IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

At the Design West – Embedded Systems Conference – 2013 – Part 3

During the show, we met with Connect Tech Inc. who introduced us to two of their latest Xtreme PCIe/104 products, including the Xtreme/GPU product that can be ordered either with an AMD Radeon E6760 or anNVIDIA GeForce GT 740M. These modules can provide support for up to four displays, which is a lot of capability in a 3.77” x 3.55” form factor. If the solution needs Ethernet capability, the Xtreme/GbE packs 8 ports of Gigabit Ethernet connectivity into that same space.

The conversation with Connect Tech took an interesting turn to a discussion about problems which may arise when proprietary and standard architectures or form factors are mixed. This was underscored during our RTECC show visit last week. With standards organizations like VITAPICMG or the PC/104 Consortium, one can be certain that products that comply with a given standard will mechanically mate together, no matter who makes them. The other important thing is that it will be mechanically impossible to mix products that may comply with other standards with them. What Connect Tech noted is that when some proprietary products use the same connectors in the same locations as those specified by a given standard, it is quite possible that someone, somewhere, will try to connect them together. Because the proprietary products’ pin-outs may differ from those of the standard, catastrophic failures are a distinct possibility. The quick takeaway for OEMs and end customer engineers that use combinations of proprietary and standard architecture products is to make them foolproof with regard to an improper mix. This isn’t easy; one of Murphy’s laws states that it is impossible to make something foolproof because fools are so damned ingenious. Compatibility and interoperability is an interesting topic in its own right, and we will provide a future blog to discuss how PICMG strengthened the ATCA standard based on lessons learned with previous PICMG standards.

Inasmuch as VDC covers Data Acquisition (among other things) in our Industrial Automation Practice, we were quite impressed with the new Sealevel Systems COM Express-based Relio R3 industrial computer. This unit has 19 I/O slots and a touchscreen HMI on the front panel. If needed, a customer could configure the Relio R3 with a maximum mix of 288 digital inputs or relay outputs. There are other Analog, RTD, Thermocouple, Serial port and 4-20ma expansion cards that can also be ordered.

During the 2012 Design East ESC show in Boston, we had seen a demonstration of a “Smart Grid” project that National Instruments conducted with Siemens. This demonstration coupled a NI Compact RIO providing measurement, datalogging, communications, and control functions with a high power Siemens switch. In this year’s Design West show, we saw NI partnering with Prolucid LocalGrid Technologies Inc. to provide similar Smart Grid solutions for Toronto Hydro. Additionally, the NI booth also had a great machine vision demonstration where a new PCIe “Frame Grabber” board was capturing images from a rapidly-spinning array of objects to identify production faults.

At the Synaptics booth we saw some interesting new touchscreen sensing technologies and applications in which these can be used. Often, when a user is holding a mobile device, his fingers may inadvertently touch the screen. The Synaptics product allows the mobile device itself to adjust the display to account for the parts of the screen that are being blocked and to ignore the inputs from the gripping hand. The Synaptics technology also allows touch sensing on the back and edge of the mobile device to add further capability that may have a big impact for applications like gaming. On a similar note, the Synaptics demo also showed that their sensing capabilities included pressure, not just touch. In other words, it could sense how much force a finger was applying to a specific location on the touchscreen. This, too, could have real application in gaming or in music generation using virtual keyboards.

In closing, we want to thank everyone for those great Design West product briefings. We also want to extend our regrets for the companies and new products we might not have seen. The VDC EHW show team’s schedules ended up being completely full, and we were endeavoring to find time to fulfill additional briefing requests right up until the show ended. Overall, that speaks volumes about the vibrancy of the embedded market in 2013.


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