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Friday, April 26, 2019

SiFIve teams with QuickLogic for RISC-V templates with embedded AI

By Nick Flaherty

RISC-V pioneer SiFive has teamed up with FPGA maker Quicklogic on a series of  SoC Templates that shorten the development time of system-on-chip devices with embedded artificial intelligence (AI) for a wide range of industrial and consumer applications.

For example, a Predictive Maintenance (PdM 4.0) template supports digital and analogue sensors used in Industry 4.0 predictive maintenance protocols. This template is optimized for power-efficient performance in industrial, automotive and AI and machine learning (ML) applications.

The Freedom Aware family of SoC Templates lowers the cost and development time associated with new SoC designs through the use of tested building blocks and a full suite of development tools that ensure finished SoCs mirror the results of pre-fabrication software emulations. 

Taking advantage of SoC Templates, users can greatly reduce the design cycle to only a few months, reduce the total cost to first silicon by an order of magnitude, and most importantly, provide custom silicon solutions while removing the dependency on large semiconductor design teams.

"We are extremely proud of our strategic partnership with SiFive and the role we are playing in the development of the industry's first family of SoC Templates," said Brian Faith, president and CEO of QuickLogic. "SoC Templates are what the industry needs to accelerate the development and introduction of the highly diverse products that are broadly referred to as the Internet of Things."

The templates are based around SiFive's heterogeneous multi-core architecture and QuickLogic's AI subsystem that is available with programmable acceleration and sophisticated power-management technology that delivers ultra-low power solutions optimized for battery-powered consumer and industrial IoT applications.

A template for an MCU for IoT is aimed at industrial and commercial IoT devices, featuring multiple processors, security cores, hardware accelerators and always-on sensing. Applications include consumer IoT, industrial IoT, and wearables.

The Always-on Voice Processor template is optimized for smart devices and mobile handsets, featuring multiple microphone processors and accelerators to enable superior far and near field, close talk and acoustic use cases. Applications include smart speakers, voice assistants, smart appliances and smartphones.

SiFive and QuickLogic are working with a number of potential customers via the FA Early Adopter program. Companies that join the Early Adopter program will have exclusive, early access to the Freedom Aware SoC Templates, the ability to add features and will be able to develop SoC designs that will be ready to launch next year.

"Our Core IP Series have driven greater intelligence at the edge. Now, with the new Freedom Aware family of SoC Templates, we are responding to the need for a complete, economical, and rapid time-to-market SoC solution," said Naveed Sherwani, president and CEO of SiFive. 

"Freedom Aware combines QuickLogic's IP and expertise in ultra-low-power SoC design with SiFive's leadership in RISC-V processing and design platforms to produce powerful and agile SoC Templates for the targeted applications. With these resources, and the sophisticated development tools that support them, we are opening vast new markets for innovation by democratizing SoC design."

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Adesto teams with IBM and NXP on IIoT security

By Nick Flaherty

Adesto Technologies has teamed up with IBM and NXP Semiconductors on end-to-end security for smart buildings and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Adesto's SmartServer IoT edge server and the IBM Watson IoT Platform, together enabled by NXP’s ready-to-use A71CH secure element for IoT devices, provide an extra layer of security for businesses connecting their systems securely to the IBM Cloud.

The SmartServer IoT simplifies the complexities of interoperability between legacy systems, disparate devices, and the numerous emerging and traditional protocols in industrial and building automation to enable seamless and secure access to data. It provides built-in device and data management for sensors, meters, actuators and controllers through a growing range of protocols including BACnet, LonWorks and Modbus.

NXP's A71CH is optimised for Watson IoT’ with a root of trust (RoT) at the chip level and delivers chip-to-cloud security right out of the box. Through integration with Adesto’s SmartServer IoT, it enables customers with additional security when connecting their buildings to IBM’s Watson IoT Platform without exposing keys for the lifetime of a device. 

