Eurotech has announced today that AVR, a potato harvester manufacturer based in Belgium, has chosen the ReliaGATE family of intelligent edge computers running Eurotech’s Everyware Software Framework and Everyware Cloud to manage the edge devices for its smart agriculture project to connect its harvesting machinery. These IoT building blocks are integrated by AVR partner delaware with an MS Azure-based IoT platform that gathers, analyzes and visualizes data from sensors on tractors and other farming vehicles. With a showcase version up and running, AVR plans to release the platform for end users later in 2018, gathering market feedback to drive the development of new capabilities. No financial information has been disclosed. AVR has a decades-long history in the field of potato agriculture, designing and manufacturing harvesters, planters and cultivators. It’s a niche market, but they are one of the world’s biggest players, exporting equipment to every continent. However, even a traditional industry like agriculture is being impacted by emerging IT innovations.
According to AVR, Agriculture adopts new tech relatively slowly compared to other sectors. But the key words “smart farming: and :precision agriculture” are cropping up more and more often. In the past, AVR focused much more on the mechanical side of agriculture. Now, its goal is to develop smarter machines with many more sensors and use the data its collects to bring value and transparency to stakeholders along the entire value chain.
Nordic Semiconductor has launched ‘nRF Connect for Cloud’, a free service for Cloud-based evaluation, test, and verification of Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) designs employing Nordic’s nRF51 and nRF52 Series multiprotocol Bluetooth LE SoCs. nRF Connect for Cloud features an intuitive workflow and offers much of the functionality of Nordic’s ‘nRF Connect for Desktop’ and ‘nRF Connect for Mobile’ which are popular applications used for building and developing Bluetooth LE products. nRF Connect for Cloud also supports an extensive range of standard Bluetooth services together with proprietary services such as nRF UART. Operating with all popular browsers, nRF Connect for Cloud uses Web Bluetooth application programming interfaces (APIs) to push and extract data to and from the Cloud, enabling the developer to test and modify the behavior and performance of prototypes. By using the front-end and visualization features of nRF Connect for Cloud, historical data can be extracted from databases and analyzed in a browser. The product also allows engineers to monitor and interact with remote wireless IoT designs enabling the collaboration of geographically separate development teams on a single project.
nRF Connect for Cloud is supported by the nRF Gateway App available for iOS and Android-powered mobile devices. The nRF Gateway App enables Nordic Bluetooth LE devices to use a smartphone-enabled Internet gateway to convert Bluetooth LE messages to ReST/MQTT/IP protocols for Cloud interoperability.
The Gateway App communicates with the nRF Connect for Cloud back-end hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is based on Software as a Service (SaaS) components. By leveraging AWS industry-grade components, the app implements end-to-end data and device connectivity, guarantees reliability, and scales from a few to hundreds of Bluetooth LE devices.
nRF Connect for Cloud currently supports Bluetooth LE solutions but future versions will also support Nordic’s nRF91 Series low power, global multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT System-in-Package (SiP) for cellular IoT.
nRF Connect for Cloud works out-of-the-box with the Nordic Thingy:52 IoT Sensor Kit, Nordic nRF5 development kit (DK), and software development kit (SDK) examples. A quick-start guide is available from www.nrfcloud.com.
Here’s a sneak preview of July 2018 Circuit Cellar:
TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE INTERNET-OF-THINGS
Wireless Standards and Solutions for IoT
One of the critical enabling technologies making the Internet-of-Things possible is the set of well-established wireless standards that allow movement of data to and from low-power edge devices. Here, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at key wireless standards and solutions playing a role in IoT.
Product Focus: IoT Device Modules
The rapidly growing IoT phenomenon is driving demand for highly integrated modules designed to interface with IoT devices. This Product Focus section updates readers on this technology trend and provides a product album of representative IoT interface modules.
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES AT THE DESIGN PHASE
EMC Analysis During PCB Layout
If your electronic product design fails EMC compliance testing for its target market, that product can’t be sold. That’s why EMC analysis is such an important step. In his article, Mentor Graphics’ Craig Armenti shows how implementing EMC analysis during the design phase provides an opportunity to avoid failing EMC compliance testing after fabrication.
Extreme Low-Power Design
Wearable consumer devices, IoT sensors and handheld systems are just a few of the applications that strive for extreme low-power consumption. Beyond just battery-driven designs, today’s system developers want no-battery solutions and even energy harvesting. Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in extreme low power.
Op Amp Design Techniques
Op amps can play useful roles in circuit designs linking the real analog world to microcontrollers. Stuart Ball shares techniques for using op amps and related devices like comparators to optimize your designs and improve precision.
Wire Wrapping Revisited
Wire wrapping may seem old fashioned, but this tried and true technology can solve some tricky problems that arise when you try to interconnect different kinds of modules like Arduino, Raspberry Pi and so on. Wolfgang Matthes steps through how to best employ wire wrapping for this purpose and provides application examples.
DEEP DIVES ON MOTOR CONTROL AND MONITORING
BLDC Fan Current
Today’s small fans and blowers depend on brushless DC (BLDC) motor technology for their operation. In this article, Ed Nisley explains how these seemingly simple devices are actually quite complex when you measure them in action. He makes some measurements on the motor inside a tangential blower and explores how the data relates to the basic physics of moving air.
Electronic Speed Control (Part 1)
An Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) is an important device in motor control designs, especially in the world of radio-controlled (RC) model vehicles. In Part 1, Jeff Bachiochi lays the groundwork by discussing the evolution of brushed motors to brushless motors. He then explores in detail the role ESC devices play in RC vehicle motors.
