Nordic’s BLE SoC Selected for IIoT Energy Monitor Device

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that OneMeter, a Lublin, Poland-based Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) startup, has selected Nordic’s nRF51822 Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the wireless connectivity for its “OneMeter Beacon”, a device that provides companies with the ability to monitor and manage their energy usage data in real time.

Designed for use in a broad range of industrial and commercial environments—for example production facilities, manufacturing plants, and food service companies—the OneMeter Beacon is simply plugged in to an existing electronic electricity meter via an optical port interface, enabling the beacon to receive energy usage data from the meter using the IEC 62056-21 / IEC 1107 protocol. Once installed, the beacon is paired to a Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) Android smartphone or tablet, where from the OneMeter app the user can initialize and synchronize the beacon.

Once synchronized, the beacon reads data from the meter every 15 minutes, and stores it in the Nordic SoC’s Flash memory, from where the beacon automatically transmits the data to the user’s smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity provided by the nRF51822 SoC. From the app the user can review data from the most recent readout (including active and reactive energy consumption parameters), as well as view daily, weekly and monthly energy usage charts and more.

OneMeter Cloud provides a comprehensive platform from which a company can not only monitor its metering data, but also perform accurate energy usage cost estimation, conduct effective energy audits, avoid penalties for exceeding contracted power by defining power parameter alerts, as well as manage its photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure. Certified measurement data can be shared with energy vendors enabling invoices to be settled based on actual usage instead of forecasts. The OneMeter beacon is powered by a 3V CR2032 coin cell battery, providing up to 12 months battery life before replacement, thanks in part to the ultra-low power characteristics of the nRF51822 SoC which has been engineered to minimize power consumption.

Nordic’s nRF51822 is a multiprotocol SoC ideally suited for Bluetooth LE and 2.4GHz ultra low-power wireless applications. The nRF51822 is built around a 32-bit Arm Cortex M0 CPU, 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio, and 256kB/128kB Flash and 32kB/16kB RAM. The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S130 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 4.2 qualified concurrent multi-link protocol stack solution supporting simultaneous Central/Peripheral/Broadcaster/Observer role connections.

Nordic Semiconductor | www.nordicsemi.com

 

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

SBC Showcases Qualcomm’s 10 nm, Octa-core QCS605 IoT SoC

By Eric Brown

In April, Qualcomm announced its QCS605 SoC, calling it “the first 10nm FinFET fabricated SoC purpose built for the Internet of Things.” The octa-core Arm SoC is available in an Intrinsyc Open-Q 605 SBC with full development kit with a 12V power supply is open for pre-orders at $429. The products will ship in early December.

 
Open-Q 605, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The fact that Qualcomm is billing the high-end QCS605 as an IoT SoC reveals how demand for vision and AI processing on the edge is broadening the IoT definition to encompass a much higher range of embedded technology. The IoT focus is also reinforced by the lack of the usual Snapdragon branding. The QCS605 is accompanied by the Qualcomm Vision Intelligence Platform, a set of mostly software components that includes the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK and camera processing software, as well as the company’s 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and security technologies.

The QCS605 can run Linux or Android, but Intrinsyc supports its Open-Q 605 board only with Android 8.1.

Intrinsyc also recently launched an Open-Q 624A Development Kit based on a new Open-Q 624A SOM (see farther below).

Qualcomm QCS605 and Vision Intelligence Platform

The QCS605 SoC features 8x Kryo 300 CPU cores, two of which are 2.5GHz “gold” cores that are equivalent to Cortex-A75. The other six are 1.7GHz “silver” cores like the Cortex-A55 — Arm’s more powerful follow-on to Cortex-A53.

The QCS605 also integrates an Adreno 615 GPU, a Hexagon 685 DSP with Hexagon vector extensions (“HVX”), and a Spectra 270 ISP that supports dual 16-megapixel image sensors. Qualcomm also sells a QCS603 model that is identical except that it offers only 2x of the 1.7GHz “Silver” cores instead of six.

