Friday, April 30, 2010

NetLogic Microsystems and TSMC Collaborate on 28nm Process Technology

Includes analogue capability for high speed interfaces 
Network processor developer NetLogic Microsystems  is working with leading foundry TSMC to extend their existing collaboration to include TSMC’s NEXSYS 28HP (28nm high performance) semiconductor process node. This will be used for NetLogic’s next-generation knowledge-based processors, multi-core processors and 10/40/100Gigabit PHY.
As an early development partner, NetLogic is using TSMC’s 28nm node to raise networking infrastructure performance and significantly differentiating its product line from the competition.In June 2009 Netlogic bought RMI (Raza Microsystems) to add a range of high performance multicore network processors to its range. 
NetLogic has launched advanced product development for multiple industry-leading product lines on the TSMC 28nm node. The 28HP process offers significant speed, and power efficiency advantages over previous process nodes. In addition, NetLogic Microsystems is developing a suite of custom high-performance circuits optimized around TSMC’s 28nm node, including high-speed serial interface technology, analogue and clocking circuitry, core processing elements and other standard cells, as well as refining the design and tape-out flow for this advanced node.
“By being a consistent early adopter across four generations of process technology, NetLogic Microsystems has consistently provided very high performance and low power products for mission-critical network infrastructure systems,” said Rick Cassidy, president of TSMC North America. “We welcome the extension of our close relationship to include NetLogic Microsystems’ role as an 28nm early technology adopter.”
“We are proud to have been one of the early partners for TSMC in 80nm, 55nm, 40nm and now 28nm for our best-in-class knowledge-based processors, multi-core processors and 10/40/100 Gigabit PHY product families,” said Ron Jankov, president and CEO at NetLogic Microsystems. “By combining the superior design and architecture of our products with TSMC’s proven leadership and track record in advanced manufacturing technologies, we are able to deliver highly innovative products with unprecedented performance, scalability and energy efficiency to our customers.”
NetLogic Microsystems offers high-performance multi-core, multi-threaded processors, knowledge-based processors, content processors, and high-speed 10/40/100 Gigabit Ethernet PHY solutions. These market-leading products are designed into high-performance systems such as switches, routers, wireless base stations, security appliances, networked storage appliances and service gateways to significantly enhance the performance and functionality of next-generation 3G/4G mobile wireless infrastructure, data center, enterprise, metro Ethernet, edge and core infrastructure networks.
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The Strange World of Nanotech - video narrrated by Steven Fry

An interesting video from Cambridge University, narrated by Stephen Fry

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Farewell to the Internet Streaming Media Alliance

Merges with MPEG Industry Forum

The Board of Directors of the MPEG Industry Forum (MPEGIF) and Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA) have agreed to merge the two organizations in a move that marks the end of the ISMA. In a slightly strange move, MPEGIF members will become ISMA members but the organisation will go forward as MPEGIF within the existing ISMA Californian non-profit corporation. As a result, MPEGIF’s current structure as a Swiss association will be dissolved, but ISMA willbe no more.

“ISMA delivered massively important technology contributions resulting in great value and lasting benefit to our industry over the years,” said Sebastian Moeritz, President of MPEGIF and CEO at dicas.

"MPEGIF is pleased to take this opportunity to increase its strength and to gain the operational efficiencies we will be able to bring to our members", said David Price, Vice President of MPEGIF and Vice President at Harmonic. "The industry is facing huge changes in the way video is enjoyed and the advocacy of MPEGIF for solution wide standards is more vital than ever."

“ISMA’s highly successful standards will gain additional visibility through the merger, and will continue to be widely available to the broader industry through the success and influence of MPEGIF,” said Yuval Fisher, Chair of ISMA and CTO of RGB Networks.

Founded in 2000, ISMA was an alliance for the adoption and deployment of open standards for streaming rich media such as video, audio, and associated data over Internet protocols.

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Rugged XMC Module For Video Streaming From Unmanned Vehicles

