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Robots vs. Cheap Labor, Who Wins? How Humans Interact with Machines (HMI)? New Embedded Technology Trends Real World Connected Systems Magazine. Produced by Intelligent Systems Source

Vol 17 / No 2 / FEBRUARY 2016

Robotics Revolutionize Industrial Automation An RTC Group Publication


Real World Connected Systems Magazine. Produced by Intelligent Systems Source


2.0: The Human-Machine-Interaction (HMI) market and technologies by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief


2.1: Touch and Touchless human-machineinteraction (HMI) sensor market

by Jennifer Colegrove, Touch Display Research Inc.

14 Robotics Revolutionize Industrial Automation EDITORIAL 05

Robotic and Linear Motions Revolutionize Industrial Automation by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief


1.0: Robotics Revolutionize Industrial Automation


1.1: How Robotics Revolutionize Industrial Automation

by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief

by Bob Doyle, Robotic Industries Association (RIA)


1.2: Future of Industrial Automation


1.3: Disrupting the Industrial Automation Space


1.4: Services and people are important to the Industrial Internet of Things

by Jim Pinto, consultant


by David Olsen, Renesas Electronics America Inc.

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2.4: The Future of HMI: Integrate or Die


2.5: InduSoft Web Studio Brings HMI Innovations to Paper Winding Machine

by Jim Lawton, Rethink Robotics


1.6: Imagining the Possibility of Predictive Maintenance by Christine A. Frank, Dell

by By Patrick Hanley, Atmel Corporation

by Melinda Corley, InduSoft


3.0: Leading Embedded Manufacturers Provide Clues of the Future by John Koon, Editor-in-Chief


3.1: SWaP Systems Leveraging FMC’s Bring the Latest Technology to the DoD by Pierrick Vulliez, 4DSP


3.2: 3U VPX™ switch adds ExpressFabric® capability

by Nigel Forrester, Concurrent Technologies


by Rich Carpenter, GE’s Automation & Controls team

1.5: Collaborative Robots and the New Normal in Manufacturing

2.3: Give Me What I Want (Not What I Asked For) by Jason Williamson, Altia, Inc.

3.3: Boxes Becoming Boards—Technology Transition in VPX by Ken Grob, Elma Electronic Inc.


3.4: Rugged, Tactical LTE Networks for Military and First Responders by John Long, LCR Embedded Systems

by John Bender, ABB


2.2: Enhancing Embedded Designs with HMI Displays


3.5: Making Trains Safer Down Under


3.6: New FireWire Expansion Module for Mini PCIe Sockets

by Stephen Cunha, MEN Micro

by Len Crane, VersaLogic Corporation


3.7: Rugged Optic Interconnects Open New Possibilities for HPEC Systems in Harsh Environment by Michel Têtu, Reflex Photonics Inc.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 3


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TO CONTACT RTC MAGAZINE: Home Office The RTC Group, 905 Calle Amanecer, Suite 150, San Clemente, CA 92673 Phone: (949) 226-2000 Fax: (949) 226-2050 Web: Published by The RTC Group Copyright 2016, 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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Robotics and Linear Motions Revolutionize Industrial Automation by John Koon, Editor-In-Chief

At a recent ATX show in Anaheim, California (February 2016), one demo that caught my attention was the new ActiveMover. I saw a few shiny metal blocks spinning in circle much like race cars running on the race tracks with great precision. This unit, shown for the first time in North America, was manufactured by Rexroth (Bosch Group). As seen in the photo 1 and 2, each of these metal blocks which were referred to as workpiece pallets were held by strong magnets greater than 1000 Newtons (the force is equivalent to approximately 225 pounds). The workpiece pallets can move with a speed up to 500 feet per minute carrying weights up to 22 pounds. This demo gave us a glimpse of what future robotic motion looks like. Whether a factory is building cars or electronic assembly boards, the production processes require 2D and 3D motions to put the parts together. In the case of automotive plants, you may see a major robot arm moves around to picking up heavy parts and assemble them to the frame of an automotive. For electronic assembly boards, it can be a pick-and-place machine. Watching “board stuffing” in action placing components on the circuit assembly boards can be quite fascinating. Compare with human workers, robots can work tirelessly, improves productivity and reduce errors. While Industrial Internet-of-Things are touted as the solution to future manufacturing productivity, it goes beyond just connecting millions of sensors together. Data management and use are a big part of it. “Just having connected devices producing data points is of little use, unless those data points can be acted upon in a meaningful way. Only then will real change occur,” explained John Bender, senior vice president of product management at ABB. In this issue of the RTC Magazine, we will explore the various aspects of industrial automation including the future outlook. Experts from GE, Bosch Rextroth, ABB, Rethink Robotics, Dell and Robotic Industries Association (RIA) will share their

Bosch Rexroth ActiveMover is capable of high repeatability of +/- 0.01 mm and reversible operation. Image courtesy of Bosch Rexroth.

experiences and ideas. How human beings interact with machines Contrary to some sci-fi movies that smart machines become so smart that they program themselves and take over the world, almost all robotics and industrial automation systems need programming by human beings. Depends on the sophistication of the systems, some require high level programming, others C++ and the like. The interaction between human and machine is a topic commonly known as the Human-Machine-Interaction or Human-Machine-Interface (HMI). The common HMI is touch-screen display allowing a user to interact with the machine (usually the behind-thescene programming is already done at this point). HMI has great potential. The most popular HMI are verbal and touch input. Other methods such as brain wave, hand and eye movements are still in the research stage. One area of interest making a lot of progress is motion sensing. In the medical field, a wearable device can detect the motion of a person falling and send for help. This will provide peace of mind to those who have aging parents living by themselves. Where embedded technologies are heading? The Embedded Tech Trends conference (January 2016) invited a group of embedded

manufacturers to Houston to share the latest development. At this event, we saw more optical products including controllers and connectors are being deployed. Other technologies such as PCI, Mini PCIe, Firewire and VPX remained strong. New VPX standard was being established with many supporters. Other technologies including FPGA and System-onchip will continue to gain momentum. In this issue, w invited some of these manufacturers to share their experiences.

Workpiece pallet (an ActiveMover component) has width of 165 mm for holding fixture <500 mm and embedded magnets of 1000 Newtons. Image courtesy of Bosch Rexroth.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 5


Robotics revolutionize Industrial Automation by John Koon, Editor-In-Chief

Robotics are gaining significant recognition lately in increasing efficiency in manufacturing. Even China started to implement robotics to augment its relatively low labor cost pool. The combination of robotics, Internet-of-Things and meaningful use of data can increase productivity, create predictive maintenance; reduce downtime means big savings. Potentially, the proper implementation of robotics can disrupt the industry by creating

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a class of manufacturers much more competitive than those who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Additionally, the use of robotics is also broadening because of its unique characteristics and precision. In this section, we have invited experts from GE, ABB, DELL and Rethink Robotics to share their experiences. Finally, Jim Pinto, a leading consultant of industrial consultant, will discuss what the future of Industrial Automation will look like.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 7


How Robotics Revolutionize Industrial Automation Automation is on the move, becoming more approachable for human operators and more cost-effective for buyers. The physical and philosophical fence keeping humans and robots separate is starting to diminish in connection with technology moving at warp speed and the reasons to automate are multiplying. by Bob Doyle, Robotic Industries Association (RIA)

The potential of Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) is limitless. Not only does IIoT provide limitless ways to solve problems; it is also a worldwide phenomenon. Here we include an example of how IIoT can transform supply chains. But first we must overcome two hurdles. We need to have a secured network, and standardization. Security is the most important aspect, but it is difficult to achieve because it is a moving target. Sometimes I wonder if there are unadvertised hacker-schools teaching them new ways to hack.

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So where we go for answers? Whom do we trust? Some time ago, a local news station broadcasted that a box was placed in front of the ATM of a bank. On the box was a note saying, “ATM not working. Place your deposits in the box.” The broadcaster went on to say that the thief got away with an unspecified amount of cash. We laugh, because we know better than to trust such a statement. When it comes to security, whom do you trust? Do we rely on the company’s reputation and experience, or on our friends’ referrals? Here we turn to Green Hills for

free as a collaborative robot with humans. As of today, Baxter has been sold and deployed in manufacturing and production facilities throughout North America. Stäubli Corporation, of South Carolina has produced robotics designed specifically for the packaging, food and life science industries. The TX2-40 CS9 has extensive safety features specific to the human and robot collaboration including the safe stop, safe tool, safe zone and safe speed features.

