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In addition to a number of other announcements during his Maker Faire Bay Area “State of Arduino” address, Massimo Banzi finally revealed the shipping dates for the highly-anticipated Zero board. In fact, MAKE: Magazine has even called this “one of the biggest pieces of news” from this year’s show (and tell).


As we await its June 9th availability, here’s a quick refresher on the 32-bit Arduino unit that is bound to become a Maker hit over the summer. While its form factor may share that of the Leonardo, the Zero boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+ core, enabling the board to run much faster and pack more of a punch than its 8-bit counterparts.

It’s also worth mentioning that the latest device offers users the ability to easily talk to the cloud, thanks to an increase in bits and clock cycles to deal with what’s coming in and going out. This allows Makers to bring their wildest (and smartest) Internet of Things projects to life. The Wizard of Make Bob Martin explains, “You can do this with an 8-bit microcontroller, but sometimes with data streams, it’s like drinking from a firehose.”

Additional key hardware specs include 256KB of Flash, 32KB SRAM in a TQFP package and a clock speed of 48MHz. In comparison, the 8-bit Leonardo (ATmega32U4) comes with only 32KB of Flash, 2.5KB of SRAM and merely runs at 16MHz. One its other notable features is the Atmel Embedded Debugger (EDBG), which provides a full debug interface without the need for any supplemental hardware. EDBG supports a virtual COM port that can be used for device programming and traditional Arduino bootloader functionality, and is entirely compatible with Atmel Studio to provide users the ability to import their sketches directly and do source-level debugging.


The Zero sports six analog and 14 digital pins, all of which except for the Rx/Tx pins can also serve as PWM pins. Meanwhile, the analog pins have a 12-bit ADC instead of the Leonardo’s 10-bit ADC, significantly improving analog resolution. Though the new board does not have EEPROM, it does support 16KB by emulation. In other words, Arduino sketches relying upon this feature will still run without any hiccups.

Intrigued? Watch below as the Wizard of Make gives MAKE’s Alasdair Allan a hands-on demonstration of the Zero.

This blog originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

We know, we know, another smartwatch? But before you say anything else, this wearable band has a rather unique feature. Not only can it reveal the time, it can impressively act as a wireless storage device that lets you back up your files and open them without ever needing an Internet connection. Think about it, in this day and age of multi-screen use, everyone has data that they want to access to on all of their gadgets. And sure, many of us tend to employ popular services like Dropbox or OneDrive to accomplish this; however, local storage happens to be a bit more secure.


Cognizant of this, one Swedish startup has set out to make the private cloud a little more personal and portable with ReVault. Currently live on Indiegogo, the Atmel | SMART SAM4S powered gizmo is being billed as “the world’s first wearable private cloud” that enables users to securely access and sync all of their files. Instead, the wearable drive connects to a laptop, smartphone or tablet over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.


Not only does ReVault allow wearers to easily carry their most important documents wherever they go at all times, but once connected, it can be set to automatically back up and synchronize those files across all devices via its accompanying app. This application is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, meaning it should be pretty simple to pair data despite the platforms one may use.

ReVault has been designed with the utmost security in mind, and rightfully so. We are talking about personal and sensitive information here! This was accomplished through AES-256 encryption, as well as two-factor authentication. In other words, only trusted devices and users can connect to the wearable unit.


Aside from safeguarding data, the watch has been created with superior durability to withstand the inevitable bumps and scratches of everyday use. Equipped with a stainless steel and water resistant case, the full-color display is protected with Gorilla Glass 3. A wearer can also choose between a variety of faces, including one for private cloud data, a digital or analog clock, as well as a custom screen built with the ReVault API. Though the battery only lasts for approximately three days, ReVault can be charged using a standard Qi wireless charger — 80% battery life takes roughly an hour, while 100% calls for just about an hour and a half.


ReVault comes in both 32GB and 128GB models. What’s more, for those who aren’t really into the whole “smartwatch thing,” it can be transformed into a necklace or keyring using its chain converter. Is it time to reclaim your data? Then hurry over to its official Indiegogo campaign, where the team is closing in on their $65,000 goal. Shipment is expected to begin in January 2016.

This blog originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

In recent months, the Femtoduino crew has been hard at work developing a range of new boards, including their highly-popular IMUduino BTLE, and even more recently, the uber-mini FemtoUSB. Now, after much anticipation, the crew has returned with a dime-sized FemtoBeacon.


