Hybrid Systems, Board Design and a Bowl Full of Standards
With a dash of mini PCIe, a couple heaping spoonfuls of VPX and VNX and a whole lot of SBCs, Bill Ripley (Alligator Designs) and I are cooking up the perfect recipe for hybrid rugged computing. In this week’s episode of Fish Fry, Bill and I discuss the role of standards in hybrid systems, the evolving role of COTs in ruggedized systems, and why Alligator Designs can enable board design that other COTS providers cannot or will not do. Also this week, we take a closer look at the trade-off between fixed- and floating-point math in DSP algorithm implementation.
Reports from ISSCC
Wow. It’s been six years. Where has the time gone?
Six years ago, I attended a session on sensors at the ISSCC conference. I decided to do a series of articles on the various sensors that were presented. This was my intro to the world of sensors, and, since then, we have embraced sensors and MEMS as they have evolved into the bigger-picture internet-of-things (IoT) theme.
The sensors were newish and somewhat obscure at the time. MEMS then blew up huge, although, as with all favorite sons and daughters, there’s always the risk that a newborn will steal the attention. A year later, MEMS Industry Group (now MEMS and Sensors Industry Group) director Karen Lightman felt that the MEMS space was pushed aside for top attention honors by the notion of 450-mm wafers. But, in retrospect, she won: it’s 2017, and MEMS is still important. 450-mm wafers? Not so much.
Surviving the Best Day of our Careers
The VP was obviously impressed. In fact, “blown away” wouldn’t have been overstating it. The demo had gone perfectly, and even when he’d asked questions that took us off script, we were able to show what he wanted to see. His excitement was palpable. I knew before he walked out the door that we’d get what we wanted.
Our little team, made up of some of the most talented software engineers I’d ever met, had been working 12-14 hours per day for the past two weeks to get this demo ready. In reality, a lot of it was smoke and mirrors. We’d cobbled together TCL scripts to fill in holes in our system where development hadn’t even been started yet. There were some places where the “values” that showed in the GUI were hard-coded. But, behind the scenes, the engine was actually running and doing its job. Databases were being written and read. Actual output files were being generated. It was REAL.
Or, probably, at least 90% real.
M4 + M0 Equals More
What would you do with 104 I/O pins, two CPU cores, two 8K caches, a touchscreen interface, Bluetooth, four AA batteries, and a gaggle of analog components? You may be about to find out.
Cypress has upgraded its programmable system-on-chip (PSoC) family of flexible microcontrollers with a new dual-core, security-enhanced, low-power family it calls PSoC 6. It’s the first dual-core chip from Cypress, and the first to use ARM’s Cortex-M4 processor. Previous generations of the PSoC used either the M0, the M0+, or the M3. So, upgrading to the M4 core is a step up, and adding an M0+ is a step-upper.
Menlo Micro Looks to Materials for a Better Switch
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about a new company in the MEMS space. All that quantum fluctuation a few years back – companies popping into and out of existence as MEMS experienced the cool factor – have settled into proper family lives, with PTA meetings and birthday parties and all.
So it caught my eye when I got wind of a company called Menlo Micro (a GE spinout) doing switches – RF and power in particular. What could possibly be new to one of the most basic MEMS structures? And how could a miniaturized switch manage to shunt high currents and high frequencies around without, well, evaporating in the process?
Pushing the Limit in Graphics Processing and Nanoscale Robotics
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! This week’s episode of Fish Fry has absolutely nothing to do with Ireland or St. Patrick, but has everything to do with molecular robots programmed with DNA, general purpose computing on GPUs, and featherweight systems for unmanned aerial vehicles. We start things off with a closer look at the creation of a new amoeba-like molecular robot by a team of researchers in Japan. This robot that can continuously change its shape, propel itself with cell-like motion, and can be controlled by DNA signals that respond to light. Also this week, we delve into the world of GPGPUs with Doug Patterson from AITech. Doug and I discuss the challenges GPGPUs were created to solve and where general purpose computing on GPUs is headed from here. We also dig into the details of a new featherweight system created by AITech and ADLINK developed for unmanned aerial vehicles.