July Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The July issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. And we’ve rustled up a great herd of embedded electronics articles for you to enjoy.

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

 

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.

 

Tool Helps Embed Type-C Port Manager on STM32 MCUs

Helping engineers leverage the latest USB Power Delivery capabilities and versatile USB Type-C connections in new or legacy product designs, STMicroelectronics has introduced new software for implementing a Type-C Port Manager (TCPM) on any general-purpose STM32 microcontroller.

Compliant with the USB Type-C Port Controller Interface (TCPCi) specification, and designed to manage a separate single- or multi-port Type-C Port Controller (TCPC) chip, ST’s X-CUBE-USB-PD stack implements the protocol layer and policy engine of the USB Power Delivery Specification (USB-PD 3.0 v1.1). The stack demands minimal STM32 resources, having a low memory footprint and using only a single I2C bus address and one alert pin per port. In addition, standard register maps ensure easy interoperability with any connected TCPC device.
X-CUBE-USB-PD supports all USB-PD 3.0 options, including Programmable Power Supply (PPS) for connecting fast chargers, Fast Role Swap (FRS) for seamless user experiences during cable insertion or removal, and authentication-message exchange to allow data or power transfer only with genuine devices or chargers.

By supporting Provider, Consumer, and Dual-Role (DRP) modes, the stack enables product designers to leverage the benefits of USB Type-C in a wide variety of equipment types, such as power hubs or power banks, docking stations, game controllers, PC peripherals, multi-function accessories, and small appliances such as cordless vacuum cleaners, portable speakers, lighting products, proprietary chargers, and many other applications.

ST has tested the stack with ON Semiconductor’s FUSB307B, a USB-PD 3.0 v1.1-certified TCPC chip, creating a fully certified and ready-to-use solution that centralizes the TCPM for multiple USB-PD ports. The FUSB307B provides a 1 Mbps I2C microcontroller interface and handles functionality such as plug-insertion/orientation detection and dead-battery power-up. Time-critical Power-Delivery functions that offload the microcontroller effectively enable any STM32 including entry-level devices to manage multi-port, multi-role USB-PD interfaces. X-CUBE-USB-PD currently contains libraries tested on STM32 Arm Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M4 microcontrollers, giving developers a choice of over 420 different part numbers. Libraries for other STM32 series will be introduced by the end of 2018.

An ON Semiconductor FUSB307B evaluation board, ON-FUSB3-STM32, is also available to help streamline development. The board, which features a STM32F072 microcontroller and a USB-C connector, demonstrates control of a single port. The X-CUBE-USB-PD stack, part of the STM32Cube software-development ecosystem, can be downloaded now, free of charge, from www.st.com/x-cube-usb-pd

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

Cypress and Semtech Team up on Integrated LoRaWAN Solution

Cypress Semiconductor has announced it has collaborated with Semtech on a compact, two-chip LoRaWAN-based module deployed by Onethinx. The highly-integrated Onethinx module is ideal for smart city applications that integrate multiple sensors and are in harsh radio environments. Using Cypress’ PSoC 6 microcontroller’s (MCU) hardware-based Secure Element functionality and Semtech’s LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology), the solution enables a multi-layer security architecture that isolates trust anchors for highly protected device-to-cloud connectivity.

In addition, the PSoC 6 MCU’s integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity provides a simple, low-power, out-of-band control channel. The PSoC 6 device is the industry’s lowest power, most flexible Arm Cortex-M dual-core MCU with a power slope as low as 22-μA/MHz active power for the Cortex-M4 core. The device is a natural fit with Semtech’s latest LoRa radio chip family, which offers 50% power savings in receive mode and 20% longer range over previous-generation devices.

Security is a primary concern for many smart city applications. The Onethinx module utilizes the integrated Secure Element functionality in the PSoC 6 MCU to give each LoRaWAN-based device a secret identity to securely boot, on-board, and deliver data to the cloud application. Using its mutual authentication capabilities, the PSoC 6 MCU-based, LoRa-equipped device can also receive authenticated over-the-air firmware updates.

