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4 Posts authored by: Henry-Davis

How important is power consumption in embedded systems? On an individual piece of equipment every watt can be important. Reducing power consumption reduces heat, which may eliminate heat sinks, but more importantly improves component life expectancy. When you consider the effect of large quantities of small numbers the effect can be staggering. For example, there are about 10 million medical instruments using embedded processors shipped every year. A power savings of just one watt per new medical device shipped per year can save 10 megawatts – or 8% of the Indian Queens power station in Cornwall UK.

 

The impact of one watt can become tremendous – improving automotive fuel economy, reducing the need for new power generating station construction, extending product reliability, reducing pollution, minimizing power supply needs, controlling recycling requirements, and much more.

 

“Green” is fast becoming a critical factor in embedded systems design. Selecting the right set of design choices can mean lower systems power consumption – which may lead to smaller power supplies and smaller footprints, while maintaining high capability in the embedded application. One aspect of green design is determined by the power budget allotted to the embedded system.

 

Supplying power to embedded systems may be accomplished several ways:

 

  • Individual mains-supplied power
  • Cabled power supply from a central location
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)
  • Local power supply (battery, solar, ultra-caps, specialty supplies) for remote systems

 

Mains-supplied power has few intrinsic technical restrictions concerning power efficiency, and centralized dedicated power cabling is similar. All too often mains powered embedded systems are powered by the lowest cost “wall wart” supply – which is often a lower efficiency supply. But systematic efficiency is of critical importance for devices powered either remotely or via Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. PoE is important for those devices that can operate in the PoE environment because it defines a maximum permissible power consumption.

 

PoE embraces sources and devices. Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) may be a device such as an Ethernet switch that provides power on the Ethernet cable, while Powered Devices (PD) use the power. The maximum allowed continuous output power per cable in IEEE 802.3af is 15.40 W (12.95W at the device), while IEEE 802.3at, offers 34.2 W (25.5 W at the device). Typical embedded systems that can use PoE include:

 

 

The power budget for PoE-based embedded systems can be tight, so saving power is critical.

Establishing the PoE configuration is achieved by a simple negotiation approach:

 

  • PSE tests PD physically using 802.3af
    • PSE powers up PD.
  • PD sends to PSE: ID as a PD, max power = X, max power requested = X.
  • PSE sends to PD: ID as a PSE, max power allowed = X.
    • PD may now use the specified amount of power from the  PSE.

 

The negotiation for power in a PoE environment is simple, but the negotiation must take place using less than 13W of power. This is critical for any system designed to operate on PoE – consuming too much power during negotiation will cause the PSE to withhold power from the device since it is a non-compliant device.  Vendors of Intel® Atom™  processor-based embedded systems are starting to adopt PoE as one simplifying choice.

 

ADI Engineering’s (1) Cinnamon Bay Single Board Computer (SBC) incorporates an Intel® Atom™  processor with optional PoE capability. Power draw is determined in large part by the sleep modes employed by the board. Atom processors include a range of low power modes designated by ‘S’ numbers. Cinnamon Bay uses as little as 3.5W running (S0), sleep power of 500mW in S3, and 160mW in S4 and S5. The board is supported by Microsoft® Corporation (2) Embedded Windows operating system. The Cinnamon Bay board includes an optional backup power connection in the event that Ethernet power is interrupted.

 

IEIWorldPanelPC.jpg

 

IEI Technology Corp. (3) offers the AFL-057A panel PC using the Atom processor with a configuration that will work using PoE. The AFL-057A offers a unique feature that when connected to the company’s Lite-managed PoE Ethernet Switch (IPS-2042TX) , the switch will automatically send an alarm on device failure. The PoE switch will then either reboot or shut down the device depending on the user setting. Users of the PoE can also schedule the time to power on the attached devices with power scheduling settings. Scheduling the operation of AFL-057A attached devices is another approach to minimizing power consumption. The board operates using 12 W of power.

 

Special function systems calls are often part of an embedded operating system. For example, Microsoft Embedded Windows’  CPUEnterIdle call enables interrupts and puts the CPU, or the hardware platform, into a low-power state. When an interrupt occurs it will wake the system. OEMIdle performs a similar function and is called by the kernel to place the CPU in the idle state when there are no threads ready to run. Entering into other Atom-based low power modes can be accomplished by creating additional system functions to use the very low power options of Atom.

