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Posts Tagged ‘FPGAs’

Blog Review – Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday, August 14th, 2017

This week, the blogsphere reveals how FPGAs adopt a MeerKAT stance; OML brings life to Industry 4.0; Wearable pairing boosts charging and rigid-flex PCB design tips

A keen advocate of rigid-flex PCB design, Alexsander Tamari, Altium, offers sound design advice for the routing challenges that it may present. There is a link to an informative white paper too.

We love wearables but charging devices wirelessly can present problems, but luckily Susan Coleman, ANYS, is able to describe the company’s recent collaboration with RF2ANTENNA. She describes with tips for efficiency improvements using its tools.

Another classic challenge is taken on by Arthur Schaldenbrand, Cadence. He continues his analog design series and looks at process variation, and countering die costs, power dissipation, with reference to the use of Monte Carlo analysis.

Chip Design’s John Blyler talks to Mentor’s Director of Product Management, Warren Kurisu, about a biometrics game and increased productivity using the Cloud.

Discovering new galaxies is exciting but is demanding on processing power and memory speeds. Steve Leibson, Xilinx, reflects on what the MeerKAR radio telescope has achieved and how FPGAs have played a part.

Ruminating on this year’s SMT Hybrid Packaging event, Danit Atar, Mentor Graphics, reviews what she claims is the world’s first IoT live public demonstration of a manufacturing line, and how Open Manufacturing Language (OML) bring Industry 4.0 to life.

Software integrity is never far from an engineer’s mind, and David Benas, Synopsys, presents a compelling argument for implementing security measures into the software development life cycle (SDLC) from start to finish.

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Let’s hear it for High Fidelity Gaming and it’s all about the IoT, with PCB schematic tips from Mentor and security from Maxim; Inside NI’s 5G test lab and hope for Parkinson’s Disease research

Serious gamers are intriguing Freddi Jeffries, ARM. She looks at High Fidelity Mobile Gaming (HFMG) and who’s adopting it and where. Can mobile devices, based on Mali graphics processing units (GPUs) take on the console market?

A personal and heart-felt post by Altium Designer, Altium, looks at medical advances in treating Parkinson’s Disease. An overview of research by assorted technology companies manages to combine various uses for spoons, concludes with a gentle plug for PCB design software.

Stil with PCBs, John McMillan, Mentor Graphics Design presents part four of an IoT PCB design-themed series. The topic is schematic and layout design, from creating the schematic to component placement and constraint management for effective manufacture.

IoT security is keeping Christine Young, Maxim Integrated occupied – she is keeping busy finding out the scale of cybercrime, and the worrying lack of action companies to take steps for security. She flags up a free webinar on how to safeguard connected devices.

Taking a practical approach is applauded by Michael DeLuca, ON Semiconductor. He likes the attitude of the Institute of Space Systems (IRS) at the University of Stuttgart, whose students are preparing to launch its Flying Laptop satellite.

Taking a sneaky peek at the National Instruments’ 5G Innovation Lab, Steve Leibson, Xilinx, celebrates the company’s Virtex-7 and Kintex-7 FGPAs use in Verizon’s 5GTF (Verizon 5G Technology Forum) test equipment. The Forum is developing a 28/39GHz wireless communications platform to replace fiber in fixed-wireless applications.

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday 07 November 2016

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Browsing the MIT Library; AI and HPC for cancer breakthroughs; FPGAs on Mars; Romancing ISO 26262; It’s IoT conference season; Who’s going to pay?

For smart and connected IoT devices, Intel has introduced the Intel Atom processor E3900 and Ken Caviasca, Intel explains how the series brings computing power nearer to the role of the sensor.

Crash scenes from Mars, as taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) reveal features previously unseen on the planet. Steve Leibson, Xilinx, explains how we have FPGAs to thank. (For the images, not the crash!)

