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Texas Instruments has announced the Sensor Hub BoosterPack for its Tiva C Series TM4C123G LaunchPad at Design West 2013. The new BoosterPack is a plug-in daughter card that allows ARM Cortex-M4 MCU developers to create products with up to seven types of motion and environmental sensing capabilities. This BoosterPack and accompanying TivaWare software enables measurement of pressure, humidity, ambient and infrared (IR) light along with temperature and motion (including acceleration, orientation and compass).


Developers can use the board to create sensor fusion applications such as global positioning system (GPS) tracking, home and building automation, portable consumer electronics, games and many more applications.


The  BoosterPack leverages the processing, floating-point and communication capabilities of TI's Tiva C Series TM4C123GH6 ARM Cortex-M4 MCU for enhanced sensor accuracy. TI's TivaWare software, provided with the LaunchPad kit, includes a Sensor Driver Library, providing developers with a sensor fusion API and several example applications that demonstrate how each of the sensors operate individually or in collaboration.


Similarly, TivaWare software also includes the Peripheral Driver Library to configure and operate the on-chip peripherals with a set of example applications. These applications demonstrate the capabilities of the Tiva TM4C123GH6 MCU, as well as provide a starting point for users to develop their final applications.

Coto Technology introduced its RedRock RS-A-2515 Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)-based magnetic reed switch at Design West in San Jose.  Based on its high aspect ratio MEMS design and manufacturing processes, the switch is said to provide all of the advantages of conventional magnetic reed switch technology, including zero power operation and high-power hot switching.


The switch has a footprint of less than 2.1 mm2 (1.01 x 2.08 mm), is 0.94 mm high and is claimed by the company to be the smallest MEMS-based reed switch available on the market today. The first of a new Coto Technology switch family, the switch exhibits all of the high performance characteristics inherent in classical reed switches, according to the company. These include closure sensitivity ranges from 5 to 25 millitesla, permitting operation up to 20mm using a small NdFeB magnet. The switch has a release sensitivity greater than 15 millitesla (5mT), minimizing the risk of sticking when the magnetic field is removed.  The RS-A-2515 has a maximum switching voltage of 100 VDC with a switching current of 50mA DC or 35mA AC, RMS.  Its zero operating power is a key advantage in power sensitive applications, particularly those operating with battery power.

Atmel Corporation used the forum of Design West to launch a new integrated development tools platform, a complete hardware and software product specifically designed to support Atmel MCUs including its recent ARM Cortex-M4-based SAM4L family.


Specifically tailored to allow developers to take advantage of Atmel's MCUs,the new platform consists of hardware and development tools, embedded software and an embedded 'app' store where engineers can utilize Atmel Xplained Pro; Atmel Studio 6; Atmel Software Framework; and  Atmel Gallery.


Atmel's Xplained Pro evaluation kit, provides engineers with a low-cost out-of-the-box board that includes an Atmel MCU, embedded debugger, and connectors for extension boards. When designers plug the Xplained board into their system, they can pull-up Atmel Studio 6 and Atmel Software Framework with over 2,000 ready-to-run project examples. Atmel Gallery, which is fully integrated into Studio 6, allows embedded designers to pull up a development App Store to download third party extensions and plug-ins for their projects.

At Design West AMD announced its new Embedded G-Series System-on-Chip (SOC) platform, a single-chip solution based on its “Jaguar” CPU architecture and AMD Radeon 8000 Series graphics. According to the company the AMD Embedded G-Series signifies a strategic push to focus on high-growth markets outside the PC industry, with an emphasis on embedded systems.


The AMD Embedded G-Series SOC platform is said to offer up to 113 percent improved CPU performance compared to the prior generation AMD Embedded G-Series APU, and up to a 125 percent advantage compared to the Intel Atom when running multiple industry-standard compute intensive benchmarks, according to AMD.


For embedded applications, the new platform  includes support for DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2x and OpenCL 1.22 that enables parallel processing and high-performance graphics processing, yielding up to a 20 percent graphics improvement over the previous AMD Embedded G-Series APU and greater than 5x advantage over Intel Atom when running multiple industry-standard graphics-intensive benchmarks, according to AMD.


The AMD Embedded G-Series SOC supports Windows Embedded 8 and Linux, and is designed for such embedded applications as industrial control and automation, digital signage, electronic gaming systems, SMB storage, IP-TV, medical and network appliances, set-top boxes and more. AMD will ship the AMD G-Series SOC platform with general availability in the second quarter of 2013,

At Design West embedded and mobile software supplier Wind River introduced the latest version of its VxWorks platform, a secure separation kernel that provides Type 1 hypervisor–based, multiple independent levels of security (MILS) for systems that may require high assurance evaluation or certification and accreditation (C&A).