 

Developing green solutions using the Intel® Atom™ family of components provides alternatives for meeting systems requirements.  Systems using the Atom processor with Input/Output Hub (IOH) give the most flexibility for peripheral choice. Third party specialized IOHs from ADI Engineering, Harman, and Oki Semiconductor(4) offer applications-specific IOHs that reduce the logic footprint of their  embedded applications.  Reducing logic means more than cost reduction. Reduced logic can also mean reductions in power consumption. Since the superfluous logic doesn’t necessarily cause state switch if unused, it doesn’t burn a lot of power, but every reduction helps when dealing with miserly power sources. One design philosophy for cost and power savings is detailed in ADI Enginerring’s “Thin Application” white paper. The ADI design offers another trade-off in systems design - permitting IOH design customization.

 

Applications software, operating system, and hardware configuration all can have a major impact on green designs. Of these, all classes of software represent a major opportunity for power savings.

 

Software developed for desktop computers often goes by a philosophy of “making it work” and largely ignoring the opportunity for power savings due to software optimizations. As a simple example, a linear search in a list requires n/2 compares on average, where n is the number of items in the ordered list. But a simple change can reduce the number of compares to log2(n). This in turn means that  the optimized software needs to run fewer cycles to achieve the same result. For a list of 128 items the time is reduced by a factor of eight. The CPU can then be idled during the time that would have been taken to search in a brute force method.

 

WindRiverWorkBench.jpg

 

Finding fruitful code for optimization in an application can be simplified by code analysis tools. For example, Green Hills Software (5) software tools provide programmers with information about where the software is spending the most amount of time. Wind River Systems(6) offers a similar execution time tool.

 

What combination of hardware and software choices can you make in your next project to “green up” the design?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

1. ADI Engineering, Inc is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

2. Microsoft® Corporation is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

3. IEI Technology Corp. is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

4. Oki Semiconductor Co Ltd is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

5. Green Hills Software, Inc is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

6. Wind River Systems is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

 

Henry Davis
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance

The Intel® Atom™ E6xx System on a Chip (SoC) and ADI Engineering Inc’s (1) Input/Output Hub-less design approach, combined with third party software yields low cost, small footprint, system alternatives employing the x86 family. The software abundance from more than 30 years of software developments, including Open Source initiatives, extends the large base of software available for members of the x86 family, including the E6xx processor. An 802.11n-to-HDMI streaming HD media player is implemented by ADI Engineering using customized logic, the Intel boot loader technology, and the E6xx processor.  We’ll examine how narrowly focused hardware platforms can be combined with an Operating System and applications software to realize high-function deeply embedded systems.

 

Steve Yates, President of ADI Engineering, defines a “thin” device as “perform[ing] a single fixed function, and must meet stringent requirements for cost, size, power consumption, ease-of-use, and reliability.” ADI Engineering’s approach to creating thin clients employing the Intel® Atom™ E6xx processor was detailed in a recent blog. But how do we use Yates’ definition to guide our design process?

 

Consider an 802.11n to HDMI video streaming player, there is relatively little in the way of requirements outside the input of the Internet Protocol media source and the HDMI video output.  This reduction in media and control sources means that the streaming media player is an excellent candidate for using a Thin Device design.

 

The standard IOH contains control for several devices that are not required for the media player Thin Device.

 

AtomwIOH.jpg

 

A dedicated streaming media player does not need an interface to a mass storage device based on the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment specification (SATA). Practically, a media player does not need to store large quantities of data locally. Nor does a media player need USB host ports, an RS232 port, or a touch screen interface. Also superfluous are Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitters (USARTs), a real time clock, discrete I/O, and the trusted platform module.   Of course, small changes in system specifications may alter these decisions. Where one design team chooses to drop the trusted platform module another may decide that for reasons of a closed system integrity. Such a decision may require that the module should be included.

 

ADI’s conceptual media player has a simplified block diagram compared to a generic IOH-based design.

 

ADImediaPlayer.jpg

 

The ADI Thin Application approach replaces the Intel Atom IOH with a reduced feature set chip. Chief among the required features is a way to bootload the CPU. This may be accomplished by employing the Intel Boot Loader Kit, BLDK or licensing a version of the modified Boot Loader from a vendor like ADI.

 

Building the application environment depends to a large extent on the type of application desired. The application environment is often driven by a desire to maintain future flexibility as a hedge against unexpected feature demands. But that degree of flexibility comes at a cost that the target environment may not be able to support.

