What Caught My Eye at Embedded World 2017
This year’s show starred innovations in automotive, automation, the IoT via carrier boards, and more.
More automation was displayed at VIA Technologies, for transportation, home automation and digital signage. The company announced the VIA VTS-8589 OPS board and the VIA Custom IoT Platform Design Service.
Germany’s government is heavily promoting the advance of Industry 4.0, or the Industrial IoT. Many of the booths at Embedded World reflected this. Analog Devices, which has acquired Linear Technology, had demonstrations of Industry 4.0 and how the smart factory meets challenges around instrumentation, controllers, condition-based monitoring, industrial communications, and data analytics. Other demonstrations showed Ethernet/IP, IoT asset tracking, and healthcare, with sensors in wearable devices, and low-power sensing technology for patient monitoring. Automotive-related demonstrations featured in-vehicle communications based on the SHARC SDSP-21489 processor and radar that employs sensors for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
Imagination Technologies’ booth also highlighted ADAS and the role of MIPS in the connected car. It was showing a Mobileye product for autonomous driving, just days after Intel acquired the Israeli company, and PowerVR GPU-power screens for the high end (from Renesas) to the entry-level Socionext display for ADAS.
IAR Systems was also concentrating on the automotive market, with updates to IAR Visual State, its state machine design tool. Version 8.1 introduced features to streamline development of user interface designs, especially in the automotive industry. This was one of several announcements at the show from the Swedish company. It also announced that it is a technology partner with Samsung for the Samsung ARTIK Smart IoT program, to offer users the development toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench to generate code for energy-efficient, time-critical Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The latest version of the IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM was also announced in Nuremberg. Version 8.10 offers C11 and C++14 language support, and an updated Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
A strong advocate for the IoT is ARM, and its booth was busy with various examples of IoT, in particular for lighting, using mbed OS 5.4. The latest release of the OS supports cellular, WiFi, 802.15.4, Bluetooth low energy, Thread, the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) protocol, or sub-GHz IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN) for multiple protocol connectivity across networks.
Additions to the Kinetis family were also announced by NXP. The Kinetis K27/K28 ARM-based microcontrollers will be available in April this year and are designed for portable battery applications. The microcontrollers target smart homes and wearable devices as well as industrial portable equipment, with 1-Mbyte embedded SRAM and support for peripherals to optimize battery life, add program and data storage, or process sensors in connected IoT devices.
At Bridgetek, the PanL35 smart display module had to vie for attention with sister company, FTDI’s CleO display board controllers (Figure 3).
The PanL35 relies on EVE software to create apps and is described as bridging modern and legacy communications interfaces. It has Bridgetek’s Superbridge microcontroller, FT903 and EVE graphic controller, the FT811. Interfaces included are RS485, RS232, I²C, SPI, and expandable options such as WiFi and Bluetooth low energy. There is also the facility to use microphone input, audio, proximity infrared sensors, FM output, real-time clocks and SD card flash memory storage, for use in a variety of industrial applications and building automation projects, energy management systems, remote monitoring and information or operator interface panels.
Meanwhile, FTDI Chip announced that a new CleO smart TFT display controller would be released in April, with an I/O shield, a radio receiver and sensors, targeting Point of Sale (PoS) and retail shelf displays.
More automation was displayed at VIA Technologies, for transportation, home automation, and digital signage. The company announced the VIA VTS-8589 OPS board, designed for digital signage applications and which complies with Intel’s Open Pluggable Specification (OPS). It can be installed into OPS-compatible displays without needing additional power, connectivity, or real estate. It is based on NXP’s i.MX 6QuadPlus or i.MX 6Quad Cortex-A9 SoCs and has 8-GByte eMMC Flash memory, 2-GByte DDR3 SDRAM, onboard WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, a Micro SD card slot, and two USB 2.0 ports for multimedia, I/O and connectivity options. The company offers a Linux Board Support Package (BSP) designed for HTML5-based digital signage applications.
Its VIA Custom IoT Platform Design Service aims to accelerate the design and manufacture of application-specific IoT systems and devices. Customers can specify form factor as well as system and I/O requirements for a custom system design. The design service offers support to define the core system, prototyping as well as hardware and software development, and I/O and wireless connectivity integration. VIA also manages the production.
Innovative embedded boards found at the show included the SMARC 2.0 carrier board, launched by Connect Tech. It is a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) board with attributes for low power IoT and multimedia applications, such as USB 3.0 (there are two USB 3.0 ports), two channels for Low-Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS), two channels for Ethernet, an additional PCI Express lane, to bring the number of lanes up to four, and an extra USB 2.0 port, to make three in total. The carrier also offers two Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) alliance Camera Serial Interface-2 (CSI-2) camera interfaces, High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) outputs and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) to support the latest Apollo Lake x86, low power processor from Intel. The carrier board is also designed to operate over the extended temperature range of -40 to +84°C.
SMARC 2.0 was also in evidence at the congatec booth, as it launched the conga-SA5 SMARC 2.0 computer module, with support for USB-C connectivity. The module (Figure 4) reduces cabling requirements and standardizes the interface needs. The USB-C option allows developers to use standard peripherals and to connect displays or a power supply. It is also based on the Intel Apollo Lake processors, Intel Atom, Celeron or Pentium processors.
Examples of wireless sensor networks included the congatec Cloud Application Programming Interface (API) for IoT gateways and IoT edge servers. The gateways communicate with local smart sensors, then process and convert the acquired data and execute automated actions based on a local rule engine. They reduce traffic to the IoT cloud and offer secure, bi-directional data exchange with clouds using the Transport Layer Security (TLS) -secured Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol. Target applications are industrial production and machinery, smart cities, smart homes, smart energy grids, medical IoT, transportation, and digital signage. It combines Bluetooth low energy, ZigBee, and LPWANs, like LoRa.
A PC/104-compatible Single Board Computer (SBC) was the highlight of the WinSystems booth. The PCM-C418 boards are low power, dual Ethernet, PC/104-compatbile SBCs. They respond to customer demand for robust SBCs with dual Ethernet, a small form factor, and the ability to operate in the extended temperature range. The SBC has full ISA compatibility, a CompactFlash socket, and external SATA connector for storage options. It is backward-compatible with legacy PC/104 systems and supports Linux, DOS, and other x86-compatible Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS), for industrial IoT, transportation, Mil/COTS and energy applications.
The PC/104 form factor was also in vogue at RTD Embedded Technologies, which presented the LAN35MH08HR managed switch at its booth. The eight-port 10/100/1000 managed Ethernet switch has an additional two ports, one to the host CPU through a PCI Express GigE controller, and a port used as a stacking switch expansion port to make the module compatible with the company’s managed and unmanaged StackNET family of Ethernet switches, routers, compatible power supplies, and computer modules. The configuration options, with CEService Carrier Ethernet switching software for carrier and timing-critical networks, make it suitable for IoT, industrial networks, and timing sensitive networks.
Increased connectivity enables SBCs from ADL Embedded Solutions to be used in unmanned systems, robotics, wearable computing, and portable medical devices. The company introduced the ADLE3800SEC SBC with Edge-Connect architecture enabling I/O expansion and connectors.
The SBC is based on the Intel Atom E3800 SoC and measures 75 x 75mm. It can be used in harsh environments, operating at -40 to +85°C. It can be embedded in radar applications in mobile navigation systems, surveillance cameras, and traffic management systems.
Caroline Hayes has been a journalist covering the electronics sector for more than 20 years. She has worked on several European titles, reporting on a variety of industries, including communications, broadcast and automotive.