Currently live on Kickstarter, the tiny board (only 18mm in diameter) is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM R21 Cortex-M0+ MCU and is packed with a 9-DOF IMU, a temperature sensor, an altimeter and integrated wireless capabilities such as ZigBee and mesh networking.


Built around the ARM Cortex M0+, the FemtoBeacon features 256KB of Flash and an on-board voltage regulator outputting 3.3V. At the moment, the device uses a 26MHz crystal with 9PF caps, but it should be noted that the SAM D21 is capable of going up to 48MHz. The chip also supports uploading programming over USB, thanks to the SAM-BA bootloader, and the FemtoIO fork of the BOSSA utility. The entire flash storage may be used if programmed with the Atmel-ICE dongle via SWD.


“Hopefully, this small Kickstarter campaign can raise enough money to get a small batch built, and subsequently have libraries developed,” CTO Alex Albino writes. Ideally, with enough funding, the team is looking to extensively upgrade its wireless IMU and programming capabilities, as well as add other features like Arduino compatibility.

Intrigued? Head over to the FemtoBeacon’s Kickstarter page, where Femtoduino is seeking $500. Shipment is slated to begin July 2015. In the meantime, you can follow along with their latest work, libraries and examples on Github here.

This blog originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

With all the buzz around crowdfunding new hardware and after meeting some of the founders of these startups I thought it wise to talk to someone who has literally written a book on electronic products design, John Teel.  JohnTeelHeadshot2.jpgJohn comes from the world of IC design at Texas Instruments so for folks in the ARM world he is a bona fide chip guy and brings an interesting perspective to designing products. John now runs his own company called Teel Engineering and consults for anyone building electronics.


I initially got in touch with John to ask him about the Exploring the world of ARM based Embedded Computing Boards (ECB) project but he told me that although most of his design projects use ARM (very occasionally an 8 bit processor) 80% of his projects are custom so he doesn't start with a development kit,  the remaining 20% use an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or other development kits initially with a custom design the longer term goal.  There has been a debate in the industry about whether professional design engineers use "hobbyist" platforms like Raspberry Pi and Arduino for prototyping and here is yet another concrete example.  As an aside I noticed that at least 3 of the graduates of the HAX hardware incubator (batch 6) used an Arduino in their design and are going to production with it so now we know.


Getting back to John's work he told me that everything wireless is hot, every design has some kind of RF capability and because he has been through the cycle many times he pushes companies to consider using RF modules because FCC certification and the RF design itself is inherently very hard and can slow them down.


John also told me that he is working on wearables a lot these days and in that market a fully custom design is the only logical way to go.  His added value is to get the design functional enough to be launched on Kickstarter (remember our Kickstarter Week here on the community).  John often does a proof of concept on a Raspberry Pi or Arduino board if it's not a wearable.STM32L4_1_P3662_big.jpg


John's biggest pain point in wearables design right now is power because battery life is a big issue and he told me that he has spent hours searching microcontroller data sheets for the power specs and his current favourite microcontroller is the STMicroelectronics STM32L4 which uses an ARM Cortex-M4 processor.  He told me that for wearables this part is the best current combination he can find of low power with the processing capability he needs.  John thinks that good datasheets still matter because he spends a lot of time matching features to functions,  power is key and so is a small package size.  Some things in electronics never change.


As a working designer he told me everything IoT related is also hot, GPS designs are also big, as are beacons which he thinks will take off soon.  John stays up to date by reading sites like TechCrunch, he also is a fan of DigiKey (this is almost universal among US based engineers). John's advice on system design is to keep the prototype as simple as possible, aim for the minimum viable product,  extra features are just guesses at this point.  This is where Kickstarter and IndieGogo have changed the product development landscape forever because you are basically getting the very best early market research and viability study you could ever buy.  By starting with crowdfunding you find out if people going to buy your product and that's a game changer.  That’s why Kickstarter is worth looking at early on in your design journey.bookDevManuSellTechProd.png


John has a lot of software experience but he now outsources to other programmers because in his opinion it's hard to be cutting edge in both hardware and software design these days and he is focusing on hardware.  John has written a book on how to start a product design and you can download it for free and its really worth a look if you are designing a new product.  John is not just an engineer, he is also an entrepreneur and has worked with buyers at Walmart and Home Depot so he knows his stuff.


