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The magazine of record for the embedded computing industry

January 2014

Altera Cyclone V: The Marriage of CPU and FPGA

Wireless Mesh Networks Spread through Home and Industry Provide Rich User Interfaces for Small Networked Devices An RTC Group Publication

Digital Signage Adds Intelligence to Lure Customers

Altera Cyclone V: The Marriage of CPU and FPGA

43 New Stamped CPU Heat Sink Improves Air Convection

45 Modular Mission Computer Provides Custom I/O


49 Inductance-to-Digital Converter Offers New Solutions for Position and Motion Sensing



Ever Denser Silicon Lies at the 5Editorial Heart of the Future of Connected Embedded Devices


Industry Insider Latest Developments in the Embedded Marketplace

9 & Technology 42Products Newest Embedded Technology Used by Industry Leaders Small Form Factor Forum When Is an SBC Not an SBC?

EDITOR’S REPORT Intelligent Edge for the Internet of Things

the Internet of Things, Look at 10 Inthe “Fog” between Devices and the Cloud Tom Williams



Altera Cyclone V: The Marriage of CPU and FPGA

Managing Networked Small Devices


Architecture Matters When Choosing the Right SoC FPGA Todd Koelling, Altera

Ethernet-Based Smart Grid Technologies 18 Implementing in with SoC FPGA—HSR and IEEE 1588 PTP Jouni Kujala, Flexibilis Oy


Harvesting Wireless Solutions – Automation 22 Energy Freed from Batteries

Communications – 30M2M There Is a Better Way Wilfred Nilsen, Real Time Logic


the Right Facial Recognition and Gesture Technologies 34Using for Digital Signage Allen L. Marks, Advanced Innovative Solutions

the Right Modular Platforms to Satisfy Ongoing 38Finding Digital Signage Deployment Requirements Satish Ram, Kontron

Jim O’Callaghan, EnOcean

What Is the Difference 26 So, between Smart Energy and the Smart Home? Cees Links, GreenPeak

Digital Subscriptions Available at RTC MAGAZINE JANUARY 2014


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Editorial Office Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief 1669 Nelson Road, No. 2, Scotts Valley, CA 95066 Phone: (831) 335-1509

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Ever Denser Silicon Lies at the Heart of the Future of Connected Embedded Devices


recently made an offhand remark that thanks to the speed of today’s processors, we didn’t have to worry quite so much about counting the nanoseconds in servicing interrupt routines. I was immediately taken to task with the admonition that there was still such a thing as hard real time and we definitely do have to worry about meeting deadlines. This is being said to someone in publishing. OK. No argument. We absolutely do have to meet hard real-time deadlines and we have to ensure that odd glitches do not stretch out service routines in anomalous, if rare, instances. There are definitely enough critical systems that absolutely demand strict deterministic behavior. I guess what I should have said is that it looks like it has gotten a lot easier to confidently do that thanks to amazing speed increases in today’s processors. Of course, the other result is that the size and complexity of code has grown along with the processing speed. Still, there are some limits to just how fast a response is required for any given interrupt. Yes, it’s fast, really fast, but it has become more manageable. This, along with the emergence of multicore processors, has given us the luxury of having familiar desktop operating systems like Windows and Linux along with the ability to exhibit hard real-time behavior. Now in many cases, “exhibiting” what looks like real-time behavior is not the same as actually performing in real time. But then it has always been acceptable to be “real-time enough,” to reliably meet the timing constraints of a given application. Even the most stringent hard real-time performance is acceptable if it is “real-time enough” to avoid causing a core melt-down—as is a consumer app if it is “real-time enough” to satisfy the user’s performance expectations. At the bottom of all this, of course, is Moore’s Law. Along with the scale and integration in processors has come the truly epochal increase in memory capacity—both volatile and nonvolatile. This has enabled the incorporation of embedded versions of desktop operating systems such as Windows and Linux and complex mobile operating systems like Android (which is built on top of Linux) into phones, tablets and other mobile devices. The ability that has been bestowed on embedded systems—mainly thanks to multicore CPUs—to incorporate both a desktop operating systems and an RTOS will be of

Tom Williams Editor-in-Chief

enormous value as we move further into the Internet of Things. This makes non-real-time systems like phones and tablets able to interact with both non-real-time and real-time systems by way of Ethernet/Internet connections. Of course, the systems that rely for vital parts of their functionality on real-time performance must also have a separate partition that can interact with the definitely non-real-time Internet communications while not disturbing their vital real-time functionality. In fact, this ability to separate not only real-time but also sensitive functionality from an Internet-connected operating system environment may be the most significant contribution that the advent of multicore processors and their attendant hypervisor and virtualization technologies have made to the future of the Internet of Things. The need for security is never far from the thoughts of developers planning industrial or other proprietary and sensitive applications that will also depend on connectivity to do their work. Partitioning, virtualization and separation kernels can make huge contributions to improved (never absolute) security for connected devices while providing controlled access for users. Multicore allows an architectural model concept for developing connected devices. The ability to separate two different operating systems or two regions of functionality under one operating system as well as the ability to distribute processing across two or more cores gives the developer enormous room for creativity along with a framework for security. Of course, this still requires care. Inattention to details in the use of shared memory, for example, in a multicore design can open what was an otherwise secure design to all sorts of wormholes and crevices. Is there a limit to the amount of computational power that we can embed into devices? The answer appears to be: not in the foreseeable future. As high-performance computing shrinks into silicon, that silicon with its low power consumption and small size will find its way into embedded systems that constantly thirst for more functionality. As these things are connected, they will rely on the raw power, the denser architectures and the inherent connectivity built into silicon to do more and more in ways we have not yet conceived. RTC MAGAZINE JANUARY 2014



INSIDER JANUARY 2014 12 Billion Electric Motors to be Shipped in Consumer Products by 2018 Already exceeding the number of people on the planet, electric motors the most commonly consumed major home appliances, and more used in consumer-oriented products such as cars and electronic devices will than 450 million electric motors are used in these products every year. The continue to ship in robust volumes during the next five years, reaching 12 global housing market has been growing despite economic weakness in the Eurozone and a slowdown in the formerly fast-growing BRIC countries of billion units by 2018. Growing from 9.8 billion units in 2012, shipments of electric motors in Brazil, Russia, India and China. Residential HVAC systems are poised to drive faster growth for electric non-industrial applications will rise 23 percent by 2018, according to the Electric Motors in Non-Industrial Applications report from IHS Inc. (NYSE: motor shipments than home appliance applications, with the former enjoying IHS). The attached figure for worldwide electric motor shipments includes a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 percent from 2012 to 2018 consumer-oriented devices such as cars, consumer electronics, home in unit shipments. $165.2 billion in the overall Automotive Electronics market, is forecast appliances, residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and at $177.2 billion in 2014 and expected to register a 2012-2020 CAGR of 7.6% other applications. Cars are a major source of demand for the motors, with today’s light- in reaching a projected $277.1 billion by 2020. vehicles averaging more than 30 electric motors per vehicle. Approximately 470 million of the 2.4 billion automotive motors sold to the auto industry globally were shipped in Global Forecast of Electric Motors for Consumer-Oriented Devices China, and the market there for electric motors (billions of units). used in automotive applications was worth 14 $19.2 billion in 2012. The electronic gadgets and devices being 12 Automotive sold today also have a big impact on the global Consumer 10 electric motors trade. Billions of cell phones and Electronics millions of tablets are produced yearly, with Home 8 small motors powering their vibration features. Appliances However, the trend in which cell phones and Residential 6 HVAC tablets are replacing desktop and laptop 4 Other computers has major implications for the nonApplications industrial motors market. 2 Rising home sales are also driving 0 demand for electric motors used in home appliances and residential HVAC products. Refrigerators and washing machines are


Design Contest Bills “Lowpower Logic with Highpower Creativity”

NXP Semiconductors and Convergence Promotions, LLC, have launched the 2014 AXP Logic Design Contest. Contestants will be able to design solutions based on a free AXP1G57GM Evaluation Board provided by NXP. The evaluation board features four configurable logic devices, and allows the contestant to



configure each of the devices into seven unique functions. Open to engineers worldwide, the contest is designed to showcase the AXP in high-performance, low-voltage and low-power applications. Competing in what is billed as Our Low-power Logic together with your High-power Creativity, the contestants in the AXP Logic Design Contest will provide essays, schematics and reference designs with their final submissions as they vie for thousands


of dollars in expensive consumer prizes with a deadline of May 31, 2014. According to Glenn ImObersteg, the President of Convergence Promotions and Embedded Developer , and Cody Miller, the President of Aspen Labs, “We’re really enthusiastic about being able to produce and host this contest for NXP. Our combined assets provide great synergy: Together, the Embedded Developer and Embedded Cores engineer-

ing audience, EEWeb’s huge engineering community, Aspen Labs’ design tools, and Convergence Promotions’ distribution and fulfillment capabilities will be working together to provide the optimal tools and channels to make this program a success.” According to the NXP Logic Division’s Marketing Communications Manager and director of the design contest, Amita Malakar, “It is really the simplicity and versatility of the device that con-

vinced us to host this contest—if it is so easy to design into an application, it has to be equally easy to test and design on an evaluation board in a contest environment. We’re looking forward to reviewing the unique and creative solutions engineers all over the world can come up with using the AXP”. She adds “Good Luck everyone!” The contest landing page can be found at: http://www.

Microchip Acquires EqcoLogic to Address Automotive and Industrial Networking

Microchip Technology has announced the acquisition of EqcoLogic, an innovator in equalizer and coaxial transceiver products and technologies. EqcoLogic is a privately held, fabless semiconductor company based in Brussels, Belgium and a spin out of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The terms of the acquisition are confidential and are expected to have no material impact on Microchip’s December quarter results. “The advent of higher-speed automotive and industrial networks, such as MOST and Ethernet, and the need to reliably transmit data over longer distances using standard coaxial cables is creating the demand for innovative equalizer and transceiver solutions,” said Ganesh Moorthy, Microchip’s COO. “EqcoLogic’s solutions are tailor-made to address these needs for embedded applications, and broaden the range of solution options we offer customers to enable their endproduct innovation.” “We believe EqcoLogic’s solutions are well positioned to capitalize on a number of embedded markets, especially for automotive and industrial customers,” said Peter Helfet, EqcoLogic’s

CEO. “Microchip’s operational excellence, combined with their broad customer reach and extensive channel presence, will be key for the next stage of our growth.”

Matrox and 3M Collaborate to Deliver Interactive Multi-Touch, Multi-Display Solutions

Matrox Graphics Inc. and 3M Touch Systems have announced that both companies have validated a new 3M touch driver that will support multitouch functionality across two, three or more 3M Multi-touch Displays powered by a variety of Matrox multi-monitor products. Integrators can now pair Matrox products with 3M Multi-touch Displays to create attention-grabbing, interactive digital signage and collaborative video walls that span multiple displays, without the need for touch overlays or licensing fees. Applications include interactive kiosks, way finding, retail and exhibit display walls, as well as collaborative multi-panel classroom, boardroom, and command & control installations. “With our Mura MPX, DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go products, multiple displays are seen as one large stretched desktop, and standard off-the-shelf touch displays typically have had difficulty supporting this stretched-desktop mode,” said Caroline Injoyan, business development manager of Matrox Graphic. “3M’s new driver overcomes this limitation and provides a simple way for integrators to add engaging interactivity to their multi-screen digital signage setups.” The 3M MT7.14.0 driver for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 7 is available now as a free download driver from the 3M website.

Microsemi Acquires Symmetricom

Microsemi has announced that PETT Acquisition Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsemi, successfully merged into Symmetricom completing Microsemi’s acquisition of Symmetricom under Section 251(h) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”), with no stockholder vote required to consummate the merger. Symmetricom is a source of highly precise timekeeping technologies and solutions that enable next generation data, voice, mobile and video networks and services. It provides timekeeping in GPS satellites, national time references and national power grids as well as in critical military and civilian networks. The acquisition aligns with Microsemi’s strategy to gain share by providing “total system” solutions to high value, high barrier to entry markets where it holds leadership positions. In addition, Microsemi gains a strong footprint in IT infrastructure and metrology applications and has the opportunity to capitalize on growth opportunities for Symmetricom’s chip scale atomic clock (CSAC) technology, among other leading-edge products. As a result of the acquisition, Microsemi now offers a larger and more complete timing product offering. From the core of the network to the edge, Microsemi now delivers the source, synchronization and distribution of end-to-end timing solutions. The transaction also strengthens Microsemi’s ability to address a broader range of opportunities in aerospace, communications, defense and industrial markets.

McObject, Green Hills Software Alliance for Embedded Systems Innovation

McObject and Green Hills Software have announced the availability of McObject’s latest release of its tiny-footprint eXtremeDB In-Memory Database System (IMDS) product family with the most current release of Green Hills Software’s INTEGRITY real-time operating system (RTOS). McObject built eXtremeDB from scratch to meet the demanding performance and reliability requirements and match the resource constraints of embedded systems. The Green Hills INTEGRITY RTOS also delivers against these characteristics with its own hard real-time deterministic performance and proven freedom from interference, driven by architecture features and policies that include guaranteed, deterministic, real-time interrupt response and system resource guarantees. As a result of these complementary strengths, the joint eXtremeDB – INTEGRITY solution serves as the proven software foundation used and deployed by many industry leaders in aerospace, defense, automotive, industrial and other embedded markets. Joint McObject – Green Hills Software customers have signaled their continued confidence in this RTOS and database system combination, benefiting from key eXtremeDB product strengths, including a streamlined IMDS architecture, with optional persistent storage; a fast and type-safe native C/C++ API; transactions that support the atomic, consistent, isolated and durable (ACID) properties; and an ultra-short execution path that is reflected in a code footprint of approximately 150K.




Mobile Location Platform Revenues Predicted to Grow to $378 Million in 2018

According to a new research report from the analyst firm Berg Insight, the global market for location platforms will grow steadily in the next few years, mainly driven by the emerging indoor location segment. At the same time, the market for location platforms deployed by mobile operators is maturing. Annual revenues for GMLC/SMLC and SUPL A-GPS servers, passive location platforms, as well as middleware deployed by mobile operators are forecasted to grow from an estimated $260 million in 2012 to $378 million in 2018. The market is primarily driven by public safety and lawful intercept mandates that require network operators to

invest in location platforms enabling location of any handset. Overall, the growing enduser demand for commercial location-based services (LBS) will not have a substantial effect on the market for mobile network location platforms. Most mass market commercial LBS now relies on alternative location sources including GPS and Wi-Fi chipsets in handsets. However, mobile operators are showing interest in location-enhanced enterprise and B2B services such as fraud management, secure authentication and marketing. More and more operators are now deploying passive location platforms that enable mass location of handsets without straining network resources. These platforms are well suited for services ranging from



advertising and big data analytics to public warning messages. Many stakeholders are now also investing in the indoor location market. “Supporting a diverse set of indoor location services and use-cases ranging from emergency call location to navigation, shopping and analytics require different approaches,” said André Malm, senior analyst, Berg Insight. “The different needs of each market segment in terms of handset support, location performance and business models have led to multiple parallel development efforts by several categories of companies.” Achieving seamless transition between outdoor and indoor navigation requires handsets with hybrid location technologies. Hybrid location technologies fuse signal mea-

surements from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), cellular and Wi-Fi network signals, together with data from handset sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses and altimeters. He adds that venue owners and retailers are now also deploying network-centric location solutions that use Wi-Fi access points and new Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to enable highly accurate indoor location, geofencing and proximity services.

