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The magazine of record for the embedded computing industry

August 2012

FPGAs Move into ASIC Turf Optical Interconnects Bring Supercomputing to Embedded Advanced Management Shepherds Remote Systems

An RTC Group Publication


fully-assembled turnkey solutions Run, drive, or fly your Simulink design in real time, using Rapid Prototyping or Hardware-in the-Loop simulations on low-cost PC-based hardware. xPC Target provides a library of device drivers, a real-time kernel, and an interface for monitoring, parameter tuning, and data logging. It supports a full range of standard IO modules, protocols, and target computers.

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ENERGY HARVESTING Keeps Low-Power Networks Humming

40 Double Refresh Rate Challenge Solved with New Line of DDR3L Modules

42 Series of Very Small GigE Cameras Targets Machine Vision


45 Extreme Performance ATCA Blade with Dual Intel Xeon Processors E5-2658 and E2648L



Technology in Context


Energy Harvesting for Low-Power Networks

Wireless Device Connectivity

6Editorial Oh, Give Me a Sign... And Paint it with Power Wireless Sensors My Data 16 Zero Using Energy Harvesting Insider 8Industry Latest Developments in the Embedded Basics for Energy Marketplace Harvesting Systems 20 Design Steve Grady, Cymbet

Form Factor Forum 10Small SFF Connectors Go 3G & Technology Newest Embedded Technology Used by 40Products Industry Leaders


Wi-Fi—What’s 28Embedding Involved? Amir Friedman, Connect One

Monitoring Helps Protect 32Wireless Consumer Health Alf Helge Omre, Nordic Semiconductor

Farris Bar, Silicon Laboratories


Time-to-Market Using an FPGA and Customizable 24 Accelerating SoC Methodology Rufino Olay, Microsemi

Power Debugging

Debugging—Minimizing Power Consumption by Tuning the 12Power Code Tom Williams

TECHNOLOGY DEPLOYED Advanced Management for Industrial Control

Remote Management 36Secure Technologies Support Embedded Platforms Norbert Hauser, Kontron

Industry watch Optical Connectivity

Connectors to Fire Up VPX 48Optical Backplanes Michael Munroe, Elma Electronic

Digital Subscriptions Available at RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


AUGUST 2012 Publisher PRESIDENT John Reardon,

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

Art/Production ART DIRECTOR Kirsten Wyatt, GRAPHIC DESIGNER Michael Farina, LEAD WEB DEVELOPER Justin Herter,


Billing Cindy Muir, (949) 226-2021

To Contact RTC magazine: HOME OFFICE The RTC Group, 905 Calle Amanecer, Suite 250, San Clemente, CA 92673 Phone: (949) 226-2000 Fax: (949) 226-2050, Editorial Office Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief 1669 Nelson Road, No. 2, Scotts Valley, CA 95066 Phone: (831) 335-1509

Published by The RTC Group Copyright 2012, The RTC Group. Printed in the United States. All rights reserved. All related graphics are trademarks of The RTC Group. All other brand and product names are the property of their holders.


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6/4/12 2:04 PM

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Oh, Give Me a Sign . . . And Paint it with My Data


here seems to be a phenomenon at work that sees to it that anything that is capable of being implemented using digital technology eventually will be. Sometimes this can be rather scary as in the case of the huge interest in collecting the GPS-generated data unbeknownst to the world’s smartphone users. But that is really just one public example of what can be done given the proliferation of phones and tablets and the explosion of apps that can do who knows what with data generated by simply living our daily lives. This, of course, is in addition to all that useful data that is incidentally generated by everyone who even casually uses the Internet. That data is out there. It will remain there and grow, and there are any number of groups both private and governmental, both benign and sinister, busily mining it for purposes fair and foul. At the same time there are innovations being created daily to both acquire more such data and to utilize it even more creatively. For example, recently the data contained in an airbag controller was used in a court case to decide who was really at fault in an accident. By now I am sure there are apps that let private users track individual GPS locations—as in, “Molly and Billy have been parked down by the lake for a lo-o-ong time!” Let’s just face it. True privacy is a delusion. Given that fact, we can move on with attractive applications and apps—realizing that there is now a distinct difference between the two terms. One of the areas with huge growth potential appears to be digital signage, of which we will mention just two possible examples here. The term is initially deceptive. Of course newer signage will be digital—what isn’t? But there are many creative ways that are being found to utilize the huge amount of data that is lying around to serve the commercial interests of those organizations that invest in digital signage. Part of this has to do with the ability to identify individuals and then make use of the data that pertains specifically to them. Among the more obvious approaches is to sense the presence of a smartphone (previous targets were PDAs) and then link it to data of first, previous purchases or even to data generated from browsing in a given retail location. This can lead to a sign in the vicinity of the customer suddenly signaling for that person’s attention and presenting attractive items. If an image is to be used,



Tom Williams Editor-in-Chief

it can either be taken on the spot or retrieved and presented, for example, with the desired piece of attire. The customer can then interact and have the image “try on” various other pieces. We are hearing ideas about using facial recognition software to identify customers as well. There could well be a growing business of establishments sharing—for fees—tailored or customized excerpts from their customer databases. Interactive signage will also pull up selections of accessories for items on which the customer has settled or expressed an interest. Then, of course, there will be the constant email alerts for new stuff that could amount to a constant barrage of sales pitching. And we haven’t even gotten out of the department store yet. We already have digital airport kiosks hawking high-end gadgets to complement the overpriced in-flight catalogs that are everywhere. “Have this waiting at your destination,” will soon be the constant refrain from kiosks and duty-free shops. Now let’s go to the other universal venue, the automobile. There is little doubt as to the usefulness of digital signage along our roads and Interstates. From the rather primitive Amber Alert and hazard notifications, we are about to blossom into fullfledged commercial billboards and driver interaction. Imagine what could happen if signage along the freeway could identify cars not only by their driver/owner but also by sensing destination data in the GPS. Your history of preferring Thai food at home and on business trips could trigger custom restaurant ads popping up on signs along the way. At some point (a touch on the auto’s display perhaps?) the system could download directions to the restaurant or motel or gas station—or maybe even the battery swap station—to the car’s GPS system. All this, of course, depends on the relatively trivial task of integrating enough intelligence and wireless communication into the automobile. The Chevy Volt already contains the modest amount of over 10 million lines of code. But it also depends on the availability of vast amounts of data on very large numbers of people. All that must be mined for the data relevant to the aims of the particular system or application. Then there must be some means of selection and distribution to reward the data miners. A whole new industry appears ready to emerge to do just that. And it’s all just a matter of time.


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INSIDER AUGUST 2012 Slowdown Predicted in Machine Vision Market A recent report estimates that the world market for machine vision was worth nearly $2.9 billion in 2011. According to the just-published world machine vision report from IMS Research, revenues grew more than 10 percent in 2011. The report goes on to explain the reasons why this level of growth is unlikely to be sustained during the forecast to 2016. “The main reason for the restricted growth of this industry is considered to be instability in many economies around the world, particularly those countries that have adopted the Euro,” commented author John Morse. Morse continued: “The machine viWorld Market for Machine Vision sion industry recovered well after the last Percentage growth rates 2011 - 2016 recession as shown by the results of IMS Annual Percentage Growth on Previous Year Research’s free quarterly market tracker. 12% However, revenue growth showed signs of slowing in the second half of 2011. 10% Many manufacturers expressed caution 8% about growth in 2012 and beyond.” The views of manufacturers 6% echoed the findings of other recent 4% IMS Research reports that present 2% lower revenue forecasts than in previous editions. Generally, growth over 0% 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 the next five years will be less than previously forecast. Source: IMS Research June-12 “It is not all bad news,” added IMS Research estimates a fall in growth between 2010 and 2011 and forecasts a Morse. “Despite manufacturing estimodest recovery from 2012 to 2016 mated to account for more than 80 percent of machine vision revenues, there is a trend toward machine vision products being used outside the manufacturing environment. For example: high-quality security and surveillance, traffic monitoring, and control and medical.” Machine vision manufacturers have always proven themselves to be very resourceful and this continues with new developments frequently being announced. These include new types of camera and communication technology, which are necessary to meet customers’ requirements for more information to be captured and transmitted at faster speeds. This commitment to continuous development is likely to ensure long-term prosperity for the machine vision market and keep it ahead of the game, particularly during times of economic uncertainty.

Czech Republic Aims to be Home of Robotics and WideRanging Research

In 1920, Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the word “robot” to the world. His play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) was a work of science fiction, but robots, albeit very different from how Čapek imagined them, are rapidly becoming a reality today. Their development is being helped by groundbreaking research taking place in the Czech Republic. The Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague, the oldest institute of technology in Central Europe, aims to stand at the fore-



front of robotics research. Teams there are working on a range of technologies that promise great advances in robotic devices, applications and human-robot interaction. In the NIFTI project, researchers from CTU are looking at how robots can most effectively cooperate with humans to perform different tasks with a focus on search and rescue operations. The goal is to develop a cognitive robot that is not only aware of its own capabilities and situation, but also can adapt its behavior depending on the people it is interacting with. The vision is to one day have human-robot teams working to-

gether after a disaster to assess the situation and locate victims, with robots performing tasks that may be too dangerous for a human. In such a scenario, how would robots and humans interact and communicate? That question is being answered in another project involving a team from CTU. In Humavips, researchers are developing robots with auditory and visual capabilities that are able to explore a new environment, recognize people and interact with them in a natural way. Using multimodal perception, a Humavips robot should be able to enter a room full of people,

identify which voice is coming from whom, select a person to talk to, synthesize human-like behavior and engage in communications. In essence, the robot will have “social skills”—a crucial factor in making human-robot interaction natural and effective in any environment. Sometimes, however, there may be a need for robots that do not act like humans. They might, for example, behave more like insects. That is the goal of Replicator, a five-year project involving a team from CTU and researchers from the Czech Institute of Microelectronic Applications, as well as partners in five other European countries. Together with a sister project, Symbrion, the researchers are developing “swarm bots”— hoards of tiny bio-inspired autonomous robots able to combine and configure themselves to perform different tasks. Much as termites, ants or bees forage collaboratively for food, build nests and cooperate for the greater good of the colony, swarming robots could collaboratively work in hazardous environments, perform surgery or even explore the surface of Mars. Among other challenges being addressed in Replicator, the researchers are working on miniature power sources, sensing technology, selfprogramming and self-configuration features and making the robots as robust as possible.

Elliptic Technologies Joins ARM TrustZone Ready Program

Elliptic Technologies, a supplier of content protection software and security semiconductor IP, has joined the ARM TrustZone Ready Program to provide system wide embedded security based on Trusted Execution Environments (TEE) to mobile and home entertainment devices. As a partner of this program, Elliptic will join

other companies to develop solutions for chip and design manufacturers based on a strong security foundation, which is a prerequisite for deploying large-scale trusted applications and services. The primary goal of ARM’s TrustZone Ready enablement program is to guide chip and device manufacturers to design robust, industry-certified, security architecture into their products. Companies that implement system wide security into their platforms can benefit from this program through a cohesive set of design blueprints, market requirements, checklists and standards-based solutions. Elliptic, also a long-time ARM Connected Community Partner, is widely recognized as a security IP supplier that provides highly tuned, end-to-end embedded security solutions built on a combination of software and semiconductor hardware engines.

CANopen-Based Operator Environment Subsystems Announced

CAN in Automation (CiA) has released version 1.0 of the CiA 852 CANopen recommended practice for CiA 401-based operator environment subsystems. CiA 401 specifies the device profile for generic I/O modules. In many mobile machines, driver and operator working places use an embedded CANopen network. The released document specifies the CANopen interface for operator environments with human-machine interface (HMI) functionality. Operator environments include simple remote control units, operator seats with integrated joysticks, foot pedals, pushbuttons, indicators, etc., and complete operator cabins. Such equipment is dedicated but not limited to construction, mining, agriculture and forestry machines, for harbor cranes, for boats and vessels, for wheelchairs and any other kind of machines on wheels.

The document recommends also the numbering of the operator environment devices depending on the location (for left and right hands or feet). In addition, the numbering of components in a device is suggested. “This recommended practice is very helpful for the system designer,” explained Holger Zeltwanger, CiA managing director. “It reduces significantly the commissioning and configuration, because pre-programmed routines can be re-used.” The CiA 852 document is downloadable free of charge from CiA’s website (

Microsemi Completes 26 Million Device-Hours of FPGA Reliability Testing

Microsemi Corporation has announced that an independent organization providing technical and scientific research, development and advisory services to national security space programs has completed reliability testing of Microsemi’s commercial-grade Axcelerator FPGAs. The tests lasted more than four years with an accumulated total of more than 26 million device-hours of testing without a single antifuse failure. Microsemi’s Axcelerator FPGAs are the commercial equivalent of Microsemi’s space-flight RTAX-S/SL FPGAs and share the same CMOS structures, antifuse technology, materials, processing, dimensions and programming attributes. The RTAX-S/SL FPGAs are also radiationtolerant and include flip-flops protected against radiation-induced upsets by built-in triple-module redundancy (TMR). The testing process involved programming parts with a stringent design featuring excellent observability of failure mechanisms prior to the start of the tests. In addition, the tests included a combination of high temperature operating life (HTOL), low temperature operating life (LTOL) and temperature cycle tests.

Maxim Invests $200 Million in Upgrades for Its U.S. Facilities

Maxim Integrated Products has announced a $200 million multiyear investment to upgrade its U.S. wafer fabrication facilities in Beaverton, Oregon; Dallas and San Antonio, Texas; and San Jose, California. Maxim will use the multiyear investment to upgrade manufacturing equipment, improve process technologies, convert to newer technology nodes, and assimilate production from recently acquired companies. This investment is consistent with previously disclosed estimates for capital expenditures in Maxim’s fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Maxim creates high-performance ICs and is a leader in analog innovation and integration. It is unique among semiconductor companies in the range of disparate analog functions that it can combine onto a single chip, helping its customers get to market faster with systems that are smaller and consume less power.

Hopeful Future Predicted for VPX and VME

IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS, projects that the VITA standards “VME” and “VPX” will reach a market size of $600 million by 2016, according to an upcoming IMS Research report “The World Market for Embedded Computer Boards and Modules – 2012 Edition.” In the recent past, adoption of VPX has been inhibited by tight military budgets. Several contracts with high VPX content were cancelled. However, despite setbacks, VPX still has made early design wins and the future appears bright for two main reasons. Firstly, ISR-type applications (Radar, Electronic Warfare, EO/ IR) have seen stable or modestly

increased funding. These types of projects are likely to incorporate some VPX content. Secondly, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has mandated the use of standards-based components wherever possible. To control costs, the DoD wants to refresh projects on a regular basis, but this is not possible if defense primes incorporate proprietary board level designs. Defense contractors that incorporate boards based around standards like OpenVPX in their designs are more likely to win contracts. Despite increasing VPX adoption, VME still has a future part to play. The cancellation of large new projects means that existing military equipment will need to be employed for longer. To enable this, electronics will need to be refreshed and more of this business will go toward VME and mezzanine boards, rather than VPX. Applications with a real-time requirement are also more likely to use VME due to its deterministic nature. There is a huge installed base of VME systems, with associated investment in I/O and software, which users will look to maintain for as long as possible A key challenge for VPX over the next few years will be whether it can start to make design wins outside of the military and aerospace sectors. As of 2012, a key gating factor is high cost compared with established standards: the average selling price of 6U VPX is about double that of VME. However, as more board vendors offer a VPX-based product, prices will decrease as volumes increase. Sectors like energy, industrial automation and transportation could benefit from the feature set of VPX, but these designs will go to other board types if the price remains high.





