Electronic Design

Smaller, Power-Packed Hi-Def Designs Rule This Year's ESC

The upcoming Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose will showcase a plethora of new products intent on expediting the delivery of lower-cost and higher-performance solutions.

It's tough to be optimistic these days. But based on some of the new products appearing at next week’s Embedded Systems Conference, it should be a good year for developers. The latest tools, chips, and platforms will roll out at the San Jose Convention Center, including Texas Instruments’ newest DaVinci microcontroller, which targets mobile hi-def presentation.

A few companies showed us their releases early, though a few surprises will likely pop up at the conference. Check our online coverage for breaking news. I’ll also be hosting a StackableUSB panel on Thursday if you make it to the show.

BOARDS AND MODULES IN SAN JOSE
Micro/Sys will have a few more quarter-sized StackableUSB modules on display (see “USB Thinks Inside The Box” at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 20112). These tiny, stackable devices use USB to communicate with each other (Fig. 1).

The USB1132 PIC32 Industrial Client microcontroller integrates an 80-MHz Microchip PIC32 on board along with 512 kbytes of flash and 32 kbytes of SRAM. The chip features a 16-channel, 10-bit, 500-ksample/s analog-to-digital converter (ADC), an RS-232 port, eight programmable LEDs, digital I/O, a serial peripheral interface (SPI), and I2C support.

The USB1124 is a low-power alternative that draws only 40 mA, suiting it for battery-powered applications. It has a 32-MHz Microchip PIC32 with 256 kbytes of flash and 16 kbytes of SRAM, and the complement of peripherals is similar to the USB1132.

The USB1108 is home to an 8-bit, 48-MHz, pipelined Silicon Labs C8051F340 8051 microcontroller with 48 MIPS of performance. It contains 64 kbytes of flash, 2 kbytes of EEPROM, and 4352 bytes of RAM. Peripherals include a 10-bit differential ADC, digital I/O, timers, pulse-width modulators (PWMs), serialperipheral interface (SPI), I2C, and a serial port.

Pricing starts at $165 for the USB1132, $145 for the USB1124, and $125 for the USB1108. They’re rated for industrial temperature operation from –40°C to 85°C.

WinSystems will show off its 90- by 96-mm PC/104-Plus PPM-LX800-G single-board computer (SBC), which features AMD’s 0.9-W LX800—a highly integrated, compatible, Pentium- class processor with availability through at least 2015 (Fig. 2). The board also includes 1 Gbyte of system DRAM and up to 16 Gbytes of CompactFlash. The video engine supports displays with resolutions up to 1920 by 1440 for CRTs or up to 1600 by 1200 for LCD flat panels.

An Intel 82551ER 10/100 controller provides Ethernet support. There are two USB 2.0 ports with in-rush and overcurrent protection and four RS-232/422/485 full-duplex serial UARTs, 16 lines of TTLcompatible (transistor-transistor level) digital I/O, and AC’97 audio. Also, it offers an enhanced integrated-drive electronics (EIDE) controller, parallel port, and PS/2 mouse/keyboard controllers.

The PPM-LX800-G requires only a 5-V power supply. The board will operate over the industrial temperature range from –40°C to 85°C without requiring a fan. It costs $495.

The RMB-C1 from Octagon Systems is a rugged mobile server designed for applications that require high performance in severe environments. As a member of the CORE Systems product line, it tightly integrates the electrical, thermal, and mechanical components into a complete system with no compromise to any one segment, according to the company.

Designed for fanless operation from –40°C to 75°C, the RMBC1’ s marine-grade, extruded, sealed enclosure houses a 1.5-GHz x86-compatible processor. Its full complement of I/O includes USB, CAN, VGA, serial, video, audio, and digital I/O ports. Expansion is possible using PC/104 and Mini PCI boards. Options include an internal battery-backup UPS, SATA flash drives up to 128 Gbytes, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi via the Mini PCI interface, and a 16-channel GPS with –158-dBm sensitivity.

Acces I/O will present a host of PC/104- and PC/104-Pluscompatible boards with its own USB offerings (Fig. 3). Dubbed USB/104, the boards use the standard USB cabling approach rather than the stacking StackableUSB approach. They allow designers t o stack boards or spread them around by up to 10 or 15 feet. The USB/104 form factor matches PC/104 so that USB/104 boards can be included on top of a PC/104 stack. Rugged USB connectors permit the boards to be used in most embedded applications.

