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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fully embedded stand-alone Wi-Fi module for highly integrated applications

By Nick Flaherty

Panasonic Industry Europe has launched a fully embedded stand alone Wi-Fi module for highly integrated and cost-effective applications.

The PAN9420 device is a 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n fully embedded Wi-Fi Module with integrated stack and API that minimises firmware development and includes a full security suite. It is based around the 88MW300 system-on-chip from Marvell which uses a 200MHzARM Cortex M4F microcontroller core with a flash controller and 32Kbytes of SRAM cache for execute in pace (XIP) applications and updates. 

A fully shielded case, integrated crystal oscillators and a chip antenna allows the PAN9420 module to combine the 88MW300, high-sensitivity wireless radio, baseband processor, medium access controller, encryption unit, boot ROM with patching capability, internal SRAM and in-system programmable flash memory. The integrated memory enables storing web content such as HTML pages or image data while the parallel support of access point and infrastructure mode allows easy setup of simultaneous Wi-Fi connections from the PAN9420 to smart devices and home network routers. 

The pre-programmed Wi-Fi SoC firmware enables Ad-hoc mode (Wi-Fi Direct) applications. With the transparent mode, raw data can be sent from the UART to the air interface to smart devices, web servers or PC applications.

Also now available is a PAN9420 Evaluation Kit containing a motherboard with PAN9420 daughter board (PAN9420 FCC version module) which easily connects to any PC using the USB-cable included. The motherboard comes with two USB to UART converters allowing for hardware access to the two UART module interfaces (command and binary interface). The PAN9420 FCC version module comes pre-loaded with a firmware for IoT applications and a Panasonic Web content example.
The PAN9420 module is available in two version: FCC/IC (P/N: ENW49C01A3KF) and CE RED (P/N: ENW49C02A3KF) pre-certified.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Graphene sensors target the IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed graphene sensors embedded into RFIDs, which they say have the potential to revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT).

Layering graphene-oxide over graphene creates a flexible structure for a a humidity sensor with the ability to connect to any wireless network as part of an RFID system.

Such sensors can be printed layer-by-layer for scalable and mass production at very low cost. The device also requires no battery source as it harvests power from the receiver. This can be used for various applications such as battery-free smart wireless monitoring for manufacturing processes that are sensitive to moisture, food safety, healthcare and nuclear waste.

"The excitement does not end with this new application here, but leads to the future possibilities of integrations of this technique with other 2D materials to open up a new horizon of wireless sensing applications," said Dr Zhirun Hu who led the work.

This is the first example of the printable technology where several 2D materials come together to create a functional device immediately suitable for industrial applications.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Remote monitoring and control over Ethernet and wireless for IIoT

By Nick Flaherty

Acromag has teamed up with California-based Ctek for a complete monitoring and control system to manage remote assets in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

The deal combines Acromag's signal measurement and conditioning products with Ctek's expertise in cellular communication and autonomous controllers for a distributed control system without all the integration hassles. Users can quickly and cost-effectively deploy these systems without programming to connect endpoints to the enterprise, enabling visual access to operation status from anywhere. Menu-based configuration speeds setup of data collection, reporting, and alarm functions.
Acromag BusWorks Ethernet I/O Modules and Ctek 4G/LTE SkyRouter Controller

The integrated Acromag/Ctek system is intended for remotely monitoring and controlling the operation of pumps, motors, tanks, meters, generators, batteries, valves, fans, heaters, and other industrial equipment. Users can rapidly set up data displays, alarm rules, data logging and process control logic routines with point-and-click application development. Controllers support wired serial, Ethernet, and 4G/LTE network communication plus a cloud-based application service for easy access to critical system status reporting.

The Ctek SkyRouter controllers provide autonomous intelligence and sophisticated communication capabilities to manage operations and report performance data. They operate as a Modbus master to read and write to slave I/O devices. Powerful processing capabilities include thresholds, math/boolean functions, triggers, data logging, and much more. Alarms support email and SMS messaging.