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FORUM Colin McCracken

When Is an SBC Not an SBC?


hen it’s a COM. What? No, not a serial port. A Computer-on-Module (COM), which is boardspeak for a processor module with RAM and Ethernet and a power supply. But wait, that describes a Single Board Computer (SBC), doesn’t it? If you’re confused, don’t blame it on the holiday eggnog. Have you seen the credit-card-size SBC that features the latest AMD or Intel System-on-Chip (SoC)? Sounds like a winner, since we all want higher performance and lower power in an ever-smaller form factor. Ever notice that there aren’t connectors going all around the edges of the board? That should be your first clue that it’s not an SBC after all. If you can’t plug a USB dongle or an Ethernet cable directly into a board due to lack of PC-style connectors, there is a missing piece called a carrier board that transitions to real-world I/O connectors, power supply cables, LCD cables and the like. A processor module that plugs into that carrier board is known as a “COM.” There’s no free lunch here. Part of the reason that a CPU module can be so tiny while SBCs are larger is that SBCs contain large, bulky I/O connectors. There would be no room for the processor if a credit card-size COM was burdened with individual or stacked I/O connectors. Not to mention no room for the thermal solution either, which would certainly be a problem. In fact, the whole module concept would go out the window. The COM is the “common core” of electronics: processor, chipset, RAM, LAN, firmware for initialization, and fixed SSD in some cases. Also on the module reside the many switchers and LDOs that generate the vast x86 power rails for the processor core, RAM, Ethernet PHY, and standby for power-down modes. Without these, modern x86 processors could not be power-efficient. Be thankful that your SBC or COM supplier took care of all this so that you don’t need to deal with them. Both board types have strengths. SBCs are a strong choice where a standard chassis and power supply can be used, and where the I/O is a good match to the application. COMs are well positioned as a modular alternative to full custom design. Thanks to a growing crop of small off-the-shelf COM carrier boards, a Venn diagram would show the two worlds overlapping with a

healthy crossover region where either approach works fine. It might seem that the smaller the board size, the lower the cost, all else being equal. True, but to a point. Removing fiberglass and copper does save money. Shedding the real-world connectors appears to reduce cost, but in some cases can add cost when the carrier board’s connector for the COM is included, since the USB and LAN and other connectors still need to be on the carrier board. It’s critical to compare apples to apples; don’t compare SBC and COM costs until the COM carrier is added. Finally, the COM solution might be more expensive in many situations, but don’t forget to assign value to the benefits of COMs in the longterm total cost of ownership, and to the value of all the firmware engineering and validation testing that makes possible the modular building block approach in the first place. AMD and Intel will not make processors or chipsets with the same ball count, pitch and pin assignment for board-level interchangeability with each other. Sometimes they do so within their own product lines for just one new generation. Modules of a given form factor are mostly interoperable, which saves precious time and money for system OEMs. The x86 system architecture was never intended to be partitioned in the COM manner, and power and the LPC bus are among just a few interoperability snags. Don’t be fooled by acronyms or product photos or vendor pitches. Be sure to discern whether a tiny module is an SBC or actually a COM before getting too far down the design path. You wouldn’t get far without the “aha” moment anyway. Both types of boards are useful depending on application requirements and long-term technology management goals. As with leasing versus owning an automobile, it’s probably better to pick one approach and stay with it instead of jumping back and forth with each system design generation.



EDITOR’S REPORT Intelligent Edge for the Internet of Things

In the Internet of Things, Look at the “Fog” between Devices and the Cloud Much is made of Big Data streaming from small devices to huge server farms in the Cloud where it is supposedly analyzed and used for a vast array of applications. But in addition, there is a big potential for utility at the points were data is aggregated from local networks attached to the Cloud. by Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief

net of Things, which on one level represents a broader context in which M2M can exist. But, of course, it represents much more than that as well (Figure 1). Now that the Internet of Things is definitely here, we recognize its prominent features and companies are putting it to profitable use. As this happens, we can expect efforts to productize and standardize access and usage modes in ways, including products, that can help customers configure and use their interactions with the IoT. There are presently some indications that efforts in this direction are starting, which would be a signal of the maturing of this new and exciting technological phenomenon. Wind River, a veteran company in embedded software, presently appears to be making moves in such a direction, thinking about ways the IoT can be approached and utilized to exploit its potential. Jim Douglas, senior VP of product marketing for Wind River, agrees that the IoT has now matured to the point where businesses are seriously looking at their


he Internet of Things has certainly been the topic of much verbiage over the past year, and as the New Year opens before us, that seems destined to continue. And that is because, well, it is a huge and important topic. The general perception is that this phenomenon just sort of happened, grew out of a combination of embedded and networking technologies that reached a sort of critical mass, and now we are looking at something like 50 billion connected devices in the next few years with that number continuing to grow well beyond. It is certainly true that the Internet of Things has come about as a result of a confluence of technological advances such as the scale of integration resulting in high performance, low power consumption, low cost, small size and integrated connectivity in very small packages. It is also generally agreed that machine-tomachine (M2M) systems—which were mostly oriented toward a specific proprietary application—gave birth to the Inter-



FIGURE 1 The Internet of Things ranges from small sensors, often attached to a LAN that in turn interfaces to the Intenet and the “cloud.” The brownfield and greenfield devices represent legacy devices that have been adapted to the Internet and new devices designed specifically to connect.


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business models in light of the IoT and considering how they can move beyond simply improving productivity to actually transform their business models to take advantage of the IoT. One of the scarier terms associated with the IoT is “Big Data.” Because huge numbers of really small things can generate really huge amounts of data, the question is how to deal with it all. One answer is that while that is true, relatively simple but very valuable things can be done with Big Data, which can be stored, analyzed in greater detail later and be applied to potentially produce even more value. According to Douglas, much can be done with data before it gets really “Big,” which means dealing with it at the aggregation nodes at the edge of the Internet/Cloud. Intelligence applied here can make profitable use of data before sending it “north” into the Cloud, and can also make needed results available to devices in its domain. The typical scenario for many applications consists of devices and sensors (things) connected in a local area network (LAN) to one or more edge aggregation nodes. On the other side of each such node is a connection to the Internet and hence to the Cloud where the data is collected, stored and really does become big. In the Cloud, of course, it can be analyzed in a variety of ways as well. When it comes to companies that sell and service “big items” like power plant generators, airplanes or transportation systems, Douglas points out, their actual margins are slim and they make a good part of their revenue and profit in services for things that have long amortization schedules. There are definite advantages to be gained for such companies by the access available via the Internet. These include the ability to monitor, predict and optimize performance. Much of this analysis can be done or at least pre-processed at the edge level. For example, monitoring a fleet of aircraft could be used to statistically predict failure and address potential failures in advance by scheduling maintenance to safely keep planes in the air at a higher rate. The deep analysis or pattern discov-

Intelligent Device Platform Feature

FIGURE 2 The components of Wind River’s Intelligent Device Platform intended to facilitate the implementation of scalable, intelligent edge/aggregation nodes.

ery from data taken from a whole fleet of aircraft could be collected and analyzed in the Cloud to generate parameters that could be used to examine data coming in to the aggregation node at the edge, where it could generate alerts or examine different efficiency levels to use aircraft in situations where they could safely operate longer. Thus there is a need for sending data “north” to the Cloud as well as being able to send data back down to the edge nodes where it can be put to use and even sent all the way back to end devices if need be. Wind River is involved in developing intelligent edge devices that can potentially range from quite simple, based on Intel’s latest low-end Quark devices, and ranging up to Atom and Core-based edge systems. With a scalable choice of edge/ aggregation points in the form of readyto-use products, customers can set up edge management layers between their intelligent connected devices and the Cloud—a level somewhat whimsically referred to as the “Fog.”

To that end, its Intelligent Device Platform (Figure 2) is a scalable, sustainable and secure development environment that simplifies the development, integration and deployment of IoT gateways. It is based on Wind River operating systems, which are standards-compliant and fully tested, as well as Wind River development tools. The platform provides device security, smart connectivity, rich network options and device management. Intelligent Device Platform includes ready-to-use components built for developing machineto-machine (M2M) applications. Edge/aggregation points can also be a good location for Web servers that facilitate user interaction with connected devices. At the proper level of scalability, they have the resources for both security measures as well as for implementing user interfaces that can be accessed over the Internet by way of a browser. That makes it possible to put an application or proprietary server/human interface on a company’s private node with an interface that can address all the devices on that RTC RTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE OCTOBER JANUARY 2013 2014



node either individually or collectively as well as their communications and data. It also provides a site for maintenance such as firmware upgrades and diagnostics that can save significantly on service visits.

Brownfield and Greenfield

Wind River also sees a huge opportunity for OEMs and developers in the giant task of bringing existing infrastructure into the world of IP connectivity. Given the previously mentioned expensive nature and long amortization schedules of much industrial equipment, it makes no sense to think about replacing it before its end of life. This is referred to as the “brownfield,” or equipment such as factory machines that were built without a thought of connecting it to IP networks and others like medical devices that were intentionally kept off the Web for security considerations. Creating and marketing “bolt on” connectivity for a vast array of brownfield systems and devices is predictably a very attractive business proposition according to Douglas. For example, refitting

rail systems involves adding equipment to monitor things as diverse as brake wear, vibration and passengers. It represents a large investment that is still considerably smaller than purchasing new rolling stock, and the potential benefits can be huge in terms of efficiency and cost savings. Newer rail cars and locomotives will undoubtedly have this intelligence and connectivity built in as a matter of course. Such equipment and devices will be greenfield devices, which are designed from the start for both embedded control and external Ethernet connectivity. These are, of course, not just traditional equipment with added connectivity, but also innovative devices like wearable medical monitoring systems and dynamic control systems that have grown beyond traditional M2M. Many such devices will be able to request updates and parameters that have been produced by data collected, aggregated and analyzed by edge devices and made available for connected devices. Of course, the vast volume of Big Data will continue to be streamed up to the Cloud for its own purposes. One of the

easier forms of analytics will be to look for patterns in Big Data that might not have been detected before and that can be used to enhance monitoring, prediction and optimization. But intelligence at the edge looks like it can become much more significant and useful when there are readybuilt systems that can be programmed and configured to take advantage of it and send it back and forth between the Cloud, “Fog” and edge as needed for all kinds of different applications. The Internet of Things is now in place in its raw existence and is being used to multiple advantages. As more developers, businesses and people become more familiar with its capabilities and it continues to expand, we will see more innovative tools and systems to put it to use. We have only begun. Wind River Alameda, CA (510) 748-4100

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18.10.2013 10:12:57



Altera Cyclone V: The Marriage of CPU and FPGA

Architecture Matters When Choosing the Right SoC FPGA Devices that combine ARM processors with FPGA fabrics on a single die show great promise. Still, it is important to pay attention to the internal details when selecting to ensure the highest performance. by Todd Koelling, Altera


rocessors and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) perform the heavy lifting in most embedded systems. While processors and FPGAs often work alone, the two technologies work brilliantly together, forming an even more powerful embedded computing platform. Often in these systems, the processor provides the high-level management functionality while the FPGA performs stringent real-time operations, extreme data processing, or interface functions not easily supported by a processor. SoC FPGA devices successfully integrate both processor and FPGA architectures in a single device. Melding the two technologies provides a variety of benefits including higher integration, lower power, smaller board size and higher bandwidth communication between the processor and FPGA. Best-in-class devices exploit the unique advantages of a merged processor/FPGA system while retaining the benefits of stand-alone processor and FPGA. An SoC FPGA provides at least comparable and likely superior functionality and performance than previous generation designs, but at a lower board space, lower power and lower system cost—maybe as much as 50% less. By integrating these technologies on the same piece of silicon, system developers can eliminate the cost



There are several design considerations and engineering decisions embedded developers should take into account when choosing the best SoC FPGA for their application. These selection criteria include system performance, system reliability, power consumption, development tools and future roadmap.

FIGURE 1 Cyclone V SoCs feature a >100 Gbit/s interconnect between the FPGA and processor.

of one of the plastic packages. If both the CPU and FPGA in a design use separate external memories, designers may also be able to consolidate both into one memory device, saving even more system cost, board space and power. Because the signals between the processor and the FPGA now reside on the same silicon, communication between the two consumes substantially less power compared to using separate chips. Plus, thanks to thousands of internal connections between the processor and the FPGA, an integrated solution has substantially higher bandwidth and lower latency compared to a two-chip solution.

Increasing System Performance with SoC FPGAs

Ultimately, system performance in SoC FPGAs is dictated by efficiently moving data between four major SoC functions: the processor, the FPGA logic, the interconnect, and on-chip and offchip memory. In a variety of applications, system performance is dominated by the data path performance, where a device must process continuous streams of data at “line speed” or “wire speed” with a minimum of stalling or interruptions. In these applications, the FPGA logic crunches the critical data path while the processor provides high-level management over the control path. The processor intercepts a small fraction of the incoming data and mostly attempts to stay out of the way of the data path. To perform this delicate dance, modern-day SoC FPGAs leverage an ARM dual-core Cortex-A9 application



Processor System DDR I/F Protection DDR Controller

FPGA IP Space Operating Systems/ Embedded Software

FIGURE 2 DDR memory protection in SoC application where processors and FPGA share a common memory.

processor integrated into the fabric of an advanced 28nm FPGA. The CortexA9 offers an ideal mixture of low power, capabilities, bandwidth and performance compared to other application processors. The interconnect featured in Cyclone V SoCs is designed specifically to increase system performance by supporting more than 100 Gbit/s of throughput between the FPGA logic and the processor (Figure 1). The 100 Gbit/s interconnect between the FPGA logic and the CortexA9 processor ensures the system has sufficient interconnect performance to support high-throughput traffic. The ability to efficiently access onchip and off-chip memory also enables SoC FPGAs to increase system performance. Hardened memory controllers featured in Cyclone V SoCs employ advanced algorithms to squeeze as much memory efficiency as possible. These algorithms extract maximum bandwidth by managing transaction priority, reordering command and data, and scheduling pending transactions using algorithms like deficit weighted round robin. Additional performance comes by customizing the memory controller via software to best fit a custom data profile. When evaluating the performance of a memory controller, it is important to not just look at the bus width and speed.

System level benchmarks, such as LMbench, are useful for assessing the overall performance of the memory subsystem. As evidenced by running the LMbench benchmark on a 667 MHz Cyclone V SoC system, the Cyclone V SoC with the smarter memory controller extracts more memory bandwidth—up to 17% more than a competitive SoC device—despite a 25% lower memory operating frequency. This efficiency advantage enables the Cyclone V SoC to deliver more bandwidth at lower clock rates, resulting in system power savings.

Increasing System Reliability with SoC FPGAs

As memory sizes continue to increase, the need for error detection and correction is a growing trend in designs today. Most modern systems include dedicated hardware to help ensure data integrity. This includes error correction code (ECC) protection—not only as part of the memory controller, but also integrated within the processor’s on-chip memories, caches, peripheral buffers and in the FPGA itself. Error checking and correction circuitry makes a system more robust and resilient against unexpected data errors or corrupted data. Memory protection is a feature often associated with the memory con-

trollers in more advanced processors, whether called a memory management unit (MMU) or memory protection union (MPU). The processor’s memory protection unit prevents errant or illegal processor transactions from reading or corrupting other memory regions. In the Cortex-A9 processor, ARM extends this protection concept with TrustZone, which provides a system-wide approach for security-sensitive systems. Using the Cyclone V SoC, specific memory regions may be dedicated to the operating system and embedded software applications while other memory regions may be dedicated to FPGA-based functions, as shown in Figure 2. Via memory protection, the FPGA master functions are prevented from corrupting the operating system or embedded software regions.

Integration Leads to Power Savings

New electronics applications are increasingly power aware—and not just in handheld devices, but also in automotive applications and even server racks with their seemingly endless power and cooling budget. SoC FPGA devices are viable solutions to help embedded developers stay within their power budgets. As illustrated in Figure 3, simply integrating the processor and FPGA components into a single SoC FPGA can potentially reduce system power by 10% to 30%. I/Os carrying signals between devices, often at higher voltages, are one of the most power-consuming functions in an application. Beyond the power savings that simple integration provides, Cyclone V SoCs feature power-saving modes such as clock gating and scaling. The processor and FPGA also have independent power planes, allowing an application to turn off power to the FPGA completely while keeping the processor active to monitor any interrupts. To optimize power, SoC designs are becoming more interrelated with power supply design. At a system level, the power supply design often consumes more power than the SoC device itself. The challenge in these systems is balRTC RTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE OCTOBER JANUARY 2013 2014





Before FPGA







FIGURE 3 Integrating the processor and FPGA into a single SoC FPGA reduces power-hungry, inter-chip I/O connections, as does sharing an external memory interface.

ancing the engineering tradeoff between minimizing the power supply footprint versus maximizing the efficiency of the power supply. Cyclone V SoCs are supported by a range of power supply options and are also supported by advanced DC/DC power converter technologies that enable designers to meet stringent power targets and space constraints. Altera offers a new line of Enpirion power modules specifically suited to meet the space and efficiency constraints of SoC FPGA-based embedded systems.

