May Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The May issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week!. We’ve been hard at work laying the foundation and nailing the beams together with a sturdy selection of  embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll soon be inviting you inside this 84-page magazine.

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Here’s a sneak preview of May 2019 Circuit Cellar:

EMBEDDED COMPUTING AT WORK

Technologies for Digital Signage
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. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

PC/104 and PC/104 Family Boards
PC/104 has come a long way since its inception over 25 ago. With its roots in ISA-bus PC technology, PC/104 evolved through the era of PCI and PCI Express by spinning off its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative PC/104 and PC/104-family boards.

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES FOR EMBEDDED ENGINEERING

Code Analysis Tools
Today it’s not uncommon for embedded devices to have millions of lines of software code. Code analysis tools have kept pace with these demands making it easier for embedded developers to analyze, debug and verify complex embedded software. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in code analysis tools.

Transistor Basics
In this day and age of highly integrated ICs, what is the relevance of the lone, discrete transistor? It’s true that most embedded systems can be solved by chip level solutions. But electronic component vendors do still make and sell individual transistors because there’s still a market for them. In this article, Stuart Ball reviews some important basics about transistors and how you can use them in your embedded system design.

Pressure Sensors
Over the years, George Novacek has done articles examining numerous types of sensors that measure various physical aspects of our world. But one measurement type he’s not yet discussed in the past is pressure. Here, George looks at pressure sensors in the context of using them in an electronic monitoring or control system. The story looks at the math, physics and technology associated with pressure sensors.

MICROCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

Robotic Arm Plays Beer Pong
Simulating human body motion is a key concept in robotics development. With that in mind, learn how these Cornell graduates Daniel Fayad, Justin Choi and Harrison Hyundong Chang accurately simulate the movement of a human arm on a small-sized robotic arm. The Microchip PIC32 MCU-based system enables the motion-controlled, 3-DoF robotic arm to take a user’s throwing motion as a reference to its own throw. In this way, they created a robotic arm that can throw a ping pong ball and thus play beer pong.

Fancy Filtering with the Teensy 3.6
Signal filtering entails some tricky tradeoffs. A fast MCU that provides hardware-based floating-point capability eases some of those tradeoffs. In the past, Brian Millier has used the Arm-based Teensy MCU modules to serve meet those needs. In this article, Brian taps the Teensy 3.6 Arm MCU module to perform real-time audio FFT-convolution filtering.

Real-Time Stock Monitoring Using an MCU
With today’s technology, even very simple microcontroller-based devices can fetch and display data from the Internet. Learn how Cornell graduates David Valley and Saelig Khatta built a system using that can track stock prices in real-time and display them conveniently on an LCD screen. For the design, they used an Espressif Systems ESP8266 Wi-Fi module controlled by a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Our fun little device fetches chosen stock prices in real-time and displays them on a screen.

… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Attacking USB Gear with EMFI
Many products use USB, but have you ever considered there may be a critical security vulnerability lurking in your USB stack? In this article, Colin O’Flynn walks you through on example product that could be broken using electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) to perform this attack without even removing the device enclosure.

An Itty Bitty Education
There’s no doubt that we’re living in a golden age when it comes to easily available and affordable development kits for fun and education. With that in mind, Jeff Bachiochi shares his experiences programming and playing with the Itty Bitty Buggy from Microduino. Using the product, you can build combine LEGO-compatible building blocks into mobile robots controlled via Bluetooth using your cellphone.

SOMs based on RK3399 and PX30 SoCs target IoT

Arbor Technology has introduced a pair of System-on-Module (SOM) products both based on Rockchip SoCs, the RK3399-based SOM-RK391 and the Rockchip PX30-based SOM-RP301. Both modules run Ubuntu, Buildroot, or Android 9.0. Along with the pair of modules, the company has also released the PBA-9000-A, its SOM-Series, single pin-out design carrier board.

The Rockchip RK3399 SoC has been a favorite among high-end community backed Arm-based boards over the last couple years, and we’ve covered at least one every month over that period. Recent examples include Arbor’s own EmQ-RK390 Qsevenmodule, Geniatech’s DB9 SBC and Vamr’s 96Boards CE-compatible Rock960 Model C. In contrast, the SOM-RP301 appears to be the first module we’ve seen based on Rockchip’s low-power PX30 SoC.

SOM-RK391

Built around the Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core (2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53) SoC, the SOM-RK391 is designed for high-performance applications such as AI computing, edge computing and machine vision, according to Arbor.


SOM-RK391
For memory, the RK391 provides 2GB to 4GB of LPDDR4 DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes eDP, MIPI DSI and HDMI. The compact 69.6 x 70 mm SOM supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 2T2R 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 with real simultaneous dual-band (RSDB). You also get 2x MIPI CSI RX camera interfaces with 13MP ISP. For I/O you get 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 2 (Type C), 2x 2-wire UART ports and 2x 4-wire UART ports. There’s also support for RTC, 10-bit 1MS/s ADC, SDIO, DIO, GPIO, SPI and I2C.