Acromag BusWorks® remote I/O modules interface analogue and discrete level sensors. The multi-channel I/O modules convert voltage and current signals representing temperature, level, flow, load, on/off, high/low, and other performance measures to Modbus values. Rugged design, hazloc approvals, and isolated signal processing ensure high-accuracy, reliable performance in harsh locations.

"With this joint solution from Acromag and Ctek, customers can reliably monitor and control remote automation equipment without the hassles of PLC programming or IT networking issues," said Robert Greenfield, Acromag's Business Development Manager.

"Now system developers can confidently pair Acromag I/O and Ctek controllers to rapidly implement SCADA solutions with cloud-based reporting that are affordably scalable for small and large sites," observed Bob Way, Ctek's Business Development Manager.

Telit certifies LTE Cat-M1 module for IoT with Telstra

By Nick Flaherty

Telit has certified its quad-band, dual-mode ME910C1-AU, based on the Qualcomm MDM9206 LTE IoT modem, for LTE Category M1 (Cat M1) operation on Telstra's mobile network. 

The certification means IoT integrators and providers looking to deploy in Australia can quickly start taking advantage of the reliability and around three million square kilometers of Telstra's LTE Cat M1 coverage built specifically for the IoT. 

"This certification is a first in many ways for Telit," said Yosi Fait, Telit CEO. "The ME910 is the first to receive Telstra Cat M1 certification; it is the first regional market launch of the dual-mode Cat M1 and NB1 module series of the ME910C1; and it is the first IoT module form-factor in Australia available for all commercially available cellular standards in the region. With it, our existing customers integrating or selling products into Australia using 2G or 3G modules from the xE910 family, can now simply drop in the new ME910C1-AU and start testing Cat M1 in a matter of weeks. New projects can also get to market quickly with assistance from our network of customer support centres and distributors available in the same time zone with local presence in a number of metropolitan areas in Australia."

The ME910C1-AU module is a pin-to-pin replacement for existing devices based on the family's modules for 2G, 3G, LTE Categories 1, 3 and 4. Developers can cut costs and development time by simply designing for the xE910 LGA common form factor, giving them the freedom to deploy technologies best suited for the application's environment. The ME910C1-AU also features optimised power consumption and optional quad-constellation GNSS support capabilities.

The longevity of the LTE Cat M1 standard and extensive feature set make it an ideal solution for new and existing applications in vertical segments like telematics, smart energy and metering, asset tracking, retail, point-of-sale, security and surveillance, industrial control and automation, smart home, and smart buildings.

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Scalable deep neural network AI accelerators for edge processing

By Nick Flaherty

Hua Xia GPT (hxGPT), China's leading licensor of customisable processor IP cores, has developed a family of scalable, programmable AI accelerators. The cores range from handset to edge processing for a wide range of applications including the Internet of Things (IoT), Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Self-driving Cars, Robotics, Surveillance, and Machine Vision.

The "Song" AI core is a highly configurable IP block that provides for efficient implementations of CNN's. Running at up to 1GHz in 28nm technology, each accelerator core contains 288 MAC units scalable to beyond 2 TFLOPS. Performance, power, and size can be optimised for low power embedded IoT devices and edge processing designs. 

Accuracy can be optimised using built-in 16-bit integer or floating point operations. Support for compressed 8-bit data is provided. Extended precision intermediate results reduce errors in both regression and classification workloads.

Targeting inference applications, the AI accelerator supports multi-dimensional tensor processing. The design provides direct support for convolution, pooling, dropout, padding, and programmable activation functions. A library of popular CNN networks is provided with general framework support such as Tensorflow and Caffee is in development.

Previously hxGPT announced availability and licensing of the Changcheng out-of-order superscalar CPU. This has been tested in TSMC's 28nm process, the core is configurable providing for multiple performance levels based on customer requirements. Memories, caches, and out-of-order features (issue window, ROB, rename, etc.) can all be customised. Depending upon technology selection the core can run up to 3GHz at very low power.

The Song AI core integrates with the Changcheng CPU for ease of programming. Both are programmed using the same proprietary processor programming environment.