Qualcomm sells the QCS605 as part of a Vision Intelligence Platform — a combination of software and hardware starting with a Qualcomm AI Engine built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (NPE) software framework. The NPE provides analysis, optimization, and debugging tools for developing with Tensorflow, Caffe, and Caffe2 frameworks. The AI Engine also includes the Open Neural Network Exchange interchange format, the Android Neural Networks API, and the Qualcomm Hexagon Neural Network library, which together enable the porting of trained networks.

The Vision Intelligence Platform running on the QCS605 delivers up to 2.1 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of compute performance for deep neural network inferences, claims Qualcomm. The platform also supports up to 4K60 resolution or 5.7K at 30fps and supports multiple concurrent video streams at lower resolutions.

Other features include “staggered” HDR to prevent ghost effects in high-dynamic range video. You also get advanced electronic image stabilization, de-warp, de-noise, chromatic aberration correction, and motion compensated temporal filters in hardware.

Inside the Open-Q 605 SBC

Along with the Snapdragon 600 based Open-Q 600, the Open-Q 605 is the only Open-Q development board that Intrinsyc refers to as an SBC. Most Open-Q kits are compute modules or sandwich-style carrier board starter kits based on Intrinsyc modules equipped with Snapdragon SoCs, such as the recent, Snapdragon 670 based Open-Q 670 HDK.


Open-Q 605 
(click image to enlarge)
The 68 x 50mm Open-Q 605 ships with an eMCP package with 4GB LPDDR4x RAM and 32GB eMMC flash, and additional storage is available via a microSD slot. Networking depends on the 802.11ac (WiFi 5) and Bluetooth 5.x radios. There’s also a Qualcomm GNSS receiver for location and 3x U.FL connectors.

The only real-world coastline port is a USB Type-C that supports DisplayPort 1.4 with 4K@30fps support. If you’d rather use the Type-C port for USB or charging a user-supplied Li-Ion battery, you can turn to an HD-ready MIPI DSI interface with touch support. You also get 2x MIPI-CSI for dual cameras, as well as 2x analog audio.

The Open-Q 605 has a 76-pin expansion header for other interfaces, including an I2S/SLIMBus digital audio interface. The board runs on a 5-15V DC input and offers an extended -25 to 60°C operating range.

Specifications listed for the Open-Q 605 SBC include:

  • Processor — Qualcomm QCS605 with Vision Intelligence Platform (2x up to 2.5GHz and 6x up to 1.7GHz Krait 300 cores); Adreno 615 GPU; Hexagon 685 DSP; Spectra 270 ISP; Qualcomm AI Engine and other VIP components
  • Memory/storage — 4GB LPDDR4X and 32GB eMMC flash in combo eMCP package; microSD slot.
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2 dual-band WiFi (Qualcomm WCN3990) with planned FCC/IC/CE certification
    • Bluetooth 5.x
    • Qualcomm GNSS (SDR660G) receiver with Qualcomm Location Suite Gen9 VT
    • U.FL antenna connectors for WiFi, BT, GNSS
  • Media I/O:
    • DisplayPort 1.4 via USB Type-C up to 4K@30 with USB data concurrency (USB and power)
    • MIPI DSI (4-lane) with I2C touch interface on flex cable connector for up to 1080p30
    • 2x MIPI-CSI (4-lane) with micro-camera module connectors
    • 2x analog mic I/Ps, speaker O/P, headset I/O
    • I2S/SLIMBus digital audio interface with 2x DMIC ports (via 76-pin expansion header)
  • Expansion — 76-pin header (multiple SPI, I2C, UART, GPIO, and sensor I/O; digital and analog audio I/O, LED flash O/P, haptic O/P, power output rails
  • Other features — 3x LEDs; 4x mounting holes; optional dev kit with quick start guide, docs, SW updates
  • Operating temperature — -25 to 60°C
  • Power — 5-15V DC jack and support for user-supplied Li-Ion battery with USB Type-C charging; PM670 + PM670L PMIC; 12V supply with dev kit
  • Dimensions — 68 x 50 x 13mm
  • Operating system — Android 8.1 Oreo

Open-Q 624A
Development Kit

Open-Q 624A Development Kit

Back in May, Google preannounced the Open-Q 624A Development Kit as an official Android Things 1.0 development board along with Intrinsyc’s Snapdragon 212 based Open-Q 212A, Innocomm’s i.MX8M based WB10-AT, and a MediaTek MT8516 development platform. Now, Intrinsyc is pitching the Open-Q 624A Development Kit, as well as the Open-Q 624A SOM module it’s based on, as an Android 8.0 platform aimed at the home hub market. There is no longer any mention of Android Things.