SOM-RP301

The SOM-RP301 meanwhile is based on the Rockchip PX30 Quad-Core Cortex-A35 processor and measures a compact 70 x 50 mm. Arbor touts the board for its low power consumption, flexible thermal management, cost-efficiency and its suitability for IIoT applications. The combination of its hardware media decoder and processing power makes it a fit to implement in retail kiosks such as electronic restaurant menus, automated currency exchange machines, ticketing kiosks and so on, according to Arbor.



SOM-RP301
The SOM-RP301 offers provides 1GB to 4GB of LPDDR4DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes LVDS and MIPI DSI, and those interfaces share the same pinout. Like the RK391, this modules also supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 1x 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. You also get 1x MIPI CSI RX camera interface with 8MP ISP. For I/O the RP301 provides the all the same ports as the RK391 as described above. Despite the fact that Arbor touts the RP301 as a low power solution, its datasheet currently says “TBD” for the board’s power consumption.

PBA-9000-A SOM Carrier Board

Arbor’s PBA-9000-A Carrier Board for its SOM-series features a single pin-out design that enables it to easily support future boards in the Arbor SOM-series CPU Board family. The PBA-9000-A’s I/O configuration supports all of the interfaces on the SOM-series boards.



PBA-9000-A SOM carrier board detail
(click image to enlarge)

Further information

More information on the three boards can be found on the announcement page. No pricing was provided. Links to datasheets for the SOM-RK391, SOM-RP301 and PBA-9000-A boards can be found on Arbor’s ARM-computing product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 8.

Arbor Technology | www.arbor-technology.com

Rugged IoT Gateways are Based on i.MX6 and Raspberry Pi

Kontron has announced two new industrial computers, the KBox A-330-RPI and KBox A-330-MX6, specifically designed for cost-sensitive control and gateway applications. The KBox A-330-RPI is based on the long-term available Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3+ and can therefore use the huge software pool of the Raspberry Pi community. Equipped with a Broadcom BCM2837 Quad Core Arm processor, the KBox A-330-RPI is compatible with the established Raspberry Pi standards and has been enhanced with industrial features.

The new KBox A-330-MX6 differs from the KBox A-330-RPI primarily by the Dual Core i.MX6 processor from NXP, which is, like the Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3+, long term available. In addition, the variant based on the NXP processor optionally offers additional industrial protocol stacks such as EtherCAT, PROFINET, Modbus and CANopen to enable customers to easily integrate control software.

Both KBox A-330 variants operate fanless and are designed for industrial control and gateway tasks in control cabinets due to their slim design and the possibility of DIN rail mounting. Two Fast Ethernet ports, RS232, RS485 or CAN and four I/O ports are available as interfaces. A powerful user interface can be operated during commissioning or in the target application via two USB channels and an HDMI connection.

With the KBox A-330 family Kontron offers an industrial grade platform that enables connection to various communication levels, serves as a gateway for IoT applications and can integrate sensors and actuators. As operating system Kontron offers Yocto Linux for the KBox A-330-MX6 and Raspbian for the KBox A-330-RPI. On a project basis, applications are realizable that include advanced security features such as secure authentication and data encryption that go beyond normal security requirements.

In conjunction with the modular IoT software framework SUSiEtec from Kontron’s sister company S&T Technologies, any applications and cloud solutions on the market—from sensors to edge computers to private or public clouds—can also be connected and supported to develop IoT applications or establish new business models.

Kontron | www.kontron.com

BLE Multicore MCUs Embed Arm Cortex M33 CPU

Dialog Semiconductor has announced its SmartBond DA1469x family of Bluetooth low energy SoCs, a range of multi-core MCUs for wireless connectivity. The devices’ three integrated cores have each been carefully chosen for their capabilities to sense, process and communicate between connected devices, says Dialog. To provide the devices’ processing power, the DA1469x product family is the first wireless MCU in production with a dedicated application processor based on the Arm Cortex-M33 CPU, according to Dialog.

The M33 is aimed at compute intensive applications, such as high-end fitness trackers, advanced smart home devices and virtual reality game controllers. The DA1469x devices have a new integrated radio that offers double the range compared to its predecessor together with an Arm Cortex-M0+ based software-programmable packet engine that implements protocols and provides full flexibility for wireless communication.

On the connectivity front, an emerging application is for manufacturers to deploy accurate positioning through the Angle of Arrival and Angle of Departure features of the newly introduced Bluetooth 5.1 standard. With its world-class radio front end performance and configurable protocol engine, the DA1469x complies with this new version of the standard and opens new opportunities for devices that require accurate indoor positioning such as building access and remote keyless entry systems.

