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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ofcom specification opens up 60GHz for wireless gigabit Ethernet

Frequency dependent attenuation of electromagn...Image via Wikipedia
In a move that has crept under the radar (!) the UK regulator Ofcom has opened up the 60GHz band for unlicensed operation.
It is to open the spectrum in the 59 – 64 GHz band for Fixed Wireless Systems (FWS) and to combine this with the existing 57 – 59 GHz band under one overall licence exempt authorisation approach for FWS. This creates one contiguous and flexible block of spectrum providing 6.8 GHz of available bandwidth (57.1 – 63.9 GHz) taking into account two 100 MHz guard bands.
The large bandwidth available makes the new 57.1 – 63.9 GHz band (the “60 GHz band”) suitable for very high capacity, short hop FWS (e.g. 100MBit/s ~ 1GBit/s Ethernet systems). In addition the technical conditions that will be implemented along with the high propagation attenuation around 60 GHz will allow sharing between a wide range of applications (e.g. FWS, ITS, Wireless HD and others).
The various technical characteristics of the systems to be deployed, along with the high gaseous absorption propagation attenuation around 60GHz (see chart) implies that sharing should be possible between the various applications (Fixed, ITS, wireless HD & other) with a very low probability of interference.
Ofcom has also decided to incorporate a minimum antenna gain of 30 dBi into the technical conditions to
ensure that narrow beam antennas are employed. This decision will also bring the technical conditions into line with the new ECC recommendation ECC/REC/ (09)01 that replaces ERC/REC/12-09.

The publication of the Final Regulatory Statement on licence exemption and exemption regulations come into force in the summer of 2010.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Elpida Begins Mass Production of 40nm 2Gbit DDR3 SDRAM

DIMM with eight DDR3 SDRAM devices.Image via Wikipedia
Elpida Memory has started volume production of 40nm process 2GBIT DDR3 SDRAMs that will bring the price of DDR3 chips down and drive further adoption. Since completing development of the DDR3 SDRAM last October it has taken Elpida only two months to ramp up mass production at its Hiroshima plant.
The new 2Gbit device fits 44% more chips per wafer compared with Elpida's 50nm DDR3 SDRAM and a 100% yield for DDR3 products that operate at 1.6Gbps, the fastest speed standard for current DDR3. It also supports high-speed products. Compared with 50nm products, it uses about two-thirds less current and supports 1.2V/1.35V operation as well as DDR3 standard 1.5V, resulting in reduced power consumption of around 50%.
In the second quarter of 2010, 40nm process production will also begin at Rexchip, a subsidiary in Taiwan, to increase the manufacture of 40nm process products in order to lower products costs. Depending on conditions in the DRAM market, Elpida may transfer 40nm process technology to foundry partners ProMOS and Winbond to expand production based on this technology to an even higher level.
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UK Companies Slow to Grasp Plastic Electronics

We are on the brink of a new age of Plastic Electronics, production costs are tumbling and business opportunities are growing exponentially, yet companies are slow to take up the innovation challenge, according to research from the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM Research).
"Yoghurt pots that flash at you to say they're mouldy, animated e-papers like Harry Potter's Daily Prophet, smart packaging on pills that beep your doctor when you forget to take them - these applications are no longer the stuff of sci-fi," says Dr Zella King of Henley Business School. "Today, Plastic Electronics can already offer huge growth opportunities for companies."
The Plastic Electronics industry is predicted to be worth $335 billion by 2029, and the UK is leading the way on global innovations. Networks of UK universities and companies are collaborating on new technologies and products. As a measure of its significance, the UK Government launched its PE strategy on December 7 this year.
The opportunities are vast. The technology is here, and Plastic Electronics products are already being manufactured on a commercial scale. What is lacking, however, is involvement by product designers and market-led end users. Companies in the retail, healthcare, transport, electronics and packaging industries have yet to understand the revolution taking place. "They need to realise this is no longer the domain of electronics companies," says Dr King, "it is open to anyone seeking to add value to their existing portfolio by using new technology."
Smart companies got in at the start. Esquire magazine wowed readers last year with the first animated e-paper magazine cover. In January, Plastic Logic will launch QUE, its shatterproof, wireless, A4 e-reader no heavier than Vogue. And the latest range of intelligent bandages can measure oxygen levels in a patient's wound to determine when they need changing. A tiny antenna, printed into the fabric, then beeps the patient's doctor.
The beauty of Plastic Electronics is that electronic materials can be formed into circuits using cheap core materials. Products can be printed onto flexible surfaces like paper, film or fabric allowing the manufacture of thin, lightweight devices that will not shatter like glass-based liquid crystal displays. The costs are so low that, for example, disposable interactive games can be made for consumer promotions, sensors can be incorporated into smart packaging and bandages, and clothing can be printed with wearable electronics and solar cells.
But innovation is moving fast, and there will only be a small window of opportunity for companies to gain competitive advantage and global market share. The research suggests that strong business models are needed to channel the UK's world-leading expertise into the development of Plastic Electronics components and businesses. This will only happen where collaboration between technology companies and research organisations is led by firms that have a vision of how to create customer value from Plastic Electronics.

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Arizona State stacks nanoscale memory chips

Researchers improve chip memory by stacking cells

Researchers at Arizona State University have developed an elegant method for significantly improving the memory capacity of electronic chips.
The researchers have shown that they can build stackable memory based on 'ionic memory technology' which could make them ideal candidates for storage cells in high-density memory. Best of all, the new method uses well-known electronics materials.
“This opens the door to inexpensive, high-density data storage by ‘stacking’ memory layers on top one another inside a single chip,” said Michael Kozicki, an ASU electrical engineering professor and director of the Center for Applied Nanoionics. “This could lead to hard drive data storage capacity on a chip, which enables portable systems that are smaller, more rugged and able to go longer between battery charges.”
“This is a significant improvement on the technology we developed two years ago where we made a new type of memory that could replace Flash, using materials common to the semiconductor industry (copper-doped silicon dioxide). What we have done now is add some critical functionality to the memory cell merely by involving another common materia – silicon.”
Kozicki outlined the new memory device in a technical presentation he made in November at the 2009 International Electron Devices and Materials Symposia in Taiwan. Kozicki said that given current technology, electronics researchers are fast reaching the physical limits of device memory. This fact has spurred research into new types of memory that can store more information into less and less physical space. One way of doing this is to stack memory cells.
Kozicki said stacking memory cells has not been achieved before because the cells could not be isolated. Each memory cell has a storage element and an access device; the latter allowing you to read, write or erase each storage cell individually.
“Before, if you joined several memory cells together you wouldn’t be able to access one without accessing all of the others because they were all wired together,” Kozicki said. “What we did was put in an access, or isolation device, that electrically splits all of them into individual cells.”
Up until now, people built these access elements into the silicon substrate.
“But if you do that for one layer of memory and then you build another layer, where will you put the access device,” Kozicki asked. “You already used up the silicon on the first layer and it’s a single crystal, it is very difficult to have multiple layers of single crystal material.”
The new approach does use silicon, but not single crystal silicon, which can be deposited in layers as part of the three-dimensional memory fabrication process. Kozicki said his team was wrestling with how to find a way to build a diode into the memory cell. The diode would isolate the cells.
Kozicki said this idea usually involves several additional layers and processing steps when making the circuit, but his team found an elegant way of achieving diode capability by substituting one known material for another, in this case replacing a layer of metal with doped silicon.
“We can actually use a number of different types of silicon that can be layered,” he said. “We get away from using the substrate altogether for controlling the memory cells and put these access devices in the layers of memory above the silicon substrate.”
“Rather than having one transistor in the substrate controlling each memory cell, we have a memory cell with a built-in diode (access device) and since it is built into the cell, it will allow us to put in as many layers as we can squeeze in there,” Kozicki said. “We’ve shown that by replacing the bottom electrode with silicon it is feasible to go any number of layers above it.
With each layer applied, memory capacity significantly expands.
“Stackable memory is thought to be the only way of reaching the densities necessary for the type of solid state memory that can compete with hard drives on cost as well as information storage capacity,” Kozicki said. “If you had eight layers of memory in a single chip, this would give you almost eight times the density without increasing the area.”
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Monday, December 21, 2009

