Control Engineering Embedded Control Newsletter for May 2003
Positive statistics for ESC 2003; new directions ahead
The term 'embedded' is not exactly a household word, but it got a boost in that direction from the news media's reporting of the recent war in Iraq. Under drastically different conditions, of course, it was quite easy for this editor and some 11,500 visitors to be thoroughly 'embedded' in the more than 140 classes, tutorials, and panel discussions-plus products galore on the show floor-at Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) April 22-26, 2003, in San Francisco.
Attendance at ESC essentially reached the forecast figure of 12,000, with 270 companies on hand to offer their technologies. However, success of this combination event, consisting of in-depth technical presentations and technology/product exhibits, could be gauged as well by the enthusiasm of people in the show hall and in well-attended classes.
Highlights of Embedded Systems Conference 2003 included a lively, forward-looking keynote address on the 'Convergence of Embedded Technology and Biotechnology;' the first annual 'Best of Show' product award; and a major change in direction for ESC coming next year. Announced during the show, electronicaUSA will be integrated with ESC as a combined event at the same Moscone Center venue on March 29-April 2, 2004. Show management has synergistic expectations for the expanded technology coverage and multiple conferences.
This newsletter and next month's will provide further coverage of ESC 2003.
Embedded system modules
Pricing for Men Micro's EM02 module starts at $995 for quantity one.
One alternative to single-board computers now available to embedded system designers is the so-called 'system-on-a-module' (SOM) design. Here, a mezzanine module handles system-level tasks, while a carrier card accommodates any specialized or extra I/O connections needed.
'Embedded System Module' (ESM) is the name of the SOM approach taken by Men Micro (Carrollton, TX; Nürnberg, Germany). ESM specifies all mechanical, electrical, and environmental characteristics of the ESM SOM mezzanine card plus the module-to-carrier card interface. However, the carrier card spec is intentionally left open-ended to allow various sources to be able to produce the card, includingOEM users and third-party suppliers.
Embedded and industrial applications are said to be ideal for ESMs. 'They provide faster time to market because most of the hardware and software development costs are included in the complete computer on the mezzanine board,' says Barbara Schmitz, marketing director at Men Micro. 'ESMs also allow for a customized solution even for small quantities.'
Men Micro's first two ESM mezzanine cards are available now. EM02 provides 400-933 MHz processor speed based on either low-voltage or low-power Pentium III CPUs; and EM04 offers 266-400 MHz speed based on PowerPC processors.
Technology Class sampler: Microprocessor 'myths'
Among the scores of classes presented at ESC 2003, a notable one was 'Top 10 Lies about Microprocessors,' given by Jim Turley, editor and analyst, also a member of the ESC Advisory board.
This expert's contrary view of market hype surrounding microprocessors (MPUs) was aimed at developers working with these devices. In Turley's words, 'This is an independent view.' I found it to be a convincing, eye-opening glimpse of the microprocessor market. Here is a sampling of the 'lies.'
Pentium (or X86) rules the world-MPUs make up 2% of all semiconductors made and sold; PC processors make up 2% of all MPUs, so PC processors represent just 0.04% of total semiconductor unit volume, but 15% of sales.
All CPUs are the same-Performance actually varies widely among chip families, often invisible to software and programmers. For example, even a simple math operation like 57x2 executes faster than 2x57 on a given processor.
RISC is better than CISC-With a more optimized code, CISC has better code density, often by a 2:1 margin. It also offers better tools.
Java chips are coming-They're already here...sort of, according to Turley. However, Java is inherently difficult to run in hardware. 'There are still no chips that can run all of Java, and none likely to appear in the near future,' he says.
Performance is proportional to price-Pricing and cost to produce semiconductors often have no relationship. Price is set by the marketing department, not by a formula. Many examples exist of $15 chips faster than $150 chips.
For more insight to this and related topics, click here and visit the web site .
Human Transporter 'visits' ESC
Segway's HT vehicle contains various embedded products.
No less than two Segway Human Transporters (HTs) were in attendance at ESC 2003, illustrating that numerous companies have embedded their products into these futuristic, self-balancing transportation devices.
Texas Instruments Inc. (Dallas, TX) had one HT on hand to show the contribution of its TMS320C2000 family of digital signal processors. These DSPs are used for real-time positioning control of the transporter's dynamic stabilization system as well as for controlling two special servo motors developed by Danaher Motion/Pacific Scientific (Rockford, IL) that propel the HT.