To enhance the sensing functionality of the DA1469x, the M33 application processor and M0+ protocol engine is complemented with a Sensor Node Controller (SNC), which is based on a programmable micro-DSP that runs autonomously and independently processes data from the sensors connected to its digital and analog interfaces, waking the application processor only when needed. In addition to this power-saving feature, a state-of-the-art Power Management Unit (PMU) provides best-in-class power management by controlling the different processing cores and only activating them as needed.

The SoCs feature up to 144 DMIPS, 512 KB of RAM, memory protection, a floating-point unit, a dedicated crypto engine to enable end-to-end security and expandable memories, ensuring a wide range of advanced smart device applications can be implemented using the chipset family and supporting a range of key value-add interfaces to extend functionality even further.

The PMU also provides three regulated power rails and one LDO output to supply external system components, removing the requirement of a separate power management IC (PMIC). Additionally, the DA169x product family come equipped with a range of key value-add interfaces including a display driver, an audio interface, USB, a high-accuracy ADC, a haptic driver capable of driving both ERM and LRA motors as well as a programmable stepping motor controller.

Developers working with the DA1469x product family can make use of Dialog’s software development suite – SmartSnippets – which gives them the tools they need to develop best-in-class applications on the new MCUs. The DA1469x variants will start volume production in the first half of 2019. Samples and development kits are available now.

Dialog Semiconductor | www.dialog-semiconductor.com

 

i.MX 8M SoC-Based Solution Enables Immersive 3D Audio

NXP Semiconductors has announced its Immersiv3D audio solution for the smart home market. The solution combines NXP software on its i.MX 8M Mini applications processor and will support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio technologies in future devices that integrate the i.MX 8M Mini SoC. The i.MX 8M Mini also brings smart capabilities like voice control to a broader range of consumer devices including soundbars, smart speakers, and AV receivers with the option for adding additional speakers to distribute smart voice control and immersive audio throughout the home.

TVs and audio systems are becoming more advanced thanks in large part to the development of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Both technologies are a leap forward from surround sound and transport listeners with moving audio that fills the room and flows all around them. Listeners will feel like they’re inside the action as the sounds of people, places, thing, and music come alive with breathtaking realism. NXP’s Immersiv3D audio solution was designed to enable OEMs to bring to market affordable consumer audio devices capable of supporting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in their next-generation devices.

Conventional design approaches to audio systems use Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) to deliver complex, controlled and low-latency audio processing to enable audio and video synchronization. But Traditional embedded systems have evolved over time, and today they are capable of processing the latest 3D audio formats, but audio systems need to be designed to take advantage of today’s advanced processor cores. In conjunction with the NXP i.MX 8M family of processors, the Immersiv3D audio solution introduces an advanced approach that features scalable audio processing integration into the SoC Arm cores. This approach eliminates the need for expensive discrete DSPs, and also once-proprietary DSP design foundations, to embrace licensable cores.

The solution delivers high-end audio features such as immersive multi-channel audio playback, natural language processing and voice capabilities to fit today’s digitally savvy connected consumer. The NXP Immersiv3D audio solution gives audio developers, designers and integrators a leap forward to add intelligence and Artificial Intelligence (AI) functionality while reducing cost. This includes development of enhancements like selective noise canceling where only certain sound elements are removed like car traffic or speech processing like changing speaker dialect or languages.

The solution introduces an easy-to-use, low-cost enablement for voice capability expansion. Audio systems built using NXP’s Immersiv3D with the i.MX 8M Mini applications processor will give consumers the flexibility to add different audio speakers, regardless of brand, to stream simultaneous and synchronized audio with voice control from their systems.

NXP showcased its i.MX applications processor family including Immersiv3D at the CES 2019 show.

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

Open-Spec, i.MX6 UL-Based SBC Boasts DAQ and Wireless Features

By Eric Brown

Technologic Systems has announced an engineering sampling program for a wireless- and data acquisition focused SBC with open specifications that runs Debian Linux on NXP’s low-power i.MX6 UL SoC. The -40°C to 85°C tolerant TS-7180 is designed for industrial applications such as industrial control automation and remote monitoring management, including unmanned control room, industrial automation, automatic asset management and asset tracking.


 
TS-7180, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
Like Technologic’s i.MX6-based TS-7970, the TS-7180 has a 122 mm x 112 mm footprint. Like its 119 x 94mm TS-7553-V2 SBC and sandwich-style, 75 mm x 55 mm TS-4100, it features the low power Cortex-A7 based i.MX6 UL, enabling the board to run at a typical 0.91 W.

Like the TS-4100, the new SBC includes an FPGA. On the TS-4100 this was described as a Lattice MachX02 FPGA with an open source, programmable ZPU soft core for controlling GPIO, SPI, I2C and daughtercards. Here, the manual mentions only that the unnamed FPGA enables the optional, 3x 16-bit wide quadrature counters, which are accessible via I2C registers. The “quadrature and edge-counter inputs provide access to” dual, optional tachometers, says Technologic.


