Oct 09, 2014

Micrium’s Spectrum IoT Package

posted by Bryon Moyer

There are a couple of things going on in the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). One is abstraction and reuse: no one wants to re-invent WiFi or security or the many other things that have to be plugged together in order to get a device to connect to the Cloud. So complete packages that include support for all of these basics are becoming more common.

But there’s also a meeting of minds happening (or not): Micrium, a provider of real-time OSes (and supporting goodies) notes that embedded programmers primarily use C, occasionally broadening out into C++ or even Java as needs dictate and as space and performance allow. Cloud programmers, by contrast, tend to use things like HTML, Ruby, and have a much greater reliance on C++ and Java.

So… what happens when the low-level device programmer needs to write code that accesses the Cloud?

This is part of the motivation for Micrium’s Spectrum package. It includes their µC/OS-II (or –III) RTOS and stacks for network and IoT protocols. There’s also a Java virtual machine (VM) for deeply-embedded applications (running about 40K of code) – and an interface to Cloud services.

They’ve structured the Java VM so that it doesn’t require a separate core; it can reside on a single core with other code, which means less hardware is needed.

As to the Cloud interface, they’re working with a company called 2lemetry. The details are a bit vague (welcome to the IoT), but this appears to act as an aggregator for interfacing with the formal Cloud. The way they describe it, the Cloud is set up for relatively few high-bandwidth connections from things like phones and tablets. That’s as distinct from how sensor-enabled Things work, with many low-bandwidth connections. This intermediate layer appears to pull together and pre-digest data for interaction with the Cloud.

I haven’t seen an arrangement like that proposed before for the consumer IoT (CIoT) (although it might be buried implicitly in some of the platforms). It does resemble some of what goes on in the Industrial IoT (IIoT), with its greater reliance on hubs and gateways and brokers (literally or implicitly, via protocols like DDS) to filter data before sending it to the Cloud. But in this case, it would appear that this gateway function actually resides in the cloud, not locally.

The following graphic illustrates the content and relationships between the various Spectrum elements.

IoT-Software-Stack_500.png

Image courtesy Micrium

You can find out more in their announcement.

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Oct 07, 2014

QuickLogic’s Next Sensor Hub Rev

posted by Bryon Moyer

We’ve spent a bit of energy in the past looking at QuickLogic’s approach to a low-power sensor hub. Well, they’ve just introduced a second round, and the obvious question is… what’s changed?

They list some of the current capabilities, but the obvious questions are, how does this compare to the first one, and how did they make this happen?

Fundamentally, this hub has more horsepower than their first one. So they can do more work. They had a basic pedometer in their first hub; with this one, they have an “enhanced” pedometer that can now discriminate between walking, jogging, and running, while counting individual steps.

As it turns out, however, most of the capabilities on their second go-round weren’t possible on the first one. They noted features like IrDA remotes, barcode transmission, and pulse-width modulation (PWM) for dimming displays – none of these could be done by the first hub.

So how did they do this? Two things. First, they looked through some of the critical functions to see which things weren’t likely to change anytime soon (or ever); they hardened those into dedicated gates. That sped things up and lowered power.

But they also made some process changes. They didn’t go into the details of what changed, but the goal was yet lower power. After all, adding more capability usually has a power cost, which they have to fight since power is such an important part of their message. As it is, they’re claiming as low as 150 µW – even as they’ve added programmable logic and processor capacity, algorithm memory, and data buffer memory.

S2-Sensor-Hub-Block-Diagram_300.jpg

Image courtesy QuickLogic

You can find out more in their announcement.

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Oct 02, 2014

Easier Zigbee Remote Controls

posted by Bryon Moyer

Zigbee recently announced the second version of their remote control standard, ZRC 2.0. The idea is that, in a Zigbee home, with consumer electronics and other devices that speak Zigbee, you can have a single remote to rule them all. It’s not line-of-site, in contrast to traditional infrared systems. And, while it may be paired with specific devices it controls, it can also talk to other devices on a Zigbee Home Automation (HA) network.

The main focus of this new revision appears to be ease of use – both for the manufacturer and end user. Binding can happen transparently, removing the consumer from the process. Likewise, manufacturers can use the out-of-band binding process to setup multiple devices that will work together prior to shipping. And the device codes from legacy devices can now be uploaded to a remote over-the-air (replacing what would have been a small code database in the remote).

They’ve also implemented a two-way polling mechanism for communicating with sleeping devices. One of the features this enables is “find my remote,” which lets you push a button on, say, your TV and something happens to show you where the remote is (beeping, vibrating, whatever the remote designer included as the response). It also supports the uploading of new firmware updates.

And they’ve beefed up security and improved the communication between Zigbee HA and ZRC.

Greenpeak has already announced a new radio chip, the GP565, supporting the updated standard. And Universal Electronics has announced an update to their QuickSet application, which can be embedded into audio/video equipment to provide an on-screen setup interface.

You can read more about the Zigbee update in their announcement.

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