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Further, Acces I/O will show a range of USB/104 boards, such as the Fast USB-DIO family. These devices come as individual boards for inside the box or within their own metal case for use outside the box. The digital I/O is accessible via a latching 68-pin SCSI connector.

ITOX will have its NP101-D16C Mini-ITX motherboard (see “Mini-ITX Goes 12 V,” ED Online 20697) on display in addition to a range of embedded motherboards for rugged and industrial environments. This motherboard only requires a 12-V power connection. The processor is a 45-nm, 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 processor that works with the Intel 945GSE Express chip set and ICH7M I/O controller. It has two PCI Express Gigabit local-area network (LAN) controllers and expansion via one PCI Express x1 slot and a PCI slot.

Rabbit Semiconductor’s $35 MiniCore RCM5700 module takes advantage of the ultra-compact, low-profile (0.1 in.), 1.2- by 2-in. mini PCI Express form factor (Fig. 4). As an added benefit, the MiniCore RCM5700 offers the lowest profile of any embedded solution. The 3.3-V RCM5700 is based on a 50-MHz Rabbit 5000 microprocessor. Included are 1 Mbyte of flash and 128 kbytes of SRAM plus a battery-backed-up clock.

The 10/100BaseT Ethernet is optional. A 52-pin edge connector provides access to peripherals such as 32 parallel digital I/O, six serial ports, and dual quadrature decoders. Dev kits start at $99. They include Dynamic C, Rabbit Semiconductor’s compiler and development environment.

Kontron will have lots on display, from modules to AdvancedTCA boards like the AT8050 node blade. It uses the next generation of Intel Xeon processors and 10 Gigabit Ethernet backplanes. The boards have space for an AdvancedMC bay and six dual-inline memory module (DIMM) sockets for lots of memory. A rear transition module with a built-in SAS controller with hot-swappable SATA/SAS support is also available.

More AdvancedMC modules can plug into the Kontron OM6120 MicroTCA platform. The 12-slot system utilizes a dual-star Gigabit Ethernet backplane.

FASTER TO MARKET WITH MORE STORAGE
With More storage With the AMCC Network Attached Storage reference design, developers can get to market quickly with a home or small/medium business platform that offers more than twice the performance of traditional two- or four-disk NAS systems (Fig. 5). It’s based on AMCC’s 1-GHz PowerPC 460EX embedded processor with 256-kbyte L2 cache plus a built-in Gigabit Ethernet port featuring TCP/IP hardware acceleration. It also has 1x- and 4x-lane PCI Express ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and SATA-II support. It comes with an open-source Linux platform.

VIA Technologies will have plenty of chips on display, and it will highlight its new eight-bay 2U VIA NSR7800 rackmount NAS platform and eight-bay mini-tower VIA NSD7800 with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The systems contain a 1.5-GHz VIA C7 processor. The NSR7800 has dual Ethernet ports and supports up to 1 Gbyte of memory. A mini-PCI port supports optional security-related add-in cards, such as hardware virtual private network (VPN) or anti-virus modules. The systems support up to 2-Tbyte/SATA II drives and can run Windows and Linux.

EMBEDDED GOES HI-DEF
Texas Instruments plans to unveil a pair of new chips for ESC. The first is the TMS320DM365 DaVinci platform, which targets midrange hi-def applications. It handles 30-frame/s 1080p content and offers a range of codecs. Many come bundled with the chip. Others, such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, allow developers to incorporate the cost of these codecs into the chip’s purchase price.

The TMS320DM365 is based on a 300-MHz ARM926EJ-S ARM9 core, but dedicated processors manage the heavy lifting for video processing. For example, the MPEG JEPEG coprocessor (MJCP) handles the encoding and decoding of JPEG, MPEG-2, and HD MPEG-4 video streams. An H.264 coprocessor (HCP) manages H.264 encode/decode at 10 frames/s at 1080p and 30 frames/s at 720p. MPEG, VC-1 AP, and WMV encode/decode is also 30 frames/s at 720p.

The Video Processing Subsystem (VPS) includes a chargecoupled- device (CCD) camera interface with its own image-signalprocessing support. Three 10-bit HD/SD digital-to-analog converters (DACs) are also in the mix. The chip’s USB 2.0 High Speed On-The-Go support includes a mini-host physical layer (PHY).