The Open-Q 624A SOM offers 2GB RAM, 4GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, BT 4.2, and an octa-core -A53 Qualcomm Snapdragon 624 SoC based on the Snapdragon 625. The kit is equipped with a USB 3.0 Type-C port, 2x USB host ports, micro-USB client and debug ports, MIPI-CSI and MIPI-DSI interfaces, sensor expansion and haptic output, and an optional GPS receiver. You also get extensive audio features, including I2S/SLIMBUS headers.

Available for $595, the sandwich style kit will ship in mid-December. For more details, see our earlier Android Things development board report.

Further information

The Open-Q 605 SBC is available for pre-order in the full Development Kit version, which costs $429 and ships in early December. The SBC will also be sold on its own at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 605 announcement, as well as the product page and shopping page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on November 14.

Intrinsyc | www.intrinsyc.com

Tiny, 4K Signage Player Runs on Cortex-A17 SoC

By Eric Brown

Advantech announced a fanless, USM-110 digital signage player with support for Android 6.0 and its WISE-PaaS/SignageCMS digital signage management software. The compact (156 mm x 110 mm x 27 mm) device follows earlier Advantech signage computers such as the slim-height, Intel Skylake based DS-081.

 
USM-110 (left) and mounting options
(click images to enlarge)
Advantech did not reveal the name of the quad-core, Cortex-A17 SoC, which is clocked to 1.6 GHz and accompanied by a Mali-T764. It sounds very close to the Rockchip RK3288, which is found on SBCs such as the Asus Tinker Board, although that SoC instead has a Mali T760 GPU. Other quad -A17 SoCs include the Zhaoxin ZX-2000 found on VIA Technologies’ ALTA DS 4K signage player.

The USM-110, which is also available in a less feature rich USM-110 Delight model, ships with 2GB DDR3L-1333, as well as a microSD slot. You get 16GB of eMMC on the standard version and 8 GB on the Delight. There’s also a GbE port and an M.2 slot with support for an optional WiFi module with antenna kit.

The USM-110 has two HDMI ports, both with locking ports: an HDMI 2.0 port with H.265-encoded, native 4K@60 (3840 x 2160) and a 1.4 port with 1080p resolution. The system enables dual simultaneous HD displays.


USM-110 and USM-110 Delight detail views
(click image to enlarge)
The Delight version lacks the 4K-ready HDMI port, as well as the standard model’s mini-PCIe slot, which is available with an optional 4G module with antenna kit. The Delight is also missing the standard version’s RS232/485/422 port, and it has only one USB 2.0 host port instead of four.

Otherwise, the two models are the same, with a micro-USB OTG port, audio jack, reset, dual LEDs, and a 12V/3A DC input. The 0.43 kg system has a 0 to 40°C range, and offers VESA, wall, desktop, pole, magnet, and DIN-rail mounting.

Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/SignageCMS digital signage management software, also referred to as UShop+ SignageCMS, supports remote, real-time management. It allows users to layout, schedule, and dispatch signage contents to the player over the Internet, enabling remote delivery of media and media content switching via interactive APIs. A WISE Agent framework for data acquisition supports RESTful API web services for accessing and controlling applications.

Further information

The USM-110 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Advantech’s USM-110 announcement and product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 6.

Advantech | www.advantech.com

IoT Gateway/Dongle Solution Taps Nordic Semi’s BLE SoC

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Fanstel has selected Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth® 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for its BWG840F gateway and USB840F dongle. The gateway and the dongle are designed to enable OEMs to rapidly develop solutions for customers—including IoT Cloud service providers and enterprises employing Cloud servers—to monitor IoT devices. Both solutions enable the rapid commissioning and mass deployment of IoT devices in commercial mesh networks via Bluetooth LE and Thread wireless protocols.

