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Blog Review – Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday, June 12th, 2017

This week, we find traffic systems for drones and answers to the questions ‘What’s the difference between safe and secure?’ and ‘Can you hear voice control calling?’

An interesting foray into semantics is conducted by Andrew Hopkins, ARM, as he looks at what makes a system secure and what makes a system safe and can the two adjectives be interchanged in terms of SoC design? (With a little plug for ARM at DAC later this month.)

It had to happen, a traffic system designed to restore order to the skies as commercial drones increase in number. Ken Kaplan, Intel, looks at what NASA scientists and technology leaders have come up with to make sense of the skies.

Voice control is ready to bring voice automation to the smart home, says Kjetil Holstad, Nordic Semiconductor. He highlights a fine line of voice-activation’s predecessors and looks to the future with context-awareness.

More word play, this time from Tom De Schutter, Synopsys, who discusses verification and validation and their role in prototyping.

Tackling two big announcements from Mentor Graphics, Mike Santarini, looks at the establishment of the outsourced assembly and test (OSAT) Alliance program, and the company’s Xpedition high-density advanced packaging (HDAP) flow. He educates without patronizing on why the latter in particular is good news for fabless companies and where it fits in the company’s suite of tools. He also manages to flag up technical sessions on the topic at next month’s DAC.

Reporting from IoT DevCon, Christine Young, Maxim Integrated, highlights the theme of security in a connected world. She reviews the presentation “Shifting the IoT Mindset from Security to Trust,” by Bill Diotte, CEO of Mocana, and In “Zero-Touch Device Onboarding for IoT,” by Jennifer Gilburg, director of strategy, Internet of Things Identity at Intel. She explores a lot of the pitfalls and perils with problem-solving.

Anticipating a revolution in transportation, Alyssa, Dassault Systemes, previews this week’s Movin’On in Montreal, Canada, with an interview with colleague and keynote speaker, Guillaume Gerondeau, Senior Director Transportation and Mobility Asia. He looks at how smart mobility will impact cities and how 3D virtual tools can make the changes accessible and acceptable.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

M2M Hits the Road (and Rails)

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Cheryl Coupé, Editor

Machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities—and challenges—are proliferating in transportation applications such as intelligent highway, railway control and fleet management systems.

The days of isolated embedded transportation computers are long gone. These days, machine-to-machine (M2M) is on the move, and could be defined as anything from vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-road, vehicle-to-dispatch or even vehicle-to-passenger-device. Standards—in connectivity, board format and security—are often still up in the air. Our experts address these issues and more in our roundtable discussion. We talked to Matthias Huber, vice president of marketing for N. America, ADLINK; Scott MacDonald, area vice president, Avnet Embedded; Linda Tsai, senior director of Advantech’s Embedded System Group; and Bernard Féaux, Railways Business Development, Kontron.

EECatalog: As machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities proliferate in transportation applications such as intelligent highways, railway control systems, fleet management, etc. what are the impacts on embedded designs?

Matthias Huber, ADLINK

Matthias Huber, ADLINK: Connectivity (Wi-Fi/BT/3G/LTE) has become ubiquitous in embedded design; more and more times it is an absolute requirement. The line between connectivity and M2M is not an easy one to define, and often the software/data side of an end-user application is implemented in OEM software. There is also still fragmentation in security and device management, and it remains an unsolved issue to both platform companies and OEMs alike.

Scott MacDonald, Avnet Embedded

Scott MacDonald, Avnet Embedded: A key consideration is interoperability and the adoption of standards. The automobile industry will have to agree on specific standards for passing information between the intelligent highway and the different makes of automobile in order to ensure an efficient and cost effective implementation. Additionally there will need to be agreements on the information that is gathered, analyzed, stored and shared to protect privacy while simultaneously being able to deliver useful information related to traffic control and other location-based applications. Practices analogous to HIPAA compliance in the medical industry will need to be considered, which in turn will give commuters the confidence to share information about their location and habits. Finally, security is always a concern as the potential for cyber threats is becoming more pervasive. Designers will need to protect both the devices and the infrastructure from tampering to ensure safety and smooth operation.

Linda Tsai, Advantech Embedded System Group

Linda Tsai, Advantech Embedded System Group: Request more rigid design in harsh environments and intelligent features such as remote manageability to prevent system failure and to shorten repair time.