MPEGIF Launches “3D over MPEG” Campaign

The MPEG Industry Forum (MPEGIF) has formed a 3DTV Working Group with a “3D over MPEG” campaign. The new working group and campaign continue MPEGIF’s successful work in furthering the widespread adoption and deployment of MPEG-related standards including MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression technology.
“3DTV is of keen interest to everyone in the video creation and delivery industries. The challenge we all face is that of sorting through the myriad technical options. Our common goal is to create a 3DTV ecosystem that delivers great new experiences to consumers.” says Dr. Sean McCarthy, chair of the newly formed 3DTV Working Group and Fellow of the Technical Staff at Motorola. “The 3DTV Working Group and the ‘3D over MPEG’ campaign are designed to provide focus and clear information to decision makers. 3DTV can be distributed today using MPEG-related standards. Existing broadband and broadcast services and infrastructures are 3D-ready, and ongoing works by standards bodies provide a compelling path for the future evolution of 3DTV.”

The 3DTV Working Group will provide a forum for free exchange of information related to this emerging technology, an industry voice advocating the adoption of standards and for consolidating the overall direction of the 3DTV industry. Its focus and constituency will be derived from video service providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, content owners, equipment manufacturers, system integrators, software providers, as well as industry advocacy groups, industry analysts, financial institutions and academic institutes.
“3D video is showing distinct commercial promise in theatrical releases and could thus transition to the advanced living room to follow High Definition and Surround Sound. As a result there is a growing array of competing technologies and work from various standards bodies”, said David Price, Vice President, MPEGIF and Vice President at video compression company Harmonic. “It has therefore become a major theme of the next MPEG Industry Forum Master Class being held at CES 2010 in Las Vegas in January featuring leading executives from HBO, AT&T, Microsoft and other industry luminaries”.

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Step forward for multicore Linux

CriticalBlue and MontaVista Partner to Expand Multicore Software Development

CriticalBlue, the Edinburgh-based pioneer of embedded multicore software analysis, exploration and verification tools, has joined the MontaVista partner program and will make their Prism product available on MontaVista Linux 6 and Montavista Linux Carrier Grade Edition products.
This announcement continues the broadening of Prism integrations with key players in the multicore software development eco-system by adding support for an industrial strength, commercial quality Linux. Prism is an award-winning embedded multicore programming system which allows software engineers to easily asses and realize the full potential of multicore processors without significant change to their development flow. It analyzes the behavior of code running on either hardware development boards or simulators. It allows engineers to take their existing sequential code, and without making any changes, explore and analyze opportunities for concurrency. Having identified the optimal parallelization strategy in this way, the developer will implement parallel structures, and use Prism again to verify efficient and thread-safe operations.
MontaVista Linux is the first commercial Linux provider to be supported by Prism. The Prism Eclipse plug-in will be integrated into the MontaVista DevRocket integrated development environment (IDE), providing the most advanced embedded Linux development environment for multicore software on the market. MontaVista customers will now be able to quickly analyze the potential benefit of new, high-performance, multicore software platforms for their existing application code and develop new code and quickly tune it for operation on multicore processors, all within a single MontaVista DevRocket environment, and all in the familiar Eclipse framework.
Prism is available today for ARM and MIPS cores with several other leading multicore processor architectures coming in Q1 2010.
“Developers need to analyze their real world applications running on commercial Linux platforms like MontaVista Linux using common frameworks like Eclipse,” said David Stewart, CEO, CriticalBlue. “By partnering with MontaVista, and integrating with the MontaVista DevRocket IDE, Prism will support the broadest range of platforms on a commercial quality Linux, allowing our joint customers a way to rapidly ensure safe and timely migration of their software onto multicore platforms and efficient exploitation of the parallelism inherent within.”

“By combining CriticalBlue’s Prism solution, MontaVista Linux and MontaVista DevRocket, our customers will benefit from the most advanced multicore integrated development environment available for embedded Linux,” said Dan Cauchy, vice president, marketing at MontaVista Software. “This integrated environment will allow developers to quickly analyze, convert and tune sequential code into parallel code and harness the full capabilities of MontaVista Linux running on modern multicore processors.”

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Western Digital and NEC collaborate on USB3.0

New Driver for SuperSpeed Connectivity for SCSI Hard Drives With Advanced Features

Western Digital and NEC Electronics are collaborating to promote the new SuperSpeed Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 standard in storage devices supporting data transfer rates of up to 5 gigabits per second (Gbps), 10 times faster than the previous high-speed USB 2.0 transfer speeds.
The companies plan to develop a USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) driver to deliver hard drives with very high performance, mass-storage capacity. UASP is a new industry-standard, high-performance mass-storage protocol being developed for SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to overcome the performance boundaries of the Bulk Only Transfer (BOT) protocol, which has been used for traditional USB 2.0 speeds. The new UASP driver will be used with NEC Electronics’ USB 3.0 xHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface) host controller (part number µPD720200), which appeared on the market as the world’s first USB 3.0 host controller in June 2009.
Key features of the new UASP driver
(1) Support for the UASP mass-storage protocol
(2) Data transfer rate is enhanced by 30 percent, with optimized power efficiency and smooth interoperability, compared to the existing BOT protocol
(3) NEC Electronics’ license program is available for any LSI (large scale integration) vendors who develop UASP-based LSI devices

“The wide adoption of external storage, for both expanding and backing up internal computer storage, highlights the need for faster interface transfer rates. The USB 3.0 interface offers a significant advance in data transfer speed,” said Robert Caddy, Jr., vice president of engineering for WD’s Branded Products Group. “We are pleased to collaborate with NEC Electronics as a leading supplier of USB host devices in the introduction of USB 3.0 technology to the storage market.”

“Partnering with WD enables us to combine our USB transfer technology with WD’s data storage technology and provide added value to our customers,” said Masao Hirasawa, deputy general manager, Home Multimedia Division, NEC Electronics Corporation. “Starting with the new HDDs, WD and NEC Electronics are working together as the industrial leaders to expand USB 3.0 marketplace offerings with the highest quality and performance solutions while speeding time to market.”

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Farewell Zilog

Zilog, the inventor of the ubiquitous Z80 microcontroller, has finally given up the ghost and is to be sold to IXYS, a power semiconductor and mixed signal vendor that is one of the fastest growing semiconductor companies. The $62m deal is expected to be completed by March next year as IXYS expects the microcontroller market to take off again next year.
The combination of the two companies with complementing technologies will allow IXYS and Zilog to leverage analogue power management with digital control. Zilog has a focused MCU business with technologies that will complement IXYS’ product portfolio. IXYS has a broad based and diversified range of products geared toward industrial, telecommunications, medical, automotive, alternative energy and consumer applications. By introducing MCUs that enable digital power management and embedded control, IXYS will be able to create more cost-effective system integration solutions for its diversified customer base.
“As the world migrates toward SoCs, Zilog’s core microcontroller technology along with IXYS’ core power solutions create entirely new products that will meet the needs for today and tomorrow,” said Dr. Federico Faggin, Chairman of the Board and the co-founder of Zilog, Inc.