Designed to simplify the RF development and certification work required to develop IoT applications, both the gateway and dongle are U.S. FCC and European CE certified and supplied in market-ready enclosures.
The gateway and the dongle employ Fanstel’s Bluenor BT840F module for ultra low power and long range IoT applications. The module is based on the Bluetooth 5- and Thread-compliant nRF52840 SoC-based enabling it support multiprotocol wireless connectivity between the gateway or dongle and Bluetooth LE or Thread nodes in a mesh network. To further support the rapid development of IoT mesh networking solutions based on the gateway, Fanstel provides the DK-BWG840F development kit, allowing users to load firmware into the BT840F module using Nordic’s nRF5 Software Development Kit (SDK) and nRFgo software tools.

The BWG840F gateway’s Wi-Fi module provides Internet connectivity, enabling an IoT mesh network to be monitored and controlled remotely via a Cloud server. Alternatively, the USB840F dongle plugs into a PC’s USB port and relays data between the PC and any node in the mesh network using Bluetooth LE or Thread. For large scale applications, multiple dongles can be deployed in parallel, by being plugged into a wall USB port throughout a facility and then relaying commands and data to any node in the network within range of the ports.

Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC combines a 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4F processor with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT, Thread, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4 GHz RF protocol software) with 1MB Flash memory and 256 KB RAM. The chip supports all the features of Bluetooth 5 (including 4x the range or 2x the raw data bandwidth (2 Mbps) compared with Bluetooth 4.2). Designed to address the inherent security challenges that are faced in IoT, the nRF52840 SoC incorporates the Arm CryptoCell-310 cryptographic accelerator, offering best-in-class security.

The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S140 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified software protocol stack for building long range and high data Bluetooth LE applications. The S140 SoftDevice offers concurrent Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, and supports high throughput and long range modes as well as advertising extensions.

The nRF52840 SoC also supports complex Bluetooth LE and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution. The nRF52840 is Bluetooth 5- and Thread 1.1-certified and its Dynamic Multiprotocol feature uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of both protocols. Its radio architecture—featuring -96-dBm RX sensitivity and an on-chip power amplifier that boosts maximum output power of 8 dBm for a total link budget of >104 dBm—enables the gateway and dongle to achieve an estimated Bluetooth LE range of 2300 m when used in environments with a clear line of sight, low RF interference, and low multiple path interference, according to Fanstel.

Nordic Semiconductor | www.nordicsemi.com

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

By Eric Brown

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


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

FET5718-C module

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



FET5718-C 

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

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

OK5718-C board

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

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



OK5718-C detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the OK5718-C SBC include:

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

Further information

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

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

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

SoC Provides Neural Network Acceleration

Brainchip has claimed itself as the first company to bring a production spiking neural network architecture to market. Called the Akida Neuromorphic System-on-Chip (NSoC), the device is small, low cost and low power, making it well-suited for edge applications such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous vehicles, drones, vision-guided robotics, surveillance and machine vision systems. Its scalability allows users to network many Akida devices together to perform complex neural network training and inferencing for many markets including agricultural technology (AgTech), cybersecurity and financial technology (FinTech).
According to Lou DiNardo, BrainChip CEO, Akida, which is Greek for ‘spike,’ represents the first in a new breed of hardware solutions for AI. Artificial intelligence at the edge is going to be as significant and prolific as the microcontroller.

The Akida NSoC uses a pure CMOS logic process, ensuring high yields and low cost. Spiking neural networks (SNNs) are inherently lower power than traditional convolutional neural networks (CNNs), as they replace the math-intensive convolutions and back-propagation training methods with biologically inspired neuron functions and feed-forward training methodologies. BrainChip’s research has determined the optimal neuron model and training methods, bringing unprecedented efficiency and accuracy. Each Akida NSoC has effectively 1.2 million neurons and 10 billion synapses, representing 100 times better efficiency than neuromorphic test chips from Intel and IBM. Comparisons to leading CNN accelerator devices show similar performance gains of an order of magnitude better images/second/watt running industry standard benchmarks such as CIFAR-10 with comparable accuracy.

