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The magazine of record for the embedded computing industry

November 2011


vs MicroTCA Pushes Against VPX in Military Apps Security: A SystemsOriented Issue Thunderbolt Bids for Serial Interconnect Solutions An RTC Group Publication

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6Editorial Fast Serial Interconnects—Will They Bypass Embedded or Bring it Along? 8

Industry Insider Latest Developments in the Embedded Marketplace

12 & Technology 56Products Newest Embedded Technology Used by Industry Leaders Small Form Factor Forum Auld Lang SFF


Technology in Context


Stackable vs. COM: What’s the Best Choice?

Video and Display Technology Gets Smarter


An Aerial View of COMs vs. SBCs from 30,000 Feet Bob Burkle, WinSystems

Peter Mandl, Advanced Micro Devices

Video Takes Airborne (about What Goes) Inside 42Embedded Surveillance to New Heights the Box 26 Thinking Martin Mayer, Advanced Digital Logic



Extending Electronic Functionality with Printed Electronics and Printed Memory Jennifer Ernst, Thinfilm Electronics

High-Speed Interconnects


and Display Technology at 36Video the Intersection of Full Multimedia Immersion

Thunderbolt: A Potential HighSpeed, Multiprotocol Serial Interconnect Tom Williams

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Key Steps to Address Security 46Four Threats in Embedded Systems Dominic Tavassoli, IBM Rational

Industry watch MicroTCA Comes on Strong

Challenges VPX-Based 50MicroTCA Systems for Military Applications Mark Leibowitz, Robert Saracino and Jon Leach, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems and Saeed Karamooz, VadaTech RTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011



NOVEMBER 2011 Publisher PRESIDENT John Reardon,

Editorial EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Tom Williams, CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Colin McCracken and Paul Rosenfeld MANAGING EDITOR Sandra Sillion, COPY EDITOR Rochelle Cohn



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Fast Serial Interconnects— Will They Bypass Embedded or Bring it Along?


t has long been a truism that a great deal of embedded technology has derived from things originally developed for the PC. A big factor in this has, of course, been cost. Once an interface technology, a connector, or an interconnect is adapted into the PC world with its huge volumes, costs plummet making it attractive for other uses and, where technically appropriate, these naturally include embedded. This has certainly been the case with a number of serial interconnect technologies such as USB and PCI Express. Both of these have been enthusiastically embraced by the embedded computing industry and are today almost universal due to their costs, low power requirements, small size, speed and utility for moving data between modules and peripherals. Both are backed by industry consortia—the PCI SIG and the USB Implementers Forum—which support the technologies for large numbers of members across PC, enterprise, embedded and more in both groups. For these members the world is not standing still, and both of these along with other serial interconnects are continuing to strive for higher speeds. Ethernet is getting to 100 Gbit/s as well. USB 3.0 now hits 5 Gbit/s and PCIe 3.0 is hitting a nominal rate of 8 Gbit/s and that is on one lane (x1). For high-speed graphics and other demanding applications, it can go to x16. Now Intel is actively promoting its Thunderbolt interconnect, which clocks in at 10 Gbit/s, and the PCI SIG has let it be known that it is working on a PCIe 4.0 spec that is targeted to get to 16 Gbit/s. Technically, PCI SIG talks in transfers (GT/s) because there are coding and other issues that can add some overhead to the actual transmission of data. But you get the point. PCI SIG President Al Yanes notes that the higher speeds are addressing an ever narrower area on the pyramid of application performance requirements. The question is, does that observation apply to the short term only, or to the long term? Application requirements have a way of expanding to utilize all the available performance—it’s just that we do not yet know what those requirements will be. The tip of that pyramid may not always be so narrow. Our question, of course, is how these developments apply to embedded systems. My own take on that is that the ever-increas-



Tom Williams Editor-in-Chief

ing speeds will not mean much to what we consider “typical” embedded systems. But that does not necessarily apply to nontypical embedded systems, those we may not have thought of yet, or have failed to recognize as falling into our esoteric realm. The faster speeds will, of course, provide better assurance of performance approaching real-time if not strictly deterministic levels. That would, however, apply to the sort of commands and data used by traditional control systems and these—at least those we are currently familiar with—are rarely overwhelming in their bandwidth demands. The big consumer of bandwidth is well known to be high resolution video and graphics. Video and graphics are currently not that big a part of “traditional” embedded systems—at least not in ABS braking systems or machine tool controllers. Nonetheless, developers are starting to become aware of some of the possibilities. As embedded systems with multiple nodes connected via high-speed networks deliver more data, even in amounts that can be handled by current interconnects, there is increasing motivation to present that data in graphical form that can be dealt with interactively by the user. That will run up the bandwidth requirements big time if it happens. At this point, the higher speed interconnects will service consumer requirements for PCs and tablets. But we are seeing such devices as the iPhone and the iPad starting to serve as user interfaces for applications in embedded and medical arenas. The embedded systems that deliver data to such interfaces will—I predict—eventually be required to serve it up over the higher speed serial interconnects and also over wireless networks, which will have to keep up with those bandwidth requirements. So maybe those roaringly fast interconnects will bypass our “traditional” embedded systems for a while, but just wait. A new generation of users weaned on the interactive video/graphical devices in their daily lives will soon begin to demand that they be able to interact with their work environments and with industrial systems the same way. And that use of graphical and video data will not only be implemented to satisfy those demands, it will also make the industrial systems they support more powerful as well.







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INSIDER NOVEMBER 2011 Open-Silicon Licenses Broad Range of ARM Technology ARM and Open-Silicon have signed a comprehensive multi-year licensing agreement for a broad portfolio of ARM technology. This includes ARM Cortex processors and associated ARM Processor Optimization Packs (POPs), ARM Mali Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and ARM system IP. The latter includes ARM CoreLink interconnect and CoreSight debug and trace technology. The agreement enables Open-Silicon to offer customers a “one-stop-shop” where access to the latest ARM technology is complemented by the provision of SoC design, hardening, prototyping, software development and manufacturing services. Open-Silicon will use ARM technology to provide complete design and development services for low-power chip solutions focusing on the networking, telecommunications, storage and computing markets. The combination of Open-Silicon’s SoC development capabilities and design experience with ARM technology will enable customers to benefit from a faster time-to-market and result in a more optimal solution. Open-Silicon’s architects can assist customers with architectural development using performance vs. workload analysis, factoring in throughput and latency criteria to optimize peripheral IP selection. In addition, system security requirements for the protection of high-value data can be met through the careful application of ARM TrustZone technology. Finally, Open-Silicon’s FPGA-based prototyping environments help software teams to engage early, accelerating system development and reducing program risk. To optimize silicon implementation, Open-Silicon can access ARM Processor Optimization Packs (POPs) for Cortex processors, allowing customers to achieve leading performance implementations in a matter of weeks. Open-Silicon will further enhance customers’ results with its patented CoreMAX technology. When combined with Open-Silicon’s low-power solutions, including PowerMAX and VariMAX back biasing, CoreMAX allows customers to achieve market-differentiating performance and power efficiency.

VIA Honored with 7 First Ever “Taiwan Green Classics Awards”

VIA Technologies has been honored with seven “Taiwan Green Classics Awards” from the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Taiwan Green Classics Awards were created to recognize the best green products and services provided by Taiwanese corporations. The awards ceremony was held on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 in the Taiwan World Trade Center, Hall 1 from 10-11 a.m. VIA received awards for seven of its products, including the VIA Quadcore processor, VIA dual core processors (the VIA Nano X2 and the VIA Eden X2), the VIA VX900 MSP, the VIA VX11 MSP, the VIA ARTiGO A1100 compact system, the VIA EPIA-P720 PicoITX mainboard and the VIA ART5450 in-vehicle system. The awards were rewarded based on criteria broken into four categories, including Products and Services Green



Value, Green Supply Chain Management, Innovative Technology and Green Marketing, and Corporate Social Responsibility. “VIA is honored to receive these awards recognizing VIA’s commitment to Green business initiatives,” said Epan Wu, head of the VIA Embedded Platform Division, VIA Technologies, Inc. “VIA has been a long-time industry leader in the development of low-power environmentally friendly products and is dedicated to further building on this leadership in the future.”

Android Market Reaches Half a Million Successful Submissions

The competition between Apple and Android apps continues to heat up. The actual total number of applications published in the Android Market leapt to over 500,000 in September 2011. In the meantime, the Apple App Store stands at just over 600,000 successful submissions: just 20%

more. But over 37% of the applications published were later removed from the Android Market for various reasons, whereas the Apple App Store has removed just 24% of published apps in comparison, as of the end of September. Although Apple regularly cleans up its store from inappropriate or outdated content, its active application share still exceeds that of Android. It is likely that the more rigid application submission requirements prevent developers from publishing multiple trial or low quality applications whereas publishers in the Android Market place a lot of market testing, trials, demo and malware content. Over 78% of the apps removed from the Android Market were free, which could mean that publishers put more effort into the applications they place with the pay-per-download business model, thus ensuring that it is kept longer in store. Android developers appear to be more productive than Apple’s.

The average publisher on Android has placed more than 6 applications in the Market since launch, compared to just over 4 apps on average that have been published by iOS developers. Over the past few months, the Android Market has been maintaining an exponential growth, but is still lagging behind the app store market leader, Apple. In Q3 of 2011, the number of active mobile applications in the Android Market stood at 319,161 compared to 459,589 in Apple App store.

Grant to Allow Development of Techniques to Use GPS Indoors, Underwater and in Space

An assistant professor of engineering at the University of California, Riverside has received a three-year, $447,000 grant to develop techniques to navigate areas where GPS doesn’t work, such as indoors, underwater and in space. The work by Anastasios Mourikis can be used for navigation indoors by visually impaired people or emergency responders in a burning building or collapsed mine and for small-scale drone surveillance by law enforcement and military personnel. He plans to focus on cell phones because they are so common and also, for the most part, have a camera, which can be used for finding one’s location when GPS is not available. He will develop algorithms that will optimally use the phone’s inexpensive cameras, computing power and limited battery life. At the end of the three-year grant, Mourikis hopes to have a cell phone app that can provide accurate position information in areas where GPS is not available, such as indoors. He plans to implement the algorithms using open-source software that will be made available on the Internet for users to install. This will allow the power of “crowd-sourcing” to test the meth-

ods in a large number of situations and accelerate wider adoption of the developed technology. The software will also be instrumental for connecting with K-12 students at local outreach events. Mourikis will collaborate with the Bourns College of Engineering’s Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program, a science and engineering outreach program that serves 19 area schools and works with hundreds of educationally

disadvantaged students to help excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.

ZigBee Alliance Completes ZigBee Building Automation Standard

The ZigBee Alliance has announced it has completed development and ratified the ZigBee Building Automation standard. ZigBee Building Automation is a global standard for interoperable

products enabling the secure and reliable monitoring and control of commercial building systems. It is the only BACnet approved wireless mesh network standard for commercial buildings. Products using ZigBee Building Automation give building owners and operators control of more building types, previously unreachable rooms or sensitive areas, thanks to its lowpower wireless operation. Existing wired BACnet building automation systems can now be expanded

with greater ease and reduced operational cost. The standard was developed by numerous Alliance members, with major assistance coming from Convergence Wireless, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Ingersoll-Rand and Ubilogix. With ZigBee Building Automation, building owners, operators and tenants can create more efficient buildings and benefit from increased energy savings. They can also ensure the lowest lifecycle

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costs with this green and easy-toinstall robust wireless network. ZigBee Building Automation wireless products can contribute toward satisfying credits in the Sustainable Sites, Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality categories of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building certification program. The Alliance expects members to create ZigBee Building Automation products that will become ZigBee Certified.

Global Revenues for Mobile Location Platforms Expected to Grow To €300 Million in 2016

According to a new market report from the telecom research firm Berg Insight, the global market for location-based services (LBS) platforms and middleware will see steady growth in the coming years, with demand primarily driven by emergency call


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and lawful intercept mandates. Annual revenues for mobile location platforms, including A-GPS servers and middleware platforms, are projected to grow from about €150 million in 2010 to €300 million in 2016. Ericsson remains the leading vendor in terms of number of contracts for location platforms, ahead of Nokia Siemens Networks and TeleCommunication Systems. Governments and telecom regulators in many parts of the world are introducing stricter emergency call and lawful intercept mandates that require network operators to invest in location platforms. These mandates typically entail accurate location of any handset deployed and therefore require installation of network-based location technologies. Network-based location technologies also have superior indoor coverage and reliability. Commercial LBS are not likely to have a similar impact on the market for location platforms. Today consumer LBS can rely on alternative

location sources including GPS in the handsets, Wi-Fi location and third-party Cell-ID databases.

Linear Motion Manufacturers Diversify to Stay in the Fast Lane

According to a report from IMS Research, the combined ball screw and linear guide markets are estimated to be worth $3.8 billion, nearly 45% of which came from the large, established sectors making machine tools and semiconductor production equipment. According to “The World Market for Linear Motion Products -2010 Edition” these established markets for linear motion components have fluctuated considerably in recent years. To gain access to stable and high growth revenues, manufacturers of ball screw and linear guide products are seeking out new markets. They are increasingly developing products suitable for the industry sec-

tors that will enjoy stable growth, such as those that produce equipment for pharmaceutical production, agriculture, and food and drink processing. Governmentbacked infrastructure projects, such as in power generation and distribution and mass transportation, will provide stable revenues, even during recession. Companies are also identifying markets offering high initial growth with sustained long-term revenues, in emerging regional markets and markets for new technologies, such as production machinery for lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic panels. James Dawson, the author of the recently published report, believes that competition within these markets will be fierce. He comments “Many companies are keen to gain a foothold in them, to make up for business lost in the recent downturn and to provide a stable revenue base in future downturns.”

3/31/11 4:26:15 PM














Colin McCracken & Paul Rosenfeld

Auld Lang SFF


hould old form factors be forgot? At SF3, we can think of a few we’d like to forget. Does anybody remember Encore? No? Ten years ago, our hopes of unifying x86 and RISC (MIPS and PowerPC) architectures into a pluggable embedded module format around the ubiquitous parallel PCI bus were dashed by a horrible bed-of-nails pin header implementation and a rival sleek ETX module with the ISA bus. Another nail in the coffin was Encore’s proprietary nature, versus the multi-vendor published ETX “standard.” Few OEMs would take a risk. The rhetorical question is quite serious, actually. We’re taught that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In our market characterized by long design, qualification and production lifecycles, this means that right about now, the wolf is at your door. Our wolf wears many hats. PCI Express 3.0 (“Gen 3”) is gearing up to take the market by storm—or actually, by complete surprise. The slow-moving non-backplane embedded market hasn’t even absorbed Gen 1 yet, much less Gen 2. Will this market jump to Gen 3 and skip the predecessors; just like a third world country skips land lines and installs 3G or 4G wireless? If so, it’s not because the speed is needed. It’s because it’s easy to design in whatever is included for free in upcoming chipsets. Supply-side economics for embedded. The same can be said of USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 at 600 Mbyte/s. Having more speed than needed generates excessive cost and heat and makes designs trickier, but we all have very little say in this matter. What’s certain is that industry trade groups ought to get ahead of the curve this time and select and qualify connectors with sufficient signal integrity support, because “getting lucky” is not going to happen this time around. And the time to do this is yesterday. At the same time, it is counterproductive to continue to splinter the stackables market with new, incompatible connectors and/ or more pinout types. System OEMs are not asking for more (or faster) PCIe lanes when their task at hand is to replace an EOL CPU card (with perhaps ISA and parallel PCI) with a drop-in software-friendly replacement. COMs can get away with multiple pinout definitions because they do not have an I/O card ecosystem—every carrier board



implementation is custom and unique. Stackables, on the other hand, must preserve and expand the off-the-shelf plug-compatible I/O card base to support the concept of rapid time-to-market for low volume applications—their main advantage over COMs. There is simply no magic reset button to start the 20-year process all over again. Our wolf, disguised in sheep’s clothing, may bring processor gifts as well. Make no mistake about the role of the de facto standard PC and its disk operating system (DOS) in shaping the embedded computer / SBC market. The recipe for success included processor/chipset production lifecycle commitments, rich application ecosystem, and low-cost development tools due to the selfhosted development environment. Code compiled on the desktop could run on the embedded target without the need for custom device drivers, cross-compilation or JTAG-based host-target debuggers. Thirty years of unification created a multi-billion dollar SBC market. Now we’re hearing more about a new off-the-shelf platform to challenge x86? The wolf at the embedded door is ARM. Success of smartphones, readers and tablets has not gone unnoticed by Microsoft. In turn, the support promise of Windows 8 has not gone unnoticed by board manufacturers. 2012 could spark a whole new gold rush far more forceful than the form factor forking caused by the Atom launch a few years ago. The interesting dynamic will be whether history repeats itself. Some manufacturers will coalesce around new standards for ARM platforms (as was done by the Q7 club for Atom) while others will try to blaze a proprietary trail once again. It’s no small feat to deal with the inconsistent buses and peripheral ports of RISC SoCs, as we learned with Encore. The market has the final say, of course, about which platforms, form factors and pinout types survive, and which fade away into oblivion to become the next Auld Lang SFFs. As we prepare for another holiday season and the closing of another year, let us reflect upon the lessons of history in order not to be lured into traps again. While “interoperability” is still king, well-managed standards groups and the broad participation by members can tame that wolf.