“We are pleased with this strategic acquisition that will allow us to penetrate more applications in traditional and developing markets, leveraging both of our strengths. Digital power management is one of the fastest growing applications in the markets we serve. Zilog’s 35-year history in microcontrollers with its legendary Z80 and Z8 architectures parallels IXYS’ pioneering technologies in power MOSFETs, IGBTs and HVICs,” said Dr. Nathan Zommer, CEO and Founder of IXYS Corporation. “With the expected rebound in MCU sales in 2010, we anticipate a growth in opportunities for refined power control in many applications; the acquisition and integration of this MCU business will strengthen our position and allow us to take advantage of these opportunities. We believe this transaction will create further value for our shareholders, employees and customers through a further expansion and diversification of our product offerings. As it is one of the pioneers of MCUs in Silicon Valley, we plan to keep the Zilog entity with its recognized and valued trademark.”
“Zilog has actively explored a broad range of strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value. The price that IXYS is proposing to pay is a premium to our current stock price, as well as a substantial premium to the average of the prices at which we’ve traded throughout 2009,” said Darin Billerbeck, Zilog’s president and chief executive officer. “This acquisition brings liquidity to our shareholders, while increasing our financial stability in these continuing uncertain economic times.”

IXYS expects to increase its penetration in the automotive electronic and electric market by producing cost-effective integrated product offerings, including the power semiconductors, driver ICs and Zilog MCUs that are essential for automotive controls and driving displays. In IXYS’ prime industrial market, IXYS plans to deploy MCUs that are suited for motor control, power control and automation. In the telecommunications and security industries, Zilog’s MCUs complement IXYS’ ICs, which can be deployed in modems, VOIP, FIOS and automated alarm systems. For the medical market, the Zilog MCU platform complements IXYS’ power and IC products in defibrillators, imaging and diagnostics. Additionally, the recently expanded IXYS products for LED lighting and display, which require digital power control, will benefit in the market from the availability of complementary MCUs. MCU product offerings will be expanded to include low-power and sensing technologies for energy management applications, including smart lighting and intrusion detection.
In addition to expanding market opportunities, the acquisition will allow IXYS and Zilog to pool R&D resources, leverage economies of scale, reduce manufacturing costs and streamline and integrate operational and support costs.

The deal with IXYS will be through Zanzibar Acquisition, a wholly-owned subsidiary of IXYS.

The move ends a selloff of Zilog technology. In February Zilog sold key lines to Maxim and UEI for $31m. Maxim bought Zilog's secure transaction product line that includes the Zatara 32bit, ARM-based microcontroller family for use in payment terminals.
Maxim and UEI jointly purchased the wireless control business, with Mxim taking the microcontroller silicon chip business and supporting intellectual property to combine with its own Infrared (IR) microcontroller family. UEI bought the software portion of Zilog's wireless control product line, which consists of its patents, universal remote database and software, and related assets.

Single chip for HD image acquisition

HD image signal processors combine image signal conditioning circuitry, a 14-bit ADC, and precision timing core for medical, industrial and scientific designs

As medical, industrial and scientific markets increasingly adopt high-definition (HD) image acquisition systems, designers of such systems must confront a host of signal-processing complexities in order to accurately capture and record high-resolution images. Analog Devices (ADI) has developed two high-performance, highly integrated 14-bit HD image signal processors: the 75 MSPS dual-channel AD9978A--the industry’s fastest-- and the 72 MSPS quad-channel ADDI7004. These single-chip solutions enable designers to create multi-channel CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) HD image acquisition systems that can deliver the degree of clarity, visibility and accuracy needed for today’s high-resolution requirements.
Many leading manufacturers of digital still cameras, camcorders, scanners and other imaging systems depend on Analog Devices to deliver the highest performance products with the lowest power dissipation available. Analog Devices’ 75 MSPS dual-channel AD9978A and 72 MSPS quad-channel ADDI7004 HD image signal processors enable the high-resolution, high-speed sampling of signals from advanced image sensors, while consuming very little power—280 mW (milliwatts) and 530 mW, respectively.
“Until today, high-performance imaging system designers were forced to use multiple high-power components to sample image signals at HD rates,” said Stuart Boyd, product line director, Digital Imaging Systems at Analog Devices. “By integrating high-performance signal conditioning circuitry, a 14-bit data converter, and a precision timing core into a single HD image acquisition solution, designers can achieve an unequalled combination of speed and accuracy in high-speed, high-resolution digital imaging systems, while eliminating the power dissipation limitations that restrict portability and increase design cost.”

Accurate and Sharp HD Images for High-speed Applications

The AD9978A and ADDI7004 devices extend Analog Devices’ family of AD997x image signal processors for high-speed digital imaging applications. Each channel integrates a complete AFE comprising a black-level clamp, a CDS (correlated double sampler), a 1bit VGA, and a 14bit ADC. Analog Devices’ Precision Timing core provides adjustments for the CDS and SHA (sample-and-hold amplifier) clocks with 210ps resolution at 75 MHz (ADD9978A) and 217 ps at 72 MHz (ADDI7004). The AD9978A and ADDI7004 also contain a reduced range LVDS (low-voltage differential signaling) interface for the image-data outputs to increase performance and reduce EMI issues.
The power consumption of each device is proportional to its sampling frequency. Both high-resolution image signal processors support designers’ efforts to standardize their image sensor interface designs across multiple platforms, eliminating the need to change or add additional components and reducing overall system cost across several models. Additionally, the AD9978A offers pin-for-pin compatibility with the industry-standard AD9978 14-bit CCD signal processor, enabling designers to easily change existing designs to deliver high-end performance.
The dual channel AD9978A costs $25.32 while the quad channel ADDI7004 costs $48.12.

First Cortex-M0 microcontroller starter kit

$139 starter kit for popular low cost microcontroller

IAR Systems has developed what it believes to be the world's first commercial starter kit for ARM Cortex-M0-based microcontrollers for the NXP LPC1114.
One of the features which enabled the speedy development of this kit was the fact that the NXP LPC11xx Cortex-M0 family is 100% pin compatible with the NXP LPC13xx Cortex-M3 family. "This kit is proof of that concept. We were able to re-use 100% of the design from our recently released LPC1343 kit," said Sara Skrtic, Development Kits Manager at IAR Systems. Both the Cortex-M0, and Cortex-M3 processor families are supported by the new competitively priced IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM Cortex-M toolchain.
"Ease of development and migration path within the two compatible families is the main theme at NXP" says Geoff Lees, General Manager, Microcontroller Division, NXP. "We see this as true compatibility, not just peripheral compatibility between an older 8-bit core, and a different 32-bit architecture. We are extremely pleased with IAR Systems' commitment to our new Cortex-M0 family, and are very confident of their success with this kit."
The KickStart Kit for LPC1114 contains all the necessary hardware and software for engineers to quickly design, develop, integrate and test Cortex-M0 applications. The NXP LPC111x family of devices are low-cost 32-bit MCUs designed for 8/16-bit applications and offer good performance, low power consumption, a simple instruction set and memory addressing together with small code size.
It includes a development board fitted with the LPC1114 microcontroller, an 8K KickStart edition of IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM, and a 20-state evaluation edition of IAR visualSTATE.
The board also provides debug support through IAR J-Link-OB, a standard JTAG connector or a small SWD connector. The board is powered via the USB interface, removing the need for any external power supply. It also provides some user configurable devices such as a small LCD, buttons and LEDs, analogue trim wheel, buzzer and a prototyping area. In addition, the UART pins are routed to a DB9 connector.
The J-Link-OB is a small board mounted JTAG/SWD debug interface that connects via USB to the PC host running Windows. It integrates into IAR Embedded Workbench, an Integrated Development Environment with a complete and easy-to-use set of C/C++ cross compiler and debugger tools for professional embedded applications. It contains project manager, editor, linker and librarian tools, C-SPY debugger, full integration with IAR J-Link, complete upgrade path available from IAR Systems. IAR visualSTATE is a UML-compliant graphical design environment for reactive systems, with advanced formal verification and validation tools as well as a very powerful code generator.

