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Posts Tagged ‘connectivity’

Blog Review – Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday, June 26th, 2017

This week, hot on the heels of DAC, a review of the Austin event; Intel administers a dose of precision medicine; Challenges for drivers; How to choose between a GPU or FPGA and a blockchain reaction for the IoT

DAC 2017 took place in Austin, Texas, and Paul MeLellan, Cadence Design Systems, was there and has collated a wide-ranging report, with day-by-day news, including bats and bagpipes from the 54 th incarnation of the event.

Writing from a very personal viewpoint, Bryce Olson, Intel, advocates precision medicine, and looks at Intel’s scalable reference architecture to speed up the research and answers in medical care.

Vehicle safety is critical, and Stephen Pateras, Mentor Graphics, looks at self-test and monitoring in autonomous cars, using the Tessent MissionMode architecture. He explains in a clear, detailed manner, the IC test capabilities and simulation for self-driving cars.

Still with vehicle design, Robert Vamosi, Synopsys, flags up the security hazards around the connected car as sensors proliferate and hackers ramp up their assaults. He advocates software security and the communication protection afforded by the IEEE 802.11p protocol.

A handy white paper is brought to our attention by Steve Leibson, Xilinx, for those deciding whether a GPU is better than an FPGA in cloud computing, machine leaning, video and image processing applications.

I learned a couple of things from Christine Young, Maxim Integrated this week. One is that there is a job title of ‘chief IoTologist’, the other was to put the term ‘blockchain’ into context for the IoT. She reports from the IoT World Conference about how blockchain, using advanced cryptography, provides a “tamper-proof distributed record of transactions” and how the IoT Alliance is occupied in developing a shared blockchain protocol as a common identifier to secure IoT products.

Starstruck John Blyler, looks at the reality behind the stardust and conducts an interview with Dr Clifford Johnson, physicist at University of Southern California and script adviser for the National Geographic Channel’s TV program, Genius, about Albert Einstein.

Blog Review Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday, May 8th, 2017

This week, there is some N7 news, and the beginning of an HPC renaissance; ARM survives a mountain-top ordeal and Intel has a strategy for IoT; Odd place for sunburn

TSMC’s 7nm process is detailed by Paul McLellan, Cadence, from a visit to CDNLive Silicon Valley. His report is well illustrated and informative.

Predicting a second renaissance in high-performance computing (HPC), Prasad Alavilli, ANSYS, explains the role of CFD and the state-of-play for HPC and what that means for chip design.

Likening Internet security to the American ‘wild west’, Alan Grau, Icon Labs, fears for security measures and corrective actions. He looks at some recent attacks and cures and advocates a strong stance on security.

I suspect Scott Salzwedel, Mentor Graphics, is rather excited about the New Horizons spacecraft, which is due to emerge from its hibernation. His enthusiasm is infectious, and his well-illustrated blog puts the reader as in thrall to the project – and the role of the company’s own Nucleus RTOS – as he clearly is.

The three phases of the IoT revolution are set out by Aaron Tersteeg, Intel. He sets out a clear plan to nuture big ideas and how technology can support the evolution.

PVT (process, voltage and temperature) sensor systems are exciting Rupert Baines, UltraSoC. He considers the company’s co-operation with Moortec Semiconductor, and what this means for SoC monitoring.

Life is not looking too rosy for ARM engineer Matt Du Puy and fellow climbers, at the moment. They are stuck on Mt Kanchenjunga in Nepal, without the drone copter that was confiscated by customs officials. True the team has a toolbox of ARM-powered devices, like the Suunto Ambit smartwatch, satellite beacon, Outernet networking device, Google Pixel smartphone, Go Pro and Ricoh Theta 360-degree camera, reports Brian Fuller, ARM, but there is also sunburn – inside the nostrils (eughhh!).

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Moving on from 4K and 8K, Simon Forrest, Imagination Technologies, reports on 360° video, as seen at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. That, together with High Dynamic Range (HDR) could re-energize the TV broadcasting industry in general and the set-top box in particular.

