheld device includes a 433MHz transceiver for communicating with asset tags, a 2.4GHz Bluetooth transceiver for communicating with a Windows Mobile handheld, and a 13.56MHz near-field inductive link. Ionocom designed the electronics and the mechanics, including tuning of the antennas in the enclosure. Designed to meet FCC and European standards (not easy with three co-sited radios), the device is significantly more robust than the client's previous design.

This miniature 433MHz transceiver was designed for an asset tracking system. It includes a bi-directional radio link for robust communications and was designed to meet FCC and European regulatory standards. The device was designed to be significantly smaller and easier to manufacture than the client's previous product.

Also designed for an asset tracking system, this device incorporates a 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver. Ionocom designed the electronics and worked closely with the mechanical designers on the design of the custom plastic enclosure.

This portable device receives transmissions from asset tags via a ZigBee transceiver, tracks location with a GPS receiver and communicates to a central office via a dual-band CDMA cellular modem. The device includes three seperate antennas in a small custom plastic enclosure together with a lithium ion battery.


This voltage regulator was designed to provide power conditioning, protection, state-of-charge monitoring, and a user interface for a consumer magnesium-air fuel cell product. Ionocom worked closely with the client on all aspects of the product's electrical design, and also worked with the mechanical and industrial designers on integration.

This board monitors pressure sensors in an industrial HVAC setting, providing a user display and outputs (voltage and 4-20mA) for remote monitoring. The design is more configurable and provides improved accuracy and robustness compared with the client's previous product.

This microprocessor controlled data storage module was developed in just six weeks to assist a client in meeting their very aggressive project timescale. The project included high-speed digital PCB layout; assembly of prototypes using Ionocom's surface mount assembly and microscopic inspection facilities; and temperature testing in Ionocom's environmental chamber. Ionocom also wrote engineering test firmware and designed an engineering test jig.

Industrial and Military - Batteries

Several printed circuit assemblies have been developed to reduce production costs for high-volume military batteries. Ionocom's changes to the protection circuitry produced considerable simplification of the assembly process. Ionocom worked closely with the client to design a switch mechanism that is reliable and simple to manufacture.

This sophisticated printed circuit assembly was designed to be incorporated in the latest generation of military batteries. The microcontroller-based unit not only provides protection and control functions, it also implements a State Of Charge Indicator that provides an LCD readout and an SMBus Smart Battery interface. Ionocom designed the hardware and wrote the firmware. Ionocom also provided a PC-based system for factory programming of the configurable parameters.

This board was designed to fit inside a lithium-ion battery pack. It contains a standard protection circuit, plus a sophisticated charge control circuit that allows the pack to be charged from the end-user's existing Ni-Cd chargers. The product allows Ionocom's client to sell lithium-ion packs into a new market, and provides end-users with improved run-time without having to replace fielded chargers. The design incorporates a flexible circuit that folds up inside the pack, making the connections to the batteries and external terminals, resulting in savings in size and assembly costs.

This board was designed to fit inside a high-current lithium-ion battery pack intended for an industrial application. The board provides a standard protection circuit that handles the high currents required.

This board was designed to fit inside the battery pack for an ocean-going sonar bouy. It provides over-current protection and state-of-charge monitoring.

This board controls a battery backup power supply for telecom applications. The board includes the battery charger and microprocessors that control the charge and discharge of the Ni-MH battery pack and provide a user interface and alarm outputs. The board also provides an Ethernet interface that supports TCP/IP, DHCP, Telnet, HTTP and SNMP which allows status to be monitored on a web page or via SNMP. Ionocom designed the hardware and wrote the firmware.

Prior to founding Ionocom, the partners gained extensive experience in electronic product design, and RF design in particular.

Both partners played a major role in the development of the high-band VHF variant of the successful Scope Shield II handheld radio, which has been sold in significant numbers to the US Air Force.

A major project in Nick Massey's professional career has been the Panther-H frequency hopping HF transceiver. Consuming many man-years of innovative research and careful product development, including several custom ASICs, Nick led the project from inception through to production. He holds several patents related to innovative techniques used in the design.

Both partners have worked on, and led teams, designing a wide variety of different products, including a Rayleigh fading simulator for cellphone testing, an electronic safe lock, a packet data radio system, cell-planning and channel-access studies for cellular networks, a low-cost VHF radio data terminal, a secure handheld VHF frequency hopping radio, a 125W HF transceiver with automatic link establishment, an HF radio-based email system, an automatic antenna tuning unit, a radio voice and data interface, an antenna multiplexer, an RF-shielded field telephone, a receiver/exciter, and DSP-based radio modems.