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Have your tasks multiplied with the IIoT? Don’t worry: Add more cores!

Separating tasks in isolated cores makes system designs highly modular and scalable. With the 8th generation of Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors now offering six cores and 12 threads, engineers can deploy new edge devices capable of connecting and controlling various devices in real-time.


Have your tasks multiplied with the IIoT? Don’t worry: Add more cores!

By Dan Demers, Director of Sales and Marketing – Americas, congatec

The IIoT and Industry 4.0 trend advances the need to extend the functionalities of existing systems, and to deploy new edge devices that are capable of connecting and controlling various devices in real-time. Separating the tasks in isolated cores makes system designs highly modular and scalable. So it is great to see that the 8th generation of the new Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors now offer six instead of only four cores as well as 12 threads. Imagine what new possibilities this creates for automation product designers, when previously they had only one single-core, single-thread machine operating in real-time for each task on a dedicated system. Performance increases were limited by the restrictions on increasing processor frequencies. Thus, the advent of parallel processing was highly welcome to improve performance. At the same time, parallel processing also opened engineers’ eyes to possibilities beyond pure performance increases. Now, they could use the second core not only to raise the performance of a single application, but also to execute different tasks in parallel. Thanks to the simultaneous emergence of hypervisor technologies, engineers were able to build HMI implementations together with the real-time platform. As a result, the number of computer systems in a single machine was reduced for the first time, lowering costs and increasing reliability.

Engineers once thought that the core race has certain limitations due to performance losses within the synchronization process, however with the availability of more cores new heterogeneous design ideas came up for the different cores. In the motion control area, for example, motion axes are being assigned to individual processor cores. In multi-core installations, the data exchange that’s necessary to coordinate the motion sequences can now take place in the system itself. This is much more efficient than connecting separate drive controls – especially since latencies occur even in connected systems, which can reduce the precision of a machine.

Collaborative robotics – a boom market

And nowadays, we talk about collaborative robotics. This is another new and massively booming market for high-performance multi-core systems. MarketsandMarkets predicts that it will grow by 56.94% between 2017 and 2023, reaching a total global volume of 4.28 trillion US dollars[i]. Collaborative robots are virtually insatiable when it comes to core count, as they require additional subsystems such as LIDAR or stereoscopic cameras for situational awareness and adaptive control besides the actual controller. These systems require additional computing instances that can be implemented very efficiently into a single control systems when you have enough processor cores.

IoT and condition monitoring

Automation OEMs also want more computing cores for IoT and Industry 4.0 integration as well as condition monitoring of their machines and systems. At this point, virtualization starts to make massive sense in order to separate the individual tasks from each other. Depending on the software, the real-time controls of individual components can still be executed as multi-threaded software on a single operating system instance; however, the edge system and gateway functionality should be separated from the real-time controls. Similarly, smart condition monitoring can be integrated efficiently by using local rule engines to evaluate and monitor the state of the mechanical components, for example via vibration analysis. This sometimes requires significant computing power. High-end embedded systems for machine control literally cannot have too many computing cores and processing power per core. What is possible today?

Powerful six-packs

Up until recently, quad-core processors were state of the art. With symmetric multiprocessing – Intel calls this hyper-threading – one processor core can handle two different tasks in parallel. This sums up to up to 8 virtual cores. Using 8th generation Intel® Core™ and Xeon® processors, developers can now leverage up to 6 physical and up to 12 virtual cores. Judging alone by these numbers, this is an increase of 50%. And indeed, first tests by congatec show that the core increase of the brand new six-core processors truly translates into 45% to 50% more multi-thread and 15% to 25% more single-thread performance, in comparison to the 7th generation Intel® Core™ processor variants. At a given TPD, system designers can now achieve higher bandwidth with lower overall power consumption. This allows them to install high-end computing power and features even deeper in the field while also significantly increasing the functionality of their applications. And the best is: In all other respects, the processor core is almost identical, so there is no need for any customization on the software side, allowing truly seamless migration to this latest processor generation.