The IoT is responsible for explosive growth in smart homes with connectivity at their centre. Dan Artusi, Intel, considers what technologies and disciplines are coming together as it introduces Intel Home Wireless Infrastructure at CES 2017.

Announcing a partnership with Renault and OSVehicle, ARM will work with the companies to develop an open source platform for cars, cities and transportation. Soshun Arai, ARM, explains how the ‘stripped down’ Twizy can release the brakes on CAN development.

Some Christmas reading has brought enlightenment to Gabe Moretti, Chip Design, as he unravels the mysteries of CEO comings and goings, and why the EDA industry could learn a thing or two from the boards of spy plane and stealth bomber manufacturers.

Still with EDA, Brian Derrick, Mentor Graphics, likens the automotive industry to sports teams, where big names dominate and capture consumers’ interest, eclipsing all others. This is changing as electric vehicles become a super power to turbo charge the industry.

It’s always good to welcome new blogs, and Sonics delivers with its announcement that it is addressing power management. Grant Pierce, Sonics, introduces the technology and product portfolio to enhance design methods.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Research converts contact lens to computer screens; What to see at Embedded World 2016; Remembering Professor Marvin Minsky; How fast is fast and will the IoT protect us?

The possibilities for wearable technology, where a polymer film coating can turn a contact lens into a computer screen are covered by Andrew Spence Nanontechnology University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute. The lens can be used as a sensor to measure blood glucose levels to a pair of glasses acting as a computer screen.

If you are preparing your Embedded World 2016, Nuremberg, schedule, Philippe Bressy, ARM offers an overview of what will be at his favourite event. He covers the company’s offerings for IoT and connectivity, single board computing, software productivity, automotive and from ARM’s partners to be seen on the ARM booth (Hall 5, stand 338), as well as some of the technical conference’s sessions and classes.

Other temptations can be found at the Xilinx booth at Embedded World (Hall 1, stand 205). Steve Leibson, Xilinx explains how visitors can win a Digilent ARTY Dev Kit based on an Artix-7 A35T -1LI FPGA, with Xilinx Vivado HLx Design Edition.

Showing more of what can be done with the mbed IoT Device Platform, Liam Dillon, ARM, writes about the reference system for SoC design for IoT endpoints, and its latest proof-of-concept platform, Beetle.

How fast is fast, muses Richard Mitchell, Ansys. He focuses on the Ansys 17.0 and its increased speeds for structural analysis simulations and flags up a webinar about Ansys Mechanical using HPC on March 3.

If the IoT is going to be omnipresent, proposes Valerie C, Dassault, can we be sure that it can protect us and asks, what lies ahead.

A pioneer of artificial intelligence, Professor Marvin Minsky as died at the age of 88. Rambus fellow, Dr David G Stork, remembers the man, his career and his legacy on this field of technology.

I do enjoy Whiteboard Wednesdays, and Corrie Callenback, Cadence, has picked a great topic for this one – Sachin Dhingra’s look at automotive Ethernet.

Another thing I particularly enjoy is a party, and Hélène Thibiéroz, Synopsys reminds us that it is 35 years since HSPICE was introduced. (Note to other party-goers: fireworks to celebrate are nice, but cake is better!)

Caroline Hayes, European Editor

Blog Review – Mon. June 23 2014

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Hayes

The cost of scaling 3D monolithic devices; automation validation; an enterprise wide behavior model; connectivity vs. Wi-Fi design; what’s happening in the China fabless semiconductor market.

There is something afoot in monolithic 3D circles, detects Zvi Or-Bach, MonolithIC 3D, as he tracks disquiet about a feasible roadmap for the technology. Costs and scaling are clashing, he illustrates his case with some effective charts, including one from ARM, but ends on an optimistic note for the industry.

At Mentor, Jay Gorajia vents his frustration at the disruption to communication flows between design and manufacturing oganizations. He makes an effective case for automation to create consistent DFx reports which are configured specifically for each customer.

Continuing something of a crusade for model-based systems engineering, Todd McDevitt, Ansys, has some sound advice for enterprise-wide dynamic modeling. The checklist has some useful links to webinars and web pages.