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editor’s report High-Speed Interconnects

Thunderbolt: A Potential High-Speed, Multiprotocol Serial Interconnect With video and graphics content growing in all application areas including embedded, is there a role for another high-speed interconnect that can transfer a variety of other protocols at 10 Gbit/s? by Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief


nce upon a time there was LightPeak. LightPeak was/is Intel’s bid to bring optical interconnect technology into the personal computer realm. Introduced in 2009, LightPeak was technically successful. It initially operated at 10 Gbit/s with the solid plans to go to 100 Gbit/s, leapfrogging the speed of copper wire connections. A 12 mm x 12 mm module that included an optical module and an optical IC connected the lasers, the photo detectors and the optical cables using off-the-shelf parts. Intel was also hard at work doing research to integrate these onto a single silicon chip. The idea of LightPeak was also to be able to encapsulate and carry multiple different protocols over the same physical link. The market, however much it liked the capabilities of the technology, was not comfortable with the price point and so LightPeak was never widely deployed. Intel continued to look for ways to bring the price point down and decided to work on an electrical solution. In collaboration with Apple, Intel brought the technology to market with an electrical version that is—at 10 Gbit/s—the functional equivalent of LightPeak. It is now deployed in almost all Apple computers and is named Thunderbolt.



The underlying protocol, the capabilities and the speed are identical to the original LightPeak specs, but the connection technology is now a much less expensive electrical technology in which there are no optical transceivers. This was partially accomplished by moving some of the electronics, and hence some of the cost, into the cable. This makes it more palatable to vendors and OEMs because they can build it in and have it as a part of their machine’s features, and then if someone really wants to use it, they can pay a little more for the cable. This electrical version, however, will definitely stay in the 10 Gbit/s range and will not go to the world of 100 Gbit/s envisioned for LightPeak. The Thunderbolt cable carries two fullduplex channels at 10 Gbit/s in each direction. The input and output protocols of the Thunderbolt host and device controllers are PCI Express and DisplayPort. The cables are electrically active with circuitry at each end so that each direction in each channel can be data and/or display. For this reason, the incoming PCIe or DisplayPort protocols are mapped to the Thunderbolt transport protocol, which uses a 4-byte header and 64/66 encoding as opposed to the 8b/10b encoding of the inputs. This transport protocol is

carried between the two—host and device— controllers, where it is translated back into the underlying protocol (Figure 1). Rather than try to build Thunderbolt controllers that could translate a whole bunch of different protocols back and forth between the Thunderbolt transport protocol, Intel chose to use one data and one display protocol. They selected PCIe and DisplayPort as the gateways to the outside and they can use standard PCIe and DisplayPort drivers. There is also a wide variety of low-cost controllers on the market that can translate between these two protocols and most of whatever else would be needed in a system. For example, DisplayPort can easily be translated to HDMI, and PCIe can interface to such things as FireWire, USB 2.0 and 3.0, Ethernet, SATA, RS-232 and more. This relieves the burden of complexity from the Thunderbolt controllers and gives OEMs and users options to select only the interconnects they need. The Thunderbolt controller in the computer supports PCIe Gen 2 with x4. At 5 Gbit/s per lane, that translates into 20 Gbit/s, which would seem to take up the entire capacity of the Thunderbolt cable (2 x 10 Gbit/s each direction). An example of such a controller is shown in Figure 2. The Thunderbolt device controller has interfaces for DisplayPort output and four lanes of PCIe I/O. Those PCIe lanes, however, can connect to very widely available, low-cost interface controllers for a variety of interconnect protocols that connect to the outside by way of their commonly used connector ports. Intel has not given up entirely on the optical technology. The current electrical Thunderbolt cable can extend up to three meters and, connected to a single Thunderbolt connector on a PC, can daisy chain up to six Thunderbolt devices, the last of which can be a native DisplayPort device. By incorporating optical transceivers into the connectors at the end of an optical cable, it would be possible to plug such a cable into the electrical ports of any device and extend the reach of a cable to 50 meters. That will not, however, translate into a faster data rate, which will remain at the 10 Gbit/s capacity of the electrical implementation. According to Jason Ziller of Intel’s Optical I/O Project

editor’s report

Office, media creators are looking for a lighter and less expensive high-speed cable. While it is currently too early to tell, it will be interesting to see if this will constitute a competition to current implementations of PCIe over cable that are being used in such areas as data centers. It is still to be seen whether Thunderbolt will break out into the general market or whether it will remain an Apple-specific interconnect. There have been some ominous rumblings from CEOs in this arena that it is difficult if not impossible to purchase chips from Intel for Thunderbolt without Apple’s approval. If that is indeed the case, it would be a serious impediment to the spread of Thunderbolt to PCs and other system designs. Since a Thunderbolt port is also an option in the new Ultrabook specification being promoted by Intel, this seems like an uncertain situation. It turns out that there is a misunderstanding that has appeared elsewhere in the industry press as well. According to Intel’s Jason Ziller, “We are currently in a situation where we cannot support every request that has come in, since we have had tremendous response to Thunderbolt from the industry. If we sell Thunderbolt chips to a customer, we must be able to provide technical support to them in order for them to develop and ship a certified product. We are currently taking steps to expand our enabling capability next year so that many more customers can develop products. But all of this does not require Apple’s approval. “ This also brings up the question, what does something like Thunderbolt have to do with embedded systems? The answer to that is not yet clear save for the fact that developments in the PC realm, once they become high volume and low cost, tend to migrate to areas of embedded development where they are needed. Such has certainly been the case with PCIe and USB to name a few. That being said, an interconnect like Thunderbolt would seem to appeal to a narrower class of applications that demand very high performance yet, although functionally quite specialized, nonetheless have a large user base. Among these are media creators. Again, this will depend on the technology itself being freely available.

TBT Host Controller

TBT Host Controller Recreated 8b/10b Encoding

Underlying Protocol(s)

Thunderbolt Protocol(s)

Underlying Protocol(s)

Figure 1 The underlying PCIe or DisplayPort protocols are mapped by the Thunderbolt controller into the Thunderbolt transport protocol and then decoded by the destination controller.

Display Panel

USB2 /3 Other PCIe Device

PCIe x1


PCIe x1

Thunderbolt Controller (Device)

DP output

PCIe x1 PCIe x1



USB2 /3

Ethernet Controller


IEEE Fire Wire



Figure 2 The Thunderbolt controller’s external signals are PCIe and DisplayPort. These can be translated by interface controllers in devices or hubs to accommodate the interconnect needs of a wide variety of devices and interconnects.

However, media creators seem very attracted to the light weight and low cost associated with Thunderbolt. As device controllers get built into cameras and other video equipment, it becomes possible to bring video onto a laptop in the field in order to do things that otherwise would require bringing the video into a studio and using a workstation. Some manufacturers are reportedly making devices that perform certain specialized functions that were previously implemented on cards plugged into workstations so that even such targeted functionality becomes available at remote locations, speeding production and lowering costs.

Currently the main applications for Thunderbolt fall into three areas. The first is high-performance storage with high-speed, high-capacity SSDs gaining significant ground. The second is media creation as indicated above and the third is expansion to multifunction devices such as multifunction monitors, I/O expanders such as cards and hubs with different interface connections. With the growing amount of video content and performance beginning to appear in the embedded space, there are an number of high speed connectivity options. It remains to be seen if Thunderbolt will be a part of that. RTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011


Technology in


Stackable vs. COM: What’s the Best Choice?



technology in context

An Aerial View of COMs vs. SBCs from 30,000 Feet SBCs and COM products coexist peacefully in a growing off-the-shelf board market where OEM design expertise, design time frames, and design and product costs drive solutions either to the COM side or the SBC side. Making the right choice can be vital to the success of a project. by Bob Burkle, WinSystems


ystem designers have several viable options for their embedded computer and I/O board architecture. While technical articles, advertisements and datasheets tend to bury designers with product specifications, few resources exist at a higher level to help select architectural approaches first, with the pros and cons of each. The primary reason is that many vendors understandably favor one type or another based upon their current product offering, or have a particular bias toward their strategic product roadmap. Typical articles begin with a block diagram of the architecture showing off-board interface signals then quickly dive-bomb into a product photo and pitch. But the real question facing designers is “what architecture and form factor should I choose as the embedded computer for my project?” The aim of this article is to give enough useful information to build

a high-level project decision framework, prior to committing down a certain path that is costly to change. The overall project or program management targets for development budget (NRE), recurring production unit cost, schedule/TTM (time-to-market), risk, legacy compatibility (hardware and software reuse), size, weight, and CPU and I/O performance combine to point toward either a backplane/card cage architecture, a full custom single board, or a stack of boards. Regardless of whether a backplane-based card cage or a board stack is used, the system OEM can choose from among the methodologies and architectures shown in Figure 1. The full custom option is so unique that it’s not possible to generalize in any meaningful way here. From Figure 1, even with a proficient hardware, firmware, software, and mechanical/thermal team, it still has the highest NRE, time-to-market

and project risks. The third option can be viewed as a cross between the second and fourth, in other words, the SBC is designed to custom requirements rather than a carrier. This option is quite rare in the x86 market due to the vast array of boards on the market from ultra-mobile all the way to server class.

Shift toward COTS and Value-Add

Over the years, budget constraints and consideration of core competencies have turned designers toward industry standards. In particular, more and more designs have changed from in-house proprietary RISC and x86 designs to COTS (commercial off-theshelf) embedded x86-compatible SBCs and COMs. This shift in design methodology brings well-designed, technologically advanced system components at reasonable prices, complete with device drivRTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011


technology in context

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Figure 1 The inverse relationships among the project planning parameters for each design methodology.

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Figure 2 WinSystems’ EPIC form factor SBC with PC/104 and SUMIT stackable expansion card.

ers and application software building blocks and tools. The limited resources and time available to develop an embedded system have decreased significantly, approaching 6-12 months or less in many cases. The popularity of embedded PCs lies in the ability of a user to buy off-the-shelf hardware and apply

specific “know-how” or “value-add” with I/O and software. The result is a better product developed in a shorter period of time. The I/O is usually the sticking point, leading to a decision between the second (COM+carrier) and fourth (SBC+I/O stack) methodologies of Figure 1.

technology in context

Figure 3 LiPPERT’s CoreExpress tiny rugged Atom COM features board-to-board connector pair.

Although most of this article pertains equally to systems that use desktop-compatible expansion cards such as PCI and PCI Express slot cards, the main focus is on small form factor I/O boards in the form of either carrier boards or stackable boards. The Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (SFF-SIG) has standards for both COM and Stackable architectures, and can fulfill the need for a vendorneutral analysis herein.

When to Use Stackables

For a board stack, common approaches include two-high (processor card plus mezzanine) or greater (“stackable”) architectures. In practice, designers sometimes choose a stackable architecture even with zero or one expansion card at the time of first release to leave the door open for future I/O expansion as the system and market require. Ten years ago, stacks of 5-10 PC/104 I/O cards on top of a PC/104 CPU were common. The enormous amount of integration in the latest processors and chipsets has reduced even legacy-oriented (ISA-based)

designs to one- to three-card stacks typically (Figure 2). The legacy PC/104 connector ensures that any single card from 70% of the vast stackable I/O ecosystem plugs right in to round out the needed I/O, whether 16 analog inputs or 32 digital I/O or CAN bus, etc. Multifunction SUMIT-ISM I/O cards add 802.11 WiFi, multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports, GPS receiver and/or serial ports. Stackable SBCs and I/O cards are best used for applications with very standardized types of I/O. This is because of a huge “ecosystem” of I/O modules from many manufacturers, such as serial ports, analog inputs and outputs, digital I/O, CAN bus, 802.11 wireless LAN, Ethernet and video capture (frame grabbers). When the project scope requires quick TTM, the SBC is off-the-shelf, readily available to benchmark application software to develop a demonstration or proof-of-concept. Worst case, rounding out the I/O means designing a simple SUMIT-ISM card, which is much simpler than taking on the power supply, power management and termination of standard

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technology in context

I/O that are unintended burdens passed along to the OEM by COM manufacturers. The value of being up-and-runningon-day-one is “priceless.” Stackable COTS SBCs have a high degree of interoperability with this ecosystem of I/O modules due to the standardized, well proven PC-based buses and interfaces. Even multibus expansion interfaces such as SUMIT pack USB, SPI, I2C, LPC and PCIe into compact 52-pin

high-density connectors. I/O cards that use PCIe, USB, SPI, or I2C endpoints (such as SPI A/D parts from Analog Devices) can directly interface to the chipset through the SUMIT connector pair as if directly on the main board, reducing the complexity and risk of having to interface through overkill, costly and electrically noisy bus bridges. As long as the production volumes are modest and design resources are lim-

ited (typically few or no board-level digital designers in-house), or in the face of evolving system requirements, the stackables approach is a great fit. The unfortunate news with small form factor SBCs and I/O cards is the widespread use of space-efficient pin header I/O connectors rather than large molded PC-style connectors (such as LAN, USB, serial ports, etc.). This leads to cabling out the I/O to a bulkhead or transition board, which is undesirable in terms of additional drawings to create, cables to test, assembly instructions and points of failure. However, in many mil/ aero, naval/marine and transportation markets, isolating the I/O connectors from the sensitive electronics provides a measure of resistance to high shock and vibration. Another caveat exists with I/Oheavy system requirements. In that case, very tall stacks of I/O cards would be required, leading to a chimney form factor system that is awkward to assemble and disassemble for service and repair. Custom carriers would be flat and wide by comparison. Features are often not optimized with stacks, especially in low channel count situations. For example, if four 16-bit analog inputs are required, then three-fourths of a 16-channel card is wasted. This worsens the SWaPaC (size, weight, and power and cost) of the system.

When to Use COMs

Computer-on-Modules (COMs) using high-density surface mount mated pair connectors and even gold-plated edge connectors in sockets are used in both backplane-based architectures and even stackable architectures. With a COM, I/O is brought to a carrier board that is developed by the OEM or by a third-party design house commissioned by the OEM. This custom carrier board is a size that best fits the application and its enclosure or packaging requirements. COMs are very effective for high volume applications, typically 1000-5000 units per year. Also, COMs are preferred for applications where the I/O is so specialized that it’s not available within the stackable ecosystem. Typical examples could include high-speed signal process-


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technology in context

ing such as radar or SIGINT using DSPs and FPGAs, which are too cost-prohibitive to accomplish with stackable cards. Refer to Figure 3 for a ruggedized tiny Atom COM example. The custom carrier board designed for each unique OEM application is perfectly optimized to the exact requirements frozen at that moment in time. To create each carrier, the OEM must have either experienced board designers

in house, or the budget to pay the COM supplier or a neutral third-party design services firm. Either outsource option must be carefully qualified first for the type of design, as hardware and software outside the realm of reference design carriers and PC-style I/O might be beyond the available expertise. COMs are promoted heavily with messages of future-proof upgradability. COMs are a good choice over stack-

ables where fixed and consistent I/O and the ease of moving to the latest processor and chipset are more important than time-to-market. For years, interoperability of modules from different vendors has been the Achilles heel of COM-based designs. From the hardware perspective, multiple incompatible pinout types, finicky power sequencing, power supply stiffness, ACPI resumes from power management states, and reserved pin “cheats” leave the unsuspecting system OEM pouring through volumes of documents from multiple suppliers searching for one or more needles in the haystacks. System integration often resembles plug-and“pray” when it comes to the module’s BIOS firmware properly initializing carrier board ICs. Consider this as one black box talking to another. This is a significant hurdle compared to fully featured motherboards that already come with a working BIOS. The desktop PC architecture was never intended to be carved up in a COM manner.

Applying and Managing Power

SBCs are powered directly from a power supply, whether single voltage DC, wide input range DC, multiple DC supplies with power button control (ATXstyle), or other. A power cable connects the power source to the SBC. On the other hand, COMs are powered through many small fine-pitch pins on the same surfacemount connector(s) as the bus and I/O signals that run between the COM and the baseboard. Therefore, a COM cannot run by itself in a system; it must be part of a minimum two-board solution. The power connector resides somewhere on the baseboard. Enough connector pins must be allocated for power and ground nodes to present low series resistance and inductance for good DC and AC characteristics, to meet bulk current load requirements, and to keep EMI emissions and susceptibility in check. ACPI power management is trickier with COM architectures, as the original standard was developed for motherboards that contain BIOS, OS, chipset, power connector, RAM, video and disk interfaces all on the same board. Whereas embedded SBCs handle most or all of


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technology in context

the issues depending on the intended level of support, COMs that are loosely defined shift the burden from COM supplier to OEM customer to get their custom baseboard working with the “black box” module.

Be Firm with Firmware

When working with a COM manufacturer, be sure to assess the BIOS firmware capabilities and whether they exist locally or overseas. Customizations are commonly needed, but that can really only start with a very clear requirements document, and filling out the vendor’s large questionnaire in as much detail as possible is well worth the back-and-forth time saved. Common BIOS modifications include legacy serial port or super I/O initialization, preventing resource conflicts, working with bus bridges especially with disparate devices behind them, and boot order changes. Debugging POST codes and blue screens can test the abilities of even the most seasoned BIOS engineers. Having a custom BIOS means that the module manufacturer needs to flash it specially for each customer, and sometimes an MOQ (minimum order quantity) applies. Be sure to ask up front. Finally, careful consideration should be given about whether to take up a COM supplier’s offer to design the carrier. While the expertise is helpful, if the business relationship goes south most of the way into the project, the project comes to a grinding halt. A COM supplier is less likely to cooperate with qualifying a competitor’s module than a third-party services firm. Suddenly, what seemed like a multi-source open standard looks not much better than a single-source SBC product. With COMs, system OEMs can expect a major architectural shift every 7-10 years and minor incompatible pinout types every 5 years. History shows that ETX launched in 2000 and was starting to be replaced for new designs by 2007 by COM Express, and PCI Express 3.0 (generation 3) is coming during the next few years. The tight coupling of COM pinouts to chipsets du jour, such as the shift from parallel buses to serial buses and USB 3.0 and DisplayPort, causes


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incompatible bumps in the road such as the Type 2 to Type 6 pinout crossover in 2011. This is quite similar to Socket 370 processors giving way to Socket 478, and of course now the CPUs are 9001100 pins with the memory and graphics controllers from the Northbridge chip merged into the processor. When considering COMs versus Stackables and the inherent risks and tradeoffs as they pertain to project decisions, it is noteworthy to evaluate the standards groups who create and maintain the various standards. While innovation and evolution are essential in the embedded market, it’s up to the users of board-level technology to determine not only whether there is a real operating group behind a website, but also what the chances are of secondsource and replacement products existing 5-7 years later when the inevitable x86 processor and chipset EOLs force upgrades to embedded systems. Even the small market for very-high-performance stackable systems is being fragmented into infinitesimal slices by new pinout types and buses that have no backward compatibility to 70-90% of the ecosystem. This is not to say that large established standards organizations are any more stable and customer-focused in providing smooth migration paths forward. In other words, the stackable bus or the COM pinout type may not exist on new boards 5-7 years from now. WinSystems Arlington, TX. (817) 274-7553. []. See also: Small Form Factor SIG [].