The TMS320DM365 also offers 10/100 Ethernet support, an external memory interface, and support for mobile double-data-rate (DDR) and DDR2 memory. The design maintains a complement of I2C, SPI, ASP, and serial ports as well. The integration of these interfaces and others like the HD/SD DACs can save considerable costs and board real estate.

The DM365 Digital Video Evaluation Module costs $595 (Fig. 6). This includes the Linux board support package with drivers such as audio and video codecs.

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The second chip, the 300-MHz C2834x Delfino microcontroller, incorporates 32-bit floating-point support. It’s twice as fast as its predecessor and packs 516 kbytes of RAM on chip. The C2834x also incorporates TI’s 65-ps high-resolution PWM controllers and supports multiple 32-bit quadrature encoding QEP modules. Other peripherals include SPI, I2C, three SCI ports, two CAN 2.0 ports, and two McBSP ports.

Delfino development and deployment options include TI’s line of controlCARD modules. The DIM100 uses the same form factor as the Piccolo microcontroller. The DIM168 controlCARD module uses the 168-pin form factor, providing access to all of the microcontroller’s I/O ports. The DIM100 and DIM168 cost $159 and $189, respectively. Chip pricing starts at only $8.95.

NXP’s ARM9-based LPC3000 can be found in Hitex Development Tool’s new LPC3250-Stick. Thanks to the modular design of this USB-based development system, it can plug into an LPCLCD- Board display module. It also adds USB, controller-areanetwork (CAN), and Ethernet connections.

Lantronix will offer up its usual range of networked devices and modules, including the new EDS8 and EDS16 secure device servers. These serial-port terminal servers run the Evolution operating system (OS). They support a command-line interface as well as XML-based configuration and management. Or, take a look at the company’s wired XPort or wireless WiPort modules. These compact units make networking almost as easy as plugging in a module.

ROBUST ROBOTS AND MORE SOFTWARE
AdaCore will show its GNATon- Mindstorms as part of its GNAT Academic Program (GAP). The full GNAT (GPL Edition) Ada development environment can now be used with the Lego Mindstorms robotics building system. The tool shows how to engineer real-time embedded systems (Fig. 7). GNAT-on-Mindstorms has also been placed on the Libre Web site for the benefit of the general Free Software development community.

Ada gets memory-access issues right because of its range checking, but these issues can be a challenge for C and C++ programmers. Express Logic’s StackX helps developers avoid stack overflow problems. StackX performs a comprehensive analysis of a complete application at the executable code level. It determines the worst-case stack usage for the application so that the developer will know how large a stack is needed for each application thread. StackX costs $1000/developer.

Hi-Tech Software will present its Omniscient Code Generation C compilers, which support a range of processors like Microchip’s line from the PIC10 up through the PIC32. They perform whole program optimization that’s especially effective in removing unused code from libraries, leading to very compact runtime images.

The compilers can do tricks such as transparent compile-time stack analysis for reentrant code, which replicates functions that appear in application and interrupt code. This improves performance and eliminates the need for true reentrant code not supported by some small microcontrollers.

Express Logic will also show TraceX version 5. The enhanced display support under Windows XP and Vista enables significantly faster rendering of system events, plus the ability to zoom in and out to focus on the area of greatest interest. TraceX captures performance metrics and displays a profile of thread activity, showing percentages of system time taken by each thread. New features include thread re-ordering, advanced search facilities, and expanded support for FileX and NetX events.

Aonix and Wind River will share some news on the Java front at ESC. Aonix will unveil the first SMP Virtual Machine for Wind River Linux. PERC Ultra SMP 5.2 targets x86 multicore symmetric multiprocessor systems. This includes PERC’s patented garbage collection technology, which allows PERC Ultra SMP to run garbage collection support across all cores. Thus, it becomes many times faster than uni-processor versions.

The companies additionally will show their Secure Java Product Initiative, which enables PERC Ultra to support Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS) applications. This product, scheduled for release later this year, will support Wind River’s VxWorks MILS version.

