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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Embedded AI tools for Edge Processing and secure deployment

By Nick Flaherty

NXP Semiconductors has launched a set of machine learning (ML) tools for its microcontrollers along with tools for securely updating devices in the field. 

The tools operate across the low-cost microcontrollers (MCUs) to the crossover i.MX RT processors and high-performance application processors. The ML environment allows designers to choose the optimum execution engine from among ARM Cortex cores to high-performance GPU/DSP (Graphics Processing Unit/Digital Signal Processor) complexes and tools for deploying machine learning models, including neural nets, on those engines.

Embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming an essential capability for edge processing, gives 'smart' devices an ability to become 'aware' of its surroundings and make decisions on the input received with little or no human intervention. 

The ML environment enables applications in vision, voice, and anomaly detections. The vision-based ML applications use cameras as inputs to the various machine learning algorithms of which neural networks are the most popular. Voice Activated Devices (VADs) are driving the need for machine learning at the edge for wake word detection, natural language processing, and for 'voice as the user-interface' applications. NXP sees ML-based anomaly detection (based on vibration/sound patterns) revolutionising Industry 4.0 by recognizing imminent failures and dramatically reducing down-times.

The ML environment includes free software that allows customers to import their own trained TensorFlow or Caffe models, convert them to optimized inference engines, and deploy them on NXP's breadth of scalable processing solutions from MCUs to highly-integrated i.MX and Layerscape processors.

“When it comes to machine learning in embedded applications, it’s all about balancing cost and the end-user experience. For example, many people are still amazed that they can deploy inference engines with sufficient performance even in our cost-effective MCUs,” said Markus Levy, head of AI technologies at NXP. “At the other end of the spectrum is our high-performance crossover and applications processors that have processing resources for fast inference and training in many of our customer's applications. As the use-cases for AI expand, we will continue to power that growth with next-generation processors that have dedicated acceleration for machine learning.”

Another critical requirement in bringing AI/ML capability to the edge is easy and secure deployment and upgrade from the cloud to embedded devices. The EdgeScale platform enables secure provisioning and management of IoT and Edge devices. EdgeScale enables an end-to-end continuous development and delivery experience by containerizing AI/ML learning and inference engines in the cloud, and securely deploying the containers to edge devices automatically.
Members of the ecosystem include Au-Zone Technologies and Pilot.AI. Au-Zone Technologies provides the industry’s first end-to-end embedded ML toolkit and RunTime inference engine, DeepView, which enables developers to deploy and profile CNNs on NXP’s entire SoC portfolio that includes heterogeneous mixture of Arm Cortex-A, Cortex-M cores, and GPU’s. Pilot.AI has built a framework to enable a variety of perception tasks - including detection, classification, tracking, and identification - across a variety of customer platforms, ranging from microcontrollers to GPUs, along with data collection/annotation tools and pre-trained models to enable drop-in model deployment.

Monday, June 18, 2018

NXP develops first ARM R52 real time microcontorller

By Nick Flaherty

NXP Semiconductors has developed a family of high-performance safe microprocessors to control vehicle dynamics in next-generation electric and autonomous vehicles based around the ARM Coretex R52 core that includes four separate processing paths for redundancy and safety. 

The new NXP S32S microprocessors will manage the systems that accelerate, brake and steer vehicles safely, whether under the direct control of a driver or an autonomous vehicle’s control.

“We see that the shift to next-generation autonomous and electric vehicles is introducing huge challenges to carmakers,” said Ian Riches, executive director in the Strategy Analytics Global Automotive Practice. “Not least of these is the ability to get silicon in hand fast enough and with enough performance headroom to ease the transitions to autonomous and advanced HEV/EV. A car can be extremely intelligent, but if it can’t act safely on a decision, you don’t have a reliable autonomous system at all.”

At 800MHz the first of the new S32 product lines, the S32S microprocessors offer the highest performance ASIL D capability available today.

