Monday, 14 July 2014

Emerging Trends in Embedded Systems and Applications

The embedded systems industry was born with the invention of micro controllers and since then it has evolved into various forms, from primarily being designed for machine control applications to various other new verticals with the convergence of communications.

Various classes of embedded systems such as home media systems, portable players, smart phones, embedded medical devices and sensors, automotive embedded systems have surrounded us and with continued convergence of communications and computing functions within these devices, embedded systems are transforming themselves into really complex systems,  thus creating newer opportunities and challenges to develop and market more powerful, energy efficient processors, peripherals and other accessories.

An embedded system is more than the electronics as most people perceive it. It has electronics – both digital and analog, special purpose sensors and actuators, software, mechanical items etc., and with design challenges of space, weight, cost and power consumption. Its important characteristics are low-power, real-time responsiveness, low thermal dissipation, small physical form factor/footprint, low radiation/emission, ruggedness in design and impervious to external radiations etc.

In order to achieve key requirements, generally embedded systems are restricted to limited resources in terms of computing, memory, display size etc. With continued convergence of other technologies a lot more functionalities are being pushed into embedded devices which were once part of traditional computing platforms. This further adds a major “decision challenge” for architects and product managers on selection of processors, operating systems, standards of usage etc., as demands on functionality increase with time to market decreases.

Patterns insight from the applications of embedded systems in real life

Embedded systems are more than part of human life. For instance, one cannot imagine life without mobile phones for personal communication. Its presence is virtually unavoidable in almost all facets of human endeavor. While we search on patterns in each of these application spaces, we can clearly identify the trend as to where the future of embedded systems is heading.

Multicore in embedded 

With a lot functionalities being added, the need for high performance in embedded systems has become inevitable and so developers are increasingly leaning towards multicore processors in their systems design decision. While this range of new applications also demands low thermals in small form factor setting, the mechanicals and packaging is also becoming a sub specialization of its own.

Conventionally, chip manufacturers developed faster single core processors to meet the ever increasing performance requirements but soon they realized that increasing frequency, though offered certain benefits had drawbacks too such as:

•    It drove to higher power consumption and so the higher thermals;

•    Overall cost increased as the peripherals surrounding also needed to operate at matching speed, which was truly not practical in all cases, there by driving the costs.

This paradigm is a serious drawback for embedded computing requirements, so semiconductor manufacturers have recognized that the way forward is to build processors that run at lower frequency and voltages but include parallel cores onto single chip. The overall performance increases because multicores can perform more than one task at given point of time.

Today most of the gaming consoles are multicore and so are smartphones, which are indeed getting 'smarter'.  While this multicore paradigm offers benefits, there is also ample opportunity for the engineers to realign/relearn on this new design space – on architecture, design, programming, debugging and testing so that they are well informed and are aware about the optimal use of new power that a multicore offers.

If the benefits are not harnessed by developers then the purpose gets defeated. The eco-system for usage of multicore is still emerging and it depends on how fast or rapidly designers are opting for change and standardization. IDE companies have already taken lead in this regard by making necessary changes and adding support for the new multicores and this will clearly be one of the key factors of success of usage of multicores in embedded systems.

Another recent development is that the chip suppliers are now making and marketing new chips aiming at specific markets. For instance, Intel launched an embedded processor aiming at the Point of sale terminal and other retail computing applications. Intel's Celeron CPU is extensively being applied to new IP STB designs. Intel is also developing chips for home media systems and portable media players.

Companies like Transmeta, Philips semiconductor, Netsilicon etc., are all aiming at embedded apps. Philips is all set to introduce its LPC2000 series MCU based on ARM7 kernel, which has flash memory, RAM, ADC, CAN and PWM channel and can be applied to automotive electronics, industry control and medical equipment, Netsilicon as another example has NET+ARM series processors, among which NS9775 is a 32bit, 200MHz microprocessor including four independent video channels, TI too, is planning new in its most successful OMAP architecture series. Transmeta has Crusoe TM5700 and TM9500 and both offers better performance and form factor is halved compared to its last generation products.

Although the demand for processing is ever increasing for new embedded applications, traditional applications are still in mainstream and they are now offering ultra low cost and power requirements and increased onchip memory (both RAM and Flash) with new interfaces are key differentiators companies like Atmel Corp., Microchip Technology Inc., Infineon Technologies AG, RDC Semiconductor Co. Ltd, Epson and other companies are featuring their respective MCU products in these space.

