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Full-On Development Suite Targets Industrial Automation Medical Devices Merge Intelligence with Connectivity Temperature Considerations for Critical Solid State Storage The Magazine of Record for the Embedded Computer Industry

10 24 32

Vol 16 / No 3 / MARCH 2015

COM Modules Grow in Variety and Capability

An RTC Group Publication


CONTENTS

The Magazine of Record for the Embedded Computing Industry

EDITORS REPORT

MENTOR’S EMBEDDED PLATFORM

10

Mentor Graphics Debuts Comprehensive Embedded Suite for Industrial Automation by Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief

TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS

COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY

14

14 COM Modules—Sorting Out the Variety

by Dan Demers, congatec

20

DEPARTMENTS 06

EDITORIAL

Latency and System Architecture: Looming Issues for Design within the Internet of Things

07

INDUSTRY INSIDER

37

PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

Latest Developments in the Embedded Marketplace

Open Standard Computer On Module Choices in 2015 Optimize Intelligent Systems and the Internet of Things Rich COM Express Options and SMARC Alternatives Add Complexity to Design Strategies by Peter Müller, Kontron

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT: MEDICAL SYSTEMS— INTELLIGENCE PLUS CONNECTIVITY

24

HPEC Expansion Appliances Save Time, Cost and Space in Embedded Medical Applications by Mark Gunn, One Stop Systems, Inc.

Newest Embedded Technology Used by Industry Leaders

28

How mHealth Will Change Your Life by John Koon

INDUSTRY WATCH

CHRACTERIZING SOLID STATE DRIVES

32 24

The Affects of Industrial Temperature on Embedded Storage by Scott Phillips, Virtium Technology

Medical Systems—Intelligence Plus Connectivity RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 3


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Editorial Office Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief 1669 Nelson Road, No. 2, Scotts Valley, CA 95066 Phone: (831) 335-1509 tomw@rtcgroup.com Published by The RTC Group Copyright 2015, The RTC Group. Printed in the United States. All rights reserved. All related graphics are trademarks of The RTC Group. All other brand and product names are the property of their holders.


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EDITORIAL

Latency and System Architecture: Looming Issues for Design within the Internet of Things by Tom Williams, Editor-In-Chief

Does anybody remember real time? Well, of course we are all aware that many systems have timing deadlines and issues of “determinism.” In other words, there are certain timing restraints governing the response to inputs that can be critical to a system’s operation. To put it in the classic sense, “The right answer late it wrong.” But there is another saying that, “Real time is real time enough.” In other words, if you get the right reaction to an interrupt reliably within whatever time constraints apply, you can claim to be real time. But there was a time not so long ago that designing systems had engineers pouring over interrupt responses to make sure they always resulted in the right answer within the right time with no anomalies. Tools were used that could graphically depict interrupts and their responses. And such tools, of course, still exist and have even been greatly improved. But for some reason we hear less talk and read fewer papers and articles on the topic. I think that part of this may simply be due to the vastly increased performance of today’s processors. We would not have rich operating systems such as Linux making such inroads into embedded systems if the silicon power were not available to override many of the potential timing problems. That’s not to say that there ae not development projects today that do not demand the same close attention to timing as before, but they are definitely fewer in number. And that is most certainly not to say that there are fewer issues of timing facing developers in this brave new world of the Internet of Things. It is hard to go to anto y industry event or company without hearing almost everyone chattering about “IoT, IoT”. But in the words of the old spiritual, “Half the people talkin’ ‘bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there.” 6 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

What has come to be called the “Internet of Things” has been quietly evolving for some time pretty much on its own. But now that we have a name for it, we start seeking a definition and that leads to preconceived notions of how devices and systems are to be designed to fit into this vast, interactive environment. Such devices have to simultaneously be specialized enough to achieve their intended functions and also general enough to have the interfaces, protocols and connectivity software to fit in seamlessly. The IoT inevitably consists of a great number of connected devices and systems united for a specific purpose but still within the connected universe. Needless to say, there are a great many ideas about how such interconnected systems should be configured to form an appropriate system architecture. For example, it is possible to simply connect large numbers of sensors and/or actuators to the Cloud and collect Big Data to analyze and act on. Most architectures consist of the edge devices (sensors, actuators and/or small automated devices with a fixed set of functions) that are connected to aggregation or gateway devices, which in turn connect to either enterprise servers or directly to servers in the Cloud. For some reason, we hear a lot about how users can manage systems via attachment from the Cloud to the gateway systems and how gateway devices can preprocess raw data for easier consumption up the line, but so far there does not seem to be any systematic treatment of how to decide which functions, analysis algorithms and decisions to put where. Why is this? It gets us back to the topic of real time and real time enough. The automated systems that were the focus in the past could be defined in terms of action and reaction under well-understood time constraints. Those

same kinds of systems are now connected within the IoT and newer ones are coming on line. Has there been any systematic analysis of the nature of time constraints on overall functionality given the structure and the latencies that are built into a censor-togateway-to-cloud architecture? For example, what decisions are so critical and well-defined that they should be left to a program on a gateway for action with, of course, notification to operators linked in via the Cloud. Which situations and decisions really require human input and what are the time windows that will allow sending data up to the Cloud, awaiting a human response—or a more sophisticated automatic response— and then communication back down to the device in question? In similar way, when does it make sense to send raw sensor data up to the cloud for collection and analysis and when would it be more practical to have a certain amount of analysis done at the gateway level not only for reaction to inputs, but also to reduce the data traffic going up. These are questions that involve not only timing, but also the availability of system resources, efficiency of code, available communications bandwidth and the specific functions and goals of the system. There really needs to be some analytic discipline to sort out all these factors and come up with a sensible data structure and system architecture that can meet the demands. But first we need to know what those demands are and for that we need an approach that not only allows us to find the answers but also to communicate and share the methods that allow specialists to collaborate on projects that are becoming increasingly vital to industry and society in general. So far there appears to be no such defined discilpline.


INDUSTRY INSIDER

Weightless-N Standard Evolves The Weightless SIG has announced that it has completed its first quarter Weightless-N Working Group conference convened to progress development of the new IoT specification for sub-GHz spectrum. Focused on timely execution and reporting rapid progress, the group reaffirmed its commitment to a Q2 2015 publication timescale for version 1.0 of the Weightless-N Standard. Work formally commenced on the development of the Weightless-N standard in the third quarter of 2014 after a comprehensive review of functional and parametric requirements for IoT connectivity technology in sub-GHz spectrum. Version 1.0 of the Weightless-N Standard will provide uplink connectivity based on Ultra Narrow Band technology enabling vendors to quickly offer product to the developer market; future iterations of the Standard will incorporate bidirectional communications. Meanwhile, the Standard supports frequency hopping to provide best-in-class interference tolerance and mobility support with work already underway within the sub group to assess the requirements for multi-country roaming. It also supports proven security regimes that incorporate well established shared key security protocols. Here, the Weightless SIG holds the master record of device identities and keys and collocated multiple network support integrated into the specification.

Rambus Partners with Microsemi to Resell Advanced Security Technologies to Government and Military Rambus has announced that Microsemi will serve as reseller for certain differential power analysis (DPA) technologies developed by its Cryptography Research division. This reseller agreement includes the DPA WorkStation and the recently-announced DPA Resistant AES cryptographic cores that offer chipmakers an easy-to-integrate solution to protect against side-channel attack vulnerabilities. Microsemi will focus its reseller efforts on the government and military sectors. The agreement also enables Microsemi to conduct training classes to help customers evaluate their vulnerability to DPA and related side-channel attacks, helping chip purchasers and downstream customers identify devices with the most effective security. Microsemi’s newest generation of SmartFusion2 SoC FPGA and IGLOO2 FPGA programmable devices are its most secure, boasting four key elements needed for secure programmable devices—secure hardware, design security, data security and being built through a secure supply chain management system. The Cryptography Research DPA Workstation and associated testing services complement these FPGAs from Microsemi, as well as the company’s existing portfolio of cryptography, anti-tamper and anti-reverse engineering IP products, including WhiteboxCRYPTO, CodeSEAL and EnforcIT. Side channel and DPA attacks involve monitoring the fluctuating electrical power consumption of a target device and then using advanced statistical methods to derive cryptographic keys and other secrets. Strong countermeasures to these attacks help protect tamper-resistant products used in a variety of applications outside of government and military verticals, such as banking, pay television, mass transit, secure ID, and wireless telecommunications.

STMicroelectronics Leads Project to Develop Next-Gen Optical MEMS STMicroelectronics will be leading the development of Lab4MEMS II, an extension that builds on the continuing success of the existing Lab4MEMS project, announced in April 2013. Lab4MEMS II focuses on Micro-Opto-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MOEMS) that merge MEMS with Micro-optics to sense or manipulate optical signals using integrated mechanical, optical, and electrical systems. The original project will maintain its emphasis on developing a pilot line for next-generation MEMS devices augmented with such advanced technologies as piezoelectric or magnetic materials and 3D packaging. Like its sister project, Lab4MEMS II is being launched by the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC) Joint Undertaking (JU), a public-private partnership in nanoelectronics. Lab4MEMS II is a €26 million ($30 million) project with 20 industrial, academic, and research partners spread across nine European countries. Building on the established foundation and successes of the first Lab4MEMS project, the extension features ST as the coordinating partner, offering its complete range of manufacturing, technical, and organizational competencies to guide Europe’s efforts to secure leadership in high-potential MOEMS. Lab4MEMS II is a Key Enabling Technology (KET) Pilot-Line project contracted by the ENIAC JU to develop technologies and application areas with substantial societal impact. The Pilot Line for Lab4MEMS II will expand ST’s operational 200 mm-wafer manufacturing facility in Agrate Brianza for even higher volumes, while adding optical technologies to the mix. Moreover, it would increase the know-how on those strategic enabling technologies while combining scientific skills and the ability to design and manufacture a wide range of smart micro- and nano-systems on silicon. Even so, the project will evaluate the potential benefits and impact of a future move to 300mm wafers. RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 7


INDUSTRY INSIDER MIPI Alliance Updates CSI Spec for High-Res Imaging, Richer Color and Video to Mobile The MIPI Alliance has introduced MIPI CSI-2 v1.3, a comprehensive update to its Camera Serial Interface (CSI) specification. The new specification enables manufacturers to use the CSI-2 interface to bring higher-resolution imaging capabilities, natural color representation and advanced video capabilities to smartphones and other wireless connected devices. The specification achieves these capabilities while keeping costs low and reducing power consumption to protect battery life. MIPI CSI-2 has achieved widespread adoption in the smartphone industry for its ease-of-use and ability to support a broad range of imaging solutions. The new release ensures compatibility to earlier versions of the specification so vendors can continue to use their existing product development infrastructure. The new interface also offers companies the opportunity to operate CSI-2 on either of two physical layer specifications from the MIPI Alliance: MIPI D-PHYSM, which CSI-2 has used traditionally, as well as MIPI C-PHYSM,

Mentor Announces Automotive Ethernet Support for its AUTOSAR Design Solutions

Mentor Graphics has announced the availability of Automotive Ethernet support in the Volcano VSA product for network design of both AUTOSAR-based and non-AUTOSAR electronic control units (ECUs). AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) is an open and standardized automotive software architecture, jointly developed by automobile manufacturers, suppliers and tool developers. Users of Volcano VSA are now able to develop and integrate networking functions in an AUTOSAR environment. Increasingly, in areas in which high bandwidth and reliable performance are essential Ethernet is being used. These include advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle network backbones, audio video bridging (AVB) systems, and diagnostic communication over Internet Protocol (DoIP). The Mentor Volcano VSA tool addresses the network-wide timing analysis challenges where a mixture of CAN, FlexRay, and Ethernet-based network busses co-exist. The AUTOSAR standard supports timing definition for all elements in a mixed-topology network. The Volcano VSA tool addresses the challenge of accounting for the many different timing paths. 8 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

a new PHY that MIPI Alliance released as v1.0 in September 2014. Products may implement CSI-2 solutions using either or both PHYs in the same design. MIPI C-PHY uses 3-phase symbol encoding of about 2.28 bits per symbol to transmit data symbols on 3-wire lanes, or “trios,” with embedded clocking, facilitating longer trace reach and maximizing camera port configurations on mobile platforms. MIPI CSI-2 v1.3 with C-PHY provides performance gains, increased bandwidth delivery of 22.7 Gbps over four lanes at 2.5 Gsps (Giga-symbols per second) for realizing higher resolution, better color depth, and higher frame rates on image sensors while providing pin compatibility with MIPI D-PHY. Popular imaging formats including 4K video at 30 FPS (frames per second) using 12 BPP (bits per pixel) may be delivered using a single MIPI C-PHY lane. Products implementing CSI-2 and D-PHY v1.2 can achieve a peak transmission rate of 2.5 Gbps over a single lane or 10 Gbps over four lanes. A 12 BPP, 30 FPS 4K video can be transmitted using two data lanes.