MCU-Based Motor Condition Monitoring
Thanks to advances in microcontrollers and sensors, it’s now possible to electronically monitor aspects of a motor’s condition, like current consumption, pressure and vibration. In this article, Texas Instrument’s Amit Ashara steps through how to best use the resources on an MCU to preform condition monitoring on motors. He looks at the signal chain, connectivity issues and A-D conversion.
AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS
Verifying Code Readout Protection Claims
How do you verify the security of microcontrollers? MCU manufacturers often make big claims, but sometimes it is in your best interest to verify them yourself. In this article, Colin O’Flynn discusses a few threats against code readout and looks at verifying some of those claimed levels.
Thermoelectric Cooling (Part 1)
When his thermoelectric water color died prematurely, George Novacek was curious whether it was a defective unit or a design problem. With that in mind, he decided to create a test chamber using some electronics combined with components salvaged from the water cooler. His tests provide some interesting insights into thermoelectric cooling.
Rigado has announced Cascade, its new integrated Edge-as-a-Service solution. Designed for commercial IoT applications like Asset Tracking, Smart Workplaces and Connected Retail, Cascade helps companies save six months of time—or more—in bringing their solutions to market, without the need for upfront hardware investments.
Offered as an integrated monthly subscription starting at $9/month, Cascade gives you the wireless infrastructure, edge computing platform and managed security updates that allow IoT product and project teams to focus on driving maximum value from their IoT apps—and not on the underlying edge infrastructure, security and maintenance.
Rigado’s Cascade Edge-as-a-Service does so with four main components:
Cascade-500 IoT Gateway: Rigado’s newest IoT gateway offers a range of connectivity options including Bluetooth 5, Zigbee, Thread, Wi-Fi & LTE; security features like file system encryption; and 800 MHz of edge computing power.
Edge Protect Service: A managed, automated security service, Edge Protect provides automatic OS and security updates when common vulnerabilities, exposures and exploits are discovered. The service also provides signature authentication to ensure that what your developers publish is exactly what runs.
Edge Direct Tools: Secure edge device orchestration and systems performance monitoring allow your operations teams to set alerts and diagnose issues; provision gateways with secure IDs and encrypted keys; and flexibly schedule, manage and apply application updates. Edge Direct integrates with existing DevOps processes and CI tools and uses a familiar app store deployment model. With Edge Direct, technicians are able to stay out of the field, remotely deploying—and rolling back if necessary—updates for reliable maintenance.
Edge Connect Platform: Gives developers a secure connectivity and computing platform with a fully containerized edge OS. Featuring Ubuntu Core by Canonical with secure boot and an encrypted file system, Edge Connect also leverages Snaps, a simple application packaging system that makes it easier for developers to build and maintain application containers at the edge. With Edge Connect, your developers can work in the programming language of their choice and can easily and securely add multiple apps and functionalities onto a single gateway. Last, EdgeConnect also offers easier connections to IoT sensors and beacons using API calls that do not require device or protocol expertise.
Cascade benefits engineers by shaving months off of their IoT design and build efforts by helping them quickly develop and deploy edge applications. EdgeConnect APIs, with their ‘web-style’ access to devices, greatly simplifies architecture and saves thousands of lines of code and weeks of development and testing time.
Operational teams who are tasked with ongoing edge maintenance can use their same DevOps workflows, dashboards, and tools, such as CI, to monitor their IoT solutions. Edge performance monitoring helps Operations keep a close eye on device health and connectivity to manage successful scaling.
Cascade gives your IoT Support the solutions they need to effectively diagnose and fix client-specific issues. Able to easily integrate into existing support applications, IoT support needs little to no additional team or tools to effectively track device performance, diagnostics and update configurations.
Business teams benefit from the ability to easily scale IoT solutions across the commercial enterprise – all with a solution that mirrors their own SaaS Commercial IoT model. With increased security, a faster time to market and the ability to extend easily to the entire commercial enterprise, Cascade gives your business teams the ability to introduce innovation at the speed of the market.
You can get started with Rigado’s Cascade Evaluation Kit.
Advantech has announced its new generation of wireless connectivity: the Edge Intelligence Server EIS-D210 series. As smart cities and industry 4.0 deployment installs millions of IoT sensors and devices, wireless communications has become the fastest growing sector and wireless networks have been part of every application. As a result, the task of remotely managing distributed devices becomes more complex.
To echo market requirements, Advantech EIS-D210 series is powered by an Intel Celeron processor N3350 and has LoRa/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and WISE-PaaS/EdgeSense edge intelligence and sensing software built-in. It is also pre-integrated with Microsoft Azure IoT Edge and AWS Greengrass to extend cloud intelligence to edge devices and enable real-time decisions at the edge. Advantech EIS-D210 is an integrated solution from the edge to the cloud and simplifies IoT application deployment. It’s well suited for applications in smart factory, smart energy and intelligent agriculture applications that need wireless sensor network management.
EIS-D210W has a built-in certificated Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz standard) and Bluetooth 4.1 module, and EIS-D210L incorporates a built-in private LoRa long-range modem. All EIS-D210 series have built-in dual GbE, COM (RS-232/422/485), VGA/HDMI, four USB 3.0 and mPCIe ports. The mPCIe ports can be extended to support 3G/4G LTE. EIS-D210 series provide several connection capabilities and peripheral support for multiple wireless/wired communications.
EIS-D210 series comes with Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/EdgeSense edge intelligence and sensing integration software, which provides an IoT SDK and documents for wireless sensor (LoRa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) data integration and supporting field protocols (MQTT/OPC/Modbus) for sensor/device data acquisition. With these, customers can quickly incorporate data integration, data pre-processing, and edge analytics to their applications.
