Rugged Computers Run Linux on Jetson TX2 and Xavier

By Eric Brown

Aitech, which has been producing embedded Linux-driven systems for military/aerospace and rugged industrial applications since at least 2004, announced that Concurrent Real-Time’s hardened RedHawk Linux RTOS will be available on two Linux-ready embedded systems based on the Nvidia Jetson TX2 module. With Redhawk Linux standing in for the default Nvidia Linux4Tegra stack, the military-grade A176 Cyclone and recently released, industrial-focused A177 Twister systems can “enhance real-time computing for mission-critical applications,” says Aitech.


MIL/AERO focused A176 Cyclone (left) and new A177 Twister
(click image to enlarge)
Here, we’ll take a closer look at the A177 Twister, which was announced in October as a video capture focused variant of the similar, MIL/AERO targeted A176 Cyclone. Both of these “SWaP-optimized (size, weight and power) supercomputers” are members of Aitech’s family of GPGPU RediBuilt computers, which also include PowerPC and Intel Core based systems.

We’ll also briefly examine an “EV178 Development System” for an Nvidia Xavier based A178 Thunder system that was revealed at Embedded World. The A178 Thunder targets MIL/AERO, as well as autonomous vehicles and other applications (see farther below).

Both the A177 Twister and A176 Cyclone systems deploy the Arm-based Jetson TX2module in a rugged, small form factor (SFF) design. The TX2 module features 2x high-end “Denver 2” cores and 4x Cortex-A57 cores. There’s also a 256-core Pascal GPU with CUDA libraries for running AI and machine learning algorithms.


 
A177 Twister (left) and Jetson TX2
(click images to enlarge)
The TX2 module is further equipped with 8GB LPDDR4 and 32GB eMMC 5.1. Other rugged TX2-based systems include Axiomtek’s eBOX800-900-FL.

The RedHawk Linux RTOS distribution, which was announced in 2005, is based on Red Hat Linux and the security-focused SELinux. RedHawk offers a hardened real-time Linux kernel with ultra-low latency and high determinism. Other features include support for multi-core architectures and x86 and ARM64 target platforms.

The RedHawk BSP also includes “NightStar” GUI debugging and analysis tools, which were announced with the initial RedHawk distro. NightStar supports hot patching “and provides a complete graphical view of multithreaded applications and their interaction with the Linux kernel,” says Concurrent Real-Time.

A177 Twister

The A177 Twister leverages the Jetson TX2 and its “CUDA and deep learning acceleration capabilities to easily handle the complex computational requirements needed in embedded systems that are managing multiple data and video streams,” says Aitech. The system is optimized for video capture, processing, and overlays.


A177 Twister
(click image to enlarge)
The A177 Twister supports applications including robotics, automation and optical inspection systems in industrial facilities, as well as for autonomous aircraft and ground environments,” says Aitech. Other applications include security and surveillance, mining and excavating computers, complex marine and boating applications, and agricultural machinery.

The 148 x 148 x 63mm A177 Twister is protected against ingress per IP67. The fanless system weighs 2.2 lbs. (just under 1Kg) and supports -20 to 65°C temperatures.

The Jetson TX2 module supplies 8GB LPDDR4 and 32GB eMMC 5.1. The A177 Twister adds a microSD slot with optional preconfigured card, as well as an optional “Mini-SATA SSD with Quick Erase and Secure Erase support.”

The system shares many features with the A176 Cyclone, with the major difference being that it adds optional WiFi-ac and Bluetooth 4.1, as well as support for simultaneous capture of up to 8x RS-170A (NTSC/PAL) composite video channels at full frame rates. It also has lower ruggedization levels and a smaller 6-24V input range compared to 11-36V, among other differences.


 
A177 Twister block diagram (left) and I/O specs
(click images to enlarge)
As shown in the spec-sheet above, you can purchase the Twister with and without 8x composite inputs and/or 1x SDI input with up to 1080/60 H.264 encoding. There’s also a choice of composite or SDI frame grabbers, both, or none at all. The one SKU that offers all of the above sacrifices the single USB 3.0 port.

Standard features include USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite input, GbE. 2x RS-232 (one for debug/console), 2x CAN, and 4x single-end discrete I/O. Most of these interfaces are bundled up into rugged military-style composite I/O ports.

Power consumption is typically 8-10W with a maximum of 17W. The system also provides reverse polarity and EMC protections, hardware accelerated AES encryption/decryption, temperature sensors, elapsed time recorder, and dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.

EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder

Aitech revealed an A178 Thunder< at computer at Embedded World. The company recently followed up with a formal announcement and product page for an EV178 Development System that helps unlock the computer for early customers.


 
EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder (left) and Jetson AGX Xavier
Built around Nvidia’s high-end Jetson AGX Xavier module, the compact, Linux-driven A178 Thunder “is the most advanced solution for video and signal processing, deep-learning accelerated, for the next generation of autonomous vehicles, surveillance and targeting systems, EW systems, and many other applications,” says Aitech. The EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder processes at up to 11 TFLOPS (Terra floating point operations per second) and 22 TOPS (Terra operations per second), says Aitech.

The Jetson AGX Xavier has greater than 10x the energy efficiency and more than 20x the performance of the Jetson TX2, claims Nvidia. The 105 x 87 x 16mm Xavier module features 8x ARMv8.2 cores and a high-end, 512-core Nvidia Volta GPU with 64 tensor cores with 2x Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator (DLA) — also called NVDLA — engines. The module is also equipped with a 7-way VLIW vision chip, as well as 16GB 256-bit LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB eMMC 5.1.
EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder
(click image to enlarge)

Preliminary specs for the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder include:

  • Nvidia Jetson AGX Xavier module
  • 4x simultaneous SDI (SD/HD) video capture channels
  • 8x simultaneous Composite (RS-170A [NTSC]/PAL) video capture channels
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI output
  • USB 3.0
  • UART Serial
  • Discretes
  • Pre-installed Linux OS, drivers, and test applications
  • Cables and external power supply

Further information

Concurrent’s RedHawk Linux RTOS appears to be available now as an optional build for the A177 Twister and earlier A176 Cyclone, both of which appear to be available with undisclosed pricing. No ship date was announced for the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder. More information may be found in Aitech’s RedHawk Linux announcement, as well as the A177 Twister product page. More on the A178 Thunder may be found in the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder announcementand product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 18.

Aitech | www.rugged.com

Tiny, Octa-Core Arm Module Targets AI on the Edge

By Eric Brown

Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 660 appeared on Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 660 HDK Mini-ITX dev kit back in 2017 and also showed up on an Inforce 6560 Pico-ITX SBC announced in February. Now Intrinsyc has returned with a tiny compute module implementation. The $225 Open-Q 660 µSOM (micro System on Module) measures only 50 mm x 25mm.


 
Open-Q 660 μSOM, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
Applications for the Open-Q 660 μSOM include on-device artificial intelligence, enhanced gaming, power optimization, device management, security, and advanced photography and image processing jobs such as camera and audio tuning. Intrinysc mentions a development kit that will connect to the module via its 3x 100-pin board to board connectors, but there were no further details.

The module runs Android 9.0 on the Snapdragon 660 (Qualcomm SDA660), which is claimed to offer up to 20 percent higher CPU performance and 30 percent higher graphics performance compared to the similarly octa-core Snapdragon 653. The Snapdragon 660 is also faster than the octa-core Snapdragon 625 and almost identical Snapdragon 626 thanks to its use of Cortex-A73-like “Kryo” cores.

