January Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

Happy New Years! The January issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. Don’t miss this first issue of Circuit Cellar’s 2019 year. Enjoy pages and pages of great, in-depth embedded electronics articles produced and collected for you to enjoy.

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

TRENDS & CHOICES IN EMBEDDED COMPUTING

Comms and Control for Drones
Consumer and commercial drones represent one of the most dynamic areas of embedded design today. Chip, board and system suppliers are offering improved ways for drones to do more processing on board the drone, while also providing solutions for implementing the control and communication subsystems in drones. This article by Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief Jeff Child looks at the technology and products available today that are advancing the capabilities of today’s drones.

Choosing an MPU/MCU for Industrial Design
As MCU performance and functionality improve, the traditional boundaries between MCUs and microprocessor units (MPUs) have become less clear. In this article, Microchip Technology’s Jacko Wilbrink examines the changing landscape in MPU vs. MCU capabilities, OS implications and the specifics of new SiP and SOM approaches for simplifying higher-performance computing requirements in industrial applications.

Product Focus: COM Express Boards
The COM Express architecture has found a solid and growing foothold in embedded systems. COM Express boards provide a complete computing core that can be upgraded when needed, leaving the application-specific I/O on the baseboard. This Product Focus section updates readers on this technology and provides a product album of representative COM Express products.

MICROCONTROLLERS ARE DOING EVERYTHING

Connecting USB to Simple MCUs
Sometimes you want to connect a USB device such as a flash drive to a simple microcontroller. Problem is most MCUs cannot function as a USB host. In this article, Stuart Ball steps through the technology and device choices that solve this challenge. He also puts the idea into action via a project that provides this functionality.

Vision System Enables Overlaid Images
In this project article, learn how these Cornell students Daniel Edens and Elise Weir designed a system to overlay images from a visible light camera and an infrared camera. They use software running on a PIC32 MCU to interface the two types of cameras. The MCU does the computation to create the overlaid images, and displays them on an LCD screen.

DATA ACQUISITION AND MEASUREMENT

Data Acquisition Alternatives
While the fundamentals of data acquisition remain the same, its interfacing technology keeps evolving and changing. USB and PCI Express brought data acquisition off the rack, and onto the lab bench top. Today solutions are emerging that leverage Mini PCIe, Thunderbolt and remote web interfacing. Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in data acquisition.

High-Side Current Sensing
Jeff Bachiochi says he likes being able to measure things—for example, being able to measure load current so he can predict how long a battery will last. With that in mind, he recently found a high-side current sensing device, Microchip’s EMC1701. In his article, Jeff takes you through the details of the device and how to make use of it in a battery-based system.

Power Analysis Capture with an MCU
Low-cost microcontrollers integrate many powerful peripherals in them. You can even perform data capture directly to internal memory. In his article, Colin O’Flynn uses the ChipWhisperer-Nano as a case study in how you might use such features which would otherwise require external programmable logic.

TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES FOR EMBEDDED SYSTEM DESIGN

Easing into the IoT Cloud (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article series Brian Millier 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.

Hierarchical Menus for Touchscreens
In his December article, Aubrey Kagan discussed his efforts to build a display subsystem and GUI for embedded use based on a Noritake touchscreen display. This time he shares how he created a menu system within the constraints of the Noritake graphical display system. He explains how he made good use of Microsoft Excel worksheets as a tool for developing the menu system.

Real Schematics (Part 2)
The first part of this article series on the world of real schematics ended last month with wiring. At high frequencies PCBs suffer from the same parasitic effects as any other type of wiring. You can describe a transmission line as consisting of an infinite number of infinitesimal resistors, inductors and capacitors spread along its entire length. In this article George Novacek looks at real schematics from a transmission line perspective.

SMARC SOMs Used for Walmart Robotic Retrieval System

Axiomtek has announced its ongoing collaboration with Alert Innovation. Alert Innovation has been tapped by Walmart to use its robotics technology to automate their grocery operations. The company has developed the Alphabot system, an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) that is also an Automated Each-Picking System (AEPS). Axiomtek’s embedded computers and SMARC System on Modules (SOMs) are used in the system.
For a period of almost two years prior to the announcement of the Alphabot pilot test in a Walmart Supercenter, the Axiomtek team worked alongside Alert Innovation’s engineering team, helping to identify and customize products for Alert’s use, participating in schematic reviews and supporting driver development to ensure seamless integration. Since then, Axiomtek has continued to invest in and support the Alert Innovation Alphabot system’s mission.