Robotics Education

KUKA KORE Robotic Education Cart provides portable training for technical education programs. Image courtesy of KUKA Robotics Corporation.

Robotic organizations gather at the Automate conference (held in Chicago every other year) to demonstrate, interact and show case real-world robotic applications. The conference provides the attendees with the latest trends in robotics such as robot safety, bin picking, and 3D-printed grippers. In all cases, the trend for robotic companies seems to be moving past the assembly lines, in the goal of producing collaborative robots that improve precision and increase productivity— while being safe enough to work together with humans. This is how robotics revolutionizes industrial automation.

An additional, recent trend within the robotics industry pertains to training for technical education. Robots will be important instruments in helping the industry improve potential skills gaps by providing portable training options. KUKA, of Shelby Township, Michigan is one of the first robotics companies to produce a Robotic Education Cart that provides this method of technical education. Robotics for Medical Purposes ReWalk Robotics, of Marlborough, Massachusetts has produced a robotic exoskeleton called the ReWalk Personal, which is the only powered exoskeleton with U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance to date. This robotic “skeleton” helps individuals with spinal cord injuries to walk. Inventions for medical purposes such as the robotic exoskeleton are expected to populate factory floors and warehouses, blurring the distinctions between industrial, collaborative and service robots. Indeed the robotic industry is touching many areas of our lives.

Beyond the Assembly Lines

As the Automate conference reveals, robotics companies are striving to incorporate robotics in various industries. A recent exhibitor that has stood out in terms of specialty is Schneider Packaging Equipment Company, Inc., of Brewerton, New York who specializes exclusively in end-of-line packaging solutions. Their Fully Automatic, Random Water-Activated Tape Case Sealer accommodates a wide variety of box sizes, and after automatically determining the box size, applies a special water-activated tape that creates a stronger bond than pressure tape. Another recent noteworthy exhibitor is Applied Manufacturing Technologies, LLC, of Orion, Michigan, which specialize in robotic automation engineering and integration for material handling. Their FANUC R-2000 robot and multiple ATI tool changer demonstrates overall robotic flexibility and versatility. One of the most revolutionary robots in the collaborative robot category belongs to Rethink Robotics Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts. Rethink has produced a paradigm-shifting collaborative robot called “Baxter.” The Baxter robot works uncaged and

Robotic exoskeleton helps individuals with spinal cord injuries to walk. Image courtesy of ReWalk Robotics, Inc.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 9


Future of Industrial Automation

Automated production equipment today is smaller and cheaper, and requires fewer operators with better education and advanced skills. These operators simply don’t like to work on a time-card-punching production-line environment. They prefer the stimulating, innovative, fast-changing, adaptive atmosphere of small companies, with personal incentives and performance-based rewards. by Jim Pinto, consultant

Today, high-volume products are relatively easily outsourced to third-world countries where production-line work requires minimal training and provides upward mobility for low-skilled workers. It’s not that foreign labor is cheap – American labor is too expensive for the kind of work that remains after manufacturing is automated. So, big production facilities are simply going out of style in advanced countries, and large manufacturing plants are becoming obsolete. In the future, there will be millions of small- and medium-sized businesses that will benefit from new materials. 3D printers will economically produce a wide variety of products in small numbers.

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For smaller companies, robots are generally too inflexible and require too much financial investment. But the next generation of robots will be cheaper and easier to set up, and will work with people rather than replace them.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The primary drive for automation IoT is to significantly reduce operating expenditures when automation devices, sensors and actuators become Internet-enabled devices. It’s the next huge leap in productivity because there are major advantages to be derived from the acquisition and organization of previously unthinkable amounts of data. The inflection point will occur when literally everything is connected with inexpensive and easy-to-install wireless

networks. Industrial IoT will become self-organizing, self-configuring, self-healing, scalable to large sizes, with very low energy consumption, low cost, simple to install and based on global standards.

Chinese companies spend more on worker training and enterprise-management software. And 91% of U.S. plants are more than a decade old, vs. 54% in China.

China Leads in Manufacturing

The new buzzwords are “transformational outsourcing.” Many are discovering that outsourcing is really about corporate growth – making better use of skilled U.S. staff, and even job creation in the United States, not just cheap wages abroad. The cost savings from global outsourcing are small compared to the enormous gains in efficiency, productivity, quality and revenues that can be achieved by fully leveraging local as well as offshore talent.

What is stunning about China is that the huge country competes both with very low wages and high tech. Chinese competition offers half the price of any alternatives. This has been a big factor in the loss of about 3-5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. If China’s growth stalls, as it is doing right now in 2015/2016, the resulting glut will turn into another export wave and disrupt American industry. America’s industrial base has eroded to a dangerous level. U.S. companies are no longer investing in much new capacity, and the ranks of U.S. engineers are thinning. By contrast, the number of Chinese engineers is growing by over 350,000 annually. Young workers and managers are willing to put in 12-hour days and work weekends, with entrepreneurial zeal to do whatever it takes to advance. In a survey of Chinese and U.S. manufacturers by Industry Week, 54% of Chinese companies cited innovation as one of their top objectives, while only 26% of U.S. respondents did.


RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 11


Disrupting the Industrial Automation Space The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet is significantly transforming the way we think about automation systems. GE’s Automation & Controls team believes this is driving a change in the way automation and control systems are developed and is therefore introducing disruptive technology into the controls space to take advantage of this trend. by Rich Carpenter, GE’s Automation & Controls team

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet are the Industrial Internet out of the box. In other words, the large the new normal for today’s factories and infrastructure. Howequipment that GE provides to customers, whether for a wind ever, there is quite a bit more to the Industrial Internet than just application, a gas turbine, locomotive or other industrial machine, collecting high-speed data from miles of connected infrastructure. is shipped with the required connectivity in place to bring data to Without a meaningful way to optimize and process data, the imthe Industrial Internet. Once the data is available and organized mense scope of information being generated by today’s machines centrally, it can be mined for insights that are then used to drive poses a real challenge for engineers and operators. improved operational results. We believe, that like connected That’s why companies are making their control systems smarter people, connected machines can operate with more intelligence. by connecting them to information outside of their normal, local As a result, the new control systems from GE are connected by field of view. This helps the control system to make economically default. Doing so greatly simplifies customers’ experience with a stronger decisions to help optimize the overall business. Original new control system as they can connect to industrial clouds like Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are connecting their equipGE’s Predix with just a few simple steps. ment, no matter how distributed, to central locations where they The connected control system is then able to take advantage of can run analytics for anything from predictive diagnostics to Predix services like Asset Performance Management and Brilliant avoid unplanned downtime to improved operational efficiency to Manufacturing, which are focused on preventing unplanned achieve higher output at lower costs. downtime via predictive diagnostics using technology like SmartFor example, GE’s Power Conversion business is using Industri- Signal and reducing production losses. Since the control system al PCs (IPCs) from GE’s Automation & Controls team as control is naturally connected to Predix, it’s easy for customers to enable units on multiple shipboard applications, including variable frethese services to improve their overall operations. See figure. quency drives, automation systems and dynamic positioning systems. These IPCs are critical components, acting as the brains of their drives and propulsion and control systems. Power Conversion was previously using many different controllers, so the convergence onto one model has been beneficial. Now, the team is moving towards one hardware platform for their control systems, reducing the number of spare parts that they and their customers need to stock. With this example in mind, GE’s Automation & Controls team believes the emergence of IOT and the Industrial Internet is driving a change in the way automation and control systems are developed and is therefore introducing disruptive technology into the controls space to take advantage of this trend. GE is changing the GE is speaking the language of industry and bringing together industrial engineering with sensors, way equipment is serviced by connecting it to software and big data analytics to create brilliant machines 12 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016


Expert Opinion: Services and people are important to the Industrial Internet of Things by John Bender, senior vice president of product management, ABB

The emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as the hot industrial topic is based on the well-founded perception that sharing information across the operations and information technology boundaries within an organization will drive improved business performance. At ABB, we heartily agree, though not without the integration of an organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s services and people. Only when IIoT, services and people are considered together will real change occur. Just having connected devices producing

data points is of little use, unless those data points can be acted upon in an impactful way. Real change requires the application of deep domain knowledge and conversion of data into information that can be easily used and acted upon by people to help them focus on what is important and remove noise and distractions.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 13