Ahead of GE’s Minds & Machines Conference (November 15-16, San Francisco) Lane Lewis, Ansys, celebrates the marriage of the Simulation Platform and Predix Platform to create a profitable asset health monitoring and the industrial IoT.

As mobile payment matures, Martin Cox, Rambus Bell ID, identifies that tokenization is becoming a hot topic. His blog explains the role of the company’s Token Gateway as a means to integrate multiple mobile payment schemes. No excuse not to get a round of drinks in now.

Moving automotive and safety into the realm of Dungeons and Dragons, Paul McLellan, Cadence, reviews the recent DVCon Europe and how ISO 26262 – the critical safety standard – became a theme, but not necessarily one to dread and fear or avoid. Like St George, you just have to grit your teeth and tackle it head-on, to find the pot of gold that is critical safety design success.

Fresh from IoT Planet in Grenoble, France, Andrew Patterson, Mentor Graphics, is occupied by two topics – connectivity and security. He shares some interesting thoughts and statistics around these gleaned from the event.

Fascinating insights into the world of bio-medicine and computational bio-medicine are provided by Dr Michael J McManus, Intel. He explains how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and High Performance Computing (HPC) are used by researchers to analyze data and predicts an era of revolutionary cancer breakthroughs, of both drug development structures and genome analytics running on a single Intel cluster using Intel Xeon, Intel Xeon Phi processors and Intel Omni-Path architecture.

There is a fascinating collection of rare books at MIT, exhibited to mark Ada Lovelace Day. For those can’t walk the aisles of the MIT Libraries, Stephen Skuce, MIT Libraries, shows us through some of the collection relating to women who have contributed to science, math and engineering with its annual celebration of the history of women in the STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review –Monday, October 24 2016

Monday, October 24th, 2016

The how, what and why of time-of-flight sensors; Conference season: ARM TechCon 2016 and IoT Solutions Congress; Save time on big data analysis; In praise of FPGAs; Is it time for augmented and virtual reality?

Drastically reducing big data analysis is music to a data scientist’s ears. Larry Hardesty reports on researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have presented an automated system that can reduce preparation and analysis from months to just hours.

Keeping an eye on the nation’s bank vaults, Robert Vamosi, Synopsys, looks at the what bank regulators are doing to ramp up cybersecurity.

If you can’t head to Barcelona, Spain this week for IoT Solutions World Congress (October 25-27), Jonathan Ballon, Intel, reveals what the company will unveil, including a keynote: IoT: From Hype to Reality, what 5G means, smart cities and a hackathon.

Tired of the buzz, and seeking enlightenment, Jeff Bier, Berkeley Design, delves into just what is augmented reality and virtual reality. He examines hardware and software, markets and what is needed for widespread adoption.

Closer to home, 2016 ARM TechCon, in Santa Clara, California (October 25 – 27), Phil Brumby, Mentor Graphics, offers a heads-up on its industrial robot demo, using Nucleus RTOS separated by ARM TrustZone, and the ECU (Engine Control Unit) demo in a Linux-hosted In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system. There is also a technical session: Making Sure your UI makes the most of the ARM-based SoC (Thurs, 10.30am, Ballroom E)

The role of memory is reviewed by Paul McLellan, Cadence Design System, as he discusses MemCon keynotes by Hugh Durdan, VP of the IP Group and Steve Pwalowski, VP of Advanced Computing Solutions at Micron. There is comprehensive pricing strategy and a look at industry trends.

A teardown of the Apple iPhone 7, by Dick James, Chipworks, links STMicroelectronics’ time-of-flight sensors with the Starship Enterprise. The blog has a comprehensive answer to questions such as what are these sensors and why are they in phones.

If the IoT is flexible, Zibi Zalewski, Aldec, argues, then FPGAs can tailor solutions without major investments in an ASIC. He takes Xilinx’s Zynq-7000 All-Programmable SoC as a starting point and illustrates how it can boost performance for IoT gateways.