Molecular Breast Imaging Will Boost Breast Cancer Detection if Cost-Effective As breast cancer detection can be improved by Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) as an adjunct to mammography, in comparison with mammography alone, manufacturers must pursue cost-effectiveness to ensure its widespread adoption, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData. A recent Mayo Clinic study demonstrated that in women with mammographically dense breasts, an MBI exam supplementing a mammogram detected an additional 8.8 cancers per 1,000 women. This puts MBI at the top of breast cancer imaging adjunct techniques, which also include breast ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. In light of this new clinical evidence, Niharika Midha, MSc, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Medical Devices, says that MBI is a promising potential addition to a radiologist’s tool kit, as it addresses a significant unmet need for better detection methods for women with dense breast tissue. The Mayo Clinic study concluded that the combination of mammography and MBI increased the overall sensitivity to 91% and specificity to 83%. However, the analyst notes that while these clinical improvements create a strong case for the technology, budgetary concerns may pose a big barrier to its success. Midha comments: “In line with today’s procurement decisions, apart from clinical data, cost-effectiveness analysis plays a critical role in a technique’s widespread adoption.

Silicon Labs Acquires Bluegiga for Bluetooth ad Wi-Fi Connectivity Silicon Labs has announced the acquisition of Bluegiga Technologies, a privately held company based in Espoo, Finland. Bluegiga is a provider of short-range wireless connectivity solutions and software for the IoT. Bluegiga’s wireless portfolio includes ultralow-power Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Classic, and Wi-Fi modules, as well as software stacks, development tools and software development kits (SDKs) for a multitude of applications in the industrial automation, consumer electronics, audio, automotive, retail, residential, and health and fitness markets. This strategic acquisition significantly expands Silicon Labs’ wireless hardware and software solutions for the IoT. Bluegiga’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules, software stacks and development tools complement Silicon Labs’ 802.15.4 ZigBee and Thread mesh networking software, ultra-lowpower sub-GHz solutions, and wireless MCU and transceiver product offerings. The combined wireless connectivity portfolio and development ecosystem will enable Silicon Labs to address a broader range of market opportunities and customer needs. Together, Silicon Labs and Bluegiga offer customers a “one-stop-shop” source of standards-based wireless connectivity solutions including high-performance, long-range and ultra-low-power options. Following the acquisition, Silicon Labs will continue to operate in Espoo, Finland, as a center of excellence for wireless hardware and software technology development. The company will continue to develop, market and support a complete portfolio of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi module products and software stacks for customers worldwide.


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EDITORS REPORT MENTOR’S EMBEDDED PLATFORM

Mentor Graphics Debuts Comprehensive Embedded Suite for Industrial Automation Factory automation has made stunning advances since the introduction of the conveyor belt. Now with the ability to put multiple control applications on a single multicore processor and tie these into an Industrial Internet of Things, the power of cyber-physical systems in manufacturing are making huge strides, speeding production and transforming data into information for the enterprise. by Tom Williams, Editor-in-Chief

If factory automation began with the introduction of the programmable logic controller (PLC) back in the late 1970s, it has been rapidly developing with the spread of microprocessor and microcontroller-based devices ever since. There was a period when embedded controllers were designed to emulate PLCs, following a known path and building on legacy knowledge and methodologies. That has gradually faded away and today’s factory has developed into an increasingly complex, interconnected world of embedded controllers networked to each other and to supervisory systems and on up to the enterprise IT realm. But ever-increasing competition, the need for lower costs and higher efficiency along with concerns about security and reliability are pushing the developers of industrial automation systems to greater efforts. The emergence of the Internet of Things is having the effect of also creating the Industrial Internet of Things in which distributed, connected devices generate data that can be employed for the overall management of operations on up to the executive level and to serve customers as well. The need to increase efficiency and lower costs fortunately coincides with the availability of powerful multicore processors that can be used to aggregate functionality. Thus, what were once discrete devices, each with its own power source, can be combined into a single piece of equipment. This results in power savings, enhanced control and easier reconfiguration. Mentor Graphics is addressing these developments with its new Mentor Embedded multiplatform solution. The Mentor Embedded industrial automation solution was developed to address the growing challenges of building, extending, and maintaining embedded hardware and software for a variety of industrial automation products. It provides a way to integrate legacy applications, new technologies, comprehensive security architecture, and the latest multicore processors on the same industrial device (Figure 1).

10 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Figure 1 The Mentor Embedded solution for industrial automation is differentiated from other competitive offerings by its multi-platform approach and robust security architecture.

This convergence onto multicore processors allows the use of different applications on different cores with communication channels between them. The cores can be supervised with a hypervisor or used without one. Thus there can be a master application on one core with an HMI that can access some number of control applications using Mentor’s Nucleus RTOS on other cores and bring their operations up on the user interface display. Such consolidation on separate cores with a master communication channel also eases the task of updating or changing applications. Mentor has also adapted its Sourcery Codebench and Analyzer toolset to provide a unified development and debug


environment for the entire solution platform. Power reduction is also inherent in multicore architectures. Rather than speeding up the clock to increase performance, the multiple cores spread the work over parallel units. Thus consolidation inherently increases performance with minimal effect on power consumption. But beyond that, Mentor has implemented fine-grained power control in its Nucleus RTOS, which, according to Director of Product Management Warren Kirtsu, “provides a power management framework that allows you to manage not just the power states of the processor, but also all of the devices on the SoC.” With Nucleus power management, by knowing the dependencies among various on-chip peripherals, you can select certain devices to turn off while leaving selected ones on before putting the processor into sleep mode. This provides a finer-grained control of power consumption than simply waiting until there is no more activity among devices before going into sleep mode. Mentor’s framework also has multiple strategies available for implementing safety and security—which are different issues from security. The multicore platform makes it possible to separate applications dedicated to safety and security from the other control applications. This can be done by separating applications from each other and the operating system or by partitioning operating environments, memory and devices through the use of a hypervisor. Mentor also offers the Nucleus RTOS with an optional IEC 61508 safety certification called Nucleus SafetyCert. In some cases, a safety controller that is separate from the automation controller running the industrial processes could be used. This would involve a separate processor and safety applications monitoring, for example, sensors for pressure and/

Figure 2 The Mentor Embedded multi-platform approach provides a broad portfolio of embedded systems solutions for industrial automation from end nodes and the industrial enterprise to the Cloud. It enables the creation of feature-rich, power-efficient, connected, reliable, safe, and secure systems for the breadth and needs of industrial automation equipment manufacturers.

or temperature and independently controlling a relief valve or a shutoff switch. When it comes to security, Mentor has partnered with Icon Labs and its Internet of Secure Things Initiative, which includes its Floodgate family for developing secure, connected devices. The platform is designed to ensure that security is intrinsic to the architecture of the device itself and incorporates security management and visibility, device hardening, data protection and secure communications. These capabilities provide the foundation for the Industrial Internet of Secure Things. Natively securing the devices simplifies protection, audit, and compliance independent of the secure perimeter, reducing the need for expensive and complicated security appliances. In addition to the network security provided by Icon Labs’ Floodgate Security Gateway, security can be scaled down to devices for such things as catching penetration attempts that the device itself would be incapable of detecting. According to Icon Labs’ CEO Alan Grau, “Including security in these devices is a critical design task. Security features must be considered early in the design process to ensure the device is protected from the advanced cyber-threats they will be facing now as well as attacks that will be created in the future. By partnering with Mentor Graphics, we are able to offer a solution in which critical security elements are integrated into the operating system, ensuring security is a foundational component of the device.” Graphical user interfaces for embedded systems are now almost unanimously considered essential. Mentor’s framework has adopted the Qt graphics software for both its Linux and Nucleus environments. Quietly but surely, Qt has moved into a status of being almost an industry standard. For Linux, it has adopted the industry standard offering. For Nucleus, Qt has been enhanced with memory and performance optimizations and is scalable down to small and extremely low-power devices. It also comes with integrated tooling and instrumentation for debug and optimization making it particularly suited to spanning the range from small devices to the larger Linux environment. Graphical user interfaces have also evolved thanks to the emergence of tablets and smartphones. Users now tacitly expect almost any UI to behave like their familiar phones. Since Qt spans Linux, Android, iOS, Windows and a number of RTOSs including Nucleus, it is a natural for use in mobile and handheld devices that also communicate with the factory floor. Mentor’s platform, while comprehensive, is also modular. So developers can select the components they need. It provides developers with integrated and tested capabilities and features that enable equipment manufacturers to focus on strategic competitive differentiation across the spectrum of industrial devices (Figure 2). These include industrial controllers, process automation controllers, PLCs, data acquisition devices, and motor driver controllers, along with motion, vision, and SCADA systems. This enables convergence of the product features and capabilities necessary to increase profitability by minimizing footprint saving floor space and reducing the number of individual units. It also reduces power usage, lowering electricity costs RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 11


EDITORS REPORT MENTOR’S EMBEDDED PLATFORM and decreases downtime by assuring greater reliability as well as reducing security vulnerabilities.

High Performance Computing Embedded Applications The advent of what is being called High-Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC)—also explored in a section by that name in this issue of RTC— is bringing the capabilities of high-performance computing into the embedded world, enabling massive number crunching, rich interactive displays and other functions that were previously only possible on highend desktop machines. One example of how high performance computing has now come to the world of embedded computing is a military system developed by One Stop Systems. . HPEC Applications utilize similar computing elements as HPC applications but they may require more rugged packaging and additional I/O capabilities. Applications such as defense require high performance embedded computing appliances. In the defense industry, precision is vital. Because of this, defense applications such as geospatial visualization, Synthetic-aperture array radar (SAAR) and many others accumulate vast amounts of data. One Stop Systems has developed HPC appliances that can provide the compute power and storage capacity necessary to process and store this data. Geospatial visualization (geovisualization) applications, used by the military to create real-time mapping of the terrain, require high compute acceleration to provide necessary data quickly. Traditional static maps are helpful for getting around but on the battlefield, a map that shows real-time data is much more valuable for ground troops (Figure 3). The Blue Devil 2 program is an example of how geospatial visualization would help the military. Cameras in a blimp gather data, computers analyze the data quickly and then send it to troops on the ground. Today these calculations are performed with specialized software such as Eternix Blaze Terra or GeoWeb3d running on GPU cards, coprocessors, or FPGA cards. The military gathers vast amounts of information from a variety of sources that needs to be manipulated to generate the 2D and 3D mapping required by field operations. GPU cards, with thousands of cores each, offload the number crunching and image processing from the CPUs. SAAR is a form of radar that is used to create images of landscapes and other objects. The SAAR antenna is usually mounted on a moving aircraft or spacecraft that flies over the target region and uses the motion of the antenna to provide very detailed spatial resolution. The resolution achieved with SAAR is far more than is possible with traditional beam-scanning radars. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) employs the OSS Accelerator because it can accommodate demanding signal processing applications, such as those with high bandwidth input, high computational requirements, and high bandwidth output. Real-time image and radar processing (such as SAAR) are examples of this type of processing application. The High Density Compute accelerator can hold 16 NVIDIA GPUs, so it enables 12 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Figure 3 Satellite imaging combined with data from synthetic aperture array radar can produce real-time maps of terrain to help troops adapt to changing conditions.