Microtune plans DAB SDR chip

Microtune is planning to develop a version of its software defined radio chip for the DAB standard used across Europe.
The current version supports AM/FM and HD radio but not DAB, making it a potial problem for equipment makers for the European market. The problem is that some key European countries such as Germany use the higher frequency L band. THis can be supported with a separate receiver chip, linked to the same disgial signal processor chip, still reducing the complexity and bill of materials, but not as much as a fully integrated solution.
"We have a tuner subsystem that's a discrete solution that sends data to the same DSP and the DAB data is demodulated in software on that DSP," said Peter Kipfelsberger, automotive marketing director at Microtune. "For L band it needs to be a separate tuner IC and that makes it difficult from a tuner perspective. But we are targetting a similar solution and we expect volumes to increase over the next year and we have plans to design a similar product for DAB."

SDR comes to radio and TV

Microtune has developed a chip architecture that brings Software Defined Radio (SDR) to car radios.
The MT3511 RF MicroDigitizer provides a flexible RF front end for many different standards and is coupled with a digital signal processor for a low cost implemention in a car radio.
For automotive manufacturers, software defined radio (SDR) represents a revolutionary approach to in-vehicle car entertainment, connectivity and multimedia. It enables them to flexibly deliver the most popular consumer features ­AM/FM, digital radio, CD audio, MP3 playback, navigation, as well as connectivity for iPod®, SD card, USB and Bluetooth by using common hardware that is configurable, scalable and upgradable via software. SDR solutions dramatically change ‘infotainment’ business, design and manufacturing models. This technology offers car makers a global radio platform, increased design flexibility, substantial cost-efficiencies and a future-proof migration path to new standards and enhanced features.
The MT3511 is a key front-end component in the SDR architecture. It combines the functions of a state-of-the-art RF tuner and an advanced analogue-to-digital converter in a single miniature chip­it receives and tunes a broadcast signal from a car antenna, and then converts the signal from analog to digital format for processing in software by a DSP or multimedia processor. It also supports world-standard AM/FM, HD Radio technology, digital radio mondiale (DRM), and weather band, and a DAB version with support for the higher frequency L band is being considered.
The advantage is that it replaces multiple hardware-specific components in today’s radio subsystem with a generic hardware platform that reduces design complexity, time-to-market, time-to-qualification and costs.
“For decades, leading automotive manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers have used Microtune radio and TV tuners to migrate compelling consumer-class entertainment to the car,” said James Fontaine, President and CEO of Microtune. “We are now introducing a single-chip RF-to-digital converter that will help drive software defined radio throughout the auto industry as a practical mainstream technology. The MT3511 will be a key enabler for the future of in-vehicle audio and multimedia, while it fuels growth and opportunity for our Company across the worldwide automotive entertainment markets.”
“Software defined radio has been the holy grail of the automotive industry,” said Paul O’Donovan, analyst, Gartner Research. “While car makers have been eager to deploy the SDR concept, the baseline hardware technology required to navigate commercial cost sensitivities and the stringent automotive quality and manufacturing requirements has not been available. Modern multimedia or DSP processors are now increasing in computer power, allowing the complete processing of radio signals in software, while providing the necessary connectivity features. SDR applications also demand a new kind of front-end technology, such as the MT3511, that can receive and digitize radio broadcast signals across the fast-changing signal environment of the moving vehicle.”

Key Features

The MT3511 is characterized by very high RF-to-bits performance, a high level of integration, low cost and very low profile. With its high sensitivity, high linearity, and configurable, fully autonomous automatic gain control circuit, the MT3511 is engineered to deliver stable, clear digital intermediate frequency (IF) signals. It offers the system designer the flexibility to configure solutions for even the most challenging reception environments, while enabling high-quality radio sound and multimedia within the SDR system.
As a key feature, the MT3511 is optimized to work in the digital domain of the SDR architecture and supports on-board designs with minimal external components. It is engineered to support block-oriented processing, and combined with a patented approach for generating a manageable data rate, it frees the microprocessor to focus on other tasks, including display, connectivity, traffic management and GPS. In effect, the MT3511 enables the microprocessor to manage its resources more effectively and efficiently, a key factor in overall SDR performance.

Other features include:
· Very low phase noise
· Fully-autonomous tuning-control engine
· Integrated high-performance 16-bit ADC with self-calibration and digital error correction
· Automatic data synchronization for FM phase-diversity applications
The MT3511 is the first member of the Automotive RF MicroDigitizer family, and future products will support new digital standards with even higher levels of integration. A complete technical description is provided in the MT3511 Product Brief.
As with Microtune’s other automotive products, the MT3511 is engineered to operate in the harsh vehicular environment, meeting the unique challenges of temperature and long product-life times as compared to consumer products. Developed to meet stringent automotive specifications, it supports temperatures from -40 to +85°C, and is designed to be qualified according to the requirements of the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) Q100.
The MT3511 is currently sampling to key customers and is priced at $3.50 in volumes of 100,000/year.

$2 TV chip

It has also developed world-standard radio frequency (RF)-to-baseband IC, based on the new architecture. The MT3141 single chip enables TV manufacturers to use a smaller, higher-performance and more cost-effective receiver across their next-generation global digital television designs. Using Microtune’s MT3141, manufacturers can build thinner, lighter digital TVs that deliver premium performance for all brands, models, price points and screen sizes.
The MT3141 is:
· A miniaturized RF-to-baseband single chip that combines the functions of an RF tuner, analog TV demodulator, intermediate frequency (IF) filters and amplifiers in a 6 mm x 6 mm IC.
· The only receiver engineered to exceed the RF performance requirements of worldwide analog/digital broadcast and cable standards*, including those for China’s new CTTB (also known as DTMB or DMB-T) and Europe’s next-generation DVB-T2 requirements.
· Tiny enough for the lightest ‘picture on a wall’ TVs, but packs the performance to put a superb TV picture on the biggest wide screen.

At $2.00 in high volumes, the MT3141 breaks through price, performance and size barriers to enable TV manufacturers finally to deploy an advanced silicon receiver in an unified high-quality front-end across all next-generation television platforms.

“Faced with increasing complexity, shrinking ASPs, divergent broadcast standards, and the need to differentiate, TV manufacturers have been looking for a new class of world-standard electronics,” said James Fontaine, President and CEO of Microtune. “Yet across all these factors, manufacturers and consumers are driven by TV picture quality. With our MT3141, manufacturers can drive world-class receiver performance into global TVs, while reducing their footprint, design effort and manufacturing costs.”

Mr. Fontaine added, “Our highly integrated receiver provides the compelling price/performance to finally fuel the TV industry migration from traditional can tuners to silicon solutions, while taking digital TV into the future.”

Unmatched Performance Based on MicroCeiver™ Architecture
Based on new MicroCeiver technology, the MT3141 is a complete RF analog and digital signal processing system in a single chip. It fuses RF tuner, analog video demodulation, filter and amplifier capabilities together, erasing the distinctions across these functional boundaries. The M3141 employs internal techniques and proprietary algorithms to continuously update information about signal conditions across the signal path, optimizing performance across the entire receiver chain.

Key performance metrics include:

* Typical noise figure: 3 dB
* Video signal to noise ratio: greater than 60 dB
* Typical sensitivity ATSC: -88 dBm
* DVB-T desired to undesired signal: exceeds NorDig 2.1 specifications by greater than 10 dB

The MT3141 receiver delivers excellent sensitivity and superior adjacent channel rejection, technical metrics that directly translate into an increase in digital TV signal coverage for broadcasters and high-quality, stable TV reception for TV viewers.

MT3141 Receiver: Dramatic Integration and Cost Reduction
A single chip, the MT3141 receives all frequencies in the 44 MHz to 1.0 GHz range. It converts a selected channel either to a low-IF or to a standard IF between 4 MHz and 57 MHz, and it outputs filtered audio (SIF) and baseband video (CVBS) signals. It is characterized by a very high level of integration with minimal external bill of materials that require no active components. The MT3141 virtually eliminates an external bill of materials.