EIS-D210 series is also pre-integrated with Azure IoT Edge and AWS Greengrass, ensuring that IoT devices can respond quickly to local events, interact with local resources, operate with intermittent connections, and minimize the cost of transmitting IoT data to the cloud. Furthermore, after data modeling and machine learning with data, results can be pushed back to edge (IoT Edge/ Greengrass) to provide data prediction for IoT applications.
EIS-D210W (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth) became available at end of April and EIS-D210L (LoRa) will become available in June.
Here’s a sneak preview of June 2018 Circuit Cellar:
PCB DESIGN AND POWER: MAKING SMART CHOICES
PCB Design and Verification PCB design tools and methods continue to evolve as they race to keep pace with faster, highly integrated electronics. Automated, rules-based chip placement is getting more sophisticated and leveraging AI in interesting ways. And supply chains are linking tighter with PCB design processes. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest PCB design and verification tools and technologies.
PCB Ground Planes Tricky design decisions crop up when you’re faced with crafting a printed circuit board (PCB) for any complex system—and many of them involve the ground plane. There is dealing with noisy components and deciding between a common ground plane or separate ones—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Robert Lacoste shares his insights on the topic, examining the physics, simulation tools and design examples of ground plane implementations. Product Focus: AC-DC Converters To their peril, embedded system developers often treat their choice of power supply as an afterthought. But choosing the right AC-DC converter is critical to the ensuring your system delivers power efficiently to all parts of your system. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative AC-DC converter products.
SENSORS TAKE MANY FORMS AND FUNCTIONS
Sensors and Measurement While sensors have always played a key role in embedded systems, the exploding Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon has pushed sensor technology to the forefront. Any IoT implementation depends on an array of sensors that relay input back to the cloud. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in sensors and measurement.
Passive Infrared Sensors One way to make sure that lights get turned off when you leave a room is to use Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors. Jeff Bachiochi examines the science and technology behind PIR sensors. He then details how to craft effective program code and control electronics to use PIR sensors is a useful way.
Gesture-Recognition in Boxing Glove Learn how two Boston University graduate students built a gesture-detection wearable that acts as a building block for a larger fitness telemetry system. Using a Linux-based Gumstix Verdex, the wearable couples an inertial measurement unit with a pressure sensor embedded in a boxing glove to recognize the user’s hits and classify them according to predefined, user-recorded gestures.
SECURITY, RELIABILITY AND MORE
Internet of Things Security (Part 3) In this next part of his article series on IoT security, Bob Japenga looks at the security features of a specific series of microprocessors: Microchip’s SAMA5D2. He examines these security features and discusses what protection they provide.
Aeronautical Communication Protocols Unlike ground networks, where data throughout is the priority, avionics networks are all about reliability. As a result, the communications protocols used in for aircraft networking seem pretty obscure to the average engineer. In this article, George Novacek reviews some of the most common aircraft comms protocols including ARINC 429, ARINC 629 and MIL-STD-1553B
DEEP DIVES ON PROCESSOR DESIGN AND DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING
Murphy’s Laws in the DSP World (Part 1) A Pandora’s box of unexpected issues gets opened the moment you move from the real world of analog signals and enter the world of digital signal processing (DSP). In Part 1 of this new article series, Mike Smith defines six “Murphy’s Laws of DSP” and provides you with methods and techniques to navigate around them.
Processor Design Techniques and Optimizations As electronics get smaller and more complex day by day, knowing the basic building blocks of processors is more important than ever. In this article, Nishant Mittal explores processor design from various perspectives—including architecture types, pipelining and ALU varieties.
Moxa has announced the UC-2100 Series of industrial IoT gateways along with its new UC 3100 and UC 5100 Series, but it offered details only on the UC-2100. All three series will offer ruggedization features, compact footprints, and on some models, 4G LTE support. They all run Moxa Industrial Linux and optional ThingsPro Gateway data acquisition software on Arm-based SoCs.
Moxa UC-2111 or UC-2112 (left) and UC-2101 (click image to enlarge)
Based on Debian 9 and a Linux 4.4 kernel, the new Moxa Industrial Linux (MIL) is a “high-performance, industrial-grade Linux distribution” that features a container-based virtual-machine-like middleware abstraction layer between the OS and applications,” says Moxa. Multiple isolated systems can run on a single control host “so that system integrators and engineers can easily change the behavior of an application without worrying about software compatibility,” says the company.
MIL provides 10-year long-term Linux support, and is aimed principally at industries that require long-term software, such as power, water, oil & gas, transportation and building automation industries. In December, Moxa joined the Linux Foundation’s Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project, which is developing a 10-year SLTS Linux kernel for infrastructure industries. MIL appears to be in alignment with CIP standards.
Diagrams of ThingsPro Gateway (top) and the larger ThingsPro eco-system (bottom) (click images to enlarge)
Moxa’s ThingsPro Gateway software enables “fast integration of edge data into cloud services for large-scale IIoT deployments,” says Moxa. The software supports Modbus data acquisition, LTE connectivity, MQTT communication, and cloud client interfaces such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. C and Python APIs are also available.
Moxa’s UC-3100 (source: Hanser Konstruktion), and at right, the similarly Linux-driven, ThingsPro ready UC-8112 (click images to enlarge)
Although we saw no product pages on the UC-3100 and UC-5100, Hanser Konstruktion posted a short news item on the UC-3100 with a photo (above) and a few details. This larger, rugged system supports WiFi and LTE with two antenna pairs, and offers a USB port in addition to dual LAN and dual serial ports.
The new systems follow several other UC-branded IoT gateways that run Linux on Arm. The only other one to support ThingsPro is the UC-8112, a member of the UC-8100 family. This UC-8100 is similarly ruggedized, and runs Linux on a Cortex-A8 SoC.