Technology in


Stackable vs. COM: What’s the Best Choice?

Thinking (about What Goes) Inside the Box Selecting a form factor—be it COM, SBC or stackable—involves a host of considerations. These include size, power requirements, thermal management, connector strategies, upgradability, projected volumes and, of course, cost. by Martin Mayer, Advanced Digital Logic


mbedded form factors have continued to evolve and become more powerful as new bus interfaces and circuit technologies mature and graduate from mobile to embedded product sectors. Realized improvements in computational power and available I/O resources open new and niche opportunities and expand the embedded market. Any new project must consider how it will realize CPU and I/O requirements, be it in the form of a single board computer (SBC), computer on module (COM), or a full nies providing solutions now custom design. ion into products, technologies companies. Whether your goal is to research the latest Projects and with limited engineering ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you time or short initial development times you require for whatever type of technology, benefitfor.from choosing an SBC, and productsusually you are searching while resource-rich parallel developFigure 1 ment efforts are often required to rap3.5” US15W PC – Connector Ready “Out of the Box.” idly leverage COM deployments. Given ample resources, it is not uncommon to see proof of concept and prototype tional platforms may enable projects that circuitry and thermal management prior stages implemented using an SBC solu- were otherwise infeasible. to being able to apply power and bring tion while final market volumes are fua system out of reset. Single board comeled by COM designs. Other aspects of Computer or Component puter offerings require only wire-tothe project may restrict or limit platform Single board computers offer com- board or familiar consumer interconnect options, and newly available computa- plementary and competitive functional- before being able to achieve an initial ity to fully realized computer-on-module operational state. offerings. The chief distinction between SBC solutions require an installation Get Connected these families is that a COM requires a envelope that is large enough to allow with companies mentioned in this article. physical host platform, critical additional for a wiring harness interconnect, while

ploration your goal k directly age, the source. ology, d products

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technology in context

model pictured is designed for automation use and features power-fault ridethrough protection. The latest models of 3.5” form factor boards feature PCIe lanes via a riser connector and a flexprint peripheral interconnect for “foldable” stacking options.

connectors are commonplace on the ATX platform as well as on the 3.5” platform in Figure 1. When less than the full smorgasbord of flexibility is needed, a cost savings can be obtained by building-out only the necessary I/O interfaces required by an application. A COM solution improves on a depopulation approach by also optimizing fiberglass usage. Single board computers shrink installed volumes of less than a liter while providing full bandwidth expandability alongside consumer-friendly I/O. Integrated protection circuitry, USB, RS-232, video, Ethernet and other userready I/O ports provided via board-towire interconnect, allow for external connector flexibility. Changing the elements of a cable harness enables Ingress Protection (IP) level 56 and beyond, when required. COM solutions in an application that must exceed IP 30 may no longer benefit from consumer-friendly direct-to-board multi-connectors and the associated printed wire/cable-less system design. In such cases, a designer might implement board-to-wire interconnect on select interfaces, bestowing external connector flexibility to COMbased efforts. Carrier boards in the COM environment are required to provide all protection and signal conditioning circuitry that a deployed interface requires, and this cost cannot be ignored when considering a COM module. Circuit protection devices are a serviceable element, adding another line item to the total cost tally. In many cases, spare interface channels may be included in the layout, and left unpopulated to keep bill-of-materials costs on target. COM solutions can further benefit by limited protection on interfaces that are not exposed to external connection hazards.

It’s about Connections

Mechanics Cool COM

Use Occam’s Razor – Take the Platform Quiz 1. My project needs to be proving itself quickly. 2. High-Speed Design and Layout Tools are readily available. 3. The project runs on current Laptop CPU offerings. 4. Thermal Analysis Models and Tools are readily available. 5. One or more off-the-shelf peripherals round out a system. 6. Custom circuitry performs mission-critical functions. 7. Cable harnesses and interconnects are familiar technologies. 8. There are few external interconnects on my project. 9. Several external interconnects must meet or exceed NEMA 2 or IP30. 10. Internal interconnects predominate, and cable-less is preferred inside. 11. The project is hundreds of units per year and a few thousand units total. 12. The project is thousands of units per year for two or more years. Scoring the quiz: Positive answers to the even numbered questions indicate a project and environment that can leverage the benefits of deploying a COM. Positive answers to only the odd numbered questions indicate a project that may be well served with a stack-based SBC. Those who answer positively to both odd and even questions might start with an SBC and migrate to a COM, while those who answer only the even numbered questions positively are in the camp that can leverage a COM while moving toward a full-custom deployment.


Footprint (mm) Width




Area (cm2)




COM Express






COM Express






COM Express






PC/104 SBC






PC/104 SBC






PC/104 SBC






3.5” SBC












TABLE 1 Size Matters – Footprint and Board Area Comparison.

COM options are affected by the carrier board envelope. The design of a custom carrier board is a significant expense, but it can greatly simplify volume manufacture through a reduction in the number of interconnects required. The 3.5” SBC in Figure 1 is sized physically, between Standard and Extended COM Express offerings. Size comparisons of some of the more popular form factors are given in Table 1. Many of the interconnects and some of the circuitry provided on a 3.5” PC must be provided by a custom carrier board for a COM module to graduate from component to computer. The



Traditional SBC applications leverage the benefit of making substantial I/O available to the end user. Cards provide a bus-based “stack” on ATX boards for customization through a range of offthe-shelf or custom produced missioncritical peripherals. Consumer-friendly

Thermal management in the COM ecosystem is accomplished on an application-specific basis. A standard installed height of 18 mm (with a 21 mm option), and a uniform heatspreader with a minimum thickness of 3 mm, provides a consistent physical thermal interface for a

technology in context

given size COM module. Attachment to the spreader is achieved via M2.5compatible corner holes, which may be threaded or straight through. This arrangement makes the thermal solution size and mounting dependent on the form factor of the COM module. The desired heatspreader—through-hole or threaded, also determines the type of standoff on the carrier board, which is the opposite of the type of standoff in the spreader: • M2.5 Threaded Spreader → 2.7 mm bore hole 5 mm or 8 mm standoff • Bore Hole Spreader → M2.5 threaded board standoff, 5 mm or 8 mm The carrier board interconnect for the COM express ecosystem can be of either 5 mm or 8 mm stacking height, the choice allowing for an additional 3 mm of component thickness for devices that can survive the under-the-module environment. In some designs, complete cutouts in the fiberglass, or intentional placement voids, exist below a module due to the local thermal environment generated by a highpower COM module. Sacrifice of undermodule board area forces carrier board footprints to exceed the base footprint of the COM. The nature of the PC/104 ecosystem has been to assimilate new bus technology in a modular leap-frog manner and preserve simple mechanical mounting of both board and heat spreaders across variants. Designers leverage appropriate buses at the top level and bridge to older bus variants as needed for legacy compatibility. This pushes the PC/104 SBC toward the domain of COM through conductive cooling options and the ability to act as a module atop a multi-board stack, and leveraging the strength of user-ready I/O interfaces. Mechanically, 0.600” (15.24 mm) inter-board spacing offers a peripheral board, below a PCIe/104 CPU card, a component height of 8.76 mm, which exceeds the entire 8 mm under-spreader height of the COM specification as well as the total under-module height when an 8 mm board interconnect is chosen.

Think Out of the Box

The latest offerings in the PCIe/104 family offer reasonable amounts of I/O

Figure 2 FCI Minitek Interconnection on QM67 PCIe/104 CPU.

Figure 3 High Speed Business – Samtec QFS (top) and Tyco FH pair (bottom).

at user-ready voltage levels with integral onboard protection. No high-speed layout skills are needed to leverage a USB 2.0 or Gigabit Ethernet port with a PCIe/104 SBC system. Connecting a cable is the required skill for integration. Keyed, latching connectors enhance reliability, safety and delivered quality of board-to-wire interconnects. Use of FCI Minitek Shrouded Vertical Headers and Active Latch Housing crimp-and-poke, discrete wire interconnection helps to satisfy many rugged environmental conditions and allows for use of specialized insulation for enhanced envi-

ronmental performance (Figure 2). Lowprofile, standard 2 mm grid interconnects provide space for a bend radius compatible with 0.600” (15.34 mm) installations featuring conductive cooling by mechanical attachment of the PC/104 SBC to a flat interior chassis wall. Optional 1.000” (25.4 mm) conductive cooling adapters and standoffs can be utilized when boardto-wire interconnect service is needed as part of a product service plan. Flex-print interconnects can also be utilized, outfitted with standard 2 mm headers that will mate easily without interference from header shroud. RTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011


technology in context

Recent adoption of the PCIe Type 2 standard has improved the delivered bandwidth of the PCIe 156 pin connector. The first 52 pins of the Type 2 standard are identical to the original (now Type 1) standard, supporting four x1 PCI Express lanes and two USB 2.0 channels. The latest QM67 chipset from Intel supports PCI Express 2.0 signaling at 5 GHz. The QMS/QFS-based connectors

for the PCIe interconnect, shown at the top of Figure 3, have been demonstrated to be “eye-open” at 5 GHz signaling, for three additional boards beyond the CPU. PCI Express 2.5 GHz signaling extends to a depth of 5 boards. LVDS propagation through multiple connectors and embedded high-speed lane-switching traces is not a consideration for many COM deployments, but it is

key to modular stacking expansion of the extended PCIe/104 form factor. The cost of modular board-to-board interconnect is significant, due in no small part to the impressive -55° to +125°C environmental rating of the Samtec QMS/QFS-based interconnect, and must be considered for any product that requires PCIe bandwidth for the support of a custom, mission-critical peripheral.

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©2011 Themis Computer. All rights reserved. Themis Computer, Themis and the Themis logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Themis Computer. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

9/12/11 2:35:37 PM

COM Express deployments are centered about one or two 220-position SMT board-to-board interconnects from the Tyco/AMP Free Height series shown at the bottom of Figure 3. These are rated from -40° to +85°C, which includes up to 30°C of contact heating at 0.5 mA. Leveraging the documented average 15°C reduction in contact heating by keeping the per-contact current below 0.3A can deliver up to 108 watts on the 30 power pins of a 2-connector solution. This reduced current rating supports +85°C ambient operation within an envelope that enables COM designs to feed Quad Core processors with ample power. By comparison, the published ratings of the Samtec QMS/QFS interconnects of 1.6A per contact and 9.2A per power plane at 95°C offer greater per-contact reliability. The PCIe/104 standard applies a 20% de-rating factor at +85°C and allocates 46 interconnects to ground for a 2.9:1 ratio of GND to Power current. 84 watts at 5V and 100.8 watts at 12V of power may be conveyed by the PCIe connector, making it a viable option for supplying standard operating voltages to a stack-based PCIe/104 system. Some COM vendors specify variable input voltage ratings for their modules. However, COM units are not power-regulators, so any other voltage level required by the carrier board electronics will need to be supplied. The PCIe/104 standard specifies both 5V and 12V planes, with coincident tracking being acceptable, with ratio-metric tracking and “early 12V” being viable options as well. In situations were the 12V rail is not utilized by PCIe peripherals, the 12V rail may vary from 4 to 18 VDC without ill effects on the CPU, as only the high

technology in context

current CPU power supply sources power from the 12V bus. All other functions on current PCIe CPU cards require 5 VDC +/-5% and most also support a single 5V suspend plane. Feeding a modern CPU in the PCIe/104 world is accomplished by a 10wire single harness for all three power planes (+5V, +12V and +5V suspend) if power is not supplied via the PCIe 15-pin connector. In the case of a COM system, adequate power feed capacity must be designed into the carrier board. The question of using brick-style power modules or external power supplies is valid for both the PCIe/104 and COM, where COM can entertain the deployment of onboard component-level DC/DC converters. Applications in the highest volumes may desire to support this to extract additional margin from system production.

improvements. Successful SBC deployments may see volumes where production synergies are maximized and the per unit price can be improved no further. Such a problem is certainly good to have, as one can then leverage a COM and baseboard implementation of a proven SBC performer as volumes continue to increase. Through this same path, when annual volumes begin to

approach the next engineering decade, full-custom, component-level solutions begin to make good economic sense. Advanced Digital Logic San Diego, CA. (858) 490-0597. [].

Next Generation Intel Atom™ Processor (Code Named Cedar Trail)

Future Considerations

Enhancement of a system is possible in stack-based SBC architectures by trading vertical space for increased functionality. COM architectures will require replacement of the carrier board in order to change the peripheral mix of a system, unless an over-population plus security lockout approach is adopted. Alternatively, an expansion bus could be provided by the carrier board, where one of the PC/104 variants may be a viable solution. Barring expandability, embedded solutions that leverage a COM standard will require ongoing board design and refinement efforts throughout a product’s life-cycle and subsequent evolution. Accurate forecasting may provide additional insight, as it has been observed that projects with estimated annual usages approaching 1500 units tend to gravitate toward the economic benefits of optimization and controlled build-out offered by COM solutions. Opportunities with EAU volumes below this threshold appreciate the robust interfaces supported by PC/104 SBC solutions. It has also been noted that the current tight economic climate has shifted this threshold slightly higher (see the “Platform Quiz” p. 28). Ultimately, it is the actual performance of the product in the market that has the largest impact on design Untitled-3 1


11/4/11 10:20:25 AM RTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011


connected Flexible Circuits

Extending Electronic Functionality with Printed Electronics and Printed Memory While silicon-based circuitry has dominated the electronics marketplace, an opportunity to extend electronic functionality to a whole new category of products has emerged with Printed Electronics. by Jennifer Ernst, Thinfilm Electronics


ess expensive and more flexible than silicon, Printed Electronics (PE) are rapidly gaining traction, enabling applications that would not be practical with conventional electronics. In August 2011, the independent research and analyst firm IDTechEx, estimated that the overall market for printed and potentially printed electronics will grow from $2.2 billion in 2011 to $44.25 billion by 2021. PE refers to a class of electronics manufactured using high-volume printing processes, like those traditionally associated with the production of newspapers or magazines. As these devices are often manufactured on roll-to-roll processes, they are frequently seen in flexible form factors that would not be possible with conventional silicon. Thinfilm Electronics has developed a non-volatile, rewritable printed memory that is commercially available in the form of stickers that can be attached to cards, toys, and other flat or smoothly curved surfaces. These flexible memory products based on the use of a ferroelectric polymer are among a new generation of commercially available PE that take advantage of printing’s ability to not only coat a surface, but also to create patterns on it. They are suited for consumer products and are cur-



Polarization “0”


Read Erase Write 1



Write 0 + “1”



Figure 1 Hysteresis curve (a) and ferroelectric cell connected to a charge integrator (b).

rently being used to create new types of interactive toys and games. When used in conjunction with a reader/writer, toys and collectable cards become programmable by the child and can contain personalized skill levels, unique combinations of character properties, and inventory items. As higher-capacity passive array memories become available, printed memories will meet the needs of secure archiving, ticketing and other applications that demand encryption, and, in time, will be integrated with other electronic com-

ponents, to enable ID tags, sensor tags, disposable price tags and other smart tags that require rewritable data storage. Memory devices are distinctly different from “identifiers” such as QRcodes, barcodes or conventional RFID. Identifiers are essentially a fixed number that is used to look-up information in a database. While one might store a large number in a memory device, many applications will not require a unique identifier when data is stored directly on the object of interest. Memory is an essential part of most elec-

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tronics. It is required for identification, tracking status and history, and is used whenever information is stored.

puts a proportional voltage (Figure1b). The Thinfilm-patented passive memory separates active logic circuitry from

the memory cell. That is, the sticker can store data independent of the read-write device. Passive memories are read by be-

Standard Printed Memories

Thinfilm’s first printed memory product uses a single-line architecture. Essentially, a printed memory is layer of ferroelectric polymer sandwiched between two electrodes. Current passes between the electrodes, through the polymer memory film. Depending on whether the voltage is positive or negative, dielectric dipoles within the thin polymer layer align in one of two directions, creating binary ones and zeroes. The polymer is completely bistable, so when the voltage is removed the dipoles remain pinned. The ferroelectric cell can be “written” into two different stable states. This is depicted in the curve in Figure 1a. In aligning the dipoles, a sense amplifier, connected to the bottom electrode, detects the memory cell’s state and, using charge integrator circuitry, out-

Figure 3


Figure 2 The 20-bit memory controller ASIC.



Printed memory stickers can be used in toy and game applications. Pictured here are memory cards and a young girl with a handheld demonstrator.