The NXP S32S processors use an array of the new Arm Cortex-R52 cores, which integrate the highest level of safety features of any Arm processor. The array offers four fully independent ASIL D capable processing paths to support parallel safe computing. In addition, the S32S architecture supports a new “fail availability” capability allowing the device to continue to operate after detecting and isolating a failure – a critical capability for future autonomous applications.


NXP has worked with OpenSynergy to develop a fully featured, real-time hypervisor supporting the S32S products. OpenSynergy’s COQOS Micro SDK is one of the first hypervisor platforms that takes advantage of the Arm Cortex-R52’s special hardware features. It enables the integration of multiple real-time operating systems onto microcontrollers requiring high levels of safety (up to ISO26262 ASIL D). Multiple vendor independent OS/stacks can also run on a single microcontroller. COQOS Micro SDK provides secure, safe and fast context switching ahead of today’s software-only solutions in traditional microcontrollers.

A companion ASIL D safety system basis chip, the FS66 functionally safe multi-output power supply IC, is also available, along with integrated flash memory up to 64Mbytes supporting on-the-fly, over-the-air update capability with zero processor downtime. A user programmable hardware security engine with private and public key support and a version is available with a PCIe interface for ADAS domain supervisory applications.

“When we started the development of the S32S it was clear that just building another incremental microcontroller was not what customers needed to handle the safety and performance requirements of next-generation and autonomous vehicles,” said Ray Cornyn, vice president of Vehicle Dynamics and Safety. “Our new safety processors leverage the high performance multi-core benefits of the S32 Arm platform while still supporting traditional microcontroller ease of use and environmental robustness.”

S32S will be sampling in Q4 2018 to NXP’s Automotive Alpha customers.

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty at EENews Europe Power

. IQE sees approval for LG plant refit

. Ilika leads on key UK fast charging solid state battery project

. Powerbox launches supercapacitor technology

Power technologies to watch
. Researchers target cathode to triple capacity of lithium ion batteries

. Composite carbon anode triples battery capacity

. Perovskite silicon tandem solar cell claims record efficiency

New power products
. Nexans branches out from cables with EV charger

. CAN-based 85V and 120V lithium battery chargers target industrial applications

Technical Papers
. Mentor Graphics: 8 checks for PCB design electrical sign-off

. Infineon: Deep learning neural networks demand sophisticated power

. Harwin: Key Considerations When Selecting a Connector Solution

Friday, June 15, 2018

Surveillance system connects to smartphones without compromising privacy - video

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Purdue University in the US have found a way for public surveillance cameras to send personalised messages to people without knowing who they are.

The real-time end-to-end system called PHADE allows 'private human addressing' that doesn't use the destination's IP or MAC address. Instead it uses motion patterns as the address code for communication so that a smartphone then locally make its own decisions on whether to accept a message. The technology will be discussed at a conference in Signapore in October and the researchers see it as a direct competitor to Bluetooth beacons.

The PHADE system works using a server to receive video streams from cameras to track people. The camera builds a packet by linking a message to the address code and broadcasts the packet. Upon receiving the packet, a mobile device of each of the targets uses sensors to extract its owner's behavior and follow the same transformation to derive a second address code. If the second address code matches with the address code in the message, the mobile device automatically delivers the message to its owner.

"Our technology enables public cameras to send customized messages to targets without any prior registration," said He Wang, an assistant professor in the Purdue Department of Computer Science, who created the technology along with his PhD student, Siyuan Cao. "Our system serves as a bridge to connect surveillance cameras and people and protects targets' privacy."

PHADE protects privacy in two ways - it keeps the users' personal sensing data within their smartphones and it transforms the raw features of the data to blur partial details. The creators named the system PHADE because the blurring process "fades" people's motion details out.

PHADE can be used in places such as a museum, where visitors can receive messages with information about the exhibits they are viewing. The technology also could be implemented in shopping centres to provide consumers with digital product information or coupons.