A number of products have been tailored to balance performance and cost effectiveness, mitigate the challenges associated with refrigerated and frozen environments by adding conformal coatings and integrate application-specific interfaces. According to Alert Innovation, said Matthew Coady, Senior Director of Electrical Engineering and Controls. “We chose them because their products and team consistently met our stringent project requirements, delivering quality, performance, support, and all the features our applications required,” said Matthew Coady, Alert Innovation’s Senior Director of Electrical Engineering and Controls, “The SMARC SOM that we selected fits in our space-constrained application and helped us come to market quickly. If (and when) our application needs more processing power, memory or storage, Axiomtek has a range of products in their portfolio and roadmap that will help keep our hardware platform viable for many years to come. Axiomtek was quick to provide us with a BSP for our QNX operating system, and carrier integration support.”

Axiomtek | us.axiomtek.com

Tiny MCU-Based Development Platform Hosts Dual USB Ports

Segger Microcontroller has introduced emPower-USB-Host, a compact low-cost development board. With two USB host ports, many applications using USB peripherals can be realized with little effort. Precompiled applications for barcode and smartcard readers, as well as POS displays, LTE sticks and USB to LAN adapters are available for download, including complete projects for Embedded Studio with source code of these applications. The applications are using Segger’s emUSB-Host software API, which makes accessing the different types of USB devices easy.
emPower-USB-Host uses the emLoad bootloader, pre-loaded into the flash of the MCU, to easily change applications in seconds using a USB flash drive. Development of custom applications is also supported. The board has a debug connector, providing full access to the NXP LPC54605J512 MCU with its Cortex-M4 core. Schematics and PCB layout of the board are available under a Creative Commons license. This way, the hardware can be used as a blueprint for custom devices using two USB host ports.

Segger Microcontroller | www.segger.com

Rugged PC/104 SBC Sports Dual Core Bay Trail SoC

Versalogic has announced “SandCat”, a low-cost rugged new PC/104-Plus SBC. Based on Intel’s dual-core Bay Trail SoC, SandCat is an entry level PC/104-Plus SBC that provides a cost optimized performance level and I/O capability. The SandCat is designed and tested for industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C) operation and meets MIL-STD-202G specifications to withstand high impact and vibration. Latching connectors and fanless operation provide additional benefits in harsh environments.

SandCat’s I/O connectivity includes a Gigabit Ethernet port with network boot capability, four USB 2.0 ports, two serial ports (RS-232/422/485), I2C, and eight digital I/O lines. A SATA 3 Gbit/s interface supports high-capacity rotating or solid-state drives. A Mini PCIe socket with mSATA capability provides flexible solid-state drive (SSD) options.

The board’s SandCat’s Mini PCIe socket allows easy on-board expansion with plug-in Wi-Fi modems, GPS receivers, and other mini cards such as MIL-STD-1553, Ethernet and analog. For stacking expansion using industry-standard add-on boards, the SandCat supports PC/104-Plus expansion, including ISA and PCI based modules. The on-board expansion site provides plug-in access to a wide variety of expansion modules from numerous vendors, all with bolt-down ruggedness.

Like other Versalogic products, the SandCat is designed for long-term availability (10+ year typical production lifecycle). Customization services to help customers create unique solutions are available for the SandCat, even in low OEM quantities. Customization options include conformal coating, revision locks, custom labeling, customized testing and screening.

The SandCat single board computer, part number VL-EPM-39EBK, is in stock at both Versa;ogic and Digi-Key. OEM quantity pricing starts at $370.

Versalogic | www.versalogic.com

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

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

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

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You’ll get your Microcontroller Watch newsletter issue tomorrow.

