September Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The September issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week! This 84-page publication stitches together a fine tapestry of fascinating embedded electronics articles crafted for your reading pleasure.

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

TECHNOLOGY FOR SECURITY, SENSORS & THE IoT

Security Solutions for IoT
By Jeff Child
In this IoT era of connected devices, microcontrollers have begun taking on new roles and gaining new capabilities revolving around embedded security. MCUs are embedding ever-more sophisticated security features into their devices-both on their own and via partnerships with security specialists. Here, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at the latest technology and trends in MCU security.

Electromagnetic Fault Injection: A Closer Look
By Colin O’Flynn
Electromagnetic Fault Injection (EMFI) is a powerful method of inserting faults into embedded devices, but what does this give us? In this article, Colin dives into a little more detail of what sort of effects EMFI has on real devices, and expands upon a few previous articles to demonstrate some attacks on new devices.
 
Product Focus: IoT Gateways
By Jeff Child
IoT gateways are a smart choice to facilitate bidirectional communication between IoT field devices and the cloud. Gateways also provide local processing and storage capabilities for offline services as well as near real-time management and control of edge devices. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative IoT gateways.
 
Comparing Color Sensor ICs
By Kevin Jensen
Driven by demands from mobile phone, display and specialty lighting equipment manufacturers, the need for sophisticated and accurate chip-scale color and spectral sensors has become stronger than ever. In this article, ams’ Kevin Jensen describes the types of optical sensors and detectors. He also provides ideas on evaluating the suitability of each type for specific applications.

PC-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
 
Mini-ITX, Pico-ITX and Nano-ITX Boards
By Jeff Child
Products based on the various small-sized versions of the ITX form factor—Mini-ITX, Pico-ITX and Nano—ITX-provide system developers with complete PC-functionality and advanced graphics. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in these three ITX architectures.
 
Using Small PCs in New Ways
By Wolfgang Matthes
Even simple MCU-based projects often require some sort of front panel interface. Traditionally such systems had to rely on LEDs and switches for such simple interfaces. These days however, you can buy small, inexpensive computing devices such as mini-PCs and notebook computers and adapt them to fill those interfacing roles. In this article, Wolfgang steps you through the options and issues involved in connecting such PC-based devices to an MCU-based environment.



FOCUS ON MICROCONTROLLERS
 
Guitar Game Uses PIC32 MCU
By Brian Dempsey, Katarina Martucci and Liam Patterson
Guitar Hero has been an extremely popular game for decades. Many college kids today who played it when they were kids still enjoy playing it today. These three Cornell students are just such fans. Learn how they used Microchip’s microcontroller and 12-bit DAC to craft their own version that lets them play any song they wish by using MIDI files.
 
Offloading Intelligence
By Jeff Bachiochi
While some embedded systems do just fine with a single microcontroller, there are situations when offloading some processing into a second processing unit, such as a second MCU, offers a lot of advantages. In this article, Jeff explores this question in the context of a robotic system project that uses Arduino and an external motor driver.
 
Building a Portable Game Console
By Juan Joel Albrecht and Leandro Dorta Duque
32-bit MCUs can do so much these days—even providing all the needed control functionality for a gaming console. Along just those lines, learn how these three Cornell students built a portable game console that combines a Microchip PIC32 MCU embedded in a custom-designed 3D-printed case, printed circuit board and in-house gameplay graphics. The device includes a 320 x 240 TFT color display.
 


… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS
 
Variable Frequency Drive Part 2
By Brian Millier
In Part 1 Brian started to describe the process he used to convert a 3-phase motor and OEM Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) controller—salvaged from his defunct clothes washer—into a variable speed drive for his bandsaw. In this article, he completes the discussion this tim,e covering the Cypress Semi PSoC5LP SoC he used, the software design and more.
 
Semiconductor Fundamentals Part 1
By George Novacek
Embedded systems—or even modern electronics in general—couldn’t exist without semiconductor technology. In this new article series, George delves into the fundamentals of semiconductors. In Part 1 George examines the math, chemistry and materials science that are fundamental to semiconductors with a look at the basic structures that make them work.
 

 

i.MX8M-Driven Pico-ITX SBC Features Dual-DSP Audio Module

By Eric Brown

Estone is launching an “EMB-2238” Pico-ITX board for audio and voice control applications that runs Linux on an i.MX8M and offers a dual-DSP audio hub and DAC, 40-pin GPIO, and optional PoE and second GbE.