Colin McCracken & Paul Rosenfeld

SFF Connectors Go 3G


ach time that mainstream computer markets shift their buses and peripheral interfaces into overdrive, large trade groups and their entourage of board and connector manufacturers spin up their SPICE models and simulations, pushing further the limits of transistors, dielectrics, circuit board materials, traces, pads and pins. Subsequent room temperature validations signal the onslaught of high-stakes motherboard mass production, never looking back. Consumers and enterprise users need not ponder the feat of science underlying their eSATA, CFast, DDR3, PCI Express MiniCard (mini-PCIe), HDMI and Thunderbolt devices. Here in our small form factor (SFF) embedded community, resources and budgets are much thinner, so we select their transceiver chips, modules and connectors wherever possible. For example, wireless modules with gold-plated card-edge fingers already went through meticulous RF design and type certification or agency compliance testing. Certainly not for the faint of heart, and why re-invent the wheel? Yet if your stack doesn’t boot your OS or run the commercial market Wi-Fi and flash components that you want to use, you must iterate your design until it does. You’re not going to convince those suppliers to modify their mass-market modems and media for your modest means. Desktop, laptop and tablet motherboards are spacious enough to include all needed circuit components. But many SFF systems need custom (non-consumer) I/O and tinier underlying system footprints, gladly sacrificing height for girth. Therein lies the rub. So much for the convenience of taming the wild highspeed signals on just a single board. Going off-board completely re-opens all of the original SPICE models and simulations. Without the luxury of well-oiled standards groups and connector design teams firing on all cylinders, the many factions of the SFF world might have a hard time even figuring out where to start. Computer-on-module (COM) and mezzanine card manufacturers only have to worry about high-speed signals going off a board once or twice. Stackable CPU and I/O architectures, meanwhile, must design for many more off-board transitions. Truly shrinking a system means reducing or eliminating unused internal connectors and buses. For mezzanines and COMs, signal integrity across the gold fingers appears to be adequate for second-generation PCIe, SATA, LAN and USB waveforms. The board manufacturers are off the hook for now. Luckily, several connector manufacturers have introduced a third generation or “3G” of embedded-focused



connectors to handle these signals in the more demanding stackable environments. Whereas connectors that accept gold-flashplated card edges are designed to minimize computer height (thickness), these embedded stackable connectors allow tall components between circuit boards—essential in converting wide flat consumer profiles into tall slender stacked figures. There are real physics and engineering disciplines behind maintaining the characteristic impedances (single-ended and differential) across a large 0.6” to 0.8” air gap between fiberglass boards. Contacts shaped for sufficient wipe length for good airtight connection must also have dimensions that hold the impedances within tight tolerances to minimize signal reflections, insertion loss, return loss and near- and far-end crosstalk. Add embedded operating temperature ranges to the recipe. Not your basic cup of tea. Eye diagrams show whether the rising and falling voltage swing happens in a short enough time span; the receiver is the beholder whose eyes don’t lie. Connectors with ground “blades” up the center between rows of pins are integral to the crosstalk and impedance performance, with a side benefit of knocking down EMI and handling DC current return paths as well. Modular tooling designs create several versions with different “banks” of pins, making it easy for standards groups to define scalable solutions from entry level / low cost (PCIe and USB), all the way up to high bandwidth (more Express lanes plus SATA). Using ground blades, even PCIe 3.0 transmit, receive and clock signals can be passed up through multiple board + connector sets. Another style of 3G SFF connector is a pin field / array mated pair. This connector is shorter and wider—a welcome trade-off for certain tiny SFF boards—by expanding to 4, 5 or 6 rows of 40 or 50 pins each. Board designers have more flexibility with signal-to-ground ratio. Multiple stack height options are available for this style as well, to dial in the optimum three-dimensional space occupied by the board stack. Connector manufacturers and standards groups focus on this market, upshifting SFF systems to high-performance interconnects using both off-the-shelf and custom CPUs and I/O cards. Connector vendors in the SFF space don’t exactly race out to tool up a new molded connector. We can thank the decades-old logic analyzer heritage for today’s stackable-ready 3G connectors. We show gratitude by using these connectors in upgrades and next-generation systems.

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editor’s report Power Debugging

Power Debugging— Minimizing Power Consumption by Tuning the Code Hardware power management features have long been used to extend battery life. Now, tools are becoming available that can get to finer levels of software design to optimize power usage in mobile devices. by Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief


or a vast number of embedded, consuming power even though they are handheld and mobile devices—most functioning correctly. To help developers explore the relaof which are battery operated—mintionship between power consumption and imizing power consumption is a goal of code execution, IAR Systems recently ever-increasing importance. Low-power introduced an in-circuit debugging probe CPUs now have multiple levels of sleep that integrates seamlessly with the commodes and the capability of adjusting their clock frequencies to save power. Traditionally, the task of optimizing power IAR I-jet consumption has fallen to the hardware engineers nies providing solutionswith now the software developers making ratherandstraightforward ion into products, technologies companies. Whetherselections your goal is to research the latest ation Engineer, jump to a company's the goal of Get Connected is to put you AD ofor different sleep technical modes page, under specific you require for whatever type of technology, converter conditions. and products you are searching for. But in today’s systems, the way the USB +5V software runs in various situations can have a very significant effect on power + consumption. For example, it makes a big op-amp difference if a processor goes into a loop to poll a port for an input or if the program pin-19 sets a timer or waits for an interrupt to wake it from a low-power mode. Making such decisions is not always straightforI R ward because it is not always clear which parts of the code may be unnecessarily

End of Article Get Connected

with companies mentioned in this article.


pany’s IAR Embedded Workbench IDE. Called the I-jet, the probe connects to the target systems and enables the debugger to record power consumption at the same time it is doing the instruction trace that is needed for normal software debugging. The probe supplies up to 5V at up to 400 mA to power the target and measures the voltage across an internal resistor to determine the power consumption as the code executes. Power is supplied via the USB connection to the host (Figure 1). The probe supports ARM7, ARM9, ARM11 and ARM Cortex-M/R/A cores. It does normal instruction trace using the processor’s instrumental trace module (ITM), which also supplies a time stamp to correlate power usage with instruction execution. While it would be ideal to sample the power consumption at the same clock frequency as the instructions are traced, system capacitances make doing this difficult. Therefore, the power samples are somewhat “smeared” across the instruction trace, but are certainly accurate enough to correlate closely with the source code, which is what the developer wants to concentrate on. Thus there will not be an exactly equal number of power samples to instruction samples. What the developer does get is a Development board

JTAG pin-19

+5V supply

Figure 1 I-jet power measurement. The probe uses the JTAG connector but traces instructions using Serial Wire Debug (SWD).

AUGUST 2012 RTC MAGAZINE Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article.

editor’s report

very good look at the power consumption correlated with code execution. The tool presents three views: the power log, the timeline and the function profiler. The power log (Figure 2) is a log of all collected power samples and can give the user a quick overview of where power peaks are occurring to enable him or her to quickly zero in on areas of interest. In addition, power logs can be saved as text or Excel files and used to compare different runs for changes in consumption at various points in the code. The timeline window (Figure 3) can be accessed by double clicking on either of the other windows. The timeline window displays interrupt activity and up to four application variables correlated with a display of the sampled power consumption. The display in Figure 3 shows one variable, g_state, with its different values along the x time axis. The power samples in the lower part of the figure represent the power consumption associated with the corresponding value of the variable. In this case, the power samples appear continuous, but in other cases they can appear as distinct vertical bars due to the differences in sampling times mentioned above. In either case they give a good idea of the correlation of code with power. This particular example is from a demo that turns LEDs on and off depending on the value of g_state. Other cases will not necessarily be an exact correspondence with the numerical value. From the timeline window, it is just a double-click to the source code window. Here the user can review the source code to understand exactly what is going on. At the user’s option, he or she can try a different implementation of that particular function, recompile, rerun and compare the results in any of the three windows. The third display is the function profile window, which also gives the developer a quick insight into those functions that may most need attention (Figure 4). Here, power consumption is displayed by function call. In the display it shows in the first column the number of times a given function ran and then the percentage of

Figure 2 The power log window displays time-stamped power readings in microA with the ability to click on these values and go to the other displays.

Figure 3 The timeline window allows the user to follow the changes in power consumption associated with a function’s selected variables. From here one can click to view source code.

the total execution. In the third column are the number of times samples of the power consumption for a given function were taken. Notice that this number is less than the number of the actual count of the function executing. The fourth column displays the percentage of total power consumed in the run by each individual function. The last three columns show the average, minimum and maximum power draw for that function in microamps. Once again, clicking on any function in the profile display will take the user to

the corresponding source code. The profile display can be quite useful in that it also lets the user home in on those elements in the code that consume the most power. For example, it will make more sense to spend time investigating LCD_GetFlagStatus than it will LCD_WaitForSynchro due to its significantly higher rate of execution and the associated consumption of power even though the latter function has a slightly higher average power draw. There are a number of things that can appear to operate quite correctly from a RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


editor’s report

Figure 4 The power profile window shows the number of samples and the relative power consumption and execution figures for selected functions. From here one can click to view source code.

functional point of view but still be power hogs. For example, setting up a time delay or polling some port by means of a loop that executes until the status of the port changes can pull unnecessary power when it might be more efficient to set up an interrupt or set a hardware timer to implement a specific delay during which the processor could be put into a sleep mode and brought back up after the elapsed time. In the case of polling a port, setting up an interrupt that would bring the system back might be a better way of saving power. This, of course, must be weighed against the need to respond immediately or within some time window. In addition, setting the processor to a slower and then a faster clock speed can also be valuable under the proper circumstances. The advantage to using the I-jet probe is that these things can be experimented with, the code recompiled and rerun to check the results. Immediate indication of results can be found by looking at the power log for changes to areas of interest, or for more complex searches, logs saved as Excel files can be automatically compared. From there one can click to the source code and immediately see what has happened and if necessary make further adjustments. The sequence in which the developer uses these power debugging features is mostly a matter of individual choice. One might wish to make sure all the code is bug-free before attacking power optimization. On the other hand, some particular peak noticed during a first run could call attention to both a bug and an inefficient segment of code. For one thing, the developer will have to consider whether the additional instructions needed to implement some power-saving scheme will be worth the actual power saved. IAR Systems Uppsala, Sweden. +46 18 16 78 00. [].


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Technology in


Energy Harvesting for Low-Power Networks

Zero Power Wireless Sensors Using Energy Harvesting Eliminating wires has given us wireless sensor networks. But maintaining and changing batteries has been a big chore and expense. The use of energy harvesting technologies can finally offer zero power wireless sensors and open huge new application areas. by Steve Grady, Cymbet


ensor networks are gaining widespread use in factories, industrial complexes, commercial and residential buildings, agricultural settings and urban areas, serving to improve energy efficiency, safety, reliability, automation and security. These networks perform a variety of useful functions including industrial process control, and monitoring. These include lighting, heating and cooling controls in residential and commercial buildings; structural health monitoring of bridges, buildings, aircraft and machinery; tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS); tank level monitoring and patient monitoring in hospitals and nursing homes to name a few. To date, most sensor networks have used wired connections for data communications and power. The cost of installing a sensor network using copper wire and conduit, along with their support infrastructure has become extremely costprohibitive. There are new solutions using various wireless solutions such as Wireless Hart, ISA100, ZigBee, Bluetooth Smart and IP-based 6LowPAN to network sensor devices to eliminate the data communications wiring. However, the wireless sensors still need to be powered, and using disposable primary batteries such as alkaline or lithium coin cell batteries has been the solution. But these batteries wear out and



changing them out is often an expensive proposition. OnWorld Research has estimated that this battery change-out cost will approach $1 Billion in 2013. What is needed is a solution that harvests the ambient energy around the wireless sensor device and we can cut the power cord forever.

Zero Power Wireless Sensors Are the Solution

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) are based on devices that need to be powered by a source other than main line power or batteries. With the availability of low-cost integrated circuits to perform the sensing, signal processing, communication and data collection functions, coupled with the versatility that wireless networks afford, we can move away from fixed, hard-wired network installations in both new construction as well as retrofits of existing installations. One drawback to moving toward a WSN installation has been the poor reliability and limited useful life of batteries needed to power the sensor, radio, processor and other electronic elements of the system. This limitation has to some extent curtailed the proliferation of wireless networks. The legacy batteries can be eliminated through the use of ambient energy harvesting (EH) techniques, which use an energy conversion transducer tied to

an integrated rechargeable power storage device. This mini “power plant� lasts the life of the wireless sensor.

Components of an EH-Powered Wireless Sensor

A zero power wireless sensor as shown in Figure 1 consists of five basic elements. An energy harvesting transducer converts some form of ambient energy to electricity while an energy processing stage collects, stores and delivers electrical energy to the electronic or electro-mechanical devices resident at the sensor node using MPPT power conversion and solid state battery storage. A microcontroller or variant thereof, receives the signal from the sensor, converts it into a useful form for analysis, and communicates with the radio link. A sensor detects and quantifies any number of environmental parameters such as motion, proximity, temperature, pressure, pH, light, strain, vibration and many others. And, of course, a radio link at the sensor node transmits and receives the processor information on a continuous, periodic, or event-driven basis between a host receiver and data collection point.

Design Steps for EH-Powered Systems

In order to successfully design and deploy energy harvesting powered wire-

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less sensors, it is important to analyze and implement four key aspects. First you must identify what sources of ambient energy are available surrounding the wireless sensor such as light, thermal gradients, vibration/motion, etc. After choosing the energy harvesting transducer appropriate to the available source, calculate the amount of energy to be produced by the transducer under all ambient conditions. In micropower energy harvesting systems, it is important to design for highefficiency energy conversion, energy storage and power management. Implementing electronics for maximum peak power point tracking (MPPT) energy conversion is important. The first step is to calculate the application power requirements and minimize them to fit available input EH power. Every sensor use case and power mode must be identified and characterized for power consumption. Legacy sensor designs that were line-powered will need to be redesigned to save power. The sleep mode of all components is to be used as often as possible. Microcontroller firmware must be written to be “energy aware” so as to include no polling loops, check input power and battery charge levels, and be able to change the wireless transmission duty cycle depending on energy status, etc. Finally, pick the right size for energy storage. All energy harvesting-based sensors require an energy storage device such as solid state batteries. These rechargeable batteries need to be selected for the correct capacity to power the device when EH power input is absent, but must also charge quickly when EH power is restored. Right sizing is important and bigger batteries are not always better.

Energy Harvesting Electronics

Energy harvesting transducers are a source of power that is regularly or constantly available. This power source could come in the form of a temperature differ-

Energy Source


Typical Electrical Impedance

Typical Voltage

Typical Power Output


Conform to small surface area; wide input voltage range

Varies with light input Low kΩ to 10s of kΩ

DC: 0.5V to 5V [Depends on number of cells in array]

10μW-15mW (Outdoors: 0.15mW15mW) (Indoors: <500μW)


Variability of vibrational frequency

Constant impedance 10s of kΩ to 100kΩ

AC: 10s of volts



Small thermal gradients; efficient heat sinking

Constant impedance 1Ω to 100s of Ω

DC: 10s of mV to 10V

0.5mW-10mW (20˚C gradient)

RF & Inductive

Coupling & rectification

Constant impedance Low kΩs

AC: Varies with distance and power 0.5V to 5V

Wide range

TABLE 1 Energy harvesting transducer comparisons.

ential, a vibrational source such as an AC motor, a radiating or propagating electromagnetic wave, or a light source, as examples. Any of these power sources can be converted to useful electrical energy using transducers designed to convert one of those forms of power to electrical power. The most common transducers are shown in Table 1. The efficiency and power output of each transducer varies according to transducer design, construction, material and operating temperature, as well as the input power available and the impedance matching at the transducer output. Zero power wireless sensors require high-efficiency, low-power management circuitry to condition the transducer output power, store energy and deliver power to the rest of the wireless sensor. In most environments, none of the transducers producing power can be relied on under all circumstances to continuously supply power to the load. While each transducer delivers power within an output range and with some regularity, they do not store energy. Consequently, when that source of power is not present, there is no power to supply the load in the absence of an energy storage device. Moreover, the transducers typically do not deliver power at the proper voltage to operate the

electronic system. Therefore, conditioning of transducer power is essential to make the power useful in operating the sensor, processor and transmitter. In particular, without an energy storage device, it would be difficult or impossible to deliver the pulse current necessary to drive the wireless transmitter. Traditional rechargeable energy storage devices such as supercaps and coin cell batteries have severe limitations with respect to charge/ discharge cycle life, self-discharge, and charge current and voltage requirements. New rechargeable solid state batteries (SSBs), such as the Cymbet EnerChip, can overcome the limitations of legacy batteries and supercaps. The output of the sensor is typically connected to a microcontroller that processes the signal created from measuring the parameter of interest, such as temperature, pressure or acceleration, and converts it to a form that is useful for data transmission, collection and analysis. Additionally, the microcontroller usually feeds this information to the radio and controls its activation at some prescribed time interval or on the occurrence of a particular event. It is important that the microcontroller and radio operate in low power modes whenever possible in order RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


technology in context

to maximize the power source lifetime. MCU manufacturers such as NXP, Microchip, Texas Instruments and Energy Micro have paid particular attention to reducing power consumption in all operating modes. New innovative small wireless sensors can now be created that use EH power. A photo and diagram of a highly integrated EH-powered intraocular pressure

sensor is shown in Figure 2.This device was created by the University of Michigan and is used by glaucoma patients to measure the pressure in the eyeball. The total volume of the device as shown on the penny is one cubic millimeter. All the wireless sensor components reviewed in earlier sections are represented in this device: A MEMS pressure sensor is connected to a low power MCU with an A/D

converter and power management; a solar cell powers the device and charges the integrated solid state battery. A wireless antenna broadcasts the pressure in the eye to a receiver wand placed a few inches away. Design engineers can easily experiment with energy harvesting-based wireless sensors using evaluation kits, which are available from global distributors such as Digi-Key, Mouser, Avnet and Farnell.

Light Processor and Radio Link Transducer

â&#x2C6;&#x2020;T Motion EM Field

Microcontroller RF Wireless Optimized Protocol

Photovoltaic Thermoelectric Piezoelectric Inductive RF

MCU + Radio

Sensor (e.g., temperature, pressure, occupancy) Energy Processing

Power Conversion Energy Storage Power Management Figure 1 Zero power wireless sensor using energy harvesting diagram.

Figure 2 Intra ocular pressure sensor - Courtesy of University of Michigan.



Energy Storage Device

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An example is shown in Figure 3 of the Cymbet EnerChip CC Solar Energy Harvesting EVAL-10 kit combined with the Texas Instruments eZ430-RF2500 wireless evaluation kit to create a solar-based EH wireless temperature sensor. In this case, the onboard EnerChip CC CBC3150 connects directly to the solar cell and provides the energy processing functions and solid state battery energy storage for the TI wireless end device. Millions of Wireless Sensor Networks will be deployed due to the rising installation costs of hard-wired sensor systems, the availability of low cost sensor nodes, and advances in sensor technology. Energy harvesting-based autonomous wireless sensor nodes are a cost-effective and convenient solution. The use of energy harvesting removes one of the key factors limiting the proliferation of wireless nodesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the scarcity of power sources having the characteristics necessary to deliver the energy and power to the sensor node for years without battery replacement. Significant economic advantages are realized when zero power wireless

Figure 3 Cymbet EVAL-10 Solar EH Kit with TI eZ430-RF2500 Wireless Kit.

sensors are deployed vs. hard-wired solutions. Additional savings are realized by removing the significant costs of battery replacement. Energy harvesting enables the reality of long-life, maintenance-free zero power wireless sensor networks.