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The demonstrator is meant to show the key features of the technology, namely rewritability and non-volatility. However, it is also built to accommodate custom software, which a designer can load via USB.

Passive Array


Figure 4


PET (a) and printed memories (b).

Imagine Memory Everywhere

Thinfilm Roadmap

Prototyping/development Test manufacturing Commercial stage 2011

20 bit single line 20-128 bit passive array <128 bit address- Design phase able memory Contactless memory Display System systems Products (contact-based) Sensor systems Proximity System Including systems sensor and Products display & (contact-less) NFC RFID systems

Thinfilm Memory products



• From stand-alone memories to integrated systems • From contact to contact-less





Initial priority: Electrochromic display Initial priority: Temperature, humidity and pressure

• Toys & games • Monetize online gaming • Info-kiosks

• Promotional cards • Secure archiving • Ticketing

• Dynamic price display • Interactive packaging

• Item interaction/ user ID (e.g., marketing, price comparison payment etc.)

Figure 5 Thinfilm roadmap — Products.

ing contacted by (or connected to) a separate read- and write-unit (R/W-unit). Both discrete electronics solutions and also an ASIC-based variant for 20-bit memories are available. The ASIC chip (Figure 2), implemented by using high voltage CMOS technology, is designed for reading and writing data into the printed memory cells and for communication to other electronics such as a microcontroller. The basic commands are “full memory read,” “full memory write,” “bit read” etc., and allow for easy communication via I2C or SPI to the remainder of the system. Printed memories offer system cost advantages when the number of places you want to store data outnumber the number of places you want to read it. This architecture is highly suitable for applications where a designer wishes to store, cache, or transfer small bits of data across multiple objects. Because the stickers are low-cost and use no heavy



metals, they can be applied to high-volume, disposable products.

Using Printed Memories

Thinfilm has developed a technology demonstration unit to illustrate one of the many ways printed memory stickers can be used in toy and game applications (Figure 3). The game device, which contains a display, microcontroller, etc., is preloaded with OBA, a demonstration game in which characters evolve as they collect eggs. The identity of the character (fish, camel, parrot or turtle) is coded on the card, and the right character is loaded when the game launches. The character’s status in the game, in terms of number of eggs collected, is stored on the game card. Such cards can be collected, traded and used across multiple systems. As a sticker, the memory can also be used on figurines, and a variety of contact mechanisms are available depending on the specific application and design.

The first products use a single-line design, in which one bottom electrode crosses multiple top electrodes. However, some memory applications, such as securing documents or identification cards, require a higher capacity than is practical with this design. For such applications, Thinfilm has demonstrated a passive array architecture in which two or more bottom electrodes cross two or more top electrodes For example, a printed 40-bit memory consists of two bottom electrodes instead of one as in the current 20-bit memories. The electrodes form a grid, with the ferroelectric film sandwiched between. For the same number of contact pads as a standard memory, (22 for the 20-bit memory), the array architecture doubles the capacity. Passive array memories use the same design rules and will be produced in the same efficient roll-to-roll processes as the 20-bit stand-alone memories in early 2012. A passive array architecture multiplies the capacity of the memory and will enable the creation of more compact, higher-density printed memories. Passive array allows for very small cell size and, as with the single-line passive design, does not require transistors at the cell level. The passive array architecture maintains the separation of the memory from the read/write electronics.

Addressable Memory

While the passive memory design is attractive for its simplicity, the drawback is that storage capacity is directly correlated with the number of contact pads between the memory and the system using it. It also requires the use of external addressing logic, limiting the integration with other printed components Thinfilm completed the design and with PARC, a Xerox Company, has demonstrated addressable memory, in which CMOS-like transistors are used as logic circuitry. Thinfilm is commercializing this technology as part of its 2012 roadmap. This design, which combines mem-

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ory technology with transistor technology developed by PARC, requires a larger area than the passive design but further reduces the cost of connecting the memory to standard electronics. More importantly, though, the addressable memory is the first step toward integrated printed systems. With the addition of printed logic, Thinfilm and partner companies will be able to connect other printed technologies, such as antennas (to provide wireless read and write to the memory), simple displays and sensors. This integration opens the doors for fully printed wireless ID tags, sensor tags, disposable price labels and other smart objects, at a fraction of the cost of conventional silicon-based electronics.

electronics include printed solar cells and organic light emitting diodes (OLED) for lighting and displays. Sensors, batteries and photovoltaic energy sources are also in the market or under development. To date, though, they have largely been stand-alone offerings. With continuing advances in device design, materials and manufacturing processes, devices like Thinfilmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s memory technology will open the door to new products and applications

(Figure 5). Low-cost, flexible devices that have the capability to both store data locally and communicate with the infrastructure around them will be critical to enabling many different visions for â&#x20AC;&#x153;the Internet of things.â&#x20AC;? Thinfilm Electronics Oslo, Norway. +47 23 27 51 59. [].

Manufacturing Using Printing

In the late 1990s, standard semiconductor micro-fabrication techniques were used to manufacture ferroelectric memories, by sputtering and evaporating the electronic materials and patterning the memories using photolithography, which typically resulted in significant fabrication cost. Today, Thinfilm devices can be produced using a high-volume, low-cost rollto-roll printed production process. In the printing process, the bottom electrode is printed using direct gravure printing, the memory film is printed using micro gravure coating, and the remaining layers are printed using rotary screen printing. Thinfilm memories are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly due to the use of an additive process and less-costly deposition methods. In this process, the materials used can be cured and sintered at low temperatures, allowing for use of low-cost plastic substrates such as PET (Figures 4a and b). Additive printing allows material to be deposited only where it is needed, without requiring any material to be removed, as is done in conventional subtractive methods. As such, mass production using printing techniques to manufacture electronic memory makes it possible to reduce the number of process steps, resulting in dramatically lower manufacturing costs, and also reduced environmental impact as compared to traditional semiconductor processes. While Thinfilm is focused on printed devices, other applications of printed Untitled-7 1


7/6/11 6:12:18 PM RTC MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2011

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Video and Display Technology Gets Smarter

Video and Display Technology at the Intersection of Full Multimedia Immersion The integration of powerful graphics processors on the same die with multicore CPUs is creating the potential for multimedia in embedded applications where it could previously not be considered. And it is also opening the doors to completely new applications. by Peter Mandl, Advanced Micro Devices


oday’s video and display technology designers are afforded more resources and flexibility than ever before to deliver stunning, ultra-immersive HD visual experiences for a wide range of applications and markets. Whether the goal is to entertain, promote, inform, or educate, new processing platforms, interconnect options and industry standards are facilitating a new era of digital display technology. The nies providing solutions now to transform the way we result promises ion into products, technologies and companies. goal is to research the latest consume and interact withWhether visual your media. ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you To achieve this, however, designers you require for whatever type of technology, tosearching find new and productsneed you are for. ways to harness higher levels of hardware performance without compromising on system form factor, energy efficiency, thermal profiles or reliability requirements—all at the lowest possible cost, and with the fastest time-to-market. Here we’ll explore some of the applications that are driving the pace of digital display innovation, and some of the core enabling Figure 1 technologies that are making this transformation possible. The stunning graphics and interactive visual atmosphere of newer casino

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gaming machines help entertain and distract gamblers at the same time keeping them focused on playing the game.

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Figure 2 Digital signage is a brand new field made possible by high-end computer graphics. Signs can now be targeted at those who happen to be looking at them and can be automatically updated with current information on safety issues, directions and more.

Applications for Advanced Digital Display Technology

Casino Gaming—Recognizing the compelling entertainment value of immersive multimedia, the casino gaming industry has wholly embraced today’s advanced video and display technologies. Almost every structural and entertainment element within a casino is designed to enthrall guests and entice them to gamble and/or spend their money—no simple feat. Richly interactive, visually driven gaming platforms and eye-catching video displays grab and retain guests’ interest in ways that traditional static gaming platforms and media simply cannot (Figure 1). Military, Aerospace and Defense— Battlefield and avionics simulation are among the most exacting applications for visual display technologies, requiring ultra-realistic 3D image rendering and high-precision target visualization to ensure the best possible combat training and readiness. Military applications such as synthetic vision systems for manned and unmanned aerial vehicles are equipping military



personnel to engage combatants more effectively and from a safer distance. PC and Console Gaming—Hardcore and casual gamers alike are beginning to embrace multi-screen digital displays that deliver a panoramic view of the onscreen action. By grouping multiple monitors into a large integrated display surface, gamers are engulfed in a widescreen “surround sight” field of view that takes gaming to a new level of player immersion and competition. Hospitality—The travel services industry has enthusiastically embraced digital signage as a means to provide timely, location-aware information that enables travelers to acclimate to unfamiliar environments, explore local attractions, and get the most possible enjoyment from their visits. From hotel and airport kiosks, GPS-assisted in-vehicle signage extends the hospitality experience to the ground transportation network, making travelers better equipped than ever before to travel with confidence from arrival to departure. Retail and In-store Advertising— The battle for consumer pocketbooks

is intensifying in the aisles of retail stores, where the product brands that most effectively attract shoppers’ attention are best positioned to command their spending. By bringing rich multimedia and Internet-enabled interactive displays closer to the point of sale, retailers can tailor their display content to help differentiate products and drives sales. New “smart display” technology, which can incorporate integrated cameras for capturing movement and gestures, promises to make future in-store displays all the more interactive (Figure 2). x86 Set-top Boxes (xSTBs)—The advent of IP network-delivered media content has opened the door to a new breed of set-top boxes that utilize the x86 architecture to realize a seamless fusion of TV, PC and Internet capabilities. By combining low-power x86compatible computing capabilities with high-performance graphics processing, set-top box manufacturers are empowered to transform the TV viewing experience from passive to fully interactive, thereby, establishing the set-top box as the “total access” hub to the modern digital home. These are just a few of the applications to which system designers are bringing state-of-the-art digital display technology to bear in pursuit of richer, more immersive visual experiences. Now let’s look at some of the core enabling embedded technologies.

Accelerated Processing Units and Unified Video Decoding

Few embedded technologies offer more potential to transform the digital display market than AMD’s Accelerated Processing Units (APUs), as exemplified by the AMD Embedded G-Series processors. Utilizing AMD Fusion technology, the AMD Embedded GSeries processors integrate low-power, general purpose CPU core(s) and a discrete-level GPU onto a single die, all interconnected by a high-speed bus architecture and shared, low-latency memory model (Figure 3). Enabling heterogeneous processing where serial software tasks execute on the CPU and parallel tasks on the GPU, APUs yield

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significant performance acceleration for multimedia display applications, which opens up new application opportunities. This integration of general purpose, programmable scalar and vector processor cores for high-speed parallel processing establishes a new foundation for high-performance multimedia content delivery, while ensuring a host of system design advantages. By reducing the footprint of a traditional three-chip platform to just two chipsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the APU and the companion controller hubâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;design complexity is simplified through a reduction in board layers and power supply needs. This enables digital display designers to achieve aggressive form factor goals while driving down overall system costs. Additionally, the resulting performance-per-watt benefits assure high power efficiency and low heat dissipation, which in turn can preclude the need for fan cooling within the system. Fan-less designs include fewer moving

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Figure 3 The AMD Fusion G Series pairs an SIMD engine that can do both graphics or numerically intensive algorithms with a multicore x86 CPU for compelling single-chip multimedia performance.

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Figure 4 Eyefinity technology can drive up to six displays with contiguous graphics for realistic simulation applications.

parts, thus helping to improve overall system reliability. All of these factors enable designers to optimize their systems for extremely compact enclosures and/or applications with power constraints such as mobile, battery-powered signage systems. As with APU technology, unified video decoding (UVD) is another important mechanism for minimizing CPU load and maximizing overall processing efficiency, and is especially critical for HD display applications. Newer HD display systems require substantially more processing capability than earlier systems designed for standard definition (SD) content playback, so managing CPU load is especially important. By utilizing a dedicated UVD processing unit for the decoding of VC-1, H.264, MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 compressed video streams, significant CPU cycles are freed up for other processing tasks.

Multi-display Video Immersion

The ability to support multiple independent display outputs simultaneously is a critical requirement for realizing ultra-immersive, panoramic video displays. Multi-display technology such as AMD Eyefinity technol-



ogy can enable a single GPU to support as many as six independent display outputs simultaneously, delivering an intense “surround sight” experience that can be applied across a wide range of applications. With multi-display technology, users can connect several high-resolution displays, flexibly configured in various combinations of landscape and portrait orientations, to achieve a large integrated display surface that enables windowed and fullscreen 3D applications, images and video to span across multiple displays as one visual plane (Figure 4). Eyefinity technology works with applications that support non-standard aspect ratios, which is required for panning across multiple displays. To enable more than two displays, additional panels with native DisplayPort connectors, and/or DisplayPort-compliant active adapters to convert your monitor’s native input to your card’s DisplayPort or Mini-DisplayPort connector(s), are required. Eyefinity technology can support up to six displays using a single enabled AMD Radeon graphics card with Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating systems—the number of displays may vary by board design and you should confirm exact specifica-

tions with the applicable manufacturer before purchase. Single large surface (SLS) functionality requires an identical display resolution on all configured displays. The Video Electronics Standards Association’s (VESA) DisplayPort connectivity standard is a another key enabler for multi-display technology. DisplayPort 1.2, the latest version of the standard, boasts features such as higher bandwidth (5.4 Gbit/s per lane) and support for high bit-rate audio. Perhaps its most interesting feature, however, is the micro-packet architecture that enables the ability to address and drive several display devices through one DisplayPort connector, a feature commonly referred to as daisy-chaining. Where DVI and HDMI both require a dedicated clock source for each display, DisplayPort only requires a single reference clock source to drive as many DisplayPort streams as there are display pipelines in the GPU, yielding the most efficient possible multi-display designs.

Industry Standardization and the Rise of Stereo 3D Displays

Just as the movie industry has embraced stereoscopic 3D—or stereo 3D— to attract moviegoers and drive box-of-

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fice revenue, the digital display industry is moving toward the adoption of stereo 3D to provide an extra dimension of immersion and entertainment for a wide range of applications spanning digital content creation, computer aided design (CAD), data visualization and virtual reality. Nearly all of the 3D films in movie theaters today are presented in passive stereo, for which the viewers’ glasses don’t contain any active components. But there are many different types of stereo 3D presentation techniques in development today that show promise for widespread adoption, including active frame sequential, passive dual display and auto-stereoscopic approaches. The introduction of high refreshrate LCD panels (120 Hz and higher) has inspired new stereoscopic 3D display devices, but it is important to note that these displays implement proprietary approaches to stereo 3D, and no industry standard has been implemented to date. These proprietary approaches have been implemented by vendors of 3D glasses and vendors of stereo 3Denabled TVs, which strictly limit users’ choice of hardware (TV and glasses) configurations, and, many would argue, limits the growth potential of the stereo 3D display market. But certainly there is hope for industry standardization in this area. HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort now support transmission of stereo 3D frames and offer plug and play support for stereo 3D via communication of device capabilities and standard stereo 3D transmission formats. A key point about these transmission approaches is that the matching up of appropriate glasses is driven by the displays supporting the standards, rather than by the underlying GPU or system generating stereo 3D content. This would further simplify stereo 3D solutions, as users would no longer be required to know the ins and outs of display/glasses pairings. Because of these factors, it is probable that these approaches will become the dominant standards. It’s broadly acknowledged that a standards-based approach to stereo 3D

is needed to ensure portability of stereo glasses between vendors, which would lower the complexity and cost associated with consuming stereo 3D content, and enable a greater range of choices for users. The Open Stereo 3D initiative, launched in 2010, is designed to facilitate this transition, and promises to accelerate user adoption of stereo 3D displays and systems.

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Video and Display Technology Gets Smarter

Embedded Video Takes Airborne Surveillance to New Heights New, intelligent displays and versatile controls make law enforcement surveillance more automated and more capable of quickly indentifying, locating and isolating objects of interest.

Christian Steward, Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing


here is a revolution underway in airborne surveillance video. We are experiencing a huge proliferation of digital video camera sources and increasing demand for high definition displays, moving maps, video uplinks/downlinks and video recording/playback/archival options. As a result, today’s video management systems for airborne police services are becoming much more sophistinies providing solutions now cated and powerful in ways that hold the ion into products, technologies and companies. yourof goalthe is to research the latest potential to make every Whether member ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you flight crew significantly more effective. you require for whatever type of technology, levels of data now and productsWith you areunprecedented searching for. available, the world’s leading surveillance authorities demand a video management system that makes processing this intelligence second nature. But as digital video data and viewing options increase so does the amount of video that needs to be distributed and recorded. An example of a rugged, complete Figure 1 video management system designed to The tactical commander has control of two displays at the rear of the aircraft. meet the unique demands of today’s digi-

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These can display any selection or combination of video data coming into the system.