 

According to Yates’ definition of a thin device, cost may be (and often is) one of the critical considerations. A systems decision will affect software choices for any embedded device, especially a decision to not include mass storage. For many thin applications cost control means eliminating a degree of flexibility.  This “reduced” feature set may mean that the application software may not rely on typical BIOS runtime facilities. Instead of an off-the-shelf BIOS, developers must create a customized BIOS replacement. Custom-developed BIOS replacements are available from American Megatrends, Inc (2), Insyde Software (3), Nanjing Byosoft Co. Ltd (4) and Phoenix Technologies, Ltd(5).

 

While full BIOS-replacement software may be the technically safest choice, in many cases, like the streaming media player, the added cost of the BIOS licensing fee and Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) costs are often more that the final product can absorb and still meet its cost goals.

 

Engineers of lower cost products often choose to eliminate the cost of a full BIOS since much of it may not be used in the final product. In this case, there remains a decision to be made: whether to use a bare-bones kernel, use an off-the-shelf RTOS, or to implement a purpose-designed RTOS. A kernel manages the hardware resources. For the streaming media player we have limited external devices: an 802.11n transceiver interface, the display control, and possibly a small number of control inputs such as for a pointing device. Commercially available RTOSes from Green Hills Software (6), Wind River Systems (7), and QNX (8) may suit a specific thin application. More fully featured RTOSes like TenAsys (9) will likely be viable choices for more capable systems.

 

FreeRTOS straddles the ground between developing a kernel and adopting a full commercial RTOS. FreeRTOS is downloadable at no cost, but there is work to make the RTOS work on the selected hardware. Industry associations have lead to the creation of two other variants of FreeRTOS, SafeRTOS and OpenRTOS. It is possible to obtain validation results for versions of FreeRTOS, but the RTOS itself is designed for use on microcontrollers with a single processor core. Those limitations may make FreeRTOS a good starting point for developing a purpose-built RTOS, but may make it unsuitable for use in more advanced Atom-based thin devices.

 

No software environment is complete without development tools. The question is whether there is any restriction on the use of standard, available, development tools when creating a thin device. The answer to this question is “no.” Thin devices are created using a standard Atom processor and Atom software and debug tools. Even JTAG and similar probes can be used with the thin device.

 

Atom-based thin applications and thin devices offer unprecedented flexibility to meet cost and performance constraints.

 

Where does the new Atom E6xx options for cost control fit into your future product plans?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ADI Engineering is an  Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  2. American Megatrends, Inc. is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  3. Insyde Software is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  4. Nanjing Bysoft Co., Ltd is a General member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  5. Phoenix Technologies, Ltd is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  6. Green Hills Software is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  7. Wind River Systems is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  8. QNX Software Systems is an      Associate Member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

 

Henry Davis

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)

Intel® Embedded Alliance

Hardware emulation facilities are an essential part of developing, debugging, and validating software for customized Intel® Atom™ processor E6xx chipsets.  The standard E6xx chipset includes an Intel Input/Output Hub (IOH) that provides the essential mechanism to provide boot load capability for the processor. But the standard configuration is not the only way to make an E6xx-based system operate.

 

ADI Engineering (1) offers a standard two-chip compact board based on the E6xx processor and associated Hub. But ADI took an alternative approach to building boards using the Atom processor. Unlike previous Intel architecture processors which relied on the Intel-proprietary Front Side Bus (FSB) to interface with the companion chipset, the E6xx processor uses the open PCIe bus interface between the processor and the rest of the system. That openness provides the basis for a different spin on low cost systems developments.

 

The one factor that stops the E6xx from being a single chip solution is the lack of a boot mechanism inside the processor chip. Instead, the Intel Hub provides that function. But the standard Hub chipset has a lot of functionality that isn’t required for dedicated designs like digital signage (see my blog on digital signs ).

 

<ADIDigitalSign.jpg

 

Furthermore, such applications often don’t use the flexibility of a full BIOS, either.

 

The ADI Engineering design for “thin single chip” digital signage and other applications that don’t require a full BIOS could reduce  BOM costs for a dedicated function system. For larger volume applications that cost savings can be significant both for the manufacturer and customer. But with that specific cost reduction technique goes the functionality of some development tool choices.  For example, the lower end of software debug tools commonly relies on BIOS functions to provide the needed infrastructure to run the debugger. That infrastructure may be eliminated with the single-chip, low cost approach.