Familiar Development Tools Support SoC FPGAs

This new class of SoC devices that integrate leading-edge ARM application processors and FPGA fabric opens a wealth of possibilities for faster, cheaper and more energy-efficient electronic products. However, the innovation in hardware must be matched by similar innovation in the FPGA tools, on-chip debugging, software debugging and analysis tools. Software ultimately determines



how successful a designer will be using these devices. For broader use, software developers must find SoC FPGAs and their features to be as easy and efficient as software development on stand-alone processors. SoC FPGAs from Altera are supported by an SoC Embedded Design Suite (EDS) that includes a comprehensive, ARM-compatible tool suite for embedded software development. It contains development tools, utility programs, runtime software and application examples to expedite firmware and application software of SoC embedded systems. As the result of a strategic relationship between Altera and ARM, the SoC EDS includes the exclusive offering of the ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5) Altera Edition Toolkit. By combining the ARM DS-5 advanced multicore debugging capabilities with FPGA-adaptive capability—the ability to see changes in the FPGA hardware immediately—and a seamless link to the Altera SignalTap logic-analyzer, the SoC EDS toolkit provides embedded software developers an unprecedented level of full-chip visibility and control. When a bug makes an unwelcome appearance, the development team must determine whether it is a hardware or software issue. The tools that support Altera SoC FPGAs make finding the cause of these faults much easier by allowing the processor subsystem and FPGA subsystem to cross-trigger from code to waveform or from waveform to code. As a result, the development team can find and track how and why a particular condition occurred in the system. Cross-triggering, trace and global time-stamping are valuable features for IP verification, custom driver development and the system integration portion of a project. Besides finding the location of a fault, the SoC EDS allows embedded system developers to find out exactly how and why the system entered the faulty state. The ARM System Trace Module (STM) enables tracking of CPU-based software events. Application software can issue hardware and software event “bread crumbs” as the system executes over time to monitor system behavior and

to gain deep insights into its operation. In an “FPGA adaptive” debugging environment, STM enables event monitoring of both the CPU and FPGA domains without having to stop the system.

Future SoC FPGA Roadmap

When selecting SoC FPGAs, it is imperative to make certain that the vendor’s product roadmap will keep your systems competitive and offer forward migration of software for the long term (Figure 4). To begin with, consider the foundation of all silicon roadmaps, which is the underlying silicon process technology. The Cyclone V and Arria V SoCs currently available from Altera are built on a 28nm low-power process to help minimize power for industrial, automotive, medical and communications applications where power consumption is a major factor. The next-generation Arria 10 SoCs from Altera deliver optimal performance, power efficiency, small form factor and low cost for a wide variety of midrange wireless infrastructure, broadcast, military and compute and storage applications. Arria 10 SoCs are based on TSMC 20nm process technology and combine a dual-core Cortex-A9 processor system with industry-leading programmable logic technology. Implementing the dual-core Cortex-A9 processor system provides ease of software migration from first generation SoC FPGAs while providing a performance boost to 1.5 GHz from the smaller geometry process technology. The third-generation Stratix 10 SoCs will deliver breakthrough levels of performance and bandwidth for advanced communications, military and data center applications. Stratix 10 SoCs are based on Intel 14nm Tri-Gate process technology and feature a 64-bit quadcore ARM Cortex-A53 processor. The Cortex-A53 supports a 32-bit compatibility mode to ease migration of existing software if desired. SoC FPGAs are a powerful new class of programmable devices that are applicable to a wide range of electronic designs. The most popular commercially available devices integrate a standard ARM dual-core Cortex-A9—with a rich

Altera San Jose, CA (408) 544-7000


(Lowest Power, Form Factor, and Cost)

• 28 nm TSMC • 925 MHz Dual ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore • 5 Gbps Transceivers • 400 MHz DDR3 • 25 to 110K LEs • Up to 224 Multipliers (18x19)


set of peripherals, on-chip memory, a high-speed internal interconnect architecture, a hierarchy of on-chip memory and a leading-edge FPGA fabric. Innovative new software design and debug tools enable developers to simultaneously view and cross-trigger both sides (processor and FPGA) of the chip. While the available devices on the market may seem similar at first glance, upon a closer look, the underlying architecture matters.




(High Performance with Low Power, Form Factor, and Cost)

• 28 nm TSMC • 1.05 GHz Dual ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore • 10 Gbps Transceivers • 533 MHz DDR3 • Up to 462K LEs • Up to 2,136 Multipliers (18x19)

• 20 nm TSMC • 1.5 GHz Dual ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore • 17 Gbps Transceivers • 1333 MHz DDR4 • Up to 660KLEs • Up to 3,300 Multipliers (18x19)


(Highest Performance and System Bandwidth)

• 14 nm Intel Tri-Gate • 64 bit Quad ARM A53 MPCore • Optimized for Maximum Performance per Watt • Over 4,000K LEs


FIGURE 4 Stratix 10 SoCs are the third-generation SoC from Altera, which integrates a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor built on Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate process technology.

Altera Announces Quad-Core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 for Stratix 10 SoCs

Altera’s Stratix 10 SoC devices, manufactured on Intel’s 14nm Tri-Gate process, will now incorporate a high-performance, quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor system, complementing the device’s floating-point digital signal processing (DSP) blocks and high-performance FPGA fabric. Coupled with Altera’s system-level design tools, including OpenCL, this versatile heterogeneous computing platform will offer exceptional adaptability, performance, power efficiency and design productivity for a broad range of applications, including data center computing acceleration, radar systems and communications infrastructure. The ARM Cortex-A53 processor, the first 64-bit processor used on an SoC FPGA, is an attractive fit for use in Stratix 10 SoCs due to its performance, power efficiency, data throughput and advanced features. The Cortex-A53 is among the most power-efficient of ARM’s application-class processors, and when delivered on the 14nm Tri-Gate process will achieve over six times more data throughput compared to today’s highest performing SoC FPGAs. The Cortex-A53 also delivers important features, such as virtualization support, 256 Tbyte memory reach and error correction code (ECC) on LI and L2 caches. Furthermore, the Cortex-A53 core can run in 32-bit mode, which will run Cortex-A9 operating systems and code unmodified, allowing a smooth upgrade path from Altera’s 28nm and 20nm SoC FPGAs. Leveraging Intel’s 14nm Tri-Gate process and an enhanced high-performance architecture, Altera Stratix 10 SoCs will have a programmable-logic performance level of more than 1 GHz—two times the core

performance of current high-end 28nm FPGAs. By standardizing on ARM processors across its three-generation SoC portfolio, Altera will offer software compatibility and a common ARM ecosystem of tools and operating system support. Embedded developers will be able to accelerate debug cycles with Altera’s SoC Embedded Design Suite (EDS) featuring the ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5) Altera Edition toolkit, the industry’s only FPGA-adaptive debug tool, as well as use Altera’s software development kit (SDK) for OpenCL to create heterogeneous implementations using the OpenCL high-level design language. Stratix 10 SoCs will offer designers a versatile and powerful heterogeneous compute platform enabling them to innovate and get to market faster.





Altera Cyclone V: The Marriage of CPU and FPGA

Implementing Ethernet-Based Smart Grid Technologies in with SoC FPGA— HSR and IEEE 1588 PTP The implementation of HSR and IEEE 1588 PTP protocols using an Altera Cyclone V SoC running the Linux operating system can be used both in new designs and when modernizing existing devices. The chip integrates an FPGA fabric and an ARM-based hard processor. by Jouni Kujala, Flexibilis Oy


he Smart Grid is a modern electric grid that uses many new technologies for collecting information, communication and control of the grid. The Smart Grid provides better efficiency and reliability, and it allows distributed generation of energy, making it easier to connect renewable but variable energy sources like solar power and wind power to the grid. The new technologies employed in the Smart Grid include HighAvailability Seamless Redundancy (HSR) and IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP), which are used in substations for internal communication and time synchronization of electrical measurements.

High-Availability Seamless Redundancy

HSR is a protocol providing redundant Ethernet. Similar to the rapid spanning tree protocol (RSTP), redundancy is provided by having extra network links in the network. However, unlike RSTP, HSR does not disable the extra links during operation. Instead, an HSR network employs all the links, all the time, and nodes make copies of the frames to utilize all the network paths simultaneously. While RSTP disables selected links to provide a loop-



FIGURE 1 A High-Availability Seamless Redundancy Network.

free network, HSR just has to cope with the loops. In HSR, an HSR header is added to the Ethernet frames. The HSR header includes a sequence number, which together with the source MAC address, is used to recognize copies of the same frame. The nodes in the HSR network detect and memorize the frames they have received and forwarded before, to be able to remove extra copies of the frames from the network. This is necessary to prevent

frames from looping infinitely, consuming all the available capacity. Because the network links are not disabled by the redundancy protocol, the protocol does not require any recovery time in case of a failure. This makes HSR a good choice for applications that do not allow any breaks in communication; this includes electric distribution, avionics and certain military applications. Typical topology of an HSR network is a ring or several rings connected to


Implementation in a Cyclone V SoC

FIGURE 2 SoC Development Board and Terasic SFP Card.

each other, but HSR is not limited to these topologies only. On the contrary, HSR supports any topology. However, it is not practical to have very big HSR networks (thousands of nodes) as all the traffic goes to every node in an HSR network, unless limited by virtual LANs for example. A typical HSR network is shown in Figure 1. RedBoxes (redundancy boxes) connect non-HSR aware nodes and network segments to an HSR network. QuadBoxes connect HSR rings to each other. Endnodes (also called DANH) are the communicating nodes for whom the network is built. HSR also natively supports connecting to PRP networks using the so called HSR-PRP RedBoxes.

The IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol

The Precision Time Protocol (PTP) defined in IEEE standard 1588 enables clock synchronization over an Ethernet network. In applications where the protocol is able to eliminate the need for a separate synchronization network, great cost savings can be achieved. IEEE 1588 PTP implementations typically vary a lot when it comes to the accuracy they can achieve. The underlying networking technology has a huge impact on the accuracy. DSL technologies offer much worse accuracy than fast Ethernet, and Gigabit is much better than fast Ethernet—more capacity typically also means better accuracy. Fiber is also better than copper when it comes to synchronization. The IEEE 1588 PTP implementations can be pure software too, but taking the whole potential of the available medium into use requires using hardware specially designed to support IEEE 1588 PTP. This means recording the exact receive and transmit times of certain frames with the hardware, and in some cases (one-step

clock) also modifying frames on-the-fly. With special hardware, even nanosecond level accuracy can be achieved with the protocol when running Gigabit Ethernet in a fiber optic cable. IEEE 1588 includes a Best Master Clock selection algorithm that selects which clock in the network is master and which ones are slaves; that is, which clocks follow which clock. In this way all the clocks in the network will be automatically running HSR at the same time, and the system is tolerant to clock and network failures as well. Transparent clocks are clocks that improve synchronization accuracy between master and slave clocks by compensating the error caused by the networking nodes. In Ethernet, transparent clocks are integrated into Ethernet switches where they correct the error caused by the switch queuing delays by modifying the intervening PTP messages on-the-fly. HSR is typically used in the same applications as IEEE 1588 PTP, and therefore the HSR specification defines how IEEE 1588 PTP should be used together with HSR. Special treatment for IEEE 1588 frames is necessary because an HSR network has two or more functional paths between the clocks, whereas normal Ethernet networks only have one. This means, for example, that you cannot use IEEE 1588 PTP follow-up messages in an HSR network, because it will be impossible for the receiver to know whether the follow-up message traveled the same path through the network as the corresponding sync message, forcing the use of a so-called one-step clock (sync message without follow-up message) instead of a two-step clock (sync message & follow-up message).

Figure 2 shows an example of HSR and IEEE 1588 PTP implementation using a Cyclone V SoC. In the picture there are two PCBs, the bigger one being an Altera Cyclone V SX development board. The smaller board is a small form factor pluggable, high-speed mezzanine connector (SFP-HSMC) card from Terasic, which connects to the HSMC connector of the SoC board and offers SFP slots providing either fiber or copper Ethernet connectivity depending on SFP module type. Both boards are commercially available. The heart of the implementation is the HSR Switch that does the forwarding of HSR/Ethernet frames from one port to another (Figure 3). In this implementation it has four ports, one of which is connected to the hard ARM processor for it to be able to send and receive Ethernet frames. The rest of the HSR/Ethernet ports are connected via Gigabit Media-Independent Interface (GMII)-to-1000BASE-X and (G) MII-to-Serial GMII adapter blocks to the SFP modules and to other devices. Three is a sufficient number of external ports for implementing dedicated RedBoxes. However, it is useful to have one extra port in end-nodes, for example, as a maintenance port or to implement RedBox-in-EndNode functionality that removes the need for dedicated RedBoxes. The adapter blocks alter the native MII/GMII interface of the HSR Switch to either 1000BASE-X or SGMII. 1000BASE-X is used when a Gigabit fiber optic module is connected to an SFP slot. 1000BASE-X can be used also with copper SFP modules but slower speeds (10 Mbit/s and 100 Mbit/s) are supported only in SGMII mode. As copper SFP modules are designed to be a direct replacement for fiber optic modules, they must be separately commanded to operate in SGMII mode. The command to change to SGMII mode is given to the PHY chip inside the module using an I2C bus controlled through the general purpose I/O block. The real-time clock block keeps track of the current clock time. The clock time is needed for implementing IEEE 1588 PTP functionality. The real-time block is separated from the HSR switch because its implementation may vary a lot dependRTC RTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE OCTOBER JANUARY 2013 2014



Altera Development Board Altera SoC



Ethernet HSR Switch


gmii_to_alt_tse gmii_to_alt_tse GMII to 1000BASE-X & (G)MII to SGMII

3* Ethernet

Terasic HSMC Board

Real-Time Clock






IEEE 1588 PTP Implementation

General Purpose Input/ Output

Program Memory


SFP Modules

Hard ARM processor running Linux


FIGURE 3 Block Diagram showing time-critical protocol elements, including HSR switch and media independent interfaces implemented in FPGA hardware on the same silicon die with the ARM processor.

ing on the environment; different kinds of boards have different kinds of oscillators that can, for example, be adjustable or fixed and vary a lot in their accuracy and frequency. In this case the clock time is needed for the HSR Switch block. Depending on the implementation, the clock time can be provided also for PHY chips with IEEE 1588 functionalities, Ethernet MAC(s) and for other blocks that need accurate time, for example, for time-stamping measurement sample values. Avalon switch fabric connects the blocks to the hard ARM processor through an AXI-to-Avalon Bridge. Avalon is a good choice for implementing the FPGA internal register access as it is a widely used and open standard. The processor monitors and controls the functionality of the Avalon-connected blocks through Avalon register access. For example, it continuously monitors the interface speed of copper SFP modules by polling the PHY chip inside the module. When its mode changes, the processor configures the speed of the (G)MII-to-SGMII adapter and the HSR switch port accordingly.

HSR Implementation

The typical HSR topology is a ring, which leads to the fact that there will gen-



For practical reasons, this quite complex protocol cannot be implemented with hardware; it has to be software. As both HW and SW parts are needed in HSR implementation, an SoC is a very natural choice, making it possible to have a single-chip HSR solution.

erally be many more hops between the source and the destination than with traditional Ethernet topologies. This makes the forwarding latency requirement of the devices so small that it is impossible to implement an HSR node with a software-based forwarding engine. As HSR is a new and still evolving technology, the implementations are all FPGA IP blocks. HSR as a technology is basically Ethernet, and HSR networks employ many technologies familiar from traditional Ethernet networks, including, for example, Virtual LANs and prioritization. This makes the internal implementation of an HSR switch with its address learning, multiple output queues, etc. very similar to traditional Ethernet switches. However, HSR implementation cannot be pure hardware either. Because of redundancy, single faults in the network cannot be found without a special protocol called HSR supervision protocol. The HSR supervision protocol keeps track of the other HSR nodes, the sequence numbers of their supervision frames, and from which redundant ports their frames are received, saving the information to a special table called the nodes table. The information can then be used in locating faulty links and other network problems.