An interesting interview with Richard Stamyik, ARM, by ChipDesign’s own John Blyler gets the root of cellular connectivity for M2M and IoT and how it differs from WiFi embedded design.

If you have the travel bug, and believe it’s a case of “Go east, young man” these days, then Richard Goering, Cadence, advises you not to pack those bags, just yet. He reports from the DAC 2014 China Fabless Semiconductor Panel, relating some challenges to some preconceptions, such as production and consumption in the region and investment.

Maybe Michael Posner saw one-too-many films on his travels to SNUG in Israel. His blog begins with a picture of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Zorro, the mysterious swordsman-avenger, but quickly moves on to a namesake with a different spelling: the Zoro Hybrid Prototype for early software development. His enthusiasm is infectious, (even if the film link is tenuous!), and the content is clearly set out to inform.

Will Moore’s and Metcalfe’s Laws Cross the IOT Chasm?

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

The success of the IOT may depend more on a viable customer experience over the convergence of the semiconductor and communication worlds.

By John Blyler, Editor, IOT Embedded Systems

The Internet of Things will involve a huge number of embedded devices reporting back to data aggregators running servers on the cloud. Low cost and low power sensors, cameras and other sources will allow the IOT to render the real world into a digital format. All of these “things” will be connected together via the Internet, which will open up new business models and services for customers and users. It should greatly expand the human–machine experience.

The key differentiators between the emerging IOT and traditional embedded systems is connectivity. IOT will conceivable connect all embedded things together. The result will be an almost inconceivable amount of data from sensors, cameras and the like, which will be transferred to the cloud for major computation and analysis.

Connectivity means IOT platforms will have a huge data side. Experts predict that the big data industry will grow to about US$54.3 billion by 2017. But the dark side of connectivity is the proliferation of hacking and privacy lapses caused by poor security.

Security is an issue for users as well as for the device developers. Since most IoT devices are resource constrained, designer cannot deploy resource-intensive security protection mechanisms. They are further constrained by the low cost of mass-produced devices.

Another challenge is that most software developers are not particularly security or reliability conscious. They lack training in the use of security testing, encryption, etc. Their code is often not design nor programmed in a defensive fashion.

Finally, since IOT devices will be designed and available on a massive scale, security attacks and failures can be easily propagated. Frequently software security patches will be needed but these must be design for early in the development life cycle of both the hardware (think architecture and memory) and software.

Moore-Metcalf and the Chasm

Connectivity, security and data analysis will make IOT devices far more complex than tradition embedded systems. This complexity in design and product acceptance can be illustrated by the confluence of two laws and a marketing chasm. Let’s consider each separately.

First, there is Moore’s Law. In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that transistor density (related to performance) of microprocessors would double every 2 years (see Figure 1). While “doubling every 2 years” suggests a parabola-shaped curve, Moore’s growth function is almost always represented in a straight line ― complemented by a logarithmic scale on the Y-axis.

Figure 1: Moore’s Law (courtesy of Mentor Graphics, Semi Pacific NW, 2015)

Several years later, another technology pioneer, 3Com co-founder Bob Metcalfe, stated that the value of a network grows with the square of the number of network nodes (or devices, or applications, or users, etc.), while the costs follow a more or less linear function. Not surprisingly, this equation is show as a network connection diagram. For example, 2 mobile devices will only able to communicate with each other. However, if you have billions of connected devices and applications, connection complexity rising considerably (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law is really about network growth rather than about technological innovation. Blogger Marc Jadoul recently noted on the Nokia website that, the combination of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s principles explains the evolution of communication networks and services, as well as the rise of the Internet of Things. The current IoT growth is enabled by hardware miniaturization, decreasing sensor costs, and ubiquitous wireless access capabilities that are empowering an explosive number of smart devices and applications…”

Jadoul realizes that the availability of state-of-the-art technology does not always guarantee success, citing the struggling growth of two main IOT “killer” consumer devices and apps, namely, watches and connected thermostats. The latter is also notorious for its security issues.