The MT3141 complies with worldwide broadcast standards* and is engineered to exceed all performance requirements published for them, including those for legacy analog TV reception (NTSC, PAL and SECAM analog television signals for off-air and cable). The transition to digital broadcast around the world is expected to continue through at least 2018. For more technical information about the MT3141, please read the MT3141 Product Brief.

Price and Availability
Offered in a 6.0 mm x 6.0 mm 40-pin QFN package, the MT3141 tuner is available now to early access customers and is priced at $2.00 in high volume. To simplify evaluation and design for qualified customers, Microtune offers a MicroCeiver MT3141 evaluation board and reference design.

VIA chipset for DDR3 all-in-one PCs

Blu-ray playback, DX10.1 graphics and DDR3 memory support

VIA Technologies is set to push the adoption of next generation high speed DDR3 memory in all-in-one and embedded PCs with a new low power chipset.
The VIA VN1000 digital media chipset features the ChromotionHD 2.0 video processor to guarantee smooth playback of the latest Blu-ray titles with superb hardware acceleration of the most demanding H.264, WM9 and VC1 codecs over the latest display technologies, including Display Port and HDMI.
“The VIA VN1000 leverages our optimized VIA Nano 3000 Series processors, creating the most balanced, power-efficient, multimedia-focused desktop platform on the market today,” said Richard Brown, VP International Marketing at VIA. “Supporting the latest system memory, graphics and entertainment standards, the VIA VN1000 takes the VIA processor platform to new heights of power-efficient visual sophistication.”
At the core of the VIA VN1000 lies a DirectX 10.1 graphics engine, a necessary requirement for users who want to enjoy the enhanced features of the Windows 7 desktop environment. The DirectX 10.1 engine means that Windows 7 can employ Microsoft’s advanced Windows Desktop Driver Model 1.1, bringing significant gains in system memory efficiency, overall desktop responsiveness and an improved visual experience compared to WDDM 1.0.
Paired with the new VIA VT8261 south bridge, the VIA VN1000 represents the most power-efficient DX10.1 compliant digital media chipset on the market, consuming up to 12 watts for both north and south bridges, making it a perfect choice for Windows 7 based mini desktop and all-in-one desktop PCs designs.
The VN1000 supports DDR3 system memory at speeds of up to 1066MHz, one x8 lane and four x1 lane PCI Express II expansion slots, up to five PCI slots and a VIA Vinyl HD 8 channel audio codec. An IDE controller, support for up to four S-ATA II drives, SD/MMS/MMC card reader support and 12 USB 2.0 ports are supplemented with support for PS/2, SPI, GPIO and LPC technologies.
The VN1000 Digital Media IGP Chipset is fully compatible with all VIA Nano, VIA C7, VIA C7-M and VIA Eden processors and supports all Microsoft Windows platforms and popular Linux distributions.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Global automotive telematics market to quadruple

Boom time as 68m cars ship with telematics by 2016

Global shipments of automotive telematics systems are set to rise to 84.4 million units in 2016, up by a factor of more than four from 19.3 million in 2008, according to iSuppli.
“From sending out an automatic distress call after a car crash, to enabling remote diagnosis of engine troubles, telematics can provide enormous benefits to motorists and car makers around the world,” said Anna Buettner, analyst with iSuppli’s automotive research service. “For drivers, telematics can enhance safety, convenience and connectivity. For car OEMs, telematics can add to and improve car functionality and reduce warranty and after-sales costs. That’s why carmakers and consumers are expected to increase their adoption of telematics systems rapidly during the next seven years.”
By 2016, 68.4 million cars will ship with telematics systems installed by OEMs, up from 14.3 million in 2008. This means that 84.6 percent of all cars shipped in 2016 will incorporate telematics systems.
Aftermarket shipments of telematics systems will rise to just under 16 million units in 2016, up from slightly less than 5 million in 2008.
Beyond accident alerts and remote diagnosis, telematics functions span from the wireless integration of third-party devices, to navigation and Location-Based Services (LBS) updates, to theft detection, to engine control software revisions.
The United States is the world’s leading market for telematics in 2009, with 30 percent of all models sold in the country available with installed systems. In comparison, the next two biggest telematics nations, Germany and Italy, have only 20 percent model availability of installed telematics systems.
The U.S. leadership is due to General Motors (GM), which pioneered installed telematics in 1996 with its OnStar service. The company has made OnStar a standard feature on all its cars this year.
“With GM selling 2 million cars with installed telematics per year, competitors have been forced to react,” Buettner said. “In the intervening years, Ford, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all launched telematics systems.”
Western European telematics volume remains low because no major OEM in the region has made the feature standard on every car. Japan also is deploying telematics in low volumes, and the applications are focused on navigation functionality and infotainment.
However, as telematics becomes more available in other regions, U.S. domination will dwindle. The United States in 2009 accounts for about half of the global installed OEM telematics market. By 2016, the United States will account for about one third of the worldwide market as shipments in other regions soar.

Embedded v. mobile device telematics

Two major types of telematics solutions are being offered on the market: embedded systems, whose functionality is integrated into the headunit of cars; and mobile-device oriented systems, which use a wireless product like a cell phone to communicate information.
Both embedded and mobile device telematics systems are on rapid growth paths. Worldwide OEM embedded telematics systems will grow from nearly 4.8 million units in 2008 to more than 26.8 million systems in 2016.
Meanwhile, global OEM mobile device telematics systems will grow from 9.5 million units in 2008 to more than 41.5 million systems in 2016.

Netbook on a credit card with world’s first i.MX51 DIMM module

Runs Windows CE and Linux, measures only 67.6 x 26 x 4.2 mm

Strategic Test has developed the world’s first Freescale i.MX51 processor-based System on Module (SOM). The TX51 measures just 67.6 x 26 x 4.2 mm (2.6” x 1” x 0.16”) and contains an ARM8 Cortex 800 MHz i.MX51 processor coupled with 128 MB mobile DDR-SDRAM, 128 MB NAND Flash memory and a 200-pin SODIMM connector, giving it the power of today's netbooks in a credit card format.
The i.MX51 multimedia applications processors offer high performance processing optimized for the lowest power consumption for smartbooks, netbooks, and other consumer and industrial applications including: portable media players, gaming consoles, secure handheld devices and applications requiring an advanced HMI. The TX51 is targeted at embedded multimedia applications where size, high-cpu performance and low power consumption are critical factors.
"Time to market is always important for developers, and especially so in the fast moving multimedia market. The TX51 module offers the performance, features and ease-of-use to slash development time,” said Bob Giblett, President of Strategic Test.
Key features include: LCD resolution up to 1280 x 768 pixels at 24 bpp, OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1 hardware accelerators, Multi-format HD 720p video decoder and D1 video encoder engine, Camera interface, NEON SIMD media accelerator, Vector Floating Point Unit, High-speed USB 2.0 OTG and Host, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. Interfaces include: UART(3), SDIO(2), SSI/AC97/I2S(2), I2C, CSPI, Keypad, External memory interface.
The TX51 is pin-compatible with the existing i.MX27 and I.MX25 processor-based modules. The modules can be supplied with the Development Kit-5 hardware reference platform that includes support for Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 and Linux 2.6.
The TX51 module accepts an input voltage from various sources:
1-cell Li-Ion/Polymer (3.0V to 4.2V)
5.0V USB supply or AC wall adapter
The TX51 is priced at 159 Euro in quantities from 1 to 249 and is sampling from January 2010. Production volumes will be available in Q1/2010.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

WiFi and Coldfire on embedded tower development system

Modular development platform helps save months of development time through rapid prototyping and tool re-use

Freescale Semiconductor has launched a rapid evaluation and prototyping development system with two interchangeable peripheral modules and 8- and 32-bit microcontroller (MCU) modules for the Tower System.
The advanced peripheral modules offer developers 802.11b Wi-Fi and rapid prototyping functionality while the newest MCU modules support Freescale’s MCF5225X 32-bit ColdFire MCU and MC9S08LL64 8-bit MCU.
"With the addition of these advanced modules for Freescale’s Tower System, we are providing designers, students and hobbyists an affordable development system that’s modular and expandable,” said Aiden Mitchell, director of Freescale’s Industrial & Multi-Market Microcontroller business. “The Tower system, in conjunction with Freescale MQX software, is the ultimate enablement solution – giving designers an array of building blocks for entry-level to advanced processor development and helping speed time to market.”
The Tower System provides a comprehensive and highly customisable embedded design environment that allows developers to mix and match MCU and peripheral boards to create reconfigurable development platforms that suit their design needs. Interchangeable modules promote reuse of hardware across multiple architectures, which helps speed time to market. The modular design scales down overall tool costs, while providing an inexpensive entry point.