Toledo, Ohio based Estone Technology (known for its former Habey brand) offers a variety of Linux-friendly Pico-ITX boards, including boards based on the i.MX6 (EMB-2230), i.MX6 UL (EMB2200) models, and Intel Cherry Trail EMB-2610. The company recently announced (via Electronics Weekly) an EMB-2238 board with the same 100 x 72mm form factor. The SBC builds on the audio strengths of NXP’s i.MX8M SoC with the help of high-end audio circuitry from Cirrus Logic.


 
EMB-2238
(click images to enlarge)
The EMB-2238 uses the quad-core version of the 1.5GHz, Cortex-A53 equipped i.MX8M, which also includes a GPU and 266MHz Cortex-M4 chip. Estone provides a Yocto Project stack based on Linux kernel 4.9, Qt, and Wayland. It also supports Android 8.1.0.

Other i.MX8M Pico-ITX boards we’ve seen include Kontron’s dual-GbE pITX-iMX8Mand F&S Elektronik Systeme’s up to 8GB LPDDR4 armStone MX8M. There’s also a larger, 136.7 x 87mm Nitrogen8M SBC from Boundary Devices.

All these boards tap the i.MX8M’s extensive digital audio skills to varying degrees, but the EMB-2238 is even more focused on audio and voice control applications. It adds a Cirrus Logic CS47L24 smart codec module with a dual-core, 300-MIPS DSP and audio hub. The triple-DAC device offers a 115 dB dynamic range, an 8-192kHz sample rate, and Enhanced DRE processing (eDRE) for 121dB SNR.


 
EMB-2238 (left) and Cirrus Logic CS47L24 audio module block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The CS47L24 drives the EMB-2238’s dual digital MEMS microphone header, which features multi-mic noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation (AEC). A 40-pin expansion header provides omni-directional, spatial 8-channel digital audio/DMIC inputs (SAI5) for the mic array, among other I/O including PCIe. Additional audio features on the SBC include a Class D, 2W mono speaker, an 8-channel digital input and output (SAI1), and SPDIF and QSPI audio interfaces.

The EMB-2238 ships with the Amazon AVS (Alexa Voice Service) Device SDK, as well as Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree wake word engine. It also supports the Snips AI voice control assistant, including support for off-line operation (see video demo farther below).

You can purchase the SBC with 2GB to 4GB LPDDR4, and a microSD slot and 8GB iNAND are also available. For communications there’s a WiFi/BT module and a GbE port with optional an Power-over-Ethernet (IEEE 802.3af) or PoE+ (802.3at) module that can also power an attached LCD panel. A separate option provides a second GbE port via a PCIe add-on card that also integrates a 9-36V DC input, GPIO, an ambient sensor, and an LED control for light bars.


 
Optional PoE (left) and GbE add-ons
(click images to enlarge)
The EMB-2238 is equipped with a 4K-ready micro-HDMI port and HD-ready MIPI-DSI with optional 10.1-inch touch-panel. Other features include a MIPI-CSI camera interface, USB 3.0 OTG Type-C port, dual USB 2.0 host ports, and 2x internal USB interfaces.

The SBC provides a RS-232/RS-485 terminal block, RS-232 header, and the 40-pin header. A 5V DC header offers an alternative to the optional PoE and 9-36V input. The board also provides a watchdog and 0 to 60°C support. As usual with Estone, you get comprehensive documentation.

Specifications listed for the EMB-2238 include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX8M (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz); Vivante GC7000Lite/GC7000VLX for OpenGL/ES 3.1, OpenGL 3.0, Vulkan, OpenCL 1.2 GPU; Cortex-M4 @ 266MHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB to 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
    • 8GB iNAND flash
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.10 module (USB-based)
  • Networking — GbE port with optional PoE; optional second GbE via PCIe add-on with GPIO, 9-36V input, LED control etc.
  • Display/camera I/O:
    • Micro-HDMI port for up to 4096 x 216 0 @60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) for up to 1920 x 1200 and I2C-based support for LCD touchpanels
    • MIPI-CSI (4-lane)
  • Audio/voice control I/O:
    • Class D 2W mono speaker
    • 2x HP out header
    • 8-channel digital in and out (SAI1) with 32-bit @ 384 kHz fs and TDM support
    • SPDIF, QSPI
    • Cirrus CS47L24 smart codec with 2x-core, 300-MIPS DSP with 3x DAC and audio hub with SoundClear Control
    • 2x digital MEMS mic header (via CS47L24) with multi-mic noise supp., AEC
    • Omni-directional spatial 8 ch. digital audio/DMIC inputs (SAI5) for mic array (via 40-pin)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 OTG Type-C port
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • 2x USB 2.0 headers
    • RS-232/RS-485 terminal block
    • RS232 header
    • 4x+ GPIO, 2x I2C for TP and MIPI CSI
  • Expansion — 40-pin connector with PCIe x1, GPIO, font panel control, PoE, 8 ch. audio in etc.
  • Other features — Watchdog timer; 10 to 15-year support longevity
  • Power — 5V DC header or optional PoE or optional 9-36V input (GbE add-on)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C
  • Dimensions — 100 x 72mm; Pico-ITX form factor
  • Operating system — Yocto Project (Linux kernel 4.9, Qt, Wayland); Android 8.1.0; ships with Amazon AVS and Sensory TrulyHandsfree Wake Word Engine