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One of the first COM Express Type 6 modules with up to 6 processor cores and optional ECC support: The conga-TS370 with 8th generation Intel® Xeon® and Intel® Core™ Embedded processors.

And now we come to what we think is the sweet spot for engineers: If OEMs have designed their systems using Computer-on-Modules, they can integrate the new processor technology very quickly, because all that’s needed to upgrade to the next performance levels at a given TDP is a simple module swap. So, coming back to what was mentioned earlier: While systems were previously designed with only one or two cores, or let’s say even four cores for real high-performance, massive parallel processing systems with all the connected machinery, we now need a platform with more than four cores if we want to integrate the IIoT and Industry 4.0 gateway functionality and all the other great features that are enabled, for example, by Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Therefore it is great to see that we now have 50% more cores in one single processor chassis, and we hope that this is not the end of the Intel roadmap for future scalability to even more cores. But how can engineers benefit best from this trend? How should they design a system today that utilizes 4 or 6 cores and that can be easily and immediately updated once new tasks arise?

There is a simple and clever answer: Use COM Express Computer-on-Modules; and for the high-end systems leveraging the Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors that can execute up to 12 threads with up to 4.4 GHz, use the COM Express Type 6 specification!

Fast upgrades with COM Express Type 6

You may wonder why COM Express Computer-on-Modules are so great. It’s because they can save developers around 50% to 90% of the effort required to build a suitable solution at the board level compared to full custom designs. At the same time, developers have just as much flexibility as with full custom designs to tailor their system to the dedicated requirements. The customization happens on the application-specific carrier board. This carries – nomen est omen – the fully developed Computer-on-Module that comes as a ready-to-buy super component already including a complete BSP with all required standard drivers.

If system designers use carrier boards such as the conga-IT6 Mini-ITX form factor board, or the conga-TEVAL, then they can scale their designs across all the different BGA mounted COM Express Type 6 modules available on the global market by simply changing the module.

And thanks to the COM Express specification, it is ensured that all modules from all vendors offer identical form factors, functions and dimensions including the cooling solution. So when developers have to integrate a new processor, they don’t have to dive into the gory PCB routing details of ultra-high-speed interfaces and memory specifications and all that. Instead, they only have to choose the suitable module and plug it in. Upgrades are now a question of minutes and not of days, weeks or months. Your advantages: The development becomes highly agile with a minimum time to market for new solutions. Additionally, developers can also make very efficient re-use of all their designs. And thanks to the huge COM Express ecosystem, they will get long term support as all major embedded vendors support this leading Computer-on-Module standard. OEMs also remain vendor independent and benefit from competitive pricing. Yet, they still have to design a carrier board, but here too, COM Express helps, as comprehensive specifications for the construction of a carrier board are available. This further simplifies the design of industrial-grade computers that are specifically tailored to their own requirements.

 

Virtual machines for IoT connection

In an ever more connected world, Computer-on-Modules help engineers to most efficiently tailor their systems to always meet new needs. But task separation is not only a question of being able to most flexibly equip a system with multiple cores. On top, designers also need the suitable software in form of a hypervisor solution to separate different tasks from each other. With a real-time capable hypervisor, they can supplement their real-time control with additional virtual machines for IoT or Industry 4.0 connectivity. Here they should look out for tested and validated solutions that already have proven themselves in industrial control and other high-reliability sectors like medical. It is important though that the hypervisor can run a wide variety of real-time and general purpose operating systems and is not connected to a dedicated OS. Also, it should not add any extra latency to retain the performance and determinism of real-time applications. And last but not least, users should be able to install and configure it independently and without detailed hardware knowledge. An implementation project or customization that requires a dedicated engineer is too expensive and would add unnecessary efforts and costs. So look for an instantly deployable hypervisor solution, and you’ll benefit from similar advantages you have on the hardware level with Computer-on-Modules.

