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Checking Out Embedded World 2016

Checking Out Embedded World 2016

1. Embedded World is held annually in Nuremberg, Germany.

This was the first time I have made it to Embedded World (Fig. 1) and it was well worth the trip. Vendors saved up their latest announcements for the show, so there is way too much to cover in this overview. It will suffice to say that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was everywhere, and there were more new modules, microcontrollers, separation kernels, power scavenging systems, etc. to fill multiple halls.

ARM was talking about its new cores including the 32-bit ARMv8-A platform, the Cortex-A32 (see “32-bit ARMv8-A Core Targets IoT Space” on electronicdesign.com). The Cortex-A32 looks to replace the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7. The new Cortex-R8 core was announced before the show (see “ARM Extends Cortex-R Series to Handle 5G” on electronicdesign.com). It targets 5G wireless platforms.

I got to see Rohde & Schwarz’s portable Scope Rider in the flesh (see “Portable Scope Tackles Debugging Chores” on electronicdesign.com). I also had a gander at its new RTO2000 scope (Fig. 2), which is quite impressive. It can deliver time and frequency domain information, plus a spectrogram. The SmartGrid layout allows customized presentation. It has an advanced triggering system that allows up to eight zones of any shape in any domain, including the frequency domain. Triggering can be based on inclusion or exclusion of a zone.

2. Rohde

The scope can store 2 Gsamples. The trigger is also time-stamped, allowing time correlation calculations. Stored information can be analyzed using a range of tools, including spectrum analysis. The high definition (HD) mode delivers 16 bits of resolution. The HD mode supports configurable lowpass filtering of the signal after the A/D converter.

Analog Devices had a pair of announcements: an energy harvesting chip and a power conversion controller. The micro-energy harvesting chip was the ADP5091 (Fig. 3), which simplifies system design because it does not require a boot strap power source. It has an ultra-low power boost regulator in addition to an efficient regulated output that does not require an extra inductor. The ADP5091 supports a programmable charging termination voltage and an optional back-up battery power path. It has over an 80% efficiency with an input of at least 100µA and over 60% down to 10µA. This two-stage charging system fits into a 4-mm by 4-mm, 20-pin QFN package.

3. Analog Devices’’ ADP5091 is capturing power from the solar cells (left). The power is used to run the small fan on the board. The chip is hard to see since it is about the same size as the resistors and capacitors.

The power conversion controller is the dual-core ADSP-CM41x (Fig. 4). This asymmetric design pairs a Cortex-M4 core with a Cortex-M0 core. The Cortex-M4 does the heavy lifting, with the sibling acting as a backup in a dual cut-off implementation that isolates a power conversion system from the grid when failures occur. In the past, this was typically done using two separate processors, but careful integration now allows a single chip to handle this safety critical application. Each core has its own set of peripherals for sensing to limit any cross-contamination. The Cortex-M4 has access to a range of hardware accelerators to minimize the power conversation management load.

4. The dua-core ADSP-CM41x includes a Cortex-M4 and a Cortex-M0 core.

There were plenty of new chips at Embedded World that I was impressed with, including NXP’s QorIQ LS1012A (Fig. 5). This 800 MHz ARM Cortex-A53 SoC fits in an 9.6-mm by 9.6-mm package and uses only 1 W of power. It has hardware packet acceleration and a pair of Ethernet ports that can handle 1 and 2.5 Gbit/s interfaces. Other interfaces include USB 3.0 with integrated PHY, USB 2.0, SATA 3, and x1 PCI Express. It has the usual serial ports and a DDR3L memory controller.

5. The tiny, 9.6-mm by 9.6-mm QorIQ LS1012A sports an 800 MHz, 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 core.

NXP’s QorIQ LS1012A targets routers, network storage, and IIoT applications. The Trust Zone support is augmented by hardware encryption. The SDK is optimized for Linux; there are application solution kits (ASKs) available, including one based on the OpenWRT open-source wireless gateway.