"PHADE may also be used by government agencies to enhance public safety," said Cao. "For example, the government can deploy cameras in high-crime or high-accident areas and warn specific users about potential threats, such as suspicious followers."

Wang said surveillance camera and security companies would also be able to embed the technology into their products directly as a key feature. He also said this technology has advantages over Bluetooth-based beacons, which have difficulties in adjusting for ranges of transmission and do not allow for context-aware messaging.

Transceiver boost for steerable 5G links at 28GHz

By Nick Flaherty

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology have built a 28GHz transceiver that can be used for stable high-speed 5G communications with a new type of beam steering.

Most state-of-the-art transceivers designed for 5G use RF phase shifters. Accurate phase shifting is important because it allows the transceiver to guide the main lobe of the radiation pattern of the antenna array and so "point" the antenna array in a specific direction to maximise the link budget. 
Instead, the team from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, led by Associate Professor Kenichi Okada, developed a 28GHz transceiver employing a local oscillator (LO) phase shifting approach. Rather than using multiple RF phase shifters, the transceiver shifts the phase of a local oscillator in steps of 0.04° with minimal error. This allows for a beam-steering resolution of 0.1°, which is up to ten times btter than previous designs, allowing a higher throughput.

This LO phase shifting approach solves another problem of using multiple RF phase shifters: calibration complexity. RF phase shifters require precise and complex calibration so that their gain remains invariant during phase tuning, which is a very important requirement for the correct operation of the device. The situation becomes worse as the array increases in size. On the other hand, the proposed phase shifting approach results in a gain variation that is very close to zero over the entire 360° range.

The transceiver was implemented in a circuit board measuring only 4 mm × 3 mm using minimal components and provided a data rate they achieved was approximately 10 Gb/s higher than that achieved with other methods, while maintaining a phase error and gain variations an order of magnitude lower.

The results of this study are being presented at the 2018 IEEE Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits Symposium in the RMo2A session. The proposed LO phase shifting approach will hopefully help to bring forth the much-anticipated deployment of 5G mobile networks and the development of more reliable and speedy wireless communications.

Tokyo Institute of Technology - 東京工業大学

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First standard for post-quantum signatures

By Nick Flaherty

Having encryption technology that is not vulnerable to cracking by quantum computers is a major focus for security systems across the Internet, and using signatures is a key approach (see links below on our coverage).

A joint research team from the Technical University (TU) Darmstadt and the German IT security company genoa has now published an Internet standard (RFC 8391) for a quantum computer-resistant signature process.

This is the first universally recognized and usable digital signature process that can withstand the computational power of quantum computers. With digital signatures, the authenticity of sent e-mails, SSL certificates or software updates is guaranteed and these create a basis of trust for communication in the Internet of Things (IoT). The publication of the signature process as an Internet standard is a milestone for so-called post-quantum cryptography. genua is already using the process to guarantee the authenticity of software updates sent to customers.

The core of the solution is a hash-based method: Hashes work in principle only in one direction - once it encoded content can not be resolved in plain text. Because of their properties, cryptographically secure hash functions are considered to be resistant to quantum computer attacks. The research project was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Wirking with the Eindhoven University of Technology, the team submitted a draft Internet standard (RFC). These have been reviewed by the international organization IRTF (Internet Research Task Force) and are now published as RFC 8391. 

"The RFC 8391 is the first published standard on post-quantum signatures, and the research team at the TU Darmstadt and genoa has solved a problem of post-quantum cryptography, which some large corporations and organizations are working with, and is an important contributor to the Future security on the Internet, "said Matthias Ochs, CEO of genua.

genua has also launched a new research project to solve another problem in post-quantum cryptography: Securing encrypted data transmission via VPN (Virtual Private Network) via public networks such as the Internet against the foreseeable quantum leap in computing power.

More details of RFC8391 are at

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Renesas adds multirate control to multicore development tool

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas has updated its RH850 multicore model-based development environment to support multirate control (multiple control periods), which is now common in systems such as engine and body control systems in automotive designs and industrial systems. 