ICS-8580 combines two TI DSP processors and Altera FPGA

GE Intelligent Platforms has launched a powerful, compact, easy to use and flexible answer to the problem of capturing, compressing and delivering video. The ICS-8580 responds to the rapid growth in unmanned vehicles and their requirement to deliver high quality mission video over links that are often bandwidth-constrained. It is designed to be a simple, plug-and-play solution that requires minimal integration or software development.
The ICS-8580’s XMC form factor means that it is small, lightweight at 100 grams/3.5 ounces and consumes little power – typically, 10 – 15 watts. These features, in conjunction with its rugged design, mean that it can be deployed in a wide range of demanding military and aerospace environments. Its flexibility is further enhanced by its ability to support numerous video formats with either two channels of high definition video or four channels of standard definition video. The ICS-8580 features the ultra-efficient, industry standard H.264 video compression codec, but is software-reconfigurable to enable it to support alternatives such as JPEG2000.
“With the ICS-8580, we have taken a task that was previously difficult, time-consuming and often costly and made it simple, quick and inexpensive,” said Christopher Lever, Global Product Manager, Sensor Processing and I/O at GE Intelligent Platforms. “For prime contractors, systems integrators and OEMs, the ICS-8580 delivers a sustainable competitive advantage through its use of innovative technologies, increasing customer productivity while minimizing program cost and risk and speeding time-to-market.”
The ICS-8580 provides input support for HD/ED/SD analog input signals, analog RGB formats from VGA to UXGA, as well as digital input formats such as 3G-SDI, DVI, and HDMI up to a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 or 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. An Altera Arria II GX FPGA combined with TI DSP signal processing provide exceptional compute power in a video XMC platform.
Two TI TMS320DM6467 DSPs provide processing capability to achieve two streams of up to 1080p H.264 (or JPEG 2000) encoding. Up to four streams of SD input data can be compressed in parallel. The encoded bitstream can be accessed via PCI Express, or output directly as Gigabit Ethernet RTP/UDP packets.
High-speed A/D devices - supporting resolutions up to 1,600 x 1,200 for graphics type inputs and 1,920 x 1,080 for HD video inputs - provide input digitization of the various supported analog video formats. The FPGA controls data capture and routing and can be used in a variety of ways, while the TI DSP co-processors provide efficient and streamlined video data processing. If required, the system can be loaded with custom FPGA and DSP code to perform a broad range of video processing functions on the video input streams.
Data input and output is available using a carrier card, PCI Express connectivity, or via rear I/O. Analog or digital input data can be supported through the rear I/O connectors. Up to 768 MB of DDR2 SDRAM is supplied on-board. The FPGA has 256 MB and each DSP device has 256 MB.
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TI fights back in wireless networking

New CC430 MCUs and developer support accelerate time to market for building automation, smart meters and asset tracking
With the recent launches of the Dust SoCs and Silicon Labs wireless mesh network module, Texas Instruments is fighting back with its single-chip RF CC430F513x microcontrollers and developer ecosystem offering complete, scalable hardware and software.
The CC430F513x MCUs combine the world’s leading ultra-low power MSP430 MCU with the high performance, sub-1GHz CC1101 RF transceiver. This provides up to 20 MIPS performance in a small package (7mm x 7mm) and support security options such as an integrated AES hardware module.
TI is also expanding its LCD product offering with the CC430F61xx series of devices, providing developers with more options to meet varying design needs.
With the capability to support multiple protocols and a broad frequency range, the CC430 MCUs, along with the extensive third party ecosystem, spur innovation in applications like home and building automation, smart metering, energy harvesting, asset tracking and portable medical applications. Developers can also immediately jumpstart CC430 MCU-based designs with the EM430F6137RF900 and eZ430-Chronos wireless development tools that include all the hardware design information required to develop a complete wireless project.

Key features and benefits of CC430 MCUs and third party ecosystem:

Eight devices offer non-LCD (CC430F513x) and LCD (CC430F61xx) options, as well as a range of pin count, memory and high-performance analog integration to meet varying design needs
For LCD-based applications, the CC430F61xx MCU with integrated LCD capabilities reduces system cost and size
Ultra-low power MSP430 MCU core and sub-1GHz CC1101 RF transceiver are combined on one chip to reduce system complexity and shrink package and printed circuit board (PCB) size by up to 50 percent compared to two-chip solutions
Devices draw low enough current to enable battery-operated wireless networking applications that operate without servicing for several years, reducing maintenance costs and overall BOM
eZ430-Chronos and EM430F6137RF900 are complete wireless development kits that provide all the hardware and software support necessary to instantly develop and deploy projects

A broad third party ecosystem of hardware and software developers include AMBER Wireless, BM innovations, the DASH7 Alliance, Digikey, IAR Systems, LS Research, Sensinode, Steinbeis Transfer Center Embedded Design and Networking, and Virtual Extension
Software stacks and protocols are an important factor in making it easy and reduce time to market for developers. TI is working closely with industry leading third party developers to bring various industry accepted software stacks to customers. Examples include 6LoWPAN (building control, lighting control and smart grid), Wireless MBUS (smart metering), Opentag, an open source firmware library for DASH7(building automation, smart grid, asset tracking), VEmesh (wireless mesh smart meter and sensor networking) and BlueRobin (personal health and fitness) solutions.

Availability
Production quantities of the CC430F513x MCUs are immediately available to order starting at $4.15 (1K units). Sampling in May, the CC430F61xx family with integrated LCD is also immediately available to order and pricing starts at $4.35 (1 K units).
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Microsoft launches Windows 7 Embedded