If you are going to use an Embedded board in your design, please check out the Embedded Computing Board (ECB) Resource Guide.


OpenOCD 0.9.0 is released

Posted by jensbauer May 19, 2015

OpenOCD-0.9.0 was released today.


Vast improvements have been made to this version, compared to previous versions.

You can find detailed information on the changes on the official OpenOCD Web-site.


Binaries can be downloaded from the following sites:


Source CodeDownloadWeb-site


(for Eclipse)

Mac OS X (PowerPC)Download

Be ready to rejoice with surprising new families, courtesy of Austin, TX and Tokyo. Read on

The Internet of Things – IoT – continues to be a subject that sparks conversation, publication and numerous activities in the world of embedded software. Recently, I was at ESC Boston and IoT featured widely in presentations there. At the same time, some colleagues of mine were at another dedicated IoT conference in California. Going forward, there are a lot more IoT things happening …

Last year, I was invited to give a keynote at a conference and talked about IoT – you can see full details here and even play a recording of my talk. Although it was not my intention, some people felt that I was playing down the significance of IoT. In fact, my view is the complete reverse. IMHO, IoT is the natural progression for embedded systems and the industry’s 40+ years of experience will be a good basis for the development of this technology.

This is strongly borne out by the recent announcement by Mentor Embedded highlighting the comprehensive support for IoT offered by Nucleus RTOS and the associated middleware and tools. In reality, a very large part of this support has been in place for a while, because Nucleus has always been ideal for hard real time and/or resource limited applications and has an enormous array of connectivity options.

This week I am attending another IoT conference in Munich, Germany. There is a strong focus on security in IoT and this will be the thrust of my keynote. Here are the details of my presentation:

IoT – It’s All About Security

To read the rest of this entry, visit the Colin Walls blog via Mentor Embedded.


Last week I mentioned the $9 dev board that launched on Kickstarter called CHIP (using an Allwinner chip) and I thought it would take off but as I write this its blown past its funding goal and now has over 26,000 orders!  Chris Rommell of VDC Research told me a few months ago Is the Maker movement changing Embedded design? that the larger Embedded market can't ignore the Maker/Hobbyist and after seeing the response to this latest board I think he is correct.


And if you thought all the innovation in boards is coming from startups and Kickstarter then the launch last week of a family of boards from Samsung called Artik should change your mind.  Samsung released 3 boards, the Artik 1, 5 & 10, see picture below:


What's impressive is not just how small these boards are but the sheer horsepower they offer,  the Artik 10 for example has an ARM octa core processor plus wifi/bluetooth/zigbee and impressive video specs, all the boards can use the Arduino IDE, Artik 1 runs Nucleus RTOS by Mentor Embedded Artik 5 & 10 are all grown up Linux systems with Yocto 1.6 (Fedora) distributions  (all the details here).  If you read my posts you know I have been harping on about multi-core and how its mainstream now,  here's more proof.


I did make it to the mother of all Maker Faires on Friday and for Embedded folks there was a ton of hardware to drool over, at the ARM booth we had iFixit doing live teardowns and lots of partners showing off Maker friendly hardware from STMicroelectronics, Nordic Semiconductor and Freescale.  Also surrounding us were Cypress, Qualcomm, Altera, and Raspberry Pi.  Could write at length about what I saw but I'm always interested in tools and noticed a new open source hardware design platform called Circuitmaker and stopped by to chat with them.  As it turned out they are part of Altium and have very cool, open and free tools for the Maker/Hobbyist market.  Click on the screen shot below if you want to check them out:



I've said before that the best part of working with ARM is meeting all the very smart people who are part of the community and getting some intense knowledge transfer (many of you think I need it!), the latest examples are Dirk Finstel of ADLINK  and Dr. Philipp Tomsich of Theobroma Systems.  I have collected all the "C" level interviews into a section on the Exploring the world of ARM based Embedded Computing Boards (ECB) page.  Please check it out and tell me if you know of someone you think would make a great interview.