the high performance signal processing chain to achieve much higher performance than it would get without accelerators. OSS compute accelerators support from one to sixteen double-wide PCIe cards and can be cabled up to four host computers through PCIe x16 Gen3 connections each operating at 128Gb/s. The all-steel construction chassis house power supplies, fans, and a system monitor that monitors the fans, temperature sensors and power voltages. For embedded applications, One Stop can custom design more rugged chassis to account for conditions found in embedded environments, such as a military Humvee in the desert. Front panel LEDs on the chassis signal minor, major or critical alarms. The compute accelerators are transparent and do not require software except for the drivers required by the PCIe add-in cards. Compute accelerators are the best appliance for applications like geovisualization and SAAR that require a large amount of compute power. Mentor Graphics Wilsonville, OR (503) 685-7000 www.mentor.com Icon Labs Des Moines, IA (515) 226.3443 www.iconlabs.com One Stop Systems Escondido, CA (877) 438-2724 www.onestopsystems.com


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TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY

Open Standard Computer On Module Choices in 2015 Optimize Intelligent Systems & the Internet of Things COMs continue their evolution, enabling a wider-than-ever range of small form factor performance options. For intelligent applications like connected healthcare and the Internet of Things, developers need to understand advantages and best fit in order to make ideal COM-based design choices. by Dan Demers, congatec

14 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015


Small form factor designs are found just about everywhere on the planet, playing an essential role in the intelligent systems that form the Internet of Things (IoT). Connecting people, equipment and services – and solving business challenges through the power of real-time data – these compact, sophisticated devices are enabling such things as healthcare anywhere, factory floor automation, sophisticated digital signage and safer, smarter transportation. Developers are fostering these advancements by delivering low power and high performance in a very small footprint, but they also face a challenge in keeping up with the fast and ongoing evolution of small form factor platforms. In a design universe where options include proven SBCs and stackable solutions like PC/104, perhaps no other small form factor arena has seen a pace of evolution as significant as Computer-on-Modules (COMs). Over the last 15 years, COMs have matured from a single-standard solution to a diverse slate of high performance platforms optimized for connected embedded applications. New standards have steadily improved and expanded design considerations based on price, performance and I/O. Current open standard COMs include COM Express 2.0, Qseven and SMARC – many supported by a global ecosystem of providers, and each with a best fit and purpose as a design platform for connected embedded systems.

Defining a COM

The COM platform consists of a CPU module with standard computing core functions, mounted on a carrier board with customer-specific functions and sizing for the end-use application. Think of the carrier board as a custom I/O card. Application customization has an enduring lifecycle by virtue of this two-board practice. Because the module can be switched out for higher performance without affecting the customization, the COM platform is highly scalable and upgradable for long-life industrial deployments. Switching to the most current processor advancements in reduced power consump¬tion and higher performance is a simple matter of swapping out the COM (Figure 1). With unlimited time, resources and budget, many designers would prefer to develop their own custom computer board with exact performance requirements. However, the challenge comes to light when resources are not unlimited, and product development must prioritize time-to-market as a competitive advantage. COMs provide an alternative to chip down designs, and allow developers to create their own custom carrier board as part of the platform solution. Instead of worrying about ultrafine pin grids and highly EMC-sensitive high-speed differential signals, OEMs can concentrate on their core competencies in application know-how and manufacturing, while purchasing the latest application-ready processor technology to complete their design. With engineering resources focused on system functions, designers benefit with reduced development costs and faster time-to-market. The ability to scale performance can enable broad product families, as well as fast reaction to market trends in performance requirements. Long-term designs are protected

Figure 1 The concept of the COM approach is to have the CPU and memory on one board that can be easily switched out and to have the more application-specific I/O circuitry on a carrier card.

with easy technology upgrades, including future-proofing that is further secured with a well-established global ecosystem for COMs technology.

Understanding the Evolution

ETX is the grandfather of current COMs technology; ETX modules are about the size of a postcard at 3.7” x 4.5” (95mm x 114mm) and incorporate four high-density, low profile connectors on the underside of the module. As the first formal COMs standard – introduced in 1999 and established by the year 2000 – ETX COMs have a solid global installed base primarily in industrial automation, followed closely by medical, transportation and gaming. The platform’s maximum Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 40 watts suits these applications, along with legacy-friendly support for both the ISA and PCI buses. ETX, however, is not considered an active platform for new development. Today there are no CPU platforms with native ISA support available. The ISA bus needs to be generated by a PCIto-ISA bridge. The bridge adds latency to the ISA bus and limits some ISA functionalities, but this is suitable for most legacy applications. In recent years, CPUs have also stopped supporting the PCI bus. Thus, ETX COMs utilizing the latest CPUs have to use two bridges in a row to generate the ISA bus signals. The PCI Express to PCI bridge followed by the PCI to ISA bridge adds significant cost and only provides a limited set of ISA functionality with a high level of added latency. Therefore, EXT modules are used primarily in legacy projects requiring ISA communications, providing an option to the PC/104 boards that also enable the decades-old ISA bus.

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 15


TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY

Figure 2 Three major form factors of the COM express standard.

COM Express Gains Real Ground

By 2003, silicon evolution brought the PCI Express (PCIe) bus into the mix. ISA was slow by comparison, and modules needed to support both PCI and PCIe. COM Express was the winning scenario, ratified by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) in 2005. Legacy-free COM Express is extremely scalable, accepting x86 processors from single-core, low power Intel Atom up to the high performance, quad core Intel Core i7. Using the same application-specific carrier board, developers can extend the life of systems by upgrading modules for better performance, create a next generation product using a more advanced processor, or take a market lead by introducing an entire product family at once. For instance, a large, stationary medical imaging device could use the same customization as a cart-based version of the same application; using even smaller COM Express COMs, the same design could be implemented as a handheld portable device. It’s this flexible range of performance that has given COM Express a significant market advantage – the standard has broad recognition worldwide, with rich ecosys¬tem and vendor support. Two sizes were initially defined by the specification – basic at 3.7” x 4.9” (95mm x 125mm) and extended at 4.3” x 6.1” (110mm x 155mm), as well as several ‘types’ which each represent different pin-out configurations using the standard’s two 220-pin connectors. In 2010, COM Express 2.0 made some overall improvements to the earlier specification, such as adding PCI Express Gen2 and Gen3 signaling for all PCIe lanes, adding optional support for SDIO using existing GPIO signals, support for HD audio, and reducing maximum TDP for Types 2-5 to 137 watts and to 68 watts for Type 1. Other significant improvements include the removal of TV out and PS/2 key/mouse and the addition of SPI, I2C multi master support and USB client feature. COM Express 2.0 also formally adopted the compact size of 3.7” x 3.7” (95mm x 95mm), reflecting the ongoing evolution toward 16 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

integrated chipsets and smaller system-on-chip (SoC) designs. Two new connector pin definitions, Type 6 and Type 10, were also introduced to allow for technology upgrades. Type 6 builds upon the highly successful Type 2, maintaining the same basic or compact footprint while upgrading functionality for three digital display interfaces, 6 PCI Express lanes, two serial ports, fan control, lid switch, TPM physical presence signal and enabling USB 3.0 in four of eight available USB ports. PCI and IDE signals have been traded for a complete PEG port implementation which is no longer multiplexed with the digital video signals. The Type 10 is also gaining popularity, building on Type 1 to use just one of the standard’s 220-pin connectors to optimize module display interfaces for future designs. Type 10 also added two optional 2-wire serial ports and reduced storage and I/O bandwidths down to two SATA interfaces and four PCIe links. These features are highlighted in the 2.1 revision of the COM Express specification from May 2012 with the small size definition COM Express Mini, about the size of a credit card at 2” × 3.3” (55mm × 84mm). It is designed specifically for the extremely compact, low power applications common to gateway IoT deployments (Figure 2). Because of this, Type 10 Mini can be considered the most versatile COM Express module and can handle a very broad spectrum of portable and fixed applications with a minimal number of carrier board designs. The Mini form factor is tied to the type 1 and type 10 pinouts and features a wide range DC input from 4.75 up to 20 V DC. The 2.1 revision also included the signals for two USB 3.0 ports for Type 10 and added CAN bus and an alternative eDP pinout for the LVDS signals for type 6 and type 10.

Where Does XTX Fit?

Most COM Express size variants incorporate two high speed connectors on the underside of the module, rather than the four defined in ETX. The buses and signals are quite different too. As such, the two standards are not mechanically or electrically compatible, and moving from ETX to COM Express is a costly proposition in terms of design resources and redevelopment of carrier boards. Some designs may warrant the expense in order to gain access to the other features that represent significant improvements over ETX , while others can readily move to the compatible XTX standard for a simple performance increase. The XTX standard was introduced by congatec, Ampro and Advantech, about the same time that PICMG ratified the initial COM Express standard in 2005. Instead of costly migration to COM Express for faster bus communications, XTX would allow developers to access PCIe and SATA support within the existing +5V power and electromechanical footprint. XTX is the same size as ETX and offers four connectors, but provides native SATA support directly off the top of the module and replaces the ISA bus with four PCIe lanes on one of the four carrier board connectors. This enabled new high speed interfaces, based on a performance boost up to 2Gbit/s per lane, while preserving investments in carrier designs. The idea was that any customer who had previously used ETX modules could do a very simple


Figure 3 The Qseven concept aims specifically at mobile and low-power applications with an edge connector that carries a strong selection of modern interface standards.

modification to their carrier board and use XTX, or no modification at all if the carrier board didn’t use ISA in the first place and PCIe isn’t actually needed. This would avoid the major carrier board modifications necessary to adopt COM Express. Major manufacturers still support XTX. The standard provides a highly relevant, affordable upgrade option to the broad install base of ETX-based systems. When ISA bus is no longer required, XTX provided a gateway to dual core performance without costly redesigns. Enter Qseven for Low Power Design with Both x86 and ARM Low-end mobile solutions needed yet another variation of the COMs platform, particularly as industrial systems continue to adapt their graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to mirror the specifications of consumer smartphones and tablets. Enter Qseven, introduced as an open standard to meet the trend toward increasingly compact and power-efficient devices with high performance multimedia features. Qseven steps into this landscape to enable developers to work with low power ARM and x86 processors as never before for small, low power, mobile applications. It provides developers with a modern, legacy-free option along with a new connector concept and low profile fanless cooling specifically designed for compact and ultra-compact devices. Specified by congatec, MSC and Seco in 2008, Qseven was ratified by the Standardization Group Embedded Technologies ) (SGET) in 2012. By using a cost-effective and high speed 230-pin MXM2 card edge connector instead of board-to-board connectors, Qseven simultaneously reduces design costs and achieves a lower overall height that allows for slim designs. Qseven modules (Figure 3) are available in two footprints, including a standard size at just 2.76” x 2.76” (70mm x 70mm) and a half size at 1.57” x 2.76” (40mm x 70mm). Legacy-free Qseven offers a modern set of interfaces, includ-

ing up to four lanes of PCI Express 2.0, SATA and USB 3.0, and also supports Gigabit Ethernet, SDIO, two LVDS ports, and digital interfaces like SVDO shared with HDMI and DisplayPort. Because Qseven supports 2x24 Bit LVDS, it can control higher-resolution displays than COM Express Mini, which supports only 1x24 Bit LVDS. Revision 2.0 of the Qseven specification also extends the use of ARM processors in order to achieve even lower power dissipation. TDP is capped at just twelve watts and its speci¬fied 5V power enables easy battery operation, for example a mobile device that can run efficiently on two lithium cells. The standard includes a thermal cooling interface, as well as onboard RAM and Flash for rugged applications. Qseven’s features are optimized for mobile or ultra-mobile applications – for example any kind of application that requires battery or Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability and can benefit from unique features like a common em¬bedded application programming inter¬face (EAPI) for industrial applications. EAPI is a free available specification from PICMG which also supports COM Express, XTX and others. It adds a watchdog timer, I²C Bus, display brightness control, BIOS storage area and reading of system temperatures. Despite competition from increasingly smaller COM Express form factors, Qseven has firmly established itself in the x86 world. Today, there are more than 20 manufacturers who design and sell Qseven modules in over 100 different models.