Cymbet Elk River, MN. (763) 633-1780. [].





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Energy Harvesting for Low-Power Networks

Design Basics for Energy Harvesting Systems Properly designed energy harvesting systems are capable of operating perpetually once they overcome the initial power-on reset. With careful system design, the lifespan of energy harvesting systems can be extended to more than 20 years. by Farris Bar, Silicon Laboratories


he widespread deployment of wireless sensors in our homes, offices, d = daylight hours factories and infrastructure has n = nighttime hours ploration Daylight Nighttime opened the door for system designers Energy In = Energy Out your goal to create novel approaches to powering 40µA * d = 10 µA * n k directly wireless sensor nodes. This in turn enThere are 24 hours / day age, the source. ables flexible form factors, enhances the d + n = 24 40 µA * D 10 µA * N ology, Combine Equations functionality of next-generation products d products D + 40/10 D = 24 and penetrates new markets. In recent 5 D = 24 years, energy harvesting has emerged as 4.8 19.2 D = 4.8 hours a power supply of choice for embedded N = 19.2 hours system designers, enabling wireless sensors to be used in applications that previously were not feasible with conventional Figure 1 battery-powered designs. For example, an Number of daylight hours required to achieve perpetual operation. nies providing solutions now power supply enables a energy harvesting ion into products, technologies and companies. is to research the latest system designer to easilyWhether build your an goal ultraation Engineer, or jump to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you slim wireless sensor with a range of more embedded system. We will also examine tem during operation. (See sidebar “Two you require for whatever type of technology, 100 meters the tradeoffs between rechargeable thin- Classes of Energy Harvesting Systems.”) and productsthan you are searching for. and a lifespan of more than 20 years. film batteries and conventional high-caEnergy management is a critical asAs with any new technology, there pacity, long-life primary batteries. pect of designing an energy harvesting are lessons to be learned and problems to system. The first step is to determine the be overcome when deploying a wireless Designing for Perpetual available power output of the harvester. sensor powered by an energy harvesting Operation Commercially available energy harvestsource. Let’s take a close look at how to The ultimate goal of an energy har- ers convert solar, mechanical or thermal design an embedded system for perpetual vesting system is to achieve perpetual energy into electrical energy. Solar energy operation that’s capable of surviving the operation. The term perpetual opera- harvesters have the highest power density initial power-on reset, as well as how to tion brings to mind an “ideal pendulum,” and are capable of harvesting 15 mW/cm2 extend the lifespan of that self-sustaining which when placed in motion never stops of surface area. Maximizing the output swinging. An energy harvesting system power of the energy harvester is critical to can achieve perpetual operation by en- building a robust energy harvesting sysGet Connected suring that the harvested energy meets or tem. with companies mentioned in this article. exceeds the energy expended by the sysEqually important in designing an

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Two Classes of Energy Harvesting Systems The two classes of energy harvesting systems that achieve perpetual operation vary in their energy storage mechanism. The first type harvests and accumulates energy over a long period of time and uses a very low leakage high-capacity energy container such as a thin-film battery. Perpetual operation is achieved by balancing the average energy harvested and the average power consumption. This class of energy harvesting system is the most flexible and typically expends power in short bursts of high-power consumption. These systems spend a majority of the time in a low-power sleep mode, are always powered and harvest energy at all times. An example of this type of system is a solar-powered wireless sensor. The second type of energy harvesting system stays in an unpowered state until a pulse of energy is detected, harvested and stored in a low impedance energy container such as a capacitor. After a brief power-on reset, the system performs the necessary system functions using the limited energy collected from the energy pulse. Perpetual operation is achieved by balancing the total energy expended in performing a task and the energy harvested in a single pulse of energy. An example of this type of system is a wireless light switch that uses the energy generated by the mechanical switch to transmit an RF signal to a receiver located at the light fixture.

Energy Harvester


Voltage Regulator

Battery Charger and Protection

Energy Stroage


Enable 3.3V Supply Monitor


Figure 2 Surviving the initial power-on reset circuit diagram.

energy harvesting system is characterizing and minimizing the power consumption of the embedded system. Low power consumption can be achieved by selecting components with low leakage specifications and by using an ultra-low-power microcontroller (MCU) such as a Si10xx wireless MCU from Silicon Laboratories. Most of the techniques used for achieving low-power operation in battery-powered systems can be applied to energy harvesting systems to minimize their power consumption. Let’s look at an example of a solarpowered wireless sensor node transmitting data once every twenty minutes at an average current of 10 µA. The system is equipped with a solar panel that provides 50 µA of continuous current during daylight hours. The net current available to charge the battery during daylight hours is 40 µA, and during the night the battery is discharging at a rate of 10 µA. As shown in Figure 1, the energy harvesting system



will achieve perpetual operation as long as the system is exposed to at least 4.8 hours of daylight each day.

Surviving the Power-on Reset

The power-on reset for an energy harvesting system is analogous to the initial push of the pendulum that sets it in motion. Designing the energy harvesting system to survive the power-on reset and occasional brownout condition is essential for the system’s long-term robustness. Many embedded systems require storage and transportation prior to being activated by the end user. Care should be exercised to ensure that sensitive components are protected during transport and storage. During storage, most energy harvesting systems are not harvesting enough energy to sustain perpetual operation. If the system is allowed to run during storage, all energy will eventually be depleted, potentially over-discharging and causing damage to sensitive energy stor-

age elements such as a thin-film battery. The solution is to create a safe “storage mode” that disconnects the energy storage element from the system until activated. For example, a shunt battery charger with a battery disconnect provides protection against over-discharge during storage or when a brownout condition is detected. Using a shunt battery charger with a battery disconnect greatly simplifies the design and adds robustness to the energy harvesting system. Most embedded systems require significantly more energy to get through a power-on reset than during normal operation. An energy harvesting power supply typically will not be able to supply enough instantaneous energy to get the system through a power-on reset. To survive the initial power-on reset, an energy harvesting system must delay the start of the power-on reset until it is able to accumulate sufficient energy in a capacitor to get the system through the reset. Figure 2 shows an example circuit design that can enable a power-hungry embedded system to go through a power-on reset using only harvested energy. Starting from the unpowered state, the primary energy storage element is disconnected from the system by the battery protection circuit. The energy harvester alone charges the capacitor, which will later be used to supply energy for the power-on reset. A supply voltage monitor and regulator gate the power supply to the embedded system to minimize its power consumption while the capacitor is charging. After some time, the capacitor voltage will reach a trip point that triggers the supply monitor to initiate the power-on reset sequence. The supply monitor ideally has a programmable delay that provides additional time for the capacitor to charge prior to enabling power to the embedded system. When the voltage regulator is enabled, the capacitor is discharged into the embedded system, allowing it to complete its power-on reset and enter a low-power sleep mode. Once the battery charger detects sufficient voltage on the input capacitor, it reconnects the energy storage element to the system, and the energy harvesting system is in full operation similar to a swinging pendulum. Figure 3 shows an example

technology in context

of this system implemented in an energy harvesting reference design from Silicon Labs.

Extending the Lifespan of an Energy Harvesting System

Just as the best pendulum eventually stops swinging due to friction and air drag, an energy harvesting system will eventually stop operating. Numerous situations can cause an energy harvesting system to stop operating, and being aware of and addressing them during the design phase may extend the lifespan. Battery-operated systems reach end of life when they run out of stored energy. Although energy harvesting systems designed to operate perpetually do not run out of energy, their components may degrade to the point where they can no longer store or supply sufficient energy to power the system. In an energy harvesting system, the most common degradable component is typically the energy storage element. When using a thin-film battery, it is important to avoid over-discharging and to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to maximize its lifespan. One technique used to prolong thin-film battery life is to add a large decoupling capacitor in parallel with the battery to minimize fluctuations in load current experienced by the battery. Energy harvesting systems are also susceptible to mechanical and design failure. To protect against mechanical failure, the system may be encapsulated or placed in a high-quality enclosure that is resistant to the environmental conditions in which the embedded system will be used. Testing the embedded system in a variety of environmental conditions and allowing sufficient margin for design parameters can extend the life of an energy harvesting system. In addition, following best practices in software design and keeping the energy harvesting system as simple as possible provide numerous benefits and can enhance longevity.

Thin Film vs. Conventional Batteries

Conventional batteries such as coin cells, AA lithium and lithium-thionyl chloride batteries have been used for many years in embedded systems that require a

long lifespan. The introduction of thinfilm batteries has created a new option for system designers with tradeoffs in cost, size and safety. With developers under constant pressure to reduce system costs, economical coin cell batteries may appear to be the optimum solution for reducing manufacturing cost and getting products to market quickly. However, there is a hid-

pacity at any given time. This makes the battery much safer if it is accidentally shorted or exposed to extreme heat or an open flame. Thin-film batteries also result in much less waste than large conventional batteries, which often end up in landfills instead of being recycled. Energy harvesting technology has grown quite popular and is expected to

Figure 3 Example of energy harvesting reference design.

den cost associated when it comes time to replace the battery. If you consider that a thin-film battery has a total lifetime energy storage capacity of more than thirty CR2032 coin cells, you will quickly conclude that the initial cost of a thin-film battery is miniscule compared to the cost of replacing a coin cell thirty times over the life of an embedded system. When considering battery size, thinfilm batteries have the thinnest profile (as small as 0.17 mm) of any battery type. The total lifetime capacity of thin-film batteries is equivalent to four lithium “AA” batteries or a single “C” size lithium-thionyl chloride battery. Thin-film batteries are well suited for space-constrained embedded systems that require an ultra-thin profile and a long battery life. In addition, thin-film batteries do not pose safety concerns such as flammability and explosion hazards associated with large conventional batteries. Since they are rechargeable, thin-film batteries only store a portion of their total lifetime ca-

become even more prevalent in the coming years for the many benefits it provides to embedded system designs. Thin-film batteries are often used in energy harvesting systems due to their ultra-thin profile and low leakage characteristics. The flexibility of designing a self-sustaining embedded system without requiring mains power or conventional replaceable batteries creates new application possibilities and opens new frontiers for embedded system development. Silicon Laboratories Austin, TX. (512) 416-8500. [].



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systems FPGA to ASIC

Accelerating Time-to-Market Using an FPGA and Customizable SoC Methodology FPGAs can cut the time-to-market and development expense associated with ASICs. By working with the manufacturer to private label FPGA-based designs, a customer can achieve faster turnaround, lower costs as well as increased prestige in the market. by Rufino Olay, Microsemi


oday’s ASICs can take up to a year and a half to get to market. For emerging markets that are evolving, such as the smart grid, developing an ASIC makes it very difficult for a company to react nimbly to competitive pressures or evolving standards. The cost of ASIC development is also an issue that can hinder the profitability of a system unless it is an extremely high volume application with no expected functional changes that would require a new ASIC development. Many companies have opted to mitigate this challenge by using FPGAs for development and testing before migrating to an ASIC for volume production once the design is validated. This presents other issues in addition to those above. While the functional design may be the same, the devices are not. This can incur costly and timely re-qualifications. This is especially true in applications where high reliability is critical, such as safetycritical, military and avionics markets. A comparison of approximate development timelines is shown in Figure 1. One way to address these challenges is through the use of a private label program such as that introduced by Mi-



crosemi. The goal of such a program is a way to rapidly bring to market economical and differentiated system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions. Customers utilize the manufacturer’s FPGAs as privately labeled ASSPs, which allows them to get to market as much as a year or more earlier than with a standard ASIC flow. Further, it removes the expensive non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs and high minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirements associated with ASICs.

Fast Time-to-Market

Over the past decade, engineers have been using re-programmable FPGAs as the preferred prototyping platform on which to design and debug their designs. Feature creep and standard changes can be addressed prior to deployment of the device, with fast debug cycles and no waiting for silicon to return from the fab. In order to make fast time-to-market requirements, many FPGA-prototyped designs are being delivered to the customers as proof of concept and first engineering samples. It may make sense for designs to be converted to ASICs for high volume products, but this depends on a variety of

factors, including but not limited to stability and lockdown of device specifications, NREs and the product life cycle. Given the increasing ASIC development costs for advanced semiconductor geometries, many designs are often brought to market with FPGAs and then cost-reduced with subsequent newer, more advanced FPGA families. Large companies looking to expand and augment their product lines, as well as start-ups positioning themselves to get their foot in the door in an emerging market, are increasingly looking to FPGAs to build brand recognition as a market leader. Products carrying the company’s logo and part numbers are instrumental in end customer identification of a branded device. Devices on the PCB present the opportunity to showcase not only the key differentiating functionality but also the company reputation in building highquality products. The combination of an FPGA programmed as an ASSP, coupled with the company’s logo, is very attractive in terms of time-to-market and brand recognition (Figure 2). With an ASIC, a mask revision and subsequent re-spin of a device is not always due to design changes made to ad-

tech in systems

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3 - 6 Months

Eq Ch uiva ec len kin cy g Pla ce & Ro ut e Ve rifi ca tio n

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ASSP / ASIC Time to Market FOUNDRY

up to 3 months for each Rev

Production Your Company Logo Here Your Part Number


AZ028021 1050

2nd/3rd Prototype


12-18 Months

Figure 1 As opposed to FPGA-based designs, the time to develop and verify an ASIC can be two to three times longer—even more if multiple revisions are necessary.

dress issues found while debugging during verification. Often a company’s target market and general application may have multiple customers or even multiple options or standards in an end product offering from a single vendor. The end application potentially requires limited changes internally at the device level. In this scenario, rather than spinning multiple ASICs and incurring the associated additional NREs for each incremental design, a private label solution with an FPGA not only circumvents the extra cost, but also removes the time-to-market delay, enabling new markets to be rapidly addressed with product variants. With a private label program, each variant is marked with the company’s own logo and a custom part number specific to the end application, standard or customer’s system.

Not All FPGAs Are Alike

Flash-based FPGAs go many steps forward in realizing the ability to create a secure and reliable, single monolithic IC that fits the needs of a private label program. Unlike SRAM-based FPGAs, which require a secondary EEPROM to configure the device upon boot-up, flashbased FPGAs contain all configuration data on-chip and are instant-on. From an external standpoint, the single IC solution is the first requirement of private labeling

as well as the first line of defense in terms of security. In other solutions, seeing a device coupled to an EEPROM is an immediate flag that configuration data is being stored externally from the main device and the data can be intercepted during power-on. Labeling both SRAM FPGA and EEPROM is possible but impractical when listed on a company’s product catalog as a two-chip solution. In addition to the single IC approach, flash-based FPGAs include the ability to lock the FPGA contents from being read back by competitors or unauthorized personnel. Microsemi FPGAs, for example, include FlashLock technology to lock the device with a 128-bit key, which allows the device to be unlocked and reprogrammed by providing the same key, which is valuable for secure in-system upgradeability. In addition, permanent lock is possible, which disables programming access to the part. Embedded security keys in these FPGAs provide a further level of security by preventing internal device probing. Once flash devices are programmed, they power-up in a known state. This provides for instant-on capability, which can be used for system bring-up or self-test. Long-term availability is always a consideration, since the last thing someone wants is to design a product that will reach end-of-life during the product life

Your Company Logo Here Your Part Number AZ028021 1050


Figure 2 A private-labeled FPGA can appear with the customer’s logo and specific part number to increase the market awareness of that company’s added value.

cycle. Flash-based FPGAs are built on stable and known geometries that historically serve markets requiring the highest reliability coupled with product availability that stretches to decades. To this day, Microsemi continues to ship FPGAs that were designed in by customers over 20 years ago.

Stepping up to Flash FPGAs with Embedded Microcontrollers

In recent years the ARM family of microcontrollers has found favor within numerous IC platforms. By embedding RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


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Supervisor PLL




32 KHz










ARM Cortex - M3


Microcontroller Subsystem Programmable Analog FPGA Fabric













AHB Bus Matrix UART_0




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10/100 EMAC

Analog Compute Engine ADC

Sample Sequencing Engine


Versa Tiles

SCB Temp. Mon.

Volt Mon. (ABPS)

Curr. Mon.



Post Processing Engine




Figure 3 A configurable SoC, such as the Microsemi SmartFusion, consists of three partsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the programmable processor with its normal complement of peripherals, a programmable analog processing section and an FPGA fabric, all integrated on a single silicon die.