MILS and safety are becoming more prevalent in many designers’ checklists. This bodes well for LDRA’s announcement of a tailored version of its code-verification tool suite specifically targeting safety-critical solutions and the DO178B standard. It will be a fully automated, end-to-end DO-178B certification support solution for Levels C, B, and A. It could reduce verification costs significantly, which often represent up to 70% of project costs.

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The suite, designed for legacy code and new code development verification, handles large-scale commercial and production systems. It takes advantage of LDRA’s Embedded Process Management technology and works with C, C++, Ada 83, Ada 95, and assembler.

The use of static analysis tools is growing. Coverity’s Prevent now supports Microsoft Windows Vista, including integration with Microsoft Visual Studio and modeling for Win32 concurrency application programming interfaces (APIs). Prevent is available for C/C++, C#, and Java. It also works with the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE).

Prevent can detect a range of software errors from memory leaks to buffer overflows via static code analysis. It’s designed to find problems such as command injection attacks. This latest version adds a number of quality and concurrency checkers for C#. These new capabilities will help identify, triage, and fix critical defects.

QNX will hawk its latest incarnation of the Neutrino real-time operating system (RTOS) and QNX Momentics Tool Suite. Realtime operating-system (RTOS) board support packages (BSPs) targeting more than 20 development kits from over a dozen chip vendors were recently released. Source is available on QNX’s new community site, www.Foundry27.com.

National Instruments will have plenty of LabVIEW demos, a range of modules for PXI platforms as well as CompactRIO, and probably a couple of robots running around, too. The company tends to reserve most of its new releases for NI Week, but a recent announcement addressed the test and quality assurance arena—the NI LabVIEW Unit Test Framework and LabVIEW Desktop Execution Trace toolkits. The kits will be of interest to developers, as these dynamic code analyzers bring trace to an already graphical environment.

IT'S IN THE CHIPS
Altera and Xilinx plan to talk about their latest 40-nm offerings (see “FPGAs Move To 40 nm,” ED Online 20579). Altera’s Stratix IV incorporates hard cores for the company’s high-speed serializer/deserializer (SERDES), which can handle PCI Express Gen 2. Altera’s latest Quartus II and SoPC Builder tools will be available for viewing.

The Virtex-6 will be the competing chip family from Xilinx. Like the Stratix IV, the Virtex-6 has DDR3 support and high-speed SERDES support running at 11 Gbits/s. The chips use a triple-oxide, 12-metal-layer process that’s capable of running at 0.9-V and 1-V core voltages. The new Spartan-6 family will also be on display along with the ISE Design Suite 10.1.

Hyperstone will display its F4 family of flash-memory controllers, which target applications like CompactFlash and solidstate disks. F4 firmware delivers high reliability, endurance, and rigorous fail-safe features for all single-level-cell (SLC) and many multilevel-cell (MLC) solutions. It’s based on Hyperstone’s 32-bit RISC core with instruction set extensions optimized for flash-memory operation.

The F4 family fully complies with the CompactFlash 3.0 standard and is compatible with the 4.1 specifications. It supports Fast ATA PIO mode 6, MDMA mode 4, and UDMA mode 4 in True-IDE mode, with UDMA 5 possible in fixed board implementations.

The family has a sustained read rate up to 50 Mbytes/s and a random read rate of 40 Mbytes/s. Sustained writes exceed 40 Mbytes/s with interleaving and random write up to 9 Mbytes/s. F4 additionally features two Direct Flash Access (DFA) channels, including Sector Buffers and interleaving capability.

Synopsys will present its tools and services at ESC. Among the company’s new products are its SuperSpeed USB cores. SuperSpeed USB is designed to surpass the ubiquitous 480-Mbit/s High Speed USB 2.0 standard (see “Trailblazing Super- Speed USB Design And Verification,” ED Online 20506, and “Speedy Serial Interfaces Charge Into The Next Generation,” ED Online 20379).

For low-cost mobile or remote power solutions, check out Cymbet’s EnerChip module. Texas Instruments incorporated the chip into its MSP430-based eZ430- RF2500T module to demonstrate powerscavenging techniques for wireless applications (see “Going Green, Or Just Using Old-Fashioned Design Practices?” ED Online 20701). The EnerChip is a neat combination of a thin-film lithium-ion battery and a complete battery controller with a digital interface. This surface-mount device can easily be combined with microcontrollers for a single-board solution.

Overall, it looks to be an interesting week in San Jose. See you there.

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