 
TS-7180 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The quadrature counters and tachometers are part of a DAQ subsystem with screw terminal interfaces that is not available on its other i.MX6 UL boards. The digital acquisition features also include analog and digital inputs, DIO, and PWM.

Technologic boards typically have a lot of wireless options, but the TS-7180 goes even further by adding a cellular modem socket that supports either MultiTech or NimbeLink wireless modules. You also get Wi-Fi/BT, optional GPS, and a socket for Digi’s XBee modules, which include modems for RF, 802.15.4, DigiMesh, and more. There are also dual 10/100 Ethernet port with an optional Power-over-Ethernet daughtercard.


 
TS-7180 with cellular socket populated with NimbeLink wireless module (left) and with populated XBee socket
(click images to enlarge)
The TS-7180 ships with up to 1 GB RAM and 2 KB FRAM (Cypress 16 kbit FM25L16B), which “provides reliable data retention while eliminating the complexities, overhead, and system level reliability problems caused by EEPROM and other nonvolatile memories,” says Technologic. You also get a microSD slot and 4GB eMMC, which is “configurable as 2 GB pSLC mode for additional system integrity.”

The SBC provides a USB 2.0 host port, as well as micro-USB OTG and serial console ports. There’a also mention of a “coming soon” internal USB interface. Five serial interfaces, including TTL and RS485 ports, are available on screw terminals along with a CAN port.

Other features include an RTC and an optional enclosure and 9-axis IMU. The board runs on an 8-30V input with optional external power supply and Technologic’s TS-SILO SuperCap for 30 seconds of battery backup.

As usual, the board is backed up with open schematics and comprehensive documentation. If it wasn’t over our $200 limit, it would be included in our new catalog of 122 open-spec hacker boards. Two SKUs are available: a basic $315 model with 512MB RAM and a $381 model with 1GB RAM that adds GPS and IMU.

Specifications listed for the TS-7180 include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX6UL (1x Cortex-A7 core @ up to 696MHz); FPGA
  • Memory/storage:
    • 512MB or 1GB DDR3 RAM
    • 2KB FRAM
    • 4GB MLC eMMC; opt. standard eMMC up to 64GB (special request)
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n with antenna
    • Bluetooth 4.0 BLE
    • Cell modem socket (MultiTech or NimbeLink)
    • Optional GPS
    • XBee interface
  • Networking – 2x 10/100 Ethernet ports with optional PoE via daughtercard
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • Micro-USB OTG port
    • Micro-USB serial console device port
    • 4x serial (1x TTL UART, 3x RS-232) via screw terminals
    • RS-485 (via screw terminal)
    • CAN (via screw terminal)
    • SPI, I2C headers
  • DAQ I/O:
    • 7x DIO (30 VDC tolerant) via screw terminal
    • 4x analog inputs (10V or 4-20 mA) via screw terminal
    • 4x digital inputs via screw terminal
    • PWM header
    • 2x optional quadrature counters
    • 2x Optional tachometers
  • Other features — battery backed RTC; temp. sensor; optional 9-axis accelerometer/gyro; TS-SILO Super Capacitor; optional enclosure
  • Power — 8-30 DC input; 0.91W typical consumption (0.59 min to 6.37 max); optional 24V external DIN-rail mountable “PS-MDR-20-24” power supply
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 122 x 112mm
  • Operating system — Linux 4.1.15 kernel with Debian image

Further information

The TS-7180 is available in an engineering sampling program for $315 with 512 MB RAM or $381 model with 1GB RAM, GPS, and IMU. 100-unit pricing is $254 and $320. More information may be found in Technologic’s TS-7180 announcement and product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on January 4.

Technologic Systems | www.embeddedarm.com

 

Tool Revision Adds Arm Cortex-M Trace and Debug Support

Lauterbach has announced a new revision of their debug and trace probes for Cortex-M based devices. As Cortex-M processors are becoming clocked at greater and greater frequencies, the trace port clocks must also increase to keep pace and prevent loss of valuable data. To provide developers with a more future-proof solution to this perpetual cycle of increasing frequency, the new High-Speed Whisker cables are designed to work with trace clock frequencies of up to 200 MHz across trace ports ranging from 1-bit to 4-bits wide, giving a total trace port bandwidth of up to 200 MB/s.
With increased trace clock speeds comes an increased risk of signal misalignment when parallel trace pins are sampled. The High-Speed Whisker cable includes the innovative auto-focus technology that not only detects the trace port clock frequency but can also adjust the optimum sampling points of each pin to negate any alignment issues in the timing of the data signals. The points where each signal contains valid data, or data eyes, for each pin can be displayed in the TRACE32 PowerView software.

Detailed information about jitters, rising and falling edges is also displayed and users are provided with the capability of manually adjusting the sampling point of each signal. Once configured, these sampling points may be saved and recalled for future use of the tools on this target. The High-Speed Whisker cable will start shipping in January 2019 for TRACE32 µTrace and CombiProbe. Customers who purchased these units during 2018 may request a free upgrade.