Key provisioning and management services are provided by IoT security provider and member of the Bosch group, ESCRYPT, for a complete end-to-end, secure LoRaWAN solution. The module, offered by Cypress partner Onethinx, connects to Bosch Sensortec’s Cross Domain Development Kit (XDK) for Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors and to the provisioning system from ESCRYPT to securely connect.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

Semtech | www.semtech.com

MCUs Offer Configurable Signal Chain Elements

Texas Instruments (TI) has announced the addition of new microcontrollers with integrated signal-chain elements and an extended operating temperature range to its MSP430 value line portfolio. New MSP430FR2355 ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) MCUs allow developers to reduce printed circuit board (PCB) size and bill-of-materials (BOM) cost while meeting temperature requirements for sensing and measurement in applications such as smoke detectors, sensor transmitters and circuit breakers.
Engineers can enjoy more flexibility in their system design with MSP430FR2355 MCUs, which integrate smart analog combos—configurable signal-chain elements that include options for multiple 12-bit digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and programmable gain amplifiers, along with a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and two enhanced comparators.

Developers can use MSP430FR2355 MCUs for applications that require operation at temperatures as high as 105°C while also benefiting from FRAM data-logging capabilities. Engineers gain more options to select the right memory and processing speed for cost-sensitive applications with the MSP430FR2355 MCUs, which add options to the MSP430 value line FRAM MCU family by offering memory up to 32 KB and central processing unit (CPU) speeds up to 24 MHz. Designers can also scale to the rest of the MSP430 FRAM MCU portfolio for applications that require up to 256 KB of memory, higher performance or more analog peripherals.

Developers can start evaluating with the MSP430FR2355 MCU LaunchPad development kit (MSP-EXP430FR2355), available for US$12.99 from the TI store.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

MCU-Based Blood Pressure Monitoring Eval Kit

Renesas Electronics has announced an expansion of its healthcare solution lineup with the launch of a new blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit. The new blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit comprises hardware and software elements needed to jump start blood pressure measurement design. The kit includes a pressure sensor, arm cuff, pump, electronically controlled valve, LCD panel and a reference board. The reference board incorporates an RL78 MCU-based ASSP (application specific standard product) that includes analog functions required for blood pressure measurement. Reference software and graphical user interface (GUI) development tool are also part of the new evaluation kit. Using the new evaluation kit, system manufacturers can immediately begin their system evaluations and significantly reduce their development time.


The Internet of Things offers consumers connected tools with which to manage their personal healthcare more efficiently. For instance, blood pressure monitors are already popular personal medical devices and the market is expected to grow further as blood pressure monitoring functions are incorporated into wearable devices. The growth of this market offers new business opportunities, but can also be challenging, particularly for system manufacturers who are new to the connected healthcare device ecosystem and may not have the built-in application-specific expertise. Blood pressure measurement requires a specific expertise, including filtering functions for extracting the waveforms required for measurement, making it extremely time consuming to start studying this area from the very beginning.

Renesas has developed the new blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit to alleviate the development pain points, providing functions close to those used in actual blood pressure monitors thus accelerating blood pressure measurement system development.

Key features of the blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit:

The new blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit comprises hardware and software elements needed to jump start blood pressure measurement design, including:

  • A full range of hardware components, including a pressure sensor, arm cuff, pump, electronically controlled valve, LCD panel, and a reference board that incorporates the newly-developed RL78/H1D ASSP with the analog functions required for blood pressure measurement.
  • Reference software that provides the algorithms required for blood pressure measurement and that can be easily modified, as well as access to smartphone applications, and a graphical user interface (GUI) tool.
  • A Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module, which enables the measured data to be transmitted to a smartphone under the Continua standard blood pressure monitoring (BPM) profile is also provided in the new evaluation kit.

Development support with GUI tool, specialized for blood pressure measurement

  • The pressure sensor, pump, electronically controlled valve components, and pulse width modulation control can be set from the GUI tool. If the system structure is the same, the GUI tool can also be used for system evaluation of the actual application the system manufacturer is developing.
  • The IIR digital filter calculations required for extracting the pulse waveform from the cuff pressure output waveform during blood pressure measurement can also be simulated using the GUI tool. The digital filter constants calculated based on this simulation can be written from the GUI tool to the RL78/H1D firmware and verified in the actual application being developed. This significantly reduces the number of steps in the development process.