The Akida NSoC is designed for use as a stand-alone embedded accelerator or as a co-processor. It includes sensor interfaces for traditional pixel-based imaging, dynamic vision sensors (DVS), Lidar, audio, and analog signals. It also has high-speed data interfaces such as PCI-Express, USB, and Ethernet. Embedded in the NSoC are data-to-spike converters designed to optimally convert popular data formats into spikes to train and be processed by the Akida Neuron Fabric.

Spiking neural networks are inherently feed-forward dataflows, for both training and inference. Ingrained within the Akida neuron model are innovative training methodologies for supervised and unsupervised training. In the supervised mode, the initial layers of the network train themselves autonomously, while in the final fully-connected layers, labels can be applied, enabling these networks to function as classification networks. The Akida NSoC is designed to allow off-chip training in the Akida Development Environment, or on-chip training. An on-chip CPU is used to control the configuration of the Akida Neuron Fabric as well as off-chip communication of metadata.

The Akida Development Environment is available now for early access customers to begin the creation, training, and testing of spiking neural networks targeting the Akida NSoC. The Akida NSoC is expected to begin sampling in Q3 2019.

Brainchip | www.brainchip.com

Connected Retail IoT System Employs Nordic’s BLE SoC

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Insigma, a U.S.-based Internet of Things (IoT) solutions company, employs Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) in its “Connected Retail” suite of IoT products. Insigma’s Connected Retail solution allows brands to create an intelligent IoT network of smart coolers, shelves, displays, and vending machines with minimal human intervention. The solution employs a proprietary wireless sensor and camera techology to record and report on stock levels, product placement compliance, product consumption trends and consumer engagement.

In operation, the device is equipped with two cameras, which take images of the products in the cooler or on the shelf. This image is then processed via Insigma’s proprietary machine vision technology to detect the products in view. To start collecting data and analytics, Insigma’s customers simply attach the sensor to the inside of an existing cooler, vending machine, or shelf without need for wiring or mains power. The integration of the Nordic SoC establishes ultra low power wireless connectivity, delivering up to seven years battery life thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic SoC.

The nRF52832 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4 GHz radio’s 5.5 mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs.

The collected data is stored on the device and is then relayed on-site to a sales agent or technician’s Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity. From Insigma’s ‘Virtual Hub’ app, the data can then be uploaded to Insigma’s Cloud servers, or sent directly to an IoT gateway (again via Bluetooth LE), from where it is automatically sent to Insigma’s Cloud servers via a GSM or CDMA cellular network. The secure and scalable Cloud platform features alert and artificial intelligence engines enabling device management and configuration, while providing a reporting dashboard to display complex IoT data with simple visualization.

Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC combines a 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4F processor with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT and proprietary 2.4 GHz RF protocol software) featuring -96 dBm RX sensitivity, with 512 kB flash memory and 64 kB RAM.

The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certifed RF software protocol stack for building advanced Bluetooth LE applications. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, supports up to twenty connections, and enables concurrent role operation.

Nordic Semiconductor | www.nordicsemi.com

 

MCUs and Processors Vie for Embedded Mindshare

Performance Push

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

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

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

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

High Performance MCU

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCU Runs Linux OS

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

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

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

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MCU Tool Update Eases Multicore Automotive Control Development

Renesas Electronics has announced an update to its Embedded Target for RH850 Multicore model-based development environment for multicore MCUs for automotive control applications. The update supports development of systems with multirate control (multiple control periods), which is now common in systems such as engine and body control systems. This model-based development environment has become practical even in software development scenarios for multicore MCUs, and can reduce the increasingly complex software development burdens especially in control system development of self-driving cars.
Renesas’ earlier RH850 multicore model-based development environment automatically allocated software to the multiple cores and although verifying performance was possible, in complex systems that included multirate control, it was necessary to implement everything manually, including the RTOS and device drivers. Now there’s ever-increasing requirements to boost engine and vehicle performance, and at the same time shorten product development time. By making this development environment support multirate control, it is possible to directly generate the multicore software code from the multirate control model. This has made it possible to evaluate the execution performance in simulation.