WuxiDSP, hxGPT's customer of both the Changcheng core and Song AI core, has used them for  silicon that is scheduled to sample later this year targeting edge IoT processing, says Xiaodong Zhang, Chief Engineer of WuxiDSP.

hxGPT is the only IC design house in China with a portfolio of proprietary intellectual property for CPU, DSP, GPU and AI accelerators targeted at high-end SoC designs for heterogeneous computing. The company has 8 issued patents and more than 90 pending world-wide patents covering the core architecture and implementations of the next generation processor design. It has operations in New York, Beijing, and Shanghai.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty

Automated fault injection without changing source code

By Nick Flaherty

German embedded software test tool developer Razorcat has developed a automated fault injection capability for its unit and integration test tool TESSY, version 4.1 or higher. Test cases with fault injections can be generated and managed easily and implemented in unit tests, integration tests and component tests automatically without changing the source code – saving time and money.

In practice, whenever the necessary code coverage of 100% cannot be reached with normal test cases, fault injections are applied manually by adding testing code or code replacements using compiler macros, by replacing functions (stubbing) or by changing variable values using debug tools. These methods have the disadvantage that they need to be done either manually or that the instrumentation of the source code remains in place within production code. The test engineer is usually the first to realise the need for a fault injection. If the code needs to be changed, all necessary approvals of software development according to safety standards need to be performed again. Such an iteration highly increases development time and cost.

In TESSY 4.1, however, fault injection is automated and does not remain in the source program. The error injections are defined directly in the flow chart of the function within the TESSY environment.

Test cases with automated fault injection have a special flag and will be documented within the test report. When all test cases are executed, these special test cases can be included or excluded from the test execution. All fault injections are conveniently stored and managed in TESSY. This means fault injections can be assigned to one or more test cases in a user-friendly way and will be effective at the desired location even after source code changes when doing regression testing.

The automated fault injection will be shown in the new TESSY version 4.1 at embedded world 2018 in February

Wireless sensor hub evaluation kit for real time data in the IoT and Smart Home

By Nick Flaherty

Integrated Device Technology (IDT) has launched an evaluation kit for its wireless sensor hub which allows product designers and engineers to connect high-performance humidity, temperature and flow sensors in their latest industrial IoT, smart home, connected appliances, fluid metering and control and environmental monitoring applications.

The SDAWIR0x development environment integrates IDT's HS3001 humidity and temperature sensor, FS2012 flow sensor and ZWIR4512 6LoWPAN module and network stack in a single sensor module. The ZWIR4512 connects the environmental sensors via Wi-Fi to output the sensor data in real-time to a private network where it can be viewed on iOS or Android devices. Up to one hundred of these sensor modules can be connected to a single Wi-Fi hub; or thousands in a full mesh network. 

Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware updates simplify development and system updates after deployment. This flexible platform makes the SDAWIR0x ideal for a wide variety of connected devices requiring real-time temperature, humidity and flow data, such as smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, environmental weather stations, pumps and metering equipment and medical infusion pumps and CPAPs.

"The SDAWIR0x uniquely combines our 6LoWPAN solution – which is already proven in smart home and municipal lighting networks – with our royalty-free security stack and OTA update capabilities to provide engineers an industrial-strength development platform for a wide range of IoT, connected home, smart appliance and other applications," said Sailesh Chittipeddi, IDT's executive vice president for global operations and chief technology officer.

Wirelessly updating the SDAWIR0x's firmware is simple and straightforward thanks to the device's OTA update capability. This includes integrity checking and failure recovery mechanisms to ensure it will not become unusable even in case of error.

The SDAWIR0x security stack enables secure, end-to-end communication – even over unsecure network nodes – with its standard-compliant implementations of the Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) protocol suite and the Internet Key Exchange Protocol version 2 (IKEv2).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Intel posts details of speculative execution vulnerability

By Nick Flaherty

Intel has posted its detailed response to the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities in its processors.

