Deeper Ethernet: Processors integrate time synchronization protocol


Austin, TXFreescale Semiconductor teamed with Ixxat to use IEEE 1588 time-synchronization protocol within Freescale PowerQuicc communications processors, built on Freescale Power Architecture technology. The move may make Ethernet more economical at the sensor level. Ixxat demonstrated the IEEE 1588 protocol running on the MPC8349E PowerQuicc II Pro processor at the Freescale Technology Forum, July 24-27, in Orlando, FL.

Target applications for the IEEE 1588 protocol include time-sensitive telecommunication services, which require precision time synchronization between communicating nodes. IEEE 1588 is used in industrial network switches, which synchronize sensors and actuators over a single wire distributed control network to control an automated assembly process. The protocol also is used in powerline networks, which synchronize across large-scale distributed power grid switches to enable smooth transfer of power. Test/measurement devices, which must maintain accurate time synchronization with devices under test in many different operating environments, are also a prime application for the IEEE 1588 protocol.

Glenn Beck, industrial segment manager for Freescale’s Digital Systems Division, says the move supports the “Ethernet everywhere” trend and customers “rapidly adopting IEEE 1588 time synchronization, as well as the flood of other applications migrating from 8-bit controllers to highly integrated 32-bit controllers.”

Bill Seitz, president of Ixxat North America, says, “By working together, Ixxatt and Freescale are addressing a common complaint among industrial automation users—that an Ethernet interface is too expensive to be used on a lower resolution device, such as a pressure transducer.” The companies “plan to change this viewpoint by offering a pre-configured, commercial off-the-shelf solution for a range of PowerQuicc processors. This is an important benefit considering that even the lowest-cost sensors can implement a lower-speed millisecond-level PowerQuicc processor while still operating in a high-performance, nanosecond-level synchronized network.” Ixxat’s IEEE 1588 protocol support for PowerQuicc II Pro processors represents the first in a series of Ixxat protocol offerings planned for that family. The protocol is planned to be available for Freescale processors with Quicc Engine technology, such as the MPC8360E PowerQuicc II Pro family.

Freescale says its Quicc Engine technology and enhanced triple-speed Ethernet controller (eTSec) are the first PowerQuicc communications interfaces to optimize IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) in hardware. These new interfaces time-stamp Ethernet packets at the physical/datalink layer the instant they enter or leave the device, meeting power and price targets for applications that connect devices through Ethernet.

Click here for a Freescale evaluation board, board support package and CodeWarrior development tools (free 30-day evaluation software package).

Click here for IEEE 1588 PTP protocol software from Ixxat.

Click here to read a 1999 Control Engineering article, “Ethernet Everywhere.”

Click here to read the 2006 Control Engineering article, “Serial-to-Ethernet Connectivity.”

—Edited by Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief

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