Lauterbach | www.lauterbach.com

 

 

Easing into the IoT Cloud (Part 2)

Modules in Action

In Part 1 of this article series, Brian examined some of the technologies and services available today, enabling you to ease into the IoT cloud. Now, in Part 2, he discusses the hardware features of the Particle IoT modules, as well as the circuitry and program code for the project. He also explores the integration of a Raspberry Pi solution with the Particle cloud infrastructure.

By Brian Millier

After looking at broader aspects of easing into the IoT Cloud in Part 1, now it’s time to get into the hardware and software details. Let’s take a look at three of the Particle modules, shown in Figure 1. The P0 module contains the Cypress Semiconductor BCM43362 Wi-Fi chip and STMicroelectronics STM32F205RGY6 120 MHz Arm Cortex M3 microcontroller (MCU), in a small surface mount package. The Photon module contains this P0 module, plus a 3.3 V switch-mode power supply regulator, USB socket, mode switches and an RGB LED—all mounted on a 24-pin DIP package. The Electron module contains the U-blox SARA-U260/U270 3G cellular modem, the STM32F205RGT6 120  MHz Arm Cortex M3 MCU, a BQ24195 power management unit/battery charger, a Maxim Integrated battery gauge IC, plus the same mode switches and RGB LED contained on the Photon. It is mounted on a larger, 36-pin DIP module.

Figure 1
Shown here are three of the Particle IoT modules. The two on the left are Wi-Fi, and the one on the right is 3G Cellular.

The Photon and Electron share a common set of peripheral ports. These include 1x 12- bit ADC with up to 8 inputs, 2x 12-bit DACs, 2x  SPI, 1x I2C, 1x I2S, 1x CAN, 1x USB, 9x PWM, 1x UART and 18x GPIO.

The Electron module, having 12 more pins, has more of some of the above peripheral ports. Because the peripheral ports of both modules occupy many of the available pins, there will be fewer GPIO pins available if you use some the peripheral ports.
Particle provides libraries or high-level APIs for just about all the peripheral ports I’ve listed. The only peripheral port that I found was not supported was the I2S block. I2S is basically a high-speed bus dedicated to audio DACs/ADCs/Codecs. Due to the high speed, synchronous data transfers that I2S devices demand, such devices are generally not compatible with the real-time operating system (FreeRTOS) that the

Particle device runs under (unless you use DMA-based I2S).
Particle’s GPIO, I2C and SPI API’s are written to be compatible with their counterparts in Arduino. Because of that, third-party Arduino libraries that are available for many common peripheral chips/breakout modules will work with the Particle modules without further tweaking.

Both the Proton and Electron come with a tiny U.FL socket for an external antenna. In the Electron, a Taoglas external antenna is required and is provided. The Photon has a small PCB-mounted Wi-Fi chip antenna, but you can also use an external antenna if you are mounting the Photon in a case that doesn’t allow RF to penetrate. There is an Automatic RF mode, where the best signal from either the chip or external antenna is used.

The Electron module can draw around 2 A or more when communicating with a cell tower. This is more current than can be supplied if you were to plug the Electron into a PC’s USB port. Although you can get USB adapters that supply greater than 2 A, you wouldn’t be able to communicate with the Electron via USB, which would be handy during debugging. Particle wisely decided to include a Li-Po battery charger on-board and included a 2,000 mA-hours Li-Po battery with JST plug in the Electron kit. This assures the user that there will be enough power available to operate the cellular modem’s RF circuitry at full power.

As of this writing, the Particle 3G Electron (in the DIP package) is only available in an educational “kit” format, which includes the Electron module, antenna, LiPo battery, USB cable and a small protoboard. With all those support components included, it’s a good deal at $69. The E-Series SMT module, meant to be integrated into a commercial product, is more expensive ($79 in unit quantities), and doesn’t include any of the support components in the Electron kit.

PROJECT CIRCUIT DETAILS

The first Particle-based project I built was the over-temperature alarm that I described in Part 1 of this series. It also sends out an alert if the power fails. Figure 2 is a schematic of the circuit. I decided to use the Dallas Semiconductor (now Maxim Integrated) DS18S20 1-wire temperature measurement device. It is more expensive than a thermistor, but is accurate to within ± 0.5°C and doesn’t need any calibration procedure. The Particle library contains a “ds18x20” library that handles both the DS18B20 and the DS18S20 devices. These two devices differ in that each one outputs temperature at a different resolution, and the library handles this transparently. The DS18x20 can be operated in a 2-wire mode—signal and parasitic power on one wire, and ground on the other. However, timing constraints are less onerous if you use separate wires for the signal and power lines, and that is how I wired mine.

Figure 2
Schematic diagram of the project, using an Electron Cellular module.

