OS bridges embedded-system design-creation and production-test gap

Embedded-system hardware designers may have an easier time getting their products to market if they can close the gap between design creation and production test. As described by Bob Potock, VP of marketing at Kozio, design creation can include schematic entry, FPGA design, PCB layout, and DFM, signal-integrity, and power-integrity analysis. Production test, on the other hand, involves structural and functional test and flash-device programming. The gap between those two, he said, centers on prototype test and verification, for which designers have typically had to build their own test platforms.

Kozio's approach to bridging the gap is to offer designers the opportunity to buy, not build, their prototype test platform. With the VTOS Builder addition to Kozio's VTOS Suite 2.0 release, announced last month, designers have access to a user-configurable, reusable Verification and Test OS (VTOS) that's bootable and that supports debug, functional test, scripting, and FPGA or flash-memory file download. VTOS Builder is a PC-based application that allows a user to configure VTOS by modifying a device tree and adding device drivers for custom board requirements.

In a phone interview, Potock said VTOS supports prototype testing for design correctness and production readiness as well as power and clock margin testing. Further it supports change testing—that is, the test of spin #1 vs. spin #2 as well as the test of prototypes using second-source parts. The tool supports reuse in production to assure consistency. If offers fast boot times to speed functional production test, and it enables fast OS flash programming while supporting reuse of tests for bone-pile debug. VTOS also enables field testing through power-on self-test and repair-depot debug.

Potok said users can get the VTOS suite up and running in 30 minutes. The fast-booting, small-footprint (<6 MB) OS is U-boot or JTAG-loadable. Unlike an application OS, he said, VTOS avoids abstraction to provide direct access to the hardware under test.

The suite supports processors from Freescale, Texas Instruments, Applied Micro, ARM, and Intel. Potok cited one design example in which prototype hardware based on an ARM Cortex-A9 processor was released for application software development less than a week after arrival of the first prototype boards. After the arrival of 24 boards, he said, it took two hours to identify design errors, an additional day to correct two schematic errors, and another 2.5 days to fix four manufacturing problems.

“Leveraging Kozio’s VTOS solution has enabled us to ship our last product in record time,” stated Ron Murphy, the senior hardware engineer at Sunhillo Corp., in a press release. “VTOS has helped us diagnose real issues during the prototype test phase, such as an elusive Ethernet clocking issue. We are now in the process of expanding Kozio test coverage to both our manufacturing and board burn-in processes. We are seeing significant cost savings from the reduction in our final test failure rate at our contract manufacturer.”

In addition to VTOS Builder, the VTOS Suite includes

  • Integration Workbench—a PC-based GUI application that communicates with VTOS running on a DUT,
  • vLink—IP_based middleware that provides the communications link between VTOS and host applications,
  • SequenceRunner—a production test operator’s interface for automated testing and configuration of embedded systems, and
  • SequenceReporter—a remote test reporting and tracking tool used to report the status of board testing by a variety of criteria.

An annual floating license for VTOS Builder starts at $5,000. VTOS Builder requires a processor family package starting at $5,000. Annual floating licenses are available per seat for Integration Workbench ($2,000), vLink ($7,500), SequenceRunner ($2,000), and SequenceReporter ( $1,500). You can download a 30-day free trial version of the VTOS Suite.

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