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Thursday, December 14, 2017

ST buys Atollic to guide direction of ARM-based development tool

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has bought software-development tools specialist Atollic for its TrueSTUDIO Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the embedded development community.

The open-source Eclipse-based IDE platform focuses on Arm Cortex-M microcontrollers such as ST’s STM32 family.

ST sees the addition of TrueSTUDIO for $7m as further strengthening its ecosystem of tools and allows it to guide the future evolution of advanced features with the STM32 ecosystem to a fully integrated software solution.

“The outstanding quality and depth of the STM32 MCU portfolio and its easy-to-use development ecosystem has positioned ST as a leader in embedded systems,” said Michel Buffa, Microcontroller Division General Manager at STMicroelectronics. “That position, and working closely with Atollic for many years as a top Gold Partner, has shown us the professional features and value TrueSTUDIO has delivered to demanding developers and will soon give STM32 developers a major competitive advantage with the availability of the STM32 TrueSTUDIO IDE for free.”

“As a leading software development tools vendor on the global market, I am delighted to see our tool and highly skilled professional team joining STMicroelectronics, a world leader in the 32-bit microcontroller market,” said Lars-Erik Stenkil, Atollic CEO.
NXP - which may become part of Qualcomm or even Broadcom - bought development tool maker Code Red for the same reason and has combined its LPC ARM-based controller tools with the Kinetis line from Freescale. This leaves IAR and Segger as the two main independent development tool suppliers.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Redpine claims industry's lowest power for wireless multiprotocol microcontroller

By Nick Flaherty

It's a brave boast to have the industry's lowest power for a wireless microcontroller, but Redpine Signals is doing just that.

The RS14100 multi-protocol wireless MCU (WiSeMCU) is aimed at for battery-operated IoT devices and the low power can provide three to four times the battery life of today's systems. says Redpine.

This comes from a patented 'big-little' architecture at every level including MCU, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 for Zigbee and Thread, providing optimised transitions between high-performance and low-power operating modes. This architecture enables the industry's lowest Wi-Fi standby associated power of <50ua 15="" 5="" an="" and="" arm="" as="" bluetooth="" can="" cortex-m4f="" devices.="" div="" even="" has="" integrated="" low="" lower="" nbsp="" operation="" power="" provide="" stand-alone="" than="" that="" ua="" which="" z="">

These enable battery-operated devices such as security cameras, smart locks, video doorbells, fitness bands, industrial sensors and location tags to have over 3-4x more battery life compared to competing solutions says Redpine.

It has also launched the RS9116 wireless solution, which features multi-protocol wireless connectivity and is available in both hosted (n-Link) and embedded (WiSeConnect) configurations. Both these devices build on Redpine's RS9113 and RS9110 devices, which together have been in production for over a decade and have been deployed by thousands of IoT customers worldwide.

"The IoT market requires devices to be always connected to the network, driving the need for ultra-low power connectivity solutions. The IoT devices also need to support multiple wireless protocols to connect to the cloud, connecting to other devices as well as provisioning," said Venkat Mattela, Chairman and CEO of Redpine Signals. "In addition, security is a major issue for the IoT market, making it critical for device makers to provide multiple levels of security. Redpine's RS14100 and RS9116 have been designed based on these critical IoT market requirements to provide an optimal solution for battery operated devices."

The M4F core in the RS14100 operates up to 180 MHz and includes up to 4 MB of flash for applications. Users can choose from various SoC and module packages based on their system requirements, including the industry's smallest integrated module at 4.6mm x 7.8mm. The WiSeConnect embedded modules provide a throughput of over 90 Mbps with integrated wireless stacks, wireless profiles and networking stack. n-Link hosted modules interface to processors running Linux, Android or Windows operating systems.

It also uses a secure-zone architecture with security processor separated from applications processor, PUF (Physically Unclonable Function) based root-of-trust, Suite-B crypto HW accelerators, secure boot, secure firmware upgrade, secure XIP and secure peripherals. It provides high-security levels required for applications such as mobile point-of-sale terminals, smart locks, medical devices and secure voice-based ordering. The RS9116 also provides a subset of these security features relevant for providing wireless connectivity.

