Software updates are easy to roll out, but hardware upgrades on custom designs often require a major investment of time and money. A modular approach can speed up this process. In this article, congatec’s Dan Demers explains how.
Make slow progress or speed ahead with buy-in?
By Dan Demers, Director of Sales and Marketing – Americas, congatec
We are used to receiving software updates on-the-fly today. So why not utilize converged embedded computing platforms to upgrade our hardware? This would enable us to take direct advantage of the rapid development cycles of the computing, vision and AI industries.
There are plenty of examples on how to upgrade the hardware during running series production. In the medical sector, for instance, where medical devices even require certification. But it appears that some system developers have not yet learned how to consistently build computing core upgrades into their product development.
This is because full custom designs are still quite common. The integration of expensive navigation systems by premium vehicle manufacturers is a bad example of this. Although pretty and expensive, they are often much slower than the driver’s considerably cheaper mobile phone. Before the computer technology that’s installed in the vehicle gets used by the customer, it is usually already obsolete. Market acceptance for such monolithic solutions is therefore dwindling noticeably.
The problem of these manufacturers is anchored in the design principles of mass production, where every cent matters, but no attention is paid to the innovation cycle demanded by users. This has fatal consequences: If the computing part is entirely custom designed, an upgrade will in many cases require a redesign, where the ability to reuse blocks of the previous generation is limited. So all in all, we’re talking about a major investment to always deploy the latest computer technology in an application.
But there’s another way: To avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time, the Computer-on-Module concept was developed at the end of the 90s. Modular approaches had existed before then, but it is only since the Computer-on-Module concept emerged, that modules stopped being proprietary and became available as standardized components from numerous providers.
congatec offers SFF Computer-on-Modules for all leading standards: SMARC 2.0, Qseven, COM Express Mini and COM Express Compact modules.
Computer-on-Modules are available in different designs. For low-power CPUs such as Intel Atom, AMD G-Series or the ARM i.MX6 and i.MX8 platforms from NXP, the Qseven and SMARC Computer-on-Module standards are particularly suitable. For higher computing power and interface demands, COM Express is the best standard. COM Express Type 6 modules support fast CPUs, like the AMD V1000 or the latest Intel Core processors.
Type 7 was defined for edge server processors and 10 Gbit Ethernet support; however, in true server fashion, it no longer supports any video interfaces. The upcoming PICMG COM-HPC standard will support even faster interfaces. The specification is due to be published in 2019, with first products expected in 2020.
With Server-on-Modules a modular approach is even suitable for the development and constant update of high-performance microservers by just exchanging the modules. This significantly reduce the efforts and cost connected for upgrades.
All in all, Computer-on-Modules are an ideal and easy way to equip machines and devices with the latest processor technology. So anyone who wants to use converged system platforms as part of their closed-loop engineering, will find that Computer-on-Modules are a perfect platform for performance upgrades. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t implement a full custom design when it comes to mass production. But here too, getting the module supplier to implement a fusion of modules and carrier board works significantly better than the OEM developing everything from scratch.
The Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences is developing a modular software framework to make it easier to program robots. The goal is to provide software components that can be used universally, for instance to swap robotic gripping arms from different manufacturers as required to generate new robotics solutions via plug and play. The team at Ulm University relies on congatec to address the need for highly scalable and standardized embedded computing hardware.
Marketing Engineer, congatec
Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel
Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences
Today’s modern robots are highly complex constructions with numerous subsystems. They use manipulators with various axis and drive units, at the ends of which specific tools, gripper systems or measuring instruments are installed. Additional sensor systems are needed for controlling the kinematics as well as for object and position recognition, for example in pick-and-place applications. With the advent of autonomous and collaborative robots—sharing the same workspace with humans—many more tasks and building blocks are added. Examples include localizing and navigating mobile robots in industrial settings and safe man-machine interaction. In Industry 4.0 environments, an M2M interface to the surrounding machines and systems is also required. The goal is mutual task coordination. All of these different robot types—from autonomous to cooperative to collaborative—require enormously powerful software components and high-performance embedded systems.