Not only does this allow execution performance to be estimated from the earliest stages of software development, this also makes it easy to feed back the verification results into the model itself. This enables the completeness of the system development to be improved early on in the process, and the burden of developing the ever-larger scale, and increasingly complex, software systems can be significantly reduced. Renesas is accelerating the practical utility of model-based development environments in software development for multicore processors and is leading the evolution of green electric vehicles as proposed in the Renesas autonomy concept.

Control functions development requires multirate control, such as intake/exhaust period in engine control, the period of fuel injection and ignition, and the period with which the car’s status is verified. These are all different periods. By applying the technology that generates RH850 multicore code from the Simulink control mode to multirate control, it has become possible to directly generate multicore code, even from models that include multiple periods, such as engine control.

Renesas also provides as an option for the Integrated Development Environment CS+ for the RH850, a cycle precision simulator that can measure time with a precision on par with that of actual systems. By using this option, it is possible to estimate the execution performance of a model of the multicore MCU at the early stages of software development. This can significantly reduce the software development period.

The JMAAB (Japan MBD Automotive Advisory Board), an organization that promotes model-based development for automotive control systems, recommends several control models from the JMAAB Control Modeling Guidelines. Of those, Renesas is providing in this update the Simulink® Scheduler Block, which conforms to type (alpha) which provides a scheduler layer in the upper layer. This makes it possible to follow the multirate single-task method without an OS, express the core specifications and synchronization in the Simulink model, and automatically generate multicore code for the RH850 to implement deterministic operations.

Along with advances in the degree of electronic control in today’s cars, integration is also progressing in the ECUs (electronic control units), which are comparatively small-scale systems. By supporting multirate control, making it easier to operate small-scale systems with different control periods with a multicore microcontroller, it is now possible to verify the operation of a whole ECU that integrates multiple systems.

The updated model-based development environment is planned to support Renesas’ RH850/P1H-C MCU that includes two cores by this fall, and also support for the RH850/E2x Series of MCUs that include up to six cores is in the planning. In addition, Renesas plans to deploy this development environment to the entire Renesas autonomy Platform, including the “R-Car” Family of SoCs.

Renesas is also continuing to work to further improve the efficiency of model-based software development, including model-based parallelization tools from partner companies and strengthening of related multirate control support execution performance estimation including the operating system. Moving forward, Renesas plans to apply the model-based design expertise fostered in its automotive development efforts in the continually growing RX Family in the industrial area which is seeing continued increases in both complexity and scale.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

FPGA Solutions Evolve to Meet AI Needs

Brainy System ICs

Long gone now are the days when FPGAs were thought of as simple programmable circuitry for interfacing and glue logic. Today, FPGAs are powerful system chips with on-chip processors, DSP functionality and high-speed connectivity.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Today’s FPGAs have now evolved to the point that calling them “systems-on-chips” is redundant. It’s now simply a given that the high-end lines of the major FPGA vendors have general-purpose CPU cores on them. Moreover, the flavors of signal processing functionality on today’s FPGA chips are ideally suited to the kind of system-oriented DSP functions used in high-end computing. And even better, they’ve enabled AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning kinds of functionalities to be implemented into much smaller, embedded systems.

In fact, over the past 12 months, most of the leading FPGA vendors have been rolling out solutions specifically aimed at using FPGA technology to enable AI and machine learning in embedded systems. The two main FPGA market leaders Xilinx and Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group (formerly Altera) have certainly embraced this trend, as have many of their smaller competitors like Lattice Semiconductor and QuickLogic. Meanwhile, specialists in so-called e-FPGA technology like Archonix and Flex Logix have their own compelling twist on FPGA system computing.

Project Brainwave

Exemplifying the trend toward FPGAs facilitating AI processing, Intel’s high-performance line of FPGAs is its Stratix 10 family. According to Intel, the Stratix 10 FPGAs are capable of 10 TFLOPS, or 10 trillion floating point operations per second (Figure 1). In May Microsoft announced its Microsoft debuted its Azure Machine Learning Hardware Accelerated Models powered by Project Brainwave integrated with the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning SDK. Azure’s architecture is developed with Intel FPGAs and Intel Xeon processors.