An an "always-on" sensor-hub has hardware accelerators for voice-activity detection (VAD), vector filtering, interpolation and matrix multiplication, sensor data collection and capacitive touch. This enables new applications such as voice triggers for primary battery-operated devices. The RS14100 also supports digital and analogue peripherals including CAN, Ethernet, eMMC/SD Card, OpAmp, ADC, DAC and USB OTG.

The RS14100 and the RS9116 SoC and modules are sampling now with volume production starting in Q2 2018.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Solar powered LPWAN sensor eliminates battery replacement

By Nick Flaherty

Fujitsu Laboratories has developed the world's smallest sensor that eliminates the need to replace batteries. The new sensor supports Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) wireless transmission technology that can reach a broad area with low power via a solar cell source.
The technology controls signal transmission timing based on the temperature variation measured by a temperature sensor, which makes it possible to reduce the required energy storage elements for signal transmission by half. This has enabled Fujitsu Laboratories to successfully miniaturise the device to  82 x 24 x 6 mm, creating the world's smallest sensor device supporting LPWAN that does not need replacement batteries.

In a test of the sensor device using this technology, Fujitsu Laboratories confirmed that the collected temperature and humidity data can be transmitted to a Sigfox base station over a distance of about 7 km. Since it is now possible to acquire measured data even from locations where it is difficult to secure power and install power cables just by placing these sensor devices, the maintenance-free deployment and management of IoT systems has become a reality.

Fujitsu Laboratories has previously developed power control technology using miniature circuits that can transmit data over short distances wirelessly using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Sensor devices using BLE however could not support LPWAN as the time required for transmission with LPWAN is significantly longer than with BLE. LPWAN transmits small amounts of data slowly in order to ensure signal quality over long distances. In effect, this means that a single transmission can require significant power usage of up to about 1,500 times of BLE.

Now, Fujitsu Laboratories has developed new power control technology to ensure transmission power while minimising circuit size.

Figure 2: Circuit diagram for the newly developed sensor device
The power control technology that can control the timing of LPWA signal transmissions in real time, based on temperature data collected from a temperature sensor. With this technology signal transmissions are only carried out at the time when the activation voltage, which varies with temperature, is maximised in order to prevent it from falling below the minimum operational voltage for LPWA module. 

By using power efficiently in this way, it is possible to tolerate variation in power consumed by the wireless circuit or power generated by solar cells due to temperature. This eliminates the need for the excess energy storage elements that were previously necessary to respond to power fluctuations, enabling miniaturisation of the sensor device with the smallest power storage elements required.

Figure 3: Chart of operational timing
The technology was implemented using Sigfox, verifing that temperature and humidity data could be transmitted once every ten minutes, over seven days directly to a base station about 7 km away, in an environment with illumination of 4,000 lux. Fujitsu Laboratories also showed that the data could be visualized through the Fujitsu Cloud Service K5 IoT Platform, which has received Sigfox Ready Program for IoT PaaS certification as an IoT platform that connects to the Sigfox cloud.

This means that sensor data can easily be acquired in the cloud just by setting sensor devices, even in places where it is difficult to secure power or install power cables. This will enable maintenance-free installation and management of IoT systems, accelerating the process of digitalization in the field.

Fujitsu Laboratories will continue to conduct field trials aimed at the real-world use of these sensor devices, incorporating this technology into the Fujitsu Cloud Service K5 IoT Platform and Fujitsu Frontech Limited's sensors.

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

UltraSoC and Percepio team up for embedded analytics in real-time systems

By Nick Flaherty

Analytics is an increasingly important element of systems in the Internet of Things, but this can be a major challenge, especially for systems that have to run in real time.

Embedded debug IP developer UltraSoC is working with tool vendor Percepio to provide insight into real-time behaviours in RTOS-based (real-time operating system) embedded software. This will combines Percipio's trace tool with UltraSoC’s hardware-based universal monitoring and analytics platform to improve the predictability, power, security and safety of the systems.