Embedded operating systems 

Traditionally embedded systems did away with an operating system (OS), it had lightweight control program/monitor to offer limited I/O and memory services, however, as the systems became complex, it was inevitable to have OS which offered low latency real-time response, low foot print both in time and space and give all traditional functionality such as memory protection, error checking/report and transparent interprocess communication, which can be applied to communications, consumer electronics, industry controls, automotive electronics and aerospace/national defense.

Emerging multicore also needs multimission, multithread, multiprocess, multiprocessor, multiboard debugging and has to operate on open source tool chains such as eclipse etc., most of the new designs today are moving away from proprietary OS and tool chains and are more and more opting for opensource platforms both of development and deployment as the key market differentiator for them is cost.

Royalty free licensing deployment is the key for reducing the end user costs so OS like Linux embedded and new OS such as Android are making inroads into places where traditionally Windows CE/Vxworks etc., used to play. Today many new handhelds and smart phones are embracing Andriod.

Even Wind River (acquired by Intel has embraced Linux and now offers it in its portfolio of products. Eclipse, the open source project for building development platforms offers an environment that crosses over RTOS boundaries. It comprises extensible frameworks, tools and runtimes for building, deploying and managing software throughout its lifecycle.

Embedded digital security and surveillance

In the ever increasing interconnected world, Digital embedded security is no more an option but a necessity as it is very critical for more transactions happening over embedded devices as front ends.  Due to constrained resources on systems, embedded systems have challenges in implementation on full fledged security systems therefore the concept of 'embedded security' offers a new differentiator for embedded product marketing.

Digital security and surveillance is currently in the host of new applications in the embedded arena which is benefiting from multicore phenomenon.  Older systems needed more human intervention, but new systems offer intelligent systems to operate multisite, integrated and net centric systems that optimizes the resources needed to complete the job. The applications based on computer vision and tracking offers multiple benefits in capturing, post processing and identification and alerting of security video in real time.

Convergence embedded systems and applications

The retail segment is one of the fastest growing segments in emerging markets and the trend in retail markets is moving towards improving the user experience, which is most certainly setting trend towards increased performance, connectivity and rich graphics.

A point-of-sale terminal (PoS) is a great example of this - the latest PoS devices incorporate dual-display for advertising, complex accounting applications and are increasingly connected to a central server for remote management.  Back end integration with web/online stores from these embedded devices offers to bring in latest offers onto their connected mobiles instantly if they are planning to buy certain item. The location based marketing applications and convergence of Bluetooth based retail communication marketing space is offering new paradigms of sales and marketing which is beneficial for both sellers and buyers.


Electronic medical device and other technological innovations with the convergence of biotech, nanotech, manufacturing tech, communication tech and device, sensor technologies are making breathtaking transformations in healthcare delivery and creating new health care paradigms.

Bio med devices tech is being applied into wide variety of analytical problems including medicine, surgery and drug discovery, these devices are portable diagnostic imaging and home monitoring such as cholesterol monitors, blood glucose meters and with recent innovations paving way for miniaturization of devices, replacement organs and tissues, earlier use of more accurate diagnostics, and advances in information technology, became available thru Silicon Chip revolution.

The fastest growing markets within medical for semiconductors are home monitoring and diagnostic devices, telemetry, and diagnostic imaging applications. Interestingly the convergence of wireless communication with the sensors created the BAN – body area network which is today used to monitor, heart – ECG, pulse rate, temperature, oxygen, blood pressure etc., sleep disorders can also be monitored using a clip device fixed to head band.

For instance, Corventis develops wireless cardiovascular solutions that offer unprecedented visibility into a patient’s health status – anytime, anywhere across the world. It has developed complete systems – sensors to monitor various critical health parameters – network to communicate between sensors and gateway, gateway application on an iphone and backend clinical application that can store, analyse and help clinical professionals to have unprecedented access to their patients critical system parameters. All these happened because of advancement of sensor, computing, communication technologies.


With drive across the world to improve on emission controls and bring in efficiency in usage of fossil fuels, the automotive segment is challenged by various factors and embedded systems are clearly the ways and means of achieving multiple objectives in this segment taking it from infotainment systems, engine control unit, Car-area-network, fuel management, safety systems all need embedded to be in it.

Traffic management and prediction systems are being developed for large cities across the world today and the critical systems that has to support this is M2M or V2V communication networks that, form adhoc networks, seamlessly gather information from multiple sources, fuse and make decision that not only help the car users but also city traffic managers.

The realtime management of this is possible only by having embedded computing and communication systems that are part of the vehicle and the network.  The usage of vehicle tracking and fleet tracking has already been beneficial for the operators by reducing their opex and downtime which has enhanced the customer satisfaction.