Collaborative Robots and the New Normal in Manufacturing Manufacturersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; needs are shifting, and they have been unable to automate 90 percent of tasks that traditional automation has been unable to reach. Currently, manufacturers recognize that they need to be more responsive to market changes, ready to deliver on customer preferences and able to innovate faster and more efficiently than their competitors. Collaborative robots are pioneering a new generation of manufacturing innovation on the factory floor, and shifting the way that businesses compete. by Jim Lawton, chief product and marketing officer, Rethink Robotics

As personalization becomes the de facto standard in society, and consumers demand more customization in every facet of their daily lives, factories need to be more nimble and flexible than ever before. New parts, processes and production lines need to be implemented quickly and efficiently in order to serve fluctuating customer demands. While automating tasks with robots on the factory floor has been in place for decades, traditional industrial robots are poorly suited for the new shifts in production: Most of these expensive robots can only perform a single task, take up a large amount of space and need to operate behind safety caging. In fact, more than 90 percent of physical tasks performed in manufacturing environments canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be practically or economically automated by industrial robots. Companies are turning to truly collaborative robots to fill this automation gap. For example, Baxter and Sawyer are able to adapt to real-world variability, can change applications quickly and perform tasks like humans do. The result: Manufacturers across industries get the fast-to-deploy, easy-to-use and versatile automation solution they need to increase flexibility, lower costs and accelerate innovation. Manufacturers have been unable to deploy traditional robots in the factory because of extensive programming time and costs. This new generation of robots are not programmed, but are trained by demonstration, meaning that virtually anyone can train robots to complete tasks simply by showing them what to do. Unlike traditional industrial robots that take hundreds of hours to program, and require a highly paid engineer or consultant with programming expertise, Baxter and Sawyer can be trained to perform a task in a matter of minutes. With a true train-by-demonstration method, employees with little to no technical background can deploy and redeploy automation quickly and effectively, therefore saving time and money. Another significant concern for traditional industrial robots is the ability to work in semi-structured manufacturing environments. Now, robots like Baxter and Sawyer are able to deal with real-world variability, reliably feel their way into fixtures designed for human hands and shift among various tasks quickly. Collaborative robots are now deployed in a wide variety of industries, including plastics, 14 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

Baxter and Sawyer are smart, collaborative robots that are perfectly suited for todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s manufacturing environment, as they are able to adapt to real-world variability, can change applications quickly and perform tasks like humans do.

contract manufacturing, electronics, automotive, metal fabrication, consumer goods and research and education. The robots are not limited to those spaces; they are adaptable to virtually any environment, and can be used for tasks that cross numerous industries, including packaging, line loading and unloading, kitting, machine tending, circuit board testing and material handling. Automating these tasks enables human workers to complete tasks that require higher cognitive ability, thereby increasing workforce efficiency and retention. Collaborative robots are revolutionizing the factory floor, and this new generation of technology is changing the game and helping companies excel in the new manufacturing normal.


Imagining the Possibility of Predictive Maintenance Refining business models and opening up new opportunities for companies in today’s competitive atmosphere. by Christine A. Frank, Industrial IoT Lead, Dell

PdM can help to identify a small problem early, which may result in saving you from a big one in the future.

Data is all around us. We now see things in data we never dreamt possible, like allowing for greater insight into your machine or process of the when, where and how. Today, the buzz is all around us about predictive maintenance (PdM) and the ways it is helping companies achieve complete optimization and maximum profitability. It can be applied to planes, trains, automobiles, manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities, hospitals, hotels or anything that creates data. Operations Technology (OT) companies used to focus on preventative maintenance (PM) which seemed like a “good enough” approach. Or we would schedule downtime to replace “things” that may or may not need to be replaced. We now know that not only is this inefficient but it can cost as much as 40% more than a PdM approach. Companies today are doing more with less -- less qualified personnel, an aging workforce, expectations to increase profitability and speed up the supply chain. How can companies continue to perform and outpace the competition if they aren’t looking at the bottom line? We need to start utilizing the data from sensors, actuators, etc. Running the assets into the ground is not efficient or smart. A system failure at beer brewing manufacturer during peak production before the Fourth of July for example would be cata-

strophic – up to $100,000 per hour catastrophic! And an example like this could have easily been avoided by just applying PdM. Collecting data from sensors, actuators and other “things” isn’t anything new, but the opportunity in the analytics is what’s the most exciting to me. We are currently working with SAP, and they are providing customers real solutions to their big data needs by offering interoperability to multiple systems across many business units in real-time. Our Edge Gateways enable industrial users to monitor and connect a wide variety of sensor and machine data from equipment, like batteries and valves to smart analytic systems. Through our work with SAP, that data can be stored in SAP SQL Anywhere and intelligently streamed then processed in SAP HANA. This allows users in remote sites, like the middle of the ocean for oil and gas companies, to quickly recognize when a piece of equipment is on the brink of malfunctioning before negative business impact occurs. The move to PdM isn’t going to happen overnight for every company, but knowing it’s possible and already happening is powerful. PdM can help to identify a small problem early, which may result in saving you from a big one in the future. Evolution takes time, but data-driven innovation is here to stay! See diagram.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 15


The Human-Machine-Interaction (HMI) market and technologies by John Koon, Editor-In-Chief

Depends on your preference, HMI can mean human-machine-interface or human-machine-interaction. According to Touch Display Research Inc., the HMI sensor market has grown over the years. Revenue was $2 billion in 2006. It expects to hit $36 billion by 2020. A market cannot be ignored. Dr. Colegrove will go into details explaining the various types of technologies

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used and strategy recommendation. In this section, Renesas will discuss the HMI design ideas and considerations. Atmel and Altia will share their insights on HMI. Finally, Indusoft (owned by Schneider Electric) will present a case study on how HMI helped a paper pulp company improve their performance.


Touch and Touchless humanmachine-interaction (HMI) sensor market With touch panels becoming ubiquitous, the touch industry is also undergoing rapid change. Touch Display Research Inc. constantly surveys all of the leading manufacturers in the touch screen industry, ITO replacement material industry and touchless control suppliers, we analyze the market situation, identify the hot touch trends and provide accurate market forecasts. by Jennifer Colegrove, Ph.D. CEO and Principal Analyst, Touch Display Research Inc.


The Touch panel market has been growing explosively since 2006. As the first industry analyst to write a comprehensive touch screen industry report in 2006, I feel very fortunate to have witnessed our touch screen engineers, technicians, and managers grow our industry through hard work and constant innovation. In spite of a global economic recession over the last couple of years the market has continued to grow at handsome rate. Touch Display Research forecast1 the touch module revenue will reach $36 billion by 2020, from just $2 billion in 2006. See figure 1. Touch screen suppliers, especially those projected capacitive touch suppliers have been mostly profitable during 2007 and

2009. But fast forward to 2016, the competition is fierce, many touch screen suppliers have encountered net losses or even went bankrupt. New business strategies are needed to become a leader or maintain a leadership position in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s touch industry.

ITO-Replacement: Non-ITO Transparent Conductors

ITO is still the mainstream transparent conductor used on touch panels, however, due to the high cost, fragility, long process steps, ITO-replacements have become one of the hot trends. There are over 10 types of ITO replacement technologies; we have placed them into 6 categories: metal mesh, silver nanowire, carbon nanotube, conductive polymer, graphene and other transparent conductor technologies. In addition there are over 200 companies or research institutes that are currently working on ITO-replacements2. Each technology has its Pros and Cons. There are many characteristics to compare when choosing a transparent conductive material, sheet resistance, transmissivity, conductivity, haze, optical appearance and cost by way of example. Here we compare cost and conductivity. See figure 2. ITO-replacement, such as metal mesh, silver nanowire could provide touch sensor at lower cost, thinner, lighter weight, higher conductivity and larger size. Touch Display Research forecasts that non-ITO transparent conductor Figure 1: Touch Module Market Forecast. Source: Touch Display Research Inc, 2016. RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 17



tal M



er N





Low Conductivity



Conductive Polymer

Source: Touch Display Research, ITO-replacement report 2016

Research forecasts that the touchless HMI market will grow rapidly in the next several years. There are many opportunities for OEMs, ODMs, semiconductor companies, and software companies. Over 220 touchless sensor suppliers, system integrators, and brand companies working on touchless HMI sensors. Camera-based gesture technology attracted 58 companies working on it; 49 companies are active on motion sensor fusion; 30 companies are active on voice recognition. See figure 3.