Last news story for you was from Monday the 11th in San Francisco where I went to the coming out party for the 15 hardware companies emerging from batch 6 of the HAX incubator concept which I find fascinating and inspiring.  I have been following HAX (was HAXLR8R) since I bumped into them in Shenzhen a few years ago (I wrote this story about them for EETimes.com in June of 2012) and they have become a major force for hardware innovation (not exaggerating).  All 15 companies are listed on the HAX site but they range from 3D printing human tissue (think about that one for a second), fingernail painting machines, an incontinence warning device, 3D printed clothes, sleep monitoring headphones and a Keurig style cocktail machine.  Innovation is alive and well at HAX. 


Last but not least please check out the Embedded Computing Board (ECB) Resource Guide,  its now open to anyone.

Since we launched the Embedded Computing Board (ECB) Resource Guide last month we have seen so much innovation in the embedded computing board world that I can now definitely say its not a sleepy market anymore! Phillip Tomsich.jpg A good example was my lively conversation with Dr. Philipp Tomsich, CTO of Vienna, Austria based Theobroma Systems (pictured right) who is bringing high core count boards to market that  embrace mobile technology.  By embracing mobile I mean taking advantage of two major trends in mobile,  the first is the interface that users expect to see (touch with high quality graphics) and the second is high performance multi-core processors at ever decreasing prices.


Philipp's early career was in supercomputing at Silicon Graphics but he pointed out that your mobile phone is now as powerful as the first supercomputers he worked on!  Philipp moved from supercomputers to Embedded systems and spent time converting desktop applications to embedded environments and it was hard.  One of the major challenges in Embedded according to Philipp is designers tend to be very hardware focused and they don't think about the total system design and critically they leave the user experience out of the equation until the end of the design process.  He calls this "customer last" and says the embedded design flow is backwards because it flows from chip to board to system to user and it should be reversed.


But here is the first great insight that Philipp gave me which is the mobile user interface with touch control and fantastic graphics has become so ubiquitous that end users of all kinds of systems now expect this level of intuitive experience.  Think about it, whenever we see a screen today (watch children in front of any screen) and we expect to be able to touch it and get a response.  We also expect to see high quality graphics and in some embedded applications the graphics can clarify safety issues or alarms that red lights or sirens can't (designing with the end user in mind again). The other mobile trend Philipp is taking advantage of is multi-core and his philosophy is the more cores the better!  Having many cores at your disposal gives you tremendous flexibility in the way you manage a system and you can dedicate say 2 cores to the main system which needs high performance and then use other cores for a GUI, communications or power management.  Philipp's thinking is don't use less than 4 cores and in 2 new embedded computing boards from Theobroma Systems you see this approach come to life.  First Theobroma Systems have taken a quad core processor from ARM partner Allwinner (the A31) and offer it in the Qseven board format:

theobrome allwinner.png

So here we see commercial tablet market technology coming to the Embedded market with a high performance quad core ARM processor and HDMI.


Theobroma Systems have taken this concept even further with a very high performance communications processor from Applied Micro called the Helix 2 (press release here) which comes in quad and octa core 64 bit ARM versions and putting it on a COMexpress module for compute and communications intensive applications in Embedded markets.


Here is the block diagram:

Helix 2.png

This is a heck of a lot of multi-core performance on a COMExpress module but just as in the Allwinner board example it brings new capabilities to the embedded market which will address the end users needs of performance and user experience first rather than at the end of the design.  So maybe these parts from Allwinner and Applied Micro which originally came from outside the traditional embedded market will become game changers?


To keep up with developments in the ARM Embedded world please check out this page Exploring the world of ARM based Embedded Computing Boards (ECB) and bookmark it to stay current.

So, here we are, Day 2 already ! (ARM at Maker Faire Bay Area 2015 – Day 1 for yesterday's summary)

The day started early, got to beat the traffic , so I was there at

the wee hours, 08:00 (floor opened at 10:00 for the public) !! But, for those of us who got there

early, we were treated with a visit from several R2-D2s roaming around, young ones (and not so young ones)

loved it...


The teardown engineers from iFixit came in full force today (so much that we needed safety glasses),

doing nonstop teardowns during the day – you can see them here in action on the Moto360.






At 12:30, there was some big news, with Massimo Banzi on the center stage, in a packed

room, announcing new brand Genuino, and manufacturing partnership with Adafruit, and the availability

in June of the Arduino Zero (Atmel SAMD21 MCU Cortex-M0 based) !