Advanced MCU modules

The Tower System now supports two advanced microcontroller modules: the TWR-MCF5225X and the TWR-S08LL64, featuring the ColdFire V2 MCF5225X MCU and the 8-bit MC9S08LL64 MCU, respectively. These modules can be combined with various peripheral modules to form a unique Tower System development tool or used as standalone debug tools.
The TWR-MCF5225X offers a powerful and flexible industrial connectivity solution with on-chip USB, Ethernet, controller area network (CAN) and encryption, along with the Freescale MQX real time operating system and associated tools and software stacks. The 8-bit MC9S08LL64 MCU includes an on-chip LCD driver that supports up to eight backplanes, enabling developers to drive more segments with fewer pins, reducing system cost and design complexity. The S08LL family supports an LCD blink mode that operates without waking up the controller core, which helps reduce overall power consumption.
These advanced modules complement the previously announced TWR-MCF51CN Ethernet MCU module.

WiFi peripheral modules

The Wi-Fi module (TWR-ZGWIFI) adds 802.11b Wi-Fi functionality to the Tower System and includes the ZeroG Systems ZG2100 Wi-Fi I/O module and antenna, as well as configuration jumpers and an RS232 debug port. The embedded Wi-Fi module from ZeroG is optimised for embedded applications, with low data rates, power consumption and system resource requirements. The TWR-ZGWIFI module is FCC-certified and offers seamless integration with Freescale’s MQX software solution. With this module, developers can easily add Wi-Fi connectivity and run sample applications using the kit in less than a few hours.
The prototyping module (TWR-PROTO) allows designers to quickly add custom circuitry and build custom prototype boards with application-specific features. With ample perfboard area, this cost-effective module is ideal for hardware development and testing during system design.
These two peripheral modules complement the previously announced serial module (TWR-SER), supporting Ethernet, USB, RS232, RS485 and CAN, and elevator modules (TWR-ELEV) that connect the MCU and peripheral boards.
The Tower System’s easy-to-use, modular design helps customers control tool costs, from simple concept testing to full product development. A single MCU/MPU module serves as the main control board. Modules simply plug into backplane boards, called “elevators,” through standard PCB edge connectors. Peripheral board re-use eliminates the need to buy and develop redundant hardware, which reduces future costs. In addition, the MCU modules include open-source background debug mode (OSBDM) hardware, allowing each board to serve as a standalone debug tool.
Tower modules are currently available for MCF51CN, MCF5225X and MC9S08LL64 MCUs. In future months, Freescale and its partners plan to provide Tower System support for additional embedded devices, including other ColdFire MCUs, 8-bit MCUs and digital signal controllers (DSCs).
* The TWR-MCF5225X MCU module is available for a suggested resale price of $49
* The TWR-S08LL64 MCU module is available for a suggested resale price of $69
* The TWR-ZGWIFI and TWR-PROTO modules are available now for a suggested resale price of $59 and $14.99, respectively.
* The TWR-MCF5225X-KIT includes the TWR-SER and TWR-ELEV modules and is available for a suggested resale price of $119.
* The TWR-S08LL64-KIT includes the TWR-PROTO and TWR-ELEV modules and is available for a suggested resale price of $99.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Printable programmable logic

Nano ePrint in Manchester has secured a grant for Research and Development from the UK's Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) for a £390k project to demonstrate the world's first printed programmable logic device.
This will be based on developments led by Ian Barton, previously Managing Director of Silistix, who joined Nano ePrint as Vice President of Engineering in May. Ian brings significant experience in the management of integrated circuit design and is leading Nano ePrint's engineering team in the design and production of printed programmable logic devices. Silistix, another spinout of the University of Manchester, develops network on chip technology.
Nano ePrint was formed in 2006 following pioneering research at the University of Manchester in the UK that allows planar nanoelectronic circuits to be built in a single layer of semiconductor via single-step patterning. Nano ePrint’s devices achieve very high speeds while dramatically reducing circuit size and simplifying manufacture. Nano ePrint has also developed a configurable circuit architecture to deliver the world’s first printed programmable logic circuits, allowing one design to simultaneously address multiple applications, opening up prospects in low-cost, high-performance printed electronics across a wide range of markets.

First 1.1in QVGA LED display

OKI Digital Imaging has developed a 1.1 inch QVGA LED display while reducing power consumption to one-tenth that of conventional LCDs.
This is the direct result of development in its LED print head technology that enhances luminance efficiency using an extension of its proprietary Epi Film Bonding technology into a two-dimensional array.
This array has the world’s first 65-micrometer pitch between LED chips to give a high definition image and, as it is self-illuminating, the new display has a faster response, smaller size and lower power than LCD displays that require a separate light source. It also features high contrast (over 5000:1) for high visibility even in bright daylight.
OKI Digital Imaging will manufacture the LED display at the LED manufacturing facility in Gunma prefecture, Japan, that it acquired from Reneasas back in July. Shipments of samples are expected to begin by the end of fiscal year 2010.
“The new technology has made it possible for us to develop a groundbreaking LED display that provides high definition images while maintaining compact dimensions,” said Hiroshi Kikuchi, President of OKI Digital Imaging. “The development of the world’s first thin-film-bonding technology in 2006 marked a significant milestone for the OKI Group. As shown by today’s announcement, that technology laid the foundations for continuing developments in LEDs. The OKI Group plans to leverage the expertise and technical knowledge accumulated over 20 years of experience with LED printing to develop new technologies in other areas and to expand its LED-related businesses.”

Altium targets Poland on software piracy

Design tool vendor Altium is targetting illegal use of its software specifically in Poland, offering an amnesty for just one month for existing users.

Sets December deadline for illegal users

“Piracy of Altium software, both of Altium Designer and older Protel software, is a known problem throughout Poland. With this programme, Altium helps illegal Protel users continue with their favourite EDA tool for another half a year without having to fear legal consequences,” said Jean-Paul Seuren, Licence Compliance Manager EMEA, Altium Europe.
“At the same time, and of much more value to these users, we will help them to move their old Protel projects and legacy data to Altium Designer. Designers will see the benefit from using this next-generation electronics design software and increase their competitiveness in the Polish and worldwide electronics design sector. This software amnesty programme helps illegal users take the first step to battle software piracy.”
Under the new scheme, companies doing electronics design can legalize their illegal copies of Altium’s Protel and Altium Designer software by buying the latest version of Altium Designer at a price of €3,200 that includes half a year amnesty for each legalized seat.
Earlier this year Altium lowered the pricing for Altium Designer to €3,200, a reduction of nearly 70% designed to make electronics design software affordable to every electronics designer. This highlights the key reason why designers were using the tools illegally. The amnesty programme extends that new pricing by adding the support Polish users need to become up-to-date in both compliance and their software.
During this amnesty period, designers can retain their illegal Protel seats to migrate their legacy data to Altium Designer. Altium will also provide free software assurance and support, webinars as well as special migration training. Users will receive an official certificate that enables them to use one unlicensed Protel seat legally for six months for each Altium Designer licence purchased.
Altium’s Value Added Reseller Evatronix SA, based in Bielsko-Biala, will be the local point of contact in Poland to facilitate the software amnesty programme.
Altium Designer is the successor of the well known and widely used Protel PCB design tool but takes a very new and different approach to electronics design. In a single solution, using a single data model, it lets designers create products in all three design domains: PCB layout, programmable hardware (using FPGAs) and software.