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tal video-based airborne surveillance is Curtiss-Wright Controls’ Skyquest VMS. The Skyquest VMS is currently deployed by leading police forces around the world, in over 20 different countries and across six continents, including Australia’s Melbourne Police Law Enforcement, the U.S. National Guard and Army’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) Fleet, Allied Forces in Afghanistan and the French and German Military. In London the VMS is the choice of the London Metropolitan Police’s (LMP) airborne law enforcement team. In the sky above London the LMP has deployed Skyquest VMS on its fleet of EC145 helicopters, making these helicopters some of the most advanced air support units in the world. Each helicopter is fitted with five Skyquest mission displays and multiple recording decks. The VMS serves as the heart of the surveillance system. The EC 145s use a triple sensor camera system that feeds an HD camera, low-light and infrared video pictures into the aircraft, which can then be displayed on any one of the five mission screens. The onboard crew typically comprises two police officers and a pilot. One police officer, acting as an air observer, is seated in the rear of the EC 145 and takes on the role of tactical commander (Figure 1). This officer is provided with two 15-inch mission displays. These identical screens can display images from any of the camera sensors and a moving map. The operator can control replay of what has been recorded and receive uplinked video via an intuitive but powerful touchscreen-based man-machine interface. The aircraft’s front left seat is typically occupied by a forward observer who operates the camera system, navigates to the task, and assists the pilot with flight checklists and other tasks. The forward observer is provided with a 10-inch fully functional mission display with the same capability as the two in the rear. There is also a fold-down 10-inch mission display

Figure 2 Images appearing on any of the smaller quad displays can be brought up on the larger screens in any combination.

mounted on the ceiling, which is typically viewed by the police officer in the rear of the helicopter, but can be rotated and viewed from any position. The EC145’s pilot is supported with a screen that easily folds away for takeoff and landing. Once airborne the pilot has access to all of the video imagery on the aircraft. The VMS’s friendly man-machine interface lets the operator select, manipulate, store and forward video with a minimum of system overhead. All of the operator’s displays in the VMS can show four different video input sources combined into a single integrated quad screen. The touchscreen controls enable the operator to expand out to full-screen size any of the individual windows. An operator no longer needs to search for a particular video feed of interest, or has to know the precise name of that feed, before selecting it for display (Figure 2). With its support for quad multi-screen

display, the VMS enhances situational awareness for its users. For example, in one window a wide angle sensor feed can be viewed, in another window a narrow angle image can be displayed, while in another window infrared imagery can be shown. In addition, a moving map system can provide the location of the aircraft and the vector to the target. This provides complete situational awareness on a single display screen. Typical earlier video systems supported only one video source at a time, limiting the useful video to 1/3 of the video data being captured by the threemode camera. The system’s quad display enables 100% of the aircraft’s camera sensor video to be used simultaneously.

Letting the Operator Decide

Great flexibility is provided to the operator, enabling him to decide in real time which images to display and where to place them on the screen. The placement RTCRTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE NOVEMBER MONTH 2011


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and size of the individual windows can be easily rearranged, so that, for example, map systems can be viewed side by side, and recorded video information from storage can be displayed on one window next to live incoming video feeds. Individual window video feeds can be frozen and then made dynamic again with a single touch. Also, each display supports zoom in and out of the image on screen. The VMS is capable of integrating with multiple computers commonly used in surveillance aircraft for such tasks as automatic number plate recognition, and as part of the VMS can be operated via the display touchscreens or integrated keyboard. The VMS also supports the use of a QWERTY keyboard and mouse, to augment the touchscreen controls. The keyboard can be used to control an integrated moving map or a connected PC.

Powerful Data Storage Capabilities

The VMS’s digital video recorders make it possible to collect and easily remove evidentiary video for storage and analysis. Images from all video sources and any screen configuration can be recorded, rewound and played back at any screen, by any operator during flight or on the ground for post-mission analysis. These images can also be sent to a downlink for onward transmission via microwave transmitter to the ground or to other aircraft. Conversely, mission data can be uplinked to the aircraft the same way. Video recording can be controlled via the display keys or the recorders themselves, allowing the operator to decide when to start and stop the recording. The crew can choose exactly what to record or what to send to the downlink. Previously, these functions were hardwired to a specific source and could not be changed. In fact, any one of the crew can control the recording process from any one of the aircraft’s mission displays. Previously, a secondary remote control unit was typically mounted in place and accessible to only one operator, limiting control of the video recording. The video data is recorded on solid state CompactFlash memory cards. Unlike spinning hard drives, these memory cards are impervious to shock and vibration. Each card can have the storage

capacity of a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, and can be easily removed from the system, fitting in a flight suit pocket, to make data backup fast/economical.

Rugged Displays Feature DualMode Backlighting

Curtiss-Wright’s dual-mode backlit rugged LED displays can be utilized as part of the VMS. Traditional display backlight systems have been based on cold cathode ray tube illumination. That technology requires high voltages and doesn’t work very well at low temperatures. In addition, the color degrades over time, getting dimmer the more it is used. The latest Skyquest LED displays provide wider color gamut/range and can run cooler because they are solid state, with no degradation of light performance over time. Another advantage of LED displays is that they are more rugged: mounting glass tube and shock breakage issues go away. They can also be used to create different lighting regimes for different application areas such as the dual backlighting for night vision goggle filtering. The dual backlight option utilizes two alternative sources of backlighting behind the LCD array, one to provide optimized high brightness and high contrast lighting in daylight conditions, and a second to provide very low amplitude night vision goggle (NVG) compatible lighting. This means that the full color presentation of map and warning information can be provided while at the same time maintaining 100% compatibility with NVG, enabling both goggles and head down viewing of the displays simultaneously without conflict or compromise in performance. Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing Ashburn, VA. (613) 254-5112. [].



11/4/11 3:09:28 PM

technology deployed EDIT Security in Systems

Four Key Steps to Address Security Threats in Embedded Systems

where one failure could have an unforeseen domino effect throughout the chain, just as a single power line issue cascaded into the San Diego blackout in September of this year. The answer isn’t to outlaw the interconnection of our devices. We are relying on a network of things to make our gamechanging ideas possible for the future: the Smart Grid, intelligent traffic networks, smart payments and healthcare, to name a few. Machine-to-machine interaction is opening up new opportunities for innovation, new streams of revenue for embedded manufacturers, and the opportunity to collect usage data to improve the user experience (read “loyalty”) and product quality. To address security, we must treat everything as Meanwhile, new threats are appearing, exploration along with a variety of hackers from black connected—in systems of systems. This will require both r your goal hat hackers (malicious types), hacktivists eak directly cultural and technical rethinking of how systems are not (promoting a political goal), script kiddies page, the (juvenile vandalism) and cyberterrorists to resource. only maintained and secured, but also so that they are hnology, simple, disgruntled employees who happen nd products developed and designed to make this possible. to have the right access. This makes the menace to embedded security all the more complicated. We are starting to see security features called out in recent software and hardware by Dominic Tavassoli, IBM Rational component releases. These are steps in the right direction, although they only address panies providing solutions now a few pieces of the complete system of sysation into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal is to research the latest tems, which is continually evolving. Each incation Engineer, orA jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you dustry has different needs and risks, with very few experts who piece of pop trivia: In the Rebooted series, what was so ce you require for whatever type of technology, understand the full picture. In his statement to the U.S. Senate on special about the Battlestar Galactica spaceship that it survived es and products you are searching for. the initial Cylon attack and went on to lead the survivor fleet? cybersecurity in March 2009, Dr. Joseph Weiss declared that he Ironically, it was the outdated, unnetworked computer systems. It “believe[d] there are less than 100 people worldwide who truly wasn’t vulnerable to the attack via hacking of embedded sensor know and understand control-system cybersecurity.” This needs networks and control systems. Thus, humanity is nearly wiped to change within each organization if this major business risk is out in the show via embedded security flaws. to be addressed. Let’s take a look at steps to take to address this The security question is definitely one that our industries challenge: need to consider. For example, vulnerabilities in medical devices were brought to light when a white hat hacker demonstrated how Step One: Build a Culture of Design for Security insulin pumps could be tampered with at the Black Hat security The first step for organizations is to modernize the way they conference in Las Vegas this past summer. Even after thirty years develop software, hardware and systems. High levels of security of device telemetry use, there are no known issues of malicious require increasingly sophisticated functionality in embedded detampering. However, the possibility is there, at our door. vices, to monitor access (e.g., check who is operating the system), Get Connected As embedded systems become increasingly interconnected integrity (check that the software performing energy distribution with companies mentioned in this article. in our smarter planet, each device, vehicle, piece of equipment on the grid is not malicious), and authenticity (confirm which becomes interconnected and is an endpoint in its own right (Fig- nuclear reactor the system is talking is to). ure 1). This system of systems presents myriad vulnerabilities Organizations also need to develop and enforce security practices, as there are no all-encompassing standards or readily available best practice libraries today. This involves investing in Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article. proper requirements management and traceability to ensure all

End of Article



Technology deployed

Healthcare Provider/Family Electronic Records/ Health Info Exchange

Remote Management Services

Hospital & Emergency Services

Disease Management Services Medical Devices

Figure 1 The networked health care environment is an example of a large system that is built up of many component systems, which are themselves made up of connected nodes and devices.

security constraints are taken into account, as well as the development of “secure” design patterns across chips, hardware and software. Application Lifecycle Management and Design Management solutions will help engage all stakeholders, including testing and operations, in a discussion powered by social media. The objective is to encourage the discussion around the design for security, but also to record this in a knowledge base. All projects should have a continual “post-mortem” discussion to identify and record possible security flaws, and communicate to the team, ideally as part of a component reuse initiative.

Step Two: Deploy a Service Management Solution

Designing more secure endpoints and devices is not sufficient. Organizations need to manage them and the existing systems that they build upon. Remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in embedded devices are often the result of using outdated protocols, libraries or insufficiently tested custom code. The difficulty in applying patches (factory recalls, firmware flashing, necessary vendor intervention or simply lack of information) means that these systems are rarely updated, even when vulnerabilities are detected. The situation hasn’t changed much since 1999 when businesses were looking at their elevators, factories or vehicles and wondering if they would survive Y2K, not knowing what to look for, where, or how to fix it. Integrated Service Management should be rolled out to ensure real-time understanding of where assets are, what versions

of hardware and software are involved, and to enable configuration management and patch management of the devices. Likewise, network-based security technologies, such as vulnerability assessments, Web application scanning and intrusion prevention, will allow organizations to assess and address threats to the endpoints.

Step Three: Bridge the Chasm between Development and Operations

The need for rapid threat responses and a continually evolving landscape are driving development and operations closer together (Figure 2). This is already becoming a reality in IT where DevOps is integrating the full lifecycle. This is arguably more easily done when there is only one owner of the ecosystem, e.g., the bank is responsible for development of the software but also the deployment and operations. Teams are also only dealing mainly with software deployments. Agile development initiatives help teams produce prioritized, quality solutions that are more quickly aligned with business needs, and therefore suitable for producing patches and updates. Delivering updated, fixed software is useless if it can’t be rolled out at the same level of speed and confidence. Not only does the lifecycle handoff from development to operations need to be automated, but the end device or system needs to be designed with this connection in mind. Embedded design teams need to take the maintenance and upgrade requirements into account as a top RTCRTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE NOVEMBER MONTH 2011


technology deployed

System and Device Developement Processes

Discover Govern

Define Report

Design & Build






Service Delivery, Support & Operational Processes

Figure 2 Gone are the days when developers could sign off on their creations and be content supplying patches and upgrades. Today, the development process needs to be closely connected with operations by anticipating the maintenance needs in the development process and being able to seamlessly service the deployed systems.

priority, ensuring that this new functionality doesn’t add security flaws of its own (e.g. hacking of the firmware update door). Conversely, as security flaws are suspected, development teams can struggle to reproduce the problem. The stronger linkage between operations and development should also translate into a recording and transfer of operational parameters, as well as the implementation of virtual testing environments that make it possible to simulate the full system of systems in ideal conditions. Today, advances in cloud technology are a key enabler in setting up the right test environments faster and cheaper. The good news is that today’s modern development platforms enable new levels of discussion and interaction between globally distributed teams from multiple domains. The social media functionality in software and systems development platforms, such as IBM’s Jazz, allow development, security experts and in-service maintenance teams to participate in discussions around design and functionality. This increased level of interaction is a must for any organization wanting to address security and deployment issues early, mitigating the financial, customer retention and brand image risks of security flaws.

efit from an agreement on standards for embedded security that reassure end users and investors alike. This will also create the opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and improve the maturity of development and operations lifecycles across the board. We are at a turning point. Software-driven innovation and leveraging embedded and real-time systems, are changing the world in which we live. We may have different hopes of profit, quality of life and becoming more environmentally friendly, but the fact is much hinges on our ability to secure our systems against new types of threats every day. By actively improving the way we develop and maintain our systems and their endpoints, and developing industry standards, we’ll help that future come true. Corporate security officers will need the authority to ask the embarrassing questions and mandate additional development effort, even if it means a short-term increase in cost and time-tomarket. Steps like these will help ensure that malicious hacking of medical devices will remain as potential CSI script twists, but also allow us to embrace the future.

Step Four: Lead the Way for Industry-Specific Security Standards

IBM Rational Armonk, NY. (914) 499-1900. [].

There is an enormous market opportunity for embedded and real-time systems companies. We are seeing everyday products become “smart products,” from Wi-Fi body scales to networked sensors in cars and roads, to the ubiquitous, multifunction smartphone. Vendors will not only be able to profit from this gamechanging opportunity to sell new types of products, but also retrofit existing installations if they actively contribute to growing confidence in this market. Customers will get skittish and organizations will prefer the more “traditional” options if there are no security standards that guarantee safe interoperability, data safeguarding, and protection from intrusion. The most forward thinking representatives from each industry will benefit from setting aside their rivalries and collaborating to produce industry-specific security standards. For instance, in medical devices, where a bug or security flaw and subsequent litigation hurts the industry as a whole, all organizations ben-



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MicroTCA Comes on Strong

MicroTCA Challenges VPX-Based Systems for Military Applications In the low-cost, high-performance, open system trade space, MicroTCA is often paired with VPX/OpenVPX. MicroTCA’s ATCA legacy, and its recent expansion into the hardened system domain, makes it a viable option for both benign and rugged military applications.

by Mark Leibowitz, Robert Saracino and Jon Leach, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems and Saeed Karamooz, VadaTech


ICMG’s Advanced TelecommuniReference Specification for Reference Specification for Board Implementation Management cations Computing Architecture AMC.0 PICMG 3.0 (ATCA) has grown to become a AdvancedTCA AdvancedTCA Mezzanine Cards billion-dollar market. As a stable, mature Base Specification Base Specification (Telco-centric spec) (Telco-centric spec) standard grounded in a modular, open sysReleased Released tems approach, ATCA has expanded beyond its telecommunications origins and has established a footprint in other indusMTCA.0 MicroTCA Application Guide MicroTCA Air Cooled tries, including SATCOM, process control Environmental Base Specification Comparison between Environment: and high-energy fusion physics. See the MicroTCA Specifications Controlled Telco/Industrial MicroTCA Base System nies providing solutions now (Telco-centric spec) sidebar titled, “Why a Modular Open SysSpeficiation Released Released ion into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal is to research the latest tems Approach (MOSA)?” p.55 ation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you ATCA’s compliance to NEBS requireyou require for whatever type of technology, availability (99.999%) and suband productsments, you are high searching for. stantial system throughput (2 Tbit /s) are MTCA.1 MTCA.2 MTCA.3 features that also make this standard highly Rugged Air Cooled Hardened Hybrid Hardened Conduction Specification Air/Conduction Cooled Cooled Specification desirable for demanding, mission-critical Environment: Specification Environment: Extended Telco/Industry Environment: Extended Telco/ military computing applications. The U.S. (Telco/Industrial-centric) Extended Telco/ Military Navy, for example, uses ATCA-based misMilitary (MIL-centric) (MIL-centric) sion computers and operator consoles on Released Released date Feb ‘12 Released the P-8A Poseidon platform. The Navy has MicroTCA Specialized System Specifications also embraced ATCA for programs such as Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES). Figure 1

MTCA.4 Enhancements for Rear I/O and Precision Timing (High Energy Physics-centric) Released

End of Article Get Connected

with companies mentioned in this article.


The MicroTCA family of standards offers varying levels of ruggedization to meet commercial, industrial, and military environments. The MicroTCA.3 specification was released in February 2011; MicroTCA.2 release is expected early in 2012.


Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.


ATCA is supported by an extremely healthy vendor ecosystem offering highly interoperable products. The PICMG 3.0 standard, which covers all aspects of the electrical, mechanical, cooling and power subsystem properties, governs this interoperability.

MicroTCA Expands Beyond its Telecom Origins

ATCA has also spawned a series of standards for small form factor rugged computing components called MicroTCA. In its AMC.0 standard, PICMG defines a mezzanine building block approach for the addition of crucial functionality in the form of Advanced Mezzanine Cards (AMCs) to an ATCA carrier card. The MicroTCA base specification, or MicroTCA.0, is complementary to ATCA and defines a system where these AMCs can be used outside of an ATCA carrier, that is, within its own chassis and backplane. MicroTCA thereby enables the creation of systems with many of the ATCA advantages in a smaller, more energy-efficient size. MicroTCA’s ability to draw from the ATCA ecosystem means that a large number of AMC modules are already available for use in rugged MicroTCA applications without modification, except for screening, staking and conformal coating as required. The MicroTCA architecture is well suited for high-performance computing and networking functions. It defines switched fabrics, including requirements for 1GigE, 10GigE, PCIe (Gen 2), SRIO and SATA/SAS fabrics. It also incorporates redundancy of both power and MicroTCA carrier hub (MCH) modules. Moreover, it offers inherent hardware platform management (HPM) functions that use the same software tree as ATCA. To expand its reach into more rugged, demanding environments, MicroTCA working groups have defined a number of specialized MicroTCA implementations


MicroTCA.2 chassis


MicroTCA.2 high-power module (proposed)

MicroTCA.2 low-power module (proposed)

MicroTCA.3 module



Figure 2 Hardened MicroTCA module clamshell design—vented in the case of MicroTCA.2—protects active PCB circuits from ESD damage, thus allowing for the logistical and cost benefits of a two-level maintenance approach.

MicroTCA PWB Edge Pads VPX MultiGig RT Connector Wafer Dual PWB Edge Pads

external Edge Pads external Edge Pads

Internal Edge Pads

Press fit contacts

Figure 3 The efficacy of the PWB edge pad design concept common to MicroTCA and VPX for rugged applications was one driver of extensive connector system testing.