As in the HSR implementation, IEEE 1588 implementation is also both in hardware and software. The parts that have no real-time requirements are best implemented with software. This includes the best master clock selection algorithm, the protocol stack, generation of the Ethernet frames and so on. The time-critical tasks include capturing the exact receive and transmit times of the frames as well as modification of the Correction Field of Sync, Delay _ Req, Pdelay _ Req and Pdelay _ Resp messages. These tasks have to be implemented with hardware to be able to achieve sub-microsecond synchronization accuracies over an Ethernet network. Typical softwareonly implementations hardly achieve submillisecond accuracy while HW assisted implementation can achieve one nanosecond. Although there are IEEE 1588 PHY chips at the market, they are not needed here; IEEE 1588 Transparent Clock functionality in the Switch and the timestamping functionalities in the Switch-toHPS Ethernet connection remove the need for IEEE 1588 support in the PHY chips. This makes it possible to use IEEE 1588 PTP, for example, with copper SFP modules that have no IEEE 1588 PTP support. Flexibilis Oy Tampere, Finland +358 44 342 5507 Altera San Jose, CA (408) 544-7000 Terasic Technologies Dover, DE (302) 261-5361


CONNECTED Wireless Mesh Networks

Energy Harvesting Wireless Solutions – Automation Freed from Batteries The highly flexible characteristics of wireless automation solutions along with the increased ability to power them with energy harvesting, are accelerating their adoption and providing them a growing presence in the building sector. by Jim O’Callaghan, EnOcean


ould it be possible to power devices from energy sources found freely in the environment? By all means—this is already a reality. Millions of batteryless wireless sensors already operate in buildings around the world measuring data and communicating with an intelligent system—saving up to 40 % on energy. The need for energy management in buildings is becoming more critical as electricity prices inevitably rise. In addition, with an increasing amount of energy coming from renewable sources, this means there is a need for more efficient methods of energy usage. Buildings play a key role as they consume high levels of energy and therefore demand the integration of innovative technologies that can be installed easily and at a fast ROI, providing significant energy savings. There are different options when it comes to commercially available, wireless building solutions. ZigBee, for instance, is an open specification that builds on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which defines the physical and MAC layers. This standard is suitable for systems that require line-powered mesh networks, for example. It oper-



FIGURE 1 Comparison of different wireless standards in regard to energy requirements, range and application.

ates on the 2.4 GHz frequency like other technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, proprietary radios and microwave ovens (Figure 1). For higher flexibility purposes, there are also wireless devices that use batteries to function without line power.

This could result in a time-consuming maintenance effort. Just imagine a hotel that has over 1,000 radios installed with every sensor and switch requiring a battery. Battery-powered wireless solutions result in considerable expense when it


comes to proper disposal and replacement of batteries. ON World estimates that the labor cost for changing batteries in wireless sensors will be greater than $1 billion over the next several years. These costs for battery replacement are a significant disadvantage to the growth of wireless, battery-powered sensor networks, therefore opening the door to energy harvesting wireless technology.

Energy Harvesting Wireless Communication

Thanks to the energy harvesting principle, these wireless modules gain their power from the surrounding environment and therefore work without batteries. There are a variety of sources. An electro-dynamic energy converter uses mechanical motion, or a miniaturized solar module generates energy from indoor light. Combining a thermoelectric converter with a DC/DC converter taps heat as an energy source. These small amounts of harvested energy are sufficient to transmit a wireless signal and enable operation of numerous maintenance-free sensor and actuator units. This includes batteryless switches, intelligent window handles, temperature, humidity and light sensors, as well as occupancy sensors, relay receivers and control centers (Figure 2). For optimal RF effectiveness, the EnOcean radio protocol uses the 902 MHz frequency band in the U.S. The sub-1 GHz radio waves have an excellent penetration within buildings. RF reliability is assured because wireless signals are just 0.7 milliseconds in duration and are transmitted multiple times for redundancy. The range of energy harvesting wireless sensors is about 900 feet in an open field and up to 90 feet inside buildings. The 902 MHz modules allow for integration into very small product enclosures due to short antenna length. Interference from co-located devices, such as light ballasts and LED drivers, is at a minimum. These contribute to enable an effective, robust wireless platform for applications in the building automation sector. Each module comes with a unique 32-bit identification number to exclude any possibility of overlap with other wireless sensors. These characteristics make 902 MHz the optimal frequency band for energy har-

vesting wireless systems in commercial building automation.

Energy Savings and Fast ROI

Based on this energy harvesting wireless technology, an intelligent automated system can be realized by interconnecting automated thermostats, wireless ventilation, window contacts, humidity sensors, occupancy sensors and CO2 sensors. These are just a few examples of the products in place to regulate climate control in a building. In an intelligent automation system, for example, a room controller receives information related to temperature, humidity, window position or CO2 from the respective sensors, and controls the distribution of warm and cool air in a room. At the same time, the room controller sends information to a building controller. This automation calculates the demand as a function of outdoor temperature and flow temperature to control energy generation (Figure 3). Buildings in which occupants do not pay for the energy bill directly—hotels, hospitals, schools, offices, government, industrial and retail—waste the most energy and therefore provide the highest savings potential and lowest ROI timeframes. That said, occupancy-based HVAC and lighting control, and monitoring systems integrating energy harvesting wireless technology can save installation costs of more than 30 percent in new construction and up to 70 percent in retrofits. They can also help reduce energy consumption be-

tween 20 and 40 percent in facilities, often with an ROI within three years or less. To illustrate, if a sensor detects that a room or area is no longer occupied, lights can be automatically switched off and the HVAC systems automatically set back, saving an average of 30 percent energy compared to a non-automated system. Alternatively, if enough natural sunlight is entering a room then lights can be automatically programmed to dim or switch off completely. In a typical building scenario, particularly in hotels, a window/ balcony door sensor is used to detect an open window. A signal is then sent to the ventilation unit to automatically reduce heating or cooling, or shut it off completely in the space until the window is closed. Installing individual room or area temperature monitoring and control can save up to 30 percent in HVAC energy consumption alone.

Combining Standards for All Requirements

The EnOcean Alliance has created an ecosystem of more than 300 member companies around energy harvesting wireless solutions and end products to establish the batteryless technology as a worldwide standard for sustainable buildings. For interoperability requirements, the EnOcean Alliance has developed standardized application profiles (EnOcean Equipment Profiles (EEP)), which ensure that devices from different vendors can work together in a system.

FIGURE 2 The energy harvesting principle enables wireless modules to work without batteries. The complete energy harvesting wireless platform combines microenergy converters with ultra-low-power electronics, energy management and wireless communications.




FIGURE 3 Intelligent control in an office building based on batteryless wireless components. The gateway can connect them to other communication standards and the building management system.

In addition, batteryless solutions can also be easily connected to all systems that communicate over Wi-Fi, as well as over Ethernet/IP, KNX, BACnet or LON via gateways. That said, energy harvesting wireless solutions can be combined with other protocols to provide an optimized system for individual requirements. This brings together the benefits of two or more worlds and makes possible energy harvesting wireless solutions working together with several building automation systems. Today there are controller solutions that allow facility managers, contractors and OEM manufacturers to deploy integrated solutions for HVAC and lighting quickly and efficiently—linking multiple devices based on many standard protocols. The EnOcean Link middleware eases this integration for gateway providers. OEMs can use the software to convert the bits and bytes of a batteryless wireless telegram directly into data values. As a result, sensor data, such as humidity or temperature, is prepared so that different devices, servers and even cloud services can process it immediately. This seamless communication is enabled because the different protocols ad-



dress similar use cases (e.g., building automation). This allows the combination of several functionalities and applications to a more beneficial technical framework. The main functionalities of the middleware are to automatically take into account all specifications of the EnOcean protocol stack and the application profiles of the EnOcean Alliance (EnOcean Equipment Profiles (EEPs)) as well as remote management. Generally speaking, the software has the following three key tasks: 1. Receiving and decoding incoming data communication according to the profile standard 2. Executing device connection including the teach-in and store device information 3. Encoding outgoing data communication according to the profile standard and sending them out to the further processing system In the case of a commercial building scenario, the middleware is implemented on a central device, e.g. a control server, which controls the whole building, holds the automation intelligence and can be physically located outside the building as

well. Several gateways in the building record radio telegrams from thousands of distributed batteryless wireless sensors and relay receivers and send back information or command data when needed. These gateways are connected to the control server by a backbone, which does not have to be based on EnOcean radio or even be wireless. For example, this can be an EnOcean/IP Gateway. The middleware, located in the central unit, interprets all telegrams received by the gateways and provides them immediately to the automation system. There is no single standard that fits all demands of today’s building automation. Consequently, bringing together different standards that communicate with each other can offer the most flexible and suitable solutions. Energy harvesting wireless solutions allow networking an increasingly large number of individual wireless nodes or sensors that can communicate with long-range wireless networks. That way, users can combine the flexibility and zero maintenance of batteryless devices with the benefits of other existing, established standards. EnOcean Oberhaching, Germany +49.89.67 34 689 – 0 EnOcean Alliance San Ramon, CA (925) 275-6601



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CONNECTED Wireless Mesh Networks

So, What Is the Difference between Smart Energy and the Smart Home? There are at least three different networks that will be used inside the home. Not all of them have the same purpose. Indeed, not all of them serve the direct interests of the home owner. by Cees Links, GreenPeak


ften, as new markets emerge, new definitions also start floating around. Recently, there are two terms that seem to be very close: smart energy and the smart home, but actually they are nipping a little at each other. So, let’s do some housekeeping and clean up the terminology, including addressing the related term—the connected home. All these terms are somewhat related but are coming from a variety of angles, so it is good to know where and how to properly use them.

The Connected Home vs. the Smart Home

It is best to start with the “connected home.” We are living in an exciting new time! When my son has a new friend over, the first question usually is “what is your Wi-Fi password?” Nowadays even young children expect every home to be connected to the Internet, and the Wi-Fi password has become the key that allows you to connect to the Internet in that home. I recently asked him: do you know there was life before the Internet? I can still laugh about his eyes flashing back: “Now, that is a good question, next question!” So, the connected home is the home connected to the Internet that allows those in the home to share and distribute con-



FIGURE 1 The new smart home consists of sentrollers throughout the home connected to a central home control box or set top box that in turn enables users to manage the various devices via a local remote control or over the Internet by using a smart device.

tent, downloading or uploading it, or just consuming it. Usually a connected home has a connection point (gateway, router, set-top box) and an in-home distribution system, which can be wired or—way more popular among children—wireless Wi-Fi. There is something strange with the connected home though. Although we share multi-gigabytes of data (email, Inter-

net, video), there is a whole class of small devices in our homes that are not connected to the Internet. This class of devices, often called “sentrollers” (sensors, controllers and actuators), make our lives secure, comfortable and convenient and can be split into several categories that are not always completely separate, for example:


1. Security/monitoring, including simple devices such as motion detectors to turn on lights or triggering alarms, door locks, window sensors, small video cameras, baby monitors, etc. 2. Energy management, including devices like utility meters for electricity, gas or water, but also thermostats, light switches, home weather stations, etc. 3. Home care/assisted living, from simple wrist bands or motion sensors that track and measure people’s activity to sophisticated devices that measure body functions like blood pressure, heart rate, sugar level, etc. 4. In the future we can even expect sentrollers to be built into our appliances and entertainment devices throughout the home—think of your washing machine, freezer, dryer, home theater systems, etc. We are rapidly heading toward a time when all of these sentrollers or the devices containing them will be connected to a home console, or connected directly to the Internet. And by using our smartphones or tablets as a consoles, we will be able to monitor, manage and control them from any place in the home, or over the Internet from anywhere in the world. The, “Honey, I forgot to lock the backdoor, oh my,” will be something from the past. You will be able to pull out your smartphone, access your home control dashboard and remedy the situation. This is the future, just around the corner, and it is called the smart home. It is a home connected to “the cloud” that allows the home owner to control it from any place in the world through the cloud. Actually the home owner can leave a set of rules in the cloud (in a smart home app) that tells the system what to do by what time: for example, turn on the heating or airconditioning, turn on the alarm, unlock the door when I am approaching the house, etc. This is what we often refer to as the “really smart home.” One day soon our homes will be as smart as our automobiles, as many of the applications that we use in our cars finally migrate into the home (Figure 1).

ZigBee: The Low-Power Wi-Fi

The key enabler for the smart home is the new wireless data communication standard called ZigBee. ZigBee is best

FIGURE 2 ZigBee and Wi-Fi differ primarily in data rate and power consumption. Both cover the entire home, transmitting through walls, floors and furniture and are secure and resistant to interference from outside radio sources as well as from each other.

described as low-power Wi-Fi, because it connects all the small devices in the home to the home gateway/router or set-top box, and then to the Internet. Just as with WiFi, ZigBee covers the whole home, penetrating walls, floors and furniture, but the big difference is that ZigBee consumes very little energy. With Wi-Fi in a thermostat (even in its most energy-friendly version), the battery life of the thermostat is measured in weeks at best. However, with ZigBee, the life of the thermostat can be measured in years, with the power initially stored in the batteries potentially exceeding the lifetime of the thermostat (Figure 2). This last characteristic is very important, because contrary to people being resigned to having to regularly recharge their smartphones, tablets and laptops every night, people will never put up with the chore of changing sentroller batteries on a weekly basis. To give an example, with the predicted 100 sentroller devices in the home and an average battery life of one year per device, one could end up

changing on average two batteries per week! This is just not practical. By using ZigBee, sentrollers can operate on a single battery charge for the life of the device.

MSOs: Multi-Service Operators

How will the smart home happen? Although we are quite used to Wi-Fi being very simple to set up, implement and connect to, ZigBee is not yet quite that simple. The reason is simply the imbalance between the need for user-friendliness/ease of installation on one hand, and the requirement for security on the other hand. For example, unlike Wi-Fi devices that often have a keyboard for entering a security key, small, inexpensive devices like thermostats or security sensors do not. And let’s face it, a smart home with a non-secure communication system is not very smart. So, the ZigBee Alliance is spending a lot of time to make this standard both secure and easy to use. Stimulating the move to the ZigBee connected smart home, many cable and satellite operators, as well as several teleRTC RTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE OCTOBER JANUARY 2013 2014



FIGURE 3 The smart home may include three different networks in the home, benefiting different objectives and servicing specific sets of applications. Wi-Fi and the ZigBee smart home target the customer and the cable TV/broadband service providers while smart energy primarily services the needs of the utilities.

com providers (usually grouped under the term MSO), are rolling out smart home packages for consumers at reasonable monthly rates to implement smart home systems—for instance, for home security/ monitoring, energy management, or for home care/assisted living. For such multi-service operators (MSOs), the next large revenue growth opportunity is in the smart home and making sure that consumers can buy reliable services that are installed for them, or that they can expand with products that are available on the shelves of large retailers. The MSOs are leveraging the advantage of ZigBee as the open communication standard, inviting many companies to develop systems, products and devices that will find their way into the smart home (Figure 3).