RL78/H1D ASSP with optimized analog functions for healthcare applications

  • The RL78/H1D is a new ASSP of the RL78 Family of MCU. The RL78/H1D, designed to control systems required for blood pressure measurement with a single chip. It incorporates rich analog functions including high-resolution delta sigma A/D converters, programmable gain instrumentation amplifiers, D/A converters, operational amplifiers, and other circuits required for blood pressure measurement, as well as timers for PWM (pulse-width modulation) control.
  • In addition to the delta sigma 24-bit A/D converters, the RL78/H1D also provides 10-bit sequential comparison A/D converters that operate asynchronously. This simplifies implementation of systems providing temperature measurement and battery voltage monitoring while measuring the blood pressure.
  • The Rich analog functions make the new ASSP ideal not only for blood pressure monitoring systems but also for a wide array healthcare application including biosensors.
  • Samples of the RL78/H1D ASSP are available now. Pricing varies depending on the memory capacity, package and number of pins. For example, the R5F11NMG 80-pin LQFP package type with 128 KB flash ROM capacity is priced at US$3.50. The R5F11NMG includes an LCD controller for arm- and wrist-type blood pressure monitors, and a 4mm x 4 mm miniature ball grid array (BGA) package for use in wearable devices.

Renesas plans to expand its range of solutions for the healthcare field and will continue to contribute to the realization of a safe and secure smart society, including the development of smart connected devices for the industrial and healthcare industries.

 

The new blood pressure monitoring evaluation kit is scheduled to be available for order from May 10 priced at $600 per unit.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

SST and UMC Qualify Flash Tech on 40-nm Process

Microchip Technology subsidiary Silicon Storage Technology (SST) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) have announced the full qualification and availability of SST’s embedded SuperFlash non-volatile memory on UMC’s 40 nm CMOS platform. The 40-nm process features a more than 20 percent reduction in embedded Flash cell size and a 20- to 30-percent reduction in macro area over their 55-nm process.
The high endurance of embedded SuperFlash IP offers System on a Chip (SoC) customers extensive reliability and design flexibility combined with reduced power usage. SST’s SuperFlash non-volatile memory technology is qualified for a minimum of 100,000 cycles, underscoring the technology’s reliability. Ideal for edge computing in IoT devices, SST embedded SuperFlash technology features power benefits that derive from low-power standby and read operations, with core supply as low as 0.81 V. SuperFlash also secures applications with code maintained on chip, which is the first step in preventing illegal access through hardware and software attacks.

 

SST’s SuperFlash technology complements UMC’s embedded memory portfolio with high density and low-power IP. Combined with SST’s inherent technology reliability, UMC’s flexible capacity and high-yield maturity for its 55 nm and 40 nm platform provides foundry customers the manufacturing support needed to build a range of product applications.

To date, more than 80 billion units have shipped with SST’s embedded SuperFlash technology. SuperFlash technology is based on a proprietary split-gate Flash memory cell with the following capabilities:

  • Low-power program, erase and read operations
  • High performance with fast read access
  • Good scalability from 1 µm technology node to 28 nm technology node
  • High endurance cycling up to 500,000 cycles
  • Excellent data retention of over 20 years
  • Good performance at high temperature for automotive-grade applications
  • Immunity to Stress-Induced Leakage Current (SILC)

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

Silicon Storage Technology | www.sst.com

June Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The June issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. And we’ve planted a lovely crop of embedded electronics articles for you to enjoy.

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

 

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.

Microsoft Unveils Secure MCU Platform with a Linux-Based OS

By Eric Brown

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.

MediaTek MT3620

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

Further information

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.

Microsoft | www.microsoft.com

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 16.