Elegantly illustrating how multiple Eclipse projects can be run on a single microcontroller with MicroEJ, Charlottem, ARM, runs through a connected washing machine that can communicate via Bluetooth, MQTT, Z-Wave and LWM2M.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review, Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday, September 12th, 2016

This week, we find the legacy of Star Trek at 50; celebrate design challenges from NXP and Hackster.io; investigate criminal activity and speculate on Bluetooth 5 and headphone design; arriving late for an FPGA verification tutorial and how depth sensors make sense of a 3D world

The enduring appeal of Star Trek on its 50th anniversary sets Tom Smithyman, Ansys, thinking about communications, and how Qualcomm challenged engineers to emulate the great and the good of the USS Enterprise and create Dr McCoy’s medical tricorder.

Another challenge is laid down by NXP, which has teamed up with Hackster.io, for engineers to fulfil the potential of NXP’s Kinetis FlexIO for the IoT. Donnie Garcia, ARM, tracks how engineers can maximize the, often over-looked, microcontrollers at the edge of the IoT, with some arachnid-like illustrations.

Quoting a bank robber is an unusual opening for a technology blog, but Matthew Rosenquist, Intel, uses Willie Sutton to help us understand the cybercriminal. His blog about cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, and how to protect transactions is a detailed look at the cyber economy – and this is just part one.

Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack in its latest phone has been met with derision, but one positive is that it has prompted Paul Williamson, ARM, to speculate on the whether wireless accessories could be boosted as Bluetooth 5 brings faster data rates.

How have I missed the first three parts of Mentor Graphics’ Harry Foster’s blog about Functional Verification? Part 4 looks at FPGA verification and some handy ‘escapes’ for effective verification, written by an engineer, for engineers.

Anyone designing consumer electronics will be familiar with the DDR PHY interface (DFI) protocol for signal, timing and transfer. Deepak Gupta, Synsopsys has written a clear, comprehensive analysis of how and why it is needed and used most effectively.

Continuing a theme he has explored before, Jeff Bier, Berkeley Design Technology, looks at depth sensing and what companies are doing with varieties of depth sensors.

We all love Whiteboard Wednesdays, and Corrie Callenbach, Cadence Design Systems, highlights Michelle Mao’s hierarchical CNN design for traffic sign recognition, highlighting Tensilica Vision DSPs.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Wi-Fi evolves, and the latest certification, 802.11ac Wave 2, is introduced by Richard Edgar, Imagination Technologies. His blog considers the structure, benefits and how the Ensigma Explorer RPU architecture fits in.

A video speaks a thousand words, and the complex area of IoT security is illustrated well by a video Wilfred Nilsen, ARM includes about the Chain of Trust. It shows how to create an Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificate for the server, how to install it, and how to build trust with clients.

Another helping hand is offered by Debbie Dekker, ARM, who pre-announces the TrustZone for ARMv8-M training webinars later this month. A handy agenda includes what attendees can expect.

The IoT is analyzed as a business proposition across many industry sectors, by Olivier Ribet, Dassault Systèmes. He looks at the 3Cs: Connected, Contextual and Continuous experiences, under the title, Internet of Experience.

To mis-quote Nancy Sinatra, “these boots were made for wah, wah”. The Atmel Team missed the obvious joke of being able to play sole music, with the All Wah pair of Converse, showcasing the prototype by Critical Mass design agency. The video shows the plug in version, but it can be wireless too.

Dividing pessimists and optimists, Lisa Piper, Real Intent looks at unknown value, or X-pessimism in verification, using the company’s Ascent XV.

Learning from DAC still goes on, as Christine Young, Cadence Design Systems, recalls how a visit from an NXP employee shows the value of distributed static timing analysis in large designs.

How to model using SPICE in the absence of a good fuel cell has perplexed Darrell Teegarden, Mentor Graphics. He presents a lengthy solution to how to model when not all of the details are known.