He explains this slow adoption by considering the “chasm.” Geoffrey A. Moore wrote about the gap that product marketers have to bridge for a new technology to go mainstream. Jadoul then combines these three charts, admitting the inaccuracies caused by different axis and scales, to observe that the chasm is actually the point where the shift from a technology driven model to a value and customer experience driven business needs to take place (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Intersection of Gordon Moore’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law and Geoffrey Moore’s “the Chasm. (Courtesy of Marc Jadoul blog.)

This line of reasoning highlights the key differentiator of the IOT, i.e., connectivity of embedded semiconductor devices. But the success of the IOT may depend more on a viable customer experience over the convergence of computational and communication technologies.

Cybernetic Human Via Wearable IOT

Friday, January 20th, 2017

UC Berkeley’s Dr. Rabaey sees humans becoming an extension of the wearable IoT via neuron connectivity at recent IEEE IMS event.

by Hamilton Carter and John Blyler, Editors, JB Systems

During the third week in May, more than 3000 microwave engineers from across the globe descended upon San Francisco for the International Microwave Symposium 2016. To close the week, it seemed only fitting then that the final plenary talk by Jan Rabaey was titled “The Human Intranet- Where Swarms and Humans Meet.”


Dr. Rabaey, Professor and EE Division Chair at UC Berkeley, took the stage wearing a black T-shirt, a pair of slacks, and a sports coat that shimmered under the bright stage lights. He briefly summarized the topic of his talk, as well as his research goal: turning humans themselves into the next extension of the IoT. Ultimately he hopes to be able to create human-machine interfaces that could ideally not only read individual neurons, but write them as well.

What Makes a Wearable Wearable?

The talk opened with a brief discourse on the inability thus far of wearables to capture the public’s imagination. Dr. Rabaey cited several key problems facing the technology: battery life; how wearable a device actually is; limited functionality; inability to hold user interest; and perhaps most importantly something he termed stove-piping. Wearable technologies today are built to communicate only with other devices manufactured by the same company. Dr. Rabaey called for an open wearables platform to enable the industry to expand at an increasing rate.

Departing from wearables to discuss an internet technology that almost everyone does use, Dr. Rabaey focused for a few moments on the smart phone. He emphasized that while the devices are useful, the bandwidth of the communications channel between the device, and its human owner is debilitatingly narrow. His proposal for remedying this issue is not to further enhance the smart phone, but instead to enhance the human user!

One way to enhance the bandwidth between device and user is simply to provide more input channels. Rabaey discussed one project, already in the works, that utilizes Braille-like technology to turn skin into a tactile interface, and another project for the visually-impaired that aims to transmit visual images to the brain over aural channels via sonification.

Human limbs as prosthetics

As another powerful example of what has already been achieved in human extensibility, Dr. Rabaey, showed a video produced by the scientific journal “Nature” portraying research that has enabled quadriplegic Ian Burkhart to regain control of the muscles in his arms and hands. The video showed Mr. Burkhart playing Guitar Hero, and gripping other objects with his own hands; hands that he lost the use of five years ago. The system that enables his motor control utilizes a sensor to scan the neurons firing in his brain as researchers show him images of a hand closing around various objects. After a period of training and offline data analysis, a bank of computers learns to associate his neural patterns with his desire to close his hand. Finally, sensing the motions he would like to make, the computers fire electro-constricting arm bands that cause the correct muscles in his arm to flex and close his hand around an object. (See video: “The nerve bypass: how to move a paralysed hand“)

Human Enhancements Inside and Out

Rabaey divides human-enhancing tech into two categories, extrospective, applications, like those described above, that interface the enhanced human to the outside world, and introspective applications that look inwards to provide more information about enhanced humans themselves. Turning his focus to introspective applications, Rabaey presented several examples of existing bio-sensor technology including printed blood oximetry sensors, wound healing bandages, and thin-film EEGs. He then described the technology that will enable his vision of the human intranet: neural dust.