At Particle, formerly known as Spark, there were some obvious sci-fi fans, as they were showcasing some funky “Dancing Groot” based on Cortex-M3 processor:  take one Baby Groot doll, add a motor, soundcard, and a spark core (Cortex-M3-based), and you get an pretty cool little guy, controlled and personalised through the internet.




On the Atmel booth, Zymbit were showcasing their all in one IoT packaging, including interactive displays,

Boxes and shields, for Raspberry Pi, Arduino.. The Zymbit Black, running linux, is based on the Atmel

SAMA5D4 (ARM® Cortex®-A5 CPU)




On the floor, there was a great application on Arduino Due (Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU)

On atmospheric C02 logger and mapper, and they ought to take it to the next level, and put everything

on the cloud (no pun intended).





Qualcomm has some great tech challenge robot based the snapdragon 410 processor (Quad-core ARM® Cortex®-A53),



Freescale had the Udoo Neo platform. It is an open hardware low-cost computer equipped with a Freescale i.MX 6SoloX

SoC (Cortex-A9 + Cortex-M4) on show, and on top of some cool drone!

[Edited 05/17 - here is the picture!]




Tomorrow is the last day of Maker Faire 2015, yet, there are still plenty of prizes to be won at the ARM booth,

and plenty of other ARM based demos to check out !

Well, this is it, Maker Faire Bay Area 2015 has started, and it is already great !

First of all, the ARM booth looks fantastic, and it is great to see ARM partners on the stand, with great demos.



The STMicroelectronics crew has a great demo based on the ARM-based Nucleo board with sensors (temperature, humidity, motion) and Bluetooth LE,

and are showcasing how small your device can be once you have prototyped it on the Nucleo board.



Sabertron gave us a glimpse of their connected swords, and we look forward for the demonstration on Saturday !




iFixit got warmed up with a few teardowns this afternoon, such as the ARM powered Parrot mini drone  or Dot or Dash bot,

and there will plenty, plenty more Saturday and Sunday !


By the way, yes, this is an R2-Due you can see on the photo - Why Due? because it is powered by an Arduino Due..


The first backpack was won on Friday, there’s a daily draw to win an ARM partner pack, filled up with goodies

donated by our partners – Thank you to Atmel Freescale iFixit, Pretty Smart Homes, Qualcomm, Raspberry Pi, Relayr,

Sabertron, Xilinx , Zebra !


I'll post tomorrow what great demo they have at MakerFaire !




Already a full day, and people visiting the booth were glad that we were showcasing the connected Nespresso machine, courtesy of the ARM mbed IoT Device Platform – good coffee, and a great demo !





On Saturday, visitors will come in force, and we are ready !



By the way, don’t miss these great talks on Saturday.


‘IoT – Connectivity, Creativity and Challenges’ panel at the Make: Live stage

with ARM’s Dominic Pajak, Sat May 16 (3-3.45 p.m.)


‘Inspiring a generation – The BBC Micro Bit presentation’ by BBC creative director, Abigail Appleton at the BBC learning at the Make:Live stage

with ARM's Gary Atkinson Sat May 16 (6.30-7 p.m.)

The ARM Embedded Computing Board (ECB) Resource Guide has been up for a month now and on a weekly basis we are hearing about innovation in the board market and there is no better way to understand whats happening than talking to CTOs of board vendors so this week I spoke to Dirk Finstel, CTO of ADLINK.  To be more precise Dirk wears two hats at ADLINK, he is CEO of the EMEA business and EVP of the computing module product segment (MCPS).  Prior to ADLINK, Dirk was CTO at KONTRON one of the top embedded board vendors and has a long history of designing boards and embedded systems.  Interestingly Dirk was involved in a very early attempt to bring ARM boards to market when he was at Kontron in 2002-2003 and worked on what were called X-boards (tagline was; reduced to the max).  The first Kontron X-board used the National Semiconductor Geode SC1200 processor some of you may remember and later X-board versions used the Intel Xscale (ARM V5 instruction set) processor but the format never took off.  Dirk and Kontron didn't give up on ARM small form factor boards because they along with ADLINK introduced the SMARC ("Smart Mobility ARChitecture") format along with industry partners and that standard is now open and driven by the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGeT).  SGeT also manage the standards for the Qseven and EmbeddedNUC formats so is worth knowing a little more about, click on their logo for more information.sget.png


SMARC has been considerably more successful than X-board and is the de-facto standard for ARM based COM modules now with many members of SGeT producing boards.