High cost

Low cost

Figure 2: Comparison of ITO replacements, cost vs conductivity. Source: Touch Display Research, ITO-replacement: non ITO transparent conductor technologies, supply chain and market forecast report, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

market revenue will reach $13 billion by 2023. However, not all companies are growing and you need to be very selective.

Touchless Human-Machine-Interaction (HMI) Sensor Market

Gesture-control, voice-recognition, eye-tracking and many other touchless sensors provide the benefit of convenience, safety, hygiene, authentication, fun and coolness. Touch Display

Figure 3: Touchless HMI Sensor Technologies and Companies. Source: Touch Display Research, Touchless HMI Sensor Market 2015 Report, October 2015.

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Touch Display Research forecasts the touchless HMI sensor market will reach $20 billion by 2016 and $44 billion by 2021. See figure 4. Summary and business strategy recommendations The touch screen module market is forecasted to grow to $36 billion by 2020, from just $2 billion in 2006, which will throw up many new opportunities in the fast changing touch industry: We recommend metal mesh for simple design with large volume, or pursue large format touch panels; silver nanowire for display, lighting and EMI; and conductive polymer for EMI, anti– static applications; Carbon NanoTube for mobile/wearable devices with the benefits of flexibility, low reflections and low haze. Touchless HMI, such as gesture-control, voice-recognition, eye-tracking and many other touchless sensors provide the benefit of convenience, safety, hygiene, authentication, fun and coolness. We recommend touchless HMI sensors to automotive industry, baby care/health care industry, and augmented reality and virtual reality applications.

Figure 4: Touchless HMI Sensor Market forecast to 2021. Source: Touch Display Research, Touchless HMI Sensor Market Report, October 2015.

References 1. Touch Display Research Inc. Monthly report: “Touch and Emerging Display” report, 2014, 2015 and 2016 2. “ITO replacement: non ITO transparent conductor technologies, supply chain and market forecast” report, Touch Display Research Inc. 2013-2016. 3. “Touchless Human-Machine Interaction Sensor Market”, Touch Display Research Inc. 2013-2016

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RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 19



Enhancing Embedded Designs with HMI Displays The ways in which users access and consume graphical data continues to evolve. The display that is right for your particular design and the chipset that you need to implement it depends on the technical demands placed upon your product and the market expectations within your target segment. by David Olsen, Staff Product Marketing Manager, Renesas Electronics America Inc.

In the beginning…

Humans have always been compelled to record, display, and transport information. It is thought that we started using papyrus scrolls - perhaps, the first mobile communications medium - as far back as 4000 B.C. Today, the rollable, semi-transparent organic LED (OLED) display screens used on advanced LED television panels harken back to those ancient scrolls with a notable similarity in form that suggests that a common thread has been passed down through the millennia. That thread is the desire to share information in an easy-to-understand way for the reader (or “user”) and to make it portable. See Figure 1 (1 (a) and 1 (b) In today’s age of intelligent and sophisticated consumer electronic media, does every embedded device need a digital display, and if so what kind? Let’s explore some of the tradeoffs that underlie these questions – questions that must be grappled

Figure 1a: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead papyrus scroll (~2000 B.C.).

20 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

with by every embedded systems designer as they embark upon a new project.

Evolution of Embedded Electronic Display Technology

So the story goes, the designers of the Eniac [ref: www.wikipedia. org/wiki/ENIAC] – one of the earliest electronic digital computers – felt no need to put any type of display indicators on it. After all, why would you need anything more than punch cards to convey output to the user? Eventually, it was decided that neon tubes should be added to show the operators the values of the CPU registers to make it easier to debug programs. To this day, many modern devices have a similarly Spartan display, often composed of nothing more than a bank of simple LEDs. Cable modems, dishwashers, and many other appliances are such examples. As simple as the LED is - at least in terms of appearance and function, the first digital LED watches had a lot of caché in their

Figure 1b: LG Display’s rollable OLED display panel. Source: LG Display

day – possibly just as much as a modern-day smart phone. A Hamilton Pulsar P2 digital watch [ref:] was even worn by none other than James Bond – the undisputed spymaster of product placement – in 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” causing a run on the product after movie-goers realized that the technology was real and not just a prop. See Figure 2 When commercially-available liquid crystal technology emerged in the late 70’s, LED segment displays were eventually replaced. Still, it was almost 20 years before mechanical buttons could start being replaced by a practical touch-screen LCD display on industrial control panels and early electronic organizers. Capacitive touch displays – which are considered “table stakes” in any smart phone – did not start to make in-roads until around 2007, the year that Apple released the first iPhone. Today, vivid high-definition LCD touch screens are becoming commonplace on everyday devices thermostats, washing machines, and high-end refrigerators. As a result of the so-called “iPhone effect,” consumers have recalibrated their expectations for what they should expect in a user interface (UI). Nonetheless, there still are certain classes of products for which a very simple UI is still sufficient and effective.

Design Considerations

What should you be thinking about before introducing a display into your product? Enhanced displays can certainly add functionality, improve aesthetics, and help differentiate your product, warranting a higher price for it in the market. Nonetheless, the display panel, associated circuitry, and design software will introduce additional manufacturing cost. For instance, external memory chips may be needed for the graphics frame buffering. This will add cost to the bill of materials (BOM) and necessitate additional voltage regulators and power management integrated circuits (PMICs) on the printed circuit board (PCB). More pins will also be needed to connect to the memory device, which may require a larger chip, and additional PCB layers will be needed to route all the signals. The display panel, itself, will add cost, as will the on-board LCD controller if one is not included in your microcontroller (MCU) or microprocessor

Figure 2: The Pulsar 7-Segment LED Watch, as seen in “Live and Let Die” from 1973, which demonstrated an LED watch display to a mainstream audience.

(MPU). A good commercial graphics design tool should also be considered to help implement the graphical user interface (GUI). So, what do you do? It depends on the metric is your company most interested in: profits or sales. Clearly, both are important, but if your primary goal is top-line growth (i.e., sales), then you must consider whether you will be able to charge more for the added functionality you are bringing to the table. If your primary metric is the bottom line (i.e. profit), then you have to pay very careful attention to whether or not the presumed added sales will offset your increased cost. Do you want to be seen as a technology leader? If so, then you can’t afford to have a sub-standard UI. Do you need to have a capacitive touch display or will something simpler do? The “pros” of a capacitive touch display are that it looks great, feels high-end, brings familiarity in today’s smart phone age, and adds the convenience of multi-touch and gesture recognition. The “cons” include the cost adder that the capacitive touch display brings to the system, a 10-15% decrease in luminance compared to a non-touch-sensitive display panel due to the additional glass layers that the light must penetrate to reach the user’s eye, the need for higher-powered back-lighting, and potential lifespan issues compared to a simple display. What about a resistive touch? The pros are that it is tougher and more robust than a capacitive touch screen; it has a tactile feel; it can respond to implements like a fine point stylus, gloves, or tools; it is better for hand-writing recognition than capac-




Capacitive touch

•Good Looks •High-End Feel •Familiarity •Utility

•Higher Cost •Decreased Luminance •Higher Power And Shorter Lifespan Than Non-Touch Display

Resistive Touch

•Tougher and cheaper than capacitive Touch displays •Provides tactile feel •Can use any implement to write on it •Good hand-writing recognition

•Higher cost than mechanical buttons •Slower responsiveness and lower image quality than capacitive touch •Decreased luminance, higher power and shorter lifespan than non-touch display


•Sharp image quality •Long life-span •Inexpensive

•Requires mechanical button interface to interact with system •Not considered “new” technology


•Inexpensive •Very low power

•Limited flexibility

Table 1: LCD display comparison landscape. Source: Renesas Electronics America Inc.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 21


HUMAN-MACHINE-INTERACTION itive touch; and it is cheaper. The cons include the cost adder vs. mechanical buttons, slower responsiveness than capacitive touch, an approximately 20% reduction in display luminance vs. a non-touch screen, and it is considered “old” technology. That said, many modern airplane cabins use a resistive touchscreen in-flight entertainment system, which makes for a very enjoyable and usable product. Let’s not forget about segment displays. They are cost effective, ultra-low power, and very simple even though they have somewhat limited use. Then again, digital triathlon watches, fitness monitors, and electronic multi-meters have segment displays, and they are perfectly well-matched to the job at hand. And, you rarely need to change the batteries. See Table 1

product roadmap. As an example, Renesas provides microcontrollers (MCUs) and microprocessors (MPUs) that can be used in platforms with wide-ranging complexity, from driving simple segment LCD displays (e.g., with the RL78 MCUs), to basic- and medium-resolution displays (using the RX MCU and Renesas Synergy™ Platform), to WXGA displays buffered entirely out of high-speed on-chip SRAM (with RZ/A MPUs), all the way to 1080p displays (with the RZ/G families of MPUs with DDR3 memory controllers, 3D graphics accelerators, and video codecs). Plus, they work with a variety of operating systems and middleware to simplify your design implementation process. See Figure 3

The Future of HMI Displays

How to Select the Right Hardware

While you are wrestling with today’s human machine interface

There are several questions to consider: •W  hat is the problem you are trying to solve? •W  hat specifications are required to achieve your functional goals? •W  hat are your customers’ expectations for a product in this market (in terms of screen resolution, 2D/3D graphics, need for video decompression, etc.)? •A  re there any other special restrictions in terms form factor, power dissipation, etc.?