Tries again with Media Centre
As Windows 7 actually seems to be working after the debacle of Vista in the desktop market, Microsoft has launched the embedded version, but aiming mainly, again, at the Media Centre and set top box.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 provides the familiarity of Windows 7 in a highly customizable and componentized form so that OEMs can use it to create differentiated interfaces for products. “With the release of Windows Embedded Standard 7, Microsoft has furthered its commitment to the integration of Windows 7 technologies in the specialized consumer and enterprise device markets by providing OEMs with the latest innovative technologies to differentiate through rich, immersive user experiences and streamlined connectivity,” said Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows Embedded Business Unit at Microsoft. “The addition of the Windows Media Centre feature in Windows Embedded Standard 7 is driving the set-top box, connected media device and TV markets by providing OEMs with opportunities to develop uniquely branded experiences and service providers with capabilities to explore addition
The key is that the platform also features the latest Windows technology such as multigesture touch interfaces and context-aware applications with Windows Touch, and the ability to develop “green” solutions with smart power management APIs. As well as support for enterprise devices, STBs, CMDs and TVs, the Windows Media Centre feature will enable consumers to merge multimedia content from disparate sources, including Internet and broadcast TV, social media portals, and personal libraries of photos, music and videos, into a centralized home entertainment hub.
Industry analyst firm Strategy Analytics estimates the potential market opportunity for connected STBs, digital video recorders, digital media adapters and flat-panel TVs to experience annual growth of more than 50 percent through 2014, expanding from 40 million units to more than 360 million. OEMs can take advantage of this opportunity by coupling Windows Media Center and additional features within Windows Embedded Standard 7, such as Windows Defender and Parental Controls for heightened security, to create differentiated consumer entertainment devices with integrated user experiences. This includes leveraging the customizable, extensible platform in Windows Media Center for content, services and applications, as well as powerful backend support for metadata, TV listings and content providers.
Windows Embedded partners and customers already have plans to begin shipping products and solutions for a variety of specialized devices built on the Windows Embedded Standard 7 platform. Examples include AOpen, C-nario, DT Research Inc., Micro Industries and YCD Multimedia for digital signage; HP and Wyse Technology for thin clients; and Heber for industrial control systems.

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Wolfson teams with Tensilica for audio platform

Setting the benchmark for world-class HD audio
Leading audio chip maker Wolfson Microelectronics has teamed up with configurable processor IP provider Tensilica to create a low power, high definition (HD) sound platform.
Combining Wolfson's world-leading mixed-signal technology and audio expertise with Tensilica's HiFi audio DSP processor cores, this licence agreement will bring HD sound to multimedia platforms, including mobile handsets, netbooks, smartbooks, digital TVs and other multimedia devices.
With HD video a well-established standard in today's consumer electronics world, this partnership will set the benchmark for HD sound and address consumer demand for crystal clear audio. This is an interesting step for Wolfson more into the digital side of the business by licensing the Tensilica core - the silicon implementation and mixed signal integration will come from Wolfson with software and drivers from Tensilica.
Mike Hickey, CEO of Wolfson, said, "We are delighted to be working with Tensilica and integrating their unique and high quality digital signal processing IP cores into our solutions to enhance the quality of the consumer audio experience. Including Tensilica IP in Wolfson's audio system will enable customers to maximise audio quality in multimedia products with a low power and cost efficient audio subsystem."
Jack Guedj, CEO of Tensilica, said, "Wolfson is a leader in high quality and low-power mixed-signal audio and we are pleased to be at the forefront of their expansion into the digital audio realm utilising the HiFi EP Audio DSP.  Tensilica will enable Wolfson to offer a best-in-class complete audio sub-system, and we look forward to further partnerships with our complementary technology offering."
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Xilinx puts multicore on FPGA