This uses X.509 certificates and keys trusted by Watson IoT Platform and injected at NXP secure certified facilities. NXP’s trust provisioning service ensures keys are kept safe, and credentials are injected in a trusted environment. When embedded into devices, the chips have the necessary keys to establish a secure TLS connection with IBM Watson IoT enabling seamless device-to-cloud connections.

“While the IoT holds great promise, the connectivity of everything also creates significant vulnerabilities. Connected devices are potential targets for unauthorized network access, malicious control, and data theft,” said Philippe Dubois, vice president and general manager of IoT security at NXP Semiconductors. “We believe that IoT security must be silicon-based, and easy to implement. With the A71CH Plug & Trust Secure Element, we’re making it simple for customers to securely connect a plurality of air-gapped devices into the IBM public cloud.”

“IBM Watson IoT enables customers to maximize the value of their physical assets,” said Sanjay Tripathi, VP of strategy and business development, IBM IoT. “We are continuing to grow the ecosystem of enabling technologies around this platform to provide even greater value. By working with NXP to ensure its A71CH secure element is pre-loaded with the certificates needed to connect to IBM Watson IoT, we’re helping customers streamline their chip-to-cloud security and device onboarding. We are also working with Adesto to provide the critical connection from our customers’ industrial data to our platform. Through these relationships, we’re letting customers concentrate more fully on extracting the business value from their data.”

Zephyr launches its first stable IoT RTOS release

The Zephyr Project has introduced its first long term support (LTS) release of its real time operating system (RTOS) for the Internet of Things (IoT), Zephyr 1.14.0 LTS. This marks an important technical milestone for the community and is intended to be a more stable, certifiable option for product makers and developers. 

By Nick Flaherty

The Zephyr project now supports over 160 different board configuration spanning 8 architectures. All architectures are rigorously tested and validated using one of the many simulation platforms supported by the project: QEMU, Renode, ARC Simulator, and the native POSIX configuration.
It adds UART, USB, and display drivers to the native POSIX port, and based on this port, the developers added a simulated NRF52832 SoC which enables running full system, multi-node simulations, without the need of real hardware.

MISRA-C code guidelines were used  on the kernel and core components of Zephyr to improve code safety, security and portability, and an experimental BLE split software Controller with Upper Link Layer and Lower Link Layers has been added for supporting multiple BLE radio hardware architectures.
Zephyr now has support for the x86_64 architecture. It is currently implemented only for QEMU targets, supports arbitrary numbers of CPUs, and runs in SMP mode by default, our first platform to do so. There is also added support for application user mode, application memory partitions, and hardware stack protection in ARMv8m.

An overhaul of the network packet net-pkt API means the majority of components and protocols now use the BSD socket API for IoT applications via MQTT, CoAP, LWM2M, and SNTP.
The power management subsystem has also been overhauled to support device idle power management and move most of the power management logic from the application back to the BSP.

The timing subsystem has been reworked and reimplemented, greatly simplifying the resulting drivers, removing thousands of lines of code, and reducing a typical kernel build size by hundreds of bytes. TICKLESS_KERNEL mode is now the default on all architectures.

The Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) subsystem continues to evolve with the addition of a new CPU affinity API that can “pin” threads to specific cores or sets of cores. The core kernel no longer uses the global irq_lock on SMP systems, and exclusively uses the spinlock API (which on uniprocessor systems reduces to the same code).
While this release marks the culmination of one of the largest and most ambitious efforts undertaken by the Zephyr Project to date, it is just the beginning. Work has already begun on a number of major initiatives including obtaining functional safety certification of the core OS. 

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Friday, April 19, 2019

ThreadX sale sets up Microsoft vs Amazon IoT showdown

By Nick Flaherty

Real time operating system developer Express Logic has been bought by Microsoft, setting up a showdown with Amazon across the Internet of Things (IoT).

The ThreadX RTOS has achieved over 6.2 billion embedded and IoT deployments, especially in resource constrained environments require safety and security. This will allow Microsoft to deliver a cloud-to-node offering from Azure to ThreadX.

Last year Amazon acquired FreeRTOS, the world's most downloaded RTOS to create Amazon FreeRTOS linked to the Amazon Web Service cloud in the same way.