The Human Intranet

In 1997, Kris Pister outlined his vision for something called smart dust, one cubic millimeter devices that contained sensors, a processor, and networked communications. Pister’s vision was recently realized by the Michigan Micro Mote research team. Rabaey’s, proposed neural dust would take this technology a step further providing smart dust systems that measure a mere 10 to 100 microns on a side. At these dimensions, the devices could travel within the human blood stream. Dr. Rabaey described his proposed human intranet as consisting of a network fabric of neural dust particles that communicate with one or more wearable network hubs. The headband/bracelet/necklace-borne hub devices would handle the more heavy-duty communication, and processing tasks of the system, while the neural dust would provide real-time data measured on-site from within the body. The key challenge to enabling neural dust at this point lies in determining a communications channel that can deliver the data from inside the human body at real-time speeds while consuming very little power, (think picowatts).

Caution for the future

In closing, Dr. Jan implored the audience, that in all human/computer interface devices, security must be considered at the onset, and throughout the development cycle. He pointed out that internal defibrillators with wireless controls can be hacked, and therefore, could be used to kill a human who uses one. While this fortunately has never occurred, he emphasized that since the possibility exists it is key to encrypt every packet of information related to the human body. While encryption might be power-hungry in software, he stated that encryption algorithms build into ASICs could be performed at a fraction of the power cost. As for passwords, there are any number of unique biometric indicators that can be used. Among these are voice, and heart-rate. The danger for these bio-metrics, however, is that once they can be cloned, or imitated, the hacker has access to a treasure-trove of information, and possibly control. Perhaps the most promising biometric at present is a scan of neurons via EEG or other technology so that as the user thinks of a new password, the machine interface can pick it up instantly, and incorporates it into new transmissions.

Wrapping up his exciting vision of a bright cybernetic future, Rabaey grounded the audience with a quote made by Joanna Zylinska, an Australian performance artist, in a 2002 interview:

“The body has always been a prosthetic body. Ever since we developed as humanoids and developed bipedal locomotion, two limbs became manipulators. We have become creatures that construct tools, artifacts, and machines. We’ve always been augmented by our instruments, our technologies. Technology is what constructs our humanity. …, so to consider technology as a kind of alien other that happens upon us at the end of the millennium is rather simplistic.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Clarifing Embedded IOT Connectivity Confusion

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
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Cellular vs. WiFi Embedded Design

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Embedded developers should know the differences between cellular and WiFi types of connectivity, especially when moving from prototyping to production designs.

Is cellular connectivity more difficult to add to an embedded design that a WiFi connection? How does one move from a prototype design to a production ready device? To answer these questions and more, I talked with Richard Stamvik, Segment Manager, Operator Relations at ARM. What follows is a portion of that interview. – JB

Blyler: How did cellular connectivity come to play in the embedded development space for applications like Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet-of-Things (IoTs)?

Stamvik: As a part of the segment marketing team, I help keep track of what’s going on in the cellular space. For us, segment marketing deals with customers beyond the silicon vendors, e.g., the device vendors, software developers, cellular operators, and such. This is important because the operators are the closest that we get to the consumers.

After the ARM® mbed™ platform got going, the mobile network operators like Vodafone and Sprint realized that they would benefit by adding cellular connectivity into the embedded ecosystem. First, the operators would get access to a healthy, multifaceted, and occasionally headstrong (let’s say passionate) ecosystem of embedded systems developers.  These developers would be developing applications that would eventually come their way and generate traffic revenue in their network.

Vodafone started off by adding a USB dongle form factor modem with associated open source software onto the website. That modem connected directly to an mbed board (see Figure 1), resulting in a prototyping environment that allowed for the rapid development of the conceptual design. Then Sprint followed suit and the rest is history.  Since then, other modular vendors have tapped into the mbed ecosystems abundance of developers and resources.

Figure 1: The Vodafone K3770 and K3772-Z modems allow you to connect your mbed platform to the Internet from (almost) any location in the world.

Blyler: Many embedded developers are uncertain how to incorporate cellular connectivity. Is it that much different from wireless interfaces like Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi and the like?

Stamvik: From a conceptual point, “no”. But cellular networks tend to be more strictly controlled because operators are cautious about new devices joining their network without proper certification. All such things have to be certified by standard boards like the Global Certification Forum (GCF) in Europe and in Asia. The corresponding entity in the US is called the PTCRB. Most operators would like all devices to go through these standard body checks and they aren’t cheap. On top of that, each operator has his or her own verification processes. All of these requirements are meant to ensure that any device added to the operator’s network will not wreck that network. A cellular network crash is a catastrophic event.