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

IoT Technology Focus. (12/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(12/24) (Monday) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (1/2) (Wednesday) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Analog & Power newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

Microcontroller Watch. (12/11) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (12/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(12/24) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Linux-Driven SMARC Module Supports Up to Five Time-Sensitive GbE Ports

Kontron invented the ULP-COM standard that formed the basis of the SMARC form factor, and it has delivered numerous SMARC modules over the years, including Arm products such as the Nvidia Tegra K1 based SMC-NTKE1. Now it has unveiled the first module we’ve seen in any form factor with NXP’s dual-core, Cortex-A72 powered QorIQ Layerscape LS1028 SoC.

The 82 mm x 50 mm SMARC-sAL28 module runs a Yocto Project based Linux stack (with U-Boot) on the LS1028. The module exploits the SoC’s Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) support with up 2x or 5x TSN-capable Gigabit Ethernet ports.



SMARC-sAL28
(click image to enlarge)
The SMARC-sAL28 module is compliant with the IEEE 802.1 TSN standard, which offers guaranteed latency and Quality of Service (QoS) with time synchronization to enable “a timely and highly available delivery of data packets,” says Kontron. TSN Ethernet can replace more expensive, proprietary fieldbus technology while also offering the advantage of being able to “simultaneously communicate seamlessly to the IT level.”

No clock rate was listed for the LS1028 SoC, which NXP refers to as the LS1028A. The SoC integrates a four-port TSN switch and two separate TSN Ethernet controllers. Like NXP’s other networking oriented LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs, it supports NXP’s EdgeScale suite of secure edge computing device management tools. It’s the only LSx SoC that features a 3D graphics capable GPU.

 
SMARC-sAL28 (left) and NXP LS1028A block diagrams 
(click images to enlarge)
The SMARC-sAL28 ships with 4GB of soldered DDR3L with optional ECC, as well as 2GB to 64GB eMMC 5.1 storage. The 3V-5.25V module supports -40 to 85°C operation.

Two models are available. One has 2x TSN-capable, switched GbE controllers “that can be directly used by the carrier,” says Kontron. The second version supports 4x switched TSN-capable GbE ports via the QSGMII interface with an additional TSN-capable GbE controller. This second option provides a total of 5x TSN-ready GbE ports ports “using a quad-PHY on the carrier.” This 5x GbE model sacrifices one of the 2x PCIe x1 interfaces, which can also be deployed as a single PCIe x4 connection.

The SMARC-sAL28 provides a dual-channel LVDS interface, one of which can be swapped out for eDP as a BOM option. The second LVDS offers a BOM option swap-out for either an HDMI or DisplayPort.

The module is further equipped with a single USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0, and 4x RX/TX serial interfaces. Other I/O includes 2x I2C, 2x SPI, 12x GPIO, and single SDIO, CAN, and I2S connections. Options include a Wibu security chip with Kontron Approtect security software, as well as an RTC.

Further information

The SMARC-sAL28 is “coming soon” at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Kontron’s SMARC-sAL28 announcement and product page.

Kontron | www.kontron.com

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your
Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

Analog & Power. (12/4) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (12/11) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (12/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s IoT Technology Focus newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your IoT Technology Focus newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

Embedded Boards.(11/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (12/4) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (12/11) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

December Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The December issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. Don’t miss this last issue of Circuit Cellar in 2018. Pages and pages of great, in-depth embedded electronics articles prepared for you to enjoy.

Not a Circuit Cellar subscriber?  Don’t be left out! Sign up today:

 

Here’s a sneak preview of December 2018 Circuit Cellar:

AI, FPGAs and EMBEDDED SUPERCOMPUTING

Embedded Supercomputing
Gone are the days when supercomputing levels of processing required a huge, rack-based systems in an air-conditioned room. Today, embedded processors, FPGAs and GPUs are able to do AI and machine learning kinds of operation, enable new types of local decision making in embedded systems. In this article, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at these technology and trends driving embedded supercomputing.

Convolutional Neural Networks in FPGAs
Deep learning using convolutional neural networks (CNNs) can offer a robust solution across a wide range of applications and market segments. In this article written for Microsemi, Ted Marena illustrates that, while GPUs can be used to implement CNNs, a better approach, especially in edge applications, is to use FPGAs that are aligned with the application’s specific accuracy and performance requirements as well as the available size, cost and power budget.