Collaborative robotics needs hardware and software components that can be modularly assembled to suit their task. There should be minimal to no programming effort—it should be enough for the modules to be parameterized. (Source: Zentilia | Dreamstime.com (ID 18864362)
High market demand for smart robots
Market demand for smart robots will grow rapidly in the coming years. For example, the market for autonomous robot systems is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.7% until 2023, while the new market segment of collaborative robots is due to grow twice as much at an average 59% per annum. OEMs are under immense pressure to develop and to bring such new systems to market maturity as quickly as possible in order to participate in this high market growth. But the software development is a particularly great challenge for OEMs, system integrators and users: More subsystems have to be integrated into the already complex autonomous robotics solutions if they are to become collaborative and/or cooperative.
The Software Challenge
Today, the software for robots is frequently still implemented as a closed system— usually with individually tailored x86 or Arm hardware including ASICs or FPGAs. Often, the software is even individually tailored for each robot making reuse difficult. All tasks such as manipulator control, navigation, machine vision, task coordination and HMI are programmed as a unit. It is therefore currently nearly impossible to exchange software components even for the most frequently required functions or to use them on another hardware platform. This means that for every new design, the robotics software has to be re-implemented. This is both error-prone and time-consuming, and can significantly delay the rollout of much-needed innovative solutions—not to mention the hassle this causes operators who have to program each robot initially for its specific task.
Modular and Reusable
The development team of the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences under Professor Schlegel is now replacing this closed system approach, which perpetually creates new software projects for the system integrator and user, with a modular software approach that divides the complex overall robot system into several independent functional units, and then in a second step specifies the interaction between the individual units via fully and transparently defined interfaces. This concept, which is called SmartSoft, is now being expanded and widely marketed at the European level (EU H2020 project “RobMoSys – Composable Models and Software for Robotic Systems”) and national level (BMWi PAiCE project “SeRoNet – a platform for the joint development of service robot solutions”) in cooperation with partners from industry and research.
Essentially, this approach aims to make it possible to assemble robotic systems from fully developed and tested modular software building blocks. This allows software developers to focus on individual function modules without having to consider the internals of the other components. More importantly, it makes it possible to combine functions such as the cooperative or collaborative elements as well as the logic for specific manipulators and a lot more in a modular way – even across manufacturers. Ultimately, this also reduces the effort required for system integrators and end users to make customer-specific adaptations, and will significantly drive the widespread adoption of robotics.
So, let’s assume you have a manipulator from company A, combined with a chassis from manufacturer B, and a stereoscopic machine vision system from manufacturer C. The dedicated control software, for instance for use in intralogistics applications, is then easily assembled from the ready-made software components thanks to the high level of abstraction and requires only minor adjustments. This application is by no means a dream of the future, but already being tested in the real world. For example, the Ulm team has already implemented the service robotics duo Larry and Robotino, which, in a pharmaceutical intralogistics application for Transpharm Logistik GmbH, assembles drug packages from individual trays completely autonomously and takes them to a specified delivery point. In a slightly different configuration, the two robots have autonomously taken coffee orders and delivered them to the customer’s table. Thanks to the ready-made, freely combinable software components, the redesign took only a few hours. The video to see the two robots in action is posted here:
Containers with Clearly-Defined Interfaces
To enable virtually any assembly of elements, the team from the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences has developed a software model with individual service-oriented components and a model-driven open-source software toolchain for the Eclipse development environment. This environment provides component developers with tools that they can use to build their own code for each functional unit and then secure those algorithms by automatically generated component containers. These containers communicate with other containers based on uniform communication interfaces. In addition, the wrapping also protects the component developer’s IP. The team has already developed several such functional modules and makes them available for use in own projects. These include navigation modules, machine vision, HMI, manipulator control and task coordination, to name just a few examples. As a unifying communication interface, SmartSoft also relies on OPC UA. This allows manufacturers to focus on specific containers and build their core competencies here. Customers benefit from a much more flexible offer.