Armed with those answers, you can look to the major semiconductor vendors to assess whether their product line-up maps to your

Figure 3: An example of the representative display capabilities by various Renesas semiconductor devices. Source: Renesas Electronics America Inc.

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(HMI) design challenges, you probably want to keep one eye on where things are going, too. Trends in HMI include open-air hand-gesture recognition, heads-up projection with pre-distortion to map flat images onto curved surfaces, holographic projection, flexible, wearable displays, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), as well as highly ergonomic free-form transparent displays. Free-form displays also hold a lot of promise, wherein transparent compound semiconductors, like IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) can be shaped into a variety of configurations to minimize use of materials and improve aesthetics and functionality. With this technology, there is the potential to embed electronic displays into everyday things like windows and bathroom vanity mirrors so that you can read the news or check the weather while brushing your teeth before work.

it depends on the technical demands placed upon your product and the market expectations within your target segment. While today’s technologies are harbingers of further integration of displays into things like clothing, mirrors, car bodies and dashboards, will customers be willing to pay more for an enhanced and more attractive UI? It still all comes down to customer tastes and preferences, availability of competing products, and the price, quality and brand name of your product.

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Give Me What I Want (Not What I Asked For) The key to great relationships is communication. When it comes to mass market devices, there is no relationship thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more important that the one between your product and its user â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and the place where the user communicates with your product is its human-machine-interface (HMI). by Jason Williamson, Altia, Inc.

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When designing HMIs for the mass market, getting the HMI right is critical to a lasting relationship with its users – the mass market – which is the ultimate test of product success. When it comes to designing the HMI, however, miscommunication between the various members of a development team – software engineers, hardware engineers, artists, usability experts and all the rest – is especially common. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common – and avoidable – miscommunication pitfalls that HMI teams run into all the time.

Not knowing what you have – until it’s too late

It’s all too common that a hardware prototype that comes out at the end of engineering development is the first time that engineers, designers and stakeholders get their hands on the concept. At this stage it’s usually far too late and too expensive to go back and fix the performance, appearance or usability problems that unfailingly arise with Product 1.0. This is the reason why you end up seeing so many products that make you scratch your head and say, “Now why in the world did they do it that way?” HMI teams need to have a working model – on actual embedded hardware – in the first stage of the development process. Getting on hardware early is one of the primary advantages of using an end-to-end development tool.

Not getting customer feedback early – and often

Once teams have a realistic working model, they must use that model to get the concept in front of a wide range of potential customers. PC-based computer simulations offer an excellent early-feedback ecosystem. However, there is no substitute for getting real touchscreens and embedded processors into your tests. Problems like reactivity, latency, hard-to-read iconography and more can really start to emerge once all the pieces are in place.

Using words to describe graphics and behaviors

We’ve all seen HMI specification documents that are as long as War and Peace. You have to get pretty wordy when you’re describing an animated, interactive user interface with all of the aspects needed to thrill and captivate users. Inevitably there are things you just don’t capture – or can’t fully think through – until you see it and try it out firsthand. Naturally, being able to mock up interactive concepts that demonstrate the behavior is an invaluable supplement to any written specification. Plus, wouldn’t it be great if you could use those conceptual models all the way through the development process… and into production?

the areas where misunderstandings and omissions most often creep in. The design starts out one way and gradually morphs into an unrecognizable failure by project’s end. Additionally, sometimes it isn’t just a misinterpretation of the specification. Depending on the capabilities of the tools used in each of the project’s phases, it’s not uncommon that the assets cannot be duplicated exactly. What’s more, there could be a host of limitations to consider with respect to memory, display and processor speed. For example, when a software engineer approach the design without knowing the real capability of the hardware platform, it is possible to deliver a system that the embedded

“Inevitably there are things you just don’t capture – or can’t fully think through – until you see it and try it out firsthand.” hardware cannot support. As development progresses and hardware specifications become more available, piecemeal tradeoffs are made all along the chain. It’s imperative that the tool chain is available to the various members of the team to allow those assets to be carried forward for the sake of fidelity as well as shortening the development time.

For clear communication and a better HMI, a model is key

Behavior specifications, hardware requirements and limitations, user experience, software design, system integration – these are just a few of the many important components of HMI design that can result in a tangled mess in the product development process if the people involved aren’t communicating successfully. A working model – developed with a model-based development tool – is the best way to facilitate the communication required and at the end deliver a successful HMI that customers will want.

Re-creating assets from group to group

Carrying assets through development and into production is exactly what effective HMI development teams do when they’re armed with the right tool. Re-creating assets in a variety of different tools isn’t just a waste of time – it’s one of RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 25


The Future of HMI: Integrate or Die Touchscreen HMI trends typically start with smartphones and then follow behind for nearly all electronic devices. The current trend is touch sensor integration that leads to thinner, lighter devices, clearer optics, and innovative new capabilities. by Patrick Hanley, Atmel Corporation

Touchscreens are the heart of today’s human-machine interface (HMI), and the future can be summed up in three little words: integrate or die. Touchscreen HMI for nearly any application is driven by smartphones, with continuing demand for thinner designs, lighter weight, and clearer optics, as well as features such as moisture immunity, stylus capability, and narrow bezels. These features—and future demands on LCD—are being accomplished through display integration that reduces the number of layers in the total stack-up, typically using one of three common implementations: on-cell, hybrid in-cell, or full in-cell. See figure1. Single Layer On-Cell (SLOC) combines the touch transmit (Tx) and touch receive (Rx) functionality on the top side of the color filter glass and under the cover glass. (Figure 1 shows options on where the touch sensor can be integrated within the stack-up.) This approach has been widely adopted for both handsets and larger formats such as tablets and other embedded applications. Advantages include the ability to create bezel-less designs due to more efficient routing from the touch controller, as well as lighter weight due to the compressed sensor stack. However, the design is more complex than a traditional out-cell or discrete touch display, so is typically more expensive. A continuation of this display integration effort is the hybrid in-cell approach. This offers partial touch integration with Tx functionality within the LCD stack-up, but leaves Rx outside the LCD stack-up. The total stack is therefore reduced, offering

improvements in thickness and weight, but hybrid in-cell adds more complexity for display manufacturers and OEMs. Hybrid in-cell is unlikely to be widely used for larger format displays, and OEMs who aren’t currently invested in this approach may choose to make the jump to full in-cell implementation. The future of HMI is being manifested in flagship smartphone handsets that use full in-cell implementation, which is currently available from a limited number of display manufacturers. This approach embeds both the Tx and Rx electrodes inside the display on the TFT backplane, directly on the VCOM, and eliminating the need for an independent touch sensor layer. The result is a thinner, lighter display with increased clarity due to fewer stackup layers. While in-cell implementation adds manufacturing complexity, the reduction in sensor layers helps reduce overall costs. However, timing limitations between the display and touch sensor mean this approach is available today only for smaller screen sizes. Future high-end HMI applications will demand integrated in-cell capability for large and high-resolution displays, which will require innovative new touch controller technologies that address shared timing limitations. And these applications will incorporate leading-edge integrated sensor capabilities such as touch classification detection that automatically adjusts for environmental and usage requirements such as the presence of moisture or the use of glove or stylus.

Figure 1 The Atmel® maXTouch® controller offers on-cell and in-cell capabilities for a range of discrete or integrated implementations, which can be incorporated within different layers of a typical LCD stack-up.