Smart Energy – Not So Smart

So, understanding the smart home, what is covered by it and the role that MSOs play; what then is so smart about smart energy? Frankly speaking, smart energy is a very confusing term, even considering the fact that there is a ZigBee smart energy variant. And personally, I would like to drop the term smart energy as soon as possible, because there is nothing “smart” about smart energy. That is because energy, whether it is



electricity or gas, is something that we buy from utilities and preferably we want to buy at the lowest prices. Also energy is expensive, both from a dollar perspective, as well as from an ecological foot print. As consumers we want to consume as little energy as possible, while still living a secure, convenient and comfortable life. Unfortunately this objective is not aligned with the objective of a utility to sell as much energy as possible, at the highest price acceptable. Utilities are forprofit organizations, so we cannot blame them, and we should not. However, relying on utilities to help us to save energy is not logical: they have no logical economic incentive to help the consumer. So, what about all the smart meters that are rolling out and the differentiated rate plans that we sign up for? These plans are not for helping us to consume less energy, but instead, they are designed to stimulate the consumer to use more energy at the times of day that utilities would prefer us to, and less energy at the times of day that there is a generic high demand for energy, e.g., when our factories are running. Differentiated rate plans are there to stimulate the consumer to help utilities to save money, and they are happy to share some of the gains with the consumer by giving discounts at appropriate times. Let’s explain this further. The grid

is a very sophisticated and sensitive fabric that gives us a reliable voltage on the outlets in our home, as long as our energy consumption is within defined boundaries. But lately the utilities are coming under pressure to become more flexible. In the first place, there are more and more solar panels and wind turbines that can generate surplus energy that they are forced to absorb into the grid. This is not something utilities are very happy about, but because of political pressure they have no choice. To understand this, I love the comparing this with beer. Think about applying this to homegrown beer, which is normally for personal use. But if you happen to have a surplus, the big brewery you normally buy from would be forced to take your surplus from you, and pay you for it too. Wow! The big brewery is now responsible for your distribution and even liable to fix quality problems of your product. Add the growing emergence of hybrid/electrical cars. This is not a big problem for utilities, unless everyone at the end of the day, at the same time, starts to recharge their cars, blowing the neighborhood’s fuses. Yes, life at the utilities has its challenges. Actually, the solution may be to make sure that not everyone is recharging at the same time, spreading this out nicely over the night is very useful.


However, that would require the utility to take some control over who is charging and when, although this control does not have to be absolute. As long as a utility can make sure that the grid is not suddenly overdrawn, increasing demand can be smoothed out with the pace that extra energy generation capacity can supply. This concept of demand side control is a very important factor for utilities to control their costs, increase profits and make their shareholders happy. From an ecological perspective this is also a good thing, because utilities are wasting a lot of energy in a concept that is called “stand-by” power. As mentioned, the grid is a very sensitive fabric and to be able to manage sudden surges in demand and to keep the gird stable, power generators need to be constantly operating, running in idle mode, producing energy that is “leaked into the ground,” but which can be thrown onto the grid when the demand is there. So therefore, managing energy consumption at the demand side to smooth out sudden increases allows the utilities to reduce their stand-by power and overall saves energy.

So What Do the Utilities Want to Control?

From a utility perspective, there are only a few devices in the home that are interesting to them, that is, only a few that would make a difference for them if they can control them. One already mentioned is the recharging of cars, but to these we can add the use of the air-conditioner, the freezer and the heating of the pool. All the other devices in the home use too little energy to be bothered with. The smart home actually is a very remote concept for utilities. To put it bluntly, it does not make a difference for them. Utilities also have some other challenges: securing the privacy of usage data and making the stealing of energy as difficult as possible. Both challenges translate into very serious requirements on the security of the smart meter and the data communication to and from the smart meter. As a result, utilities prefer to keep the data communication around the smart meter and the smart grid as closed as possible, and to bring the information back to the secure environment of their own servers. Utilities are happy to share with

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you your personal usage data: just log into their secure websites and look at how much you are using for the maximum four devices plus your overall consumption. As you can see, smart energy is a concept for the utilities to guard the quality of the grid, to save energy and overall to save costs that the utilities are willing to share to a certain extent with the consumer. If that is what you want to call “smart,” that is fine, just don’t think that it makes the energy usage any smarter! On the other hand, the smart home is a concept that is driven by the MSOs and that they sell to enable the consumer (among other things) to save energy and to reduce their energy bill, while living more comfortably. ZigBee plays a role in both areas—smart energy and the smart home—but no surprise, these are two different forms of ZigBee that in practice do not and should not mingle!

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Managing Networked Small Devices

M2M Communications – There Is a Better Way For controlling simple devices connected to local networks and also accessed via the Web, simplicity is the best approach. by Wilfred Nilsen, Real Time Logic


f you had walked into any call central office 30 years ago, you would have found a server machine and a host of dumb terminals complete with busy data operators handling the data. Fast-forward past that to PCs with their distributed intelligence, and suddenly the server was out of fashion and PC sales soared. Powerful local work stations were now the way to go, and the central server was cast aside for a peer-to-peer arrangement. You find a similar chain of events in industrial automation. The wood pulp production facility 30 years ago sported a central controlling device supervising all operations. Somewhere in the control room, a DEC PDP-11 or similar with its flashing lamps on the multitude of I/O cards kept tabs on sensor inputs in order to control dumb actuators and valves from one central point. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication provides the industrial parallel to the boom of the PCs. M2M and its distributed intelligence is the rage, with the related demand for all devices—sensors, valves, actuators or whatever—to communicate to all other components on an equal footing. Today’s current hype is attempting to get the sales off the ground. The benefits of distributed intelligence, we are told, are clear. This is the dawning of an age when manufacturing equipment, airport baggage handlers, escalators and domestic appliances become



FIGURE 1 In a poll-based HTTPS system, only the client can connect and send asynchronous messages to the server.

capable of alerting their service providers before failure occurs. Retailers can now be routinely informed of every item in their stock, its source, its whereabouts and its destination. Extensive climate control and smart energy systems provide realtime feedback that optimizes even the most power-hungry processes. And, there is no shortage of vendors looking to help to make this halcyon vision reality. Open your favorite browser, type M2M, and look through the high ranking search results. Repeated references to the “Cloud” and “extremely flexible M2M pricing plans” promote the belief that the fully distributed intelligence of independently Cloud-communicative

devices is the only way to achieve these goals. Many companies would have you believe that the ideal solution for your state-of-the-art wood pulp plant is to use Cloud services for all actuators and sensors, where the online services are based on web services and communicating via the hypertext transfer protocol over secure sockets layer (HTTPS). But is that really the case? The HTTPS solution incorporates several good features. M2M communications are secure, can use HTTP authentication, and can typically traverse outgoing firewalls. However, the cost of M2M development and system overhead rises sharply when all devices are fully intel-


FIGURE 2 The handshaking sequence for the three protocols TCP/IP (blue), SSL(red), and HTTPS (green) is extensive. The more frequent the polls, the greater the overhead on the server.

ligent and also HTTPS communication savvy. In addition, the poll-based nature of HTTPS makes for a very inefficient protocol. A better, more economical approach reserves multidirectional communications for nominated supervisor devices and restricts slave sensors to a limited set of communication options. And, nothing is lost. This approach offers no less information since all nodes are accessible from outside the local network. The simple slave devices require less development, lower component costs, and the overhead cost of Cloud access and its associated “pricing plans” is then limited to the supervisors. Let’s take a closer look.

proach of universally applied, poll-based HTTPS. To understand why, first consider how a poll-based HTTPS system works. Only the client can connect and send asynchronous messages to the server (Figure 1). The server cannot send an unsolicited (asynchronous) message to the client, but must wait for the client to connect. In our wood pulp system, the actuator client opens a connection and asks the server for a command, the server responds, and the client closes the connection. This sequence repeats indefinitely with the client asking if it should move the actuator, and the server responding yes or no. Simply put, in a poll-based HTTPS system, the server cannot simply tell the actuator to move. Instead, the actuator has to repeatedly ask (poll) whether it is time to do so. Of course, most of the time the answer is “no”—but the overhead of the server repeatedly saying “no” to many actuators that do not need to move inevitably delays responding “yes” to those that do. You may think that sending a simple HTTPS message from the device and receiving a simple HTTPS response from the server does not impose a lot of protocol overhead. However, under the hood, each communication involves a long sequence of commands sent between the client and server (Figure 2).

A standard TCP/IP socket connection avoids this overhead. By definition, it is persistent, meaning that once the communications channel is open, it stays open. This persistence removes the need for synchronization. More importantly, it can also handle simultaneous bidirectional messages, so clients can “listen” for instructions without having to poll for them. Imagine a car journey to a theme park where the kids don’t ask “are we there yet?” once every few seconds, but instead wait quietly to be told when they have arrived. The TCP/IP solution offers a similar advantage over poll-based HTTPS—and what’s more, it is much easier to arrange than quiet kids! This solution may be implemented entirely locally to the plant, but the more likely scenario is that we will want the cool Internet access boasted by the HTTPSbased M2M sites. In that case, the client device will need a “listen server,” and the communications protocol will need to permit the penetration of firewalls and proxies. By applying a protocol that starts out as HTTPS to overcome the security issues and then morph into a secure persistent socket connection to remove the polling overhead, we arrive at a solution that offers the best of both worlds as depicted in Figure 3.

M2M and Poll-Based HTTPS Make an Unhappy Couple

These dumbed down slaves clearly offer the potential for significant cost savings. What’s much less obvious is that their more restricted communications implies a second advantage of much better responsiveness than the much lauded ap-

FIGURE 3 With IoT and M2M, many companies propose that all actuators and sensors use the Cloud to provide the web services that communicate over HTTPS. In contrast, an application server, such as Real Time Logic’s Mako Server, offers a simpler protocol that generates a persistent connection via TCP/IP and offers fast, predictable response times and much reduced costs.




Applying the Theory

FIGURE 4 Providing local communications using dedicated low-cost local servers and optional external H2M communications via the Internet retains full functionality with reduced initial cost and lower ongoing overhead.

FIGURE 5 The C code in microcontroller-based actuators and sensors communicates using standard sockets with an M2M script application running on the application server. The human operator accesses the M2M web application via HTTP (local access) or HTTPS (remote/external access). The two scripts, the web application, and the M2M application running on the application server together act as the broker.



Let’s take a look at how this concept could be implemented in a typical industrial facility. As you can see in Figure 4, in a private plant network, the firewall protects the local network reducing the need for further sensor and actuator security measures. From the actuator’s perspective, the server fills the role of an application server local to the plant. The actuator can communicate with the server in real time with little network overhead and provide Internet access by initiating communication over HTTPS and then morphing it into a persistent and bi-directional TCP/ IP connection—that is, a socket connection on a local secure network. As well as filling the role of application server, the server also acts as a bridge between the local secure network and the Cloud—in effect, a server “broker.” External access to the actuator is only accessible via the server. The server is therefore responsible for providing the human presentation logic—that is, the data relating to the user interface—and no such presentation logic is required in the microcontroller-powered actuators. The plant’s firewall can be configured such that it enables access to the server, only permitting external users access to the web application(s) following secure login. The external user will not gain access to the local actuator before his/her credentials are accepted by the web application running on the server. Used in combination with a local secure network, the net result is that the actuator needs no extra security such as HTTPS and SSL. The server broker concept becomes an even more practical proposal when combined with an advanced web application server specifically designed to make the most of the limited resources found in such embedded environments. Such application servers enable developers to design the M2M communication and the human presentation logic in a scripting language, which optimizes the development process too. This results in an architecture and a tool chain that are efficient in terms of development time, hardware cost and overhead cost of access to the Cloud (Figure 5).


FIGURE 6 A ruggedized board, such as Mitsubishi Electric’s iQ Platform, is designed to operate in extreme, rugged environments, and the controller includes an advanced web application server that enables developers to design the M2M communication and the human presentation.

Shoring up for the Rugged Environment

When doesn’t this work? When you hit the rugged environment. In the hot, dirty, high-stress environment, the local application element of the server’s role means that we no longer have the luxury of isolating the electronics away from the harsh environment of our wood pulp plant, where the likes of a Raspberry Pi would not be well-suited to the extremely humid conditions. Clearly, you need to select the tool chain carefully. In extreme environments, select ruggedized industrial controllers designed for such environments that can deploy the same application servers, development environment and even application script as for the budget hardware solution. By doing this, you can run the same plant controller application script with any of these hardware solutions. Mitsubishi’s C Controller is one example of such a solution (Figure 6). Mounting on standard Q series hardware and

thus integrating seamlessly with other Q series CPUs (PLC, Motion, Robot, CNC), proven Q series I/O, networking modules and motion control cards, the C Controller CPU provides a flexible, reliable, readily expandable, rack-based PC-less solution as part of a multi-disciplinary automation platform. Since the Mako web application server comes pre-installed on the iQ Platform’s C Controller, it’s quick and easy to develop the web solution reliably, and to use the same web solution as may be used elsewhere in cheaper offerings such as the Raspberry Pi. Because M2M promises such a financial burgeoning, many typically largescale companies are attempting to elbow their way into what has been a traditionally small footprint space. While their initiative and investment speed the evolution of this technology, developers and system designers need to remember that these players are not accustomed to scaling down. They may not be promoting the most efficient options.

Certainly, the cloud is key to this M2M Internet of Things revolution in communication. But the optimal solution is unlikely to involve the indiscriminate application of Cloud-based communication for every device specified for every project. Keep your system simple and you’ll not only reduce development time and overhead, but your system will be more maintainable and less prone to failure. Real Time Logic Monarch Beach, CA (949) 388-1314




Using the Right Facial Recognition and Gesture Technologies for Digital Signage Recognizing and interpreting faces and gestures can add significant value to digital signage systems. Knowing which aspects to capture and classify is key to a successful implementation of what is becoming a natural user interface. by Allen L. Marks, Advanced Innovative Solutions


ooking in the Technology crystal ball, the future of digital signage and customer interaction will evolve into a “human-like” interface—one that is a natural integration of the human condition and the stoic computer. No more buttons or keypads; “face detection and gesture recognition” technologies are coming to a mall near you! With face detection and gesture recognition, it’s all about interaction and feedback. In human relationships, there is nothing more telling than posture and/or facial expression. So what could be more revealing or relevant than to integrate facial recognition, and/or gesture technologies into a digital signage system? The majority of current interfaces are artificial. These interfaces insert themselves between the human and the machine or content. These physical interfaces



come in many sensory forms and can be wired, wireless or visual (e.g., a camera). They can be physical buttons, keyboards, a mouse, digitizing tablets and pens, a wearable surface, touch pads and tablets. Every smartphone and tablet integrates a touch pad and voice recognition. Less physical but just as artificial are optical and wireless interfaces such as 2D/3D barcodes, QR codes, RFID tags, GPS and near-field communications (NFC). They have their value providing unique data but they are not the natural human interaction we are looking for. This is where gestural technology, facial and facial expression recognition along with face tracking (including Avatars) excels! Facial and/or gestural recognition provides a greater natural interaction than any other physical interface.

The Natural User Interface

A natural user interface (NUI) is a passive man-machine interface that is invisible to the user. It is “natural” because no artificial control device is required. Consumer examples include the Sony PlayStation Eyetrack, MS Kinect and the Logitech Quickcam. (VTCs have had face tracking and avatars for many years!) Gestural technology has been shown in movies like Minority Report and more recently has been integrated into many software products. An NUI requires minimal learning and is instantaneously successful through the interactions and feedback the user experiences. “Natural” refers to the user experience that involves interacting with the content rather than with the interface. For digital signage, the future includes an NUI. Why? Because it requires no remote hardware and no tactile device. It is noninvasive, subtle, and the information collected is extremely valuable. Gesture recognition is the interpretation of human face or hand gestures via computer algorithms. Computer algorithms have successfully been used to interpret sign language; however, the identification and recognition of posture, gait, proxemics and human behaviors is also the subject of gesture recognition. Gesture recognition is a way for computers to understand human body language. Gesture recognition enables humans to communicate with the machine and interact naturally without any mechanical devices. This could potentially make devices such as a mouse, keyboard and even touch screen obsolete. There are many forms of gesture recognition. Gesture recognition includes non-text handwritten symbols, such as drawing on a graphics tablet, multi-touch gestures and mouse gestures. Gesture recognition is useful for processing information from humans that is not conveyed through speech or type, but can easily be identified by computers. Examples include: sign language recognition, socially assistive robotics, directional pointing, facial gestures, immersive game technology and remote control.


IR Emitter (4) Camera

Display Screen



Camera Cable

Video Cable

Average User Height (6’ or 1.8m)

Shuttle FIGURE 1 GestureTek’s WallFX Interactive Wall Projection System.