It didn't take Dirk long to talk about software and operating system choice which for any CTO is always a critical and potentially high risk decision. If you get the OS wrong then transition costs to another platform can put a project back by months which no customer is going be thankful for. Dirk's key point on operating system choice is about the GUI (graphical user interface) which in many Embedded and IoT systems is becoming much more important as customers and end users expect large displays, touch control and video streaming.  Dirk pointed out that Linux has no standard GUI and this leads to porting and licensing issues that are exacerbated for global customers so they tend to favor a known entity like Windows. This seems to be an important topic so we will revisit it in a later blog.


So then we moved onto the next CTO risk factor and that's security and while we were talking IoT came into focus as well.  Dirk likes multicore processors because the security functionality can run on a separate core probably with an RTOS so there can be separation and more security.  ADLINK take security seriously and have created a whole product platform for security, cloud and system management called SEMA (Smart Embedded Management). Dirk calls SEMA intelligent middleware and SEMA Cloud is exactly as described in that it connects devices to the cloud but in a carefully managed and secure way.  This graphic below shows how the ADLINK SEMA concept works:

SEMA cloud.png


ADLINK takes an interesting approach to managing systems with SEMA by using an integrated microcontroller (board management controller, BMC) on the board, which communicates with the chipset over the System Management Bus (SMBus).  The BMC can monitor temperature, communications, power issues etc.  then report this data back to an operator via the cloud.  In other words this is a managed intelligent system, see the diagram below to get an idea of how useful this can be:



SEMA is obviously well thought out and answers a lot of questions about how to deploy IoT applications and manage them securely.  You can read more about ADLINK and their solutions here. Read more C level opinions here Exploring the world of ARM based Embedded Computing Boards (ECB).

Getting a brand new development board delivered is one of those small moments of joy that every engineer loves but it's often followed by the "now what" moment.  A fantastic way to jumpstart a project is to get some hands on training with the board before you take the training wheels off and this is exactly what you get at the upcoming Embedded TechCon event in San Francisco in June.  Embedded TechCon is collocated with DAC 2015 - June 7-11, San Francisco, CA this year.


At Embedded TechCon if you sign up for a class you receive the board as part of the package.  A single class is $98 and you get the board for free, a two day pass is $198 and three days is $298.  The three class + board sessions are:



PhotoThe presenter will explore the challenges facing OEMs trying to achieve wireless control of their embedded applications via Bluetooth mobile devices -- and several tips for overcoming those challenges. At the session’s conclusion, he will also touch on how Anaren's online development tool (Atmosphere) simplifies the embedded-to-mobile-device code authoring experience.

Receive a free Anaren Bluetooth Smart Development Kit


PhotoThis two-hour, hands-on workshop will show you how easy it is to get a real-time multitasking application up and running. It's presented by Jean Labrosse, a widely known and respected industry expert who has written and published extensive educational works. The workshop includes a complimentary Renesas Demonstration Kit for RX63N evaluation board from as well as 30-day licenses for IAR Systems EWRX and Micrium uC/Probe tools. µC/Probe graphically visualizes the internals of any embedded system with just a few mouse clicks. The workshop will consist of three 20-minute labs using with Micrium's uC/OS-III and an equal amount dedicated to a lecture on RTOSs.

Receive a free Renesas Demonstration Kit for RX63N (valued at $100) and get a one-month free access to the µC/Probe visual tool†† (valued at $50)


PhotoPhotoIn this hands-on class, you'll get an introduction to prototyping and debugging with an ARM Cortex-M3 based microcontroller using the LPCXpresso1549 development kit (which is yours to keep if you're one of the first 50 people to register). Attendees will learn and gain hands-on experience with firmware development on an embedded system, involving topics such as modern debugging features, programming techniques for an embedded system, and common pitfalls. The IDE covered in class will be the Keil MDK-ARM.