The 14nm fabricated SoC has 4x Kryo cores clocked to 2.2 GHz and 4x clocked to 1.84 GHz, as well as a 650 MHz Adreno 512 GPU. The module’s AI potentiality is unlocked via dual Spectra 160 ISPs and a Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX), which supports Caffe2 and Tensorflow for machine learning and image processing.



Open-Q 660 μSOM
(click image to enlarge)
The Open-Q 660 μSOM has the same footprint as the Snapdragon 820 based Open-Q 820 µSOM. The module ships with a combo eMCP chip with 32GB eMMC and 4GB of dual-channel, 1866MHz LPDDR4 SDRAM.

The module integrates a 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MU-MIMO WiFi radio via a Qualcomm WCN3990 module supported with 5GHz external PA and U.FL antenna connectors. Bluetooth 5.x is also on board.

The Open-Q 660 μSOM is equipped with 2x 4-lane MIPI-DSI interfaces for up to 2560 x 1600 displays plus DP 1.4 for up to [email protected] or [email protected] The up to 24-megapixel camera support is derived from 3x 4-lane MIPI-CSI connections with I2C controllers for each camera port plus 2x camera flash control signals.

Audio features include a SLIMBus interface for external Qualcomm codecs plus optional Qualcomm Fluence support. You also get 4- and 2-lane MI2S interfaces for external audio devices, a Soundwire link for digital amps, and 2x PDM-based digital mic interfaces.

The Open-Q 660 μSOM supports single USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C and USB 2.0 host ports plus 4-bit SD 3.0, 8x BLSP (UART, I2C, SPI), and configurable GPIOs. The module provides a PMIC and battery charging circuitry and offers a 3.6V to 4.2V input and a -10 to 70°C operating range.

Further information

The Open-Q 660 µSOM is available for pre-order at $225 in single quantities, with shipments due in April. More information may be found in Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 660 µSOM announcementproduct page, and shopping page

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 25.

Intrinsyc | www.intrinsyc.com

MCUs Serve Up Solutions for Car Infotainment

Dashboard Dazzle

As automotive dashboard displays get more sophisticated, information and entertainment are merging into so-called infotainment systems. The new systems are driving a need for powerful MCU solutions that support the connectivity, computing and interfacing requirements particular to these designs.

(Caption for lead image Figure 1: The Cypress Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution uses Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) technology so that Apple CarPlay (shown) and Android Auto can operate concurrently without degradation caused by switching back and forth between bands.).

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Microcontroller (MCU) vendors have a rich legacy of providing key technologies for nearly every aspect of an automobile’s electronics—everything from the powertrain to the braking system to dashboard displays. In recent years, they’ve taken on a new set of challenges as demands rise for ever more sophisticated “infotainment” systems. Advanced touchscreen, processing, networking, voice recognition and more are parts of these subsystems tasked with providing drivers with information and entertainment suited to today’s demands—demands that must rival or exceed what’s possible in a modern smartphone or tablet. And, as driverless cars inch toward mainstream reality, that hunger for rich infotainment functionality will only increase.

In order to meet those system design needs, MCU vendors are keeping pace with highly integrated chip-level solutions and embedded software tailored specifically to address various aspects of the automotive infotainment challenge. Over the past 12 months, MCU companies have announced products aimed at everything from advanced dashboard graphics to connectivity solutions to security technologies. At the same time, many have announced milestone design wins that illustrate their engagement with this dynamic sub-segment of automotive system development.

Smartphone Support

Exemplifying these trends, in July Cypress Semiconductor announced that Pioneer integrated Cypress’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Combo solution into its flagship in-dash navigation AV receiver. The solution enables passengers to display and use their smartphone’s apps on the receiver’s screen via Apple CarPlay (Figure 1–lead image above) or Android Auto, which provide the ability to use smartphone voice recognition to search for information or respond to text messages. The Cypress Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution uses Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) technology so that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can operate concurrently without degradation caused by switching back and forth between bands.

The Pioneer AVH-W8400NEX receiver uses Cypress’ CYW89359 combo solution, which includes an advanced coexistence engine that enables optimal performance for dual-band 2.4- and 5-GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) simultaneously for advanced multimedia experiences. The CYW89359’s RSDB architecture enables two unique data streams to run at full throughput simultaneously by integrating two complete Wi-Fi subsystems into a single chip. The CYW89359 is fully automotive qualified with AECQ-100 grade-3 validation and is being designed in by numerous top-tier car OEMs and automotive suppliers as a full in-vehicle connectivity solution, supporting infotainment and telematics applications such as smartphone screen-mirroring, content streaming and Bluetooth voice connectivity in car kits.

In October, Cypress announced another infotainment-related design win with Yazaki North America implementing Cypress’ instrument cluster solution to drive the advanced graphics in Yazaki’s instrument cluster for a leading American car manufacturer. According to Cypress, Yazaki selected the solution based on its unique offering of five chips that combine to drive dual displays and provide instant-on memory performance with automotive-grade, ASIL-B safety compliance. The Cypress solution is based on a Traveo MCU, along with two high-bandwidth HyperBus memories in a multi-chip package (MCP), an analog power management IC (PMIC) for safe electrical operation, and a PSoC MCU for system management support. The Traveo devices in the Yazaki instrument cluster were the industry’s first 3D-capable Arm Cortex-R5 cluster MCUs.

Virtualization Embraced

The complexity of automotive infotainment systems has pushed system developers to embrace advanced operating system approaches such as virtualization. Feeding those needs, last June Renesas Electronics rolled out its “R-Car virtualization support package” designed to enable easier development of hypervisors for the Renesas R-Car automotive system-on-chip (SoC). The R-Car virtualization support package includes, at no charge, both the R-Car hypervisor development guide document and sample software for use as reference in such development for software vendors who develop the embedded hypervisors that are required for integrated cockpits and connected car applications.

A hypervisor is a virtualization operating system (OS) that allows multiple guest OSs— such as Linux, Android and various real-time OSs (RTOS)—to run completely independently on a single chip. Renesas announced the R-Car hypervisor in April of 2017 and the new R-Car virtualization Support Package was developed to help software vendors accelerate their development of R-Car hypervisors.

The company’s third-generation R-Car SoCs were designed assuming that they would be used with a hypervisor. The Arm CPU cores, graphics cores, video/audio IP and other functions include virtualization functions. Originally, for software vendors to make use of these functions, they would have had to understand both the R-Car hardware manuals and the R-Car virtualization functions and start by looking into how to implement a hypervisor. Now, by following development guides in the R-Car virtualization support package, not only can software vendors easily take advantage of these functions, they will be able to take full advantage of the advanced features of R-Car. Also, by providing sample software that can be used as a reference, this package supports rapid development.

Technology partnerships have been playing a key role in automotive infotainment trends. Along just those lines, in September Renesas and OpenSynergy, a supplier of automotive hypervisors, announced that the Renesas’ SoC R-Car H3 and OpenSynergy’s COQOS Hypervisor SDK were adopted on Parrot Faurecia’s automotive safe multi-display cockpit. The latest version of Android is the guest OS of the COQOS Hypervisor, which executes both the instrument cluster functionality, including safety-relevant display elements based on Linux, and the Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) on a single R-Car H3 SoC chip (Figure 2). The COQOS Hypervisor SDK shares the R-Car H3 GPU with Android and Linux allowing applications to be presented on multiple displays, realizing a powerful and flexible cockpit system.

Figure 2
With Android as the guest OS of the COQOS Hypervisor, it executes both the instrument cluster functionality, including safety-relevant display elements based on Linux, and the Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) on a single R-Car H3 SoC chip.