The QorIQ LS1012A is the baby of the bunch. The family scales to multicore solutions like the quad core LS1043A (see “Quad-Core Cortex-A53 Supports Fanless vCPE Applications” on electronicdesign.com). All are code-compatible based on the ARMv8-A architecture.

Silicon Labs was showing off its microcontrollers using an IoT display wall (Fig. 6) where each light is an IoT Thread node (see “Gallery: Threading FTF 2015” on electronicdesign.com). Thread Group’s Thread framework is a popular wireless ecosystem. The standards-based, mesh network employs the IPv6/6LoWPAN protocol. The LEDs on the light wall could be individually controlled or programmed in concert. It was one of the few wireless systems working in a hall where Wi-Fi was chaotic at best.

6. Silicon Labs had a wall of lights where each one was a wireless Thread node.

The chips behind the light wall were from the Wireless Gecko family (see “Multiprotocol Wireless SoC Targets IoT Connectivity” on electronicdesign.com). Wireless Gecko’’s come in a range of implementations to handle Bluetooth, ZigBee, Thread and proprietary protocols. They can also support sub-GHz communication.

Moving back up the food chain, I took a look at Toradex’’s Windows 10 IoT Core Starter Kit (Fig. 7). It was a technical preview but one of many Windows 10 IoT Core (see “Getting at the Core of Windows 10” on electronicdesign.com) demonstrations at the show. Microsoft’s booth was dominated by third parties showing this technology.

7. Toradex’s Windows 10 IoT Core Starter Kit is based on the Colibri T30 module based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3.

Windows 10 IoT Core is moving slowly but surely these days. It does have the advantage of the Windows infrastructure if that is an application requirement. There are definite advantages in using it just like there are advantages to using Linux or a proprietary operating system. The Colibri T30 is just one of many non-x86 platforms that can handle Windows 10 IoT Core.

Another note for module users, Gumstix’s Geppetto (see “Best of 2015: Create Custom Capes Fast and Easy” on electronicdesign.com) has been upgrade to support a number of different modules, including ones from Toradex and the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Initially Geppetto supported the Gumstix Overo and DuoVero lines. Geppetto is an easy-to-use, web-based design tool for creating carrier boards. It also supports a number of embedded processors as well eliminating the need for a plug-in module.

I will wrap up with one of many boards on display at Embedded World. This one (Fig. 8) is from congatec. The conga-IC170 Thin Mini-ITX boards supports the latest Intel Skylake processors. This family of boards comes with processors ranging from 2 GHz Celerons up to 3.4 GHz Core i7s. The vPro chips support Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT).

8. The conga-IC170 Thin Mini-ITX board support Intel’s Skylake processors and include an M.2 and Mini PCIe socket. It can drive up to three 4K displays.

The two SODIMM socket support up to 32 Gbytes of DDR4 memory, and the board can handle up to three 4K display screens with DirectX 12 and Open GL 4.4 drivers. They have M.2 and Mini PCIe sockets for thin packing and there is a x4 PCI Express slot available as well. The MIPI CSI-2 interface handles a range of low-cost CMOS cameras. There is also a SIM card slot.

Peripheral interfaces include four USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0 connections, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two serial ports, and a GPIO port. A Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is optional (see “Standardizing Trust for Embedded Systems” on electronicdesign.com).

On another note: My trip to Germany was not uneventful, although a little different than CES (see “CES 2016: Getting There Is Half the Battle” on electronicdesign.com). Turns out my passport was only good for another two months and there is a minimum requirement (at this time) of three months (which is going to be six months soon, so beware). Luckily the discovery was made by the agent at the airport prior to boarding Thursday night and I was able to stand in line in Philadelphia Friday morning to get a new passport in time to make it on the plane Friday night. We had to wait for a while, so we took in some of the sights in downtown Philadelphia (Fig. 9).

9. Guess where this photo was taken.

As with Consumer Electronics Show, I will try to catch up with all the other stuff I saw at the show. There was a lot on augmented reality, secure operating environments, and much more, so stay tuned.

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