Looking at the entire range of hardware and software-based products offers some insights into how and when the various hardware-centric debug and verification tools are best used.

 

ADItest.jpg

 

For our purposes, portions of in-circuit-emulation and functional tests are relevant to hardware/software integration and software debug. Choosing from among the various standard product-based tools is a big job that is not straightforward. But there is one factor different about customized IOH replacement chipsets: engineers are no longer starting their hardware debug with known functional silicon for the customized chip. This is a bigger concern for an ADI management chip which drives memory access. At first glance, there should be no conceptual development difference between a customized peripheral and a custom replacement for the IOH However, if there is a problem bringing up the board then taking the first steps is more difficult because there is no known good mechanism to load and run basic debug tools. This circumstance argues in favor of planning a full suite of logic analyzer style hardware tools. These engineering aids allow signals states and transitions to be recorded and possibly used as triggers for additional analysis. Logic analyzers and signal probes were discussed in a blog on development tools <url>.

Developing alternate bootload images is one strategy for dealing with initial board bring-up, manufacturing test, and field service. In this approach the Thin E6xx processor software load is different during initial debug and in production. Providing there is enough room for a full customized BIOS image, the bootloader may load the larger and more complex BIOS for debug, and a separate reduced services version for production. Some systems may require a larger memory for loading a full BIOS image as compared to a production software load. Planning to potentially accommodate a special version of the board can save time and effort during initial bring-up, and provides for future flexibility by permitting larger memories to be used in the board if the feature set grows in size. 

 

ADI Engineering’s “Thin E6xx” simplifies the design of customized management chips through its OpenIP program.  On-board OS boot Flash using a low-cost ADI-developed LPC-to-NAND CPLD interface implements a mechanism to permit booting from a flash device without the size, cost, and complexity of a full IOH device. Users of the ADI OpenIP design for Thin E6xx devices are put at the same development point as engineers who choose to use Intel’s IOH. But, there may be software customization required if a full BIOS is required.

 

ADI has developed a suite of diagnostics that rely on either BIOS or their royalty free boot loaders developed using Intel Boot Loader Development Kits for the E6xx.  This code requires that the target hardware be correctly configured and initialized by the relevant boot loader, which of course requires that the boot loader be correctly implemented and validated before hardware bringup, validation and testing can begin.

 

BIOS is a strange piece of software that can create surprising difficulties. Complications can range from   the closed source nature of BIOS to the relative scarcity of experienced BIOS software engineers. According to ADI Engineering, BIOS becomes a relatively difficult critical path schedule constraint, often with limited visibility and control.  Identification and mitigation of early product bring-up issues can be hampered by ambiguity of cause between the boot loader, hardware and test application.

 

Hardware/software Integration hardware spans a wide range including breadboards using a base processor and custom hardware to JTAG-based emulators. The integration stage of systems development relies on emulation technology. JTAG is one of the most flexible and powerful technologies used to debug hardware/software interactions. This was the topic of an earlier blog, <url> but JTAG has a critical role for designers choosing to replace the IOH with a custom management chip.

Comparing E6xx to its predecessor Z5xx, the Z5xx processor and its System Controller Hub (SCH) were required in a system design. Since the Z5xx system memory controller and boot flash controller were both on the SCH, it was critical to attach a debugger to the SCH. This is especially important for board bring up and initial debug.  This tight coupling of the Z5xx processor and the SCH chipset as a two-chip CPU solution required tight JTAG coordination:

 

  • Both chips shared common "internals," and the JTAG ports of both the Z5xx and SCH were implemented with LVCMOS 1.05V I/O.  This allowed the JTAG ports on the two devices to be chained together and connected to an Intel Architecture debugger.

 

By comparison with the Z5xx, in an E6xx system the EG20T (IOH) has no functions critical to initial board bring-up.  Additionally, the IOH is interfaced via the PCIe port. Most debuggers allow you to probe the PCI bus, eliminating any compelling reason to attach a debugger to the IOH to assist in bring-up, validation or initial testing.

 

The IOH JTAG port also serves as a Boundary Scan port.  The IOH JTAG port is biased to 3.3V, so there is not a simple way to directly connect the E6xx and EG20T JTAG ports together on the board. For JTAG Boundary Scan tests, an additional test port is required in the tester. But, this is not a critical requirement for board bring-up or hardware/software integration testing.