Two ARM Cortex-A9 cores on 28nm FPGA

Xilinx is putting a multicore processor architecture onto its next generation of FPGA. The Extensible Processing Platform is a single chip that combines two 800MHz ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor-based subsystems with 28nm FPGA fabric to add extra functions for system and ASIC protoyping.
This is a significant change, as it provides embedded systems designers with a processor-centric design and development approach rather than an RTL hardware approach. Xilinx sees this has a way of achieving the compute and processing horsepower required to drive tasks involving high-speed access to real-time inputs, high-performance processing and complex digital signal processing — or any combination thereof — needed to meet their application-specific requirements, including lower cost and power. 
This isn't that new, as Xilinx has integrated PowerPC cores into the fabric of its FPGAs before for telecoms applicaitons, but this is a return in force to the software approach with a more popular embedded core.
“Today’s embedded software developer is being tasked to build complex applications that require tremendous levels of system performance, and they need to deliver that performance within tightly managed cost, schedule and power budgets,” said Vin Ratford, Xilinx Senior Vice President for Worldwide Marketing and Business Development. “By creating an architecture within a familiar ARM processor-based development framework, this new Extensible Processing Platform can be the engine of innovation for many design teams held back today by performance bottlenecks.”
A software-centric development flow is enabled by a processor-centric approach which presents a full processor system – including caches, memory controllers and commonly used connectivity and I/O peripherals – that boots and can run a variety of operating systems (OS) at power-up, such as Linux, Wind River’s VxWorks and Micrium’s uC-OSII. 
The programmable logic is tightly coupled with the processor system through the high-bandwidth AMBA-AXI interconnects to accelerate key system functions by up to 100x, using off-the-shelf and/or custom IP. This architectural approach addresses common performance bottlenecks between these parallel and serial computing environments, memory and I/O. It also gives the processor system configuration control of the programmable logic, including dynamic reconfiguration.
 “Taking advantage of the parallelism of programmable logic is an excellent method for overcoming cost and power challenges in systems that require significant levels of high performance,” said Simon Segars, President of ARM in the US. “Xilinx’s new architecture abstracts much of the hardware burden away from the embedded software developers’ point of view, giving them an unprecedented level of control in the development process.”
Software developers can leverage their existing system code based on ARM technology and use off-the-shelf open-source and commercially available software component libraries. Because the system boots an OS at reset, software development can get under way quickly within familiar development and debug environments using tools such as ARM’s RealView development suite and related third-party tools, Eclipse-based IDEs, GNU, the Xilinx Software Development Kit and others.
Unrivaled Performance to Enable New Applications
Demand for higher levels of embedded system performance is being driven by end market applications that require multifunctionality and real-time responsiveness, such as automotive driver assistance, intelligent video surveillance, industrial automation, aerospace and defense, and next-generation wireless. In the automotive sector alone, with greater than 50 million cars produced each year, and an estimated 600 million motor vehicles on the road, today’s $1.3-billion-dollar driver assistance market is expected to grow to $5.8 billion by in 2017 as manufacturers deploy more embedded systems in their vehicles to make them safer.
With statistics showing that 60 percent of front-end collisions could have been avoided with an extra .5-second response time, or that driver fatigue accounts for an estimated 30 percent of all driver fatalities, the motivation to leverage technology to save lives is clear. As developers of driver assistance systems pack more compute power into their applications, radar and infrared sensors, cameras and other system components must be installed into confined spaces within the automobile. The new Xilinx Extensible Processing Platform offers a single-chip solution for optimizing application-specific hardware/software partitioning and accelerating functions in hardware to drive complex algorithms. This enables customers to further differentiate their embedded systems to gain a competitive advantage in their markets.
In a market expected to reach $46 billion by 2013, developers of new intelligent video technologies need processing platforms for building applications that can automatically monitor video patterns and body language, combined with audio, to make intelligent decisions and send alerts, thus reducing the chance for errors. The technology is already moving to full high-definition video and frame rates up to 60 frames per second, but current solutions do not offer sufficient compute power for image processing and advanced analytic functions. The dual Cortex-A9MPCore-based processor system, coupled with the massive parallel-processing capabilities of the programmable logic, enables this capability. Developers also gain an opportunity for innovative algorithm design, scalability and field upgradability within a familiar ARM-based design environment.   
Wireless telecommunication is being driven by the need for lower power, smaller physical form factors and reduced development costs, to support an ever-increasing number of users and data-hungry applications. New technologies such as 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) can address bandwidth requirements, but smaller, more efficient base stations are essential to meeting overall market requirements. The Xilinx Extensible Processing Platform will help developers of next-generation wireless base stations to meet these needs by providing high-bandwidth parallel processing of 4G signals in combination with multiuser data management on Cortex A9 processors – all in a small, power-efficient, cost-effective integrated solution. Because the platform is extensible, developers have the flexibility to implement future equipment updates and performance upgrades of both hardware and software.
The new Extensible Processing Platform is part of Xilinx’s Targeted Design Platform strategy, which provides customers with market- and application-specific environments that are easy to use, enabling them to evaluate and understand technology, and finally provide application platforms that can be modified and extended to accelerate their development time and focus on differentiation. 
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IBM develops nanoscale MRI imaging - video

Taking images of a virus

Researchers from IBM's Almaden Research Centre and Stanford University have developed a new technique for seeing particles at the nanoscale using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques that are already widely used in hospitals.

They have combined ultrasensitive magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) with 3D image reconstruction to achieve MRI with resolution under 10 nm. The image reconstruction converts measured magnetic force data into a 3D map of nuclear spin density, taking advantage of the unique characteristics of the “resonant slice” that is projected outward from a nanoscale magnetic tip. The basic principles are demonstrated by imaging the 1H spin density within individual tobacco mosaic virus particles sitting on a nanometer-thick layer of adsorbed hydrocarbons.
The result  represents a 100 million-fold improvement in volume resolution over conventional MRI and demonstrates the potential of MRFM as a tool for 3D imaging on the nanometer scale.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CriticalBlue and Freescale collaborate to streamline and simplify multicore software development

CriticalBlue’s Prism development environment now available for QorIQ multicore processors

CriticalBlue is working with Freescale Semiconductor to make its Prism development environment available to support Freescale’s QorIQ multicore processor families. Software developers will be able to migrate, optimise and verify their existing software applications on Freescale’s multicore platforms based on Power Architecture technology.
 As communication equipment vendors migrate from single-core to multicore designs, they face the complex and time consuming task of rewriting their code to work with multiple cores. The addition of Prism support to Freescale’s QorIQ multicore ecosystem will help customers preserve the value of their legacy code while designing with new multicore platforms. The Prism tool helps eliminate guesswork by profiling the code base and suggesting which routines are best to leave in serial sequence and which ones are candidates for parallel sequencing across multiple cores. With this capability, Freescale customers are able to optimise their software code to achieve maximum hardware performance.
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Risks to radio systems from wind turbines