Designing a platform with hypervisor technologies, such as the RTS Hypervisor from Real-Time Systems that congatec has already pre-qualified for its conga-TS370, makes it quite straightforward to combine hard real-time processes with IIoT connectivity.

Key technical data

The new conga-TS370 modules with Intel® Xeon® and Intel® Core™ i7 processors have a TDP of 35 to 45 watts and support up to 32 GB DDR4 2666 RAM. Even with full virtualization and multiple virtual machines, each instance has more than enough memory as a result. For safety-critical applications, such as situational awareness for collaborative robots, optional Error Correction Code (ECC) support can be provided. In addition, the modules feature an impressive choice of high-bandwidth I/Os, including 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbit/s), 8x USB 2.0 and 1x PEG and 8x PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes for powerful system extensions. Long-term availability of at least 10 years and Intel® Optane™ memory support plus extended security features such as Intel® Software Guard Extensions, Intel® Trusted Execution Engine and Intel® Platform Trust Technology add to the modules’ attraction. They further support all common Linux operating systems as well as the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT.

[i] https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/collaborative-robot-market-194541294.html

Semtech LoRa Technology Leveraged for Flood Sensor System

Semtech has announced that Green Stream has incorporated Semtech’s LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology) and Senet’s LoRaWAN-based network into its autonomous flood sensor systems for use in coastal areas, including towns and cities.

Green Stream’s solutions use LoRa Technology, a proven technology used in IoT environmental solutions. Green Stream’s end-to-end flood monitoring solutions are designed using commercial, off-the-shelf ultrasonic sensors and easy-to-deploy LoRa-enabled gateways. The data is communicated over a LoRaWAN-based network provided by Senet, a leading provider of Cloud-based LoRaWAN services platforms that enable the on-demand build out and management of IoT connectivity. The Green Stream LoRa-based flood sensors are autonomous, requiring no external power or wired network connection.

Each sensor is a self-contained, weather-proof, solar-powered unit that comes with a universal mounting bracket and extension arm. These sensors are small enough to be installed on top of crosswalks, light or electric poles, and bridges. The rugged sensor gateway is positioned above a body of water or over dry land.

Semtech | www.semtech.com

IAR Updates Dev Tools for Renesas Automotive MCUs

IAR Systems has announced a major update of its development tools for Renesas automotive-focused RH850 microcontrollers. The latest version of the complete C/C++ compiler and debugger toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 offers boosted user experience and extended capabilities through a number of new features.

IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 incorporates a compiler, a debugger, an assembler and a linker in one integrated development environment. It is available in several editions to suit different company needs, including a functional safety edition certified by TÜV SÜD according to IEC 61508, ISO 26262 and EN 50128. Renesas Electronics’ RH850 automotive MCU family includes rich functional safety and embedded security features needed for advanced automotive applications.
Version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 adds compliance with the latest C language standard ISO/IEC 9899:2011 and the latest C++ standard ISO/IEC 14882:2014, ensuring high-quality, future-proof code. Renowned for producing very efficient code, the IAR C/C++ Compiler™ in IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 now supports stack protection and stack usage analysis functionality. Available as an add-on for the toolchain is the static analysis tool C-STAT, which is now updated with a number of new checks. With these additions, developers building RH850-based applications are able to further strengthen code quality, stability and reliability in their embedded applications.

Automotive embedded applications are growing in complexity, which means it can be challenging to make a correct setup of peripherals from scratch. The Renesas Smart Configurator is a tool for combining software, automatically generating control programs for peripheral modules, and pin setting from the GUI with built-in cross-checks to avoid potential contention with multiplexed functions. In version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850, automated code generation from Renesas Smart Configurator is made possible through the straight-forward project connection functionality.

IAR Systems | www.iar.com

Firms Team to Teach Implementing Power Supplies on STM32 MCUs

STMicroelectronics and Biricha Digital Power, an industrial training and consultancy company focused on switched power design and EMC, have developed a workshop to show power-supply engineers why and how to quickly move to a digital implementation. The workshop, aimed at analog PSU (Power Supply Unit) designers and embedded-system engineers who need to build high-performance, stable digital power supplies and Digital PFCs (Power Factor Corrections), will be based on a complementary portfolio of tailored hardware, software, tools, labs and detailed training documentation.