Embedded software systems – which are at the heart of a variety of electronic products from lightweight IoT sensors to high-performance computing (HPC) platforms – are prone to sporadic errors that can be hard to spot and virtually impossible to predict or to prevent from reoccurring. At the same time, traditional chip design requires the use of debug tools to ensure the chip is ready for production. However, traditional hardware debug tools do nothing to spot nor to prevent changes or problems in the completed system in the field: these can significantly affect performance or power, impacting security and safety amongst other things.

The deal allows the Percepio and UltraSoC embedded debug tools are able to communicate and share essential information in real-time to ensure system-wide monitoring, effectively guaranteeing maximum performance and reliability.

“UltraSoC’s universal semiconductor debug, monitoring and analytics platform is an ideal complement for our Tracealyzer visualizations,” said Johan Kraft, CEO and founder of Percepio. “By combining our tools and offering something the industry has never seen, there are significant opportunities available to both companies.”

Percepio is widely used by designers using FreeRTOS, RTLinux and VxWorks, amongst other environments. UltraSoC’s analytics IP is designed to be used across any hardware platform, providing semiconductor designers with embedded analytics and intelligence in hardware debug. Bringing these two toolsets together ensures system designers benefit from an integrated embedded analytics solution. Synchronizing Percepio’s Tracealyzer with UltraSoC’s IP modules gives system designers an unparalleled insight into their embedded hardware and software.

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Renesas to push onchip flash memory to 100Mbytes

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas Electronics has successfully demonstrated a high density embedded flash memory technology for microcontroller built on a 16 or 14nm process (See roadmap above).

The split-gate metal-oxide nitride oxide silicon (SG-MONOS) process technology has been used with fin-shaped 3D transistors as part of the roadmap to large-capacity flash memories of more than 100MBytes.

Renesas is now combining high-performance/low-power logic with large-capacity/high-performance nonvolatile memory implemented with finer feature sizes for future controllers for automotive and the Internet of Things (IoT) .

In 2016, Renesas announced the successful development of the industry's first fin-type SG-MONOS flash memory cell by applying and adopting charge trap type flash memory technology that had been used in the past. The SG-MONOS flash memory performs its data storage in a thin trap film formed on the surface of the silicon substrate, which makes it comparatively easier to deploy it in a fin structure with a three-dimensional structure. Another feature is that it is highly compatible with 16/14nm logic processes that have the same fin structure. Also, the superlative charge retention characteristics, which are a feature of charge trap type MONOS flash memory, are not degraded even when the fin structure is introduced, and Renesas has verified that the same reliability characteristics as existing devices can be achieved.

The challenge when incorporating this fin structure SG-MONOS flash memory cell in a 16/14nm generation MCU is the increase in sample-to-sample variations associated with increasing the memory capacity. Renesas succeeded in overcoming this issue and verified its operation even in a large-scale memory, which marks a significant advancement towards the achievement of high-performance, high-reliability MCUs that include an embedded flash memory system in the 100 MB class.

In fabricating this prototype, Renesas optimized the process conditions, including the deposition, etching, and ion implantation conditions, for the fin structure and created a memory array without increasing the number of process steps. This will allow the company to increase capacity to the large scales of over 100 MB in a next-generation embedded flash memory it says.

A step pulse write method (ISSP: incremental step pulse programming) in which the write voltage is increased in steps starting at a low voltage was effective in suppressing degradation of device characteristics caused by the enhancement of electric fields at the fin tips. Using this in the array achieves both high-speed write operations and reliability and confirmed almost no influence on write/erase speed even after the 250,000 rewrite cycles that was standard for earlier data storage flash memories.

Data retention under high temperatures is critical for automotive applications. In this prototype, Renesas verified that the device maintains a guaranteed storage time after programming of at least ten years at 160°C, equivalent to earlier devices. Furthermore, this device maintains the sharp threshold voltage distribution that is a characteristic of the fin structure even after data is stored at the high temperature of 160°C at the array level, therefore maintaining the high reliability of existing devices.