NOT-TO-BE-OVERLOOKED ENGINEERING ISSUES AND CHOICES

DC-DC Converters
DC-DC conversion products must juggle a lot of masters to push the limits in power density, voltage range and advanced filtering. Issues like the need to accommodate multi-voltage electronics, operate at wide temperature ranges and serve distributed system requirements all add up to some daunting design challenges. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative DC-DC converters.

Real Schematics (Part 1)
Our magazine readers know that each issue of Circuit Cellar has several circuit schematics replete with lots of resistors, capacitors, inductors and wiring. But those passive components don’t behave as expected under all circumstances. In this article, George Novacek takes a deep look at the way these components behave with respect to their operating frequency.

Do you speak JTAG?
While most engineers have heard of JTAG or have even used JTAG, there’s some interesting background and capabilities that are so well know. Robert Lacoste examines the history of JTAG and looks at clever ways to use it, for example, using a cheap JTAG probe to toggle pins on your design, or to read the status of a given I/O without writing a single line of code.

PUTTING THE INTERNET-OF-THINGS TO WORK

Industrial IoT Systems
The Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) is a segment of IoT technology where more severe conditions change the game. Rugged gateways and IIoT edge modules comprise these systems where the extreme temperatures and high vibrations of the factory floor make for a demanding environment. Here, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at key technology and product drives in the IIoT space.

Internet of Things Security (Part 6)
Continuing on with his article series on IoT security, this time Bob Japenga returns to his efforts to craft a checklist to help us create more secure IoT devices. This time he looks at developing a checklist to evaluate the threats to an IoT device.

Applying WebRTC to the IoT
Web Real-time Communications (WebRTC) is an open-source project created by Google that facilitates peer-to-peer communication directly in the web browser and through mobile applications using application programming interfaces. In her article, Callstats.io’s Allie Mellen shows how IoT device communication can be made easy by using WebRTC. With WebRTC, developers can easily enable devices to communicate securely and reliably through video, audio or data transfer.

WI-FI AND BLUETOOTH IN ACTION

IoT Door Security System Uses Wi-Fi
Learn how three Cornell students, Norman Chen, Ram Vellanki and Giacomo Di Liberto, built an Internet connected door security system that grants the user wireless monitoring and control over the system through a web and mobile application. The article discusses the interfacing of a Microchip PIC32 MCU with the Internet and the application of IoT to a door security system.

Self-Navigating Robots Use BLE
Navigating indoors is a difficult but interesting problem. Learn how these two Cornell students, Jane Du and Jacob Glueck, used Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.0 chips to enable wheeled, mobile robots to navigate towards a stationary base station. The robot detects its proximity to the station based on the strength of the signal and moves towards what it believes to be the signal source.

IN-DEPTH PROJECT ARTICLES WITH ALL THE DETAILS

Sun Tracking Project
Most solar panel arrays are either fixed-position, or have a limited field of movement. In this project article, Jeff Bachiochi set out to tackle the challenge of a sun tracking system that can move your solar array to wherever the sun is coming from. Jeff’s project is a closed-loop system using severs, opto encoders and the Microchip PIC18 microcontroller.

Designing a Display System for Embedded Use
In this project article, Aubrey Kagan takes us through the process of developing an embedded system user interface subsystem—including everything from display selection to GUI development to MCU control. For the project he chose a 7” Noritake GT800 LCD color display and a Cypress Semiconductor PSoC5LP MCU.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

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

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Microcontroller Watch newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

IoT Technology Focus. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(11/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (12/4) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Analog & Power newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

Microcontroller Watch. (12/11) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (12/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(12/24) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus Newsletter: Digital Signage

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter: 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. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Also, we’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Digital Signage
newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

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

Microcontroller Watch. (11/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards. (11/27) This newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

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

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your
Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

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

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

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

Microcontroller Watch (11/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Managed Linux and Zephyr Distros for IoT offer OTA and Container Tech

By Eric Brown

A Cambridge, UK based startup called Foundries.io, which is funded by Linaro, has launched a microPlatforms service with managed, subscription-based Linux and Zephyr distributions. The microPlatforms offering will target IoT, edge, and automotive applications, and provide continuous over-the-air (OTA) updates to improve security. Linaro CEO George Grey also serves as CEO of Foundries.io.

