Control Engineering Embedded Control eNewsletter for June 2003
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ESC 2003 epilog
Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) attracted 11,500 visitors and 270 exhibitor companies to San Francisco in late April 2003, as covered in last month's E-news. More than 140 classes, tutorials, and panel discussions also contributed to make this show the premiere event for embedded control.
Now a major change in direction is in the works for ESC. Next year, electronicaUSA will be integrated with Embedded System Conference when the combined event is staged at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on March 29-April 2, 2004.
Additional conferences and wider technology exhibits will be featured with the goal to ''unite all sectors of the electronics industry within one show.'' Expanded coverage will include test and measurement equipment, power supplies, enclosures, servos, manufacturing services, and electronic components, among others. Organizers of the event expect synergistic results from the physically larger and more varied content of the show.
In the meanwhile, ECS' worldwide calendar will be busy. There is ESC Boston, September 15-18, 2003; ESC Munich in Germany, November 11-14, 2003, and a series of three conferences in China—Shanghai, March 1-2, 2004; Beijing, March 4-5, and Shenhzen, March 8-9.
For a more detailed overview of ESC 2003, see May 7 Online Daily News.
Parts of this newsletter expand coverage of ESC 2003 happenings.
Meeting long battery life needs
A battery-operated demonstration board priced at $49, including Metrowerks CodeWarrior Development Stufio and demonstration code, helps designers quickly learn about HCS08 microcontrollers.
Manufacturers of handheld instruments and remote devices, wireless service providers, and others are demanding extended battery life for their burgeoning embedded products. Low-voltage, low-power microcontrollers offer one solution to this need. In early June 2003, Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector introduced the first four members of HCS08, a family of 1.8-V, low-power microcontrollers (MCUs). These 8-bit flash devices are said to exceed the performance of many 16-bit MCUs, without compromising low power, according to Motorola. Ten other HCS08 devices are scheduled for introduction later in 2003.
HCS08 comes with up to 40 MHz CPU (20 MHz bus at 2.1 V) and 16 MHz CPU (8 MHz bus at 1.8 V). Among its many features are multiple power-management modes, including 25-nA (nanoamp) power-down mode; auto-wakeup from ''stop'' that helps reduce power usage to 0.7 microamp and attendant lower costs; and programmable internal clock generator with temperature and voltage compensation (typical drift & 2%). Four serial ports, up to 8 timer/PWMs, and an 8-channel 10-bit A/D converter specified down to 1.8 V are also onboard.
A novel Battery Life Calculator is part of the introduction, allowing designers to estimate available battery power and expected life. Interactive software allows engineers to adjust battery sizes, clock speeds, and other product parameters to optimize system performance and battery life.
HCS08 devices' on-chip emulation with trigger and trace hardware eliminates the cost of conventional bus analyzers. A dedicated single-wire background debug mode (BDM) pin further eliminates costly, cumbersome emulator cables. Kevin Kilbane, Motorola strategic marketing manager, points to no outside emulators and simple, low-cost serial cabling as significant advantages of these devices.
Technology Class sampler: Programming using DSPs
Scores of user-oriented classes were presented at ESC 2003. Here's a capsule summary on ''Embedded Systems Programming Using DSPs,'' given by Robert Oshana, engineering manager at Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX).
Digital signal processors (DSPs) are basically application-specific microprocessors. Determining whether or not a DSP is right for the application is the logical starting point. Cost, scalability, and numerous technical issues must be sorted out to answer that question. However, the need for adaptive control, noise reduction, power efficiency, etc., makes DSPs increasingly more in demand. In choosing a processor, Oshana listed other alternatives for users to consider, such as ASICs, RISC processors, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and host signal processors.
He emphasized the many challenges of embedded development, citing divergent paths, miscommunication, and other problems that occur during hardware and software (HW/SW) design, which must be resolved at the HW/SW integration junction. DSP algorithms are inherently complex; making processor steps work right without worrying about speed is the first consideration. ''Make it run right, then make it run fast,'' says Oshana, ''Hardware simulators provide one answer.''
Two simulation options are available. Relatively faster running instructional-level simulation can verify higher level functions, trace code, and analyze/port operating systems. Cycle-accurate simulation runs slower, but models all aspects of the target processor (pipeline, cache, memory access, and peripherals) and can attach to external peripherals. Oshana concludes that success of a DSP application depends on hardware performance, quality of available tools, and skills of the engineers.