Product Classification MicroTCA.0


Basic -


Requirements (Operating)






-5˚C to +55˚C


1g sinusoidal


-40˚C to +85˚C


8g random (VITA 47 V2)

40g (VITA 47 0S2) / 11ms

12g random (VITA 47 V3)


-5˚C to +55˚C




-40˚C to +55˚C




-40˚C to +70˚C




-40˚C to +85˚C

TABLE 1 Recent development of hardened, air and conduction-cooled standards aligned to VITA 47-based environmental requirements makes MicroTCA a worthy candidate for a wider range of rugged military applications.

with a common goal–reuse of the same AMC printed circuit boards and as much of the MicroTCA base specification infrastructure as possible. Figure 1 shows the five specifications that govern MicroTCA systems. MicroTCA.3 and MicroTCA.2 Parameter Serial topology (fabrics) on backplane

specifically target the military market.

Hardened MicroTCA Targets Military

MicroTCA addresses the severe shock and vibration environments typical of many MicroTCA.2/MicroTCA.3

military air, land and sea applications with the MicroTCA.3 and MicroTCA.2 specifications, which define a hardened design approach for conduction and forced-air cooled systems, respectively. Each benefits from key input from military vendors, such as BAE Systems and Boeing, and include well-defined test procedures for a consistent reading of vendor compliance. The MicroTCA.3 Hardened Conduction Cooled specification provides the requirements necessary for a system to meet the rugged requirements of outside plant telecom, machine and transport industry, and military airborne, shipboard and ground mobile equipment environments. Released in early 2011, the specification defines five ruggedization levels, or product classes–two telecommunications grade and three military grade–intended for applications where air flow over the modules is not available. Closely related to MicroTCA.3 is the MicroTCA.2 Hybrid Air/Conduction Cooled specification, which defines four military grade ruggedization levels of its own. With OpenVPX (ANSI/VITA65) VITA 47/48 (EAC6 and ECC4 Environment)

Gigabit Ethernet (GigE); PCI-Express Gen 2; 10GigE; SRIO; SAS/SATA—with simultaneous support for two or more fabrics

Gigabit Ethernet; PCI-Express Gen 2; 10GigE; SRIO—no support for SAS/SATA s


Power modules; Fabrics (GigE, 10GigE, SAS, SRIO)

Redundancy supported

Bandwidth (PCI-Express)

8 Gen 2 lanes per slot, 40 Gbps

8 Gen 2 lanes per slot, 40 Gbps


Front panel support; backplane support via tongue 2

Front panel support; backplane support via P2

Hardware platform management (HPM)

Mature HPM based on ATCA

Under development; not mandatory per VITA 46-11 specification (not approved)

Board size

Six sizes defined (inches): Single/Double modules 2.9/5.9 x 7.2 Compact/Mid/Full: 0.6/0.8/1.2 pitch

Six sizes defined (inches): 3U/6U modules: 3.9/7.9 x 6.3 0.8 pitch (optional 0.85/1.0 VITA 48)

Connector system

Multi-tongue edge finger BP connector: 50 micro-inches Au Edge pad: 50 micro-inches hard Au over 100 micro-inch Ni; hardness: 130-180 knoops; roughness: 0.2 Ra max. Multi-vendor, open-source connector

Multi-wafer dual edge finger BP connector: 50 micro-inches Au Edge pad: 50 micro-inches hard Au over 150 micro-inch Ni; hardness: 130 knoops; roughness not specified Single-vendor (patent pending) connector

Temperature, operating

Same as VPX

VITA 47 AC1 – AC4

Temperature, non-op

Same as VPX

VITA 47 CC1 – CC4

Shock and vibration

Same as VPX

VITA 47 OS1/OS2 and V2/V3 levels

Two-level maintenance

Yes, uses clamshell; ESD to 15 kV human model

Yes, w/optional metal covers; ESD to 15 kV human model


1 (cast normalized to MicroTCA)

Approx 1.5 – 2x, higher with HPM

TABLE 2 While sharing many features, a number of key performance and implementation differences tip toward MicroTCA’s advantage—in particular, a mature HPM capability leveraged from ATCA that contributes to very significant edge in cost.




an expected release in early 2012, it defines a forced-air cooled system that targets rugged industrial and military applications. Table 1 compares Hardened MicroTCA’s VITA 47-based key environmental requirements to those of the MicroTCA base specification. As depicted in Figure 2, hardened MicroTCA encloses AMC PCBs, MCHs modules and power modules in electrically conductive heat frames (clamshells), which are fitted with card retainers to harden the circuit boards, protect electrical connections from shock and vibration, and provide a thermal conduction path to the chassis. For MicroTCA.2 systems, this conduction path is a beneficial by-product of the hardened design, and serves to augment the dominant forced-air cooling effect–thus its “hybrid” cooling designation. In November 2011 the MicroTCA.2 working group will be performing thermal testing of both low- and high-power representative test modules. Testing will measure airflow resistance and resulting temperature gradients of test modules to characterize the cooling capability of the hybrid air/conduction cooling approach.

MicroTCA and OpenVPX–Different Legacies, Common Goals

While MicroTCA and VPX have much in common, their different origins may influence prevailing opinions as to which best applies to the demands of high-performance military embedded computing systems. For some, the fact that VPX technology succeeded VME with rugged military applications specifically in mind affords it a certain incumbency–a status only strengthened by the interoperability advances of OpenVPX. However, hardened MicroTCA is a strong competitor. As shown in Table 2, MicroTCA meets the same environmental requirements as VPX, is less expensive, and is more “open” than OpenVPX. Additionally, MicroTCA has performance advantages in the areas of both backplane fabric technology and the inherent hardware platform management (HPM) available to MicroTCA systems. AdvancedTCA has long leveraged its widespread acceptance in commercial network-centric applications to gain solid ground in many benign-environment communications-centric military applications.

Since MicroTCA derives from ATCA, these applications are easily scaled for small form factor applications. MicroTCA’s commercial roots, unlike those of military-centric VPX, broaden the range of solutions available to the developer. Moreover, MicroTCA’s recent VITA 47-based rugged implementations— and hardened variants in particular—are attractive for these applications because they combine net-centric performance and low cost with the ability to overcome severe temperature, shock and vibration challenges.

More Advantages

It is worth noting that as shown in Figure 3, both MicroTCA and VPX use PWB edge pads with very similar characteristics for high-speed interconnect. To ensure a robust backplane-to-AMC connector system in rugged environments, the PICMG MicroTCA.3 working group sponsored chassis-level testing prior to releasing the MicroTCA.3 specification. Testing consisted of eight full-life test groups plus a separate ESD test. Similarly, prior to releasing the VITA 46 (VPX) specification, the VPX working group sponsored holding-fixture testing to validate its own backplane-to-VPX module connector system. Testing consisted of seven test groups. In each case, Contech Research of Attleboro, MA, an independent testing and research company, performed the testing. Table 3 highlights the results—and differences in duration and severity—of the test regimens. In terms of architecture software, MicroTCA supports open, free operating systems and drivers natively. While this support extends primarily to Linux and Windows, support for other operating systems is available. Free or minimal-cost operating systems and all associated PCI-E hardware drivers allow for low-cost solutions. In contrast, VPX and OpenVPX support mainly operating systems such as VXworks, which carry a high cost for the software and drivers. Further, MicroTCA uses multi-vendor, open-source connectors, whereas VPX and OpenVPX use a single vendor’s patent-pending connector system. An energized, expanded vendor ecosystem willing to invest in competing technologies is good news for military and other users of high-performing, network-centric embedded computing products, as it stimulates competition to develop the low-cost,

Why a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA)?

Open standards—a reality in the embedded computing domain for three decades—offer universal appeal: access to many suppliers, reduced development expenses and increased competition for a growing range of commercial and military/ aerospace applications. In 1994, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics chartered the Open Systems Joint Task Force, or OSJTF, to champion the MOSA and to encourage implementation, where feasible, on all DoD acquisition programs. Federal acquisition laws, and the OSJTF in particular, view MOSA implementation as both a business and technical strategy for developing new systems or modernizing existing ones. With a focus on system designs that are modular, are designed for change and, to the greatest extent possible, use widely supported industry standards for key interfaces, a MOSA enables program teams to build, upgrade and support systems more quickly and affordably. By embracing a MOSA, the procurement community: • Promotes efficiency by cutting acquisition/ development cycle time, enhancing supportability and reducing life-cycle costs • Produces better-performing systems that offer both the flexibility to adapt to evolving requirements, and improved interoperability for joint warfighting • Enhances access to cutting-edge technologies and products from multiple suppliers, thereby increasing competition • Exploits technology transparency for rapid upgrades • Enhances commonality and reuse of components among systems • Promotes closer cooperation between commercial and military electronics industries Open architecture/open source hardware or software architectures are based on specifications controlled by an objective third-party industry organization to ensure that no single developer or vendor has control over their use. A truly open architecture has multiple vendors producing products to its standard. The resulting competition in industry forces recurring costs to trend downward. RTCRTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE NOVEMBER MONTH 2011



Test Cycle


high-performance solutions needed for demanding military environments. Robust vendor support has been a key driver of the evolution of ATCA into the rugged air- and conduction-cooled variants of MicroTCA. At present, MicroTCA costs less than VPX products. When considering the cost of developing a HPM capability, VPX cost may exceed that of comparable MicroTCA implementations by as much as 50 to 100%. MicroTCA’s lower cost and open source advantages, coupled with its ability to meet the same environmental requirements as VPX and its performance edge in backplane fabric technology and HPM, make it an appealing choice in the small form factor military embedded systems domain.


Mechanical Shock

Passed (50 G)

Random Vibration

Passed (12 Grms, 50 – 2 kHz)

Bench Handling

Not performed


Thermal Shock

-55 °C to +85 °C

Not performed

Thermal Cycling with Humidity

500-hour duration

240-hour duration

Temperature Life

500-hour duration

Not performed

Mixed Flowing Gas

Passed (10 days)

Not performed


Passed (extreme environments)

Passed (standard environments)

Insulation Resistance


Dielectric Withstanding Voltage


Engaging/Separating Force


Electrostatic Discharge (15 kV)




BAE Systems, Electronic Systems [].

Passed (2 days)

Salt Fog/SO2

VadaTech Henderson, NV. (702) 896-0332. [].

TABLE 3 Testing for MicroTCA.3 was more comprehensive than for VPX, with testing performed over a longer life duration and against more failure mechanisms using VITA 47-defined environments—including 500 hours thermal cycling for MicroTCA.3 versus 240 hours for VPX.

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8/29/11 1:20:31 PM

Embedded Engineers Transform the World


TRANSFORMS EMBEDDED ENGINEERS New Classes • New Products • New Resources

UPCOMING LOCATIONS December 6, 2011 The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History Albuquerque, NM

December 8, 2011 Hilton Phoenix Airport Phoenix, AZ


John D. McBrayer, Ph.D.,

Manager – Space and Weapons Electronics, Sandia National Labs


Director, EDGE Innovation Network

January 17, 2012 Santa Clara Convention Center Santa Clara, CA


For a Chance to WIN a Garmin nuvi GPS Navigator I’m at RTECC Albuquerque or Phoenix, so add “3” entries into the Drawing for: Name:_________________________

Co. ___________________________

products &

TECHNOLOGY Unmanaged, Low Power 12-Port, Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module

A rugged 12-port Gigabit Ethernet switch module is an extremely low-power, high-performance Ethernet switch. The H2 from North Atlantic Industries supports 16 Kbyte jumbo frames, 802.1P QoS or DiffServ/ToS priority queues, 802.1Q VLAN, Port Aggregation, Spanning Tree, Rapid & Multiple Spanning Tree, NAT, Port Forwarding, DNS, DHCP and Firewalling. The module can be mounted on a 3U cPCI or 6U VME rugged board. When mounted on a 6U VME board, single board computer and/or additional I/O, functions can be added to support system level requirements for processing and sensor interfacing. The H2 implements standard Ethernet switching functions via Broadcom technology and features IPv4 and IPv6 traffic class support, automatic learning and aging tags at 6.6W with 12 x Gig-E ports active at 85°C. It also supports a true non-blocking GigE integrated switch fabric with 4 Mbit packet buffer memory (for L2 functionality) and a high-performance look-up engine with support for up to 8K unicast MAC addresses. The H2 module switch enables system integrators to link Ethernet-based communications, control systems and sensor data across a broad range of application-ready subsystems. Customers looking forward to the next generation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and other autonomous robotic systems will take advantage of the high channel density and extremely low power features our H2 has to offer. In addition, based on NAI’s COTS, multifunction, high-density I/O and processor platforms (i.e., 75D3, 64DP3, 64E3), multiboard systems can be configured combining the H2 multi-port GigE switch capability with application-specific processing and I/O. North Atlantic Industries, Bohemia, NY. (631) 567-1100. [].

Fast Switching, Multi-Octave Frequency Synthesizers Feature LowPhase Noise, Fine-Tuning Steps.

A series of fast-switching frequency synthesizers is available in three custom multi-octave frequency bands to 8 GHz and is targeted as a lab source for prototype and bench-top testing. The three models from EM Research include the SBC-3000 frequency synthesizer, which operates from 400 to 3000 MHz, and features tuning steps of 1 Hz, with exceptionally low- phase noise (-100 dBc/Hz @ 10 KHz). The SBC-5000 operates from 700 to 5000 MHz, features tuning steps of 1 Hz, and low-phase noise (-95 dBc/Hz @ 10 KHz). The SBC-8000 operates from 5000 to 8000 MHz, features tuning steps of 1 Hz, with low-phase noise (-95 dBc/Hz @ 10 KHz). The units are locked to a 10 MHz external reference and offer +7 dBm output power, -15 dBc harmonics and -60 dBc spurs. Options include external or internal references (10-500 MHz) and extended temperature ranges. EM Research, Reno, NV. (775) 345-2411. [].



Small, Flexible Candlestick Sensor Measures Temperature and Air Velocity

A flexible, robust candlestick sensor can simultaneously measure both temperature and air velocity for characterizing thermal conditions in electronic systems. The MS 1000-CSWC from Advanced Thermal Systems is a candlestick-shaped sensor that is narrow and low profile to minimize disturbance of heat flow in the test domain. Its flexible, plasticsleeved stem eases installation and repositioning during the testing process. It has a plastic base to eliminate any potential shorting issues. Multiple sensors are easily installed to thoroughly map a system’s thermal and airflow conditions. The use of a single sensor to measure both temperature and velocity eliminates errors that can occur when airflow is non-isothermal. MS 1000-CS-WC candlestick sensors are calibrated for both low (natural convection) and high velocity flows. They are capable of temperature measurements ranging from -30° to +150°C ±1°C. Velocity measurements range from 0 to 50 m/s (10,000 ft/min) ±2%. The sensor’s stem is just 0.5 mm in diameter; its base diameter is 9.5 mm. Three different heights are available: 9, 12, and 20 mm. Prices for MS 1000-CS-WC candlestick sensors start at $180. Advanced Thermal Solutions, Norwood, MA. (781) 769-2800. [].


PMC Modules Use Economical FPGA to Reduce Cost of Complex Embedded Tasks

A set of new PMC mezzanine modules features the cost-optimized Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. The PMCSLX reconfigurable FPGA modules from Acromag can save thousands of dollars, yet still deliver high-performance computing for algorithm acceleration and custom logic processing tasks. Spartan-6 FPGAs have integrated logic, DSP and memory resources that leverage the flagship Virtex-6 FPGA platform’s architecture and system-level blocks for quicker and smoother system development. Acromag adds a high-throughput PCIX interface, large memory banks, and easy access to field I/O signals to deliver a ready-to-use FPGA computing module for advanced signal processing applications. Typical uses include hardware simulation, in-circuit diagnostics, communications, signal intelligence and image processing. All models employ the logic-optimized SLX150 version of the Spartan-6 FPGA, which provides 147,433 logic cells and 180 DSP slices. Dual-ported SRAM (256k or 1M x 64-bit) facilitates high-speed DMA transfers to the bus or CPU. This memory provides direct links from the PCI bus and to the FPGA. 16 Mbyte flash memory enables onboard storage and loading of the FPGA code. The 100 MHz 64-bit PCI-X interface ensures fast data throughput. PMC-SLX modules are ready for use in conduction-cooled systems and offer an optional upgrade to extended temperature range parts suitable for -40° to 85°C operation. Acromag’s Engineering Design Kit provides utilities to help users develop custom programs, load VHDL into the FPGA, and establish DMA transfers between the FPGA and the CPU. The kit includes a compiled FPGA file and example VHDL code provided as selectable blocks with examples for the local bus interface, read/writes, and change-of-state interrupts to the PCI bus. A JTAG interface allows users to perform onboard VHDL simulation. Further analysis is supported with a ChipScope Pro interface. For easy integration of the boards with embedded Windows applications, Acromag developed a DLL driver software package for compatibility with Get with Microsoft Visual C++ and Visual Basic. Sample files with “C” source demonstration programs provide easy-to-use toolsConnected to test operation of technology the module.and For companies providing solutions nowroutines real-time and open source applications, Acromag offers C libraries for VxWorks, Linux and other operating systems. The libraries provide generic Get Connected is aexercise new resource formodules further exploration (source code included) to handle reads, writes, interrupts and other functions. Demonstration programs enable the developer to quickly the I/O into debugging. products, technologies andexample companies. Whether your goal before attaching the routines to the application program. This diagnostic tool can save hours of troubleshooting and The Linux programs is to research the latest datasheet from a company, speak directly are a free download. The base price is just $2,895 with extra memory and extended temperature options available.