This apart, media oriented systems transport (MOST) is one of the technologies being deployed by OEMs for multimedia and infotainment networking. This technology is designed to provide an efficient and cost-effective fabric to transmit audio, video, data and control information between devices attached even to the harsh environment of an automobile.


While we have seen mobiles, handhelds, ipods etc., have changed the landscape of the personal entertainment in the world in the recent past, the emerging trend is adding more intelligence in the personal entertainment, communication devices by converging the social networks, city information, location based services and choices and profile of the users.

All these are going to be delivered through the continuous by Browse to Save" style="text-decoration: underline;">gathering of intelligence, choices and users and recent transactions. The devices are becoming multimodel, iPod  and other new androids offer gesture recognition and also the new devices are offering augmented reality applications that are going to be future killer applications for smart phones – integration of real physical world with the virtual computing world – this drives the camera, display, MEMS based position and other tracking device technology to advance in the smart phone/tablets.

Localization and internationalization

For all these devices to be sold in world-wide markets, they need to be supported both locally and internationally. The access to global markets can happen only with localization/personalization of features in the device with multi-language support and also backend support offices that offer customized localized services. The usage of different font technologies & adapting newer ones are the key for embedded systems that are human centric to survive and thrive in the market so more and more device manufacturers are working with local partners to ensure that their embedded devices and support systems are localized and offer multi-language local culture flavor in definitive terms. -

Lastly, the future of embedded lies in how faster people adapt to the changes offered by convergence – communications, nano, manufacturing and develop “super” applications that advance the society and human needs, let’s hope that our future is also embedded into it.

Article by
ECE Department
Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

How Email Appears to Work

Article by
CSE Department
Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

Designing A Cost-Effective and Versatile Home Area Network Device

The device proposed here integrates seamlessly with a home area network and keeps a tab on the energy consumption and operation of electrical equipment while acting as a low-cost energy meter

The sky-rocketing cost of energy production has necessitated a more efficientenergy consumption process. This has brought revolution in electrical equipment manufacturing and energy metering infrastructure. Home area network (HAN) is an advanced electrical ecosystem in which a smart utility meter and HAN devices communicate with each other to control the energy consumption profile. Armed with the latest technological advancements in the fieldof energy utilisation, HANs are ready to supplant the traditional electrical ecosystems at home.
Fig. 1: Application diagram of HAN device

A basic HAN device has a two-way communication link with a utility meter and optionally with other devices in a HAN ecosystem, sharing energy consumption data of the equipment it is connected to and also receiving commands to turn off or hibernate the equipment when unused.
This low-cost device can be hooked in the existing electrical infrastructure without the need to replace, renovate, alter or rework the infrastructure. The power consumption is very low (in microamperes) when it’s not in use. The following sections describe certain enhancements to the basic HAN device architecture which extend its capability and feature-set.

The HAN device can be considered as an intelligent power socket, which at one end connects to the normal power socket and on the other end offers pluggable connection interface for home appliances, e.g., microwave and air-conditioner. It can be controlled directly by the utility meter over wireless interfaces like radio frequency (RF) or wired interfaces like power line communication (home plug, etc). Additionally, its firmwarecan be upgraded over the RF/programmable logic controller (PLC) interface by the utility meter. Various energy parameters of the device can be displayed on the LCD. It also supports battery backup option for maintaining the time and date.
Fig. 1 shows the application diagram of the HAN device. The device consists of a microcontroller, 230V-3.3V converter, relay, signal conditioning circuitry, infrared (IR) interface (supporting both transmitter and receiver), LCD panel and RF/power-line communication physical layer.
Its main operational features are:
Very low current consumption (10 μA) when it’s not functional
Very low run current (10 mA); 40 mA at full load
Fully controlled by the energy meter
High-voltage cut-off to save the appliances
Wireless communication over 2.4GHz Zigbee
Month-wise information storage of the power consumed
Fully-functional system starting from 90V AC to 300V AC
Easy to hook on to the network
Compact in size

Role of various components 
Fig. 2 shows the block diagram of the device components. The role of these components is described below:
Microcontroller. The microcontroller or system-on-a-chip (SoC) plays a pivotal role in the device operation. In addition to controlling other components, it stores the application firware in its internal Flash memory. For supporting various functionalities of the HAN device, the microcontroller should be equipped with the following features:
Low-power processing core with the capability to perform complex arithmetic operations required for energy calculation
Suitable physical-layer communication interface for RF or power-line communication, if used
On-chip Flash memory and static random-access memory for storing application firmware and faster operation
LCD driver for LCD display
Interfaces like universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter, which can support infrared communication
High-resolution analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) with programmable gain amplifierfor voltage and current measurements
Input/output (I/O) ports for driving relays 