The SmartMDSD Toolchain allows component developers to develop software components for individual functional units that can be combined as required and reused in new robot designs. The underlying hardware should therefore be flexibly scalable.
Generic Embedded Hardware Instead of Proprietary Designs
For the logic hardware, the Ulm team uses x86 technology to decouple the software development as far as possible from any specific hardware. With the appropriate glue logic, such an approach is particularly easy to implement with x86 technology also as far as the later migration of such systems is concerned.
Embedded x86 hardware is also particularly apt in this context because of the high standardization and comprehensive documentation. The form factors are standardized not only as regards dimensions but also in terms of the application programming interface. This facilitates replacement of hardware – provided the boards comply with the eAPI specification of the PICMG or SGET’s UIC standard. Under those circumstances, it is even possible to vary freely between different form factors such as motherboards and Computer-on-Modules depending on the requirements of the application without having to significantly change the way of accessing the hardware during the migration. One supplier who attaches great importance to this standardization and its documentation as well as the simplest possible hardware integration is congatec, whose products the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences uses in its projects.
“Next to basic requirements such as maximum computing power, energy efficiency and reliability, we also attach great importance to high standardization and the capability to migrate universally,” explains Matthias Lutz from Ulm University of Applied Sciences. “Every additional abstraction level in the software requires additional computing performance, so we’re currently working with powerful dual-core technology. A standardized approach to board components and GPIOs to control the robotics modules also gives us the abstraction required for independence at the embedded computing level.”
The autonomous picking robot Larry with congatec conga-IC175 Mini-ITX carrier board: High computing power, little heat waste, small form factor and highest reliability are the key factors here.
The choice ultimately fell on the fully industrial Mini-ITX carrier board conga-IC175. That’s because the standardized Mini-ITX form factor offers many advantages for developing the prototypes of the innovative software components into real systems: It already integrates all interfaces on a standardized board, and congatec lets you realize the power supply via standard ATX power supplies, industrial 12 V feed-in, or SMART batteries, which is essential for mobile robots such as Robotino and Larry. Extensions can also be implemented quickly and efficiently via PCIe expansion cards. The board is highly energy efficient and uses robust embedded components, so it can be operated without expensive cooling.
Evolution of embedded computing hardware from congatec for smart robots: Depending on the design concept and lot sizes in the series, OEMs can choose either embedded Mini-ITX motherboards (1), standardized carrier boards (here Mini-ITX) with Computer-on-Modules (2), customized carrier boards with Computer-on-Modules (3), or full custom designs (4), which congatec can implement comparatively quickly and easily on the basis of module upgrades.
Future commercial robot designs from Ulm will be implemented on Computer-on-Modules. But regardless of whether it’s a Mini-ITX motherboard, module with standard Mini-ITX carrier, module and individual carrier, or full-custom design: It is the Total cost of Ownership (TCO) that ultimately matters to OEMs, and when using modular software this is also determined by the software support of the hardware. To make it even easier to integrate more functionalities in the future, comprehensive support for real-time hypervisor technology can bring added benefits. This will give customers the option to integrate additional functionalities, such as their own IoT gateway, without having to use a dedicated hardware platform, which saves hardware costs.
“We see clear benefits in such modular approaches as they mirror the modular approach of our software. In this respect, it is very interesting to see that with the acquisition of Real-Time Systems congatec now has virtually direct access to the hypervisor technology of these robotics and automation experts,” concludes Lutz.
Coupled with the Technical Solution Center (TSC), in which congatec consolidates all its OEM services, this results in a complete package for customers such as the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences or Transpharm Logistik GmbH.