This model-based development environment has become practical even in software development scenarios for multicore MCUs, and can reduce the increasingly complex software development burdens especially in control system development of self-driving cars.

Renesas’ earlier RH850 environment automatically allocated software to the multiple cores and although verifying performance was possible, in complex systems that included multirate control, it was necessary to implement everything manually, including the RTOS and device drivers. 

Now, to meet the ever-increasing requirements for engine and vehicle performance, and at the same time shorten product development time, by making this development environment support multirate control, it is possible to directly generate the multicore software code from the multirate control model. 

This has made it possible to evaluate the execution performance in simulation. Not only does this allow execution performance to be estimated from the earliest stages of software development, this also makes it easy to feed back the verification results into the model itself. This enables the completeness of the system development to be improved early on in the process, and the burden of developing the ever-larger scale, and increasingly complex, software systems can be significantly reduced. 

"Model-based development is becoming increasingly common, and Renesas has now completed an environment that covers from control design through automatic code generation. At the same time, since multicore software is complex, it was difficult to handle such software in earlier model-based development environments,” said Hiroyuki Kondo, Vice President of Shared R&D Division 1, Automotive Solution Business Unit at Renesas Electronics. “We were able to start working on practical application of this technology early on, and thus succeeded in creating this update. I am confident that our model-based development environment will bring dramatically improved efficiency in software development for multicore microcontrollers."

Control function development requires multirate control, such as intake/exhaust period in engine control, the period of fuel injection and ignition, and the period with which the car's status is verified. These are all different periods. By applying the technology that generates RH850 multicore code from the Simulink control mode to multirate control, it has become possible to directly generate multicore code, even from models that include multiple periods, such as engine control. Renesas also provides as an option for the Integrated Development Environment CS+ for the RH850, a cycle precision simulator that can measure time with a precision on par with that of actual systems. By using this option, it is possible to estimate the execution performance of a model of the multicore MCU at the early stages of software development. This can significantly reduce the software development period.

This conforms to the de-facto standard JMAAB control modeling guidelines for automotive model-based development. The JMAAB (Japan MBD Automotive Advisory Board), an organization that promotes model-based development for automotive control systems, recommends several control models from the JMAAB Control Modeling Guidelines. Of those, Renesas is providing in this update the Simulink Scheduler Block, which conforms to type (alpha) which provides a scheduler layer in the upper layer. This makes it possible to follow the multirate single-task method without an OS, express the core specifications and synchronization in the Simulink® model, and automatically generate multicore code for the RH850 to implement deterministic operations.

By supporting multirate control, making it easier to operate small-scale systems with different control periods with a multicore microcontroller, it is now possible to verify the operation of a whole ECU that integrates multiple systems.

The update will ship in the second half of the year. This will support Renesas’ RH850/P1H-C MCU that includes two cores initially, and also support for the RH850/E2x Series of MCUs that include up to six cores is in the planning. 

Renesas also plans to deploy this development environment to the entire Renesas autonomy Platform, including the "R-Car" Family of SoCs and plans to apply the model-based design expertise fostered in its automotive development efforts in the continually growing RX Family in the industrial area which is seeing continued increases in both complexity and scale.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ARM buys Stream Technologies on its way to a trillion IoT devices

By Nick Flaherty

ARM doesn't buy companies very often, so its deals are a key indicator for its technology roadmap, and the latest deal combines well with the mbed embedded operating system.
Arm’s vision of a trillion connected devices by 2035 is driven by many factors, including the opportunity of IoT data. It has bought Stream Technologies to combine with mbed for the next generation embedded IoT platform.

Stream supports the physical connectivity across all major wireless protocols – such as cellular, LoRa, Satellite, etc. – that can be managed through a single user interface. Seamlessly connecting all IoT devices is important in ensuring their data is accessible at the appropriate time and cost across any use case and this capability will be integrated into the mbed platform to enable connectivity management of every device regardless of location or network. 

