Electronic Design

What's New At The Boston Embedded Systems Conference

The Boston Embedded Systems Conference has always been smaller than its west coast cousin. Scheduled for Sept. 18-21 at the Hynes Convention Center, though, this show is slightly more system-oriented. And while it has fluctuated in size over the years, it has picked up new vendors like Microchip, so expect some interesting developments in Beantown.

Conference regulars will show off their newest fare, like Versalogic, which will display its latest SPX modules (see "Fanless EBX Goes RoHS" at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 15316). Based on the serial peripheral interface, SPX provides a low-cost alternative for expansion. It also can be found on a number of Versalogic's PC-104 single-board computers (SBCs).

Atmel will display its CAP7 and CAP9 for the first time in Boston (Fig. 1). These chips incorporate an ARM7 or ARM9 microcontroller plus a metal programmed logic array that can be customized at the factory (see "Chip Twists ARM With Custom Logic," ED Online 15982). The development kit incorporates an Altera Stratix FPGA to simulate the functionality of the logic array but with runtime customization.

The CAP (Custom Atmel Processor) series targets the midrange customizable arena. Standard components can be selected for the logic array while RTL designs can meet more sophisticated requirements. The chips are less expensive than an FPGA, and design costs are significantly lower than an ASIC. Atmel also will display its crypto memory and development kits.

Microchip's PIC18 line of 8-bit microcontrollers expands with the PIC18FxxK20 (Fig. 2). These 16 MIPS (64 MHz) chips can run off their internal, two-speed startup oscillator and handle 1.8 to 3.6 V.

The chips have up to 64 kbytes of flash, 3936 bytes of RAM, and 1024 bytes of EEPROM. The EUSART is LINcompatible. Other peripherals include a 10-bit Enhanced Capture/Compare pulse-width-modulation (PWM) module with PWM steering capability and a 14-channel, 10-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC).

Storage vendors like Seagate, which will display its latest 1-Tbyte Barracuda 7200.11 3-Gbit/s SATA drive, will be at ESC as well. Embedded vendors will want to take a closer look at SATA and SAS drives, as drives that use older interfaces such as IDE begin to disappear.

Stop by Kontron's booth to check out the nanoETXexpress SBCs. This new form factor uses the same connectors as COM Express, which include high-speed serial interfaces such as SATA and PCI Express (see "COM Express: A New Standard," ED Online 8780). ITOX will have more COM Express modules on display as well (see "Long Life For COM Express," ED Online 15233).

Quite a few SBCs will use proven technology like PCI, including Compact PCI and PC/104-Plus. New technologies like COM Express and Epic Express continue to grow in use, especially as more video processing is finding its way into embedded systems.

Another technology that will be out in force is ZigBee/802.15.4. Companies like Digi International, Ember, and MeshNetics will have their latest on display. On the software side, Linux and Eclipse will continue to garner eyeballs. At this point, they will be everywhere. But instead of being the highlight of a product, they will serve as the product's base. Look for middleware and Eclipse plug-ins.

It sure will be a hot time this summer at the Boston ESC.
William Wong

Digi International
Embedded Systems Conference Boston

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