Evolving standards simplify embedded development

In response to growing pressure to boost the performance and trim down the size of embedded applications, standards organizations meet regularly to optimize their portfolios in light of the latest available technology. These updated standards take advantage of new silicon architecture combining multiple processors, graphics elements, and complex I/O to deliver the next generation of preengineered, off-the-shelf modules to support many of the high-performance requirements of embedded product development.

These standardized computer platforms allow designers to trade in substantial savings in Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) and scheduling for slightly higher recurring costs. Standards-based designs also shortcut the software development effort by providing access to compatible operating systems, vendor-supplied drivers, and sample firmware.

In the Strategies section of this issue, we asked experts from several standards organizations to bring us up to date on the latest changes affecting embedded designs. Starting things off, Jim Blazer, CTO at RTD Embedded Technologies and active member of the PC/104 Consortium, presents the history and updates in work – such as the latest generation of PCI Express – that support the PC/104 stackable architecture. Citing the need for smaller and more rugged building blocks, Alexander Lockinger, President of the Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (SFF-SIG) and CTO at Ascend Electronics, covers the trends and new products to expect in 2013. In addition, Jerry Gipper, Director of Marketing at VITA and Editorial Director of VITA Technologies magazine, reports on the recent Embedded Tech Trends 2013 meeting aboard the Queen Mary and standards work in progress, plus some new technologies such as optical interconnects.

We have expanded the Strategies section this month to bring you technical updates on a couple of developing trends in the intelligent systems marketplace. First, Andrew Patterson, Business Development Director for the Mentor Graphics Embedded Software Division, shows how open source opera-ting systems such as Linux and Android are driving innovation in the in-vehicle infotainment market. Next, Wil Florentino, Industrial Automation Marketing Manager at Renesas Electronics, discusses the latest concepts available to integrate multiple analog sensors into intelligent embedded devices. He explains how a configurable Analog Front End (AFE) simplifies the interface between these sensors and the digital world.

Regardless of the market segment, the software programming and certification phase has become the long pole in the embedded development tent. In this month’s Software section, we show how software design teams are adding advanced static code/analysis tools to the mix to shorten this extended development cycle and minimize post-release changes. Explaining the benefits and techniques used in static code analysis, Arthur Hicken, Wayne Ariola, and Adam Trujillo of Parasoft present several different analysis implementations and where they should be employed in the development process. Focusing on a single programming language, Jon Jarboe, Senior Technical Manager at Coverity, shows how static analysis can be used to manage risk in a Java development environment. In addition, static analysis and contract-based programming can be combined to deliver software components with enhanced safety and security, writes S. Tucker Taft, Vice President and Director of Language Research at AdaCore.

With requirements often changing over the course of a combined analog and digital development project, designers are turning to reconfigurable hardware to minimize schedule delays. In this issue’s Silicon section, Cypress Semiconductor Application Engineer Robert Murphy presents several examples showing how configurable System-on-Chip (SoC) peripherals can be combined to create multiple functional components. Speaking of reconfiguration, if you have ideas for future technical articles and coverage that would help in your design efforts, please let us know. Contributed articles are a great way to expose your technology or expertise to the embedded community, so if you have an idea, please send along an email with a short abstract.