VxWorks MILS Platform partitions a single processor among multiple software components, with time and space resource allocation, information flow control, and fault isolation.  It can also host a range of guest operating systems and provides scalability for Intel and PowerPC architecture processors.


For avionics systems, Wind River plans to enhance VxWorks MILS Platform to be conformant to the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Technical Standard, an open standard published by the FACE Consortium, a managed consortium of The Open Group.



BeagleBone Black, the next-generation offering from, is a low-cost ($45), community-supported development platform for ARM Cortex-A8 processor developers and hobbyists. Its Sitara AM335x processor (from TI) enhances the user experience by enabling an advanced graphical user interface and more than 2x higher performance than ARM11-based solutions.


BeagleBone Black includes all the necessary components in the box to connect a display, keyboard and network. It boots Linux in under 10-seconds and according to its proponents you can get started on Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 processor development in less than 5 minutes with just a single USB cable.


BeagleBone Black ships with the Ångström Linux distribution in onboard FLASH to start evaluation and development. Other Linux distributions and operating systems are also supported on BeagleBone Black including: Ubuntu, Android and Fedora.


BeagleBone Black's capabilities can be extended using plug-in boards called “capes” that can be plugged into BeagleBone Black's two 46-pin dual-row expansion headers. Capes are available for, VGA, LCD, motor control, prototyping, battery power and other functionality.

Visitors to the Newark element14 booth at Design West found it overflowing with hands-on demos, product giveaways, video Q&As, and tutorials on Arduino-based applications, ARM development tools, the next-generation BeagleBone, and, of course,  Raspberry Pi.


Industry luminaries including Raspberry Pi co-creator and Gertboard creator, Gert Van Loo (Gertboard enables the Raspberry Pi to interface to the outside world through analog and digital converters and I/O, as well as motor controllers) and element 14’s own Ben Heck made their talents available to booth visitors..


Heck will be filming his popular element14-sponsored online TV series, "The Ben Heck Show," directly from the show floor, as well as conducting one-on-one interviews with key members of the design community to uncover today's most sought-after questions about the latest technology, design tools, and top manufacturers. Heck and Van Loo, will offer 45-minute informational tutorials including a sessions entitled "Beagles, Boards and Raspberry Pi…Oh my!"


This morning in the session “What the Heck is That? Prototyping Tales of Horror” element 14’s Heck tells tales about his Element14 Internet video program that has been viewed by about seven million viewers worldwide. A veteran of 77 episodes on element14 Heck shows engineers how to prototype more than 50 build it yourself projects including a mailbox that tells you when it’s got mail and robot luggage that follows you around the airport hands-free.

Just when it seems like wireless communications has reached a cost/performance peak, one supplier or another comes along and pushes the bar even higher. As a result the market for semiconductors covering such wireless protocols as Bluetooth, for example, is expected to rise to 3.1 billion units in 2017, up a whopping 91% from 1.6 billion in 2011, according to IMS Research, with the majority of the growth driven by demand for wireless combination ICs and mobile system-on-chip (SoC) devices with integrated wireless connectivity for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.


Nowhere is the wireless trend more evident than at Design West where companies ranging from well-known MCU supplier Microchip to RF specialists such as Nordic Semiconductor unveiled expanded embedded wireless portfolios.


Microchip’s new entries include Bluetooth ,Wi-Fi and ZigBee products.The Bluetooth additions include the PIC32 Bluetooth Audio Development Kit, featuring modules, stacks and CODECs, and XBee footprint-compatible socket modules with integrated stacks.  The new Wi-Fi offerings comprise IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-Fi modules with Microchip’s free source-code TCP/IP stack running on a PIC microcontroller, as well as XBee footprint-compatible socket modules with integrated stacks for ease of use.  Microchip is also adding a low-power 2.4 GHz radio that supports—for the first time in one chip—both the IEEE 802.15.4 and proprietary data rates (from 125 kbps to 2 Mbps), including the ZigBee, MiWi and other proprietary protocols.


Microchip’s new 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.15.4 MRF24XA transceiver radio provides a very low operating voltage range of 1.5 to 3.6V, and receive power consumption of only 13 mA, according to the company, which enables years of battery life. This is also Microchip’s first radio that can support both the IEEE 802.15.4 and proprietary data rates and protocols.


For designers who want an easy way to migrate their 802.15.4 designs to either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-- to make them accessible from smart phones and tablets, or to add Internet connectivity—Microchip’s RN XV series of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth socket modules provide agency-certified, drop-in connectivity for any XBee socket.  To simplify designs the stacks are integrated on the module, configured via simple ASCII commands, and can easily connect to any MCU via a serial interface.