Lego robots at Robocon 2009

I can't resist robots, it's just the kid in me! The Annual Robocon Competition took place in Yokohama, Tokyo on November 18. 40 teams from all over the world were competing in various disciplines, including the LEGO MINDSTORMS, in which the Royal Danish Embassy in Tokyo sponsored one of the 'Innovation Prize' awards.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

USB3 solid state disk from OCZ

New names in the industry are emerging with USB3.0 coming through (despite the problems at Intel) with OCZ Technology of San Jose teaming up with Symwave to show an external high speed solid state disk (SSD) drive.

Symwave is a fabless chip supplier of SuperSpeed USB3.0 devices with headquarters in Orange County, Calif., and design centers in Shenzhen, China, and San Diego, Calif. “Thanks to Symwave’s industry leading USB 3.0 storage controller, our external SSD device delivers 10x the transfer rate of USB 2.0 at 5Gb/s, as well as several ‘green’ improvements including superior power management and lower CPU utilization,” said Eugene Chang, Vice President of Product Management at the OCZ Technology Group. “OCZ’s products are synonymous with high performance. Combining our USB 3.0 controller with their SSD technology, both architected for performance without compromise, is a perfect match,” said John O’Neill, Vice President of Marketing at Symwave. “CES will be a showcase for new and innovative products that provide consumers with a dramatically improved user experience. Symwave is committed to delivering silicon and software solutions that will transform the way consumers view and use USB storage devices.”
Interestingly, Symwave has seen an investment by networking leader SMSC alongside venture capital firms including Kodiak Venture Partners and CMEA Ventures.

OCZ has just launched the Colossus 3.5” Solid State Drive (SSD) Series, designed to meet the performance and storage demands of high-end desktop users and enterprise clients. Available in up to one terabyte with RAID0 configurations, the Colossus Series marks a milestone in solid state drive technology, making it possible to have both high performance and high capacity in one solution.
“The new Colossus Series is designed to boost desktop and workstation performance and is for high power users that put a premium on speed, reliability and maximum storage capacity,” said Chang. “The Colossus core-architecture is also available to enterprise clients with locked BOMs (build of materials) and customized firmware to match their unique applications.”
The Colossus SSD is available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB with 1.5 million hour mean time between failures (MTBF).

Atom moves into automotive

Kontron's Microspace MPCX28: in-vehicle PC with Intel Atom Z530 processor

Kontron has launched its first in-vehicle PC with extended support, based on the Intel Atom Z530 processor and Intel System Controller Hub US15W, with a flexible PC/104 socket for ultra flat and space-saving PC/104 expansion cards. Further options for customization include 2 PCIe Mini Card Slots for custom specific options such as GPS, GSM/UMTS, and WLAN.
Its fanless design, easy expandability and high flexibility make the precision Swiss-engineered Kontron Microspace MPCX28 Box PC a perfect fit for various applications in busses, cars, trucks, and (automated) heavy-duty vehicles used in intralogistics. In cabs and busses it can be used for passenger infotainment, video surveillance, or ticketing systems. Typical truck applications include CAN-based trailer and goods management, GPS navigation combined with communication via GSM, and UMTS/GPRS for fleet management. For vehicles used in intralogistics, the applications range from the control of automated vehicles, to logistics for forklift trucks with WLAN and barcode/RFID interfaces.
Designed to work in the extended temperature range -25 to 70°C, the passively cooled in-vehicle Kontron Box PC is based on the Intel Atom Z530 1.6 GHz processor with 533 MHz FSB and supports up to 1 GB DDR2 RAM. The embedded graphics feature 256MB of memory DirectX 9 3-D and HDTV support with MPEG2 and H.264 decoders to process compressed HD videos to offload CPU usage. To accommodate storage devices, it provides front side slots for a 2.5" SATA HDD or SDD and Compact Flash media. Thanks to the externally-accessible slots, the change of storage media is quick and simple without the use of tools. This makes it particularly easy to swap out the hard drive within seconds to provide new content for, e.g., infotainment applications. The internal PCI/104 and 2x PCIe MiniCard expansion slots allow for various application-specific extensions, such as Dual-CAN, GPS, GSM/UMTS, and WLAN.

Application specific expansions via ultra flat PC/104 extension cards

The Microspace MPCX28 also features a comprehensive set of interfaces to fulfill the demands of nearly all in-vehicle applications. On the front, two USB 2.0 interfaces and 3.5 mm jacks for stereo output and input are accompanied by a SIM slot for mobile communications. On the back, the new in-vehicle PC offers 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 2 additional USB 2.0 ports, as well as an SATA port to connect additional storage devices. The DVI-I interface transmits analog or digital video signals to external monitors with a resolution of up to 2,048 x 1536. Two DSUB connectors for COM ports (RS232) and a parallel interface for digital I/O, which provide CAN-bus connectivity via an optional PCI/104 expansion card, round off the feature set.
With a wide-range power supply (8 to 58 VDC), the PC can be directly connected to the vehicle's power supply without additional converters. A plug-in power supply for 110/220 VAC is also available. The system supports remote power on/off and can accommodate customer-specific functions such as wake on ring, event wake up or a wake on LAN.
It is scheduled to be available (with CE and E1 certification) in Q1, 2010 and supports Windows XPe/XP/Vista/7, and Linux.

SME survey of UK companies

The UK's Electronics Leadership Council, distributor Premier Farnell and The UK Electronics Alliance are co-ordinating a survey to gain knowledge from technology-based SMEs on how to better advise government to direct the necessary support for greater economic growth.

The survey is here

All UK based small and medium enterprise (SME) technology companies are encouraged to take part in a survey through to 9th December 2009 developed to garner appropriate support from the UK Government and trade associations to ensure the necessary future economic growth for these SMEs.
The intent of the survey is to gain support to influence regulation and legislation that will encourage success for SMEs, ensuring their views are well understood by government as decisions are made. The findings will also be used to attract funding for business in the UK and develop targeted programmes that make a positive contribution. The ELC and UKEA have excellent lines of communication already established with government that will ensure the issues raised by the survey get directly to those most able to influence change.
A second stage of focus group consultation is planned in early 2010 involving interested survey participants. It is hoped that as many SME’s as possible will complete the initial survey to ensure it will be truly representative of opinion and make a powerful contribution towards shaping the decision making processes of government.
All participants in the survey will have the opportunity to receive a copy of the results once the survey is concluded. All trade associations that participate in the survey will also receive a final copy of the survey findings to distribute to their members.
“In recent months we have met with a number of key government leaders and industry bodies, all of whom want to stimulate growth, innovation and enterprise in the UK. Our industry is critical to leading the market out of the downturn and affecting change on a global scale as the pervasion of technology continues in every aspect of our lives,” said Harriet Green, CEO of Premier Farnell.

MEMS microphones for a dollar from ST and Omron deal

ST Microelectronics has teamed up with Omron to drive the cost of micromachined, highly integrated silicon MEMS microphones.
The deal will see the devices falling to under $1, says ST, using Omron's sensor technology. ST is already the leading supplier of MEMS for consumer and portable applications and the third largest MEMS manufacturer overall. , but will use Omron's MEMS sensor technology.
The key is that ST is the only manufacturer that can mount and package multiple MEMS microphone devices at a time, facilitating high-volume production, using a proven packaging technology very similar to that used for motion sensors.
MEMS microphones can be made smaller than the most compact microphones and are less susceptible to mechanical vibration, temperature variations and electromagnetic interference, which is important in cell phones and other devices with an audio input, such as notebook computers, video recorders, digital cameras, as well as hearing aids or electronic stethoscopes.
“In the past, microphones were the domain of expert acoustics companies, but now it’s time for semiconductor MEMS players to drive the growth of this market. We’re aiming to increase the size of the MEMS microphone market by an order of magnitude,” said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of MEMS and Healthcare Division, STMicroelectronics. “This market can explode only with big and long-term committed suppliers, operating their own leading-edge MEMS fabs. Working together with our Japanese friends, we'll drive the microphone market growth as we have done in motion sensors.”