Welcome SMARC

Like Qseven COMs, SMARC modules can be fitted with either x86 or ARM processors. Ratified by SGET in 2011, SMARC is also intended for the development of compact, low power systems and has only subtle differences to the Qseven standard. SMARC uses a 314-pin MXM3 connector and is available in a full size of 3.15” x 3.23” (80mm x 82mm) and a short size of 1.97” x 3.23” (50mm x 82mm). SMARC supports the same class of processors as Qseven and COMe Type 10 Mini, with similar power consumption characteristics. Mobile devices or IoT gateways are suitable applications for Qseven or SMARC. The two platforms are similar in performance and size, so the design choice comes down to investigating the supply base for each type of module. SGET notes just 16 modules on its SMARC product listing, in contrast to more than 70 Qseven modules.

Making Strategic Design Choices

Legacy updates, as opposed to ground-up new designs, drive very different decisions in choosing a COM platform. If your task is to extend the life of an ETX-based system with the least expenditure on new research and development, then the ETX and XTX platforms are for you. Entirely new platforms, or designs that need to make the platform switch now in order to add longevity issues later or meet specific performance requirements, are ripe for the other options on the landscape. COM Express provides an opportunity for the most scalable

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 17


TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY system design. Developers can develop an entire product family around a single carrier board – a low end microwave, a high end commercial microwave, and then the monster microwave that cooks for an entire platoon at once. For ultra-low power applications – small, low cost and highly portable – Qseven and COM Express mini provide excellent platform options. In contrast to comparable ARM-based systems, they offer full x86 code compatibility coupled with minimum power consumption. This means existing x86 applications can continue to be used in smaller and smaller devices without any need for porting to a new platform. Qseven and COM Express mini modules also support the Intel Atom E3800 processor family (codenamed Bay Trail-I), providing the appropriate embedded hardware that keeps IoT applications both smart and safe. Both modules integrate the validated combination of hardware with software from McAfee and Wind River, known as the “Intel Gateway Solution for IoT,” enabling a stable and secure platform for all IoT and cloud-based applications.

18 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Small form factor intelligent systems are making a real difference in life and business, with IoT applications fueling advances in medical, industrial, transportation, entertainment and much more. IoT forecasts are impressive, with the number of IoT appliances predicted to explode to around 26 billion worldwide by 2020, and developers need to know their way around the numerous COMs platform options. Understanding the advantages and overall value proposition of each platform is essential to compete, fueling a leadership position in today’s connected, embedded markets. congatec San Diego, CA (858) 457-2600 www.congatec.com


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TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY

Rich COM Express Options and SMARC Alternatives Add Complexity to Design Strategies It takes an understanding of connected embedded application needs in order to choose the right PICMG COM Express Computer-on-Module (COM), with choices defined by form factor and pin-out types. Long established and proven globally, the COM Express standard has evolved with new size and connector options, as well as some healthy competition from the world of SMARC, defined by SGET. by Peter Müller, Kontron

COM Express has a strong foothold in the realm of Computer-on-Module (COM) platforms due to the flexible, scalable design benefits it delivers. With three current form factors and a variety of pin-out options to define how the connectors are used, it’s more like a family of standards optimized for all levels of embedded performance in a small footprint. Smaller footprints are in demand now to accommodate the landslide of portable devices, and to support systems that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) in the ever-expanding world of connected embedded applications. For developers competing in small form factor design, it is essential to understand current COM Express options as well as alternative standards such as Smart Mobility ARChitecture (SMARC) to select the most optimal small form factor platform for a given design.

Making Choices

COMs provide the chipset I/O to the carrier board via rugged board-to-board connectors. Associating module I/O designs onto the carrier board such as mPCI or mPCIe then allow a broad combination of I/O options that are readily available, and need only be brought into the design via the application-specific customization of the carrier board. LAN, SATA, video, audio, multiple USB or PCI Express ports are all available and depend simply on the requirements of the end-use application itself. COMs also integrate video processing and display, an important advantage for graphics-heavy imaging and data processing applications often found in connected, IoT systems. After more than ten years on the market, COM Express capitalizes on platform advantages perhaps better than any other standard – offering many design options, each proven and supported by a well-defined worldwide ecosystem of providers and manufacturers. So, how do you select the right COM Express 20 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Figure 1 COM Express modules typically have the same feature set but are differentiated by processor types, form factor and pin-out options.

COM to best match your application requirements? The three form factors – basic, compact and mini – can be separated in terms of size, processor and thus performance Figure 1). The associated connector pin-out types are equally important to handle interfaces and manage signal processing requirements of the enduse application. Depending on performance levels required by the application, designers typically see a clear path to choosing the right COM Express COM. Applications leaning toward higher-end performance will require the space and processor performance enabled by basic and compact options, while space-constrained, battery-powered or portable platforms are suited to the mini. COM Express Basic has the largest footprint at 95mm x 125mm, and is intended to handle applications that require more processing power. As such, basic incorporates higher-end processors such as Intel Core and AMD R-Series. Kontron and other manufacturers worldwide generally support COM Express basic with continued product releases that capitalize on the latest processor


advancements. Graphics performance is frequently a key characteristic of applications that can use the processing power delivered with the basic form factor. Examples of fitting deployments include high-end medical applications or industrial automation applications where visualization or communications requirements demand high compute power for data transmission. COM Express Compact is the mid-sized form factor measuring 95mm x 95mm, and scalability is the key characteristic of the compact size. It incorporates processors ranging from Intel Atom and AMD G-Series all the way up to high performance Intel Core and AMD R-Series. The compact is also broadly used across embedded markets and enables OEMs to scale future product generations with processor upgrades, or release an entire product line at once using the same carrier board with different compute performance. For example, a compact form factor using an Intel Atom would be suitable for a low-end HMI in an industrial setting. OEMs could simultaneously implement an Intel Core using the same compact form factor and carrier board on another COM product, achieving performance suitable for a larger, high resolution display. COM Express Mini, at 55mm x 84mm, is the smallest and is specifically geared toward handheld or battery-powered devices. In medical environments for example, COM Express mini would be used for handheld devices that are carried by doctors or portable systems used for mobile patient monitoring. These applications are typically manageable with less compute power but must also have reduced power dissipation to allow battery-based operation.

Pin-Out Types Further Define Usage

Originally five pin-outs were defined by the COM Express standard, providing a long-term foundation for signal assignment and design layout. COM Express 2.0 addressed the need for evolution, establishing Type 6 for extended graphics processing and Type 10 for performance in even smaller applications. Type 6 and Type 10 are the most popular and widely used today. Essentially based on Type 2, Type 6 is the most widely adopted COM Express pin-out type to date and is typically available in both basic and compact form factor COMs. Type 6 acknowledges the impact of graphics-based applications and better utilizes the expanded graphics possibilities of new processor families. Legacy PCI pins from Type 2 have been reallocated in Type 6 to support digital display interfaces and to enable additional PCI Express lanes. For example, if the application warrants PCIe x16 ports or an external graphics card, then Type 6 is required (Figure 2). Type 6 builds in future design options, as the pins previously assigned to the IDE interface in Type 2 are now reserved for future technologies still in development. Such possible future technologies could be the implementation of SuperSpeed USB, with 16 free pins offering sufficient lines to implement four of the eight USB 2.0 ports as USB 3.0 ports instead. Type 6 also offers configurable Digital Display Interfaces (DDI) SDVO, DisplayPort and HDMI/ DVI along with 23 PCI Express Gen 2 lanes. Designers have more to work with than in Type 2, including greater native display

Figure 2 Kontron’s COMe-cSE6 incorporates the AMD G-Series processor in a compact footprint with a Type 6 pin-out. COMe-cSE6 is optimized for performance-

options and higher serial bandwidth. Medical systems illustrate the potential of improved graphics performance. Systems enabled with more powerful graphics display and processing features allow medical professionals to simultaneously access multiple displays of patient information. For example, a technician could be charting current health information or accessing records via one display, while viewing the patient’s current health status such as blood pressure or respiration on a second display. Such a system eliminates the need for a costly workstation and still provides all the interactive, real-time data access required for proper treatment protocols. Perhaps most importantly, the addition of native support for all the newest display interfaces simplifies carrier board designs, reducing time-to-market and total cost of ownership for graphics-intensive applications. The extensive PCIe support in Type 6 underscores the overall trend of moving away from legacy parallel interfaces towards pure serial embedded system designs for higher bandwidth and reduced latency. Type 10 evolved from Type 1, and is different from all the other COM Express pin-outs in its use of a single connector. Where options like Type 6 use both of the COM Express standard’s two 220-pin connectors, Type 10 relies on just one – making it ideal for smaller, portable applications. The COM Express mini is designed to deliver power-saving x86 performance on a footprint that is the size of a credit card - a mere 55 x 84 mm. Type 10 addresses the requirements of more compact processors, but there are distinct differences when migrating from Type 1 even though both pin-out types are compatible. In pin-out Type 1, SATA ports 2 and 3 are assigned pins in rows A and B, but these are no longer reserved in pin-out Type 10. The pins could still be used as SATA ports, but are now reserved for other purposes such as USB 3.0. When migrating to Type 10, it is recommended not to wire SATA 2 and 3 over the module connector so the modules remain compatible, and they are ready for USB 3.0 at the same time. Serial ports are now supported with Rev 2.0 Type 10. Formerly used for VCC 12V, manufacturers such as Kontron ensure compatibility with existing carrier boards by integrating a protective

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 21


TECHNOLOGY IN SYSTEMS COM MODULES—SORTING OUT THE VARIETY cycle. If a design is in its earliest states and the carrier board is in development, SMARC could provide an attractive platform option for a connected, embedded application. If the design already has a carrier board developed and a COM Express COM deployed, upgrading performance to the COM Express mini is the logical design approach. It should be noted that SMARC is also considered a successor for the Qseven COM standard. They are similar in size and power dissipation, however SMARC offers more pins in its MXM3 edge connector in contrast to Qseven’s MXM2 edge connector (Figure 3).