Currently, Renesas mass produces MCUs fabricated in a 40nm generation process using SG-MONOS structure flash memory and is also developing 28nm generation MCUs. Based on the demonstration of large-scale memory operation, Renesas plans to develop 16/14nm generation MCUs with a target of 2023 for practical applications and is committed to continuing to contribute to progress in the automotive field and the achievement of a smart society.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Ericsson tops gigabit 5G wireless speeds using LAA

By Nick Flaherty

Ericsson has demonstrated wireless data speeds of 1.1 Gbit/s using 12-layer Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology – the first in the world to hit speeds beyond the 1 Gbit/s threshold on unlicensed spectrum. 

The data speeds were achieved by combining several key LTE technologies including 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and LAA by aggregating two licensed carriers and three unlicensed carriers. LAA has been demonstrated previously on 10 layers, reaching download speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s. Extending this to 12 layers enables the higher speeds and flexibility using unlicensed carriers in the 5GHz band.

“T-Mobile has built the nation’s fastest LTE network by innovating and bringing new technologies to market for our customers. This LAA technology builds upon our deployments of 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM and will give customers even greater access to near gigabit speeds in 2018,” said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for partner T-Mobile. The demo also used the TM500 test systems from Cobham Wireless.

“Breaking the 1 Gbps-mark means that commercial gigabit speeds are not far from reality for many broadband users, with our LAA and MIMO technologies as key enablers. It is also an example of how innovatively we work with partners to push the boundaries of technology and achieve new milestones," said Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Networks at Ericsson.

The use of these LTE technologies on unlicensed spectrum complements licensed spectrum and makes it possible for a larger number of operators to reach gigabit speeds in their networks.

The Ericsson Radio 2205 allows operators to deploy LTE on the 5GHz unlicensed band in outdoor micro cell environments. Using LAA, the unlicensed carriers on these radios can be aggregated with licensed carriers on the micro cells or on nearby macro cells.

Wireless embedded IoT gateway in footprint of a stamp

By Nick Flaherty

Lantronix has developed an embedded gateway for the Internet of Things with a footprint not much larger than a postage stamp.

The xPico 200 combines Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, enterprise-grade security, and integrated manageability features for industrial IoT applications. The module measures 17mm x 25mm x 2mm for the LGA package or 22mm x 35.5mm x 2.73 mm for the Edge Card.

“Today’s advanced IoT applications require more than just simple connectivity,” said Shahram Mehraban, Lantronix vice president of marketing. “With the commercial launch of our xPico 200 product family, Lantronix is providing a robust compact solution that combines best-in-class wired and wireless connectivity, industrial grade design and intelligent networking that enables resource-constrained product development teams to reduce total cost of ownership and time to market for their industrial IoT solutions.”

“With its state-of-the-art fast roaming capabilities and integrated manageability, the xPico 200 embedded gateways deliver reliable functionality and performance that will enable us to efficiently develop very cost competitive connected products,” said Paul Blashewski, president of Prescient Wireless.

The gateway uses Cypress Semiconductor’s wireless SoC for industrial, medical, retail, smart building and transportation verticals. “Lantronix has developed an industry-leading secure embedded solution that enables OEMs to use the Cypress CYW43907 802.11n Wi-Fi MCU to provide network reliability and flexibility to do more,” said Andrew Hunter, senior director of marketing at Cypress Semiconductor. “The xPico 200 series represents another milestone in our collaboration with Lantronix and addresses the growing need for industrial IoT solutions that deliver robust connectivity, processing capabilities and manageability.”

The Lantronix concurrent Soft AP + Client that provides device support and access without disrupting machine field operations and the Field-tested TruPort Serial and TruPort Socket enable out-of-the-box connectivity locally and over the Internet for hundreds of serial machine protocols. It is also pre-integrated with Lantronix MACH10 IoT platform, including the MACH10 Global Device Manager

xPico 250 evaluation kits will be available this month with product availability in early 2018.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mocana joins GE Digital programme for the industrial IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Mocana has joined GE's Digital Alliance Programme to combine the GE Predix edge-to-cloud industrial app development platform with its security technology for the Internet of Things. 