And check out this follow up story also from LinuxGizmos.com :
Why Microsoft chose Linux for Azure Sphere

 

On-Chip Flash MCU Uses 28 nm Process Technology

Renesas Electronics has announced the sample shipment of the industry’s first on-chip flash memory microcontroller using a 28 nm process technology. To contribute to the realization of next-generation green cars and autonomous vehicles with higher efficiency and higher reliability, the RH850/E2x Series MCU incorporates up to six 400 MHz CPU cores. According to Renesas, that makes it the first on-chip flash memory automotive MCU to achieve processing performance of 9600 MIPS. The new MCU series also features a built-in flash memory of up to 16 MB as well as enhanced security functions and functional safety.

Under Renesas Autonomy, an open, innovative and trusted platform for assisted and automated driving, Renesas provides end-to-end solutions that advance the evolution of vehicles towards next-generation green cars, connected cars and autonomous-driving vehicles. There are two main pillars of the Renesas Autonomy Platform. One is this new 28 nm automotive control MCU. And the other is the R-Car Family of SoCs designed for cloud connectivity and sensing.
Car OEMs and Tier 1 manufacturers, such as Denso, have already started to adopt the new 28 nm MCU. Reasons cited include the MCU’s superior processing performance capable of developing next-generation fuel-efficient engines, as well as its scalability. Scalability is important because of the expected electronic control unit (ECU) integration to come from changes in automotive electrics/electronics (E/E) architecture.

Following the development of the 28 nm embedded flash memory in February 2015, Renesas announced its collaboration with TSMC on 28nm MCUs in September 2016. The company today hit a major milestone by reaching sample shipment of the world’s first 28nm embedded flash memory MCU on the market. Renesas has already succeeded in verifying large-scale operation of fin-structure MONOS flash memory targeting 16/14nm and beyond generations of MCUs. As the leading supplier of automotive semiconductor solutions, Renesas is committed to advancing the industry through continued technological innovation to achieve a safe and secure automotive society.

To assure scalability in the RH850/E2x Series, in addition to the 28 nm flash memory MCU, Renesas has also launched a 40 nm process MCU. Samples of this MCU are available now. Samples of both 28 nm and 40 nm MCUs from RH850/E2x are  available.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

STM32 Software Brings Alexa Tech to Simple Connected Objects

The X-CUBE-AVS software package from STMicroelectronics enables Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to run on STM32 microcontrollers, allowing simple connected objects such as smart appliances, home-automation devices, and office products to support advanced conversational user interfaces with Cloud-based intelligence like automatic speech recognition and natural-language understanding.

As an expansion package for the STM32Cube software platform, X-CUBE-AVS contains ready-to-use libraries and open routines that accelerate porting the AVS SDK (Software Development Kit) to the microcontroller. With application samples also included, it abstracts developers from the complex software layers needed to host AVS on an embedded device. Being the first such package to cater specifically for microcontrollers, whereas AVS development usually targets more power-hungry and expensive microprocessors, X-CUBE-AVS makes Alexa technology accessible to a wider spectrum of developers and projects.
The software handles low-layer communication and connection to AVS servers, provides application-specific services, and encapsulates the AVS protocol to ease application implementation. Connection management includes a persistent-token mechanism for directly restoring connection losses without repeated user authentication. A software test harness is provided for endurance testing, which can simulate events such as network disconnection to facilitate robustness testing and validation of the user application.

X-CUBE-AVS comes with a demonstration example for the STM32F769 Discovery Kit (order code: 32F769IDISCOVERY), which shows how to connect a simple smart-speaker to AVS, leveraging the board-configuration interface included in the software. X-CUBE-AVS can be used with other STM32F7 microcontrollers, or any STM32 device with adequate CPU performance and memory to run the AVS SDK.

X-CUBE-AVS is available now to download, free of charge, from http://www.st.com/x-cube-avs

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

IoT: From Gateway to Cloud

Starting Up, Scaling Up

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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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.

Obsolescence-Proof Your UI (Part 1)

(Photo 1)
Web Server Strategy

After years of frustration dealing with graphical user interface technologies that go obsolete, Steve decided that web browser technology could help this problem. With that in mind, he built a web server that could perform common operations that he needed on the IEEE-488 bus—and it is basically obsolescence-proof.