Bernard Féaux, Kontron

Bernard Féaux, Kontron: There is a greater availability of cost-effective, standards-based connected computing M2M systems for use as gateway appliances and general-purpose infrastructure components that simplify solutions development and deployment. New standards-based M2M devices are replacing proprietary, purpose-built devices. Purpose-built M2M monitoring devices were deployed in many initial M2M deployments and by operators in networks. These devices are being replaced by standards-based architectures that reduce the dependence on a single vendor, provide advanced intelligence and allow for more easily scalable solutions. Lastly, software and services for M2M make it easier for OEMs to deploy M2M smart services. In addition, M2M services in the cloud can be used in transportation as well to collect operating data for diagnostic, maintenance and supervision purposes that can be easily accessed by the train operator and/or maintenance services. For a train operator, real-time data such as number of passengers, vehicle position and fuel consumption can be useful.

EECatalog: What are the trends you’re seeing in the use of different embedded board form factors or standards in rugged transportation-based systems? What’s changing?

Huber, ADLINK: Some of the historic board formats are giving way to newer form factors, such as COM Express or customized boards replacing PC/104 in some—but certainly not all—transportation applications. CompactPCI still has its place, and will continue to have market share due to its long history and existing ecosystem of I/O. Also, in many use cases, we find more application-specific hardware platforms, for example digital signage systems or decision support systems (DSS) in trains and buses.

MacDonald, Avnet: There is a continuous push for smaller, more feature rich packages. This is especially true in the latest releases of automotive temperature-grade cellular and wireless modules from the industry leaders. These modules are opening up the potential for more in-vehicle, connected applications covering areas such as infotainment and system monitoring like engine management and traffic flow control. On the server side, we are seeing purpose-built appliances designed for railways which allow for seamless hopping between carrier networks as the train moves between cell towers.

Tsai, Advantech: It comes to more proprietary form factor to deliver the most suitable systems to meet the inquiry.

Féaux, Kontron: From Panel PCs, CompactPCI, VME and VPX boards to Box PCs and M2M application-ready platforms, all embedded form factors and systems need to comply with the EN50155 standard for electronic railroad applications to ensure the highest reliability and availability. We are seeing that customers are looking first for COTS certified platforms and turnkey solutions. This is the result of a change from big transportation programs which are being replaced by smaller programs and fewer of them. Because of this situation and to remain competitive, there is no budget allotted for non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs for customization. So customers would prefer to choose targeted solutions for a wide range of proven embedded from factors and platforms, and rely on suppliers to be part of the broad transportation ecosystem (a sub-set of pre-qualified form factors, boards and systems), which give them additional design flexibility and access to “platform ready” solutions that keep extremely low NREs.

To keep pace with user and operator consumer technology experiences, transportation systems must meet bandwidth, Internet access, passenger information, video surveillance, in-vehicle PC capabilities and other similar demands.

EECatalog: How are you addressing environmental challenges for today’s new, high-performance transportation applications, such as those that use cameras, displays, or sophisticated user interfaces?

Huber, ADLINK: From the hardware side, our challenge is in system packaging and cooling to allow desired working temperatures for higher performance systems. Peripherals, such as on-board cameras, have a selection of next-generation interfaces that are relatively open standard (e.g., Gigabit Ethernet for camera, camera port, etc.). Displays have their own issues with meeting established temperature range and simple mechanical issues, such as weight and size.

MacDonald, Avnet: We provide our customers with a variety of value-add services such as shock and vibration testing, protective coatings for touch screens applied to displays and custom chassis design. Additionally, our engineers are certified in the latest technologies and assist our customers with bill of material development and optimization. Our experience with customers who’ve engaged us in similar applications has proven to be a huge benefit to new customers seeking to enter the various transportation markets. Our knowledge of technology tradeoffs can be applied to the specific product a customer is looking to develop and help them quickly determine the best configuration to meet their requirements.

Tsai, Advantech: Yes, higher performance or display features are required for surveillance-related applications. We deploy the most advanced silicon solution and adopt the popular camera interfaces such as PoE, Giga, USB, etc. In addition, higher performance is required to support 1080p resolution and multiple cameras in some circumstance.