The UC-2100 Series gateways runs MIL on an unnamed Cortex-A8 SoC clocked at 600MHz except for the UC-2112, which jumps to 1GHz. There are five different models, all with 9-48 VDC 3-pin terminal blocks and a maximum consumption of 4 Watts when not running cellular modules.
The five UC-2100 models have the following dimensions, weights, and maximum input currents:
UC-2101 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 200 mA
UC-2102 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 330 mA
UC-2104 — 57 x 80 x 30.8mm; 220 g; 800 mA
UC-2111 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 350 mA
UC-2112 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 450 mA
All five UC-2100 variants default to a -10 to 60°C operating range except for the UC-2104, which moves up to -10 to 70°C. In addition, they are all available in optional -40 to 75°C versions.
Other ruggedization features are the same, including anti-vibration protection per IEC 60068-2-64 and anti-shock per IEC 60068-2-2. A variety of safety, EMC, EMI, EMS, and hazardous environment standards are also listed.
The first three models ship with 256MB DDR3, while the UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 512MB. These two are also the only ones to offer micro-SD slots. All five systems ship with 8GB eMMC loaded with the MIL distribution.
The UC-2100 systems vary in the number and type of their auto-sensing, 1.5 kV isolated Ethernet ports. The UC-2101 and UC-2104 each have a single 10/100Mbps port, while the UC-2102 and UC-2111 have two. The UC-2112 has one 10/100 and one 10/100/1000 port. The UC-2104 is the only model with a mini-PCIe socket for 4G or WiFi.
The UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 2x RS-232/422/48 ports while the UC-2101 has one. It would appear that the UC-2102 and UC-2104 lack serial ports altogether except for the RS-232 console port available on all five systems.
The UC-2100 provides push buttons and dip switches, an RTC, a watchdog, and LEDs, the number of which depend on the model. A wall kit is standard, and DIN-rail mounting is optional. TPM 2.0 is also optional. A 5-year hardware warranty is standard.
The UC-2100 Series gateways appear to be available for order, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found on Moxa’s UC-2100 product page. More information about the UC-2100, as well as the related, upcoming UC-3100 and UC-5100 Series, will be on tap at Hannover Messe 2018, April 23-27, at the Arm Booth at Hall 6, Booth A46.
Microsoft has announced an “Azure Sphere” blueprint for for hybrid Cortex-A/Cortex-M SoCs that run a Linux-based Azure Sphere OS and include end-to-end Microsoft security technologies and a cloud service. Products based on a MediaTek MT3620 Azure Sphere chip are due by year’s end.
Just when Google has begun to experiment with leaving Linux behind with its Fuchsia OS —new Fuchsia details emerged late last week— long-time Linux foe Microsoft unveiled an IoT platform that embraces Linux. At RSA 2018, Microsoft Research announced a project called Azure Sphere that it bills as a new class of Azure Sphere microcontrollers that run “a custom Linux kernel” combined with Microsoft security technologies. Initial products are due by the end of the year aimed at industries including whitegoods, agriculture, energy and infrastructure.
Based on the flagship, Azure Sphere based MediaTek MT3620 SoC, which will ship in volume later this year, this is not a new class of MCUs, but rather a fairly standard Cortex-A7 based SoC with a pair of Cortex-M4 MCUs backed up by end to end security. It’s unclear if future Azure Sphere compliant SoCs will feature different combinations of Cortex-A and Cortex-M, but this is clearly an on Arm IP based design. Arm “worked closely with us to incorporate their Cortex-A application processors into Azure Sphere MCUs,” says Microsoft.
Azure Sphere OS architecture (click images to enlarge)
Major chipmakers have signed up to build Azure Sphere system-on-chips including Nordic, NXP, Qualcomm, ST Micro, Silicon Labs, Toshiba, and more (see image below). The software giant has sweetened the pot by “licensing our silicon security technologies to them royalty-free.”
Azure Sphere SoCs “combine both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity,” says Microsoft. “Each chip includes custom silicon security technology from Microsoft, inspired by 15 years of experience and learnings from Xbox.”
The design “combines the versatility and power of a Cortex-A processor with the low overhead and real-time guarantees of a Cortex-M class processor,” says Microsoft. The MCU includes a Microsoft Pluton Security Subsystem that “creates a hardware root of trust, stores private keys, and executes complex cryptographic operations.”
The IoT oriented Azure Sphere OS provides additional Microsoft security and a security monitor in addition to the Linux kernel. The platform will ship with Visual Studio development tools, and a dev kit will ship in mid-2018.
Azure Sphere security features (click image to enlarge)
The third component is an Azure Sphere Security Service, a turnkey, cloud-based platform. The service brokers trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication. The service also detects “emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates,” says Microsoft.
Azure Sphere eco-system conceptual diagram (top) and list of silicon partners (bottom)
In many ways, Azure Sphere is similar to Samsung’s Artik line of IoT modules, which incorporate super-secure SoCs that are supported by end-to-end security controlled by the Artik Cloud. One difference is that the Artik modules are either Cortex-A applications processors or Cortex-M or -R MCUs, which are designed to be deployed in heterogeneous product designs, rather than a hybrid SoC like the MediaTek MT3620.Hybrid, Linux-driven Cortex-A/Cortex-M SoCs have become common in recent years, led by NXP’s Cortex-A7 based i.MX7 and -A53-based i.MX8, as well as many others including the -A7 based Renesas RZ/N1D and Marvell IAP220.
The MediaTek MT3620 “was designed in close cooperation with Microsoft for its Azure Sphere Secure IoT Platform,” says MediaTek in its announcement. Its 500MHz Cortex-A7 core is accompanied by large L1 and L2 caches and integrated SRAM. Dual Cortex-M4F chips support peripherals including 5x UART/I2C/SPI, 2x I2S, 8x ADC, up to 12 PWM counters, and up to 72x GPIO.