ARM Cortex-M3 FPGA Logic

Safety Controller #1

Sensor Input

Programmable Analog

Safety Certification Engine


Actuator Safety Controller #2 Smart Fusion

Figure 1 Designing dual redundancy for safety-critical applications can be accomplished on a single silicon device.

a hard ARM microcontroller within an FPGA, a new family of customizable system-on-chip (cSoC) devices has been in-



troduced. The cSoC (Figure 3) is an ideal platform on which hardware and software teams can co-develop their system por-

tions onto a single platform IC. The cSoC has three major subgroups: processing, sense and control, programmable analog and configurable logic. The combination of an embedded microcontroller and FPGA allows for architectural algorithmic trade-offs and partitioning. Consider, for instance, a multiaxis motor controller for a safety-critical application. Dual redundancy can be implemented with safety controller #1 in the ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller and a similarly functioning algorithm implemented in the FPGA fabric as safety controller #2. The safety certification engine validates the results from both controllers for consistency and issues commands as required (Figure 4). For multi-algorithmic implementations requiring high compute cycles, the computationally intensive portions of the algorithms can be offloaded into the FPGA to perform parallel processing. The FPGA fabric can be used to imple-

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ment extremely fast and efficient subroutines, thus increasing the headroom of the Cortex M3 microcontroller for performing task management application layer execution. Preprogrammed FPGAs used in a private label program can be configured at any time. A key to good inventory management is to select a common set of density/package combinations on which to develop a complete line of private labeled devices with slight permutations of similar designs or completely different functionality. Once a customer has placed an order, the devices can be programmed and labeled in house or at the manufacturer. This option also further

accelerates time-to-market by reducing manufacturing time in that this step is removed from the customer’s contract manufacturing flow. FPGAs are continually finding usage in an assortment of applications and use models. Private labeling FPGAs as customer-defined ASSPs is an excellent step toward building differentiation and expanding product lines. This approach has many advantages, including prototyping and going to market on the same design and debugged IC platform and the removal of high barrier NRE costs. Flash FPGAs go the further step by adding additional layers of security in the form of on-chip configuration, hardware imple-

mented security keys and instant-on usability. The latest form of flash-based cSoCs take the concept even further by allowing a platform on which to partition advanced, high value algorithms into the embedded ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller and FPGA fabric. Fast parallel processing can be implemented to achieve aggressive processing goals while reducing power consumption when compared to conventional high frequency processing elements. Microsemi Aliso Viejo, CA. (949) 380-6100. [].

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ADLINK Technology Phone: (408) 360-0200

Setting the Standard for Digital Signal Processing

Advantech’s MIC-3325 based on the Intel® Atom™ processor and ICH8M chipset is ideal in low-power solutions with extended temperature range needs. The blade comes with 2GB SDRAM, CompactFlash, VGA, 2 USB ports and two gigabit Ethernet ports. A 8HP extension module design adds flexibility and additional I/O connectivity such as 2.5” SATA-II HDD, COM, USB and PS/2 ports.

Advantech Co., Ltd. E-mail: Web:

Phone: +886 2 2792 7818

Cobalt Model 74670 8-Channel 1.25 GHz CompactPCI Board for Beamforming and Waveform Generation

USB Wi-Fi Modules 802.11b/g/n Compliant USB 2.0 hot swappable interface Compatible with USB1.1 and USB2.0 host controllers Up to 300Mbps receive and 150Mbps transmit rate using 40MHz bandwidth Up to 150Mbps receive and 75Mbps transmit rate using 20MHz bandwidth 1 x 2 MIMO technology for exceptional reception and throughput 2 U.FL TX/RX antenna ports Wi-Fi security using WEP, WPA, WPA2 Compact size: 1.0” x 1.0” x 0.25” (Modules)

Pentek, Inc.

Independent channel memory and digital upconverters boost flexibility Multichannel synchronous operation simplifies beamformed transmit arrays Virtex-6 FPGA preloaded with IP provides turnkey waveform generation Linked-list DMAs ease complex waveform generation Pentek GateFlow® toolkit simplifies FPGA customization Clock/sync bus facilitates multiboard synchronization Also in XMC, PCIe, & OpenVPX formats

Radicom Research, Inc.

Phone: (201) 818-5900 Fax: (201) 818-5904

E-mail: Web:

Phone: (408) 383-9006 Fax: (408) 383-9007

rtc1208_showcase.indd 2

E-mail: Web:

E-mail: Web:


8/7/12 2:48 PM RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


connected Wireless Device Connectivity

Embedding Wi-Fi—What’s Involved? Wi-Fi as a technology has become widespread in the consumer market. Such maturity ensures that companies in the embedded market can jump on board with little risk. But what is involved and how does one choose the right solution? by Amir Friedman, Connect One


i-Fi has changed the way we communicate and access information. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, about 200 million households use Wi-Fi networks, and there are about 750,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. WiFi is used by over 700 million people and there are about 800 million new Wi-Fi devices every year. The fact that Wi-Fi evolved in the consumer/PC market has a big effect on how it is adopted into the embedded market. We all know that PCs and embedded devices differ in resources such as processing capability, memory capacity, energy requirements, operating systems and costs. Because of this, moving a technology from the PC world to the embedded world is usually not a smooth and easy process. Typically, due to the complexity of designing and deploying RF applications, the embedded market has struggled implementing wireless technologies, and Wi-Fi is no different. Making it easy to embed Wi-Fi into small, low cost and resource-constrained devices is the task at hand for those supplying Wi-Fi solutions for embedded devices. There are a number of decision points in the process.

Wi-Fi as an M2M Technology

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication has been mostly associated



with cellular connectivity. In fact, if you look for an M2M market study, you will find studies discussing cellular modules that are embedded inside devices. However, M2M is much broader and encompasses many wired and wireless communication technologies such as Ethernet, serial, PLC, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, cellular and more. M2M means connecting machines regardless of the communication medium. Wireless technology usually implies portable or mobile applications—if something is on the move, it can’t be tied down with wires. Having no wires also implies not having to run new wires to stationary applications, which in turn means stationary installations become easier and less costly to set up and maintain. Wi-Fi, or wireless LAN, is exactly that—LAN over the air. Wired Ethernet applications can be converted to Wi-Fi fairly easily, thereby reducing the installation cost of new Ethernet wires. Combine the efficiencies of using Wi-Fi together with its widespread existing infrastructure, and you come up with a technology that brings much value at a reasonable cost.

Which Wi-Fi Standard to Choose?

Like other technologies, Wi-Fi standards such as the IEEE 802.11 family of protocols have evolved over the years (Table 1).

Standards 802.11a and 802.11b are the older versions and they are not compatible with each other—802.11a devices operate in the 5 GHz band while 802.11b devices operate in the 2.4 GHz band. The most recent release of the standard 802.11n is backward compatible to the 802.11b and 802.11g versions—all three encompass operations in the 2.4 GHz band, while 802.11n can also operate in the 5 GHz band in the case that all devices on the network are 802.11n compatible. 802.11n is based on a multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) architecture with more than one antenna, enabling devices to increase data rates due to more than one transmission/reception path. Mixing standards will cause most access points to reduce speed to the older standard connected to it. Those are dry facts regarding the standards, but there are other issues to consider. Most embedded applications do not need the high rates provided by the newer standards. But does that mean that product designers should stick with the older standard because it’s enough for their needs? Not necessarily. Here is where real life comes in regarding availability of components. Because the PC and smartphone markets are driving the usage of Wi-Fi baseband chips, it is likely that many older standard chips will go end-

technology connected

of-life since there is not enough demand for them. Because the embedded market usually lags the consumer market by a few years, the challenge of retaining a supply of Wi-Fi chips is not an easy one. Wi-Fi baseband chip manufacturers leave behind old standards and move to the new standards, and designers find that after they have invested many months of nonrecurring engineering time into designing a specific baseband chip into their product, they have to start over a year later. Some older baseband chips are more popular than others, however, and have been adopted in enough designs to make it worthwhile for the chip manufacturer to continue producing them. An example of such an older, but resilient, baseband chip is the 88W8686 b/g chip from Marvell. This baseband chip is being packaged by several system-on-a-chip (SoC) companies and sold into many Wi-Fi designs. So, since the n, g and b versions of 802.11 are backward compatible, the lesson to be learned regarding what standard to choose is not so much that you need to choose the newer, faster standard, but a chip that you will be able to source for a long time.

2.4 GHz



Balun Power Amplifier

Host Interface 802.11 Baseband Chip

Clock Power

EEPROM Figure 1 With a Wi-Fi SoC solution you need to implement drivers in your application and rely on the continued supply from your SoC vendor.

SoC vs. Module

The next decision to consider is whether to design in a chip-level solution or a module solution (Figure 1). In general, choosing a module solution over a SoC solution reduces the risk that the Wi-Fi baseband chip will become unavailable, at least as long as the module manufacturer stays with the same module footprint when moving from one Wi-Fi standard to the next. An SoC solution requires drivers, which are usually available from the manufacturers of the baseband chips for Linux or Windows (again, PC-centric). If you are designing an embedded Linux product, then this solution may work out well if you have experience in certifying Wi-Fi designs for FCC/CE/etc. If you are OK with certifying your own product but do not want the hassle in-

Figure 2 For Linux developers, a certified SoC with antennas on board or external provides a good choice.

volved with the drivers, you can choose a Wi-Fi/IP controller and design it between your host CPU and the Wi-Fi SoC. More about the Wi-Fi/IP controller will follow. If the cost and challenge of certification is prohibitive, you can opt for the next level up, an SoC that has been designed onto a small, already-certified module (Figure 2). If you are not running Linux but some real-time smaller O/S, you can opt

for a full-module solution where all protocols, security and management functions are already on the module, in addition to it being fully certified (Figure 3). These types of modules can Wi-Fi-enable any CPU/OS design. Of course, as you move up the integration chain, the solutions become more expensive, while time-to-market and reduced development costs can quickly justify the RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


technology connected

Figure 3 Developers using compact, embedded RTOS solutions can cut time-tomarket even further by choosing a module that includes the latest connectivity protocols, security and management functions.

increased cost of an integrated solution. In general, and depending on quantities and functionality, SoCs range from $5 to $15; certified small SoC modules range from $10 to $25, and full modules from $20 to $40. Wi-Fi/IP controllers cost from $5 to $10. Certification (FCC/CE) at a certified lab can run about $20,000 per design, depending on what actual testing is required. Some full module manufacturers will use the same form factor for their “b/g” offering as their “n” offering, which will not require a redesign of the product they fit into. In addition, product designers looking to connect their products to either LAN or Wi-Fi can choose a module form factor that enables them to swap a LAN module and a Wi-Fi module in the same design. Choosing a full module solution reduces the risk, cost and time associated with embedding Wi-Fi into a product, but it does come with a higher price tag. Ultimately, product designers need to weigh their options and choose the best solution for their situation.

Internal or External Antenna

Designing antennas into products requires careful analysis of the product and its use. Products using plastic enclosures can usually use internal antennas, while metal enclosures usually require external antennas to allow the RF signal to propagate freely. Most Wi-Fi modules are available in onboard antenna and external



antenna versions. The external antenna versions come with a small RF connector on the module, where a pigtail cable can be connected to an external antenna that’s mounted on the outside of the product. Depending on antenna gain, most internal antenna designs will have less Wi-Fi range than external antenna designs—usually 20 to 50% less range. Wi-Fi range for external antennas is usually 100 to 200m, depending on obstructions like walls. Depending on product requirements and use, the Wi-Fi solution may need to operate in client or access point mode. Client mode is the most common mode whereby the product connects to Wi-Fi access points in order to send/receive data on the network—similar to the way a computer connects to the network via Wi-Fi. An example would be an energy meter sending data to a remote server on the Internet via the local Wi-Fi network. In access point mode, the product becomes an access point and allows other Wi-Fi clients to connect to it. An example would be a medical device that enables an iPhone/iPad/Android device to connect to it to view patient information without another Wi-Fi access point nearby. Not all Wi-Fi solutions support both modes of operation—most support just client mode.

Wi-Fi/IP Controller

So far we have discussed embedding Wi-Fi as basically embedding the

Wi-Fi baseband/RF/antenna, and the options to doing this. However, a communication solution does not end with just the Wi-Fi part. The use of a dedicated Wi-Fi/IP controller solution provides an immediate, cost-effective and highly secure solution. It allows designers to focus on their companies’ core competencies while offloading all communications and security tasks to an external field-proven controller (Figure 4). The Wi-Fi/IP controller first serves as a controller for the Wi-Fi baseband chip. It contains the necessary drivers, stacks and application software to operate the Wi-Fi chip in all its modes of operation. Working with Wi-Fi becomes seamless to the Host CPU. The Wi-Fi/IP controller also serves as a hardware “firewall-on-a-chip,” shielding the application from malicious attacks originating from the Internet, similar to the way a firewall resides at the edge of a network to protect the network from the Internet. The controller also contains the TCP/ IP stack and protocols such as HTTP, FTP, SMTP, DHCP, etc., so that the application residing in the host CPU need only send simple commands to the controller in order to invoke these high level protocols. SSL3 is also implemented by the Wi-Fi/ IP controller, encrypting the data to/from the device from end to end. Management is a key component of deploying devices, so the Wi-Fi/IP controller contains secure built-in web servers that can manage the operation of the device remotely over the network using a standard browser.

Other Considerations

People often confuse the security of the Wi-Fi RF medium with the end-toend security of the connection between the device and a remotely located device/ server on the Internet. WEP, WPA and WPA2 are security protocols for the WiFi RF medium—they are in play only between the device and the local Wi-Fi access point it connects to. From the local Wi-Fi access point and onto the Internet, the data sent/received is not secure unless a higher level security protocol like SSL3 is employed to encrypt the data end-to-end.

technology connected

Since encryption protocols are resource intensive, the Wi-Fi/IP controller offloads this task from the host CPU, and with little effort, the host CPU can open a secure end-to-end connection. The ability to deploy devices in the field and maintain them is an important issue to consider during the design phase. An internal web server is a good method for managing devices over the network. By building a small web site inside the device, installation and maintenance can be performed using a standard browser over the network. To manage a device remotely, look for a Wi-Fi solution that provides tools to embed such a small web server inside the product. One of the more useful functions provided by a Wi-Fi/IP controller for applications that are deployed where there is no Wi-Fi/Internet infrastructure is Wi-Fi to cellular routing. The Wi-Fi/IP controller on one side is connected to the Wi-Fi baseband chip, and on the other side to a cellular 2G/3G/4G cellular modem. This is a standalone operation that enables designers to embed 3G router functionality inside their products. With this 3G router functionality, product designers can provide Internet connectivity for their products and others via a cellular connection without the need for someone else’s Internet connection. A recent customer example came from a Laundromat where dozens of washing machines and dryers are wirelessly connected to a dedicated and customized embedded 3G router. The application sent operation, payment and maintenance information on an ongoing basis to a remote management location, bringing all of the accounting detail and maintenance information together and decreasing the need for an onsite person. The benefits of Wi-Fi-enabled products are enormous, but only when the design is executed properly. So, when marketing tells you, “Customers want Wi-Fi…,” make sure you ask all the right questions about the customer’s product requirements before starting your design. These include determining the proper speed and Wi-Fi range and the enclosure characteristics such as size constraints and whether it will be plastic or metal. Will the product be sold and if so, what

802.11 standard version a b g n

RF Band (GHz)

Max Speed (Mbits/s)

Typical Speed (Mbits/s)

Approx. Approx. Indoor range Outdoor (m) range (m)
















2.4 or 5

600 (4x4 @ 40MHz)

75 (1x1 @ 20 MHz)



table 1 Wi-Fi technology has evolved over the years, gaining in speed and range.

certifications will be required and for what countries? What is the targeted life of the product? If the time-to-market is tight, you need to consider full module vs. SoC integration. This also reflects cost constraints determining if a full module solution is affordable. How will the product connect to the Internet? Where is it to be used or will you need to provide your own network as in a 3G router solution? With answers to these questions, analyze the design cost/risk associated with

your design choices—SoC being the lowest cost, but higher risk—full module being the higher cost, but lowest risk. Based on the considerations discussed above, in the context of the application, you can easily arrive at a solution that will give you the best solution at a price point that fits your market. Connect One San Jose, CA. (408) 572-5675. [].

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8/6/12 4:32 PM




connected Wireless Device Connectivity

Wireless Monitoring Helps Protect Consumer Health The addition of ultra-low-power wireless technology to home medical products promises to cut health care costs by keeping people out of hospital.






Simple RC

Physical Layer (PHY)




Heart Rate

Link Layer (LL)

Blood Pressure

Host Controller Interface (HCI)

Time Update



ypertension, along with type 2 diabetes and high blood cholesterol, are manifestations of an unhealthy lifestyle dominated by overeating, lack of physical activity and excessive tobacco and/ or alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, it’s a lifestyle that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in both Western and developing cultures, and health authorities are worried. Their concern comes not only from the death count, but also from the crippling cost of looking after people stricken with the cardiovascular disease (CVD) that typically results from these ailments. The good news is that CVD is preventable. Eating well and in moderation, exercising, stopping smoking and lowering alcohol consumption—allied to regular monitoring of blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels—can ensure CVD risk factors virtually disappear. Technology in the form of home medical monitoring equipment enables users to keep an eye on their health. Such equipment reduces the load on general practitioners and keeps people out of the hospital and off expensive drugs. But who wants to spend time checking their vitals signs, recording the numbers and trying to interpret the data—even if it is good for them? Fortunately, ultra-low-power (ULP) wireless technology is making the process much easier—in fact, as easy as pressing a button and sitting back while the data automati-


by Alf Helge Omre, Nordic Semiconductor

PUID Profiles


Link Controller

Figure 1 Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0 defines Bluetooth low energy technology’s architecture.

cally makes its way to the physicians. But what exactly is this technology, and how is it being incorporated into new products?

