20 Mar 2017

Embedded World 2017

Caroline Hayes reports on Embedded World where she discovered industry meeting IoT and then the Makers join in.

There were significant announcements at Embedded World 2017 in Nuremberg, Germany (14 – 16 March), together with some advances in industrial Internet of Things (IoT), connectivity and support for developers and the Maker Community.

With the Internet of Things becoming a much greater topic as it becomes more of a reality, there was a huge amount of embedded technology focussing on this sector of the market where it can make a huge impact.

Disruptive 5G technology

Xilinx was highlighting the recently announced, disruptive 5G wireless technology, the infusion of RF-class analogue technology into its 16nm All Programmable MPSoCs, which eliminates the need for discrete data converters. This reduces the footprint for 5G MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) mmWave wireless backhaul applications.

The FPGA company was also demonstrating responsive and reconfigurable vision guided intelligent systems for industrial automation at its stand. A series of presentations and demonstrations showed how to use its tools, libraries and methodologies for machine learning, computer vision, sensor fusion and connectivity into vision guided intelligent systems. Many had an industrial focus, for example using OpenAMP (Open Asymmetric Multi Processing) open source architecture in an industrial IoT framework, designing Industry 4.0 SiC inverters using Zynq-7000 and Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, with machine learning diagnostics capability, and how OpenCV and high level synthesis can reduce embedded vision development time.

IoT microcontroller architecture

A microcontroller (MCU) architecture that has been purpose-built for the IoT was launched by Cypress Semiconductor. The PSoC 6 is built on a low power, 40nm, SONOS (silicon-oxide-nitride-oxide-silicon) process technology and is claimed to deliver the industry’s lowest power, IoT devices, with integrated security features.

 Embedded World 2017

The ARM Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M0 cores deliver 22µA/MHz and 15µA/MHz of active power respectively. The dual-core architecture optimises system power design by using the auxiliary core as an offload engine, allowing the main core to enter sleep mode.

Hardware-based Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) with secure boot capability and integrated secure data storage protects firmware, applications and assets such as cryptographic keys. Industry-standard symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic algorithms, such as elliptical-curve cryptography (ECC), Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), and secure hash algorithms (SHA 1, 2, 3) are supported. These are integrated in a hardware co-processor, to offload compute-intensive tasks.

Bluetooth developments

Toshiba and SE Spezial-Electronic concentrated on Bluetooth technology. Toshiba showed its Bluetooth 4.2-compliant SoCs, designed to reduce operating current consumption and enhance security, and SE Spezial-Electronic showed visitors the SE Skipper UBT21-1 Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle. Its range of 300m and data rate of up to 720kbit/s make it suitable for use as a transmitter and receiver adapter for wireless industrial and medical systems.

 Embedded World 2017

The dongle can be used as a local Bluetooth Smart Ready gateway for the IoT without using the Bluetooth stack of the OS or external radio drivers, but uses a multiplex protocol to simultaneously manage up to seven Bluetooth links.

Wireless chip companies are already gearing up to meet the NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT) standard, which was ratified last year. Antenova unveiled a new antenna designed for the mobile broadband standard, which is designed for signal distances over a range of km instead of metres, as well as signals that penetrate walls and barriers, for use in locations which, at present, are difficult to reach.

The Latona SR4C033 chip antenna has been added to the lamiiANT family. It measures just 20 x 11 x 1.6mm for ease of integration onto a small PCB.

Possible application areas for NB-IoT are smart metering, building automation and smart cities, as well as agriculture, and anywhere the data throughput is quite low and infrequent.

IoT partnerships

Aaeon has created the UP Group, to produce UP boards for both the maker community and professional developers. The boards target the standard industrial and embedded markets and are based on Intel technology. At the show, Aaeon announced the UP Core miniature board, based on the 64bit, 1.92GHz Intel Atom x5 Z8350 processors (codenamed Cherry Trail). It has an on-board GPU, the Intel Gen 8 HD 400 with 12 execution units operating at up to 500MHz for high performance 3D graphics.

 Embedded World 2017

In addition to 4Gbyte DDR3L RAM and up to 64Gbyte eMMC and a 100-pin docking connector, to build up the carrier board, there are two USB2.0, one UART header, one USB 3.0, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a DSI/eDP port, two camera (MIPI-CSI), one HMDI, and RTC interfaces. Security features include Intel AES New Instructions and Intel Identity Protection Technology for professional IoT applications. The UP Core supports Android 6 Marshmallow, Microsoft Windows 10, and for Linux through the thriving UP Community.

The company also introduced the UP IRQF Starter Kit for IoT developers to prototype and develop wireless IoT products with a Microsoft Azure backend. It supports temperature and light sensors, with voltage adjustment via potentiometer, relay kits, and control kits.

There was also an UP board on the Texim stand. The UPS-APLP4-A10-08128 UP Squared (UP²) single board computer (SBC) with an Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 quad-core SoC has 8Gbyte RAM and 128Gbyte eMMC. It is designed for IoT, industrial automation, digital signage, gaming and entertainment and home automation applications.

IoT development kits

There is plenty of help on offer for IoT developers, with many companies showcasing development kits. One, Lemonbeat, released a new version of the Lemonbeat Device Development Kit. Designers can use the kits to integrate multiple sensors and actuators into a prototype, write application code for it and test the IoT device.

 Embedded World 2017

There are two developer boards and a USB configuration dongle in each kit. The main board features a Silicon Laboratories microcontroller, based on an ARM Cortex-M3 core, which includes a sub-GHz transceiver for the Lemonbeat Radio, to physically connect smart devices. The kit is supported by the Lemonbeat Studio, software development environment to configure the way that devices running Lemonbeat smart Device Language (LsDL) interact.

Enhancements in this version cover support to manage power consumption of battery-powered devices, and the addition of operating modes such as event driven devices and Wake on Radio. There is also a new plugin for automated device testing and new application examples.

 Embedded World 2017

Another company with an IoT development kit was ON Semiconductor. It is also based on ARM Cortex-M3 technology and also has hardware and software components to configure IoT systems. It baseboard is based on the NCS36510 SoC, with a low power 32bit ARM Cortex-M3 core, running the ARM mbed OS. Daughterboards can be attached to the Wi-Fi enabled baseboard, together with low power radio protocols (SIGFOX, PoE and CAN connectivity is available immediately, with Thread, EnOcean and Wireless Mbus support scheduled for Q2 and Bluetooth Low Energy in Q3). Temperature, moisture, ambient light, proximity and pressure sensors and heart rate monitoring and bio sensor interfaces and actuators can be added. There is also support for security functions including encryption, secure debug, secure boot and authentication.

For software, there is an Eclipse-based IDE (integrated development environment) that includes a C++ compiler, debugger and code editor. Application examples, use cases and related libraries are also incorporated, taking IoT designs from the initial concept phase through to full scale deployment, says the company.

 Embedded World 2017

Among the themes around the halls, Basler summed up wireless connectivity in industrial automation in the heart of Bavaria: on its stand, showcasing board level camera expertise, was a robotic arm placing sausages on a grill and onto a serving plate. Who could ask for more?

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About the author

Caroline Hayes has been a journalist , covering the electronics sector for over 20 years. She has worked on many titles, most recently the pan-European EPN. As editor of EPD, she created the e-Legacy Awards and also created EPN’s 40th Anniversary Forum at electronica. Now a freelance journalist, reporting news, writing features and conducting interviews/profiles for many top-line electronics journals, she also writes technical material for marketing departments and PR agencies.

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