Conversely, a device that wrecks a Wi-Fi wireless network is usually not catastrophic. You can reboot and off you go again. That is why cellular connectivity tends to be harder (than Wi-Fi). This is one reason why there aren’t that many cellular modem vendors while there are quite a few Bluetooth and WiFi modem vendors. Except for the toughness of the cellular standards, there isn’t much difference to the embedded developer. Cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity are both viewed as data pipelines, i.e., a communication channel from and analog-to-digital port.

Blyler: Can a developer by-pass the certification challenge by going with pre-certified subsystem? Wouldn’t that allow the developer to move more quickly from a prototype to a production ready system?

Stamvik: Certainly – that’s what usually happens. Developers add a pre-certified, self-contained modem like the Vodafone or Sprint USB dongle or the uBlox module.

Let’s talk about the productization issue (see Figure 2). mbed is a prototyping platform. A developer – say, an engineer at BMW – buys an mbed kit to design a device that will go into a future connected car. Once the prototype is functioning properly, he/she take it to his/her boss to get approval for the next stage, namely, turning the prototype into a product to be sold. Depending upon the particular design, that activity might require additional efforts to optimize the final product version for cost, power consumption, etc. But more often than not, the product version can be implemented using mbed’s existing tool suites, which means you can typically go from prototype to production with relative ease.

Figure 2: mbed Cellular Hardware Platform (courtesy of ARM).

Blyler: There is quite a difference between the prototype and the product process.

Stamvik: Indeed there is. The prototype is a functional or performance proof-of-concept. Meanwhile, the product is something you can sell.  Further, simply adding a pre-certified modem is fine for prototyping but may not be as easy when creating a product. At that stage, the developer might want to take a step back to decide the best way to optimize the overall design. They might go to the modular manufacturer or even the silicon chip manufactures for options. And the optimization process for power, performance or whatever cannot wreck the existing certification for the modem. The designer must be very careful if they open up the lid of a pre-certified modem and start fiddling with the internal pieces. You don’t want to break the certification.

Blyler: What’s the difference between a dongle and a module? Is one easier to productize then the other?

Stamvik: Consider the uBlox module that I mentioned earlier (see Figure 3). uBlox is a cellular modem vendor. But uBlox that the mbed board and platform as a marketing vehicle for their modem. That’s why they designed an mbed development board upon which to insert their cellular modem and offered it to the mbed ecosystem. In contrast, a developer would have to add a modem to  a standard development board that doesn’t already include wireless features.

Figure 3: uBlox module is an mbed board ready for cellular prototyping.

Blyler: In most embedded development projects, designers must do hardware and software trade-offs. Are there available power profiling and performance simulation tools?

Stamvik:  Yes – There is a tool chain that comes in the mbed ecosystem. When you buy your board and hook it up to the website, you get access to the ecosystem, to the code repository with all the code that the thousands of developers have shared. Also, you get access to profiling tools, debuggers, compilers, etc. If you so wish, you can use your own stand-alone tools on your PC back home. But then you miss out on an excellent community that provides ready-made tools. And it is beneficial to use these tools for the prototyping phase.

However, when you want to go to product, you want to take a step back and use dedicated tools that might optimize for power, performance, size, price or whatever factors you have to take into account. The key is to reuse the technology that you’ve proven already.

Blyler: Should develops rush to incorporate more cellular connectivity into their designs?

Stamvik: In the IoT space, not all devices will be cellularly connected. The cellular vendors may wish that all of the coming 50 Billion devices will have 2G, 3G, or 4G connectivity, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There will be short range, Bluetooth, Zigbee, 6LowPAN and mesh networks. If Wi-Fi connectivity is needed, then there will be choices for fixed LAN connected things using Ethernet or proprietary cabling systems. Further, there will be interplay amongst all this different ways to connect. That is why we don’t have just cellular in the mbed system . There is an entire host of connectivity options.