This includes the STM32F334 product line (with its high-resolution timer – 217 ps), a member of ST’s STM32 family of more than 800 MCUs covering the full spectrum from ultra-low power to high performance and supporting ecosystem, combined with Biricha’s Power Supply and PFC design software.

Key sessions will demonstrate how to quickly design digital power supplies and power factor correction from scratch, and how to design stable digital control loops for both voltage and current mode DC/DC and PFC applications. Workshop participants will get a chance to design, code, implement, and test several digital power supplies. The first workshop, an all-inclusive 4-day course hosted by Future Electronics, is scheduled for November 27-30, 2018 in Munich, Germany.

Biricha Digital Power | www.biricha.com

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

MPU Targets AI-Based Imaging Processing

Renesas Electronics has now developed a new RZ/A2M microprocessor (MPU) to expand the use of artificial intelligence (e-AI) solutions to high-end applications. The new MPU delivers 10 times the image processing performance of its predecessor, the RZ/A1, and incorporates Renesas’ exclusive Dynamically Reconfigurable Processor (DRP), which achieves real-time image processing at low power consumption. This allows applications incorporating embedded devices–such as smart appliances, service robots, and compact industrial machinery–to carry out image recognition employing cameras and other AI functions while maintaining low power consumption, and accelerating the realization of intelligent endpoints.
Currently, there are several challenges to using AI in the operational technology (OT) field, such as difficulty transferring large amounts of sensor data to the cloud for processing, and delays waiting for AI judgments to be transferred back from the cloud. Renesas already offers AI unit solutions that can detect previously invisible faults in real time by minutely analyzing oscillation waveforms from motors or machines. To accelerate the adoption of AI in the OT field, Renesas has developed the RZ/A2M with DRP, which makes possible image-based AI functionality requiring larger volumes of data and more powerful processing performance than achievable with waveform measurement and analysis.

Since real-time image processing can be accomplished while consuming very little power, battery-powered devices can perform tasks such as real-time image recognition based on camera input, biometric authentication using fingerprints or iris scans, and high-speed scanning by handheld scanners. This solves several issues associated with cloud-based approaches, such as the difficulty of achieving real-time performance, assuring privacy and maintaining security.

The RZ/A2M with DRP is a new addition to the RZ/A Series lineup of MPUs equipped with large capacity on-chip RAM, which eliminates the need for external DRAM. The RZ/A Series MPUs address applications employing human-machine interface (HMI) functionality, and the RZ/A2M adds to this capability with features ideal for applications using cameras. It supports the MIPI camera interface, widely used in mobile devices, and is equipped with a DRP for high-speed image processing.

Renesas has also boosted network functionality with the addition of two-channel Ethernet support, and enhanced secure functionality with an on-chip hardware encryption accelerator. These features enable safe and secure network connectivity, making the new RZ/A2M best suited for a wide range of systems employing image recognition, from home appliances to industrial machinery.

Samples of the RZ/A2M with DRP are available now. The RZ/A2M MPUs are offered with a development board, reference software, and DRP image-processing library, allowing customers to begin evaluating HMI function and image processing performance. Mass production is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2019, and monthly production volume for all RZ/A2M versions is anticipated to reach a combined 400,000 units by 2021.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

MCUs Provide Inductive Sensing Solution

Cypress Semiconductor has announced production availability of the PSoC 4700S series of microcontrollers that use MagSense inductive sensing technology for contactless metal sensing. The series also incorporates Cypress’ industry-leading CapSense capacitive-sensing technology, empowering consumer, industrial, and automotive product developers to create sleek, state-of-the-art designs using metals and other materials. The highly-integrated MCUs enable cost-efficient system designs by reducing bill-of-material costs and provide superior noise immunity for reliable operation, even in extreme environmental conditions.
Cypress also announced availability of the new CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit, a low-cost hardware platform that enables design and debug of the MCUs. The kit includes MagSense inductive-sensing buttons and a proximity sensor, as well as an FPC connector to evaluate various coils, such as a rotary encoder. The PSoC 4700S series is supported in Cypress’ PSoC Creator Integrated Design Environment (IDE), which allows users to drag and drop production-ready hardware blocks, including the MagSense inductive sensing capability, into a design and configure them easily via a simple graphical user interface.