According to OpenSynergy’s CEO Stefaan Sonck Thiebaut, the COQOS Hypervisor SDK takes full advantage of the hardware and software virtualization extensions provided by Renesas. The OpenSynergy solution includes key features, such as shared display, which allows several virtual machines to use multiple displays flexibly and safely. The R-Car H3 GPU and video/audio IP incorporates virtualization functions, making virtualization by the hypervisor possible and allowing for multiple OSs to operate independently and safely. OpenSynergy’s COQOS Hypervisor SDK is built around a safe and efficient hypervisor that can run software from multipurpose OSs such as Linux or Android, RTOS and AUTOSAR-compliant software simultaneously on one SoC.

Large Touchscreen Support

As the content provided by automotive infotainment systems gets more sophisticated, so too must the displays and user interface technologies that interact with that content. With that in mind, MCU vendors are offering more advanced touchscreen control solutions. Dashboard screens have unique design challenges. Screens in automobiles need to meet stringent head impact and vibration tests. That means thicker cover lenses that potentially impact the touch interface performance. Meanwhile, as screens get larger, they are also more likely to interfere with other frequencies such as AM radio and car access systems. All of these factors become a major challenge in the design of modern automotive capacitive touch systems.

Along just those lines, Microchip in December announced its maXTouch family of single-chip touchscreen controllers designed to address these issues for screens up to 20 inches in size (Figure 3). The MXT2912TD-A, with nearly 3,000 touch sensing nodes, and MXT2113TD-A, supporting more than 2,000 nodes, bring consumers the touchscreen user experience they expect in vehicles. These new devices build upon Microchip’s existing maXTouch touchscreen technology that is widely adopted by manufacturers worldwide. Microchip’s latest solutions offer superior signal-to-noise capability to address the requirements of thick lenses, even supporting multiple finger touches through thick gloves and in the presence of moisture.

Figure 3
The maXTouch family of single-chip touchscreen controllers is designed for screens up to 20 inches in size, and supports up to 3,000 touch sensing nodes. The devices even support multiple finger touches through thick gloves and in the presence of moisture.

As automakers use screens to replace mechanical switches on the dash for sleeker interior designs, safe and reliable operation becomes even more critical. The MXT2912TD and MXT2113TD devices incorporate self- and sensor-diagnostic functions, which constantly monitor the integrity of the touch system. These smart diagnostic features support the Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) classification index as defined by the ISO 26262 Functional Safety Specification for Passenger Vehicles.

The new devices feature technology that enables adaptive touch utilizing self-capacitance and mutual-capacitance measurements, so all touches are recognized and false touch detections are avoided. They also feature Microchip’s proprietary new signal shaping technology that significantly lowers emissions to help large touchscreens using maXTouch controllers meet CISPR-25 Level 5 requirements for electromagnetic interference (EMI) in automobiles. The new touch controllers also meet automotive temperature grade 3 (-40°C to +85°C) and grade 2 (-40°C to +105°C) operating ranges and are AEC-Q100 qualified.

3D Gesture Control

Aside from the touchscreen display side of automotive infotainment, Microchip for its part has also put its efforts toward innovations in 3D human interface technology. With that in mind, in July the company announced a new 3D gesture recognition controller that offers the lowest system cost in the automotive industry, providing a durable single-chip solution for advanced automotive HMI designs, according to Microchip. The MGC3140 joins the company’s family of easy-to-use 3D gesture controllers as the first qualified for automotive use (Figure 4).

Figure 4
The MGC3140 3D gesture controller is Microchip’s first qualified for automotive use. It’s suited for a range for applications such as navigating infotainment systems, sun shade operation, interior lighting and more.

Suited for a range for applications that limit driver distraction and add convenience to vehicles, Microchip’s new capacitive technology-based air gesture controller is ideal for navigating infotainment systems, sun shade operation, interior lighting and other applications. The technology also supports the opening of foot-activated rear liftgates and any other features a manufacturer wishes to incorporate with a simple gesture action.

The MGC3140 is Automotive Electronics Council AEC-Q100 qualified with an operating temperature range of -40°C to +125°C, and it meets the strict EMI and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements of automotive system designs. Each 3D gesture system consists of a sensor that can be constructed from any conductive material, as well as the Microchip gesture controller tuned for each individual application.

While existing solutions such as infrared and time-of-flight technologies can be costly and operate poorly in bright or direct sunlight, the MGC3140 offers reliable sensing in full sunlight and harsh environments. Other solutions on the market also come with physical constraints and require significant infrastructure and space to be integrated in a vehicle. The MGC3140 is compatible with ergonomic interior designs and enables HMI designers to innovate with fewer physical constraints, because the sensor can be any conductive material and hidden from view.

Vehicle Networking

While applicable to areas beyond infotainment, an automobile’s ability to network with the outside world has become ever more important. As critical vehicle powertrain, body, chassis, and infotainment features increasingly become defined by software, securely delivering updates such as fixes and option packs over the air (OTA) enhances cost efficiency and customer convenience. Serving those needs, in October STMicroelectronics released its latest Chorus automotive MCU that provides a gateway/domain-controller solution capable of handling major OTA updates securely.

With three high-performance processor cores, more than 1.2 MB RAM and powerful on-chip peripherals, ST’s new flagship SPC58 H Line joins the Chorus Series of automotive MCUs and can run multiple applications concurrently to allow more flexible and cost-effective vehicle-electronics architectures (Figure 5). Two independent Ethernet ports provide high-speed connectivity between multiple Chorus chips throughout the vehicle and enable responsive in-vehicle diagnostics. Also featuring 16 CAN-FD and 24 LINFlex interfaces, Chorus can act as a gateway for multiple ECUs (electronic control units) and support smart-gateway functionality via the two Ethernet interfaces on-chip.

Figure 5
The SPC58 H Line of MCUs can run multiple applications concurrently to allow more flexible and cost-effective vehicle-electronics architectures. Two independent Ethernet ports provide high-speed connectivity between multiple Chorus chips throughout the vehicle.

To protect connected-car functionalities and allow OTA updates to be applied safely, the new Chorus chip contains a Hardware Security Module (HSM) capable of asymmetric cryptography. Being EVITA Full compliant, it implements industry-leading attack prevention, detection and containment techniques.

Working with its large on-chip 10 MB flash, the SPC58NH92x’s context-swap mechanism allows current application code to run continuously even while an update is downloaded and made ready to be applied later at a safe time. The older software can be retained, giving the option to roll-back to the previous version in an emergency. Hyperbus and eMMC/SDIO high-speed interfaces to off-chip memory are also integrated, enabling further storage expansion if needed.

Single Cable Solution

Today’s automotive infotainment systems comprise mobile services, cross-domain communication and autonomous driving applications as part of in-vehicle networking. As a result, these systems require a more flexible solution for transporting packet, stream and control content. Existing implementations are either costly and cumbersome, or too limited in bandwidth and packet data capabilities to support system updates and internetworking requirements.

To address this need, Microchip Technology in November announced an automotive infotainment networking solution that supports all data types—including audio, video control and Ethernet—over a single cable. Intelligent Network Interface Controller networking (INICnet) technology is a synchronous, scalable solution that significantly simplifies building audio and infotainment systems, offering seamless implementation in vehicles that have Ethernet-oriented system architectures (Figure 6).

Figure 6
INICnet technology is a synchronous, scalable solution that significantly simplifies building audio and infotainment systems, offering seamless implementation in vehicles that have Ethernet-oriented system architectures.