"Our goal is to make Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS available as an option for real time processing requirements on an Azure Sphere device and also enable ThreadX-powered devices to connect to Azure IoT Edge devices when the IoT solution calls for edge computing capabilities," said Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft. 

"While we recommend Azure Sphere for customers’ most secured connections to the cloud, where Azure Sphere isn’t possible in highly constrained devices, we recommend Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS over other RTOS options in the industry because of its additional certifications and out-of-the-box connectivity to Azure IoT Hub," he said.

Express Logic CEO William Lamie has been developing ThreadX for the last 23 years, and the deal appears to be mutual.  

"Today, we are very excited to share that Express Logic has been acquired by Microsoft," said Lamie. "Effective immediately, our ThreadX RTOS and supporting software technology, as well as our talented engineering staff join Microsoft. This complements Microsoft’s existing premier security offering in the microcontroller space. As part of Microsoft, we believe our customers will be even better positioned to unlock exciting new capabilities of the IoT."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Drilling down through the layers of a silicon chip - video

By Nick Flaherty

Texplained in Sophia Antipolis, France, have down a great video drilling down through the layers of a chip, from metal 3 all the way down to the standard cell -

They analyse chips for hardware vulnerabilities

Friday, April 12, 2019

Boom time for edge AI hardware

By Nick Flaherty

The Edge AI Hardware Market is expected to see shipment of 610 million units this year and is likely to reach 1559.3 million units by 2024, at a CAGR of 20.64 percent.

The report "Edge AI Hardware Market by Device (Smartphones, Cameras, Robots, Automobile, Smart Speakers, Wearables, and Smart Mirror), Processor (CPU, GPU, ASIC and Others), Power Consumption, Process, End User Industry, and Region - Global Forecast to 2024" from MarketsandMarkets sees major drivers for the market's growth are growing demand for low latency and real-time processing on edge devices and emergence of AI co-processors for edge computing. 

The underlying opportunities for the edge AI hardware market include growing demand for edge computing in IoT and dedicated AI processors for on-device image analytics. Major restraints for the market are limited on-device training and limited number of AI experts. Power consumption and size constraint also pose major challenges to the edge AI hardware market.

In terms of device type, cameras are expected to have the highest growth as an integral part of various smart devices with Wi-Fi support, smart functions, superior speed, and enhanced performance for years. However, cameras as standalone smart devices with vision processing units (VPU) that help deliver power-efficient solutions for vision and artificial intelligence are now entering the market. 

Such devices are designed to run deep neural networks at high speed and low power without compromising on accuracy, which enables devices to see, understand, and respond to their environment in real time. The VPU market is constantly witnessing advancements. For instance, the previous-generation Myriad 2 VPU developed by Movidius offered deep neural network support at relatively low power. 

The new Myriad X VPU introduced by Intel can achieve roughly 10X better performance; with multiple neural networks running simultaneously, to offer extended autonomous capabilities across wide range of applications such as drones, robotics, VR, and smart cameras. Due to developments like these, the market is witnessing an influx of cameras powered by AI chips that allow these devices to judge moment's best suited to capture stills or videos.

Dedicated AI chip or AI processors were one of the major developments in the smartphone technology last year. Increasing demand for real-time speech and voice recognition and analysis, as well as technical advancements in smartphone image recognition is driving the market for AI processors in smartphones. 

A majority of AI processors have an additional inbuilt Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that can handle significant amounts of parallel processing, uses low power, and is capable of cognitive tasks. With AI processors built in a phone, these AI tasks could be carried out right on the device, even without any connectivity; this would not only improve performance of the device, but also reduce strain on the battery. 

China is the largest market for the technology. The country is undertaking many projects, especially in the infrastructure sector, such as rail, airport, stadiums, and highway systems that are expected to require high-definition surveillance systems, which can capture clear images even in darkness. 