The PSoC 4700S MCUs integrate:

  • A 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ core
  • Up to 32 KB Flash and 4 KB SRAM
  • 36 GPIOs
  • 7 programmable analog blocks
  • 7 programmable digital blocks

Support for up to 16 sensors, enabling implementation of buttons, linear and rotary encoders, and proximity sensing.

The CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit is available for $49 at the Cypress online store and from select distributors.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

AVR Microcontrollers Get MPLAB X IDE Support

Designers who have traditionally used Microchip’s PIC microcontrollers and developed with the MPLAB ecosystem can now easily evaluate and incorporate AVR® MCUs into their applications. The majority of AVR MCUs are now beta supported with the release of MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) version 5.05, available now from Microchip Technology. Support for additional AVR MCUs and enhancements will be added in future MPLAB versions. AVR support will continue to be added to Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START for current and future AVR devices.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05 provides a unified development experience that is both cross-platform and scalable with compatibility on Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems, allowing designers to develop with AVR MCUs on their hardware system of choice. The tool chain has been enhanced with support for Microchip’s code configuration tool, MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC), making it easy for developers to configure software components and device settings such as clocks, peripherals and pin layout with the tools’ menu-driven interface. MCC can also generate code for specific development boards, such as Microchip’s Curiosity ATmega4809 Nano (DM320115) development board and existing AVR Xplained development boards.

More compiler choices and debugger/programmer options are also available when compiling and programming AVR MCUs using MPLAB X IDE 5.05. Compiler choices include the AVR MCU GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) or the MPLAB XC8 C Compiler, providing developers with additional advanced software optimization techniques to reduce code size. Designers can also accelerate debugging and programming using MPLAB PICki 4 programmer/debugger tool or the newly released MPLAB Snap programmer/debugger tool.

The majority of development boards available to evaluate and program AVR MCUs are supported by the MPLAB ecosystem and MCC. Xplained development boards are compatible with START and are now compatible with MPLAB X IDE. Xplained development boards are cost-effective, fully integrated MCU development platforms targeted at first-time users, makers, and those seeking a feature-rich rapid prototyping board. The Xplained platform includes an integrated programmer/debugger and requires no additional hardware to get started.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05, MPLAB XC8 C Compiler and AVR MCU GCC are available for free on Microchip’s website. The MPLAB PICkit 4 (PG164140) development tool is available today for $47.95. The MPLAB Snap (PG164100) is available today for $14.95. The ATmega4809 Curiosity Nano board (DM320115) is available today for $10.00.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

NXP i.MX RT1060 Crossover Processors Released

First announced in February at Embedded World 2018, NXP Semiconductors has released its i.MX RT1060 Crossover processor, with the company claiming a mere ten months from concept to market launch.

The i.MX RT1060 is the latest addition to what NXP calls a crossover processor series and expands the i.MX RT series to three scalable families. The i.MX RT1060 doubles the On-Chip SRAM to 1 MB while keeping pin-to-pin compatibility with i.MX RT1050. This new series introduces additional features ideal for real-time applications such as High-Speed GPIO, CAN-FD, and synchronous parallel NAND/NOR/PSRAM controller. The i.MX RT1060 runs on the Arm Cortex-M7 core at 600 MHz.

This device is fully supported by NXP’s MCUXpresso Software and Tools, a comprehensive and cohesive set of free software development tools for Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT microcontrollers. MCUXpresso SDK also includes project files for Keil MDK and IAR EWARM.