Multi-touch is a technology that enables a natural user interface. In 2006 Jefferson Han demonstrated Perceptive Pixel at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, where he showed a variety of means of interacting with onscreen content using both direct manipulations and gestures. He showed that user interaction could be much more intuitive by doing away with the interactive devices we are used to and replacing them with a screen that is capable of detecting a much wider range of human actions and gestures. 3D Immersive Touch is defined as the direct manipulation of 3D virtual environment objects using single or multitouch surface hardware. These technologies have influenced the broader adaption of surface and touch-driven hardware such as the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android tablets. Gesture recognition can be enhanced with hardware technology, but then it is not natural. Examples include webcams, depth-aware cameras, stereo cameras, mouse, pen, keypad, gyration mouse and Wii remote. Although one camera may not be as good as two, the software algo-

rithms are getting better. Gesture recognition using a standard 2D camera can detect robust hand gestures and hand signs, as well as track hands or fingertips. To integrate the NUI with gestures, the OpenNI framework has an open source SDK used for the development of 3D sensing middleware libraries and applications. The OpenNI website provides an active community of developers, the tools and support. Prime Sense has devel-

oped 3D sensors that implement a natural interaction. Gesturetek has developed multiple hardware and software systems that perform gestural and motion detection, point to control, multi-point touch and voice control along with software that easily integrates with digital signage. One example is in the MS Kinect. Another example is the WallFX Interactive Wall Projection System (Figure 1). Interknowlogy created the Touchless Operating Room (TOR) app. TOR allows a user to interact with data without touching but by waving and by voice (using Kinect.) Both Interknowlogy and Actus have developed software that integrates multi-touch, voice and gesture into Digital Signage applications. There are many ways to interpret a gesture from data. Most of the techniques rely on key points in a 3D coordinate system. Gestures can be detected based on the relative motion of these points. In order to interpret the gestures, one has to set up a taxonomy to classify in the message what each movement expresses. A taxonomy for Human-Computer Interaction has been proposed by Quek in Toward a Vision-Based Hand Gesture Interface. He presents several interactive gesture systems in order to capture the whole space of the gestures: manipulative, semaphoric and conversational. Other sources define two approaches in gesture recognition: one based on a 3D model and another based on an ap-

Spatial Gesture Models Appearance-Based

3D Model-Based Skeletal




Deformable 2D Templates

Image Sequences


FIGURE 2 Two spatial gesture models with their variants.




FIGURE 3 Face detection in its various forms involves locating objects and their relative positions and then subjecting them to algorithms for interpretation.

pearance-based model. The first method makes use of 3D information of key body parts in order to obtain several important parameters like palm position or joint angles. The appearance-based systems use images or videos for direct interpretation (Figure 2). A facial recognition system is a computer application for identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or video source. Typically this is done by comparing selected facial features from the image and the database. Face recognition is far from perfect. Conditions where face recognition does not work well include poor lighting, sunglasses, long hair, or other objects partially covering the subject’s face, low resolution images, facial expression and even viewing angle. A facial recognition system is only as good as the dataset it references. Woody Bledsoe, a pioneer in facial recognition, described the following difficulties: “This recognition problem is made difficult by the great variability in head rotation and tilt, lighting intensity and angle, facial expression, aging, etc. Some other attempts at facial recognition by machine have allowed for little or no variability in these quantities. Yet the method of correlation (or pattern matching) of unprocessed optical data, which is often used by some researchers, is certain to fail in cases where the variability is great. In particular, the correlation is very low



between two pictures of the same person with two different head rotations.” Boston’s Logan Airport ran two tests of facial recognition systems at its security checkpoints using volunteers. The system only had a 61.4 percent accuracy rate, leading airport officials to pursue other security options. Face detection can be regarded as a specific case of object-class detection. In object-class detection, the task is to find the locations and sizes of all objects in an image that belong to a given class. Early face-detection algorithms focused on the detection of frontal human faces, whereas newer algorithms attempt to solve the more general and difficult problem of multi-view face detection (Figure 3).

Not all of these technologies have value to digital signage. Facial recognition is fine when you have a database of customers to track—and there are much better ways to track customers. Face detection and face tracking provide the greatest value integrated with a digital sign, because of the value of the feedback in relation to the content displayed. In a digital sign system, it is more important to detect and track a face than to recognize whose face it is. When viewing content, knowing what is being looked at and how the viewer is reacting is of great value to advertisers and retailers. A webcam can be integrated into a digital sign and detect a face that walks by. It can then track where the face

FIGURE 4 Examples of different lip expressions that can be used to interpret various emotions or reactions.


is pointing, how the viewer is reacting, measure engagement and provide valuable data that can be integrated with and/ or manipulate the content. The system can determine the race, gender and age range of the face. Once the information is collected, a series of advertisements can be played that are specific to the detected race/gender/age. An example of such a system is called OptimEyes and is integrated into the Amscreen digital signage system. Facial motion capture is the process of electronically converting the movements of a person’s face into a digital database using cameras or laser scanners. This is commonly used to produce computer graphics (CG) computer animation for movies, games, or real-time avatars. Because the motion of CG characters is derived from the movements of real people, it results in more realistic and natural motion than if the animation were created manually. A facial motion capture database describes the coordinates or relative positions of reference points on the actor’s face. Three dimensional capture can be achieved using hardware and software such as from Zign Creations. A less sophisticated and inexpensive solution is the face tracking software included with the Logitech family of PC cameras. Another application is an overlay (glasses, hat, mustache), that is attached to the camera’s image and tracks the facial motion. Of even more value in a digital sign system would be to understand a viewer’s emotional state. Facial expression capture, which is similar to facial motion capture, is the process of using visual means to recognize emotions from a user. Expressions add more valuable data than just directionality. In a more advanced system, lip reading will provide even more data than just an expression. It will be like mind reading! Using digital cameras, the user’s expressions are processed to provide the head pose, which allows the software to then find the eyes, nose and mouth. The face is initially calibrated using a neutral expression. Then the eyebrows, eyelids, cheeks and mouth can be processed as differences from the neutral expression. This is done by looking for the edges of

the lips for instance and recognizing them as a unique object (Figure 4). The Sony PlayStation Eye and EyeToy use computer vision and gesture recognition to process images taken by the digital camera. This enables a natural user interface and allows players to interact with games using motion and color detection. According to Sony, the facial technology can identify features such as eyes, mouth, eyebrows, nose and eyeglasses. It can read the shape of the mouth and detect a smile. It can also determine the position and orientation of the subject’s head and estimate the age and gender of the face Kinect is a motion sensing input device from Microsoft (Figure 5). It enables a natural user interface using a webcam, gestures and spoken commands. The device features an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software. These provide fullbody 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition capabilities. Kinect also includes a depth sensor that consists of an infrared laser projector and a CMOS sensor. The Kinect SDK allows developers to write Kinecting apps in C++/CLI, C#, or Visual Basic .NET.

The Digital Signage Connection

In digital signage systems, the pot of gold is “dwell time.” The longer a customer interacts with content, the greater the retention and impact. However, you can’t just put splashy displays out there without a purpose. You need to determine what users want and need. You need to have a “business case,” and then select a technology. In retail, it’s all about “eye time” and interacting with a product that generates sales. There is 30 percent more assimilation of a digital sign over a conventional sign when using motion, animation, or video. The value proposition in digital signage is to make valuable relationships between the human actions and the display’s purpose (way finding, product display, menus, program schedules, etc.). The physical interface of people and computers must evolve to the natural user interface. And with a NUI, minimal additional computer hardware is required—actually, just a camera. The real intelligence is in the algorithms that translate the facial ex-

FIGURE 5 The Kinect from Microsoft is used by its Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles to let users interact with their systems using gestures and voice commands instead of a game controller.

pressions or the gestures into commands. Creating new data sets can be leveraged for knowledge in marketing and product analytics. Both of the gestural and facial recognition NUIs have their respective advantages and applications. Gesture technology is very effective for making conscious selections, indicating directions, responses to queries, to menus and for answering questions. Face recognition, face tracking and facial expression provide even more interaction and information. They can tell us who is looking at the content, what content or what part of the content draws the most eyes, count how many eyes are looking and for how long. They can even tell us how the viewer feels about the content. And all of this data can be passively collected. Today’s user interface will become tomorrow’s digital signs. The world will be made up of smart, connected digital spaces. It’s all about the content and the environment it is in. But don’t forget, look for the value proposition for the user. Encourage user engagement. Identify the ideal user experience. Consider the customer in the environment. Then create the magic! Advanced Innovative Solutions Oak Brook, IL (630) 573-1050 Digital Signage Expo, Feb. 11-13 Las Vegas, NV




Finding the Right Modular Platforms to Satisfy Ongoing Digital Signage Deployment Requirements Developers of digital signage and advertisers alike must consider the importance of standardized solutions. As technology features and capabilities advance, they must be easily integrated in new selections of modular hardware platforms designed to address specific digital signage deployments. by Satish Ram, Kontron


he use and implementation of digital signage continues its pervasive track as more and more companies realize the benefits of quickly delivering targeted messages with the ability to change these messages in real time. Digital signage systems also continue to advance to offer more engaging, dynamic and interactive content, making these deployments increasingly adaptive and relevant. Customers have reacted positively to receiving product information when they need it, which also enhances their experience from start to finish. Basic, mainstream and high-end signage markets continue to grow, which is demonstrated by the number of large multinational suppliers increasing their signage product portfolios. While most OEMs see that retail is the biggest market segment to support, healthcare, transportation, banking, corporate and even



FIGURE 1 Kontron’s KOPS i7 4700QE based on 4th generation Intel Core i7 processors is an OPS-compliant Slot-in PC that combines improved performance with Full HD crisp playback. It also features a wide range of connectivity options, including 2x USB 2.0, SD Card, RJ45 and Mini DisplayPort, so it can be easily integrated into network architecture.

education are seen as growing markets as well. Because of the demand to make digital signage increasingly intelligent, sophisticated and interactive, greater emphasis is placed on powerful dedicated digital signage systems and the hardware and software technologies integrated in them. This, however, is not a market willing to allocate high budgets for these capabilities, so solutions must be kept costeffective. In addition, there is a wide array of deployment options for advertisers that span higher-end connected, multi-display, multi-location systems all the way down to basic single-unit systems. From a hardware perspective, the diverse needs of this market cannot be supported with a “one size fits all� approach. For this reason, x86-based systems give the flexibility in application and operating system needed and support the content management systems most employed in digital signage.

Satisfying Ongoing Requirements

Key to successful digital signage system deployments are reliable, long-life, interoperable and easily configurable components that can be easily integrated with software and licenses. The selection of the right components and the design process can take months before the system is ready for a user to create content. Furthermore, system scalability has become a concern where previously installed systems cannot integrate easily with a newer system. This was due to an absence of standards and technology frameworks that are necessary to avoid proprietary systems. Standards eliminate the unwarranted challenges for application and content developers to continually come up to speed on new platforms. The lack of standards also affects advertisers themselves, who need the ROI benefits of standardized connected solutions that can deliver actionable data such as real-time analytics with message effectiveness/results, or that can gather important audience metrics. Without a standards-based ecosystem and framework, it is simply more difficult for companies to manage or expand a cost-effective network of digital signs and then have them


FIGURE 2 Whether it is intended to build a brand, influence customer behavior or simply provide information, the dynamic visual experience created by digital signage should ultimately increase sales.

integrate with the cloud or to back-end office systems. Intel initiated the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) and its Intelligent Systems Framework, allowing developers to standardize digital signage development. The OPS for media player hardware has become widespread, if not a de facto standard. Interchangeable by design, the growing ecosystem of OPS-compliant devices easily networks with other devices while enabling faster development and simplified deployment of scalable and connected signage applications. Facilitating installation, maintenance and future system upgrades, the OPS specification defines modularized display panels and media players where an OPScompliant display provides a built-in slot for an OPS-compliant media player. The connection is made through an 80-pin JAE connector, resulting in a cohesive combined design that has a smaller footprint, reduces cabling and supports DisplayPort, USB and other popular industry interfaces. And now with the availability of modu-

lar OPS-compliant computing platforms, these solutions further streamline the design process by allowing designers to match the platform with the performance needs of a given signage system. An important element in satisfying ongoing requirements and speeding digital signage development is Intel’s Intelligent Systems Framework, which offers consistent interoperable hardware, operating system and tool guidelines for the broad range of connected components that make up digital signage. The framework includes leading-edge and innovative solutions from Kontron, one of Intel’s more than 250 Intelligent Systems Alliance members. Flexibility is enhanced with the ability to mix and match Kontron OPS-compliant platforms with a comprehensive array of framework-ready products for everything from cloud-based systems to simple media players. All these technology features enable access to actionable business data that can be gathered from customers so businesses can make more intelligent deci-

sions, while at the same time presenting relevant information to the audience. This data is essential for companies to target content to the viewer, which can be used to significantly increase profitability, and is one of the main reasons digital signage is pervasive and ongoing.

Value Add Capabilities

The latest high-performance processor-based platforms that integrate highend fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processors all the way to the basic Intel Atom, deliver more feature capabilities such as integrated graphics, advanced image processing and CPU to GPU acceleration. A prime example of value-add capabilities from the framework include Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), which is part of the Intel vPro technology supported by select processors. Integrating remote management capabilities is critical for the advertiser who must squeeze as much out of operating costs as possible and achieve quick ROI from the ability to maximize system uptime and RTC RTC MAGAZINE MAGAZINE OCTOBER JANUARY 2013 2014



FIGURE 3 Interactive whiteboards are a form of digital signage in schools that help increase the collaboration between students and teacher while also simplifying the sharing of content and results.

eliminate costly manned service calls. Platforms with integrated processors that provide high-definition (HD) video and 3D graphics capabilities give advertisers the compelling visuals needed to capture and retain a customer’s attention. Processor features like Intel Quick Sync Video and Clear Video HD enable these platforms to support advanced video technologies from mainstream codecs and multiple, simultaneous 1080p streams to enable crisp, jitter-free visuals. The processor’s graphics integrated in these platforms support DirectX 11 and can power multiple displays.

Modular Platforms Optimized for Diverse Signage Needs

Out of home advertising can display multiple advertisements subsequently on the same board and control multiple billboards or video walls from a single location on a real-time basis. The systems can typically handle advertisement changes according to the day and time as well as the demographics of the people viewing it. Supporting the top-end systems that offer maximum interactivity on multiple



simultaneous displays while also running the Intel AIM Suite of audience analytics, is Kontron’s KOPS i7 4700QE based on fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processors. This and other OPS-compliant platforms from Kontron can be managed remotely via wired or wireless connectivity options (Figure 1). Retail Point-of-Sale: Dynamic digital signage can literally grab the customer’s attention and influence the purchasing decision right at the point of sale. Retailers have the ability to change promotions and interact with customers to match their sales goals (Figure 2). For mainstream retail signage applications that need to offer dynamic messaging, rich media capabilities, multi-displays and interactivity, Kontron offers its Intel fourth-generation Core i5-based KOPS 4400E. This modular OPS-compliant unit supports remote management, multiple display control, Intel AIM Suite, wired and wireless connection options, and has the performance for interactivity. Using the modular OPS approach eliminates the need for separate power and cabling as it plugs into the rear of OPS-

compatible displays. There are also OPScompliant dock units that can be used with any of these platforms to connect up with cables to any non-OPS display. Transportation and Education: Enhancing the travel experience and reducing airline employee workloads, digital signage technology in airports is used for arrival boards and alert systems as well as check-in systems and advertising. Similarly, implementing digital signage systems in the classroom adds value to the instructional process. From enabling remote video classrooms to interactive whiteboards, digital signage solutions for the education market make it easier for both teachers and students to collaborate and communicate (Figure 3). These types of more mainstream and sometimes basic designs are categorized by a single viewer per screen and single source video/ad content that must operate at the lowest power and at lower price points. So, many transportation and education digital signage systems can benefit from the proven and successful Computer on Module platforms that have been adopted by display and software vendors.


This small form factor, low-power approach lets developers offer quiet solutions for many space-constrained or public environments where these features are valued. A basic OPS-compliant platform such as the Kontron KOPS N2600 provides an optimal solution to drive singlescreen applications. It integrates the Intel Atom N2600 2x 1.6 GHz processor to help educational institutions meet the lowest power and cost goals.