Another transporter at Microchip Technology Inc.'s (Chandler, AZ) exhibit served to focus on the company's PICmicro field-programmable microcontrollers (MCUs), helping to provide electronics intelligence to the HT. In particular, two PIC18C658s in the handlebar supply such user interface functions as mode switch, steering grip, intelligent key port, and liquid crystal display. A CAN controller onboard PICmicros sends control and status data between the handlebar and the control module. Also, each MCU works together with an MCP130 supervisor. Other PICmicro components are employed in the HT's ac power supply, control module, inertial monitoring unit, and battery packs.
Earlier this year I had an opportunity to briefly test an HT, and can tell you it's an exciting 'being-a-kid again' experience to navigate the transporter. Segway HTs are available for sale. It remains to be seen if they will be a common sight in our lives.
Visit the following Web sites for more information about the HT and its embedded products:
ESC product 'briefs'
Power consumption of Blackfin ADSP-BF533 chip is just 280 mW at 600-MHz.
For more information, visit the manufacturers' Web sites.
Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI, Norwood, MA) announced the availability of its next-generation Blackfin processor family, which reportedly delivers twice the performance and half the power consumption of conventional DSPs and embedded processors. Included are two processors: a 600-MHz/1.2 billion multiply accumulate operations/s unit (ADSP-BF533) and a low-cost 300-MHz/600 million multiply accumulate operations/s unit (ADSP-BF531). These Blackfin processors stress low power consumption. An integrated switching regulator allows programmable control of the core voltage from one input. 'This reduces overall system costs because only one regulated power supply is needed,' says Finbarr Moynihan, product line manager at ADI.
ETX modules add graphics and enhanced audio to application-specific baseboards.
Kontron (Hayward, CA; Eching/Munich, Germany) introduced its ETX-P3M component SBC module that supports 650- and 933-MHz processors as well as up to 1.2-GHz processors for socketed versions. In an ETX form factor, the -P3M module reportedly offers the highest processor performance at 1.2 GHz. ETX modules connect to the embedded system to add such functions as sound, SVGA, Ethernet, and PC I/O points. This leads to lower cost and speeds up semi-custom designs. Besides standard features, ETX-P3M supports four USB ports, 1 GB SDRAM, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, controllers for keyboard/mouse, real-time clock, and watchdog timer. Available in 2Q03, the module's target price is $730, with 933-MHz processor, in quantities of 100.
As part of the company's 'controller continuum,' Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector (Austin, TX) launched 56F800 Series controllers, featuring hybrid architecture that combines control functionality of an MCU with DSP computational power in one package, according to Brett Black, DSP marketing manager. Various 16-bit hybrid controllers with 60 MHz, 30/40 MIPS performance are available now with a wide range of Flash and RAM capacity.
Motorola offers CodeWarrior development tool ($1,195 value) for no cost (complimentary) until end of August 2003 for MCUs with memory sizes up to 16 Kbytes, as in 56F801 and 802, and a reduced price of $495 for memory sizes over 16 Kbytes. CodeWarrior software tool from Metrowerks (Austin, TX) helps accelerate products to market. Also available is a demo board/development kit with U.S. power supply for under $50; or under $65 with international power supply.
The F800 hybrid controller family is set to expand. The near-future roadmap includes 83XXX, 60 MIPS devices in 3Q03 for automotive, electronic steering, and related applications, says Brett Black. Year 2004 will see low-cost 16-bit devices featuring Harvard architecture, he adds.
SBS Technologies (Albuquerque, NM) introduced the latest member of its 'high-performance' 6U VMEbus, single-board computer family. Named VG5, the board comes configured with dual PowerPC processors to suit post-video processing, signal-processing, and other real-time control applications. Actually, there is a choice of one or two integrated 800-1,300 MHz processors. The design is said to allow two computing platforms with independent operating systems to run in parallel in one slot. With its own memory and chipset, each processor is enabled to do separate tasks-for example, intensive calculations at one node and more general system functions at the other node. VG5's dual processor subsystems on a single-board computer handle the workload of essentially two boards.
Each processor comes with up to 1 GB SDRAM. The chipset includes two high-speed controllers supporting up to 10 Mb/s data transfer, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Fast Ethernet port, 2 MB of SRAM, up to 128 MB Flash, and four 32-bit timers. Three independent 64-bit PCI buses are supported on board. Numerous other features and ruggedized options, such as extended temperature range of -40 to 85 degrees C, are part of VG5 single-board computer, available July 2003.
Wanted: Your input to 2004 Editorial Calendar
Soon, we will meet to formulate Control Engineering's Editorial Calendar for 2004. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on what you would like to see covered in the Embedded Control sector, please send them along for consideration to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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