Team approach eases embedded system development

By Control Engineering Staff November 16, 2006

The days of the rugged individualist are over. At least, that’s how it seems for companies developing high-technology products, such as embedded software and hardware systems. To produce world-class equipment, you need to bring together world-class expertise from many areas; to achieve world-class expertise in any area, you have to specialize.

Creating tools for embedded-system developers is a perfect example. End-users expect embedded systems to accomplish increasingly complex tasks quickly and seamlessly, which takes complex, high-performance computing hardware. They also expect embedded systems to carry responsibility for mission-critical tasks, which requires a reliable real-time operating system (RTOS). Embedded system developers want more efficient tools, with appropriate features and functions, to streamline hardware and software engineering.

National Instruments (NI) , Wind River , and Freescale Semiconductor have solved this dilemma using a team approach. Through a strategic partnership, they’ve combined Freescale’s high-performance computing expertise with Wind River’s ability to engineer RTOS and NI’s expertise in hardware and development-software tools for data acquisition and control. The companies are working together to help engineers simplify embedded system development through graphical system design, which combines open software and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) programmable hardware in a unified platform to rapidly design, prototype, and deploy embedded systems.

The result is a new NI cRIO-9012 high-performance real-time controller based on Freescale’s MPC5200 processor with Power Architecture technology, Wind River’s VxWorks RTOS, and NI’s CompactRio hardware platform and LabView software development environment. The collaboration comes under the three companies’ ongoing strategic relationship dedicated to improving development of embedded devices.

In addition to increased performance, the controller incorporates the three companies’ technologies to deliver more memory and nonvolatile disc space, more digital signal processing, and faster streaming for logging and networking than its precursor, the cRIO-9002 controller. Freescale’s 400MHz MPC5200 processor, containing an integrated floating-point unit, is well suited for networking, media, industrial control and automotive applications. The controller, which is programmed with the NI LabView Real-Time Module, gives the controller up to 4X processing performance and nearly 2X lower power consumption than earlier products. Running on the MPC5200, the Wind River VxWorks RTOS delivers dependable performance and a fault-tolerant file system that provides reliable data logging, making it possible for engineers to operate the controller for long periods in remote applications using a battery or solar power. The NI LabView Real-Time Module provides shared-variable technology for simplified network communication between distributed systems as well as the new LabView Project, which streamlines code control and application deployment to multiple CompactRio systems.

“Engineers require a development platform that helps them create embedded system solutions more quickly, with higher quality and with lower costs,” said Steve Rosebaugh, senior product manager for Freescale’s Infotainment, Multimedia and Telematics operation. “Our collaboration… gives engineers a more streamlined approach to embedded system development.”

Using a standard architecture and COTS components, graphical system design helps engineers streamline the development process and quickly prototype and deploy new designs without the need to build custom embedded systems for every project. The openness of the graphical system design approach also gives engineers the opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art technology from multiple vendors.

“Device software has been exponentially increasing in complexity, which makes it much more challenging for engineers to be productive,” said Warren Kurisu, director of product management at Wind River. “We see graphical system design as a valuable methodology for moving customized device software from design to deployment quickly. It helps engineers focus on the complete system and deliver features their customers care about most.”

Working with the technologies in the new cRIO-9012 real-time controller (priced from $1,499;€1,399; ¥192,000), engineers can develop embedded systems for applications like machine control and monitoring, and in-vehicle logging in automotive, military, industrial equipment, energy and environmental, and other industries.

For more information on CompactRio, visit .

For more information about RTOS for embedded systems, search Control Engineering’s website at

C.G. Masi , Control Engineering senior editor