Intralogistics Application at Transpharm Logistik GmbH Picking tasks are performed by a heterogeneous robot fleet in an intralogistics application at congatec’s industrial partner Transpharm Logistik GmbH. The autonomous picking robot Larry is equipped with a UR5 manipulator module and uses a Segway chassis. The transport robot Robotino has a conveyor belt instead of a manipulator to take the picking robot to any point. Orders are received directly from the warehouse management system via WLAN. The fleet management system selects two picking robots, which then execute the order. The application is based on results from the BMBF project “LogiRob – Multi-Robot Transport System in a Shared Human-Machine Workspace” and “ZAFH Intralogistics – Collaborative Systems to Increase Intralogistics Flexibility” (Baden-Württemberg and EU ERDF 2014-2020).
About the Authors
Zeljko Loncaric is Marketing Engineer, congatec. Prior to joining congatec mid-2010, he held various positions with international companies in product management, marketing and sales marketing in Germany and Australia. Zeljko holds an MBA in business management and a degree in Media Technology from the University of Deggendorf.
Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel is in the ,Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences. Christian Schlegel (45) has been a professor at the Faculty of Computer Science at Ulm University of Applied Sciences since 2004. Schlegel, who received the Science Prize of the City of Ulm in 2010, is the coordinator of the “Service Robotics” joint project.
THIS ARTICLE IS SPONSORED CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
congatec is a leading supplier of industrial computer modules using the standard form factors COM Express, Qseven and SMARC as well as single board computers and EDM services. www.congatec.com
This article appeared in the September 350 issue of Circuit Cellar Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!
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.
ADLINK Technology has announced two new COM Express Type 2 computer-on-module, based on 6th and 7th Gen Intel Core Processors (formerly “Skylake” and “Kaby Lake”). The new Express-SL2 and Express-KL2 (shown) modules support all Type 2 related legacy I/Os and thereby allow embedded systems developers to to extend the production life of existing Type 2 based systems for at least another 10 years. The early COM Express Type 2 specification, supporting PATA IDE and PCI-bus, has been one of the most successful computer-on-module form factors since the PICMG COM.0 form factor’s inception in 2005, says ADLINK. Around 8 years ago more modern interfaces, such as HDMI and DisplayPort, appeared, and as a result, most new projects nowadays have transferred to the newer COM Express Type 6 pinout.
Type 2 however remains indispensable for many system integrators and OEMs that have ongoing production systems with carriers based on the COM Express Type 2 pinout. With the recent discontinuation of the hugely popular 3rd Gen Intel Core Processor (formerly “Ivy Bridge”), many system developers are in need of a new Type 2 module to keep existing systems up and running. They are in need of a drop-in solution at both hardware and software levels (Intel-to-Intel) with equivalent or improved performance and a better thermal envelope to simplify their transition. The new Express-SL2 and Express-KL2 Type 2 modules solve this problem.
The new Express-SL2 and Express-KL2 feature the 6th and 7th Gen Intel Core Processors (as well as Celeron and Xeon options) and support the Type 2 pinout with legacy interfaces such as PCI-bus, PATA, and VGA. In addition to hardware compatibility, the Express-SL2 and Express-KL2 support diverse operating systems including Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, WES 7, Embedded Linux through the industry standard Yocto Project (https://github.com/adlink ), Ubuntu LTS and CentOS. With legacy standard and essential software support, the Express-SL2 and Express-KL2 meet customer needs for a facilitated system migration with performance enhancement. The Express-SL2/KL2 is available in both commercial (0°C to 60°C) and Extreme Rugged (-40°C to +85°C) versions.
PICMG has announced that it has recently formed the COM-HPC technical subcommittee. It is actively developing a new COM (Computer-On-Module) specification to meet the increasing requirements of edge computing applications. Well suited for a wide range of applications, PICMG’s popular COM Express has been adopted worldwide and is anticipated to grow and thrive over the next decade.
According to multiple research reports, the computer-on-module (COM) market is expanding rapidly and is expected to reach over $1 billion by 2022. The technical requirements to bring server-level computing to the edge have driven the need to create new open specifications to complement COM Express. PICMG members have long been at the forefront of designing and supplying edge computing solutions and are collaborating to meet the requirements of applications well into the future.