The i.MX RT crossover are designed to bridge the gap between high-performance and integration while minimizing costs to meet today’s need for high performance embedded processing at the edge node. According to NXP the series were designed to combine high performance MCU processing with the functionality of applications processors, at reduced costs, thereby enabling advanced computation and machine learning capabilities in millions of connected edge devices. The i.MX RT1060 is available now, and is priced at $3.48 (10,000s).

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

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Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Microcontroller Watch newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

IoT Technology Focus. (10/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(10/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Analog & Power. (11/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Rugged, Sandwich-Style SBC is Based on Sitara AM5718 MCU

By Eric Brown

Forlinx Embedded Technology, the Chinese company behind Linux-friendly SBCs such as the Texas Instruments (TI) Sitara AM3354 based OK335xS-II and the Forlinx i.MX6 SBC, has posted details on a new OK5718-C SBC. Like the OK335xS-II, it’s a Sitara based board, in this case tapping TI’s single-core, Cortex-A15 based Sitara AM5718. Like the i.MX6 SBC, it’s a sandwich-style offering, with the separately available FET5718-C module hosting the up to 1.5GHz AM5718.


OK5718-C
The OK5718-C was announced (translated) in China back in May, and the product page was recently spotted by CNXSoft. The FET5718-C module and OK5718-C SBC both support -40 to 85℃ temperatures and feature an optimized Linux distro with Linux 4.9.41, Qt 5.6, and Wayland. The BSP includes PCIe host and slave mode optimizations, a simplified file system for faster boot and flashing, and an image system to allow Weston virtual keyboards and easy Qt image stacking, says Forlinx.

FET5718-C module

The FET5718-C module’s Sitara AM5718 SoC may have a somewhat old-school CPU, but it provides plenty of extras. You get both a PowerVR SGX544 3D GPU and Vivante GC320 2D GPU, as well as a 750MHz TI DSP-C66X digital signal processor and video accelerator. There’s also the same, 200MHz programmable PRU subsystem found on the BeagleBone, as well as dual, 213MHz Cortex-M4 microcontrollers.



FET5718-C 

The combination of the DSP with the real-time MCUs enables robotics, machine vision, medical imaging, automotive, and facial recognition applications. Industrial automation and building automation applications are also supported.

The FET5718-C module adds 1GB DDR3L, 8GB eMMC, a TPS659162RGZR power management unit, and a 3-port Gigabit Ethernet switch subsystem. The 12-layer, 70 x 50mm COM runs on 5V power and has a 320-pin board-to-board connector.

OK5718-C board

The 4-layer, 190 x 130mm OK5718-C baseboard expands upon the FET5718-C features with ports popping out on all sides. The board provides 2x GbE ports, onboard WiFi and Bluetooth, and a mini-PCIe slot with optional 3G/4G. There are single USB 3.0 host and micro-USB 2.0 device ports and a pair of USB 2.0 host ports.

The OK5718-C is further equipped with an HDMI port, an SD slot, a CAN port, and dual audio jacks. Onboard I/O includes SATA 2.0 with power, DVP and 2x MIPI-CSI camera interfaces, and other I/O as detailed below.



OK5718-C detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the OK5718-C SBC include:

  • Processor (via FET5718-C module) — TI Sitara AM5718 (1x Cortex-A15 core @ up to 1.5GHz; PowerVR SGX544 3D GPU; Vivante GC320 2D GPU; 750MHz TI DSP-C66X; IVA-HD image/video accelerator; 200MHz PRU-ICSS; 2x 213MHz Cortex-M4
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB DDR3L (via FET5718-C)
    • 8GB eMMC (via FET5718-C)
    • QSPI flash (via FET5718-C)
    • SD slot (SD, SDHC, SDXC support)
    • SDIO interface
    • SATA 2.0 interface with SATA power
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n with Bluetooth
  • Networking — 2x GbE ports
  • Media I/O:
    • HDMI 1.4a port for up to 1080P@60Hz
    • RGB 888 LCD interface
    • Dual display support
    • 2x MIPI-CSI
    • DVP 8-bit 5MP camera interface
    • Mic and headphone jacks; speaker headers
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 device port
    • 3x UART
    • 2x I2C
    • Serial debug port
    • CAN 2.0, SPI, GPMC, HDQ, JTAG
  • Expansion — Mini-PCIe slot with optional Huawei 3G/4G card
  • Other features — 2x LED; 3x user keys; RTC with coin-cell battery; boot config switch
  • Power — 12V DC input; power and reset switches
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 190 x 130mm
  • Operating system — Custom Linux with Kernel 4.9.41, Qt 5.6, and Wayland

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the OK5718-C SBC or FET5718-C module. More information may be found on the Forlinx OK5718-C and FET5718-C product pages. There’s also a product page at Faststream Technologies.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on August 20.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

Security Takes Center Stage for MCUs

Enabling Secure IoT

Embedded systems face security challenges unlike those in the IT realm. To meet those needs, microcontroller vendors continue to add ever-more sophisticated security features to their devices—both on their own and via partnerships with security specialists.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

For embedded systems, there is no one piece of technology that can take on all the security responsibilities of a system on their own. Indeed, everything from application software to firmware to data storage has a role to play in security. That said, microcontollers have been trending toward assuming a central role in embedded security. One driving factor for this is the Internet-of-Things (IoT). As the IoT era moves into full gear, all kinds of devices are getting more connected. And because MCUs are a key component in those connected systems, MCUs have evolved in recent years to include more robust security features on chip.

That trend has continued over the last 12 months, with the leading MCU vendors ramping up those embedded security capabilities in a variety of ways—some on their own and some by teaming up with hardware and software security specialists.

Built for IoT Security

Exemplifying these trends, Microchip Technology in June released its SAM L10 and SAM L11 MCU families (Figure 1). The devices were designed to address the increasing risks of exposing intellectual property (IP) and sensitive information in IoT-based embedded systems. The MCU families are based on the Arm Cortex-M23 core, with the SAM L11 featuring Arm TrustZone for Armv8-M, a programmable environment that provides hardware isolation between certified libraries, IP and application code. Security features on the MCUs include tamper resistance, secure boot and secure key storage. These, combined with TrustZone technology, protect applications from both remote and physical attacks.

Figure 1
The SAM L10 and SAM L11 MCU families provide TrustZone for Armv8-M hardware isolation between certified libraries, IP and application code. The MCUs also feature tamper resistance, secure boot and secure key storage.

In addition to TrustZone technology, the SAM L11 security features include an on-board cryptographic module supporting Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Galois Counter Mode (GCM) and Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA). The secure boot and secure key storage with tamper detection capabilities establish a hardware root of trust. It also offers a secure bootloader for secure firmware upgrades.

Microchip has partnered with Trustonic, a member of Microchip’s Security Design Partner Program, to offer a comprehensive security solution framework that simplifies implementation of security and enables customers to introduce end products faster. Microchip has also partnered with Secure Thingz and Data I/O Corporation to offer secure provisioning services for SAM L11 customers that have a proven security framework.

Wireless MCU

Likewise focusing on IoT security, NXP Semiconductor in February announced its K32W0x wireless MCU platform. According to NXP, it’s the first single-chip device with a dual-core architecture and embedded multi-protocol radio. It provides a solution for miniaturizing sophisticated applications that typically require a larger, more costly two-chip solution. Examples include consumer devices such as wearables, smart door locks, thermostats and other smart home devices.

The K32W0x embeds a dual-core architecture comprised of an Arm Cortex-M4 core for high performance application processing and a Cortex-M0+ core for low-power connectivity and sensor processing. Memory on chip includes 1.25 MB of flash and 384 KB of SRAM. Its multi-protocol radio supports Bluetooth 5 and IEEE 802.15.4 including the Thread IP-based mesh networking stack and the Zigbee 3.0 mesh networking stack.