Samples of digital MEMS microphones that integrate ST’s electronic control circuit and OMRON’s micro-machined sensor in a single package will be available before the end of this year, at less than one dollar for large-volume orders.
According to iSuppli’s research dated September 2009, the market for micro-machined acoustic devices for consumer electronics and mobile handsets is forecast to grow at a revenue CAGR of 18% between 2008 and 2013, when it will exceed one billion parts per year.
MEMS microphone startup Akustica was acquired earlier this year by Robert Bosch, while another MEMS startup, Oligon, was bought by Wolfson Microelectronics to develop a range of highly integrated microphones.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Instant products from rapid prototyping

Design tool vendor Altium has added an instant deployment option to its FPGA development board. Designers can now take their FPGA-based designs from concept right through to deployment without the need to create a custom PCB by clipping the NanoBoard 3000 into a new range of enclosures designed in-house by Altium.
The modular enclosures let designers deploy FPGA–based designs created and hosted on the NanoBoard 3000 in a number of different ways: on desks, on walls, in either commercial or industrial locations, in extended options for multiple board designs, with or without the TFT display that comes with the enclosures.
Instantly deploying the NanoBoard 3000 in the new modular enclosures gives designers the option of creating small production runs in commercially attractive cases, again without being compelled to manufacture custom enclosures or custom PCBs.
Altium’s NanoBoard 3000 is a programmable design environment supplied complete with hardware, software, ready-to-use, royalty-free IP and a dedicated Altium Designer Soft Design license. This is a complete design environment that lets electronics designers construct sophisticated ‘soft’ processor-based systems inside FPGAs without any prior FPGA expertise, specialist VHDL or Verilog skills. Designers simply use their existing board layout and systems design skills to construct, test and implement FPGA-based embedded systems. The supplied Altium Designer license lets them select, drag and drop the large range of IP blocks to add processors, memory controllers, peripherals and software stacks. Unlike alternative programmable design environments, designers no longer need to search the web for drivers, peripherals or other software, and then have the hard work of integrating all these elements to make them work together.
The new NanoBoard 3000 enclosures mean that designers can now start with a purely 'soft' prototype on the NanoBoard and then deploy it into the field. But Altium Designer’s unified architecture also gives them the option of upgrading to a board-level Altium Designer license and moving into custom PCB design. Their 'soft' design work completed on the NanoBoard 3000 is simply ready to be used on their custom PCB.
Weeks are saved on getting high-quality proof-of-concept prototypes designed without any custom PCB design work required at all. Newcomers to FPGA design have a low-risk, low-cost design environment that has everything they need to get started. Experienced FPGA designers can use their expertise in new ways to focus on creating the intelligence of their products.
Altium’s first NanoBoard 3000 features a Xilinx Spartan 3AN FPGA. Two more NanoBoards, featuring Altera and Lattice FPGAs, are in manufacture and design. The new deployment enclosures at Euro99 will accommodate all these NanoBoard options.
The NanoBoard 3000 is available for a recommended retail price of $295 and includes a 12-month subscription to the Altium Designer Soft Design License.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Namecalling Begins Around Intel's USB 3.0 Slowdown, Slapfight Imminent

Namecalling Begins Around Intel's USB 3.0 Slowdown, Slapfight Imminent

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DDR3 memory transistion next year

Shipments of the next generation high speed, low power DDDR3 memory will rise to account for more than half of the global DRAM market by the second quarter of 2010, surpassing DDR2 for the first time as the leading technology for PC main memory says market researcher iSuppli. DDR3’s share of the DRAM market in terms of gigabit-equivalent shipments will rise to 50.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010, up from just 1 percent in the second quarter of 2008 and 14.2 percent in the second quarter of 2009. By the end of 2010, DDR3 will grow to account for 71 percent of shipments.
“DDR3 is 50 percent faster than today’s dominant DRAM technology, DDR2, while using about 30 percent less power,” said Mike Howard, senior DRAM analyst for iSuppli. “For PC users across the board, this means faster performance. For notebook users, it can result in longer battery life.”
Two major factors are driving the industry’s transition to DDR3: new Intel Corp. microprocessors and the increasing manufacturability of the part.
Intel’s latest-generation microprocessor microarchitecture, dubbed Nehalem, employs a memory controller that supports only DDR3, unlike the previous Penryn line, which works with both DDR2 and DDR3. With Intel transitioning its microprocessor line to Nehalem-based chips, PC makers will have no choice but to migrate to DDR3 SDRAM.
On the supply side, production of DDR3 has advanced to the point were memory makers can produce it at a competitive cost using leading-edge semiconductor process technology. Because of this, all major DRAM suppliers now are producing DDR3, making the memory more attractive to PC makers who are loathe to be beholden to a single source.
“With DDR3 commanding higher pricing than DDR2, memory makers realize where the big money will be in 2010,” Howard said. “Because of this, they are more than willing to transition production to the new memory technology.”
As availability has increased and prices for DDR3 have fallen, the cost of DDR2 to PC makers actually has risen in recent months because of supply constraints. And despite the rapid rise of DDR3, DDR2 is expected to command significant volumes throughout 2010, accounting for 15.4 percent of gigabit-equivalent shipments the fourth quarter.
For more information on this topic, see iSuppli’s new report: DDR2 to DDR3 – The Anatomy of a Technology Transition.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Atom module adds dual GbE, SATA and PCIe

Anders Electronics in London has developed a module that uses Intel's Atom processor with two Gigabit Ethernet connections for faster connectivity. Measuring just 65x75mm, the new CM-iAM SoM (system-on-module) packs more features than any other Atom Z530 SoM - notably up to 2GB RAM, 4GB on-board Flash Disk, SATA interface, dual GbE, and up to 3 PCIe lanes.
Used as a building block for any embedded application, the CM-iAM packs up-to-date technologies into the most compact, lightweight PC-on-module available in the market.
With on-board resources that smoothly run Linux, Windows XP or Windows 7, the CM-iAM’s standard X86 architecture runs most software applications written for PCs. And, the CM-iAM’s credit-card sized board boasts a low power consumption of 4-6W, making it ideal for battery and “always on” applications.
The basic feature set of the CM-iAM includes a 32-bit X86-compatible Atom Z530 CPU (up to 1.6GHz), up to 2GB RAM, 4GB on-board Flash Disk, SATA interface, and a Micro-SD slot. The CM-iAM also offers multiple display interfaces (RGB, LVDS and SDVO), with resolutions of up to 1920x1200 – enabling it to run high the definition graphics needed for such applications as digital signage.
For embedded applications, the CM-iAM provides a variety of display interfaces, up to 3 PCIe lanes, dual GbE ports, an RS232 serial port, up to 15 GPIO lines and many other essential functions. The user interface is supported by an enhanced graphics controller, 6 USB 2.0 ports, and 5.1 channels audio codec (analog+S/PDIF or HDA output).
To enable quick evaluation of the CM-iAM in the full range of usage scenarios, the SoM ships with an advanced evaluation base-board, the SB-iAM. This evaluation kit features a wide range of extension and I/O interfaces – most notably PCI and PCIe slots, RGB, LVDS, DVI and CRT display, and digital, analog and optical audio.
“Anders has always attempted to keep our clients on the cutting edge of technology,” said Rob Anders, CEO of Anders Electronics. “The CM-iAM is a true first – the smallest and most cost-effective SoM on the market, that doesn’t compromise on processing power or featureset."