PICMG says the new COM specification under development is in parallel to existing COM Express efforts. This effort is intended to complement rather than be a replacement for COM Express The subcommittee will develop a next-generation COM standard and an accompanying Carrier Design Guide. The new specification is expected to support two different module types: one for high-performance computing, the other for embedded computing. Initial plans include incorporating a new high-speed connector able to support existing and future interfaces such as PCI Express Gen 5, and 100/200 Gbit Ethernet. The specification will target medium to high-performance server-class processors.
Key COM-HPC Goals:
Support for PCIe Gen 5.0 (32 Gb/s)
64 PCIe Lanes
25 Gbit Ethernet per signal pair to support 100 Gbit Ethernet
Update of other interfaces to latest technology levels
The goal is to have specifications ratified in early 2020. The team has elected Christian Eder of congatec as committee chair. Kontron’s Stefan Milnor is the technical editor and Dylan Lang of Samtec is the secretary.
“COM-HPC will become a very high-performance module specification,” said committee chair Christian Eder. “It is not a replacement for COM Express; it extends the computer modules to a completely new level. It will serve as a transition from Computer-On-Module to Server-On-Module.”
So far, this initiative includes twenty active member participating companies: ADLINK, Advantech, Amphenol, Bielefeld University, congatec, Elma, Emerson, ept, FASTWEL, HEITEC, Intel, Kontron, MEN Mikro, MSC Technologies, N.A.T., Samtec, SECO, TE Connectivity, Trenz Electronic and VersaLogic.
The PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG), a not-for-profit consortium of companies and organizations that collaboratively develop open specifications will have a booth at Sensors Expo (#1642) to promote its concepts for a new IIoT specification. Live demonstrations will be performed to illustrate PICMG’s approach to connect sensor and the controller endpoints using new Internet of Things (IoT) methodologies.
Doug Sandy, CTO of PICMG, will hold a tutorial on Thursday June 28th in the Live Embedded Theater on the subject “Making Sense of Industrial IoT”. Part of the PICMG tutorial and booth live demonstrations will be to illustrate RESTful API “put, get, delete” commands for the connected sensor/computer interaction. PICMG has a working agreement with the DMTF to utilize the well-known Redfish APIs. The new PICMG specification will intend to develop a meta-data model that encompasses a breadth of individual data models for IoT. The booth will include information on a concept for a developer’s kit geared to help legacy sensors and PLCs become “IoT enabled”. PICMG will also have details on its existing embedded market open specifications for high-performance industrial computing.
In late January every year, I always enjoy attending the Embedded Tech Trends (ETT) event where a selection of 15—give or take—sponsor companies from the embedded board industry get together to confab with the embedded industry’s technology journalists. Held this year in Austin, Texas, it was a great opportunity to kick off the year with TED-talk style presentations from the vendors, and one-on-one meetings between us in the press and the sponsoring vendors. These companies are the leading makers of board- and box-level embedded computers designed for the more rugged end of the embedded spectrum—everything from transportation to factory automation to defense.
With Circuit Cellar increasing its coverage of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) in 2018 and beyond, naturally the IoT part of the discussion stood out or me—and there was good representation of that. In his presentation at ETT, Jarvis Wenger of MEN Micro exemplified the idea of IoT in a rugged environment. His talk described a high-performance edge computing system for an IoT oil field implementation. This IoT system had to function reliably even under the most adverse conditions and is currently in use on oil platforms.
The CompactPCI-based server platform is installed directly on the drilling sites and communicates with the operator’s data processing center in real time over GSM. The system relays all the data relating to the position of the drill head, resistance in the drilling mud, as well as general function and error analyses.
The server makes use of CompactPCI standard components equipped with a solid conduction-cooled aluminum frame. The components, in turn, are encased in an IP64-protected housing, also with thermally conductive properties. The transmission of data from the server platforms to the drilling sites and onward to the data processing center is encrypted by security protocols and corresponds to an end-to-end encryption.