Founded in 2000, Stream is a leading connectivity management technology provider which maintains more than 770,000 managed subscribers and 2TB average traffic per day. Stream provides companies with a build once, deploy anywhere supply chain where any IoT device can be deployed, find a network, self-authenticate, automatically provision and connect to the lowest cost channel, removing the need to interface with multiple systems and develop several business contracts. This helps organizations reduce the time, complexity and costs of connecting devices and contributing meaningful data streams they can use.

The combination of Stream’s technology with the Mbed IoT Device Management Platform will provide a robust end-to-end IoT platform for managing, connecting, provisioning and updating devices that is easily scalable and flexible. This scalability is critical for moving from billions to trillions of connected devices. In addition, Stream will work seamlessly with GSMA compliant Embedded Subscriber Identity Module (eSIM) solutions, including Arm Kigen and other SIM solutions, to ensure secure identity and optimal connectivity for IoT devices from the chip to the cloud.

Customers will see a number of key benefits from the Stream acquisition and integration with mbed, including:
  • Single pane of glass that provides customer visibility and management capabilities throughout the device’s lifecycle – deployment, connectivity, provisioning, management, and updates
  • eSIM orchestration that communicates and connects policies enabling zero touch onboarding that drive efficiencies and scale of IoT connections
  • Global aggregation across network types and flexible wireless connectivity options that can be optimized across devices, regions, and use cases that are deployed
  • Simplified billing and reconciliation through APIs and automated controls that can charge based on any event for increased flexibility
  • Connect and manage any device regardless of network type to steer reliable and trusted data, seamlessly push new updates and features, and optimize quality-of-service and latency for troubleshooting
Mbed IoT Device Management Platform

Friday, June 08, 2018

Kerlink teams with Microshare for IoT GDPR support in the Google cloud

By Nick Flaherty

LoRaWAN provides long distance low power IoT connectivity, but unlike other proprietary links the cloud integration can be lacking. The recent GDPR regulations in Europe also require that data is held securely across the entire IoT chain.

To address this, Kerlink and Microshare have developed the first seamless integration of carrier-grade LoRaWAN solutions into Google Cloud’s IoT architecture.

This ensures security of data flowing from LoRaWAN devices to extended IoT networks. As device-generated data is securely transported, annotated and unpacked in LoRaWAN networks to create context and actionable business insights, ownership rights and origins will be stamped and respected. That means network owners will be compliant with regulatory requirements, such as GDPR, the EU regulation that took effect on May 25. Most important, Microshare’s governance, audit and micro-contracting features means users can share data among ecosystem partners securely to produce efficiencies, insights and new revenue streams.

Google Cloud joined the LoRa Alliance as a Sponsor Member at the end of May, enabling Kerlink and Microshare, both active alliance members with a partnership built around LoRaWAN IoT development, to use Google Cloud.

“By integrating Microshare and Kerlink’s technologies in Google Cloud, we can create carrier-grade solutions at cloud-scale in hours rather than months,” said Yannick Delibie, Kerlink CTIO and CEO of the company’s U.S. subsidiary, Kerlink Inc. “Reducing the burden of security, scale and reliability allows both solution providers and customers to focus on rapidly delivering valuable business insights with their LoRaWAN networks.”

“We’ve seen rapid adoption of LoRaWAN as a leading enabler for easily deploying cost-effective IoT sensors globally, and we view Google’s decision to join the alliance as a validation of everything Microshare has been pursuing for the past three years,” said Ron Rock, CEO Microshare. “A lot has been achieved in making reliable, long-battery-life devices and carrier-grade networks, but this means nothing if the data generated and transported is not easily accessible to business users and securely shared between multiple organizations.”

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

PICMG branches out with IIoT proposal, yes really

By Nick Flaherty

PICMG, perhaps more well known for the AdvancedTCA, CompactPCI and COM Express hardware standards, is looking at a new specification for the Indusitrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

It has been giving live demonstrations connecting sensor and controller endpoints using new Internet of Things (IoT) methodologies at the Sensors Expo show in the US this week.