China is home to video surveillance players such as Dahua and Hikvision that dominate the video surveillance hardware market. Both companies have already launched deep learning surveillance cameras in the market and China has already started deploying cloud AI based surveillance cameras to monitor its citizens. This development will lead to adoption of edge AI in surveillance cameras. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Top ten chip companies for 2018

By Nick Flaherty
Worldwide semiconductor revenue grew 12.5 percent last year to $474.6bn according to the latest figures from market researchers Gartner. That was weaker than the previous year (21.9 percent) as memory growth slowed to 24.9 percent versus 61.8 percent in 2017.
“Despite slowing growth, the memory market was still the largest semiconductor market, accounting for 34.3 percent of revenue,” said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner. “This was driven by increases in average selling prices (ASPs) for DRAM for the majority of 2018. However, ASPs began to decline in the fourth quarter and this will continue through most of 2019 due to oversupply conditions.”
Samsung Electronics increased its lead as the No. 1 semiconductor vendor due to the booming DRAM market. Currently, 88 percent of the company’s revenue comes from memory sales. “Samsung’s lead is literally built on sand, in the form of memory silicon, and those shifting sands in 2019 will almost certainly lead to Samsung losing its No. 1 semiconductor crown to Intel in 2019,” he said. The main change was ST Microelectronics moving up from #11 to take the #8 spot.
Intel’s semiconductor revenue grew by 12.9 percent compared with 2017, despite delays in the introduction of 10 nm manufacturing process and a constrained low-end CPU supply situation in the second half of 2018. SK hynix experienced the strongest growth among the top 10 worldwide semiconductor vendors with a 37.4 percent increase in 2018:
Top 10 Semiconductor Vendors by Revenue, Worldwide, 2018 (Millions of U.S. Dollars)
2018 Rank
2017 Rank
2018 Revenue
2018 Market Share (%)
2017 Revenue
2017-2018 Growth (%)
Samsung Electronics
SK hynix
Micron Technology
Texas Instruments
ST Microelectronics
Western Digital
NXP Semiconductors
(outside Top 10)
Total Market
Source: Gartner (April 2019)
The second-largest category — application-specific standard products (ASSPs) — saw growth of only 5.1 percent due to a stalling smartphone market combined with a tablet market that continues to decline. Vendors that rely heavily on these end markets to sell application processors, modems and other components in many cases saw semiconductor revenue decline. Leading vendors in these areas, including Qualcomm and MediaTek, are aggressively expanding into adjacent markets with stronger prospects for growth, including automotive and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. However, similar to the maturation of the PC market, a mature smartphone market is likely to continue to be a headwind in 2019 for companies with high exposure.

RISC-V drives world’s smallest commercial 64bit embedded core

By Nick Flaherty

SiFive has used the RISC-V instruction set for what is says is the world's smallest embedded 64bit processor core. 

The S2 core IP series is a configurable core that can be as small as 13.500 gates in the RV32E 32bit version, but has not released the size of the S21 embedded core. This has separate Instruction and Data Buses, along with 2 banks of Tightly Integrated Memory (TIMs). 

Edge chips face a wide range of requirements of real-time latency, deterministic capability and stringent power constraints. The S2 enables SoCs to have an always-on low power CPU that can be combined with high-performance CPUs that switch on only when applications demand performance, such as in voice-activated smart devices. The 2 Series can be configured to be as small as just 13,500 gates (in RV32E form) and the S2 is just half the size of a similarly configured S5 core. 

Security is enhanced by separation between secure and non-secure domains. This degree of flexibility is what is needed to meet the constraints in terms of power, area and real-time demands as well as the requirements in terms of performance of modern edge workloads and applications. The S2 Series will be available as a customizable Core IP Series as well as in the form of standard cores via SiFive’s Core Designer.

“SiFive’s 64-bit S Cores bring their hallmark efficiency, configurability and silicon-proven Core IP expertise to 64-bit embedded architectures,” said Ted Speers, head of product architecture and planning at Microchip Technology’s Microsemi subsidiary and RISC-V Foundation board member. “The S Cores will enable innovation for the next generation of embedded compute.”