Real-time counter for time keepingThe microcontroller senses the voltage and current through the signal conditioning circuit along with the ADC and programmable gain amplifierto calculate root mean square (RMS) voltage and current values, instantaneous energy consumed and total energy consumed over a period of time (one month or longer). It then sends this data to the utility meter through RF or power line communication and also displays it on the LCD. When a command to turn off the device is received, it drives suitable logic on its I/O ports to operate the relay.

The microcontroller gets its power supply from the power line through a 230V-3.3V converter. The converter can be suitably configuredaccording to the operating voltage of the microcontroller. The on-chip Flash firware can be updated over the RF or PLC interface by the utility meter. The protocol and exact details of frmware updation depend on specific implementations.
Fig: 2: Block diagram of HAN device

Signal conditioning. The signal conditioning unit consists of an analogue front-end for voltage and current measurement. The line voltage is measured by first down-sizin it with a resistor ladder, thereafter direct-current (DC) filteringand DC biasing.

Compared to voltage measurement, current measurement is less involved. First, the line current is downsized using a current transformer and then passed through a small value of high-precision shunt resistor. The voltage drop across this shunt resistor gives a measure of the line current. As this voltage drop is very small, it is suitably amplifiedbefore being fed to the ADC.
The amplifierconsists of programmable gain stages for amplificationof only the alternating-current (AC) components, thus preventing the amplifie output from saturation.
Infrared interface. The infrared interface can be configuredsuitably according to the range and power consumption. It provides remote configurationsupport for the HAN device, enabling the user to remotely turn on/off the home appliance connected to the HAN device. The protocol and exact details of operation can be flexiblychosen for particular implementations.
LCD panel. The LCD panel displays the instantaneous energy consumed, total energy consumed last/current month, date and time of the day, RMS voltage and RMS current. It inherits some of the utility meter display, thus acting as a low-accuracy but smart AC energy meter.
In a nutshell, the above architecture conceptualises a cost-effective and extremely versatile HAN device, which is replete with all the essential HAN device features along with the support for advanced features like firmwar upgrade and full control of appliances over RF/PLC interface. It also doubles as a low-cost smart AC energy meter, providing round-the-clock energy consumption details of the home appliance.
Though the device is depicted here as a standalone intelligent power socket, it can also be implemented inside home appliances.

Article by
ECE Department
Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS)

Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women (KITS),Kodad

About KITS 
The college KODADA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY & SCIENCE for Women was founded by NeelaSatyanarayana in 2008, with the objective of empowering women globally. KITS for Women is affiliated to Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Hyderabad and approved by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). KITS for Women is the first women’s college in NalgondaDistrict,Andhra Pradesh.
The college offers B.Tech( ECE, CSE, EEE,Civil), M.Tech (VLSI, ES, CSE, PE&ED), MBA and Diploma courses. Since the establishment of college it is known for academic excellence. It goes without saying that the college topper secured 98% in University academic results. The college has full fledged training and placement cell. In collaboration with Jawahar Knowledge centre, College offers pre placement training program, e-learning & Training, e-Assessment, career connect and industry connect programs. College initiates and organizes National and International Conferences workshops, Refresher courses in the emerging areas of each discipline to update the knowledge of faculty. Students established Technical Associations in each department under which they organizes Technical symposiums, Technical Quiz, Debate Competition, Group Discussion and Mock interviews etc. to improve their soft skills and technicalskills.
Here is the place where we mould students into industry ready engineers by providing leadership development, mentoring in technical education and empowering our young women to be the architects of change in the world of technology. We also strive to inculcate human values, ethics, and respect for tradition along with lot of emphasis on decency, dignity and life skills to meet the challenges of the world.
KITS for Women represents a rich tradition of excellence in technology based education. It is one of the preferred destinations for technical education among private engineering colleges to empower women’s engineering education heralding a new era in the modern world. To develop an institution to cater to prospective women engineers, who wish to take up greater challenges to encounter technological problems.
To bring out the latent talent among students for the benefit of society as a whole, to provide engineering students with conducive atmosphere, to enable them to excel in courses and cares, to improve interpersonal and soft skills of students so that they can face the world and take up greater challenges.
Kodada Institute of Technology and Science for Women