"As detailed by Google Project Zero, a new series of side-channel analysis methods have been discovered that potentially facilitate access to unauthorised information," said the company. "These methods rely on common properties of both high-performance microprocessors modern operating systems and susceptibility is not limited to Intel processors, nor does it imply the processor is working outside its intended functional specification. All of the methods take advantage of speculative execution, a common technique in processors used to achieve high performance. Intel is working closely with our partners, as well as with other silicon vendors whose processors are affected, to design mitigations for these methods."

The issues are detailed in a white paper along with the techniques used to stop the data being accessed.

Segger launches portable embedded web server, adds HTTPS support

By Nick Flaherty

Tool developer Segger has commercialised its internal embedded web server to provide a browser interface to any kind of device, service or software module for easy monitoring.This is a key way of provisioning devices in the Internet of Things but needs a very efficient implementation. 

The emWeb web server, used by the company for its own products, is written entirely in C to easily integrate into any existing application on embedded devices, tablets / cell phones or host computers running Windows, Linux or macOS. This means that the device or application can be monitored and controlled in real time from any other device using a browser, no application needs to be provided to the end customer, engineering efforts can be kept to a minimum.

emWeb uses HTTP, a widely established standard, as the underlying base for the user interface. This makes it very portable and accessible. The only requirement is a browser, no drivers are needed to support access on any operating system. The user interface can be scaled depending on resources and requirements from traditional basic HTML to modern interfaces using Javascript, Ajax, SSE, Websockets and more.

This can be combined with Segger's emSSL TLS product for HTTPS secure links. Minimal configuration with a single connection would use 7k of ROM code, or 4k RAM without SSL, so there's no reason not to.

Even devices without traditional interfaces, such as Ethernet or WiFi are able to make use of the universal user interface provided by emWeb. With IP-over-USB technology, Segger provides a state-of-the-art solution for USB devices to be configured, accessed, and monitored through a universal browser UI. Design only a single UI that will work on any end user device.

emWeb has a very small memory footprint for embedded devices, even resource constrained single-chip, microcontroller based devices, and the company uses this technology in many of its own products, such as the J-Link, the J-Link PC software, the Flasher and Flasher ATE products.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Synopsys forms Technical Advisory Board for embedded software integrity

By Nick Flaherty

Synopsys has appointed a Technical Advisory Board (TAB) to guide the technical direction of its  Software Integrity Group’s security products and services.

Despite being a synthesis tool provider, hardware IP and embedded software has been a major part of the company's growth, particularly for applications such as automotive and the Internet of Things. 

The five-member board of experienced software and security executives will advise Synopsys on broader trends in the software industry, provide input on its solutions strategy, and help align its priorities with the requirements of its customers and market.

“Delivering exceptional value to our customers through innovative, cutting-edge solutions is core to our business,” said Andreas Kuehlmann, general manager of the Software Integrity Group. “Though our staff already includes many of the world’s premier software security experts, we understand it is important to build and maintain an objective outside perspective to review and augment our technical strategies. The TAB members, made up of accomplished technologists, will help us do this.”

The TAB will be chaired by Dr. Gary McGraw, vice president of security technology at Synopsys. The initial board members include Dr. Brian Chess (Oracle), Dr. Neil Daswani (Symantec), Dr. Charlie Miller (Cruise Automation), and Dr. Laurie Williams (North Carolina State University).
The Software Integrity Platform unites leading testing technologies, automated analysis, and experts to create a robust portfolio of products and services. This portfolio enables companies to develop personalised programs for detecting and remediating defects and vulnerabilities early in the development process, minimising risk and maximising productivity. 

ADRF teams with Sirqul to layer cellular data over the IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Distributed Antenna System developer Advanced RF Technologies is working with SIoT provider Sirqul to incorporate data from the cellular connections ADRF provides.

ADRF has joined the Sirqul's Strategic Alliance Partner Program to incorporate data from 3G and 4G and add redundancy to Sirqul's IoT network.