Audio is a key infotainment feature in vehicles, and INICnet technology provides full flexibility through supporting a variety of digital audio formats with multiple sources and sinks. INICnet technology also provides high-speed packet-data communications with support for file transfers, OTA software updates and system diagnostics via standard Ethernet frames. In this way, INICnet technology supports seamless integration of Internet Protocol (IP)-based system management and data communications, along with very efficient transport of stream data. INICnet technology does not require the development and licensing of additional protocols or software stacks, reducing development costs, effort and time.

INICnet technology provides a standardized solution that works with both Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) at 50 Mbps and coaxial cable at 150 Mbps. With low and deterministic latency, INICnet technology supports deployment of complex audio and acoustics applications. Integrated network management supports networks ranging from two to 50 nodes, as well as processor-less or slim modules where the node is remotely configured and managed. The solution’s Power over Data Line (PoDL) capability saves costs on power management for microphones and other slim modules. Nodes can be arranged in any order with the same result, and any node in the system can directly communicate with any other node in the system.

Security for Connected Cars

As cars become more network-connected, the issue of security takes on new dimensions. In October, Infineon Technologies announced a key effort in cybersecurity for the connected car by introducing a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) specifically for automotive applications—the first on the market, according to the company. The new OPTIGA TPM 2.0 protects communication between the car manufacturer and the car, which increasingly turns into a computer on wheels. A number of car manufacturers already designed in Infineon’s OPTIGA TPM.

The TPM is a hardware-based security solution that has proven its worth in IT security. By using it, car manufacturers can incorporate sensitive security keys for assigning access rights, authentication and data encryption in the car in a protected way. The TPM can also be updated so that the level of security can be kept up to date throughout the vehicle’s service life.

Cars send real-time traffic information to the cloud or receive updates from the manufacturer “over the air,” for example to update software quickly and in a cost-effective manner. The senders and recipients of that data—whether car makers or individual components in the car—require cryptographic security keys to authenticate themselves. These critical keys are particularly protected against logical and physical attacks in the OPTIGA TPM as if they were in a safe.

Early Phase Critical

Incorporating the first or initial key into the vehicle is a particularly sensitive moment for car makers. When the TPM is used, this step can be carried out in Infineon’s certified production environment. After that, the keys are protected against unauthorized access; there is no need for further special security precautions. The TPM likewise generates, stores and administers further security keys for communication within the vehicle. And it is also used to detect faulty or manipulated software and components in the vehicle and initiate troubleshooting by the manufacturer in such a case.

Figure 7
The SLI 9670 consists of an attack-resistant security chip (shown) and high-performance firmware developed in accordance with the latest security standard. The firmware enables immediate use of security features, such as encryption, decryption, signing and verification.

The SLI 9670 consists of an attack-resistant security chip and high-performance firmware developed in accordance with the latest security standard (Figure 7). The firmware enables immediate use of security features, such as encryption, decryption, signing and verification. The TPM can be integrated quickly and easily in the system thanks to the open source software stack (TSS stack) for the host processor, which is also provided by Infineon. It has an SPI interface, an extended temperature range from -40°C to 105°C and the advanced encryption algorithms RSA-2048, ECC-256 and SHA-256. The new TPM complies with the internationally acknowledged Trusted Computing Group TPM 2.0 standard, is certified for security according to Common Criteria and is qualified in accordance with the automotive standard AEC-Q100.

Side by side with driverless vehicle innovations, there’s no doubt that infotainment systems represent one of the most dynamic subsets of today’s automotive systems design. MCU vendors offer a variety of chip and software solutions addressing all the different pieces of car infotainment requirements from display interfacing to connectivity to security. Circuit Cellar will continue to follow these developments. And later this year, we’ll take a look specifically at MCU solutions aimed at enabling driverless vehicles and assisted driving technologies.

RESOURCES

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
OpenSynergy | www.opensynergy.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

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Chip-Level Solutions Feed AI Needs

Embedded Supercomputing

Gone are the days when supercomputing meant big, rack-based systems in an air conditioned room. Today, embedded processors, FPGAs and GPUs are able to do AI and machine learning operations, enabling new types of local decision making in embedded systems.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Embedded computing technology has evolved way past the point now where complete system functionality on a single chip is remarkable. Today, the levels of compute performance and parallel processing on an IC means that what were once supercomputing levels of capabilities can now be implemented in in chip-level solutions.

While supercomputing has become a generalized term, what system developers are really interested in are crafting artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networking using today’s embedded processing. Supplying the technology for these efforts are the makers of leading-edge embedded processors, FPGAs and GPUs. In these tasks, GPUs are being used for “general-purpose computing on GPUs”, a technique also known as GPGPU computing.

With all that in mind, embedded processor, GPU and FPGA companies have rolled out a variety of solutions over the last 12 months, aimed at performing AI, machine learning and other advanced computing functions for several demanding embedded system application segments.

FPGAS Take AI Focus

Back March, FPGA vendor Xilinx announced its plans to launch a new FPGA product category it calls its adaptive compute acceleration platform (ACAP). Following up on that, in October the company unveiled Versal—the first of its ACAP implementations. Versal ACAPs combine scalar processing engines, adaptable hardware engines and intelligent engines with advanced memory and interfacing technologies to provide heterogeneous acceleration for any application. But even more importantly, according to Xilinx, the Versal ACAP’s hardware and software can be programmed and optimized by software developers, data scientists and hardware developers alike. This is enabled by a host of tools, software, libraries, IP, middleware and frameworks that facilitate industry-standard design flows.

Built on TSMC’s 7-nm FinFET process technology, the Versal portfolio combines software programmability with domain-specific hardware acceleration and adaptability. The portfolio includes six series of devices architected to deliver scalability and AI inference capabilities for a host of applications across different markets, from cloud to networking to wireless communications to edge computing and endpoints.

The portfolio includes the Versal Prime series, Premium series and HBM series, which are designed to deliver high performance, connectivity, bandwidth, and integration for the most demanding applications. It also includes the AI Core series, AI Edge series and AI RF series, which feature the AI Engine (Figure 1). The AI Engine is a new hardware block designed to address the emerging need for low-latency AI inference for a wide variety of applications and also supports advanced DSP implementations for applications like wireless and radar.

Figure 1
Xilinx’s AI Engine is a new hardware block designed to address the emerging need for low-latency AI inference for a wide variety of applications. It also supports advanced DSP implementations for applications like wireless and radar.

It is tightly coupled with the Versal Adaptable Hardware Engines to enable whole application acceleration, meaning that both the hardware and software can be tuned to ensure maximum performance and efficiency. The portfolio debuts with the Versal Prime series, delivering broad applicability across multiple markets and the Versal AI Core series, delivering an estimated 8x AI inference performance boost compared to industry-leading GPUs, according to Xilinx.

Low-Power AI Solution

Following the AI trend, back in May Lattice Semiconductor unveiled Lattice sensAI, a technology stack that combines modular hardware kits, neural network IP cores, software tools, reference designs and custom design services. In September the company unveiled expanded features of the sensAI stack designed for developers of flexible machine learning inferencing in consumer and industrial IoT applications. Building on the ultra-low power (1 mW to 1 W) focus of the sensAI stack, Lattice released new IP cores, reference designs, demos and hardware development kits that provide scalable performance and power for always-on, on-device AI applications.