The Future of COMs Figure 3 The Kontron SMARC-sXQU is designed for applications in which lower energy consumption and smaller product dimensions take precedence over higher performance. It is equipped with Intel Quark X1000 series processors, as well as up to 1 GB DDR3 RAM, with the option of ECC.

circuit on the module. This way existing carrier board layouts do not have to be completely modified and can easily and cost-efficiently use these new capabilities. Another difference is that Type 10 uses the second LVDS channel, TV out and VGA to support the SDVO port (or alternatively DisplayPort or HDMI/DVI) via DDI. Type 10 ultra-compact modules provide native support for both the latest display interfaces and dual independent displays because of LVDS channel support. Both Type 10 and Type 6 now also support SDIO, multiplexed on the existing GPIO signals. Required for many legacy systems, the flexibility of the PICMG standard is illustrated with the option of two 3.3 V TTL serial ports that have been added. These ports can be used for RS232, RS485, the CAN bus, or other two-wire interfaces. Evaluating the Smallest Options (Mini, SMARC and Qseven) New and innovative applications, especially in the mobile and handheld markets, are driving change in the COM platform. Customers are looking for handheld HMIs and rugged portable mobile devices – potentially requiring access to new interfaces in a smaller, flatter form factor suited to tablet devices. Smart Mobility ARChitecture (SMARC) has entered the playing field as an alternative to the COM Express mini, suited for these types of applications. SMARC has several new interfaces such as MIPI CSI and other camera interfaces, serial peripheral interface (SPI), bus and I2S, which are not currently supported by COM Express. SMARC also adds value in its ability to connect. Using new interfaces, devices can more readily connect GSM or other wireless LAN protocols with CPU performance. SMARC was initiated by the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET) two years ago; the standard is gaining high visibility based on its ability to use either ARM processors or low power x86 processors, as well as its support of connected devices required in the IoT arena. Prior to SMARC, COM Express mini was the only feasible platform option for the smallest, most portable devices. Today designers have a choice, largely driven by where they are in the design

22 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

COM Express manufacturers are committed to keeping customers up to date with the latest chipset technologies, for example ongoing advancements from Intel and AMD. It is important that each COM Express offers new features and functionality based on the types of applications that are being developed. Yet new generations of the Atom chipset as well as future Core platforms offer new serial interfaces such as camera or SPI, which are not defined on either Type 6 or Type 10 COM Express. New pin-outs are likely to unfold in the near term; COM Express will most likely continue to innovate in order to continue its stronghold and maintain a leading design position as applications and devices get smaller and become more tablet-oriented. That innovation could come in the form of adding greater software standardization to the specification. The API that already exists in each COM Express type may be extended with improved functionality and standardized software support, allowing developers more capability on the hardware side of the design. With an improved middleware interface, developers would have a simpler path to implement their GUIs or fine-tune performance to application-specific requirements. For example, Kontron’s Embedded API (KEAPI) adds a software library that enables programmers to easily create applications for monitoring and control of hardware resources. Improving API functionality would lead to greater innovation overall, for example using middleware to more easily port applications such as IoT or sensor data monitoring. The core values of COMs are well-supported in the COM Express standard – enabling flexible, scalable, long-life solutions that get to market quickly. And with continued innovation, COM Express has an important role to play in the small footprint designs that are driving connected embedded applications worldwide. SMARC options and expectations for continued evolution of COM Express pin-out types are keeping sophisticated, small form factor design poised to make a real difference. As key markets evolve with greater focus on IoT, environments such as connected health and industrial automation can only benefit from platforms that are both proven and improving. Kontron Poway, CA (888) 294-4558 www.kontron.com


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TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT MEDICAL SYSTEMS—INTELLIGENCE PLUS CONNECTIVITY

HPEC Expansion Appliances Save Time, Cost and Space in Embedded Medical Applications High-end medical equipment, such as MRI and ultrasound imaging devices, has enormous compute demands to produce images that help physicians in diagnosis and treatment. Today’s high-power GPUs can be used in add-on appliances to boost the power of such equipment. by Mark Gunn, One Stop Systems, Inc.

24 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015


Figure 1 For demanding applications like ultrasound the ability to add additional processing power can dramatically increase performance.

Medical applications like computed tomography (CT) scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) require quick, accurate results from processing complex algorithms. So reducing the compute time required is a primary challenge to manufacturers of CT and MRI equipment. Other significant challenges include the cost of the computers required to achieve the necessary performance and the space those computers occupy. Three recent technical advances have significantly helped to overcome these issues: the adoption of PCI Express (PCIe) over cable, the emergence of compute acceleration cards (GPUs) and PCIe Flash storage cards. PCIe first emerged as the bus of choice in 2005. One of its many advantages is that the PCIe bus can be transmitted over a cable to another device. This sets the stage for the introduction of many expansion appliances that connect directly to a host computer through the PCIe bus. The expansion enclosure is one such device, which provides external slots that the server can access as if they are in the server itself. Expansion enclosures support a multitude of commercially available PCIe add-in boards. Because these boards are operating on the same PCIe bus as the motherboard, no software conversion is required from the server to the device, thus reducing latency and making PCIe more attractive than Infiniband or other high speed cabled buses. About the same time that the PCIe bus emerged, GPU cards began to be used for general compute acceleration. Multi-core GPU processors significantly offload the CPU, delivering results more quickly and reducing the workload on the CPU. Results that took hours to compute using traditional CPUs are now delivered in record time. Medical imaging is one of the earliest applications to take advantage of GPU computing to achieve acceleration. The use of GPUs in this field has matured to the point that there are a number of medical devices shipping with multiple AMD or NVIDIA GPUs. Other medical devices employing multiple GPUs in this way are microsurgery robots, wedge

prism endoscopes, and surgical stereoscopic composite displays. Multiple GPUs can be installed in some computers but most computers do not provide enough power or cooling to accommodate multiple GPUs. PCIe expansion appliances with up to sixteen GPUs have begun to be used in these applications, thus reducing the number of servers required. The fewer servers required, the lower the overall cost and the reduction of space necessary to accommodate them. In addition, GPU appliances can be cabled to more than one server, spreading the workload out more efficiently. For example, for such demanding applications as ultrasound (Figure 1), a 2U GPU appliance with four GPUs can be cabled to one or two servers. Each connection has a 128Gb/s throughput with additional PCIe switches to allow each GPU to operate at full bandwidths. Using four NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs, the CA4000, a 2U GPU appliance from One Stop Systems delivers 35Tflops of computational power (Figure 2). A computing system using the NVIDIA Tesla GPUs gives a CT scan system the horsepower it needs to meet the healthcare industry’s pace. A configuration of four Tesla GPU processors is able to run through a scanner’s algorithm in less than 20 minutes. By comparison, a 16-processor computer system takes more than twice the time. In addition, a single server with a GPU appliance with four Tesla GPUs is considerably less expensive than the 16-node cluster. This significantly reduces the overall equipment cost. By using NVIDIA’s GPU computing technology in Techniscan’s Whole Breast Ultrasound system, radiologists can perform a complete ultrasound scan and see the results within a 30-minute patient visit. This eliminates the delay in test results so patients and doctors have a fast and efficient device that can be relied upon to deliver results at the pace of modern medicine.2 Another application, naked-eye stereoscopy displays 3D stereoscopic images without the need for special eyeglasses. This intriguing technology not only has applications in entertainment, but is a practical technology for a variety of imaging applications. One application is Integral Videography (IV). This method uses a special display comprised of a micro-lens array, consisting of convex lenses on a matrix which is bonded to a liquid crystal panel. Directly beneath each micro-lens, there are some 100 liquid crystal elements and the convex lens projects the light from each element in various directions. The object to be represented in 3D space is illuminated by light rays from

Figure 2 The CA4000 GPU appliance adds almost 20,000 cores and 35TFlops of compute power to one or two servers.

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 25


TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT MEDICAL SYSTEMS—INTELLIGENCE PLUS CONNECTIVITY

Figure 3 Integral videography

several directions, forming a stereoscopic image which to the user seems to be floating in air (Figure 3). Larger numbers of GPUs can be connected together to accomplish even more compute intensive operations. The High Density Compute Accelerator (HDCA) from One Stop Systems supports sixteen interconnected GPUs cabled to one to four servers through PCIe producing 139Tflops of computational power using NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs. This can be more efficient than employing dozens of servers while reducing rack space to as little as 4U (Figure 4). Today’s GPUs have a parallel computing architecture that dramatically increases computing performance. This gives artists thousands of cores per GPU and multiple GPUs per workstation. The problem is that only a small percentage of these cores are utilized because slow disk I/O stalls data before it gets to the cores. PCIe NAND Flash boards like Fusion ioFX eliminate this I/O bottleneck so GPUs work at peak performance, greatly accelerating image-processing tasks like encoding and decoding. Furthermore, an ioFX can also accelerate render time in certain cases.4 Rotating disks operate at about 60-120MB/s and an array of 36 disks with RAID can receive and store data at a rate of at about 2GB/s. Solid state drives operate much faster at about 500MB/s. An even faster storage solution are PCIe Flash cards operating at over 2GB/s. Disk or SSDs are limited by the bandwidth of the bus feeding the data, in this case SATA. PCIe Flash

cards are not limited to the SATA bus but operate directly from the PCIe bus. The higher performance of PCIe cards makes them particularly suitable for buffering and caching applications, with content delivery high on the list of suitable applications. Inter-connecting 32 PCIe Flash boards into a single enclosure and then cabling to one or more servers can provide up to 200TB of fast storage easily accessible by multiple servers. The Fusion ioMemory solution provides a new tier of server memory based on NAND flash technology. Unlike SSDs, which use legacy disk controllers and storage protocols, the ioMemory platform provides direct access to flash memory via the PCIe bus. By eliminating storage controllers and accessing the NAND natively, ioMemory devices are able to run at nearly the speed of DRAM, enabling storage speeds of tens of gigabytes per second within a single server. Using PCIe expansion, the ratio of Flash cards to server can be greatly increased. A 3U Flash storage appliance like the FSA from One Stop Systems contains up to 200TB of fast. The FSA cables to one to four servers through PCIe 3.0 x16 connections (Figure 4). Receiving results quickly and accurately from medical procedures is the primary concern of today’s clinicians. In order to accomplish this many applications are turning to a segment of computing known as high performance computing (HPC) for answers. The latest technologies in HPC are being utilized in medical systems. This is generally known as high performance embedded computing (HPEC). One obvious application is medical imaging where high volumes of data must be processed and delivered quickly. CT scanning, MRI, and ultrasound are examples that incur a number of challenges to meet these requirements. Among these are reducing time, cost, and space. By using PCIe expansion to add multiple GPUs and Flash storage cards to a system topology, the time it takes for a patient to receive diagnostic results is significantly reduced. Fewer servers are required to achieve the required performance and fewer servers means less overhead, reducing costs and saving valuable space. HPEC is rapidly being bolstered with new solutions that dramatically reduce time, cost, and space requirements with appliances that utilize the latest technologies of PCIe expansion, GPUs, PCIe Flash storage. Attaching a GPU appliance to one server can out-perform 12 servers, cost less and use less space. A Flash storage appliance can store and retrieve more data faster than racks of rotating disks. This is by far the most innovative approach meeting the challenges of today’s data-centric world. One Stop Systems Escondido, CA (877) 438-2724 www.onestopsystems.com

Figure 4 The CA16000 GPU appliance with NVIDIA K80 GPUs from One Stop Systems adds over 79,800 cores and 139.8TFlops of compute power to one or four servers

26 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015


Why Should Researching SBCs Be More Difficult Than Car Shopping? Today’s systems combine an array of very complex elements from multiple manufactures. To assist in these complex architectures, ISS has built a simple tool that will source products from an array of companies for a side by side comparison and provide purchase support. INTELLIGENTSYSTEMSSOURCE.COM is a purchasing tool for Design Engineers looking for custom and off-the-shelf SBCs and system modules.