Féaux, Kontron: Processor architectures have advanced to provide higher performance at lower power and other industrial temp components can be used. That means systems can operate with passive cooling at extended temperatures for maximum reliability and product lifecycle management. Also, qualified partner programs are available to provide turnkey solutions that address high-performance transportation applications such as CCTV.

EECatalog: How are developers addressing security in transportation applications that range from fare collection systems to railroad controls?

Huber, ADLINK: In our area of a solution, security is mainly driven by hardware function assurance. Much of the security is handled in software and (so far) considered the IP of the systems integrator or OEM.

MacDonald, Avnet: Security in transportation is a critical concern. No one wants to find out that a vulnerable social media application ported to the vehicle was compromised by hackers who used the breach to disrupt a key safety or control function. To help mitigate the risk, designers are looking at techniques such as ‘white listing’ or closing off areas of the system from accepting software installations which have not been approved as part of the software image. Additionally, protecting packets traveling across a public wireless or cellular network to or from the vehicle is another area being addressed. Our software services group, working with our partners who specialize in security, will help optimize the layers in a customer’s software stack to identify and close any potential vulnerabilities either within the local client or from code being transported in remotely. Also, our team has fostered a close connection between security software vendors and the network operators to anticipate and address potential threats in anticipation of the needs of the application developers.

Tsai, Advantech: One of mechanism is to use a third party to prevent non-authorized software from hacking the system. Meanwhile, the system has a built-in internal USB connection for software dongle.

Féaux, Kontron: Deployment SDKs from middleware and services partners provide a complete turnkey solution, which includes cellular connectivity and existing relationships with the world’s largest carriers. There is no coding required, only configuration using a graphical design tool with point and click, drag and drop for quick time to field trials. Deployment SDK providers have proven solutions for policy and security controls that are ready for OEM use with M2M systems. In addition to SDKs, many COTS suppliers offer a set of tailored services and APIs to help customers develop safety-related systems.

EECatalog: What challenges are you anticipating for the next wave of transportation applications? How will engineers address them?

Huber, ADLINK: The main challenge both now and for the next wave of transportation applications is harnessing the data. The whole concept of the Internet of Things applies to all markets, and engineers will need to take into account multiple layers of management and analysis required to turn collected data into usable information. Also, there will eventually be a push for remote management and security will be standardized. Right now these functions are not considered to be broken, or at least are not a high priority in terms of improvement. But they will be in the next few years.

MacDonald, Avnet: We see an ever-growing use of video content being passed to and from the vehicle. This of course impacts bandwidth and performance both in the vehicle and across the network. Additionally, the ability to efficiently connect the vehicle to the network with applications running concurrently that have different protocols and security/accessibility requirements will be a challenge. On top of this, retrofitting the infrastructure such as existing highways with the necessary sensors and transmitters will be gated by construction projects which were planned for years ago before these networking requirements were under consideration. Consumers have seen this during the initial roll out of the smart grid. Innovative, connected appliances rapidly came on the market but could not be fully implemented because the legacy infrastructure was not equipped to support the data flow. Developers will work in conjunction with standards bodies, technology providers, network operators and companies like Avnet Embedded to bring the pieces together into a cohesive ecosystem. There is a huge interdependency among the constituents in the transportation segment and collaboration is critical to deploy safe and impactful applications in the future.

Tsai, Advantech: In addition to infrastructure, how to fully utilize the data and analysis to enable intelligent transportation and facilitate the commute, this is a new challenge and also an opportunity for us. This is probably not about hardware but also software intelligence where we are not specialized in the past. Also, the increasing demand of transportation control rooms to monitor all traffic require the solution for video wall system. Such systems requirements not only require higher performance but also massive expandability to support the multiple video output graphic cards.

Féaux, Kontron: Systems are expected to grow increasingly more complex, integrated and connected. This requires special attention to interface compatibility, interoperability, software integration, real-time system access and I/O support. Standards-based COTS solutions will continue to advance to help engineers meet expanded technology requirements. Standards organizations are actively working on new specifications, for example. M2M technologies are already in development by ETSI in Europe and by TIA in the US.

Cheryl Berglund Coupé is editor of Her articles have appeared in EE Times, Electronic Business, Microsoft Embedded Review and Windows Developer’s Journal and she has developed presentations for the Embedded Systems Conference and ICSPAT. She has held a variety of production, technical marketing and writing positions within technology companies and agencies in the Northwest.

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