By Steve Hendrix

My consulting business is designing custom embedded electronics. Many such systems are size-constrained, but still need some type of user interface. For portable devices, the battery is usually the biggest point of discussion. For wireless designs, it’s the antenna. But for virtually every design, the user interface figures prominently in the concept discussions.

I’ve been involved with one particular design for some 20 years now. When I took it over from the client’s in-house designer, the internal structure was very shaky. Unfortunately, they were not willing to change it due to the re-certification efforts that would be required for a major change. The design’s user interface used a graphic LCD with a touchscreen overlay. I have just completed the latest revision to replace an obsolete part—the latest in a long series of revisions caused by the display panel or the touchscreen going obsolete. This usually happens just about the time the whole product gets through final certification. In this case, we jumped through a lot of hoops to avoid disturbing the core of the product so we wouldn’t require a a big recertification effort. We did so by building a daughterboard that emulates the original touchscreen. A web browser interface would be so much easier!

In a similar vein, I recently purchased a spectrum analyzer to replace a failed unit. The only way to get a screen dump into my PC is via the IEEE-488 bus. That standard is sometimes known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus) or HPIB (Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus). Because this bus has mostly fallen out of favor, instruments that use it are inexpensive. The solutions that purport to interface the IEEE-488 bus to a PC are themselves badly dated. In addition to requiring a cable big enough to flip an instrument off the bench, several other pieces are needed. You need to buy a board that goes inside the PC for four figures, and software to run it for well up into four figures, and hope your PC and operating system are old enough to be compatible. Alternatively, numerous USB interfaces are available. All of those interfaces require a custom driver in your PC, and most of those drivers require older versions of Windows.

Photo 2
(a) A close-up view of the finished unit, which fits comfortably within a standard IEEE-488 connector backshell. This unit is ready for the final application of the label showing its permanently-assigned MAC address. (b) A peek under the hood, showing the microcontroller, the IEEE-488 bus termination resistor packs, and most of the power supply. The mini-USB connector makes no data connection, but only provides power to the unit. Such power supplies have become such ubiquitous commodity products that they are the most cost-effective way to get 5 V power to the unit.Many years ago, I worked for a company who specialized in IEEE-488 interfaces. Although I’d forgotten some of the nuances that make it such a pain to work with directly, I remembered enough to know that the Microchip PIC18F97J60 microcontroller could directly drive the bus lines for a single instrument. The PIC would need buffering to deal with the full 14 instruments that can be on the bus per the specification, but I just wanted to interface a single instrument. Best of all, I already had experience with building a web server in this chip from my solar power controller discussed in the July 2014 and August 2014 issues (Circuit Cellar 288 and Circuit Cellar 289.) The microcontroller and all required electronics could fit inside the backshell of a standard IEEE-488 connector. The lead article photo (Photo 1) shows the very tidy end result—note the MAC addresses printed on each label. Photo 2 shows a close-up view of the exterior and interior.

I’m sure that HTTP and web browsers will someday go the way of buggy whips. However, given their use today in everything from PCs to laptops to tablets to smart phones, I’m thinking web browsers are likely to be around for a while. With that in mind, I chose to build a web server that could perform common operations that I need on the IEEE-488 bus, and ultimately built it into a product available for sale to others with similar needs. By using a web browse the user interface, the device is accessible via anything from a desktop computer to an iPod—and it’s pretty much obsolescence -proof, at least within my lifetime! …

Author′s Note: I offer a special discount on KISS-488 to Circuit Cellar readers. Contact me at SteveHx@HxEngineering.com for details!

Read the full article in the April 333 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.

IoT Security Solution for NXP MCUs

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)
  • Encrypted key injection

 

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

Target Boards for Renesas RX 32-bit MCUs

Renesas Electronics has announced three new Target Boards for the RX65N, RX130 and RX231 Microcontroller (MCU) Groups, each designed to help engineers jump start their home appliance, building and industrial automation designs. Priced below $30, the Target Boards lower the price threshold for engagement, allowing more system developers to make use of Renesas’ broad-based 32-bit RX MCU family.