Mocana’s embedded security software, implemented on industrial control and automation equipment, ensures that both the device and its data can be trusted-- by securing the boot process, firmware and the transmission of data between the edge device, gateway and cloud. Mocana has deep experience in securing industrial control system (ICS) used in power generation and distribution, aerospace, avionics, defence, healthcare, oil and gas, smart buildings and cities.

“With its full-stack solution for securing IoT systems, Mocana is solving critical challenges of defending against cyber attacks, making devices trustworthy and securing communications,” said Michael Dolbec, managing director at GE Ventures. “Mocana’s IoT Security Platform can be embedded across GE’s industrial products and IIoT solutions to make them more secure.”

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Power News this week

By Nick Flaherty

. Shell backs Ionity for European fast charging network

. Trio team up for hybrid electric aircraft

. Transphorm raises $15m from major customer for GaN development


. Smart window doubles as solar panel

. Printed batteries enable IoT wireless nanotag

. 3D graphene balls boost lithium battery fast charging

Friday, December 01, 2017

Lighting IoT specialist Gooee launches in Europe

By Nick Flaherty

Gooee has launched its single platform for smart lighting in buildings in Europe.

Combining sensing hardware and cloud-based software into the single platform, Gooee bring together lighting, beacon networking and space analytics to drive application-enabling intelligence for developers, building occupiers, property owners and managers. It is scalable and interoperable across a range of lighting technologies such as LED to be used across all sectors to significantly simplify installation complexity.
“IoT lighting is transforming the built environment. We’ve talked increasingly about a new era in lighting, but finally, that time has arrived. Today we are proud to be celebrating partnerships that are fundamental to the adoption of smart building solutions and pleased to be embarking on trials, through our partners, with global brands including BMW and CBRE,” said Neil Salt, Co-founder & MD of Gooee.

“The introduction of location-tracking technology embedded in luminaires will transform spaces significantly. What Gooee and others are doing is revolutionary and through being interoperable with other systems, it is likely that we will see a rapid adoption rate in the real estate industry,” said Rick Jacobs, Managing Director, CBRE Global Workplace Solutions.

In the first European deal, Gooee's data store and analytics platform is being integrated into Deltavation's LED lamp designs. Deltavation provides the only PoE sensor enabled replacement solution to the more than 60 billion fluorescent lamps in operation today worldwide. Integrated with Gooee’s data services, thousands of companies worldwide will be able to replace fluorescent lighting with systems that can monitor footfall, add security, energy management and cost savings and even direct interaction with employees and customers.

LiFi standards group kicks off

By Nick Flaherty

The IEEE is forming a standards group to look at light communications commonly called LiFi, or an LED-based version of WiFi.

The 802.11 Light Communications Study Group will directly engage with manufacturers, operators and end users in consensus building efforts and to create a Project Authorization Request (PAR) towards developing a global wireless local area network light communications standard. This is why it is under the same group as the 802.11a,b,g,n,ac,ad and ax WiFi standards as it is likely to use the same protocols.

Early implementations use solid state lighting such as LEDs to transmit high bandwidth data as a wireless network. To address the growing demand for wireless data, and the impending spectrum crunch, the technology has notable potential as a wireless solution that offers greater bandwidth and efficiency, security, and data density, while not being subjected to or contributing to electromagnetic interference (EMI) below 3 THz.
Light communication is gaining ground  in EMI-challenged environments, such as hospitals, petrochemical plants, and airplanes, but also secure environments where RF is not sanctioned.

“In just a few short years, the interest in light communications has grown significantly and there is an enormous amount of valuable knowledge that vendors and operators can share as they work together to advance the technology globally,” said Nikola Serafimovski, chair of the IEEE 802.11 Light Communications Study Group. “It’s an exciting time for the light communications market sector, as it is poised for substantial growth over the next five years. We look forward to broad participation under the auspices of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN Working Group and the IEEE-SA as we work to develop the light communications market in line with industry needs, and to ensure best practices that drive market expansion.”

For more information, visit the IEEE 802.11 Light Communications Study Group web page.

Amazon brings machine learning to the Edge

By Nick Flaherty

Amazon Web Services has announced six significant services and capabilities for connected devices at the edge that will have a significant impact on embedded systems design. 