Embedded system developers can build a variety of solutions enabled by sensAI. They can build stand-alone iCE40 UltraPlus/ECP5 FPGA based always-on, integrated solutions, with latency, security and form factor benefits. Alternatively, they can use CE40 UltraPlus as an always-on processor that detects key phrases or objects, and wakes-up a high-performance AP SoC / ASIC for further analytics only when required, reducing overall system power consumption. And, finally, you can use the scalable performance/power benefits of ECP5 for neural network acceleration, along with I/O flexibility to seamlessly interface to on-board legacy devices including sensors and low-end MCUs for system control.

Figure 2
Human face detection application example. iCE40 UlraPlus enables AI with an always-on image sensor, while consuming less than 1 mW of active power.

Updates to the sensAI stack include a new CNN (convolutional neural networks) Compact Accelerator IP core for improved accuracy on iCE40 UltraPlus FPGA and enhanced CNN Accelerator IP core for improved performance on ECP5 FPGAs. Software tools include an updated neural network compiler tool with improved ease-of-use and both Caffe and TensorFlow support for iCE40 UltraPlus FPGAs. Also provided are reference designs enabling human presence detection and hand gesture recognition reference designs and demos (Figure 2). New iCE40 UltraPlus development platform support includes a Himax HM01B0 UPduino shield and DPControl iCEVision board.. …

Read the full article in the December 341 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.

Slim Signage Player Features Radeon E8860 GPU and 6 HDMI Ports

By Eric Brown

Ibase’s new SI-626 digital signage and video wall (VW) player combines high-end functionality with a slim 30 mm height—1.5 mm thinner than its AMD Ryzen V1000 based SI-324 player. Like the SI-324, the SI-626 features hardware based EDID remote management with software setting mode to prevent display issues due to cable disconnection or display identification failures.


 
SI-626 from two angles
(click images to enlarge)
The system is notable for providing AMD’s Radeon E8860 graphics, which can drive six HDMI 1.4b displays. There’s also hardware EDID emulation for remote operation, as well as a “flexible VW display configuration setting.”

Like Ibase’s recent SI-614 and OPS-compatible IOPS-602
players, the SI-626 supports Intel’s 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” Core processors, and like the IOPS-602, it also supports 6th Gen Skylake parts. The system supports 7th and 6th Gen chips with FCBGA1440 sockets and Intel QM170 or HM170 chipsets by way of a “MBD626” mainboard.


SI-626 front view
(click image to enlarge)
The product page notes that the Core CPUs have 35 W TDPs or lower. Yet, the press release notes only one model: the quad-core 2.8 GHz/ 3.5 GHz Core i7-6820EQ from the Skylake family, which has a 45 W TDP. OS support is listed as “Win7 64-bit, Win10 64-bit Enterprise, and Linux Ubuntu 64-bit (Installation).”

The SI-626 can load up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 RAM and offers an M.2 M-Key 2280 slot for storage. There’s also a 2.5-inch SATA bay and an M.2 E-Key 2230 slot, as well as a full-size mini-PCIe slot for WiFi/BT, 4G LTE, and capture cards.

The SI-626 is equipped with 6x HDMI 1.4 ports with independent audio output and “ultra-high resolution” support. You also get 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x RS-232 serial ports with RJ45 connectors, and dual GbE ports (Realtek RTL8111G). The system is further equipped with an audio jack, watchdog, mounting brackets, and 2x LEDs.

The 290 mm x 222 mm x 29.9 mm, 2.2 kg signage player provides a 0 to 45°C range with 5 grms, 5~500 Hz, random vibration resistance (with SSD). A segregated ventilation system is said to reduce internal dust.

The SI-626 offers a 12 V DC jack with a 150 W power adapter supported with Ibase iControl power management and Observer remote monitoring technologies. These work together to provide automatic power scheduling, power failure detection, and restoration to default state in the event of a system crash. You can even boot up the system “under low ambient conditions,” says Ibase.

Further information

The SI-626 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price with a standard configuration of 16 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD. More information may be found at Ibase’s SI-626 product page.

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

Ibase | www.ibase.com.tw

Linux-Powered Jetson Xavier Module Gains Third-Party Carriers

By Eric Brown

Connect Tech (CTI) has released two new developer options for Nvidia’s octa-core Jetson AGX Xavier computer-on-module, which is already supported by Nvidia’s innovative, $1,299 Jetson Xavier Developer Kit. Like the official dev kit, CTI’s 105 mm x 92 mm Rogue board is approximately the same size as the 105 mm x 87 mm x 16 mm Xavier, making it easier to use for robotics applications.


 
Rogue carrier with Xavier module (equipped with fan)
(click images to enlarge)
CTI also launched a Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter board that mediates between the Xavier and any CTI carrier for the Jetson TX1, TX2, and the latest industrial-focused version of the TX2 called the Jetson TX2i. These include the three TX2 boardsannounced in early 2017: the Cogswell carrier with GigE Vision, the Spacely carrier designed for cam-intensive Pixhawk drones, and the tiny, $99 Sprocket. CTI’s Jetson TX1 boards include the original Astro, as well as its later Orbitty and Elroy.

 
Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter with Xavier and Elroy carrier (left) and exploded view
(click images to enlarge)
The Jetson Xavier “enables a giant leap forward in capabilities for autonomous machines and edge devices,” says CTI. Nvidia claims the Xavier has greater than 10x the energy efficiency and more than 20x the performance of its predecessor, the Jetson TX2. The module — and the new CTI carriers — are available with a BSP with Nvidia’s Linux4Tegra stack. Nvidia also offers an AI-focused Isaac SDK.

The Xavier features 8x ARMv8.2 cores and a high-end, 512-core Nvidia Volta GPU with 64 tensor cores with 2x Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator (DLA) — also called NVDLA — engines. The module is also equipped with a 7-way VLIW vision chip, as well as 16 GB 256-bit LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB eMMC 5.1.


Nvidia Drive AGX Xavier Developer Kit
(click image to enlarge)
Since the initial Xavier announcements, Nvidia has added AGX to the Jetson Xavier name. This is also applied to the automotive version, which was originally called the Drive PX Pegasus when it was announced in Nov. 2017. This Linux-driven development kit recently began shipping as part of the Nvidia Drive AGX Xavier Developer Kit, which supports a single Xavier module or else a Drive AGX Pegasus version with dual Xaviers and dual GPUs.

Rogue

CTI’s Rogue carrier board provides 2x GbE, 2x HDMI 1.4a, 3x USB 3.1, and a micro-USB OTG port. Other features include MIPI-CSI, deployable either as 6x x2 lanes or 4x x4 lanes, and expressed via a high-density camera connector breakout that mimics that of the official dev kit. CTI will offer a variety of rugged camera add-on expansion boards with options described as “up to 6x MIPI I-PEX, SerDes Inputs: GMSL or FPD-Link III, HDMI Inputs).”


 
Rogue, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

For storage, you get a microSD slot with UFS support, as well as 2x M.2 M-key slots that support NVMe modules. There’s also an M.2 E-key slot with PCIe and USB support that can load optional Wi-Fi/BT modules.

Other features include 2x CAN 2.0b ports, 2x UARTs, 4-bit level-shifted, 3.3 V GPIO, and single I2C and SPI headers. There’s a 9-19 V DC input that uses a positive locking Molex Mini-Fit Jr header. You also get an RTC with battery connector and power, reset, and recovery buttons and headers.

Mimic Adapter

The Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter has the same 105 x 92mm dimensions as the Rogue, but is a simpler adapter board that connects the Xavier to existing CTI Jetson carriers. It provides an Ethernet PHY and regulates and distributes power from the carrier to the Xavier.


