Electronic Design

FTF 2008

Rich Beyer, Freescale’s chairman and CEO, had his first FTF event this year. It was also the debut of Freescale’s eight-core QorIQ P4080 that I will be covering in our print issue soon. There were plenty of other announcements at the show as well, including enhancements to the Flexis family of 8- and 32-bit pin-compatible microcontrollers. The latest being the Flexis AC chips that run at 5 V and target those whitegoods and other areas where low voltage is not necessarily the best option but low power is a requirement.

Another major announcement was the Code Warrior Eclipse Plug In. This will start to bear fruit later in the year and the Power architecture gets first crack at the support, but Eclipse will eventually be the platform for Code Warrior developers. Just as most development tools are migrating to Eclipse, Code Warrior will be bringing a number of proprietary tools to the mix while building on a common platform. Likewise, Freescale is contributing open source code and supporting various Eclipse projects. ExpressLogic was showing off their BenchX, another Eclipse-based platform, with support for Freescale parts, of course.

There were plenty of cars on the show floor like Mississippi State’s biodiesel hybrid (Fig. 1). These and all other examples had at least one Freescale part hiding amongst the wiring.

Freescale even managed to get a chip on every attendee. The badge (Fig. 2) was a Freescale ColdFire development board that was scrolling Freescale FTD 2008 across the LED array on the front (or back depending on how you look at it). The board was not fully populated as sockets and headers can be added such as the flash memory card socket. Attendees received a full development kit and werechallenged to create the best sample application although few, including myself, had the time to do much with it during our stay in Orlando. The board will be available as a regular development kit in the future.

Attendees also had the option to pick up a SpotMe (Fig. 3) PDA. This Freescale-based system included GPS support so you could determine if your meeting partner was nearby. Handy if you never met them before. The wireless system also handles messaging, scheduling, etc. It could even scan a badge or another SpotMe to exchange information. It was a bit bulkier than last year’s unit, but this time we did not have to wear it around the neck. It also had a pop out keyboard making messaging significantly easier.

In addition to a host of meetings and demos from Freescale I did get to see a few things from the likes of Green Hills Software that was showing off their support for the QorIQ using Virtutech Simics simulator with the MULTI IDE. Right now the simulator is the only way to play with the eight core platform that will be delivered later this year. QorIQ also brings virtual machine support to the table allowing platforms like Green Hills Integrity with Padded Cell technology to handle multiple operating systems on a single chip. The demos included multiple partitions running their tiny u-velOSity kernel as well as Integrity and Linux. Another demo showed off their Platform for Secure Networking that provides a dual IPv4/IPv6 routing stack, a cryptographic communications suite, and Layer 3 routing protocols including OSPF, BGP, and RIP.

ZigBee was out in force and there were plenty of examples of the Home Automation profile in use. I also heard that ZigBee is becoming more important in the power utilities space—but there will be more on that in a future article. Suffice it to say, ZigBee power meters and Home Automation-based thermostats may be talking together in the future.

IAR’s BeeKit support was on display. Freescale’s BeeKit is preferable for Freescale’s ZigBee development and this mixes well with IAR’s Embedded Workbench IDE that also supports Freescale’s other processor chips.

Finally, on the wireless front, Synapse held a neat demo of their embedded Python support (Fig. 4). The demo used a set of toy tanks with their Synapse Pro wireless 802.15.4 module and prototype board. It uses their new Python scripting engine that runs on the module allowing downloading of applications instead of controlling devices remotely by polling.

What was impressive was the speed at which the demo took place. It was during a training session that ended with the programming and wiring of the system. The tanks were set up with a four-wire control for directional motor control. These were logically tied to a pair of knife switches connected to a matching prototype board. The remote control Python script was rather simple but provided responsive control with a minimum of programming effort.

The tank’s script was more complicated since it handled range and floor sensors to implement a SumoBot program that was used when the tank was not being controlled remotely. The more detailed demo I was given was very slick.

BEST IN SHOW
The two Best in Show awards went to San Juan Software and TimeSys. San Juan Software won for Innovative Platform. They had a platform that controlled devices using three different IEEE 802.15.4 protocols. An Apple iTouch was the main controller. The system took advantage of the ZigBee Home Automation profile to control lights and fans. San Juan Software's proprietary wireless networking protocol, PopNet, controlled a soda vending machine. Overall, it was a neat demo.

TimeSys won the Best in Class Development Support for its Build-to-Order Linux Web Tool. This is a system that TimeSys has had for awhile and has continually improved. Just check out their Web site. You can choose your custom configured platform and get a version of Linux configured for it as well as all the development tools for cross-development plus support.

NuVation, a design services house, showed off their expertise with an air hockey playing robot (Fig. 5). It performed well but a few challengers managed to best the robotic arm.

There were plenty of new product announcements, lots of foot traffic and a large collection of good tech sessions at FTF this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to poke my head into more than a couple. Next year, I suppose. But, overall, FTF 2008 went well.

SpotMe
www.spotme.com

Express Logic
www.rtos.com

Freescale
www.freescale.com

Green Hills Software
www.ghs.com

IAR
www.iar.com

NuVation
www.nuvation.com

San Juan Software
www.sanjuansw.com

Synapse
www.synapse-wireless.com

TimeSys
www.timesys.com

Virtutech
www.virtutech.com

ZigBee Alliance
www.zigbee.org

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