26 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016


Case Study: InduSoft Web Studio Brings HMI Innovations to Paper Winding Machine Eletrônica KGEL needed a better, more intuitive interface for a paper winding machine and chose InduSoft web Studio for a new HMI with a ‘Friendly’ interface. The new interface has not only increased the efficiency of the machine, but the techniques used to develop the project have already been applied to other interface designs for Eletrônica KGEL. by Melinda Corley, InduSoft

Eletrônica KGEL in Brazil was tasked with designing the interface for a paper winding machine badly in need of a friendlier supervisory system that could be applied to countless new customers in the pulp and paper industry. The HERGEN 1200m/min (Tissue) with WEG commands used a 10’’ color HMI with RS485 serial communication. After 10 years of use, the HMI faced problems with the touchscreen features that resulted in the loss of information. The machine was difficult to use for both operators and maintenance personnel, and many hours were lost during production due to the sluggish interface. The machine could not monitor individual users, and operators often could not retrieve data.

Eletrônica KGEL started development on an HMI to replace the old one, but due to high prices, began searching for alternatives that would keep the project within the budget. After researching solutions to replace the HMI, Eletrônica KGEL discovered InduSoft Web Studio, which had a native communication driver with the CL200 PLC.

The Challenge

A new, intuitive interface was a requirement for the project. One aspect that already worked well was the HMI touchscreen feature. They designed a system using the Panel PC that supported the touchscreen interface system, processing, and refrigeration in one single panel. With the design and the project budget

Figure 1: Touch Module Market Forecast. Source: Touch Display Research Inc, 2016.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 27

2.5 HUMAN-MACHINE-INTERACTION finalized, they were able to present a cost effective and powerful multi-touch HMI solution.

The Solution

The project was divided into the HMI application and the construction of the panel. Eletrônica KGEL recognized that the project could be improved beyond a simple retrofit of the previous application. They decided that it would be a waste of investment to use software like InduSoft Web Studio without taking full advantage of its potential. With all the InduSoft documentation and online information, they were able to quickly implement many of the features in the HMI software. The landing screen has operator commands and basic information. The machine has push-button control, leaving the HMI with only with a few commands. On the main screen the operator has important information, such as the status of the drivers, machine status, and machine speed, among others. The main menu gives access to submenus. They created an option for operation maintenance. For example, if the operator tried to enable the machine but it failed, the operator can click on “Enable Machine”. When the operator does that, a screen full of information regarding the issue appears. It is also possible to know who shut down the command to enable

the machine. The operator can also click the alarm list, where all errors of the machine are registered. In addition to the diagnostics, the operator can load a notepad to write tips to other machine operators in case a similar error occurs.

The Results

After some on-site testing, Eletrônica KGEL realized the implementation of the HMI application could be used in other applications. They collected the necessary information to begin the development of a new, improved project that uses the same concepts for industrial machine interfaces using InduSoft Web Studio. They began creating an application prototype that could be offered to other KGEL customers. The machine using the InduSoft Web Studio HMI is now easy to operate, and maintenance is much easier, which has improved the machine functionality and uptime dramatically.

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Leading Embedded Manufacturers Provide Clues of the Future by John Koon, Editor-In-Chief

Embedded Technologies are in constant flux. Not only more emphasis is put on Internet-of-Things, companies are constantly shifting gears to adjust to the new marketing dynamics. For example, AMD is making a lot of pre-announcements on products to be introduced at Embedded World (Feb 2016) in Nuremburg, Germany while Intel is rather quiet. AMD introduced the 3rd generation embedded G-series SoC with new optimized graphics and computation power. It is scalable and supports the 4K multimedia requirements. The dual channel OOR4 memory has built-in error-correction code (ECC) enhancement. Let us see what additional market share this series will bring AMD. (Figure 1).

30 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

At the recent Embedded Tech Trends meeting, I caught up with a few leading suppliers in the embedded space to get a sense where the market is heading. In the following reports, 4DSP, Concurrent Technologies, Elma, LCR, MEN Micro, ReflectPhotonics and VersaLogic will discuss their latest developments.


SWaP Systems Leveraging FMCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bring the Latest Technology to the DoD Low power and high performance ruggedized platforms are not only made possible by advances in technology but also by the smart use of industry standards. The DoD benefits greatly from the associated costs and time savings. by Pierrick Vulliez, 4DSP

The increasing demand for embedded computing systems to power intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) applications as well as Electronic Warfare (EW) solutions is driving the need for the rapid prototyping and deployment of reconfigurable COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware platforms that combine high performance and flexibility. There are a number of ways of implementing advanced solutions to serve the needs of airborne ISR and EW processing applications but manufacturers are required to develop lighter and more compact solutions that deliver an increased level of performance while constrained by Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) profiles. It is therefore essential that the embedded sensor processing subsystems that must contend with the greatly increased volumes of data being collected by these sensors take advantage of both the parallel computing resources offered by low-power and efficient FPGAs and the capabilities of modern ADCs packaged in small form factors such as the FPGA Mezzanine Card (FMC â&#x20AC;&#x201C; VITA 57.1). When combined with high-performance wideband or GHz-capable ADCs, FPGAs are essential to digitizing the analog input from a sensor and then processing the acquired data stream. A flexible FPGA-based architecture in a compact size such as the 4DSP CESCC820 (VITA 75) can be combined with the latest

Figure 1 The CESCC820 (Compact Embedded System) is a ruggedized, small form factor embedded system designed to provide a complete and generic processing platform for data acquisition, signal processing, and communication.

Figure 2 The FMC432 is a dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T) FPGA Mezzanine Card with two RJ45 connectors available on the front panel.

in wideband ADCs and high-speed, high-resolution DACs and 10Gb Ethernet digital communication on FPGA Mezzanine Cards ( FMC - VITA 57). The CESCC820 is a ruggedized, small form factor embedded system designed to provide a complete and generic processing platform for data acquisition, signal processing, and communication. With a low power Intel CPU and a high performance Xilinx Ultrascale FPGA, the CESCC820 flexibility is greatly enhanced by the ability to select I/O functionality from a wide range of FMCs. They provide a standard form factor and modular interface to the FPGA and offer the best I/O approach outside of a monolithic solution by leveraging a consistent FPGA and CPU baseline system architecture. FMCs can be selected as needed to build an ultra-high-speed analog transceiver to handle both low-latency signal processing in either air or conduction-cooled configurations while also handling data movement functions. Such a configuration offers a high level of flexibility, as subsystems can be simply upgraded over time with new technology as it becomes available. The 4DSP FMC product line, with its wide range of digital and analog I/O, enable system designers to develop systems in the lab and qualify them swiftly for field use. The ability to digitize signals in the multi-Gigahertz range, perform real-time Digital Signal Processing using Ultrascale FPGAs and communicate digitally at High Speed using standard protocols provides users with a tactical advantage for the most demanding applications.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 31


3U VPX™ Switch Adds ® ExpressFabric Capability Using PCI Express as a system interconnect enables high performance 3U VPX solutions to be constructed. With higher bandwidth and new capabilities, this new switch allows more innovative system architectures and improves application portability. by Nigel Forrester, Concurrent Technologies

PCI Express is a high-speed serial interface standard that was designed to provide point to point connectivity between a processor and multiple peripherals. Gen 3 PCI Express supports a transfer rate of 8GT/s, which equates to 984 MB/s per lane. One of the challenges, especially for embedded use, has been extending the PCI Express architecture of a single root complex connecting to multiple endpoints. One solution is ExpressFabric® and Concurrent Technologies has just announced FR 341/x06, a 3U VPX switch designed to enable more flexible PCI Express configurations. FR 341/x06 supports six Gen 3 PCI Express payload boards with a default configuration of a single processor board acting as the root complex for up to five additional payload boards. In addition, two other modes of operation are supported, called virtual switch and fabric mode. The virtual switch mode allows multiple partitioned root complexes to be set up which could, for example, enable three individual clusters consisting of pairs of boards to be set up within a six slot system. The fabric mode allows multiple root complexes with links between the clusters, enabling extremely flexible configurations while still using standard PCI Express enumeration. Previously this type of PCI Express configuration required the use of additional hardware on boards to implement non-transparent bridge capability adding complexity and power consumption. The main advantage is simplification: FR 341/x06 enables standard applications to run more easily and avoids a lot of the complicated payload configuration required.

32 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

At the solution level, multiple hosts residing on PCI Express fabrics communicate through an Ethernet type of protocol, enabling socket-based application software to run without modification. There is also a special host-to-host communication capability for short packets, called Tunnelled Windows Connection. This enables high performance computer applications that are message-based to share small amounts of information with very low latency.

