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COMIT Interface Standard for Next-Generation COM Products

The Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (SFF-SIG), a collaboration of suppliers of embedded component, board and system technologies, has announced COMIT, a new form factor independent, Computer-On­-Module interface standard. COMIT stands for Computer-On-Module Interconnect Technology and is targeted toward small form factor COM processor modules and host baseboards leveraging the latest ultra-mobile and low-power processor/chipset combinations. COMIT is the enabling technology to allow design of tiny processor modules to fit within the footprint of industry-standard, small form factor boards such as EBX, EPIC, PC/104, Pico ITX or other standard or custom-designed baseboards.

COMIT is an electromechanical interface specification that is designed to be processor-independent and focuses on bus interconnect and module manufacturing technology rather than any single processor, DSP, or microcontroller architecture. COMIT can be used to support different processors with a single baseboard allowing easy migration to future processors for performance/feature enhancement or for obsolescence mitigation. The purpose is to enable compact, easy-to-use, reliable COM solutions for embedded systems designs suitable for industrial environments using the newest low-power chip sets.

In a single 6 x 40 connector, COMIT’s 240 pins support three PCI Express x1 lanes, one PCI Express x4 lane, six high-speed USB 2.0 channels, VGA, SDVO and dual LVDS video interfaces, two SATA channels, Ethernet, 8-bit SDIO, HD Audio, LPC (Low Pin Count) Bus, SPI/uWire, SMBus/I2C Bus, system clock and control signaling plus ample power and ground connections. The use of a single connector eliminates registration problems that plagued manufacturing with products based on earlier-generation COM standards.

COMIT uses the SEARAY high-speed, high pin density, rugged and low-cost connector system from Samtec. It is a second-sourced, compact and rugged connector well suited for both commercial and industrial applications for current and future embedded systems designs. SEARAY is capable of differential signaling rates of 9 GHz bandwidth, which can support interfaces like PCI Express Gen2 and USB3. These extremely rugged connectors are also some of the lowest cost-per-pin and highest density available on the market for this type of multi-gigahertz-capable interconnect.

Open VPX Committee Moves to the Fast Track

Dealing with the inevitable issues of a very complex technical specification has not been without its bumps in the road, but the Open VPX Industry Technical Working Group has grown in membership with the addition of more VITA members and is now at about 29 members. The goal is to hammer out a set of system specification standards for VITA 46 (VPX) interoperability over a range of different topologies and interconnect technologies. This involves sorting through a large number of dot specs, protocols and other implementations to come to a set of topologies that will satisfy the variety of applications on the market without being overly or confusingly complex.

The industry appeared divided earlier this year when a number of companies went off from the VITA Standards Organization (VSO) and formed the Open VPX group. Whatever rift there was now seems to be patched up as several VITA members that had not originally been part of the group are now working with it and in cooperation with VITA. Membership in the group requires a commitment of time and personnel that not every VITA member is comfortable with, so the group will devote itself to the task with target timelines and as the work is frozen will bring it back to the VITA 65 committee on VPX System Specifications and Practices to go through the approval process for submission as an ANSI standard.

The work is being considered in two phases. Phase I is described as information gathering, definitions and discussions to work out a common terminology and understanding of the different system implementations. Focus will also be on the “utility plane,” which involves such issues as power. The goal of Phase I is to gather all the existing topologies and define them in order to understand similarities and differences. This phase is nearing completion and was expected to be wrapped up by the end of April.

Phase II will concentrate on consolidating the topologies into a minimal set including module and backplane profiles that can both satisfy the demands of the market while also offering a manageable selection. This will include the ability for certain vendors to offer development chassis with defined slots, cooling methods, power supplies, etc., to meet the approved specifications. This phase is expected to produce documents that can be brought to the VITA 65 committee by around September.

$387B of “Shovel-Ready” Open Source Code Available to Fuel Growth and Innovation

Open source software (OSS) and collaborative development have grown from being academic pursuits in the early 1980s into a major economic and development force transforming the way software is created today. According to research by Black Duck Software, there are over 200,000 OSS projects on the Internet representing more than 4.9 billion lines of available code. Black Duck estimates that reproducing this OSS would cost $387 billion and would take 2.1 million people-years of development. In addition, they estimate that 10% of U.S.-based development, representing $22 billion, is redundant and could be offset using OSS; and much of the $22 billion could be reinvested for true innovation. This is, in effect, a potential fiscal stimulus for innovation, larger than many of the programs in the Obama administration’s $787 billion fiscal stimulus plan.

In the current economic and budget climate, development organizations are increasingly turning to open source software (OSS) to maintain the speed of innovation and to reduce costs. Fiscal stimulus packages in the U.S. valued at hundreds of billions of dollars are being appropriated to get the economy back on track. While the U.S. and other federal governments around the world are doing their part to stimulate the economy, what can the private sector do to help itself, to fuel its growth? One answer may be for software development organizations and IT organizations to tap the vast pool of OSS and thereby write less of their own code and stop reinventing the wheel. This will enable them to shift scarce resources into projects that represent innovation and competitive differentiation.