The demos are using the RESTful API "put, get, delete" commands for the connected sensor/controller interaction and PICMG has a working agreement with the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) to use the well-known Redfish APIs.

The new PICMG specification will intend to develop a meta-data model that encompasses a breadth of individual data models to help legacy sensors and PLCs become IoT-enabled.

SEGGER adds IoT and security components

By Nick Flaherty

SEGGER has expanded its Embedded Studio PRO software package with Internet of Things (IoT), security and connectivity related software modules. 

The new modules are the IoT Toolkit, the security libraries emSSL, emSSH, emSecure and emCrypt as well as the communication stack emModbus and the compression algorithms emCompress.

Adding these new components grants developers direct access to SEGGER's most popular software components in one package. Accompanied by board support packages for popular development boards, Embedded Studio PRO provides an easy-to-use solution to create and develop new products. Ready-to-run projects that build the foundation of your new application can be created with just a few clicks.

The expanded Embedded Studio PRO Library Package now includes the embOS RTOS, the emWin GUI, emFile file system, comms stacks embOS/IP, emUSB-Device, emUSB-Host and emModbus, the compression algorithms emCompress and SEGGER's IoT Toolkit and security libraries serving all standard software needs of modern embedded and IoT devices.

"The new Embedded Studio PRO Library Package completes SEGGER's offering for software developers by vastly reducing the complexity of creating full-featured projects," said Dirk Akemann, Marketing Manager at SEGGER. "It enhances the out-of-the-box experience with an easy-to-use setup. The Embedded Studio IDE is now the developer's go-to solution for everyday work. It manages their whole workflow of project development; their tools, their libraries, and their sources. It simply works!"

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Microsoft pushes harder into IoT (and looks to monetize its operating system)

By Nick Flaherty

Microsoft has announced a new paid programme to build intelligent devices for the Internet of Things (IoT) using its Azure cloud capability.

“For Microsoft, it’s more than just screens and devices; it’s about creating services and experiences with technology that support ambitions and aspirations,” said Nick Parker, corporate vice president, Consumer and Device Sales. "Imagine the devices and experiences we can create with ubiquitous computing, infused with AI and connected to the cloud. This is such an incredible time for the industry.”

To do this it has launched a new, paid, service to make it easier to manage updates for the OS, apps, settings and OEM-specific files; includes Device Health Attestation (DHA); and is backed with 10 years of support.

Windows 10 IoT Core is an edition of Windows 10 designed for building smart things and optimized to power intelligent edge devices.

Windows 10 IoT Core Services builds on the Windows 10 IoT Core operating system that was first released in 2015 and has been adopted by companies such as Johnson ControlsAskey, and Misty Robotics.

However the Core Services will be a paid offering for IoT devices. The free edition of Windows 10 IoT Core will still be available via the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC).

Windows 10 IoT Core Services provides 10 years of support via the Windows Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) to keep device security up to date. Devices using the LTSC release won’t receive feature updates, enabling them to focus on stability by minimizing changes to the base operating system. Microsoft typically offers new LTSC releases every two to three years, with each release supported over a 10-year lifecycle.

It also includes update control with the newly announced Device Update Center (DUC) which provides the ability to create, customize, and control device updates. These updates are distributed by the same Content Distribution Network (CDN) as Windows Update which is used daily by millions of Windows customers around the world. Updates can be applied to the operating system, device drivers, as well as OEM-specific applications and files. Updates can be flighted to test devices prior to broader distribution.

Device Health Attestation (DHA) provides hardware-enabled security. Evaluating the trustworthiness of a device at boot is essential for a trusted IoT system and a device cannot attest to its own trustworthiness. Instead, this must be done by an external entity such as DHA Azure cloud service. This service evaluates device health and can be combined with a device management system, such as Azure IoT Device Management. This allows developers to re-image a device, denying network access or creating a service ticket.

There is currently a limited preview of the service with a wider rollout in July 2018 and general availability later this year.