AWS IoT 1-Click, AWS IoT Device Management, AWS IoT Device Defender, AWS IoT Analytics, Amazon FreeRTOS, and AWS Greengrass ML Inference are intended to simplify deployment and management of large fleets of devices, auditing and enforcement of consistent security policies, and analysis of IoT device data at scale. 

AWS Greengrass ML Inference allows machine learning models to be deployed directly to devices, where they can run machine learning inference to make decisions quickly, even when devices are not connected to the cloud. 

“The explosive growth in the number and diversity of connected devices has led to equally explosive growth in the number and scale of IoT applications. Today, many of the world’s largest IoT implementations run on AWS, and the next phase of IoT is all about scale as we’ll see customers exponentially expand their fleet of connected devices,” said Dirk Didascalou, VP IoT, AWS. “These new AWS IoT services will allow customers to simply and quickly operationalize, secure, and scale entire fleets of devices, and then act on the large volumes of data they generate with new analytics capabilities specifically designed for IoT. With Amazon FreeRTOS, we’re making it easy for customers to bring AWS IoT functionality to countless numbers of small, microcontroller-based devices. And, customers have also told us they want to execute machine learning models on the connected devices themselves, so we’re excited to deliver that with AWS Greengrass ML Inference.”

With AWS IoT 1-Click, enabling a device with an AWS Lambda database function is as easy as downloading the mobile app, registering and selecting an AWS IoT 1-Click enabled device, and – with a single click – associating an AWS Lambda function. AWS IoT 1-Click comes with pre-built AWS Lambda code for common actions like sending an SMS or email. Customers can also easily author and upload any other Lambda function.

AWS IoT Device Management and AWS IoT Device Defender simplify onboarding, managing, and securing fleets of IoT devices, while AWS IoT Analytics makes it easy to run sophisticated analytics on the data generated by devices.

AWS IoT Device Management (available today) makes it easy to securely onboard, organize, monitor, and remotely manage IoT devices at scale throughout their lifecycle—from initial setup, through software updates, to retirement. Getting started is easy; customers simply log into the AWS IoT Console to register devices, individually or in bulk, and then upload attributes, certificates, and access policies. Once devices are in service, AWS IoT Device Management allows customers to easily group and track devices, quickly find any device in near real-time, troubleshoot device functionality, remotely update device software, and remotely reboot, reset, patch, and restore devices to factory settings, reducing the cost and effort of managing large IoT device deployments.
AWS IoT Device Defender (coming in the first half of 2018) continuously audits security policies associated with devices to make sure that they aren’t deviating from security best practices, and alerting customers when non-compliant devices are detected. AWS IoT Device Defender also monitors the activities of fleets of devices, identifying abnormal behavior that might indicate a potential security issue. For example, a customer can use AWS IoT Device Defender to define which ports should be open on a device, where the device should connect from, and how much data the device should send or receive. AWS IoT Device Defender then monitors device traffic and alerts customers when anomalies are detected, like traffic from a device to an unknown IP address.
AWS IoT Analytics (available in preview) is a fully managed analytics service that cleans, processes, stores, and analyzes IoT device data at scale. Getting started is easy: customers simply identify the device data they wish to analyze, and they can optionally choose to enrich the device data with IoT-specific metadata, such as device type and location, by using the AWS IoT Device Registry and other public data sources. AWS IoT Analytics also has features for more sophisticated analytics, like statistical inference, enabling customers to understand the performance of devices, predict device failure, and perform time-series analysis. And, by using Amazon QuickSight in conjunction with IoT Analytics, it is easy for customers to surface insights in easy-to-build visualizations and dashboards.

Amazon FreeRTOS is an operating system that extends the rich functionality of AWS IoT to devices with very low computing power, such as lightbulbs, smoke detectors, and conveyor belts. 

“As we’ve seen the Arm-based microcontroller ecosystem grow over recent years, FreeRTOS has played a key role in enabling embedded developers,” said Rene Haas, EVP and President, IP Products Group (IPG) at ARM. “We are pleased to see AWS extend the FreeRTOS kernel with increased connectivity, while adding additional security features. Amazon FreeRTOS running on Arm-based processors is an important milestone toward improving hardware, software, and networking security for the industry.”