Black Duck Software has been tracking the available pool of known open source software available on the Internet since the company’s founding in 2002. Today the company has a comprehensive database of open source software and related metadata. According to Black Duck’s research, there are over 200,000 open source projects representing over 4.9 billion lines of code. Given the quantity of OSS projects representing just about every facet of an application, is it feasible to find OSS code to displace 10%, 25% or more of development? Black Duck states that many customers use a much higher proportion of OSS code in their projects, some up to 88%. With 4.9 billion lines of “shovel-ready code” available to developers, OSS is a stimulus resource that may well be able to help development organizations around the world increase innovation, stretch budgets and spur growth.

Design Partner Network Provides Carrier Board Design Services for ETX and COM Express Modules

Ampro Adlink Technology has announced the formation of a Design Partner Network—a group of well-known electronic engineering design services firms. The intent of the network is to ensure that Ampro Adlink’s prospects and customers have immediate access to professional and technical engineering design services, either internally with Ampro Adlink or via one of the partners, for the design and development of custom carrier boards for ETX and COM Express embedded systems solutions and applications.

By combining Ampro Adlink’s embedded computing products and the design partners’ experience in providing state-of-the-art design services for custom single board computer and carrier board products, Ampro Adlink is striving to provide its customers with an extended array of personnel, design tools and services.

The initial members of the Ampro Adlink Design Partner Network are in the table below.

China’s Low-Voltage Motor Drive Market Shows Growth Despite Recession

Sales of low-voltage motor drives in China were estimated to be worth $1.7 billion in 2008, a growth of about 8.3% over 2007 according to the latest statistics from IMS Research. The company says this growth is quite impressive considering the global economic slowdown and the abrupt drop in exports of several types of machinery during the second half of 2008.

 The China drives market is heavily dependent upon machine builders, with sales to this channel representing almost two thirds of total market revenues in 2007. Some major suppliers started to worry about the market in the first half of 2008 before the global economic crisis started because of the sharp decline of the demand from the textile machinery sector, which accounted for 25% of the total shipment in terms of units.

 Analyst Jackey Wang commented: “The slowdown or even decline of some machinery sectors did decelerate the growth of sales to machine builders significantly in the second half of 2008. However, the impact of the global financial crisis on end-user markets was insignificant until now. Sales to end-user markets continued growing as a result of the government-guided energy-saving and emission reduction projects and related policies. The fast growth in end-user markets offset the slowdown of the machinery market.”

 In 2005, the Chinese government announced an ambitious goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% between 2005 and 2010. One of the key initiatives for realizing this goal is the Top-1000 Energy-Consuming Enterprises program started in April of 2006 and which will continue until 2010. The government has strengthened the implementation of this top-1000 program because many companies did not reach their target in 2007. Eight of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau visited the latest energy saving and emission reduction expo this March in Beijing. Their collective presences in the exhibition indicate the great importance of energy-saving and emission reduction especially in the current difficult time.

IXXAT Automation Teams with TenAsys for Real-Time CAN with Windows

The INtime software from TenAsys combines deterministic, hard real-time control with standard Windows operating systems without requiring additional hardware. Real-time and non-real-time applications run in separate virtual machines on a single computer, enabling cost-effective, reliable control that is easy to develop and maintain.

The TenAysy Embedded Communication Interface driver (ECI) will be made available initially for the iPC-I XC16/PCI interface board, an intelligent CAN interface board from IXXAT designed for industrial PC applications. INtime drivers for other IXXAT CAN boards will follow. This will enable running real-time CAN applications on the same processor with a Windows-based human interface.

“INtime is a natural platform for deterministic control of time-critical applications on a standard PC because it eliminates the need for a separate real-time platform in addition to the Windows-based human interface,” said Karl Judex, IXXAT VP of sales & marketing. “Offering INtime drivers for our CAN boards is a logical choice for us.”

“Partnering with IXXAT is a perfect fit for TenAsys,” said Kim Hartman, TenAsys VP of sales & marketing. “Our expanding customer base in the automotive test and measurement market will benefit greatly from the direct support for CAN by our INtime RTOS for Windows.”

PICMG Releases New COM Express Design Guide

Version 1.0 of the COM Express Design Guide for developers of COM Express modules has been released by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG). The Design Guide was revised by the PICMG over the last 18 months with the active collaboration of 15 companies. In addition to draft editor congatec, the following companies were involved: Adlink, Continuous Computing, Diversified Technology, Foxconn, GE Fanuc, Intel Corp., Kontron AG, MSC Vertriebs GmbH, NMS Communications, Nokia Siemens Networks, RadiSys, Trenton Technology, Tyco Electronics and VIA.

The COM Express Design Guide provides information on how to design custom system carrier boards for COM Express modules. The vendor-independent, 160-page Design Guide includes a multitude of circuit examples that illustrate the correct implementation of all COM Express interfaces. Carrier boards designed on the basis of this guide enable greater interchangeability between COM Express modules from different vendors.

The COM Express Design Guide is available for free download from the PICMG Web site at http://www.picmg.org/pdf/PICMG_COMDG_100.pdf.