The RX Target Boards provide an inexpensive entry point for embedded designers to evaluate, prototype and develop their products. Each board kit features an on-chip debugger tool that enables application design without requiring further tool investments. Through-hole pin headers provide access to all MCU signals pins, making it easy for users to interconnect to standard breadboards for fast prototyping.

The RX Target Board evaluation concept reuses the same PCB for all MCU variations. Since each member of the Renesas RX MCU Family has a common pin assignment, users experience a smooth transition between different RX Groups and RX Series using the same package version. In the case of the RX Target Boards, the widely used 100-pin LQFP package is on board.

The RX Target Boards offer everything designers need to start board and demo development, including a board circuit diagram and bill of materials, demo source code, user manual, and application notes. Additional Target Board variations will be released soon that will provide full coverage of the entire RX Family, from the low-power RX100 Series to the high-performance RX700 Series.

The RX65N MCU Group combines an enhanced RX CPU core architecture and 120 MHz operation to achieve processing performance of 4.34 CoreMark/MHz. The MCUs include an integrated Trusted Secure IP, enhanced, trusted flash functionality, and a human-machine interface (HMI) for industrial and network control systems operating at the edge of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The RX65N MCUs also include an embedded TFT controller and integrated 2D graphic accelerator with advanced features ideal for TFT displays designed into IIoT edge devices or system control applications. In addition, the RX65N MCUs include embedded communication-processing peripherals such as Ethernet, USB, CAN, SD host/slave interface and quad SPI.

The RX130 MCU Group provides 32 MHz operation with flash memory sizes up to 512 KB, and package sizes up to 100-pins to provide higher performance and compatibility with the RX231/RX230 Group of touch MCUs. The ultra-low power, low-cost RX130 Group adds higher responsiveness and functionality for touch-based applications requiring 3V or 5V system control and low power consumption. Featuring a new capacitive touch IP with improved sensitivity and robustness, and a comprehensive device evaluation environment, the new 32-bit RX130 MCUs are an ideal fit for devices designed with challenging, non-traditional touch materials, or required to operate in wet or dirty environments, such as a kitchen, bath or factory floor.

The RX Target Boards are available now through Renesas Electronics’ worldwide distributors with a recommended resale price below $30.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

In-Circuit Programming/Debugging Tool Supports PIC MCUs

Microchip Technology has introduced the MPLAB PICkit 4 In-Circuit Debugger. This low-cost PICkit 4 in-circuit programming and debugging development tool is meant to replace the popular PICkit 3 programmer by offering five times faster programming, a wider voltage range (1.2 V to 5 V), improved USB connectivity and more debugging interface options. In addition to supporting Microchip’s PIC microcontrollers (MCUs) and dsPIC Digital Signal Controllers (DSCs), the tool also supports debugging and programming for the CEC1702 family of hardware cryptography-enabled devices.

This low-cost programming and debugging solution is well suited for those designing in the 8-bit space, but it is also perfectly suited for 16- and 32-bit development due, in part, to its 300 MHz, high-performance ATSAME70Q21B microcontroller on board. The benefits of faster programming time are less waiting and better productivity during development. This is especially important when designing with 32-bit microcontrollers with larger memory capacities.

The PICkit 4 development tool enables debugging and programing using the graphical user interface of MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The tool connects to the design engineer’s computer using a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface and can be connected to the target via an 8-pin single inline header that supports advanced interfaces such as 4-wire JTAG and serial wire debug with streaming data gateway. It is also backward compatible for demo boards, headers and target systems using 2-wire JTAG and In-Circuit Serial Programming (ICSP) compatibility.

The new interfaces make this low-cost tool compatible with Microchip’s CEC1702 hardware cryptography-enabled devices. This low-power, but powerful, 32-bit MCU offers easy-to-use encryption, authentication and private and public key capabilities. CEC1702 users can now benefit from using Microchip’s development tools and support rather than being required to invest in third-party tools for programming and debugging. The MPLAB PICkit 4 (PG164140) development tool is available today for $47.95.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com