 
Mimic Adapter, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Mimic Adapter expresses a wide variety of interfaces detailed on the product page, including USB 3.0, PCIe x4, SATA, MIPI-CSI, HDMI/DP/eDP, CAN, and more. Unlike the Rogue, it’s listed with an operating range: an industrial -40 to 85°C.

Further information

The Rogue carrier and Mimic Adapter for the Nvidia AGX Xavier are available now with undisclosed pricing. More information may be found in Connect Tech’’s Xavier carrier announcement, as well as its Rogue and Mimic Adapter product pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on October 17.

Connect Tech | www.connecttech.com

SDR Meets AI in a Mash-Up of Jetson TX2, Artix-7 and 2×2 MIMO

By Eric Brown

A Philadelphia based startup called Deepwave Digital has gone to Crowd Supply to launch its “Artificial Intelligence Radio – Transceiver” (AIR-T) SBC. The AIR-T is a software defined radio (SDR) platform for the 300 MHz to 6 GHz range with AI and deep learning hooks designed for “low-cost AI, deep learning, and high-performance wireless systems,” says Deepwave Digital. The 170 mm x 170 mm Mini-ITX board is controlled by an Ubuntu stack running on an Arm hexa-core powered Nvidia Jetson TX2 module. There’s also a Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA and an Analog Devices AD9371 RFIC 2×2 MIMO transceiver.


 
AIR-T with Jetson TX2 module
(click images to enlarge)

The AIR-T is available through Aug. 14 for $4,995 on Crowd Supply with shipments due at the end of November. Deepwave Digital has passed the halfway point to its $20K goal, but it’s already committed to building the boards regardless of the outcome.

The AIR-T is designed for researchers who want to apply the deep learning powers of the Jetson TX2’s 256-core Pascal GPU and its CUDA libraries to the SDR capabilities provided by the Artix 7 and AD9371 transceiver. The platform can function as a “highly parallel SDR, data recorder, or inference engine for deep learning algorithms,” and provides for “fully autonomous SDR by giving the AI engine complete control over the hardware,” says Deepwave Digital. Resulting SDR applications can process bandwidths greater than 200MHz in real-time, claims the company.

The software platform is built around “custom and open” Ubuntu 16.04 software running on the Jetson TX2, as well as custom FPGA blocks that interface with the open source GNU Radio SDR development platform.

The combined stack enables developers to avoid coding CUDA or VHDL. You can prototype in GNU Radio, and then optionally port it to Python or C++. More advanced users can program the Artix 7 FPGA and Pascal GPU directly. AIR-T is described as an “open platform,” but this would appear to refer to the software rather than hardware.



AIR-T software flow
(click image to enlarge)

The AIR-T enables the development of new wireless technologies, where AI can help maximize resources with today’s increasingly limited spectrum. Potential capabilities include autonomous signal identification and interference mitigation. The AIR-T can also be used for satellite and terrestrial communications. The latter includes “high-power, high-frequency voice communications to 60GHz millimeter wave digital technology,” says Deepwave.

Other applications include video, image, and audio recognition. You can “demodulate a signal and apply deep learning to the resulting image, video, or audio data in one integrated platform,” says the company. The product can also be used for electrical engineering or applied physics research.


Jetson TX2

Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 module features 2x high-end “Denver 2” cores, 4x Cortex-A57 cores, and the 256-core Pascal GPU with CUDA libraries for running machine learning algorithms. The TX2 also supplies the AIR-T with 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32 GB of eMMC 5.1, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The Xilinx Artix-7 provides 75k logic cells. The FPGA interfaces with the Analog Devices AD9371 (PDF) dual RF transceiver designed for 300 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies. The AD9371 features 2x RX and 2x TX channels at 100 MHz for each channel, as well as auxiliary observation and sniffer RX channels.

The AIR-T is further equipped with a SATA port and a microSD slot loaded with the Ubuntu stack, as well as GbE, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and 4K-ready HDMI ports. You also get DIO, an external LO input, a PPS and 10 MHz reference input, and a power supply. It typically runs on 22 W, or as little as 14 W with reduced GPU usage. Other features include 4x MCX-to-SMA cables and an optional enclosure.

Further information

The Artificial Intelligence Radio – Transceiver (AIR-T) is available through Aug. 14 for $4,995 on Crowd Supply — at a 10 percent discount from retail — with shipments due at the end of November. More information may be found on the AIR-T Crowd Supply page and the Deepwave Digital website.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on July 18..

Deepwave Digital | www.deepwavedigital.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.

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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.

Non-isolated Up Converters Support High-Performance GPUs

Vicor has announced a 12 V to 48 V non-isolated up converter to support 48 V high-performance GPUs in data centers that are still relying on legacy 12 V power distribution. The 2317 NBM converts 12 V to 48 V with over 98% peak efficiency, 750 W continuous and 1 kW peak power in a 23 mm x 17 mm x 7.4mm surface-mount SM-ChiP package. The NBM (NBM2317S14B5415T00) provides a complete solution with no external input filter or bulk capacitors required. By switching at 2 MHz with ZVS and ZCS, the NBM provides low output impedance and Megahertz-fast transient response to dynamic loads. The NBM incorporates hot-swap and inrush current limiting.

The NBM supports state-of-the-art 48 V input GPUs using Power-on-Package (“PoP”) Modular Current Multipliers (“MCMs”) driven from a 48 V node sourcing a small fraction (1/48th) of the GPU current. Current multiplication overcomes the power delivery boundaries imposed by traditional 12 V systems standing in the way of higher bandwidth and connectivity.

The Vicor Power-on-Package modules build upon Factorized Power Architecture (FPA) systems deployed in high-performance computers and large-scale data centers. FPA provides efficient power distribution and direct conversion from 48 V to 1 V for GPUs, CPUs and ASICs demanding up to 1,000 A. By deploying current multiplication in close proximity to high-current Artificial Intelligence (AI) processors, PoP MCMs enable higher performance and system efficiency.

Vicor | www.vicorpower.com

 

SMARC Module Features Hexa-Core i.MX8 QuadMax

By Eric Brown

iWave has unveiled a rugged, wireless enabled SMARC module with 4 GB LPDDR4 and dual GbE controllers that runs Linux or Android on NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax SoC with 2x Cortex-A72, 4x -A53, 2x -M4F and 2x GPU cores.

iW-RainboW-G27M (front)

iWave has posted specs for an 82 mm x 50 mm, industrial temperature “iW-RainboW-G27M” SMARC 2.0 module that builds on NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax system-on-chip. The i.MX8 QuadMax was announced in Oct. 2016 as the higher end model of an automotive focused i.MX8 Quad family.

Although the lower-end, quad-core, Cortex-A53 i.MX8M SoC was not fully announced until after the hexa-core Quad, we’ve seen far more embedded boards based on the
i.MX8M , including a recent Seco SM-C12

iW-RainboW-G27M (back)

SMARC module. The only other i.MX8 Quad based product we’ve seen is Toradex’s QuadMax driven Apalis iMX8 module. The Apalis iMX8 was announced a year ago, but is still listed as “coming soon.”

 

 

i.MX8 Quad block diagram (dashed lines indicate model-specific features) (click image to enlarge)

 

Like Rockchip’s RK3399, NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax features dual high-end Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. NXP also offers a similar i.MX8 QuadPlus design with only one Cortex-A72 core.

The QuadMax clock rates are lower than on the RK3399, which clocks to 1.8 GHz (A72) and 1.2 GHz (A53). Toradex says the Apalis iMX8’s -A72 and -A53 cores will clock to 1.6 GHz and 1.2 GHz, respectively.