The presentation from PICMG (PCI Industrial Manufacturers Group) at ETT focused directly on Industrial IoT as a theme. My friend Jessica Isquith, President of PICMG, gave the PICMG talk. She described how two of the primary challenges to the adoption of IIoT are a lack of standardization and the need to accommodate the legacy installed base of technologies. The need for standards, she emphasized, is a key need but one that falls right into PICMG’s strengths as a creator of open standards. Jessica described how there’s excellent standards work already being done to facilitate IIoT, but gaps exist and collaboration by interested stakeholders is vital. In terms of embedded board form factors, three PICMG standards are very well suited for IIoT: COM Express, CompactPCI Serial and MicroTCA.
Jessica outlined several efforts that PICMG is working on to fill the gaps of IIoT standardization. A standard called Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) Redfish is a growing standard for management in IT and datacenters, but it lacks any schema for industrial-specific devices. With that in mind, PICMG plans to use its capabilities and domain knowledge to craft a meta-data model for IIoT.
Next, Jessica talked about a COM Express IIoT Developer Kit. This hardware kit to be offered by PICMG will include a carrier board with IIoT I/O break-out, examples of metadata models for common sensors and examples of I/O interface for common sensors types. Jessica believes the kit will help accelerate IIoT development and the deployment of IIoT enabled sensors.
Another solution opportunity Jessica described in her talk is a postage-stamp sized embedded board form factor specification. The idea would be a board with “just enough“ I/O and microcontroller-level processing. A postage stamp form factor will allow PICMG to extend its platform support lower into the IIoT hardware stack and enable growth in the smart sensors market. To sum up her presentation, Jessica said that, taken together, all these collaborative PICMG efforts fit into the organizations goal to make 2018 a year of significant success in IIoT.
While IoT—and even IIoT—are broad application areas with many sub-segments, it’s clear that the rugged portion of the IoT has particular challenges. It’s encouraging to see that many embedded computing vendors and organizations like PICMG are committed to help smooth the way forward. The talks mentioned here and all the of the rest of presentations from this year’s ETT are available at www.embeddedtechtrends.com
This appears in the March (332) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine
Not a Circuit Cellar subscriber? Don’t be left out! Sign up today:
Here’s a sneak preview of March 2018 Circuit Cellar:
TECHNOLOGY FOR THE INTERNET-OF-THINGS
IoT: From Device to Gateway
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most dynamic areas of embedded systems design today. This feature focuses on the technologies and products from edge IoT devices up to IoT gateways. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines the wireless technologies, sensors, edge devices and IoT gateway technologies at the center of this phenomenon.
Texting and IoT Embedded Devices
Texting has become a huge part of our daily lives. But can texting be leveraged for use in IoT Wi-Fi devices? Jeff Bachiochi lays the groundwork for describing a project that will involve texting. In this part, he gets into out the details for getting started with a look at Espressif System’s ESP8266EX SoC.
Exploring the ESP32’s Peripheral Blocks What makes an embedded processor suitable as an IoT or home control device? Wi-Fi support is just part of the picture. Brian Millier has done some Wi-Fi projects using the ESP32, so here he shares his insights about the peripherals on the ESP32 and why they’re so powerful.
MICROCONTROLLERS HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE
Designing a Home Cleaning Robot (Part 4) In this final part of his four-part article series about building a home cleaning robot, Nishant Mittal discusses the firmware part of the system and gets into the system’s actual operation. The robot is based on Cypress Semiconductor’s PSoC microcontroller.
Apartment Entry System Uses PIC32 Learn how a Cornell undergraduate built a system that enables an apartment resident to enter when keys are lost or to grant access to a guest when there’s no one home. The system consists of a microphone connected to a Microchip PIC32 MCU that controls a push solenoid to actuate the unlock button.
Posture Corrector Leverages Bluetooth Learn how these Cornell students built a posture corrector that helps remind you to sit up straight. Using vibration and visual cues, this wearable device is paired with a phone app and makes use of Bluetooth and Microchip PIC32 technology.