The distributions are designed to work with any private or public cloud platform, with the microPlatform cloud service acting as an intermediary. The microPlatforms packages include firmware, kernel, services, and applications, “delivered continuously from initial product design to end-of-life,” says Foundries.io.


Linux microPlatform architecture
(click image to enlarge)
Benefits from microPlatforms include improved security, lower development costs, and “faster time-to-market for products across a wide range of IoT connected devices,” says the company. There’s also a combined Linux/Zephyr offering that bridges both sides of the IoT architectural divide designed for projects that include both a Linux gateway/edge device and Zephyr controlled sensor devices.

Subscriptions range from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. There are no per unit fees, and Foundries.io notes: “We regularly upstream our open source work; you can end your subscription any time and keep using the software.” There’s also a community website with forums and support services.

Linux microPlatforms

The Linux microPlatform (LmP) supports support Arm, Intel, and RISC-V based devices. The initial targets include the Raspberry Pi and several 96Boards (see farther below). LmP starts with a minimal Linux distro built with OpenEmbedded/Yocto and “a recent stable kernel.” The distribution is designed to be compact and resource efficient, with minimal attack surfaces.


Linux microPlatforms with containers
(click image to enlarge)
The Linux stack includes secure updatable firmware and a Docker container-based application runtime with reference container Dockerfiles and images. Source code is available, and you can also download binaries for supported target boards. The use of containers is optional, as you can also run LmP natively.

LmP also includes a cloud management service, which offers a “continuously tested and stabilized stream of updates,” says Foundries.io. The platform lets you “securely and remotely manage your product’s software” using standard tools such as Ansible and Kubernetes.

DragonBoard 820C

The initial LmP targets include:

Zephyr microPlatforms

The Zephyr microPlatform is the first downstream distribution for the Linux Foundation hosted, open source Zephyr RTOS. ZmP
builds on the Zephyr RTOS foundation with “MCUboot software, services, and reference applications to provide a continuously tested, secure, updatable, cross-architecture solution for microcontroller-based products,” says the startup.

 
Zephyr microPlatform architecture (left) and combined Linux and Zephyr microPlatform 
(click images to enlarge)
The Zephyr stack supports all the hardware listed by the Zephyr Project, including products from Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, and STMicroelectronics. This week, the Zephyr Project announced an expansion of support to 100 boards, including Arduino-compatible HiFive1 and Arduino Cinque boards, and the BBC Microbit and 96Boards Carbon. Supported SBCs that primarily run Linux but can also run Zephyr on their MCU companion chips include the MinnowBoard Max, Udoo Neo, and UP Squared.

Toradex and Linaro partnerships

Foundries.io’s launch partners are Toradex and Linaro — the open source code development organization backed by Arm and several of its major licensees. Linaro will offer microPlatforms support for its 96Boards SBCs. Toradex, whose Colibri iMX7 is a target platform, is “using the Linux microPlatform as a secure and updateable base for its upcoming software offering,” says Foundries.io. Toradex CTO Roman Schnarwiler adds: “Toradex will be announcing exciting news about our upcoming software offerings for our SoMs, based on the Foundries.io Linux microPlatform soon.”

Colibri iMX7

Also today, Toradex announced a software development partnership with The Qt Company. Toradex will provide the Qt development platform on its modules including Qt Device Creation. It will also Boot2Qt with Toradex Easy Installer.

OTA and containers in IoT

Continuous OTA updates are widely seen as one the best ways to improve IoT security. OTA is central to several recent IoT frameworks, including Google’s recently announced Cloud IoT Edge for devices equipped with its new Edge TPU machine learning co-processor chips. OTA is also central to Microsoft’s secure, Linux-based Azure Sphere IoT platform, which was further detailed today at the Hot Chips 2018conference.

Container technology, meanwhile, is seen as a way to ease embedded Linux remote management and automated updates. For example, Resin.io provides an embedded Linux container technology with its OTA-enabled ResinOS. Canonical’s Ubuntu Corealso uses a container-like scheme to provide transactional updates.

Further information

The Foundries.io microPlatforms subscriptions are now available, ranging from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. Downloads of microPlatforms source code, binaries, and documentation are available at the Foundries.io website.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on August 21.

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