Close-up of i.MX8 QuadMax on iW-RainboW-G27M

Whereas the i.MX8M has one 266 MHz Cortex-M4F microcontroller, the Quad SoCs have two. A HIFI4 DSP is also onboard, along with a dual-core Vivante GC7000LiteXS/VX GPU, which is alternately referred to as being two GPUs in one or having a split GPU design.

iWave doesn’t specifically name these coprocessors except to list features including a “4K H.265 decode and 1080p H.264 enc/dec capable VPU, 16-Shader 3D (Vec4), and Enhanced Vision Capabilities (via GPU).” The SoC is also said to offer a “dual failover-ready display controller.” The CPUs, meanwhile, are touted for their “full chip hardware virtualization capabilities.”

Inside the iW-RainboW-G27M

Like iWave’s SMARC 2.0 form factor Snapdragon 820 SOM, the iW-RainboW-G27M supports Linux and Android, in this case running Android Nougat (7.0) or higher. (Toradex’s Apalis iMX8 supports Linux, and also supports FreeRTOS running on the Cortex-M4F MCUs.)

Like Toradex, iWave is not promoting the automotive angle that was originally pushed by NXP. iWave’s module is designed to “offer maximum performance with higher efficiency for complex embedded application of consumer, medical and industrial embedded computing applications,” says iWave.

Like the QuadMax based Apalis iMX8, as well as most of the i.MX8M products we’ve seen, the iW-RainboW-G27M supports up to 4 GB LPDDR4 RAM and up to 16 GB eMMC. iWave notes that the RAM and eMMC are “expandable,” but does not say to what capacities. There’s also a microSD slot and 256 MB of optional QSPI flash.

Whereas Apalis iMX8 has a single GbE controller, iWave’s COM has two. It similarly offers onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (4.1). The Microchip ATWILC3000-MR110CA module, which juts out a bit on one side, is listed by Digi-Key as 802.11b/g/n, but iWave has it as 802.11ac.

Interfaces expressed via the SMARC edge connector include 2x GbE, 2x USB 3.0 host (4-port hub), 4x USB 2.0 host, and USB 2.0 OTG. Additional SMARC I/O includes 3x UART (2x with CTS & RTS), 2x CAN, 2x I2C, 12x GPIO, and single PCIe, SATA, debug UART, SD, SPI and QSPI

Media features include an HDMI/DP transmitter, dual-channel LVDS or MIPI-DSI, and an SSI/I2S audio interface. iWave also lists HDMI, 2x LVDS, SPDIF, and ESAI separately under “expansion connector interfaces.” Other expansion I/O is said to include MLB, CAN and GPIO.

The 5 V module supports -40 to 80°C temperatures. There is no mention of a carrier board.

Further information

No pricing or availability was listed for the iW-RainboW-G27M, but a form is available for requesting a quote. More information may be found on iWave’s iW-RainboW-G27M product page.

iWave | www.iwavesystems.com

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 13.

April Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The April issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. And we’ve got a healthy serving of embedded electronics articles for you. Here’s a sneak peak.

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

 

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

NAVIGATING THE INTERNET-OF-THINGS

IoT: From Gateway to Cloud
In this follow on to our March “IoT: Device to Gateway” feature, this time we look at technologies and solutions for the gateway to cloud side of IoT.  Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines the tools and services available to get a cloud-connected IoT implementation up and running.

Texting and IoT Embedded Devices (Part 2)
In Part 1, Jeff Bachiochi laid the groundwork for describing a project involving texting. He puts that into action this, showing how to create messages on his Espressif System’s ESP8266EX-based device to be sent to an email account and end up with those messages going as texts to a cell phone.

Internet of Things Security (Part 2)
In this next part of his article series on IoT security, Bob Japenga takes a look at side-channel attacks. What are they? How much of a threat are they? And how can we prevent them?

Product Focus: 32-Bit Microcontrollers
As the workhorse of today’s embedded systems, 32-bit microcontrollers serve a wide variety of embedded applications—including the IoT. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative 32-bit MCU products.

GRAPHICS, VISION AND DISPLAYS

Graphics, Video and Displays
Thanks to advances in displays and innovations in graphics ICs, embedded systems can now routinely feature sophisticated graphical user interfaces. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child dives into the latest technology trends and product developments in graphics, video and displays.

Color Recognition and Segmentation in Real-time
Vision systems used to require big, multi-board systems—but not anymore. Learn how two Cornell undergraduates designed a hardware/software system that accelerates vision-based object recognition and tracking using an FPGA SoC. They made a min manufacturing line to demonstrate how their system can accurately track and categorize manufactured candies carried along a conveyor belt.

SPECIFICATIONS, QUALIFICATIONS AND MORE

Component tolerance
We perhaps take for granted sometimes that the tolerances of our electronic components fit the needs of our designs. In this article, Robert Lacoste takes a deep look into the subject of tolerances, using the simple resistor as an example. He goes through the math to help you better understand accuracy and drift along with other factors.

Understanding the Temperature Coefficient of Resistance
Temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR) is the calculation of a relative change of resistance per degree of temperature change. Even though it’s an important spec, different resistor manufacturers use different methods for defining TCR. In this article, Molly Bakewell Chamberlin examines TCR and its “best practice” interpretations using Vishay Precision Group’s vast experience in high-precision resistors.

Designing of Complex Systems
While some commercial software gets away without much qualification during development, the situation is very different when safety in involved. For aircraft, vehicles or any complex system where failure unacceptable, this means adhering to established standards throughout the development life cycle. In this article, George Novacek tackles these issues and examines some of these standards namely ARP4754.

AND MORE IN-DEPTH PROJECT ARTICLES

Build a Marginal Oscillator Proximity Switch
A damped or marginal oscillator will switch off when energy is siphoned from its resonant LC tank circuit. In his article, Dev Gualtieri presents a simple marginal oscillator that detects proximity to a small steel screw or steel plate. It lights an LED, and the LED can be part of an optically-isolated solid-state relay.

Obsolescence-Proof Your UI (Part 1)
After years of frustration dealing with graphical interface technologies that go obsolete, Steve Hendrix decided there must be a better way. Knowing that web browser technology is likely to be with us for a long while, he chose to build a web server that could perform common operations that he needed on the IEEE-488 bus. He then built it as a product available for sale to others—and it is basically obsolescence-proof.

 

 

Xeon D and NVIDIA GPUs Share COMe Board

Connect Tech has announced the release of its new COM Express Type 7 + GPU Embedded System. This system combines Intel Xeon D (Server Class) x86 processors with high-end NVIDIA Quadro and Tesla GPUs, all in a small form factor embedded system. This V7G system is not a replacement to Connect Tech’s VXG Type 6 systems, but rather a next-generation platform that incorporates the new COM Express Type 7 PICMG standard and employs 10 Gbit Ethernet connectivity and expanded PCI Express interfaces.
Embedded system developers can choose from highest-end, highest-performance models or from low-powered models all ideal for high-end encode/decode video applications or GPGPU CUDA processing, Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence applications. This embedded computer exposes all of the latest generation interconnect including: 10 Gbit Ethernet and Gbit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and 2.0, HDMI, SATA III, GPIO, I2C, M.2, Mini PCIe. The system uses PC-style connectors for ease of cabling and packaging.

Connect Tech | www.connecttech.com

3.5″ SBC Serves up Skylake Processors

COMMELL has announced its LS-37K 3.5-inch embedded mini-board based on Intel 6th/7th generation FCLGA1151 Skylake / Kaby Lake Core processor family and Xeon E3-1200 v5 processor. The Skylake PC is claimed to deliver 30 percent better performance than a PC base on Ivy Bridge architecture, 20 percent better performance than a PC based on Haswell, and 10 percent better performance than a Broadwell PC.