Finding the Missing Link

Mobile connectivity is so pervasive, it is hard to envisage modern life without

it. Such connectivity has allowed us to manage many aspects of our lives—such as work, finance and friends—from virtually anyplace and at anytime. But one thing that’s lagging is management of our health. And that’s because, until now, there has been a missing link. Home medical de-

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vices such as blood pressure and heart rate monitors, weight scales and thermometers have remained stubbornly “disconnected.” Technology to connect these products to the cellular network or the Internet does exist, of course. Classic Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi are two examples that have proven their viability in millions of products—notably cell phones and computers—across the globe. But both technologies are relatively expensive, require lots of power and are primarily designed for rapid transfer of a lot of data. None of these characteristics matches the requirements of portable home medical devices. These products are price sensitive, powered by small batteries and generate low volumes of data infrequently. What’s needed is an inexpensive, low power consumption wireless technology that’s designed to send a few bits of information perhaps every few seconds up to once a day. That’s the perfect description of ULP wireless technology. ULP wireless connectivity is not new. However, until recently it has been a proprietary technology. Wireless chips from one company can’t communicate with those from another. So, for example, a weight scale equipped with a wireless connection from company A can’t send its data to a cell phone that incorporates a wireless chip from company B. Bluetooth low energy, which is a hallmark feature of Bluetooth v4.0, the latest version of the popular wireless technology, changes all that (Figure 1). Bluetooth low energy is an ultra-low-power wireless technology that promises to bring interoperability between home medical equipment and the latest generation of cell phones that are starting to incorporate Bluetooth v4.0. (See sidebar “A Tale of Two Chips.”)

Conservative Sector

Wireless technology has been slow to penetrate the medical sector due to the stringent demands of the community. These demands are driven by the need to guarantee that a chosen technology is totally reliable and not likely to be detrimental to a patient’s health. The technology first needs to be built to an open standard so that products from different manufacturers can communicate with each other reliably and incorporate

A Tale of Two Chips The operational mode of Bluetooth low-energy technology suits transmission of data from compact wireless sensors (exchanging data every half second) or other peripherals where fully asynchronous communication can be used. These devices send low volumes of data infrequently, for example, a few times per second to once every minute or even less often. There are two types of chips that together form the Bluetooth low-energy architecture: Bluetooth low-energy devices and Bluetooth v4.0 devices. The Bluetooth low-energy chip is brand new to the Bluetooth specification—it’s the part of the technology optimized for ULP operation. These devices can communicate with other Bluetooth low-energy chips and Bluetooth v4.0 chips when the latter are using the Bluetooth low-energy technology part of their architecture to transmit and receive. Bluetooth v4.0 devices are capable of both “classic” Bluetooth and Bluetooth low-energy communication. Bluetooth v4.0 chips will be used anywhere a classic Bluetooth chip is used today. The consequence is that cell phones, PCs, Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) or other applications fitted with the new Bluetooth chips will be capable of communicating with all the legacy Classic Bluetooth devices already on the market as well as with all future Bluetooth low-energy devices. However, because they are required to perform Classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth low-energy duties, Bluetooth v4.0 chips are not optimized for ULP operation to the same degree as Bluetooth low-energy devices. Bluetooth low-energy chips can operate for long periods (months or even years) from a coin cell battery such as a 3V, 220 mAh CR2032. In contrast, classic Bluetooth technology—including Bluetooth v4.0—typically requires the capacity of at least two AAA cells, which have 10 to 12 times the capacity of a coin cell and much higher peak current tolerance, to power them for days or weeks at most, depending on the application.

simple pairing. Second, transmission of data must be safe and secure when travelling across the Internet and the cellular network. And third, conservative health care institutions need a convincing argument to take up new technology. Bluetooth low energy meets all of these requirements and more. For example, the RF protocol stack is small so the radios consume ultra-low currents when transmitting or receiving and can hibernate in “sleep” states consuming just Nano amps. Moreover, Bluetooth low energy supports AES encrypted wireless communication.

The Technology of Ultra-LowPower Wireless

There are three characteristics of Bluetooth low energy technology that underlie its ULP performance: maximized standby time, fast connection and low peak transmit/receive power. Switching the radio “on” for anything other than very brief periods dramatically reduces battery life, so any transmitting or receiving that has to be done needs to be done quickly. The first trick Bluetooth low energy technology uses to minimize time on air is to employ only three “advertising” channels to search for other devices or promote its own presence to devices that

might be looking to make a connection. In comparison, classic Bluetooth technology uses 32 channels. This means Bluetooth low energy technology has to switch “on” for just 0.6 to 1.2 ms to scan for other devices, while classic Bluetooth technology requires 22.5 ms to scan its 32 channels. Consequently, Bluetooth low energy technology uses 10 to 20 times less power than classic Bluetooth technology to locate other radios. Note that the use of three advertising channels is a slight compromise: it’s a trade between “on” time (and hence power) and robustness in what is a very crowded part of the spectrum. With fewer advertising channels there is a greater chance of another radio broadcasting on one of the chosen frequencies and corrupting the signal. The specification’s designers are confident they have balanced this compromise—they have, for example, chosen the advertising channels such that they don’t clash with Wi-Fi’s default channels. Once connected, Bluetooth low-energy technology switches to one of its 37 data channels. During the short data transmission period the radio switches between channels in a pseudo-random pattern using the adaptive frequency hopping (AFH) technology pioneered by classic Bluetooth RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


technology connected

measuring arrhythmias, blood pressure and oxygen levels—communicating with a single “master” device.

The Smartphone as a Health Hub

Figure 2 IDT’s blood pressure monitor uses Nordic technology to communicate with Bluetooth v4.0 smartphones.

technology, although classic Bluetooth technology uses 79 data channels. Another reason why Bluetooth lowenergy technology spends minimal time on the air is because it features a raw data bandwidth of 1 Mbit/s—greater bandwidth allows more information to be sent in less time. An alternative technology that features a bandwidth of 250 Kbit/s, for example, has to be “on” for four times as long to send the same amount of information. Bluetooth low-energy technology can “complete” a connection, i.e., scan for other devices, link, send data, authenticate and “gracefully” terminate, in just 3 ms. With classic Bluetooth technology, a similar connection cycle is measured in hundreds of milliseconds. Remember, more time on air requires more energy from the battery. Bluetooth low-energy technology also keeps a lid on peak power in two other ways: by employing more “relaxed” RF parameters than its big brother, and by sending very short packets. Both technologies use a Gaussian frequency shift keying (GFSK) modulation. However, Bluetooth low-energy technology uses a modulation index of 0.5 compared to classic Bluetooth technology’s 0.35. An index of 0.5



is close to a Gaussian minimum shift keying (GMSK) scheme and lowers the radio’s power requirements. Two beneficial side effects of the lower modulation index are increased range and enhanced robustness. Classic Bluetooth technology uses a long packet length. When these longer packets are transmitted the radio has to remain in a relatively high power state for a longer duration, heating the silicon. This changes the material’s physical characteristics and would alter the transmission frequency, breaking the link unless the radio was constantly recalibrated. Recalibration costs power and requires a closedloop architecture, making the radio more complex and pushing up the device’s cost. In contrast, Bluetooth low-energy technology uses very short packets, which keeps the silicon cool. Consequently, a Bluetooth low-energy transceiver doesn’t require power-consuming recalibration and a closed-loop architecture. Bluetooth low energy is an open standard ensuring that sensors from different manufacturers can establish communication quickly and easily. And because Bluetooth low energy builds on the legacy of Bluetooth wireless technology, it can easily form personal area networks (PANs) comprising several sensors—for example

Hong Kong-based IDT International is a leading manufacturer of blood pressure monitors (BPM). The company’s latest product, a monitor equipped with a ULP wireless link (Figure 2), is currently undergoing final medical certification with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medical Devices Directive (MDD). IDT’s product is specifically designed to make testing blood pressure simple and to ensure the resulting data is interpreted for the user’s best benefit. “It can be used by anyone,” says Danny Leung, engineering manager of IDT’s medical and sports & fitness division. “The end user has to do nothing more than put the cuff on their upper arm and press a button.” The monitor gives immediate voice feedback, calibrated to World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, on the current blood pressure reading—for example, “Your blood pressure is normal.” Blood pressure naturally varies depending on a number of factors such as whether the patient is standing or sitting, has recently exercised or is under stress, so single readings aren’t a good guide to underlying health, although abnormally high readings should always be immediately reported to a medical practitioner. To detect a potential problem, or a gradual upward trend over time, readings should be averaged over several days. IDT’s latest innovation ensures that such a series of readings reaches expert eyes. This innovation is the result of adding a Bluetooth low-energy wireless link to the BPM. The wireless link is powered by Nordic’s nRF8001 µBlue Bluetooth low-energy solution. The nRF8001 is a single-chip-connectivity solution fully compliant with Bluetooth v4.0 (Figure 3). The blood pressure meter is the first such device in the world to utilize Bluetooth low energy and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s (SIG) recently adopted Blood Pressure profile. The profile is an additional layer added to the Bluetooth low-energy RF protocol stack that optimizes the operation of a specific ap-

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plication. The use of Bluetooth Smart in the BPM allows it to communicate with one of the Bluetooth v4.0 smartphones now appearing on the market. Compatible devices include Appleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s iPhone 4S and handsets from Motorola, HTC and NEC. The BPM measures the patientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s systolic and diastolic pressure and displays the average blood pressure from a group of recent measurements. Data from the blood pressure meter, which also includes heart rate and notifications of heart beat irregularities, is transmitted from the monitor to the handset and from there, via the cellular network, to a remote server in the medical facility. Alternatively, the data can be sent via SMS or email.

Home Monitoring Cuts Costs

Taking responsibility for personal health is key to reducing the incidence of CVDâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the number one global killer. But it can be difficult to encourage adults who habitually overindulge to change their lifestyle. Government-sponsored campaigns, aimed at educating the population

less technology to transmit the medical data to the cellular network via Bluetoothenabled products keeps doctors informed. That limits the time patients need to spend with the physician, and enables medical staff to make well-informed decisions about when to prescribe drugsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;saving health authorities a fortune. Like weight, blood pressure is a good indicator of general health. If users have access to a simple-to-use blood pressure monitor, and the results of their periodic measurements are wirelessly transmitted to a health care professional, they can see how theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing on a particular day and be safe in the knowledge that if thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a detrimental long-term trend it will be identified by the doctor.

Figure 3 Nordic Semiconductorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ÂľBlue nRF8001 was one of the first Bluetooth low energy chips on the market.

in the benefits of healthy living, can work, provided participants remain motivated. That motivation comes, in part, from seeing results such as weight loss, lowered resting heart rate and decreased blood pressure. Home health equipment can help that happen. And using ULP wire-

Nordic Semiconductor Oslo, Norway. +47 22 51 10 50. []. IDT Hong Kong. (852) 2764 7873. [].

Linux-ready ARM9 Box Computer




w w Untitled-2 1



// +1 (714) 671-9996

Authorized Distributor


7/31/12 4:35 PM RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012

technology deployed Advanced Management for Industrial Control

Secure Remote Management Technologies Support Embedded Platforms The benefits of secure remote management bring increased control of computing assets and the promise of reduced downtime, maintenance, repair and energy costs. by Norbert Hauser, Kontron


rise in the level of network integration and ever larger bandwidth have paved the way for increasingly complex, remote IT management of embedded systems. Remotely managing and monitoring common tasks such as troubleshooting, power management and system verification is a fundamental cornerstone to reducing overall operational costs. Remote management also contributes to minimizing or eliminating technician onsite visits that in the past were needed to diagnose and repair any issues. In todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s highly networked environment, it almost goes without saying that remote management must occur within tight security channels. Therefore, embedded system designers must also deliver reliable, trusted system solutions that can be adapted to the unique implementations of each embedded system so it will operate as intended even when it is unmanned or remote. Now, a rich selection of embedded computing platforms gives designers the advanced manageability and maintenance features they need based on integrated Intel Active Management Technology (AMT). Intel AMT is one of the technologies that is part of the Intel vPro technology suite, which is integrated into its third generation Intel Core vPro processor family, the Intel Xeon



processor E3-1200 product family and associated chipsets. Along with AMT, the Intel vPro technology suite includes Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT). Together, all these technologies provide

hardware support for advanced management functions, virtualization and platform security so that embedded systems are more secure, less costly to service, and enable increased software and operational flexibility. Using the third generation Intel processor family as an example, designers have the flexibility to choose the embedded computing form factor that best suits a particular application or market requirement from a list of commercial off-the-shelf and customized solutions. These include Computer-on-Modules (COM), embedded motherboard, CompactPCI and VPX processor boards, and even a new open pluggable specification (OPS)-compliant solution for intelligent digital signage. All provide Intel AMT features. The implementation of embedded platforms with Intel vPro and AMT technologies can greatly improve system management, increase security and streamline development.

Intel vPro and AMT

Intel developed its vPro technology by combining multiple technologies and protocols to address security concerns on multiple layers of the system. Besides security, embedded form factors that integrate vPro

Figure 1 Complex, high-speed factory automation applications often require software updates and monitoring that can best be carried out remotely.

technology deployed

Figure 2 Digital signage applications can take advantage of remote management to send real-time customer data to IT as well as to update content and for general maintenance and security.

also help system developers by saving costs and reducing size, weight and power (SWaP). Embedded computing suppliers such as Kontron will integrate the full Intel vPro platform ultimately on more than 10 third generation Intel processor-based form factors. Specifically as it relates to implementing secure remote management, designers can select any one of these latest form factors with Intel AMT to address the three key security and reliability challenges facing embedded systems today: system integrity, secure isolation and remote systems management. Intel AMT uses advanced circuitry from the Intel chipset that provides the capability to access and control the system. The chipset circuit establishes a link that allows the system to communicate with a management console without relying on the systemâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s standard networking functionality. Intel AMT works by using a combination of elements that include domain authentication, session keys, persistent data storage in the Intel AMT hardware and access control lists. Security is maintained because only firmware images that are digitally signed are permitted to load and execute. This set of hardware-based features allows remote access for management, monitoring and other tasks, whether wired or wireless. OEMs also need to take note that remote management lays the foundation for



comprehensive, high-end service concepts for embedded computing devices. Thus, new market and application revenue opportunities are born, which bring the advantages of accelerated services and further service cost reductions that ultimately support long-term competitiveness. Intel conducted research on realworld deployments and pilot programs and found that 85 percent of softwarerelated issues can be diagnosed and repaired remotely. Handling software repairs remotely can save companies thousands of dollarsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it virtually avoids the $60 to $100 per hour costs for a typical technician onsite visit, or a digital signage trouble call that can run as much as $2,000 depending on the location.

Feature-Packed Platforms that Perform

An embedded platform with Intel AMT allows users to diagnose devices remotely. This means that software issues can be repaired via the network and failed hardware components can be identified in advance before technicians arrive. These embedded platforms also provide proactive solutions such as protection for networks by automatically downloading the latest virus signatures and putting infected

devices into quarantine, or identifying issues before they grow to become problems that require repairs. IT personnel can develop any number of alerts about software problems, memory and storage usage, and power supply issues. In addition, the ability to control on/ off switching, reboot or re-install software remotely enables companies to be more in control of their computing assets and reduce utility costs. Software and hardware inventories can also be conducted remotely as well as the capability to monitor the status of any embedded device within the network. All this can be achieved even if devices are powered off, not responding, or have disabled or nonworking software issues. Security is extremely important in embedded systems. With Intel vPro technology, embedded platforms deliver transport layer security (TLS). Hardwarebased filters can maintain a secure connection while isolating a compromised device to prevent malware from spreading to other devices on the network. These platforms also provide keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) remote control and enable IDE redirect remote diagnostics and repair for unattended machines. Efficient power management is also achieved through embedded platforms with Intel AMT. Critical to enable greater system manageability, Intel AMT permits outof-band (OOB) functionality that supports diagnosis and repair independent of major system components. With built-in manageability, these platforms allow assets to be discovered even when devices are powered off. The management server can issue a power-on command for patch and reboot deployment as needed to a computer that was powered down to save energy. After the monitoring or control task is complete, the management server can issue the power-off command to return the computer to its previous off state. This delivers multiple benefits for unmanned applications or in systems that are not always running. Companies also gain greater control to diagnose system problems regardless of an OS or hardware failure. Additional security is delivered from the agent presence checking feature that automatically sends alerts when missing software agents are found. Other incoming threats can be detected and blocked from Intel AMT System Defense. System

Defense protects against infected clients before they impact the network and alerts IT management when these software agents have been removed.