Managing and Measuring Provides More Control

Companies are finding that it can sometimes be a difficult undertaking to manage their digital signage infrastructure and its supporting software. Helping to simplify this process, Intel developed its Retail Client Manager (RCM), which is an intelligent software solution for managing content and devices across consumer digital touchpoints. The Intel RCM software solution is processor agnostic and similar to a traditional client management system (CMS) that provides an easyto-use interface to help end-users create campaigns and branded content. The Intel Retail Client Manager allows companies to manage or customize every element of their digital marketing content remotely and in real time. Used in conjunction with Intel AMT, advertisers can create content using any combination of video, images and sound control for everything from individual screens and dedicated channels to entire networks. Helping to deploy marketing content more cost-effectively, without high distribution and printing costs, Intel RCM gives advertisers a new range of flexibility to plan, create, reuse and target campaigns and their duration. On the measurement side, Intel Audience Impression Metrics (AIM) Suite technology lets advertisers anonymously screen audience metrics such as gender, age and length of viewer attention so they can disseminate relevant content for individual viewers and at the same time track ROI. The Intel AIM Suite relies on platforms that integrate Intel processors along with small optical devices connected to the digital sign. Viewers are identified using millions of pixels per second, and then the software anonymously aggregates this

data in the form of defined audience metrics. Consumers can be assured of anonymity because no images or video are recorded and no individual identification data is collected by the Intel AIM Suite audience detection algorithms.

Enabling Digital Signage Now and in the Future

The broad range of flexible and modular OPS-compliant platforms helps streamline the design process for developers and makes it a much easier decision for companies to adopt digital signage technology. The ongoing digital signage technology evolution also enables advertisers to confidently build and manage larger digital signage networks. The development and deployment process is further streamlined by integrating OPScompliant and Intel framework-ready modular platform solutions. This approach provides the interoperable and scalable digital signage hardware workhorses developers and advertisers need for proven performance, connectivity, control and manageability, and rapid expansion. The availability of new technology and features provides the actionable business data that is critical for allowing businesses to make more intelligent decisions. Data and message control are the essential elements that enable companies to increase sales and brand awareness and also reduce the time, effort and costs associated with customer communications. There is no doubt that technology advances will find their way into digital signage. Future trends such as near-field communication (NFC) in smartphones will make physical to digital connections easier for advertisers, allowing them to leverage explosive mobile marketing opportunities. And, digital signage analytics are poised to make huge jumps in predictive analysis using big data to enable new services and revenue streams. Kontron Poway, CA (888) 294-4558




TECHNOLOGY High-Performance PICMG 1.3 Solution for Machine Vision and Industrial Control

A new PICMG 1.3 full-size System Host Board (SHB) is equipped with the fourth generation Intel Core processor—at core speeds up to 3.5 GHz—combined with the Intel Q87 Express Chipset. The NuPROE42 from Adlink Technology provides high-speed data transfer interfaces such as USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbit/s. With dual-channel DDR3 1333/1600 MHz memory up to 16 Gbytes in two DIMM sockets, the NuPRO-E42 SHB is suited to applications requiring multi-tasking capabilities, high computing power and high-speed data transfer rates such as industrial control, machine vision and automation. The Adlink NuPRO-E42 SHB is a ready-made solution addressing the need of machine makers and system integrators for a reliable, industrial grade, high-performance computing platform for automation applications, including those used in printed circuit board (PCB), LED and semi-conductor fabrication plants, and by solar, printing, surfacemount technology and laser cutting service providers. These applications require powerful embedded computing products with PCI Express for frame grabbing, and high performance processing power to reduce cycle times. The NuPRO-E42 SHB enables fast time-to-market by offering full compatibility with industry frame grabber cards, with flexible PCI Express expansion options for frame grabbing, PCI expansion options for motion capture and I/O ports, and fourth generation Intel Core processors for outstanding computing power. The NuPRO-E42 provides a wide range of storage, I/O and expansion connectivity, including 1 PCIe x16, 4 PCIe x1 and 4 PCI, 6 COM ports, 12 USB ports (6 USB 3.0) and 4 SATA 6 Gbit/s supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 1+0 by Intel Rapid Storage Technology. The PICMG 1.3 SHB also provides multiple PCIe/PCI expansion capability, integrated Intel HD Graphics and both VGA and DVI-I display options. ADLINK Technology, San Jose, CA. (408) 360-0200.

FIND the products featured in this section and more at



Rugged Multi-Head Next Generation Graphics Display Module

A new highperformance embedded graphics module is designed for use on deployed airborne and ground vehicle platforms and meets the long lifecycle availability required for military programs through use of a suite of CoreAVI software drivers supported with a 20-year component supply program. The VPX3-716 3U OpenVPX six head graphics display card from Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solution is its first based on AMD’s next generation embedded Radeon Adelaar GPU. The rugged VPX3-716 module’s large complement of dedicated video memory, combined with its very high bandwidth, make it attractive for use in demanding graphics-rich applications that require extensive video processing and display capabilities. The VPX3-716 is especially well-suited to support embedded training, moving maps, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), 360 degree situational awareness, Diminished Vision Enhancement (DVE) and other graphics and video-intensive applications. The highly rugged VPX3-716 3U OpenVPX module delivers unmatched performance and flexibility. When combined with a processor mezzanine in the XMC site, the module provides the highest performing rugged graphics capability in a single 3U slot. It features six independent graphics outputs, 2 Gbyte of dedicated video memory and H.264 MPEG4 motion video decoders, making it ideal for use in a wide variety of ground and airborne environments. For example, the VPX3716 graphics engine delivers the graphics processing horsepower, large video memory and the very high CPU-to-Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) bandwidth needed to efficiently run today’s embedded training software applications. The VPX3-716 is supported by CoreAVI’s suite of embedded software drivers, including OpenGL graphics, OpenCL compute driver and H.264/MPEG 2 video decode drivers. The CoreAVI software drivers are designed to enable advanced graphics and video support on all popular real-time and safety-critical operating systems including Wind River VxWorks, and on customer proprietary platforms. For applications that require safety certification, CoreAVI’s software suite includes FAA RTCA DO-178C and DO-254 certification packages that simplify and speed time-to-market and enable long-term availability through the company’s 20-year component supply programs. Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions Ashburn, VA (613) 254-5112


New Stamped CPU Heat Sink Improves Air Convection A newly developed Stamped CPU Heat Sink series from Assman WSW is a combination of “CROSS-CUT” and “Finger-Shaped heat sinks.” The series is available at distributor Rutronik as of now. An advantage of the new CPU heat sinks is an improved air convection of up to 5% because of nonsimultaneous heating from one cooling fin to the other. The result is a better heat exchange between the various “hot and cold” air layers. Designated holes in the T=3mm base plate will optimize this exchange as well. The stamped CPU heat sinks are manufactured from AL5052 aluminum alloy. They are ideal for cooling devices such as PGA, BGA or other high power components, because replacing an overheated component can be cost-intensive and complicated or nearly impossible. Other advantages are the additional mounting options and numerous modification possibilities. The stamped holes in the base plate can optimally be used to mount the heat sink on the PCB via “Push Pins.” It is also possible to use solder pins to attach the heat sink on the PCB. Single- or double-sided thermal adhesive tape is included and custom notches in the heat sink can be attained through modifications of the tool. Rutronik, Inspringen, Germany. +49 7231 801-0.

Xilinx Virtex-7 FPGA-Based XMC and VPX Modules Two high-performance FPGA processing modules are now available in industrystandard XMC and 3U VPX form factors. The COTS XPedite2470 3U VPX and XPedite2400 XMC modules from Extreme Engineering Solutions utilize the Xilinx Virtex-7 Family of FPGAs to merge high throughput, configurable I/O and DSP-level processing with high thermal efficiency. The combination of highend signal processing and high-speed Analogto-Digital or Digital-to-Analog conversion makes the XPedite2470 and XPedite2400 attractive solutions for demanding RF signal acquisition, SDR and DSP requirements. These modules can utilize the VITA 49 VITA Radio Transport (VRT) protocol, which provides an industry-standard framework for formatting the data of a digitized IF stream. This enables interoperability and simplifies system integration because, prior to the release of VRT, each receiver manufacturer would implement its own proprietary digitized formats. Additionally, VRT data can be carried over commonly used industry-standard protocols, such as Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, Aurora, Serial RapidIO (SRIO) and Serial Front Panel Data Port (S-FPDP). The XPedite2470 is a configurable, 3U VPX-REDI, FPGA-processing module that provides eleven high-speed GTX lanes to the backplane and eight high-speed GTX lanes to an on-card FMC site. The XPedite2470’s FMC site provides numerous I/O expansion

capabilities, allowing access to single-ended or differential I/O, configurable GTX transceivers and high-frequency Digital-to-Analog Conversion (DAC) or Analog-to-Digital Conversion (ADC). The XPedite2470 includes a Freescale P1010 QorIQ processor for additional signal-processing or general-purpose capabilities. The compact XPedite2400 is an FPGAbased XMC module that includes a high-speed DAC, 2 Gbyte of DDR3 SDRAM, a Gen3 PCI Express interface, and up to ten high-throughput GTX lanes. The module’s integrated DAC supports a 14-bit resolution and a sample rate of up to 2.5 Gsamples/s. The analog interface can be accessed via MMCX connectors from the front panel. The XPedite2400 supports 32 LVDS signals through its P14 connector for additional connectivity. Extreme Engineering Solutions, Middleton, WI (608) 833-1155.

Removable Memory Cartridge Houses 2.5" SATA Drives with 100,000 Insertion Cycle Connector

A family of rugged housing units eases the deployment of removable industry-standard high-density SATA solid state drives (SSDs) into embedded systems for defense and aerospace applications. Each Vortex Removable Memory Cartridge (RMC) holds a single industry-standard 2.5” SATA drive and features a non-proprietary, long lifecycle 100,000 insertion cycle connector. Vortex RMCs provide system designers with an open-standard, flexible approach to add secure removable high-density storage to their deployed compute platforms. Because Vortex RMCs are designed for use with standard SATA solid state drives (SSDs), they ease technology refresh and reduce the risk of obsolescence. The Vortex RMC is available un-populated, already integrated with a SATA drive specified from Curtiss-Wright’s selection of “best-in-class” offerings, or Curtiss-Wright can consult with the system designer to identify the specific SATA drive available in the market that meets their unique mix of density/encryption/sanitation/performance requirements. RMCs are also offered in fully integrated Curtiss-Wright data transport subsystems such as the Vortex Data Transport System (DTS) and VRD1 Video Management System. Available in a wide range of memory densities up to 1 Tbyte (2 Tbyte density models are scheduled to be available in 2014), RMCs enable the system designer to select the drive type that best suits their lab development or rugged deployed requirements, including SLC NAND Flash, eMLC NAND Flash or MLC NAND Flash SSDs. To ease removal of the compact, shirt-pocket sized RMCs during missions, Curtiss-Wright provides the units with a handle specially designed for use with gloved hands (i.e., Nomex flight gloves). Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions, Ashburn, VA. (613) 254-5112




Quad PHY Interface Enables Rugged Multiport I/O-Link Masters

Shelf Manager Support for PICMG HPM.2 and HPM.3

An I/O-Link master IC combines a power and communications interface to four remote I/O-Link devices (slaves). A rugged interface and rich feature set make the LTC2874 from Linear Technology suitable for larger systems implementing I/O-Link (IEC61131-9) in harsh, industrial environments. Managing four slaves per master IC, the LTC2874 reduces board space, design complexity and costs while increasing reliability. Unique features of the LTC2874 include automatic Wake-Up Request (WURQ) generation and an output supply current-boosting capability for slave start-up. The WURQ generator produces self-timed wake-up pulses of correct polarity, reducing demands on the microcontroller. Safety mechanisms manage multiport and repeat WURQs to prevent thermal overload and maintain error-free communication. The current-boosting pulse generator fully implements the start-up current pulse requirements added to the I/O-Link v1.1.1 specification. The LTC2874 adds robustness and reliability to the physical interface specified in the I/O-Link standard. The onboard hot swap controller and external N-channel MOSFET in the power interface protect connected devices from inrush currents during start-up and fault conditions. Integrated ±50V blocking diodes in the data line interface protect against faults and high voltage excursions, making it well-suited for the harsh PLC environment driving cables up to 20m long. The data lines withstand ±8kV HBM ESD without latchup or damage; all other pins are protected to ±6kV HBM. A SPI interface allows host configuration and monitoring of multiple parameters including input supply voltage, output power good status and fault events. Programmable controls for hot swap current limit foldback, circuit breaker timers, noise suppression filters and current sinking add flexibility for communication and fault handling in various systems.

HPM.2, the LAN-attached IPM Controller specification, was adopted by PICMG in August 2012 and standardizes how xTCA management controllers can attach to an in-shelf LAN. HPM.3, the DHCPassigned Platform Management Parameters specification, was adopted in November 2012 and covers how the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) can be used, on an implementation-independent basis, to efficiently assign controller parameters such as network addresses. The new specifications standardize functionality that was already implemented in many xTCA ecosystem products. Now, ecosystem participants and customers can leverage interoperability among independent implementations of these specifications, which also add advanced features that were not previously available for LAN-attached management controllers. Leveraging and strengthening this interoperability, Polaris Networks’ ATCA Tester compliance test product now includes tests for HPM.2 and HPM.3 requirements. The HPM.2 emphasis in the 3.3.0 Shelf Manager is on enabling HPM.2 usage by boards and modules in a shelf, especially for diagnostic and maintenance purposes. Key examples of such usage include IPMI messaging trace collection, extended serial over LAN access and higher speed firmware upgrades using the PICMG HPM.1 protocol. In these uses, the emphasis is on external entities, such as HPM.1 upgrade agents or serial over LAN clients, establishing HPM.2 LAN sessions with management controllers. With the 3.3.0 release, the Pigeon Point Shelf Manager on the ShMM-700R also supports the option for an FPGA-based radial implementation of the main ATCA management bus, IPMB-0. The flexible ShMM-700R radial IPMB-0 architecture allows a range of price/performance choices and is capable of supporting up to 32 separate logical IPMB-0 segments.

Linear Technology, Milpitas, CA (408) 432-1900.



A new release of the Pigeon Point Shelf Manager adds support for the PICMG HPM.2 and HPM.3 specifications, complementing corresponding support in the Pigeon Point Board Management Reference (BMR) products, which was delivered in April 2013. Release 3.3.0 now also includes radial IPMB-0 support for the ShMM-700R, the fourth generation of Pigeon Point’s Shelf Management Mezzanine (ShMM) products that are already installed in tens of thousands of ATCA shelves, worldwide.

Pigeon Point Systems, Oceanside, CA (831) 438-1565.


Motherboards to Meet Diverse Performance Needs of Medical Applications

A standard Flex-ATX board with two EN60601-1 compliant isolated Ethernet ports offers a long-term availability of seven years, and in addition to the isolated LANs, includes two DVI interfaces to drive medical imaging tasks on two HD monitors. The performance of the

KTQ67/Flex-MED motherboard from Kontron is scalable across the complete range of the powerful dual-core and quad-core desktop CPUs from Intel’s third generation Core processors, making it easy to tailor the motherboard to a broad range of individual performance needs. The medical motherboard targets graphics- and/or processingintensive medical applications found in nearly all healthcare environments ranging from diagnostic work stations through to computers in operating theatres, at nursing stations and in consulting rooms, right up to bedside applications. Such systems are often connected to PACS or other hospital information systems (HIS). In OEM equipment this motherboard will be deployed as a back-end processing block and as a GUI controller for a variety of medical devices including stationary and semi-mobile ultrasound scanners, MRI and CT. The Kontron medical motherboard KTQ67/Flex-MED is based on the Intel Q67 System Controller Hub and offers up to 32 Gbyte DDR3 RAM. It connects two independent displays via DVI. Apart from the two isolated Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, it also offers 12 USB 2.0 interfaces. Storage media can be connected via the 6x SATA interfaces (4x SATA150/300 and 2x SATA600) with SW RAID support (RAID 0/1/5/10). For expansion cards, PCIe x16, PCIe x4 and PCI 32bit (2x) slots are available. A multi-purpose feature connector supports up to 160 GPIOs. To achieve excellent signal qualities and optimize electromagnetic compatibility, the KTQ67/Flex-MED is based on more PCB layers than are normally found in conventional consumer motherboards. Intel’s Active Management Technology 8.0 is supported for remote management and easy maintenance, resulting in higher system availability and lower overall costs. With the availability of these medical motherboards in volume production, sourcing and configuration for system integrators and hospital IT departments become an even easier and more convenient task. To deploy a medical PC, customers only have to choose an appropriate standard housing to finalize their individual system configuration. There is no longer any need to add an extra add-on card or to cover the cost of a customized board design in order to obtain galvanic isolated Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and EN13485-compliant manufacturing documentation. Kontron, Poway, CA. (888) 294-4558.

