The emphasis on low-power embedded systems can give engineers heartburn. They must strive to enhance a system's performance, add capabilities, and make its battery last for as many as 10 years. A combination of hardware and software tools now help engineers understand power consumption without the antacids.
In late April I visited the exhibits at the annual Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, CA. For the most part, people I met with discussed microcontrollers, communication, and development kits. The short descriptions below represent only a snapshot of the interesting products announced or unveiled at ESC.
As a teenager, I built many "computer" circuits with relays and switches. As I recall, a flip-flop took two 2PDT relays and a binary adder took two 4PDT relays in my brute-force logic circuit. Kids today can get started exploring computers more easily.
Microcontrollers offer engineers a variety of power-saving techniques. But using them effectively requires careful attention to tradeoffs in software and hardware at the start of a project. "Engineers must partition their application so they have a rough idea how long their microcontroller will stay in a sleep mode or in an active mode," said Mike Salas...
To find out more about the state of motor-control design in embedded systems, I recently talked with three engineers at Texas Instruments who work with motor-related hardware and software. "Motor control looks simple to start but it covers many disciplines so it's almost impossible to have one designer do everything," noted Miroslav Oljaca...
New devices, technologies, and development kits make it easier than ever to include haptic controls in a design. Here's an overview of several hardware and software advancements. Atmel's first maXTouch touch-sensor controller and microcontroller, the mXT224, gives equipment designers as many as 224 sensing nodes across display screens than can exceed 10 inches.
Most networked equipment uses Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4, which provides for about four billion 32-bit IP addresses. Concerns about exhausting these addresses--and other technical issues--led the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)to develop Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6.
Young people with an interest in electronics still have a cornucopia of kits to start with. As a youngster I had a crystal radio that picked up several local stations I listened to with a small headphone. You can still buy crystal-radio kits and many cost under $20.
You can find brushless-DC motors in appliances, medical instruments, and industrial equipment because they offer advantages over their brushed-DC-motor siblings. But before you can use a brushless-DC (BLDC) motor you need to understand how it works.
SuperSpeed USB connections — coming in 2010 — will zip data between devices at a theoretical rate of 5 Gbps, or more than 10-fold faster than a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. The faster transfers could help embedded-system developers who design video kiosks, TV recorders/players, and test-and-measurement equipment that use large quantities of information.
As the cooling challenges of 3U CompactPCI (cPCI) embedded system applications multiply due to increased processing power, reduced package sizes and more hostile environments, new thermal management options and industry standards continue to evolve. Chip and board manufacturers have already done a vast amount of work to mitigate thermal management concerns.
Ready-to-use wireless modules provide a way to quickly get a design "on the air" when engineers find RF circuits and communication protocols fall outside their areas of expertise. Even when engineers have RF experience, a module still might make sense from the perspective of saved time and money.
Computer hard disk drive storage has an impressive history of technological advances, from the RAMAC storage systems in the 1950s to perpendicular recording introduced a few years ago. The advancement of these technologies has increased the density of today’s hard disk drives to the terabyte range. Along the way frustrations with new storage technology have been proprietary equipment formats, initial high investments, and failed expectations of reliability.
To take advantage of advances in high-speed serial data transmission technologies, PICMG is releasing a new option for its popular CompactPCI standard. The new PICMG 2.30 Compact PCI PlusIO standard is based on PICMG 2.30 core specification and defines the migration path from parallel PCI to the serial PCI Express.
With over 8,000 attendees, this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) was a pleasant surprise to an industry expecting a low turnout. Held in San Jose from March 30 to April 2, the event had a nice assortment of new tech and devices. Here is our second portion of our two-part coverage of the event.
Here are a few pictures we took ont he floor of the 2009 Embedded Systems Confernce. Recognize anyone?
With over 8,000 attendees, this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) was a pleasant surprise to an industry expecting a low turnout. Held in San Jose from March 30 to April 2, the show demonstrated that while the economy may be depressed, the design engineering community isn’t.
Because finite impulse response (FIR) filters use a mathematical algorithm to process information, engineers rely on them when an analog filter just won't do. “FIR filters appeal to people who don't want to become filter designers”, explained Grant Griffin, President, Iowegian International. "They just want to use a filter to solve a problem
Many “standard” and proprietary protocols use the media-access controller (MAC) and the physical circuits (PHY) associated with IEEE 802.15.4 radios. Those protocols use their own arrangements of bits and bytes to transfer information between nodes, but none of them use the Internet Protocol (IP). So they cannot directly communicate with Internet-based devices and Web servers/browsers.
A view of Linux from several perspectives will help embedded-system designers better understand how they can use this open-source operating system. Experts at Eurotech, Texas Instruments, and Rowebots share their approaches. "Contrary to what some engineers might think, Linux provides a mature operating system," said Arlen Nipper, president and CTO at Eurotech. "You can obtain best-in-class security, TCP/IP stacks, and support for wireless networking, for example. The associated code drops into Linux and works right away."
Manufacturers offer a variety of small modules that let engineers easily add an Ethernet port to a design. They may need only a UART or I2C port in a main system to communicate with and control one of these modules. But if engineers stop there they will miss many other capabilities offered by these modules--actually single-board computers (SBCs).
Potential solutions for providing application-specific functionality in embedded systems typically come with trade-offs in terms of cost and time to market. With few projects having the lead-time, budget or high-volume payback potential to tool-up for custom chip or hardware production runs, the best answers often revolve around "modular" solutions.
In October of 1981, three semiconductor companies announced the open-architecture VMEbus, spawned by the introduction of the Motorola 68000 microprocessor. After 27 years, the VMEbus still holds the largest market share of all buses and boards. Today's bus technologies have lives measured in months, so why has the VMEbus survived and prospered while other buses have rapidly gone by the wayside? (Engineers use the terms VMEbus and VME interchangeably.)
Programmers now have many tools that help reduce or eliminate problems. Unfortunately, they might not know these tools exist. "In 1998, the UK's Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA) published their standard for the C language to promote 'safe C' in the UK automotive industry," explained Chris Tapp, a field-applications engineer at LDRA. "The software industry has seen MISRA-C as a way to encourage good programming practice, focus on coding rules, and ensure well designed and tested safe code."
The world of computer technology has two incompatible characteristics. First, many computer systems have long lives. Second, students and many engineers pay attention to only the latest technologies and they believe old technologies have died out. The "yesterday's-fashion” phenomenon has applied to the Ada programming language, too. If engineers have heard of Ada at all, they may assume it is an old US Department of Defense technology that disappeared long ago.