Linux pros and cons
By many indications, Linux—the operating system that ''operates for free'' in the public domain—is challenging established operating systems like Microsoft Windows and is making its presence felt in the industrial world. Source code and usage of Linux come license free, however users are expected to provide their enhancements and additions to the public domain, as well.
Microsoft has recently commented on the reality of Linux's challenge. Some industrial users describe Linux as easier to work with and more reliable than Windows, particularly in server environments. Meanwhile other users say Windows is more cost-effective in the long term. Still others think Linux is not meant for mission-critical applications.
Some related comments and news from ESC 2003 follow. OSE Systems (San Diego, CA), a real-time operating systems (RTOSs) provider has the perspective that real-time characteristics of Linux are limited and not deterministic. Michael Christofferson, product marketing manager, believes that the extension and modifications needed to make Linux fully competitive with other OSs takes away most of the advantages.
TimeSys (Pittsburgh, PA), a provider of embedded Linux RTOS—and other embedded software tools—agrees that Linux doesn't meet real-time requirements in its standard form. However, Michael Bauer, VP of products, stated that TimeSys has made the changes necessary to meet those needs, turning Linux into a real-time tool.
One futuristic ''application'' of Linux ''walked'' the ECS show floor. A demonstration of potential automation ahead for humans and for the modern home was MontaVista Software 's (Sunnyvale, CA) Wakamaru domestic robot, which is powered by Linux.
ESC product and show ''briefs''
WinSystems' EBC-LP single-board computer typically draws only 2.5 Amps of current with 64 MB of SDRAM.
For more information, visit the manufacturers' Web sites.
WinSystems (Arlington TX) introduced its EBC-LP single-board computer (SBC) intended for harsh industrial environments, including–40 to 85 deg C operation. EBC-LP incorporates an Intel 166-MHz processor, Microsoft Windows CE.Net operating system, 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet controller, four serial channels, 48-bidirectional I/O lines, USB, and 1 GB disk, among other features. CE.Net is well suited for applications in need of simultaneous video and networking support, for example the onboard PCI video controller with 2 MB of video RAM that drives CRT and flat-panel screens. The fast Ethernet interface also serves as a high-speed communication link for the SBC among intelligent embedded systems. The SBC has a list price of $795.
OSE Systems (San Diego, CA), a supplier developer of RTOS technology and development tools for distributed/fault-tolerant applications, is moving further into networking infrastructures for automotive applications, according to Michael Christofferson, product marketing manager. For high-reliability industrial and medical applications, OSE's centralized error management method works unlike other operating systems and kernels, he explains. All errors are captured in a central area for fault detection and error handling. ''With this system, if failure occurs, the idea is to‘fail gracefully.' OSE Systems' architecture does this better than most others, responding to events more rapidly,'' says Christofferson.
Also announced at ESC 2003, was a partnership between OSE and iSystem (Munich, Germany) for inclusion of the latter's debugging environment on OSE's RTOS offerings. The agreement further allows OSE customers to access bundled iSystem and OSE real-time operating system solutions.
CompactMax's VIA-C3 EZRA processor version enables fanless operation via a passive heat sink.
SMA Computers (Fountain Valley, CA; Niestetal, Germany) showed its new 3U Compact PCI CPU6.2 (CompactMax) for the first time in North America. Form factor and internal functions (e.g., watchdog, voltage monitoring, SRAM, etc.) have been maintained so that new CompactMax is fully compatible with previous versions, while performance is increased.
Main memory has been increased up to 1 GB (formerly up to 256 MB), processor choices are Pentium III (866 MHz-1.4 GHz) or low power VIA-C3 (866 MHz), front-side bus clock rate is now 133 MHz, and there is a dual Ethernet port. CompactMax's 3U form factor makes it suitable for various industrial applications. With passive cooling in the EZRA processor version, CPU6.2 is especially suitable for mobile applications where continuous shock and vibration makes fan cooling impractical.
National Instruments (Austin, TX) demonstrated LabView for DSP testing and debugging. LabView capabilities in this arena include testing multiple filters used in developing DSPs, a vision application for debugging, and ability to monitor/display power consumption of development boards.
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