The wind turbine at Hartley in ShinfieldImage via Wikipedia
I'm a great supporter of renewable energy and green electricity, and the SmartGrid will have to combine energy production from a variety of approaches, but Analysys Mason are pointing out that wind turbines may well cause problems for radio systems, particularly RF embedded control.
Although wind turbine blades are largely made of non-conductive plastics and similar composite materials, they are large constructions and the latest designs contain metal reinforcements and conductors for lightning protection. A single turbine therefore presents a significant but very geometrically variable ‘radar cross section’ that has the potential to reflect or diffract radio propagation waves, and cause a delayed multipath component that may interfere with the original radio link signal, says the group. The more windmill stock a farm has, the more unpredictable the reflections and diffractions of radio waves become, with potentially a far greater impact than may otherwise be expected.
The potential for interference is of particular concern for the utilities industry, which makes quite extensive use of scanning telemetry systems and SCADA (System Control and Data Acquisition) systems to monitor and control its infrastructure. These systems are often ‘fail-safe’ so that operations are automatically suspended if, for example, the SCADA system fails. Thus interference from wind turbines could potentially result in the shut-down of power and water supplies if serious interference is detected.
A number of Analysys Mason consultants who are involved with the utilities industry are becomingly increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of one particular link type, mainly because of a lack of understanding and a lack of relevant research within the telecoms industry. The link type in question is that operating at around 460MHz, which is often used for telemetry or other SCADA applications. Within these applications the 460MHz band is often selected for particular links because the link path profile is non-line of sight, and this band permits the deployment of a diffracted path route between each link end as a design parameter. In these cases the link path loss is significantly greater than the nominal free-path loss that would otherwise exist for the line-of-sight case, and different interference design rules must be applied (as discussed below).
Across the UK, there are a number of radio links at 460MHz where the path profile relies on a terrain-diffracted path, rather than direct line of sight. From a system design perspective this is often why the comparatively low frequency of 460MHz has been selected, as it enables the use of a diffracted path, and
the impact of wind turbines and farms needs more field measurements and study to quantify the interference mechanisms, particularly in situations where the basic path is diffracted. 
There is a sell of course - at Analysys Mason they have been studying all the publicly available material on wind turbine interference to radio propagation and have developed user-friendly computer models to evaluate and predict appropriate clearance zones around single and multiple wind turbines.
For more information, please contact Adrian Dain, Lead Consultant (adrian.dain@analysysmason.com) or John Wittams, Lead Consultant (john.wittams@analysysmason.com)



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GE Satellite provide Ku data uplinks to NASA unmanned science mission

Ex-military UAV flies across Pacific taking measurements



GE-Satellite, a leading provider of satellite services in the Pacific, was recently chosen by NASA to provide Ku-band satellite connectivity for its ground breaking science mission to study atmospheric and environmental conditions across in the Pacific via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). 
The NASA Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) campaign, the first Earth Science mission to use the UAV for atmospheric and environmental research, demonstrates GE-23's capability to support a broad range of mobile broadband applications in the Pacific.
The GE-23 satellite, ideally suited for the mission because of its dynamic coverage in the Pacific, enabled continuous communications throughout the Global Hawk's 14-hour maiden voyage. “The Global Hawk's ability to autonomously fly long distances and remain aloft for extended periods brings a new capability to the science community for measuring and observing large areas of the Earth,” said NASA.
The Global Hawk payload includes an antenna to allow it to continuously transmit data and images via the GE-23 satellite. As part of the environmental research mission, scientists measured atmospheric conditions including greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, aerosols, and constituents of air quality in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.  Future missions include observations from the equator to the Arctic Circle, and west of Hawaii.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the NASA Global Hawk mission and this exciting new chapter of science history,” says Andrew Jordan, President and CEO of GE-Satellite.
NASA has three Global Hawks, all previously used by the US Air Force, now fitted with 11 scientific instruments to conduct atmospheric research. The Hawks carry over than 400Kg of scientific gadgets, can operate at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and stay aloft for 30 hours while flying a distance of more than 12,600 miles - making the long range continuous measurements possible for the first time.
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Synapse and Silicon Labs Launch Wireless Module for Mesh Networks

Sub-GHz connectivity for smart meters, building automation and personal medical devices
Synapse Wireless and Silicon Laboratories have teamed up to develop a wireless mesh network solution that combines the SNAP network operating system with Silicon Labs' Si1000 wireless microcontroller (MCU). The combined software/hardware solution - the Synapse RF Engine module - makes it easy to deploy a scalable, ultra-low-power, small-footprint wireless mesh network for a wide range of applications including smart meters, wireless sensors, Zigbee networks, building automation, commercial lighting control, personal medical devices and RFID asset tracking systems.

The SNAP network operating system provides a high-performance wireless mesh network protocol that supports Internet-enabled, wireless machine-to-machine communications, and offers an embedded Python interpreter for easy application development. Providing the intelligence behind the Synapse RF Engine, SNAP runs on Silicon Labs' Si1000 wireless MCU, which combines an ultra-low-power processor core with a high-performance sub-GHz RF transceiver delivering high-bandwidth and extended-range wireless connectivity.