"Sirqul has created a strong technology offering that allows its customers to draw real-time and location-based insights from IoT data," said Greg Najjar, Director, Business Development of ADRF. "Joining the Strategic Alliance enables ADRF to become a critical component of Sirqul's solution and bring 'smart' experiences to more venues."

Sirqul offers software and mesh networking technology to track and identify individuals' behaviour, location, and intent. This can range from identifying the exact whereabouts of a fan at a sports stadium to deliver food to enabling autonomous robots to navigate industrial warehouses and factories, as well as be monitored.

ADRF's technology enables Sirqul to create new opportunities for venues and buildings that aren't equipped to provide WiFi. Through the partnership, Sirqul will be able to use ADRF's expertise in deploying successful wireless solutions and mission-critical technologies in public arenas, apartment complexes, smart buildings, and professional sports stadiums to enhance their platform offering.

"ADRF has deployed thousands of implementations in the same markets as Sirqul's client base, including stadiums and arenas, retailers, and other commercial properties," said Viki Zabala, Chief Marketing Officer of Sirqul. "Through this partnership, we're able to rapidly expand our capabilities to easily connect infrastructure to customer engagement for our clients."

ADRF is the latest addition to the Strategic Alliance Program, which includes companies such as Intel, Siemens, and Level 11. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Toshiba's first Bluetooth 5 chips trade data rate for range

By Nick Flaherty

Toshiba has launched two new Bluetooth 5 chips with a longer range at the 125kbit/s data rate.
As a result the TC35680FSG (featuring built-in flash memory) and TC35681FSG are aimed at applications requiring long-range communication, including beacon tags, IoT devices and industrial equipment. Sample shipments will begin later this month.

The chips support the full spectrum of data rates required for the high-speed features – 2M PHY and Coded PHY (500kbit/s and 125kbit/s) – Bluetooth 5.0 standard but trade off the data rate to get the sensitivity for the longer range. The chips have a receiver sensitivity level of -105dBm at 125kbit/s compared to -94.5dBm at 1Mbit/s, but do have a built-in power amplifier in the transmission block that provides up to +8 dBm transmission power for longer range (down to -40dBm for lower power consumption).

The chips are based on an ARM Cortex-M0 processor with a 256KB Mask ROM to support the Bluetooth baseband process and 144KB of RAM for processing Bluetooth baseband, stack and data. They have 18 ports of GPIO which can be set to 2 channels each for SPIs, I2C, and UART. This allows for the structuring of systems that connect to various peripheral devices. These GPIOs can be set for a wakeup function, 4-channel PWM, 5-channel AD converter interfaces, an external amplifier control interface for long-range communication, and more.

The TC35680FSG includes 128KB of flash memory for storing user programs and various data in stand-alone operations, removing the need for external non-volatile memory. This also lowers the part count, which reduces both the cost and mounting area.

The TC35681FSG, which does not include a built-in flash memory, operates in conjunction with an external non-volatile memory or host processor. A wide operating range of -40° to +125°C makes it suitable for applications exposed to high temperatures.

The power consumption is 11.0mA operating at 3.0V, +8dBm and 1Mbit/s for the transmitter and 5.1mA for the receiver at 3.0V  and 1Mbit/s, with a 100nA current at 3.0V in Deep Sleep

It supports Bluetooth low energy Ver. 5.0 central and peripheral devices and has built-in GATT (Generic Attribute Profile), supporting servers and clients defined by GATT.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Entry level FPGA WiFi dev board supports RISC-V Soft CPU

By Nick Flaherty

Microsemi has teamed up with distributor Future Electronics on a low cost development board that uses a Microsemi PolarFire non-volatile field programmable gate array (FPGA) with a RISC-V soft core.

The Avalanche development board includes a RISC-V-based soft central processing unit (CPU) pre-programmed to the kit (for replacing MIPS designs) alongside WiFi and Ethernet networking. This supports the ongoing expansion of Microsemi's recently announced Mi-V ecosystem, which brings together industry leaders involved in the development of RISC-V to leverage their capabilities and streamline RISC-V designs for customers. 
As the lowest cost entry development board available today for designing with Microsemi's lowest power, cost-optimised mid-range PolarFire FPGAs, Future's Avalanche board lowers the barrier to entry for PolarFire FPGAs (from the Actel acquisition) and helps expand Microsemi's market opportunities for the device.

