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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Problem hits Freescale Kinetis K60 family

By Nick Flaherty

Development tool vendor IAR is warning that users can accidently, and permanently, lock up Freescale's Kinetis K60 microcontroller family. Chris Hills, Technical Director of Paedrus Systems, points to the IAR advisory note and says that a problem could be caused if the default linker configuration file was used and the code reached address 0x40C as Freescale have used that address for the NVFSEC register. Within the register two bits control the mass erase function and two more control flash security. If they are used in conjunction then the device can permanently and irreversibly lock, says Hills.
With the KickStart Kit, the default linker configuration file is "generic_cortex.icf", which ignores the Freescale idiosyncrasy. The kit also includes a device-specific file, K60X_Flash.icf, which can easily be selected, so it's only something that would happen by accident.

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ARM's Broadcom deal is bigger than Microsoft


By Nick Flaherty

Broadcom has taken a broad license to all ARM's processor cores in a move that is fundamentally more important for the embedded market than the recent Microsoft announcement.

Broadcom now has access the entire range of ARM processors, from the smallest, lowest-power ARM CortexTM-M0 processor, through to the newly introduced, high-performance Cortex-A15 application processor and beyond. As Broadcom is pushing the system-on-chip approach strongly into the embedded market, this will see a lot more 32bit ARM cores in designs that traditionally used 16bit processors, as well as high end smartphone chips to take on Qualcomm and in highly integrated networking devices.
As part of the agreement Broadcom has access to both current and future ARM processors to use across product lines. This includes the Cortex-A15 processor for use in high performance mobile and networking applications, the specialized security hardened SC000 processor core for security applications, and the newly announced Cortex-R5 and Cortex-R7 processors for high performance real-time applications.
“ARM’s wide portfolio of cores enhances Broadcom’s strategy of designing cost- optimized high performance solutions for a wide range of applications from Bluetooth headsets to high-end application processors for tablets,” said Scott McGregor, President and CEO of Broadcom. “Broadcom and ARM have already established a successful partnership in smartphones and other exciting mobile devices. Today’s agreement will help expand that success into many new and exciting high-growth opportunities.”
 “The growing partnership with Broadcom brings new opportunities” said Warren East, CEO, ARM. “Broadcom’s strength across diverse markets and their expertise in highly integrated systems brings a breadth of knowledge to the ARM Partnership. Our expanded relationship shows the universal benefits that scalable, low-power ARM IP can bring to market leading solutions across a wide range of end devices and equipment.”
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Toumaz launches ultra-low power self-powered radio chip

1V ‘TELRAN’ TZ1053 aimed at wireless sensor networks, environmental monitoring and smart metering in the sub-1GHz ISM band

By Nick Flaherty

Toumaz Technology has launched an ultra-low power radio chip aimed at wireless sensors in environmental and medical systems that can use solar or energy harvesting systems and so be self-powered. The chip can be used both for the sensor and in the hub that collects the data.
Toumaz has rejected using existing standards such as Zigbee and Low Energy Bluetooth and developed its own protocol to provide continuous power of under 3mW in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical bands under 1GHz .
"Bluetooth at 2.4GHz suffers from interference from Wifi and microwaves while we do not need the mesh capabilities of Zigbee and the ISM band gives us more range" said Paul Paddan, Head of Toumaz’s Low Power Radio Business Unit.  
Padden had already developed ultra low power systems for Toumaz' Sensium wireless 'plasters' that are undergoing clinical trials, and is extending the design ideas to other  industrial and medical areas.
The system-on-chip is built on Toumaz’s proprietary AMx Mixed Signal technology and includes an 8051 processor to make it easy to use and runs at 1V using a single button cell battery and consumes less than 3mW continuous use power consumption. "This is the worst case performance and with a duty cycle it is considerably better," said Padden.
“With this important addition to our ‘Connected Consumer’ portfolio, we are harnessing our strengths in ultra-low energy wireless healthcare to create solutions for high-volume consumer markets," said Professor Chris Toumazou, founder of Toumaz and now CEO after the departure of co-founder Keith errery. "TELRAN is uniquely placed to support the development of a range of new ultra-low energy wireless applications, and we are very excited by the product opportunities that we will be enabling for our customers with today’s launch.”
The TELRAN contains an enhanced 8051 running Toumaz’s Nanopower Sensor Protocol (NSP) allowing developers to program and control the TELRAN device easily with high level commands either over a standard interface eg UART or “over the air”. Target applications include the development of two-way communication remote controls for consumer electronic devices; wireless sensor networks based on TELRAN sensor nodes and basestations; environment monitoring and room temperature control; remote controls and toys/games; and smart metering, using TELRAN wireless sensor networks to connect multiple meters for the two-way transmission of status data and firmware upgrades.

Highlight features of the TELRAN IC include:
  • Fully integrated SoC comprising transceiver, baseband, embedded microprocessor and control logic
  • Ease of development – no compilers or specialist programming investment required
  • Simple over-the-air programming and reconfiguration
  • Quick and efficient customisation using application profiles
  • Support for networking and communication modes including P2P (Point to Point), star network (up to 8 sensor nodes) and basestation-to-basestation communication
  • Data rate of 50 kbps with a range greater than 100m line of sight using a high gain antenna, or 20m from a PCB or chip antenna in a body-worn environment.
  • Ability to directly connect SPI/I2C sensors

TELRAN TZ1053 devices will be available worldwide as engineering samples from the end of February 2011, with production devices in full availability from June 2011. A TELRAN developer kit will also be available at the end of February. The TELRAN Development Kit (TDK) includes a USB TELRAN basestation, TELRAN RF module and an accelerometer sensor board with demo and PC application. The TELRAN RF module (TZ1053RFM) is also available to customers for fast prototyping and production.

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