‘What next’ – a look at the latest embedded processing and development tools

In keeping with its philosophy of delivering Whats Next to the global engineering marketplace, Mouser Electronics is looking to stay ahead of trends in embedded processors and development tools by stocking the latest solutions, helping design engineers create electronic products that will make our lives smarter, greener, and more convenient.

Crucial to our strategy to provide customers with exceptional service are our local support centres,” explains Mark Burr-Lonnon, Mouser Vice President of EMEA Business. Mouser has nine Customer Support Centres strategically located throughout Europe. When they order from Mouser, European designers can have confidence that they are designing with the newest products utilizing the most advanced technologies, with Mousers technical support team beside them, every step of the way.

Part of Warren Buffetts giant Berkshire Hathaway family of companies, Mouser has grown into a leading distributor for advanced semiconductors and electronic components among Europes design engineers, staying ahead of the design trends.

While the convergence of communications, analogue, and computing functions within components continues to advance, the microcontroller still remains at the heart of most embedded designs, explains Burr-Lonnon. The trend in recent years has been a migration from 8-bit and 16-bit systems to more complex 32-bit microcontroller-based designs due to the decline of 32-bit ASPs combined with lower power consumption and higher code densities. The leading provider of 32-bit embedded microcontrollers today is without question ARM, whose partners ship over 16 million MCUs a day.

The latest product from ARM that is designed for the embedded world is the new Cortex M4. Targeting digital signal control markets that demand an efficient mix of control and signal processing capabilities, the Cortex M4 combines DSP hardware such as a single cycle MAC and floating point unit with the low power, low cost, and ease of use of the Cortex M family. This new ARM core is suitable for high growth applications such as motor controls, power management, and industrial automation.

Many leading semiconductor manufacturers have taken license agreements for the Cortex M4. First of these was Freescale Semiconductor with their Kinetis product family announced in mid 2010. Mouser was one of the first distributors to carry them in November of that year. The Kinetis MCU

family is the most scalable portfolio of Cortex M4 MCUs with over 200 pin-, peripheral-, and software-compatible devices.

ST Microelectronics” STM32 F4 series combines an Adaptive Real Time (ART) accelerator with a Cortex M4 to enable the MCU to operate up to 168 MHz. Texas Instruments Stellaris LM4F family integrates advanced motion control functions with a variety of communication ports to target industrial applications such as HVAC, factory automation, and motion control. NXP Semiconductors’LXP4300 family boasts the industry”s first asymmetrical dual core signal controller that combines a Cortex M4 with a Cortex M0 that optimizes data movement and I/O handling. Mouser is currently stocking many varieties of Kinetis, STM32 F4, and LXP4300 MCU and kits as well as the development boards for the TI LM4F232. Finally, Atmel has announced their SAM4S MCU series, which offers the highest memory density of any Cortex M4 MCU with 2 MB Flash and 192k of SRAM.

Taking advantage of the new 32-bit hardware, real time operating systems (RTOS) are becoming increasingly necessary to enable the embedded system to respond to inputs and events within a pre-determined (usually short) amount of time or “real time.” The RTOS kernel allocates CPU time to various applications and controls the software to ensure that critical tasks are completed within the deadline.

Modern RTOS offer a pre-emptive multitasking kernel that is highly portable with a small memory footprint and capable of meeting safety-critical standards and requirements. In addition to the RTOS, middleware such as TCP/IP protocol stacks, USB host controller stacks and embedded GUI all help the design engineer save time on embedded projects.

As microcontroller hardware and software designs have advanced, the development tools that enable engineers to effectively evaluate and test them in their newest designs have kept pace. Many semiconductor companies have aligned with third-party development tool manufacturers for their expertise in designing low-cost solutions that are highly functional and adaptable. Embedded systems engineers also face the need to update their programming, debugging and testing skills to draw the best out of designs. Keil”s MDK-ARM is a complete software development environment designed specifically for embedded microcontroller applications. Together with the ULINK-Pro debugger, the engineer is given an integrated, easy-to-use system for on-the-fly debugging. Tool maker IAR has also bundled their -Link Lite JTAG emulator and software with Freescale”s Kinetis K60 Tower kit. Mouser is establishing itself as the go-to place for the latest software and tool chain required by design engineers to develop, evaluate, and debug the newest embedded systems and applications.

With consumer electronics leading the charge, an ever-increasing percentage of embedded designs are portable devices with low-power components and wireless interfaces. Medical patient monitoring and test equipment are all going into a hand-held format that uses rechargeable batteries for main power. Qi is a wireless charging system being developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), a group of over 100 technology companies dedicated to product interoperability for wireless battery charging. Many top semiconductor companies such as Texas Instruments, Maxim Integrated Products, Vishay Intertechnology, Freescale Semiconductor, On Semiconductor, and Fairchild Semiconductor are members of the WPC.

Qi works on the principles of magnetic induction. By apply an alternating current at the transmitter coil, a voltage is induced at the receiver coil which can be used to charge a battery. However, for optimal energy efficiency, control signals will need to be passed between transmitter and receiver to indicate a full battery, etc. While current applications may be able to charge cell phones and tablets, Qi has the potential of charging implanted medical devices.

Texas Instruments is at the forefront of component development for the Qi standard. The second generation bq500210 wireless power transmitter manager integrates all the functions to control the power transfer. The bq51011 is a second generation Qi receiver. Together Vishay”s IWAS charging receiving coil, they form a fully compliant Qi wireless power charging system that is interoperable with other Qi compliant devices.

Wireless voice and data is today virtually ubiquitous across Europe,” says Kevin Hess, Mouser Vice President of Technical Marketing. “However, we are currently still required to plug into a power socket with a cable when it comes time to recharge the batteries that power all these portable devices. The Qi interface will allow us to cut the last cord.

To ensure Mousers customers are always up-to-date with the latest advancements in embedded and other technology, Mousers website houses over 1,900 Product Knowledge Center (PKC) product and technology training sites complete with detailed information, application notes and key features on products and technologies. The website also provides immediate access to more than 6 million downloadable data sheets and reference designs to help design engineers get their products to market faster.

“With the requirements of the consumer and industry for embedded design increasing so rapidly, every link in the chain from semiconductor manufacturer to development tool maker to distributor must constantly be on the cutting edge,” Burr-Lonnon concludes. Our goal is to help the design engineers around the world get their products to market faster. We do that by offering the most advanced technologies and newest products from over 450 suppliers. Customers know they can count on Mouser to deliver not only what”s new, but What”s Next in authorized embedded processors and development tools.”

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