Figure 1 The new FR 341/x06 from Concurrent Technologies supports six Gen 3 PCI Express payload boards with a default configuration of a single processor board

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Boxes Becoming Boards— Technology Transition in VPX As can be seen in the movement toward small form factors (SFFs), card-based standards, like VPX, support new feature sets that enable systems to be greatly reduced in size, weight and power (SWaP), while function and circuit density is increased. by Ken Grob, Elma Electronic Inc.

The Army’s Hardware Convergence effort is a prime example of systems driving boxes to become boards. The strategy considers an increase in function and flexibility, while reducing SWaP and cost by driving toward higher levels of system integration. Systems being packaged at the box level, where implementation can now be done at the board level, are growing in popularity and even servers are becoming boards. An Intel XEON processor-D multicore CPU that allows eight—and eventually 16—cores on a 3U VPX board with large DDR4 memory will allow the creation of a 32-thread system, for example. In regards to 3U VPX boards, high-speed Ethernet switches capable of 1000BASE-BX, 10GBASE-KR and 40GBASE-KR can now be implemented on fabric devices. Broadcom, Marvel and Vitesse offer such configurations.

Specific applications, such as SDR, RADAR and EW, are using integrated solutions that place entire subsystems on a Eurocard FPGA system-on-chip (SoC) from companies like Altera and Xilinx.

Hardware Convergence System Topology

The system design allows payload slots in this backplane to implement functions in one or two slots previously built as separate boxes. The architecture in Figure 1 identifies new technology features required of the OpenVPX system topology that affect the system backplane, specifically functional density and operating speed. All data paths are high speed, which impacts the backplane’s interconnection speed. Transitioning the I/O from the board requires fiber optic for high speed Ethernet and the clocking

Figure 1 The backplane profile of a highly integrated system defines much of this converging architecture

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schemes need coax connections for high quality clocks. Additional changes are required in the OpenVPX specification to allow implementation of the new high speed system design: Clocking and Timing Changes: • Radial clocks are introduced and IEEE1588 PTP protocol is applied • REF clock moves from 10 MHz to 100 MHz High-speed Signal Channels Defined by VITA 68: • Control Plane and Data Plane requiring 10GBASE-KR rates • Fat Pipes comprised of four lanes supporting 40GBASE-KR PCle Gen 3 Interconnect: • Operating at 8 GT/sec between slots New I/O Connectors for Coax and Fiber Optics: • Mixed modes of I/O require fiber optic connections and RF transition via coax. • New standards are required to address high speed I/O (i.e. VITA 66.4, VITA 67.1, VITA 67.3) Fiber connections use VITA 66.4, and coax connections use VITA 67.1. Fiber transition is done with MPO ferrules, supporting between 12 and 64 fibers. A new standard, VITA 67.3, allows for user-defined contact arrangements in the connector housing.


Technology transition has allowed box level systems to be reduced to 3U VPX boards, making significant gains in SWaP reduction for complex systems. In addressing system designs that use high speed networks and fast local PCIe interconnects, backplane technology has changed. Requirements, such as radial clocks and new I/O connector schemes, have driven changes to the OpenVPX standard, which has evolved to keep up with new system features and data rates. It has proven itself as a standard that can grow with technology change supporting long system lifecycles.

“Technology transition has allowed box level systems to be reduced to 3U VPX boards, making significant gains in SWaP reduction for complex systems.”

Figure 2 Backplane with VITA 67.3 fiber optic connectors

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 35


Rugged, Tactical LTE Networks for Military and First Responders Despite the ability of LTE to meet the tactical communications of the military, first responders, and many other companies, and despite the potential opening-up of LTE for public and corporate use, there exist no widely deployed, truly rugged, tactical LTE network solutions. LCR Embedded Systems’ LSF-02 Rugged Tactical LTE Network answers this need perfectly. by John Long, LCR Embedded Systems

Military and first responder personnel must be able to set up and tear down tactical communications networks rapidly in difficult-to-support areas. For the military, users have demanding anti-jamming and encryption requirements. Both must also deal with a large variety of user equipment, challenging budgets, and the knowledge that lives are directly on the line. LTE (Long Term Evolution) communications hardware and software answers these needs well. Among its advantages are granularity of cell sizes and band, support for fast-moving terminals (200-300mph), ubiquity of user equipment like smartphones and tablets, and cost-effectiveness due to wide deployment. For public safety, the FCC and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have mandated the use of LTE. However, there exists well-understood legacy technology for both, Land Mobile Radio (LMR) – implemented in the military via software-defined radio (SDR). SDR remains the technology of choice for traditional conflicts, and while LTE is more attractive in asymmetrical conflicts due to the “hide in plain sight” possibilities, there is significant interest in building an SDR “front end” on a tactical LTE network. Common current solutions include Cell-on-Wheels (CoW) and Cell-in-a-Box (CiaB) installations. Able to support hundreds of users and backhaul to other networks, they are used at major sporting events and large-scale disasters where it is possible to bring in large, fixed equipment installations. However, CoW/ CiaB installations are expensive and not very mobile and hence have limited tactical use. Also, the enormous expense of purchasing LTE bandwidth prevents many companies from using it, such as rail companies dealing with derailments in remote areas. For example, Verizon was able to sell one band covering roughly half of the United States in less-populated areas to T-Mobile for $2.4 billion in 2014. First responders have been granted use of band 14, and the military uses bandwidth in a more fluid manner during operations, so this is less of a concern for them, but few companies have the ability to make such a purchase. 36 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

However, a proposal has been submitted to the FCC to allocate an LTE band for public use, and feasibility testing of using Wi-Fi for LTE service is underway. Additionally, one very interesting development is the 2015 FCC decision to create a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) within the 3.55-3.7 GHz band. In summary, there exists no true rugged, tactical, rapidly deployable LTE network solution, and with the opening-up of LTE to public and corporate use, one is badly needed. Featuring Radisys’ industry-leading Evolved Packet Core and eNodeB software, LCR Embedded Systems’ LSF-02 Rugged, Tactical LTE Network can turn vehicles or personnel into mobile cell towers in areas where broadband infrastructure is nonfunctional or absent. Contained in a rugged, environmentally sealed package that weighs less than 20lbs, it is the ideal tactical LTE solution. It supports 16 active users with broadband data connectivity and multimedia conferencing for smartphones, tablets, and more. It has a 1km range depending on terrain and supports swarming, whereby multiple units operating within range of one another will “link up” to form a larger network.

Figure 1 The LSF-02 is a rugged, tactical LTE network solution well-suited to military and first responder applications.


Making Trains Safer Down Under Managing railway traffic is becoming an increasingly difficult task with the growing frequency of passenger and freight trains traveling across an existing infrastructure. The Australian Rail Track Corporation is using open standards-based embedded systems to ensure system efficiency as well as overall network-wide safety. by Stephen Cunha, CEO, MEN Micro

As the need to transport both passengers and goods over rail networks increases, and as accidents that result in the loss of life continue to occur, the use of technology to prevent train collisions has become a very high profile issue in the public mind globally. Increased safety for rail transport is being addressed in different ways by different regions of the world. For example, there is the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) initiative in Europe and the United States government has mandated implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC). Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), which is being implemented through a partnership between Lockheed Martin and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), is the technical approach being used to increase train safety down under. Since the rail network in Australia spans very long distances

and runs through many unpopulated areas, there is not much intelligence located along the side of the tracks (“the wayside”). ATMS accomplishes safety in a method that is unique to the Australian landscape and infrastructure. It provides centralized vital train control from a small number of remote base station office locations. Systems in these base stations are able to communicate with the train’s on-board electronics via the Telstra 4G network or satellite communication. GPS functionality further facilitates the use of satellites in this application. A safety critical computer system located in the base station will be used to continuously monitor all activity on the rail network (e.g. train movements, wayside devices, etc.) and override the drivers to take control of the trains in case a collision is about to occur. Based on PICMG standards, the computer system is able to detect when a train is at risk of exceeding its

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 37


Figure 1 The CompactPCI system from Men Micro is the brain to continually monitor activities on the rail network.