Figure 1
Stratix 10 FPGAs are capable of 10 TFLOPS or 10 trillion floating point operations per second.

Intel says its FPGA-powered AI is able to achieve extremely high throughput that can run ResNet-50, an industry-standard deep neural network requiring almost 8 billion calculations without batching. This is possible using FPGAs because the programmable hardware—including logic, DSP and embedded memory—enable any desired logic function to be easily programmed and optimized for area, performance or power. And because this fabric is implemented in hardware, it can be customized and can perform parallel processing. This makes it possible to achieve orders of magnitudes of performance improvements over traditional software or GPU design methodologies.

In one application example, Intel cites an effort where Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) is helping to build the next-generation Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope to be deployed in remote regions of South Africa and Australia, where viewing conditions are most ideal for astronomical research. The SKA radio telescope will be the world’s largest radio telescope that is 10,000 times faster with image resolution 50 times greater than the best radio telescopes we have today. This increased resolution and speed results in an enormous amount of image data that is generated by these telescopes, processing the equivalent of a year’s data on the Internet every few months.

NRC’s design embeds Intel Stratix 10 SX FPGAs at the Central Processing Facility located at the SKA telescope site in South Africa to perform real-time processing and analysis of collected data at the edge. High-speed analog transceivers allow signal data to be ingested in real time into the core FPGA fabric. After that, the programmable logic can be parallelized to execute any custom algorithm optimized for power efficiency, performance or both, making FPGAs the ideal choice for processing massive amounts of real-time data at the edge.

ACAP for Next Gen

For its part, Xilinx’s high-performance product line is its Virtex UltraScale+ device family (Figure 2). According to the company, these provide the highest performance and integration capabilities in a FinFET node, including the highest signal processing bandwidth at 21.2 TeraMACs of DSP compute performance. They deliver on-chip memory density with up to 500 Mb of total on-chip integrated memory, plus up to 8 GB of HBM Gen2 integrated in-package for 460 GB/s of memory bandwidth. Virtex UltraScale+ devices provide capabilities with integrated IP for PCI Express, Interlaken, 100G Ethernet with FEC and Cache Coherent Interconnect for Accelerators (CCIX).

Figure 2
Virtex UltraScale+ FPGAs provide a signal processing bandwidth at 21.2 TeraMACs. They deliver on-chip memory density with up to 500 Mb of total on-chip integrated memory, plus up to 8 GB of HBM Gen2 integrated in-package for 460 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Looking to the next phase of system performance, Xilinx in March announced its strategy toward a new FPGA product category it calls its adaptive compute acceleration platform (ACAP). Touted as going beyond the capabilities of an FPGA, an ACAP is a highly integrated multi-core heterogeneous compute platform that can be changed at the hardware level to adapt to the needs of a wide range of applications and workloads. An ACAP’s adaptability, which can be done dynamically during operation, delivers levels of performance and performance per-watt that is unmatched by CPUs or GPUs, says Xilinx… …

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Firms Collaborate on 3D Surround View System for Cars

Renesas Electronics and Magna, a mobility technology company and one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, have teamed up to accelerate the mass adoption of advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) features with a new cost-efficient 3D surround view system designed for entry- and mid-range vehicles.
The 3D surround view system adopts Renesas’ high-performance, low-power system-on-chip (SoC) optimized for smart camera and surround view systems. By enabling 3D surround view safety capabilities, the new system helps automakers to deliver safer and more advanced vehicles to a larger number of car consumers, contributing to a safer vehicle society.

Magna’s 3D surround view system is a vehicle camera system that provides a 360-degree panoramic view to assist drivers when parking or performing low speed operations. Drivers can adjust the view of their surroundings with a simple-to-use interface, while object detection alerts drivers about obstacles in their path. The system provides drivers a realistic 360-degree view of their environment, a significant upgrade to the bird’s-eye view offered by existing parking assist systems. The ready-to-use system minimizes integration time and development costs, making the system an easy, cost-efficient option for automakers.