SNAP allows wireless applications to be developed quickly and easily using Python's English-like scripting language instead of complex embedded programming. The developer simply adds the application to SNAP, residing on the RF module, over-the-air. No embedded wireless programming experience is required to develop applications and deploy them to physical SNAP nodes. Instead of being burdened with the underlying complexities of a wireless mesh network, the developer can focus on getting the application to market quickly.

The intelligent SNAP network operating system enables nodes to join the mesh network instantly and the software's over-the-air programming and Python interpreter ensure easy, fast and flexible application development.

The Synapse RF Engine provides a turnkey hardware/software solution that developers can deploy immediately in their end products. It also offers an easy-to-use development platform for system engineers who want to migrate their wireless designs to high-volume applications using the Si1000 MCU running SNAP as embedded firmware.

"The collaboration between Silicon Labs and Synapse has resulted in a best-in-class, sub-GHz wireless networking solution that combines the industry's lowest power wireless MCU with the sophisticated networking and Internet connectivity capabilities of SNAP," said Wade Patterson, Synapse Founder, President and CEO. "The jointly developed wireless platform will streamline the development of cost-effective and energy-efficient mesh networks."

Developers using the Si1000-based Synapse RF Engine will have access to the full product and service offerings from Synapse. This includes custom design services for solving tough, engineering challenges in OEM product design; the Synapse Portal wireless application development environment for ease in network management and rapid application development; and SNAP Connect, for seamless integration to the Internet.

"The combination of the Si1000 wireless MCU and SNAP provides a comprehensive mesh networking solution for ISM band applications in the sub-GHz range," said Mark Thompson, vice president of embedded mixed-signal products at Silicon Labs. "Using this combined hardware/software solution, developers can get their wireless applications up and running quickly and easily while benefiting from the power-efficient, battery-saving capabilities of the Si1000 MCU and its exceptional wireless range and performance."

Synapse SNAP Network Operating System

Synapse's SNAP network operating system is an Internet-enabled, IEEE 802.15.4-based, instant-on, multi-hop, mesh network, software solution designed to cost-effectively run efficiently over a range of popular microprocessors and microcontrollers. SNAP has a very small memory footprint of only 45 kB, thereby leaving more space for user applications. SNAP can support up to 16 million nodes in a single network. Since these are peer-to-peer mesh networks, there is no single point of failure: any node can talk directly to any other node that is in range, and any node can talk indirectly to any other node via intermediate nodes - SNAP networks are self-healing. Users can interactively develop applications using a high-level English-like language called Python. No embedded programming experience is required. Synapse currently has more than 900 registered SNAP users.

Silicon Labs Si1000 Wireless MCU
The Si1000 wireless MCU, a member of the Si10xx family, combines a 25 MHz 8051 core, EZRadioPRO® sub-GHz RF transceiver, 64 kB of flash and a 10-bit ADC - all in a compact 5 mm x 7 mm package. As the industry's only sub-GHz 8-bit wireless MCUs, the Si10xx family offers market-leading RF performance with the highest output power and sensitivity and lowest power wake-up transition. The Si10xx family's integrated power and low-noise amplifiers enable an RF link budget of greater than 140 dB without active external elements, resulting in extended range, higher bandwidth and lower power consumption. The industry's most power-efficient wireless MCU solution, the Si10xx family provides the lowest current in common modes of operation. The wireless MCUs offer the lowest active-mode current consumption (160 microamps per MHz). In sleep mode, they consume only 315 nanoamps using the internal low frequency RTC. In deep-sleep mode, they can operate on as little as 25 nA with full RAM retention.

Pricing and Availability
The Si1000 MCU-based Synapse RF Engine module is available today from Synapse and MSRP priced at USD$29 for 1-unit quantities with volume discounts available. The Synapse SNAP evaluation download for the Si1000 MCU is also available from Synapse.
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UK investment in semiconductor startups plummets (UK Technology Startups)

UK investment in semiconductor startups plummets (UK Technology Startups)

The UK saw a reasonably healthy growth in investment in technology startups last quarter, except for the semiconductor sector. Analysis by Ascendant showed a positive trend of 65 companies receiving £153m, up 48% and 32% respectively over Q1 09, from 82 investors. But the average deal size dropped significantly to just £2.4m and there was no venture capital investment in semiconductor or optoelectroncs companies at all.

Audium Semiconductor assets bought by NXT (UK Technology Startups)

Audium Semiconductor assets bought by NXT (UK Technology Startups)

Amplifier chip startup Audium Semiconductor in Bristol  has closed and its assets have been bought by flat panel speaker maker NXT. The company raised $8.5m in September 2007 for its untra low power amplifier but failed to raise a second round of venture capital.