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Acromag, Wixom, MI. (248) 295-0310. [] .

AMD vDual-Core Power on Qseven Module

A new Qseven module is based on the AMD Embedded G-Series and combines high-performance graphics, dual core processing power and low power consumption in a very small form factor. It is therefore a suitable solution for costsensitive low-power control and visualization applications. The conga-QAF from Congatec is available in two processor variants: AMD GSeries G-T40E 1.0 GHz Dual Core (6.4W); and AMD G-Series G-T40R 1.0 GHz Single Core (5.5W) with up to 4 Gbytes of low power on board DDR3 memory. The integrated graphics core with the Universal Video Decoder 3.0 for seamless processing of Blu-ray content via HDCP (1080p), MPEG-2, HD and DivX (MPEG-4) video supports DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0 for fast 2D and 3D image display and OpenGL 1.1. LVDS. DisplayPort and HDMI graphics interfaces are provided. The AMD G-Series graphics unit can also be used for compute-intensive parallelizable operations that are normally executed by the processor. OpenCL support is offered to ensure that non-graphics related standard operations are also easy and straightforward to perform. The new conga-QAF Qseven module, which measures just 70 x 70 mm and uses the AMD Hudson E1 Fusion controller hub in combination with the G-Series processor, provides a powerful and compact two-chip solution with a complete feature set. Differential interfaces such as PCI Express and SATA are available. Support is further available for 8x USB 2.0, 2x SATA 3.0, 1x SDIO, 4x PCIe 2.0, LPC bus, I²C bus, Gigabit Ethernet and high definition audio. Extreme performance efficiencies make this a suitable solution for user-friendly control of mobile applications in automation, medical technology, digital signage, POI/POS, transportation, and many other fields. Pricing starts at under $200. Congatec, San Diego, CA. (858) 457-2600. [].

with an Application Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the right resource. Whichever level of service you require for whatever type of technology, Get Connected will help you connect with the companies and products you are searching for. Rugged Operation in a Terminal Offers

Mobile Data Friendly

A ruggedly designed mobile data terminal is suitable for in-vehicle applications in the harshest environments. The Trek-753 from Advantech is feature-rich and ruggedized, with a friendly-touse design; it can improve safety, security and efGet Connected with technology and companies prov ficiency in a variety of in-vehicle, vertical markets. Get Connected isand a new resource for further exploration into pro Trek-753 has an EN 60721-3-5 certification datasheet from a company, speak directly with an Application Engine meets military standards for vibration and shock. in touch with the right resource. Whichever level of service you requir Trek-753 is suitable for Get longConnected haul truck, will fuelhelp truck, ambulance, fire truck, and produc you connect with the companies and as an affordable solution to heavy duty vehicle applications. Trek-753 is designed to operate in transient power conditions. It supports 12V/24V car power systems, operating from 6 ~ 36V, and it is compliant with ISO7637-2 and SAE J1113. With power-on/power-off delay features, which are software configurable, Trek holds its own in unstable power conditions. And Trek-753 can operate in the temperature extremes found in vehicle environments, at a range from -30° ~ 60°C. Trek-753 features an Intel Atom Z510PT/Z520PT processor, increased memory, the addition of an analog video input port, GbE, and rich I/O ports (additional COM port, audio, CAN bus, and J1708). With an optional I/O cover, it is IP54 compliant. Trek-753 has also been re-engineered to optimize internal space, gained by its full-flat panel touchscreen; and it has moved the CF/SD/SIMGet cardConnected slot to make with it externally allowing easy access companiesaccessible, and without having to open the unit. products featured in thisTrek-753 section. supports built-in RF modules, such as GPS an AGPS feature, GPRS/CDMA/HSDPA, WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n & Bluetooth. Paired with navigation, statistical and monitoring software, it meets fleet management requirements, saves fuel, aids dispatchers and helps resource arrangement.


Advantech, Irvine, CA. (949) 789-7178. []. Get Connected with companies and products featured in this section.




Atom-Based EBX SBC Provides Performance for New and Legacy Applications

An EBX-compatible, Atom-based single board computer comes with either the Intel Atom single core 1.66 GHz N455 or dual core 1.80 GHz D525 processor combined with the ICH8M I/O hub controller and a variety of onboard serial and parallel I/O interfaces. The EBC-C384 from WinSystems provides a processor- and I/O-intensive solution that is suitable for rugged embedded applications such as military, medical, factory automation, transportation, smart grid and security. The EBC-C384 uses the integrated Intel graphics processor, which supports both CRT and LVDS simultaneously. It is suitable for applications requiring multiple display configurations. This SBC’s I/O includes two SATA channels, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, four serial COM channels that support RS-232/422/485, 48 digital I/O lines, and HD audio. Legacy I/O includes a PS/2 keyboard and mouse controller, LPT port and PATA interface. Also PC/104, PC/104-Plus and MiniPCI connectors provide additional expansion options with industry standard off-the-shelf or user-designed specialty I/O modules. Up to 4 Gbyte of DDR3 MHz SODIMM system memory can be supported on the dual core D525 and 2 Gbyte on the single core N455 version of the EBC-C384. There is also a socket for a CompactFlash (CF) device as well. The EBC-C384 supports Linux, Windows XP embedded and WES7. It also supports other x86-compatible RTOS such as QNX and VxWorks. To help designers quickly install Windows Embedded 7 on the EBC-C384, WinSystems has produced a demonstration video along with free downloadable drivers for the onboard I/O devices, which are available on the website. The EBC-C384 is EBX compliant and measures 5.75” x 8.00” (147 mm x 203 mm). The single core N455 model is fanless, requires +5 volts, and typically draws 2.1 amps. The dual core D525 typically draws 2.9 amps and requires a fan. Quantity one pricing for the fanless, single core N455, 1.66 GHz board is $529, and $595 for the dual core D525, 1.80 GHz board. WinSystems, Arlington, TX. (817) 274-7553. [].

Fanless System with up to 5 Ethernet Ports Operates in Wide Temperature Range

Two new fanless systems feature Intel’s Core i5/i7 Mobile CPUs and HD graphics housed in a durable, sleek chassis. The Neousys NUVO-1003B and NUVO-1005B from Logic Supply offer high-performance computing in a wide operating temperature range of -25° ~ 70°C. With the option for three or five Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports, they are suitable for machine vision, surveillance, medical imaging and networking applications. In addition to the three or five Intel 82574L Gigabit Ethernet ports, both NUVO systems boast a broad suite of I/O capabilities. Featuring one RS-232/422/485 port, three RS-232 ports, PS2 mouse and keyboard input, six USB 2.0 ports, VGA and DVI/HDMI video output, the NUVO series ensures ease of integration with legacy systems and next-generation applications alike. A standard 12-volt DC barrel jack is provided for convenient bench testing, while a wideinput 8¬-26 volts DC and remote power switch can be wired in via a 4-pin terminal block. Expansion is available in the form of a PCI Express Mini Card with SIM card integration, and an optional PC/104 expansion bus. Storage options include a 2.5” SATA HDD bay, accessible by a single-screw trap door, externally accessible CompactFlash, and two eSATA ports for external storage. Logic Supply, South Burlington, VT. (802) 861-2300. [].



Intel Celeron 827E Addition to Sandy Bridge Family of PCIe/104 SBCs

Advanced Digital Logic has announced the addition of its Intel Celeron 827E to its Sandy Bridge ADLQM67PC platform. The Sandy Bridge Celeron 827E is a single core, single thread processor that features most of the Intel Core i7 benefits. The Intel 6 series chipset (QM67 PCH) offered on the ADLQM67 coupled with the single core, single thread architecture of the 827E Celeron, makes it an attractive choice for many industrial RTOS applications that do not need all of the computing power of the multicore Intel Core i7. The QM67 PCH provides PCIe 2.0 I/O bandwidth at twice the speed (5 Gbit/s) of previous Intel Core platforms. The relatively low price point of the ADLQM67PC-827E makes it an excellent choice for many cost-conscious RTOS implementations. The ADLQM67PC-827E features a wide range of robust I/O functions. The ADLQM67PC has a discrete 16-bit digital I/O port as well as separate VGA, LVDS, HDMI and Display Port interfaces. The ADLQM67PC also has 2x RS-232 COM ports, 2x SATA 6 Gbit/s with RAID support, 8x USB2.0, two bootable Gigabit Ethernet LAN, HDA 7.1, and bottom-stacking Type 1 PCI/104-Express V2.0 connector supporting PCIe 2.0 throughput of 5 GT/s. Advanced Digital Logic San Diego, CA. (858) 490-0597. [].


Power Estimator App for the iPhone Targets Xilinx’s 28nm 7 Series FPGAs

Designers who rely on their iPhones as much as their PCs now have a quick and easy way to determine the power consumption of Xilinx’s 28nm 7 series FPGAs. The new Pocket Power Estimator (PPE) application for Apple’s iPhone enables designers to see how Xilinx’s 28nm programmable platforms stack up to alternatives in delivering the lowest power consumption for their systems. Designers can download the PPE from the Apple App Store today and quickly and easily explore what-if scenarios and get immediate feedback on the estimated power consumption compared to alternatives. For more complex and detailed power analyses, designers can use the ISE Design Suite’s XPower Estimator (XPE) and the XPower Analyzer (XPA) tools. The PPE app, which can also be used with the iPad, offers an easy-to-use GUI for the quick entering of resource requirements—such as SerDes utilization, DSP, memory, logic capacity and more. Compared to the previous generation 40nm FPGAs, Xilinx 7 series FPGAs deliver about 50 percent lower total power, on average, thanks in part to the HPL (high-performance/low-power) process technology offered by foundry partner TSMC. Further components of the power envelope that drive this total power reduction include 65 percent lower maximum (worst case) static power, 25 percent lower dynamic power, 30 percent lower I/O power, and 60 percent lower transceiver power. The PPE app takes into account these aspects of total power consumption to enable designers to easily obtain a high-level estimate of power usage by functional block, and how it compares to other Xilinx or competing devices. The PPE also includes application reference examples that designers can use as starting points to customize to their own specifications. The first release of the app includes design examples the wiredand and Get Connected withfortechnology providing solutions now wireless communications markets, while future releases will have additional market segment examples andcompanies support other smartphone platforms.

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Connected is afor newAndroid resource for The Xilinx PPE mobile application is free of charge and is available now on the Apple App Store. Get A version of PPE andfurther otherexploration into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal Smartphone platforms will be introduced later this year.

Xilinx, San Jose, CA. (408) 559-7778. [].

6U OpenVPX Blade Server with Integrated 10 Gigabit Ethernet Switch

A rugged, high-performance 6U VPX (VITA 46) Single Board Computer (SBC) features a quad-core Intel L5408 Xeon processor and integrated 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch to support full-mesh backplane data layer interconnectivity for up to eight SBCs integrated into a single chassis. Available in air-cooled or conduction-cooled formats, the CPU-111-10 from Parvus conforms to the OpenVPX (VITA 65) payload module profile MOD6-PAY-4F2T- with four fat pipes (10 GBase-BX4) and two thin pipes (1000Base-T). Providing unparalleled data processing capabilities in a single-slot 6U VPX form factor card with built-in 10 Gigabit Ethernet fabric switching, the CPU-111-10 serves as an ideal open-architecture building-block for next-generation Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) applications on board (un)manned air / ground vehicles and shipboard platforms. Standard onboard I/O resources includes up to eight 10 Gigabit Ethernet, two 1 Gigabit Ethernet, four SATA, two USB 2.0, one RS-232/485 and VGA video ports. Dual XMC / PMC expansion module sites enable additional I/O expansion, including 10G XAUI lanes from each XMC card to the 10G switched fabric. Offered in both convection-cooled and ruggedized conduction-cooled variants, the CPU-111-10 is designed for use with ANSI/VITA 46 1.0” pitch VPX form factor backplanes. Air-cooled variants provide a front panel SFP+ port supporting CX4 copper and fiber applications for chassis-to-chassis and rack-to-rack communications. Conduction-cooled variants feature traditional board stiffeners, heat spreaders and wedge locks to passively transfer heat to the chassis and tolerate high shock and vibration environments. An optional Rear Transition Module (RTM) is available that brings out VPX I/O over industry standard connectors. Parvus, Salt Lake City, UT. (801) 483-1533. [].

is to research the latest datasheet from a company, speak directly with an Application Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the right resource. Whichever levelPromote of service youEngagement require for whatever in type of technology, New JTAG Demo Kit to Get Connected will help you connect with the companies and products Open Source Initiative you are searching for.

Within the framework of the goJTAG initiative, Goepel Electronic has developed a new demonstration kit. In addition to the USB 2.0 controlled Boundary Scan controller PicoTAP and respective software, it contains a specific demo board for practical exercises. Get The networking founded by Connected various uni- with technology and companies prov versities and the Company Testonica Lab, pursues theresource goal offorproviding the Get Connected is a new further exploration into pro datasheet company, speak directly withindepenan Application Engine industry JTAG/Boundary Scan toolsfrom andaknowledge based on an touch with the right resource. Whichever service you requir dent and non-commercial in platform, sustainably accelerating the level wideofadopGet1194.x Connected will help The you connect with the tion of standardized IEEE test methods. centerpiece ofcompanies Goepel and produc Electronic’s engagement is the provision of free hardware and respective reference designs. The open-source project goJTAG provides IEEE 1149.1 training software that can be run in both simulation mode as well as online mode. The tool enables numerous graphical displays on various levels. In the online mode users are able to utilize the software for the new demo board for individual projects without restrictions. Additionally, the goJTAG software includes simulation components that fully reveal every single bit of movement along the scan chains with a single TCK precision. Hence, users are able to step-wise control TAP states and observe system's reaction in real time as an on-screen simulation. Such a detailed illustration of JTAG/Boundary Scan test principles has not been possible so far. Get Connected with companies and The source code written in JAVA is freely accessible and can be changed products featured in this section. under the general terms and conditions for open-source software. Furthermore, the reference designs for the specifically developed controller PicoTAP and the new demo board are available for non-commercial applications free of charge.


GOEPEL Electronic, Jena, Germany. +49 3641-6896-0. []. Get Connected with companies and products featured in this section.




EPIC Format SBC with Vortex86DX Processor

ATCA Shelf Management Solution Lowers Size and Cost

A fourth generation of Pigeon Point Systems’ Shelf Management Mezzanine (ShMM) products are already installed in tens of thousands of ATCA shelves worldwide. The ShMM-700R will be priced about 30% below the predecessor ShMM-500R. Shelf management represents one of the top five expense items in a typical ATCA shelf, so the ShMM-700R will allow Pigeon Point customers to deliver shelves at significantly reduced costs. Based on the 204-pin DDR3 SODIMM form factor, the ShMM-700R is also about 30% smaller than the ShMM-500R, for even more packaging flexibility. To ensure continuation of quality and stability that the ShMM-500R has earned in demanding telecom applications of ATCA, the ShMM-700R will be based on the same mature Pigeon Point Shelf Manager application code base and will deliver an equivalent user experience. That includes the optional addition of IntegralHPI, Pigeon Point’s high-performance implementation of the SA Forum’s Hardware Platform Interface (HPI), facilitating widely used upper layer management frameworks based on HPI. Furthermore, the ShMM-700R-based Shelf Manager implements Pigeon Point’s Hardware Platform Description Language (HPDL), enabling straightforward adaptations by Pigeon Point’s customers to a wide range of customer- or application-optimized ATCA shelf architectures, further facilitating broad ATCA adoption. The ShMM-700R incorporates a Freescale i.MX287 ARM9-based main processor executing the Linux-based Shelf Manager application and a Microsemi SmartFusion A2F060 mixed signal FPGA for critical supplementary functions. The new module is undergoing internal and external interoperability and functional testing, and will be delivered to shelf developers in January 2012. Pigeon Point Systems, Scotts Valley, CA. (831) 438-1565. [].

An economical EPIC format single board computer (SBC) features extensive I/O capabilities, very low power consumption, and fanless operation over the full industrial temperature range. The Newt board from VersaLogic leverages DM&P's Vortex86DX System on Chip (SoC). It offers 800 MHz performance, full industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C) operation, and very low power requirements. Based on the industry-standard EPIC form factor (4.5 x 6.5 inches), this SBC is a solution for industrial and medical applications with substantial I/O requirements. The Newt is designed for headless applications (no video output), or it may be used with plug-in video expansion modules. The Newt features built-in data acquisition ports including sixteen analog inputs, up to eight analog outputs, and thirty-two digital I/O lines. Basic onboard I/O includes single or dual Ethernet with network boot capability, up to 1 Gbyte soldered-on DDR2 RAM, up to four USB ports, four serial ports, IDE controller with support for two devices, CompactFlash socket or eUSB interface (optional) for removable flash storage, and three general purpose timers. An industry-standard PC/104-Plus expansion site provides plug-in access to a wide variety of expansion modules from numerous vendors. The SPX expansion interface provides additional plug-in expansion for low-cost analog, digital and CANbus I/O. Designed for full industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C) operation, the Newt boards meet MILSTD-202G specifications for mechanical shock and vibration. Optional latching Ethernet connectors provide additional ruggedization for use in extremely harsh environments. Transient voltage suppression (TVS) devices on critical I/O ports provide enhanced electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection for the system. The Newt features an American Megatrends (AMI) BIOS with OEM enhancements. The fieldreprogrammable BIOS supports custom defaults, remote/network booting, and other application functions. Newt is compatible with a variety of popular x86 operating systems including Windows, Windows Embedded, Linux, VxWorks and QNX. Pricing starts at $411 in OEM quantities. VersaLogic, Eugene, OR. (541) 485-8575. [].