Putting Intel AMT-Based Platforms to Work

Manually tracking industrial automation assets such as factory robotics and associated support systems that are often built on different platforms is difficult and time-consuming. Keeping these systems current with the latest software, policies and licenses expounds the challenge. These modules provide a fast wireless connectivity solution via 3G/4G addon modems and other communications devices to enable connected intelligent platforms that deliver optimized up-time, increased remote manageability capabilities and native system security (Figure 1). Power management through OOB management capabilities allows IT personnel to isolate and recover systems remotely, while alerting and event logging help prevent and reduce downtime. For example, a remote patch can be downloaded securely after a system reboot fails, and enable the system to come back online. To keep software and virus protection up-to-date across the enterprise, third-party software can store version numbers or policy data in non-volatile memory for unmanned or offhours retrieval or updates. Many retailers choose not to shut down some of their digital signage systems at the close of business even though they could save energy costs. That’s because IT departments typically want to update data and software during off hours (Figure 2). OPS-compliant digital signage solutions deliver the computing performance, upgraded manageability features and improved security, as well as an increase in uptime provided by remote management capabilities. AMT allows companies to configure remote management to power down systems and then turn them back on when IT requires access. This feature, combined with the power efficiency of Intel processors, can generate considerable cost savings and help protect the environment. Remote management in digital signage applications also provides greater opportunities to gather market intelligence. For instance, the system could push tailored

information to the customer as well as communicate information about user preferences back to the business in real time. To illustrate how this could work, a fast food kiosk equipped for credit card or cash transactions, provides a receipt and then communicates the order to the kitchen. When ready, a staffer gives the selected meal to the customer and scans the barcode on the receipt to confirm that the meal has been delivered. At the same time that the order is communicated to the kitchen, this customer data is also communicated to the corporate marketing team enabling them to have important customer data on the effectiveness of their kiosk promotions.

New Application Opportunities

Security for embedded systems has traditionally been poorly defined even though many systems are mission-critical and handle sensitive information. Today’s global environment requires that security, privacy and reliability be inherent in all embedded systems. Addressing these requirements is a wide range of third generation Intel processor-based COTS platforms that integrate Intel AMT to provide the necessary secure remote access and thwart increasing network threats. Intel has provided valuable application features in its vPro technology suite, and the variety of form factor solutions from embedded computing suppliers delivers the system integrity, secure isolation and remote systems management building blocks that enable true trusted systems. Plus, OEMs can look to these COTS products to provide a hardware verification model that accelerates development and reduces the time-to-market. These newest embedded platforms provide designers with the latest high-performance technologies enabling them to build applications with increased processing density and I/O bandwidth within tight thermal envelopes. Also, improved size, weight and power (SWaP) can be achieved in a new generation of systems that can leverage the advanced management features of Intel AMT platforms that open new application revenue streams and competitive market solutions. Kontron Poway, CA. (888) 294-4558. [].

Technology deployed

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TECHNOLOGY Double Refresh Rate Challenge Solved with New Line of DDR3L Modules

COM Module Features ARM Cortex-A8

A new line of low power, low thermal dissipation memory modules, the DDR3L memory modules from Virtium Technology not only reduce total power for systems that use multiple memory modules, but because they reduce thermal dissipation up to 10°C on the DRAM surface, they also benefit systems that must run above 85°C. JEDEC stipulates that systems running memory beyond 85°C must double the memory self-refresh rate. Compared to other current DDR3 designs, Virtium DDR3L memory modules are able to facilitate a considerable increase in system performance by removing the double refresh rate requirement. Virtium engineering solved this issue using a combination of its screening technique for lowest total electrical current (IDD), incorporating thermal-relief copper pour methodology PCB design, reducing the chip count, and utilizing 1.35V DDR3L DRAM. Virtium DDR3L memory modules are available in 4 Gbyte and 8 Gbyte densities in a wide range of form factors including standard height, VLP and ULP low profile ECC SODIMM, RDIMM, UDIMM and Mini DIMM configurations. The company’s internal test data shows that depending upon the components used, Virtium DDR3L modules can significantly reduce power resulting in increased performance in many embedded systems.

A feature-packed COM supports Samsung’s Exynos 3 Single S5PV210 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor as well as PowerVR SGX540 for 3D and 2D graphics acceleration. The MXM-V210 from Embedian is combined with robust BSPs to enable OEMs to reach their product goals with minimal time and risk.

Virtium Technology, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. (949) 888-2444. [].

6U CompactPCI SBC Targets Freescale Eight-Core P4080 Processor A 6U CompactPCI Single Board Computer (SBC) supports the Freescale QorIQ P4080 processor. Available in either conduction- or air-cooled versions, the XCalibur1600 from Extreme Engineering Solutions utilizes the eight Power Architecture e500mc cores running at up to 1.5 GHz, making it a suitable solution for high-end military, communications and industrial applications. The XCalibur1600 feature-set includes supports for the Freescale QorIQ P3, P4 and P5 processors with the stock processor being the Freescale P4080 with eight PowerPC e500mc cores at up to 1.5 GHz. It supports up to 16 Gbyte of DDR3-1333 ECC SDRAM in two channels; up to 512 Mbyte of NOR flash (with redundancy); up to 64 Gbyte of CPU NAND flash and up to 128 Gbyte of SATA NAND flash (optional). Interfaces include three Gigabit Ethernet ports, x4 PCI Express to XMC sites and up to four SATA 3.0 Gbit/s ports along with two USB 2.0 ports. There are also two RS-232/422/485 serial ports, a XAUI to XMC site and two PrPMC/XMC interfaces. Operating system support includes board support packages for Green Hills Integrity, Wind River VxWorks and Linux. Alternate processor configurations include: • P4040 processor with four PowerPC e500mc cores at up to 1.5 GHz • P3041 processor with four PowerPC e500mc cores at up to 1.5 GHz • P5010 processor with one 64-bit PowerPC e5500 core at up to 2 GHz • P5020 processor with two 64-bit PowerPC e5500 cores at up to 2 GHz Extreme Engineering Solutions, Middleton, WI. (608) 833-1155 [].



Carrying the S5PV210 interfaces such as HDMI, USB 2.0, RS-232, LCD, SD and LAN, the 232-pin COM interconnect also delivers a maximum performance of 1 GHz and ultra-low power mode support. Its integrated multimedia hardware codec supports various standards such as MPEG4, h.264 to full HD resolutions. The subsystem also enables users to significantly save on bill of material (BOM) costs as it eliminates the need for additional ASIC/FPGA. The Embedian Evalution Kit (EVK) includes the carrier board, COM, demo images, board support package (BSP) and all contents needed for immediate start-up. With the carrier board serving as the reference design for hardware development, the EVK offers an immediate platform for developing application code that can be integrated together with the COM into pre-production, prototype and production systems. The MXM-V210 supports Ubuntu 12.04 (LTS) and Android 2.3 (by project). Embedian, Taipei, Taiwan. +886 2 8712 9693. [].


1U Rackmount Network Appliance Increases Average LAN Throughput by 80 Percent A 1U rackmount network security appliance supports Intel’s second generation Core i7/i5/i3 processor with Intel H61 PCH and DMI 5GT/s chipset, and is scalable to Intel’s latest third generation Core i7/i5/i3 processor family. The new CAR-3030 network security appliance also features dualchannel 1066/1333 MHz DDR3 memory modules up to 16 Gbyte, PCI-E x8 expansion (with up to two Generation 2.0 bypass segments), LGA-1155 socket, up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, optional dual 10G SFP+LAN module, 80 Plus power supply and six onboard Ethernet ports with two bypass segments. American Portwell’s new CAR-3030 network security appliance is capable of increasing LAN throughput by an average of 80 percent when compared with previous generation platforms. This makes it an attractive solution for intrusion prevention systems (IPS), intrusion detection systems (IDS), firewall, VPN, load balancing, WAN optimization, unified threat management (UTM), IP router, web security gateways and as an application delivery controller (ADC). American Portwell, Fremont, CA. (877) APT-8899. [].

6U CompactPCI Board with Third Generation Core Processor A new 6U CompactPCI processor board sets new performanceper-watt marks for high-end applications. Based on the Intel QM77 Express Chipset and scalable up to the quad-core third generation Intel Core i7-3615QE processor with 4 x 2.3 GHz (3.3 GHz in Turbo mode), the CP6004-SA from Kontron provides up to 20 percent enhanced computing power and increased performance per watt compared to designs based on the second generation Core processors. Further advantages include the integrated HD 4000 graphics. OEMs and designers benefit from twice the HD media and 3D graphics performance by an improved user experience and stunning visuals. With support for DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, AVX and OpenCL 1.1, developers can now use the latest APIs to accelerate the development of their applications. The power-optimized Kontron 6U CompactPCI processor board CP6004-SA is designed for high density, thermally constrained CompactPCI systems that require high performance in a typical 60 watt or less power envelope. It is scalable with four processors from low-power dual-core variants up to extremely powerful quad-core technology to meet all individual mission profiles, and delivers outstanding data throughput and enables out-of-band communication through IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface). Data protection is secured by the optional onboard Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2). In addition, there is a 6 Mbyte cache and up to 16 Gbyte of 1600 MHz DDR3 ECC SO-DIMM memory. The CP6004-SA supports a configurable 64-bit/66 MHz PCI or PCI-X, hot swap CompactPCI interface. The Kontron 6U CP6004-SA offers a range of interfaces: 6x SATA ports with RAID 0/1/5 functionality for enhanced data security, 6 x USB 2.0 ports, 2 x RS-232 ports, three independent graphics interfaces (1x VGA, 2x DVI/HDMI) and High Definition Audio (HDA) interfaces as well as 5 x Gigabit Ethernet connected via PCI Express to meet the high performance requirements of communications applications. One SATA 6 Gbit/s port can be used for an onboard 2.5-inch SSD, HDD or an up to 32 Gbyte large Flash-SATA module that can be integrated to hold complete operating systems and application code, which substantially increases overall system speed and availability, supported by the optional write protection feature. An XMC socket (via PCI Express x8) or PMC socket for mezzanine cards ensure plenty of room for custom expansions, like the dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards from Kontron. The CP6004-SA runs with Linux (Fedora, RedHat, Windriver), VxWorks (6.9 and later), Microsoft Windows 7, Windows XP, XP embedded or Windows Server 2008-R2. Kontron, Poway, CA. (888) 294-4558. [].

Drive up to Six Monitors from a Single Thin Client

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A pair of low-profile multi-display graphics cards supports enhanced functionality and workspace in cloud computing environments. Working in conjunction with the Wyse Technology Z90DE7 high-performance thin client, the Epica TC20+ dual-monitor and Epica TC48 quad-monitor cards from Matrox enablewith up technology to six displays GetGraphics Connected and companies providing solutions two now native from a single system, when combined with the Z90DE7’s graphics outputs. The additional space for easier on-exploration Get monitor Connected is a allows new resource for further into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal screen access to one or more single or multi-monitor published desktops is to research the latest datasheet from a company, speak directly or applications in such demanding virtual desktop environments as the with an sectors Application jump to control. a company's technical page, the financial and government asEngineer, well as or process goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the right resource. Co-validated for use with Wyse you require for whatever type of technology, Whichever levelthe of service Z90DE7 due to high efficiency, Getenergy Connected will help you connect with the companies and products you areand searching low thermal properties theirfor.PCI Express bus interface design, the Epica TC20+ and TC48 graphics cards enable a wide variety of multi-display configurations and options for multi-display thinclient users. The dual-monitor TC20+ supports resolutions up to 1920x1200 (digital) and 2048x1536 (analog) per disGet Connected with technology and companies prov play and up to four VGA Get displays via an is optional upgrade. The Epica Connected a new resource for further exploration into pro TC48 meanwhile supportsdatasheet up to four or DisplayPort at from aDVI company, speak directlymonitors with an Application Engine in touchresulting with the right resource. Whichever levelunprecof service you requir resolutions up to 1920x1200, in both cases up to an Get Connected help you connect the companies and produc edented six displays from a single thinwillclient. Users canwith subsequently open one or multiple remote sessions on each display or span a single spreadsheet, for example, across several monitors. System administrators can now manage users’ multi-display and multi-GPU thin clients via a single graphics user interface—Matrox PowerDesk software suite, which comes bundled with Epica cards. PowerDesk supports multi-GPU configurations as well as a multitude of features designed to enhance multi-display workspaces. Individual settings of each of the thin client’s six displays, such as color depth, refresh rate, resolution and screen orientation, are easily configurable in PowerDesk. Additional features meanwhile further empower administrators by delivering deeper desktop management capabilities. Desktop Divider, for example, allows administrators to Get Connected with companies and customize users’ layouts across an up-to-four-display extended desktop products featured in this section. made up the Epica-powered displays. Alternatively, administrators can enable the use of six independent displays, depending on personal preferences and workplace requirements.


Matrox Graphics, Dorval, Quebec. (514) 822-6000. []. Get Connected with companies and products featured in this section.




Series of Very Small GigE Cameras Targets Machine Vision A new series of very small GigE cameras have a footprint of only 29 mm x 29 mm and are compatible to many analog cameras. This new series from The Imaging Source simplifies the migration from the analog to digital camera world. The cameras ship in robust, industrial casing with a C/CS lens mount, trigger and digital I/O inputs. The color, monochrome and Bayer models are available in VGA, SXGA and 2 MP resolutions. They are ideally suited to machine vision applications in automation, traffic surveillance, quality assurance, medicine, logistics, microscopy and security. The software support of the cameras is extensive. Both programmers and end-users immediately feel at home. Getting started with the cameras takes only a matter of minutes, and integrating them into existing applications takes only a few lines of code. Drivers for LabView, HALCON, DirectX, Twain and WDM are included. All camera parameters and settings can be set via the shipped software. Furthermore, a number of automatic modes are available, which guarantee optimal image quality in varying light conditions. The cameras ship with drivers for Windows XP, Vista and 7, the SDK IC Imaging Control (.NET, ActiveX and C++ class library) and IC Capture. The latter is a powerful enduser application, which allows all camera parameters to be set, live video to be displayed, singular images and image sequences to be captured.

Community-Based Development Kit for the Xilinx Zynq-7000 A community-oriented development kit for the Xilinx Zynq-7000 Extensible Processing Platform (EPP) is targeted for designers and students who are interested in exploring and prototyping their application ideas for the new Zynq-7000 EPP architecture. Features of the ZedBoard include a Xilinx Zynq XC7Z020 EPP device with memory implemented as 512 Mbyte DDR3, 256 Mbit QSPI Flash and a 4 Gbyte SD Card. The ZedBoard also has onboard USB-JTAG programming. Interfaces include 10/100/1G Ethernet, USB OTG 2.0 and USB-UART plus PS & PL I/O expansion (FMC, Pmod, XADC).

The Imaging Source, Charlotte, NC. (704) 370-0110. [].

6U Dual-Power Backplane with Current Sense/Share Features Pixus Technologies, a supplier of backplane, enclosure and embedded component solutions, has announced a new power backplane with dual 47-pin connectors per PICMG 2.11 power interface specification in the 6U form factor. The power interface board has sense and current share signals to better regulate and distribute power. The new power interface board physical size comes in 6.5U or 6U height by 16HP wide, with two CompactPCI hot-pluggable slots using standard 47-pin connectors. The boards are designed for either AC or DC power to be supplied, including accommodations for rear power entry modules for 48V requirements. Wire harnesses are also available, providing +3.3V, +5V, +/-12V, GND and control signals between the backplanes. The sense lines help the power board efficiently regulate the power at the load end. The current share lines allow multiple power supplies to share current across the power backplane slots. Pixus also offers power backplanes in single and dual 47-pin connector styles in both 3U and 6U heights. The company has additional power backplanes in sizes up to seven slots. Also, Pixusâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; line of CompactPCI and VME64x backplanes have optional configurations that include pluggable 47-pin connectors in the same monolithic board. Pricing for the power interface boards starts at under $100, depending on configuration. Pixus Technologies, Sacramento, CA. (916) 524-8242. [].

There is multiple display output capability in the form of 1080p HDMI, 8-bit VGA and 128x32 OLED and an I2S audio codec. The ZedBoard kit includes the ZedBoard, power supply, USB cable and pre-configured SD card containing a bootable Linux reference design. will host additional user-created reference designs and projects, enabling the community of Zynq7000 EPP designers to collaborate and share design ideas. The ZedBoard serves as an evaluation and starter platform for engineers new to the Zynq-7000 EPP and its combination of an industry-standard ARM dual-core Cortex-A9 MPCore processing system with Xilinx 28nm programmable logic. The ZedBoard delivers a balance of features, low risk and low costs to engineers designing for a wide range of control, bridging, communications and intelligent video applications. The commercial version of the ZedBoard is available from Avnet for $395. Avnet, Phoenix, AZ. (800) 409-1483. [].




Portable Strain- and Bridge-Based USB Measurement Module A strain- and bridge-based acquisition module for USB offers high-speed performance in a compact form factor for applications including strain, load, pressure and other bridge-based measurements. The bus-powered DT9838 module from Data Translation removes the need for an external power supply and offers 24-bit resolution; direct connectivity and 52 kSamples/s simultaneously sampled analog inputs. It features full-, half- and quarter-bridge completion; up to 10V internal excitation; transducer electronic data sheet (TEDS) smart sensor compatibility and channel expansion using the RJ45 synchronization connector to synchronize up to four DT9838 modules. Many strain measurements are taken in the field where power sources are not available. Extremely accurate bridge data can now be obtained using a laptop with USB providing the data flow and power needs. Applications such as high-speed mechanical tests, in-vehicle testing and on-site impact measurements can now be done easily with our bridge software. All data translation devices include comprehensive driver and software support to get your application up and running quickly. The DT9838 USB data acquisition module and VIBpoint Framework software application bundle provides a turn-key real-time test and measurement solution. The DT9838 is available installed in a metal connection box with RJ50 connectors, or as board-level OEM version. Data Translation, Marlboro, MA. (508) 481-3700. [].