Texas Instruments embraces Linux for C64x DSP processors

Reflects embedded industry move to open source
TI has announced Linux kernel support for its TMS320C64x digital signal processors (DSPs) and multicore system-on-chips (SoCs) targeted for applications such as communications and mission critical infrastructure, medical diagnostics, and high-performance test and measurement. As customers move towards open source initiatives as a key element of their products, application developers can benefit from the availability of Linux on TI’s  DSPs by having less software to develop, and focusing more on differentiating features and software in their applications.

“TI’s C64x processors have an enviable footprint in signal processing oriented high-performance multicore applications,” said Olaf Soentgen of Nash Technologies. “The introduction of Linux support expands the utility of the C64x DSP processors into portions of these applications that traditionally have been reserved for RISC cores. We are taking advantage of Linux availability on TI’s SoC to lower the cost and simplify the development of femtocell base stations.”
TI’s C64x Linux effort is a community collaboration with considerable support already in place. As part of the effort to port the Linux kernel to the C64x ISA, Code Sourcery is developing a complete tool chain including support for the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and the GNU Project Debugger (GDB). The project’s goal is that both the C64x Linux kernel and the GCC / GDB tools will be accepted by kernel.org and the Free Software Foundation, making both fully supported as open source community projects. In addition, TI will sponsor a Linux-C64x portal and a community-oriented distribution program to facilitate communication and development around this technology.  ENEA is making its open source, scalable multicore communications stack available to the C64x Linux community, as well as offering advanced multicore platform software and debugging tools.  Nash Technologies is implementing features ranging from advanced chip level functions, such as multicore interprocessor communications, to complete LTE protocols.  PolyCore Software, also an early community participant, is implementing the MCAPI multicore communications framework.
 “Our customers are rapidly moving towards open source as a critical element of their solutions,” said Brian Glinsman, general manager of TI’s communications infrastructure business. “Because of the C64x-basedDSP processors’ low power consumption and cost effectiveness, customers are interested in running traditional DSP MAC/PHY and codec algorithms as well as classic RISC control code and protocols on our DSPs. TI’s embracing of Linux and an open tool chain for the industry workhorse C64x DSP processor makes this kind of integration practical.”

Availability
Product support for the C64x Linux kernel will be available for TI’s TMS320C6472, TMS320C6474, TMS320C6455 and TMS320C6457 DSP processors in 3Q10.
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Dust Networks launches ARM Cortex-M3 system chip for 802.15.4

World's lowest power RF so far

Dust Networks is an intersting company as a leading supplier of wireless sensor networks (WSN). It is using the low power ARM Cortex-M3 processor for a new family of system-on-chips (SoCs) that include an on-chip power amplifier (PA) that will be the basis for a variety of upcoming standards-based WSN products, including IEC 62591 (WirelessHART), 6LOWPAN (IP), and Zigbee PRO products. This is key for the development of the SmartGrid.
The SoCs will feature:
  • A 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 processor and rich interfaces enable a powerful computing platform while conserving power.
  • The world's lowest power IEEE 802.15.4 radio: a new benchmark is set, with a mere 3 mA transmit at 0 dBm and 3 mA receive current, delivering 5-10 times the battery life of competing technologies, and further expanding the applicability of energy harvesting power sources.
  • Extended range capabilities, with up to 8 dBm output power on-chip PA and an optional external power amplifier.
  • The industry's first IEEE 802.15.4E-ready product, incorporating the emerging standard for time synchronization and channel hopping, while providing legacy support for 802.15.4-2006.

"Our new SoCs are geared to deliver the highest performance while running at a fraction of the power of competing silicon," said Dr. Kris Pister, Chief Technologist at Dust Networks. "In selecting the ARM Cortex-M3 processor for our SoC, we did not have to trade-off performance for power. Dust Networks new IEEE 802.15.4 SoCs will require less than one-tenth of the energy per operation of comparable SoCs."

The level of systems integration in the SoCs is very high, including on-chip power amplifier, DC-to-DC converter, 10 bit ADC and a built in temperature sensor. With configurations up to 512kB of flash and 72kB of RAM, these SoCs will have both the highest computational horsepower of any 802.15.4 chip on the market, and the lowest power consumption. In doze mode, with full processor state and RAM retention, current consumption is under 1uA.

"Low power radios such as IEEE 802.15.4 and wireless mesh networking, epitomized by Dust Networks' TSMP protocol and its "Smart Dust" roots, have transformed the industrial wireless sensor network landscape", said Mareca Hatler, ON World research director. "With the introduction of ultra low power versions of SmartMesh IP (6LoWPAN) systems and ZigBee products, Dust Networks will expand the growing number of 'Smart World' applications that span Smart Buildings, Cities, Government and Homes."

