Embedded World 2013 Review: Themes For The Future

15th May 2013
Posted By : ES Admin
Embedded World 2013 Review: Themes For The Future
Safety, security and ultra-low power were the overriding themes of this year’s Embedded World Exhibition and Conference, which took place to great success between February 25th to 27th in Nürnberg, Germany. Philip Ling reports for ES Design magazine.
##IMAGE_1_R##With the decline in attendance at similar embedded shows in the USA, Embedded World is now legitimately held up as the most important international event dedicated to the embedded electronics sector by the organisers.

Reflecting this assumed status, after-show statistics report an attendance in the region of 22,500, with around 900 exhibitors across five halls at the NürnbergMesse. Richard Krowoza, Member of the Management Board at NürnbergMesse, commented in a statement: “This year’s embedded world once again confirms its significance as the most important and biggest event for the international embedded community.”

Electronic Specifier was present throughout the event and here we present a round-up of the most significant announcements made.

Tiny FPGA Targets Sensor Fusion

Lattice Semiconductor was giving select customers a sneak preview of its latest device, formally announced subsequently, which bucks the trend for FPGA manufacturers by targeting smaller devices.

The lower LUT density of just 384 (7680 gates) means the iCE40 LP384 can deliver a standby power as low as 25μW in a 2.5 x 2.5mm package, with a roadmap to an even smaller 2.0 x 2.0mm.

The smallest existing iCE FPGA is 1k LUTs with a standby power of around 100μW. The bold move to make the diminutive device was in response to a perceived opportunity to capture large amounts of data at hardware speeds in applications like sensor interfaces. Volume pricing is expected to reach $0.50.

Demonstrating the flexibility of modular design, congatec showed off a Tablet PC reference design based on its conga-QMX6 board based on Freescale’s latest i.MX6 processor.

Greater Reach With ARM

According to Energy Micro’s newly appointed Chief Marketing Office, Alf-Egil Bogen, the ‘focus on the architecture is over’. Why is this relevant? Because Bogen was one of the minds behind the highly successful and pervasive AVR architecture.

Perhaps more significantly, he joins Energy Micro from Atmel, where he held the same role, stating he now wants to work more with ARM cores.

However, speaking shortly after his appointment, at Embedded World, Bogen iterated that the real value in Energy Micro’s offering isn’t the omnipresent Cortex-M cores, but the low power IP the company has developed to complement it.

Bogen, who has personally invested $2million in Energy Micro, said he wants to build on the company’s low power technology to better focus on certain markets, by combining engineering with marketing.

Error Correction

##IMAGE_5_R##Marking the continued shift towards digital power, Analog Devices announced two new error amplifiers that build on its isolation technology, removing the need for optocouplers in linear feedback power supplies.

Although the technology is not strictly entirely analog (pulses are used that correlate to an analog signal) it is considered to be more analog than digital, as it doesn’t use analog/digital converters. The relevance of this is ADI is able to guarantee 1% accuracy across the output range, with no derating curve.

Design Support Extension

Acknowledging the challenge of development, Silica launched a major new initiative at Embedded World, which aims to help its customers overcome barriers to new product development.

The initiative, called ArchiTech, is essentially a range of reference designs, developed in conjunction with silicon providers, that target specific application areas. Mauro Pasqualini, Suppliers and Technology Director, EMEA, commented that the boards ‘need to complement the suppliers’ goals but be uniquely targeted’. He added that wireless will be an important application area.

There are six boards initially, with plans to add between 10 and 15 new boards per year.

Body Language

Continuing its efforts to target innovative user interface technologies, Microchip put a new solution on centre stage at Embedded World; its BodyCom Development Framework.

The technology uses the body as a conductor for a modulated signal, with a transponder at each end, to provide secure communication that could be used for a wide range of access control.

Fundamentally the technology has low processing requirements, which makes it ideal of the company’s 8-bit MCUs. It’s hoped that the development framework will stimulate innovation and lead to increased demand for the low-end microcontrollers.

Then Came EVE

With a track record of delivering efficient USB connectivity, FTDI reinforced its wider mission statement of making hard things simple, by introducing the FT800Q; a single-chip device that provides video, audio and touch-sensing.

The technology, which FTDI has named EVE — for Embedded Video Engine — enables a simple, low-end MCU to control a TFT display using simple commands. All of the ‘heavy lifting’ to drive the screen is handled by the embedded engine, as is the 4-wire resistive-touch interface and audio feedback, thanks to an embedded audio processor that can deliver a MIDI-like sound.

The object-oriented approach renders images in a line-by-line way, allowing images and fonts to be reproduced using nothing more demanding than a three-pin interface. Up to 2000 objects can be controlled within an 8kbyte display list.

Smart Metering

Toshiba used Embedded World to introduce a starter kit for smart meters and other equipment that requires ultra-accurate measurement, based on a dual-Cortex-M0 MCU — the company’s first Cortex-M0 based device.

The device could be used to replace a two-chip solution, as it incorporates a high-accuracy power calculation engine and high-precision 24-bit Delta Sigma ADCs.

Software support comes from IAR Embedded Workbench and the development board includes JTAG support, an on-board debugger and a trace connector, as well as an LCD and LEDs.

Decision Makers

With the introduction of the latest iteration of MISRA C:2012 Guidelines, the association has made it easier to compare analysis tools. Following this, LDRA was exhibiting its products and services at Embedded World, in particular the availability of its compliance tools that meet the latest guidelines.

Including in the new guidelines is a ‘decideabillity’ rating for rules, which should help developers evaluate the efficacy of analysis tools on a ‘like for like’ basis.

LDRA’s Chris Tapp, chairman of the MISRA C++ Working Group, member of the MISRA C Working Group and one of the authors of MISRA C:2012, will present a series of half-day seminars in multiple locations to explain the changes and advantages of the latest MISRA version. Visit www.ldra.com/misra-seminars for more details.

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