The Cortex-M4F cores are primarily devoted to real-time I/O processing, “but can also be used for general purpose computation and control,” says MediaTek. They “may run any end-user-provided operating system or run a ‘bare metal app’ with no operating system.”
In addition, the MT3620 features an isolated security subsystem with its own Arm Cortex-M4F core that handles secure boot and secure system operation. A separate Andes N9 32-bit RISC core supports 1×1 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.
The security features and WiFi networking are “isolated from, and run independently of, end user applications,” says MediaTek. “Only hardware features supported by the Azure Sphere Secure IoT Platform are available to MT3620 end-users. As such, security features and Wi-Fi are only accessible via defined APIs and are robust to programming errors in end-user applications regardless of whether these applications run on the Cortex-A7 or the user-accessible Cortex-M4F cores.” MediaTek adds that a development environment is avaialble based on the gcc compiler, and includes a Visual Studio extension, “allowing this application to be developed in C.”
Microsoft learns to love LinuxIn recent years, we’ve seen Microsoft has increasingly softened its long-time anti-Linux stance by adding Linux support to its Azure service and targeting Windows 10 IoT at the Raspberry Pi, among other experiments. Microsoft is an active contributor to Linux, and has even open-sourced some technologies.
It wasn’t always so. For years, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took turns deriding Linux and open source while warning about the threat they posed to the tech industry. In 2007, Microsoft fought back against the growth of embedded Linux at the expense of Windows CE and Windows Mobile by suing companies that used embedded Linux, claiming that some of the open source components were based on proprietary Microsoft technologies. By 2009, a Microsoft exec openly acknowledged the threat of embedded Linux and open source software.
That same year, Microsoft was accused of using its marketing muscle to convince PC partners to stop providing Linux as an optional install on netbooks. In 2011, Windows 8 came out with a new UEFI system intended to stop users from replacing Windows with Linux on major PC platforms.
Azure Sphere promo video
Azure Sphere is available as a developer preview to selected partners. The MediaTek MT3620 will be the first Azure Sphere MCU, and products based on it should arrive by the end of the year. More information may be found in Microsoft’s Azure Sphere announcement and product page.
In this follow on to our March “IoT: From Device to Gateway” Special Feature, here we look at technologies and solutions for the gateway-to-cloud side of IoT. These solutions ease the way toward getting a cloud-connected system up and running.
By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief
After exploring the edge device side of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) last month, now we’ll look at cloud side the equation. Even though the idea of Internet-linked embedded devices has been around for decades, multiple converging technology trends have brought us to the IoT phenomenon of today. The proliferation of low cost wireless technology has coincided with significant decrease in the costs of computing, data storage and sensor components. Meanwhile, that same computing and storage are now widely available as cloud-based platforms that can scale linearly.
Much attention has been focused on the size of the growing IoT market in terms of revenue and number of devices. But another interesting metric is the number of IoT developers working on IoT-based systems. According to analysts, that number will approach 10 million within the next few years and a lot of that growth will be among smaller firms starting from the ground up or adding IoT to their infrastructure for the first time. For those smaller organizations the process of getting started with cloud-connected infrastructure can be a hurdle. And even after that step, there’s the issue of scaling up as the need arises to expand their IoT implementation.
Feeding both those needs, a number of companies ranging from IoT specialists to embedded software vendors to microcontroller vendors have over the past six months, rolled out a variety of solutions to help developers get started with their cloud-connected IoT system and scale that system to larger numbers of IoT edge nodes and increased cloud-based service functionality.
IoT for the Masses
With both those trends in mind, Atmosphere IoT positions itself as focused on the mass market of IoT developers. Formerly part of Anaren, Atmosphere IoT Corp. was previously Anaren’s IoT Group before Anaren divested that division in January into the newly formed Atmosphere IoT Corp. For its Atmosphere IDE product, the company provides an interesting business model. Atmosphere IDE is available for free—anyone can log on and use it. Once you get over 5 connected things and want to have Atmosphere IoT store more data and manage more things, you start paying incrementally. The idea is to make it easy for developers to generate code and get prototype systems and a limited pilot program up and running. When users are ready to scale up or when they find commercial success, they can scale linearly because all of Atmosphere’s software is built on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.
Photo 1 The Cloud View part of Atmosphere IDE lets developers use cloud elements to quickly connect their projects to Atmosphere Cloud, sending data from an embedded system to the cloud for a cohesive sensor-to-cloud solution.
Using the IDE, developers can create either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Smart projects and choose between supported platforms including Anaren hardware and the Intel Curie module. On the cloud development side, the Atmosphere IDE provides easy cloud connectivity access, connecting IoT devices to the cloud application to take advantage of data hosting, analysis, reporting, real-time monitoring and much more. The Cloud View (Photo 1) part of the IDE lets developers use cloud elements to quickly connect their projects to Atmosphere Cloud, sending data from an embedded system to the cloud for a cohesive sensor-to-cloud solution.
Industry 4.0 Solution
For its Industry 4.0 IoT solution, Mentor in February introduced its Mentor Embedded IoT Framework (MEIF). MEIF is a comprehensive, cloud vendor-agnostic embedded software framework designed to help developers create, secure and manage “cloud-ready” smart devices for Industry 4.0 applications. MEIF features well-defined interfaces engineered to complement and extend cloud vendor embedded software development kit (SDK) APIs. …
Read the full article in the April 333 issue of Circuit Cellar
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In terms of technology, the line between embedded computing and IT/desktop computing has always been a moving target. Certainty the computing power in small embedded devices today have vastly more compute muscle than even a server of 15 years ago. While there’s many ways to look at that phenomena, it’s interesting to look at it through the lens of Linux. The quick rise in the popularity of Linux in the 90s happened on the server/IT side pretty much simultaneously with the embrace of Linux in the embedded market.