"The availability of Future Electronics' Avalanche board delivers customers the best value for a mid-range density FPGA development board featuring our PolarFire FPGAs," said Ted Marena, director of FPGA marketing for Microsemi. 

"With 300K logic elements (LEs), a Wi-Fi module, 1000 Base-T and numerous expansion connectors, engineers can quickly prototype their ideas at minimal cost. Future Electronics has not only lowered the cost to adopt PolarFire FPGAs, but it is also enabling customers to develop solutions leveraging the power of Microsemi's Mi-V ecosystem and the open RISC-V ISA," he said.

Future Electronics' Avalanche development board also features serial flash memory, double data rate type three (DDR3) DRAM and a Microsemi VSC8531 triple speed PHY powered by Microsemi's LX7167 2.4A hysteretic step-down regulator, making the platform ideal for developing several applications within the industrial market, including industrial internet of things (IoT), secured wired communications, Gb Ethernet bridging and imaging. It also offers industry-standard connectors Arduino Shield, mikroBUS and a Peripheral Module (Pmod) interface. These three expansion headers allow for the use of additional boards to implement an expanded set of applications including infrared, thermal imaging, industrial cameras, touch screen and other wireless interfaces.

"As the newest addition to our family of development boards, the Avalanche board offers the lowest cost platform available in the market for Microsemi's innovative PolarFire technology," said Martin Bernier, director of the Engineering Support Group for Future Electronics. "We believe industrial, medical, defense and communication customers will be excited about PolarFire FPGA's ability to deliver up to 50 percent lower power than other mid-range density devices."

The increasing cost of manufacturing applications with specific input/outputs (I/Os) and interfaces means producing application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and processors optimized for every device scenario is becoming unsustainable. This is especially true as both IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) drive interconnect and networking complexity. In many markets, especially wired communications, industrial and automotive, FPGAs and other configurable logic solutions are increasingly relied on to fill the gap--solving throughput, security and interface challenges, while their flexibility drives down overall cost associated with supporting product line diversity. Because of this, Tom Hackenberg, embedded processors principal analyst at IHS Markit, predicts strong renewed FPGA growth in these markets with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) ranging from just under 6 percent to over 10 percent from 2016 to 2021.

Microsemi's PolarFire FPGA devices provide cost-effective bandwidth processing capabilities with the lowest power footprint. They feature 12.7 Gbps transceivers and offer up to 50 percent lower power than competing mid-range FPGAs, and include hardened PCIe controller cores with both endpoints and root port modes available, as well as low power transceivers. The company's PolarFire Evaluation Kit is a comprehensive alternative platform for evaluating its PolarFire FPGAs which includes a PCIe edge connector with four lanes and a demonstration design. The kit features a high-pin-count (HPC) FPGA mezzanine card (FMC), a single full-duplex lane of surface mount assemblies (SMAs), PCIe x4 fingers, dual Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 and a small form-factor pluggable (SFP) module.

The Avalanche board for PolarFire, part number AVMPF300TS-01, is available now from Future Electronics. 

Related stories:

Monday, January 08, 2018

IAR boosts development of FreeRTOS IoT module

By Nick Flaherty

Tool vendor IAR is supporting the new WiFi-based IoT module from NXP.

The module is based around the LPC54018 microcontroller and includes support for Amazon FreeRTOS and provides a seamless Wi-Fi connection to Amazon Web Services (AWS), enabling developers to create secure, cost-effective IoT solutions. 

The module offers unlimited memory extention, a root of trust built on the embedded SRAM physical unclonable functions (PUF) and on-chip cryptographic accelerators. The software libraries of Amazon FreeRTOS mean cloud on-boarding and over-the-air device management is simplified and theIAR Embedded Workbench provides code optimisation technology and extensive debugging functionality.