Modular Mission Computer Provides Custom I/O

A fanless, rugged mission computing platform combines an innovative, highly configurable structure with Intel’s fourth generation quad or dual Core processor. The compact F-Series PCIe/104 Platform from Elma Electronic features custom I/O panels, expandable sidewall modules and a host of application-specific PC104e I/O expansion cards. The F-Series Platform can be easily modified to take on additional I/O including video compression and frame grabbers, ARINC and 1553 cards, Ethernet and Ethernet switching plus FPGA and GPGPU processing. The new F-Series Platform takes full advantage of Intel’s fourth generation quad or dual-core processor and all its capabilities, including the 8-series QM87 PCH chipset, making the system useful where multicore processor performance is needed in spaceconstrained, rugged or extended temperature environments. By combining a suite of high-speed I/O with a high-performance HD4600 graphics engine, the F-Series enables unparalleled performance for countless applications. These include radar and sonar processing; image signal processing; hyperspectral imaging; tactical command and control; surveillance and reconnaissance in defense; transportation, mining and industrial applications. The rugged system platform incorporates a thermally conductive base as well as ribbed sidewalls and fins to provide convection and conduction cooling for superior thermal management. The mission computer, which can withstand external temperatures of -40° to +70°C, is designed to meet MIL-STD-810F, ensuring reliable performance in high shock and vibration applications. Offered in three different modular chassis sizes to fit different configuration environments, Elma’s new F-Series Platform ensures optimal performance while meeting SWaP requirements. Elma Electronic, Fremont, CA. (510) 656-3400.

FIND the products featured in this section and more at




Low-Power COM Express Module Family Boasts Powerful Graphics

A new COM Express module family is based on the AMD Embedded G-Series system-on-chip (SoC) platform. The Type 6 MSC C6C-GX computeron-modules from MSC Embedded offer a powerful graphics and multimedia performance with low power dissipation. The family will be available with four different quad-core and dualcore processors: AMD GX-420CA (2.0 GHz, 25W TDP) and AMD GX-415GA (1.5 GHz, 15W TDP) with four CPU cores each and dual-core variants with AMD GX-217GA (1.65 GHz, 15W TDP) and AMD GX-210HA (1.0 GHz, 9W TDP). The processors support AMD64 64-bit ISA technology. The chipset is integrated into the SoC. Furthermore, the SoC contains the on-chip Radeon HD 8000 Series GPU including a hardware video decoder (H.264, MPEG4, VC-1, WMV) and the VCE 2.0 video compression engine (H.264, SVC). The innovative graphics controller supports DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2. The COM Express MSC C6C-GX modules support two independent displays. These can be connected via Digital Display Interface (DP 1.2, DVI, HDMI 1.4a) with resolutions of up to 4096 x 2160, an Embedded DisplayPort 1.3 with 2560 x 1600, LVDS or VGA. Flexible connectivity is assured by three PCI Express x1 channels, PCI Express graphics (PEG) x8, two USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0 ports, LPC, Gbit Ethernet, HD audio, a microSD card socket and two SATA interfaces at up to 3 Gbit/s are available. The main memory can be expanded to 16 Gbyte dual-channel DDR31600 SDRAM via two SO DIMM sockets. MSC Embedded, San Bruno, CA (650) 616-4068. www.mscembedded

Fiber Optic Junction Boxes Protect Optical Links in Harsh Environments MR398-JB series Fiber Optic Junction Boxes are designed to join two fiber optic cables and environmentally protect the connection. The product provides system designers with a turnkey solution for installing optical interconnect «hard points» as part of a complete cabling solution for the Micronor MR320/MR330 series fiber optic rotary and linear encoder systems. Additionally, the prod-



Advanced Graphics and Security Capabilities on AMC Processor Card.

A new AMC processor card represents a new solution for the fourth generation Intel Core processor (formerly codenamed “Haswell”) with Mobile Intel QM87 Express chipset and is designed for use in aTCA or MicroTCA systems. The PRM-130 AMC Processor Card from JumpGen Systems features the 22nm Intel Core i5-4402E processor with Intel 8 series chipsets (based on Intel’s 3D tri-gate transistor manufacturing technology) along with dual Intel 82599 10 Gigabit Ethernet network port and the Intel Ethernet Controller i350 with integrated graphics controller. It can be delivered with up to 16 Gbyte of 72-bit wide DDR3 ECC memory running at 1600 MHz and 128 Gbyte of onboard bootable SSD. The PRM-130 is compliant with PICMG AMC.0 Revision 2.0, Mid-Size or Full-Size form factor standards. Options also include dual channel XAUI, XAUI+PCIe, or single PCIe to backplane. Merging to provide a scalable AMC solution that simplifies the development environment—accelerating time-to-market and delivering valuable cost savings—there are three notable developments in the PRM-130 AMC Processor Card: 1) Intel’s improved security instructions for Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), 2) Intel’s significant graphics and CPU performance improvements, and 3) JumpGen’s highperformance 10 Gbyte Ethernet network card design. The PRM-130 AMC Processor Card includes Mini DisplayPort interface and Mini USB (host on the front panel). The integrated frontpanel video-connect on the PRM-130 platform eliminates the need for an external controller, making it ideal for medical imaging, military automation, advertising and industrial control systems. JumpGen Systems, Carlsbad, CA (760) 931-7800.

ucts can be used for generic harsh environment fiber optic cabling applications—including mines, cranes, oil rigs, steel mills and industrial processing plants. These products uniquely allow the link designer to use less expensive, non-environmental connectors (such as the LC, SC and ST) in harsh environments while providing sealed, environmental protection. This approach offers a tremendous cost savings over the use of military-style harsh environment fiber optic connec-

tors such as TFOCA, GHD, PHD and 38999. The junction boxes are designed to seal the incoming cables while accommodating varying diameters of optical cable that might be used in the field. The junction boxes have a maximum temperature rating of -40° to +100°C and provide IP65 ingress protection—or else are limited by the fiber optic cable and connectors used. Micronor, Newbury Park, CA (805) 499-0114.


Rugged System Offers Additional I/O Options to Meet Edge Application Requirements  

A complete, rugged small form factor system is both fanless and fully enclosed and provides efficient thermal management in a small 5.5 x 8.5 x 3.5-inch (139.7 x 215.89 x 88.89 mm) form factor weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). The next-generation Computer Brick Alternative COBALT system from Kontron leverages the company’s hardened COM Express Computer-on-Modules (COMs) and optimizes the latest Intel x86 architecture. The Kontron COBALT provides additional tightly coupled mezzanine features, a ruggedized compact carrier board and System Interface Board (SIB) that give customers increased I/O options to meet specific edge application requirements. This modular and flexible platform matches ongoing development demands in applications such as rail transportation, military (ground, ship, avionics, unmanned), commercial avionics, oil & gas, outdoor communications or anywhere small high-compute platforms are required. It is designed to meet severe environment operational demands in many industries. The IP67 chassis is designed to operate reliably in a multitude of conditions including extreme temperatures, shock, vibration and EMI. Powering the Kontron COBALT base system is a third generation Intel dual-core-based COM Express Type 6 module that features ECC, rapid shutdown design and 100% extended temperature screening with the option of removable or fixed SSDs and/or fixed mSATA storage. Windows, Linux and VxWorks operating system and software support packages are also available. The carrier board design maximizes the system’s capabilities while minimizing its overall size and meeting higher temperature and shock and vibration conditions.

1U Rackmount Network Security Appliance Offers Choice of Customized Configurations

A family of 1U rackmount network security appliances offers great platform security and a maximum of 32 Gbyte memory with its error correcting code (ECC) option. The new CAR4020 from American Portwell features fourth generation Intel Core processors and Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v3 family (codenamed Haswell) based on the 22nm manufacturing process and Intel C226 Chipset with up to 24 GbE ports. In addition, CAR-4020 appliance also supports up to 32 GbyteDDR3 ECC or non-ECC un-buffered DIMM; 4 x 2.5˝ HDD storage space; modularized Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) and Lights Out Management (LOM) card design; single ATX, DC and redundant power supply; brand new LCD design, EZIO-340 with integrated serial console, USB and management ports; PCI-E 3.0 and USB 3.0; and high scalability and flexibility via expansion capability of three network modules. The CAR-4020 enables additional platform security through the new Intel Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) and Intel Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI). It is the ideal solution for Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Firewall, VPN, Load Balancing, WAN Optimization, Unified Threat Management (UTM), IP Routers, Web Security Gateways and as an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Network Access Controller (NAC). American Portwell, Fremont, CA (510) 403-3399

Kontron, Poway, CA. (888) 294-4558.

VITA 67 RF Tuner System with Intel Core i7-Based VPX Processor

A fully integrated OpenVPX-based (VITA 65) SDR development system features VITA 67 RF connections. The XPand1202 from Extreme Engineering integrates one XPedite7470 3U OpenVPX Intel Core i7-based SBC, up to four DRS SI-9138 3U VPX VITA 67.1 dual-channel RF receivers and one DRS SI-7138 3U VPX VITA 67.2 RF frequency reference module. This completely standardsbased system also includes OpenVPX Ethernet and PCI Express (PCIe) switches, as well as an OpenVPX backplane with 3U VPX VITA 62-compatible power supply slots. The XPand1202’s VITA 67 RF connectors enable the SI-9138 and SI-7138 to access sensitive analog signals directly through the backplane. This simplifies module installation by removing the need to manually connect cables between payload modules after they are inserted. It also reduces system size, weight

and power (SWaP) by eliminating the extra space needed for routing these cables between the front panels of the installed modules. The SI-9138 modules utilize their stateof-the-art dynamic range and phase noise performance to analyze the system’s incoming RF waveforms and digitize them using a 16-bit ADC sampling at 128 MHz. The digitized waveforms are time-tagged and formatted using VITA 49 Radio Transport (VRT) and are then transported on the backplane via a high-throughput x4 PCIe interface to the XPedite7470 SBC for processing.

The installed modules communicate with each other over an OpenVPX backplane using both PCIe and Gigabit Ethernet. PCIe is utilized for sending high bandwidth data between the SI-9138 RF receiver modules and the VITA 48 REDI XPedite7470 SBC, and it is routed through the OpenVPX XChange3012 PCIe switch. Gigabit Ethernet is used for sending command and control messages between the payload modules and is routed in the backplane as a dual-star configuration from each payload module through two separate 3U VPX Ethernet switches, the XChange3012 and XChange3011. The XChange3012 can provide a switched SerDes 1000BASE-X port to each payload module slot, while the XChange3011 provides a switched 1000BASE-T port to each payload module slot. Both of these networks could be accessed outside of the system through external Gigabit Ethernet ports from the switches. Extreme Engineering Solutions, Middleton, WI. (608) 833-1155.




Inductance-to-Digital Converter Offers New Solutions for Position and Motion Sensing

Texas Instruments (TI) today unveiled the industry’s first inductance-to-digital converter (LDC), a new data converter category that uses coils and springs as inductive sensors to deliver higher resolution, increased reliability and greater flexibility than existing sensing solutions at a lower system cost. Inductive sensing is a contactless sensing technology that can be used to measure the position, motion, or composition of a metal or conductive target, as well as detect the compression, extension or twist of a spring. The LDC1000 from Texas Instruments supports applications for inductive sensing that range from simple push buttons, knobs and on/off switches to highresolution heart rate monitors, turbine flow meters and high-speed motor/gear controllers. Given their versatility, LDCs can be used in many different markets, including automotive, white goods, consumer electronics, mobile devices, computing, industrial and medical. LDC technology enables engineers to create sensors using lowcost and readily available PCB traces or metal springs. LDCs provide high-resolution sensing of any metal or conductor—including the human body. Thus LDCs provide system designers with a new platform for developing breakthrough solutions to difficult system problems. Key benefits of LDC technology include higher resolution, which enables sub-micron resolution in position-sensing applications with 16-bit resonance impedance and 24-bit inductance values. They help ensure increased reliability by offering contactless sensing that is immune to nonconductive contaminants, such as oil, dirt and dust that can shorten equipment life. Their greater flexibility allows the sensor to be located remotely from the electronics, where PCBs cannot be placed. The LDC technology also offers lower system cost since it uses low-cost sensors and targets and does not require magnets. This also

Gigabit Ethernet Module Offloads Main Processor

A high-performance Gigabit Ethernet TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) module allows the user’s embedded processor or FPGA to be dedicated entirely to the application for maximum efficiency. With the proprietary protocol chip GigExpedite handling the whole TCP/IP stack at over 100 Mbytes/s in each direction, the ZestETM1from Orange Tree Technologies relieves the CPU from handling TCP/IP at Gigabit speed and saves considerable processing power. Use of a separate dedicated TCP/IP engine frees up the embedded processor or FPGA for the application’s function. The added benefit of this is that a smaller and lower-cost processor can be used for the main application. The ZestETM1 offers application designers and companies a simple ready-to-go high-speed Ethernet data interface solution, saving them the headache of having to get to grips with the complexity of TCP/IP or creating their own Ethernet interface. Highly adaptable, the ZestETM1 interface can be configured to one of four modes: 8- or 16-bit SRAM-style bus, FIFO, or “bit bang-

enables almost limitless possibilities because it can also support pressed foil or conductive ink targets, offering endless opportunities for creative and innovative system design. In addition, the LDC1000 consumes less than 8.5 mW during standard operation and less than 1.25 mW in standby mode. Tools and support are also available. They include the LDC1000EVM, which includes an MSP430F5528 microcontroller (MCU to evaluate the device) and can be purchased today for $29.00. System designers can create a custom sensor coil and configure the LDC in seconds with TI’s new WEBENCH Inductive Sensing Designer. The online tool simplifies the sensor coil design process and provides configuration settings for the LDC based on the coil’s characteristics, application requirements and system performance needs. The optimized design can be easily exported to a variety of popular CAD programs, to quickly incorporate the sensor coil into the overall system design. The LDC1000 is available to order today in a 16-pin, 4-mm by 5-mm SON package for $2.95 in 1,000-unit quantities. Texas Instruments, Dallas, TX. (972) 995-2011.

ing.” The SRAM-style bus modes are similar to an SRAM interface with the application writing and reading ZestETM1. The FIFO mode has two separate 8-bit channels streaming in each direction to and from ZestETM1. The innovative “bit-banging” mode enables another device on the network to write or read up to 32-bit values to or from an attached device. There is also a low-speed serial interface, which can be configured as either an SPI slave or a UART. This allows a low-performance processor to control ZestETM1 while the high-speed data interface is connected to the application data path such as FPGA, ADC, DAC or bus transceivers. A separate SPI master interface can be used, for example to configure an attached FPGA or processor. The TCP/IP engine in GigExpedite runs at 10/100/1000 Mbits/s and delivers over 100 Mbytes/s sustained in each direction. It implements the following protocols: TCP/IP, UDP, ARP, IPv4, ICMP, IGMP, PTP and HTTP. For real-time applications, Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and SyncE offer time of day and a 125 MHz clock synchronized across the network to other network devices. Orange Tree Technologies, Oxford, UK. +44 01235 838646.



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Company Page Website Advanced Micro Devices, Inc............................................................................................. 52................................................................................................ Congatec, Inc..................................................................................................................... 4.............................................................................................................. Digital Signage Expo.......................................................................................................... Dolphin Interconnect Solutions............................................................................................ 2.......................................................................................................... DVCon.............................................................................................................................. Embedded World 2014...................................................................................................... Grey Matter Consulting and Sales...................................................................................... 48................................................................................................... Interface Concept.............................................................................................................. Lauterbach........................................................................................................................ 12........................................................................................................ MSC Embedded, Inc........................................................................................................... One Stop Systems, Inc.................................................................................................... 8, Trenton Systems................................................................................................................ 51................................................................................................. Product Showcase............................................................................................................. 29........................................................................................................................................

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2-In-1 System

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