Thinking ahead is taken to extremes by Tom De Schutter, Synopsys, with a tale of the Tesla Model 3 and the loyalty built up by FPGA-based prototyping systems by engineers.

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, January 25 2016

Monday, January 25th, 2016

In this week’s review, there is a Star Wars analogy, IoT security plans, a 30th anniversary and an unusual way of serving whisky

The dormant nature of some devices in the IoT are likened to the reawakening of Star Wars’ R2-D2 by Joe Hupcey III, Mentor Graphics. In an equally honorable and daring quest, he looks for the wisdom of ultra-low power design and verification for SoCs used in devices that wait a long time for reactivation.

FPGA with a dash of splash or on the rocks? Steve Leibson, Xilinx, explains how a bottle of fine whisky (scotch) ended up in a PC. It’s all in a good cause.

Three trends for embedded systems are identified by Amber Thousand, Critical Link. She explains how we should all be paying attention to user interfaces, the rise of complexity and integration, and a focus on core competencies.

This year marks 30 years since MIPS Computer Systems introduced the MIPS R2000 microprocessor chipset. Alexandru Voica, Imagination Technologies, considers the rise of RISC and where it has led.

Silicon is the best place to secure security features for the IoT, argues Matthew Rosenquist, Intel. He outlines the role Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) play in the cyber future.

Clearly not a man that travels light, Navrai Nandra, Synopsys, concluded that if storage space is limited, instead of trying to close a bulging suitcase, think about moving up. His wait at the airport inspired an interesting blog on 3D stack technology to triple NAND capacity.

Looking at what the IoT design wins means for design at advanced nodes, Vassilios Gerousis, Cadence, considers the design rules for 10nm.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Mon. May 05 2014

Monday, May 5th, 2014

An algorithm tracks your location if you tweet often enough; Intel envisages the intelligence that IoT can bring to a vehicle; heterogeneous computing writers speculate on wearable technology past, present and sci-fi. By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

George Orwell did not forsee this. Not only is Big Brother watching, he is tracking you too, with meta data tags. Hamilton Carter looks at the HRL Industries algorithm that produces the data that everyone promises never to use.

Take a blank piece of paper and ask sci-fi writers what wearable devices they imagine or would like to have and the result is a very entertaining blog. John Blyler rounds up the ideas from new uses for duct tape to portable lie detectors and a solar poncho.

The IoT should add intelligence behind the wheel of a car, argues Intel’s Joel Hoffmann. He has some interesting ideas on how to exploit a vehicle that is more a system of systems and how it can enhance road safety.

Heterogeneous computing, is the subject of a blog by Altera’s Ron Wilson that has caught the eye of Brian Fuller, Cadence, in particular design for reliability in the cloud. Wilson looks at the role of FPGAs, particularly in packet streaming in the complex, critical “parallel universe” that is the data center environment.

Remote RF Telescope Bring Sci-Fi To Reality

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

By John E. Blyler
The huge RF radio observatory at Arecibo, Puerto Rico has all of the key ingredients for a high-tech adventure movie. First, its location is remote, as it’s buried deep within the rainforest of a Caribbean island. Second, the sheer size of the radio telescope renders it sublime. It measures 305 m (1001 ft.) in diameter and more than 500 m from the jungle floor to the top of the moveable radio feed platform (see Figure 1). Unlike other astronomic R&D facilities in the United States, the observatory at Arecibo also is more than just a radio telescope. It also is a complete R&D facility. Its mission – in part – is to search for the stuff of science fiction stories ranging from extraterrestrials and gravity waves to asteroids that could devastate the Earth.

We will return to the cool sci-fi aspects of Arecibo later. For now, let’s explore the technology that makes all of this possible—starting with an overview of the RF telescope and the critical electronics. Radio astronomy studies celestial objects using radio transmissions. Often traveling great distances, these radio waves are reflected from the objects of study. The returning signal is analyzed and developed into amazing images. Although this may seem like a straightforward task, the returning signal is typically so weak as to be almost indiscernible from the cosmic noise.