The speed optimisations and IAR C/C++ Compiler generate fast, efficient code for high-performance, low-power applications. To enable extensive debugging and profiling, the toolchain includes features such as complex code and data breakpoints, runtime stack analysis, call stack visualisation, code coverage analysis and integrated monitoring of power consumption. Through add-on tools for static analysis and runtime analysis, developers gain complete code control.

“We recently announced support for the new IoT microcontroller operating system Amazon FreeRTOS from Amazon Web Services,” said Anders Lundgren, Product Manager at IAR Systems. “This support in combination with the powerful code optimizations and debugging capabilities of IAR Embedded Workbench will enable developers to leverage the full potential of the new IoT module from NXP.”

More information about IAR Embedded Workbench for Arm is available at

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Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty



Denso backs Japanese gallium chip startup for electric vehicles
.Denso backs Japanese gallium chip startup for electric vehicles
UK project to double range of electric vehicle with silicon batteries
.UK project to double range of electric vehicle with silicon batteries
Top ten power trends for 2018 
.Top ten power trends for 2018 


Quantum dots boost efficiency in dual pane solar windows
.Quantum dots boost efficiency in dual pane solar windows
Lithium-iron battery gives 8x capacity boost
.Lithium-iron battery gives 8x capacity boost
Gyrfalcon takes on Intel over AI power consumption
.Gyrfalcon takes on Intel over AI power consumption


Israeli startup shows power models for the Internet of Things in the home
.Israeli startup shows power models for the Internet of Things in the home
600W modular AC-DC supplies support conduction cooling
.600W modular AC-DC supplies support conduction cooling
Three-phase MOSFET driver with on-board regulator can be used for both sensors and microprocessors
.Three-phase MOSFET driver with on-board regulator can be used for both sensors and microprocessors


Intersil: Inside a new architecture for USB Type-C applications
.Intersil: Inside a new architecture for USB Type-C applications
TI: Using a motor driver for a low power isolated full-bridge DC-DC conversion
.TI: Using a motor driver for a low power isolated full-bridge DC-DC conversion

Friday, January 05, 2018

CEVA launches AI cores for edge processing

By Nick Flaherty

CEVA has launched a specialised Artificial Intelligence (AI) processor family for deep learning inference at the edge. The NeuPro family of processors is designed for smart and connected edge devices looking to use machine learning at the edge of the network.

NeuPro builds on CEVA’s deep neural network core designs for computer vision applications. Customers are already deploying the CEVA-XM4 and CEVA-XM6 vision platforms along with the CDNN neural network software framework in consumer, surveillance and ADAS products. This new family of dedicated AI processors offers a considerable step-up in performance, ranging from 2 Tera Ops Per Second (TOPS) for the entry-level processor to 12.5 TOPS for the most advanced configuration.

The NeuPro processor line extends the use of AI beyond machine vision to new edge-based applications including natural language processing, real-time translation, authentication, workflow management, and many other learning-based applications that make devices smarter and reduce human involvement.

“It’s abundantly clear that AI applications are trending toward processing at the edge, rather than relying on services from the cloud," said Ilan Yona, vice president and general manager of the Vision Business Unit at CEVA. "The computational power required along with the low power constraints for edge processing, calls for specialised processors rather than using CPUs, GPUs or DSPs. We designed the NeuPro processors to reduce the high barriers-to-entry into the AI space in terms of both architecture and software. Our customers now have an optimized and cost-effective standard AI platform that can be used for a multitude of AI-based workloads and applications.” 

The NeuPro architecture is composed of a combination of hardware-based and software-based engines coupled for a complete, scalable and expandable AI solution. Optimizations for power, performance, and area (PPA) are achieved using a precise mix of hardware, software and configurable performance options for each application tier.