The ever-growing number of connected devices with artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, and real-time workloads have generated a massive demand for greatly enhanced embedded intelligence in compute at the edge. 

Legacy architectures have long ignored the need for small, efficient, 64-bit, real-time embedded processors says SiFive, which has secured more than 25 design wins for the 2 Series Core IP alone since its launch at DAC in June 2018.

The S2 has no direct competitive equivalent, it says, providing easier integration than 32-bit physical addressing and provides the benefit of fast and efficient access to slow or far-away memories via flexible memory maps and micro instruction caches.

“To achieve SiFive’s mission to democratize silicon and compute, we must rapidly enable embedded intelligence where data touches the real world,” said Yunsup Lee, CTO and co-founder, SiFive. “SiFive recognized a deep need for a full 64-bit embedded solution. We leveraged our unique methodology to rapidly innovate and architect 64-bit, fully heterogenous and coherent, real-time core capability. Our S2 Core IP Series is silicon proven and brings efficiency, performance, and security to enable greater innovation at the edge.”

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Greeting card records and displays video

By Nick Flaherty

We don't usually cover consumer equipment on the Embedded blog, but this greeting card that records and displays video caught our eye for the sheer integration and low cost potential.

ViMeCa from Japanese consultancy DOKE combines a camera, 7in LCD display and battery to make it easy to create and send a personalized custom video at the push of a button without a smartphone or personal computer. 

"Now you can reach out and touch someone with a one-of-kind video message without a smartphone or computer," said Kenichi Hiramatsu, CEO of DOKE. "With ViMeCa, you can bring a smile to a grandparent or friend who lives far away or share your creative message with a loved one on a special day."

The greeting card is 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.4 inches or A5 envelope size and weighs 8.5 ounces. It includes the built-in camera to record a message and the 7in LCD screen with memory for playback of a message of up to 4 minutes.

It also has an internal battery which can be charged via a supplied USB cable, and a battery charge lasts approximately 70-80 minutes under normal usage. ViMeCa is available now on Amazon for $79.00, so it may not be that 'disposable' but shows the reducing cost of components such as the screen, encoder, decoder and memory. This is even before flexible, low cost OLED displays that wuold bring the cost down further.

Based in Osaka, DOKE's businesses include customer acquisition consulting, development and sales of own branded products, and app/web/system development. 

AMC card has 72 core Tilera GX72 Processor

By Nick Flaherty

VadaTech has developed an AMC card for  packet filtering, intelligent networking, multimedia, video transcoding, cloud and other applications using a high performance multi-core chip from Tilera.

The GX72 includes 72 identical processor cores (tiles) interconnected with Tilera’s iMesh on-chip network. Each tile consists of a full-featured, 64-bit processor core as well as L1 and L2 cache and a non-blocking Terabit/sec switch. The high processing density and high internal bandwidth of the GX72CPU make it suitable for intensive computing tasks.

The AMC741 provides four 10GbE front-panel ports via LC style connectors, making it suitable for network-centric sensor processing applications. The unit includes IEEE 1588v2 precision timing controller support, which provides precision 1 ns granularity packet timestamping for signal encoding. The AMC741 is available in mid-size AMC for compact integration including in 1U chassis.

Friday, April 05, 2019

IoT will drive 3D chips says report

By Nick Flaherty

The 3D chip market will see a compound growth of 18% by 2023, adding $8.5bn as a result of the Internet of Things (IoT) says a report from TecnNavio.

The major factor bolstering the growth of the global 3D IC market is the significant growth of the loT driving the demand for connected devices. This has significantly increased bandwidth necessities. Different vendors across the market are working collectively to address the need of connecting several products such as home appliances, smart homes, set-top boxes (STBs), and sensors with a common interacting standard.

The standard would facilitate interoperability with the extensive variety of smart devices. The demand for small-sized gadgets has increased the need for more functionalities on a single device. This requires 3D IC chips with a greater number of transistors to support more functionalities. In addition, the loT requires the application of processors, multiple embedded cores, graphics processing unit (GPUs), and integrated wireless connectivity in a single package.