I chose a small Nokia 5110 LCD display for the user interface. These are inexpensive, as they are pulled from or are surplus units from popular older Nokia cell phones. An Arduino-based Nokia 5110 library works with Particle devices. This can be found in the “Library” section of the Particle Web-based IDE. The 5110 LCD has a separate backlight pin, which can be driven by a PWM signal, to control the backlight LED’s brightness. I run the backlight with a PWM duty cycle of 25%, which is plenty bright and uses less power.

The user controls are as follows:

1) An SPDT switch acts as the Setpoint UP/DOWN adjustment.
2) A TEST pushbutton, when pressed, simulates an over-temperature condition and sends out the same message for test purposes.
3) A RESET pushbutton is connected to the Electron module’s *RST pin.
4) While not shown in my diagram, I later added a switch in series with the Li-Po battery’s positive wire, to disconnect the Li-Po completely. This allows the unit to be turned off when the USB power adapter is unplugged and this switch is shut off.
The LCD displays the current time, which is synchronized with the Particle cloud server, so it’s very accurate. It also displays the measured temperature and the Setpoint temperature. The fourth line of the display indicates the AC power status. Because the power status is only monitored once per minute, it will not report a momentary power-loss.

Read the full article in the January 342 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Tiny, Single-GbE Arm Networking SBC Runs Linux

By Eric Brown

Gateworks has spun a 100 mm x 35 mm, single-GbE “Newport GW6100” networking SBC, which follows a recent dual-GbE “GW6200” model. Both run Linux on a dual-core Cavium Octeon TX SoC and offer mini-PCIe expansion and -40 to 85°C support.

In Nov. 2017, when Gateworks unveiled its Newport family of Linux-driven, Octeon TX based SBCs with the 105 mm x 100 mm, dual GbE port Newport GW6300, it promised several more models in 2018. The 140 mm x 100 mm, 5-GbE port Newport GW6400 was announced in May along with a GW6404 sibling that swaps two of the GbE ports to SFP ports. Now, the company has launched the single-GbE port GW6100 model, which had been scheduled for a 2018 Q2 arrival. There was no announcement of the GW6100, which was discovered by CNXSoft, nor of the dual-port, 100 mm x 75 mm GW6200, which now has a product page (see farther below).

 
Newport GW6100 (left) and recent Newport GW6200
(click images to enlarge)
Like the other Newport SBCs, the new entries run OpenWrt or Ubuntu on Cavium’s networking focused Octeon TX SoC, which has Cortex-A53 like ”Thunder” cores. The embedded-oriented Octeon TX competes directly with NXP’s QorIQ line. Optimized to run multiple concurrent data and control planes simultaneously, the headless SoC integrates security architecture from Cavium’s Nitrox V security processors.

While the Newport GW6300 and GW6400 both offer a choice of dual- (800MHz) or quad-core (1.5GHz) Octeon TX configurations, the GW6100 and GW6200 are limited to the 800MHz dual-core models. Volume orders are required to switch to the quad-core SoC or make other customizations, including boosting the standard 1GB DDR4 to up to 4GB or the standard 8GB eMMC to up to 64GB.

The Newport GW6100 and GW6200 provide OpenWrt or Ubuntu Linux BSPs with U-Boot. A full development kit is available with a power supply, passive PoE injector, JTAG programmer, and cables.

Newport GW6100

The tiny new GW6100 offers 1GB DDR4, 8GB eMMC, and a GbE port with PoE support. You can also draw power from the USB Type-C port, and there’s a JTAG connection and an I/O connector. The latter offers serial, analog, and digital I/O, as well as I2C, SPI, and power.


Newport GW6100 front detail view
(click image to enlarge)
A single mini-PCIe slot accompanied by a nano-SIM slot supports third-party PCIe, USB 3.0, and mSATA cards. You can also choose from several Gateworks mini-PCIe options, including USB, DIO/analog I/O, microSD/USB/SIM, Femto, and IoT Radio (Sub-1GHz) modules.


GW6100 rear detail view
(click image to enlarge)
Like all the Newport SBCs, the GW6100 provides standard -40 to 85°C support. There’s an 8-60V DC jack in addition to the PoE, Type-C, and power header options. Other features include reverse power protection, programmable wake-up/shutdown, a watchdog, real-time clock, and more. A Ublox GNSS receiver is optional.