 

The Z5xx generation of embedded low-power Atom chipsets required debuggers to support both the CPU and the SCH chips to facilitate initial board bring-up, validation and test.  But the E6xx architecture is different - there is limited need for the debugger to directly connect with the IOH.  JTAG voltage difference between the E6xx and EG20T require level shifters.  The main benefit of connecting the IOH and E6xx JTAG ports is to support boundary scan manufacturing test, but the extra level shifter cost can make this a questionable strategy. Instead, it is more cost effective to use a second JTAG port with built-in level shifters on the load board, if necessary, to accommodate Boundary Scan testing for the IOH.

 

The biggest implication of the foregoing discussion is the absolute open nature of the IOH functions. ADI Engineering recognized the implications of using the PCIe bus for interfacing with the IOH. The result is a single-chip  IA processor with low power and high performance.

 

Intel’s design choices ensure that most standard development tools will work with the E6xx processor. By opening the interface between the CPU and the IOH (or its replacement) Intel maintains compatibility with industry hardware and software development tools. That means Development Software and tools from Microsoft Corporation (2), Green Hills Software (3), Wind River Systems (4) and third party JTAG emulator vendors will work with the E6xx processor and IOH or a custom chip to replace the IOH.

 

With the ability to replace the full blown IOH with a purpose designed management chip, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish. You can start with a known good design for the management device from ADI Engineering, or roll your own from scratch.

 

What can you imagine for your next embedded design using the E6xx and a custom management device?

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

1.   1. ADI Engineering is an Associate Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance

2.   2. Microsoft Corporation is an Associate Member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

3.   3. Green Hills Software is an Affiliate Member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

4. Wind River Systems is an Associate Member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

 

Henry Davis
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance

Benchmark code often consists of synthetic code designed to represent a typical application. Benchmark suites can be used to compare different architectures across a wide variety of application types. Inspecting the planned functions of the solar controller reveals that most of the functions are low speed operations employing simple decisions logic. The single exception to this characterization is the code for a PID control loop.  Therefore we’ll execute a PID control loop on the ATOM processor to verify that the processor can handle the bandwidth requirements of the future planned generator control software.

 

In another blog the number of candidate processors was reduced based on a requirement for low power consumption. All of the remaining candidate processors are members of the ATOM family. Since we have only a single processor family to evaluate for adequate performance, the job of evaluation is significantly reduced. There is only a single base architecture to consider.

 

Our evaluation of the ATOM processor for our application will be based on executing a PID loop on an actual ATOM  processor. Based on simulations of the PID loop, the minimum acceptable performance will require 30 Million Instruction Per Second and a preferred performance of a bandwidth of 10x the basic rate to permit the RPM controller to increase sensitivity of the control loop. Keep in mind that this PID loop is to control a slow speed engine that operates at 650 RPM. Faster turning engines will require proportionately more processor power. The fastest way to begin the evaluation is to procure a development board based on the ATOM processor. Several companies manufacture development boards suitable for evaluation and initial software development purposes.

 

http://www.eurotech-inc.com(1)

Atom™ Development Systems from Eurotech are designed to get products to market quickly. These systems all share an optimized BIOS, BSP, and a bill of material selected for low cost and extended availability.

 

www.sophiasys.com

Peartree is a Reference Platform and development kit for Intel's ultra-low-power Atom processor family. Aimed at developers wishing to create their own hardware based on Atom, the development platform is equipped with a Wi-Fi module and W-SIM (with connectable 3G module).

 

http://www.phytec.com/products/rdk/x86/phyCORE-Atom-Z5xx.html

The phyCORE System on Module (SOM) for the ATOM processor is in development. When completed, it will be designed to plug into a PHYTEC Carrier Board that provides I/O connectors such as DB-9, RJ-45, USB, and power jack, as well as any other interface circuitry not provided on the phyCORE module itself.

 

http://www.arrow.com/

Arrow's Intel Atom platform is a development kit and reference design for benchmarking, developing and testing embedded systems based on the Intel Atom 500 series of processors. The platform includes a host processor module, motherboard and touch screen LCD.