I’ve talked before in this column about the embedded Linux start-up bubble of the late 90s. That’s when a number of start-ups emerged as “embedded Linux” companies. It was a new business model for our industry, because Linux is a free, open-source OS. As a result, these companies didn’t sell Linux, but rather provided services to help customers create and support implementations of open-source Linux. This market disruption spurred the established embedded RTOS vendors to push back. Like most embedded technology journalists back then, I loved having a conflict to cover. There were spirited debates on the “Linux vs. RTOS topic” on conference panels and in articles of time—and I enjoyed participating in both.
It’s amusing to me to remember that Wind River at the time was the most vocal anti-Linux voice of the day. Fast forward to today and there’s a double irony. Most of those embedded Linux startups are long gone. And yet, most major OS vendors offer full-blown embedded Linux support alongside their RTOS offerings. In fact, in a research report released in January by VDC Research, Wind River was named as the market leader in the global embedded software market for both its RTOS and commercial Linux segments.
According the VDC report, global unit shipments of IoT and embedded OSs, including free/non-commercial OSs, will grow to reach 11.1 billion units by 2021, driven primarily by ECU-targeted RTOS shipments in the automotive market, and free Linux installs on higher-resource systems. After accounting for systems with no OS, bare-metal OS, or an in-house developed OS, the total yearly units shipped will grow beyond 17 billion units in 2021 according to the report. VDC research findings also predict that unit growth will be driven primarily by free and low-cost operating systems such as Amazon FreeRTOS, Express Logic ThreadX and Mentor Graphics Nucleus on constrained devices, along with free, open source Linux distributions for resource-rich embedded systems.
Shifting gears, let me indulge myself by talking about some recent Circuit Cellar news—though still on the Linux theme. Circuit Cellar has formed a strategic partnership with LinuxGizmos.com. LinuxGizmos is a well-establish, trusted website that provides up-to-the-minute, detailed and insightful coverage of the latest developer- and maker-friendly, embedded oriented chips, modules, boards, small systems and IoT devices—and the software technologies that make them tick. As its name in implies, LinuxGizmos features coverage of open source, high-level operating systems including Linux and its derivatives (such as Android), as well as lower-level software platforms such as OpenWRT and FreeRTOS.
LinuxGizmos.com was founded by Rick Lehrbaum—but that’s only the latest of his accolades. I know Rick from way back when I first started writing about embedded computing in 1990. Most people in the embedded computing industry remember him as the “Father of PC/104.” Rick co-founded Ampro Computers in 1983 (now part of ADLINK), authored the PC/104 standard and founded the PC/104 Consortium in 1991, created LinuxDevices.com in 1999 and guided the formation of the Embedded Linux Consortium in 2000. In 2003, he launched LinuxGizmos.com to fill the void created when LinuxDevices was retired by Quinstreet Media.
Bringing things full circle, Rick says he’s long been a fan of Circuit Cellar, and even wrote a series of articles about PC/104 technology for it in the late 90s. I’m thrilled to be teaming up with LinuxGizmos.com and am looking forward to combing our strengths to better serve you.
This appears in the April (333) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine
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NXP’s “EdgeScale” suite of secure edge computing device management tools help deploy and manage Linux devices running on LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs, and connects them to cloud services.
NXP has added an EdgeScale suite of secure edge computing tools and services to its Linux-based Layerscape SDK for six of its networking oriented LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs. These include the quad-core, 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 QorIQ LS1043A, which last year received Ubuntu Core support, as well as the octa-core, Cortex-A72 LS2088a (see farther below).
Simplified EdgeScale architecture
(click image to enlarge)
The cloud-based IoT suite is designed to remotely deploy, manage, and update edge computing devices built on Layerscape SoCs. EdgeScale bridges edge nodes, sensors, and other IoT devices to cloud frameworks, automating the provisioning of software and updates to remote embedded equipment. EdgeScale can be used to deploy container applications and firmware updates, as well as build containers and generate firmware.
The technology leverages the NXP Trust Architecture already built into Layerscape SoCs, which offers Hardware Root of Trust features. These include secure boot, secure key storage, manufacturing protection, hardware resource isolation, and runtime tamper detection.
The EdgeScale suite provides three levels of management: a “point-and-click” dashboard, a Command-Line-Interface (CLI), and the RESTful API, which enables “integration with any cloud computing framework,” as well as greater UI customization. The platform supports Ubuntu, Yocto, OpenWrt, or “any custom Linux distribution.”
Detailed EdgeScale architecture (above) and feature list (below)
(click images to enlarge)
EdgeScale supports cloud frameworks including Amazon’s AWS Greengrass, Alibaba’s Aliyun, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge. The latter was part of a separate announcement released in conjunction with the EdgeScale release that said that all Layerscape SoCs were being enabled with “secure execution for Azure IoT Edge computing running networking, data analytics, and compute-intensive machine learning applications.”
A year ago, NXP announced a Modular IoT Framework, which was described as a set of pre-integrated NXP hardware and software for IoT, letting customers mix and match technologies with greater assurance of interoperability. When asked how this was related to EdgeScale, Sam Fuller, head of system solutions for NXP’s digital networking group, replied: “EdgeScale is designed to manage higher level software that could have a role of processing the data and managing the communication to/from devices built from the Modular IoT Framework.”