INTELLIGENTSYSTEMSSOURCE.COM


TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT MEDICAL SYSTEMS—INTELLIGENCE PLUS CONNECTIVITY

How mHealth Will Change Your Life Overcoming distance and delays is a big hurdle for many people seeking health care, as is the scarcity of qualified specialists in many cases. The emergence of mobile devices with wireless communications is helping to bring more patients the monitoring and care they need. by John Koon

For a vast number of people, such as those living in rural areas or in small towns that are far from advanced medical centers, seeing a doctor can be an ordeal. Most likely, they have to drive or take public transpiration to get there. Once they arrived, they often spend much time in a waiting room until they are called? Well, this is all about to change. Instead of traveling to the physician’s office, many more patients will be seen through an Electronic Visit (eVisit). According to the research firm Deloitte, the cost of worldwide in-person doctor visits totals $175 billion. In North America, approximately 75 million people actually made appointments with their physicians using eVisit out of 600 million total appointments. If this trend continues worldwide, the projection of eVisits is estimated at 100 million and would translate to a savings of $5 Billion.

eVisit in Action

The eVisit model was recently enhanced at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). UPMC is an $11 Billion healthcare provider as well as an insurer. Its statewide services include 21 hospitals with more than 400 outpatient sites. With the overhaul of its online patient portal called MyUPMC and the launch of UPMC AnywhereCare virtual visit, UPMC offers patients within the state of Pennsylvania the ability to “eVisit” physicians and advanced practice providers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This eVisit service for non-urgent conditions is branded as “UPMC AnywhereCare” with 95% of patients rating the convenience of the visit as “very good” or “good”. Most of the time, a patient may be anxious and eager to receive a quick diagnosis, find out what is wrong with them and have peace of mind. AnywhereCare is able to do just that.”Our goal is to provide a 30 minute turnaround for patients to access a healthcare provider,” said Natasa Sokolovich, executive direc-

28 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Figure 1 eVisit allows patients to see a doctor without going to the hospital.

tor of telemedicine at UPMC How does UPMC AnywhereCare work? A patient fills out a detailed questionnaire online reporting his or her symptoms, much like what you would do during a traditional doctor appointment (Figure 1). The questionnaire is sent directly to a pool of dedicated medical professionals who review the patient’s symptoms and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. Depending on the diagnosis, a prescription may also be sent electronically to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. Initially, this service was provided only to those with assigned doctors and the wait time was up to 24 hours. However, as the name UPMC AnywhereCare website suggests, the new online service is open to all Pennsylvania residents and is a major improvement over the earlier model. UPMC reported more than 2,700 eVisits since the launch of AnywhereCare in Nov


ETX-BT AD(2.25x9.875)_print.pdf 1 2015/3/6 下午2:02

Figure 2 The HealthPatch MD patch monitor patients wirelessly.

2013. The average is 210 eVisits a month with an estimated savings of $86.80 per online visit compared with visits to an emergency room, urgent care clinic or in-person office visit.

Challenges

Usually a patient goes through a few stages in the healing process. The first stage is diagnosis. The second stage is prescription, surgery or physical therapy. The third is the recovery stage. This is a very important stage because at this point, the patients have already checked out of the hospital and it is often difficult for the caregivers to track their progress. Sometimes, the patients will also stop following instructions without the caregiver’s knowledge. Whenever there is a re-admission to the hospital, the patient’s condition can worsen and there are additional associated costs. With mHealth, caregivers will be able to access, monitor and track patient information. mHealth refers to mobile healthcare which makes use of wireless technologies to connect patients and healthcare professionals together.

Monitoring and Tracking

Monitoring and tracking a patient’s vital signs and activity level is a crucial part of the healing or recovery process. If done properly, mHealth enables a quicker recovery while allowing patients to enjoy more personal freedom. MC10, a company based in Cambridge, MA, has a vision to develop a stretchable BioStamp, which adheres to a person’s skin to monitor temperature or motion. The stamp then sends the signals wirelessly to a Wi-Fi hub or controller allowing the caregiver to monitor the condition of a patient. This can also help parents of a newborn to get their much-needed rest knowing that the newborn will be monitored continually and if, for example, a fever shoots up, an alarm will sound. Another application of mHealth involves the advancement of mobile and wireless technologies. Due to the pressure of reducing healthcare costs, hospitals try to minimize the time a patient is permitted to stay in the facility. Traditionally, when a patient leaves the hospital, tracking the patient’s progress can be difficult. But this is about to change. Vital Connect, a startup company founded in 2011 and based in Campbell, CA, introduced a wireless device called the HealthPatch MD (Figure 2). This Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved patch only weighs 10 grams and can adhere to the human body. It is a compact, multifunctional device with a built-in heart rate monitor, pedometer, thermometer and fall detector. Additionally, using Bluetooth 4.0, it can transmit HIPAA-compliant information to a Wi-Fi hub located in the home so that caregivers can monitor the infor-

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RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 29


TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT MEDICAL SYSTEMS—INTELLIGENCE PLUS CONNECTIVITY mation remotely via a tablet or smartphone. With these types of devices, patients can recover at home while being monitored and cared for remotely. In the recovery process, it is highly advisable for the patients to be active and perform exercise under supervision. But this can be difficult if they are at home or not being supervised directly. More than 10 years ago, companies began researching this problem to come up with useful solutions. Today, there are many wearable fitness devices available on the market, but most of them are not designed for clinical use. In a clinical setting, the exercising bodies may need to move in a particular angle and the measuring devices have to be able to act like a sensor. For the past 15 years, Modus Health, a medical device maker, has been involved in research in the area of prosthesis development. With their experience and research data, the company introduced the StepWatch, which can be worn around the ankle (Figure 3). This device is designed to track the activities of the patient in a clinical setting. Most of the commercial tracking devices, including Fitbit and Jawbone, use the tri-axis accelerometer while the StepWatch uses a more accurate proprietary sensing system. This device has undergone many different types of tests in situations involving people with prostheses, slow motion from Parkinson disease, the recovery of stroke and multiple sclerosis. The results were so positive that it is one of the very few devices that actually receives reimbursement status from the Veterans Administration. However, what the device lacks is a wireless connection capability. Users are

Figure 3 The wearable StepWatch monitors the activities of the patient.

30 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

required to physically remove the unit and connect it to a docking station in order to transmit the data to the care givers.

More mobility with Tablets for Physicians

Ultimately, all these technological advancements should add up to productivity. At this point, multiple benefits are enjoyed by patients using eVisit including access to doctors 24/7 and remote monitor devices to gain personal freedom and peace of mind. For physicians, the use of tablets (Figure 4) has dramatically increased their productivity. Remember the time before the invention of a sheet calculator (today, most people refer to this sort of calculation as Excel) when you needed to perform the computations on a calculator one by one? Today, you are able to change one number and the sheet will automatically update everything else accordingly. Similarly, when seeing a patient, a doctor may need to be constantly mobile to perform necessary tasks. For example, as reported by one doctor, he often needs to leave the exam room to obtain drug information or information from insurers. One report indicated that, by using such a device, the productivity gain is significant at 1.1 hour. As mentioned above, more and more data can now be accessed via a mobile device. If a doctor is in charge of multiple patients, especially those who are in serious condition and in need of intensive care, the doctor may be walking back and forth to the office to access data regarding the condition of the patients. With a tablet, the information can be readily available and allow the doctor to carry on with his/her routine with minimal interruptions.

What does the future hold?

mHealth does not fix all the healthcare problems but it does have a bright future. The venture capital segment is very keen in investing in mHealth. “We see that the future of mHealth will only get brighter. With the healthcare reform, chronically ill patients and aging population will need to be cared on an ongoing basis, to avoid ER visits and/or hospitalization, as providers are fighting to contain costs. There will be both start-ups and well established companies winning in this segment,” continued Jack Young of Qualcomm Life Fund at Qualcomm Ventures, “Our fund invested in a number of companies developing remote patient monitoring technologies and services and expects great social and financial returns.” While new medical technologies are being developed independently by many companies, one cannot help but ask, “How will all this equipment work together?” The good news is an international, non-profit industry organization Continua has already established the Continua Design Guideline (2014 edition) to address the secure, end-to-end, interoperability concerns. These global standards have been ratified by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a part of the United Nations, and adopted by multiple countries and national health ministries including the United Kingdom and Denmark. Additionally, in 2013 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized a set of IEEE 11073-104xx standards co-developed with Continua. With new standards and investments in place, expect to see more mHealth offerings coming your way.


Breaking the Chains! Figure 4 Tablets enable doctors to be more productive.

MC10 Cambridge, MA (617) 234-4448 www.mc10inc.com Modus Health Washington, DC (202) 830-1100 www.modushealth.com Vital Connect Campbell, CA (408) 963-4600

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RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 31


INDUSTRY WATCH CHRACTERIZING SOLID STATE DRIVES

The Effects of Industrial Temperature on Embedded Storage For many applications, it imperative that embedded systems developers understand what effects extended high temperatures have on SSDs. To assisting the decision process and provide reference points, OEMs can use several helpful calculations to determine SSD endurance and data retention characteristics of different types of NAND flash media. by Scott Phillips, Virtium Technology

32 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015


so that the affects of endurance, high temperature and NAND configuration on power-off data retention can be specifically highlighted.

Temperature Effects on Endurance and Data Retention

Figure 1 JEDEC Application Classes

The ability to support ever-increasing amounts of data and higher functionality are definitely ongoing embedded system demands. Exploding capacity requirements of tens or hundreds of gigabytes put real pressure on storage budgets. With the spotlight on development budgets, many embedded systems developers are realizing that NAND costs are nothing compared to what other SSD components can total. The storage mainstay for these mission-critical applications has been higher-end, industrial SLC-based SSDs, but OEMs may be forced to consider less expensive alternatives that still give them the capacity required by their system design. That alternative is MLC-based SSDs. This isn’t such a straight-forward decision to make as OEMs will need to make trade-offs in the form of eventual requalification or overall endurance in their quest to develop a reasonably-priced product. Industrial operating temperature (I-temp) applications just make these issues more challenging because higher operating temperatures can intensify the endurance and data retention problem.

Extended temperatures exacerbate endurance and data retention because different temperature points in physics create various levels of energy momentum to the electron in the flash device causing distinct rates of leakage current. The rate of leakage current translates to differences in data retention within the flash cell itself. For endurance, extended temperatures also produce an accelerated rate of charging in the flash cell. For instance at low temperatures, the flash cell is not performing fully charged compared to how it performs at higher temperatures. This results in variations in endurance at different temperatures. Important to the discussion is an understanding of the basic elements of SSD operation such as NAND program/erase (P/E) cycles, drive writes (DW) and write amplification with these definitions shown in Table 1. To accurately evaluate the effect of higher temperatures on endurance and retention we must look at the number of drive

NAND P/E Cycles

The number of NAND P/E cycles are based on a given error correction (ECC) capability of the SSD controller with the assumed temperature of 40°C, 104°F and a data retention requirement of one year for SLC and MLC or three months for enterprise eMLC.

Framework for a Decision-Making Process

To find the most optimal SSD for an application, designers must have a working knowledge of reliability factors and their relationships. Helping in the process, two application classes have been defined by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC): client (personal) computing and enterprise (multi-user) applications. JEDEC has still not developed a standard for embedded computing primarily because of the diverse nature of these applications. Even so, existing class definitions provide a good framework in the decision-making process. Application class definitions include data pattern or workload, an acceptable error rate, operating and data retention temperatures, and a standard period of time the data must be retained in the power-off state (Figure 1). JEDEC enterprise application class definitions are used by many SSD suppliers in their product datasheets to address endurance. It is important to note that endurance and data retention can change dramatically based on workload and operating temperature. While these datasheet values are helpful in comparing SSDs, they should not be considered a conclusive specification. Since most embedded workloads and temperatures differ greatly from the JEDEC enterprise definition, endurance and data retention will also vary. The calculations will be held constant for workload, uniform bit error (UBER), and functional failure requirements in this article

DW

WA

Defines the number of writes to the full capacity of the SSD. SSD datasheets typically specify terabytes written (TBW). Since TBW is related to user capacity, drive writes (DW) is a normalized factor for any capacity for a given workload. DW is defined by the following equation:

This is the amount of data written to NAND versus amount of data coming over the interface, which is a value greater than 1, assuming no data compression. It is the result of a mismatch in the page size (the minimum write unit) of the NAND and the block size (minimum erase unit) of the NAND. WA is determined by firmware algorithms and workload. Ideally WA has a value of 1 when data comes across the interface in large file sequential transfers and aligned to NAND flash page boundaries. The other extreme is the block size divided by page size. A rule of thumb is that the more random the write workload, the higher the write amplification.

Table 1 The basic elements of SSD operation

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 33


INDUSTRY WATCH CHRACTERIZING SOLID STATE DRIVES If the requirement is for a five-year deployment, the DW per day can be calculated as:

Figure 2 Data retention characteristics for the three different SSD configurations at drive writes DW ≤ 25. The chart shows that storing MLC SSDs at high temperatures for long periods is risky, but it is unlikely that storage facilities would have 85°C (185°F) temperatures for more than two months.

writes as opposed to capacity. The reason is that drive writes provide a comparison point along with the number of days of data retention required. The following example illustrates this point. The example uses a varied industrial workload with an SSD based on 1ynm MLC NAND flash rated at 3,000 P/E cycles at 40°C (104°F). It offers one year of data retention with a workload that results in a WA of 4 that equals a total DW of 750 as shown in the equation below.