The demand for semiconductor devices such as processors, sensors, memories and RF chips has grown significantly over the last few years. The emergence of the 3D packaging technology has enabled manufacturers to integrate more functionalities into a single chip (3D IC) at a moderate price.

The increased demand for miniaturized electronic devices such as tablets has resulted in a high level of integration of components such as memory modules, sensors, and others on a single IC. Vendors need to make significant R&D investments in developing high-performance and power-efficient semiconductor ICs. Also, the complexity in manufacturing due to constant miniaturization increases the production cycle time for vendors and causes delays in product delivery. These factors can lead to additional expenses.

The market appears to be highly concentrated and with the presence of limited vendors. This market research report will help clients identify new growth opportunities and design unique growth strategies by providing a comprehensive analysis of the market's competitive landscape and offering information on the products offered by companies.

The report identifies ASE for the packaging and Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, TSMC and Toshiba for the chips as key players.

World’s first Multi-Country, cross-border demo of C-V2X

By Nick Flaherty

Connecting vehicles is a key driver for the industry, but making it happen across different countries is a major challenge. 

Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm, SWARCO and Technical University of Kaiserslautern have shown how it can be achieved at a new trilateral testbed in France, Germany and Luxembourg.

The companies, which formed the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (ConVeX) consortium in 2016 to carry out the first announced C-V2X trial based upon the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Release 14, participated in cross-border digital testbed Project Day in Schengen, Luxembourg, at the new trilateral testbed. 

Audi vehicles and SWARCO’s intelligent road infrastructure are equipped with C-V2X technology using the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X Platform. Throughout the event, the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X Platform was used to show vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) safety use cases, demonstrating the maturity and potential of C-V2X technology and the ability to operate without the need for SIM subscription (via PC5) to potentially address challenges faced with roaming and network subscriptions. These use cases include Roadworks Warnings (RWW), In-Vehicle Information (IVI) and Slow or Stationary Vehicle Warnings.

SWARCO provides connected and cooperative traffic management on all established channels. In Schengen through the ConVeX project, SWARCO provides for the first time a C-V2X technology-based communication between real infrastructure components and vehicles on public roads in Europe.

The key is that the C-V2X technology and products are commercially available, and make use of years of C-ITS investment and the evolution of wireless communications. The cross border demonstration follows the successful cooperation and integration of the technology among the participating companies throughout 2018 and thus far in 2019 around Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, and the United States. This also heads off the challenge from 5G that comes with cross-border roaming enabled.

The 9150 C-V2X Platform is commercially available and is being used in C-V2X systems rolling out this year along roadways and into vehicles, respectively. Further, Qualcomm Technologies recently announced the integration of C-V2X into the Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms, designed to ensure that next generation connected vehicle solutions natively support C-V2X starting from 2021 to provide both technology options.

“Digitization and cross-industry collaboration have always been key to shaping the connected and autonomous vehicles of tomorrow,” said Jens Kötz, Head of Electrics, Electronics Networking & Energy Systems at Audi. “As we’ve seen through the latest demonstrations from the ConVeX consortium, the evolution of communication technology in vehicles is developing at a rapid pace, and as the technology continues to evolve towards 5G, we can expect to see major advancements around new solutions focused on safety, comfort and entertainment functionalities.”

“Today’s demonstration showcased the importance of global connectivity solutions with scalable, flexible, secure and future-proof solutions,” said Jan-Peter Meyer-Kahlen, Head of ICT Development Centers Eurolab Aachen. “We’re happy to have taken the next step with ConVex and with the support of governments from France, Luxembourg and Germany. We’re hopeful that manufacturers and fleet operators across the world see this demonstration and understand that with the right partners, achieving the full potential of connected vehicles is ultimately possible.”