6U VME Features Third Generation Intel Core Processors and Advanced Security A 6U VME processor board utilizes third generation Intel Core processors and brings unprecedented performance and power efficiency to the VME form factor while maintaining compatibility with the previous generation product and offering advanced security packages. The VP 91x/01x from Concurrent Technologies supports the dual-core and quad-core third generation Intel Core i7 processors and Mobile Intel QM77 Express chipset along with up to 16 Gbytes of ECC SDRAM. The third generation Intel Core processors offer enhanced graphic and processing capabilities when compared to previous architectures operating within the same power budget. In addition, the processor extends itself to support compute-intensive applications by providing support for OpenCL. Responding to the increased demand for security, the VP 91x/01x is offered with or without security packages. This incorporates a number of user-selectable and configurable proprietary security features deeply integrated into the board to prevent tampering and safeguard Intellectual Property. Supporting two 100 MHz PCI-X PMC or two XMC x8 PCI Express sites, with expansion for two more PMC sites via an optional expansion carrier, the VP 91x/01x maintains compatibility with the VP 717/08x and VP 417/03x and offers an extensive array of rear I/O functions. VITA 31.1 Gigabit Ethernet on a VME64x backplane enables a tried and tested method of implementing a LAN-based multiprocessor architecture by leveraging readily available Ethernet hardware, TCP/IP software, clustering and other network management tools. The VP 91x/01x addresses today’s CPU intensive processing applications within the defense, homeland security, industrial control and transportation market sectors. The VP 91x/01x is available in three temperature grades: 0° to +55°C (N-Series), -25° to +70°C (E-Series), -40° to +85°C (K-Series), and two ruggedized grades: Ruggedized Conduction-Cooled -40° to +85°C (RC), Ruggedized Air-Cooled -40° to +75°C (RA). The VP 91x/01x supports many of today’s leading operating systems, including Linux, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Embedded, Windows XP, Solaris, LynxOS, VxWorks and QNX. Concurrent Technologies, Woburn, MA. (781) 933-5900. [].

Ad Index

Rugged COM Express Module with Third Generation Core i7 Get Connected with technology and

companies providing now COM A rugged COM Express module complies withsolutions the PICMG Express Basic form factor (95 mm 125 mm) and an for enhanced Get xConnected is a supports new resource further exploration into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal Type 6 pin-out. The XPedite7450 from Extreme Engineering Solutions is to research the latest datasheet from aorcompany, speak directly can be hosted on a standard COM Express carrier card a custom an Application Engineer, or jump carrier card built towith include additional end-user re-to a company's technical page, the goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the right resource. quirements. Alternatively, it can be integrated Whichever level of service you require for whatever type of technology, into an X-ES XPand6000 Small Form Get Connected will help you connect with the companies and products Factor (SFF) rugged you aresystem. searching for. Based on the third generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, the XPedite7450 operates at up to 2.2 GHz to deliver enhanced performance and efficiency. Designed and tested for harsh military, aerospace and industrial environments, the XPedite7450 includes enhancements aboveand andcompanies beGet Connected with technology prov yond commercial COM Express modules. isIt aprovides a rugged andexploration reliGet Connected new resource for further into pro able COTS processor mezzanine that is designed andwith tested for datasheetsolution from a company, speak directly an Application Engine in touchand with includes the right resource. Whichever level ofholes service you requir operation from -40° to +85°C additional mounting Connected will of helpthe youstrategy connect with the companies for increased structuralGet integrity as part to provide ex- and produc tended shock vibration capabilities for operation in harsh environments. The module features conduction-cooled and air-cooled applications supported by a single design and soldered-down memory replaces less rugged/reliable SO-DIMMs utilizing a tin-lead manufacturing process to mitigate tin-whisker effects (RoHS-compliant process is also available). It also provides support for X-ES built-in test (BIT) software. Targeting the quad-core Intel Core i7-3612QE processor with clock speeds up to 2.1 GHz, the XPedite7450 features up to 16 Gbyte of DDR31333/DRR3-1600 ECC SDRAM, an integrated high-performance 3D graphics controller, enhanced Type 6 pinout, five Gen2 PCI Express ports, four USB 2.0 high-speed ports, six SATA 3.0 Gbit/s ports, and an Intel High Definition Audio port. BSPs for Linux, INTEGRITY and GetWindows Connected withare companies and QNX, LynxOS and other VxWorks and drivers available. in thisassection. OS supportproducts may befeatured available, needed. The XPedite7450 is scheduled for initial delivery in July 2012.


Extreme Engineering Solutions, Middleton, WI. (608) 833-1155. [].

Get Connected with companies and products featured in this section.




3U CompactPCI Serial Board Transfers 5 Gbit/s per Port on USB 3.0 A 3U CompactPCI Serial peripheral board incorporates four front-end USB 3.0 host interfaces, used to either connect fast USB 3.0 devices or to extend the 2.0 USB interfaces of the CPU board. On the G201 from Men Micro, each port, connected via PCI Express, can handle data transfers of up to 5 Gbit/s per direction, which is a tenfold increase over USB 2.0 ports. This enhanced transfer speed makes the new G201 suitable for data-intensive applications, including connecting external storage media and devices such as high-speed cameras. The board is not only fast, but robust enough for harsh and mobile environments. Operating temperature is -40° to +85°C and it is prepared for conformal coating to protect against humidity and dust. When combined with a CompactPCI Serial or CompactPCI PlusIO CPU, the G201’s high data transfer rates meet an equally fast, serial-based, high-performance platform, making the resulting system a future-safe solution. Using the Standard-A connector for the USB ports, the 3.0 interfaces are backward compatible to USB 2.0 for additional system flexibility. Pricing for the G201 is $384.

Low Profile PCIe Card Offers “Anything I/O” A low-cost general purpose programmable industrial I/O card with a one-lane PCIe host interface uses standard parallel port pinouts and connectors for compatibility with most parallel port interfaced motion control, CNC breakout cards and multi axis step motor drives. The MESA 6I25 from Mesa Electronics allows a motion control performance boost while retaining a reliable real-time PCIe interface. Unlike the parallel port that the 6I25 replaces, each I/O bit has individually programmable direction and function.

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

2U Network Appliance with Intel Core Processors and up to 28x GbE A 2U rackmount platform is designed for network service applications. The device is built with Intel Embedded IA components that enable long product life versus commercial processor versions. The PL-80460 from Win Enterprises supports single Intel 32nm i3/i5/i7 (code name Sandy Bridge) and Intel E3-xx processors. This is a modular system that will support 4 GbE LAN in its standard configuration, or up to 28 GbE in copper or 24 GbE in fiber, depending on OEM requirements. The front panel has one USB 2.0 port, one RJ-45 console port and LED indicators that monitor power and storage activities. PL-80460 is RoHS, FCC and CE compliant. PL-80460 is a mid-level platform that supports OEM applications such as firewall, packet inspection, SPAM filtering, VPN, UTM, financial and Internet services. The platform supports four unbuffered and non-ECC DDR3 1066/1333 MHz DIMM sockets with memory up to 32 Gbyte. Storage interfaces include two 3.5” SATA HDD and one CompactFlash. PL-80460 also supports one PCI expansion slot. Features in addition to support for the Sandy Bridge and E3 processors, include LGA1155 and a maximum 32 Gbyte Dual-Channel ECC or non-ECC DDR3 1066/1333 MHz system memory. The system provides flexible support for up to 28 GbE copper ports or 24 GbE fiber ports via three PCI-e Ethernet modules. It includes two 3.5” HDD trays. WIN Enterprises, North Andover, MA. (978) 688-2000. [].

Open source FPGA firmware configurations are provided for hardware step/dir generation, pulse width modulation (PWM) generation, analog servo control, absolute (SSI and BISS) and incremental encoder counting, real-time remote I/O, timing, event counting and high-speed serial communication. New configurations can be downloaded over the PCIe interface. All 6I25 I/O bits are 5V tolerant. The 6I25 has a 2-pin DB25F back panel connector and a 26-pin header for the second I/O port. A jumper-selectable power option allows 1A of 5V power to be supplied to the external daughter cards. Four-layer construction is used to minimize radiated EMI and provide optimum ground and power integrity. A series of daughter cards is available for industrial motion control, CNC retrofit, high-speed realtime I/O, RS-422 interfaces, encoder counting and other applications. Price of the 6I25 is $79 in quantity 100. MESA Electronics, Richmond, CA. (510) 223-9272. [].

FPGA Network Processing Card Based on Xilinx 7 Series A new FPGA network processing card features two Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGAs. The PCIe-287N from Nallatech is targeted at high-end applications in network processing, cyber security and algorithm acceleration. The architecture of the PCIe-287N is well suited to a number of applications including real-time network filtering and high frequency trading. The two Kintex-7 FPGAs are directly coupled to four SFP+ ports supporting a range of Ethernet protocols including 1 and 10GbE, SONET and OTN. Each FPGA utilizes multiple independent banks of high-bandwidth, QDR-II+ SRAM and DDR3 SDRAM to support random access and deep storage. A third FPGA provides a PCI Express interface supporting sustained bandwidths up to 5 Gbytes/s. “We are extremely pleased with the success of the Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA rollout,” said Wouter Suverkropp, Xilinx’s senior product line manager for Kintex-7 FPGAs. “Nallatech’s shipment of the PCIe-287N is evidence of both the performance and the level of maturity the Kintex-7 family has reached.” Nallatech, Camarillo, CA. (805) 383-8997. [].




Extreme Performance ATCA Blade with Dual Intel Xeon Processors E5-2658 and E2648L

XMC Module Links Configurable FPGA to HighSpeed PCIe, SRIO and GigE Interface

An AdvancedTCA (ATCA) processor blade features robust computing power, high throughput connectivity and accelerated packet processing capabilities. The aTCA-6250 from Adlink Technology incorporates dual 8-core Intel Xeon processors E5-2658 and E2648L (2.1 GHz/1.8 GHz) with the Intel C604 chipset, eight channels of DDR3 memory up to 128 Gbyte, and a 400W power supply subsystem. The aTCA-6250 also provides versatile connectivity, including dual 10GbE Fabric Interfaces, dual GbE Base Interfaces, quad front panel GbE interfaces, dual front panel USB and COM ports, and onboard SATA DOM socket. Dual 10GbE ports and dual hot-swappable SAS bays on the optional aTCA R6270 Rear Transition Module (RTM) provide additional network throughput and storage capabilities. The aTCA-6250 implements dual Intel Xeon processor E5-2658 and E2648L-based devices linked by dual Intel Quickpath Interconnect (Intel QPI) point-to-point link interfaces providing high bandwidth, low latency connectivity from processor to processor at up to 8 GT/s. With Intel Hyper-Threading Technology and Intel Turbo Boost Technology, the Intel Xeon processors E5-2658 and E2648L provide increased performance from both single and multithread workloads while maintaining thermal and energy efficiency. Eight sockets of DDR3-1600 VLP RDIMM offer a maximum capacity of 128 Gbyte of main memory. The memory design of the aTCA-6250 is optimized for maximum memory bandwidth and provides forward compatibility with next generation DDR3-1866 memory supported by future Intel CPU designs. High-speed data transfer on the PICMG 3.1 Fabric Interface is enabled by a PCI Express 2.0 capable Intel 82599EB 10GbE controller, and Base Interface connectivity is provided by PCI Express 2.0 capable Intel 82576EB GbE controllers. Paired with the optional aTCA-R6270 RTM, the aTCA-6250 supports additional dual 10GbE SFP+ ports enabled by an Intel 82599ES 10GbE controller. The aTCA-6250 supports the Intel Data Plane Development Kit (Intel DPDK), a lightweight run-time environment for Intel architecture processors offering low overhead and run-to-completion mode to maximize packet processing performance. It provides a rich selection of optimized and efficient libraries, also known as the Environment Abstraction Layer (EAL), which are responsible for initializing and allocating low-level resources, hiding the environment specifics from the applications and libraries, and gaining access to the low-level resources, such as memory space, PCI devices, timers and consoles. The EAL provides an optimized Poll Mode Driver (PMD); memory & buffer management; and timer, debug and packet handling APIs, some of which may also be provided by the operating system. To facilitate interaction with application layers, the EAL, together with standard the GNU C Library (GLIBC), provide full APIs for integration with high level applications.

An XMC mezzanine module features a configurable Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA enhanced with multiple high-speed memory buffers, I/O and numerous high-bandwidth serial interfaces. In the XMC-6VLX from Acromag, the FPGA provides rapid processing and is closely coupled to the serial interconnects to prevent data transfer bottlenecks. 10 Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, Serial RapidIO and Xilinx Aurora implementations are supported. Optional front-panel I/O adds dual SFP ports for Fibre Channel or copper Gigabit Ethernet and a VHDCR connector for expanded I/O signal access. Build options include the choice of a Xilinx XC6LX240T or XC6LX365T FPGA device and additional front-panel I/O connectors. Base models are ready for use in air-cooled or conduction-cooled systems. The front I/O option adds two 2.5 Gbit/s SFP connectors Get Connected with technology and and a 36-pin VHDCR companies providing solutions now connector for JTAG, Get Connected is a new resource for further exploration USB and 22 SelectIO. Se- into products, technologies and companies. Whether your goal is toFPGA research thepins latest that datasheet from single-ended a company, speak directly lectIO signals are Virtex-6 I/O support with an Application or jump to astandards company's (LVDS, technical page, the I/O (LVCMOS, HSTL, SSTL) and Engineer, differential I/O goal of Get Connected is to put you in touch with the HT, LVPECL, BLVDS, HSTL, SSTL). All models are available right withresource. Whichever level of service you require for whatever type of technology, extended temperature range parts suitable for -40° to 85°C operation. Get Connected will help you connect with the companies and products Large, high-speed memory banks for. provide efficient data handling and you are searching storage. Generous 128M x 64-bit DDR3 SDRAM buffers store captured data prior to FPGA processing. The data is directly accessible through the FPGA. Afterward, data is moved to the 2M x 72-bit SRAM for highspeed DMA transfer to the bus or CPU. Acromag’s Engineering Design Kit includes a compiled FPGA file and example VHDL code provided as selectable blocks with examples for the local bus interface,Get read/writes and change-of-state Connected with technology interrupts and companies prov to the PCI bus. A JTAG Get interface allows to perform onboard Connected is ausers new resource for further exploration into pro VHDL simulation. Furtherdatasheet analysis is supported with directly a ChipScope Pro from a company, speak with an Application Engine interface. For easy integration the with embedded Windows in touchof with theboards right resource. Whichever level of service you requir Connected will help you connect withpackage the companies applications, AcromagGet developed a DLL driver software for and produc compatibility with Microsoft Visual C++ and Visual Basic. Sample files with C source demonstration programs provide easy-to-use tools to test operation of the module. For connectivity with real-time application programs, Acromag offers C libraries for VxWorks and other operating systems. The libraries provide generic routines (source code included) to handle reads, writes, interrupts and other functions. Demonstration programs enable the developer to quickly exercise the I/O modules before attaching the routines to the application program. This diagnostic tool can save hours of troubleshooting and debugging. Free Linux example programs are also available. Available in a variety of configurations, models start at $8,250 Get Connected withoperating companies and with upgradeable logic, I/O and temperature capabilities.

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Platform for Automotive Digital Instruments Targets Next-Generation Clusters and Telematics

Vehicle Comms Stacks

Gateway Module OSEK


CANbus Device Driver (MCAL)

Windows Embedded

OpenGL 3D Application

Body Ctl Module C code


Chasis Ctl Module OSEK


Kernel Space

User Application Space

Unlike legacy clusters in automobiles, which often run simple OSEK kernels, next-generation designs require a partitioning realtime system that can support a challenging combination of hard real-time I/O, safety and security-critical functions, and high-end 3D graphics. Anchored by new features of the Integrity real-time operating system (RTOS), the Green Hills Platform for Automotive Digital Instruments is designed to meet these requirements. Key new capabilities include a native OpenGL 3D graphics support for the Integrity RTOS, automotive application programming interfaces, such as the automotive interface OSEK spec and compliance with the ISO 26262 ASIL D automotive safety standard for RTOS and compiler. The Platform for Automotive Digital Instruments, including Integrity and its native 3D graphics, has been demonstrated running on a Freescale Semiconductor i.MX6x multicore SoC. In addition, Integrity supports Freescale’s partitioning-capable automotive processor families for both ARM Architecture (i.MX) and Power Architecture technology, with INTEGRITY Multivisor scalability from microAutomotive Microprocessor controller designs to high-end infotainment systems running Android, Genivi, or other multimedia OSs hosted on Integrity Multivisor virtualization technology. The Green Hills Software Platform for Automotive Digital Instruments includes Integrity RTOS and Multivisor virtualization technology for Genivi, Android and other operating systems as well as advanced human-interface software and drivers for Integrity, including OpenGL 3D graphics and Qt Commercial. It offers Integrity real-time programming interfaces, such as OSEK and POSIX, plus middleware and drivers for automotive connectivity, including CAN, MOST, WLAN, USB, Bluetooth and IPv6. In addition, the Multi integrated software development environment is included with integration to third-party automotive toolsets such as MathWorks’ Embedded Coder and Simulink. The automotive tool chain features optimizing compilers with certified EEMBC performance 30% - 35% higher than competing compilers, and support for MISRA C/C++ and DoubleCheck static analyzer. RTOS and compiler comply with the ISO 26262 ASIL D automotive safety standard. For full insight into real-time performance, Green Hills Probe for hardware bring-up and low-level debugging and development is supplied along with the TimeMachine debugger and SuperTrace Probe, for advanced system analysis via on-chip trace The Platform for Automotive Digital Instrumentation is available now. In addition to Freescale microprocessors, the Platform is also available across a wide range of automotive-grade CPU solutions. Green Hills Software, Santa Barbara, CA. (805) 965-6044. [].