This example spotlights the need to determine the proper SSD capacity from the developers’ thorough understanding of the amount of data needed to be written and for what period of time. While most embedded systems strive to have maximum data retention, developers are restricted by the amount provided in current NAND flash functionality. Typically it is three months for SLC and less for MLC depending on how manufacturers optimize the program time to the NAND flash device. Why is data retention important? Data retention primarily translates to loss of important user data when the power is turned off. Applications that have redundancy or backup are not critical compared to applications that do not have this functionality such as single-board embedded systems. Power-on and power-off are the two types of data retention. Power-on data retention for most SSDs is virtually unlimited. This is because newer, high-end SSDs implement patrol read and patrol scrub algorithms where the SSD firmware periodically reads all LBAs and repairs or refreshes when needed. Power-off data retention is really the focus for industrial temperature applications and is a crucial consideration for systems that may be sitting on a shelf prior to deployment or ones that have been decommissioned.

Figure 2 The power-off data retention per number of drive writes and shows the affects of continually storing and operating at extended temperatures. Note that the graphs are in logarithmic scale since the data retention degrades so quickly, especially for MLC.

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Figure 4 The MLC power-off data retention at 25°C (77°F) and 40°C (104°F) per the number of drive writes.

In the structure of a NAND flash cell, the data value is determined by the number of bits per cell and the voltage level read by the SSD controller. The voltage level is established by the number of electrons on the transistor floating gate. Over time, electrons on the floating gate can leak through the oxide layer back to the substrate. The more electrons leak, the more the voltage changes and the higher the chance of a bit error. If there are more bit errors than the SSD controller can correct, then uncorrectable errors or system errors can occur. The number of bit errors that can be accommodated are different (higher or lower) depending on the controller hardware design. A stronger oxide layer equates to better data retention. The oxide layer is used to isolate the floating gates. Oxide strength is determined by two factors – endurance and temperature. A strong oxide layer ensures more reliable flash operation, however, the trade-off is higher power consumption. The greater the number of program / erase cycles, the weaker the oxide layer becomes. Temperature also affects the oxide layer. When programming, electrons get injected from the substrate onto the floating gate. The colder the temperature, the more difficult it is to program -- the hotter, the easier it is. Colder temperatures make it more difficult for electrons to leak back into the substrate and hotter temperatures enable more leakage to occur. Ideally, it is best to program at higher temperatures and store at lower, which is reflected in the JEDEC application classes. To analyze the affects of drive writes and temperature on power-off data retention, the same capacity SLC, MLC and pseudo-SLC drives at various DW points and temperatures will be compared.

Power-off Data Retention

Many OEMs are concerned with initial or early stage power-off data retention because a device could sit on the shelf at a manufacturing facility weeks or even months after configuration and testing before being deployed. They worry that firmware, operating systems and other configuration data could be lost before the system is deployed (Figure 2). Figure 3 demonstrates the results of ongoing operation at industrial temperatures. The data in Figure 4 shows the remarkable effects temperature has on data retention for given workloads. For the same 750 full drive writes (0.4 drive writes per day for five years), SSDs operated and stored at 85°C (185°F) will only have two days of data retention compared to drives at 40°C (104°F) that have one year and others at room

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www.se-eng.com RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 35


INDUSTRY WATCH CHRACTERIZING SOLID STATE DRIVES temperature 25°C (77°F) that will deliver almost eight years of data retention. Examples of applications with growing needs for storage capacity include edge routers or fleet tracking systems that also require maximum data retention and endurance. These types of systems continuously operate at extended temperatures and are exposed to harsh environments so the reliability of I-temp storage is critical. SLC-based SSDs that have a price premium compared to MLC may not be a viable option for budget-constrained designs. If the storage budget dictates employing MLC-based SSDs, then

workload, operating temperature and data retention must be thoroughly evaluated with a keen focus on retention requirements in a power off state. Developers are wise to select the size of an SSD for retention time if the system loses power in applications that have long, higher temperature deployments. Virtium Technology Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (949) 888-2444 www.virtium.com

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36 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

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PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

DSP Card Supplies Intensive Computing for Low-Power Environments in a Cost Sensitive Solution. A family of small form factor COTS cards features TI’s Keystone I TMS320C667x DSPs, targeting requirements for real-time computing and low power in an ultra cost-sensitive solution. In the SI-C667xDSP from Sheldon Instruments, the TI C667x DSPs are multicore DSP Systems on Chip (SoC), conveniently programmed using the C language. The number of C667x CorePacs range from one to eight, each clocked at 1.25GHz for a maximum of 320 GMAC and 160 GFLOP performance at a mere 10 watts of power consumption while most processors of this caliber are in the 40W-60W range. Each DSP CorePac features 32K Bytes L1P, 32K Bytes L1D, and 512K Bytes of L2 of internal memory. Each level of cache can be programmed in blocks as SRAM or cache. The C667x chip also features a multicore shared memory controller that arbitrates 4M Bytes of shared SRAM memory between all cores and an external 64-bit DDR3 memory interface at 1333MHz. The multiple high-speed interfaces include Gigabit Ethernet

Test System Tests 32 NVMe SFF-8639 SSD’s or PCIe 3.0 Cards At One Time

One Stop Systems and Cheetah RAID Storage have introduced The Flash Storage Array Test System (FSA-TS) that allows the rapid insertion and removal of 32 PCIe 3.0 cards or nVME SSD’s to be tested at one time. This considerable increase in production allows manufacturers to get their products to market quicker and with less overhead. A single operator can install 32 cards into the slots, run their specific test applications and remove any number of cards at any time while other cards remain under test.

with on-chip Network Coprocessor, x2 PCI Express port, and a flexible x4 SRIO port that is connected to an optional FPGA or other external peripherals. Also included is a proprietary IP layer that transparently translates SRIO so the FPGA may be used as an extra processing resource and an expansion bridge to a wide array of third party FMC or a legacy style parallel expansion bus to suit the customer’s own custom hardware or simply update legacy designs with minimal effort. The SI-C667xDSP is vailable in PC/104-Express and PC Add-in card form factors. Software supports Windows/Linux 32/64-bit drivers, DSP and host PC projects with utilities and demos with single unit pricing starts at $3100, OEM discounts available. An optional Altera Cyclone V FPGA includes SI’s proprietary IP layer that transparently translates SRIO so the FPGA may be used as an extra processing resource, as well as an expansion bridge to either an FPGA Mezzanine Card (FMC), or a legacy style parallel expansion bus – useful for those who prefer to leverage a wide array of third party FMC modules, their own custom hardware or simply update legacy designs with minimal effort. Upgrade options for the SI-C667xDSP include various core and memory configurations, nonvolatile storage, and either commercial or expanded temperature ranges. A full line of software development tools are available from Sheldon Instruments and TI for Windows and Linux platforms. Software supports Windows/Linux 32/64 bit drivers, DSP and host PC projects with utilities and demos. Single unit pricing starts at $3100 with OEM discounts available. Sheldon Instruments, San Diego.CA. (619) 282-6700. www.sheldoninstruments.com

The 4U test chassis consists of four removable canisters, each with eight Cheetah RAID Storage PCIe test riser cards or nVME SFF-8639 test adapter cards installed in each canister. Each riser contains software controlled high and low voltage margining and remote power on/off for running short or long term remote test scripts. The riser also supports a manual power on/ off switch and acts as a slot saver thereby preserving the main chassis backplane. By using the individual software controlled or manual power switches, flash manufacturers can shut off the power to each DUT, allowing the insertion/ removal of a single PCIe card or nVME drive while others remain under test. Cards or drives can be removed using the front removable canisters for bulk removal operations or singularly through the hinged top cover for easy access to all 32 cards. Three 1200-watt power supplies provide 2400 watts of redundant power to the system. One Stop Systems, Escondido, CA. (877) 438-2724. www.onestopsystems.com

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 37


PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

VMEbus Processor Board with Fourth generation Core i7/i5

A 6U VME board based on a fourth generation Intel Core i7/ i5 processor uses the quad-core i7-4700EQ processor that features new instructions to enhance vector processing and security along with improved graphics capability. Variants of the VP B1x/msd from Concurrent Technologies are also offered based on i5-4410E and i5-4422E processors for dual-core based performance and power-optimised solutions. All processor variants include Intel HD Graphics 4600 which has 20 execution units and can support three simultaneous display outputs. A front or rear VGA port is provided for backwards compatibility with previous boards. Up to two DVI-D interfaces and a DisplayPort connection are available as options for applications needing high resolution digital display support. A 2.5-inch drive can be accommodated on-board for mass storage and Concurrent Technologies offers a range of hard and solid state disks. Other solid state storage options include a CFast slot and a Flash disk module site to provide a choice for reliable program and data storage. One or two XMC/PMC sites are available, depending on variant purchased, for local I/O expansion. Other enhancements include USB3 connectivity for high speed interfacing and setup operations. To aid integration, Concurrent Technologies develops and supports board support packages in-house for popular embedded operating systems including Windows, Linux and VxWorks. A number of optional tools and utility packages are available to enhance the product for critical embedded applications. The standard BIOS can be replaced with a customer configurable Fast Boot package to provide improved boot times. A comprehensive Built-in Test (BIT) package and board level security package are also available, the latter providing features designed to prevent access to sensitive data.

Concurrent Technologies, Woburn, MA (781) 933-5900. www.gocct.com

38 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

1U Rackmount Platform with Cavium CN61XX/CN60XX Processors

A 1U rackmount network platform is designed for Internet security and other networking applications. The PL-80730 from WIN Enterprises is suitable for securing network domains in the enterprise or data center. The unit is designed with the Cavium CN61XX/CN60XX family processors to provide a powerful, but economical platform for UTM/VPN/Firewall, packet processing, and deep packet inspection in servers, switches, and routers. In addition, these Cavium family lines feature Authentik anti-counterfeiting technologies. The device supports a DDR3 SO-DIMM memory socket, nine GbE ports with bypass function based on Marvell 88E1240/1310, and LED indicators to monitor activity and transfer rate. The back panel has one console port for local system management, maintenance and diagnostics. The PL-80730 supports onboard eMMc or NOR flash for boot device support and has space for an optional 2.5” or 3.5” SATA HDD, and has two miniPCIe slots for incremental wired or wireless Ethernet modules. PL-80730 is FCC, CE, and RoHS compliant. WIN Enterprises will work with OEM customers to modify the platform to more specific specifications when it’s ordered in OEM quantities. WIN Enterprises, Waltham, MA (978) 688-2000. www.win-ent.com


PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

Virtualized Development of Embedded Systems in the Cloud

A web-based development environment for configuring, programming, and maintenance of embedded systems allows engineers and developers to fast and inexpensivly edit complex development projects and realize designs virtually at their fingertips. OBLAC 1.0 from Synapticon automates the entire structure of an embedded hardware and software infrastructure, which is usually required for the development of a new application. With the web-based development environment even very complex hardware systems based on Synapticon’s SOMANET, including all sensors and actuators, can be quickly configured graphically. The software required to use this hardware, such as interface drivers, communication stacks or motor control packets, is then generated individually by pressing a button. The user can immediately begin developing his application in C and C ++. With OBLAC, the evaluation of embedded system solutions based on Synapticon technology can start after a few minutes: With the browser the user logs into OBLAC, creates a new project and configures the desired system hardware. Then, the developer at the push of a button can generate the required system software (Board Support Package BSP) for all hardware nodes. After that the user can create in the code editor an own program or view and change a demo. This software the developer can compile online in the Synapticon cloud and also directly in the simulator - including an analysis of real-time behavior. For companies that do not yet trust Synapticon´s free cloud solution or cannot use it for privacy or compliance reasons, Synapticon offers an alternative: OBLAC can be installed for productive use in the respective corporate network or on dedicated servers on the Internet. The server images provided by Synapticon are easy to install in VMware or VirtualBox virtualization solutions. For using the platform in this way, Synapticon provides a simple and affordable licensing model. Synapticon, Gruibingen, Germany +49 7335 / 186 999 -0. www.synapticon.com