 

http://www.advantech.com(2)

Advantech COM-Express SOM-5775, designed with Intel Atom processor Z500 series, takes advantage of the Atom platform in the new SOM-Express Micro form factor. It performs the same functions as traditional SOM-Express modules but with a smaller board size of 95 x 95mm. The pin definitions of SOM-5775 are the same as a standard COM-Express board and can work directly with existing carrier boards, while supporting DDR2 memory up to 1GB, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, 8 USB 2.0 ports and PCIe interface, and the integrated graphic engine supports CRT and 24-bit LCD display modes.

 

http://www.techonline.com/product/virtualab/206902741

The Intel® AtomTM processor and Intel® System Controller Hub US15W introduce a power optimized, highly integrated platform for a wide range of embedded applications. The TechOnline VirtualLab allows users to experience the benefits and features of the platform without needing to have access to local hardware. It also allows users to evaluate some of the software tools available from Intel that can be used to optimize software operation and performance on this new platform. Access to the lab is free for engineers, but requires a free registration to access the lab.  The access process requires Java to be installed. If you have to install the SUN Java package as I did, it’s necessary to shutdown the browser and then restart it for the Java test to successfully complete.

 

203i59156EF9F69F93AC

 

Accessing the tools is an easy process. Just select the VirtuaLab that you want to use and a few seconds later you gain access to the lab. The tools and platform are all standard Intel products, so any work that you do on VirtuaLab can be used as you continue to develop your system if you choose to continue development with the Intel tool set.

 

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Other companies also offer software development toolkits that provide different capabilities. Alternative software tools for developing ATOM programs can be licensed from Wind River3 – Wind River Complier and Workbench, and Green Hills Software(4) - MULTI® integrated development environment.

 

Wind River System’s Workbench product incorporates an Open product called “Eclipse” as part of their framework. Eclipse had is start in an Open Software development effort initiated by IBM in 2001. Eclipse is an open source community, whose projects are focused on building an open development platform comprised of extensible frameworks, tools and runtimes for building, deploying and managing software across the lifecycle. The Eclipse Foundation is a not-for-profit, member supported corporation that hosts the Eclipse projects and helps cultivate both an open source community and an ecosystem of complementary products and services. Wind River has been a major contributor to the Eclipse project, donating over 300,000 lines of code to the efforts.

 

Since this phase of development employs relatively little code, we can simply retarget the ‘C’ code used for the evaluation to a new development environment if we choose.

The ATOM processor actually performs the PID function 43 times faster than required. At first glance this would normally indicate that the processor is massively over powering the application. The minimum performance level allow the PID loop to operate at the ten-fold sample rate of the minimum acceptable performance. By supporting a higher sample rate we are able to control the RPM of the generator to a finer granularity. Put another way, the PID loop will consume about 20\% of the ATOM processor.  This significant amount of processor performance assures us that the entire application can be completed using a single ATOM processor.  As an alternative, we can increase the bandwidth of the PID controller. The PID controller will be used in the generator controller portion of the system to govern the speed of the diesel engine. By increasing the bandwidth of the controller we may be able to achieve better control over the engine speed. Constancy of engine speed is the primary factor in the quality of electricity produced by the generator.

 

We have used the Intel ATOM VirtuaLab to evaluate the processor fo and r suitability as the central processor in a moderately complex solar electric system. The ATOM has more than enough processing power to provide the required functionality, and the VirtuaLab provides a suitable evaluation platform.

 

VirtuaLab has many advantages: immediate access to an ATOM processor, no wait for shipping a development kit, someone else maintains the evaluation board, and Intel standard development tools are available without the need to host them locally. There are a few disadvantages: performance of the system is influenced by your Internet connection’s stability and speed, there may be configuration issues with your particular PC’s systems settings, and you don’t have hands-on control of the evaluation setup and test instruments. Still, the setup is free and quick – allowing you to perform quick evaluations. If you don’t want to use your own code in this process, there’s example code available that you can run on the evaluation board.

 

We’ve presented one way to evaluate the ATOM processor for fitness for use in a moderately complex control system. The criteria were very simple: the power consumption under 5W and execute PID code fast enough.

 

What criteria are you using for processor evaluation in your next project?

 

____________________________________________________________________

  1. Eurotech  is an Associate Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.
  2. Advantech is a Premier Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance
  3. Wind River Systems is an Associate Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance
  4. Green Hills Software, Inc  is an Affiliate Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance

Henry Davis
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel(r) Embedded Alliance

 

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