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Imagination Technologies teams with MIPS

Joint Solution Demonstrated in New 3D Chipset from Sigma Designs
Having had a close relationship (and joint venture) with ARM and an investment by Intel, Imagination Technologies has now teamed up is a strategic alliance with MIPS Technologies, with MIPS joining Imagination’s POWERVR Insider graphics developer ecosystem as a technology partner.
Together the companies are working to help SoC developers get to market quickly with optimized solutions combining processor IP from MIPS and graphics, video and other IP from Imagination.  
This helps cement Imagination's position in supplying 3D graphics IP particularly for set top box designs where MIPS dominates.
The first result of this is Sigma Designs’ new 3D media processor for IPTV, cable, and network player markets which incorporates Imagination’s POWERVR SGX 3D graphics IP and a high-performance MIPS32® 24Kf processor.
“We are impressed with the performance of our new 3D chipset that combines MIPS’ leading processors for the digital home with industry-leading graphics performance from Imagination,” said Thinh Tran, CEO of Sigma Designs. “With our new chip, we are continuing our trend of technology leadership and innovation in IPTV set-top boxes. Sigma and MIPS were the first to bring the Android™ platform—with full 1080p HD capability—to set-top box chips, and now we are pleased to offer 3D with OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration based on the market leading POWERVR SGX technology. Together with Imagination and MIPS Technologies, we are taking the lead in enhancing and enriching the consumer TV user experience.”
“This alliance between MIPS and Imagination brings together two IP industry leaders to address not only digital home solutions—where MIPS already holds a leadership position—but also mobile devices where we are seeing increasing traction,” said Sandeep Vij, president and CEO, MIPS Technologies. “Imagination is a leading provider of embedded multimedia and communications IP and we are working closely with them to offer integrated solutions that will offer our customers best-in-breed choices, differentiated devices and fast SoC integration. With MIPS and Imagination, our customers are creating some of the industry’s most innovative solutions for set-top boxes and beyond.”
“Next generation set-top box, television and other connected platforms will all use OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics technology for creation of 3D menus; advanced user interfaces, support for gaming and other advanced features,” said Hossein Yassaie, chief executive officer, Imagination Technologies. “We are seeing growing interest among our licensees in using MIPS Technologies’ IP in digital home markets alongside our industry-leading POWERVR graphics, video and display technologies as well as our communications IP solutions, and this extending to devices targeting mobile and embedded applications as well. We are pleased to work closely with MIPS to deliver comprehensive solutions our customers need for these innovative next generation products.”
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Freescale unleashes industry’s highest performing DSP core for medical, aerospace and test

Fully programmable MSC825x DSP family scales from one to six cores; helps lower system cost as much as 50 percent

Freescale Semiconductor has introduced a family of programmable digital signal processors (DSPs) that delivers the optimal blend of low cost and high performance for a broad range of applications in the medical, aerospace/defense and test/measurement markets. Based on the industry-leading performance of Freescale’s SC3850 StarCore DSP core, the MSC825x family of scalable DSPs offers more performance and functionality at half the cost of comparable alternative technologies.

Freescale’s SC3850 core recently earned the industry’s best-ever fixed-point BDTImark2000 benchmark score from independent signal-processing technology analysis firm Berkeley Design Technology. The new MSC825x family of multicore DSPs brings the performance of the SC3850 core to additional applications that require high performance, reusable hardware platforms and flexible software architectures.

Freescale’s MSC825x family consists of four pin-compatible, fully programmable, single-, dual-, four- and six-core DSPs. Integrated features such as multiple DDR controllers, two Serial RapidIO interfaces and a PCI Express interface make designing with the MSC825x devices highly flexible. Pin and peripheral compatibility with Freescale’s MSC815x family enables code and tool reuse and allows customers to scale from a single-core device to multicore devices, or to create multiple products based on the same hardware.

“With the introduction of the MSC825x DSP family, we are extending the value of Freescale’s high-performance StarCore technology to additional customers in high-growth markets,” said Scott Aylor, general manager and director of DSP products for Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Manufacturers of medical, aerospace/defense and test/measurement equipment can look forward to significant cost savings and outstanding performance from Freescale’s newest family of programmable DSPs.”

The MSC825x family’s processing performance enables additional channels for TETRA base stations, as well as advanced measurement capabilities for wireless communication testers. State-of-the-art, high-bandwidth, low-latency peripheral interfaces permit customers to interconnect multiple DSP processors without the need for Layer 2 switching, reducing customers’ system cost. Test/measurement applications enjoy increased throughput and reduced software complexity, and medical applications such as CT scanners gain real-time communication capabilities and more accurate control.

“The new MSC825x family serves notice that Freescale’s DSPs are a force to be reckoned with beyond just the communications infrastructure space,” said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts. “The cost and performance advantages of the MSC825x family are substantial and stand to significantly benefit OEMs targeting equipment for a wide range of markets.”

At the high end of the family, the MSC8256 device is based on six SC3850 StarCore DSP cores running at 1 GHz on a single die delivering 6 GHz of raw DSP performance, or 48 GMACs (Giga Multiply and Accumulate) per second of DSP core performance. This is a 2X increase in performance in comparison to the nearest competing solution. Comprehensive memory support includes two 64-bit DDR3 running at 800 MHz to enable fast system throughput for multicore DSPs. A rich peripheral set includes 2x Serial RapidIO (4 lane) and PCI Express x4 interfaces, allowing fast communication between FPGA and DSP to DSP.
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