GW6100 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Newport GW6100 include:

  • Processor — Cavium Octeon TX (2x ARMv8 ThunderX cores @ 800MHz); networking and security extensions
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB DDR4
    • 8GB eMMC
    • mSATA (SATA III) via mini-PCIe
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port with passive PoE 8-60V input
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 Type-C port with 1.5A, 7.5W power support
    • Application connector (serial I/O, digital I/O, analog, I2C, SPI, and power)
    • JTAG interface
  • Expansion — Mini-PCIe slot with 8W power for “PCIe, USB 3.0 or mSATA with USB 2.0”; Nano-SIM slot
  • Other features – Watchdog; RTC with battery; LED, tamper switch support; voltage and temp. monitor; serial config EEPROM; programmable fan controller with tach support; Optional Ublox ZOE-MQ8 GNSS GPS Receiver with PPS
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Power:
    • 8-60V DC jack (or PoE or Type-C)
    • 0.13A @ 24VDC typical operating current
    • Voltage reverse protection
    • Programmable shut-down and wake-up
  • Dimensions — 100 x 35 x 21mm
  • Weight — 85 g
  • Operating system — OpenWrt or Ubuntu BSPs

Newport GW6200

The 100 x 75mm Newport GW6200 adds to the GW6100 feature set with a microSD slot, a second GbE port (both with PoE), plus a second mini-PCIe slot. In place of the Type-C port you get 2x USB 3.0 ports.

 
Newport GW6200 detail view (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The CW6200 is further equipped with side-mounted connectors for SPI, DIO, I2C, and either 2x RS232 or a single RS232/422/485 interface. A CAN bus controller is optional.

Further information

The Newport GW6100 and Newport GW6200 appear to be available now at undisclosed prices. More information may be found on Gateworks’ Newport GW6100and Newport GW6200 product pages.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

Cypress Semi Teams with Arm for Secure IoT MCU Solution

Cypress Semiconductor has expanded its collaboration with Arm to provide management of IoT edge nodes. The solution integrates the Arm Pelion IoT Platform with Cypress’ low power, dual-core PSoC 6 microcontrollers (MCUs) and CYW4343W Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo radios. PSoC 6 provides Arm v7-M hardware-based security that adheres to the highest level of device protection defined by the Arm Platform Security Architecture (PSA).
Cypress and Arm demonstrated hardware-secured onboarding and communication through the integration of the dual-core PSoC 6 MCU and Pelion IoT Platform in the Arm booth at Arm TechCon last month. In the demo, the PSoC 6 was running Arm’s PSA-defined Secure Partition Manager to be supported in Arm Mbed OS version 5.11 open-source embedded operating system, which will be available this December. Embedded systems developers can leverage the private key storage and hardware-accelerated cryptography in the PSoC 6 MCU for cryptographically-secured lifecycle management functions, such as over-the-air firmware updates, mutual authentication and device attestation and revocation. According to the company, Cypress is making a strategic push to integrate security into its compute, connect and store portfolio for the IoT.

The PSoC 6 architecture is built on ultra-low-power 40-nm process technology, and the MCUs feature low-power design techniques to extend battery life up to a full week for wearables. The dual-core Arm Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M0+ architecture lets designers optimize for power and performance simultaneously. Using its dual cores combined with configurable memory and peripheral protection units, the PSoC 6 MCU delivers the highest level of protection defined by the Platform Security Architecture (PSA) from Arm.

Designers can use the MCU’s software-defined peripherals to create custom analog front-ends (AFEs) or digital interfaces for innovative system components such as electronic-ink displays. The PSoC 6 MCU features the latest generation of Cypress’ industry-leading CapSense capacitive-sensing technology, enabling modern touch and gesture-based interfaces that are robust and reliable.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

MCU Family Serves Up Ultra-Low Power Functionality

STMicroelectronics has released its STM32L0x0 Value Line microcontrollers that provide an additional, low-cost entry point to the STM32L0 series The MCUs embed the Arm Cortex -M0+ core. With up to 128 KB flash memory, 20 KB SRAM and 512 byte true embedded EEPROM on-chip the MCUs save external components to cut down on board space and BOM cost. In addition to price-sensitive and space-constrained consumer devices such as fitness trackers, computer or gaming accessories and remotes, the new STM32L0x0 Value Line MCUs are well suited for personal medical devices, industrial sensors, and IoT devices such as building controls, weather stations, smart locks, smoke detectors or fire alarms.
The devices leverage ST’s power-saving low-leakage process technology and device features such as a low-power UART, low-power timer, 41µA 10 ksample/s ADC and wake-up from power saving in as little as 5µs. Designers can use these devices to achieve goals such as extending battery runtime without sacrificing product features, increasing wireless mobility, or endowing devices like smart meters or IoT sensors with up to 10-year battery-life leveraging the ultra-frugal 670 nA power-down current with RTC and RAM retention.

The Keil MDK-ARM professional IDE supports STM32L0x0 devices free of charge, and the STM32CubeMX configuration-code generator provides easy-to-use design analysis including a power-consumption calculator. A compatible Nucleo-64 development board (NUCLEO-L010RB) with Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) library is already available, to facilitate fast project startup.

The STM32L0x0 Value Line comprises six new parts, giving a choice of 16- KB, 64- KB, or 128- KB of flash memory, 128-byte, 256-byte or 512-byte EEPROM, and various package options. In addition, pin-compatibility with the full STM32 family of more than 800 part numbers offering a wide variety of core performance and integrated features, allows design flexibility and future scalability, with the freedom to leverage existing investment in code, documentation and tools.