Thus, the successful detection of the returning signal requires the very best that modern electronics has to offer. Indeed, the noise generated by even the most modern low-noise amplifier (LNA) and other sources are orders of magnitude greater than the signals being examined. Dana Whitlow, research technician at Arecibo, estimates that the return signals may be over 40 dB below the overall system noise level—a factor of 10,000 lower!

Critical Sensitivity To Noise
Simply put, everything that can be done is done to maximize the sensitivity of the receivers. The front-end electronics are cytogenetically cooled in 99.99% pure Helium to between 10 and 15 Kelvin. These temperatures can only be achieved in a vacuum. As a result, all of the specially designed electronic systems must be evacuated before the cooling can begin.

The front-end electronic systems consist of amplifiers, filters, and mixers. The amplifiers are specifically designed to minimize noise. Toward that end, Ganesan Rajagopalan, a senior receiver engineer and head of the Electronics Deptartment at the observatory, has been improving the sensitivity of the receivers by slowly replacing the existing gallium-arsenide (GaAs) monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) with indium-phosphide (InP). MMICs are devices that operate at microwave frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz.

InP-based amplifiers have lower noise and higher gain than their GaAs counterparts. Yet these circuits also must be customized for the lowest noise possible. The Cornell University-based team at Arecibo collaborated with the experts at CalTech’s JPL team to make these customized application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) tailored to a cryogenic environment. The CalTech design also has been implemented at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in California. ATA is a “large number of small dishes” (LNSD) array that’s designed to be highly effective for simultaneous surveys of conventional radio-astronomy projects and Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) observations at centimeter wavelengths.

With such innovative LNA devices, it’s no wonder that the Arecibo Observatory is considered state of the art in receiver technology. In terms of the available bandwidth per receiver, however, the facility is playing catch-up. The receivers used at Arecibo are 2 GHz wide, ranging from 2 to 4 GHz and another from 4 to 8 GHz. The goal is to widen the current 2-GHz signals, which are being received using Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology. Here too, the R&D team is working with other scientists and engineers around the globe to develop a UWB feed that will operate from 1 to 10 GHz. Such a feed would reduce the number of existing receivers from 8 down to 1, which would further reduce the collective number of noise generators in the system.

A Noisy Planet
Reducing the noise sensitivity of the receiving electronics is critical to analyzing the radio signals returning from deep space. But another challenge exists closer to home— namely, the effective “noise” created by wireless devices ranging from cell phones to data devices. The RF telescope operates to 10 GHz and includes receivers in the S-, C-, and X-bands. Wi-Fi technology occupies a relatively small bandwidth centered around 2.4 GHz—right in the middle of the lower S-band space. Another source of radio interference comes from a much more powerful source—namely, the various airports on the island. These sources are mission critical and cannot be turned off at select times during the day.

To help reduce the opportunities for radio noise interference, the Arecibo team actively works with the Puerto Rico Spectrum users’ group. In cases involving mission-critical systems like airport radar, the team has coordinated the on-off time of the radar. The airport radar goes blank for a short period of time when it points in the direction of the Arecibo observatory. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned gesture has proven to be of limited value. The radar signal has more power located in the back lobes of the radar signature than in the front lobes.

Sci-Fi Becomes Reality
As fascinating as the engineering work at Arecibo is, does it really have any practical value? Can it turn science fiction into science fact? Some would suggest that the jungle-hidden facility will play an important role in saving humanity from near-earth objects (NEOs) like asteroids, which may be on a collision course with earth. The RF Observatory has the capability to pinpoint the orbit of NEOs as far away as Jupiter or Saturn and then calculate whether that object poses a threat to humanity. Such knowledge could be used to evacuate populations and move important property to a safe location. This is just one reason why the U.S. Congress is interested in keeping the Arecibo radar telescope working.