The The NeuPro family comprises four AI processors offering different levels of parallel processing:

  • NP500 is the smallest, with 512 MAC units for IoT, wearables and cameras
  • NP1000 includes 1024 MAC units and targets mid-range smartphones, ADAS, industrial applications and AR/VR headsets
  • NP2000 includes 2048 MAC units and targets high-end smartphones, surveillance, robots and drones
  • NP4000 includes 4096 MAC units for high-performance edge processing in enterprise surveillance and autonomous driving
Each processor consists of the NeuPro engine and the NeuPro VPU. The NeuPro engine includes the hardwired implementation of neural network layers among which are convolutional, fully-connected, pooling, and activation. The NeuPro VPU is a cost-efficient programmable vector DSP, which handles the CDNN software and provides software-based support for new advances in AI workloads. NeuPro supports both 8-bit and 16-bit neural networks, with an optimized decision made in real time in order to deliver the best tradeoff between precision and performance. The MAC units achieve better than 90% utilization when running, ensuring highly optimized neural network performance. The overall processor design reduces DDR bandwidth substantially, improving power consumption levels for any AI application.

The NeuPro family, coupled with CDNN, CEVA’s award winning neural network software framework, provides the ultimate deep learning solution for developers to easily and efficiently generate and port their proprietary neural networks to the processor. CDNN supports the full gamut of layer types and network topologies, enabling fastest time-to-market.

In conjunction with the NeuPro processor line, CEVA will also offer the NeuPro hardware engine as a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) accelerator. When combined with the CEVA-XM4 or CEVA-XM6 vision platforms, this provides a flexible option for customers seeking a single unified platform for imaging, computer vision and neural network workloads.

NeuPro will be available for licensing to select customers in the second quarter of 2018 and for general licensing in the third quarter of 2018.

On-chip micro-speakers drive new embedded design options

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has delivered the first micromachined on-chip loudspeakers resulting from its collaboration with Usound. 

The MEMS devices are expected to enable the thinnest in the world and less than half the weight of conventional speakers, enable wearable tech such as earphones, over-the-ear headphones, or Augmented-Reality/Virtual-Reality (AR/VR) headgear to become even more compact and comfortable. The extremely low power consumption saves extra weight and size by allowing smaller batteries, and unlike conventional speakers they generate negligible heat.

MEMS technology using standard CMOS chip-making technology is already being used for  navigation, tracking, and other features. With MEMS now coming to speakers, designers can further miniaturise the audio subsystem, reduce power consumption, and create innovative features like 3D sound. 

The advanced MEMS micro-speakers feature a piezo-electric actuator that deflects in response to analogue audio signals as an alternative to the conventional electro-mechanical speaker. The new devices also eliminate the usual trade-offs between magnet size, air volume, and sound quality that complicate both the design and integration of traditional, conventional electro-mechanical miniature speakers that contain a magnet and balanced-armature mechanism.

USound's patented concept for these speakers leverages piezo-electric material properties to drive the speaker membrane, which eliminates the complex signal processing required in other types of MEMS micro speakers. The piezo actuator allows an extremely small speaker footprint and low profile, with outstanding power efficiency and fast response for high acoustic performance.
MEMS-industry analyst Yole Développement values the overall micro-speakers market at $8.7 billion currently, and expects MEMS manufacturers to capture share with silicon-based devices.

"This successful project combines USound's design flair and ST's extensive investment in MEMS expertise and processes, including our advanced thin-film piezo technology PeTra (Piezo-electric Transducer)," said Anton Hofmeister, Vice President and GM of MEMS Microactuators Division, STMicroelectronics. "Together, we are winning the race to commercialise MEMS micro-speakers by delivering a more highly miniaturised, efficient, and better-performing solution leveraging the advantages of piezo-actuation."

"ST has provided the production expertise and manufacturing muscle to realise our original concept as a pace-setting, advanced product ready for consumer-market opportunities," said Ferruccio Bottoni, CEO of USound. "These tiny speakers are now poised to change the design of audio and hearable products, and open up new opportunities to develop creative audio functionalities."

The new piezo-actuated silicon speakers support innovation in a wide variety of hearable electronics, including home digital assistants, media players, and IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices.

USound will demonstrate prototype AR/VR glasses containing multiple MEMS speakers per side next week at CES 2018 with advanced features such as beam forming for private audio.