Several automakers have already expressed strong interest in the technology, including a European automaker, which will be the first to integrate the 3D surround view system into a future vehicle.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

Zynq SoC SOM Module Enabled With HSR/PRP IP

iWave Systems has partnered with SoC-e for enabling HSR/PRP IP on iWave’s Zynq 7000 SoC SOM Module. iWave has rigorously validated SoC-e’s High-availability Seamless Redundancy (HSR) and Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) IP Protocol on our Zynq 7000 SoC based SOM module. iWave’s Zynq 7000 SoC SOM and SoC-e’s HSR/PRP Switch IP Core reduce the time-to-market and simplifying design complexity. SOC-e develops IP portfolios for leading-edge networking and synchronization technologies for time critical systems.The Zynq-7000 programmable SoC family integrates the software programmability of an Arm-based processor with the hardware programmability of an FPGA, enabling key analytics and hardware acceleration while integrating CPU, DSP, ASSP and mixed signal functionality on a single device. The iW-RainboW-G28M (Zynq 7000 Board) is a featured-full and ready to-operate embedded software and advanced circuit development kit built around the smallest member from the Xilinx Zynq-7000 family, the Z-7010.

The Zynq-7000 SOM / Development Kit is based on the Xilinx All Programmable System-on-Chip architecture, which firmly incorporates a single / Dual Cortex A9 with Xilinx 7-series FPGA logic. At the point when combined with the rich set of media and connectivity peripherals accessible on the Zynq 7000 SOM, the Zynq Z-7007S, Z-7014S, Z-7010, Z-7020, can host an entire design system.

Memories, 512 MB DDR3 (Expandable to 1 GB) or 512 MB NAND Flash (Expandable), that are on-board, video and sound I/O, USB 2.0 OTG, Gigabit Ethernet and SD (4-bit) will have your board up-and-running with no extra hardware required. Moreover, PMIC with RTC bolster connectors is accessible to put any design on a simple development way.

The iW-RainboW-G28M gives an ultra-cost to embedded designers that don’t require the high-thickness I/O of the FMC connector yet at the same time wish to use the enormous preparing force and extensibility of the Zynq AP SoC architecture.

iWave Systems | www.iwavesystems.com

Nordic BLE SoC Selected for Cloud-Connected Thermostat

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Sikom, a developer of GSM-based IoT platforms, employs Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) in its ‘Bluetooth Thermostat EP’ to support smartphone connectivity and smart-home networking. The thermostat is available to consumers and OEMs developing their own heating control systems.

The Nordic SoC’s Bluetooth 5 long-range capability enhances connection stability, boosting range, and allowing the thermostat to be configured and controlled from anywhere in the house. From a companion app on a Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone the user can control thermostat features such as comfort and economy temperature set points, week programs, vacation modes and temperature logs.

Because the thermostat can be controlled and configured directly from the smartphone, there is no requirement for a proprietary gateway between mobile device and thermostat, lowering the cost and complexity of installation and setup. In addition, the thermostat’s Bluetooth 5 connectivity enables it to join a Sikom smart-home network and communicate directly with other wireless devices to support advanced features such as power control and limiting. The thermostat also integrates with 4G/LTE (cellular) technology to enable remote control via Sikom’s Cloud platform.

Enabled by the nRF52840 SoC’s 32-bit Arm Cortex M4F processor, 1 MB Flash memory, and 256 KB RAM, the Bluetooth Thermostat EP platform can support a variety of complex remote thermostat/heating applications. The processor has ample power to run the Bluetooth 5 RF software protocol (“stack”) and Sikom’s application software and bootloader. The SoC also supports Over-the-Air Device Firmware Updates (OTA-DFU) for future improvements.

Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth LE SoC is Nordic’s most advanced ultra low power wireless solution. The SoC supports complex Bluetooth LE and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution. The SoC combines the Arm processor with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio architecture featuring -96dB RX sensitivity and an on-chip PA boosting output power to a maximum of 8 dBm. The SoC is supplied with the S140 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified stack which supports all the features of the standard and provides concurrent Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster and Observer Bluetooth LE roles.

Nordic Semiconductor | www.nordicsemi.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