USB-PET Protocol and Electrical Tester Includes “On the Go” Testing

A new USB protocol and electrical tester is capable of performing the suite of tests defined in the USB Implementers Forum, Inc.’s “Battery Charging, USB On-The-Go and Embedded Host Automated Compliance Plan.” The Packet-Master USB-PET from Saelig is connected to a host PC using a High-Speed USB connection, and controlled using the GraphicUSB application software, which can generate test reports and perform analyzerstyle captures. USB-PET’s front panel features a micro-AB receptacle and a D-type connector for connection to a unit-under-test. The rear-panel allows the connection of a meter or oscilloscope for monitoring, for example, VBUS voltage. Single unit price is $5,995. The series of tests that Packet-Master USB-PET can perform includes: • OTG Compliance Testing: USB-PET provides automated compliance testing of both the data protocol and the electrical and timing requirements of the On-The-Go and Embedded Host Supplement to the USB Revision 2.0 Specification. All aspects of On-The-Go and Embedded Hosts are tested, including VBUS voltage and current performance, and SRP, HNP and ADP protocols. • Battery Charging Compliance Testing: USB-PET can carry out the compliance testing required by the USB Charging Port Compliance Plan, including tests on Charging Ports, Portable Devices and Accessory Charger Adapters. • Analyzer Functionality: USB-PET can capture an analysis of bus activity during the compliance test, in the same format as other MQP analyzers. This allows rapid investigation of protocol-based test failures. • Control of Testing: Tests are usually carried out as a suite for a particular type of Unit-Under-Test (UUT), but individual tests can also be selected to investigate a particular failure. Users can even write their own test scripts to modify parameters for more in-depth or special investigations. • High Speed Electrical Test Modes: Single click operations allow the initiation of any of the High Speed Electrical Test modes defined in the supplement and the core USB specification. Saelig, Pittsford, NY. (585) 385-1750. [].

CompactPCI Serial Board Provides Flexible Configuration

FPGA-Powered Frame Grabber and Motion Drive for Custom Inspection and Machine Control

MEN Micro, Ambler, PA. (215) 542-9575. [].

National Instruments, Austin, TX. (512) 794-0100. [].

A universal CompactPCI Serial peripheral board provides flexible serial communication via an individual mix of UART and fieldbus interfaces and is targeted at mission-critical industrial, mobile and harsh environment applications. Although equipped with five standard interfaces, the G215 from Men Micro features a configurable FPGA IP core that offers nearly unlimited interface options that enable several functionalities. This provides a cost-effective means of implementing a variety of I/O including dedicated serial I/O, intelligent I/O or a combination of customized I/O to meet user requirements. Developed for use in harsh embedded environments, the G215 has an operating temperature range of -40° to +85°C, with all components soldered to withstand shock and vibration. As standard, the board’s front panel includes two UARTs, two CAN interfaces and an 8-channel binary I/O interface. Each channel on the G215 can be implemented individually on the physical layer via SA-Adapters. For example, up to eight SA-Adapters can be mechanically mounted on a threeslot front panel to implement a CAN card with eight ports. Optionally, two of the SA-Adapters can be directly installed on the G215, connected using a 9-pin D-Sub connector. The use of different SA-Adapters enables additional connections to the G215, increasing the combinations of various interfaces and isolation requirements. The use of Altera’s new Cyclone 4 high-performance FPGA enables users to develop intelligent applications, as found when using programmable processors, such as a Nios softcore. Connected directly to the backplane, the Cyclone 4 leads customer-specific FPGA functions to the rear I/O, while providing fast communication to the host CPU from the FPGA via PCI Express at the backplane. All I/O functions are implemented inside the FPGA, which supports RS-232, RS-422 and RS-485 UARTs in full duplex, half duplex or HDLC mode that can be electrically isolated as needed. The FPGA also handles field buses such as CAN, InterBus-S or the vehicle bus IBIS. Pricing for the G215 is $490.

Two new additions to the reconfigurable I/O (RIO) technology from National Instruments include a reconfigurable Camera Link frame grabber for demanding embedded vision applications and a motion module for the NI CompactRIO platform. The NI PCIe1473R frame grabber is a PC-based embedded vision board that combines field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology with a Camera Link interface to help engineers create high-performance embedded imaging and inspection applications. The NI 9502 brushless servo drive C Series module makes it possible for engineers to drive brushless servo motors, including six new custom NI motor options, directly from the reconfigurable CompactRIO system to address advanced motion control challenges. The NI PCIe-1473R frame grabber is suitable for advanced inspection and imaging applications that require image preprocessing and high-speed control such as medical imaging, web and surface inspection and highspeed sorting. Engineers and scientists can program the new frame grabber’s onboard FPGA with the NI LabVIEW FPGA Module for custom image processing and analysis in real time, with little to no CPU intervention. The frame grabber combines the onboard FPGA with a high-bandwidth 850 Mbyte/s Camera Link bus, which supports a range of Camera Link configurations up to 10 taps and 80 bits. With the addition of the NI 9502 motion drive module for CompactRIO, engineers can now power brushless, stepper or brushed servo motors directly with NI C Series modules to provide a compact, highly customizable solution for integrating motion into advanced control, monitoring and test systems. The NI 9502 offers 4A continuous/8A peak current and multiple commutation modes. To complement the module, NI is also releasing six three-phase brushless motors that are specifically designed for maximum performance and direct connectivity with the NI 9502. With these features and more, the NI 9502 helps engineers implement proprietary custom drive control algorithms at the FPGA level through LabVIEW FPGA, eliminating the need for custom firmware from a drive manufacturer.




Software Radio Module with FPGA Preconfigured for Turnkey Operation

A new multichannel data converter with digital down and upconverters boasts two channels each of 12-bit, 500 MHz A/D and 16-bit, 800 MHz D/A. The Model 71651 from Pentek has a Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA at its core. The FPGA is preconfigured with data acquisition and playback IP to give the module turn-key functionality, with room left for user customization. The Model 71651 features two input and two output RF channels, transformer-coupled to allow direct connection to HF or IF radio stages. The input channels feature 12-bit, 500 MHz A/Ds that feed data into the Virtex-6 FPGA. The output channels incorporate a Texas Instruments DAC5688 digital upconverter that translates real or complex baseband signals to any IF frequency up to 380 MHz. Dual 16-bit, 800 MHz D/As create real or in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) analog outputs. Four types of preconfigured IP in the FPGA help simplify the capture, movement and playback of data. Three Acquisition IP modules accept data from any of the A/Ds, a test signal generator, or the Playback IP in loopback mode. These acquisition modules each have a private memory bank for storing data in capture mode, or to serve as a FIFO buffer for the linked-list DMA engine to move data offboard through the x8 Gen 2 PCIe interface. The DMA engines can automatically generate meta-data to simplify host processing. The D/A Waveform Playback Module provides a linked-list controller so users can easily deliver waveforms stored in onboard or host memory to the D/As. Up to 64 individual link entries can be chained together to create complex waveforms with a minimum of programming. Parameters for each waveform include length of waveform, delay from playback trigger, waveform repetition, plus the link to the next waveform. Users can also implement their own IP in the 71651’s FPGA using Pentek’s GateFlow FPGA design kit. Boards can be populated with a variety of FPGAs to match the specific requirement of the processing task. Pentek’s ReadyFlow Board Support package for Windows, Linux or VxWorks operating systems includes C-callable libraries, drivers, and example code for easy access to all of the features. The Signal Analyzer features a virtual oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer for viewing live data streaming from the 71651, straight out of the box. A command line interpreter allows customers to change module parameters to check operation and performance on the Signal Analyzer without having to compile C code. Pentek, Upper Saddle River, NJ. (201) 818-5900. [].

Mobile App Protection (MAP) for Android Makes Mobile Apps “Self-Defending”

A new software solution is aimed at helping the enterprise get a handle on the explosion of mobile devices and apps on their networks. Mobile App Protection, or MAP, from Mocana, is a security solution that goes beyond sandboxing, SDKs, containers and hypervisor technologies to enable administrators to specify distinct security policies for each enterprise app on every device on their network. Mocana MAP even enables businesses to manage and secure mobile apps they create for the unmanaged consumer devices outside the enterprise network. • MAP makes apps “self-defending” to protect sensitive corporate data at rest or in transit, meter usage intelligently, and control access for compliance purposes. • MAP “wraps” individual apps with whatever security policies are desired. • MAP enables administrators to set up multiple versions of the same app with different security policies for different users, devices and contexts. • “Wrapping” apps with MAP—even in batches of thousands—is automated and takes just seconds on the MAP console. This can be done “offline” to conform to existing enterprise app staging procedures. • MAP is completely transparent to end-users. MAP can work within an existing mobile device management (MDM) console. Once a smartphone app is developed, the administrator loads a finished app binary (APK) into the MAP system, sets the desired app security policies, and MAP does the rest. Even third-party apps can be protected without access to source code. Newly wrapped apps are uploaded into an enterprise app store—or Mocana’s App Catalog—for distribution to users. With MAP, any enterprise mobile app can encrypt its data with FIPS 140-2 validated security—even if that app didn’t have any security built into it, originally. With MAP, any app can be put behind its own password-prompt. MAP can even prevent cutting-and-pasting (and data leakage) from any selected app, under specified conditions. These capabilities ensure that only the authorized user can access the enterprise app, and prevent the loss of sensitive enterprise data should the device fall into the wrong hands. Data stealing malware is also thwarted, as it cannot gain access to the important data stored within its intended target. Mocana, San Francisco, CA. (415) 617-0055. [].




Embedded Workbench for ARM Cortex Users

A new version of IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM adds significant speed optimizations and several new attractive features. Optimizations are targeted for the ARM CMSIS DSP library and for general speed improvements when generating code for Cortex-M processors. One of the new features that has been added is stack usage analysis. With stack usage analysis enabled, the Workbench produces a stack usage report with listings for each call graph root in the call chain, resulting in the maximum stack depth. This is very useful information in most embedded projects, as it greatly simplifies estimates of stack usage. The latest version also comes with a much improved inline assembler. Thanks to a new way of handling inline assembly, the user can now place pieces of assembly code right where it is needed in the high-level code, with access to the surrounding C variables. The inlined assembly code can safely reserve private storage. The timeline window has been enhanced with a useful graphical event log for Cortex-M3/M4 users. When analyzing the timing behavior, developers can place certain macros in the code, and when these points are reached during execution, event messages will be sent and appear in the timeline window. This lets the user determine the time elapsed between two points in the code. The new timeline feature can also provide support for creating a stack usage profile of an application over time. The function profiling window has also been enhanced, using a function hide mechanism. This feature greatly simplifies the task of getting an overall profiling picture of the application, because it can filter out functions that are not of interest. This is very useful when working with an RTOS, since it can hide everything related to the RTOS kernel, and thereby extract a focused picture of where the time is spent in executing application code. Signum Systems’ JTAGjet, an advanced real-time, in-circuit debugger for high-end applications, is now integrated in IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM, making it possible to take full advantage of the trace capabilities on Cortex-A and Cortex-R devices when debugging complex systems. IAR Systems, Foster City, CA. (650) 287-4253. [].

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Non-Volatile Storage-Class Memory for Demanding Applications

This new non-volatile storage device is packaged as a DDR3 non-volatile DIMM that provides a battery-free, storage-class memory (SCM) solution to a host of enterprise applications. The ArxCis-NV from Viking Technology is a highavailability solution, engineered for disaster recovery by protecting data in memory from power failure. ArxCis-NV’s high-speed non-volatile memory was developed through extensive experience in both DRAM and SSD technology to create a hybrid solution that leverages the speed and endurance of DDR3 memory, seamlessly integrated with the non-volatile storage retention of flash memory. ArxCis-NV provides protection for enterprise RAID applications and main memory persistence for a host of virtualized applications that require data security in the event of power failure. These new modules eliminate the need for battery backup units (BBU), delivering a more stable, maintenance-free and cost-effective solution. Batteries that have not been maintained correctly are at risk of not being able to secure the data during a power outage. The ArxCis-NV uses a small capacitor pack that stores enough energy to be able to write from the DRAM to the SLC-Flash in the event of a power failure. Upon power being restored, the data is written back to the DRAM ready for the system to access immediately following boot-up. An additional advantage is that the daily routine reads and writes are made to the DRAM rather than to flash memory, which quite bluntly, eventually wears out. And in applications that need to work 24/7 and require very high I/O rates, flash can become unreliable relatively soon. While SSDs running in the range of 300-400 Mbyte/s may be acceptable for many situations, constant uptime and an I/O rate in the range of 12 Gbyte/s will reach the limits of flash requiring frequent replacement to avoid catastrophic data loss. The ArxCis-NV easily integrates into industry standard x86 motherboards. It can function in the host environment as a JEDEC standard DDR3 Registered DIMM. The ArxCis-NV is currently available in 2 Gbyte, 4 Gbyte and 8 Gbyte capacities. Other options include a variety of super-capacitor pack energy capacity, depending upon application demands. Viking Technology, Foothill Ranch, CA. (949) 643-7255. [],

Compact Design for Rugged Environments

A small, rugged embedded computer operates without fans or other moving parts for reliable operation. Designed for harsh industrial and commercial environments, the Relio R1420 from Sealevel Systems is suitable for mobile applications, embedded control and test & measurement. The Relio R1420 offers a wealth of standard I/O including dual Gigabit Ethernet, six USB 2.0 ports, four serial ports, 8-bit GPIO, audio output and VGA video. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N450 CPU, the Relio R1420 includes 2 Gbyte RAM and offers very low power consumption while operating fanless up to 50°C ambient. The R1420 is powered from a 9-30 VDC source or select from a variety of Sealevel power supply options. The system is housed in a compact, rugged metal enclosure with the same footprint as Sealevel SeaI/O modules. Optional brackets allow for versatile mounting to walls, under counters, on tabletops or even to DIN rails. Users can choose to operate from CompactFlash or a removable 2.5” SATA solid-state disk. Popular operating system options include 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Professional. Linux is also supported. Local or remote I/O expansion is available using Sealevel SeaI/O data acquisition modules. Sealevel Systems, Liberty, SC. (864) 843-4343. [].

Single-Axis Pocket Motion Controller with 800W Sine Drive

A single-axis Ethernet motion controller combines a high-performance motion controller and a 800 watt sine drive in a low-cost, compact 3.9" x 5.0" x 1.5" package. The DMC300xx from Galil Motion Control is also available as a controller-only model, which can be connected to a stepper or servo motor amplifier of any power range. Using a 32-bit RISC processor and improved power technology, the DMC-300xx provides higher speed, better power efficiency and smaller size than prior generation controllers. The DMC-300xx is designed for single-axis motor control applications where compact size, low cost and remote location are important. The DMC-30012 model is packaged with an 800W amplifier for driving brushless servo motors at 20-80 VDC, up to 10 amps continuous, 15 amps peak. The fully digital, transconductance amplifier is a sinusoidally commutated brushless motor amplifier that minimizes torque ripple compared to drives using trapezoidal commutation. This is especially important for applications using low friction linear motors. The amplifier provides commands for initialization of the brushless motor using either hall sensors or encoder feedback. Other features of the DMC-300xx motion controller include PID compensation with velocity and acceleration feedforward, nonvolatile memory for user programs, multitasking for simultaneously running up to four programs, and I/O processing for synchronizing motion with external events. Modes of motion include point-to-point positioning, position tracking, jogging, contouring, electronic gearing, ECAM and PVT. The DMC-300xx provides optically isolated inputs and outputs as a standard feature. I/O includes forward and reverse limit inputs, homing input, eight uncommitted digital inputs, four uncommitted digital outputs, two uncommitted analog inputs and one uncommitted analog output. It accepts position feedback from both a main and auxiliary encoder. Quadrature encoder feedback is standard with BiSS and SSI formats available as an option. A 115 kb RS-232 port is also provided. Single unit price is $695 and $495 in quantity 100. Galil Motion Control, Rocklin, CA. (800) 377-6329. [].




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with an Application Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the right resource. Whichever level of service you require for whatever type of technology, Get Connected will help you connect with the companies and products you are searching for.

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3D Plus...................................................... 24.....................................

MSC Embedded, Inc...................................

Acess I/O Products, Inc..............................

One Stop Systems, Inc...............................


End of Article

ADLINK Technology, Inc...............................

Pentek, Inc.................................................

Advanced Micro Devices,with Inc...................... 68.......................................... Get Connected companies and products featured in this section. Advantech Corporation............................... 31.................................

Phoenix International................................... 4.....................................

Cogent Computer Systems, Inc................... 39...................................

RTD Embedded Technologies, Inc...............

Get Connected with companies and19, products featured in this section. Connect Tech, Inc.................................... 45...........................

Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article. RTECC....................................................... 55.........................................

DRS Defense Solutions, LLC....................... 67.......................................

Super Micro Computer, Inc......................... 44................................

Elma Electronic, Inc.................................... 41.............................

Tech Design Forum..................................... 49......................

Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc............. 23..........................................

Themis Computer.......................................

Innovative Integration.................................. 35...........................

VersaLogic Corporation..............................

Intel Corporation.........................................

WinSystems, Inc..........................................

Get Connected

with companies mentioned in this article. Prism Computer Solutions.......................... 54.....................................

ISI Nallatech, Inc........................................ 20................................... LiPPERT Embedded Computers, Inc............


Logic Supply, Inc........................................ 10................................

A seasoned embedded technology professional?

Measurement Computing Corporation.........

Experienced in the industrial and military procurement process? Ever thinking about writing as a career?

MILESTONE............................................... 65............................ Mini-, Nano- and Pico-ITX & Development Tools Showcase..........................................63


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RTC magazine  

November 2011

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