Low Power AMD APU Extends Entire G-Series Availability through 2017 Embedded product designers are taking to the industry’s green challenge to design a broad range of next-generation applications for the industrial control, point-of-sale, medical appliance and transportation markets. The latest entry to the AMD Embedded G-Series processor family addresses that by targeting very low power, small form factor and cost-sensitive embedded designs that require a combination of x86 compatibility and graphics. The optimized design of the AMD Embedded GT16R accelerated processing unit (APU) sips power, with consumption of just 2.3 watts on average or 4.5 watts thermal design power (TDP). The new AMD Embedded G-Series fits into small form factor boards by implementing a two-chip platform, the APU and its companion controller hub, and it offers legacy I/O card support based on a full 32-bit PCI interface and an ISA bus solution with DMA support. In addition, it supports a full range of display technologies, with analog VGA and LVDS support for legacy applications and DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces for the latest display technology. The AMD Embedded G-T16R APU is designed to help reduce product development and life cycle costs through a common scalable platform design that spans the entire AMD Embedded G-Series. AMD’s unique approach enables one design to serve multiple product configurations, simplifying the supply chain, helping reduce operational complexity and enabling better platform economics. The AMD G-T16R APU is also available at extremely accessible price points, allowing designers to easily incorporate it into cost-sensitive embedded applications. For users of the AMD Geode LX processor family, the AMD GT16R APU offers a cost-effective upgrade path, consuming about seven percent less power and three times the performance of the 2.45 watt AMD Geode LX processor, while reducing the overall chip footprint by 58 percent. Support for the latest DDR3 memory helps reduce memory costs for legacy applications while enabling higher memory speed and capacity. The AMD Embedded G-T16R APU supports Windows Embedded Compact 7, Green Hills Integrity and Express Logic ThreadX operating systems, allowing applications that leverage these popular embedded and real-time operating systems to easily migrate to the new platform. Along with the announcement of the new AMD G-T16R APU, AMD is also extending the planned availability for the entire AMD Embedded G-Series processor family through 2017, resetting the fiveyear clock for both existing and new designs. Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, CA. (408) 749-4000. [].







Optical Connectivity

Optical Connectors to Fire Up VPX Backplanes The arrival of optical connectors for system backplanes will herald much faster data rates and hypercube architectures that can bring supercomputing power to embedded applications. by Michael Munroe, Elma Electronic


ptical backplanes have been long anticipated in the embedded computer marketplace. They have been seen by some as the ultimate solution for higher bandwidth interconnects. With the release of two ANSI-VITA standards addressing backplane optical interfaces, the practicality of backplane-based optical solutions has moved several steps closer to becoming a reality. Although optical routers and optical networking hardware have become an accepted part of the commercial networking infrastructure, implementation of optical signals in the embedded computing industry has been limited to the front panel, where existing standard optical interfaces are more easily integrated. Examples of such existing front panel optical interfaces are the Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable (QSFP and QSFP+) specifications developed by the Small Form Factor Committee (SFF), an ad hoc industry group that has addressed a variety of computer hardware specifications. Some well accepted serial protocols have established optical roadmaps such as Fibre Channel and InfiniBand. In addition, a wide array of industry groups and technical conferences address optical interfaces and optical computing: Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (NFOEC), The International Workshop



Figure 1 Example of a hybrid VPX backplane using VITA 66.1 optical connectors.

on Optical Supercomputing (OSC) and even VITA’s Optical Computing Forum (Op-Comp), to name a few. With all the various industry efforts related to optical interfaces and optical computing, why does the embedded computing industry continue to depend exclusively on copper backplane interconnects? The answer is that thus far, electrical signaling has provided the performance needed at a reasonable price. In addition, the 12- to 24-month development cycle typical of the embedded computer indus-

try has been too short for optical solutions to displace electrical signaling solutions. Two new standards released in 2011, ANSI-VITA 66.0 (Optical Interconnect on VPX – Base Standard) and ANSI-VITA 66.1 (Optical Interconnect on VPX – MT Variant) are laying the groundwork for migration to optical technologies within the embedded computing industry. These two standards are the first in a family of documents that will define a variety of backplane optical interfaces compatible with the existing Eurocard form factor used by

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Cluster A

Cluster B

Cluster C

Cluster D

















Figure 2

Figure 4

The CSPI TeraXP Embedded Server with the optical connector on the left.

A more physically oriented diagram of the connections in a 16-node, 4-dimensional hypercube.


n dimensional hypercube with 4 nodes per cluster

2 14

16 13

3 8



6 12

10 11






total links-edges































Data Plane Protocol

Control Plane

Data Plane

SRIO 1.3




PCIe 2.1




table 1

9 5

Year 7

Figure 3 Topologically, a 4-dimensional hypercube can be represented as two nested cubes requiring only four hops between any two nodes.

the VPX architecture (Figure 1). Since the Eurocard architecture is utilized by a number of other popular embedded computing standards, these new optical connector interfaces have the potential to rapidly migrate to other platforms if they first become established within the VPX community. There are three basic system implementations that are now possible based upon the VITA 66.1 interconnect: 1) fiber optic I/O from the chassis to external points such as sensor arrays, 2) direct slotto-slot fiber optic links providing high bandwidth paths between pairs of cards within a system and 3) switched optical data planes with multiple payload cards connected to an optical switch slot. It is important to understand that the





Channel Gbaud Rate Expansion Plane

SRIO 2.2








Optical Plane





InfiniBand FDR






InfiniBand EDR





Fibre Channel 125GFC




table 2 Projected data rates.

VITA 66.1 interconnect is not entirely new. It is based upon the existing wellestablished MT and MPO ferrule technology first introduced as an EIA standard around 1993. VITA 66.1 defines a VPX-compatible module that positions the MPO multi-fiber ferrule with sufficient precision to allow it to be used as a backplane interface for conventional VPX plug-in cards. The VITA 66.1 standard provides for up to two MT ferrules in a 1-inch long module. Each of the two MT

ferrules can hold up to 24 optical fibers. This means that a 6U VPX module could support up to six VITA 66.1 modules for a total of 288 optical fibers. Of course this represents a theoretical maximum and it is not expected that any card would implement more than one or two modules for a total of between 24 and 96 optical fibers. The reason for the wide range is that although an individual MT ferrule today can hold up to 24 fibers, 12 is a much more common implementation.

Untitled-2 1

63 61 59 57 55 51 49


64 52 50






47 45 43 41 39 35 33


48 46 44 42 40 38 36 34

31 29 27 25 23 19 17


32 30 28 26 24 20 18


15 13 11 9 7 3 1


14 12 10 8 6 4 2

Another important aspect of the VITA 66.1 technology is that it only defines the positioning of MT ferrules. The MT ferrule allows the use of a variety of fiber types and these fibers could be driven by increasingly capable optical engines. So, although the bandwidth of each fiber with today’s optical engines is typically 10 Gbaud, 14.4 and 28 Gbaud optical engines are becoming available, and in the future multi-mode fiber systems could support far greater data rates—and this without changing the installed VITA 66.1 connector modules. Of particular interest to the VITA community may be the InfiniBand fourteen data rate (FDR) protocol. This protocol defines both an optical and electrical implementation, each supporting a bandwidth of 14.4 Gbaud. It is known that there are simultaneous development efforts within the VITA community to support both an optical and an electrical implementation of the InfiniBand protocol. The electrical implementation of InfiniBand FDR may represent the maximum possible



Figure 5 A 64-node hypercube layout out with four processors per card.

bandwidth for the existing VPX copper backplane technology. However, InfiniBand FDR is clearly just the beginning of the optical bandwidth capability. One of the first OpenVPX systems to incorporate VITA 66.1 backplane optical I/O at the InfiniBand FDR rate is

CSPI’s TeraXP Embedded Server. This card, shown in Figure 2, incorporates an InfiniBand FDR, 56 Gbit/s Host Channel Adapter with failover capabilities via a 56 Gbit/s QSFP transceiver on the front panel or the VITA 66.1 optical interconnect to the backplane.


5/4/12 1:53:35 PM RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


MT 2



MT 2

MT 1 MT 1 F1 F13

2 MT Cavities per VITA 66.1 capable of holding up to 20 fibers each A

MT 2


MT 2





MT 1

F12 F24

MT 1

SE F12




SE P0/J0




SE P0/J0


SE P0/J0


Figure 6 Three possible VPX slot profile options for implementing a 64-node hypercube.

Several other aspects of fiber optic I/O will be realized with the adoption of the VITA 66.1 standard. In addition to the supercharged bandwidth, optical signaling is also much lighter than copper cabling. This weight savings could be a significant advantage for vetronic- and aerospacemounted VPX systems using optical I/O. In addition to weighing less, optical fibers are also immune to EMI-RFI interference or snooping. This means that once a decision is made to implement fiber I/O through



the backplane, the end customer benefits immediately by reduced cable weight and improved noise immunity. Another looming technical hurdle facing VPX systems that may be resolved with the implementation of VITA 66.1 fiber optic I/O is related to the limitations of copper I/O cabling. Copper cabling can carry 1000Base-T Gigabit signals for 1000 meters. At InfiniBand FDR data rates, the practical distance for copper I/O cabling drops sharply to 7 meters. It

should be clear that copper cabling is running out of steam for high-performance devices at InfiniBand FDR data rates, and that optical cabling will be a natural solution for I/O at faster data rates. The higher speeds supported by optical interconnects along with the necessary copper connections for power, control plane and system management should fit the basic requirements for high-performance computing. Another architecture that is often considered for super computing applications is the n-dimensional hypercube. It turns out that the 6U VPX architecture lends itself to some interesting implementations of n-dimensional hypercubes. With a choice between the VITA 46 electrical interface and the VITA 66 optical interface, either copper or optical hypercube topologies are quite possible. Because hops in a network of processing nodes are directly related to system latency, meshes arranged as hypercubes are of great interest because of their inherent low latency. And because InfiniBand is an architecture with especially low latency, InfiniBand, hypercube meshes and VPX would seem to be meant for each other. First some math relating to n-dimensional hypercubes, Table 1 lists some topological features of various hypercube implementations based on four nodes per slot. The column labeled “exits per card” is the number of bi-directional links required for each implementation. This number is the number of fiber channels required from each card to the backplane. Let’s start with a simple but practical example. Figure 3 illustrates a 4-dimension hypercube. In such a topology, there are a total of 16 nodes. These nodes can be thought of as vertices of two nested cubes or as processors in a super computer. In either case, a 16-node configuration requires only four hops to travel between any two nodes. If you locate four processors on each plug-in card in a 6U VPX system, you will only require four cards to support a 16node computer. With this arrangement, each slot will only require eight I/O channels to the backplane, because some of the paths between nodes are entirely within the bounds of a given card. The 16-node, 4-dimensional hypercube topology is il-


lustrated in two different ways. Figure 3 illustrates the hypercube as two nested cubes. Figure 4 illustrates the 16-node hypercube as four cards each containing four nodes. The numbering and positions of the nodes in relation to each other is the same in both illustrations. For a second example, letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s consider a 6-dimension hypercube that would contain 64 nodes. If arranged as before with four nodes located on each card in a 6U VPX system, you would need a total of 16 cards. This is exactly how many cards a typical backplane would accommodate with the cards on 1-inch centers. In this arrangement with 16 slots, you would also need 16 I/O channels from each card to the backplane. This is very practical for either optical or electrical connections from a 6U VPX card. In an electrical implementation, if each I/O channel is comprised of one Fat Pipe (x4 bi-directional link), only four of the six available modules would be occupied by the data-plane on each slot, leaving two modules for a control plane and some user I/O.

Untitled-5 1

64-node hypercube copper


16 fat pipes/slot

16 optical channels/slot

96 optical channels

64 lanes

32 fibers

192 fibers

1 module

4 modules

4 modules

Effective Data Rate in Gbaud/slot

Gbaud Rate/lane

Gbaud Rate/lane

Electrical (A*)

Optical (B*)

Optical (C*)



















table 3 Future data rates for three sample slot profiles. *A, *B and *C refer to the illustrated slot profiles in Figure 6. The data rates are in Gbaud.

The optical implementation would be even more efficient because the 64-node hypercube would only require 16 optical channels (32 fibers) and VITA 66 defines a module with as many as 48 fibers in a single module. Of course you could utilize optical channels, each compromised of six bi-directional links (six fibers each for a total of 192 fibers) that would occupy the same four modules in the electrical exam-

ple and have a much greater bandwidth. The 64-node structure is illustrated in Figure 5. However to show it in a flat 2-D format, you must imagine that each link exiting at the top of the illustration tunnels through space and enters at the bottom of the illustration. The same thing must be imagined for the links exiting at the left edge of the illustration; they connect directly at the far right edge of the il-


7/31/12 4:39 PM RTC MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012


lustration. If the flat 2-D illustration were stretched and pulled to bring the top and bottom edges together and at the same time stretched to bring the right and left edges together, the resulting hypercube would look like a donut. Table 2 shows what the above structure would provide at the various data rates currently offered within VPX and planned for the near future. This same chart shows the control, data and expan-

sion data rates as well as expected optical data rates. Here we will only consider the electrical and optical data planes. At the present point in time, the InfiniBand Trade Association has not released full electrical specifications for InfiniBand FDR. However, silicon for electrical devices and for optical devices has been available on the market for nearly a year. Some companies are already advertising InfiniBand EDR optical devices,

however many believe that electrical devices beyond FDR are not going to be practical for use with the VPX architecture unless there is a new or significantly modified connector. Table 2 shows proposed data rates for 2013 and a guess at the future beyond 2013. Note that data rates beyond 14.4 baud are only projected for optical devices for VPX. Figure 6 illustrates three OpenVPX slot profiles. Profile A represents the slot profile needed to support the 64-node hypercube with copper Fat Pipe channels. B and C represent the same in optical where slot profile B would support an optical channel comprised of a minimal two fibers each, and slot profile C represents an optical profile where the 64 nodes are connected by channels comprised of six fibers each. The bandwidth that could be achieved for each of the three slot profiles at various future data rates are shown in Table 3. This would be a typical implementation of a 64-node hypercube with four nodes per card and 16 cards per system. A typical payload card today with four Fat Pipes (x4) allocated to the data plane in a backplane that supports the fastest data rate currently defined in ANSI-VITA 65 R2012 would support four 25 Gbaud channels per slot. Compare that to a similar slot profile with a single VITA 66.1 optical module with 32 fibers, driven with InfiniBand enhanced data rate (EDR) silicon. The latter card would have an expected bandwidth of 416 Gbaud! It is still not clear when the first VPX optical hypercube mesh architectures are going to appear. However, with the release of ANSI-VITA 66.0 and 66.1 it is clear that the components are in place to support a variety of optical backplane I/O applications. With sensor arrays approaching PCIe Gen 3 speeds, optical I/O may be the only practical interconnect to support such devices. Elma Electronic Fremont, CA. (510) 656-3400. []. CSPI Bellerica, MA. (978) 663-7598. [].


Untitled-5 1


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Get Connected with companies and 56, Get Connected products featured in this section. with companies mentioned in this article. Elma Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc.....................................................................................7.............................................................................................................. Innovative Integration.........................................................................................................14................................................................................................... Intelligent Systems Source.................................................................................................49................................................................................... Get Connected with companies mentioned in this article. JK Microsystems, Inc.........................................................................................................19.............................................................................................................. Get Connected with companies and products featured in this section. Keil, An ARM Company......................................................................................................51................................................................................................................... Logic Supply, Mathworks, Measurement Computing Corporation................................................................................11............................................................................................................. Medical Electronic Device Solutions...................................................................................55...................................................................................................... MEN Micro, Inc.................................................................................................................39......................................................................................................... Microsoft Windows Embedded Evolve 2012.......................................................................59................................................................................................. One Stop Systems, Phoenix International.........................................................................................................19............................................................................................................ Real-Time & Embedded Computing Conference..................................................................47................................................................................................................ Super Micro Computer, Inc.................................................................................................5........................................................................................................


A seasoned embedded technology professional? Experienced in the industrial and military procurement process? Interested in a career in writing? CONTACT SANDRA SILLION AT THE RTC GROUP TO EXPLORE AN OPPORTUNITY RTC (Issn#1092-1524) magazine is published monthly at 905 Calle Amanecer, Ste. 250, San Clemente, CA 92673. Periodical postage paid at San Clemente and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to RTC, 905 Calle Amanecer, Ste. 250, San Clemente, CA 92673.



Microsoft to Introduce Intelligent System Strategy With Windows Embedded 8 YOU ARE INVITED: 34 CITIES ONE POWERFUL TECHNOLOGY AMERICAS

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Windows Embedded Summit What Is It? A half-day technical brieď&#x192;&#x17E;ng highlighting the Microsoft intelligent system strategy and how engineers and technology leaders can leverage existing WES7 and upcoming WES8 technology to increase embedded OEM business more effectively. Who Is Invited? Business leaders and technology decisionmakers will be invited to join Microsoft and key partners at over 30 global locations. Questions Answered: How can existing WES7 enabled design gain from new features and advances? What game-changing technology does WES8 bring to embedded design? How to best select an embedded software platform for next generation intelligent systems?

RTC magazine  

August 2012

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