DC-DC Power Module Built Inside Inductor for Smaller Size, 96% Efficiency, Lower Cost

The DC-DC power module has been transformed by literally turning it inside out. New power modules from Sumida have achieved breakthrough performance improvements through a new patent-pending design concept, where the magnetic material forms the entire package and all components are mounted within the inductor. The maximum volume can therefore be available for the inductor, allowing very low DC resistance and high conversion efficiency. In a conventional design, the circuitry and main inductor are side-by-side. This power supply-in-inductor (PSI2) technology provides a power density of up to 1300W/cu in. The SPM1004 and SPM1005 Power Modules are the first products to be based on the new technology and offer pricing that is up to 50% less than most high density DC-DC modules with similar output ratings. Sumida’s new PSI2 technology allows up to 96% efficiency by optimizing the performance of the power inductor, a limiting factor in most competing pointof-load products. Power loss is reduced by up to 30%, which provides a 10 degree lower surface temperature under typical conditions. Magnetic material is also a much better thermal conductor than the plastic compounds typically used for potting in competitive modules. The surface temperature therefore remains very uniform, with no hot spots. The SPM1004 Series has a 12VDC nominal input with the SPM1005 Series for 5V/3.3V nominal input. Available DC outputs include 5V, 3.3V, 2.5V, 1.8V, 1.5V, 1.2V, 1.0V, 0.8V and 0.6V at up to 6A load current. Operating temperature range is -40 to +85°C, without forced air or derating. The LGA package measures 9x11x2.8mm for the 5V input and 9x15x2.8mm for the 12V input. Sumida America Components, Evanston, IL. (847) 424-1000. www.sumida.com

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 39


PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

Industrial-Grade ATX Mainboard with Intel C612 Chipset

A new industrial-grade ATX mainboard is available with Intel processors from the Xeon E5-2xx [V3], Xeon E5-16xx [V3], and Core i7 58xx/59xx series. Thanks to DDR4 memory technology, the D3348-B from Fujitsu offers significant performance increases compared to previous generations. Unlike most of the comparable mainboards in the market, it is not based on the X99 chipset, but the C612 chipset by Intel. The C612 chipset is particularly suitable for industrial applications because it supports Intel Standard Manageability and Intel vPro technology for remote management as well as Trusted Execution Technology (TXT). Furthermore, the chipset provides optimised support for Xeon processors and ECC memory. Long-term availability of the Fujitsu D3348-B mainboard, an aspect of particular importance for embedded applications, is ensured by the fact that the C612 chipset is likely to remain available until 2021. The X99 chipset, on the other hand, is expected to be discontinued in 2016. By using solid capacitors, Fujitsu can specify the D3348-B for a service life of 45,000 hours in 24/7 continuous operation. In tests carried out by Fujitsu, comparable products with aluminium capacitors only reached a service life of 12,000 hours. Another factor contributing to the long service life of the board is its smart design. The low total number of components employed on the board and the use of high-efficiency voltage transformers also reduce heat generation, thus improving service conditions. Despite a significant increase in computing performance, the Fujitsu D3348-B is specified with a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 160 watts, which is only about 10 watts higher than that of the previous model D3128-B. Furthermore, the D3348-B offers extended design options for integrating additional components. It features four PCIe x16 and three PCIe x8 slots, four USB 3.0, nine USB 2.0, and ten SATA(600) ports. The basic layout of the new extended-lifecycle mainboards, however, is largely based on that of the preceding generation. Thus, customers with industrial applications can also easily integrate the D3348-B into existing systems. As an optional component, Fujitsu offers the PCI x8 carrier board D3352 for M.2 SSD modules, which enable high-end data transmission rates and minimised boot times. Fujitsu, Sunnyvale, CA (408) 745-4900. www.us.fujitsu.com

40 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

Video Card for Multi-display Digital Signage and Control Rooms

Engineered for stability, reliability and advanced multi-display capabilities, the C420 quad-output PCI Express graphics card from Matrox delivers the features systems integrators require when designing small-form-factor (SFF) systems and digital signage player PCs for applications such as public information displays, video walls and multi-display operator workstations in process control, transportation and security control rooms. Matrox C-Series, which also includes the six-output C680 card, is currently being validated by control room and digital signage solution providers worldwide including Scala. C420 is fanless for enhanced reliability and silent operation. Its low-profile design and low power consumption make it the perfect fit for SFF, desktops and embedded systems. It drives up to four displays or projectors at resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 per output and two C420 cards together can drive eight displays from a single system. Secure Mini DisplayPort connectivity prevents loose cabling and 2GB of on-board memory ensures smooth video playback and graphics performance. C420 is compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, 8.1 and Linux operating systems and offers DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.4 compliance. The cards come bundled with Matrox PowerDesk for Windows desktop management software. Matrox PowerDesk lets users easily configure and manage multi-display setups giving professionals a comprehensive set of tools to control a variety of display configurations including stretched or independent desktops, clone mode, pivot, bezel management, and edge overlap. Matrox advanced desktop management features also let users determine where and how program windows are displayed on the desktop—a productivity tool designed to enhance multi-display experiences. Matrox Electronic Systems, Dorval, Quebec. (514) 822-6000. www.matrox.com


PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

COM Express Compact Size Type 6 Module with 5tFifth Generation Core Processor

A new COM Express Compact Size Type 6 module, the cExpress-BL from Adlink Technology is based on the fifth generation Intel Core processors i7-5650U, i5-5350U and fifth generation Core i3-5010U processor (codename Broadwell U), with support for up to 16 GB dual channel DDR3L memory. Featuring improved graphics and processing performance compared to the previous generation Intel processor, the cExpress-BL is suitable for fanless edge device solutions that demand intense graphics performance and multitasking capabilities in a space-constrained environment, such as digital signage for medical, transport and retail, or machine vision applications in factory automation. The ADLINK cExpress-BL features Intel HD Graphics 5500 and 6000 integrated in the CPU and provides two DDI channels (with up to 4K resolution) and one LVDS channel supporting three independent displays, enabling it to drive multiple HD screens without the need for a discrete graphics card. In addition, Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) is optionally available to

High Performance SBC Based on Second Generation Core i7 A high-performance single board computer (SBC) is based on the VMEbus 6U form factor with VME64 and older VME backplane compatibility. The CPU-71-16 from Dynatem is offered in both convection-cooled and ruggedized conduction-cooled versions to meet the needs of commercial and military applications requiring maximum processing power, low power consumption, and extended temperature range.

support next generation displays. The cExpress-BL also provides high-bandwidth I/O, including four PCIe x1 or single PCIe x 4, four SATA 6 Gb/s, two USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0 for peripheral devices and data transfer. A wide range of operating systems are supported, including Linux, Windows 7 and 8.1u, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded Industry 8.1, and VxWorks. A complete range of COM Express engineering test tools accompany the cExpress-BL to expedite application development. These tools include the COM Express Type 6 starter kit, which allows customers to proceed with carrier board design and software verification simultaneously; the T6-DDI video adapter card, which provides easy access to the cExpress-BL’s DDI ports; and the LPC POST debug board. A customized BIOS service is available, as well as Adlink’s carrier board design service that provides a quick and cost-effective alternative to full custom development by the manufacturer. The cExpress-BL is equipped with Adlink’s Smart Embedded Management Agent (SEMA) to provide access to detailed system activities at the device level, including temperature, voltage, power consumption and other key information, and allow operators to identify inefficiencies and malfunctions in real-time, thus preventing failures and minimizing downtime. ADLINK’s SEMA-equipped devices connect seamlessly to our SEMA Cloud solution to enable remote monitoring, autonomous status analysis, custom data collection, and initiation of appropriate actions. All collected data, including sensor measurements and management commands, are available from any place, at any time via encrypted data connection. ADLINK Technology, San Jose, CA (408) 360-0200. www.adlinktech.com

The CPU-71-16 is designed with three1G Ethernet ports and a rear transition module to provide rear I/O support. Dual core processing with the Intel second Generation Core i7 ULV Sandy Bridge processor at less than 25W typical power consumption enables cool operation at extended temperature. The CPU-7116 is offered in MIL-STD versions that support wedge locks for high shock and vibration immunity, and conduction cooling. The main features of the CPU-71-16 include the second Generation Core i7, dual core processor, an Intel Cougar Point QM67 platform controller hub and up to 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM. The extended temperature versions are rated at -40° to +85° operation and both convection and conduction-cooled versions are available with conformal coating as an option. The CPU-71-16 also supports on board CFast (SATA) card for bootable storage. Dynatem, Mission Viejo, CA (949) 855-3235. www.dynatem.com

RTC Magazine MARCH 2015 | 41


ADVERTISER INDEX

Company...........................................................................Page................................................................................Website Adlink Technology, Inc................................................................................ 29....................................................................................www.adlinktech.com congatec, Inc........................................................................................................4..............................................................................................www.congatec.us Dolphin.................................................................................................................... 13..................................................................................... www.dolphinics.com Dynatem................................................................................................................. 19......................................................................................... www.dynatem.com High Assurance................................................................................................23.................................................................................. www.highassure.com Intelligent Systems Source....................................................................4, 27.............................................. www.intelligentsystemssource.com Men Micro.............................................................................................................. 31......................................................................................www.menmicro.com One Stop Systems......................................................................................18, 44..................................................................www.onestopsystems.com Sage...........................................................................................................................35............................................................................................ www.se-eng.com Super Micro Computers, Inc.....................................................................5.................................................................................... www.supermicro.com Trenton Systems................................................................................................ 2........................................................................ www.TrentonSystems.com Versalogic..............................................................................................................43.....................................................................................www.versalogic.com WinSystems..........................................................................................................9................................................................................. www.WinSystems.com Product Gallery................................................................................................. 36....................................................................................................................................... RTC (Issn#1092-1524) magazine is published monthly at 905 Calle Amanecer, Ste. 150, San Clemente, CA 92673. Periodical postage paid at San Clemente and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The RTC Group, 905 Calle Amanecer, Ste. 150, San Clemente, CA 92673.

The Event for Embedded, M2M and IoT Technology 2015 Real-Time & Embedded Computing Conferences Boston, MA – April 08

Minneapolis, MN –October 06

San Diego, CA – August 21

Chicago, IL – October 08

Orange County, CA – August 27 Seattle, WA – November 05

For Information: The RTC Group, Inc. 905 Calle Amanecer, Suite 150

Register today at www.rtecc.com

42 | RTC Magazine MARCH 2015

San Clemente, CA 92673 Call: (949) 226-2000


You design products that enhance the quality of life. Our products help you do it.

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ne of the most important decisions a medical OEM makes is the choice of an embedded computer. It’s at the heart of any system. Because VersaLogic understands that medical customers have special requirements, VersaLogic single board computers can be found in a long list of medical products. ƒ Extensive lifecycle support – guaranteed 5-year off-the-shelf availability and formalized programs for 10+ year extensions

ƒ 13485 flow-down support ƒ Ultra-high reliability – industry leading manufacturing quality and screening programs ƒ Industry leading 5-year warranty ƒ Customized boards in quanitities as low as 100 units ƒ US-based manufacturing and support

Shown: Bengal “BayTrail” SBC

Whether an embedded application needs a standard off-the-shelf product or a customized version, the skilled technical staff at VersaLogic work hard to accommodate even the most demanding specifications. Contact VersaLogic’s Application Support Team for more information.

1-800-824-3163 503-747-2261 www.VersaLogic.com

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RTC Magazine  

March 2015

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