LS-37K-3D8The LS-37K desktop 3.5-inch mini-board platform supports DDR4 memory DIMM 1866/2133 MHz up to 16 GB. The platform is based on Intel HD530 (Skylake) HD630, (Kaby Lake) and HD P530 (Xeon E3-1200v5). For graphics, the Skylake GPU offers 24 execution units (EUs) clocked at up to 1150Mhz (depending on the CPU model). The revised video engine now decodes H.265/HEVC completely in hardware and thereby much more efficiently than before, and HD Graphics 630 GPU is largely identical to the 530 found in Skylake, The only real upgrade here is the HEVC and VP9 support. LS-37K Displays can be connected via 1 VGA, 1 LVDS, 1 DVI, 1 HDMI and one DP port, up to three displays can be controlled simultaneously.

LS-37K offers lots of features including high-speed data transfer interfaces such as 4 x USB3.0 and 2 x SATAIII, equipped with dual Gigabit Ethernet (One of the dual LAN with iAMT 11.0 supported), and comes with PS/2 port, 5 x RS232 and 1 x RS232/422/485, 4 x USB2.0, Intel® High Definition Audio, and 1 Mini PCIe socket (supporting mSATA) and 9 to 30 VDC input.

COMMELL | www.commell.com

Current Multipliers Improve Processor Performance

Vicor has announced the introduction of Power-on-Package modular current multipliers for high performance, high current, CPU/GPU/ASIC (“XPU”) processors. By freeing up XPU socket pins and eliminating losses associated with delivery of current from the motherboard to the XPU, Vicor’s Power-on-Package solution enables higher current delivery for maximum XPU performance.

In response to the ever-increasing demands of high performance applications–artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data mining—XPU operating currents have risen to Power-on-Package-Enables-Higher-Performance-for-Artificial-Intelligence-Processorshundreds of Amperes. Point-of-Load power architectures in which high current power delivery units are placed close to the XPU, mitigate power distribution losses on the motherboard but do nothing to lessen interconnect challenges between the XPU and the motherboard. With increasing XPU currents, the remaining short distance to the XPU—the “last inch”—consisting of motherboard conductors and interconnects within the XPU socket has become a limiting factor in XPU performance and total system efficiency.

Vicor’s new Power-on-Package Modular Current Multipliers (“MCMs”) fit within the XPU package to expand upon the efficiency, density, and bandwidth advantages of Vicor’s Factorized Power Architecture, already established in 48 V Direct-to-XPU motherboard applications by early adopters. As current multipliers, MCMs mounted on the XPU substrate under the XPU package lid, or outside of it, are driven at a fraction (around 1/64th) of the XPU current from an external Modular Current Driver (MCD). The MCD, located on the motherboard, drives MCMs and accurately regulates the XPU voltage with high bandwidth and low noise. The solution profiled today, consisting of two MCMs and one MCD, enables delivery of up to 320 A of continuous current to the XPU, with peak current capability of 640 A.

With MCMs mounted directly to the XPU substrate, the XPU current delivered by the MCMs does not traverse the XPU socket. And, because the MCD drives MCMs at a low current, power from the MCD can be efficiently routed to MCMs reducing interconnect losses by 10X even though 90% of the XPU pins typically required for power delivery are reclaimed for expanded I/O functionality. Additional benefits include a simplified motherboard design and a substantial reduction in the minimum bypass capacitance required to keep the XPU within its voltage limits.

Multiple MCMs may be operated in parallel for increased current capability. The small (32mm x 8mm x 2.75mm) package and low noise characteristics of the MCM make it suitable for co-packaging with noise-sensitive, high performance ASICs, GPUs and CPUs. Operating temperature range is -40°C to +125°C. These devices represent the first in a portfolio of Power-on-Package solutions scalable to various XPU needs.

Vicor | www.vicorpower.com

Arduino-Based Hand-Held Gaming System

gameduino2-WEBJames Bowman, creator of the Gameduino game adapter for microcontrollers, recently made an upgrade to the system adding a Future Technology Devices International (FTDI) FT800 chip to drive the graphics. Associate Editor Nan Price interviewed James about the system and its capabilities.

NAN: Give us some background. Where do you live? Where did you go to school? What did you study?

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James Bowman

 JAMES: I live on the California coast in a small farming village between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. I moved here from London 17 years ago. I studied computing at Imperial College London.

NAN: What types of projects did you work on when you were employed by Silicon Graphics, 3dfx Interactive, and NVIDIA?

JAMES: Always software and hardware for GPUs. I began in software, which led me to microcode, which led to hardware. Before you know it you’ve learned Verilog. I was usually working near the boundary of software and hardware, optimizing something for cost, speed, or both.

NAN: How did you come up with the idea for the Gameduino game console?

JAMES: I paid for my college tuition by working as a games programmer for Nintendo and Sega consoles, so I was quite familiar with that world. It seemed a natural fit to try to give the Arduino some eye-catching color graphics. Some quick experiments with a breadboard and an FPGA confirmed that the idea was feasible.

NAN: The Gameduino 2 turns your Arduino into a hand-held modern gaming system. Explain the difference from the first version of Gameduino—what upgrades/additions have been made?

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The Gameduino2 uses a Future Technology Devices International chip to drive its graphics

JAMES: The original Gameduino had to use an FPGA to generate graphics, because in 2011 there was no such thing as an embedded GPU. It needs an external monitor and you had to supply your own inputs (e.g., buttons, joysticks, etc.). The Gameduino 2 uses the new Future Technology Devices International (FTDI) FT800 chip, which drives all the graphics. It has a built-in color resistive touchscreen and a three-axis accelerometer. So it is a complete game system—you just add the CPU.

NAN: How does the Arduino factor into the design?

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An Arduino, Ethernet adapter, and a Gameduino

 JAMES: Arduino is an interesting platform. It is 5 V, believe it or not, so the design needs a level shifter. Also, the Arduino is based on an 8-bit microcontroller, so the software stack needs to be carefully built to provide acceptable performance. The huge advantage of the Arduino is that the programming environment—the IDE, compiler, and downloader—is used and understood by hundreds of thousands of people.

 NAN: Is it easy or possible to customize the Gameduino 2?

 JAMES: I would have to say no. The PCB itself is entirely surface mount technology (SMT) and all the ICs are QFNs—they have no accessible pins! This is a long way from the DIP packages of yesterday, where you could change the circuit by cutting tracks and soldering onto the pins.

I needed a microscope and a hot air station to make the Gameduino2 prototype. That is a long way from the “kitchen table” tradition of the Arduino. Fortunately the Arduino’s physical design is very customization-friendly. Other devices can be stacked up, adding networking, hi-fi sound, or other sensor inputs.

 NAN: The Gameduino 2 project is on Kickstarter through November 7, 2013. Why did you decide to use Kickstarter crowdfunding for this project?

 JAMES: Kickstarter is great for small-scale inventors. The audience it reaches also tends to be interested in novel, clever things. So it’s a wonderful way to launch a small new product.

NAN: What’s next for Gameduino 2? Will the future see a Gameduino 3?

 JAMES: Product cycles in the Arduino ecosystem are quite long, fortunately, so a Gameduino 3 is distant. For the Gameduino 2, I’m writing a book, shipping the product, and supporting the developer community, which will hopefully make use of it.