Receive a free NXP Cortex-M3-based LPC1549 LPCXpresso development kit


You can check out these session and register here: http://www.embeddedtechcon.com/index.php

This is a guest post by Rich Nass of Open Systems Media who talked to Joel Baumert, VP of Engineering at Eurotech a major Embedded Computing Board manufacturer:


Lesson:  Don't undersell the value of the relationship


As you're likely aware, designers and systems integrators have lots of choices when they're implementing an embedded system. Those choices could range from the chips and boards to the operating systems and drivers.  While embedded platforms based on the Intel architecture have been with us for some time, ARM-based boards are fairly new to the embedded board scene. So the question that faces the embedded designer who has made the leap of faith to an ARM-based board is, what do I need to know to integrate an ARM-based board?  A good place to start is with the partner ecosystem. While price is important when deciding which variation of the ARM processor to go with, the vendor with deep tentacles into the ecosystem is clearly worth an extra look. That vendor likely has all the drivers you need, has access into the operating system to make deployment go smoothly, and can handle just about any the support question you might have.


According to Joel Baumert, Vice-President of Engineering at Eurotech, "There are two things that are driving support for drivers, no pun intended. One is the ARM Android market and the other is the Intel PC market, which includes many of the embedded Windows-type platforms. On the ARM side, it's can be harder to get drivers because they're typically supported under Android with Linux drivers, and aren't always supported in non-Linux environments."


An example that supports this theory is the common Wi-Fi module. There's likely to be a Windows driver available that you can plug in to bring up the module. In addition, you probably won't have any difficulty finding a Linux driver. Those two operating systems are well supported. However, if you need some sort of variation of that driver, or you opt for a less mainstream (cheaper) component, which happens regularly in the embedded space, you could be on your own.  If it's a relatively simple driver, like a serial interface, the OEM can generally just write it on their own. But if you want to integrate something more complex, you'll likely have to reach out to a third-party, and that could get expensive and/or extend the design window, two things that the OEM wants to avoid.


That brings us to the point of choosing your partners wisely. While the numbers of vendors who offer ARM-based processors continues to grow, it's key that you choose a vendor/partner that you're comfortable with, and one that can serve your needs should the occasion arise.  You have an advantage if you're already familiar with your chosen vendor's architecture, as each has its own idiosyncrasies. In addition, you may have a relationship with that vendor's FAEs, which could pay dividends if you run into a problem (and we've all heard the horror stories of trying to get support when you're not a Tier One player). Eurotech employs a Freescale processor on its ARM-based boards and enjoys a great relationship.  You could make the argument that ARM processors are a commodity item, which can be both a blessing and a curse. As Baumert says, "There's always a temptation to move to a cheaper part. But when you have volumes that are creeping up, being able to have vendors put their best foot forward to own that socket on the PCB, it's a better place to be."


Many suppliers act as more than suppliers. They can also be partners, as they can help bring in business opportunities, resulting in a win for everyone. That phenomenon can hold true for a distributor as well, such as Arrow Electronics"And the customer they're sending our way have usually been vetted, so it makes the process go smoother for us," adds Baumert.


Power management is also something that differentiates the ARM architecture from Intel. The general rule of thumb is, if you want high performance, go with Intel. If you want low power, choose ARM. The same relationship is usually true with heat within the system.

After the release the new Yocto-based BSP and Buildroot support for our VAB-820 board, and AMOS-820 system, I had some time to check the new kernel in that package. Being intrigued that the Xenomai real-time Linux development framework lists the VAB-820 as a compatible board, I wanted to give it a try and see how well does it work.


Buildroot already has the support to build Xenomai-enabled kernel and images. The only (moderately) tricky step was to back-port one of the required patches to the 3.10.17 kernel version. Once that was done, a real-time OS image followed in a very short time.


Run the standard benchmarks, and the results look good (e.g. 16.5us mean / 57us max latency for user-space tasks). This graph below is the result of 2h torture testing a VAB-820 board for each of the 3 types of real-time tasks.




What makes me quite excited about this is that the AMOS-820 system with its fanless design, Power-over-Ethernet capability, and now with real-time support makes a very strong case for industrial and demanding use cases. Reliability (both software and hardware), low maintenance (almost "set it and forget it"), and easy installation (single cable) is not an afterthought but a basic feature.


For a step-by-step guide of setting up Xenomai and running the benchmarks, see our detailed blogpost!


For future development, the new pre-release Xenomai 3 version has some new approach to real-time Linux, that enables even more stringent timing requirements, and optimizations for a bunch of different ARM SoC families (including Freescale i.MX6Quad that these VIA devices use). The new Xenomai version needs some more setting up, but will be interesting to compare to these results.


What do you use your real-time system for? What's your experience with them?

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