EMB-2238 Snips and AVS voice control demos

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the EMB-2238 SBC. More information may be found at the Estone Technology EMB-2238 product page.

Estone Technology is demostrating the board at Embedded World in Nuremberg (Feb 26-28) at Hall 1 stand 1-129.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on February 15.

Estone Technology | www.estonetech.com

Low-Power Pico-ITX SBC Serves Industrial IoT Needs

Axiomtek has introduced its PICO318 board, a palm-sized fanless pico-ITX motherboard powered by the Intel Pentium processor N4200 or Celeron processor N3350 (code named Apollo Lake). The PICO318 is a low power consumption, 2.5” embedded board that is expandable, rugged, feature-rich and versatile to help facilitate quick deployment.
The PICO318 is equipped with one 204-pin DDR3L-1867 SO-DIMM for up to 8 GB system memory. A dual-display capability is available through 18/24-bit single/dual channel LVDS and DisplayPort. For storage, there are one M.2 key B slot for SATA or PCIe x2 SSD card and one half-size PCI Express Mini Card slot with support for mSATA. Moreover, the Pico-ITX form factor SBC features 12 V DC power supply input with AT Auto Power On function.

The Intel Apollo Lake-based pico-ITX board provides rich I/O connectivity including two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one RS-232/422/485 port, one RS-232 port, two Gigabit LAN ports with Intel i211AT Ethernet controller, one HD Codec audio, and 4-channel digital I/O. The PICO318 offers watchdog timer and hardware monitoring for reliable operation. It also supports AXView 2.0, intelligent remote management software for industrial IoT applications. Additionally, its I2C interface offers smart battery support. The PICO318 will be available in March, 2019.

Features:

  • Intel Pentium processor N4200 and Celeron processor N3350 (code name: Apollo Lake)
  • One 204-pin DDR3L-1867 SO-DIMM, up to 8GB
  • Two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports
  • Two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two COM ports
  • PCI Express Mini Card slot with mSATA support
  • Supports M.2 Key B (SATA, USB 2.0, PCIe x2 for option) in 22 mm x 42 mm or 30 mm x 42 mm

Axiomtek | www.axiomtek.com

 

Pico-ITX and 3.5-inch SBCs Feature Dual-Core i.MX6 SoCs

IBASE Technology has announced two SBCs, both powered by an NXP i.MX 6Dual Cortex-A9 1.0GHz high performance processor. The IBR115 2.5-inch SBC and the IBR117 3.5-inch SBC are designed for use in applications in the automation, smart building, transportation and medical markets.
IBR115 and IBR117 are highly scalable SBCs with extended operating temperature support of -40°C to 85°C and an optional heatsink. Supporting 1 GB DDR3 memory on board, the boards provide a number of interfaces for HDMI and single LVDS display interface, 4 GB eMMC, Micro SD, COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, Gbit Ethernet and a M.2 Key-E interface. These embedded I/Os provide connection to peripherals such as WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, storage, displays, and camera sensors for use in a variety of application environment while consuming low levels of power.

Both models ship with BSPs for Yocto Project 2.0 Linux and Android 6.0. They both run on dual-core, 1 GHz i.MX6 SoCs, but the IBR115 uses the DualLite while the IBR117 has a Dual with a slightly more advanced Vivante GPU.