“Bringing superior technologies and products to commercialization in a manner that better connects people across the world has always been a priority for Qualcomm Technologies. This demonstration serves as another proof point that we are on our way to reaching our vision for smart transportation – one which supports an increased safety-consciousness and more efficient driving experience,” said Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president & president Qualcomm EMEA at Qualcomm Europe. “With a strong evolution path in 3GPP to 5G New Radio (NR), Qualcomm Technologies continues to invest in the C-V2X roadmap to offer new and complementary capabilities. The possibilities are endless, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

“Since ConVeX was founded almost two years ago, we’ve been witness to some of the most pioneering advancements in bridging the language gap between road infrastructure and connected vehicles,” said Michael Schuch, Speaker of the Executive Board, SWARCO AG. “By bringing together some of the most creative minds within the auto, telecommunications and infrastructure industries, we’ve been able to showcase a seamless and technical C-V2X experience that we will soon be able to bring to everyday road users.”

“Two years ago, when the ConVeX consortium was established, we were focused on the enormous potential that connected and collaborative mobility had to improve traffic efficiency, enhance safety and lower emissions,” said Professor Hans D. Schotten, Technical University of Kaiserslautern. “Today we’ve witnessed exactly that. ConVeX and those involved continue to showcase the immense ability to utilize the latest technologies to move towards the ultimate vision of seamless intelligent driving.”

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Touch-Free capacitive touch-key microcontrollers for 3D gesture control

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas Electronics has launched two touch-free user interface (UI) microcontrollers and reference designs  to simplify the design of 2D and 3D control-based applications. 

Based on Renesas’ capacitive sensor microcontrollers (MCUs), the microcontrollers support the development of UI that allows users to operate home appliances, as well as industrial and OA equipment without touching the devices. The UI solutions make it possible for appliance and equipment manufacturers to quickly develop touch-free interfaces that increase the added-value of their products in terms of both equipment convenience and design.

There are a variety of situations where touch-free operation is advantageous, such as when the users’ hands are wet, when the controls are out of reach, or when it is not safe for the user to touch the controls. With the touch-free UI, for example in the kitchen, users could adjust water temperature and flow rate through hand gestures near the faucets or adjust stove fan operation by holding a hand over the hood. This allows designers to easily implement these interfaces in their embedded equipment. The reference designs are available for download effective immediately.

“We are pleased with the strong response to our MCU-based touch-key solutions, which are currently deployed by more than 200 Renesas customers, and we are excited to continue enabling customers with solutions that bring new capabilities and experiences to the market,” said Toru Moriya, Vice President, Home Business Division, Renesas Electronics Corporation. “The new touch-free solutions represent another step in the evolution of capacitive touch sensor systems with high sensitivity and excellent resistance to noise for operation in multiple conditions and will lead to new UIs that are more user-friendly and convenient to use both in the home and in the workplace.”

The gesture controllers detect motion in a 2D coordinate system and in 3D space, respectively. With both solutions, Renesas provides design materials (circuit diagrams, board design data files, and parts lists) that form the reference hardware for the capacitive touch-key MCU, as well as coordinate calculation middleware, sample programs, application notes, and an evaluation tool for monitoring the detected coordinates.

The touch-free UI solutions have passed class B (note 3) testing for the IEC 61000 4-3 level 3 and 4-6 level 3 noise immunity standards, and can achieve stable operation.

The 3D gesture solution is available in three different sizes and can be selected based on the application:
  • Standard version (160 × 160 × 100 mm) with RX231 MCU
  • Miniature version (80 × 80 × 80 mm) with RX130 MCU
  • Slim version (100 × 100 × 20 mm) with RX130 MCU for additional space saving

In addition to the touch-free UI solutions, Renesas offers touch-key solutions for devices designed to operate with challenging or non-traditional touch materials such as woods, or required to operate in wet or dirty environments such as a kitchen or a factory floor. Renesas provides a development environment with QE for Capacitive Touch, Workbench6, solution kits and evaluation systems specialized for capacitive touch key development in addition to Renesas’ capacitive touch key MCUs starting with the RX130 Group, which are ideal for use in HMI for industrial equipment and home appliances.

The 2D and 3D touch-free UI solutions are available now for download at