For those designers who want to add more extensible Wi-Fi functionality, such as a complete Web server and email, via a configurable source-code TCP/IP stack that is resident on one of many PIC microcontrollers, the company’s new low-power and agency-certified MRF24WG0MA/MB modules connect at all IEEE 802.11b/g data rates, up to 54 Mbps, and are Microchip’s first to support a sustained throughput of 5 Mbps. This provides a footprint-compatible migration path for users of Microchip’s existing Wi-Fi modules who need greater speed or increased access-point compatibility, along with more features.


As noted previously Bluetooth digital audio is rapidly expanding in high-volume applications such as accessories for smart phones and tablets, as well as audio sound bars. To meet this demand, Microchip’s 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers provide a platform for developing digital-audio playback and accessories.  The new PIC32 Bluetooth Audio Development Kit builds on Microchip’s existing stack-integrated Bluetooth audio module with a new low-cost, agency-certified Bluetooth HCI transceiver module based on a standard radio, AVRCP and A2DP Bluetooth profiles tailored for the PIC32, as well as both standard and advanced audio CODECs such as SBC, AAC and MP3.  Additionally, this kit can be used with Microchip’s existing Made for iPod and Android stacks. 


Also at Design West Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor today demonstrated its ULP 2.4GHz wireless connectivity solutions for smart home, security, sports and fitness and toy sectors . Nordic demo’ed RF modules developed by Japanese ODMs Hosiden Corporation and Fujitsu Component. The modules are based on Nordic's nRF51822 Bluetooth low energy and 2.4GHz proprietary System-on-Chip (SoC) and are supplied complete with Nordic's verified and qualified Bluetooth low energy stack. The nRF51822's clean boundary between application code and protocol stack simplifies development by removing the need to struggle with integration of application code as part of a vendor-imposed application development framework.


Other Nordic demonstrations at Design West include Nordic's nRFready Desktop 2 and nRFready Smart Remote 2. The nRFready Desktop 2 is said to be the world's first combined Bluetooth low energy and proprietary 2.4GHz wireless mouse and keyboard 'combo' reference design and the nRFready Smart Remote 2 is a complete hardware and software remote control reference design featuring a multi-touch touchpad, 6-axis motion sensing, and full QWERTY keyboard. The reference designs are based on the nRF51822 SoC; Nordic's reference designs and sample applications provide designers with a suitable starting point and design framework to accelerate development of nRF24L Series 2.4GHz proprietary, ANT+, and Bluetooth Smart applications and accessories.

Held in San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley the four-day Design West event (April l 22-25) is a technical conference and expo for systems designers, entrepreneurs and technology professionals in the electronics industry.


Over 250 exhibitors will be showing their wares during the event. Newark element14 will be exhibiting, displaying, among other products and solutions Raspberry Pi and Accessories, the Next Gen BeagleBone and Sabre Lite, element14's exclusive development kit based on Freescale's i.MX6.  Other notable exhibitors at Design West include ARM, Atmel, Emerson Network Power, Intel, Microchip Technologies, Mentor Graphics, National Instruments, Renesas Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Tektronix, Texas Instruments and Zilog.


Keynote speakers scheduled to appear at Design West include: 


          Luke Dubord, Avionics System Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dubord is currently the cross cutting infrastructure and autonomous fault protection lead on the Mars Science Laboratory mission;


·                   Mayim Bialik, Actress & Neuroscientist. Bialik has made a name for herself in the entertainment business while at the same time developing a fascinating career in neuroscience, very similar to her Big Bang Theory character; and


·                   Hugh Herr, Biomechatronics Director at the MIT Lab who focuses on developing physically assistive technologies that will be intimate extensions of the human body—structurally, neurologically, and dynamically.  A double amputee, Herr is the holder (or co-holder) of 14 patents related to assistive devices, including those for a computer-controlled artificial knee, commercially available as the Rheo Knee, an active ankle-foot orthosis, and the world's first powered ankle-foot prosthesis.


Conference tracks are (alphabetically):  Connectivity and Networking; Debugging and Test; Embedded Android; Hardware: Design, I/O and Interfacing; Internet of Things; Linux Kernel and Operating Systems; Low-Power Design; Processors and Programmable Devices ; Programming; Prototyping; Real Time Operating Systems; Safety, Security and Hacking Embedded Systems; Software Architecture and Design; Software Development; Systems Engineering and Tech Fundamentals.


Look for our daily blogs from Design West beginning Tuesday April 23.

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