Figure 2
Security features of the K32W0x MCU include a cryptographic sub-system that has a dedicated core, dedicated instruction and data memory for encryption, signing and hashing algorithms including AES, DES, SHA, RSA and ECC.

Features of the K32W0x’s security system include a cryptographic sub-system that has a dedicated core, dedicated instruction and data memory for encryption, signing and hashing algorithms including AES, DES, SHA, RSA and ECC. Secure key management is provided for storing and protecting sensitive security keys (Figure 2). Support is enabled for erasing the cryptographic sub-system memory, including security keys, upon sensing a security breach or physical tamper event. The device has a Resource Domain Controller for access control, system memory protection and peripheral isolation. Built-in secure boot and secure over-the-air programming is supported to assure only authorized and authenticated code runs in the device.

To extend the on-chip security features of the K32W0x MCU platform, NXP has collaborated with B-Secur, an expert in biometric authentication, to develop a system that uses an individual’s unique heart pattern (electrocardiogram/ECG) to validate identity, making systems more secure than using an individual’s fingerprint or voice.

IP Boosts Security

For its part, Renesas Electronics addressed the IoT security challenge late last year when it expanded its RX65N/RX651 Group MCU lineup.  …

Read the full article in the October 339 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Compact, Arm-based Mini-PC is Toughened up for IIoT

By Eric Brown

DFI’s Pico-ITX-based, DIN-rail mountable “EC900-FS6” mini-PC runs Linux or Android on an i.MX6 DualLite, and offers 2x GbE, 2x USB, 2x serial, mini-PCIe, and extensive ruggedization features.

A reader recently noted our excessive use of the term “rugged,” which is fair enough. In our defense, embedded gear is increasingly tolerant of wide temperature ranges, and to a lesser extent, excessive shock, vibration, and dust and water ingress. From now on, we will no longer use “rugged” to describe a system that has a wide temperature range without also offering other protections. We will, however, continue to apply it to systems like DFI’s i.MX6-based EC900-FS6 mini-PC, which is not only rugged, but quite compact at 143 mm x 96.4 mmx 34 mm.


 
EC900-FS6
(click images to enlarge)

Designed for industrial IoT (IIoT) gateways and other embedded applications, the EC900-FS6 features -20 to 60°C or -40 to 70°C support, as well as 3G, 11ms shock resistance and IEC68-2-64 (3G) compliant vibration resistance (random 5~500Hz). It also has a 10 to 90% RH (non-condensing) humidity range and provides a wide-range 9-36V DC input via a terminal block. The fanless, DIN-rail mountable system has a 15-year lifecycle guarantee.

The EC900-FS6 is built around DFI’s Pico-ITX form-factor FS053 SBC, which is equipped with a dual Cortex-A9 i.MX6 DualLite SoC clocked to 1GHz. Both the SBC and the system ship with Android 5.1 beta, as well as a stack built with Yocto Project 1.8 beta, both with Linux Kernel 3.14.52.

 
DFI FS053 (left) and detail views
(click images to enlarge)
The EC900-FS6 provides 1GB or 2GB of DDR3L, 8GB or 16GB of eMMC, 4MB NOR flash, and a microSD slot. You get dual GbE ports (Atheros AR8033-AL1B and Microchip LAN7500-ABZJ controllers), as well as dual USB 2.0 ports and internal USB 2.0 and USB OTG interfaces.


EC900-FS6 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The EC900-FS6 is further equipped with an HD-resolution HDMI port, 4-bit DIO, a UART console, and RS-485 and RS-232 interfaces deployed via 2-pole terminal blocks. A mini-PCIe slot is accompanied by dual mounting holes for WiFi antennas. Other features include a watchdog timer, a reset button, and a status LED.

Further information

The EC900-FS6 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in this EC900-FS6 announcement and datasheet (PDF).

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on August 29.

DFI | www.dfi.com

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