LS102A block diagram
(click image to enlarge)
The EdgeScale suite supports the following QorIQ Layerscape processors:
LS102A — 80 0MHz single-core, Cortex-A53 with 1 W power consumption found on F&S’ efus A53LS module
LS1028A — dual-core ARMv8 with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)
NXP Semiconductors has introduced its new A71CH Secure Element (SE), a trust anchor, ready-to-use security solution for next-generation IoT devices, such as edge nodes and gateways. Designed to secure peer-to-peer or cloud connections, the chip comes with the required credentials pre-injected for autonomous cloud onboarding and peer-to-peer authentication. The solution is a Root of Trust (RoT) at the silicon level, with security functionalities such as encrypted key storage, key generation and derivation to protect private information and credentials for mutual authentication.
Unique to the chip, is its ‘Plug & Trust” approach supporting easy integration of security and cloud onboarding. It does this using host libraries and a development kit compatible to different NXP microcontrollers (MCU and MPU) platforms such as Kinetis and i.MX. Also, example code and various application notes are available to streamline the design process.
Thanks to the collaboration with Data I/O, embedded systems developers further benefit from an easy personalization service on the A71CH for any quantities in addition to NXP’s trust provisioning service. As a result, the new security IC gives developers, even those with limited security expertise, freedom to innovate and deploy secure solutions.
The A71CH provides the following set of key features:
Protected access to credentials
Encrypted/authenticated interface to host processor
Certificate-based TLS set-up (NIST P-256)
TLS set-up using pre-shared secret (TLS-PSK)
Connectionless message authentication (HMAC)
ECC key generation & signature verification
Symmetric key derivation
Encrypted vault for product master secrets (key wrapping, derivation, locking)
Here’s a sneak preview of April 2018 Circuit Cellar:
NAVIGATING THE INTERNET-OF-THINGS
IoT: From Gateway to Cloud In this follow on to our March “IoT: Device to Gateway” feature, this time we look at technologies and solutions for the gateway to cloud side of IoT. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines the tools and services available to get a cloud-connected IoT implementation up and running.
Texting and IoT Embedded Devices (Part 2)
In Part 1, Jeff Bachiochi laid the groundwork for describing a project involving texting. He puts that into action this, showing how to create messages on his Espressif System’s ESP8266EX-based device to be sent to an email account and end up with those messages going as texts to a cell phone.
Internet of Things Security (Part 2) In this next part of his article series on IoT security, Bob Japenga takes a look at side-channel attacks. What are they? How much of a threat are they? And how can we prevent them?
Product Focus: 32-Bit Microcontrollers As the workhorse of today’s embedded systems, 32-bit microcontrollers serve a wide variety of embedded applications—including the IoT. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative 32-bit MCU products.
GRAPHICS, VISION AND DISPLAYS
Graphics, Video and Displays Thanks to advances in displays and innovations in graphics ICs, embedded systems can now routinely feature sophisticated graphical user interfaces. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in graphics, video and displays.
Color Recognition and Segmentation in Real-time Vision systems used to require big, multi-board systems—but not anymore. Learn how two Cornell undergraduates designed a hardware/software system that accelerates vision-based object recognition and tracking using an FPGA SoC. They made a min manufacturing line to demonstrate how their system can accurately track and categorize manufactured candies carried along a conveyor belt.
SPECIFICATIONS, QUALIFICATIONS AND MORE
Component tolerance We perhaps take for granted sometimes that the tolerances of our electronic components fit the needs of our designs. In this article, Robert Lacoste takes a deep look into the subject of tolerances, using the simple resistor as an example. He goes through the math to help you better understand accuracy and drift along with other factors.
Understanding the Temperature Coefficient of Resistance Temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR) is the calculation of a relative change of resistance per degree of temperature change. Even though it’s an important spec, different resistor manufacturers use different methods for defining TCR. In this article, Molly Bakewell Chamberlin examines TCR and its “best practice” interpretations using Vishay Precision Group’s vast experience in high-precision resistors.
Designing of Complex Systems While some commercial software gets away without much qualification during development, the situation is very different when safety in involved. For aircraft, vehicles or any complex system where failure unacceptable, this means adhering to established standards throughout the development life cycle. In this article, George Novacek tackles these issues and examines some of these standards namely ARP4754.
AND MORE IN-DEPTH PROJECT ARTICLES
Build a Marginal OscillatorProximity Switch A damped or marginal oscillator will switch off when energy is siphoned from its resonant LC tank circuit. In his article, Dev Gualtieri presents a simple marginal oscillator that detects proximity to a small steel screw or steel plate. It lights an LED, and the LED can be part of an optically-isolated solid-state relay.
Obsolescence-Proof Your UI (Part 1) After years of frustration dealing with graphical interface technologies that go obsolete, Steve Hendrix decided there must be a better way. Knowing that web browser technology is likely to be with us for a long while, he chose to build a web server that could perform common operations that he needed on the IEEE-488 bus. He then built it as a product available for sale to others—and it is basically obsolescence-proof.
Connecting to the IoT edge requires highly integrated technology, blending wireless connectivity and intelligence. Feeding those needs, a variety of IoT modules have emerged that offer pre-certified solutions that are ready to use.
By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief
he Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most dynamic areas of embedded systems design today. Opportunities are huge as organizations large and small work to develop IoT implementations. IoT implementations are generally comprised of three main parts: the devices in the field, the cloud and the network (gateways) linking them together. This article focuses on the “things” side—in other words, the smart, connected edge devices of the IoT. For more on IoT gateways, see “IoT Gateway Advances Take Diverse Paths“ (Circuit Cellar 328, November 2017).
Because this sub-segment of technology is growing and changing so fast, it’s impossible to get a handle on everything that’s happening. The scope that comprises IoT edge devices includes a combination of embedded processors and microcontrollers that provide intelligence. It also includes various wireless, cellular and other connectivity solutions to connect to the network. And it includes sensors to collect data and battery technologies to keep the devices running.