AWS Greengrass ML Inference is a new feature of AWS Greengrass that lets application developers add machine learning to their devices, without requiring special machine learning skills. IoT devices frequently collect and forward large quantities of data, which can be used to automate real-time decision making through machine learning. To do this, customers build, train, and run machine learning on their IoT data in the cloud. However, some applications are highly latency sensitive and require the ability to make decisions without relying on always-on network connectivity. 

With AWS Greengrass ML Inference, devices can run machine learning models to perform inference locally, get results, and then make smart decisions quickly, even when they’re not connected. Using Amazon SageMaker, or any machine learning framework, customers build and train their machine learning models in the cloud and then – with just a few clicks – use the AWS Greengrass console to transfer the models to devices they select.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Boosting 3D printing by 10x

By Nick Flaherty

Engineers at MIT have developed a new desktop 3-D printer that performs up to 10 times faster than existing commercial counterparts. While the most common printers may fabricate a few Lego-sized bricks in one hour, the new design can print similarly sized objects in just a few minutes.

The key is the printer's compact printhead, which incorporates a screw mechanism that feeds polymer material through a nozzle at high force and a laser, built into the printhead, that rapidly heats and melts the material, enabling it to flow faster through the nozzle.

The team demonstrated its new design by printing various detailed, handheld 3-D objects, including small eyeglasses frames, a bevel gear, and a miniature replica of the MIT dome -- each, from start to finish, within several minutes.

"If I can get a prototype part, maybe a bracket or a gear, in five to 10 minutes rather than an hour, or a bigger part over my lunch break rather than the next day, I can engineer, build, and test faster," says Anastasios John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and director of MIT's Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity and the Mechanosynthesis Group. "If I'm a repair technician and I could have a fast 3-D printer in my vehicle, I could 3-D-print a repair part on-demand after I figure out what's broken. I don't have to go to a warehouse and take it out of inventory."

Commercial desktop extrusion 3-D printers, on average, print at a rate of about 20 cubic cm per hour. Now the researchers can print several complex parts, each produced within five to 10 minutes, compared with an hour for conventional printers. 

"Using this screw mechanism, we have a lot more contact area with the threaded texture on the filament," said Hart. "Therefore we can get a much higher driving force, easily 10 times greater force."

The team added a laser downstream of the screw mechanism, which heats and melts the filament before it passes through the nozzle. By adjusting the laser's power and turning it quickly on and off, they could control the amount of heat delivered to the plastic. They integrated both the laser and the screw mechanism into a compact, custom-built printhead about the size of a computer mouse.

Finally, they devised a high-speed gantry mechanism -- an H-shaped frame powered by two motors, connected to a motion stage that holds the printhead. The gantry was designed and programmed to move nimbly between multiple positions and planes. In this way, the entire printhead was able to move fast enough to keep up with the extruding plastic's faster feeds.

"We designed the printhead to have high force, high heating capacity, and the ability to be moved quickly by the printer, faster than existing desktop printers are able to," Hart says. "All three factors enable the printer to be up to 10 times faster than the commercial printers that we benchmarked."

However, they ran up against a small glitch in their speedier design: The extruded plastic is fed through the nozzle at such high forces and temperatures that a printed layer can still be slightly molten by the time the printer is extruding a second layer.

"We found that when you finish one layer and go back to begin the next layer, the previous layer is still a little too hot. So we have to cool the part actively as it prints, to retain the shape of the part so it doesn't get distorted or soften," Hart says.

That's a design challenge that the researchers are currently taking on, in combination with the mathematics by which the path of the printhead can be optimized. They will also explore new materials to feed through the printer.

"We're interested in applying this technique to more advanced materials, like high strength polymers, composite materials. We are also working on larger-scale 3-D printing, not just printing desktop-scale objects but bigger structures for tooling, or even furniture," Hart says. "The capability to print fast opens the door to many exciting opportunities."

Top posts on the embedded blog in November

By Nick Flaherty