INTERACTING WITH THE ANALOG WORLD
Product Focus: ADCs and DACs
Makers of analog ICs are constantly evolving their DAC and ADC chips pushing the barriers of resolution and speeds. This new Product Focus section updates readers on this technology and provides a product album of representative ADC and DAC products.
Stepper Motor Waveforms Using inexpensive microcontrollers, motor drivers, stepper motors and other hardware, columnist Ed Nisley built himself a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines. In this article Ed examines how the CNC’s stepper motors perform, then pushes one well beyond its normal limits.
Measuring Acceleration Sensors are a fundamental part of what make smart machines smart. And accelerometers are one of the most important of these. In this article, George Novacek examines the principles behind accelerometers and how the technology works.
SOFTWARE TOOLS AND PROTOTYPING
Trace and Code Coverage Tools
Today it’s not uncommon for embedded devices to have millions of lines of software code. Trace and code coverage tools have kept pace with these demands making it easier for embedded developers to analyze, debug and verify complex embedded software. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in trace and code coverage tools.
Manual Pick-n-Place Assembly Helper Prototyping embedded systems is an important part of the development cycle. In this article, Colin O’Flynn presents an open-source tool that helps you assemble prototype devices by making the placement process even easier.
Here’s a sneak preview of January 2018 Circuit Cellar:
IMPROVING EMBEDDED SYSTEM DESIGNS
Special Feature: Powering Commercial Drones
The amount of power a commercial drone can draw on has a direct effect on how long it can stay flying as well as on what tasks it can perform. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines solar cells, fuel cells and other technology options for powering commercial drones.
FPGA Design: A Fresh Take Although FPGAs are well established technology, many embedded systems developers—particularly those used the microcontroller realm—have never used them before. In this article, Faiz Rahman takes a fresh look a FPGAs for those new to designing them into their embedded systems.
Product Focus: COM Express boards COM Express boards provide a complete computing core that can be upgraded when needed, leaving the application-specific I/O on the baseboard. This brand new Product Focus section updates readers on this technology and provides a product album of representative COM Express products.
TESTING, TESTING, 1, 2, 3
LF Resonator Filter
In Ed Nisley’s November column he described how an Arduino-based tester automatically measures a resonator’s frequency response to produce data defining its electrical parameters. This time he examines the resultsand explains a tester modification to measure the resonator’s response with a variable series capacitance.
Technology Spotlight: 5G Technology and Testing
The technologies that are enabling 5G communications are creating new challenges for embedded system developers. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest digital and analog ICs aimed at 5G and at the test equipment designed to work with 5G technology.
MICROCONTROLLERS IN EVERYTHING
MCU-based Platform Stabilizer
Using an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), two 180-degree rotation servos and a Microchip PCI MCU, three Cornell students implemented a microcontroller-based platform stabilizer. Learn how they used a pre-programmed sensor fusion algorithm and I2C to get the most out of their design.
Designing a Home Cleaning Robot (Part 2)
Continuing on with this four-part article series about building a home cleaning robot, Nishant Mittal this time discusses the mechanical aspect of the design. The robot is based on Cypress Semiconductor’s PSoC microcontroller.
Massage Vest Uses PIC32 MCU Microcontrollers are being used for all kinds of things these days. Learn how three Cornell graduates designed a low-cost massage vest that pairs seamlessly with a custom iOS app. Using the Microchip PIC32 for its brains, the massage vest has sixteen vibration motors that the user can control to create the best massage possible.
AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS:
Five Fault Injection Attacks
Colin O’Flynn returns to the topic of fault injection security attacks. To kick off 2018, he summarizes information about five different fault injection attack stories from 2017—attacks you should be thinking about as an embedded designer.
Money Sorting Machines (Part 2)
In part 1, Jeff Bachiochi delved into the interesting world of money sort machines and their evolution. In part 2, he discusses more details about his coin sorting project. He then looks at a typical bill validator implementation used in vending systems.
Last month George Novacek reviewed the causes and results of electrical overstress (EOS). Picking up where that left off, in this article he looks at how to prevent EOS/ESD induced damage—starting with choosing properly rated components.