“authority” and correct the problem. In addition to providing increased safety for both passenger and freight trains, ATMS will enable more railway traffic by reducing headways (distance between trains) while at the same time increasing speeds, and will reduce operational costs by removing

38 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

the need for expensive trackside signaling infrastructure. ATMS, therefore, brings both safety and economic benefits to Australia. The safety critical system in the base station partition’s vital and non-vital applications in a single platform. It is built around the CompactPCI and CompactPCI Serial standards, in keeping with Lockheed Martin’s desire to leverage open architecture and commercially available technology where possible, and is certifiable up to Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 4, the highest level of safety for trains. The vital part of the system runs on a safe real time operating system and consists of one or two safe computer boards. Each safe computer board consists of three processors running in lockstep mode with 2003 voting implemented in the FPGA. The board also has triple redundant memory and a built-in mechanism that is able to correct faults and, when possible, restore to health a component that has experienced corruption. The non-critical portion of the computer system consists of Intel-based CompactPCI PlusIO boards, a CompactPCI Ethernet switch, and removable hard disks. Traveling across vast regions in Australia will become safer and more efficient thanks to the efforts of Lockheed Martin and the ARTC. These efforts are supported by the availability of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), safety-critical open architecture embedded computer systems.


New FireWire Expansion Module for Mini PCIe Sockets With VersaLogic’s new FireWire expansion module, users can now connect legacy cameras and peripherals into newer systems and embedded boards - anything that has a Mini PCIe expansion slot available. by Len Crane, VersaLogic Corporation

Why use FireWire? There are a number of existing cameras and peripherals built around this interface that provide excellent performance. Some are being upgraded to newer interfaces, such as USB 3.0, but many are not. As users upgrade their systems, they shouldn’t have to give up their high-performing peripherals, but try finding a FireWire connection built in to any embedded computer board. To combat these connection problems, VersaLogic Corporation introduced newest Mini PCIe module—the VL-MPEe-FW1, a FireWire expansion module. The FW1 is a simple way to add 2 channels of 1394 FireWire to most embedded computing systems, resolving the challenge of connecting tried and true cameras and peripherals. Providing FireWire 800 (1394b) and FireWire 400 (1394a) channels, the FW1 allows users to connect to any computer that supports a mini PCIe socket. The FW1’s extremely small Mini PCIe format allows it to be added to a board with very little impact to the overall system size. Usually there is no need to modify the enclosure in any way. The FW1 is compatible with a variety of popular x86 operating systems including Windows, Windows Embedded, and Linux using standard software drivers. Like the other VersaLogic’s Mini PCIe modules, the FW1 is an

extremely rugged and durable product that can withstand the full range of industrial temperatures (-40° to +85°C), and meets MIL-STD-202G specifications, for use in environments with high impact and vibration. The FireWire 400 channel includes a latching connector, providing additional protection within harsher environments. It also brings the extensive 5-year off-the-shelf availability, and 10+ years of formalized life extension programs, and offers customizable options such as application-specific testing, BOM revision locks, and more. Customization options for all the Mini PCIe modules include conformal coating, revision locks, custom labeling, customized testing and screening.

Figure 1 Versalogic’s mini PCIe module (VL-MPEe-FW1) allows computer with a mini PCIe socket to add two IEEE 1394 Fire Wire channels to the system.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 39


Rugged Optic Interconnects Open New Possibilities for HPEC Systems in Harsh Environment High input/output interconnects are essential to high performance embedded computing systems (HPEC) and optical technology offering small size and weight and requiring low power consumption is becoming the preferred technology. However for harsh environmental conditions as encountered in defense and aerospace applications rugged optical systems must be devised. by Michel TĂŞtu, Reflex Photonics Inc.

High Performance Embedded Computing Systems (HPEC)

High performance embedded computing (HPEC) systems are essential to decisional systems where a huge amount of data must be collected and processed in a very short time to guide proper decisions and urgent actions. These systems are generally made of multiple electronic boards interconnected in a box through a backplane circuitry. Most of this circuitry is made of copper wiring but optical interconnects start to be used when high bandwidth high density I/O are requested.

C4ISR Applications

In the defense world, HPEC plays a major role in C4ISR systems (Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance). For some applications, like active electronically scanned array radar, the information is generated by thousands of sensors. This information is usually in the form of analog signal and has to be digitized before being transmitted to the processing unit. The analog-to-digital con-

version has to be high resolution and the communication link to the processing element has to be at high bit rate. (figure 1) These C4ISR systems are often mounted on mobile platforms and used in harsh environment where extreme storage temperature, wide operating temperature range, high mechanical shocks and vibration are encountered. These operational constraints mandate the use of rugged systems and components. Other important characteristics of these systems are that they must be of small size and weight and consume as little operating power as possible.

Small SWaP Optical Interconnects

The optical interconnects can be used to carry the information from the sensors site to the computing site, between the computing boards, and between the computing system and the communication system. Optical interconnects are perfectly suited to meet the requirements of small SWaP in harsh environment. It is well known that the size of lasers and photodetectors is of

Figure 1 Illustration of the relation between the different elements of C4ISR systems (Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance).

40 | RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016

the order of a millimeter. The wavelength involved is of the order of a micron, so the fiber diameter required to guide the light is less than a millimeter. Made out of silica the weight per meter of a fiber is negligible. The weight of an optical transceiver results is mainly made of the electronic board needed to drive the laser and amplify the current generated by the photodetector, the optical connector, and the mechanical housing. Because the light is guided through a highly homogeneous material, the signal attenuation resulting from scattering is extremely low (2.3dB/km). This low fiber attenuation and the high efficiency of signal conversion (from electrical-to-optical of the laser, and from optical-to-electrical of the photodetector) generate very low electrical power requirements in order to drive a transceiver and carry the signal over hundreds of meters. In addition, the fiber is dielectric so there is no susceptibility to electromagnetic interference (EMI). All of these benefits offer great advantages over copper interconnections.

Rugged Parallel Optic Transceiver

Reflex Photonics has developed the LightABLE™ products family to meet the demanding requirements of optical interconnects for HPEC used in harsh environment as encountered in defense and aerospace applications. The LightABLE™ 40G SR4 is a 4-lane full duplex transceiver operating at 10 Gbps per lane and the LightABLE™ 120G SR12 is a 12-lane transceiver or receiver operating at 10 Gbps per lane. (figure 2)

Figure 3 The MicroClip™ is a low-profile, low-mass spring loaded MT ferrule.

and support high temperature reflow process; a unique feature for such products. (figure 3) A proprietary MicroClip™ MT ferrule has been also devised by Reflex Photonics to connect the LightABLE™ module to a 12-fiber ribbon cable pigtail. The MicroClip™ is a low-profile, lowmass spring loaded mechanical assembly that offers a rugged optical connection that is resistant for shock and vibration and is suitable for harsh environment. The MicroClip™ has proven it can withstand a 1 kg live traffic fiber pull test when mated to its products (40G SR4 and 120G SR12), without any signal performance degradation. This result exceeds by a factor of 2 the requirements of Telecordia GR-468-CORE Fiber Integrity Side Pull Test and confirms the reliability of the Reflex Photonics fiber ribbon interface with the LightABLE™ and its MicroClip™ ferrule. To achieve such performances the LightABLE™ products are designed with unique features and assembly processes in order to: • Maintain laser response over the temperature range; • Avoid mechanical stress between parts; • Use surface mount technology and low height parts for high resistance to shock and vibration; • Use no heat sink or pigtail fiber for pick and place manufacturability;

Figure 2 LightABLE™ products (transmitter, receiver, or transceivers) can be surface mounted or plugged. They are fully qualified for harsh environment.

These embedded parallel optic modules have been fully qualified following the Telcordia GR-468-CORE and MIL-STD883E standards and includes severe environmental, mechanical and long-term reliability tests. They offer: small SWaP, operation under industrial temperature range (-40°C to 85°C), a bit error rate (BER) as low as 10-15, survivability to storage temperature from - 57°C to 125°C. The optical fiber interface is a standard MT ferrule directly attached to the module for compatibility with standard die mounting processes. The LightABLE™ products can be surface mounted with regular lead or RoHS reflow process or plugged in close proximity to high-speed electronics

• Use sealed enclosure to avoid moisture from obstructing optics. The future of optical interconnects in HPEC applications Although there is a large interest for optical interconnects, it is fair to say that we are only at the beginning of their use in the development of high performance embedded computing systems. We see, in open standards organization like VITA, many working groups considering modifications to standardized board-to-backplane connectors in order to include optical interconnects.

RTC Magazine FEBRUARY 2016 | 41

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RTC Magazine  

February 2016

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