STM32L0x0 Value Line microcontrollers are in production now, priced from $0.44 with 16-KB of flash memory and 128-byte EEPROM, for orders of 10,000 pieces. The unit price starting at $0.32 is available for high-volume orders.

STMicroelectronics| www.st.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

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

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

MCUs and Processors Vie for Embedded Mindshare

Performance Push

Today’s crop of high-performance microcontrollers and embedded processors provide a rich continuum of features, functions and capabilities. Embedded system designers have many choices in both categories but the dividing line between the two can be blurry.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

At one time the world of microcontrollers and the world of microprocessors were clearly separate. That’s slowly changed over the years as the high-performance segment of microcontrollers have become more powerful. And the same time, embedded processors have captured ever more mindshare and market share that used to be exclusively owned by the MCU camp. The lines blurred even further once most all MCUs started using Arm-based processor cores.

All the leading MCU vendors have a high-performance line of products, some in the 200 MHz and up range. Moreover, some application-specific MCU offerings are designed specifically for the performance needs of a particular market segment—automotive being the prime example. In some cases, these high end MCUs are vying for design wins against embedded processors that meet the same size, weight and power requirements as MCUs. In this article, we’ll examine some of the latest and greatest products and technologies on both sides.

High Performance MCU

An example of an MCU vendor’s high-performance line of products is Cypress Semiconductor’s FM4. FM4 is a portfolio of 32-bit, general-purpose, high performance MCUs based on the Arm Cortex-M4 processor with FPU and DSP functionality. FM4 microcontrollers operate at frequencies up to 200 MHz and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for motor control, factory automation and home appliance applications. The portfolio delivers low-latency, reliable, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication required for Industry 4.0 using network-computing technologies to advance design and manufacturing.

The FM4 MCU supports an operating voltage range of 2.7 V to 5.5 V. The devices incorporate 256 KB to 2 MB flash and up to 256 KB RAM. The fast flash memory combined with a flash accelerator circuit (pre-fetch buffer plus instruction cache) provides zero-wait-state operation up to 200 MHz. A standard DMA and an additional descriptor-based DMA (DSTC), each with an independent bus for data transfer, can be used to further offload the CPU. Figure 1 shows the FM4-216-ETHERNET, a development platform for developing applications using the Arm Cortex-M4-based FM4 S6E2CC MCU.

Figure 1
The FM4-216-ETHERNET is a development platform for developing applications using the Arm Cortex-M4-based FM4 S6E2CC MCU.

The high-performance line of MCUs from ST Microelectronics is its STM32H7 series. An example product from that series is the STM32H753 MCU with Arm’s highest-performing embedded core (Cortex-M7). According to ST Micro it delivers a record performance of 2020 CoreMark/856 DMIPS running at 400 MHz, executing code from embedded flash memory.

Other innovations and features implemented by ST further boost performance.These include the Chrom-ART Accelerator for fast and efficient graphical user-interfaces, a hardware JPEG codec that allows high-speed image manipulation, highly efficient Direct Memory Access (DMA) controllers, up to 2 MB of on-chip dual-bank flash memory with read-while-write capability, and the L1 cache allowing full-speed interaction with off-chip memory. Multiple power domains allow developers to minimize the energy consumed by their applications, while plentiful I/Os, communication interfaces, and audio and analog peripherals can address a wide range of entertainment, remote-monitoring and control applications.

Last year STMicro announced its STM32H7 high-performing MCUs are designed with the same security concepts as the Platform Security Architecture (PSA) from Arm announced at that time. This PSA framework on the STM32H7 MCUs are combined with STM32-family enhanced security features and services. ST’s STM32H7 MCU devices integrate hardware-based security features including a True Random-Number Generator (TRNG) and advanced cryptographic processor, which will simplify protecting embedded applications and global IoT systems against attacks like eavesdropping, spoofing or man-in-the-middle interception.

MCU Runs Linux OS

One dividing line that remains between MCUs and microprocessors is their ability to run major operating systems. While most embedded processors can run OSes like Linux, most MCUs lack the memory architecture required to do so. Breaking that barrier, in February MCU vendor Microchip Technology unveiled a System on Module (SOM) featuring the SAMA5D2 microprocessor. The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 contains the recently released ATSAMA5D27C-D1G-CU System in Package (SiP) (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The Arm Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D2 SiP is available in three DDR2 memory sizes (128 Mb, 512 Mb and 1 Gb) and optimized for bare metal, RTOS and Linux implementation

The SOM simplifies design by integrating the power management, non-volatile boot memory, Ethernet PHY and high-speed DDR2 memory onto a small, single-sided PCB. There is a great deal of design effort and complexity associated with creating an industrial-grade MPU-based system running a Linux operating system. The SOM integrates multiple external components and eliminates key design challenges around EMI, ESD and signal integrity. …

Read the full article in the August 337 issue of Circuit Cellar

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