Connecting the various nodes of an IoT implementation can involve a number of wired and wireless network technologies. But it’s rare that an IoT system can be completely hardwired end to end. Most IoT systems of any large scale depend on a variety of wireless technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee and even cellular networking.
What’s most interesting among all that, are not those individual pieces themselves, but rather an emerging crop of modular IoT products that combine intelligence and connectivity, while also taking on the vital certifications needed to get IoT implementations up and running. With all that in mind, the last 12 months have seen an interesting mix of module-based products aimed directly at IoT.
Certified IoT Modules
Exemplifying those trends, in September 2017, STMicroelectronics (ST)introduced the SPBTLE-1S, a ready-to-use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module that integrates all the components needed to complete the radio subsystem (Photo 1). The BLE module integrates ST’s proven BlueNRG-1 application-processor SoC and balun, high-frequency oscillators and a chip antenna.
Photo 1 The SPBTLE-1S is a BLE module that integrates all the components needed to complete the radio subsystem. It’s BQE-approved, and FCC, IC and CE-RED certified to simplify end-product approval for North America and EU markets.
Developers can use this module to bypass hardware design and RF-circuit layout challenges. The SPBTLE-1S is BQE-approved, and FCC, IC and CE-RED (Radio Equipment Directive) certified to simplify end-product approval for North America and EU markets. ST’s Bluetooth 4.2 certified BLE protocol stack is included, and the supporting Software-Development Kit (SDK) contains a wide range of Bluetooth profiles and sample application code.
The device is packaged in a space-efficient 11.5 mm x 13.5 mm outline and has a wide supply-voltage range of 1.7 V to 3.6 V. The SPBTLE-1S module is well suited for small, battery-operated objects powered by various types of sources such as a primary button cell or rechargeable Li-ion battery. High RF output power of +5 dBm and good receiver sensitivity help to maximize communication range and reliability.
The BlueNRG-1 SoC at the heart of the SPBTLE-1S implements the complete BLE physical layer (PHY), link layer and network/application-processing engine comprising a low-power ARM Cortex-M0 core with 160 KB flash, 24 KB RAM with data retention and a security co-processor. The SoC also implements smart power management, with a DC/DC converter capable of powering the SPBTLE-1S module to ensure optimum energy efficiency. Users can leverage an extensive set of interfaces, including a UART, two I²C ports, SPI port, single-wire debug and 14 GPIOs, as well as peripherals including two multifunction timers, a 10-bit ADC, watchdog timer and real-time clock and a DMA controller. There is also a PDM stream processor interface, which is ideal for developing voice-controlled applications.
IoT Module for Development
Riding the IoT wave, all the major microcontroller vendors have beefed up their module-based IoT solutions in order to make it easier for developers to design in their MCUs. One example along those lines is the LPC54018 IoT module, developed by NXP in partnership with Embedded Artists. …
Read the full article in the March 332 issue of Circuit Cellar
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Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.
Partnership offers an expanded technical resource for embedded and IoT device developers and enthusiasts
Today Circuit Cellar is announcing a strategic partnership with LinuxGizmos.com to offer an expanded resource of information and know-how on embedded electronics technology for developers, makers, students and educators, early adopters, product strategists, and technical decision makers with a keen interest in emerging embedded and IoT technologies.
The new partnership combines Circuit Cellar’s uniquely in depth, “down-to-the-bits” technical articles with LinuxGizmos.com’s up-to-the-minute, detailed, and insightful coverage of the latest developer- and maker-friendly, embedded oriented chips, modules, boards, small systems, and IoT devices, and the software technologies that make them tick. Additionally, as its name implies, LinuxGizmos.com’s coverage frequently highlights open source, high-level operating systems including Linux and its derivatives (e.g. Android), as well as lower-level software platforms such as OpenWRT and FreeRTOS.
Circuit Cellar is one of the electronics industry’s most highly technical information resources for professional engineers, academics, and other specialists involved in the design and development of embedded processor- and microcontroller-based systems across a broad range of applications. It gets right down to the bits and bytes and lines of code, at a level its readers revel in. Circuit Cellar is a trusted brand engaging readers every day on its website, each week with its newsletter, and each month through Circuit Cellar magazine’s print and digital formats.
LinuxGizmos.com is a free-to-use website that publishes daily news and analysis on the hardware, software, protocols, and standards used in new and innovative embedded, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The site is lauded for its detailed and insightful, timely coverage of newly introduced single board computers (SBCs), computer-on-modules (COMs), system-on-chips (SoCs), and small form factor (SFF) systems, along with their software platforms.
“The synergies between LinuxGizmos and Circuit Cellar are great and I’m excited to see the benefits of this partnership passed on to our combined audience,” said Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief, Circuit Cellar. “LinuxGizmos.com has the kind of rich, detail-oriented structure that I’m a fan of. Over the many years I’ve been following the site, I’ve relied on it as an important information resource, and its integrity has always impressed me.”
“I’ve been a fan of Circuit Cellar magazine since it was first launched, and wrote a series of articles for it in the late 90s about PC/104 embedded modules,” added Rick Lehrbaum, founder and Editor-in-Chief of LinuxGizmos.com. “I’m thrilled to see LinuxGizmos become associated with one of the computing industry’s pioneering publications.”
“I see this partnership as a perfect way to enhance both the Circuit Cellar and LinuxGizmos brands as key information platforms,” stated KC Prescott, President, KCK Media Corp. “In this era where there’s so much compelling technology innovation happening in the industry, our combined strengths will help inform and inspire embedded systems developers.”