“We are also doing a lot of work on pulsars,” explains Rajagopalan. “Pulsar timing is very important in the detection of gravitational wave radiation.” Described as a fluctuation in the curvature of spacetime, which propagates as a wave, gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Sources of gravitational waves include binary star systems (e.g., white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes).

Pulsar astronomers believe that they can detect gravitational waves. Telescopes at Arecibo, PR and the mainland US, Europe, and Australia are all part of an array that’s being used to carefully time pulsars. All of these facilities make very long, simultaneous observations of the same deep-space source using long baselined interferometry (LBI). Precise synchronization timing among the global facilities is achieved using a hydrogen maser atomic clock. Thus, the research being done here is not just astronomy. It’s planetary radar science and ionospheric as well.

Signal Processing
What happens to the signal returning from the reflection off of nearby planets or from signals originating from a deep-space pulsar? The signal comes into the feed in a concentrated form after reflection from the big reflector (see Figure 3). An ortho-mode transducer (OMT) —some more than 3-ft. long—splits the signal into two separate channels. Noise-injection couplers are connected to one channel. These couplers inject a weak but carefully calibrated noise source into the main signal.

The injected noise signal is switched on and off at a rapid rate that’s called a “winking” rate calibration, says Dana Whitlow, a senior receiver engineer. “By a measurement of the levels later in the system with the cal on and the cal off, we can determine the system noise temperature. Also, this calibration allows us to track unique time-dependent changes and gain of the amplifiers.”

The signal then travels through isolators, which flatten out the frequency response. Effectively, they remove reflections from the amplifiers back into the earlier part of the signal path. Finally, the signal is amplified in the LNAs mentioned earlier.

All of these electronics are contained with a dewar, which is used to cool the amplifiers down to 15 Kelvin. Cables connect the dewar to the next signal-conditioning module, which contains a pulse amplifier module to provide additional amplification. Computer-selectable filters are used to exclude unwanted frequency bands, limiting the bandwidth from radio-interference sources like Wi-Fi and airport radar.

What happens if the ionospheric, planetary, or deep-space phenomena that a researcher is trying to study occur at the same frequency as the radio-interference sources—perhaps centered at 2.4 GHz (same as Wi-Fi)? To study these signals, researchers would have to go to one of the other RF telescope facilities on the mainland United States. For example, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia operates in a radio quiet zone.

Aside from rejecting unwanted interference signals, filters also help to prevent the interference from compressing the gain of the subsequent signal chain. If it’s strong enough, an interfering signal could drive an amplifier into saturation. This forces the gain to go down, says Whitlow. “If there’s anything that radio astronomers hate, it’s unexpected gain changes in their signal path. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to deal with from a perspective of obtaining calibrated data of their signal or source they are looking at.” After more filtering and amplification, just to increase the signal strength, the signal is then downconverted to a lower, intermediate frequency.

One might wonder if all of these filters don’t attenuate the signal even further—especially because they are passive filters, which contain no power source to help boost the signal strength. While it’s true that passive filters attenuate the signal slightly, these attenuations can be corrected by the numerous amplifiers. Active filters would have their own problems, such as the introduction of extra noise and distortion.

Finally, the conditioned signal is sent down from the receiver platform to the control-room area some 500 m below using analog optical fiber cable. Fiber-optic cable is used because it has a much broader frequency response. Plus, it doesn’t pick up electrical noise due to the imperfect shielding of coaxial cable. Fiber cables are typically much less lossy than coaxial—especially at the higher frequency ends.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for fiber over coaxial cable is that the former doesn’t conduct lightning down to the control room, explains Whitlow. “I haven’t been down here to see this firsthand, but I’ve been told by many people that in the early days of the observatory, when lightning struck the platform, there would be sparks jumping around things inside the control room.”

Coming in Part II: We’ll delve into the technology used in the control room and laboratory, where the data is digitized and analysis is performed. Of particular interest to chip and embedded designers will be the evolution taking place from ASIC- to FPGA-based systems.