IBR115/IBR117 Features:

  • With NXP Cortex-A9, i.MX 6Dual-Lite (IBR115) / i.MX 6Dual (IBR117) 1GHz processor
  • Supports HDMI and Dual-channel LVDS interface
  • Supports 1 GB DDR3, 4 GB eMMC and Micro SD (IBR115) / SD (IBR117) socket for expansion
  • Embedded I/O as COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, audio and Ethernet
  • 2 Key-E (2230) and Mini PCI-E w/ SIM socket (IBR117) for wireless connectivity
  • OpenGL ES 2.0 for 3D BitBlt for 2D and OpenVG 1.1
  • Wide-range operating temperature from -40°C to 85°C

IBASE Technology | www.ibase.com.tw

Commell Launches its First ARM-Based Pico-ITX

By Eric Brown

Commell has announced the LP-150, a Rockchip RK3128 based Pico-ITX SBC that appears to be its first ARM-based embedded board of any kind. The 100 mm x 72 mm LP-150 is the only ARM-based SBC out of the many dozens of mostly Intel-based boards listed on Commell’s SBC page.

Shipping with Android 4.4.4, but also supporting Linux, the LP-150 is intended primarily for imaging, machine vision and digital signage applications. Other Commell Pico-ITX SBCs include its Intel Braswell based LP-176.

Commell LP-150

Rockchip’s quad-core, Cortex-A7 RK3128 hasn’t seen as much uptake in the embedded world as the quad -A17 RK3288, which is found on hacker boards such as the Firefly-RK3288 Reload or the high-end, hexa-core RK3399, which has appeared on numerous recent products such as OpenEmbed’s em3399 module or Aaeon’s RICO-3399 PICO-ITX SBC. The only RK3128-based SBC we can recall is the open spec Firefly-FirePrime S.

The LP-150 SBC has a fairly modest feature set, with only 512 MB DDR3. Yet, it offers a few features you don’t typically find on x86 Pico-ITX SBCs like eMMC storage (8GB) and built-in Wi-Fi. Media features include an HDMI 1.4 port limited to HD resolution and an LVDS interface with capacitive touchscreen support. You also get CVBS inputs and outputs and audio I/O headers.

The LP-150 is further equipped with a GbE port and USB 2.0 host and OTG ports. There is also an RTC with battery, and a smattering of RS-232, UART, and GPIO interfaces.

Specifications listed for the Commell LP-150 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3128 (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.3 GHz); Mali-400 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES1.1 and 2.0, OpenVG1.1
  • Memory — 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage — 8 GB eMMC; microSD slot
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 port for up to 1080p
    • Single-channel 18/24-bit LVDS for up to 1280 x 720 displays or up to 1024 x 600 cap. touchscreens
    • LCD/LVDS panel and inverter connectors
    • CVBS in/out
  • Wireless — Wi-Fi with SMA antenna
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (RTL8211E)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port with support for 4-port hub
    • USB 2.0 OTG port
    • 2x RS232 interfaces
    • 3x UART
    • Audio line-out, mic-in headers (Rockchip codec)
    • GPIO header
  • Other features — Power, recovery, reset buttons; RTC with lithium battery; LED
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C
  • Power — DC input 5 V
  • Dimensions — 100 mm x 72 mm (Pico-ITX)
  • Operating system — Android 4.4.4; Linux also supported

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the LP-150. More information may be found on Commell’s LP-150 product page.

Commell |  www.commell.com.tw

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

Pico-ITX Board Boasts 7th Gen Kaby Lake U-Series Processor

Commell has announced a Pico-ITX form factor LP-175 sporing an Intel Skylake/Kaby Lake(6th/7th)  U-series processor, combined with the Intel  Express chipset, Integrated Intel integrated HD Graphics Technology with integrated memory. The LP-175 platform  is suited to applications requiring multi-tasking capabilities, such as gaming, surveillance, medical, defense, transportation and industrial automation application.

Commell LP-175-2D8

The Pico-ITX Motherboardsupports one DDR4L SO-DIMM up to 16 Gbytes and running at 1866/2133 MHz. The HD Graphics Technology provides high-end media and graphics capabilities for devices that display videos, 2D/3D graphics and interactive content. In addition, the LP-175 has integrated HDMI, LVDS, and Displayport or VGA for Triple display. Those options enable advanced solutions for imaging, machine vision and digital signage applications. For I/O the board has high-speed data transfer interfaces such as 2 x USB3.0, equipped with one Gigabit Ethernet, and it comes with PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse port, 2 x COM, 2 x USB2.0, Intel High Definition Audio, plus one PCIe Mini card socket or mSATA.

Commell | www.commell.com